Novice guide

From Vassal


Updated 14-Jul-05 (Bill Thomson)

What is VASSAL

VASSAL is a game engine for building and playing online adaptations of board games and card games. It allows users to play in real time over a live Internet connection (in addition to playing by email). It runs on all platforms, and is free for personal use. There are many other computer application,s internet tools, server subscription servers, etc available to support internet play. However, requirements for a specific computer platform is a requirement. All of these have proven inferior to VASSAL as a tool for PBEM and real time server play.

Evolution of the VASSAL Game Engine

The VASSAL game engine is the creation of Rodney Kinney and evolved from the original Virtual Advanced Squad Leader (VASL). VASL was a stand alone Java application specifically tailored for play by email (PBEM) and real time server play of ASL. Barraged with requests to support other game titles, Rodney Kinney chosed to deploy a generic game engine enabling enthusiants of to configure modules to support play of other modules. With the emergence of VASSAL, the VASL application ended its life as version 3.02 and is now obsolete. The current VASL4.x is merely another VASSAL module, one of 50+ specific game title modules. VASSAL intentionally does not include any artificial intelligence (AI) opponent capability as that is outside its scope. To minimize any copyright liability issues, VASSAL modules intentially does not include rulebook documentation. At least game companys possessing copyrights of specific game titles have requested VASSAL withdraw modules due to internet licensing agreements made by those companies.

Rodney’s main focus is the continued development of the VASSAL engine. Several volunteer programmers, work under Rodney’s oversight to add additional capabilities to the engine or specific game modules. Brent Easton is significant in this role. The individual game title specific modules are created by anyone wishing to create one using the VASSAL capabilities. Other contributor are skilled at enhancing exiting modules to utilize the latest capabilities of Vassal. As changing a module may impact all games in progress, ‘enhancers’ should coordinate with the other contributors and original module author. Additionally, some modules have oversight by a group of trustees to implement changes in a controlled manner, especially as changes may impact hundreds of games in progress and numbeous tournaments. VSQL (Squad Leader Series Module) is one such example.

The VASSAL contributors have become a community with a shared interest. The VASSAL email group is found as a

Although VASSAL is a Free application, those wishing to contribute financially are encouraged to do so via paypal to Source Forge ( The capabilities of VASSAL have resulted in the return to of many to active gaming on a scale not possible in other PBEM methods, especially to Macintosh, LINUX, UNIX, and low end Windows users.