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Endless Wars by David McCallum #701548

Another war looms on the horizon, and to be honest, it seems like we have had no rest since the last 2 and their aftermath have ended.

I’ve hardly had time to mull over the respective pros and cons of having 2 wars so close together and their differing formats.

I have of course kept a weather eye on pilot feedback, and of course there was the expected moaning that it was all a waste of time because those with fat wallets were going to win in any case and all it did was disadvantage those of us who weren’t as flush.

And you know, that’s not what I saw.

I’ll give this to you from the perspective of one of the ‘have not’ clan families.

The Heroes aren’t the biggest clan family, even though we have been on the go for a very long time. Across our four active clans we have had a mix of results in recent times.

Our top clan had been regularly Silver winning, with the odd Gold thrown in when we have a fair wind and a lot of luck behind us, however we have dropped to Bronzes of late. The others are a mix of Silver/Bronze and in one case a run of wood lately. It happens in the lower divisions where there is more movement and leveling and a lot of backup pilots from the big veterans who know how to do things far better the second time around.

The one thing we are not afraid of is experimentation. The bigger the experiment, the better we do. Rise of the Specialists and the Mechalympix spring to mind.

So no complaints from us when the handicap system was introduced, although a reasonable amount of trepidation when the second unlimited war was announced. We do rely on our specialists in the same way a lot of other weaker clans do and we don’t have the depth of numbers to be able to swap people around that much to engineer our level.

Ah well, them’s the breaks.

So, what was good and what was bad?

Well, lets get one thing out of the way straight off. Nobody should be complaining about the prize packs. The same magnitude you get for a Faction War, and 2 sets back to back. So even a double wood winner in the low divisions would wander away with 2 shiny new Niode mechs plus some other stuff as long as they managed to get their minimum kills.

OK, only a single raid, but from the ones I saw, there was increased mech chance percentages and a lot more chances of weapons on offer. Admittedly the amount of equipment was a bit pitiful, but that’s always been a gripe of mine, so I’ll shut up about it in favour of balanced reviewing.

The change in opponents was good. Certainly in some of our divisions, we were pitted against folk that we simply didn’t have any track record against. I don’t know about you, but there is always a tingle of trepidation when you go to attack somebody and really don’t have a proper clue as to what your relative strengths are. Sure, there are clues you can pick up, but if you are the pathfinder taking the shots that the rest of your clan has to compare against, there is an edge there that the stakes are just a tad higher. Hold your breath when you pull the trigger and hope you walk away from it.

Mixing things up in that way seemed to be part of the reasoning behind the handicap system for the first war, and I would say it worked.

It’s a shame that clans were allowed to unlock and adjust between wars. From what we heard, the divisions for war #1 were decided more on larger clans adjusting their rosters than on clans being bumped due to the handicapping. In fact if I recall, there were only 5 adjustments made across all divisions.

It would have been nice to see who got the bump, but that would only have been possible if the rosters had remained unchanged between the wars.

The second unlimited war was actually a nice change of pace. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no way I’d want to be giving up my specialist Cruisers for any extended period of time, but there was a certain thrill being stuck as ‘tail end Charlie’ in the formation without my usual defensive measures to keep the kill count against me down.

In fact it was a very valid exercise; there is a very real danger when you are a confirmed specialist that you devote too much time on this formation and not enough on your main. It is after all the one that wins the points in a war, and in my case pre-war#2 testing showed that I had a very big weakness in my formation, one caused by a complete oversight on my part.

I know where it came from as well.  With base Poseidon, you have a front rank of 5 and the weak rank of 3 is at the rear of the formation. When moving to Caelus, the weak rank of (now 4) moves to the front, then with Cronus the final slot in the front rank is filled to give a complete rank of 5 again.

So, with Poseidon, I had a good front rank of shock troops and my last ditch final line were my weakest mechs. When Caelus arrived, I simply stepped my front rank back a pace and moved the weak ones to the front on the understanding that I wasn’t going to use good mechs on a weak line. And of course, with Cronus I simply swapped my next weakest mech to the front line to complete it.

The one thing I had forgotten of course was that I hadn’t wasted any Trample shielding on my front rank Poseidon shock troops. Therefore by taking that step back with the base swap, I had laid them open to taking collateral damage and I had completely overlooked changing things around to mitigate that weakness. And of course I hadn’t bothered moving them back to the front rank when I upgraded to Cronus.

Feel free to slap me with a wet Haddock for spending too much time on my specialists.

Thankfully it was through regular testing with a clan mate that we noticed my… well, actually quite longstanding error.

As it was, the mistake was found before I had to rely on them defensively, and it has to be said, I’m far more confident in my mains than I have been in a while. I guess that’s no surprise seeing as how I had messed up right royally and been carrying a whopping big defect for ten piloting levels.

So, the results are in, and all in all we didn’t do too badly. No Wood for any of our family, and we probably had higher prizes across the board from what we had been used to recently. No complaints there.

A few observations if this is ever done again in future though.

This is on the understanding that this time around the afterthought of a second war was announced at the 11th hour, but in future knowing the dates of the all war days in advance would be of immense use when it comes to calling for your Honour Guard.

Most of us have worked out how to time it so that our HG drops on a non-combat date, so we have a chance to call for guards again before the nastiness recommences. As it was, my HG dropped at the star of a war day and I was scrabbling to up it again.

Also of note is the use of mercenaries. Now a lot of folk rely on those, and because the hostilities lasted for over 10 days, 2 sets had to be paid for, unless of course you wanted to turn up with nobody covering your back.

And to put it in actual funds terms, for a Wood winner in say, Division 7, to get a new set of HG for the back end of the war, they would have paid the scrap equivalent of the mech they had only just won… so they hardly get a prize at all. Not really fair on them, and definitely against the spirit of the handicap system that was supposed to even things up a bit for them.

If I had one actual criticism, it is not the fact that there were 2 wars back to back or the fact there was only a single raid, but it is the fact that the rules were adjusted on the fly during the course of the wars, specifically the fact that clans could unlock, move around , unregister or even register from not participating between the first and second wars.

I would have far rather had the clans locked for the whole period and the divisions re-worked without bonuses for the second war.

I’ll tell you why.

By allowing the move-arounds between wars, no advantage at all was given to the weaker clans. No specs, no track record handicaps, their opponents could adjust once again to steam roll them.

Therefore at no stage did the handicapping really come into play, it was simply adjusted around.

Which is fine because they were the rules and clans played to the rules, but that rule set detracted from the intent.

For those of you with memories that long, think back to the Mechalympix. There were points in time when unlimited events were running at exactly the same time as specialist events. You either had to sit out and cede the points for one while going for another one, or else try and split the time between both events, using a weak formation to defend your position in one while attacking in the other. Make your choice, pay the consequences.

By keeping the clan lock on between wars, clans must choose which they were going to go for beforehand; swapping around to take advantage of the handicap event or throwing your all in for the unlimited.

You don’t always get to have your cake and eat it, but this time the swap allowed the bigger well off clans to do exactly that, while the weaker clans lost out both ways.

So were these experiments a success?

Well, as with any experiment, the first try always manages to throw up unexpected results.

The concept of a handicapped division setup was good in theory, but fell down when the larger clans were able to adjust their ranks accordingly.

Having an unlimited match up? I have no issues with it at all. I see no reason why the odd one can’t be thrown back into the mix. Yes, some clans rely on their specialists, but by the same token some pilots hate specialists and have had to endure them continuously for a number of years. If they have had the good grace to play by my preferred rules for so long, I see no reason why I can’t return the favour and play by their preferred set once in a while.

Having 2 wars back to back? Again, not a bad concept, but the fact it was done on the fly detracted from it in terms of Honour Guard and the clan lock should definitely be kept in place.

I think that then the divisions would definitely see more of a mix as the larger ones have to actively decide if they will adjust for the handicap or the unlimited. By forcing that choice then at least the intent of the handicap system will be in greater play for one of the wars.

I’d certainly like to see how that plays out.

How does the old saying go?

You pay your money, you take your choice…. Seems appropriate somehow.

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