Friday, January 07, 2005

Ode to SASL 

'Tis a sad day. According to the Multiman Publishing website, the Solitaire ASL module is sold out, and as stated on the site, "NO REPRINT PLANNED."

I'm sad to hear this. SASL is a tremendous accomplishment on the part of the immortal Charlie Kibler. His successful effort to take a game system as complicated as ASL and create a workable solitaire system is to me the most underrated accomplishment in the entire product line. Unfortunately, by its nature, SASL has never been hugely popular, despite a core or dedicated proponents who were largely responsible for the production of the expanded 2nd edition.

ASL has often been described as a niche within a niche hobby (wargaming in general). SASL would then be a niche within a niche within a niche. ASL is without question at its best when played across the table from another player. Many players have been disdainful of the prospect of playing solitaire. However, for a fair number of players, SASL has been a godsend. Not everyone has a readily available pool of players nearby to allow face-to-face play. While VASL helps alleviate this problem, SASL is still very worthwhile in its own right.

Because of the way the solitaire system works, it's a very different experience from standard ASL. There's much more uncertainty and fog of war. While you know the overall situation you're facing, you're never quite certain as to what kind of enemy you'll actually face. Sometimes you'll have a mission that turns into a cakewalk because of the random nature of how the mission was generated, or because of random events generated during the mission. Other times, you can be faced with a completely unwinnable situation, and be forced to decide when to pull back and preserve your forces. Add in the command control rules and you probably have a more "realistic" depiction of the fog of war inherent in tactical combat than regular ASL provides.

Given the realities of MMP's situation, and the financial difficulty of keeping a product like this in print indefinitely, it's not surprising that SASL's shelf life is at an end (as is becoming the case for a number of other ASL products). MMP simply doesn't have unlimited resources and can't keep every module around for the small trickle of new players needing to acquire them. I for one, though, am particularly sad at the demise of SASL, a greatly underappreciated module. Thank you Mr. Kibler and everyone else who kept this project alive for the last 10 years.

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