05 March 2012


Helen had an idea. She had watched me play the first round of my VASLeague match.1 For those who have yet to experience the pleasures of Virtual ASL (VASL), you are shortchanging yourselves.
Rodney Kinney’s ASL interface is a fantastic way to get a game in with a friend from out of town, or ‘round the other side of the planet, for that matter. VASL also takes a lot of the fiddliness out of a game. For instance, it takes little effort to customize the playing area with virtual overlays. I cannot speak for you, but it is sometimes a mission for me just to find a particular overlay amongst my kit. Clean up is also a snap; no counters to put away (or tip over). The program will even roll dice at the click of a button. And here is where Helen came in.
“Hey, that’s cool,” she said. “Why don’t we use that dice thingee for the next raffle?”
So that's why they call them tumblers
Now, she never did say that. Even a “newbie” knows where to draw the line. But for those of you who have yet to experience the displeasures of the VASL “dicebot,” you lucky ß@§‡∆®₫$! The truth is there are a lot of people who are skeptical about the randomness of the VASL 'bot. Not to worry, the best minds are developing a workaround as I write.
In the meantime, we will continue to roll bones the old school way. But boy, oh boy, what a lot of rolling. About 170 Squad Leaders were entered in our February raffle. My thinking was that we could reduce the number of potential ties by using seven dice for the contest. Do not try this at home! Getting your mitts around seven cubes, even the half-inch variety, is a challenge. Keeping the little devils in the tray after they tumbled down the tower was another worry. Happily, it all worked out in the end. 
A matter of perspective
With seven dice the highest possible roll is forty-two. Only one contestant came close. From his perspective in Wellington, New Zealand, he rolled extremely well: a pair of deuces and five aces. But as unfair as it may seem, we were only concerned with the pips that were facing up, and there were forty of them! The roll was nevertheless remarkable, the “equivalent” of rolling a nine with seven dice. Considering that no one had a roll below eleven, we felt that forty-two was worthy of a little recognition. 
Coincidentally, each of the biographical  sketches that follow have a Canadian connection. Most are obvious. Such is the case with Dale Drake. In 1995, Dale was a trooper with Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles, light cavalry with a partial infantry role. His high school days were still fresh in his mind, but his surroundings were completely foreign. Dale was in Bosnia, attached to a rifle company of the 2/1 New Zealand Infantry Regiment. However, one of Dale's fondest memories is of an exchange with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment in Visoko and Ilijaš, or as he put it: “a hostage from CanBatt 2.”
Dale has had no success finding local opponents in Wellington. This is troubling as Wellington used to have a thriving ASL community. Dale is getting desperate. He is threatening to draft his sons, if he cannot find a local opponent. Is there anyone out there? 
Dale joined Sitrep shortly before Xmas. He may be shortchanged with respect to local “oppos.” However, he is not entirely out of luck. Dale wins a Heretical Rate of Fire die for rolling an “upside-down” nine.  
Stay calm and carry on
The second lowest sum was twelve. Two contestants shared this result. Andy Beaton was one of them. 
I first met Andy online through the VASLeague in May 2010. He lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We played “Failure to Communicate” from the first Winter Offensive Bonus Pack. His French 10-2 leader gave my Germans a tough time. However, it was a plucky 8-0 with a demolition charge that won him the game when he took out one of my remaining tin cans and nudged me over the casualty cap. 
Andy has long been an enthusiastic supporter of our hobby. He can be seen at left coaching a first timer through a Starter Kit scenario at a game convention in the GTA. Last October, he made the pilgrimage to Cleveland. Although it was his first ASL Oktoberfest (ASLOK), he played well, making it to the finals of the desert mini-tournament. He and Doug Sheppard played the classic “Khamsin” from West of Alamein. Doug is a top player and past Desert Mini champ. It is a testament to Andy's dogged perseverance that the game came down to the very end. Doug commented afterward that it was the most memorable desert scenario that he had played in years. 

My match with Andy that same week was entirely forgettable. I was too aggressive. Lesson learned (again). Never ever underestimate Andy's ability to wrest the initiative from you with a low-odds countermove. Truth is, I did not put the same effort into the game as Andy did. To get the most of a game, I recommend that you follow Andy's lead. Put your heart into the game, keep your focus, and do not give up.
Andy wins a copy of the latest Friendly Fire scenario pack, and a Heretical Rate of Fire die.
Band of Odders 
When Sitrep launched last July, most of our readers hailed from the United States and Canada. To my surprise, the third largest contingent was from Spain. Even today, Spain ranks in the top ten, slightly below Germany, but still slightly ahead of Australia. Needless to say, I was pleased to see that one of our Iberian Squad Leaders had been shortlisted in our February raffle. Moreover, he did so in style. 
Martí Cabré can hardly claim to have been shortchanged. The average sum was 24. Martí scored a dozen twice!
Martí's love of ASL is eclipsed only by his love for his native Catalonia, and perhaps his belle. Martí lives in Terrassa (Tarrasa, in Spanish), less than 30 kilometres from Barcelona. Those who frequent BoardGameGeek and the ASL Forums on GameSquad may recognize his avatar. However, like me, you may have wondered what it was. Turns out it is the coat of arms of Pere II el Catòlic, King of Aragón (1196-1213), and the former Count of Barcelona (Pere I). Who knew? The Catalan flag that Martí keeps in his sitting room sports the same red stripes on gold field emblazoned on the shield of Peter the Catholic.3 Mystery solved. 

Martí is Catalonia's ambassador of ASL. He has a wide circle of gaming friends, many of whom play other board games, or with miniatures. Tapping into this network, Martí has been able to coax a few gamers along the path to ASL Starter Kit. Some like Jordi in the picture above, are progressing quite nicely. But Martí's recruiting drives are more ambitious. 
Since 2007, Martí has been posting about boardgames on his blog Band of Odders. His inaugural post was followed by a write up of S11 “A Long Way to Go.” But what makes his blog special is that it is written in Catalan. This is an important development for our hobby. While there is a Catalan Wargamers Resource website, it does not appear to have any ASL content. There are some nine million Catalan speakers in the world. Most reside in Spain. However, Catalan speakers also can be found in Andorra, France and Sardinia (Italy). Learning a new language is tough enough. Learning English and the ASL Rule Book is something else altogether. I therefore applaud Martí's efforts to acquaint more people with ASL. 
Last November, a small but enthusiastic group of ASL players gathered in Barcelona for the 13th Fanatic Tournament. In the thick of it was our Catalan ambassador Martí Cabré. Due to the theme of the tournament, players had a chance to play a unique scenario starring a few Canadians. I say unique, because to my knowledge there are only two scenarios where Canadians face the Imperial Japanese Army. They are: MLR1 “Hana-Saku,” and FE130 “Desperate Straights.” I have yet to play either scenario. It is high time that I did. 
For spreading the good word in Catalan, and for rolling low, Martí wins a copy of the lastest Winter Offensive Bonus Pack, a Heretical Rate of Fire die, and a $10.00 gift certificate for our KitShop. Felicitats Martí!
House call
The winner of our February raffle is a mild-mannered fellow from Berlin. He has attended the last two Canadian ASL Open (CASLO) tournaments in Ottawa. Yet, I have not had the pleasure of playing him. It turns out that we have a mutual ASL friend, a Circassian who moved to Canada some time ago. I only learned of this in 2010, and then only when I made a point of asking him who the cross-border player was. 

Circassians originated in the northern Caucasus, but many later settled in the Levant (present day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) during the Circassian diaspora in the 19th century. To paraphrase Dennis Hopper from the film True Romance, this stuff fascinates me.4 I studied the history of the Near East (Middle East) a fair bit in university. I also did a tour in the Golan Heights in 1985-86. As an interesting aside, during the 1930s, Circassians living in al-Quneitra approached officials of the then French Mandate. They lobbied for an independent Circassian state on the Golan Heights. They based their case on the fact that they constituted the majority in al-Quneitra, the largest settlement on the Golan. I spent six months in Camp Ziouani, just outside the ruined town of al-Quneitra. It would be another ten years before I learned that there were Circassians living in the Middle East. So where am I going with this? To Brockville, naturally, as that is where our mutual friend lives.  
Brockville is less than an hour drive from my place. I have played three or four face-to-face games with Dana over the years, but not of late. So imagine my surprise when the winner of this month's raffle winner told me that in 2010 he had made a house call in Brockville. He was on his way to the CASLO, and had arranged to hook up with his old ASL buddy. But what surprised me the most was that Dana was responsible for getting "Doc" Evans into the hobby. 

Mark Evans is an acupuncturist in Berlin, New Hampshire. He is also a pretty decent player. He placed third at the CASLO last year.5 To be clear, this had nothing to do with his standing offer of complimentary therapy for all the CASLO attendees. No, he won fair and square. He also won our February raffle outright with an 11, and a 13! 
Mark wins a copy of Le Franc Tireur's latest scenario pack From the Cellar 6, a Sniper! Effects die, and a $20.00 gift certificate for our KitShop. Congratulations Mark!
Make your own luck
It is never too late to become a Squad Leader. Jonathan K. joined on 31 December. His lowest sum was 13. And Fred Ingram, who joined the same month, had two rolls of 16! Suffice it to say that one roll of the dice is one more than none. Make your own luck and join Sitrep as a Squad Leader (follower) today!

To claim a prize, simply leave a comment at the end of this post, and send us an email: battleschool @ rogers dot com

Acknowledgements and Notes
The cellar rat appears courtesy of Le Franc Tireur, publishers of stunning, full-colour ASL scenario packs, magazines, and historical modules. 
1. The VASLeague turned six this year. Enrico Catanzaro of Palermo, Sicily is the Tournament Director and chief whip. There are several Minor Leagues (Europe, Australasia, Eastern North/South America, and Central/Western North/South America), and one Major League. Players are promoted to the majors each year. This new blood is used to replace low-ranking individuals in the majors, as well as those who decline to continue for another year. The minors are grouped roughly according to time zones thereby allowing players to play in real time on VASL. Play-by-email (PBEM) is also permitted, but the default method is live VASL. For more information, see Enrico's post on BoardGameGeek.
2. Initially, the New Zealand company was attached to a British infantry battalion—Royal Highland Fusiliers—for administrative purposes. Dale's reference to being a “hostage” is not accidental. During 1995, 55 members of ‘A’ Squadron, Royal Canadian Dragoons—part of Canadian Battalion 2—were taken hostage by Serb forces. According to some reports, the hostages were treated well by the Serbs, while their comrades back in Visoko were mortared and rocketed. However, Dale received nothing less than the royal treatment from his Canadian hosts. Keen to see what a “treadhead” was made of, “Rocky,” the RCR section commander, assigned Dale a C9 Light-machinegun. Dale also insists that some visiting Canadians helped him and his mates drink the Kiwi canteen dry later in the tour. That's odd. Most of the guys who I served with in the army were strict teetotalers. <wink>
3. According to legend, the arms of Aragón were originally plain gold, or “Or plain.” The changed purportedly occurred following the death in battle of Geoffroy le Velu, King of Aragón. Geoffroy had been fighting alongside Charles le Chauve against the Normans. In a dramatic show of gratitude for Geoffroy's bravery, Charles dipped his fingers in his blood and smeared them onto the shield. The four red fingers, or in heraldic terms, the “four pallets gules,” thereafter adorned the “Or plain.”
Pere/Pedro/Peter II (1174-1213) gained prestige and lasting fame for his role in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (16 July 1212). The battle took place some 250 kilometres south of Madrid. Known in Arab history as the Battle of Al-Uqab, the defeat of the Moors at Las Navas de Tolosa was a major turning point in the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula. Ironically, Peter died only a year later at the battle of Muret, while fighting fellow Crusaders.
4. If you love flicks with brilliant dialogue, you need to watch this one. To my knowledge, it is the first screenplay written by Quentin Tarantino. The cast is top notch. Gary Oldman is a superb slimeball. This is also where the seed for The Soprano's was sown.
5. Rather than spoil the CASLO After-Action Report due to be published after the Festung Budapest post, I will save the details of Mark's accomplishments at the CASLO until then.


Dale said...

Ha what a dagg mate, I've been pretty flat out at work and absent from this blog for a while and lo and behold I see a bio of me - cheers mate. Dale.

Martí Cabré said...

Hi, that was truly unexpected!
How did you manage to get all that information? You must work in C3i.

Chris Doary said...

Hola Marti, what can I say, I once aspired to being an intelligence officer. Now I just play pretend. :)