My Game is Advanced Squad Leader. Many people ask me about my hobbies and when I tell them I like to play strategy games they do not quite get it, but giving them more detail really gets them confused.
Many Many moons ago in the 70's when I was 12 my friend bought a few games by a company called the Avalon Hill Game Company. Like most boys we had always played army or war games of one sort or another, but here were military games played on cardboard game maps with counters to represent varies military units, dice and rules. Well no more making it up as we went along or throwing marbles at toy soldiers back and forth across the floor. This was cool and had a cool feel with cool graphics. The first game we played and one that remained my favorite for years was PanzerBlitz, featuring tactical level combat on the Eastern Front in WW II. PanzerBlitz is a wargamming classic and I still keep a copy around. At the time it was cutting edge.
Well there were many other games and game companies including a company called Simulations Publications Incorporated (SPI) that made some great games. In about 1978 the Avalon Hill Game Company published a game called Squad Leader that was an instant hit. Squad leader had infantry units that represented squads, half squads, crews, and leaders. The vehicles and large weapons were also represented by a single large counter. Units are rated for range, fire power, and moral. Leaders can effect a units effectivness and have their own moral. Vehicles were rated for range, movement, weapon, and armor type.
Germans and Americans on the Western Front
Squad leader was played in turns with a series of phases for each player, Moral Phase, Fire Phase, Movement Phase, Defensive Fire Phase, Advance Fire Phase, Route Phase, Advance Phase, and Close Combat Phase. It is not as complex as it sounds. The game maps had a hexagon grid with terrain pictured on the map. The terrain effects a units ability to move, hide, and provides fire protection.
Squad Leader Featured Germans and Russians on the Eastern Front (a popular topic for war gamers), with a few American units for Western Front action. The rules were programed instruction, meaning you read some of the rules then played a scenario. Then read a few more rules and played another scenario. A scenario provides the forces for both sides, the maps used, special rules, and victory conditions. This is not chess with an even force and identical situation for both sides - This is Combat. The maps were designed with terrain features that joined up so the maps could be put together a number of ways for differnet terrain settings.
Americans & Japenese in the Pacific
Well three more Squad Leader Modules followed then the Avalon Hill Game company did something drastic. The junked the entire system The progamed instruction method kept changing the rules. The rules changes that came out of the programed instruction kept fundamentally changing the system. So they re did the entire system in a unified rule book and released Advanced Squad Leader. Yes most of our stuff was not compatible and we had to buy all new stuff. I resisted at first, but the new system was a great advance. Modules have been published covering every belligerent in WWII including the Pacific, down to minor countries like Bulgaria. I even have 3rd party products that cover the Spanish Civil War, Middle East Conflicts, Korea and Vietenam (although it really works best for WW II). I friend of mine put out a WW I scenario.
Wide open battle on the Eastern Front
The Avalon Hill Game Company and SPI are long gone and Advanced Squad Leader is published by Multi-Man Publishing; a group led by Baseball pitcher Curt Schelling.