When I first joined the ACA and opened my starter packet, I was eager to jump right in and start solving Aristocrats and Patristocrats. I tried to solve as many as I could. Once I got stuck I would try to learn a different way to solve in hopes that it would get me unstuck. There is so much great information available on solving different cipher types and trying out new techniques. Unfortunately, since there is so much great information, it is difficult to figure out where to start or what resources to use. I found myself frequently getting lost in material too advanced at the early stage and becoming quite frustrated when the information did not penetrate my thick skull.
After one frustrating week, I contacted LIONEL, the ACA Recruitment Committee chairman, in hopes of finding some form of beginner’s guide to help me stay focused. He mentioned the “Young Tyros Newsletter”. It is a wonderful resource and I really recommend all new members and even non-members to read them. They have lots of great insights and tips to get you unstuck. In our discussions, I proposed that we should create a “Beginner’s Guide to the ACA”. I definitely didn’t want to re-hash all the great information out there. My goal was to compile a small list of the most important topics for a beginner to know and then point them in the right direction of all the other great materials out there.
LIONEL put me in contact with a few members who graciously agreed to send me some of their notes on how they solved some of the lower level Aristocrat and Patristocrat cons. Their notes and insights have been a great help in increasing my knowledge and solving abilities. It took quite a long time and many iterations before I was satisfied with it but I finally finished the first version of the “Beginner’s Guide to the ACA!” This would not have been possible without the help of BECASSE, GGMA, LIONEL, MICROPOD, MATANZA, and ZANAC. I am very grateful for their help.
You can download the Beginner’s Guide to the ACA below. Hopefully, it’ll help someone not get frustrated and lose interest in cryptology before they gave it a good chance.