Let’s go to the meta level of gaming.
In Tactics 101 I discussed what is taught in every military academy. In Tactics 201 I discussed practical applications for the tabletop. Now we will discuss how theory applies to wargames on the meta level, or “the game above the game.”
Let loose the MOOSEMUSS
MOOSEMUSS (discussed in Tactics 101) is a meta for battlefield tactics. Adherence to those principles get the right assets into the proper position at the right time to maximize chances for battlefield victory. As such, it is useless as a meta for tabletop wargaming.
Wargames have a point system to balance the forces between players to make the chances of winning for both sides as equal as possible, subject to the skill of the players developing their list, deploying/maneuvering it and the luck of the dice rolls.
The “S” word
When Patton faced Rommel and Halsey faced Yamamoto on the battlefields of WWII, each man tried to destroy his opponent. Not just the forces under the other commander, but them personally. When I show up for a battle with Tony, or Robert, or anybody else, my objective is to sweep the table of their forces. But I want them while they’re putting their forces away to feel good about our shared experience on that battlefield. To put it in a single word, Sportsmanship. It is a fine line from getting inside my opponent’s head so I know what he’s doing before he does so I can interrupt his offensive plans, to so thoroughly destroying my friends’ army to the point I’ve demoralized my friend to the point where he doesn’t want to play me again.
This is the main reason why beardy, cheese and min/max lists are so despised and eschewed by good gamers. Those lists will obliterate any list not likewise beardy/cheesy or designed to specifically destroy that list and does so with so seemingly little effort that it demoralizes the other player and destroys any concept of sportsmanship necessary to a healthy gaming community.
The biggest meta point I want you to know is the Sun Tzu’s maxim on applying your strength to your opponents’ weakness. This is why I have stressed Sun Tzu’s adage about “know yourself and your enemy” for all of my Tactics articles. The end result is to apply our paper to his rock, our rock to his scissors.
But how do you apply strength to weakness? Consider this scenario: You have been selected to perform in a triathlon. The events are Boxing, Gymnastics and Political Debate. Your opponents are Mike Tyson, Gabby Douglas and Ben Shapiro.
Now, if you are used to attrition style fighting, you would box Mike, face Gabby on the floor and debate Ben. This would be a strength to strength match up, grinding away at the enemy, and hopefully you would force your enemy to run out of forces before you did. Not a very efficient way of doing things, nor does it offer a high probability of winning any of those matches.
But what if you could pick which opponent for which event? This is the concept of applying your strength to their weakness. In this case, you would box Gabby, meet Ben on the gymnastics floor and debate Mike. This would greatly improve your chances of winning all three events because you are meeting your opponents at their weakest point.
The best way to do this is know the strengths and weakness of each unit type. Brawlers chew up missile boats while in base combat. Missile boats chew up brawlers at range and so on.
Preppers who know what they’re doing have a well-stocked “go bag” that they can throw (or already keep) in the car and evacuate the area with only seconds of warning. That bag nominally has everything they need to handle most situations they might encounter for several days. I highly suggest you have a “battle bag.”
I always try to schedule a battle a week or so out. This give me time to properly generate a list and triple-check my P.A.C.K. 720 to make sure it has every accoutrement to enhance my gaming experience and clear the action with Fleet Command. It’s always packed with everything, including several different lists so if an out-of-town friend unexpectedly knocks on my door and says, “Wanna Battletech?” I can grab it and go just that quick and both of us can play a company-sized battle out of my battle bag.
Having time to prepare and think through list composition allows double checking. One time I was reteaching a friend Battletech. We agreed on 15,000 points, he showed up (accidentally) with 24,500 points because he buffed pilots but didn’t know how to properly refigure the point values for them.
Know the rules, but don’t be a rules lawyer
Know the rules inside and out. Not just the base rules, but the most common optional rules as well. You don’t have to know them word for word, but at least what they mean and what book and section to make sure you got it right. You will never know when someone starts using a semi-obscure rule and “mis-interprets” the rule to their advantage. At that point, you need to know they’re wrong and call them out on it
The Tournament Circuit
If your game has an organized tournament circuit, these tips will be very helpful:
- Know the scenarios. Any organized tournament circuit will have a static pool of scenarios. If you can, get hold of them and adjust your army to best fit them. Each scenario has different objectives and/or victory conditions. They may be capturing table quarters, taking and holding objectives, or just killing more of them than they kill of you. Know these and never forget them. I have won games because the other player was not focused on the objectives while I was. He “beat me” by killing most of my army, but at the end I held the objectives and he didn’t. He snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory.
- Practice the scenarios. If you can get hold of the scenario pool early, play them with your local group so you can work out changes to your list and how to handle different armies.
- At any tournament you attend, verify what, if any optional rules are in play. Ask, as far ahead as possible, so you are familiar with these rules and be able to use them to your maximum advantage.
- Work your side pool. Some tournament circuits require you to use a single army list for all scenarios, others allow you to have a pool of units and draw from those to fine-tune your forces for each scenario.
This is the end. In the 5,900+ words over these articles I have communicated to you all I know about fighting and winning battles on the tabletop. I hope they will help you in your future battles.