Sunday, September 11, 2022

On developing new personal hobbies


I'm not posting something too hardcore this weekend as I've just returned from Kulai JB where I spent a fun weekend with my in-laws for Mooncake Festival. 

Instead, I want to just share with readers what's been happening on the personal front. Mirroring some of the changes in my career, I'm also making some drastic changes to my personal hobbies.

I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons for about 38 years, the game has its ups and downs. With the 5th Edition rules, the game has peaked in terms of elegance and playability, but of late, with more adoption by mainstream players, the game has also become more political. Extremely woke elements have entrenched themselves in D&D culture and it has become a lot more intolerant to campaign elements which were welcomed in the past by my generation of gamers. Recently, the game designers created a new race of monkey men that were supposed to be a slave race to an evil wizard. The player base decided to become offended because it reminded them of real-world slavery and game designers had to retcon the origins of the race. 

I don't think game designers can do a good job and tiptoe around fragile players at the same time. The whole point of fantasy is that there is some kind of evil to defeat. I suspect if we push this to the logical conclusion, we will end up with mediocre campaign settings that will be politically correct but bland. I don't Game of Thrones would be so popular if every scene was censored by a woke fanbase.

So I continue to just buy D&D books online but I've almost given up on actual gameplay. My job as a parent is to get my kids involved in RPGs because it's still a healthy and educational hobby, but I think it's time to move on.

But as one door closes and another opens. By some stroke of luck, I bought some old-school hex and counter wargames and got in touch with the guy who actually taught me D&D 30 years ago, and he's looking for folks to play this seriously arcane wargame called Advanced Squad Leader (ASL).

ASL cannot be considered a game. It is a ridiculously complicated simulation of squad-to-squad warfare in WWII.  

You control a few sections of men and have missions to take a few building objectives. Everything is resolved by a pair of dice and it takes maybe an hour of real-time gameplay to simulate a few seconds of WWII combat. 

Like in real life, moving in open space to enemy fire is lethal. Not throwing smoke before advancing is lethal. Not trying to take a stone building with at least 3x the headcount of the defender will see you routed. There are tables for different types of ordnance and armour. The psychological makeup of US and German forces are totally different and matter in the game. The tutorial for the game is 133 pages long and recommends actual study like a university module. Rules are more complicated than our Penal Code. Worse, understanding the rules mean nothing as figuring out how to tie your strategic intent into successful mission objectives. 

ASL also cannot be politically correct. Sometimes, one of the players actually controls the Nazis. The other player often controls the Rusian Communists. I hope this keeps the woke snowflakes from even trying. 

Even right now, I don't understand why anyone would play a game that is more painful than building a diversified portfolio in real life, but I'm happy to meet a few like-minded souls, all guys in their 30s-50s who have the game at home, and did not have a gaming buddy for decades. So all of us are learning the game for the first time in our lives. 

After two sessions, I can finally appreciate ASL as a metaphor for life.

We don't have an operating manual for real life or finance, and we can learn the fundamentals for decades before someone comes along and explain FIRE to you which provides the over-arching strategic intent of investing. And many folks who understand FIRE may not know how to invest to make FI a reality. It takes decades to get your finances to work and have it provide a positive impact on your life. Like ASL, finance also requires a knowledge of odds and statistics, but things often go wrong in practice. 

With my increasingly heavy involvement in ASL, I'm also changing the way I look at the games I play. 

For me, games should be hard. Hard games sharpen the mind. It also attracts a bunch of hardcore geeks and weirdos that I really missed in my RPG sessions in the 1980s. In the 1980s, AD&D players were almost hunted by the local churches. I kinda miss being persecuted actually, it shaped my life as a troll.  

If you spend more time thinking deeply about tactics, you will adopt the same habit with your life and your investments.

I'm not sure how many readers will appreciate this post, but I think I'm going to dedicate my hobbies to the Big 3 hardest games with a fanatical fanbase around the world.

  • Advanced Dungeons and Dragons ( 1st Ed ) - Just declare a grapple and see your DM's face
  • Advanced Squad Leader
  • Star Fleet Battles

I've not started Star Fleet Battles yet but my gang will join me after we master the use of Armour in ASL. They've already started sending me the game tutorials. 


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