Dare Death 3 Preface (Original) “What ASL is to me”

Dare Death 3One day in February 2013, I chanced upon a copy of Squad Leader on eBay. I was a Squad Leader player back when I was in high school. Unfortunately when I went to university, I found a few other things more interesting and I forgot about wargames all together. So, decades later, while I stared at the screen, memories of great times came back and I bought myself that copy. The internet connected me with some very active Squad Leader groups. I planned to learn the game again and get back into it.

I then came across the tiniest military bookstore one day. It’s the size of a small walk-in closet, except that it’s wall to wall military books. There it was, up on a shelf near the ceiling, a shrink wrapped copy of the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook v2. I asked to have a look at it, and I never put it back down.

The ASLRB is not an easy book to read, so I asked to see a live game one Sunday afternoon. The local ASL’rs would have none of it. Erwin Lau & Lorricount Hall shoved a Pz IV my direction and said “Here, you are in charge of this one.” They then proceed to tell me what to do with my Pz IV every step of the way. I couldn’t fathom why people who I have just met would let me break into their Sunday game and spend that much time teaching me the mechanics, but they did.

It was a fun afternoon but it’s not an event I can attend on a regular basis. Nonetheless, the rulebook became a lot easier to understand now that I have context.

One day I got an email from Don Lazov. He said if I want to learn ASL, he could teach. I know then it’s choice between continuing to read the rulebook and solo’ing scenarios or having a mentor and actively playing. It was a choice between being a tinkerer and an active player.

I said “Yes but give me a few weeks to finish up Chapter A and Chapter B.” I wasn’t sure why I wanted to push it off. He asked again “Do you want to do this or not?”

I jumped in with both feet. Our first scenario was “RPT1 Ferenc Jozef Barracks”.

After that I ran into Witchbottles, who helped me get permission from Rodney Kinney (who created VASL) for permission to use VASL graphics in my blog. To me, Witchbottles is the embodiment of the modern day Renaissance man. We play ASL and we spent countless hours chatting about history and about life.

I don’t remember how I heard about “Malaya Madness” the 2014 ASL tournament in Singapore. I didn’t give it any thought at first but both Don Lazov and Witchbottles thought I absolutely must go. I struggled with it for a while. I mean, paying for flight and hotel to play a boardgame is crazy! I brought up the topic to my wife, expecting her to kill it (for good reasons). She thought about it for a minute and said “Yes”.

I rented a bunk bed in a hostel to save money but I went to Singapore for the tournament. There’s something truly magical about ASL that ties people together. Playing 1 on 1 on a weekend is one thing. Being in a room with other ASL’rs and playing games after games is definitely something else!

I got a bigger group of opponents after the Malaya Madness. I went on to help organise and to promote the 2014 Hong Kong ASL tournament, “The Gin Drinkers’ Revenge”. I was in New York City on Dec 2014 and I jumped on the train and stopped by Albany. It is THE Albany, the New York State ASL Championship. Joe Loece and Gary Trezza are simply some of the best hosts I have ever met. I met so many people at Albany. I met a lot of the best known names in ASL. I decided to shoot a video for these guys and leveraged on that to chat with as many people as I could.

That of course open me up to more venues and to more people. I picked up a chat from Carl Nogueira when I was walking down the street at lunch one day and he wanted to know if I want to play and to learn. I was getting so used to jumping in at that point I said “yes” immediately.

So you see, ASL is about people. ASL is about the guy on the other side of the table. ASL is one of the few good reasons in life that pulls guys together periodically, to share identical experiences and to chat about other thing as well. If you do solo play most of the time, you are truly missing the best thing ASL has to offer.

ASL is about playing. That rulebook is not for reading. It’s for referencing and as such, the INDEX is the command central for the ASL rulebook The value of an ASL kit is much higher when used and played than it will ever get on eBay.

ASL is about self discovery. As we compete with others, we learn more about our fears and shortcomings. We learn about our risk management and our decision making processes. The man to overcome game after game is yourself. This not something you will realize from ASL not played or ASL played solo.

Dare Death is an effort to arouse and to maintain that interest. Dare Death is the embodiment of a group of ASL’rs who play on a regular basis and discuss rules and tactics on live chats when not playing. If enthusiasm sells then Dare Death is a powerful force in ASL.

And enthusiasm sells.

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Journey to a Tourney, Day 1 – Photos

I am here!!  I got into Singapore last night and found my way to a bunk that I rented at a “capsule hotel” called “The Pod”.  It’s a little hotel where they have bunk beds in big comfortable rooms (with lockers), clean bathrooms and a nice common area.  I met up with Peter Palmer late last night and went to the Malaya Madness venue early this morning.

By early I mean I got up at 0530 this morning and met Peter at 0615.  We met up with George Bates at 0645 at the Bugis MRT (subway station).  Apparently George got a cab lined up.  That’s quite fortunate as both Peter and I got a big load of gear to haul over.

I am not going to write much more as I am pretty beat plus I would like to take a look at the scenarios for Round 3 and 4 tomorrow, but hey, pictures speak a thousand words (each) don’t they?

Having said all that : a huge thank you to Perry Cocke and Multi-Man Publishing for sponsoring the event!

This is the venue at 0730 in the morning.  Most participants hasn't arrived.

This is the venue at 0730 in the morning. Most participants hasn’t arrived.

George starting up the event!

George starting up the event!

My first opponent Maik Brinkmann

My first opponent Maik Brinkmann

George Bates and Vladimir See

George Bates and Vladimir See

Mark Humphries & David Leong

Mark Humphries & David Leong

Ian Percy & Maik Brinkmann

Ian Percy & Maik Brinkmann

Stanley Neo

Stanley Neo

Lunch, Singapore style : downstairs outside and spicy

Lunch, Singapore style : downstairs outside and spicy

John Knowles

John Knowles, my PTO teacher

Peter Palmer
Peter Palmer

Journey to a Tourney, Part 1: Decisions

I did it.

I registered for my first Advanced Squad Leader tournament, the Malaya Madness (Feb 21 to 23 2014) in Singapore. I bought my plane ticket. I booked my hotel.

Two months ago I never would have even thought about it. (Flying to Singapore for a weekend to do what?!!) A year and a half ago, Advanced Squad Leader (“ASL”) wasn’t even a blip on my radar.

Before I go on, I want to make one thing crystal clear:

  1. If you are a relatively new player,
  2. If you are a “dormant” ASL player who’s quietly learning and playing ASL by yourself,

I am writing to you.

I know there are a lot of you out there and I care to guess that doing ASL by yourself is not the easiest hobby to do. I am writing to you. I would like to share my rationale for some of the decisions I made along the way.

I hope this helps you with your choices.

So there I was, working through the Infantry rules in my room, flipping through the massive 2nd edition Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook. I was highlighting important texts and I was noting important ideas in the margin. I was studying hard. When I got tired, I played a few rounds of ASL solo, planning to play through each scenario in turn.

Even playing was slow going, I found myself re-reading the rulebook more than I was playing.

Question 1: Do I keep on studying the rulebook or do I dive straight into a game?

I looked for live games. I found the folks at the Hong Kong Society of Wargamers who have face-to-face (“FtF”) games very weekend. Getting experienced players to take you through ASL games shows you the rules in action. It gives you context. The rulebook becomes much easier to read.

Oh yes , in case no one told you :

  1. Don’t wait to read and study the rulebook and “be ready” before you play your first game. Just go look for live games and attend. I have never met an ASL’r who’s not willing to teach.
  2. No, you don’t have the read the whole rulebook. You can start playing infantry only scenarios after Chapter A.

Question 2: Do I keep on dabbling solo or do I get on a regular play schedule?

I attended live games with the Hong Kong ASL’rs, but I couldn’t have joined them every weekend. ASL was still a solo affair for me. Had it continued in this fashion ASL might have become another of my passing fancies.

It never did.

Out of the blue Don Lazov wrote and asked me if I want to learn ASL from him. I was going to keep my “ASL hobby” on a personal level. but here I was, there’s an experienced player offering to teach. Do I keep it a private & low pressure affair or do I get serious about this?

Anything worth doing is worth doing seriously.

I stopped thinking and said “yes”. That decision changed my ASL life. ASL went from a private study to a social affair. Playing intelligent and thoughtful human beings makes ASL come alive from that moment on. ASL becomes the complex and rich experience that it’s designed to be.  Having a regular play schedule helps me internalize the rules.

Question 3: Do I stick with PBeM or do I play live?

I play ASL via PBeM using VASL. What I mean is that I play ASL via exchanging logs generated from Rodney Kinney’s “Virtual ASL” platform. I was up to 9 concurrent games at one stage. PBeM saves me from having to be at appointed places at appointed times. With my work travel schedule that was simply beyond the realm of possibilities. I step through my opponent’s moves from the logs they send me.  I interject my responses and I send my logs back.

What I lost was the social interaction. What I have was perhaps too much time to consider and to reconsider my moves. PBeM games allow for methodical and well thought out games, perhaps too well thought out.

So I started having more live VASL games where I see my opponent’s moves real time and we interact via Skype. Often times another friend(s) drop by and it becomes a virtual club night! I still travel as much but I keep a regular live VASL schedule now.

My other mentor, Witchbottles, a man who’s a lot busier than I am said it’s a matter of time management.

I am learning to play faster. I also learn to give up the notion of playing a “perfect game”. I am learning to square up a situation, structure a solution on the fly and execute!

Play, laugh and have a great time.

Question 4: Do I stay “in the shadows” or do I go signed up for a tournament?

I heard there will be an ASL tournament in Singapore for a little while before it was announced. I have to admit I didn’t give it any thought. The idea of paying for flight and hotel to Singapore by myself just to play boardgames was crazy. I didn’t even join the one in Hong Kong last year (I haven’t turn Fanatic then)!

Both of my mentors said I MUST go. One of them had even said in the past that he doesn’t go to tourneys anymore. He said I should go and decide for myself.

I gingerly broached the topic with my family. I have to admit, it feels like telling them that I am joining a motorcycle gang. My beautiful family was incredulous at first but quickly came around and gave me the support I need.

I signed up for my first ASL tournament.

Do I have a chance in hell of winning anything? No, but that’s not the point, although they do have a prize for the one who lose the most games.

To me the points are :

  • This is my gesture to myself that I want to do ASL well. Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well. I might not become a world class player but I want to be wicked good and a lot of fun to play.
  • This is me reaching out and be part of the Asia Pacific ASL community. These are the core group of guys I’ll be playing countless hours of ASL with for years to come.
  • This is me supporting efforts to foster and to grow the Asia Pacific ASL community. Today I already count among my regular opponents, a player from Singapore and a player from Japan. I look forward to a lot more!
“Journey to a Tourney” is a multipart series that details my personal journey to what’s hopefully the first in a long line of regular ASL Tournaments in Asia Pac. I hope this will encourage any new or experienced players to come join us as well!

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