Boot Camp Report: Shamasai Simulations
By Tim Bancroft
+++++ IMTel Alert: Combined Command Shard Confidential +++++
The IMTel has determined that the existence of systems containing hostile nanospore are dire threats to its existence. An research and training program is indicated to learn how to handle such hostile situations and develop more effective tactics.
Combined Command recruits are invited to immerse themselves within a virtual environment and take on the roles of many of those elements who continue to deny themselves the benefits of harmonious Concord integration.
+++++ End Alert +++++
The Shamasai Simulations was a Gate of Antares Boot Camp, a day of gaming deliberately focused either for complete novices or for players new to Antares. It was held at the Nicolson Centre in Amesbury, the home of the Boscombe Down & Amesbury Wargames Club with whom it was organised and who leant the use of the facilities and tables for the day.
And, of course, this was run under the auspices of the Gate Builder program. Warlord and Andy Hobday were extremely generous, providing us with sprues, dice or faction-specific items for participant goodie bags. Into these bags went some asymmetric Mission and Deployment cards for the day, as well as a cardstock printed quick reference (already available on the IMTel Facebook page). Unfortunately, owing to a mix up (Steve apologises) the handout from Sarissa Precision has had to be sent in the post!
Lea Davidson kindly loaned out his Concord to one attendee, and I loaned out several of my armies, dice and squads to new players so they could join in. It was useful having fellow Gate Builder Aston Howes turn up with the Plymouth crew as he – and they – helped the new players sort out figures.
Two, multi-player starter games were run under the able supervision of Boot Camp guides Lea Davidson and Adam Murton. These games were multi-player versions of the Rogue Drones mission from the core rulebook, but used a subset of the rules roughly in line with that in Strike on Kar’a Nine, scenario 4. This game introduced new players as well as let other players reacquaint themselves with the rules in a new setting.
Rules & Lists
It’s worth noting that we were also trying to acquaint new players with some rule and list changes that were about to come out. As a result, some simple amendments were made based on the latest released lists. This meant that not only were tectorists treated as sharded probes but the points cost for NuHu meant one 500 point army even fielded a Mandarin!
Though we had some limitations on support weapons, we also ran with a possible approach to Net ammo as a playtest. Whilst some players came with the intention of trying out non-Net ammo in a ‘sandbox’, the simple limitation to Net (max pins) seemed to encourage all sorts of other X-Launcher ammo types. We saw Grip, Scoot, Arc and Blur all being discussed and used, this sort of discussion and mutual help being the order of the day! [Since added to the Rule amendments.]
Overall, the new Net approach was seen in an incredibly positive light, some players seeing the logic immediately, and one even saying that it ‘just makes a difference in which order you attack a unit’. Ghar, however, were still very afraid of anyone with Net…
Asymmetric missions and deployment
Subsequent games were at 500 or 750 points a side. Rather than run with fixed objective games, these featured an asymmetric mission system where the objectives on each side could be radically different. Drawing from a single set of cards, each player had a hidden mission which may have meant they had to seize a number of objectives or control table sectors, prevent the enemy from doing so, or even escape off their opponent’s edge.
The type of deployment was also mixed, including a baseline deployment, a staged, multi-turn deployment, a drop and flank deployment. Any of these could have helped or hindered a player, and any could have helped or hindered an opponent’s mission.
Whilst the amount of explanatory space on each card was limited, so some had to be explained, these went down well with players enjoying having to guess what their opponent was intending to do.
Whilst we’d allowed 2-2½ hours for each game, with a potential for more on the last one, we ran out of time. Primarily, this was because of the atmosphere of help, discussion and interaction that was the theme of the event, the newcomers in particular finding such an approach incredibly useful.
For the last game, a number of players really liked the idea of trying out 2*750-point a side games (1500 points, allies). Unfortunately, time ran out for such large games leaving us all to consider running separate dice bags for each half of the game or each pair in such games.
However, the point was to try these things out and let each player determine what they liked or wanted to do, and multiple bags were merely part of the options available. We also provided for deep tables, 5’ across, in case anyone wished to try them in a situation where solid advice and help was on hand.
That said, there was one table which particularly caught my eye, a one-on-one between Ross Aylward and Thomas Surey-Gent. The Shamasai terrain was set off to great advantage by the mats on which it was placed and Ross’s Algoryn vs. Thomas’s Isorians looked beautiful.
The main lesson was time. Many games could not be fully completed in time, despite their small size, though most were played to a narrative end point. Whilst game speed improves with experience, it’s certainly something to consider for future Boot Camps if we want to keep the same friendly and helpful, Boot Camp atmosphere.
There were some successes to keep in mind for next time. Unsurprisingly, with some good looking terrain and scatter, the tables looked quite different and were really admired by all. The variability of the Missions and Deployment were appreciated and, finally, the experimental Net and tectorist rules, as well as points adjustments really helped (the new points, rules and lists are available at Rules Central).
For me, the most useful object of the day was the mini-rulebook from Kar’A Nine. It was great being able to show players the actual place in the rulebook where they could find the relevant rules without lugging around the big, main rules from table to table.
We didn’t want to put pressure on any gamer, so there was no Faction prize or ‘winning army’ prize, but we did have a prize for the most disastrous or memorable moment. There were several to choose from: a lone Ghar slave master facing down hordes of opponents in one of the starting games; Algoryn AI bravely wiping out a troop of lavamites before the lavamites could even close; and a troop of pitiful Ghar Outcasts who managed to run the length of the table and come within 2” of escaping before they were gunned down to an Outcast by the feared AI.
In keeping with the theme, there was one factor the IMTel reported on: the success rating of each faction. This was a weighted average based on how well each faction succeeded in achieving their missions compared with their opponents (‘failed’ was considered too dispiriting a word for the IMTel to use). The results, in true IMTel fashion, were weighted by the number of ‘simulations’ (games) in which each faction took part – a bit of fun that produced the following:
* The IMTel warns that there is substantial reasons to assume that the numbers involved make these results insufficiently robust!
Is it too much to wonder that the Isorian Shard was seen as half as effective by the Concord Shard’s own IMTel? It seems that more simulations need to be run…