More thoughts on the Scenario Designers Guide

Johnny Canuck

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I doubt that I'll ever get around to designing scenarios, but thought I'd buy the ASL Scenario Designers Guide to help me understand a bit more about scenario development.

Although a lot of this information is common sense, it's nice to see it presented in a single book. Furthermore, I would bet that there's a market for other books on ASL related topics as well. The only problem, is that this market is quite small.

What I enjoyed about the guide is that it is very readable and the material is broken up into different sections. Additionally, the pictures, while not adding value directly to the material, do add value by breaking the material up. The two column format and the serif'ed fonts also help for readability as well.

I also liked:

- Appendix A the list of Victory conditions
- Appendix B the SSR compendium
- Appendix C the sample scenarios
- Appendix C the discussion about the scenarios

What I would have liked to seen in Mark's guide were:

- an index
- tables, or summaries of the information presented (similar to Appendix B)
- a link to a template .doc file we could use for creating our own scenarios
- a quick reference sheet for the whole shebang

All in all, a very nice effort, and it helps give me a better insight (if only marginally) on what goes on in the sick and twisted minds of ASL scenario designers.
 
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Michael Dorosh

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- a link to a template .doc file we could use for creating our own scenarios
Links go out of date quickly; CD-ROMs are inexpensive to produce and could be used to store all kinds of things, including the QRDC you mention also in addition to templates. The trick, though, is finding a format for the template that the majority of purchasers could use. I use Open Office for creating scenario cards but also use raw BMP images for stuff like counter art, turn tracks etc. Open Office is completely free and allows you to export into Microsoft .doc format or even .pdf. A disc with images such as turn track, etc. would be a better addition than a web link IMO.
 

paulkenny

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interestingly and I have only perused it was that there was no discussion on HASL.
 

Pitman

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I really appreciate the kind words about the Scenario Designers Guide. It was a nice post to read on my birthday!

Re your suggestions...

An Index. I am just not sure that one is really needed, given that the guide is broken into pretty coherent discrete sections. Most of what is related to Subject A will typically appear in Section Z and not be spread out over the whole guide. However, if I get a lot of requests for one, I might consider adding one to a 2nd edition.

Tables/Summaries. I'm just not sure what I would summarize or table-ize. Ditto for a quick reference sheet.

Scenario template. This is something I thought long and hard about--not so much including it in the guide itself, but providing a URL in the guide to one that I would put on-line. However, the more I thought about it, the less attractive it seemed to be, especially given the multitude of DTP platforms, etc., that someone could use to design a scenario on. I use Publisher, but there are all sorts of other (better) programs that folks might use instead. Also, they would have to like whatever style I came up with them, because I obviously could not duplicate the look and feel of official scenario layout to create an official scenario sheet clone. In the end, I just felt that people could come up with their own layouts, suited to their own preferences and programs. However, if there is demand for it, I might revisit it.

Anyway, thanks very much for your feedback. I really appreciate it!

best regards,

Mark




I doubt that I'll ever get around to designing scenarios, but thought I'd buy the ASL Scenario Designers Guide to help me understand a bit more about scenario development.

Although a lot of this information is common sense, it's nice to see it presented in a single book. Furthermore, I would bet that there's a market for other books on ASL related topics as well. The only problem, is that this market is quite small.

What I enjoyed about the guide is that it is very readable and the material is broken up into different sections. Additionally, the pictures, while not adding value directly to the material, do add value by breaking the material up. The two column format and the serif'ed fonts also help for readability as well.

I also liked:

- Appendix A the list of Victory conditions
- Appendix B the SSR compendium
- Appendix C the sample scenarios
- Appendix C the discussion about the scenarios

What I would have liked to seen in Mark's guide were:

- an index
- tables, or summaries of the information presented (similar to Appendix B)
- a link to a template .doc file we could use for creating our own scenarios
- a quick reference sheet for the whole shebang

All in all, a very nice effort, and it helps give me a better insight (if only marginally) on what goes on in the sick and twisted minds of ASL scenario designers.
 

Pitman

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interestingly and I have only perused it was that there was no discussion on HASL.
The only things that make HASLs different are campaign games and historical maps. Both of those things seemed rather esoteric, as well as things I have much less personal expertise with, so I kept the focus on regular old scenario design.
 
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A friend of mine bought 8 guides from Mark and proceeded to give me my copy as soon as it arrived.
I was happy to purchase a Mark Pitcavage product since I'm a faithful surfer of his site and I greatly appreciate his thoughts on ASL.

I read the Guide in a couple of hours and I'm dissatisfied.
Certainly it's not "The ultimate toolset for the ultimate tactical WW2 wargaming" advertised in the cover.
I was waiting for a dense book full of food for thought, what I'm getting is something more on the light side of ASL, vague and generic advices, little reference to actual examples and scenarios, no hard facts (statistics about mabboard used, overlays, SSR, snipers), no precise reference to the armies involved in WW2 and advices on how to build scenarios about them.
Probably I was expecting more than due, still Mark's effort sounds to me as an half hearted attempt. Here and there I catch some of the advice I wanted to read about: scenarios development pattern over the years, historical vs. ahistorical design, scale problems.

I want to remark that I greatly appreciate Mark effort for our hobby and that I highly regard his work as a scenario designer and for his site.

English is not my native language and I'm taking some time to explain you in detail the reason of my dissatisfaction.
 

sswann

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A friend of mine bought 8 guides from Mark and proceeded to give me my copy as soon as it arrived.
I was happy to purchase a Mark Pitcavage product since I'm a faithful surfer of his site and I greatly appreciate his thoughts on ASL.

I read the Guide in a couple of hours and I'm dissatisfied.
Certainly it's not "The ultimate toolset for the ultimate tactical WW2 wargaming" advertised in the cover.
I was waiting for a dense book full of food for thought, what I'm getting is something more on the light side of ASL, vague and generic advices, little reference to actual examples and scenarios, no hard facts (statistics about mabboard used, overlays, SSR, snipers), no precise reference to the armies involved in WW2 and advices on how to build scenarios about them.
Probably I was expecting more than due, still Mark's effort sounds to me as an half hearted attempt. Here and there I catch some of the advice I wanted to read about: scenarios development pattern over the years, historical vs. ahistorical design, scale problems.

I want to remark that I greatly appreciate Mark effort for our hobby and that I highly regard his work as a scenario designer and for his site.

English is not my native language and I'm taking some time to explain you in detail the reason of my dissatisfaction.

Certainly it is not "The ultimate toolset for the ultimate tactical WW2 wargaming" .
That being said... IT IS a excellent guideline on BASIC scenario design concepts. What you are asking for is a very hard thing to define. About 8 years ago, I did and article for CH on scenario design providing the whys and wherefores of an associated scenario. While my article was shorter, it covered just about the same concepts as Mark covered. There are so many factors in scenario design not covered that would influance SSRs, that to cover them all would basically be reprinting every SSR that has ever been used. For that just read some SSR of published scenarios to get the occassional assistance required to flesh out a basic scenario.

Steve
 

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Paolo, I am sorry the guide was not what you had hoped it would be. I had never intended the guide to have detailed historical information in it--I presumed people would do their own research--and I am not sure how statistics about mapboards or overlays would be helpful.
 
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I had never intended the guide to have detailed historical information in it---.
Mark

I wasn't looking about historical information, I hoped for ideas that could help me out with order of battle. I'm currently reserching the exploits of XMAS division battalions (Axis post '43) and italian raggruppamenti (Allies post '43). It is very difficult to determine the best counter types to use. I have very detailed official and unofficial sources for number of men, type of official and "borrowed" weapons of these units, but I've got problems deciding which counters using.
Obviously I wasn't looking for an aswer to my very particular problem, but I hoped to understand the logic (if any) that scenario-designers use for choosing the counter-type.

As I wrote I'm writing down my observations on your guide.
Anyway I want to state again that I've always been very impressed by your work and that perhaps I was expecting from your Guide more (or something different) than you wanted to deliver.
 

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In terms of scenario design, what about a web based form? Enter in the data, it spits out an html page...
 

Pitman

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In all likelihood, that wouldn't work very well, just because there is often so much that is different in layout from scenario to scenario that the people who do the layout often have to tweak or modify stuff to be able to fit it all on the page.
 

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I've read my copy of the booklet. I would like to thank Mark for the good work. For sure I'm an absolute beginner regarding scenario design and I have to admit that my opinion may not be very valuable. Yet, I've bought the booklet because for the first time (as some of you know) I'm willing to try to design some ASL scenarios (about Folgore) and I have to clearly state that I've found Mark's guide very useful in "setting the tone" and in giving an all-round point of view on all the facets to be kept in mind.
For my own scenarios (when I'll be able to find enough time to write something) I'm sure of doing a better work if I'll try to address all of the issues posed by Mark, instead of running tentatively amok as I would do without the Guide.
So, again, a good purchase. Thank you, Mark.
Ale

P.S.: in your guide you refer to units composition (telling also that during war everything varied a lot and nothing was close enough to the ideal numbers); how hard would it be to have some TO&E for WWII divisions in a way similar to those included in Panzer Leader (if you know it)? In PL several divisions (German, British and US) were decomposed down in regiments, battalions and then platoons (the playing pieces). Would it be too heavy to have something similar deepened to squad level? If we had a reasonable idea of the actual number of men in each squad (theoretically) we could start from the Panzer Leader Charts and go a step further simply excanging each Platoon with the corresponding squads and SW (and Vehicles). Wouldn't it be interesting?
 
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P.S.: in your guide you refer to units composition (telling also that during war everything varied a lot and nothing was close enough to the ideal numbers); how hard would it be to have some TO&E for WWII divisions in a way similar to those included in Panzer Leader (if you know it)? In PL several divisions (German, British and US) were decomposed down in regiments, battalions and then platoons (the playing pieces). Would it be too heavy to have something similar deepened to squad level? If we had a reasonable idea of the actual number of men in each squad (theoretically) we could start from the Panzer Leader Charts and go a step further simply excanging each Platoon with the corresponding squads and SW (and Vehicles). Wouldn't it be interesting?
Actually, Allesandro, what you are seeking already exists as articles which have been published through the years, mostly in Avalon Hill and then in MMP products, which dissect the major nationalities' armies--down to the squad level. If you are new to ASL I suggest you purchase, or borrow, as many of the ASL Journals and Avalon Hill ASL Annuals as you can. Those articles are excellent referrence materials for design purposes or just general information.
 

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The kind of problem (as a designer) I would like to solve is something like the following question: I read in the book that the company XY of regiment YZ of Folgore Division has been stormed by British 7th Armoured Division. Ok. Which kind of squads, vehicles, SW and the like I should expect to find (and I should use in the scenario)? I read there were "Shermans" and Grants; which other tanks? I read also that there were Armored Cars: which ones? I think it could be useful to have tables that cite for a given kind of Division (I do not expect specific exceptions) what was officially expected to be found in it. Just as a generic guide.

I've managed to get all the Journals, but I possess only a couple of ASL Annuals. I do not remember anything that could resemble the Panzer Leader tables, but, in the end, probably what I've in my mind is not very useful anyway just for the very same reasons that left the TO&E charts un-matched by reality. If I remember correctly, in Panzer Leader those tables were aimed to DYO campaigns and ASL has afforded this very same issue on a more sound statistical approach. And so, probably I could expect in the 7th Armoured Division any vehicle that the Chapter H says it was used in North Africa (by British troops). Am I wrong?

Ale
 
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Darrell Andersen

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"instead of running tentatively amok"

this may be the best scenario design method I have heard of. Certainly suits mine at times.

I got a good laugh from that.

In all seriousness Allesandro, good luck with your Folgore project, it sounds VERY interesting.
 

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I bought the Guide mostly out of curiosity about what sort of product Mark would publish. I like the quality. Good paper, nice cover graphics , etc. The list of SSRs could be quite useful. I will be looking forward to other products done with an equally consistent quality.


Seth
 

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I've read my copy of the booklet. I would like to thank Mark for the good work. For sure I'm an absolute beginner regarding scenario design and I have to admit that my opinion may not be very valuable. Yet, I've bought the booklet because for the first time (as some of you know) I'm willing to try to design some ASL scenarios (about Folgore) and I have to clearly state that I've found Mark's guide very useful in "setting the tone" and in giving an all-round point of view on all the facets to be kept in mind.
For my own scenarios (when I'll be able to find enough time to write something) I'm sure of doing a better work if I'll try to address all of the issues posed by Mark, instead of running tentatively amok as I would do without the Guide.
So, again, a good purchase. Thank you, Mark.
Ale
Ale, thanks so much for your kind words--I am really glad to know that you like the Guide! I hope it does help you with your Folgore scenarios (which sound interesting). :)


P.S.: in your guide you refer to units composition (telling also that during war everything varied a lot and nothing was close enough to the ideal numbers); how hard would it be to have some TO&E for WWII divisions in a way similar to those included in Panzer Leader (if you know it)? In PL several divisions (German, British and US) were decomposed down in regiments, battalions and then platoons (the playing pieces). Would it be too heavy to have something similar deepened to squad level? If we had a reasonable idea of the actual number of men in each squad (theoretically) we could start from the Panzer Leader Charts and go a step further simply excanging each Platoon with the corresponding squads and SW (and Vehicles). Wouldn't it be interesting?
TO&Es, especially for some nationalities, changed from year to year, and even then then were often not followed very well (particularly when a military, like Germany's, was throwing in everything, including the kitchen sink, late in the war). Even to represent all the different TO&Es for the major nationalities of the conflict down to the squad level would take up a tremendous amount of space.

But, as i think someone has mentioned, if you look at issues of the ASL Annual, The General, ASL Journal, and Schwerpunkt, you can often find some articles on the major participants and get some sort of sense of the generic squad/platoon level TO&Es for different formations. (like Brook White's articles in Schwerpunkt, for example)
 

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I bought the Guide mostly out of curiosity about what sort of product Mark would publish. I like the quality. Good paper, nice cover graphics , etc. The list of SSRs could be quite useful. I will be looking forward to other products done with an equally consistent quality.


Seth
Clearly, you have excellent taste! :laugh:

Thanks, Seth, for your support!

best,

Mark
 

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The SASL rules are also pretty decent for getting a the types/number of counters to use for basic companies for the various nationalities. You have to know how to scale up and what heavy weapons to add for larger formations, but they're still good building blocks to use. Often there are different versions given for different years.

I think the Italians are covered in SASL2 so there should be a basic company in there.
 

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"instead of running tentatively amok"

[...]
I got a good laugh from that.
[...]
Glad of knowing it, thank you! I'm sure that very often my English sounds funny (if not worse...) even when I have no intention to be funny at all... :clown: This time I had an image in my mind that I thought it could have turned out amusing... and you are saying that it worked! Thank you a million!!! :D

Ale
 
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