Sunday, January 11, 2015

300th Post and Turning 50 at nearly the same time...time to Look Back on the ASL Journey

This month I will turn 50 years old. And as this will be my 300th Blog Post, I thought I'd use the occasion to reflect and document my Wargaming journey that began in 1969. As a 4 year old my Grandfather introduced me to toy soldiers. From that moment, I was a wargamer. The '60's and '70's were the golden age of Sears and JC Penny Wishbook Catalogs filled with MARX Playsets. Honestly, Christmas has never been the same since I received my final MARX Playset, The Navarone Mountain in 1976. A year later I would be collecting AIRFIX minis and playing tabletop battles with DICE for the very first time. Then in 1977, I would be introduced to Panzer Blitz and my journey to ASL was well on its way.

I never appreciated the incredible value my Britains miniatures would one day have. But the battles fought in the gravel driveway of a farm in southwest Virginia were epic!!!

This playset was the best I ever received at the age of 8. I combined it with Lincoln Logs and my brothers Little People Main Street to fight some awesome battles.

Hollywood fueled my WWII 1/32 scale battles with great movies and TV Series...

Vic Morrow's Combat was one the best!

Kelly's Heroes never gets old...(still rather watch this than Fury...)

The Gallant Men was the very best in my opinion. I modeled many a game after an episode of this outstanding series.

Where Eagles Dare...this was the best ABC Saturday Night Movie ever....still love to watch it!

In 1977, just before moving from Bristol, TN to live in St. Louis, my buddy Keith invited me to play a game of PanzerBlitz.

I lost, but I was hooked on Avalon Hill Boardgames from that moment.

My buddy Keith went on to Annapolis and is today a Major in the USMC after having led Marine Tanks in Iraq.

So it's never troubled me that I lost my first "real" wargames to an opponent who would go on to the "REAL" thing.

Tobruk would be the first board game I would get. I enjoyed it, but after a few just left something to be desired.

Now when I arrived in St. Louis...I had no friends and was this awkward 13 year old from the hills of Tennessee trying to fit into life in suburban St. Louis. Fortunately, I made friends with a group of D&D'rs. And my journey as a DM continues to this very day. The current campaign began in 1984 and we played our last active game in 2010. D&D will always be near and dear...but it isn't ASL.

My ASL career began in 1978 as I received my first copy of the Avalon Hill Classic.

The only downside was that all of my counters were printed on the reverse side. I was bummed out by that...but the game was too good to worry about such things.

Cross of Iron came quickly during the Christmas of 1979 and elevated the game to the next level. 

Of course it was the first taste of having to switch counters as the new armor counters showed up.

And it would also herald a period of pure Eastern Front battles.

Ahh...the good ol' days when the General was $2.00 and had some good Squad Leader content.

Crescendo of Doom came into my world around '80 or '81. Can't remember exactly now. I loved it from the first moment I opened it. 

And for me the game system at this point was perfect. I never needed another change to the rules.

COD was the apex of the game for me at the time.

Then on my 18th Birthday I received GI Anvil of Victory and immediately hated it. I hated the boards with their washed out colors...I hated the counters with everyone standing in marching order...and I absolutely hated the rule book, which was the most difficult to read and actually get through it.

I was happy to have Americans again...but once more I had to switch out counters.

And all the new rules just made me sad. 
(I like to play more than I like to learn rules...a very serious liability which my opponents have certainly noted over the years.)

Some other games came into my life in the early '80's as well.

Yaquinto's Panzer was found under the Christmas Tree.

I never actually played it...but its counters augmented many a massive DYO Squad Leader Scenario.

The Panzer counters were massively thick though.

Game had some good aspects...but overall wasn't something I wanted to play.

From 1983-1987 I attended college and took my SL will me and had some epic games. I was still playing SL until 1989...when my gaming buddies finally convinced me it was time to stop resisting full ASL. 

I was angry that once more I had to relearn all the rules and dump all my counters...but at least I would get to keep my boards. And buying the Rulebook separately really torqued me in those days when money was tight and explaining the need for these things to my new wife wasn't the easiest thing to do.

So there we were in 1989 playing massive games of DYO ASL. We had a blast in those days, when work didn't matter and we felt that we had plenty of time still to figure things out. 

Games on New Year's Eve became a tradition until life and work scattered us to the far winds.

The last time we all played ASL as a group or at all face to face would be July 1997. 

Playing ASL became a treasured memory as work and children occupied my life. But now and then during those dark days, I would steal away to the attic to look at my boards and counters. 

Then in 2010...I convinced one of my St. Louis buddies to join me for a game of ASL via SKYPE. The long drought was over and today I am playing more ASL than ever before and against opponents that are teaching me something new every day. 

Mike and Scott on the other end of a SKYPE session.

Then in 2013, I made the leap and attended my first Tournament. 

My journey from 1978 to 2013 was an incredible arc...but the Tournament showed me how much I still had to learn and how much more fun the game could be.

The Texas Tournament remains one of the truly great ASL moments I have experienced. I hope to make the journey back to Austin this year.

 Playing the Pegasus Bridge with my new Cardboard via SKYPE opponent, Big Kansas, in 2014 was the absolute highlight of my ASL play. Completing an entire CG from start to finish is something that I would never have considered. And now that I have done one...I am looking forward to doing more.

So to conclude my 300th Post about ASL...I will answer the question that Maximus poses to us all...INDEED YES...YES I AM ENTERTAINED BY THE BEST WARGAME EVER CREATED...ASL...yesterday, today and tomorrow...the game I will be playing.

Thanks as always to the readers of this humble blog. Sharing my love for this game is a great joy!


  1. Great post and congrats on the two milestones.

  2. Oh - I think that it's totally crazy you guys played ASL on the floor like that.

    1. Just think what we would have done with 70 maps!!!!