Saturday, March 06, 2010

Last Playtest and a Missed Opportunity....

Hey there!

After checking with my three hard-working amigos, I have the following to report:

Lee Madison has received his models – just the $30 money order and we are even. He is still working on the background art for the Sarpedon and the Merkava MkVII, but also has art to create for an upcoming convention - and his regular job starts up again soon!

David Dryburgh is doing his eight small pieces in color, as he did with the ‘No Mercy’ series. I have seen the roughs and they look good. An example of the ‘No Mercy’ series is at the top of this column. Click on the image and enjoy the detail. He has recently suffered from vertigo but is now on the mend. I used to suffer from chronic seasickness so I can feel his misery. In my case, the cure was to retire from the Navy.

Our layout man Josh is nearly finished with the background for the PDFs. It is a lot of work, and is more than just making pretty pages. He has to create the framework for the TRO so we can drop the information and art into it with a minimum of fuss. I have deliberately provided artwork which is much higher resolution than he will ever need so that Josh is free to reduce them to any size he wants in order to fit them on the page. He will probably also catch some textual errors – no, I am not convinced I have eliminated them all. Like a software publisher, I am simply at the point where the product will work and can be sent out with the confidence that at least 80% of the readers will find favor with 80% of the TRO

Of course, the only ones I will hear from will be individuals with an axe to grind, or a complaint about continuity, or even a genuine correction to submit. I know for a fact someone will say something about the interior plates – that they are not ‘serious enough’ for a ‘genuine TRO’. They will say I got everything right but those plates, because they are lighthearted and you would not find them in a company product.

And maybe you wouldn’t. But this is not a company product. And it is, among other things, meant to entertain.

The Final Showdown…

I got one additional email from Jeff over at BattleTech Universe. He set three Jenner X machines against a single Timberwolf Prime (that’s a MadCat to us old-schoolers). I have no idea what it is with Jeff and Clan ‘Mechs, but he did a good job. He sent them out using the recommended tactics and reported the following: he lost a Jenner X to a headshot and the two remaining machines took a real beating. However, the Timberwolf Prime lost all of its effective weapons and most of its armor. It was capable of walking off the battlefield, but not much else.

I think when you consider the Timberwolf Prime’s warload, this is a very good showing for the Jenner X. I do not know the pilot’s skill levels, I do not know what tactics the Clan pilot used, but I do know that the Timberwolf Prime’s warload is fearsome and has a very long reach. The Clan medium lasers alone have the same range as a Jenner MRM launcher – without the +1 penalty. And they do more damage on average. Yet – the Jenners could be said to have been successful.

Someone may point out that there were three 35-ton Jenners up against a single 75-ton Timberwolf Prime. But that’s really the best way to defeat a Clan machine – sheer weight of numbers - and for the Inner Sphere, it is often the only strategy available. Inner Sphere forces simply can’t match the hitting power and range of most Clan ‘Mechs, not even in 3075, so they have to use greater numbers and better tactics to close the gap.

As you can see, it works most of the time. That Timberwolf Prime may have a veteran pilot, but he still has to deal with three targets, not one. And he still has to overcome the high ‘to hit’ modifiers the Jenners gain from moving so fast. Not in keeping with zellbrigen, but how many Clanners still subscribe to that curious tradition?

A Missed Opportunity…

You may have noticed I complain about lots of things, or I used to, and have tapered off lately. You can see I am getting bitter about some things, and I felt it best to sit on the occasional rant, as this blog is primarily about the progress of the TRO. But one of my recent diatribes was directed at myself, notably for the lost opportunity to spend more time with my son playing BattleTech.

There was a game today in Redmond. My son allowed as he wanted to go with me on this one. My wife agreed that this was my day to go gaming.

And I passed on it.

I actually volunteered to work today. It meant I could not go to Redmond for the monthly game, but to be honest, even though my son wanted to go with me, I just could not work up the interest. Normally, I put on my BattleTech shirt (yes, I have one) and get the goodies stocked in the car, fuel up and away we go. Just, not today.

I still like the game, but it's an all-day affair. Two hours to get there after meeting up with our carpool. Another two hours to get home. Used to be, I didn't mind. It was my Saturday off. But today I looked at it, and the money I had to spend on a round trip of two hundred miles, and factored in an extra jaunt to Everett and back down to South Seattle. It appeared that I probably would not get back home until eight in the evening. Then I thought of the last game, where events abruptly ended with one player hammering a miniature under his fist. Ouch!

The games are getting more and more lopsided as time passes. I find myself watching the clock and calculating the number of turns per hour. I spend less time actually interacting with my fellow players. I love to BS, but the truth is, I am vexed when my fellow players lollygag about, taking multiple smoke breaks, forgetting to calculate their numbers until the last moment. But the real reason is my shame.

I can’t help but feel that my fellow player’s loss of temper could have been avoided if I’d just had the good judgement to keep my big mouth shut. It wasn’t enough to assist the GM in a win – I had to rub in all the misteps our brave opponents made, before – during – and after they made them. Not very sporting at all, and probably irritating as hell. I know why I did it – ego – and my own frustration with my fellow players’ inability to learn from their mistakes. But there is another reason.

I have been tempted many times recently to fudge dice rolls.

Or dismiss poor results as ‘nervous rolling’ when no one appears to be paying attention, or when a potential fumble or fall appears at a critical time. It bothers me a bit that I am tempted, but much more that I have given in a time or two to the temptation. I notice others doing the same thing, or similar things – like not declaring targets, or not coming up with firing solutions until the last moment so they can maintain firing options right up to the last second.

Yes, I could point this out in a blog post. Who doesn’t bitch once in a while about their opponent’s less-than-honorable gaming habits? But I am just as guilty. And I don’t like anything that is supposed to be a hobby being so important to me that I am willing to cheat my friends in order to come out on top.

Do you want to know the most embarrassing part?

It’s this: I am sure that somewhere along the way, someone has noticed me doing this. And not called me on it. And I am ashamed that they should know it and still not say anything at all. They are holding back from respect, or not wanting to confront me with all of our friends around us, or just because… I don’t know. I just know that it’s possible that everyone in my gaming group knows about it, can see it happening, and I now have a reputation. A bad one. When I congratulate myself on superior play, it rings hollow because I know that somewhere along the line, one or more of my successes may be due to my cheating.

I turn fifty later this month. There’s this voice in the back of my head and it whispers “how old do you have to get before you decide to play honorably all the time and not just when it suits your position in the game and your ego?” So I suppose you might say I have been taking a break from the game. At least until I can get my head straight on this. I have promised my son and my God that I will not succumb to this temptation ever again, but it takes cojones and self-discipline to make it stick. Persistence is so hard and I need to keep my ‘Mech upright just one more turn!

On the other hand, what kind of man cheats against his friends in a friendly game? That is the part I am trying to fix. I am not quitting BattleTech – oh no! – but I need to be the best player I can be, not necessarily the most successful. And that requires honesty even when no one is looking.


We are a bit behind schedule – I am hoping to get into a local airsoft game on Sunday. The weather is pretty nice but none of my son’s friends are playing, so we have to make do. I purchased some black pellets for my gun, hoping to get the drop on a foe without revealing my position.

They work, but you cannot see them in flight and one of the more common tactics in airsoft is to walk your autofire into a target. I have mixed white pellets into the black for a ‘tracer’ effect and so far it seems to work, but I will have to rely on my iron sights and my gun’s adjustments more often to make sure I can hit even when I cannot see the pellet.

I suppose I can practice my honorable ways in airsoft as well. It is entirely up to the target whether or not he reports being hit. The temptation to win is strong there, too.

Thanks for stopping by.



Chgowiz said...

Thank you for posting that and kudos to you for looking at yourself honestly. It's hard to do. I don't have any words of wisdom, nor are you looking for any, but I will say this - as a gaming old timer, I have to game with people that I trust AND in games where I'm having fun. If I'm looking at the clock, that's not the game for me.

Steven Satak said...

I probably exaggerated that a bit, but it does happen - I am concerned with getting enough turns in, in five hours play, to allow us to resolve the outcome even if the sides have not accomplished all their objectives.

I am tired of 'draws'. I spend nearly as much time in the saddle getting to and from Redmond as I do gaming. I game there primarily to hang out with old friends, but tempers naturally fray when we attempt to play to the best of our ability and after five or six hours we've got nothing but a headache, an unresolved game which gets argued about back and forth, and a two-hour drive home.

It is especially bad for my son John; I can console myself with jabbering about the game for the next two hours, but meanwhile his quick, young mind has sprung ahead to the next six topics and he has to put up with ol' Dad plodding along, re-living past glories.

Small wonder he doesn't want to spend his Saturdays with BattleTech anymore.

Of course, it beats the Kitsap BattleTech League all hollow, but that's another story.


Chgowiz said...

Steven, I'm sure you already know all the little ways of simplifying Battletech, but I did want to throw a vote of confidence in using the Quick Start rules combined with heat for Level 1 tech. We played 3025 at WinterWar and I had experienced (CatalystLabs demo team member) players and complete newbies... they all had a great time. I'm sure you know about how to simplify the game for your son, but I wanted to share that little bit - it made me want to continue this sort of quick and dirty beer/pretzels approach.

Steven Satak said...

That might apply with Level One, but these guys use more modern stuff as we are in the Jihad track.

That said, they know that as soon as they stop moving and their target stops moving, they are to figure their hitting numbers. Some do, some don't, and it gets to wearing on me to see a fellow standing there with his fingers out going 'umm, I have three for gunnery, one for walking, are those trees in the line of sight?"

This is the same fellow who just came in from a twelve-minute smoking and bull session, so it's not like he didn't have time to figure this out.

Then there's the Deep Blue player who insists on his movement turn in exploring every single possible permutation of movement possible for his machine before settling on the one he wants. There are more than a few of these in my group. You would think that with the time they stand around, they could figure out where they wanted to go next.

I have been playing with these guys for six years, but most of them never seem to have gone beyond looking out the cockpit window.


Chgowiz said...

@Steven, right... I was more thinking of what you could do with your son. I know that my son appreciates the simpler game when all we want to do is just make big stompy bots whack on each other.

I try to herd cats myself with my 8 player AD&D games. It can get tough at times. I tend to enforce time limits on strategizing during combat. Can you all agree to some time limit or that if they have to do modifiers, they just shoot at their worst (default) numbers?

Paint it Pink said...

Funnily enough I recognise all the things you are commenting on in the games I played over the last years and the players styles.

Cups for rolling dice. Cocked dice go in defenders favour. Dice off the table are a miss. If a disagreement occurs, dice for it. Resolve the issue later.