My husband has suddenly gotten it in his head that in the interest of togetherness, I should learn how to play a war game called ASL that is played on a hex board with outcomes determined by a dice roll.
The game is about World War II, and the scenarios are based on real battles that were fought throughout Europe with appropriate countries (Americans, Germans, Italians, Russians) and squadrons with squad leaders.
ASL stands for Advanced Squad Leader. I think.
Anyhow, he’s decided that we don’t do enough things together (other than eat and watch TV series on Netflix) and that this would be the Ideal Togetherness Thing. This is nothing short of disastrous for me because a) I hate war, b) I know nothing about World War II, the weapons, the battles or the parties involved and c) I hate playing games. My inherent competitiveness kicks in just enough to make me miserable and mean.
“This is the starter kit,” he said cheerfully. “This is an abbreviated version and there are only 28 pages of instructions.” He really thought this was a good thing and I would be happy that there were “only” 28 pages of abbreviations, geeky code words and mind-twisting equations used to calculate firepower, movement, range, close combat and leadership. I tried to read over the instructions over the weekend, as he left them for me on the bed to read while he was gone. This was my weekend homework (along with deadheading all the roses and lilies, and pulling all the weeds). I could consistently get only to page three before collapsing in sheer frustration. There was one entire small print page devoted to abbreviations only. Somehow I managed to read through that, although I caught my mind wandering quite a few times to my daughter, or other things I needed to do, or that I really could use a nap. I felt guilty that I couldn’t raise more interest. He seems so excited about a chance to play again (he gave up travel play when our daughter was born) that I hate to let him down and not be enthusiastic about this, but really, this is on a par with having teeth extracted without anesthetic.
I told him the instructions might be “easier” to follow if we played through a real scenario, and he JUST HAPPENED to have one right on his computer, written out step by step, including dice rolls, so you could play through exactly with the scenario just as described by the author. So we sat down at 4:30, and it was the next four hours and we were still playing out the scenario. “Ok,” he’d say patiently. “Now we have a firepower of 4 with a range of 7. But there are two units in this stack. Now, are they within range? Yes, close range. Therefore, you don’t halve the fire power, but you double it because there are two units. Now what are the pluses and minuses? That’s right, plus one, because they are firing through an orchard and plus two because they are firing through smoke, then minus one because you have a leader in the stack with a minus one for morale. So now we roll the dice and refer to chart B, where you round down from seven to six because there is no seven in the chart, and then count down plus three and then count down the number on the dice. Piece of cake. You’re doing great.” What I was really doing was eating cookies, and feeling my butt slowly mold to the hard wooden chair in the dining room where we were sitting. This went on for four hours. Now, I think I was a remarkably good sport about the whole thing. The best part was as we ended up, he said, “Ok, we’ve basically finished three turns. When we start back we’ll have two more to occupy those buildings.” I think I may have screamed but I am not sure. When I came to, I was rhythmically banging my head on the dining room table. The babysitter meanwhile had spent the last four hours laughing at me as I struggled through move after move. “Are you winning?” she kept asking. My husband was very perky and nonchalant. “We’ll have you playing a full game in no time.” Visions of hara kiri flashed through my head. Maybe I could impale myself with the game board, or swallow some poisoned dice. I would really rather do ANYTHING than spend any more time moving little square pieces around on a big gigantic hex grid, stacking and unstacking them, calculating and consulting figure A or Table 2 or chart 1.a. I wonder, does this make me a bad person? Because if I have to play for one more minute, I just don’t wanna be good!