Monday, June 25, 2012

Team Tabletop #5 - End of the Battletech Campaign

On the Saturday before Father’s Day, our battle-tested group of game developers gathered together to fight the final event in our ongoing Battletech campaign.

At 5am that morning, our GM sent out the mission details. We were to enter enemy territory in an urban environment. Our primary objective was to destroy at least 80% of the enemy forces, which consist of every enemy we had met in the campaign previously, but had survived. Thanks to our success at the communications tower and repair facility, they would not be repaired, nor would they have reinforcements. This game would be the culmination of all previous games in the series.

We had a secondary goal of destroying a building that had the enemies’ generals and other authority figures. Once they had been alerted to our presence, they would evacuate, so we had 5 rounds of battle to accomplish this mission.

Our third and final goal was to have at least 50% of our team survive. Just as a specification from the GM, that included if our mech was destroyed, but our character ejected safely and ran like hell. Obviously he did not expect us to survive, either because this was a dangerous mission, or because he’s seen us play.

The usual suspects gathered in our usual space, this time making an effort to start early as we have been warned that this game had the potential to go long. In light of this early start and the weather holding at beautiful 70-degree and sunny day, we gathered around noon and enjoyed the weather and grilled our food.

It should be noted that most of the members of our group have been playing tabletop games since our time in high school, and in that time we do tend to go back to the food that worked for us back then (pizza, chips, soda, etc.) But as our tabletop gathering has continued, we have slowly been bringing in our collective culinary expertise into the fray. We set a monumental summer spread of gastronomical delights, it is worth discussing. I should note that I have found in my lifetime of geek-onometry that the ability to cook well has served me to be a better geek and more successful person in countless ways.

I destroy the tank and pass the balsamic

Our menu:
  • Teriyaki & honey marinated chicken skewers
  • Garden fresh salad and tomatoes with the juice of a freshly squeezed orange
  • Spinach and sausage stuffed mushrooms
  • Watermelon
  • Chips and dip
  • Beer, soda, lemonade, iced tea, and seltzer
  • Bucket of chocolate chip cookies*
  • And a bunch of stuff that was not consumed, such as homemade capicola, variety of cheeses, and fudge brownies

*I have noticed a direct correlation to the presence of these cookies at a gaming session and the likelihood of GM decisions working out in the player’s favor.

We sat on the deck, looking out over Jersey suburbia with the Empire State Building and Freedom Tower cresting over the horizon of homes discussing possible repairs. We gathered around a Droid tablet with our repair times broken down into a Google Doc spreadsheet we created earlier in the campaign. This doc calculated overall repair times against time remaining, so we could make a quick assessment of the damage and get back into the fight.
In our last mission, we had junked two of our most powerful mechs beyond repair. The other two were lightly scratched. Plus we added a very beefy Clan Mech as the reward from the last mission, so that was definitely going into battle this time. We put the Clan Mech into the hands of our rounded out pilot, and then did a quick repair job to get our best gunners loaded up with close-proximity gear. We were split for a bit on whether we should give the best pilot the scout to zip around, or let him hang in the background and launch volleys of long-range missiles. We finally decided nimble was the best course of action and it had served us well so far. We snuffed out the citronella and went back inside, ready for battle.

Now it's time to die... in a brightly colored rainbow block land.

At the gaming table, our dutiful GM had used what was available to construct an elaborate downtown complex. But what was readily available was my daughters building blocks and Noah’s Ark set. These items have become handy in the past, even providing the impetus for our slogan “LeRM the Whale”, but never have these toys been used in such nuanced fashion. It seems the fine people of Duplo have made certain that not only are their toys perfect for small hands learning basic manipulation while avoiding choking hazards, but that a bunch of 30 year-olds could use them for Battletech campaigns.

Our group lined up on the far side ready for battle. The conditions of the game were that the enemy was unaware of our position until they saw us or heard us. The rounds would not begin counting off for the secondary mission until the enemy was alerted to our presence.

It's like we're attacking Hoth, but sneakier

Game on.

One of my personal favorite quotes of Mike Tyson is, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Our last few missions have proven this to be true. Early in the game we construct elaborate plans, only to have everything go to hell once the enemy begins shooting back. 

The only way to make this man scarier in his game was have him belt out "In the Air Tonight"
This time we decided to keep it simple: run to the edge, and set up a sneak attack where enemy forces seem weakest. There was a huge assemblence of tanks on the left of the board, so we decided to swing right, cut behind the wall, and jump the two mechs just hanging out in cover.

We were able to cut across the giant open field rather easily, to which our GM exclaimed,"you guys are lucky there is a giant wall in the way so they don't see you coming". We did point out that it was not our fault that their city planner decided to place giant concrete walls between downtown and the suburbs and perhaps next time he would want to defend his town with a radar or watch tower. Of course this is a world where walking tanks that can fall down and trip are somehow superior to regular treaded tanks, so architecture and technology must be suffering from poor STEM education.

We snuck into the downtown section and prepared a surprise pincer attack. We knew from this point on that strategy would be thrown out and this was our last chance to setup before kicking this beehive, and given the mission objectives, about on half of us dying. We checked in to make sure we were in optimal positions, and everyone gave their nod of approval to tear open this can of kickass. Approval was given around the table and we prepared ourselves for hysteria and hi-jinks.

That's 360 collective tons of stealth and sneaking in a populated  financial district

Next round was a surprise round. Evidently these mechs had been summoned back to the core city of their forces to make a final stand (a la Alamo-style), but decide to just hang around in blind spots with new view of possible incoming forces. “Surely”, they must be discussing over the thousandth smoke-break that day, “these giant concrete walls that block everything except traffic of major highways will prevent all incursions to this fine city”. I understand that real-life combat is mostly boring, with occasional moments of pure hell, but if you are going to position guards, posting them on the outside of the door rather than the inside may prevent you from being horribly disfigured in a sneak attack.
So we horrible disfigured these mechs in a sneak attack.

Argyle Emblem are friendly players. Skulls are dead enemies.

They were surprised, but we were more so. It seems that we had tangled with these mechs before and severely damaged them in previous combat. With our jump-around-a-building-and-launch-every-rocket-we’ve-got technique, these guys were quickly evaporated.

At this point, the large armada of tanks spots the explosions of our missiles. The battle is on and everyone knows we are there. Time to play this carefully.

There seems to be enemy forces nearby, but we're not sure where.

Our GM had given us an additional advantage to this game. Our employers brought a land-mine artillery gun into this fight. Yes you read that correctly. An artillery gun that shoots landmines. Now that our enemy knew we were here, we could begin calling in artillery strikes to setup landmines in the next round. As long as the enemy was not nearby, they would be unaware that those spaces were mined. We immediately focus the artillery at the outside pathways in the city so we can funnel the enemy in the center. This would prove to be our smartest move throughout the game.
After clearing two enemies, we have taken half the city. How bad could the rest be?

What qualifies as not our smartest move, in fact failing completely to come in the running for smartest move, was the remainder of our battles. Enemy mechs would rush up in our faces in avenues and jumping over rooftops, while tanks spun around behind us and called in their own missile barrages. In a few short rounds, our Warhammer was severely damaged and overheating to near shutdown, our Clan mech had lost most of its front armor, and the Shadow Hawk had almost lost a leg. We had only killed 2 of 20 enemies, and we were close to losing this fight.

Fortunately for us, having spammed most of the city with landmines, most of the enemy forces were doing an amazing job of destroying themselves. Tanks would roll over a mine and just survive long enough to hit the next mine. Enemy mechs would jump on top of a roof, get hit with a barrage of our missiles, and then fall back behind cover to see a nice bouncing betty punch them in the nards. As a team of game designers, our overall strategies tend to be flawed but our ability to spawn camp and spam an exploit is unparalleled. 

The enemy experience was pretty much this: Jonah Hill meets Bouncing Betty
As the game progressed, we had more kills from landmines than any team member. Our Clan mech was barely holding on while our Warhammer somehow was able to avoid fire long enough to not go into critical meltdown.

We turned the game into Minesweeper. Notice the sea of deaths near the river of mines.
We lined up all dead enemy mechs and tanks to keep a kill toll. We needed 16 kills to win. We had done enough damage to kill of 14 and just needed 2 more confirmed kills. The time had long passed to earn our secondary mission, but we were very close to our primary and tertiary mission goals. A group of enemy tanks were surrounded by mines, but had chosen to dig in like ticks throughout the game. One tank was cornered and another surrounded in yet another ring of fire. We assumed if we spook one surrounded tanks and fire everything off at the final tank, we have this wrapped up in one more round.

What's an F5 tornado? The finger of God.

We carefully position ourselves in striking distance for the cornered tank, but leaving an open flank for the surrounded tank to take the bait. Correction. 3 of us carefully position ourselves. The tank DOES take the bait and destroys itself. The 4th one of us then takes the moment of celebration a little too far and gets cocky with the Clan mech. He then jumps directly in front of the tank rationalizing that if our rockets don't finish it off, his fists will.

What he failed to realize, but what the GM had been waiting for, was this was a special short-range missile tank, which unloads holy hell into the face of anyone dumb enough to get into its grill. It returned fire with 20 loads of missiles, which meant 20 chances of critical hits. Our grinning GM pulls out his pound of dice and dumps them all on the table. What followed was such a complex round of mathematics and probability, it took 3 of us to help calculate the critical hits and following damage. Both the tank and the Clan mech were vaporized.

So to sum up, we won the primary and tertiary goals and successfully ended the campaign. All of our pilots survived (barely) and can continue on to a new contract/campaign. Nearly all of our equipment is severely damaged beyond repair, but we live to fight and play another day.


  1. I have noticed a direct correlation to the presence of these cookies at a gaming session and the likelihood of GM decisions working out in the player’s favor.

    Yeah - funny how that works out. Going to make a note of that for next campaign.

  2. I say in the next campaign, we get sponsorship from Famous Amos or Chips Ahoy.