General War Robots

Long-Distance Relationships

Many players don't love the wide spaces of Springfield. Today, I've found some reasons to.

Back in 1982, the Australian Richard Lewis Springthorpe won a Grammy Award for a nice bit of pop fluff called Jessie’s Girl. The song has remained with me because when I first met my wife over a decade ago, she was dating a fellow named Jessie and, suffice it to say, I Had a fair bit more luck than the narrator in Mr. Springthorpe’s song.

Consequently, it’s hard to get the song out of my head sometimes when I find myself in the map that shares a name with Mr. Springthorpe’s nom de guerre: Springfield. Lord knows I can use the diversion, because the vast expanses of territory on that particular map have helped cement it in a recent Wiki Forum poll as the least-favorite battleground, a commanding 52% at time of writing.

Springfield is large, with multiple spawn points and beacons that feel far away even when you happen to spawn close to them. I always open any game with a Cossack for the early beacons, and even with that unit’s increased speed the early stages of the game can be a matter of tedium- especially the Northwest beacon when you spawn in one of the Northeast (“Farm”) area’s two spawn points.

To make matters worse, most players are averse to even making the effort in slower mechs, so more often than not that’s me hop-hop-hopping my way across the top of the map. The things we do for duty.

The last couple of evening’s I’ve put some time in on War Robots, I’ve gotten loads of Springfield maps, at one point materializing in five of them in a row. And as the line from Jessie’s Girl goes, lately somethings changed that ain’t hard to define. In particular, with two experiences today.

The first saw our squad of randos assemble in the Southwest, while the enemy appeared in one of the Farm areas. I spawned towards the right, which ordinarily would better position me to go after the South-Central beacon, but in the absence of communication everyone swarmed that way leaving the Northwest beacon ignored. That was my cue to shift gears and capture it, but the slight delay gave the enemy the chance to put in some early ground as they made their way to the same place.

Map courtesy of the War Robots Wiki, bad tactical art courtesy of Microsoft Paint

It has to be said, one of my favorite things to do as of late is to dogfight with the Cossack. My Cossack is Orkan-equipped, which not only makes for a nice bit of burst damage, but also keeps a slow but steady drip of it going after the initial payload is expended. The Cossack’s speed and mobility, along with its ability to jump makes it a great unit to solo an enemy in. Whenever I see another lone unit racing me towards a beacon, I’m delighted at the opportunity to pick up a beacon and a kill.

This time, however, there were two. One a Cossack, the other I’m honestly not even sure about at this point. Well, I thought, I’ll pip them to the beacon, cap it, then defend as long as I can and hope to tie up a third of the enemy’s force out in the middle of nowhere.

The enemy Cossack arrived first. I tried to keep it between me and the trailing enemy as best I could, to act as a screen, but stayed jumping every time I touched down. The enemy Cossack pilot was somewhat less skilled at piloting their rig than I was, and didn’t seem to properly appreciate the value of mobility. It swallowed a stream of Orkan missiles, and was at half health. Meanwhile, I was taking fire from it’s firearm, and some shots from the trailing ‘bot were connecting as well. Could I finish off the Cossack in time?

The Cossack pilot appeared to panic as his life ebbed away, looking to flee into the structure that housed the beacon. That gave me a brief respite from his friend, and I managed to knife-fight the Cossack to death. Sweet victory! I sheltered in place until my Orkan had reloaded, then went and killed his wingman, too.

Times like this I wish I recorded my matches, because I’m still not certain how I pulled it off. But don’t underestimate just how difficult it can be to get a bead on a wily Cossack who has lots of room to maneuver. Close quarters may offer cover, but I’ve often found that I just run out of space to jump when trying to knife-fight with the Cossack, and have died a number of times when I sought to jump to safety- and instead jumped back into a wall.

The second incident occurred a couple matches later.

One thing I’m often mindful of is the overlap between myself and new players. I’ve only been playing for two weeks, but I have 180 wins under my belt. There’s a gulf in ability between me and new players, and nobody wants to be “that guy” clubbing their way to self-importance. Often I’ll spot-check a couple players at the end of the match to see what they were running, and it’s typically the case that their array tells me they have some idea what they’re doing.

I think this evening, however, I had my first-ever mentee. Springfield again, same spawn point. I spawned mid-pack, and opened by turning left and heading towards the Northwest beacon. A second Cossack had spawned on the left of the pack, though, and had already started heading towards it.

Great, I thought, someone who knows what they’re doing! I changed course, heading for the center beacon, and had to eat my words as I noticed that Cossack had also veered off, and was following me. C’mon, dummy, what are you doing? At this point I was committed, and capped the center after a brief firefight. At this point I noticed that many of the enemy had migrated South, towards city, leaving their rear undefended, so I headed for Farm.

Sure enough, right behind me was the shadowing Cossack. Farm was another fight, not only against the one enemy that seemed to be guarding it, but also because two of their number dropped back from East City to try and intercept when it became clear what we were doing. With the help of the team, however, we rolled them aside, then my new buddy followed me towards the Red beacon in East City.

All our capping had paid off- by now, four of the beacons were Blue, and the enemy was reduced to three players. I capped East City, and at 5:27 the game was won.

Me and my shadow

In the end, my trainee finished with as many kills as I did (1), about one-fifth the damage output (21k versus 98k), and one less beacon. I walked away with ten gold jangling in the pocket.

Springfield’s still going to be a bit of a hassle because of its size, but the longer I play the less I’m finding myself worrying about my individual performance game to game. My numbers seem respectable and I’m happy with them. Rather, I’m starting to enjoy the odd experiences that come my way, such as being able to be an effective contributor to the team’s success without ever having left the Cossack. Yes, I’ve got some more serious hardware- the MagGep, the Zeus Schutze- but there is so much nuance in playing this game that I’m just proficient enough to begin to see it. The Cossack brings a lot to the table that doesn’t show up in your stats.

Springfield’s been giving me a lot of chances to discover that.

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