It would be hard to live up to the subtitle of this book; it is not ultimate and is not a toolset as claimed. More correctly, it is a camouflaged precis of common sense. As a first effort, the work shows promise, but the author will need to abandon his unabashed love for the game and adopt a neutral tone to be taken seriously.
The text is sensibly laid out in two columns though oddly is not justified, perhaps a nod to early wargaming magazines. Another nod are the black and white renderings of wartime photos. If they are meant to evoke Rodger MacGowan's artwork of the great wargaming titles (such as Squad Leader), it fails. The images are poor and appear as cheap pixelated copies. The text is large, giving less content, but paper is high contrast and easy to read.
There is no index and little relief from the text, broken up only by stark images, 20 in all, and 4 stock clip art drawings. One photo appears to have been taken from my own website at www.canadiansoldiers.com
, though as artistic renderings, none of the photos are actually identified, captioned or credited.
The lack of appropriate supporting imagery is evidence that the book was not sanctioned by any copyright holder of counter artwork. A shame, as an illustrated walk through of the process would have been interesting. None appears.
The constant attempts to sell the game seem like a means of stretching the content to 72 pages. Don't most scenario designers own the game already? The opening pages read like bad propaganda filled with platitudes. Entire paragraphs are devoted to matters of common sense and are obvious filler, such as the para listing the theatres of World War II.
The book includes seven chapters, on theory, sources, map layout, order of battle, miscellany, playtesting and publishing.
Finally, halfway down page 8, the aim of the book is given - “to help designers avoid certain pitfalls and problems that often occur, to allow designers to benefit from the experiences of those who have gone before them, and to make the whole idea...of ASL scenario design a lot less intimidating.” However, only about 40 pages of text are devoted to actual scenario design. There are some good tips, most of which are common sense. The initial discussion of historical accuracy and playability is quite useful, for example.
What is noticeably lacking is a template or checklist of scenario elements despite the author's admonition on page 51 to be on the lookout for missing scenario elements. No hint of how to format for a publisher is given.
Vague advice on sources appears; some useful sources - Google Earth, for example - are not mentioned at all.
The three appendices are a collection of SSRs and VCs from the work of other designers without credit being given them. Many free scenarios are available online (MMP and VFTT websites come to mind) so personally reviewing scenarios should not be a problem for anyone likely to want this book, making the appendices seem like wasted effort. Marketing for the book indicates “two free scenarios”, a meaningless gimmick given they are mentioned directly in the contents as well as the subject of an appendix. The two scenarios don't seem so much an added treat as an added justification for the cover price of 20 dollars for 72 b&w pages. The scenarios use a unique non-ASL layout with no explanation of why.
Unattractive physically and only marginally useful to ASL scenario designers. Few examples and no relevant illustrations make the text all seem very vague and disconnected. A walkthrough of the process would have been more interesting than pages of obvious filler material.