Happy New Year, everyone! I got to lead into 2017 with a wonderful, War Robot-related surprise. I’d posted a rework of the classic A Visit from St. Nicholas (the classic poem that begins, “Twas the night before Christmas…”) on the War Robots forum, about buying my 6-year-old son Liam a Gepard as a holiday surprise.
When Pixonic hosted their last “developer stream” for 2016, they challenged folks to post a bit of holiday cheer, with the promise of a week of premium and a packet of Snowflakes to the unspecified number of winners. So I entered the poem, and was delighted to get a message from “Anna at Pixonic” the next morning letting me know I’d won!
I ended up using the 250 Snowflakes on the ol’ roulette wheel, one at a time over the course of the day to be a real treat. And what did I win? Ehh, nothing much. But that’s not the point. You don’t open a present under the tree and grouse at the person who gave it to you. If you’re bold enough to brave the social media communities around War Robots, particularly Facebook, you can’t throw a snowball without hitting a wall of outrage and entitlement over the holiday event.
Scrooges abound, which only makes sense. After all, if Scrooges were rare then stories about them wouldn’t have the same cultural traction they do. And in that same spirit of giving, I’ve got some more Battle Stories to offer up, a little earlier than usual. My general aim is once a week for my two feature post series (the anecdotal Battle Stories, and the statistical analysis By the Numbers), but things have been happening for me at a rapid pace, and I find myself at something of a crossroads.
Earlier this week, I finished my end-of-year bookkeeping. That’s that thing us aspiring adults tend to do to track where we’ve spent out money. You know, after it’s already left the wallet.
After a busy holiday season, we came in under budget. This year was a year of giving games, since my writing for Gathering Magic gives me store credit at CoolStuffInc.com.
I got my wife a couple new T.I.M.E. Stories expansions, Robinson Crusoe, and Pandemic Legacy. If in reading that list you note that her speciality is cooperative games, I tip my hat to a fellow board gamer.
My son Liam got Castle Panic and Forbidden Island.
And for coming in under budget after the grueling bookkeeping, I treated myself to 1,200 Au. That gave me the last 100 I needed to buy a Gareth, and pocket the rest for whatever catches my eye next. I’ve been interested in the Gareth as I have been in all Light bots, but my appetite was particularly whetted when watching an amazing series of videos from Wiki Forum contributor acethunder. I’m not much of a video watcher, but his series on how to think on the battlefield have actually taught me how to better play the game. Situational awareness. Reading what the battlefield tells you, what your enemies tell you. Positional play. They are top notch.
In my last piece, I noted how I’d found myself bumped up from High Bronze to Low Silver. This was surely a matchmaking tweak, since I’ve been happy to camp out in High Bronze and don’t routinely upgrade my bots or weapons. This has prompted some reflection about how I enjoy the game, and what I want to get out of it in the near-to-longer term.
I’ve really enjoyed Bronze Tier play. All those Light bots, the quickness and agility of play, the nimbleness of the battlefield and the lack of dedicated camping-style play. Sure you also get the occasional clubbers to deal with, but overall Bronze has a very distinctive style. But as I mentioned in the beginning, for the sake of my regular columns here on the Diary, I try not to make a lot of radical changes midweek. If War Robots wanted to put me in Silver Tier, then I’d tough it out for a little while instead of dropping back. If nothing else, I’d get some solid data for the next By the Numbers article.
That was until a fateful match that unfolded in Shenzhen.
I led off with the Taran Cossack, and capped the first beacon straightaway. My strategy in this situation is always to head to the corner where I can snipe at the Red players going for their own beacon from relative safety. This time, however, I saw a fellow Taran Cossack merrily hopping his way down the corridor. I tucked behind the corner and lit him up. He returned fire, nipped inside the main quad and came up over the buildings. He took a few hits from the team, and the Taran Cossack duel ended quite quickly as I dispatched him at only the cost of about 20% health.
From there I headed down the alley towards their beacon and flipped it white. It turned a beautiful blue as another, larger bot lumbered past, blasting some of the enemy who were firing on us from further down. I veered into the quad to finish off a wounded foe, then came back and fell in behind my new friend. He and another bot ran at one another, drenching each other with fire. My friend popped first, but the enemy was heavily damaged. I got him the rest of the way, then kept on going around the back before getting killed by the foe.
I respawned into my Gareth, which ran out onto the quad and managed to score me another two kills on wounded foes- one a towering Natasha. Being an effective Light player amongst Mediums and Heavies takes no small amount of opportunism, and I have no problem feasting on scraps. But the quad was packed with enemies, and I got caught in a crossfire. I bolted for safety, shield up, but didn’t make it far.
My third bot was the “Death Button” Golem. I headed East, skirting the quad, and while in cover behind a building saw an enemy player mid-jump, landing just in front of me. Excited at the prospect of an easy meal, I rounded the corner, and learned the hard way that not everything that jumps is a Cossack. I recovered from my surprise quickly enough to burn down the injured Griffin, but sustained a fair bit of damage in doing so. I retreated back to the spawn area, then moved up the enemy’s flank. At the far corner, I got into a firefight with two of them. One was heavily injured from my ambush salvo, and I had to take some fire to finish him off. It ended up being a one-for-one trade, as the other enemy burned me down as I tried to disengage.
Next up, the Pinata Gepard. This time I went up the far channel, popping into the quad for an ambush before disappearing from sight to reload. I dished out a lot of damage this way, but not a lot of kills. Coming up on the far front of the enemy, with two slower bots in pursuit, I had the option to try and flip their beacon. We were decently ahead, however, and the Griffin in concealment with his full attention on the center beacon was too tempting a target to resist. I unloaded into his back, heavily injuring him, but some of his nearby friends made sure my ticket was one-way.
I respawned into my final bot, another Pinata Gepard, but the match was done. We’de carried the day.
The match was one of the most exhilarating ones I’d ever played. I didn’t top the damage list, or even the beacons list. I was a contributor, but this was far short of the sort of dominating performance I’d come to expect in Bronze.
The more I reflected on this match, the more the weaknesses in my game became apparent. I’d been enjoying Bronze– but I’d also become complacent. Running forward to “bully” enemies might work amongst the less-skilled, but against more experienced foes it was just as often asking to get focus fired on.
To excel here, I’d need to start on the path of learning all over again. To repeat the arduous journey of excellence through trial and error, reflection and implementation.
In short, I’ve been coasting instead of pushing myself.
I’d initially thought I’d move myself back into Bronze. But right now, I am where I need to be.
Shortly after playing one of the best games of War Robots I’d ever experienced, I also played the absolute worst.
I got dropped into Shenzhen, in a game that was already in progress. I imagine the previous pilot saw the writing on the wall and bounced out of there as quickly as they could, which opened the door for me to get yanked in.
I don’t usually mind games in progress. They give me a chance to see which beacon is currently needing to be grabbed, instead of trying to have to figure out who’s going where. This time, however, I came down in a killing field.
A full clan squad of Magnum and Aphid Gepards was reaping the hell out of the spawn point already. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the ruthlessness of the blitzkrieg, even as I found their actions disappointing. This wasn’t a game of War Robots in any meaningful sense of the word. This was a complete waste of time for every Blue player there, pissing away a couple minutes of their time so another guild could be a few coins heavier in their purses.
Again this is extremely rare- I’ve played over 500 games now, and this is the first time I’ve encountered a game that went this badly. And while this clan clearly had their act together, I’m finding MagGeps aren’t as dominant a force in Silver as they were in Bronze.
Another welcome change!
So it looks like I’ll be in Silver to stay. The allure of the challenge is just too great to pass up, so I’ll be looking next for guidance on how to best develop my hangar. They’re still configured for the High Bronze I was enjoying for so long, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.
Not yet, anyway!