An ASL SK Player’s Perspective

Local gamer and all-around-good-egg, Emery Gallant, posted the below on his war gaming forum “Wargaming Drop Zone”. Thanks to Emery and all the SK players who set a new standard for the SK Mini at Tussle this year! If you’d like to see more of Emery’s forum, you can here.

Attending Tussle in the Tundra was transformative for me this year! Allow me to explain…

The SK Factor

Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) is said to be one of, if not the most immersive Wargames ever created. The detail played is simply unbelievable and amazing. I’ve also heard it said that it is a “Lifelong System”, said mainly because it it is said by some, to take a lifetime to learn, and I’m not sure anyone ever masters it. These descriptions are seen many times around forums and social media, as well as in-person gaming. I can personally attest that to a new player, it’s wonderfully grand and just as intimidating.

Somewhere along the line, Multi Man Publishing (MMP) figured these things out and came out with the Starter Kits (SK), each individually boxed game covering a different aspect; infantry (in SK1), artillery (in SK2), armor (in SK3), and recently the Pacific Theater (in SK4). MMP has also produced supplemental scenario and bonus packs to further expand the SK system. And a small subset of folks even produce added scenarios to the series. For those unfamiliar with the SK system, they are just as advertised: an entryway into the system, either to just stay in that easier play arena, or to perhaps one day move onto full system ASL.

What Tussle in the Tundra has done the past couple years is, offer a competitive playing venue for an SK Mini Tournament, but more importantly, a place to learn and play for several days in a row against both new and seasoned SK players. What I like about Tussle is, without doubt in my mind, it is the most relaxed and casual competitive environment that few events can match (I only know of one other, and it doesn’t quite match up fully to Tussle, in my honest opinion).

For those wondering, whether you’ve never seen and played the SK (or full ASL) system, or are perhaps just starting out; and even for those veteran full system ASLers, please allow me to share my personal story with both systems…

I bought the full system little by little, mostly a few decades ago, collecting the original rules binder and most of the modules. I would start to read Chapter A, Infantry, and get about four or five pages in and shake my head in frustration. It was just too much system for me! …and I’m a veteran wargamer in both board and miniatures with a long history. I don’t say this to scare anyone off, but I can’t be the only one. Undeterred, I added to the ASL collection, collecting a few of the newer edition modules of what I did not own, and would crack open that rulebook, and walk the other way. It had always been that system I’d get to one day… maybe.

Then came the Starter Kits and I had my first real hope of actually playing ASL, in some form. It was an exciting prospect, and still is. I can’t remember when I started collecting the whole SK system, but it was probably sometime around 2014, since my version of SK1 is the 10th Anniversary Edition. That also coincides to the start of one of the toughest professions I’d ever begun so, the dice weren’t on my side for time to learn a new system. However, I managed a couple solo games here and there, and played three in-person games in the last two years, up until this years’ Tussle. Though I’d read the rules for SK1 several times over, the acronyms and complexity drove me nuts. So much to remember! …even at the Starter Kit level.

Many veteran ASL players have been at full system so long, I’ve found them to be very supportive; but over the last year, I’ve also come to realize that SK is different enough that you need to be careful when asking advice, as so many have not really looked at the SK system rules. That’s where an event like Tussle in the Tundra comes in: the chance to figure things out with fellow newbies, as well as the more experienced players is invaluable. The side days non-tournament are key for attendance, as this is the time you can really learn the system. There are SK folks in-tournament that are willing to teach as you go, as well.

I wasn’t able to stay the whole event last year due to a family emergency, but this year I was there the whole event and it was the best money I could have spent… in attendance, I learned so much, and played four full games! I’d read half of SK2’s artillery rules before attendance, and with help from two generous opponents, figured out how to use German 88’s! And perhaps the greatest part being, I am fully kick started with a fire lit under my butt to keep playing. For me, that’s transformative… and maybe it can be for you, too. I can’t possibly recommend Tussle on the Tundra attendance highly enough.

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