Et cetera...

Mission brief
BattleSchool is a venture dedicated to broadening support for Advanced Squad Leader (ASL), and improving game play. ASL is a hex-based, tactical-level wargame that evolved from an earlier game called Squad Leader (1977), designed by John Hill. Both games were published by the now defunct Avalon Hill Game Company. Multi-Man Publishing is the current licensee of the game system. For an overview of ASL during the last 25 years, see my State of the Game: ASL at 25.

ASL is a highly detailed, but necessarily abstract, portrayal of combined-arms combat at the platoon, company, and battalion level. The game originally aimed to model various aspects of ground combat that occurred on all fronts during World War II. However, it has since expanded either side of this period to encompass the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Korean War. Indeed, some scenarios have been set as early as 1908, with the Russian Civil War arguably receiving the most treatment of any conflict prior to 1935. The game system is flexible enough to allow scenarios involving amphibious operations, air drops, and subterranean engagements.1 That said, the system works best with forces that were trained to fight at the squad level, the basic sub-unit of the game. Armour, artillery, and air support can all play a role in an ASL scenario. But the queen of the ASL battle remains the infantry squad.
Situation Report—Sitrep for short—is a newsletter (in blog form) reporting on developments within BattleSchool, and in the ASL community at large. The primary focus of BattleSchool, as the name suggests, is on schooling novices and veterans alike in the subtleties of ASL. In keeping with this focus, BattleSchool aims to provide materials that will help players get more out of ASL. At bottom our goal is to reduce tedium and increase gaming pleasure.

Managing to get by
Narvik, Norway 1984
Your resident scribbler is an ex infanteer, having served 12 years in the Canadian Army. I joined the military in 1980, at age 16. I played a fair amount of Squad Leader as a teenager. 
In 1983 I transferred to the Regular Force. I spent much of 1983-1990 on exercise, or out of country, including California and Norway. I later served two tours in Cyprus. My most enjoyable tour was on the Golan Heights (1985-86). Due to all this travel, I played very little Squad Leader

Golan Heights, 1985
When I moved to Ottawa in 1988, I was able to hook up with an old school chum. Like me, he had joined the infantry, albeit a different regiment. As fate would have it, our battalion relieved his in Cyprus in 1984. Sadly, he was seriously injured during a military sports event a year later. I was in the Middle East at the time, and learned of his accident over a ham radio. When I returned to Canada in 1986, I visited him at the rehabilitation centre. ASL had been released a year earlier and neither of us had seen it yet. We agreed to give it a try. After I had moved to Ottawa, we began to play ASL regularly, at least when I was not deployed overseas.

Somalia, 1993
I left the army in 1993. I had just returned from a tour in Somalia with 3 Commando. It was time to move on. I returned to school in 1994. I graduated in 1997, earning a BA with Distinction in history. While I was an undergraduate,  I played very little ASL. Once I took up graduate studies, ASL play virtually ceased. In 2001 I completed an MA in War Studies (Royal Military College). However, a week after I graduated, I was struck by a van while cycling. I had just been accepted into a military intelligence unit, earlier that week, pending a satisfactory medical examination. That never happened. 

The view from Greenview Lane. We renovated our small three-bedroom house overlooking Red Beach. We backed onto the 17th tee of our golf club. The view from the master bedroom above the deck was spectacular. On a clear day we could see the Coromandel Peninsula (75km), and Great Barrier Island (95km). Auckland was 35km to our south.
Eastern Rosellas occasionally
perched on our deck
I found some part time work in Ottawa, but it quickly became clear that my prospects for employment in the nation's capital were not good. (Most government and service sector jobs require one to be fluent, or at least highly functional, in French.) In 2002, I left Ottawa, and ASL behind. My wife and I emigrated to New Zealand. She had been able to secure a job in Auckland before we departed Canada. I was able to find part time work almost immediately. Within a year I had a full time job, and a year later I was an operations manager with the University of Auckland. Everything was going great. But I was in an ASL desert.

When I dropped by a local game store in Auckland, all I got were blank stares when I inquired after ASL. Suffice it to say that I did not play any ASL while I lived in Red Beach, a seaside community north of Auckland. Hiking, local vineyards, and golf kept me busy enough, I guess. I tried to cycle, but the hills played hell with my battered knee. The lowest temperature we had on Whangaparaoa Peninsula was 6C (about 45F) during a particularly chilly night one winter. So in spite of my sad sack body, we were able to make the most of each season.
SWMBO Manchester, NH 2013

Heron's Flight, NZ 2004

For reasons I will not go into here, my wife wished to return to Canada. So in 2006 I found myself back in Ottawa, an employment desert. However, my old chum was still here. My wife suggested I contact him and see about playing ASL again. I did. I also went to my first ASL tournament in almost 20 years. I began the BattleSchool project shortly thereafter.2

With no proper day job, one might think that I get to play a lot of ASL. Regrettably, that is not the case. But I am playing ASL—a lot more than I did in the mid 80s, and certainly more than I did while I was in university. Like Middle-aged Man of Saturday Night Live fame was apt to lament, "I'm working on it!"

1See my after-action report of a scenario set in Papua New Guinea for an example of how ASL plays out in the jungle.
2. For more background on why I play ASL, see this article. If you are new to ASL, then you may find some of the ASL Starter Kit articles on this page useful.

Working on my short game at Kauri Cliffs, NZ

1 comment:

Rob Bottos said...

Chris, I see on your website that you have a link for the West Coast Rumble tournament, which takes place at my convention BottosCon. I think a better link for a description of the tournament and it's format would be
Rob Bottos