13 May 2012

Somebody Up There Likes You

I tried to make this post mercifully brief for you, and me. But I tend to ramble on. I had hoped to finish an after-action report before the end of April. It is long overdue. However, another raffle is upon us. So without further ado, the results.
How it works
Sitrep now has close to 200 Squad Leaders, or followers. Unlike those who simply subscribe to Sitrep, followers are eligible to win prizes in our various raffles and contests. Each person who was following our blog at the end of April received “ballots” equal to the number of months he or she has been a Squad Leader. Each ballot translates into one roll of the dice. The Squad Leader with the lowest roll wins a prize, and a gift certificate for our KitShop, or store. The gift certificate can be used to purchase any item found in our 16-page catalogue.  
Four, half-inch precision dice tumbled down Helen’s dice tower more than 1000 times. Not once did four aces appear. One Squad Leader nonetheless scored a pair of “boxcars.” For his misdemeanour, Rob wins a $15.00 gift certificate redeemable in KitShop.1
Game Dude
Four gents had a low roll of five. In the tie-breaker, Robert Wilson fared worst. 
Robert is a regular on BoardGameGeek (BGG) forums. He also can be found lurking, and occasionally posting, on GameSquad (GS) ASL forums. He plays a variety of games, and has been doing so since the glory days of Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI), and Avalon Hill (AH). Robert lives in Riverview, a suburb of Moncton, New Brunswick. He confesses that he is an expatriate “Brit.” He made his way to Canada via California, where he lived for a time.2 
Robert had expressed interest in attending the Canadian ASL Open in Ottawa last September. However, with two small children, it can be hard to get away. Pity. He would have been a good fit. We had a lot of newish players at the event who would have benefited from his gaming philosophy. “Now that I’m older,” he reflected on BGG, “I play for the experience.. and less for the winning... I seem to have a lot more fun that way.” Sage advice. For his advice, and for following along, Robert wins a Sniper! Effects die, and a $10.00 gift certificate.
My head hurts
The third runner-up this month is new to ASL, but hardly new to gaming. A free-lance writer based in Jacksonville Florida, Tony Tucker goes by the handle “Maitete.”3 No idea what that means. Tony is an introspective sort who relishes detail. Well, he came to the right place. ASL is definitely about the details.
Tony joined Sitrep in September, about the same time that he began looking for opponents in the vicinity of “Jax.” He has a degree in comparative religion, which is just as well. ASL “physics” would confound anyone with a science background. 
I can still recall my undergraduate, comparative religion course. It was titled, “The Search for Meaning.” The course explored the different ways in which various peoples sought meaning in their lives. If I learned anything from my studies, it was that much of the meaning is in the doing. And so it is with ASL. Outcomes are certainly important, but it is the experience as a whole that provides players with meaning—be it the mental challenge, social bonding, or just having fun. It will be interesting to hear what Tony, the thinker, has to say about our hobby. For following Sitrep, Tony wins a Sniper! Effects die and a $10.00 gift certificate.
Take me out to The Game
The popularity of ASL in certain parochial circles notwithstanding, one would not expect to hear a play-by-play of an ASL game over the airwaves. Mind you, it would be heaps more exciting than a radio broadcast of a round of golf. But let’s be honest. We want to play ASL, not listen to someone else having all the fun. Am I right? It depends. It apparently depends on who is doing the talking.4 
They are probably not in the same league as Harry Caray.5 But a couple of exuberant, nay fanatic, Chicago suburbanites may well be in the same ball park, at least in the hearts and minds of their devoted listeners. To be fair, the longest running ASL podcast is a hands-on affair—though even ole Harry occasionally caught a ball in his broadcast booth. In truth, the podcast is less about “calling The Game,” than the commentary that fills the air between plays. 
I am referring to the personable pair known as The 2 Half-Squads (T2HS): Dave Kleinschmidt and Jeff Hallett. Theirs may be the only ASL podcast, but that in no way diminishes their accomplishment. Dave and Jeff recently began their fourth “season” on the air. With 68 episodes to their credit, there is no denying the growing popularity of their talk show. Indeed, the pair are fast becoming as well-known as the more august ASL celebrities who they frequently interview. For instance, their most recent guest was Jim Stahler, author of the “Squad Leader Training Manual” (Chapter K, in the ASL Rule Book).6
I had the pleasure to meet and speak with Dave and Jeff in 2010. However, if past experience is any measure, I was probably doing more talking than listening. So forgive me if you find my descriptions of these gentlemen wanting. Neither Dave nor Jeff professes any special expertise where ASL is concerned. Indeed, their utter lack of pretension and breezy banter is a draw.
Of the two, Jeff Hallett is the less experienced player. He is also less knowledgeable with regard to the hobby. I think this works in everyone’s favour. Jeff is an information technology consultant, which is to say that he is a clever fellow. But even clever folk can find ASL a challenge. What is second nature to an ASL grognard,7 may not be obvious to a “newbie.” So in some respects, Jeff acts as the listener’s advocate, and technical translator. Or more plainly, Jeff asks questions on behalf of the audience, and keeps Dave’s ASL jargon in check. Jeff also adds his technical wizardry to the show, and the website.
If Jeff is a bit green, Dave is the more experienced half-squad (HS).8 Dave has been playing ASL so long that one would expect to see a Single Man Counter (SMC) with his name on it. Trouble is, Dave’s last name is too long to fit on a ½” counter. I can empathize. My mother’s maiden name is Nichterwitz. I did find an 8-0 Sergeant Schmidt languishing among my German SMC. I understand that there is also a 7-0 Cpl Klein in the counter mix. It must be a small counter, because I could not find it. Nevertheless, it must be tough living with a split-personality disorder, even for a Good Order, advanced squad leader of Dave’s calibre. So here you go Dave: a SMC with your entire last name, and a promotion! 
Dave Kleinschmidt teaches Social Studies at a Middle School on the outskirts of the Windy City. He uses wargames, especially miniatures, in the classroom. He believes that games illustrate points of history, and keep students engaged. Wish I had had a teacher like Dave.9 In at least one way, I do. The 2 Half-Squads have capitalized on Dave’s teaching experience. Many of their podcasts contain informal lessons, how-to segments, and tips for new and old players alike. “Terrain Time,” which spotlights a section of Chapter B, comes to mind. Education is only part of their repertoire, however. 
Dave and Jeff go the extra mile. Sure they want to educate and inform, but most of all, they want to entertain. Whether it is a fictitious opening sketch, a song with an ASL theme, or some wacky sound effect, T2HS aim to be fun. The pair jests about making special appearances. But that is essentially what they have done with their T2HS “road show.” For example, Jeff and Dave have recorded live shows at the ASL Oktoberfest Tournament in Cleveland, and the ASL Open in Chicago.10 
Dave and Jeff were “live at the Open” again this year. Podcasting is a terrific way to capture ASL moments as they happen. It is also an excellent way to record ASL moments for posterity. The historical record that Jeff and Dave are compiling will increase in importance as we age. Their timely interviews of the late Ian Daglish and Bill “Fish” Conner have already proven this to be the case. These interviews are a great use of a new medium, for a podcast provides a level of intimacy that printed media can seldom match. I wish them well in their future endeavours.
For their steadfast commitment to the hobby, Dave and Jeff deserve a big thank you from all of us. For following Sitrep since its inception, and rolling low, Jeff and Dave each win a pair of precision dice and a $10.00 gift certificate. As ASL broadcasters go, both are fanatic. But where ASL experience is concerned, Dave retains a slight edge. With that in mind, Dave will receive a pair of ½” white and light-blue dice to match his SMC. Jeff? Well, Jeff reminds me of what we called “pinkies,” when I was deployed in the Golan Heights —the year ASL debuted, no less. New arrivals were christened “pinkies” on account of their untanned skin, and inexperience in-theatre. We were all “pinkies” at one time. Jeff, the inexperienced HS, therefore wins a pair of white and pink dice. Time for Jeff to try “Red Don” again. But this time with his “pinko,” guaranteed-to-low-roll-50-percent-of-the-time, precision cube. Keep on podcasting guys!
Design your own precision dice pairs available in KitShop
I just wanna play
The winner of our April raffle joined Sitrep on 19 December, about six months after returning to the hobby. He was 14 when he first began pushing cardboard squad leaders. When Avalon Hill released ASL two years later, he took the plunge. He loved the game. Anything to do with World War II got his attention. He played with older, and more experienced players in his home town. They took him under their wings, and he had a ball. In 1988, he joined the military. His play lapsed for several years. But then, in San Diego, he joined a group of perhaps eight players. The San Diego crew would later join forces with the Southern California ASL Club, based in Los Angeles.
During the 90s our winner “rubbed shoulders with the likes of” Rodney Kinney, Mark Neukom, Eddie Zeman, Charles Hammond, and the late Kent Smoak. They “were valuable tutors for a 23-year-old guy trying to grasp 500 pages of rules and special circumstances,” he told me. I bet they were! I have only had the pleasure of meeting Chuck Hammond, an erudite fellow whose command of German shames mine. Rodney Kinney brought us Virtual ASL (VASL). Mark Neukom cofounded Kinetic Energy Productions (1994-1999), publisher of Time on Target. Eddie Zeman was the driving force in the creation of the longest-running, third-party publisher to date: Heat of Battle. And Kent Smoak was the first President of the SoCal ASL Club. 
Kent was a native of Los Angeles, but had been working in Chicago for 15 years. He returned to SoCal in the mid 90s to find the ASL scene in disarray. Kent was instrumental in bringing together two smaller ASL clubs—in Los Angeles and San Diego, in launching the West Coast Melee tourney, and in founding the club newsletter Hit the Beach! Kent was also a patient ASL coach. As the winner of our April raffle recalled, Kent taught him the value of not invoking No Quarter.11
Kent was also the first to teach our winner that all important ASL truism: “you play the game 80 percent of the time with only 20 percent of the rules.” Kent explained to him that, “it’s the guy who uses those little known rules to exploit, turn the tide and force victory” who wins most often. Our winner said that he was proud to have been one of Kent’s understudies, or as he put it, one of his “grasshoppers.” Tragically, leukemia struck Kent down in 1998. He was 46.12 
For seven years, our winner enjoyed the hospitality of SoCal ASL players. When not deployed, he played a couple weekends a month, and attended “any tournament” within six hours drive of San Diego. He purchased virtually every ASL publication available. These were the days—the dark days of ASL, he remembers—when the future of ASL was uncertain.13 Be that as it may, he has many fond memories of this time. He play tested for Heat of Battle and Kinetic Energy. He recalled that the play-test maps for God Save the King, and Blood Reef Tarawa, were pasted together from 8½ by 11-inch sheets of paper. “Those were good times,” he told me. “I loved the game, and met lots of great people.”
Our winner completed his service with the US Navy in 1998. He returned to New Mexico, where he married, and started a family. He never seemed to find the time to rekindle his interest in ASL. Albuquerque—ABQ, to locals—lacked a critical mass of ASL players required to maintain an active club in the late 90s. However, last summer, our winner was “reborn as a cardboard pushing Staff Officer,” when he discovered the Division West Advanced Squad Leader Club. The club was formed by players in west ABQ, hence the name. Today, the club boasts members from as far away as Los Alamos and Sante Fe—about 60 miles or 100 kilometres. Brian Ward, our winner, lives in the hills about 20 miles east of ABQ. He is amazed at how much he has missed over the past decade. So many modules, so many scenarios packs, so many missed opportunities. But what he regrets most of all is having lost touch with some great friends.
Brian tries to play regularly now, at least once a month, if not more. He is in his early 40s, so he hopefully has a lot of playing ahead of him. Welcome back Brian. Many of your old friends are still active. Time to catch up. 
Brian wins a copy of Bounding Fire Productions BFP2 Operation Cobra, and a Sniper! Effects die. Operation Cobra recreates some of the fighting in Normandy during the summer of 1944. The majority of the scenarios are designed by the venerable Chas Smith, and Canadian George Kelln. I am virtually certain that Brian will find at least one person in the DWAC keen to play in the bocage. My apologies if the counters that come with the Battle Pack cause Brian additional storage headaches. Congratulations Brian! 
Click to enlarge
BFP2 Operation Cobra
This BFP Battle Pack is chock-a-block with ASL goodness. At its core are 12 scenarios that recreate some of the fighting during Operation Cobra (25-31 July 1944), with particular emphasis on the first day of battle.
The pack includes a 58-page magazine, full-colour scenario cards, an overlay (shown above), rule pages, 88 ⅝” vehicle, ordnance and aircraft counters—with relevant notes for each. The magazine is a mix of historical, design, and ASL-specific articles. The latter include a comprehensive, well-illustrated article on bocage
Another article provides historical and game-specific information on the 88 mm Raketenwerfer 43. Dubbed “Puppchen” (dolly, as in something beffiting a child's doll house) by operators, this rocket launcher was mounted on a small, wheeled gun carriage. The launcher had a much greater effective range than its hand-held cousin, known colloquially as the Panzerschreck. In games terms this translates into a maximum range of 17 hexes! Although roughly 3000 of these launchers entered service during the war, the “official” counter mix does not include this weapon. A To Hit chart is included for the counters.
The majority of the counters, however, are American tanks fitted with Culin hedgerow devices, as well as flamethrower variants not included in the core module Yanks. There are also a few rocket-armed, American fighter bombers, the rules for which are included. All in all, much more than your average scenario pack.14
How to claim a prize
To claim your prize, simply leave a comment at the end of this post and email us your mailing address. You can request a pdf of our KitShop catalogue at the same time. Our email is: battleschool at rogers dot com
Our next raffle will be special. There will only be one prize. To qualify a Squad Leader must be following under his or her real name (first and last). A Squad Leader must also have a custom avatar. An “exclamation mark,” or generic, grey avatar will not get you into this special draw. The prize will be substantial, but not extravagant. Every qualified entry will receive one roll of the dice, tie-breakers excepted. Therefore, every qualifier will have an equal chance to win our May raffle. The draw is on 1 June. Good luck to all!
Thanks for reading. As Dave and Jeff like to end their podcasts, “roll low, and rally well.” 
1. I am not being purposely vague. I simply do not know Rob’s last name. His generic avatar offers no clue. If Rob gets in touch with us, we will let you know his full name at that time. Given that we have a few people with the same first name, it would help if he could tell us when he joined Sitrep, and what his “avatar” looks like.
2. You may learn more about Robert Wilson, or dude163, on his blog
3. Tony, or Phillip—as he signed off on a recent post on GS, has an interesting online persona. Is “Maitete” a neologism, a new word based on the French “Tête” (head)? Or is it a twist on “ma tête” (my head), as in: inside the mind of a thinker? Your guess is as good as mine. You may sample some of Tony’s prose and musings on the web. 
4. Or singing, as some fans have actually composed ASL diddies and performed them on the show.
5. Harry Caray was a boisterous sports broadcaster. He spent most of his career calling baseball games for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox, and the Chicago Cubs.
6. Jim is also responsible for converting a host of Squad Leader scenarios to ASL such as GI's Dozen and Turning the Tide.
7. Grognard is a French term from the Napoleonic period. It is pronounced (very loosely) as “grrow-narr.” The second “g” and the “d” are silent.
8. The modified T2HS logo displays an Elite HS opposite a Green HS. I would not take this literally. My impression is that the hosts of T2HS are, like the majority of their listeners, average players. This is a large part of their appeal. So until Dave wins the ASL Open, let’s just say that the “E” on the 3-3-7 HS stands for “experienced.” 
9. I am not sure it would fly in a Canadian classroom though. I will never forget my Grade 9 history teacher’s “joie d’écrire.” He would begin and end almost every class by writing on the chalk board. Starting on the left, he would fill each board in turn with, what at times, was incomprehensible script. He seldom paused to speak. He just scribbled away. If you were too slow, or had a spell of genuine writer’s cramp, you were doomed. For as soon as he finished filling the last board, he would erase the first and continue writing. I think the record was a dozen boards in one session. Thankfully, class was only an hour long.
10. The ASL Open is an annual tournament held in April. The event has been running for 20 years. Attendance may have down this year, but enthusiasm was not. Georges Tournemire, and Hennie van der Salm flew in for the weekend from Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively. A number of newer players, including 32-year old Patrick Martin, were also present. You can hear Patrick’s impressions of his first tournament in T2HS Episode 67.
11. No Quarter [A20.3], once invoked, gives enemy units more opportunities to rout away, even if Disrupted [19.12]. Broken units no longer have to Surrender [A15.5] to an adjacent enemy unit, may always use Low Crawl [A10.52], or risk Interdiction [A10.53] in order to avoid Surrender. In addition, Mopping Up [A12.153] is not allowed once No Quarter is declared. I am unclear as to whether or not a “capture” attempt in Close Combat  [A20.22] is permitted or not if No Quarter is in effect. My gut feeling says no.
12. Kent succumbed to Adult Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in December 1998, only a few months after symptoms appeared in August. Brian had left San Diego early that year and did not learn of Kent’s passing until much later.
13. Brian recalls these dark times as a period when third-party publishers predominated. It was a period of law suits and sadness, the general feeling being that “our game” was dying. In spite this, there was an ardent desire to produce quality, third-party material. Brian was “very pleased” to learn later that MMP had saved the hobby. He was also extremely proud to see that Heat of Battle’s publications, and Kinetic Energy’s Time on Target are “so prized!” In Brian’s view, “Mark Neukom and Eddie Zeman filled a huge gap,” and their commitment to the hobby was unparalleled at the time. 
14. Note that all but one of the scenarios in the pack require boards released by BFP, especially in their Beyond the Beachhead 2 Battle Pack. For a more detailed discussion of what is inside this Battle Pack, see Mark Pitcavage’s description on his Desperation Morale website.


Bryan Martin said...

Thanks for recognizing all the 2 Half-Squads are doing for the hobby. They are the reason I'm playing ASL, and for that, they have my undying gratitude.

Brian W said...

Chris and Helen,

Thank you for an excellent article and a fantastic prize. As part of being reborn into a cardboard staff officer, I will be attending my first tournament in 14 years. I plan on attending the 20th Annual Texal ASL Tournament in Austin.

Brian Ward

Chris Doary said...

Yes Bryan, Jeff and Dave have done much to bring the hobby out into the wider world. ASL is that much more approachable because of them. They also seem to enjoy what they are doing. I hope that the podcast never becomes a chore for them. Too many listeners now look forward to their regular repartee.

Chris Doary said...

You are most welcome Brian. Have fun in Austin. Careful though. Sam Tyson might tempt you with some more BFP goodness while you are there. :]

Kurt Metzler said...

I have been a long-time fan of the 2 Half-Squads, so it was nice to see them get some recognition for their support of our hobby. It was also nice to finally put the faces to the voices, so to speak.

Another fine article!

dude163 said...

Thanks so much!


The 2 Half-Squads said...

We are most humbled by your review. We regret that we only just found it. Thank you Sir. You might also like our new video productions on Youtube. Google Hang-outs.
Roll Low and Rally Well
Dave and Jeff