Just the other night, Friday night, Dave Hauth and I quit --that's right, up and quit --a game of Sowchos 79 just as the scenario was at its crux. Dave had his Germans halfway into the board 3 village and his armor on the hills drawing a bead on my machine-gun nest, but my big KV tanks were lumbering onto the board to try to salvage the situation. And then, midway into Dave's player turn 5, right after his Prep Fire Phase, we just quit.
To repeat: we stood down from a contest with the issue still in doubt. Can you believe it?
Granted it was 2am, and we were both dog tired after each having had a full work day. Still, there was a time, say 15 years ago, when we would have powered on through 'til dawn or beyond 'til one or the other abandoned all hope.
Getting old, I suppose.
Got me to thinkin'.
Advanced Squad Leader came out, when? Back in '87 or '88? Twenty-odd years, now.
Remember the old Avalon Hill Game Company? There is a certain demographic of men, age range roughly 35 to 65, for which the Avalon Hill Game Company was the fount of boundless hours of entertainment.
That's us. That is we. We're those men. All of us amateur historians who probably lacked the discipline to be really good at chess, but who loved to play games. History geeks who could spend hours speculating about how the entire flow of human events, all its grandeur and squalor, might have been altered into something entirely different if only, say, Napoleon had opted to commit the Old Guard at Borodino, or if Von Paulus had disregarded Hitler's order and pulled the Sixth Army back from the banks of the icy Volga.
Over the years, we've formed a community, an identity.
After I graduated, I moved from my hometown in southern Oregon up to the (relatively) big city of Portland and met many more guys who, just like me, loved to play the game. In fact, ASL has introduced me to some of my very best friends. Andre Danielson, Dave Hauth, Stewart King, Sonny Hayes-Eberts... the list goes on and on. In Portland, we eventually formed our own club, the Berserk Commissars that, in its heyday had a dozen dedicated ASL players. But we were more than a club of game-playing geeks. We were a community of friends. We saw each other through marriages and divorces, growing families, aging parents.
|Berserk Commissars at Wild West Fest '97|
Front seat: Bruce Billett, Stewart King (driving)
Back seat: Carey Cardon, Andre Danielson, yours truly
Well, I guess I'm straying pretty far into my reverie, but the point is this: Boys, we're a dying breed.
The kids these days, they're all into their PS-2's and their Wii's and their first-person shooters. Try getting a teenager to sit down at a hexagonal-grid geomorphic board map and explaining "This little cardboard square represents a PAK38. If you place it with the depiction thusly, it's covered arc is defined to be thus-and-so." Said teenager's mind is far, far away, fighting World of Warcraft Forest Trolls before you can finish the sentence.
And we're getting old.
We've had a few casualties already. Remember Carey Cardon? Or Kent Smoak?
Well, it's inevitable. But I like to look at it this way: ASL is ours. It belongs uniquely to us. It's our thing. When the last ASL player rolls his last MC, ASL will have passed into the foggy ruins of time with him. But, if we're lucky, there'll be a well-lighted game room up there in the celestial other-world, with dice towers and well-organized counter storage systems.
When we get there, I wanna play Pleva.
"Six up two."
The dice drop. Clack, clack.
"That's a one check."
"And my sniper... (clack) Pin. (clack) Break. (clack) Break. (clack) Heat of battle!"
Again, the clacking.
"Minus 1, elite. Plus 2, Russian. Berserk!"
"Sucks. Don't forget your sniper roll."
"Gotta love this game, man."
"Yeah. Gotta love it."