05 March 2009

Battletech One versus All

Battletech Total WarI tried an experiment with our local Battletech group last night. I recall seeing Chess demonstrations were one player (generally a very good player) would play 10+ games at once, walking around a circle of players each with there own board, and I've been wanting to try this with Battletech. In recent weeks we have been playing a series of tournament style games where two players pair off with two Battlemechs each. Tonight I set up 4 identical battles and played against 4 others, all at once.

Battletech SolarisThe Setup:
I used HeavyMetal Pro to generate pairs of Mechs at 3750 Battle Value. To simplify play I only accepted Mechs with no more than 2 primary types of weapons (2 different range brackets, not counting small lasers and MG's). I generated 5 pairs this way, but I was in a hurry and I didn't check carefully enough for other items which might complicate play; this caused me some trouble later.

Battletech CitytechThe Plan:
Of these 5 pairs I, I let the guys choose 2 pairs that we would play with, and I would randomly chose one of these as the Mechs I would play. The random assignment here is intended to encourage selection of 2 pairs that will make a fair match. I ended up with playing with a Lightray LGH-4W and a Centurion CN9-D3, while everyone else got a Bushwhacker BSW-L1 and a Wolfhound WLF-3S. I used a Rolling Hills maps (either one) for each battle, and randomized the starting sides (short edges). Maps were set up on two long parallel tables, with the players on the outside and me in the middle so I could quickly move between games. All Mech pilots were Gunnery 3 and Piloting 4.

Battletech MarikInitiative:
I had everyone roll three dice for initiative and counted how many players beat my roll. I then started movement each turn with the player that got the highest roll, moving counter-clockwise among the games. I "won" lost initiative, moving first for the number of players that beat my initiative roll, and "won" moving second for the remainder.

Battletech Compendium SummonerFire Phase:
I would declare fire for each of my Mechs and lets the other player make all the rolls - including mine - and mark all the damage. Once I got the idea across this worked quite well, and my selection of easy-to-play Mechs paid off. My one mistake was the Centurion; letting a TSM (Triple-Strength Myomer) Mech into the mix made managing the heat levels a big issue, requiring more time and slowing things down a bit.

Long story short: I lost BAD. One match was essentially over in three turns, and the longest took 7 or 8 before I was soundly thrashed. The poorly-armored Centurion with TSM was an obvious target and took an immediate beating in all four sessions. By the time I got to 9 heat and close enough for physical attacks, there was not enough armor left to hang in a fight. I ended up getting in 1 successful TSM kick and 2 TSM punches between all four maps. The Bushwacker with its LBX-20 was a nightmare, but the well armed Wolfhounds probably did even more total damage. My Lightrays held their own, but the cluttered maps hurt them, and once the Centurions went down first (which they did on 3 of 4 games) they were outmatched.

Battletech King PainRecap:
This experiment was a partial success; We ran four games with 5 players in about the same amount of time it would take with 8 players paired off. There was a bit of a slow-down in explaining how things worked, but things ran very smoothly once we got going. A written plan for this type of play would have helped. What didn't work was the Mech selection; The Centurion was a poor choice for me to play, and if I hadn't been in such a hurry I would have tossed out that pairing. I might also have given myself an advantage in Battle Value to make up the the fact I was splitting my attention between many games. That would have added a little extra challenge for the other players too.

In summary, it was an interesting and fun experiment,and I would do it again sometime. With a bit more refinement this might make an interesting convention event, where many players could match themselves against a panel of expert level players (one per round) in a sort of mini-tournament.

[Images from the Gallery at ClassicBattletech.com]
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