Sunday 8 March 2009

Ce n’est pas magnifique, mais c’est la guerre

The gates of the Inevitable City have been breached.

Before patch 1.2, the RvR campaign on Burlok was more or less at stalemate. Zones would sometimes flip, typically the Elf zones going back and forth, but the final push, to go from the last zone to a fortress, rarely succeeded. Either dedicated defenders would take a stand, or carefully orchestrated avoidance would deny the final few vital points needed to take the zone.

On the rare occasions one side would get to a fortress, killing the Lord was all but impossible. I’m only aware of a single successful attempt, when I believe a bug prevented Destruction players directly reinforcing the fortress, and a server crash halted the attempt on a second fortress that might have lead to the Inevitable City. The Infamous Tank Wall of Doom takes a heck of a beating, especially when backed up with a fortress lord and The Chaos Gods of Lag.

Patch 1.2 changed the zone control system so that holding the objectives and keeps in a zone for two hours is enough to take it, no faffing around with scenarios or public quests needed. It’s not exactly a Sun Tzu-esque leap from seeing that to working out that an alarm clock raid is possible, starting an attack very late at night or very early in the morning to ensure minimal defence. Some Order guilds got together and decided, 5am on Saturday, we’d make an attack. I wasn’t planning to join in from the start, Saturday mornings are usually time for a lie-in. As it turned out, I was having a weird dream, I think I was a substitute in some big rugby match, got called to go on the pitch, but I had to pull my jersey on, only the sleeves were incredibly long, and there weren’t any holes in the end, and I was madly flailing around, and… woke up. At 5am. I think my subconscious must’ve had plans… Seeing I was awake, I staggered downstairs, made coffee, and logged in to find 40-50 Order players hanging around Black Crag, with about half an hour on the Keep timers until we took control of the zone. It locked without incident, we took the fortress without too much trouble, and we carried on to Caledor for a repeat performance. A couple of Destruction players had noticed what was going on but not enough for a tank wall, not even a tank speed bump, the second fortress fell, and the gates of the Inevitable City beckoned! We had enough to get three instances of the City going (maximum of 48 per instance), and started on a public quest in there: a fair amount of preamble in Phase I, killing defenders, starting fires and holding a couple of control points, then in Phase II a Lord spawned, accompanied by four Heroes. In one instance it sounded like a couple of organised warbands were getting on with it. In a second, the few Destruction defenders had gathered, and though they couldn’t stop the us completing the first phase a couple of times the Lord and Heroes were more than enough of a handful, let alone with other players joining in, and their numbers were steadily growing until they reached parity, and started completing the first public quest stage themselves. At that point a few of us switched to the third instance, where there were no defenders, but less than a single warband of attackers, and though completing the first public quest stage was no problem, the Lord and Heroes were too much again for our smaller numbers, without well-warded tanks. Frustratingly we seemed to just about have the hang of the encounter (with a slow trickle of reinforcements helping) when the timer ticked down on our last attempt, and the attack petered out before we could get sacking the city properly.

The attack certainly shook things up. Firstly on the Warhammer Alliance forums, where, unsurprisingly, a full and frank exchange of views commenced. Alarm clock raids are a bit of a contentious issue, plenty of people on both sides feeling they’re not particularly honourable (fair enough), that they’re not in the spirit of the game (more debatable), and that anyone who takes part is worse than Hitler (as, by page 2, the thread plummeted past reasonable debate into usual forum territory). Actually I’m not sure Godwin’s Law actually kicked in, but someone really, genuinely invoked the war in Iraq. More relevant in the game itself, Destruction struck back, and were within minutes of flipping Reikland and attacking the Empire fortress when the server crashed, though I believe they managed a second attempt when it came back up.

Personally I’m not particularly proud of the attack, but unless something changes in fortresses I reckon it’s the only way either side will see a capital city, and if it’s shaken the campaign up slightly so much the better. It’s not magnificent, but it’s WAR.

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