April 14, 2015 3 Comments
One thing I have had to learn lately, in the process of playtesting my COIN system French-Algerian War game, is how to use VASSAL.
This word, not really an acronym, once stood for “Virtual ASL (Advanced Squad Leader)” because it had originally been programmed by people who wanted to play that game remotely, online, and in real time, as the next step forward from PBEM or PBF (Play By E-Mail, a method of playing a game by correspondence where you record your move in some fashion and then e-mail that to your opponent; and Play By Forum, where players submit their moves to an online forum, discussion board, etc..). But now it has grown into a strong application with which almost any board game can be converted into a version playable online, and it’s all free.
I knew how powerful this thing was, and how much potential it has, but just never found the time to do anything with it, either to play games (as I have hardly any time to play anything except my own stuff) or to write modules for my stuff (as I am the world’s worst programmer, even when programming is not involved!). I have never liked computer games, period; I am an old-school-cardboard, face-to-face experience man.
But now more and more playtesting is done through VASSAL, and it makes a lot of sense: no requirement to get people together physically; changes can be made to a single module in a central location as the game develops; and any number of games can be played at the same time, with results noted. It’s also great for making very old, long out-of-print games available again for people who can never own a copy. I’m grateful for all this, but I think I’m still a long way from designing my first module successfully.
Meanwhile, energetic folks have made VASSAL modules of my games, on their own time, and they are available for free on the central website at http://www.vassalengine.org. You can get the following titles:
- Algeria (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Algeria:_The_war_of_Independence_1954-1962)
- Arriba Espana (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Arriba_Espana!)
- A Distant Plain (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:A_Distant_Plain)
- Guerrilla Checkers (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Guerrilla_Checkers)
- The Scheldt Campaign (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:The_Scheldt_Campaign)
- Shining Path (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Shining_Path_-_The_Struggle_for_Peru)
- Tupamaro (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Tupamaro)
- Ukrainian Crisis (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Ukrainian_Crisis)
Thanks to Michel Boucher, Martin Hogan, David Janik-Jones, and Joel Toppen for their work.
I mentioned PBEM – before VASSAL there was another program that allowed this, called Cyberboard (http://cyberboard.brainiac.com/index.html). It is only for Windows systems and stopped development about 5 years ago, but there are a lot of “gameboxes” available for it still. It’s also useful for creating new games: Dr. Phil Sabin of King’s College London swears by it for creating prototypes. Cyberboard gameboxes are available for these titles:
- Arriba Espana (http://pbem.brainiac.com/aepbem.htm) or (http://www.limeyyankgames.co.uk/lyg/cyberboard/arriba-espana)
- Battle For China (http://pbem.brainiac.com/filesmain.htm)
- Freikorps (http://pbem.brainiac.com/freikpbm.htm)
- Shining Path (http://pbem.brainiac.com/filesmain.htm)
Many more PBEM resources available from Mr. Walter O’Hara’s comprehensive Emporium: http://pbem.brainiac.com/
Thanks to Walter O’Hara, Mike Welsh, and Noel Wright for making these.
I also need to mention Limey Yank Games (http://www.limeyyankgames.co.uk/lyg/), which also makes hundreds of modules and gameboxes available to players, including some of mine:
- Land of the Free (http://www.limeyyankgames.co.uk/lyg/cyberboard/land-free)
- Somalia (http://www.limeyyankgames.co.uk/lyg/cyberboard/somalia)
Thanks to Andy Loakes, and Daryl Anderson who contributed the gameboxes.