Victory in the Pacific
VASSAL Installation Tips
& Introductory Guide

By John R. Pack

Program Installation

Before installing VASSAL, I recommend creating a directory where you plan to install it. 

Because it's the VASSAL default, I recommend creating a folder named VASSAL in "C:\Documents and Settings\userid" where userid is the profile or user account you're using. On Windows you can see which profile you're using by hitting Cntl-Alt-Delete to bring up the Windows Task Manager, clicking on the Users tab, and finding the your session (thankfully, a PC normally has only one user logged one).  For example, in the window which follows I'm logged on as "Compaq_Administrator":

So, in this case, I'd create a VASSAL directory in C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Administrator by navigating to C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Administrator and right-clicking empty space in the folder and selecting the "New" and "Folder" options and then naming the folder VASSAL.  (You can also select the "New" and "Folder" options from the "File" menu.)  After doing so, you should see something like the following:

At this point, I also recommend setting up a shortcut from your "My Documents" folder (and/or other folder where you've stored your PBEM games in the past).  To do this, right-click on the new VASSAL folder you've just created.  From the menu that pops up, select "Create Shortcut".

Open your "My Documents" folder and drag the shortcut icon that appeared into the "My Documents" folder.  Once the shortcut is in position, I recommend renaming it "VASSAL".  You can do this by right-clicking the shortcut icon and selecting "Rename" and then typing "VASSAL".  (You can make copies of this shortcut to put in other places too.)

At this point I also recommend creating two new folders in your new, empty VASSAL folder.  I recommend renaming them "modules" and "games" respectively.  We'll use these folders for storing game modules and the games you're playing.  (You can do this after installing VASSAL too, but I figure it's easier while we're here and in the middle of creating new folders and such.)

Now you're ready to begin installing VASSAL!

VASSAL Installation

VASSAL runs in two different modes -- online (connected to the internet) and local copy (on your computer).  Each of these modes has its own installation.  Personally, I recommend installing both so that you can play either way.  I've put them in the order I recommend (if you only have time for one).

The first step in either installation is to start your web browser and use the VASSAL Java Engine link from the VITP Tournament web page or go directly to http://www.vassalengine.org/community/index.php?option=com_downloads&Itemid=26.  (You can also get to this window by going to www.vassalengine.org and clicking on the "Download" option in the main menu.)  You'll see a window like the following (although the announcements will probably have changed):

If you don't have Java installed on your machine, the next step is to install Java by clicking on the highlighted "Java" under "Getting Started."  From there, click on the "Free Java Download" button and follow the instructions for your operating system.  You can verify whether or not you have Java (and which version if you do) by opening up your Java control panel.  If you can't figure out whether or not you have Java, I recommend installing it.  Worst case:  You'll bring your copy of Java up-to-date!

Windows, Mac, and Linux users can click on "manual installation" under "Manual Installation" (or "manual installer" under the "Quick Launch" in the left column) for the local copy installation.  Click on the first "Click here" under "Web Launcher" (or the "Click here to launch VASSAL" under the "Quick Launch" in the left column) for the online installation.

Local Copy Installation (for Windows, Mac, and Linux only)

After selecting "manual installation" (or "manual installer") you'll see a window like the following:

Click "Save".  (Warning: Do not click "Open".)  You'll then see a dialogue box like the following on top of a installation window:

This file will be saved as a .zip file automatically -- no need to manually type the extension.

Once you've changed the extension, select the directory for the install -- that's the directory we set up at the beginning of this process.  Of course, you can get there just by clicking on "My Documents" (unless you're already there) and then double-clicking on the VASSAL shortcut you set up!  Once the folder you're pointed at is your VASSAL folder, click the "Save" button.  The file will download very quickly.

Next, navigate to your new VASSAL folder (which you can do by clicking on your "My Documents" icon or selecting "My Documents" from the start menu and then double-clicking the VASSAL shortcut you set up).  You should see a window like the following:

Double-click the VASSAL-3.0.zip file to open it.  You should see a window like the following:

Click on "Extract all files" from the "Folder Tasks" pane at the left side of the window.  That will bring up the Extraction Wizard.  Click "Next >".  Enter the Vassal directory you created at the start of this process as the place you want to extract the files.  For most Windows users, simply delete the "\VASSAL-3.0" from the end of the default directory that Windows recommends for the extraction.  Click "Next >".  Then click "Finish".  Return to the Vassal folder you created (either by using the back arrow or using the "Show extracted files" option in the extraction wizard).

 

The latest and greatest version will automatically be selected.  All you need to do is click "Next".  You'll then be asked how much memory you want VASSAL to use when it's running.

If you have tons of memory and aren't usually running a lot of programs at once, feel free to increase memory from the default.  Likewise, if your machine is tight on memory, feel free to select the 128 Mb option.  For most, just go with the default and click "Next".

The next window asks where you want to install VASSAL.  It should appear something like the following:

You'll note that this is the same directory that we created earlier!  So all you need to do is click "Next."  The download of all the VASSAL files needed from the web will then commence.  You don't need to do anything except go get a cool beverage and enjoy!  The next thing you should see is a "Installation Successful" message which you can exit by clicking "Next".

You can now run VASSAL by navigating to your new VASSAL folder and double-clicking the vassal-3.0.jnlp icon (Note: The version number may have changed).  When you run this it will download even more files into your VASSAL folder and put a VASSAL icon on your desktop (which you may put/copy to your menu or any other folder of your choice).  In the future, you can run VASSAL by double-clicking this icon.  The screens you see will be the same as below for the Online Installation.

The big difference between the local copy and the online installation is that you won't have to download the application every time you run VASSAL.  You can also go through the online installation too if you wish.

Online Installation (for all platforms)

After you've clicked the first "Click here" under "Web Launcher" (or the "Click here to launch VASSAL" under the "Quick Launch" in the left column) some Java programs will be downloaded onto your computer (automatically going to the directory you created earlier).  If you're given an option to "run" or "save" a file, select "Run".  Eventually, you'll see the following welcome screen:

Select the language you desire and either take the tour or jump right in.  Your online installation of the program is complete -- you can play any time just by returning to the website (www.vassalengine.org) and clicking on "Click here to launch VASSAL" or by clicking the icon on your desktop.  The welcome window will be slightly different as it adds options for playing modules, editing modules, etc.

Installing the VITP Module

Follow the "Download VITP module for VITP" link from the VITP Tournament page or set your browser directly to http://www.vassalengine.org/community/index.php?option=com_vassal_modules&task=display&module_id=78&page=Files.  You'll see the following screen (although version numbers and announcements may have changed):

Click on the most recent VIP module (.mod) file.  On the example screen, this is VIP26b05.mod.  You'll then see the file save dialogue box:

Click "Save".  VASSAL will then prompt you for a folder where it should save the module file:

Be sure to save it in the modules folder we created inside the VASSAL folder we created before we installed anything.  If you're really smart, you can even rename it something more friendly (e.g., "Victory_in_the_Pacific_26b05.mod").

Congratulations, you're now ready to run VASSAL and play Victory in the Pacific!

Introduction to VASSAL for VITP

Start up VASSAL by double-clicking your desktop icon, selecting "Click here to launch VASSAL" from www.vassalengine.org, or double-clicking your vassal-3.0.jnlp icon in your VASSAL directory.  Assuming you've already taken the tour (or launched VASSAL previously), you should see the following welcome:

Click "Play Module".

After you navigate to your VASSAL modules directory (remember, you can always go to "My Documents" and double-click the shortcut you made and then double-click the modules folder), you should see something like the following:

Double-click "Victory_in_the_Pacific_26b05.mod" (or "VIP26b05.mod" if you didn't rename it or whatever you named yours).  Here's the good news: by setting up a modules folder, VASSAL will always bring up this folder for you to pick a module in the future.  No need to navigate through lots of folders ever again!

Next you'll see the welcome screen:

Enter your name and a password that you'll remember.  Click "Next >".

Now select the mode you want.  Mostly you'll be loading a saved game, but obviously we have to start a game before that'll happen!  If you're meeting your opponent online and s/he's already there waiting, pick the "look for a game online" option.  For purposes of this guide, I'll "start new game offline."  Click "Next >".

Click the down arrow next to "Select setup".  That'll bring up the list of options.  I'll pick the "Standard 8 turn PBEM".  The setup will then be loaded.  Click "Finish".

You'll then be presented with a full screen window that looks something like the following:

At this point I like to resize the various parts of the window so that I can maximize what I can see on my screen.  I start by finding the magnifying glass with the minus sign (-) in it and reducing the size of the map.  You can work with the map  in any size you like by scrolling back and forth, but if you have a big enough monitor you might be able to see the whole map at once.  I usually grab the right side of the window and reduce it too.

 Next I shrink the text area.  You can do this by clicking on the bar that separates the map from the text area -- the one with little dots in it.  Click and drag the bar to wherever you want it.  I usually leave enough space to see two lines of text.  Here's a small version of what I end up with:

You'll want to play with it until you get the view you like the best.  For the rest of these exercises, I'll use a map which has been shrunk just once so that it'll be easy to see my examples.  Unfortunately, VASSAL doesn't remember the sizes you use for your windows.  I'm hoping this will be in a future enhancement.

Let's pretend that we're making a move to send to an opponent.  For that we need a game file of our starting position (which will normally be the last file you saved when you sent your last move to your opponent).  Pick "Save Game" from the File menu.  Navigate to the games folder you created when you set up your VASSAL folder.

Pick a name for your file.  I recommend names that include your name and your opponent's name -- that way you can play multiple games at once without getting confused.  Note: No extension is necessary for VASSAL file names, but players, by convention, often add ".sav".  Warning: If you don't add an extension Microsoft Outlook will add a ".zip" for you (and, thereby render your file unusable by your opponent).  If you receive a ".zip" file from someone else, try renaming it ".sav" as you save it -- sometimes the file will still work.

I'll name my file "vitp_john_v_demo.sav".

The good news about using a games folder is that when you load and save games in the future, VASSAL will automatically use your games folder!  You may want to change the shortcut you put in "My Documents" so that it points directly to the games folder (right-click that shortcut and select properties to make the change).

Next we need to start a log file which records every move we make (and which can be used to turn our saved game file into our next saved game file).  Log files are the best way to exchange moves since an opponent can start with his last file and see all of the moves.  The benefits include minimizing errors as well as being more like face-to-face play.  Remember to start a log file as soon as you load any game file.  To do this, pick "Begin logfile" from the File menu.  Again, save your logfiles in your games folder.  I recommend a naming convention that describes what part of the turn is in the logfile.  By convention (VASSAL doesn't require it), the file name has a ".log" extension.  I'll use "vitp_john_v_demo_t1_ijn_pat.log" for the Turn One Japanese Patrols.  The name of the log file will appear in the title bar of the window.

OK, now it's time to start playing with the tools and learning VASSAL.

Mouse-Over

First, let "mouse-over" a stack.  Move your mouse until the pointer is over the Turn 8 US Reinforcement stack.  After about half-of-a-second, you should see the contents of the stack shown as follows:

This makes it easy to see the counters in any area and any stack.  In fact, what's cool is that this mouse-over ability works even when VASSAL is not the active (i.e., top) window on your machine.  So if you can see the stack when you're writing up a dice request, you can easily check the contents of a stack as you type each piece of the dice request.  That makes identifying the attacker and defender easy!

Movement

Next, let's move some pieces.  Click and drag (hold the left button down) the Houston into Indonesia.  Then click and drag the Turn 6 US Reinforcement stack to Indonesia.  You should have something like the following:

Notice that each unit in the last stack I clicked on (including stacks of one) is highlighted by having a black boarder around it.  I can undo my last action by hitting the little circular arrow in the upper, left of the icon list.  The highlighting lets you know what the undo will affect.  Click on the undo icon twice just to see what happens.  Next drag the Turn 7 US Reinforcements to Indonesia.

Breaking up a Stack

OK, that's nice, but what if I don't want to move all of the Turn 7 reinforcements to a single area?  Double-click on the stack you just dragged to Indonesia.  You'll see the following:

If you double-click again, the stack will revert to its normal appearance.  However, with the stack spread out like this you can click and drag any unit you wish.  Mouse-over the stack to find the Iowa.  Move the Iowa and then the F-Boat to the Marianas.  Then double-click the stack to return it to the tight-stack formation.  You should now have a map that looks like this:

Unit Menus

One of the really great features of VASSAL is that each unit has a menu of options which handle many of the most common things you want to do with that unit.  To see the menu, put your mouse on top of the unit (or stack) and right-click.  I'll right click on the big stack in Indonesia.  Here's what you see:

This menu allows me to send Canberra II (the highlighted ship) to various ports without clicking and dragging.  I can also call up a damage, disabled, or sunk marker.  I can also flip the marker to its other side or send it to the graveyard (when sunk ships are removed).  There are also clone (to make another copy of the ship) and delete options (remove the piece entirely).  These last two options should not be used during a game -- they're for creating scenarios.  The menu goes away if you click anywhere else.

You should also note that each of these options has a shortcut.  You can duplicate the functionality by hitting the Cntl key and, at the same time, depressing the other key shown.

Let's send the Canberra II to Ceylon using the menu (which we could also do with Cntl-Y).  You should now see the following:

Selecting and Acting on Multiple Stacks

You can also select multiple different units or stacks by clicking in the ocean and then dragging a box around what you wish to select as shown below:

Menu commands are applied to all selected units.  So let's right-click and select To Ceylon from the menu.

The units will all nicely stack in Ceylon.  Now drag a box around the big stack and send the stack to the graveyard (or use Cntl-G if you wish).  Note that clicking on the stack just selects the top unit -- you have to move a stack or drag a box around it to select the whole stack.

To see units in the graveyard, click on the "sunk" marker in the icon list at the top of the window.  You'll see a window like this:

The graveyard is the final destination of sunk ships and ships withdrawn by using the Withdraw menu item (or Cntl-W).  If you forget which ships are supposed to be withdrawn, you can use the help menu and select the "VIP-Ship Withdrawal Schedule" option.  There's a lot of other help options there too.

OK, let's close the graveyard by clicking on the red "X" in the upper, right corner.

Damage

Let's put some damage on the Iowa.  There are two ways to do this.  One, of course, is to right-click the "Iowa" and select "Hit Damage" from the menu (or click on Iowa and hit Cntl-H).  That's the easy way.  Let's do it the "hard" way (and some would argue that damaging the Iowa is already doing it the hard way).

Find the "Show/Hide Markers" icon in the row of buttons/icons at the top of the window -- it's the one between the dice and camera (olive and black with a white 9 marker on top).  Notice the help text that comes up whenever your cursor lingers on one of these buttons!  Click the "Markers" icon-button.  Click the Info tab in the new window.  You should see the following::

You may have to adjust the size of the window and the division of space between the two halves but once you do, VASSAL will remember how you've got it set up.  In this window the right-hand column shows all of the kinds of informational pieces available.  To deploy such a marker, simply drag it from the left-hand side out onto the board.  So, click on "damage" and then drag the one-damage marker on top of the Iowa.

The damage marker will bond with the unit it's placed on -- so that the pair will move as a stack (unless you double-click to separate the pieces in the stack).  You should see the following:

That's all well and fine, of course, but the Yamato just pegged Iowa for 7 damage.  How do we get some serious damage instead of a paint-scratcher?  Right-click on the damage counter (or on the stack).  Like many of the information markers in VASSAL, this one has Increase (Cntl-W) and Decrease (Cntl-Q) options.  Hit Cntl-W several times (or select "Increase" from the damage marker's menu).  The damage marker increases.  Try Cntl-Q too.  In this fashion you can get any damage marker you want -- all the way up to 18 damage!  (Try doing that with your board at home!)

Alas, the poor Iowa is also disabled in the volley.  Try to bring up Iowa's menu by right-clicking.  It's pretty tough to do with that damage marker on top of her.   So let's click on "Disabled" in the right column of the markers window and drag a disabled marker onto Iowa.

(Note: You can use the unit menus to do the same thing by double-clicking the stack, right-clicking Iowa, and then double-clicking the stack to reform it, but it's easier to use the markers window.)

You should now see the following:

You are now ready for combat -- green officer though you may be!  You may be fresh out of Annapolis, but you're now C-IN-C PAC.  Good luck!

While you're here, try playing with some of the other informational markers and control markers that are available -- there are markers to signal the order in which to fight battles, sunk markers, markers to indicate the day/night preference (and result), POC markers, and two-sided control flags and base/port control markers.

Log Files

OK, now let's end our log file -- which we'd normally do after finishing all of our moves.  Select "End Logfile" from the File menu.  You'll see a "- Logfile written." message in the text area.

You didn't realize it, but you're now a movie star.  Exit from VASSAL altogether (by selecting "Quit" from the File menu or clicking the red "X" in the upper, right corner of the window).  Now re-start VASSAL.  Again, pick the Victory in the Pacific module.  However, this time pick "Load saved game" at the play mode screen and click "Next >".  Then click the "Select" button and double-click your saved game file (but not the .log file).  It should be the one with the ".sav" extension!  Click "Finish" to start the game.  You're back to the beginning of the demo -- where you saved the game.

You'll want to adjust the window sizes again.  Once that's done, select "Load continuation" from the File menu.  Select your ".log" file.  Notice that the "Step Forward" button or "Play" button as I call it is now lit up (it's the second from the left and looks like what you'd see on a VCR or DVD player).  Click the button repeatedly to watch yourself repeat the entire demo!  When you're done, the "Step Forward" button will be grey once again, the board will look just like it did above, and VASSAL will ask if you want to start a new logfile -- which you would normally do right after watching your opponent's move.

One caveat: log files only work if the starting file is exactly the same as it was when the log file was originally started!  Be sure to start your logfile before making any changes on the board!  I encourage the use of logfiles since it allows you to see everything that's happened in the game since you last updated the file.  This is particularly useful when it's been a few days between moves.

One other caveat on logfiles.  Some VITP email exchanges -- placing LBA, NLF, or some combat rounds -- are very small.  You might want to agree with your opponent as to who will make these moves in VASSAL -- and who will simply wait to get the updated save game file.  Otherwise you may not have a saved game compatible with the next logfile you receive!

Exchanging Files

At the beginning of your game you should discuss the file exchange with your opponent.  Will you exchange log files or just the .sav files?  If you use logfiles, you can have one game file and simply add each successive log file to it as you play.  Be sure to start a log file before doing anything and to create a log file for everything!

If you exchange .sav files only, I recommend keeping two game files around -- one which contains the last move you sent your opponent and another which contains the last move s/he sent you.  Then you'll load the file your opponent sent you (and be able to refer to the file you sent him if needed), make your move, and save it so that it replaces the file you send your opponent.  This makes it easy to keep all of the germane information without having a zillion files around.  It also makes it easy not to forget the .sav extension (since you can just click on the file you want to replace)!

Buttons

Here's a quick tour of the buttons at the top of the window from left to right.  You should probably mouse-over each or even try each one as you read about it.

Undo Undoes the last action -- no matter how big or small.  You can undo several actions if needed.
Step Forward Allows you to watch a log file play one step at a time so that you can see and verify opponent's moves.  This also transforms the last game you saved into the last one your opponent saved!
Server Controls Allows online communications with other players.  As close to face-to-face play as you can get without actually smelling the other guy's breath!
Notes Brings up a window where you can keep track of the bid, adjustments, email addresses and where you can make public, private, or delayed messages.  This is a great place to write game reports to send to the GM after it's all over!
Charts Handy charts showing the odds for day and night as well as sinking ships in various ways.
Sunk Brings up the graveyard window where you can see the ships that have been sunk or withdrawn.
Screen w/Dice Rolls dice based on the preferences set under the File menu.  Useful only against a live opponent at the moment.
Counters Brings up a window with all of the units by side and turn.  Drag units out onto the map.  Useful for scenario design.
1d6 Lets you roll a single die; useful only when playing online against a live opponent.
Dice Lets you roll various combinations of dice; again, useful only against a live opponent at present.
Markers Brings up the markers window (sunk, disabled, damage, control flags, base/port control, day/night , attack order, etc.)
Camera Creates a .png file of the current map at its current size.  Great for documenting games and sending to the GM.  Note: Please send the GM only .png files -- not game files!
Zoom In Increases the size of the map
Zoom Out Decreases the size of the map
Cleanup Removes all the temporary markers (disabled, day/night preference, attack order) on the board
Flip Raiders Returns all raiders to their face up side.  Don't do this before you change the control flags and change control of isolated bases and ports!
Move Mark all pieces as unmoved; not useful for VITP.

Pay particular note to the Cleanup and Flip Raiders buttons -- they can help speed things up at the end of a turn!

Menus and Hot Keys

It's also worth a quick review of the some of the most common unit menu items and hot keys:

Sunk - Cntl S
Disabled - Cntl D
Hit Damage - Cntl H

Send to Graveyard - Cntl G
Withdraw - Cntl W

Flip (to Raider or Reverse side) - Cntl F

For Markers
Increase - Cntl W
Decrease - Cntl Q

Most of these hot keys are pretty easy to remember.  Once you can use the Cntl key equivalent, it really speeds up one's ability to manipulate the map!  Practice using these commands and using them to place the various markers in the game.

Ready for War!

You are now ready to play.  The only thing left that I recommend is a little more practice doing what you've already done.  Flip some flags and markers.  Move, stack, and unstack pieces.  Notice the differences in the unit menus.  Notice how a Hot Key or Unit Menu applies to an entire stack (when selected).  I expect you'll master all the little details very quickly as you find that VASSAL is a very intuitive interface.

Have fun and good sailing!


Victory in the Pacific® is a registered trademark of The Avalon Hill Game Company.