How did you get your start into War games?

R Hooks

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Anyone interested in telling us how they began gaming that lead them to ASL?

I'll start.. back in about 1956 I was a kid with a bike, parents instructions were be back by supper, definitely a free range play child. My bike took me miles on some days, while passing the brand new shopping center on a Sunday (all stores closed by the blue laws), I saw a group of 12 or so men about my fathers age walking around the empty parking lot with tape measures, attracting my 9 year old interest, pulling me into their web.

Turns out they were all Navy Vets, and they were replaying the WW2 battles they had been in with alnavco (sp?) model ships.. BAM BAM went my young mind. Most of them had no clue what the ships they had been on actually did during the battles, since they were down in the hull, making everything keep running. This was their first chance since the war to understand what they had been through. I made myself helpful by dragging the end of the 100 foot tape measure about and holding it over the center of the ship models. I also passed along any "enemy" plans to launch torpedo's or make a turn.

I came back every Sunday that summer, and with the players permission was allowed to buy a Lt. Cruiser model and play it when one was needed, Alnavco models were pretty expensive on my 9 year old income, but I saved up until I owned it. The next summer vacation out of school (1957) I was back, and had picked up a couple of DD's, and a Hv. Cruiser (Japanese). The adult players had grown and more were there every day, but I wasn't sidelined and was allowed to put out an opinion, usually ignored by them after explaining why to me. I was now 10 and spent most of my library school time reading about naval Battles in the Pacific. As 1957 ended I was making plans to buy battleships.

The summer of 1958 was a let down, only a few people showed up, they had learned what they were after I guess, my battleship money was still in my piggy bank unspent, so to pick myself up I made a toy store run.. BAM there was a game called Gettysberg by AH, I bought it and have never been without a historic game since.

Years of AH games later I bought Squad Leader, got into its expansions as a playtest member, was invited to join the ASL playtest, but was involved as a SSI computer game tester so I had to decline. Please let me hear any stories you might share.
 
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von Marwitz

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Well, it started with RISK when I was maybe 13 years old. My friends and me were playing that game for endless hours. When I came back from a year in the US as an exchange student aged 17, I brought with me a RISK variant called 'Castle RISK'. Then we played that for endless hours. But mainly at that time, I was into Role Playing Games based on Tolkien's Middle Earth (MERP, Rolemaster). My Sindarin and Quenya was reasonably good during those days along with extensive knowledge on Middle Earth's history. I mastered many campaigns, some of which ran for over a decade.

But back to wargames... In that game-store that sold the Role Playing Games, there was also a corner for true wargames, which was pretty rare in Germany. I already took an interest in World War II in those days, though my knowledge was several hundreds of books short of what it is now in that regard. Nevertheless, I had a look at those games and held an ASLRB 1st ed in my hands for the first time. I was deeply impressed. It just appeared awesome in its detail. It was the counters on the inside of the binder that fascinated me: Such an amount of numbers and symbols on a single AFV counter simply had to mean that this game piece must have a ton of options at its disposal in the game. As I always tended to stick with more complicated games (Rolemaster for RPG as an example), these counters and just the complexity of the ASLRB was an attraction unto itself.

However, I was quite stunned by the complexity of the ASL rules - and especially the unbelievable number of abbreviations at the same time. It was not quite possible to just read a single sentence in the tome without coming across half a dozen of abbreviations. I knew, that there was just NO ONE around that played this game to teach me. So I passed it at that time being more than busy with my RPG campaigns in Middle Earth anyway. Not to mention the outrageous price for the ASLRB alone, which absurdly did not even include a single game piece. The latter were included in the even more expensive BV... A very serious challenge to my funds while still at school.

Still, that ASLRB was nagging at me. I had it in my hands every now and then when routinely sinking my money into that game-store. So I found out about Squad Leader. It looked quite similar to ASL, only a bit more simple. The SL rules were not as intimidating as the ASL rules. And they that that "programmed" approach that seemed just to do the trick. So I bought SL shortly before I finished school and went to university. And the other three SL extensions as well. I did meddle a bit with SL. The first scenario went to the last CC roll! This did it!

Still, I had no opponent whatsoever. Still, role playing games rules supreme. But the breach was made. After less then a dozen SL scenarios played, I determined that it might be prudent not to put serious effort into SL but instead to go for ASL right from the start. So I finally bought the ASLRB when I was about 19. In the city where I went to university, there were two game-stores. One of them had a lot of ASL stuff and after a while decided to cease selling it and to get rid of the remains at a good discount. At that time, I got hold of most core modules for a good price.

Despite this, no opponent in sight. No idea where to find one either. I began to teach ASL to myself from scrap with English not being my native language. A frightful drudgery that went painfully slow and of course was bound to ridden by many mistakes and misunderstood rules. I played only solitaire vs. myself.

In some game-zine one day I happened upon a list of people playing ASL in Germany. It was rather short. But one of the people listed lived merely 80 kilometers away. Still a challenge since I had no car. Well, what to lose. So I contacted that guy. It was the late Christian Koppmeyer, father of the German Grenadier ASL-tournament. He spontaneously invited me to his manhole where he was to play a week-end of ASL with three buddies. This was in 1997 and for me it was the first time, I was actually seeing someone playing the game. I played my first scenario vs. a real opponent - Christian. Needless to say, I was completely disintegrated in a matter of 2 rounds. Yet, now I had proof that there was someone out there actually playing the game.

During that week-end, Christian had the idea to organize the first ASL tournament in Germany. It was first held in 1998 and I was there. Again, I got stomped, but would you believe it? There were around 25 (that is twenty-five!) people from all over Europe coming together with all their kit and storage stuff to play. I have attended Grenadier ever since with rare exceptions. Besides these 5 scenarios at Grenadier a year, I still played only solitaire, so my skill progressed very slowly. And my pace of play was also agonizingly slow. Altogether, I played around 100 scenarios solitaire over a number of years.

The next fundamental change came in 2010 when I discovered VASL and this here GameSquad forum. What a relevation! Suddenly, I had opponents for almost any hour of the day or night just as I pleased. This is, when my ASL play finally took of. I found a number of regular opponents and mentors: David Wallace, Martin Mayers, Alex Koestler to name but some. They were responsible for my skill level increasing at long last. Meanwhile, I have around 500 scenarios under my belt and would rate myself as an average player.

Well, and there we are right now at present. So interestingly, I have hardly played any wargame between the most trivial (RISK) and the most complex (ASL). Once more, I stuck to the most complex.


von Marwitz
 

R Hooks

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Thank you von Marwitz, I don't have to use slash keys anymore to make \/ (\ /) of course that was several keyboards back.

Yep players are the key to ASL, Have only had 2 face to face players since about 2001, both moved off hundreds of miles. So VASL is my gaming area too.. your one game with me was my butt being kicked, in fact most of them on VASL are lol. But I'm hooked (no pun) and will continue to play ASL if I never win another game.

Back in SL days our little group could put together weekend groups of 8 to 10 players, but end of school, marriage, and jobs cut it down to 4 and then to 2, and he passed away so it was just me for years.

I have actually never played a solo solitaire battle but my friend Dr Musser and I played a double solitaire version where we fought our companies side by side like a battalion level ASL against the solitaire fire tables. After he passed away until I found VASL I just read the rules and setup a few scenarios to judge good starting positions. Oh yea and 2 short term face to face guys.. A teacher at the local prison and I played a couple of games, he moved.. and another guy who taught me about VASL and helped me get online, we played many VASL games after he moved off.
 
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hongkongwargamer

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I played Squad Leader in the 80s but things were dropped and forgotten as life happened.

Five years ago I was on eBay when I saw a copy of Squad Leader. I bought that and subsequently found a very active group of players (Scott Bramley etc) and was very surprised that Squad Leader is still played. I found "Advanced Squad Leader" when I was looking for resources on the internet. A few days afterwards I found a copy of the ASLRB stacked up near the ceiling in the tiniest bookstore you can ever imagine. The storekeeper tried to sell me the copies of Lock N' Load he had but I walked out with a ASLRB.

I was drawn by the richness of ASLRB but it was a very tough study. I got in touch with the local wargames society and they told me about regular ASL games in this pre (WW2 .. read: ancient) war building. I went, stated my case and assured everyone that I will be a quiet spectator.

"We don't allow spectators", came the reply.

"Here - you are in charge of this Panzer", the chap pushed a light blue counter towards me. They then talked me through every step the rest of the afternoon. I was hooked! Reading the rulebook became much easier also because I have context. I joined GameSquad and pretty much the first thing that happened was @dlazov started my first real game with me. I "disliked" a post where @witchbottles put out an issue of PointBlank! by accident and ran into my second opponent! :)

That's how it started for me .. and now I have to go to work.
 

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In 1969, I was a 4 year old living in a farmhouse near Bristol, VA. My grandfather visited from Philadelphia and brought me a box of Britain’s Confederates. And a wargamer was born. In 1977, my childhood friend in Bristol, TN (a Marine Corps Major today) introduced me to Panzerblitz. He beat me, but he would lead tanks in Iraq...so I got beat by a pro!! In 1978, I moved to St. Louis and bought my copy of Squad Leader. Then in 1989 I finally moved to ASL. I look forward to many more years of playing ASL.
 

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I played Risk and Battleship endlessly when I was young. For some reason, I was interested in WW2. I liked the ETO, but since I grew up on San Diego, and since my dad was in the Navy, I also had an interest in the PTO.

I came home from school one day and my mom had something for me. It must've been a Thursday, because that's when the garage sales were, and she had spent the morning checking them out. She had bought me Midway. I still remember the "50 cents" written in big black magic marker on the grey box.

What a cool game! It started where Battleship ended. It was probably about 1970, when I was 9 years old. Midway was hard to solo, so somehow I wound up with the Battle of the Bulge, which I played by myself numerous times. I remember being home for Christmas vacation one year and playing it, trying to imagine what the soldiers felt like in December 1944 in Europe (remember, I grew up in San Diego).

One or two of my friends liked wargames. When we discovered PanzerBlitz, we thought it was pretty cool. No ZOCs! And you could fire at an enemy many hexes away, limited only by your range!

About the time Squad Leader came out, I was probably in high school and getting interested in other things, such as girls. Then college, job, family, house, and all that.

About 5 years ago, I had a wild idea to go on eBay to see if I could pick up a copy of PanzerBlitz. I wound up searching around and researching games. I had really expected the hobby to have completely died, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see how far it had come in the 40 years or so that I had been away. The games had matured, and there was now a huge variety of mechanics and game types.

I found a copy of PanzerBlitz, and I also bought something called Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit #1. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I took the game with me on a long weekend at the beach. I read the rules, and could kinda sorta understand the concepts, but this was nothing like the old Battle of the Bulge game I had played. Fortunately, I had also printed out Jay Richardson's tutorial. Once I walked my way through that, it started making sense to me, and I saw the genius of the system.

At this point in my life, I have money, but not so much time. I've been slowly accumulating a nice collection of games, getting ready for retirement in a couple of years.
 

R Hooks

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Great to hear from you Trailrunner, I had a lot of fun with PanzerBlitz too. Got it when I had about a year left in the Army after my Vietnam service. Taught it too several people in my company, and since the first sergeant had put me in charge of all day room spending I made sure we had a company copy of PB and a couple of other AH games, and a bumper pool table.. Dozens of people started using the day room on weekends, many to play PB and the other games. He thanked me for the improvement in Day Room use, feeling it cut back on the booze drinking. Even taught a young Lt. to play it, hope he spread it to other officers.
 
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dlazov

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Technically I invited my first war game. I had a set of German World War One Infantry and a set of British World War One infantry both from a company called HO/HO (IIRC, it may have just been HO) anyway they were plastic and small, so I lined them up in their trenches and shot them with rubber bands till the last man standing side won (I also invited the first baseball game using baseball cards, a number one pencil and rolled up pieces of scrap paper for the balls, but that is another story).

That was about 1976 or so. Then I found this thing called a Hobby Store where not only could I get 1/32 scale models but they had these games about World War Two which I had been reading all summer, so during that Christmas I got as presents from my mother D-Day, Afrika Korps, Battle of the Bulge and Luftwaffe. I was ecstatic.

The following spring/summer and winter I picked up a few more games, Third Reich, PanzerBlitz and PanzerLeader and a game called Sniper from a company called SPI. I was intrigued with PanzerBlitz and PanzerLeader, but Sniper was really cool. And then that summer (it may have also been the summer of '78 and most likely was since I would have been 12 in '78) I saw at the Hobby Lobby a picture of this German Officer and the title was Squad Leader, I read the back with much interest and was set on getting it, but alas it was a whopping $15. I only had a $10 in my pocket. I had to wait and save that $10 for a whole month (I only got $10 a month back then for allowance). The next month I rode my bike to Hobby Lobby worried it would be gone from the shelf! But to my great joy it was on the shelf and it was mine! I remember going through all the scenarios by myself back then, I think it took me till '79 when COI came out and I picked that one up too! I also picked up COD in 1980, I was fourteen and then G.I. in 1982, I was 16 at the time. Then in 1985 where I lived Beyond Valor came out first, and then it was six months to a year latter when the Rules arrived. I was about 19-20 then.

So SL/ASL has been with me in one form or anther since 1977.

I am trying very slowly to get back into it again after a four hiatus thanks to a couple of good friends (sorry it's taking me so long).

But I have also been playing Steel Panthers since 1995. Currently been playing SP WW2 for the last 18 years since it's the only one in the family of those games that is still updated by two very dedicated English programmers.

Anyway that is my best recollection of how I got started.
 

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The first wargame I played, if one can call it that was Battleship - and we enjoyed it as kids for several years. the first board wargames I ever saw were on a Salvation Army Thrift Store shelf one hot afternoon, they were a well-worn copy of Panzerblitz, Blitzkrieg and Squad Leader (this was 1982). For 25 cents each, I could not pass them up and bought all three with a hard-earned one dollar ( a little change back after taxes). from my weekend job at a restaurant.

I took them home and studied each intensely. The shame, the poor SL box did not have any German counters at all. I made do, playing them by substituting in Russians on the West Front and Americans on the East Front, just to learn the rules, because hiding in the bottom of the box was an AH price list, and it showed the German countersheet for sale for $4.00 + $0.99 Shipping. I needed a money order, I only had a savings account back then in High school. That was another $0.39 at the five and dime store. So it waited until my next payday, when I got my check, off went my money order for the Germans. Oh, I could hardly contain myself, checking the mail with relish every day after school, I just KNEW it was the epitome of fun arriving soon in the mailbox. (Priorities are different and change rapidly as a teenager. Fun also meant Friday night after football game dates with Melissa, partying on a hot summer night at Dave's parent's house, where we illicitly consumed so much PBR and Coors as to keep America's mass-production breweries in business throughout the 1980's. And so on... teenagers, can't ever figure them out. :) ) .

When the Germans finally arrived, the war started all over again in Stalingrad, Peipsk, Hill 621 and Bitche and Wiltz. :D

but what came with that envelope was the kicker, that B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. full-color catalog of AH games circa 1982..... WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

The next two years saw me buy every single one of the games I desired from that catalog. Along the way, I met two friends in High School who also played SL and Panzerblitz and Submarine, so we played those just about every day after school. (the bus wait for us was about 50 or so minutes every day until it left going our way.) We learned we could get a game going, play for about 35 or so minutes, write down where to set everything back up, pack it up, take it home, set it back up after dinner, and call and finish the game via a phone call.

1984 during Spring Break, I went to my first "wargaming convention" of sorts in Phoenix, AZ. I got hooked into a game of Diplomacy that blew the roof for fun with a game. After that, I played the Japanese side in Flat Top's "Coral Sea" scenario the rest of the weekend.

I graduated High school and went into the Marines, thinking it would be a long time before I ever got home to get my chest of carefully packed wargames ever again. Turns out it was okay, one of the roommates at "A" school was into Battletech miniatures, so we played a LOT of that, and we also had a copy of a Milton Bradley multi-player game based on the Ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, which we all enjoyed in the Rec Room on Duty Section weekends.

Wasn't until I got transferred to MCAS El Toro in 1986 that I discovered a "wargaming club" on base on Sunday mornings. I went, we played the old school version of Axis and Allies, it was pretty fun, enough that I bought a copy of that game. Several other meetings (although not all of them, work and deployments intervened a lot, but I got back into wargaming, playing LW, PB, PL, PAA, PGG, MID, and many others..) Then one meeting, we played ASL. I remember saying I know SL and play it occasionally (I had a single SL-GI series opponent that lived in Costa Mesa, not too far away.) They said, its all good, ASL was way more fun than SL. So Chris Castellana, and another Marine and I sat down to play "King's Castle" (this was 1989). My conversion (which I had resisted for so long) and I never looked back.

I still play many other titles from the old days online now, I rather enjoy a good game of VITP, or A3R or FE or flying my ME-109F fighter rotte vs any finger four flights of allied planes in "Air Force". (As Don Lazov can attest to, we also once enjoyed a pretty cool old-school game of TP:S via the VASL module) But ASL is my caveat Emptor, taking about 90% of my wargaming time these days. The rest, most of it goes to GMT's "Downtown" , and pittance goes into a few PBEM games of the other old titles.


:)

KRL, Jon H
 

A_T_Great

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My dad bought lots of high quality Avalon Hill wargames to play, when he was younger. When I was twelve he taught me to play Blackbeard, and after that I was hooked.
 

R Hooks

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Dads are a great source of gaming. My father made great efforts to learn to play my early AH games, exp. on rainy weekend days, but he liked to teach me poker the most, won myself $1200 dollars on the weekend before I shipped out for Vietnam, so thanks dad.
 
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R Hooks

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My friend Dr Musser was big time MtG player and his son inherited the collection, which includes 10 real primo condition Black Lotus cards that his father bought as investments.. none for more then $1,000.. so his son can almost retire on his magic card collection.
 

witchbottles

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My friend Dr Musser was big time MtG player and his son inherited the collection, which includes 10 real primo condition Black Lotus cards that his father bought as investments.. none for more then $1,000.. so his son can almost retire on his magic card collection.
true top quality BL cards are quite the value item nowadays. Top value Unlimited deck artifacts, in NM condition, can go for upwards of $8,000 USD each. Values go down from there based on quality and set it was drawn from.
 

R Hooks

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I saw that a 100 grade beta Black Lotus sold in a comic book/ collectable auction for $100,000 dollars. I have held all of my friends BL in my hands (with protectors on them) crazy amount of money. You have to be very careful of counterfeit's, I went with him to view purchase some and people tried to pass bad ones.
 

witchbottles

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I saw that a 100 grade beta Black Lotus sold in a comic book/ collectable auction for $100,000 dollars. I have held all of my friends BL in my hands (with protectors on them) crazy amount of money. You have to be very careful of counterfeit's, I went with him to view purchase some and people tried to pass bad ones.
the betas are the most rare, and in excellent condition, worth a ton to a discerning collector. The main issue I see is there are now 7 editions of reprints, each being progressively less valuable. Like most CCGs, MtG beta cards are always top dollar items, as only 100 test sets are made for each beta run, period. The beta BL cards came issued 2 per deck, for a grand total of 200 of them in existence, period.

To me, its kind of like a 35,000 dollar bottle of Dom Perignon. Are you really gonna crack that cork? If not, sell it and finance a whole lifetime of excellent booze :D
 

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I think my first actual wargame was a thing called Tank Trap. It was one of those ads in the back of a comic book and cost about a $1.00. This was probably around 1968 (I was 8) when my dad ordered it for me. He and I played it once, it was pretty stupid as I recall.

The following Christmas season, 1969, My mom, my brothers, and I were shopping in a Gimbels department store outside of Pittsburgh, PA. I came across a display of Avalon Hill games on a wall and was entranced. I begged my mom to get me one, any one, for Christmas. She was non-committal but I received Battle of the Bulge (65) for Christmas that year. My dad and I played it and he seemed to enjoy it but I just didn't get it. After a game or two it was put in a closet and all but forgotten.

Three years later I rediscovered that game and, this time, was fascinated. I got my dad to play again and this time I got it. I had a paper route and saved enough money to buy Stalingrad at a store called Burlands Hobby Shop in Pittsburgh. My dad loved that game but would only play as the Germans as he enjoyed the challenge of the Russian 4-6-8 replacement rate.

In the following years I picked up Afrika Korps, Waterloo, Panzerblitz, Panzer Leader, Arab Israeli Wars, and Third Reich. A kid living across the street from me was in to SPI games and he had a bunch, including a subscription to S&T. Summers were good in the early to mid 70's.

I began subscribing to the General in late 1975. Toward the end of 1976 a new game was being advertised; Squad Leader. As soon as AH announced that it was ready for mail order sale I submitted my order form. After about six weeks I received my copy. It was the most awesome wargame I had ever seen and the beginning of a very long love affair.

My neighbor had moved away to Raleigh, NC but I found a classmate to play against. We played the scenarios, in order, according to the programmed instruction. By the time we completed Scenario 12, The Road to Wiltz, we were ready to graduate from high school. He went his way and I mine. However, I have always been able to find face to face opponents, no matter where I went. SL was followed by COI, then GI. In 1985 I was stationed at Ft Richardson, AK and picked up ASL and BV. I never looked back.
 

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Great trip TomK, glad you find opponents, If you do ever get lonely check out VASL. I've found it fun.
 

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Bruce Quarrie general wargaming rules (can't remember the title) led to Bruce Quarrie's Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature...led to Wargames Research Group 1685 to 1845...led to AH Russian Front (actually spotted it by chance without ever hearing of AH)...led to Squad Leader (also spotted by chance)...led to the SL gamettes...led to ASL & modules with to side trips to AH Napoleon's Battles, Flight Leader and Submarine along the way.
 
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