11 August 2012

A New Spinn on ASL?

The sound of tumbling dice faded as I descended to the basement. Helen had only just begun to roll dice for some 200 contestants in our July raffle. A shriek of excitement caught me unawares. “Wait till you see what I just rolled,” she shouted. “It’s only my fourth roll,” she continued. Did we really have a winner already? I was skeptical. 
It ain’t rocket science 
Boxcars blues
We did have a winner, of sorts. Robert Callen of Lexington, Kentucky will be familiar to those who have followed our monthly raffles. Bob—not Rodney, his cousin—joined Sitrep in July 2011. Bob was the fourth person to become a Squad Leader. Bob—not Rod—was a runner up in our December 2011 raffle. And Bob—not Rod—has a momentary case of boxcar blues. 
I asked Bob if he would mind providing a brief overview of his involvement with Advanced Squad Leader. Four or five bullet points would suffice, I told him. He response was both longer and more considered than I had anticipated. Bob remarked that it would be hard to distill his “mad ASL skills” into a fistful of bullets. He had a point—more than five, I might add. But in the spirit of my request, he kept his points to five paragraphs. I have uncharitably reduced these to five bullet points. In my defence, I have edited very little of his response. Moreover, the wit and turns of phrase are all his.1 Here is what Bob had to say:
Getting medieval
I have been playing ASL for about 20 years now. I took a few years off in the early 21st century to complete my education, first in literature and medieval studies and then in library science. Potential ASL opponents should know that I do, in fact, know how to “get medieval” on someone’s cardboard troops, but that this is countered by my tendency to forget rules as quickly as I learn them because library science is not rocket science. 
I am a librarian in a public library in Lexington, Kentucky. Fortunately I love basketball, bourbon, and horse racing. I also like some other war games, including Pacific War and Flat Top. I recently purchased Kingdom of Heaven and have Warriors of God on my buy list because I really can’t continue to claim to be a medievalist based on my literary studies alone.
Lame library humour
I am married, have no kids, and one collie. The wife does not want to play war games, although she is keen on a game of Zombies! from time to time. I have resisted the urge to teach the collie ASL because I suspect he would win a little too often once he got the hang of it. Smart dogs, those collies.
I play ASL using VASL, and have found it to be a boon here in “LexVegas,” as my closest opponents live about 45 minutes to an hour away. (If you live closer and are looking to play and/or learn ASL, look me up because I would love more face-to-face play.) The only downside of VASL is not being able to use my Battledice (utterly shameless plug, that). I really do like to play with the precision dice—BattleSchool got me started on these. Too much of a hassle to set up a webcam, plus you will recall that I am a librarian and library science is not rocket science. 
Finally, I am not my cousin. Seriously people, how hard is it? I will grant you that the names are similar (Rodney and Robert), but whereas both our names are truncated (Rod and Bob), Rod is the truncated one. He is about 10 inches shorter than me. All kidding aside, it is Rod who I owe for getting me into Squad Leader and then ASL all those years ago. It has been a great ride, and I have met lots of amazing people over the years. But if I had nickel for every ASLer who confused me with Rod over the past three years, I would have... well, a lot of nickels. Or half as many dimes.
Apparently someone has been paying attention to Bob’s plight. In addition to winning one of our new Panzerknackern BattleDice, Bob has won a BattleSchool gift certificate valued at 200 nickels, or half as many dimes. Thanks for following Sitrep Bob. 
Chile con encanto
Green chile cheeseburger
Former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici was a feisty legislator from the Land of Enchantment. “Saint Pete,” as he is known to many New Mexicans, was particular about his chile [sic]. In 1983, he weighed in on a congressional debate over the correct spelling of the dish that contains this spicy capiscum (chili in some quarters, and chilli farther afield). Senator Domenici was unequivocal. “Chili,” he stated for the record, is “that inedible mixture of watery tomato soup, dried gristle, half-cooked kidney beans, and a myriad of silly ingredients that is passed off as food in Texas and Oklahoma.” The senator’s incendiary declaration may have had something to do with the fact that New Mexico’s green chiles are renowned for their flavour and their “heat.” A good place to try them out is at Spinn’s Burger and Beer in northwest Albuquerque (ABQ).2 The laid-back brew pub is also as good a place as any to get in a game of ASL.
A new spinn on supplying beans and bullets to the troops
Those of you who have been keeping score will recall that a member of the Division West ASL Club (DWAC) in ABQ won our April raffle. The state of New Mexico is celebrating its centennial this year. Perhaps this explains why a second person from the Land of Enchantment has won a Sitrep raffle in 2012. Why our winner should also be a member of the DWAC may strike some as a touch too coincidental. I plead innocent. Helen rolled the dice, not me. 
Seth Sparks (left) at Spinn's
Truth is invariably odder than fiction. Seth Sparks not only resides in ABQ, but he is also a native New Mexican. Seth joined Sitrep only a week before the winner of our May raffle did. Moreover, he has been somewhat remiss in attending DWAC meets of late. The only photographic evidence I was able to obtain placed him at Spinn’s, where a crowd of hungry and thirsty DWAC members converged for an afternoon of ASL some time ago.3 But Seth’s fascination with ASL has hardly lapsed. 
Squad Leader had all of the qualities of the ultimate wargame in Seth’s teenage eyes. Weekends would begin with Seth bicycling to his friendly local gaming store. It was the late 70s, and Wargames West was the place to be in ABQ, “nerd heaven” according to Seth. He played heaps of games: Panzer Leader, Highway to the Reich, Diplomacy, Junta, Dungeons and Dragons, and countless others lost to the heady days of youth. It was during one of these weekend forays that he discovered Squad Leader. Seth just had to play it. And play it he did until college and the demands of adulthood drew him away.
Wargames West catalogue
In 1996, Seth waxed nostalgic. He began researching Squad Leader. He found a dedicated crowd still playing this classic game, but something had changed. Advanced Squad Leader had arrived, a decade earlier, it turned out. Seth was immediately drawn to ASL. “It was the ultimate expression of everything cool about Squad Leader,” he recalled. One look was all it took for him to go on an ASL shopping spree. 
Seth was fortunate to find several ASL modules at Game Cove in Carlsbad, California. However, he found his first ASL opponent courtesy of his old teenage haunt, Wargames West.4 He has been playing ever since. Although Seth has played by email (PBEM) and live using the Virtual ASL interface, most of his gaming today is face-to-face. But then Seth is luckier than most.
Embrace A.2
Seth is a lawyer. So too is one of his regular ASL opponents. When I say regular, I mean just that. Seth’s colleague and friend Jeff Myers works in the same office building as Seth works. This allows the pair to get together once a week and play ASL over lunch.
One might be tempted to ask how much their shared profession contributes to “rules lawyering” during play. Not much, I suspect. Seth does not strike me as a highly competitive fellow. Mind you he has been to three tournaments in Denver, Colorado. (The tourneys were hosted by the Front Range ASL (FRASL) gang, who Seth tells me are a terrific bunch.) But while he certainly had fun—and learned a lot from the experience—Seth was likely never in contention for top honours. He will happily attend more tournaments in the future. For the moment, however, he prefers to spend his vacation leave with his son; although this does not mean that holidays and ASL are mutually exclusive. One of Seth’s short-term goals is to introduce his eleven year-old to ASL Starter Kit.
ASL felons
As for his “irregular” face-to-face play, Seth has been busy. He recently completed a campaign game (CG) from the historical module Kampfgruppe Pieper. The European Theatre of Operations (ETO) is his preferred theatre. Within this area, the Eastern Front holds a special fascination for Seth. It should come as no surprise therefore to learn that he is currently playing the third CG in Festung Budapest. It is a team affair. Jeff Myers, Randy Wilson, Marc Hirschy and Seth each control a portion of the Soviet, Hungarian, German orders of battle. Seth is having a hoot.
I asked Seth what he likes most about ASL. He explained that he is attracted to the history, the tactics, and the “crazy way a game can play out.” “The story lines can be blast,” he continued. It is a wild ride on an “emotional roller coaster,” he added. Seth summed up it like this:
In my experience, there is no other wargame like it, or as much fun. Try it a few times. It will get under your skin.

I second this. ASL may appear daunting to the uninitiated, but it rewards players with a multidimensional gaming experience. But do not take my word for it. Try it yourself!
Seth was one of three finalists on 1 August. Richard Smit and John McLintock also had low rolls of six. However, in the tiebreaker, Seth had 10, while Richard and John tied with 14. For besting his fellow contestants Seth wins the latest scenario pack from the French producer Le Franc Tireur (LFT) courtesy of the BattleSchool KitShop, and a $20.00 gift certificate redeemable in KitShop. Congratulations Seth!
The rat returns! September Special: $22 + S&H
What's in the latest rat pack?
One early-war action
From the Cellar 7 contains ten ETO scenarios.5 The scenario cards are stylishly laid out in full colour, including appropriate unit or formation symbols that add a bit of historical flavour to the layout. While not new for LFT, the miniature colour maps are a welcome and practical addition to a scenario card. The maps allow players to get an appreciation for the board configuration while perusing the rest of the scenario card. Below is a list of the scenarios. With one exception, all take place on the Western Front.
The average time required to play a scenario in the pack is a little over four hours. The biggest scenario may take as long as seven hours to play. But two thirds of the scenarios will play quickly, a couple in less than three hours. The shorter scenarios are perfect for evening play during the work week. The pack is available through our August KitShop catalogue.
More prizes to be won
Our next raffle takes place on 1 September. To qualify, you need to be following Sitrep as a Squad Leader as of 30 August. We recommend that you also subscribe (by email) to Sitrep. A subscription will ensure that you are notified when I publish a new post.
A Squad Leader receives one ballot for each raffle. In addition, all Squad Leaders who joined before 1 July 2012 receive a bonus ballot—a thank you for joining early. Finally, all Squad Leaders displaying their full names (first and last), and a non-generic avatar will receive a bonus ballot.6 
Good luck on 1 September!
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
We have an extra special raffle planned for September. Xavier Vitry, Editor of Le Franc Tireur, has confirmed that LFT has donated four scenario packs for our next raffle. There will be four winners. Each winner will receive a From the Cellar scenario pack, and a $10.00 gift certificate valid toward merchandise in the BattleSchool KitShop catalogue. The Squad Leader with the lowest roll after any tiebreaker rolls will have first dibs. Up for grabs are From the Cellar 456, and 7. The first runner up will get to choose from the remaining packs, and so on.

Join Sitrep as a follower before 1 September and you are entered in the raffle. But why stop there? Add a personal avatar, along with your first and last name when you join and receive a bonus ballot! Double your chances and win a cool scenario pack from LFT.
1. The cartoon that interrupts Bob’s essay is my attempt at library humour. My first job in New Zealand was as a Library Assistant in a public library. It was a good way for me to get acquainted with the locals, not least because I worked at five libraries within the district. With few exceptions all of the employees were women. I still recall an older patron asking me why I was working at a library. It was woman’s work, he said. I have to admit, it was not rocket science. ;)
2. For the record, Spinn’s also has a lot of so-called Texan fare on the menu.
3. If anyone has a more recent picture of Seth, I encourage you to pass it on so that we can have a better look at this native New Mexican.
4. Wargames West shut its doors for the last time in December 2001. Seth recalled with fondness how fantastic Game Cove was before it too closed. Wargames West proved to be only the first of many local game stores to close following the rise of electronic gaming. Ares, another game store in ABQ closed only last month. This has had a direct impact on the DWAC, which occasionally met at Ares to play. But all is not gloom and doom. Local game stores in Ottawa, Ontario, for instance, appear to be on the upswing, fueled by a return to social gaming. Witness also the growth of Gamer’s Armory in Cary, North Carolina. Crystal and Scott Blanton have built a thriving business and gaming community in the Raleigh area. More modest, and more local is Josh Stein’s venture in Downer’s Grove, Illinois. Situated in the outskirts of Chicago, Fair Game brings people and games together in an unconventional manner. I like Josh’s philosophy. I wish we had more game store owners like him.
5. Just prior to publication, the scenario FT175 “Dover Bunker” replaced “A Belgian Hero.” The latter scenario is mentioned in the small booklet that accompanies the scenario pack. The Belgian scenario is due to be published later. "Dover Bunker" uses part of the mapsheet that came with the St. Nazaire module published by LFT. (You can play it on VASL if you do not have the original map.) Note also that scenario FT 176 “Inter-Allied Attack” requires board LFT1, which was included in the 11th (France 1940) issue of LFT magazine.
6. 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 will have a minimum of one ballot in each raffle.

From Wikipedia: The Fireballs were formed in Raton, New Mexico, and got their start as an instrumental group, featuring the very distinctive lead guitar of George Tomsco. They recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, where Buddy Holly had previously launched his career.


Unknown said...

Thanks Chris. I would like to claim both prizes. You two are great.


peacmyer said...

Huzzah! Congrats, Seth!

Chris Doary said...


We just got the second part of our shipment from LFT in today. Had a chance to take a closer look at the scenarios in FTC7. You can probably finish FT178 Niederburg Farmhouse over the course of a few coffee breaks at work! :]

It is the perfect sized scenario for those times when a scenario ends unexpectedly early and you do not have time to start a second scenario. FT178 uses only a half board, with a total of 11.5 squad-equivalents and one AFV in play.

Will pack your prize up today. :)

Bob Callen said...

Hi Helene and Chris,

I tried to leave a comment earlier and it appears not to have gotten through. Congratulations to Seth, and many thanks to you both for running the contest and raising the profile of this great game.

All the best,

Mark said...

I never win anything!!!

Congrats on the wins guys!

Chris and Helen, keep up the great work.


Chris Doary said...

All good things come to those who wait Mark.

Check out the update above regarding our September raffle. More chances to win and wallow in your 15 minutes of fame. :]