Remote Play for SQUAD LEADER (SQL) emerged shortly after the release of the game title by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1977. Initially this was conducted by regular postal mail (PBM) and evolved as technology allowed to Play by Phone (PBP), Play by text Electronic Mail (PBEM); Play by Graphics (PBG) using a shared drawing computer application and editable map file, Play by Browser (PBB) where a current game map is posted on a website.
As of the mid-1990’s, Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) had developed into an independent branch of the boardgaming community. Similar to its roots in the Squad Leader Series, (which included CROSS OF IRON (COI), CRESCENDO OF DOOM (COD), GI: ANVIL OF VICTORY (GIA)), ASL brought WWII small unit combat to the Boardgame tabletop. SQL retains a following due to its inherent playability and turn-based play more suited to gamers seeking to play remotely in distinct increments of time. ASL greatly expanded the realism and complexity at a loss of playability. Its most distinctive characteristic from SQL is its high level of interactivity between the players.
To enable remote play in the most efficient manner, Rodney Kinney created a Sun Java application, Virtual Advanced Squad Leader (VASL) which featured real time Internet server play in addition to email capability. The primary feature of Sun Java, platform independence, allowed players to interact regardless of their corresponding computer operating systems (any version of Windows, Macintosh, Unix, Linux) with have Java capability. VASL was discovered by members of the SQL community, and used for remote PBEM and real-time server games of the SQL series. For many, this was a frustrating conversion, which required counter substitution, counter labeling, and other efforts to make an ASL system work for SQL. An example of this is the vehicle outlines, which do not have meaning in the ASL system, but do have impact in SQL LOS and other capabilities.
Around 1999, several SQL players worked independently (Tom Leete, Ian McDowall, Bill Thomson) culling the VASL 6K+image set to represent those needed for SQL play. At the same time, Rodney Kinney was approached to make a specific VSQL application for SQL play. Squad Leader Academy (SQLA), a subset of Wargame Academy (WGA) organized a project management approach to the creation of VSQL by surveying the members of the Squad Leader Email List (SLLIST), the SQLA player database, and other VASL users for SQL. The results of the 2/10/2000 survey, focusing on what capabilities the VSQL application should have, was reviewed jointly with Rodney as to the suggestion’s merits, values, and effort required. Most likely driven by other gamer’s similar requests for other game titles, Rodney responded with the creation of the VASSAL engine, which allows others to configure maps, counter sets, charts and other custom items to create specific game title ‘Modules’ for the VASSAL engine. SQLA defined and created all the images and elements necessary for the VSQL module. An alpha playtest version of the early VASSAL engine and VSQL module was organized in 9/08/2001 and subsequently aborted as the development and lack of capabilities of both the VASSAL engine and VSQL module were not yet mature to enable effective play. Additionally, the VSQL expectation was for a stand-alone application similar to VASL3.02 rather then the new operation requirements of the VASSAL engine. Further Development of both VASSAL and VSQL resulted in VSQL version 1.85 (Jeff Thorpe, Bill Thomson), resulting in a Beta Test event (2/14/2003) which recruited 10 VSQL members for trial.
At this time, the infusion of a parallel effort by Jay Yanek (module redesign) and complete set of hand painted counter art counters (Dennis Jorgenson) resulted in a ‘Final’ version of VSQL for SQL play in version 2.0.3. Several of the features incorporated in 1.85 were lost in this parallel effort. Maintaining the momentum of Jay and Dennis, the resources of SQLA were assimilated to create the COI capable version of VSQL to be released as VSQL version 2.5. With the additional constant input of prolific VSQL players (Pete Pollard, Scott Powers, and Alan Yngve), VSQL 2.5 quickly went through final customization and Playtest trial (July 2003) resulting in its release in time for demonstration at the World Boardgame Championships Squad Leader tournament (8/3/03; Baltimore Maryland) and the Squad Leader Academy PBEM CROSS OF IRON event to being September, 2003.
VSQL modules version 3.0 (COD capable) and 3.5 (GIA capable) are active SQLA projects, with the COD expansion completed during 2003, and the GIA expansion in 2004. Retention of a single module for SQL, COI, COD, and GIA allow easier maintenance of common module features. Separate Squad Leader Academy entities COIC and GIAC campaign games will be released as independent modules. Similar to George Orwell’s ANIMIAL FARM, all contributors efforts are greatly appreciated; however, the extended contributions of time and efforts of some key individuals are more appreciated than others. This is especially evident of Rodney Kinney who made this all possible. As Rodney’s investment in the initial creation of the maintenance of the VASSL engine has been done with no monetary compensation, Squad Leader Academy will direct any contributions to Rodney in appreciation.
The project team wishes to thank all involved in this VSQL development, which spanned five years to date. John Blazel, Russ Butler, Frank Bradshaw, David Carter, Alain Chabot, Lars Clausen, Andrew Cowdery, Jason Coyle, Tim Delong, Andy Dupras, Chris Edwards, John Fermendzin, Brian Gagnon, Jon Grantham, Dennis Jorgenson, Marc Lammers, Dan Leader, Thomas Leete, Ian McDowall, Eric Pass, Pete Pollard, Scott Powers, Jason Russ, Chris Stewart, Eric Stranger, Curtis Teeters, Joe Thomas, Jeff Thorpe, David VanBronkhorst, Jay White, Jay Yanek, and Alan Yngve Bill Thomson and Jay Yanek Squad Leader Academy VSQL Project Managers 07/20/2003