Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Should a newbie buy ASL Journal?
Hmmm... I get this question all the time*. Short answer: yes! But I know you don't frequent this blog for the short quips; here's the long answer.
This past week I was up at the cottage. My wife's family has a nice one in Tobermory, Ontario and we trudged up there to enjoy a week away from it all. I took up a few small games like ATO Magazine postcard games and some reading (Antony Beevor's D-Day -- not sure if I like it, his Stalingrad was superior imho). In the stack were the ASL Journals 2 and 8.
Now, I've only four full ASL games under my belt at this point so I consider myself still firmly in the "newbie" category. So the question remains, is it worth the money to pick up Journal 8 ($20) and/or Journal 2 (reprint $50). Aside from the well known ASL Axiom of "ALWAYS BUY STUFF WHILE IT'S IN PRINT" (see WO Bonus Pack) the answer thoroughly depends on whether you ever intend to make the step up to the "big leagues". And even if you don't you can always sell the thing for a princely sum when it goes out of print.
Anyways, here's a brief couple of reviews of the two latest Journals.
ASL Journal 8
I'll start with the most recent Journal. There are actually two articles that are directly addressed to newbies: Mark Pitcavage's "The Agony of Defeat: Why Bad Things Happen to New Players" and John Slotwinski's "Tips for Making the Transition from ASL SK to ASL". In the former, Mark details and gives concrete advice to players who want to improve their game and stop making horrible play errors. It's fairly succinct and damned direct. In Mark's own words he tells you "with appalling frankness, why you are bad." I love it. In the latter, John makes the very excellent point that "ASLSK is ASL". For those timid ASLSKers, this might blow your mind. Having played full ASL I know what John says to be absolutely true. You've probably heard it before, the majority of the ASLRB is stuff you don't need the majority of the time. So, unless you have the brainstuff of a flea it's not a big deal to just pick the relevant sections for a new scenario and quickly read what is applicable in the rulebook. Case in point, in VOTG2 with Andy, I read up on the Assault Boats while we sat at the table setting up and playing. No problem!
What else is useful to the ASL newb in Journal 8?
Other than the (endless) errata for full ASL products there are some great articles that don't require full ASL knowledge. There's a great preview of the Finnish core module, Hakkaa Paalle, and if you like designer notes (I love 'em) there are articles about Action Pack 4 and the Turning the Tide scenario pack. Want to be a better player or at least get into the minds of better players? There are two articles analyzing scenarios in the Journal from three experienced players (J.R. Tracy, Bret Hildebran and Matt Shostak). Finally there are two more articles on different aspects of the sequence of play, Vehicular Overrun and Setup. I'm not forced to read those advanced articles but I'm glad they are there and even a brief skim with my limited knowledge gets my ASL juices flowing.
Oh yeah, and there are 16 ASL scenarios. I've even played one! (VOTG19!) So thumbs up! At a fair price of $20 I don't think ASLSK-level players need to avoid this one.
ASL Journal 2 (Reprint)
This one's a little pricier at $50 or so. But look at all the neat stuff you get! The original Journal was fetching quite the premium on eBay for the longest time (remember: BUY EVERYTHING IN PRINT WHEN YOU CAN) and MMP felt the demand was there.
First of all, there's a hojillion scenarios. Secondly, it's neat, at least from my perspective, to see a slice of ASL's history before I played the game. For example, Curt Schilling wrote the intro and an article and a few scenarios in this Journal.
Okay, but what's useful to the ASLSKer?
There's a great comprehensive Rout Example from Tom Repetti -- you don't need the ASLRB for that. There's not one but TWO great articles on how to more effectively use your AFVs in ASL (by Matt Shostak and Chas Smith) but still applicable to ASLSK. More designer notes on Kakazu Ridge (the included HASL) and Pegasus Bridge, the latter probably will be on the playlists of most new ASLers. There's a great article by J.R. Tracy on caves, the dreaded caves that many ASLers cringe in fear about... I haven't grokked it by any means but I'm glad it's there if I one day go to the PTO... And finally, there is, amongst more stuff, a guide to ASL on the Internet, updated by Chas Argent for 2010. He should have included this site but what the hell! ;)
I don't want to sound like some guerilla marketer for MMP but I have to justify the expenditure of cold hard cash for these ASL products too. In my mind, the cost is well justified before I even play a single scenario. Or am I just hoarding stuff to fulfill my rampant OCD?
*- I never get this question... I only talk to myself...