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Subject: Squad Leader/ASL versus Other Such Games rss

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p55carroll
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In a current poll, ASL has taken a decisive lead among tactical WWII games, and there have been several mentions of the original Squad Leader.

But other games have made a good showing. And even some of those that don't show up on the poll as being all that popular must have a good, solid following.

So, I'm wondering what SL/ASL has that other games don't. Or what those other games have that would make a person prefer them over SL/ASL.

To get one thing out of the way: Obviously the ASL rulebook is big and daunting. And some players may regard the "starter kits" as just a tease. So, one reason to choose a different game might be an unwillingness to tackle something as huge and complex as ASL. Indeed, that's probably why the original Squad Leader still has its fans.

What I want to know, though, is: If you really like Bloody Ridge or Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes or Combat Commander: Europe or Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42, why do you prefer it over SL/ASL? What are you getting out of your game of choice that you wouldn't get out of ASL?

Or, if you've tried some of those other games and still prefer ASL, why is that? What does ASL have that you missed in the other games?

If you've seen ASL, shrugged it off, and continued to play Squad Leader, why is that?

There's no accounting for taste, of course; to each his own. And yeah, we're all tempted to say, "My game's just more fun--that's all." But I'm hoping to hear why you think one game is more fun or rewarding than another.

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Mark Holmes
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Hi Patrick

I prefer CC and CoH over ASL for the following reasons:

1. The rulebooks are fairly easy to understand and digest enabling you to start playing with very little rule checking.

2. Personally, the games have the right amount of 'feel' of the real thing. This is a totally personal thing: no boardgame can be a realistic depiction of real warfare.

3. They have minimal table checking/ look-ups

4. They are FUN!!

I have been committed to ASL in the past and think it's one of the great achievements in board game history. However, my problem with ASL disciples is that in their enthusiasm for the game they mislead casual/ entry-level wargamers into thinking it's going to fulfil their demands. The result could be to put off many potential wargamers when they realise it is not a pick-up and play game. CC and CoH are great games and are more likely to lead those gamers that love them to take up the challenge of ASL

Mark
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James Palmer
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I am not a wargamer. My friends are not wargamers. If I got ASL, it would never hit the table, it just wouldn't get played.

I bought Conflict of Heroes, and the simple rules and euro-quality components have meant that it has been easy for me to get to the table with people with all sorts of different levels of experience with wargames and games in general.

Simply put, I purchased what would get played, and I don't regret the decision.
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p55carroll
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My story:

I bought PanzerBlitz soon after it came out, and then Panzer Leader. I wasn't as excited as many wargamers were, because WWII was never my main period of interest. Heck, I don't even especially like tanks. Still, it was really cool to see my first tactical wargame. Here was a whole lot of fascinating detail that I'd never seen in any other game (except maybe Jutland, but I never did much with that, and I may have seen it only after PB/PL). I loved the feeling of being "zoomed in" close to the battlefield where all the action was. There was only one guy in town I played wargames with, though, and he refused to play anything so complicated, so I was on my own with PB/PL (though I started a few PBM games).

In 1976, I got a free copy of Wooden Ships & Iron Men. If there was one thing I was less interested in than WWII, it was naval warfare. But I tried the game anyway, and I was blown away! Loved the close-up tactical feel so much that I kept at it, even though I was having to play solitaire.

Fast forward to January 1980. I'd been reading about Squad Leader, and I was reluctant to buy it, because now I had grown to dislike complicated games. And WWII still wasn't my period. But this game looked and sounded so great that I finally broke down and bought a copy. When I glanced at the rulebook, I almost put the game on a shelf; but then I noticed the programmed-instruction system--I only had to read the first few pages, and then I could play Scenario 1. So I reluctantly tried it. And wow! After playing the scenario once, I realized something huge was happening. I just had to play again immediately. And soon I said to myself, "This is the most exciting wargame I've ever played!"

I went on to play all twelve scenarios and buy all the expansions. By the time I got into Crescendo of Doom, I felt my brain had been tied in knots. The game had become too much work, and I finally set it aside.

A few years later, along came Advanced Squad Leader. I hesitated, but I'd invested so much time in the SL system that I bought the rulebook and Beyond Valor: ASL Module 1. Started working at the game again, and I was very pleased to find that the rules were now cohesive and some previously clunky subsystems had been streamlined. So, I was into ASL now.

Somehow, though, I could never work my way through the BV scenarios with the kind of excitement I'd experienced with SL. I kept forcing myself to play, though. And I was glad when Paratrooper: ASL Module 2 came out, because now I could start small again. It helped, but not enough. Soon all the scenarios started to seem alike. I couldn't get enthused about taking another set of buildings or exiting my squads off a map edge.

By this time, I was letting games sit for weeks, or even putting the game away and leaving it in the closet for a month or three before taking it out again. And I found I couldn't retain all the rules for that long. I had to practice the game almost constantly in order to keep the rules fresh in my mind. Finally, I'd had enough. ASL just wasn't doing it for me anymore, so I put it away for good.

I turned to much simpler wargames, like the Avalon Hill "Smithsonian" series. But that was a short-lived experiment. Games like those didn't provide anywhere near the excitement I'd found in SL or even PB/PL. So I took a long hiatus from wargaming, mainly playing various computer games instead.

But I don't like computer games much; not even PBEM games. I'm a low-tech guy, and I'd rather be away from the computer while gaming, even if I have to resort to solitaire.

Just recently, I've sampled four small, simple wargames, just to see if the old "magic" would come back. Two of the games (Waterloo 20 and Paul Koenig's D-Day: The Canadian Beach) were good, playable games, but not "tactical" enough to give me that feeling of being immersed in battlefield detail. A third game (Ancient Battles Deluxe) I'm still experimenting with; it's very simple, but it's also tactical, and I'm not sure what to make of it yet.

The fourth game was a demo of Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam. I had to work harder at this one--not only to assemble the downloaded game, but also to learn the more complicated rules. I found myself resisting every step of the way. Checking LOS and considering Opportunity Fire brought back bad memories of ASL, I guess. I kinda liked the Spotting rules, but I was disappointed to find that weapons were just as effective at long range as at point-blank range. The random-events card was a fun surprise, but it struck me as pretty artificial (i.e., it'd only be a surprise once; you'd know about it next time you played the scenario). One pleasant surprise was that I was able to maneuver my squads across relatively open ground toward the enemy without always being shot to pieces. (In SL/ASL, it used to seem prohibitively risky to ever move across open ground.)

I put LnL away after playing the demo once. But it's been haunting me ever since. I may have to go back and replay it or try the other demo game.

Well, I still don't care much for 20th-century games; I don't like all the mechanization. But I do seem to be drawn to tactical-level games. Anytime I play a strategy-level game anymore, I feel I might just as well be playing chess or go instead. I need a game to get me in close to the action--even if all the micromanagement is unrealistic by some people's standards (i.e., no real-life commander would ever have the luxury of controlling things so minutely).

So, that's where I'm at right now. We'll see where I go from here.
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Mark Holmes
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Patrick

amazing ... you've had virtually the exact same experiences I've had - even down to the detail of starting out with Panzer Blitz and attempting to get into LnL. However, for me CC:E gave me that Eureka moment of rediscovering the feeling I had when I first discovered Squad Leader.

Mark
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Harald Torvatn
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Patrick Carroll wrote:


Or, if you've tried some of those other games and still prefer ASL, why is that? What does ASL have that you missed in the other games?


There's no accounting for taste, of course; to each his own. And yeah, we're all tempted to say, "My game's just more fun--that's all." But I'm hoping to hear why you think one game is more fun or rewarding than another.



ASL is more fun.

Why? ASL more tightly packed with more interesting decisions than any other game I have played. It is also more interactive (The time your opponent can do something before you det to do something is extremely short.)

And the way scenarios are structured, with specific victory conditions and tight time limits also is a fun.
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James Lowry
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
So, I'm wondering what SL/ASL has that other games don't.

A large, dedicated on-line community. There are very few boardgames that can claim a similar number of people acting as a 'support system' for the game, as well as offering a number of opponents at the drop of a hat. (In fact, SFB is the only other game I can think of with a comparable community.)
 
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p55carroll
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Harald wrote:

ASL is more fun.

Why? ASL more tightly packed with more interesting decisions than any other game I have played.


There is a lot going on all the time, it's true. Reminds me of when I first visited New York City: you could see a million things happening anytime you walked two blocks down the street. The concentration of life was amazing. And I used to get kinda the same feeling from SL/ASL.


Quote:
It is also more interactive (The time your opponent can do something before you det to do something is extremely short.)


But Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam is even more interactive. You play out each turn in impulses, so it's as if you and your opponent are active all the time (unless one of you stops and thinks too much).


Quote:
And the way scenarios are structured, with specific victory conditions and tight time limits also is a fun.


But that was also true of the Lock 'n Load demo I played. I would think it's true of all the games in question here.

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Rindis wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
So, I'm wondering what SL/ASL has that other games don't.

A large, dedicated on-line community. There are very few boardgames that can claim a similar number of people acting as a 'support system' for the game, as well as offering a number of opponents at the drop of a hat. (In fact, SFB is the only other game I can think of with a comparable community.)


Well, a community has to start somewhere. The other games in question here are all much newer than SL/ASL. Is it worth building a dedicated community for Combat Commander or Lock 'n Load?

I don't think it's a chicken-or-egg question. The game has to come first. Unless the game is good enough to appeal to a large number of people for a long time, the community won't grow.

So, what's so especially good about ASL that it has led to such a dedicated online community?
 
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Russell InGA
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
My story:
...
A few years later, along came Advanced Squad Leader. I hesitated, but I'd invested so much time in the SL system that I bought the rulebook and Beyond Valor: ASL Module 1. Started working at the game again, and I was very pleased to find that the rules were now cohesive and some previously clunky subsystems had been streamlined. So, I was into ASL now.

Somehow, though, I could never work my way through the BV scenarios with the kind of excitement I'd experienced with SL. I kept forcing myself to play, though.
...


This was a problem with the original Beyond Valor. A lot the scenarios weren't that good. For me, I either created my own scenarios (which my opponent didn't have any problems playing) or "updated" COI scenarios to ASL. Also at that time I subscribed to "On All Front" which included new ASL scenarios.
 
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Kent Reuber
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Quote:
By this time, I was letting games sit for weeks, or even putting the game away and leaving it in the closet for a month or three before taking it out again. And I found I couldn't retain all the rules for that long. I had to practice the game almost constantly in order to keep the rules fresh in my mind. Finally, I'd had enough. ASL just wasn't doing it for me anymore, so I put it away for good.


This was exactly why I quit playing Squad Leader. In the early 80's I discovered, Yaquinto's Panzer (first edition) series, and found that I preferred that, because the unit data cards helped you with the rules and the rulebook was much smaller. Finally, I just decided to sell off all my Squad Leader stuff.

These days, if I were to play tactical WWII, I'd probably play Panzer Grenadier: The East Front. Another experiment that I keep wanting to do is to play a miniatures game like CrossFire: Rules & Organizations for Company Level WW2 Gaming on the Deluxe ASL boards (I've kept all of those).
 
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Russell InGA
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Patrick Carroll wrote:

So, what's so especially good about ASL that it has led to such a dedicated online community?


"Be there firstist with the mostist!"

ASL almost died. The problems with the original AH almost orphaned ASL. VASL (which became VASSAL) and "third party producers" saved ASL and allowed time for MMP to work out a way to continue ASL.

VASL instantly created a true community. I remember just logging to VASL to watch other people's games. I watched much more than I played on VASL.

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Harald Torvatn
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Patrick Carroll wrote:


But Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam is even more interactive. You play out each turn in impulses, so it's as if you and your opponent are active all the time (unless one of you stops and thinks too much).


Quote:
And the way scenarios are structured, with specific victory conditions and tight time limits also is a fun.


But that was also true of the Lock 'n Load demo I played. I would think it's true of all the games in question here.



I have never played Lock 'n Load, so what you say about its interactivity may be true. But the time between decisions (for both players) in ASL is far shorter than a typical "activation", so if the main way to get interaction in Lock 'n Load is alternating activation, ASL is much more interactive.

The ASL way to design scenarios is definitely not the way used by all the games in question here. Neither Combat Commander nor Conflict of Heroes has this aproach to scenarios.
 
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Jeff Thompson
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The thing about ASL and the dedicated community...

It existed before Al Gore was born! Er, maybe not that long. But it existed before the internet.

The first ASL online community existed on Genie forums (and people complain about the lack of user friendliness on CSW). It expanded to various AOL forums. It also existed in the form of a good old fashioned majordomo mailing list. This is all before having graphics on a web page was a good idea.

Now, let's look back and list all the competitors to ASL as a game sharing the same scale and detail from that time.

1. uh...

Whew, that didn't take long.

ASL was first to market. No game since then has even come close to the same detail without borrowing something from ASL.

Go to an ASL tournament (there will be one somewhat close to most of us in the next year). You'll see the average age of the players near 40. Now let's look back 15 years ago and the average of the players was 25. You do the math.

ASL has a foundation like no other game of its kind. And that is why it is more popular than any other game.

It is the only game I could set up and play right now without ever referring to any charts or rules. (Ok, I might have to look up a To Kill number of a strange Gun. And I'd have to look up some special rules such as desert or beach landings.) But to those of us who have lived the lifestyle, it is an amazing game.

I would never steer anyone wrong about ASL. If you play twice a month, it will take you a year to learn the rules. Then during your 2nd year you'll learn the basic tactics. Then you can begin to play somewhat well. Of course even with a single scenario under your belt, you'd be welcome to play at any tournament.
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Richard Savage
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As someone stated earlier, Conflict of Heroes gets played a lot more by me and my wargaming buddy than ASL, ATS, LnL, etc. I introduced him to wargaming several months ago, and he's worked his way up from intro games to more sophisticated ones. I showed him the ASL rulebook, and his eyes bugged out. I know the system pretty well, but there were just too many details for him to grasp and retain. With CoH, it was a quick scan of the rulebook and we had the glorious one inch counters out and playing on the mounted boards. We've played just about every scenario in CoH now, several numerous times, switching sides, a lot of fun.
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Bill Gates
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I own all of the main squad-level WWII tactical games (except Conflict of Heroes, and that's just a matter of time).

For me, it's not a matter of ASL being "better" than Lock 'n Load, or Advanced Tobruk System, or the Panzer/Armor/88 series. I enjoy playing all of them. But I keep going back to ASL because I prefer playing free-form games of my own design: throw anywhere from two to nine mapboards together (depicting every sort of terrain I could want, from urban areas to small villages to large hills to forests to deserts) and create opposing forces from amongst the USA, UK, Germans, Italians, French, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Axis minor nations, Allied minor nations and partisans.

I can include practically every type of tank and other vehicles, support weapons and artillery. I can throw in air support and off-board artillery. I can game opposed river crossings, battles for bridges and hills, amphibious assaults, wild desert melees between dozens of tanks, digging troops out of tunnel complexes, and street-by-street urban fighting.

And if I want historical terrain, I have options there, too (except for Arnhem; just can't afford that friggin' module).

ATS has a good variety of troops and equipment, and I like that the module are self-contained, but the historical maps (while well-done) aren't as versatile as having about five dozen geomorphic maps. But I was able to buy the ATS Arnhem game, and the Berlin game is just freakin' awesome.

LnL is gorgeous and the system is easier to pick up, and I play it for quick little battles. It also has, like ATS, post-WWII battles.

I'm sure I'll enjoy COH when I eventually pick it. The countermix looks very limited, but there are the next games in the series ...

So, basically, I like them all, but play ASL more often because it has more stuff (and, having been with it from the start, I have just about all of that stuff -- were I a newcomer to the system, I may indeed prefer one of the other games).

Now, if someone would just update the counter art on ASL ...
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
So, what's so especially good about ASL that it has led to such a dedicated online community?

This has already been answered, but I have some extra thoughts.

The reason why the ASL community is successful is because ASL is complex.

There are a number of things that make for good community building that are reinforced by the the complexity of the game. There have been many wide-spread (or put better, low-density) communities that have held together because of a strong sense of fellowship (early SF fandom is pretty much the canonical example, and wargaming as whole fits this), provided by the fact that the members hold a common interest that cannot be found outside the community.

The ASLRB's complexities make for a great 'common interest' among those who have studied it. Beyond this, it also does a good job of generating discussion as people ask each other questions about parts of the rules. The amount of effort needed also means that a fair number of the devotees are passionate, and a few passionate people can provide a great core around which the rest of the community forms (assuming that they are not odious in their passion).

Discussion and camaraderie is also fostered by the experience of playing the game itself, and ASL may have an advantage here as well, due to the strong narrative it can generate, but it is a comparatively weak one (varying with the particular other game being looked at).

And there can be no overestimating the effect VASL has had on the game over the past 10 years.
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To Patrick:

as I've posted ro you in an other post, in Lock'n Load you have a +2 firepower in point-blank fire (ie adjacent target).

ninja Fight the ASL rule !!!!ninja
 
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Harald wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:


But Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam is even more interactive. You play out each turn in impulses, so it's as if you and your opponent are active all the time (unless one of you stops and thinks too much).


Quote:
And the way scenarios are structured, with specific victory conditions and tight time limits also is a fun.


But that was also true of the Lock 'n Load demo I played. I would think it's true of all the games in question here.



I have never played Lock 'n Load, so what you say about its interactivity may be true. But the time between decisions (for both players) in ASL is far shorter than a typical "activation", so if the main way to get interaction in Lock 'n Load is alternating activation, ASL is much more interactive.

The ASL way to design scenarios is definitely not the way used by all the games in question here. Neither Combat Commander nor Conflict of Heroes has this aproach to scenarios.


You're wrong.

In Lock'n Load you have to activate one hex to move or fire (maybe only one squad in the hex stack), than your enemy takes his activation.
That's keep the game fast flowing and not expectable.
As is in a real firefight.
Lesser rules but deep to master.cool
 
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Harald Torvatn
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Funkybax wrote:
Harald wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:


But Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam is even more interactive. You play out each turn in impulses, so it's as if you and your opponent are active all the time (unless one of you stops and thinks too much).


Quote:
And the way scenarios are structured, with specific victory conditions and tight time limits also is a fun.


But that was also true of the Lock 'n Load demo I played. I would think it's true of all the games in question here.



I have never played Lock 'n Load, so what you say about its interactivity may be true. But the time between decisions (for both players) in ASL is far shorter than a typical "activation", so if the main way to get interaction in Lock 'n Load is alternating activation, ASL is much more interactive.

The ASL way to design scenarios is definitely not the way used by all the games in question here. Neither Combat Commander nor Conflict of Heroes has this aproach to scenarios.


You're wrong.

In Lock'n Load you have to activate one hex to move or fire (maybe only one squad in the hex stack), than your enemy takes his activation.
That's keep the game fast flowing and not expectable.
As is in a real firefight.
Lesser rules but deep to master.cool


Why does this make my statement wrong? In ASL, the non moving player may react every time the moveing player moves a unit one hex. That sounds far more interactive to me than getting to activate a unit each time your enemy has activated a unit?
 
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Harald wrote:
In ASL, the non moving player may react every time the moveing player moves a unit one hex. That sounds far more interactive to me than getting to activate a unit each time your enemy has activated a unit?


Well, in Lock 'n Load, the same thing can also happen. Besides the hex-by-hex impulse activations, there is also Opportunity Fire--where your opponent can stop you while you're making a move and fire at your moving unit(s). (It's less elaborate than ASL's defensive-fire subsystem, but the timing is the same.)

 
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kemosavage wrote:
As someone stated earlier, Conflict of Heroes gets played a lot more by me and my wargaming buddy than ASL, ATS, LnL, etc. I introduced him to wargaming several months ago, and he's worked his way up from intro games to more sophisticated ones. I showed him the ASL rulebook, and his eyes bugged out. I know the system pretty well, but there were just too many details for him to grasp and retain. With CoH, it was a quick scan of the rulebook and we had the glorious one inch counters out and playing on the mounted boards. We've played just about every scenario in CoH now, several numerous times, switching sides, a lot of fun.


I can see that. Thinking back on my high-school days, if we'd had CoH in 1971 instead of PanzerBlitz, I probably could have talked my friend into playing; and we probably would have had fun with it; and we might have continued playing it. My whole wargaming history might have been different. As it was, my friend wouldn't play anything as hard to learn as PB/PL; so I went back to playing the AH classics with him and played at PB/PL on my own.

 
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earthboot wrote:
But..how can one really prepare for the onslaught of ASL rules if one has never entered the inner sanctum of an ASL tourny or even seen a game? I took a year of reading & re-reading the rules & pushing counters of ASLSK 1&2 & 2, reading through the mandatory tutorials etc...and I never really felt like I got it. At the *entry* level of this game, the level of detail is...overwhelming, to put it politely, and I eventually had to admit to myself that ASL was going to be more like work than fun.

Generally, the best way to learn any complicated game is to have someone else teach it to you. Once you've played it once or twice with someone who understands the game already the rulebook starts making a lot more sense, as you have something to hang the framework on.

This is why the community and VASL are essential to the continued survival of ASL.

(You may wonder, if the way to learn the game is from people who already know it, how does the process get started? With people like me, who seem to be able to pound their way through the rulebook until the game starts emerging from it. I've taught myself ASL, SFB and F&E to at least some degree of competency--along with many other simpler games. I don't know what makes myself different from anyone else though. laugh)
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Rindis wrote:

(You may wonder, if the way to learn the game is from people who already know it, how does the process get started? With people like me, who seem to be able to pound their way through the rulebook until the game starts emerging from it. I've taught myself ASL, SFB and F&E to at least some degree of competency--along with many other simpler games. I don't know what makes myself different from anyone else though. laugh)


Actually, you've just pretty much described the whole wargaming hobby from my POV. Ever since I bought 1914--just to see if I could figure out such a complicated game--I've been doing that with one game after another. I'd just "pound [my] way through the rulebook," testing the game solitaire, watching a game emerge. In the back of my mind I might tell myself I'd then be able to teach the game to someone--but I never get around to that. Instead, when I've learned one game, I delve into another.

SL/ASL was a big exception: it turned into a never-ending learning process. So, I was stuck on that one game system for years, until I finally let it go.

I guess some other wargamers actually play the games. Me, I just read them.

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James Lowry
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
I guess some other wargamers actually play the games. Me, I just read them.

I play them. Not as often as I'd like, but I play them.
 
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