Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Alpha Strike Post 3. Do I have the Way


Is it ironic that heavy doses of salt create fertile soil for ideas? Another clever name for this post could be Fighting the System.  It seems that in my view of boardgames, as with much of my life, I demand that it unfold the way I see them being played out in my head.  Maybe you have just finished painting a beautiful centerpiece to your army, but it got vaporised immediately, maybe you only need to roll a certain, and likely, number but it never comes up, or maybe you don’t ever win initiative, not even one time, until you only have one mech left and everyone else still has multiple lances… argh….  Oh, I like to think the ideas in this article are mine, but I have read someone else’s article a while ago talking about how to deal with the vaunted double turn in AoS, it is a discussion on initiative as well.

Spoiler alert, I was the first of three to be eliminated in the latest game of BattleTech I played. I could blame the dice as I didn’t win the all-important initiative until it was too late.  Or I could admit I was playing the game I wanted to play in my head and not the game that was in front of me and governed by a set of written rules that my imagination couldn’t change.  I think in both of my recent posts I have mentioned, or alluded to, the disproportional importance of initiative.  But maybe I should have said, if you want to play aggressively you need initiative.  If you are going to storm the center of the board and be the first on the objective, it certainly helps to move last so that you can get the best arcs on your opponent or choosing to remain out of arc entirely.  If you don’t you will just move aggressively onto the objective and then watch the opposing mech take up ideal firing positions and tear you to pieces.

But what if you played defensively when you didn’t have the initiative?  Moving your mech forward slowly, keeping them in cover, keeping them with arcs that covered both the objective and the most likely place you opponent would move?  Letting the person with initiative go to the sole objective first…  By doing this you are mitigating the effect of loosing initiative and biding your time until you do get it, at which point you turn up the aggression with what forces you have left.  At least in games you can plainly see, even if you choose not to, who has the initiative and then you can decide your actions based on a fact. In real life you need to sense if you have the way, thankfully giant war robots aren’t real...

I am sure that with this approach sometimes you will bide your time, fight tooth and nail and just die. But I for one prefer to look back on a game like that and know I made the right decisions, so then I am fully justified in blaming the dice. 

As for the game itself.  It was a three player “capture the flag” scenario where the team that moved the objective token from the middle of the board back to their starting location would win the game.  The objective token could be carried without penalty but if two opposing mechs were in base-to-base contact with it one had to be destroyed before it could be moved.  This led to a fairly silly “Rings of Steel” situation.  The flag was also located on a hill with large structures to give the appearance of a defendable position.

All three of us had a rag tag assortment of mechs that we arranged into two lances each so that we could all begin with an equal number of activations.  And yes, this time I did look at my opponents lists, and I did destroy the Archer, Huzzah!!

To be honest, I was not the first at the objective but did charge a large mech onto it to tussle with another mech who had staked a claim.  After both mechs had been shot to pieces by every other mech the captured flag was placed within a well painted ring of steel, this did take a few turns as the rule was you had to stop once you contacted the flag.  The following turn the fastest mech of the bunch was able to scuttle off to victory.

BattleTech is growing on me, and maybe with time and experience I will be able to appreciate its subtleties.  But for now, I still consider it very beer and pretzels, which are wonderful as a mid-week distraction.  But most importantly, rolling dice on a table with quality scenery, beautiful miniatures, and friends you can banter with is never a bad evening.  Oh, and this one player did use a death from above attack, and it worked….

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