Friday, September 30, 2005

My Kung Fu is Stronger Than Yours!

Mark and I get together every Wednesday for a game or two of Epic: Armageddon, a table-top wargame using 6mm figures. It's a lot like commanding an army and can be very entertaining and frustrating at the same time.

Mark has the details of our last Wednesday games. Not only did he beat me in two games but badly enough to get me to offer him my defeat! Yes, I am his biatch now. It was bound to happen, as I've lately taken to offering him the opportunity before each game to save face by capitulating before hand. "Pride goeth before a fall," right?

He says I'm playing better now, which is good. I have a clearer idea of how various kinds of formations work together, and what formation is good at what kind of tactic. I've lately been playing a particular formation -- Devastator missile-launching infantry in huge heavily armed tanks called Land Raiders. I like the combination; it's got a lot of firepower and can do a lot of damage, and it's hard to break or kill.

But, as I'm learning, it's also a very expensive formation in terms of what I can afford for the kind of tournament-rules games we sometimes play. If we're playing an "all in" game, with everything we've got, it's not an issue. But when we have sharp limits under tournament rules, then I don't think I can afford that combination and may have to go with less-powerful and less-costly alternatives so as to free up some resources for adding other units. Especially against his Ork army, who use swarm tactics: dozens of big axe-swinging thugs swamping their enemies with sheer numbers.

These calculations are a part of the fun of the game. The Epic system offers a lot of flexibility in how you can put the various armies together. If I wanted, I could field all artillery, or all infantry, or mostly heavy tanks with some infantry, even an all-space force which drops from the skies right onto the board with devastating results, if things go right.

That's yet another fun part of the game: dice and luck. As Mark notes, you can lay the best of plans but if luck isn't with you, too bad. You can lose badly, or be doing great up until that one vital roll of the dice goes against you. It's been teaching me about making plans, but not planning for specific results or outcomes. Sometimes you have to be able to recover and keep going, to adapt your damaged plan to the reality on the ground, by planning for various outcomes good or bad and not just the desired one.

I just recently read a book (The Art of Maneuver Warfare) that has added immeasurably to my understanding of strategy and to implementing it on the table-top battlefield. Stupidly, I loaned it to Mark, who is also gleaning vital tactics and strategy from it. But hey, if it makes him a better opponent, then that makes me a better player.

It's all fun. Go read Mark's account.

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