Wednesday, June 6, 2018

G&G XIII Part 2: Fighting, Monsters, Giants, Chases, Escapes

The second half of G&G began on Friday with a rescheduling - Abandon Planet subbing in for 7 Wonders by dint of newness. I sat this one out to set up the afternoon game, but it looked intriguing and I can't wait to try it for myself!

Before the afternoon game, however, we had an appointment at Time Escape for our second go-round at an escape room. This was a good facility: great production values, not a lot of distractions or meaningless scenery, good puzzles and a variety of them. We did pretty well off the hop in our chosen adventure, Spaceship Mysteries, but got a little stymied in the middle. In the end, some fooferaw with the caps lock on the keyboard we were given prevented us from completing within the time limit. We only needed another minute or two tops, so I am scoring that one as a draw, personally.

After returning home and grabbing a bite to eat, we prepared for our first foray into Battletech since G&G VII - but first, we played a game of Timeline to give everyone time to assemble, which Pete won handily.

We were much better prepared this time around than six years previous, having sorted out a semi-controversial rules change, assigning mechs and teams by random draw, and re-implementing the chess clock on my iPad to move things along with a modicum of alacrity. (Without such constraints, you run the risk of a Delta Tango situation, wherein a player holds up the game while they explore six or seven different options for their move, calculating the odds of hitting or being hit in every permutation.) A big thanks to Scotty for introducing the idea of using coloured markers to keep track of movement as well!

We also went with much lighter tonnage this time around (190 tons per side instead of 350), which suited most of us rusty mech pilots very well. By the end of the game we had reacquainted ourselves significantly with the elegance of the mechanics, and I think a heavier tonnage game might be in the cards for a future G&G.

In the present, however, Island Mike, Earl, Jeff and I endured a savage sack-beating  at the hands of Totty, Rob, Pete and Scott. Mike ended up with the 40 ton Whitworth, a not particularly effective mech with a reputation generously described perhaps as "hapless". He ended up isolated on one of the flanks and outmaneuvered then eventually rammed by the far nimbler 30 ton Spider.

A short while later, Earl willfully overheated his Jenner with an astonishing volley of fire, but then cooked off his short-range missile ammo ("Avoid ammo explosion on 5+... (rolls) whoopsie!") before he could follow through on his plan to leap into a nearby lake and cool off.

With two mechs out of action and the other side with only some armour damage to show for our efforts, and Jeff having continued his remarkably bad spell of dice empathy with a failed charge and missed piloting roll, we conceded once we were outnumbered 2:1. Still fun though, and with luck, we will get a couple of games in before G&G XIV!

After dinner came a game that was new to most of us: Captain Sonar. The game is played without a central board, strangely enough.Each team commands a submarine with four stations to man: Captain, First Officer, Sonar and Engineering.

The Captain determines where to move and plots it on a grid. The First Officer then gets to tick a box signifying preparation of one of the boat's systems, like torpedoes, sonar, silent running, etc. The Engineer then ticks off a resource, restricting what can be used until he fulfills the conditions to erase some of it. Then it is the other sub's turn, and when they state their move, our Sonar officer diligently marks it on an acetate overlay, which he can then maneuver around the map and try to determine where they are, while the other team does the same to you.

Earl's descriptor of 'fancy battleship' is not far off, but I love the notion that everyone on a team has something different to do, so no one feels redundant. The game is also very well paced, and our side won two out of three engagements.

Captain Sonar wrapped up early enough that we re-arranged our schedule yet again in order to accommodate a game of Formula Dé with actual stakes -  a magnificent piece of original artwork by Earl's friend Jeff Shyluk! Our Jeff had mounted a poster-sized version on foamcore and donated it as a prize for the race winner. This had necessitated adding Formula Dé back on the schedule after a proposed absence this year.

I am always up for a game of FD though; I love the mechanics and am still very happy with the tiny models I painted for the game five years ago. Island Mike came out strong and held the lead for most of the race, but I finally managed to pass him in a higher gear on the second lap and eked out a win.

I'm so deliriously happy with the artwork, I don't care that I don't have any wall space for it; I will make something happen! Worth staying up a little late for, by any measure.

The next morning got off to a predictably (and agreeable) slow start, after which we spent an unprecedented two hours arranging our group photos, as posted previously. Despite the immense amount of time committed to this, everyone had something to contribute, and it felt as much a collaborative effort as the escape room, if not more. I will share the final product with my final thoughts in a future post.

Over lunch, Earl and I set up our most ambitious surprise scenario for Star Fleet Battles to date. When everyone had arrived, Earl read a Captain's log he had prepared, wherein the Federation were defending a planet and its moon from Klingons in a pitched battle we joined in progress. This also explained why the ships were all starting with some degree of damage.

Earl's log ended with his flagship, the U.S.S. Excalibur, disappearing in a blinding flash of light as her reactor went critical, and I took over the narrative.

I explained how the Klingons began cheering until their own commander (on my battlecruiser, the Vengeance), told them that humans and Klingons now faced a common enemy, and we revealed (with considerable flourish and glee) the dreaded Planet Killer, from the classic original series episode The Doomsday Machine.

This was greeted with no small degree of shock and/or awe from most of the players, which was wholly gratifying.

I had some good, purple prose after that from the Klingon commander, about how they must now put aside their quarrel with the Federation lapdogs, and sell their lives dearly to prevent this new threat from destroying the next system in line, a Klingon outpost. It was then I removed my ship in the same fashion as Earl's and replaced it with...a SECOND, EVEN LARGER Planet Killer!

Unfortunately for Earl and I, our full marks for presentation (including the dramatic unveiling of the "I Uncloak Now" t-shirt I had drunkenly ordered and forgotten about at last year's festivities) came at the expense of game balance and scenario design.

The carbon units quickly drew their ranks together and attacked Earl's Planet Killer (codenamed Shiva) en masse, and despite his grievously wounding a couple of their ships, they were all still flying when the last of his power was spent.

I made my best speed toward the planet, hoping to at least garner a draw for our apocalyptic weapons, but they fell upon codename: Galactus like a pack of Klingon bloodwolves interbred with Terran... wolf-wolves. (With the exception of Jeff's D7, crippled by his seeming inability to roll a 4+ on three consecutive turns...again.)

Soon, my PK was also a drifting hulk, having neither destroyed a ship nor damaged its target.

Despite this though, a great time was had by all, with the narrative element transcending the tactical by a fair chalk. The reaction to our reveal echoed late into the night, showing itself in one of the Tee K.O. shirts:

After supper, it was time at last for perhaps the most highly contested event of all G&G: Circvs Maximvs!

As defending champion, I didn't make a very good show of it. I tried to play a bit more aggressively for a change, which didn't really pan out for me. I also misread my position at one point and took a corner at a blisteringly fast 9 over, which by all rights should have flipped me, but I came out of the corner butter-side-up and merely jostled, impeding my control and speed marginally.

Which made it even more painful when I flipped my chariot on a subsequent corner I took at a far saner speed.  My driver managed to escape with his life, however, clambering over the wall of the raceway.

Jeff, on the other hand, was once again thwarted by dice. After several missed rolls both to attack and to exert more speed from his nags, he finally caught up to Pete, who had been in the lead since the first corner. Here was his chance to maim one of Pete's horses, giving all of us a chance to narrow the gap, and all he had to do was roll higher than a 4.

As he shook the dice in his hand, Pete cried, without malice, feeling his opponent was truly due, "And none of that regular snake-eyes shit Jeff!"

Upon which Jeff dutifully rolled a two.

You can see Jeff dejectedly down the the hall, but I think our reactions say it all.
There was some cursing, a throwing of dice, and an understandably justified stompy trip down the hallway, but Jeff is a game fish after all, and returned, gamely. Another dice travesty occurred later, effectively excising Jeff's chariot from the game. Pete ended up running away with the victory, followed by Scotty and Totty.

There was just enough time afterwards to play a round of Tee K.O.before Earl finally gave in to the double pneumonia that had dogged him all week, but at least he got to see someone commemorate one element of G&G XIII in t-shirt form to preserve the infamy even longer:

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