Don Chappell, a recently joined member here, was a Marine Captain at Camp Pendleton, serving in the 1st Marine Division headquarters (if I remember correctly). I was a first lieutenant at 1st Tank Battalion. In 1984 a few of us stood up the Camp Pendleton Conflict Simulations Club...and Squad Leader and its gamettes were always on the table. We were just getting the hang of G.I., Anvil of Victory, when Don convinced a number of us to help him playtest this thing called Advanced Squad Leader Rules and Beyond Valor. I still have all my playtest materials from those days. Don will no doubt remember this better than I do, but we went from a dozen or so SL players to about five or six playtesters who survived the first review of the rulebook. Imagine the ASL rulebook typed up and xeroxed...with about 14-28 pages of line-by-line errata that had to be "fixed" every so many months. In 1985 the rulebook and Beyond Valor hit the PX shelves...and life was never the same again. While I played Basic Squad Leader and some Cross of Iron from time to time, I could never muster the will to play any scenarios from Crescendo of Doom or G.I: Anvil of Victory. Don went on to be the national champion for ASL in 1986 before he left the Marine Corps.
I play a lot of other games. I supposed that will prevent me from ever getting really good at ASL, but that's okay. I still enjoy the game. When Red Barricades came out, that took the game to a whole new level and the HASL series are still my favorite ways to play, whether it's a scenario from the module or a campaign game.
When I was stationed in Korea, Tom Meier (another member here) and I met up and we played ASL together. I'd been playing a number of people in Korea and roped him into the group pretty easily. One of the best games I'll ever remember was playing a three-player game of Cheneux Bridge CG in the Kampfgruppe Peiper II HASL.
I will confess to counter envy. Both Chappell and Meier have gone on to earn their own ASL counters through extensive playtesting for Avalon Hill and/or MMP. I have yet to run that gauntlet. Maybe I'm too paranoid of becoming a 6+1 Colonel!
Great to hear these stories! Having been through the ASL playtesting grinder, I've often thought how harrowing that original playtest had to be with FOUR chapters to think about, and ALL of them NEW!
Interestingly, I got into ASL by trying to get out of wargaming!
In 1986, I was in a place where I THOUGHT wargaming might be dead. I wasn't getting much playtime - read none. Nothing since the demise of SPI was exciting me, and I had not yet decided to start a convention (which would change my number of opponents.)
As I recounted elsewhere, I was trying to get beyond ASL/COI, but I had loved CITYFIGHT. And Cityfight's live nature made the old SL 'Track" counter untenable as a player. ("Gee, you ran 14 squads through that hex. I am 'rewinding the film and shooting at all 14 now."
Unfortunately, since 1984, I'd not found a single person to take on CITYFIGHT - too much, they all said.
Plus, I, like many, were not happy that AH saw fit to make everything I'd invested in SL/COI/COD/GI worthless.
But in February, 1986, I'd been at Genghis Con in Denver. Late Saturday night, three gents were in the open gaming room, and they had the new ASLRB, and a scenario from BV. (BV was in the small SL - sized box at this point, so it looked ok, but not as impressive yet as it would become.) The rulebook, however, FASCINATED me.
I watched them play what I'd later learn was The Commissar's House. Two were playing, one was looking things up in the rule book. They never spoke to me. I watched the movie unfold, and I saw Defensive First Fire, and Defensive Final Fire. More importantly, I saw a CLEAN, EASY TO ACCESS rule book. I was almost hooked - until I saw the price in the dealer's room the next day!
But then I heard they were going to do Deluxe ASL, which FASCINATED me. My pet peeve in later SL games was the shhould to shoulder stacks of units tumbling over. Deluxe sounded like a GREAT IDEA!
But back home, I was trying to unload games. And a dealer called RECON was very interested in what I had, but didn't want to pay too much. "Gee, isn't there a current game you are interested in? I could get you cash AND a game or two..."
"Well, I was kind of interested in that new ADVANCED Squad Leader system but - "
"DONE!" I'll send you everything, including ones that are only in the planning stage!"
I gave him Campaign for North Africa, and a few other games (I think it was Blue and Grey I and II, plus a few other SPI games I wasn't all that sad to see go.) I got $100 in cash, ASLRB, BV, PARATROOPER, and eventually, YANKS, STREETS OF FIRE and HEDGEROW HELL.
Well, I can always sell them, I thought....
I started the Sioux City war gaming conventions in 1986, which rejuvinated my wargaming. And met Danne Roerick, who came over to play my first ASL game. I was not impressed. But as he was leaving, Danne said something profound: "Yeah, but in one sitting, in one night, you played a complete wargame. When was the last time that happened?"
And he was right. I played again, this time without tanks and lots of toys - just squads and a few machine guns. I loved DFF and ROF - what great concepts. And along with 'tracking', the phony 'pentration' rule for MGs was also gone! And then the GENERAL Series Replay with the afore mentioned Don Chappell was in my hands, and I could see how some of this really worked, including Assault Movement, smoke, PFs, etc.
At the second Sioux City Wargames, I met Steve Swann, another member here, and now another well known name in ASL. Back then, he was just some guy, and he introduced me to his Sioux Falls crew of great ASL players, Burnie (one of my favorite opponents) Hegdahl and Bruce (my personal nemesis) Rinehart.
About the same time, I started posting an ASL Round Table on GEnie, which was quiet for a while, but I just kept posting something new every day or so. Pretty soon, it all came together, and people like Phil Pomerantz and Bob O'Connor were coming around. Later it would be Fortenberry, Schilling, etc., etc, but it was just 70 or so great guys, all sharing a hobby.
I started an ASL tourney at the third Sioux City Wargames, 1989, and there has been an ASL tourney in Sioux City ever since. One actually had 32 players - with guys like Jeff Cebula and Rich Summers, and Scott Goehring. Most of our tourneys had 20 to 30, which I think is the best size for a tourney, though 16 is great. About late 1990s, it has been back where it started, 14 to 20 people - but that means you could play ASL all weekend and never play the same person twice.
I played nothing but ASL for 10 years, at least 50 games a year. Met great people all over the country - and not to forget some Europeans, and the GREAT Winnepeg Canada crowd, led by Bill Bird and his friends, the nicest guys to ever beat your brains out.
ASL is a great game, and I can't help but think of all the terrific people I've met. Hundreds, at least.
Of course, there is the question of what hundreds of games of heart-stopping dice rolls does to your health, but that's another story.... (Why do I suddenly feel like one of those Rock n' Roll documentaries, where they gloss over 'the bad years' with a single line?)
Well, that was a lot of fun to read, thanks for sharing. Which module(s) did you playtest? I rifled through my leader counters and didn't find you. So I suspect you're in a set I haven't needed to deploy.
Let's see - I helped playtest (under Steve Swann tutiledge!) Code of Bushito and Gung Ho and CDG for the French. Also, I led a group of GEnie people on the original playtest of the 1st edition Solitaire module. It ended up being shelved for a year or two, so the guys did not get mentioned, sad to say.
My counter showed up in the second Bulge module. (I suspect it was the LOWEST selling 'official ASL Module of all time!)
I think that I got a counter not for my playtesting, but because I stepped it at 2 AM two weeks before the second Avaloncon ASL tourney and took over, and then made it work, and work well. (I always thought a hero counter would have been more appropriate - it was certainly a heat of battle situation.)
But then again, I think other people got their point of view across by making me an American 8-0 leader. While I grew up watching the "Combat' TV series, nothing could have made me happier than an American Sgt. counter - but their are few counters with fewer uses in this system than an 8-0 American leader counter!
MMP seems to have taken on TAHGCs line about playtesters. They only mention those that they feel did the most work. Personally I think anyone who takes the time to help out should be mentioned. Save the "freebie" copies for only those who you think did the lion's share, but acknowledge the help and assistance of everyone involved..
I keep trying to get mine to play. She loves to read, I mean literally reads 200-300 books a year, but she won't read 16 pages of ASLSK rules and I admit it, I'm only a mediocre teacher. Perhaps one day....sigh...
I've been playing ASL since 1987. I picked the game up after graduating from Baylor and moving to Dallas. Being new in town with just a few friends, I had time on my hands. In the Fall, all my college friends who hadn't graduated headed back to Waco and my weekends were pretty much my own. For example, one weekend I read all 6 volumes of the Thomas Covenant series.
It was the following Monday that I ordered the ASLRB and BV from AH (by snail mail). The game came in on Friday and I spent the weekend reading and learning. A college friend of mine was in town for the weekend and he came over. We played the first scenario. After that, we played about once a month until after Christmas. Over the next year and a bit, we played three of four games until he moved on to grad school and I got married.
I was married in July of '89 and started a new job in Plano just after. That fall I bumped into Joe, another gamer who worked at my company. He had also picked up ASL in '87 but hadn't really had a chance to play we. Well, sir, we started playing and have, on and off, been playing since then.
In fact, we've just recently started playing regularly - one every other weekend - just to see if we could do it for a year. Getting into a regular game has been fun (see here) and has "infected" some more of my regular gaming buddies. I've managed to get three more folks into the game (one in a big way!)
I have been playing since last January. I have been a die hard Squad Leader that had lapsed for almost twenty years.
A friend hounded me into trying ASL.
He claimed that it was actually easier than SL because the rules were more holistic- Ha!
The defensive fire phase alone alone is more complicated than the old SL entire turn sequence.
Not sure I like the new Sniper rules
But lots of great simulations introduced
I like Heros
The concealment rules are more realistic and take a while to master
I have most of the core modules- need Doomed battalions and For King and Country also Gung-Ho
Some much to master and so many scenarios!