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Subject: John Hill Interview on The 2 Half Squads rss

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Todd Reed
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This is a podcast focused solely on ASL. However, they just interviewed John Hill and I believe this discussion is of interest to anyone who enjoys wargames. SL definitely shaped a lot of games, gamers and designers today.

It's an interesting hour.

http://www.the2halfsquads.com/2010/02/episode-32-view-from-h...
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Kirby Meade
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The Oracle speaks!! John Hill created the most played game of my early wargaming days, and he should curse Don Greenwood for hosing Squad Leader and not giving him any credit for the ASL system.
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meadek wrote:
The Oracle speaks!! John Hill created the most played game of my early wargaming days, and he should curse Don Greenwood for hosing Squad Leader and not giving him any credit for the ASL system.


wow! is this true?
surprise
 
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Jim Cote
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I found John Hill to be a very unpleasant person, like someone at a party who just wants to talk and doesn't listen to anyone. He's critical of ASLSK, while at the same time critical of ASL's complexity over SL. He thinks it's more important to play fast than to play by the rules. And he thinks taking 2 minutes per game turn (real-time) is a good idea, even though you might be managing 20+ units--realistically--each getting 2 minutes to think for themselves. He's exactly the opposite of my vision of a wargame designer.
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ekted wrote:
I found John Hill to be a very unpleasant person, like someone at a party who just wants to talk and doesn't listen to anyone. He's critical of ASLSK, while at the same time critical of ASL's complexity over SL. He thinks it's more important to play fast than to play by the rules. And he thinks taking 2 minutes per game turn (real-time) is a good idea, even though you might be managing 20+ units--realistically--each getting 2 minutes to think for themselves. He's exactly the opposite of my vision of a wargame designer.


I didn't get that impression when I listened to the interview. He stated his opinion but he didn't seem spiteful or nasty about it. The points he made about hidden information in wargames was really interesting, esp as it relates to Eastfront (the game I guess this was the east front block game he was talking about). I would shout him a beer for his contribution to the hobby if I got the opportunity.

Edit -

I don't remember his saying that it was more important to play quickly that to play by the rules, I though he was saying that the rules should allow people to play quickly.
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Michael Dorosh
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ekted wrote:
I found John Hill to be a very unpleasant person, like someone at a party who just wants to talk and doesn't listen to anyone. He's critical of ASLSK, while at the same time critical of ASL's complexity over SL. He thinks it's more important to play fast than to play by the rules. And he thinks taking 2 minutes per game turn (real-time) is a good idea, even though you might be managing 20+ units--realistically--each getting 2 minutes to think for themselves. He's exactly the opposite of my vision of a wargame designer.


I'm saving the podcast on my iPod for a long plane trip in June, but I appreciate these comments and am looking forward to hearing the interview. Hill comes a miniatures background. His rules for Squad Leader were developed out of miniatures rules, Squad Leader was originally marketed directly to miniatures players, and Hill went on to develop Johnny Reb. He's one of the few developers who is a "marquee name", as the Tank Leader games had his name on the box. Frank Chadwick got away with that as well. I never figured out if publishers did that because it meant the games were really good, or because the games really sucked and they needed some extra marketing "juice" and hoped the name recognition would help out a little. Maybe a little of both.

Hill has a reputation for being unconventional - that may be code for "non-wargamer" if one feels snide. I bought Western Front Tank Leader intending to play it when it first came out but couldn't find opponents. I now have the trilogy on my shelf, as a collector. I know there are fans out there, and like all his work, it has some interesting mechanics - this one has command and control cards that got mixed reviews. He seemed to get a few of those kind of reviews as well.

If nothing else, he's pushed - or attempted to push - envelopes.
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Todd Reed
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I was wondering why he said that the Starter Kits were a rip-off. It was a comment that begged for follow-up.

I found the discussion on how he began the design of the system to be interesting.
 
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I love ASL, I got into it since 2005 and I have been playing pretty much every week since then. ASL is my #1 boardgame/wargame and as much as I think that ASL is better than SL...especially because of the defensive fire mechanics I do believe the game went a bit too far in terms of rules and exceptions, this is what John Hill says and I do agree with him. Also interview with Don Greenwood on Point 2 Point podcast a while where Don states that AH wanted to separate itself from other companies and tactical wargames out there by making it very deep and complex...as well as module based...this was all marketing decision (adding complexity/chrome wasn't meant to make it realistic). If one plays with all the rules a given scenario/CG needs it can become quite complex and a lot of time is spent looking at the rulebook...even ASL veterans need the rulebook to play (even if not as much). However the cool thing is, I realized one doesn't have to play with all the chrome rules in order to enjoy the game and this is something that a lot of people/players forget. Granted it's different if a player wants to play in competitive FtF. I play for fun, for the immersion factor, trying to experience WW2 tactical thinking game, I don't for example bother with bypass or other same kind of chrome features. As I get better I do add more features, however fun comes first before damn rule in the 300 page rulebook that's for sure. Another cool thing that a lot of people forget is the A.2 ERRORS rule, just play and don't worry about making mistakes, it's part of the learning process. If a DRM was skipped in TH process well then it will be skipped this time and hopefully next time it will be remembered. ASL is suppose to be fun game to play not an exercise in frustration. This is all of course my view only on the matter
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Michael Dorosh
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JG53_Jaguar wrote:
I love ASL, I got into it since 2005 and I have been playing pretty much every week since then. ASL is my #1 boardgame/wargame and as much as I think that ASL is better than SL...especially because of the defensive fire mechanics I do believe the game went a bit too far in terms of rules and exceptions, this is what John Hill says and I do agree with him. Also interview with Don Greenwood on Point 2 Point podcast a while where Don states that AH wanted to separate itself from other companies and tactical wargames out there by making it very deep and complex...as well as module based...this was all marketing decision (adding complexity/chrome wasn't meant to make it realistic). If one plays with all the rules a given scenario/CG needs it can become quite complex and a lot of time is spent looking at the rulebook...even ASL veterans need the rulebook to play (even if not as much). However the cool thing is, I realized one doesn't have to play with all the chrome rules in order to enjoy the game and this is something that a lot of people/players forget. Granted it's different if a player wants to play in competitive FtF. I play for fun, for the immersion factor, trying to experience WW2 tactical thinking game, I don't for example bother with bypass or other same kind of chrome features. As I get better I do add more features, however fun comes first before damn rule in the 300 page rulebook that's for sure. Another cool thing that a lot of people forget is the A.2 ERRORS rule, just play and don't worry about making mistakes, it's part of the learning process. If a DRM was skipped in TH process well then it will be skipped this time and hopefully next time it will be remembered. ASL is suppose to be fun game to play not an exercise in frustration. This is all of course my view only on the matter


Awesome post. I'm absolutely astonished at the number of hardcore tournament players over at the gamesquad ASL forums who routinely correct each other on rules points. These are guys who play 100 or 200 ASL scenarios a year and have been for 20 years. And they still have basic rules knowledge questions in every day conversation about the game. Not just one, but every single one of these veterans of the system, routinely, has questions, different interpretations, or just plain never knew a rule existed and reveals it in a conversation. I find that fascinating, and frankly, a bit of a relief. I've never seen the attitude that you just expressed so well put into words, though I think I've always played by it with my face to face and VASL partners. Basically - it's a game. I for some reason thought in the back of my head there should be an aspiration to "perfect play" but reading what you just wrote, I think it is now clear - with those posts from the "vets" in mind - that there really is no such thing, and perhaps, there can never be such a thing.
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Tom Willcockson
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Quote:
He's critical of ASLSK, while at the same time critical of ASL's complexity over SL.


Yea I would have thought he would have liked the whole idea of ASLSK reducing the complexity of ASL, but from the interview I doubt he's even seen it. His comment that it was a rip-off because you couldn't use the counters (for ASL I'm assuming?) was a little puzzling since you can absolutely use the ASLSK components in ASL. I think the 2 Half Squad guys should have stepped up a little more to defend why they think ASL is such a great game, but I suppose that is not the nature of an interview and especially when talking to a legend. I did think his comments about Intel were interesting and confirms why I don't care all that much for block games. I do agree that ASL has micromanaged a lot of aspects too much and has travelled a little too far away in playability, but I'm sorry it's a much better game than SL in my estimation.
 
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Todd Reed
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You're right about his comments about not being able to use use the pieces from SK in full ASL. That makes sense why he would think it's a rip-off.

Being a new player, I too am surprised at the rules missed by the more experienced players. Like you guys I am encouraged by this.

I'm still in the SK1 and am happy with this level of rules right now.
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mojayhawk wrote:
You're right about his comments about not being able to use use the pieces from SK in full ASL. That makes sense why he would think it's a rip-off.

Being a new player, I too am surprised at the rules missed by the more experienced players. Like you guys I am encouraged by this.

I'm still in the SK1 and am happy with this level of rules right now.


ASLSK counters are exactly the same as ASL counters, I'm guessing you meant SL counters being different from ASL perhaps ?
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That's interesting that AH/Don Greenwood didn't include John Hill in the ASL credits. I never knew that.

I do remember that when players were encouraged to switch from SL to ASL back in the mid-80's, players were told they could dump all components from the original game except the boards. The one big item that makes miniatures game a board game.

Some of those early Beyond Valor scenarios required the original mapboards. Maybe that's why Mr. Hill thought ASL was a "rip-off." Players didn't need anything he designed for the miniatures game that went into the board game (stats for squads, leaders, weapons, and vehicles) and just what AH brought to the table (the boards).
 
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
BradyLS wrote:
That's interesting that AH/Don Greenwood didn't include John Hill in the ASL credits.


Why would he have? Hill left the scene three games earlier, didn't he? How long does a person expect to ride the coat-tails of one successful release?


Good gravy, Sherlock Holmes is a part of the public domain now and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (long dead) got a mention in the closing credits of the new movie for creating the character!

ASL stands on the shoulders of SL. No John Hill SL. No Don Greenwood ASL. How much does it cost or hurt to tip the hat to the guy that conceived the original?
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Michael Dorosh
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BradyLS wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
BradyLS wrote:
That's interesting that AH/Don Greenwood didn't include John Hill in the ASL credits.


Why would he have? Hill left the scene three games earlier, didn't he? How long does a person expect to ride the coat-tails of one successful release?


Good gravy, Sherlock Holmes is a part of the public domain now and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (long dead) got a mention in the closing credits of the new movie for creating the character!

ASL stands on the shoulders of SL. No John Hill SL. No Don Greenwood ASL. How much does it cost or hurt to tip the hat to the guy that conceived the original?


You need to understand the way that credit worked with AH. Scenario designers didn't get their names on the scenario cards for example (MMP started the practice); scenario designers remained anonymous during the entire time that AH had ASL in their hands. This was not "spite", it was simply just the way things had evolved. Credit for various activities was something of an afterthought. The designers of the scenarios in the modules were mentioned in the credit block in the rulebook, en masse, but individual scenario authors were not identified and I don't believe authors of scenarios in The General were ever IDed. It was all a team effort.

I'm not aware of the conditions of Mr. Hill's departure from Avalon Hill - perhaps he mentions it in the interview. If there was some acrimony involved, it doesn't become hard to figure out why there may have been a lack of generosity on AH's part as far as giving him "credit", particularly given the sheer enormity facing them in synthesizing four rulebooks into the ASLRB. Love it, hate it, or remain indifferent, ASL is massive, and I think even Mr. Hill would admit it retains little of the character of the original Squad Leader.
 
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Does Hill talk about his Academy Games projects at all? The CoH scenarios he did or the ACW game he is working on with them?

Just curious, I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.
 
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No, he doesn't mention that. I would've liked to head that as well. He briefly mentioned that he had written a scenario for th Tide of Iron scenario book, but that's all.
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