If you’ve been following us, you know that we had the most wonderful opportunity to play a game of Alpha Strike with some wonderful people last week. I am not going to give you an actual battle report of this game, because we were having so much fun we forgot to take pictures. If that’s not a hallmark of us having the best time ever, i don’t know what to tell you. We got massively lucky and actually had a Catalyst Demo Agent (I Think that’s what they’re called) play with us, and he was a delightful resource about game play and ideas. What i am going to talk about are some lessons learned from the experience of playing with people outside your comfort zone.
Thing 1: What we know is not necessarily true.
As a small group, we have an understanding of how we think the rules are supposed to work. The most telling application of this are Special Pilot Abilities. The way i’ve read the book on multiple occasions is that there are specific costs associated with picking these abilities and that they were paid for out of your initial allotment of points. Our Demo agent was fairly clear on the point, that no, that’s not how it worked, and we spent a couple of days looking through the rules and figuring stuff out. We were wrong? How? We’re good at this game? Right?
We were, and when we looked at the rules again, we found the right way to figure this out (and the Formation building rules that are presented in the actual combat manuals are astonishingly useful, expect an article coming soon). We were cool with the way things went, and our game progressed. We were engaged in a 3 hour duel to the death in a 500 point match between Mercs (and some more mercs) against the FWL and some Ghost Bears.
Now, these folks are playing this game every week, and are very very good. The wookie and i are much more casual players, and we managed a moral victory while our opponents managed a pyrrhic victory. Our last mech died as it was being chased off the board by a pair of Galleons, a Main Gauche, and a squad of Salamander battle armor.
Thing 2: Battletech has a wider world than just battlemechs
Our group tends to be Mech heavy because those are the models we have access to. Now Battletech (and Alpha Strike) have hosts of other units, and we are going to have to get used to the ideas of tanks and infantry, and a host of other units that are on the tabletop. Being better rounded players means we’re going to need to get used to other units in the vicinity than just our giant stompy robots.
Thing 3: Sometimes we do actually know what we’re doing
I could accurately be described as an Armchair general for a lot of the things i talk about. I don’t get a lot of time to practice the ideas i come up with, and in most cases, they are theoretical ideas. That said, i often have a practical basis for my theories, and being able to run one of my ideas on a table proved immensely satisfying. I turned my theoretical lance into a wrecking crew that executed the battle plan i had in mind to a tee. I know that my lance wasn’t going to survive the battle, we were just too big of a batch of targets to be left alone. So i used them effectively to destroy as many things as my treacherous dice would allow.
I’m not a razzle dazzle player, and i accept that as part of my day. I know the types of units that i like to use, and i am reasonably good at making sure that i have at least the ability to try and enact a battle plan. What the other guy does and the dice will affect this, but i have the basic competency to be able to play the game and score some points.
Thing 4: Other People do things differently, and that’s okay
There are a lot of different ways that different groups interpret rules, and in many cases there are rules that are applied and utilized differently. We were both relatively new to being at the table with people that weren’t us, and the Wookie was full of questions and ideas. They were using a couple of house rules that worked around situations that were either clunky or didn’t make any sense. They made sense to us, and while they may not be the rules we’d use when we’re playing the game, they did do a lot of work towards making our game enjoyable and fun.
Thing 5: Have Fun, (Or, if you’re not, you’re probably missing the point of the game)
Like i said earlier, we were having so much fun we forgot to take pictures. The hallmark of a truly fun experience is the combination of taking the game with the right level of seriousness and the wrong level of enjoyment. We were playing to see how other folks played, and i don’t think the Wookie or i had any expectation of winning the game. We were using the mechs we’d had in our collections (in some cases for years), and our opponents were playing with the state of the art, brand new Dark Ages units. We still had a blast, and the game ended up being closer than anyone had any idea it would be. That was the most important thing for us, the fun we had.
Alpha Strike is kind of our new hot thing to share with people in our neighborhood (as a gaming expression) and we’d like to get more people involved. The important thing i found is that there are a lot of folks interested and willing to learn the game as long as we keep showing up and having fun with it. Wargames are especially bad about a steep learning curve, and a stiff price barrier to entry. I think if we can keep showing off the game to new folks, and remind them of the reasonable affordability, that we can help grow the game. Anywho, that’s our “What We Learned from Strangers” for this time.
Side note, The Enraged Wookie is setting up an Alpha Strike Demo event at his local shop, Goblin Games, in Manhattan Kansas for some time in June. Expect updates and ideas for what sort of madness we’re likely to put together for all of you folks. Game on, Game Fans