Thursday, February 04, 2010

Advanced Squad Leader

Kyle and I used to play a lot of Squad Leader. Not Advanced Squad Leader, which involves this enormous binder of rules of such intricacy that it make the publishing systems at my company look tame, but regular old first-generation Squad Leader that came in a book case box and a dozen subsequent book case boxes as expansions. I remember our excitement when two different times, at Riverplace and at the Mall in Monticello, we found expansions priced to sell at just a few dollars each. The great part about Squad Leader was that if you had ten copies of one expansion, you could still string all the hex-based boards together into an enormous playing area. So when they were cheap, you had the opportunity to add real estate to your play area.

Which we did. We had whole weekends where Kyle, Goon (Erik, who know has an Eastern Orthodox name), and I moved little cardboard squares around several dozen boards spanning a significant portion of my apartment floor near the University of Minnesota while drinking beer and shooting the shit. It made for some memorable times. Like when we played for almost 72 hours, and the whole game involved ganging up on whoever had to take a bathroom break. Eventually it devolved into me in the mountains rushing in and trying to split them up where they had bunkered down in the city, and then them pushing me out and back up into the mountains, all the while trading hardware (machine guns, et al). Or the time we finally used tanks, and Kyle blew up one of my tanks, the joy evident on his face, only to have my tanks come around a corner and tip the game the other direction. And then there was the yelling, which introduced us to the girls on the other side of the wall. One of whom Goon dated, and another - a student at Aveda - who cut my hair for several years.

Sure...we could have been chasing women (and perhaps we were, given we were talking to them through the wall). But two of the most attractive women I knew from college (my wife aside) were seriously into war games and Russian military history. You don't get that kind of variety after you enter the real world, so it skews your idea of what's normal and acceptable behavior. If they think playing war games is fun, you just take it at face value.

Kyle and I have tried several times over the years to recapture a bit of that fun, but the Advanced Squad Leader rules are daunting. The attacker/defender fire and movement phases alone take some in depth study and practice, and many days it seems as though it's just easier to settle on some f*ing Eurogame. But once again, ASL calls. I can hear the small gun fire (or maybe that me getting offed with my .2 kill rate in Call of Duty on the Wii) and the rumble of the tanks. It's probably my fault for suggesting a game of Axis and Allies at our last gaming day. That's a gateway drug. Advanced Squad Leader is the heroin to A&A marijuana. Fortunately, the internet has occurred since we last really played, and there seem to be a few good tutorials out there to get us going.

At the moment, I'm reading this one at BoardGameGeek which uses a more lyrical approach to the rules (no, references and jogs my memory of all the things we kept trying to remember and couldn't (oh yeah, cowering). I'm hoping it's a good place to start, and you know I'm optimistic as even these simple tutorials are over 24 pages per section. So a basic introduction is 160 or so pages, which gives you an idea of the complexity of the outlined rules system.

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