Sunday, June 12, 2016

G&G XI Day 4: TIE Pilots and Charioteers

Thanks to Rock Band`s success and late night, the final day of G&G XI failed to get off to an early start, but this has now become its own sort of tradition, and didn't upset anyone overmuch. Interstitial games were played, and after everyone was mobile, a massive X-Wing Miniatures game began to unfold.

The upside of X-Wing to many who play it is the ability to field a unit of beautifully detailed, instantly recognizable spaceships with no need at all to build or paint them. The game itself uses a template system to keep movement consistent, and a system of opposed rolls using a simple but versatile set of symbols instead of numbers to make combat swift.

A little late on the 'break and attack', boss!

Game setup, however, can be a bit drawn out. Scott had been called out that morning to help coach his children's lacrosse team in a tournament, and would not be back until around 3:00. By 1:00, we had been unpacking and preparing and laying out for the better part of an hour, and the actual scenario rules hadn't even been set yet. I turned to Earl, dutifully unpacking the cards, counters, chits and dials needed for the battle and said, "On the plus side, I don't think Scotty is going to miss much..."

Scott wandered in midway through the movement phase of turn 1, about 2 hours later.

A ponderous Y-wing is just what the doctor ordered today!

It's a system very few of us are familiar with, but again, the elegant mechanics make it very easy to pick up. In truth, the system is simply not made for quite as many ships as we had in action. There were almost 20 ships in total, including not only the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett's Slave 1, but also Darth Vader and two of his wingmen, Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, and most of the other named pilots from the still-controversial Death Star attack (yes, even Porkins).

They totally don/t see us with our lights switched off.

The goal was to destroy half of the ships of the opposing side, so our Imperial forces elected to ignore the Millennium Falcon as too tough a nut to crack, and instead tried to play an oblique line, using the massive Corellian freighter to block line of sight to the Rebel scum on the rightmost side of the fight.

A (literally) winning lineup of classic starfighters.

Alas, our early gains quickly turned to ashes in our mouths, and the Rebels superior pilotry won them the day. As a competitor I was obviously disappointed, but felt the victory of good was probably inevitable in any case.

Six years in and those flimsy whips are STILL HANGING IN THERE!!

Before sitting down to supper, we got everything set up for the final marquee event; the Circus Maximus trophy race. This venerable Avalon Hill racing and fighting game has been an integral part of this get-together since (ca.) G&G II, and even more so when we scaled everything up with miniatures and a massive track at G&G V. Far superior to the shifty paper counters of yesteryear!

Whip away, just stop yelling 'give the past the slip' every damn time, would ya?

After having supped, with our lanes assigned and chariots kitted out, we at last sounded the horn and lashed our (miniature, metal) horses into a frenzy.

Starting positions.

There is nothing necessarily preventing a competitor from treating Circus Maximus as just another race, with speed, precision and just the right amount of risk going into the corners, In truth though, the game is designed for a tremendous degree of contact, whether crashing into your opponent's horses to weaken them, or attaching scythes to your wheels in order to do even more damage, whether to wheels or steeds. You can even use your whip on the other drivers, but this has resulted in an inordinate amount of whips being yanked by the lashee, and leaving the lasher no means at all of motivating his propulsion, and has thus fallen out of favour in recent years.

Just look at Jeff, concocting his devious race plan.

In any event, we made the choice some years back to allow everyone to take a medium chariot at no extra cost, in order to encourage a little more mixing up, as our earliest races were - dare I say it - almost stately affairs. Most contact occurred by accident, and even having your driver smeared against the infield wall was typically a matter of "Sorry about that old chap!" "My fault entirely, think nothing of it!" Well, not quite, but it was genteel, to be sure.

Race marshal Totty oversees the action.
This year saw charioteers charging at their opponents' teams on the very first straightaway, which left some of the less combative drivers rather nonplussed. The real shock came when Jeff announced that he was attacking another racer's horses with a heavy chariot.

Island Mike ponders a corner.
I don't recall hearing any actual gasps, but there were some oaths of consternation that involved carnal verbs, and others expressing fecal incredulity. In a drastic departure from form, Jeff had opted to take a slightly slower team in favour of a chariot capable of dishing out grievous amounts of harm to one's wheels or horses, and displayed absolutely no qualms about using them as designed. Well, why would he? (This was a tough year on the ponies, with 5 horses being killed overall. Even more surprising, not a single chariot was wrecked.)

The first straightaway.
Jeff only made a handful of attacks over the course of the game, but even when he did no harm due to the driver evading him, it slowed his competitors down. And in those cases where he did some damage to the horses, those 2-4 points of movement would make their effect known turn after turn; in a 12 turn game, 3 points of damage done at the halfway point would add up to nearly 20 squares of movement, in a game where the difference between first and second place might be 6 spaces!

Yes, Jeff only made a handful of attacks-he hardly needed to do more! In retrospect, it was an even more brilliant play from a psychological perspective, as competing charioteers took pains not to make themselves too tempting a target or to incur his wrath.

And in the end, that is how Jeff became the first of us G&Geeks to win the Circus Maximus trophy 4 times, and did it with a heavy chariot, to boot!

I would bet my last sesterce though, that next year's race will see more than one heavy chariot, and even more aggressive charioteers.

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