CORONA VII Wrap Up – Play by Mail Battletech

Melbourne is into week 2 of stage 4 Coronavirus lock down. This has followed on from two separate stage 3 lockdowns which has prevented the Monday Knights from holding club meetings since June.

Four Monday Knights – Lord T, Baron, Snowflake and JB11 – piloted Clint, Wolfhound, Vulcan and Javelin light Battlemechs in a “play by mail” game of Battletech umpired by me and played “virtually” over the last two weeks.

Game set up can be seen in the previous post

CORONA VII – Play by Mail Battletech

The game was brought to a successful conclusion last a Friday and there were some interesting learnings from the experiment which are worth sharing.

Firstly, I believe that it succeeded in the objective of providing some enjoyment and the opportunity to come together “virtually” over the game table.

Hex / Map based war games definitely can be played with an umpire executing player movement orders & doing all of the dice rolls

Each turn, players submitted movement & fire orders while the umpire plotted the movements on the map and videoed all of the dice rolls. Results of which were sent  back to the players.

Probably the most interesting part of the experiment (and I think entertaining) was the simultaneous movement. In traditional Battletech movement is initiative based meaning that players alternate movement – seeing where their opponent mech moves before moving their own.

Initially the Corona VII participants were concerned with the double blind movement that came with simultaneously moved mech would mean the game would go on for ever.

While there were turns with little damage being done, players were still able to set up attacks and take shots.

We played 9 turns with the simultaneous movement & while there were no crippled Mechs, most Mechs had taken significant damage to one or more critical locations.

Under the assumption that the rate or damage and pace of the game would increase with initiative, as the umpire, I reinstated Initiative Based turns. In restrospect this was a mistake. The turns that followed slowed down, there was more umpires  book keeping to be done and surprisingly there was less effective combat as a result.

As the game was a Battle Royale rather than a game between two sides – I believe the initiative based movement would have worked better if it was not every man for themselves.

The other learning which I realised at this stage was fast light Mechs combined with standard pilots were not good combinations for a quick game. Mechs were always jumping or running at max movement, making best use of concealing terrain. Very rarely was shooting at anything less than 10’s / 11’s. In retrospect – slower (& potentially non-jumping) Mechs with higher gunnery skills would have resulted in more damage for most of the turns.

After turn 12, we had the opportunity to use MS Teams to have a “live” video stream the conclusion  of this game. At this stage, Lord T  had withdrawn from the game, leaving just three players to play the last couple of turns.

A video camera was set up over the table, all moves and dice rolls were once again done by the umpire, but these were all done in real time over the live stream.

There were times where things slowed down, as the umpire had to mark up mech sheets and keeping track of multiple player Heat was a little tricky, but over all using MS Team worked for playing Battletech.

After an hour & half game play (and an incredible Death From Above move by Snowflake) we lost our first mech and within 4 turns the game was resolved, with JB11’s Javelin coring the Baron’s Wolfhound. (It should be noted that the Javelin only had 1 point of internal centre torso left at this stage too)

All in all – some good fun, some lessons learned and something to think about for the next play by mail game.

Picture of General POTUS

General POTUS

Monday Knights founding member, known for occasionally losing his pants

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The Monday Knights are a gaming group based in Melbourne Australia.  We are happy to play just about any game at any time.

We meet every Monday night at the Auburn Bowls club in Hawthorn East, Victoria, from 6pm onwards.

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