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Web Grognard

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on February 24, 2014

“If you don’t know this website, you don’t know the wargaming hobby – period!”

Web Grognard


The internet offers websites for almost any field of interest. There are also so-called “Link pages” for these fields, i.e. pages which collect addresses of all websites dealing with the respective topics. Such key pages are very important because they allow easy access to all sources of information in one location instead of forcing people to search the entire web where relevant information is often hidden in an informational chaos.

The wargaming hobby isn’t an exception to this rule; its key website in the internet where you can find everything related to wargames is called WebGrognard.

Grognard‘ is slang for someone who likes playing wargames, so this site is chock-full of information about The Hobby.

It’s subtitle the site for wargames on the web since 1995″ is an accurate description, because it actually is the number 1 resource website for wargaming – there isn’t any other website offering more information and data about almost any wargame ever published! This incredible project was created by three men: Alan Poulter, Eric Pass and Skip Franklin. The site was then run for almost 20 years by Alan Poulter updated each sunday to add even more information (sent to him via email) to the gigantic data amount already online since 1995. 13th January 2013 the final update was made by Alan and the site now has a new management being run by Mark D’Agosta.

Mark decided to bring the no.1 site for wargaming content into the modern era with a new and fresh design, a new server structure, a new “Search” feature to make it easier to find the games you like. Updates will now be continuous, posting shortly after they are received and approved which is probably the most important new feature. In addition to the existing RSS feed, you may now follow Grognard.com via Twitter or may subscribe for email notification and hopefully a Facebook page will be available in the future. Grognard.com “originals” are planned like the Head-to-Head video series. The idea is to have two or even more experienced wargamers engaging in a popular wargame with discussion, game and strategy analysis and actual game play depending on the focus of the episode. The first episode can be watched here!

If you enter WebGrognard, you will see an alphabetical list which leads to all wargames beginning with the respective letter: A includes A3R, Totaler Krieg can be found under T etc.. This allows comfortable and quick navigation if searching for information about a specific game without the need to scroll through endless stuff you don’t need. Once you found your game, there is another listing of all data available to this game. By clicking on the links you eventually reach your destination.

WebGrognard offers almost anything, for example reviews, articles about strategy, errata, Q&A, FAQ, rule variants, zine indices, links to individual websites about the games, the publisher’s website, computerbased game assistant programs (GAPs), Mailing lists, replays, scenarios etc.. The information isn’t limited to boardgames, but does also include computergames, magazines, game conventions, PbEM aids, datafiles for download, shops, RPGs, card games, miniatures, reports etc..

Grognard Challenge: map image 1

If you don’t find it on Webgrognard, it doesn’t exist!

The site depends on submissions for new material, so if you have an interesting article, strategy tip, player aid, link or file you’d like to share please contribute to make this great site even better!

Entries for the letter “A”. FAQs, Reviews, AARs, add-ons, card listings, rules summaries, tactics from various sources and even in foreign languages, are listed here

© 7/03 by HFC (www.homefrontcenter.de)

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Cat-Proof Wargaming!

Posted by Denny Koch on June 5, 2013

HFC cat Troja and her favorite place in front of our games collection!

HFC cat Troja and her favorite place in front of our games collection!

If you have a feline housemate (no cat would approve of being described as “owned”), and are a dedicated wargamer, you know the problem: counters, blocks, and miniatures are irresistible to them!

So, what can you do if you want to play a game which extends over several weeks, don’t have a dedicated, lockable gaming room and share your house with a cat?

Today, we reveal our secret of cat-proof wargaming to you!


“Wow, this table looks irresistible! Look at all these nice little playthings, it would be great fun to catch them and hide them!”

First of all, when we play a consim which will take several weeks to finish, we set up the map board on top of a large and solid wooden panel (about 5.9 feet x 3.2 feet or 1,80 m x 1 m).

At the end of the day, when we have to store the game until the next gaming session, we take our special hand-made protection lids, cut from strong boxes and (for aesthetic purposes only) decorated with red fabric. These lids are high enough to cover counters, blocks, and even miniatures.

We made two lids, where one is slightly larger than the other, so the size of the entire construction can be adapted to different game sizes.

First, we turn the panel with the mapboard sideways, then we put some solid stuff like cups on empty map spaces – these will support the lids later, when the cat jumps or lays on top of the lid.

Then, the first (smaller) lid is placed on one end of the mapboard. Then the larger lid is placed on the other half, slightly overlapping the first lid.


The two lids, made of strong carboard boxes. Each has one open side.


Then, the first lid is placed on one end of the map. Be sure to support it with some cups or other things, so that the cat will not press it down on the map.


Then, the second lid is placed over the first lid. Since the system is modular, you can adapt it to various map sizes.


Finally, the panel with the protection lid is pushed near the wall where it will remain until the next gaming session.


“Mmh, where have all these tasty blocks gone?!?”


Cat-proof wargaming – HFC tested and approved!

This construction is absolutely cat-proof, the box is strong enough to endure the weight of a heavy cat without giving in and burying the game below.

In addition, there are no attractive counters, dice, or other game pieces visible, which could attract the cat, so over the course of time, the lid becomes just a boring object on the table and is mostly ignored.

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The Operational Art Of War III – a call to arms!

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on December 18, 2012

TOAW 3TOAW is one of those games (or to be even more accurate a game series) that actually defines the hobby wargaming. It’s a legendary PC consim that offers probably the most flexible game engine ever used in any wargame and there are thousands of scenarios made by fans that you can play. Almost every war ever fought on this earth has a scenario to be played in TOAW, it’s a must have for the serious grognard. The latest version of the game is TOAW III with the mega update 3.4. This update polished the game to a great degree and solved many problems, but alas it also caused some new ones. The community is discussing this now for a while and there is a new update in the making 3.5 or so it was said…but the lead designer on this project is somehow MIA and it seems he’s the only person who can tell us something about progress or decline of the next update. There’s no update on the project anymore and he can’t be contacted. Matrix Games, the game publisher is silent on the topic as well and the fans start to get concerned that their beloved TOAW won’t see the new and needed update to iron out the sometimes severe issues of the game. So over at the Matrix Games Forums there’s an announcement for a petition.

Since its release in 1998 The Operational Art of War has been enjoyed by thousands of war-gaming enthusiast who contributed not only to the game’s popularity, but essentially helped to make the product what is is today. Thousands of man hours of scenario research, design, invaluable feedback and more, that’s what the community has been doing ever since. The product is still selling and we, the war-gaming community, think it is only fair on behalf of Matrix Games to support it. A good example about ongoing support can be experienced with WitP AE, so why not with TOAW?

The HFC is gladly supporting this because we think this wonderful game needs any support possible to stay alive – because there is no other game like this on the market, it’s that simple. So, if you feel the same, then click on the link below that takes you to the petition page and support TOAW with your name as a wargamer.

>>>Click here to sign petition: Matrix Games: Keep TOAW III supported!

The discussion about the need for a new TOAW update can be found here.

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HFC on Tour: Spiel 2012 in Essen, the world’s biggest consumer fair for gaming

Posted by Denny Koch on October 23, 2012

Gaming tables everywhere!

This year, we attended SPIEL 2012 in Essen, the world’s biggest consumer trade fair for gaming. The fair was held in the Messe Essen from Oct 18th – 21st, which means four days of playing and testing popular and new (even unpublished) games and, of course, the opportunity to buy games. This attracted about 150,000 visitors from all over the world.

On 46,000 square meters of exhibition space, you can find all kinds of games and gaming equipment – from Eurogames to classics (like Chess and Go), consims and wargames, board games, card games, electronic games, role-playing games, tabletop games, up to LARP equipment such as armor, weapons, costumes, and clothing. In addition there is “Comic Action“, a Comic fair, which is part of Spiel. Here you have the opportunity to see, read and buy all kinds of comics and comic related stuff, from European and US mainstream comics up to quite bizarre Japanese Manga products.

Home of Wargamers!

Spiel 2012 was a really big event (the exhibition area, which extends over 10 halls, is even larger than Gamescom, the annual European video games fair in Cologne) and attracted visitors and exhibitors from all over the world. You could find the big players (for example Hasbro, German company Ravensburger…) next to small and highly specialized game shops, independent publishers, smaller companies and publishers (GMT Games, Matrix Games / Slitherine, UGG, Twilight Creations, Days of Wonder, Eagle Games…), organizations and clubs (the German consim society GHS, The Guild of Role Playing Gamers), and special booths, giving an overview over games from a certain country, for example Russia, or South Korea. Even companies who specialize in proofreading game concepts and producing your components (counters, maps etc.) were represented. There were also gaming championships and open tournaments going on, as well as workshops and tutorials.

Entire sections were dedicated to gaming equipment, for example dice, tabletop painting and modelling equipment, or card sleeves, and clothing and weapons for knights, orcs, and the medieval LARP household.

The Location

The Galeria

Essen is one of the 10 largest cities in Germany and located in the heart of the industrial Ruhr area. The infrastructure is very good, the city can be reached easily by plane (via airport Düsseldorf), train, or car. It takes only a few minutes from the central station to the fair grounds “Messe Essen” and shuttle busses as well as subways connect the Messe to the inner-city.

We went to Essen by car, which took probably longer than getting to the fair grounds by subway, because the sheer size of the fair led to a minor traffic collapse around the Messe. There were several parking lots, but some were reserved for exhibitors or journalists, and most of the public parking lots in the Messe vicinity were already occupied by the time we got there. A parking guide sent us to a remote parking lot and advised us to return with the (free of charge) shuttle bus, but fortunately, we discovered a secret parking garage near the Gruga park, a large city park close to the Messe.

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“Operation Red Nose”: the HFC Game Meeting March 2011

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on April 5, 2011

"Operation Red Nose" - 4 days of eating, drinking, and non-stop gaming!

This years’ HFC & Friends Game Meeting was again held around the days that are known in Germany as ‘Karneval’ or ‘Fasnacht’ and which is a time when folks start wearing silly costumes, drinking a lot and dancing to a very weird form of music 😉

Since we don’t belong to those who take part in such strange rites, we usually use the time to prepare ourselves with beer, food, and games and then just close the door for a few days of gaming. A good friend of ours, Wolfgang,  who is living in Mainz (also a city which is ruled by the ‘fools’ during this time) then comes over to join us and so he arrived on Friday, quite early. Denny and I got some new cool games over the year which he didn’t know yet, and we were also eager to get some multiplayer games going with games we could only play with two players so far, so we were looking forward to some great game sessions.

When Wolfgang arrived, we started with a little chitchat and had a beer for starters and then we prepared the gaming table. He was very interested in trying out some LCGs about which we talked before and he had some first impressions about the core gameplay of these sort of card games when he played Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers on the Xbox 360 (it’s not a LCG, but not actually a CCG either, so it’s a game in-between with pre-built decks and limited possibilities to customize your deck). But he at least knew the basic gameplay and he liked it, so he was interested to see how a real LCG would be played face to face.

Call of Cthulhu (LCG)

The first game: Call of Cthulhu (LCG)

The first game on the table was Call of Cthulhu (FFG), which is the easiest of the three LCGs published by FFG so far. Since we all love Arkham Horror and the Lovecraft theme, this game seemed to be a good introduction to the LCG genre. We set it up, I explained the basic Sequence of Play and then we started playing right away, using the player aid sheet that we had printed out and laminated before, to make things as easy as possible.

Wolfgang chose the Miskatonic University deck and I played a Shub-Niggurath deck, all of which were mono decks. By now, we own enough Asylum Packs to play all factions of the game as mono decks, and although for some players out there this doesn’t seem to be the best way to play the game competitively, we decided to use mono for Wolfgang’s introductory games for several reasons. First, it’s easier for a new player to see how a faction in a pure format is played, how it feels, and he will soon realize the strengths and the weak points of that faction. To know the specific strengths and weaknesses of a given faction is an important prerequisite for deck customization.To give Wolfgang a very harsh and brutal impression of each fashion, we even removed the neutral cards from all decks, so that he could feel the raw characteristics of each faction without any fine tuning and balancing. The intention was to show him the options for deckbuilding and deck enhancements by chosing a certain focus, adding neutral cards, or even by building a combi deck with a second faction, which will eventually lead to a deck that works great. If you don’t know the characteristics of a certain faction, you don’t really know how to counter their weaknesses or how to maximize their strong aspects.

CoC gaming table

Apart from this, we generally don’t mix all factions wildly together because we love to play the game based more on theme than on raw competition power, so Denny and I also chose our decks based on the humans vs cultists dichotomy that is part of the Lovecraft stories. Denny is playing all cultist/Old Ones factions while I am playing the Syndicate, Miskatonic University and the Agency. In our games, we pimp these factions with neutral cards but seldom mix them with the other factions, it just feels right for us to actually play from a certain story perspective.

The first game indeed showed that the Miskatonic University (with all their professors and students, who are well-educated and learned in old scriptures dealing with arcane content) is a difficult faction to play without any neutral cards. The MU is quite strong in the arcane and investigation struggles, but really weak in terror and combat. That means if you are sending out some of these academics to investigate what’s happening, they might have the knowledge to solve the arcane and investigation struggles but they are easily frightened by anything supernatural. So before they can use their strengths to get some success tokens on a story, they often will flee the scene because of a lost terror struggle or be dead and out of the game after an attack by the monsters lurking around.

Shubb-Niggurath vs. Miskatonic University

Shub-Niggurath, on the other hand, is quite strong in terror and combat, but lacks on the investigation side, so usually this deck doesn’t score a point in the investigation struggle, even if no one is around to stand against them. Therefore, bringing success tokens on the story is taking some time and the fastest way to achieve this is by eliminating the opponent’s characters with terror and combat, so at least you get the additional success token for being unchallenged in a story. The match MU vs. SN seemed to be a bad choice at first and very unbalanced as the first game was a complete domination of my Shub-Nigurrath faction over the MU, who never really got thru because of losing the first two struggles (terror and combat). Afterwards, we decided to play a second game with the same factions nonetheless, because Wolfgang didn’t want to base his judgement about this particular faction on his first game alone, so now feeling a bit more competent and knowing what the MU faction can do – and what not, we shuffled the cards and started again.

This time – and that’s the beauty of the game, really – things went completely different and not really well for me. I wasn’t able to bring out characters in the first turns at all and in later turns only some weak ones while Wolfgang had some great guys on the table, who were able to limit my actions and could control the game by their various character abilities. He hit me fast and hard with some spells, which limited me even further and he actually rushed me and won quite easily this time. Since I couldn’t send out some of my better characters to challenge him, he had not to deal with the terror and combat struggles as much as in our first game. Some of his abilities changed all terror or combat struggles into ones that could only be won with investigation icons and since that’s not the strength of Shub-Niggurath, I usually lost these as well as the genuine investigation struggles. So the second game ended with an easy victory for the MU and it was a good example how even such an unbalanced combination of factions in a game can be won by the faction that is considered the weaker one if things go right for them.

Still, the MU usually has a hard time alone and makes for a much better support faction in a combi deck, so a strong partner who can deal with terror and combat is able to cover their backs, while they can use their arcane and investigation icons to keep standing after being involved in a story and collect success tokens on a regular base.

Generally, Wolfgang liked the game and stated “that it demonstrates very well the strong aspect of LCGs –  very simple game mechanics, but still lots of tactical/strategic options and the possibility to play it according to your very own ideas with the customization of the decks”. This ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ nature of the game appealed to him and so he said: “Let’s try out another LCG!”.

Warhammer Invasion (LCG)

The next game: Warhammer Invasion (LCG)

So we prepared the gaming table for the next LCG, one step up in complexity and options (complexity is a relative term here, of course, because compared with a consim, all LCGs are quite simple) and that was Warhammer: Invasion.

Warhammer: Invasion is based on the Warhammer Fantasy universe, a different universe than the known Warhammer 40k universe, and we only own the core set so far. Thus, when using only the core set, you simply choose your faction from the pre-built decks in the box, spice up this basic deck with 10 random neutral cards and you are ready to go. Wolfgang stuck to a human faction as he did in the previous game, so he chose the Empire. As in CoC, Denny and I had divided the factions among us – she’s playing the Orcs, the Chaos etc. and I’m going into battle with the Dwarfs and the Empire. I didn’t have any problems with Wolfgang’s choice because this would allow me to play a faction which was completely new to me as well. I wanted to try out the Chaos, so after choosing sides and dealing out the neutral cards, we laid out the citadels and the war-horns were blowing…

The Chaos was crushed by the Empire

Using our player aid sheets and the rulebook, we got into the game easily and it didn’t take long before we were engaged with each other, thinking about our possibilities. I had some form of deja vu however, because I couldn’t really bring out many characters. What I had on my hand was expensive and so I had some troubles to defend my citadel while lacking the force to really attack his one. The game went on with some discussions about the rules and the card wordings, which is still a general problem of this whole genre. You are easily disappointed when you come to the game with a consim mind, expecting some clear and extensive rules about all details of the game. One has to adapt to a very literal understanding of the cards’ wording to not get into trouble about how some cards are used and especially when to use them.

In the mid game, I was able to bring out better characters and at least could stand against the fast Empire deck for some time, but in the end I lost. Apparently, you have to get used to the abilities and characters of the Chaos faction if you want to be successful, so we decided to shuffle the decks and used the same cards for a rematch.

This time I had some great cards in my starting hand and was able to bring out some good characters and cards that created corruption to the enemy, while my characters could gain strength thru their corruption! I had some nice little synergies in effect and prepared for some major attack… when the Empire cleared the battlefield with a card that killed all characters in play who were not in a zone with a developement! I didn’t have any developments in play because I planned to use my cards offensively and Wolfgang had only a few characters out and one developement which saved a good character.

As scary as the dark forces of Chaos: The cake, forged by orcs in the depths of Mordor, made of blood and steel

So I saw myself totally open to the enemy with all my good cards and my smart little synergy plan destroyed in one single sweep. Things went bad again for my Chaos faction from then on, I didn’t get any good cards anymore or at least not cards I could afford with my now limited resources and from my citadel I could watch Wolfgang preparing for battle with more and more troops. In the end he had out a dozen cards both for the attack and the defense while I could barely bring out a little demon then and now before everything was killed again and so that game ended also with a glorious victory of the Empire over the Chaos.

This game was even more appealing to him because of the nice touch of options you get with the three zones in play, but the cards and rules questions that came up were a bit disappointing for him. The problem is not so much the fact that a game which uses many different cards and effects and time frames to play cards and defend against cards, has some ambiguous aspects in the wordings of rules and card texts, but the unsatisfying situation that there’s not really any answer to get by the designer(s). When you look for some answers that might help you to clarify specific points, you usually only have the official FAQ and the forum over at FFG or BGG.

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New Year’s Gaming

Posted by Denny Koch on January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Dear fellow gamers!

Happy New Year – hopefully, a year full of new wargames (and old classics, of course!). Thanks again for keeping faith with the HFC and for your appreciation and great feedback!

Christmas provided us with new games, so we spent the prolonged weekend around New Year with unboxing, glueing, and counter-punching.

A Game of Thrones: Battles of Westeros (FFG)

However, before trying one of our gifts, I had to solve a problem I was occupied with since early December: Andreas’ House Stark armies were still undefeated in the Battle for the Kingsroad in FFG’s A Game of Thrones: Battles of Westeros board game. This Friday, my House Lannister forces challenged House Stark to a return game!


The Battle for the Kingsroad, as seen from the Lannister POV

The game started as bad for House Lannister as the last game had ended. My armies were crushed under Stark’s bowmen, infantry, and cavalry. In the final turn, I didn’t have anything left besides my two leaders Kevan Lannister and Adam Marbrand and one lone 3-step Casterly Rock chevalier unit. My objective was to cross the River Trident and to occupy two strategic hexes which were heavily defended by Stark’s bowmen and Richard Karstarks cavalry. We discussed whether it was possible to fulfill the victory conditions with my poor, lonely units, but decided to play it out.

And, as every experienced A Game of Thrones fan knows, things always turn out differently and with a big surprise you didn’t expect or see coming. This was also true for my game I had thought lost.

My cavalry unit managed to lure Andreas’ infantry over the Trident, so that they couldn’t reach and defend the objectives in time. Kevan Lannister (without any accompanying men) escaped an engagement at the ford and rushed into one objective hex where he stood adjacent to Stark’s archers. Since he was a sole leader, he couldn’t be killed but had to be captured, but the bowmen were incapable of achieving enough hits to capture him.

Kevan Lannister and Adam Marbrand, defending the objectives!

Simultaneously, Adam Marbrand remembered his strength – riding through any terrain, even impassable, even a river, as long as his move ended in a legal hex. And so he galloped into the Trident, followed the river until he reached the objective and occupied the hex – again, adjacent to the bowmen who couldn’t capture him either.

Richard Karstark then attacked Kevan Lannister because it would ensure his victory if he captured at least one of the two leaders, but the attack failed. In the nick of time, House Lannister won the battle (for the first time), by utilizing typical Lannister tricks and strategies 😉

War is Hell: The Hell of Stalingrad

We then tried out Andreas’ Christmas present: The Hell of Stalingrad, a card game by Clash of Arms Games.

This game proved to be an absolute blast, we got the hang of it really quickly, despite the fact that the structure of the rulebook isn’t optimal and you have to do a lot of page turning.

The game certainly requires some table space...

We were immediately thrilled by the innovative and very cool mechanics, the impressing and quite explicit artworks, the historical photos, and the overall look and feel of the game.

In our first game, I played the Germans and Andreas played the Russians. In the game, you have to fight for single historical buildings and locations (for example, the Tractor Works, Red October). It’s the German objective to capture the buildings and reach the Volga and it’s the Russian job to hinder them and to fight for each building. The combat system is extremely bloody and gives a very good impression of the chaotic, bloody, and desolate battle for Stalingrad.

In the evening, we supplemented our game by watching the German 1997 movie “Stalingrad” which depicts the Battle of Stalingrad from the perspective of four German grunts and their Lieutenant. The movie is quite visceral and realistic, showing heavy fightings, tanks and overruns, fanatic Nazi officers, arbitrary executions, desertion attempts, as well as (forbidden) contacts or cease-fires with the Russians in order to retrieve the wounded, catastrophic conditions on the battlefield hospital next to the airfield within the cauldron (where, in real life, my mother’s cousin, 18 years old and from a miner’s family in the Ruhr region, died of a shot in the belly. I still got pictures and the letters to his mother from his superiors and the army chaplain.)

Heavy fighting in the Red October steel works factory

If you are interested in this movie, there is a dubbed version available, but I have read that the dubbing is terrible and completely destroys the atmosphere, so you should  do yourself a favor and watch the German version with English subtitles!

The problem is, even if you know some German, you will have a hard time understanding it  without subtitles because most soldiers speak in various local dialects from Northern German to Prussian to Bavarian or Swabian or are shouting while under heavy artillery fire. In addition, working-class slang of some soldiers in contrast to the educated speech of the officers gives valuable insights into the background of the characters.

More games, more fun!

A game I got for Christmas was the strategic board game “Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead“. This isn’t a wargame and you don’t shoot zombies either, it’s a strategic game where states have to deal with a zombie pandemic by sending the military, doing research to find a cure, or developing other technologies. We didn’t try it out yet, but it looks very promising and certainly is an unusual approach to the zombie topic.

Another zombie game which found its way to us was the dice game “Zombie dice” which can be played within minutes – very quick, very funny. You roll dice with symbols which symbolize close combat against attacking zombies. There are brains, there are shotguns, there is escape. If you need a game which doesn’t need table space and which can be played on the train or on a party by 2-99 players, check it out 🙂

A game you certainly won't find on the HFC website: "Monopoly Junior"... played by Denny with niece and nephew 😉

Last but not least, the brand-new Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations by DVG  reached our HFC test lab after being delayed by German customs. The box is very impressive with cool artworks and even the customs officer was impressed and couldn’t believe that this was a board game (he thought it was a PC game because it looked so modern and stylish). Hornet Leader is a Solitaire Game like its cousin Thunderbolt / Apache Leader, but like TAL, it can also be played with two players cooperatively. Watch out for our review where we will take a special look at the cooperative aspect of the game!

We are also looking forward to the new cooperative The Lord of the Rings LCG by FFG which will (according to unconfirmed rumors) be published February / March 2011.

2011 will be a great and interesting gaming year (as was 2010), so stay tuned and visit us again for more information, reviews, and stuff!

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Playing ASL with VASL

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

For the newbie, playing ASL over the internet via the VASL program appears to be quite complex – on first sight – in spite of the geniality and clear arrangement of the program. The main problems encountered are the correct initial program setup and keeping track of a PbEM Game with its multiple log-files.

If your native language is Spanish you can find a translation of this article here.

Below we give a brief survey about the correct initial setup of the program and a short introduction to the international conventions in nomenclature of the single game files. If you are interested in background information on the VASL program please have a look at the official user’s guide on the VASL website. In the following article, the focus lies on the practical application of the tool.

Clicking on the “Download” button launches the Java platform with Java webstart

1. VASL Download

The VASL program for a perfect ASL game by E-Mail or online – live via server – can be found for free at ASL.net. The system requirements are quite moderate; we tested the Java-tool even on an old PI 133 Notebook with 64 MB RAM, but here the performance with multiple boards was going down evidently. But at least a PII (or AMD-K6-2) with 350MHz / 256 MB RAM can be deemed sufficient for larger multiple board scenarios.

Our recommendation: The more RAM the better – 256MB are perfect for VASL, but less is also sufficient.

A basic requirement for installation is a reasonably recent Java version. The platform is herewith of no importance – we play VASL both on Windows (98, XP, Vista, W7) and on Linux (SuSE 9.1). Also playing on Mac OsX is no problem.

Installation and the regular VASL updates were carried out automatically on all platforms via Webstart in the past but now you need to install VASSAL 3.1.20 and then download the VASL.zip (5.9.3) file and unpack it and then extract out the VASL.mod file and place it in your VASSAL module folder, and then load VASL that way. On the ASL.net website is a link Vasl Mods for the installation files of the most recent VASL version (and the necessary Vassal engine version).

Select a directory for the documentation.

Important: The mapboards have to be downloaded as well, because without them playing is impossible. The boards and overlays can be found at the Vasl Map Bazaar where you can download the files you need. Create a board directory of your choice and extract the boards and overlays into it.

Alternatively you can download a Zip file that holds all the boards (version 5, and the HASL maps) and all the latest extensions – not recommended if you have a slow internet connection because the zip file is 293 Mb!

2. Installing and running

After downloading the Vassal engine, open the exe file and the program will guide you through the installation process. After that you can put the downloaded Vasl mod file into a directory where you want to have it, it doesn’t matter where, just make sure you name it correctly so you can easily find it. Anytime you want to play Vasl you have to start Vassal and then open the Vasl Mod (since Vassal is an engine that allows for many games to be played it’s a good idea to create a central Vassal Mods folder where you put all mods (=games) that you want to use).

Important: the latest Vasl version (5.9.3) does not run on the latest VASSAL version  (3.2.4), so if you are only interested in playing ASL then it’s sufficient to download and install Vassal 3.1.20 and when the program tells you that there’s a newer version available just click on “No” . If you also want to play other games we would recommend to download and install version 3.2.4 of Vassal separately.  

Who am I?

Once everything is unpacked and installed, VASL starts automatically for the first time when you open the module in the main Vassal window. First it asks for a user name. Under this name you will appear in the VASL world, either by logging-in on the online-server or when sending your moves to your opponent by email. At this point an explicit warning: Alias and fantasy names are not wanted or popular and actually frowned upon! It is possible to log in as “Terminator2000” or “Easy Company”, but you will often get a rebuke or a discrete hint by other players that you will not find an opponent this way.

When launched for the first time, VASL asks for your name and password

Especially the anglophone ASL-scene (American, British and Australian players) doesn’t like anonymous or disguised people loitering on their servers watching their games (being a spectator is also possible with VASL, but more on this later). Because games with others are often Area rated, it makes no sense to play with a nameless player.

This is why we give you a well-meant advice: Enter your real name, at least your first name, when VASL prompts for a name (if you already are a registered AREA member, enter your name connected to your AREA ID, so other players can check out your rating and your gaming experience). Otherwise you will attract negative attention on your first visit in the VASL world or you will find fewer people helping you or playing an introductory game with you. The HFC also accepts and follows this international convention.

One final hint: This user name is not ultimate. If you recognize that it was not a very good idea to enter any nonsense here, you will be able to change your name later in your preferences any time.

Besides asking for your user name, VASL asks for a password. This is relevant for PbEM and live-game because it guarantees that only the authorized player is able to unconceal his concealed units. The password will never be asked for later, it is only for assignment to one side in a game and for the protection of units.

Last but not least, select a board directory. Now you can set up your first ASL game!


In your next step, you should adjust the preferences. You will find them under “File” – “Edit Preferences”. In the help file you will find explanations for all points listed here, but it’s better to rely on what is common and what makes sense.

First the “Personal Window” opens. Here you can enter some information about your person (preferably in English) e.g where you live, which Consims besides ASL you play, how old you are and other things, such as your hobbies or a link to your personal  or favorite homepage. HFC friends are cordially invited to set a link to our wargaming site 😉

Of greater importance are the “General” preferences. They are recommended to be set as follows:

  • Let opponent unconceal my units: OFF – Of course you usually trust your opponent and it speeds up the PbEM game if you can unconceal your opponent’s units when they lose their concealment by being shot upon. But in general it is not advisable to switch it on because the error ratio is very high or sometimes units are unconcealed by mistake. You should consider this particular case with your game partner. Recommended is to switch it off.
  • Center on Opponents Moves:ON –  If you run your opponent’s log file or if the opponent moves his units anywhere on the board in a live match, VASL automatically centers the view on this spot. Otherwise you run the risk of missing a movement if you have a small monitor or play a larger scenario.
  • Auto Report Moves: ON – This is of utmost importance for a PbEM game. This function guarantees that all actions (moving, concealing, placing of counters, LOS-checking, dice rolling) are recorded in the chat-window (and so in the log file). It is not always sufficient just to move the counters on the board, even though the opponent can see this, too. Often it is just helpful to read who moved where. VASL automatically records the Hex numbers the units moved to and writes down where which counters have been placed. Usually this function is switched on by all players, so you should follow their example.
  • Used combined application window: ON – at least that’s what we prefer. It’s a matter of taste whether you want to have two windows hovering around on your monitor or simply have one combined window at the top of the screen where it doesn’t get in the way.
  • Smooth image scaling: ON – It is possible to modify the zooming of the board (which improves the overview). Switching this preference on has a positive effect on the zooming.
  • Board Directory: This is the place to specify the path where the boards are stored on your computer – if you don’t have any boards or leave this entry empty, playing is impossible.
  • Use Arrow Keys to Scroll: ON or OFF. It’s a matter of individual preference whether to scroll with the arrow keys or just with the mouse. We find it more comfortable to use the mouse.
  • Use CTRL-space to view stack details: OFF – VASL has a comfortable feature: If you move your mouse cursor over a stack, this stack unfolds automatically (of course not the opponent’s concealed stacks). If you switch this option on, this feature doesn’t work and you have to press the CTRL-button each time if you want to see the contents of a stack. Maybe some people like it that way, but it is definitively smoother unfolding the stack by mouse hovering.

The next tab is “LOS“. Here you can choose the colors of your preference for the LOS-check lines. We prefer traffic light colours – green for free LOS, yellow for hindrance LOS and red for blocked LOS, but this is your own choice. Whether you switch on “Retain LOS hindrance counters” is a matter of your individual preference (e.g. if a wreck hinders a LOS, you can fade it in or out). “Snap Thread to grid” orients the LOS-line automatically to the hex grid so that it is not placed anywhere in the free space. “Verbose LOS mode” should be ON, because then during the LOS check it is automatically explained why and where the LOS is blocked, how many hindrances there are or on which level a counter is positioned. Without this LOS mode you just have the pure line without any explanations. Keep in mind that “verbose LOS mode” uses some of your PC resources, so if you are low on RAM on your computer, switching this feature Off can help to improve the performance.

The window “Nationality Color” is free to everyone’s choice; we never modified a nationality color, but maybe somebody has a monitor with a low resolution or cannot recognize the different colors for other reasons (eg color-blindness), so this is the right place where to adjust the units’ colors.

The last tab is for the “Chat Window”. Here you can adjust the color of the text being displayed. Important: The adjustments made here are relevant only for your own window (in which the log-files are displayed); if the opponent sets pink for his opponents’ messages, you cannot prevent that your theatric battle announcements are displayed in pink. ‘Game Messages’ are, for example, the moving reports of the counters. ‘System Messages’ are dice roll results. These should be differentiated by flashy colours from other text messages so you don’t miss them.

With this the basic adjustments are done and you are ready for successful gaming!

3. Play-by-Email with VASL

The core of a VASL PbEM is the creation of a so-called „Log File“. VASL has an outstanding function, enabling the player to “record” his moves, allowing his opponent to replay them step by step. These recordings are the so-called “Log Files”. They journalize the moves (only of the counters, but if the “Auto Report Moves” option is switched to ON, also as text messages) as well as any other action. Furthermore, you can post any comments in the Chat window (recommended!). E.g. you count aloud the movement factors while moving with infantry, declare your shots exactly (who fires at whom with how many factors), who is CX and so on. Additionally you move your counters, roll with the system inherent dice (or use a web-based dice roller, which can be done right from the  VASL interface) and do everything you also do in a face-to-face game… including psychological warfare and propaganda 😉

Game Start – Setup

Setup with drag & drop is quite comfortable

At game start the opponents agree on a scenario and on who is playing which side. The player setting up first creates his Setup File. You take the scenario you want to play and click on “File” – “New game”. You then will be asked for the boards and you state which boards will be used in this scenario. In this window it is also possible to arrange several boards in any desired order, to flip them and to modify terrain according to SSR (e.g. turn wooden houses into stone houses, remove roads, modify terrain etc.). Also boards can be cut off when only certain hexrows are playable (“Crop Boards”). But do avoid this when using a weak PC – we made the experience that cropped boards need more power and slow down a game. This doesn’t have much impact on a modern PC with >=500 MHz, though. Also overlays can be chosen here.

Once all desired boards are loaded and arranged, click on „OK“ and the regular game window opens. Clicking on the “467” Button in the control bar opens the counter-window. Now all counters appearing in the scenario can be chosen and placed on the board. Of course vehicles can be turned by using the context menu (right mouse button). It is also well-tried to mark victory hexes, e.g. with a nationality marker when the Germans have to occupy certain hexes or houses. This improves the overview.

When all units are placed on the board and you finished your setup, save this setup-file with “File” – “Save Game”. Now the program asks for a name, recommended is the player’s side, for example “German_Setup.scen” or “German_Setup.sav”. Using an ending such as .sav or .scen is not really necessary, but it prevents compatibility problems occurring sometimes when opponents use different platforms. At least you cannot do anything wrong with using a “.sav”-ending, it doesn’t hurt. Eventually send this file to your opponent as an E-mail attachment.

Even the most esoteric information and unit counters are included in VASL

The opponent starts his VASL program and clicks on “File” – “Load Game”, where he indicates the location of the received setup-file. The board opens with the already placed German units and you can place your own units onboard (or off-board, if indicated by SSR). If the setup is done, it is recommended to save it again e.g. as “US_Setup.sav”

Hint: It is recommended to create a separate directory for each PbEM game, e.g. in a specific PbEM directory. You can call it something like “Denny vs. Andy” (of course, including your own names here ;), creating a sub-folder there called “Game 1: ASL Sc. 15” and in there a subdirectory for the matching side, where you store the log files immediately when received by E-mail (more about the naming of game files later). Of course, the game file organization on your PC is up to you.

The player beginning with turn 1 clicks on “File” – “Begin  Logfile”. The program now asks for a name for this file. The following naming system has proven useful since good old Squad-Leader-times (of course you can agree with your opponent on any other system, but it’s a good idea to get used to this system because many players use it and it prevents errors and confusion):

Naming the Logfiles

The name of a PbEM log file consists of the following components:

  • Scenario-Number
  • Phasing Side
  • Turn-Number
  • letter

Example: TAC51-GT1b.log


TAC51 is the name of the (ASL) scenario. Alternatives would be: ASL12, T01 etc.
The name of the scenario is separated with a dash from the rest of the name.

GT means “German Turn”. Alternatives are AT (American Turn), ST (Soviet Turn), BT (British Turn), JT (Japanese Turn), FT (French Turn).
Minor Country opponents are abbreviated with two letters (BeT = Belgian Turn, FiT = Finnish Turn, NoT = Norwegian Turn etc.).

The number behind GT means 1st turn.

The letter behind GT1 indicates the current file of the turn. The numbering is consecutive and done by both Players.

In Detail:

Replay a logfile with the “play” button

The German player begins with his first turn (e.g. Rally Phase to Movement Phase). His file is called: TAC51-GT1a.log („1st file of the 1st German turn“). He sends it to his opponent. The opponent opens it and makes his moves (e.g. Defensive fire) in a new log-file called TAC51-GT1b.log. He sends it back. Each file of the 1st German turn receives the next letter in the alphabet. If it happens that a file is send often to and fro because of large amount of movement and defensive fire, the German player answers with GT1c, the opponent with GT1d and so on until the German turn is over.

When the opponent (for example the Belgians in TAC51) begins with his own turn, his file is called BeT1a. He sends it to the German player who makes his defensive fire in BeT1b, sends it back and so on. If the Belgian turn is over, the German player starts with GT2a (b, c, d,…), then the Belgians with BeT2a (b, c, d….).

By using this method it is easy always to recognize the most current file: the highest turn number with the highest letter. Furthermore there will be no chaos and no wrong naming – a common problem when using a system where the phases are used in the filename (e.g. German_RPh-MPh). It often happens that these phases are not actually made in the respective files, because something unexpected happens.

The log file – the unknown creature

After naming the first log file accordingly (e.g. ASL17-GT1a.log), the player starts with his moves. VASL is recording everything that’s going on. Usually the game begins with the Rally Phase or, more exactly, with Wind Change. You write in the chat window: “RPh”. The common ASL-Shortcuts are used in a PbEM game, as all ASL players are familiar with them. Then announce “WC” (Wind change) and roll two dice by pushing the button with the two dice in the control bar (of course the button right to this button with only one die symbol rolls only one die). The first number always represents the Colored Die, the second is the white one. This is important for ROF and all other aspects of ASL where the coloured die is of interest, e.g. for determining the hit location vs. an AFV.

Now you begin your actions in the Rally Phase. You do this simply by announcing it in the chat window (like you would do in a FtF game) and roll the die, e.g. for rally and repair attempts or deployment (by exchanging the counters: delete a counter with the context menu and replace it with a new one from of the 467-window). By the way, this is the same method how casualties are removed.

Rolling dice is logged into your log / chat window

Once your own Rally Phase is finished and it’s apparent that the opponent also has to do something in this phase, save the log file with “File” – “End Logfile” and send it to your opponent as an e-mail attachment. The opponent saves the log file into his game folder, runs his VASL and loads the log file with “File” – “Load Game”. Now the board will become visible and in the control bar a grey arrow (2nd from left) will become dark. This is the “playback button”. With this you move step by step through the opponent’s log file and watch his actions.

And now comes the clou: If you hit the “Begin Logfile” button before clicking the “play-back” button, each action done afterwards – including the opponent’s move play-back, is written into your own log file – this way it is also possible to comment the opponent’s moves just by writing something in the chat window while playing back his respective action. This is especially relevant in the Movement Phase or when firing, for example if your opponent caused your units to undergo a morale check. This can be done immediately after his shot by rolling the dice, then you can continue to play-back the opponent’s move. Usually in the Rally Phase it is not necessary to start a log file before playing back the opponent’s log file, because there is no interaction between the players and their actions. You can just watch the opponent’s Rally Phase and then begin your own Rally Phase with the “start Logfile” button. The advantage of not recording the opponent’s moves again in your own log file is that the opponent is not forced to play-back again his own actions. To re-record every movefile is only recommended when you help a beginner by playing an introductory game with him and if you expect him to make mistakes – in order to correct his actions immediately or to comment upon the used tactics.

By the way, it’s quite common to announce and do your own following Rally Phase actions at the end of your turn, e.g. if you are planning to rally 2 units in the opponent’s following Rally Phase and to make a repair attempt in Hex B1. You just bring forward this Rally Phase in PbEM after finishing your own CCPh, because this has no effects or impact on the opponent’s Rally actions. This speeds up game play because the player coming up in the next turn can make his Rally Phase and doesn’t have to resend the file after this, just to allow you to roll your dice. This way the opponent can begin with the Prep Fire Phase immediately after his Rally phase, speeding up the PbEM-play significantly and making it more efficient.

If both players have ended their Rally Phases, the PFPh of the active player follows. This is recorded, if not yet done, by “Begin Logfile”. Following this, the phasing player declares his targets and which units fire with how many FP factors. Write no novels while doing this; fire declaration is done in a short and pragmatic way.

Let’s assume a 9-2 Leader and a 467-squad with a 2-7 LMG in B13 fire on a 447-squad in B15 (a woods hex). The fire declaration would look like this:

9-2+467+LMG@B13 vs. 447@B15; af:6-1

Explanation: The Leader (9-2), the squad and the LMG are standing in B13, as shown by use of the abbreviation “@”(“at”). “af:” specifies the ultimate attack factors, rolled on the IFT or IIFT (all necessary firetables such as IFT, IIFT or Ordnance to hit tables are integrated into VASL!). Here the final column used is 6 (for the squad with the LMG on the IFT, on the IIFT it would have been 7) and the DRM Modifier is –1 (-2 for the leader, +1 for woods). The DRM is always stated as positive or negative number behind the FP-factors (according to the column on which the attack is resolved when shooting on the IFT). When playing vs. a beginner, you can declare a more detailed af-resolution, for example “6FP, -2Ld, +1woods=-1DRM”. Eventually you should internalize the shortcut writing to ensure that you won’t become confused when playing versus other, more experienced opponents on the VASL-Server or just when watching a game.

This fire declaration can become quite long – 9-2+467+MMG+447+LMG@B13 PBF vs. 2×447@B13; af: 30-2. (or, for Beginners: 2×15 for Point Blank Fire, -2 DRM Leader). Accordingly LR means Long Range, if for example a unit is firing with half fire power because of longe range fire: 447(LR)@B13… don’t worry, it is not as complicated as it looks like and after a short time you will have internalized the system. And of course experienced players may skip such a detailed list because for them it’s clear what’s going on by just following the game. But the more detailed the information, the less the confusion and fewer mistakes will happen.

Hovering with the mouse reveals the contents of a stack

You carry out one fire attack after the other and you do not send back the file to the opponent after each successful attack. If firing on multiple opponents which are not in contact with one another, all these fire attacks are carried out in your PFPh, regardless of the attack results. At the end of the PFPh the log file is closed. If nothing happened and all attacks have been unsuccessful, there is no need to send the file back and you can continue to the MPh immediately. If the result of an attack is a MC or a TC, carry it out for the opponent because it would be nonsense to send him the file back just to let him press the dice button.

If the opponent is in his MPh, he announces the spent MF after each move to a new hex (or location). For example: he moves into a forest and afterwards in an open ground hex. So he moves to the forest hex and writes down in the chat window: 2. (In games with beginners maybe in addition: 2MF left) . Afterwards he moves to the open ground hex and writes down: “1” (1MF left). The opponent can, as in a live game, commit Defensive First Fire at any time he wishes. In order to do this, he calls STOP!, if the opponent has moved to a position where his unit can be shot upon and of course he doesn´t carry on clicking forward in the log file! As soon as the opponent moves further in his log file, the chance for DFF is gone like in a FTF game. Because you – as the defender – start the log file at the beginning of the opponent’s Movement Phase and you don’t watch it in advance (Fair play is the highest imperative!), you do not know where the opponent will move and so you can conserve the feeling and the suspense of a real FTF-game also in a PbEM-game.

You can do LOS Checks with the “LOS” Button…

If you decide to fire on a moving opponent, declare this intention exactly in the moment when the MF were spent. Add the attack factors and roll the dice. If the unit fired at is not harmed, go on clicking further in the log file because the opponent can move on unhampered. If the enemy suffers a Break or Pin result, you can also go on clicking further in the log file but you can ignore what was announced for this unit. Usually you don’t send back a move file just because one unit was harmed by Defensive Fire. This is a question of experience; if the opponent would run with the next unit into Residual FP, you inform your opponent about this in order to allow him to change his mind. If it is apparent that the broken unit was of fundamental importance and the opponent’s strategy or his further proceeding is overthrown, send the file back as a precaution. If in doubt, send it back rather than continue your Defensive First Fire. Otherwise it is common to make more DFF against other moving units in this log file, if these attacks do not influence one another.

When the MPh is done, Defensive Fire Phase commences. If the opponent’s Movement file was played-back to the end and not sent back (because of several DFF incidents), your DFPh can be written in the same log file as your First Fire. As in the Prep Fire Phase, any MC and TC results are rolled by the firing player. At the end of the DFF, the defender closes the log file and sends it back to the attacker. The attacker then makes his advancing fire under the same conditions as in Prep Fire. Afterwards he routs with his units. If necessary, the opponent gets the file  back to make his own rout movements. If it is apparent that the opponent doesn’t have to rout, there is no need to send him the file. The active player can go on directly to the Advance Phase and the CCPh. Dont’ forget to bring forward your own rally phase after finishing your turn and then send this file to your opponent. If Close Combat occurs, the attacks are rolled by the attacker for both sides.

…but you can’t do them unnoticed. Each LOS check is logged.

Now begins the opponent’s turn (for example ASL17-AT1a.log) . He begins a new log file without recording the rest of the turn from an old file, because usually this is not necessary. This is also a question of experience – to see, when it is necessary to record into a log file or when it is sufficient just to watch the opponent’s actions. Starting with the AFPh or even the Rout Phase, there usually is no need to include these actions into your own log file, except when playing with a beginner who probably makes mistakes, for example in routing. The Rally Phase of the previous player was already brought forward, so the active player makes his Rally Phase and continues on to the PFPh – of course after announcing it… and the game begins anew.

Important hint: Please begin a move only with “Begin logfile” “end logfile” and never mix it up with “Save Game”. ‘Save game’ only saves the actual picture of the board with the end position of the counters and is used only for setup files or in rare cases, when it is not important to record the past actions!

4. Online live gaming with VASL

You can create games in the online lobby, invite players, or join other games as a spectator

Besides the possibility to play PbEM via log files, you can also play VASL with other players online in real time. In order to do this, click on the two arrows button (3rd button from the left) to open the server window. Of course you should be online at this moment, otherwise nothing will happen…;)

The server window opens where you can connect to the VASL server by clicking on another two-arrows-button. You will be transported to a kind of lobby in the main chat window, where you can see who is online and which game rooms have been opened. You can either stay in the lobby and chat with the people there, or leave a message at the Blackboard if you search for an opponent.

You also have the option to join one of the games in order to watch it as a spectator. But take care of the Netiquette! If you join an ongoing game, it is vital to greet the players and ask them if you are allowed to watch their game. Usually you may do so. Furthermore, you may never move their counters, although you can see the content of the stacks when you go over them with your mouse. Of course you may ask questions in the chat window, for examples if you don’t understand a certain action – they will answer you. But prattling and talking about other things as well as asking too many questions (folks may be playing a ladder game there and are not doing a tutorial, so try not to interrupt them) should be avoided – you are only a spectator and should behave like this.

You can also open a game room on your own and load an existing game or create a new one. Either a stranger joins the room or you meet there with a friend (perfect to play with an overseas PbEM friend or to end an idle PbEM game). The rules are the same as in an offline game, but it is common to leave the game room while your opponent is doing his setup, especially if he uses concealment. You wait in the lobby until he allows you to re-enter your room. Long considering during play, hesitating and moving the counters to and fro is to be avoided, because it is impolite and inflates the online costs (not everyone is using a flat rate and some are still using dial up connections). A speedy game is desired (of course there will be some understanding if you are a beginner and need more time or make mistakes, but clarify this in advance!).

It is recommended to record a live game for your own use with “Begin Logfile” in order to analyze it later, to reflect about mistakes or just to send it to a friend. Also you can begin a game online and continue it later PbEM or load a PbEM game and finish it online.

5. Further Questions?

The best way to learn ASL via VASL is by playing with an experienced VASL player. You could log in on the server and ask if anybody is interested in playing a small introductory game with a novice. According to experience, the ASL-community is extremely helpful and you will find an offer quickly. Your opponent then usually will explain how to adjust the preferences and how to declare fire and movement. This is really the fastest and best way to learn VASL. Another way is to find a PbEM partner either with the blackboard on the VASL server or on different contact platforms (ASL mailing list, the Consimworld ASL folders, or the Opponents Wanted folder of the Gamesquad forum). Of course two novices can also try playing together by following the hints given in this tutorial, but the easier way is always with an experienced player.

With VASL the ASL universe opens to each player without a face-to-face gaming partner! We wish you a lot of fun and…roll low!

Posted in ASL, Wargaming in general | 18 Comments »


Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

One of the best Play-by-email tools is the “Cyberboard” program by Dale Larson.

Cyberboard – what’s that?

Totaler Krieg with Cyberboard

Cyberboard is a program which allows you to play even complex Consims such as Totaler Krieg by email (alas, it only works with Microsoft Windows). If offers a comfortable user interface with lots of functions for manipulating and moving the counters, the automatically recording of moves (which can be played back step by step), an integrated dice roller and much more.

It allows comfortable gaming with one or more opponents by email. All moves and actions of the players are included into a “Game History”, so that the initial game file grows over the time and eventually consists of an entire game which can be watched like a movie and stored in a gaming archive. Additionally, the program includes another tool (“Cyberboard Game Designer”) which allows to create more game modules for playing your own favorite games via Cyberboard. There are also tons of modules to be found on the internet which are used by a large player community all over the world.

Step by Step

he current Cyberboard version is 3.0 – a significant update of the previous versions that has many new features including 16 bit color support and a revamped user interface. Information on the current developments can be found at the Cyberboard-Website (you can also download the program here for free, because Cyberboard is freeware!).

The Cyberboard folder. The program even runs under Windows 7 64bit.

The first Cyberboard version was programmed for Windows 3.1 by Dale Larson in 1994. He wrote it out of a personal need, simply because he needed a useful tool for email playing – which was quite complicated then. He was annoyed by the errors occurring while playing with a real board and the following transcription of the moves into the computer. So he started searching for an alternative.

The initial thought was that playing a board game by email should become more comfortable by simply exchanging automatically recorded moves – instead of complicated descriptions of actions done on a real board, which the opponent must follow on his own real board. Theoretically any board game can be played by Cyberboard, but because of the integrated features it is especially useful for playing counter-based wargames. The program doesn’t include any artificial intelligence, it’s a GAP (Game Assistance Program) – a graphic tool for playing vs. a human opponent. It neither checks if your moves are rules conform nor does it allow solitaire play against the “system”. Larsons idea was to transfer the gaming experience of face-to-face-play to a computer program. And this works great because of the smooth control interface and the game speed by utilizing the recording and playback functions.

Cyberboard game files are called "Gameboxes" (*.gbx). They include force pools, maps, descriptions and more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Wargaming in general | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

CONTRA: “Don’t be afraid of monsters!”

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

by Andreas Ludwig

a discussion on Alan Emrich’s article “The Fall and Rise of Wargaming”

PRO Alan’s article CONTRA

Well, after reading Alan’s article on the issue “what are the positive and negative factors regarding trends and developments in the wargaming/historical conflict simulation business”, I have to admit that – although I agree on the whole with his opinion -, I see some points in a different way.

First of all, the reason why we decided to reprint his article on our homepage was the simple fact that everything which is discussing this hobby and the ways how it can be brought back again into the consciousness of a wider audience is something worth supporting.

Furthermore the fact that this article was published many years ago without losing its importance today is certainly an indicator that the situation the author addressed at his time hasn’t actually changed much – as we can see nowadays, because wargaming as a hobby is still shrinking and is still what Alan used to call an “esoteric hobby“.

So the question actually is: what went wrong over the decades from those glorious days when wargaming was an intellectual challenge with millions of sold games? Or better: are the reasons mentioned by Alan actually those which caused what he calls the “decline of wargaming”?

The consumer – digging his own grave?

Alan observes two main aspects which – in his opinion – are responsible for the current situation: that wargaming is a hobby for a minority and is getting more and more expensive:

Okay, to the outsider, ASL may look somewhat esoteric...

First he states that the customers demanded a different way to purchase their games. In the early days all wargaming companies made their money through direct postal sales until the players wished to buy their games in their local stores instead. This quickly changed the cost factor because the companies were forced to react to the now longer distribution chains which eventually made the games much more expensive for the customer who was buying this stuff and who was the one financing the entire market.

The second reason is the change in the very nature of wargames, because according to Alan everything started with games with a relatively low complexity level, until these gamers wanted more realism and more detail. Since companies are usually acting in accordance to the customers’ wishes (to get their money), they started to produce more detailed and more complicated wargames and this was driven over the edge – in Alans opinion – so that a newbie, someone who never played such a game, is completely lost when reading an extensive rulebook for the first time.

Based on these two main points he now explains why it is necessary to step back in this process to give wargaming a new chance again.

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PRO: “Introductory Wargames to revive the community!!!”

Posted by Denny Koch on May 10, 2010

by Denny Koch

a discussion on Alan Emrich’s article “The Fall and Rise of Wargaming”

PRO Alan’s article

Despite the fact that Alan Emrich wrote his article some years ago, I think it is as relevant today as it was then – perhaps even more, because his predictions have come true by now. Especially video games and PC games, which had an explosive growth since the end of the 90’s, finished the job which was started by colorful and easy-to-play role-playing games in the 80’s: lack of new recruits is more than evident these days.

Generation videogame

If you take a close look at today’s consim scene you can easily recognize that the average age is even higher today than it was when Alan wrote his article (and even then the 28-45 year olds were the largest part of the community), while it doesn’t attract players younger than 22 years. The same people who were active in the consim scene in the early days are growing old together with their hobby, while the attraction for younger gamers is constantly diminishing. In my opinion the strongest rival in this race are attractive, spectacular videogames (for example the Call of Duty and Battlefield series), which offer more action and more of the feeling of being “within the game” than perhaps an ASL scenario – or at least this is what the unexperienced newbie may think when comparing these two. Besides this, videogames are always “introductory” and can be learned within a few minutes to a maximum of one hour by every player, no matter how unexperienced he is.

Call of Duty MW2 is one of the most intense and driving front experiences you can get in a videogame

All we can do is promise that learning a complex consim and working yourself through a monster rulebook is worth all the time and effort – because once you get a grasp on the game system, you’ll get a very deep feeling for tactical and strategical situations – deeper than any videogame can offer.

Learning the circumstances of a historical battle, about the importance of a seemingly unimportant island or hill, the importance of securing supply lines, of morale, of leadership, answering “why didn’t they do this and that” and other “what if”-questions gives very fascinating historical insights into war. This doesn’t mean that games like Call of Duty don’t deliver an “authentic” front feeling, but it’s more of a spectacular, roller-coaster, fast-food type which is intense for a few hours, but forgotten when the next game launches. It doesn’t answer any questions or give deep insights into strategical and tactical decisions and problems.

But what is this promise worth? We will get nothing but a pityful look and a patronizing comment that we could enjoy our dusted counters and pages of tables and ballistic calculations if we want to. But why should today’s youth bother with calculating the combat odds for themselves – software and videogames do this superfluous background work and all these little calculations and all what’s left for the player is the mere gaming experience and fun!

Even if you have the rare lucky moment in finding a young person interested in history who is also after simulation and authenticity and a very accurate presentation of a specific event or combat, you will have problems in fighting your “evil rival”: there is no fight, no era, no battle you won’t find in a PC based simulation. By the way, PC games offer a huge advantage over boardgame based simulations – they almost always include a multiplayer modus over the internet which replaces the face-to-face gaming which was typical for gaming groups in the 90’s.

Even fans of roleplaying games tend to switch over to the Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games which allow them to dive deep into a virtual world without wearing out their fantasy too much and without the need to read heavy rulebooks or to calculate combat effects on tables (the only exception are Live Roleplayers, but this type of RPG cannot be compared to a “boardgame” but more to Gotcha or Reenactment as contrasted to a Wargame).

What was only starting to become evident in the future – as described in Alan’s article -, has grown into a serious threat for the hobby today.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to condemn videogames, especially not realistic tactical shooters: I love to play them myself and we enjoy the cooperative Spec-Ops mode in “Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2” or the Conquest mode of “Battlefield Bad Company 2” together with our friends… the point is: today’s youth – tomorrow’s wargamers – simply don’t know of the existence of different kinds of strategical and tactical gameplay, because the wargaming scene, the games, the magazines, the forums, the mailing lists etc. are not present in the eyes of the potential wargamer.

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