|Monument to the Great War in Városmajor, Budapest.
Canada Day—Dominion Day, for those old enough to remember—marked the first anniversary of Sitrep. We decided to celebrate the occasion with an extra special “Budafest” contest.
First, let me thank everyone for taking the time to read and comment on my posts. I know Helen is thrilled to read your comments. She also gets a kick out of seeing people from across the planet drop in for a visit. We have received a great deal of positive feedback in the past twelve months. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I especially want to thank our Squad Leaders for following Sitrep, which brings me to our best contest yet.
Almost 200 Squad Leaders were entered in our June raffle. Many participants received 10 or more rolls! That is a lot of rolling. Helen took it in stride, and in intervals. By noon on 1 July we had determined the winners.
Helen used five dice in the raffle. We did not expect to see a tie for first place, especially if someone drew five aces. In the end there was no tie for the secondary prize either. And what a secondary prize it is!
|Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon 2012
Eric Garrard is a big tennis fan. He enjoys playing and watching the sport. I can see the attraction. Lest you think I jest, allow me to quote him verbatim: “make sure the entire world knows that I am fanatic about tennis!” Eric is also fanatic about ASL. When I asked him what attracted him to the game, his response was unequivocal. “Everything!” he exclaimed. “It is the best game system on the planet.” “No question,” he concluded.
|La Bataille de la Moscowa
Eric became a battlefield commander at the tender age of nine. He was fortunate to be part of a game group in “junior high,” and later, in high school. His group played regularly on Thursday evenings. It was the 1970s. Strategic-level wargames abounded. But Eric never took to them, preferring tactical simulations instead. Laurence A. Groves’ La Bataille de la Moscowa, published in 1975, is a prime example. In addition to tactical-level Napoleonics, Eric developed an interest in operational-level games such as Kevin Zucker’s “Campaigns of Napoleon” series. Today, he continues to enjoy Napoleonics and gaming the American Civil War. However, Dean Essig’s “Civil War Brigade Series” has largely replaced Richard Berg’s regimental-level “Great Battles of the American Civil War” series in Eric’s day-to-day play. But as much as he enjoys these other game systems, Eric insists that ASL will always be his “preferred game.”
|Cross of Iron gamette
Eric was 14 when Squad Leader debuted. A member of Eric’s Thursday group had purchased the game and lent him the rule booklet. In 1978, Eric’s best friend found Squad Leader and Cross of Iron under the Christmas Tree. His friend lived only three blocks away. Over the holidays the pair immersed themselves in the game. They played every scenario in the base game, and most of the scenarios in the expansion. Eric knew at once that the game was for him—“oh, to be young and be a sponge again.”1
Eric dutifully purchased all of the original ASL merchandise as it was released. Nevertheless, it took him until about 1994, or roughly eight years, to complete the transition to ASL. He attributes this to the fact that he cherry-picked and arbitrarily combined elements of both systems together. In contrast, my long-time ASL buddy and I agreed to drop Squad Leader entirely when ASL appeared on the scene. But even so, old rules and bad habits tended to creep back into our game. But like Eric, we eventually got ourselves sorted.
Lately, Eric has been coaching an old high-school buddy in the finer points of ASL. That said, he estimates that about 80 percent of his play is solo—not to be confused with Solitaire ASL (SASL). Virtual ASL (VASL) accounts for most of his play. He has logged more than 50 scenarios online in the past 18 months alone. Eric also benefits from a very active gaming community in Indianapolis, where he lives.2 But apart from local game days, Eric has not attended any ASL events or tournaments. A few players from Indiana routinely show up during the latter half of the annual ASL Oktoberfest (ASLOK) tournament in Cleveland. Eric has not ruled out attending “Oktumourfest,” as he referred to ASLOK. However, it could be a couple years before he crosses the state line into Ohio for his ultimate ASL fix.
In the meantime, Eric has plenty to keep him occupied. He enjoys gaming all theatres, although he has not delved much into North Africa. He only really took to the Pacific Theatre about five years ago, and has been having fun with it. Frankly, Eric is content to play a no-frills scenario featuring Americans and Germans, as long as it is ASL.
I asked Eric if he had any tips for newcomers. He recommended a thorough reading of chapter A, which deals with the basic mechanics of the game, and Infantry combat. He advised skipping sections that deal with more specialized subjects such as Demo Charges and Flamethrowers, until there is a need for this information.3 “Get the meat and potatoes of the infantry mechanics” down first, he emphasized. Chapter B can be consulted as required. “Just focus on the terrain types you are encountering,” he continued. Later, one can add Guns and vehicles. Take it in steps. A good teacher will speed up the process, but learning in stages is usually best.
|BudaPack with light-blue dice shown
Eric commented that “it would be a different world without John Hill.” John Hill gave us Squad Leader in 1977. Since then, legions of devotees have built upon Hill’s game in ways that few could have imagined 35 years ago. Moreover, as Eric underlined, we would not be where we are today without the dedication and hard work of those who have endeavoured to not only keep the hobby alive, but also to expand it in so many wonderful and interesting ways. “We all owe them a debt,” Eric reflected. And we owe Eric a prize.
Eric was the eleventh person to join Sitrep as a Squad Leader. He was also the only person to score “six” in our raffle on 1 July. Almost a year to the day after joining Sitrep, Eric has won a set of our newest BattleDice. The BudaPack contains eight, custom dice. The pack is the first in our historical (HASL) series of precision dice designed to complement a historical ASL module (HASL). The BudaPack adds a little colour to the eighth HASL Festung Budapest, but is not wedded to the module. Feel free to use the Soviet pair against Italians, the Hungarian pair versus Romanians, the SS pair to combat partisans, and a German pair against the Americans. Perhaps the dice will encourage Eric to increase his face-to-face play. Congratulations Eric!
Those of you unfamiliar with European history may be surprised to learn that the de facto Hungarian head of state during most of World War II was a retired admiral. Surprised because Hungary is landlocked. Admiral Miklós Horthy was commander-in-chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy during the final year of the Great War. In 1914, Austria and Hungary enjoyed access to the Adriatic Sea. The Austro-Hungarian Empire also boasted an impressive fleet, including some of the more modern dreadnoughts of the day. Following the war, the Empire was dismantled, its fleet surrendered to what would become Yugoslavia. New nation states emerged at the expense of Austrian and Hungarian territory and access to the sea. A German-led coup in October 1944 ousted Horthy from power as Soviet and Romanian forces closed on the Hungarian capital. Horthy would spend the remainder of the war in Germany as a “guest.” He died in 1957, aged 88.
|Austro-Hungary was a Mediterranean naval power in 1914
The winner of our June raffle is also landlocked, although Orlando, Florida is much closer to the sea than Budapest is. He has also spent some time afloat in the Mediterranean. Harold Keylon was born into a Navy family. His father was posted to various ports along the eastern seaboard of the United States, and Harold spent much of his childhood near Naval Station Mayport, outside Jacksonville, Florida. It was while attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, in “beautiful eastern Tennessee,” that Harold purchased Squad Leader. He already owned a number of Avalon Hill (AH) titles. However, an advert in The General magazine—the in-house organ of AH—caught his eye. Harold recalls that is was the “ability to command smaller units in a wargame” that attracted him to Squad Leader. He snapped up the expansions as soon as they were released. After completing his Bachelor of Arts degree, he enrolled in the Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. His gaming understandably lapsed.
|It was clear from an early age that Harold was destined to follow his father and grandfather into the US Navy
For the better part of his six-year, regular career, Harold sailed on a frigate out of Jacksonville. Navy life allowed him to see a good deal of Europe and the Middle East, even if he occasionally “ended up being in the wrong place at the right time.” He served another 14 years as a Naval Reservist, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. He relocated to Orlando following active duty and earned a Masters of Business Administration and obtained a Certified Public Accountant licence. Harold is employed as a financial analyst. With his background, Harold should have less difficulty than most when calculating risks and rewards in ASL.
Speaking of ASL, Harold’s conversion to The Game is quite recent. A computer crash was the catalyst. Unable to play his favourite simulation—Sierra Entertainment’s Grand Prix Legends Formula 1—Harold began to look for something to fill the entertainment void. He revisited board gaming. The more he frequented GameSquad forums, the more he was tempted to take a crack at ASL. In 2009, he picked up a copy of the rule book and the first module, Beyond Valor. It had begun.
Harold has spent the last three years building up his ASL kit and learning the game. Unfortunately, he has not run into any other players in “O-Town.” He therefore plays solitaire, although he has taken a stab at SASL. He told me that he needs to find time to get VASL set up. That time is now—unless there are players in Orlando ready to join Harold at the game table. Harold is not aware of any clubs or events in metro Orlando. Are you?
Harold mentioned that he has learned a lot from reading the ASL forums on GameSquad and BoardGameGeek. But it would nice to see him find a regular face-to-face opponent. Earlier this year he had an opportunity to move to Tampa Bay, 85 miles (140km) west of Orlando. Too bad that did not work out for him. Third-party publisher Schwerpunkt is headquartered there. I am certain that exposure to the Tampa Bay ASL Club would help Harold’s cause.4 The former Navy officer is not discouraged by a lack of opponents, however. He derives a great deal of pleasure from the fact that the game enables him to model so many different locations, units, and situations. If pressed, he would have to say that his favourite theatre is the Eastern Front. But as a former naval gunfire liaison officer, he would like to “give Naval Offboard Artillery (NOBA) and amphibious landings a try one day.” Are there any ex-Marine ASL players in Orlando?
Harold has the distinction of being the first person in our monthly raffles to roll five aces. And what a time to roll them. He joined Sitrep last December. Harold has won a copy of Festung Budapest, courtesy of the BattleSchool KitShop. Congratulations Harold!
|Festung Budapest with map assembled (photo by R. Wilson)
Our July raffle takes place on 1 August. To qualify, you need to be following Sitrep as a Squad Leader. We recommend that you also subscribe to Sitrep. A subscription will ensure that you are notified when I publish a new post. There will be a change to the ballot system. I mentioned this in my last post, but I will reiterate.
Unless otherwise noted in advance, a Squad Leader will receive one ballot for each raffle. This will save work on our end. It will also give new Squad Leaders a better chance to win. There are two exceptions. One, all Squad Leaders who joined before 1 July 2012 will receive a bonus ballot—a thank you for joining early. Second, all Squad Leaders displaying their full names (first and last), and a non-generic avatar will receive a bonus ballot.
Displaying your full name and a personalized avatar makes it easier to track down a winner. It also helps to identify duplicate Squad Leaders. If you are having difficulty updating your name, try typing it in the “about me” field of your profile. A grey silhouette or a Google exclamation mark does not qualify for a bonus ballot. Having said that, a Squad Leader normally has a minimum of one ballot in each raffle.
Good luck on 1 August!
How to claim a prize
To claim a prize, add a comment to the bottom of the appropriate post and email your contact details to us at: battleschool @ rogers dot com
1. I have similar memories of marathon-like gaming sessions. It was a thrill to finish reading a new rule section because I knew that a new scenario, and a more nuanced gaming experience awaited me. The more complex scenarios tantalized and drew me deeper into the system. When I had played all of scenarios in the first two games, Avalon Hill kindly provided more scenarios. Among the new scenarios was the rogue series, so-called because the series used boards 9, 10, and 11, which did not come with any of the games. Without hesitation, I purchased these boards separately and played on. Many of the scenarios from the Squad Leader system have been adapted to ASL, including some of the rogue scenarios. See Jim Stahler's Turning the Tide scenario pack published by MMP.
2. I believe that Tom Cvetnovich is the contact for ASL in the local Yahoo gaming group. Indianapolis is also home to Jason Eickmann, a top player. I have met Tom and Jason, but the only fellow from Indiana that I can recall playing is Chuck Dye. Because of our surnames, we tend to get matched up in the VASLeague. We have played twice so far.
3. I would add that if you focus on the first twelve sections of chapter A, the remainder can be consulted as the need arises. My only caveat is that an understanding of how to use Infantry SMOKE is too important to leave until later.
4. In October 2010, the 2 Half-Squads interviewed Evan Sherry. Evan is the owner of Schwerpunkt, and a driving force behind the Tampa scene. Perhaps Harold would benefit from getting in touch with the Tampa Club.