Total War: Warhammer – We Interrupt This Campaign…

…to practice a very important skill. Attempting to not suck.

Before we get down proper into a discussion of how badly I’m playing this game, a quick digression.

This is particularly important in the wake of the impending slightly late but always welcome Newbie Blogger’s Initiative that is being organized / celebrated in June this year.

Y’see, I’ve seen posts popping around the blogosphere along the lines of “oh, I’m just a beginner, or a newbie, or an ultra-casual that just happens to accidentally play a game or like a geeky hobby for a couple hours every week, not some fantastic nerd/geek/pro/expert/e-Sports celebrity… therefore, I am totally not qualified to comment, talk about, write about and certainly NOT blog about X. Or Y.”

In between being intimidated that some self-declared expert will jump down their throats for not doing something “correctly” or in a sufficiently hardcore manner, and feeling like they have nothing “worthwhile” to contribute, blog posts fail to get written and a valuable voice drifts off into silence.

Bah, I say.

Bah, to that.

I will happily WALLOW in my noobness and talk about it.

Some people will find it fascinating, seeing something they’re familiar with from a beginner’s perspective.

Some people will enjoy helping and teaching the beginner, offering helpful comments that will speed the learning along. (eg. Portable Tank in Minecraft’s Thermal Expansion mod – had no idea that you could save the liquid inside it with a crescent hammer. Well, now I know.)

Still other people will appreciate learning along with the post, cos they’re beginners too. And they’ve been searching high and low for a post that hasn’t been written in jargon-filled gobbledygook that they can actually understand.

All these people will like the newbie’s perspective post.

(As for everyone else, well, they won’t make it to the end anyway, so they’ll self-select themselves right out and you’ll never hear from them.

In the extremely unlikely event that they are -that- dedicated to actually put in the effort to make a nasty comment, well, the blog owner is the absolute authority as to what shows up, and clicking the trash can icon is a lot less effort than typing words.

Trust me, you’d probably be happy that someone took the trouble to read what you wrote and felt sufficiently moved -positively or negatively- to respond.)

Ultimately, the more voices, the better the conversation.

Ok, so that’s my “being a newbie is totally okay / come join us” spiel done.

Now I can share why my first Total War: Warhammer Greenskin campaign feels like it’s about ready to grind itself to a halt.

20160525224607_1.jpg

This was the state of the political situation some tens of turns back.

Having gotten into some trouble rather quickly on an initial aborted campaign (internecine civil war between orcs, and a whole bunch of dwarves trooping down to swallow my one or two settlements,) I’d paid significantly more attention to managing faction relationships in this official “first” campaign.

Karak Azul was an odd case of a dwarf faction who appeared to feel threatened by way too many orcs around, and arranged a non-aggression pact really early on in the game (like a couple of turns in.)

Since I was way too busy warring elsewhere, I said “sure!” and both sides respected the peace ever since – the NPC dwarf faction had a “reliable” trait, and I guess I’m an honorable kind of orc.

Fortunately or unfortunately since, they’ve been eaten up by the Top Knotz.

Man, the Top Knotz. They’re a Savage Orc faction. They are -extremely- aggressive. And have a trait to match.

They are also, oddly enough, given the traits of Underdog (meaning they don’t seek to be ultimate ruler and would like to confederate up with a stronger party) and Unreliable (presumably meaning they’re not that great at honoring agreements.)

We agreed to non-aggress each other really early on too.

Somehow, this developed into rather friendly relations, presumably because they approved of my going gung-ho on the initial Greenskin rival of Red Fangs and then going after nearly every dwarven stuntie north of me.

In the meantime, they were busily swallowing up every other Greenskin faction there was and taking over pretty much all of the Badlands territory. They were pretty durned scary and intimidating in overall faction strength, staying at ranks 1-3 for quite a long time.

The good news was, they weren’t attacking me. They liked me. And I wasn’t about to do anything to change their opinion of me any time soon…

…so somehow, over time, we went from non-aggression, to a defensive alliance, and to a military alliance.

This is all very well, but I’m a little grumpy now, because I apparently can’t confederate them the same way I can all other Greenskin tribes. AND they actually need to be wiped out, to fulfill my victory conditions, short or long.

And, narrative-wise and strategically, it doesn’t make any sense to attack them. We’re both orcs. We’re really friendly with each other, just slightly different culturally. (They like being nekkid. We like lots o’ spiky armor.)

We present a really strong united orcy front that has been giving the humans and dwarves no end of trouble.

They’re also a fantastic buffer for angry humans crossing the river in reprisal for orc raids, whereupon the humans are utterly demolished and presumably eaten by a thousand screaming naked green orcs.

Up on the north side of things, the one remaining non-me Greenskin tribe were the Bloody Spearz.

In a similar fashion of non-aggression developing into long-term super-friendly relations, I’d cultivated them as my northern buffer zone to protect against angry dwarf incursions (plus I knew that Chaos would eventually come in from that direction too.)

I’d consolidated a small and not-terribly sufficient couple of territories, and was venturing westward into human lands to raid and juust but not quite barely make up for the lack of infrastructure.

20160525211444_1.jpg

Most unfortunately, these scary bastards finally arrived around turn 100 or so.

As expected, they ran around doing horrible things to much of Empire territory, ventured a little into Vampire Count-controlled Sylvania, then started ganking both dwarves and Bloody Spearz alike opportunistically, while the dwarves and Bloody Spearz and me were still kinda busy up there ourselves trading dwarven holdfasts between each other.

One Norse tribe (allied with Chaos) also pushed in from the southwest, taking over two of the Top Knotz settlements.

In a slight panic, I tried to rush my Waarghs down south to help them out (we’re military allies, after all), fearing an unfettered Chaos horde rampaging around the Badlands and then coming up to smash my soft, unprotected southern region.

I discovered a couple of things.

One, that goddamn map is huge when you’re trying to move from north to south in a hurry (and I wasn’t even that far north, only around Peak Pass or so).

Two, orcs that aren’t fighting get kinda unhappy. Especially when you tell them they’re not allowed to go raiding because a) they’re in home territory and b) they’re in allied territory.

Three, you don’t get enough money coming in when unhappy orcs are not raidin’ and fightin’ and sackin’ and pillagin’.

5-7 turns later, I was barely hanging on, with a few hundred gold in my treasury and about to go bankrupt next turn; my two orc armies were in danger of losing their attendant extra Waargh army from lack of fightiness rating; the dwarves that I’d abandoned killing to try and respond to a Norse incursion were taking back their territory (reducing my meagre income even further)…

… and to add salt to the wound, the Top Knotz -wiped out- the Norse tribe by themselves before I had even reached the settlement in question.

As in, wiped out. Really. The faction notice came up. I-forget-what-it-was-called Norse faction is no more.

I was like, “Really? Me orcs don’t have anything to fight now?! They’re about to go into rebellion if I don’t get more gold, stat!”

In a desperate maneuver to stave off next turn bankruptcy, I pulled up the Diplomacy screen and sought out the Bloody Spearz.

I asked them to confederate.

They agreed.

They were a weaker faction than me, and they handed me some really chewed on settlements up north, in imminent danger of getting swallowed by dwarves or razed by Chaos.

Fortunately, that sudden expansion of territory to extort money from shifted me up from negative income into positive income.

To solve the crumbling fightiness, I took my two Orc armies across the river into long-suffering Border Prince territory, where we leapfrog raided and looted our way back up north to deliver the final solution to those damnable dwarves once and for all.

20160529185750_1

But now, the world map looks like this.

Chaos is Ascendant.

It is way WAY Ascendant.

That crazy bird has been destroying all of the Empire and leaving a swathe of utterly useless razed settlements behind it.

See, the problem is that -I- need to raze or sack quite a number of different settlements for MY win condition.

If Chaos gets there first, I can’t do anything with it.

Also, my win condition necessitates getting rid of the Top Knotz and I just can’t do it.

Seriously, it doesn’t make sense. Chaos is fucking up everything north of me, and I turn south and try and eat up my fellow orcs? Isn’t that what Chaos -wants-?

South is out.

So I’ve got to go north and maybe west into human and dwarf and maybe even vampire territory (except that me and the vampires have been having a mutually happy ignoring-each-other non-agreement since the beginning of time, and I’m kinda scared of changing that state of affairs. I don’t know what a vampire army fights like, for one.)

20160528001820_1.jpg

Except that Chaos is also messing around that very area, and I gotta admit it – I, the player, not the funsie orc that I’m pretending to be, am seriously outmatched and intimidated by a high tech level Chaos full army stack of 20 units. (And there’s two or three of them up there.)

20160526223457_1.jpg

I mean, look, this was a teeny tiny raiding party on a not very garrisoned settlement of mine (accidentally obtained via Bloody Spearz confederation and promptly lost.)

I can’t auto-resolve my way out of this.

Chaos doesn’t bother leaving the settlement there for take-backsies. They just burn the fucker to the ground and leave it in ruins.

20160527231920_1.jpg

My one not-absolute-colossal-defeat was this rather insane battle wherein my garrison stood no chance, but it was furiously snowing and I ran into some forests.

Then I ran out again, and miracle of miracles, the AI did not follow but remained glitched in place. Presumably lousy pathfinding or something.

I dunno. My story, and I’m sticking to it, is that my brave garrison of outmatched orcs lost them in the forests, wherein Chaos spent the next hour searching for but failing to kill them in the poor visibility of the snowstorm.

20160527233218_1.jpg

Turns out, that if you go AFK and fast forward through the default “one hour” timer, your hopelessly outclassed army qualifies for a draw.

Sadly, the Chaos bastards attacked me again the very next round, and I lost the will to live and accepted the auto-resolve. My settlement and my brave orcs proceeded on into a state of nonexistence.

These were just raiding parties.

Archaeon the fucking Ever-Chosen and some goddamn Tzeentch-bird-sorcerer-thing is tromping around up there.

I completely do not know how to deal with it right now.

I understand about 25% of the battle controls at the moment, for crying out loud.

So that’s where I am. Easy difficulty campaign stalemated by an unfamiliar control scheme.

Luckily, I have discovered something equally fun and manageable that can be played in almost Overwatch-sized snippets of time.

20160529185528_1.jpg

Total War: Warhammer allows you to set up your own custom battles, be it with or against real people or computer-controlled opponents.

You can set a custom amount of funds, and then pick your own units from an army roster, almost like building a Warhammer miniatures army from an agreed on number of points, and then select the computer faction and auto-generate units or custom build your own resistance.

This has been -perfect- for practicing my very poor grasp of Total War battle controls and exceedingly limited understanding of Total War tactics.

Reading tons of Reddit threads led me to two semi-helpful sites:

The latter especially provided a bit more of an understanding as to what precisely one should be aiming for in combat:

ie. solid infantry lines, support by skirmishers, micro’ing cavalry charges into the flanks and rear of the enemy.

Also, the realization that Total War does -not- handhold you and provide you with any semblance of noob-friendly unit deployment in the initial phase of battle.

No, you are expected to prearrange every single unit to your liking and set their formations with some manner of tactical sense and then lock it in said formation.

Aka OMG, I’ve been deploying my multitude of orcs and goblins all wrong, in really poor formations.

I still can’t say that I’ve gotten it -right-, but I’ve been stretching them out a bit more and making some nicer looking 3, 4, 5-deep stacked rectangles of greenskin power and they seem to be performing better than previously.

I can even begin to see that my vast orcish number means my longer infantry lines can actually wrap around and flank smaller-sized enemy units.

That is, if I can actually CONTROL them appropriately.

I’m still working my way through the first screenshot guide… and I also realized in retrospect that these little nitty gritty nuanced controls are mentioned – in a really offhand fashion – in-game, under the battle controls sections, in little text sentences under an “Advanced” tab category.

It is totally not muscle memory at this point in time.

I have to remember and refer back every so often to realize that ok, “if I want to move my unit in formation but just tweak it positionally a little, hold down ALT, then LEFT-click and then drag the yellow formation that appears to where you want it.”

“If I want to -rotate- my unit, I have to do the same but hold down CTRL, and then LEFT-click and drag to rotate said unit.”

“If I want to both change position and rotate said unit, then it’s CTRL+ALT together and LEFT-click drag” and my fingers tangle up and get confused.

To add a little insult to injury, accidentally right clicking issues some kind of move order, that may or may not ignore formations, depending on if you locked the formations beforehand.

Holding SHIFT meanwhile queues up your orders, which is eminently possible to also accidentally mash on while juggling CTRL+ALT and dragging.

Oh and CTRL+right click (not left) tells the units to walk or something.

Double-right clicking makes them run/charge.

Confused, yet? I still am.

So I’m basically putting my money where my mouth is.

In my beginner’s guide to GW2 movement and combat, I exhorted newbies to MMO controls to be patient with themselves, to break it down into small parts, and practice bits at a time, until it all becomes muscle memory.

I’m doing the same thing with myself in Total War.

20160529034631_1.jpg

The really nice thing about custom battles is that I do -not- have to deal with a full sized army stack of 20 units.

I experimented with army costs and figured out that 4000 gold gives me a nice range of two melee Orc units, two cheap expendable goblin spearmen (long pointy things like pikes and spears are good at staving off cavalry, apparently), one set of nastily effective night goblin skirmishers, one unit of speedy goblin wolf-mounted cavalry and one boss character to lead the gits around.

This lets me practice micro’ing a small but balanced army around the place, aided by the pause key and my new favorite speed – slow motion.

I begin to grasp really basic but previously poorly understood and not articulated knowledge (that veterans find so common-sensical that it’s not worth mentioning) of stuff like “cheap expendable units like goblins are quite important and have their place. I can spread them out a long way in thin lines to cover my more valuable infantry. They can be meat shields to absorb missile file, cavalry charges, whatever.

I suspect I’m going to be spending the bulk of my time in this part of the game for a while yet.

I might start another faction’s campaign once I feel a little more well-versed with the controls.

But as for fighting 20+ Chaos units with two stacks of 40+ Orc armies, with magic, artillery, monsters and all, eh, that’s going to have to wait for a really long day in the far future.

Advertisements

If You’re Not Thinking, It’s Not the Game, It’s You

I apologize for the clickbaity title, but come now, hear me out:

Bhagpuss laments the loss of slower-paced, strategic thinking in our MMOs these days, skewing as they do towards action combat, ie. real-time, fast reaction skills required, etc.

I don’t want to touch on the first part of his post, which addresses a corresponding loss of in-game “world” / place / landmark-style trivia knowledge, since I fully agree that most of the mainstream MMOs these days are less about establishing an immersive sandbox-style world and more about creating a movie-like cutscene immersion that shepherds a player smoothly from one quest hub to another quest hub (or zone of appropriate level range.)

No, I want to talk about the -combat-, that supposed loss of situational awareness and appropriately thought-out reactions as the pace speeds up.

It has nothing to do with the pace. It has everything to do with the player.

Thinking, that is.

I’ll grant that it -is- harder to think -during- a faster-paced combat sequence, especially when there are spell effects exploding all over the place, the particle effects are busy emulating the 4th of July, causing the inexperienced to explode in little gibs before they even realize what has happened to them.

But what stops you from analyzing the combat –afterwards– and/or preparing -beforehand- with strategic intent for the next go at it?

This sort of unique game knowledge, this sort of game -thinking-, is what constitutes part of the word “skill” in many games.

A Starcraft expert is playing a vastly different game from what would be my supremely fumbling efforts with it. They have various meta strategies and counters in their mind, even as the actions are happening at several hundred APM, mouseclicking and keyboarding away.

While I would be struggling to even figure out how many gatherers I ought to be queuing up or maintaining on my resources, they’ve probably already assessed at a glance how much resources their opponents are able to gather and the corresponding numbers/types of units they’re likely to be able to produce with said number of gatherers.

Thinking has nothing to do with the pace.

A chess grandmaster would be playing on the same level as a Starcraft expert versus bumbling old me. The chess pieces are moved more slowly, the Starcraft pieces a little more in real-time, the difference in strategic thinking from an expert compared to myself would be the major factor in performance differential.

At most, the pace is merely an additional requirement to master sufficient reaction ability, -alongside- the actual thinking.

If we look at Keen’s actual anecdote:

“I used the right heals on the right people at the right time. I knew the mobs and what they were capable of, so I wasn’t healing people who had a mob I knew they could tank on them while someone else was risking death. I moved where I needed to be to let the classes do their job. I played correctly.”

It has everything to do with specific game knowledge, and very little to do with speed or pace.

Some time back, I read a Civilization 2 Let’s Play from the Let’s Play archive.

I was aghast to realize just how much strategic thinking I had failed to even appreciate when I was busy “playing” the game through my youth – I mostly just clicked “next turn,” researched tech, and brute-force conquered the world. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but was definitely not ever at the level of thinking demonstrated by the Let’s Play writer.

Very similar stuff happened to me while watching videos of games like Endless Space or Galactic Civilizations. These guys were considering little numerical factors that I’d plain glossed over in the UI, and were correspondingly enjoying success at much higher difficulties while I was getting my ass whupped on the easiest. By a computer.

X-Com, Blood Bowl, you name it, player A can get by with minimal casualties while player B’s roster looks like a blood bath after one or two rounds.

Hello, these are all turn-based strategy games. There is all the time in the world to think before you tell the action to “go on ahead now.” The deciding factor is still each player’s specific knowledge about the game, how it calculates combat, whether they took any tactical factors into consideration, etc.

Take GW2 WvW zerg vs zerg combat. A new, inexperienced player looks upon it as a huge sea of red names facing off his or her own sea of friendly names. Stuff happens. Movement occurs. The crowds surge back and forth. Suddenly he or she is dead, and isn’t sure exactly what quite happened.

Play the game mode enough, listen in on and play with different commanders using different tactical strategies, try out various roles be they frontline melee or backline casters, and suddenly one has a little bit more appreciation of what exactly is going on, and can predict movement a little better, if only through learning the hard way where exactly not to be, in order to not die.

I haven’t played GW2 WvW in a long time. Just the other day, I decided to pop my head back in and run with a WvW commander squad for an hour or so, for the fun of it.

My level = definitely not at the level of a WvW pro any longer. I died a couple times in the initial pushes. By analyzing what had happened to me and using my general GW2 knowledge and -thinking- as I ran back from the spawn point, I started to get a general sense of some of the new meta changes that HoT brought.

CC is pretty fast and furious these days. My necromancer kept running headlong into walls of things that kept knocking me down and separating me from the main group. Apparently dragonhunters are lavishly enjoying the use of Hunter’s Ward on their longbows.

Therefore. I needed stability. I drug myself into a group in the squad next to a friendly dragonhunter, hoping that I might catch Stand Your Ground. I took a very brief glance at my exceedingly scattershot traits that I didn’t exactly feel like refining into a -good- WvW build just then, and did a hasty swap into Shroud giving stability.

I reminded myself that I was geared as a berserker/sinister hybrid – ie. ridiculously squishy, and to play more cautious backline (that is, ignore the commander when he cajoles everyone to run with him into stuff that you know will kill you, and position oneself so that that main group is between you and the bulk of the enemy forces most of the time, but near enough to land AoE bombs when the commander calls for it.)

Over time, I noticed that the enemy zerg had 1-3 dragonhunters that seemed to be traited and geared out to be ridiculously tanky, and these guys were coming ahead first, zerg-surfing. Presumably, I surmised, to bait out AoEs from our zerg. These were probably also the cc’ing dragonhunters that had been so successfully cutting our zerg in half.

Obviously, you don’t waste AoE wells on these guys. But I was annoyed enough with them to consider if there was anything else I could do.

Well. I was in a nonstandard hybrid build for a reason. I used to attend WvW resets as part of a really small havoc group that would occasionally join up with a main zerg mass – so I needed to be zerker enough to contribute in the accepted necromancer marks/wells way, but I decided that in small group pvp situations, I was a lot more comfortable and successful as a condi necro.

I ended up with a somewhat strange halfway successful hybrid that could have 1600+ condi damage with scepter/dagger swap and about 2000+ base Power on staff swap (enough to get loot when I landed wells, anyway.)

So. Since I had nothing better to do while the zerg was backing off away from these annoying dragonhunters, I swapped to my scepter/dagger condi and started autoattacking and applying bleed pressure. (HoT also buffed necro scepter to strip boons, apparently.)

Suddenly, the dragonhunters I’d been single-target attacking started stalling and going down.

I’m not narcissistic enough to think it was all me. For one thing, there wasn’t enough bleed damage being dealt. I do suspect though that between the bleeds appearing (which will usually pressure a player into somehow dealing with or reacting to them) -and- most likely a lucky boon stripping of the -stability- the dragonhunters were using to zerg surf…

…that probably set them up to get caught by the tons of other attacks which were flying their way from other players, some of which were probably immobilizes and damage and so on.

Either way, it was pretty satisfying. Our zerg managed to whittle down the other zerg in this fashion, literally peeling off one at a time like layers of an onion, and at some point, the other zerg caved in morale-wise and the remnants ran away (which is pretty much WvW battle victory) – possibly one of those dragonhunters that had gone down might have been the enemy commander.

Not exactly WvW meta, I don’t think. And I’m sure I’m no WvW pro. I just tell the story as I see it, from my limited point of view, at my current level of play.

Point is, it is still possible to -think-, at whatever level you’re currently playing at. It’s possible to go one step beyond merely reacting.

And my clickbaity post title is not about blame or forever labeling someone as a “bad” player either.

On the contrary, I would beseech everybody to be patient with themselves. To just -think- at whatever level you’re currently at. To strive to understand just that lil bit more each time you play, and not forget to enjoy yourself in the process.

Understanding unique, specific game knowledge comes with time (and an open mind.)

It will happen, as long as you don’t close yourself off to it. Just keep playing. Just keep thinking.

(Speed the process along by reading tips or advice or watching other players, if you like. Apply what you’ve learned in one game to another, where appropriate, etc. Humans are learning beings, the knowledge will sneak up on you when you least expect.)

piety1

Today, I was extremely chuffed to finish Path of Exile’s Act 2 Piety fight on Cruel difficulty with only one death – which I knew was very much my fault for getting greedy and not playing it safe.

Contrast this with all the other times I’ve run through this fight on sheer willpower, flask spammage, using someone else’s cookie cutter build without really knowing why it worked, etc.

Today, I realized I finally -understood- the Piety fight.

I grokked, somewhere deep down in my heart and brain, that she had separate phases and attacks that required different strategies to deal with.

And that I was both prepared, and open to using these different strategies.

In some phases, she stays in her human form and just rolls around some lightning balls. It so happens my current character is maxed out on lightning resists. This is a fairly safe phase for me to run up close and do some damage to her, given that my primary attack skill for this build is a close-range shotgunning type of spell.

piety2

In another phase, she transforms into a melee monster of epic stabby proportions.

You know what… running away is the better part of valor when she’s like this. Else she’ll kill me in a few stabs.

This was my one and only death to her – because I stayed to try and duke it out with her, when I -knew- I ought to have been running away. As I swallowed the bitter pill of the lost xp and the mistake made, and got ready to click the respawn button, I said to myself, well, this coming next time, you -know- better. Run the heck away from her in this phase now.

piety3

In yet another phase, she turns into an ice statue and shoots these crazy shotgunning ice arrows.

My cold resist isn’t that high at the moment. Shotgun style attacks mean the closer you are, the more projectiles will hit you.

So. Better part of valor. Keep your distance again. Strafe up and down, left and right to juke her targeting. Maybe even use the scenery to obstruct the arrows and hide behind it.

Only attack her when it’s safe to attack.

(I feel like there should be choirs playing and “Hallelujahs” in the background at this stunning revelation that took me so -so- long to learn.)

She alternates these phases every couple of tens of seconds or so, so yes, it’s fast-paced, because it’s an action RPG and I happen to like action combat as a preference, so I play action combat games… but look, no amount of mere -reaction- would save you if there wasn’t any -thinking- done prior to, during and after the fight.

Trust me. I know. I have died multiple times and sacrificed numerous bars of XP to her.

I am extremely chuffed today because I actually feel all this prior thinking falling into place.

I had enough damage to kill her. Was it an accident? Hell no. There was some initial build copying. Then the realization that I’d gone and copied a build that was one version outdated, and some things had been nerfed. I’d ended up adlibbing somewhat and using a fairly recent concept learned from GW2 to stack percentile damage increases to up dps. There was a lot of prior scrabbling around looking for anything that stacked extra percentile spell damage, be it on gear or skills.

I had enough survivability to stay alive long enough to kill her. Barely, but it could deal.

Also not an accident. I’d been taking care to stack armor, to prioritize +Life, to put on as much resistances as possible, all Path of Exile specific concepts learned slowly and painstakingly through prior play and watching guide videos.

Just -today- I learned a tip about flask usage that I hadn’t known in all the months I’d been “playing” PoE. The regeneration -stops- when your life or mana fills to the brim. There was a whole efficiency minigame about flask management that I’d previously never appreciated and probably squandered extremely wastefully with my panic-spamming tendencies.

I’d -just- put on a quick movement skill, a flame dash teleport, something I’d previously never used before, but realized super-recently that I would eventually need and learn to use something like a dodge or a dash to evade attacks to make such boss fights more doable.

It came in very handy for running away from Piety when one needed to run away. (I’m sure the 20% movement speed boots I decided to prioritize wearing also played a part.)

What looks on the surface a super-quick fight that barely lasts a minute and seems to be someone just reacting to her attacks… well, suffice to say there’s more going on under the hood that isn’t obvious at first glance.

I daresay it’s like that in every game. Fast or slow.

Pace is a preference.

Thinking, now. That’s not an option. That’s just a matter of time and willingness.

GW2: Battle for Lion’s Arch Guide – Fight Tactics and Tips (Spoilers?)

If only I could see the Scarlet fight at higher graphic settings...

Spoiler warning: Your definition of what can be spoiled may or may not include guides that highlight battle tactics and what to look out for.

I didn’t actually think that it would be necessary to write a guide about the fight mechanics for this event.

Then I popped into several random overflows and read a couple blogs from those who play GW2 at a very infrequent, casual level and decided that my personal perspective was -definitely- being colored by my new habit of logging onto the TTS teamspeak, and joining the group of 100-200+ players there who try their best to cram into an overflow together, linked by voice chat, with the ability to hear and give directions and organize on the fly without having to lift fingers from the movement keys.

Objectively, if you log in, completely new to the event, without even the experience of having done the previous Marionette or Tequatl or Wurm fights (or fractals or dungeons, say), the complexity of the mechanics, so different from regular open world PvE, coupled with the utter chaos of having 50-150 players in the same spot, the encounter is probably going to be very confusing.

Let’s add on the possibility that one’s graphic settings might be set too high for your computer to handle such huge numbers of people in one spot. Folks who don’t regularly WvW or attend events where zergs congregate may suddenly be faced with choking CPUs. (I feel your pain. My FPS hovers around 20 or less, thanks to a cruddy CPU bottleneck, on lowest settings.)

That’s a pretty tough situation to try and figure out fight mechanics, on your own, on the fly.

And few people seem to be teaching in map chat just yet.

Maybe they think it’s obvious. Maybe they just can’t say anything because they can’t lift their fingers from their movement and dodge keys without dying.

So. Guide.

Or rather, random tips and rambling because I haven’t figured out how comprehensive this needs to be.

Assault Knights

At :55 every hour, three assault knights will spawn at their locations in Lion’s Arch. Blue, Green, and Red.

knightlocations

(Blue is Dynamic. Green is Synergetic. Red is Static. Remembering this may come in handy later on, but for now, let’s use the easy color coding.)

On the hour, they turn aggressive and players can attack.

The newest hotfix is discouraging player zerging behavior by ensuring only 50 players can damage a knight at any one time. Players must pick up the colored buff from the circles around the knight before they can do any damage to the knight.

calibration

Note the “Synergetic Calibration” number in the event UI.

This is the number of players that can still go to the event and pick up the buff.

If it is at 0, find another knight.

assaultknightbar

Reading their target bar tells you that they change modes.

In their first mode, they remove and reflect conditions. This means whatever conditions you do to it, it’s going to fly off the knight and ricochet onto other players or yourself.

PLEASE, before your next fight, take the time to read your weapon skills and figure out what weapons you have do conditions and which don’t, and consider using the appropriate ones.

Also press H and read your stats and see how much condition damage stat you have. The higher it is, the more careful you want to be at this point, because it’s going to make life difficult for folks around you. (And if they keel over dead, the knight is not going to go down within the time limit.)

At 75% health (and 25% health), they change modes to now become condition-sensitive.

assaultknightbar2

See those two new icons? Mouse over them and they’ll tell you that it’s now in condition crash mode.

NOW is the time to switch weapons and let those conditions fly.

The more conditions that pile onto the knight, the higher the red shield buff icon goes, all the way to 50.

While I haven’t directly contrasted the damage numbers yet, I believe this increases the amount of damage that one can do to a knight. (So it appears anyhow, because it is possible to burn through the knight’s hp quite fast when it is in this mode, especially if folks switch to melee when they can and/or use consumables.)

The knight will alternate back to condition reflect mode once more at 50%, and then to condition crash again at 25%.

extractionattack

To make life more interesting, the knight has an Extraction attack which is a big AoE pull, into melee range, where it will then proceed to start beating up on people with knockdown and rather wide cleaving high damage attacks.

This should be DODGED.

Suggestions that have all worked for me, include:

  • Once you see the big orange AoE circle, count to 3, then dodge.
  • Once you see the big orange AoE circle, wait for it to disappear, then dodge. (Most reliable for me, personally.)
  • Once you see the big orange AoE circle, wait for the knight to jump up into the air, and dodge. (Slightly iffy with my latency.)
  • Or if you want to be fancy, you will note that the center of the circle is actually safe from the pull. If you’re at mid-range, you can dodge forward into the safe zone, chill out for a bit, and then dodge back out again before the knight starts doing massive melee damage for a while. (If you’re in melee range, you’re fine from the pull, just watch that health bar when the knight starts swinging its big hammer around.)

If you do get yanked, please hammer your dodge key and get out of melee range double quick. Use a stun break if you’re knocked down. The good news is that the crazy melee damage seems to have been tweaked down post-hotfix or more delayed, so one has more time to retreat.

It does seem possible to melee the knight at certain points (which I am still trying to figure out  precisely when.) It seems safest to be at her back (facing those luscious buttocks), but note that there are points where the knight does hit for very high damage and it is best not to stick around at those times.

When all the knights are defeated, collect the three colored buffs that are on the ground to form the white prime buff, which will let you enter Scarlet’s Breachmaker via the convenient nearby portal.

Scarlet Phase 1 – Prime Hologram

There is a safe period of 5 minutes from the time the first Assault Knight dies. If you board the drill before this period is up, the fight will not have begun, there will be time to switch weapons, gear, traits, skills, whatever, or communicate and discuss tactics with the people around you.

If the gap between the first and last knight going down is longer than 5 minutes, chances are very likely that you’ll load right into a fight that has already begun. (And right into a laser AoE. Tough luck on that achievement.)

primehologram

The fight actually ramps up quite slowly to get you used to the mechanics. (Which is all very well when playing it as intended, but less so when loading in mid-battle.)

Collect all three colors to create the white prime attunement buff that lets you do the maximum damage to the prime hologram.

Collecting at least one color will allow you to do -some- damage to the prime hologram, though if you’re going for the In Tune achievement, you need to match the color exactly.

Attacking with no attunement will not do any damage, and give you stacks of a counter. If it reaches 10, you get damaged and knocked down.

noattunement

Don’t let it get to 10. (And if you’re going for the achievement, you can’t get this ever. Turn off auto-attack to prevent accidents.)

It is not possible to leave the platform and come back again, so do try to rez downed players whenever possible. If you are dead, all hope is not lost, even if all players ignore you, one of the named NPCs may come by and be your personal hero and get you back on your feet again.

The Prime Hologram will shoot prime laser AoE blasts which are cued by big rectangular orange AoE blocks, and then linger around as a patch of damage for a while.

It is possible to dodge/evade over these patches of damage, with only a small amount of damage, to collect the buffs. (Unless you’re going for the corresponding achievement, in which case, it is best to avoid all sources of damage from the Prime Hologram.)

It is also possible to run through the center, where the laser AoE does not reach, to get to the colored buffs.

However, be on the lookout for the -other- attack the Prime Hologram has.

primeholocircleaoe

Which is a circular AoE that does a Prime Laser Blast of some sort, right in the center, doing damage and radial knockback.

Sometimes, this orange circle doesn’t render for me, so I would advise people with similar problems to look out for the prime hologram’s animation tell before dashing through the center for that last yummy color.

-It rises up and begins floating off the ground.- Expect it to come down with a bang. Don’t be there during that time.

As the Prime Hologram loses health, the amount of laser blasts flying around will grow more numerous. The colored buff circles will be spaced in much more annoying fashion. Repulsive circular domes will be obstacles in your path and knock you around if you run into them without stability. Scarlet will come down from her platform and troll people by being an extra target (whose health bar seems rather impossible to scratch) and targeting a random person with a bomb icon and ticking AoE to get away from.

Basically, a lot more moving parts to keep track of, until it’s defeated.

Scarlet Phase 2 – Three Colored Holograms

The Prime Hologram will split up into three colored holograms: blue, green and red.

Blue is Dynamic. Green is Synergetic. Red is Static.

Each requires the corresponding color buff to be picked up to do damage to it.

red

Red is designed more for ranged, imo. (Though it is possible to melee, with interruptions.)

It shoots projectiles which create fire ground AoEs when they land. (I’m not 100% sure, but perhaps these can be reflected.)

It will also do a rolling ground shockwave and air clap that the Molten Berserker from the Molten Alliance uses. Jump/dodge the ground shockwave, and don’t jump into the air clap.

green

Green is designed more for melee, imo. (Though it is possible to range, with interruptions.)

From time to time, it will pop up the reflect shield that the Toxic Alliance krait nimross has, which will happily send all projectiles you fire straight back into you. (Or perhaps some poor bastard standing in front of you.)

Mid-range is impeded by the presence of the toxic spores which grow periodically and explode in an AoE when a player gets close.

meleegreen

To me, it’s best to dodge roll in, past the toxic spores, and position oneself so that one is not caught by any exploding circular AoEs, and then go nuts in melee range inside the reflect shield.

However, players still need to be alert as one player will occasionally be marked with a pulsing AoE that does damage to anyone else nearby. If this is you, don’t stand around near other players. Move away please.

blue

Blue is made for condition damage people.

It has stacks of a condition shield, which requires conditions to be thrown on before the shield dissipates.

It has very high toughness, so power builds will be doing some tens or hundreds of damage to the hologram only. Still, every little bit helps to whittle away at it. Expect blue to take much longer to go down than the other two holograms and adjust accordingly.

(Condition damage users will probably want to prioritize blue first and get all those high condition damage stacks layered on it before the hoi polloi come in and ruin it with their hefty 0 condition damage and rampant mis-use of condition applying skills.)

bluecone

Blue also does a wide cone attack. To avoid it more easily, it’s best to be in melee or mid-range, so that there’s less distance to roll before reaching safety.

It is best to defeat all holograms at the same time (or rather, within 30s-1min of each other) so that it goes straight into phase 3 and does not spawn additional smaller holograms.

Given sufficient time to recover, each defeated hologram will split into six micro-holograms. Mis-timing the simultaneous defeat can lead to significant nuisance factor as 18 small holograms mill around each other, needing the correct color buff to be damaged, and being very hard to tell apart beyond a colored indicator atop each one that can still be damaged.

A working strategy at the moment is for the zerg to all attack red until its health is low, then move on to green until its heath is low, then cycle around to blue to kill it. Once it is dead, the zerg splits to take down the remaining sliver of health red and green has.

(Alternate strategies can be to take down each color one at a time, so that the micro-holograms can be zerged down without too much mixing around, or in the worse case scenario, slowly whittling down 18 micro-holograms until they’re all dead. Obviously, these are more time-consuming and may risk exceeding the time limit.)

Scarlet Phase 3 – Ultraviolet Prime Hologram

The last phase is surprisingly easy for a decentralized zerg mind to handle.

Laser AoEs will divide up the platform into multiple small safe areas. The zerg naturally spreads out.

Small microprime holograms will spawn. All players will already have the white prime attunement buff.

The goal: Kill all the microprime holograms. This will steadily damage the big one. Three rounds of this are needed.

Microprime holograms shoot a small rectangular laser AoE. Defeated holograms will explode with a circular AoE. Don’t stand in any of the orange AoEs. Kill anything small and red-named near you.

Assuming you haven’t run out of time, that’s it! You’ve humbled Scarlet! Follow her into the end instance to finish her off.

OH, AND DON’T FORGET TO LOOT YOUR REWARD CHEST.

Which is between the middle where the big hologram was, and the door that Scarlet leaves into. A random person in one of my parties was -very- miffed that he didn’t see it before jumping right into the instance. No way back.

This is perhaps more rambling than usual, mostly because the mechanics seem very learnable via just being there and reading tooltips and going through the fight a few times, so I’m really not sure what is obvious or not obvious, and what should be stressed or not.

But if it helps someone who had information overload during the chaos, especially if it helps them enjoy the fight more as a result, then writing this would be worth it. 🙂

GW2: Echoes of Historical Warfare in WvW

The whole structure of WvW doesn’t exactly lend itself to tests of PvP prowess.  And why should it? There’s an entirely separate part of the game given over just to that after all.

Bhagpuss

I’ll have to disagree to the lack of PvP prowess. There is a lot more going on there than most think in a coordinated group, more so than sPvP, I believe.

Imagine organising 20-30 instead of five through complex manoeuvres; each turn is called, every feint, when and where to bomb.

J3w3l / Eri

Everyone’s been talking about WvW lately. The leagues and season achievements seem to have revitalized some interest in the game format and plenty of discussion as to the pros and cons.

(Where in my usual understating sense, “some interest” = massive game-wide lag and fairly substantial queues during primetime on certain servers.)

I’m less interested in rehashing the same old ground that others have covered, but Bhagpuss’ latest post raises an interesting side issue: WvW isn’t quite the same as sPvP.

To Bhagpuss, he feels there’s more PvE involved.

To Eri, she goes so far as to claim that WvW is -more- sophisticated than sPvP.

To me, I’d rather not raise the ire of the PvPers. I’ll just claim that it’s -different-.

Small-scale PvP is where each individual player can be a Greek hero – Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, all seeking glory in war.

They can be a Spartan or a samurai or a ninja, a stand-alone warrior who can hold his own against slightly more superior numbers (2 or 3) and defeat them. They can work with their team for a time to accomplish a task, then break apart to do their thing as an army of one.

You can get a little of this kind of thing in WvW if you play with a more roaming playstyle and spec, being a scout or a commando across potentially hostile lands, The situations you’ll face in WvW will involve a lot more unpredictability in the numbers you face, while sPvP offers a more numerically balanced playfield.

But what you can’t get elsewhere, except in WvW, is large-scale warfare recreated on a miniature scale to fit into a playable game type.

If there’s one favorite thing that hooks me and makes me stay for hours in there, it’s when I spy a good (aka tactically adept) commander in VOIP and glom onto his zerg.

And I don’t mean zerg in the fashion that many lower tier servers run (or not-so-good commanders on my server too) – a loose collection of individuals running around together in a big warband that just happen to be going in the same direction and firing at the first thing that moves while karma training, relying only on numeric superiority and safety in numbers.

I mean a zerg-busting zerg. A coordinated group, be it guilded or militia or a mix, organized, with high morale and WvW builds, listening and following a commander on voice.

In zergs like those, you get to see echoes of warfare across the centuries from ancient to medieval to Napoleonic times.

The zerg is infantry, archers and cavalry, acting as each in different situations.

The one thing that never fails to get my pulse going and adrenaline rocketing is the charge. I play a frontline guardian, and in the surge of the wedge through an enemy zerg, I hear the thundering hooves of heavy cavalry. The goal is similar: break the enemy infantry with a resounding charge through their ranks.

Now and then, there are the rare situations, just as in history, when the opposing side’s morale is stronger and their militia better trained in the art of war. The loose collection of individuals move apart just enough to avoid the charge, then unload onto the dumbfounded and not-very-well-built zerg full of casual PvE builds  (note to self: following bad commanders is unwise) who stand there and take casualties, just as infantry have weathered a cavalry charge into their ranks and then proceeded to viciously slash stirrups and saddle and unseat horsemen before they can escape the mass.

But more often, when trained heavy cavalry charge at less trained individuals, they break. You can tell the opposing group is made up of leaderless PUGs when they fall back and scatter to the four winds, or they get run over.

Far more interesting and much rarer in history but more commonplace in WvW are the tactics that arise for cavalry-on-cavalry fighting.

In real life, where collision detection exists, such incidents are costly affairs in the lives of both men and horses and thus always striven to be avoided whenever possible.

In WvW, zerg collision is what some guilds live for.

The maneuvering is spectacular.

Pre-fight, the commander is not just running around in circles because he is a meanie-poo head and wants to see his followers chase after him constantly.

For one, he’s keeping his men (and women) tightly packed together and on their toes. They cannot be picked off individually (those dang thieves), and have to remain alert.

For another, it’s intimidation. A formation moving in unison as a single mass is a scary sight to someone who knows that his side isn’t as organized. A scared individual has a higher chance of being shaken and breaking after one or two charges.

Medieval European knights attacked in several different ways, implementing shock tactics if possible, but always in formations of several knights, not individually. For defense and mêlée a formation of horsemen was as tight as possible next to each other in a line. This prevented their enemy from charging, and also from surrounding them individually. With their heavy and armoured chargers knights trampled through the enemy infantry. The most devastating charging method was to ride in a looser formation fast into attack. This attack was often protected by simultaneous or shortly preceding ranged attacks of archers or crossbowmen.

— From Wikipedia on “Cavalry Tactics”

Then there’s searching for the right time to charge. Both zergs maneuver and try to get the drop on each other, utilizing terrain to best effect. If you can catch the enemy with their backs to a cliff, or draw them into a chokepoint, you have the advantage. If you can get them to fire off their first volleys onto somewhere you’re not, they have to reload while you can unleash upon them.

And of course, you never try to run in front of an enemy. You charge them in the flank, or from behind or from on top. Head-on collisions are not desirable, but could happen, same as in real life.

Those archers or crossbowmen? Ranged dps’ers. “Bomb them here!” “Marks!”

Sometimes the charge doesn’t even happen, in favor of the zerg becoming a squadron of archers firing a hail of arrows across the gap, daring the enemy to charge across a killing field.

They often don’t.

Usually the horse skirmishers advanced in front of their parent squadron or regiment, fired and moved about a bit to reduce their target ability. They were able to prevent the enemy’s troops from hiding behind trees and broken ground, looked for ambushes, or simply observed the enemy’s movements or intent. It was also quite good way to test enemy resolve at a specific point and gather information about his position as well.

They fired upon the enemy trying to take a better position or forced the enemy to move slower or even halt and form squares. Occasionally an odd charge would take place to drive the enemy horse skirmishers away. Sometimes these skirmish combats escalated and involved more troops.

Cavalry Tactics in the Napoleanic Wars.

Recognize the description of havoc groups? Our skirmishers in WvW? They scout, they screen, they have more mobility than the main zerg.

Sometimes an enterprising commander will use a disorganized PUG mass to screen their zerg and absorb fire.

Sometimes two or three commanders leading their own organized zergs act together in sync, acting as skirmisher or charger and pincer the opposing side.

Ambushes are set up. Zergs hide and try to surprise the other. Traps are set, sometimes with siege. (We could write a whole other post about castle/siege warfare, but that’s for another time.)

Once collision occurs, there can be even more maneuvering.

If the enemy doesn’t go down on first hit and be cleared, then it becomes a contest of commanders, and unit morale, cohesion and training. Zergs strive to keep together while breaking the other apart into smaller groups and lone individuals to be set upon and thus whittle the other zerg away via attrition.

How well your commander reads the other team’s movements and moves in turn is important.

How well his followers can -follow- him is also just as crucial. How tightly they keep together, how sturdy their builds are, how good their morale and training is that they keep their heads and don’t break and run at the first whiff of trouble, all contribute to the eventual result,

Each clash is a whole new battle.

It can get crazy addictive.

With more layers of sophistication to be understood the more you play.

WvW zerg “PvP” is a lot more about teamwork than individual prowess (though it still does have an effect.)

It’s more about how each player’s skill at playing their character well affects the whole to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

Builds are made to synergize, to provide group support and group control and group damage.

If anything, I find that after tasting the levels that WvW can rise to, anything less sophisticated is not so fun nor enjoyable and that I’d rather roam by my lonesome or occupy myself with PvE than play in a less organized zerg, doomed to run headlong into disaster and repeat the mistakes that history has already taught us to avoid.

GW2: Winning the War or the Battle

Yes, title inversion entirely intended.

In a fun case of role reversal, today’s WvW experience left me wondering if Fort Aspenwood and Tarnished Coast had switched places all of a sudden. 🙂

My morning (NA night) started with a quick guild push into the FA Borderlands following a new commander (it’s pretty great we have so many willing to lead and teach, they all have different styles to learn different things from.)

It also seemed like the majority of the WvW guilds on TC had decided to pile in to have their own fun, because there were about 4-5 tags I recognized (mostly found on other maps) moving around at one point. This naturally attracted other mixed militia used to following along their familiar commanders.

The massive horde easily triggered Siegerazer and before long, stirred up a hornet’s nest of FA defenders. And yep, [RET] and [AVTR] appeared to be on the map.

And yep, PPT was firmly in favor of FA at the time. FA scrambled to defend the tower while all around, stragglers got picked off by the crowd of TC outside and attempted pushes out were firmly forced back in.

knockknock

At one point, I believe Kaineng attempted a breakout or two of their own, which led to reports of seeing some of  FA forces surge out eastward to the other tower.

As stuff surged around to a stalemate, our guild decided that it was getting a bit close to our guild mission time to remain locked up at a zerg vs zerg tower attack/defence and broke away to do disruption as a guild group/zerg of 15-20 odd people. Having crazy fun was the major goal and putting up swords practically everywhere on the map to divert FA’s attention from that one tower the minor goal.

It was ridiculously freeing to just romp around after 7+ hours yesterday of defensively holding points and slap yaks,  grab supply camps and so on. There were a few skirmishes, some with FA and some with Kaineng as we bumped into them, but it was looser combat, not tight murderballs. It was then I realized that my Charr guardian’s build functioned pretty well in this sort of fight – mobility, damage, spirit weapon burst and interrupt – which made a kind of sense since it did organically evolve from what I was mainly doing on IoJ.

At one point, we practiced as a guild a speed cap of the northmost supply camp and dear god, the supervisor melted in seconds, the circle came up, the few contesters dispatched, and we were there and gone before any zergs could respond.

We also heard that whoever was back at the tower did grab it in the end, as it appeared other guild groups had broken away and started to push on bay and hills keeps, which would of course necessitate a zerg response there a lot more than holding one measly tower.

Some time after our guild’s PvE excursion, I hopped back in WvW by myself, because what can I say, it’s a lot more entertaining than running feed sacks to cows for xp.

I’d gotten the Asura guardian to 75, and decked him out in relatively cheapo rares from the TP (those going for the price of 1-1.5 ectos or 30 odd silver each.) The stats available weren’t the most ideal but I ended up with an interesting mix of knight’s and berserker type, with a smidgen of valkyrie trinkets for a teensy amount of vitality.

Not too much, because I traited him for the ye olde Altruistic Healing/shout build that I’ve never personally tried and apparently too much vitality ruins one’s effective hp for that, but I was a little nervous of conditions. Also, running around with 13k hp felt quite odd compared to the 16-17k the Charr wanders around with.

There wasn’t much on the agenda besides run around solo and yak slap for xp, because need to get to 80 and dress in exotics, dammit, while getting the feel of how functional the build was, what the hell I was supposed to do with my shouts and getting one’s skill timing down so that no excess healing got wasted. I wasn’t confident at all that I could kill anybody (besides a yak or a sentry) since I didn’t have as much Power as the other build, but what the hell, in the interest of science, one must test, right?

Somewhere along the way, I got distracted by a commander tag intersecting my path. Nightlight from [CERN] appeared to be leading a small guild group around, with an assortment of other guild tags like [TSL] and [PiNK] and others, and what the hell, I decided to hop onto the choo choo train. They were leading the militia around with terse text in say, but I couldn’t help but notice that there seemed to be a slightly more together core.

My suspicious mind decided to check out the Tarnished Coast Mumble. It took a little scanning of the channels, but it was pretty obvious in the end where that core group was (the one labeled CERN, perhaps?) and I popped right in onto something amazing. Really awesomely amazing.

I found some of the tactically minded killers of Tarnished Coast.

And in the few hours I ran with them, I learned a shitton about zerg vs zerg combat – against [RET] and some [AVTR] to boot.

I’m not going to go into specific tactics here, as that wouldn’t be fair to the guilds who so kindly allow other guilded people to run with them and learn how they fight, but for the sake of my readers who might not be familiar with how sophisticated WvW can get in terms of battle tactics, suffice to say in general terms that it is a beautifully elaborate dance.

It’s worth dipping a toe in, or at least watching a video or two, (preferably one with the commander’s voice included) because it is just that fascinating.

I don’t think it’s any secret that a hefty amount of group-based skills are involved, and combo fields and AoE.

A lot of clever use of skills to maximize culling and framerate lag on the enemy, and extremely rapid movement just like a dance to not be in places the enemy would expect, and to try and fool one’s opponents into spending their skills (which are probably similar) wastefully onto empty ground.

Flanking maneuvers, group splitting maneuvers, etc. One commander against another, leading his soldiers (and soldiers they are, because the better, more precisely and efficiently they follow their orders, the better the chances of success) on the field against another group.

I found to my pleasure that my guardian had the right weapons to contribute to this, which was probably the most I did, since my computer has a tendency to be one of the early victims of this assault on graphic rendering. But you know, all’s fair in love and WvW, that’s how it goes.

The role reversal, as I mentioned before, was amazing, after regularly getting wiped after colliding with [RET] elsewhere. Their bodies were laying on the ground instead.

Alas, from a more outside point of view, one is able to see the weakness of a zerg as well. It was Fort Aspenwood’s turn to rock the PPT score, because the zerg can only be in one place at one time to wipe people. (Though a skilled zerg can move -very- very fast.)

Personally, I found my focus narrowing down to a very tactical level. Perhaps this is simply because I am not practiced at this, so I cannot keep an eye on the map as I might usually do and read/predict enemy movements, and I’m sure the commander was looking and had people scouting and scanning the map for him, but for myself, following the icon pretty much took all of my concentration. Reading the chat window? Forget it.

(It got to the point where I went for a supply run once and mindlessly tried to run back through the south gate following one or two other green dots because the commander said ‘go get supply.’ And wiped on the mass of FA there. Map chat went, ‘Oi, don’t use that gate, use the other gates.’

OOPS. That’s right. Goodness knows where my mind went, I’m usually more situationally aware than that.)

The zerg is powerful because it has a hive mind. But one zerg cannot win the war by itself, though it can win battles. Ridiculously decisively.

Perhaps in a higher tier with more coverage, there is more than one intelligent zerg operating. With Tier 2’s coverage issues being what they are, there’s room for other smaller groups and individuals to play their own parts elsewhere on the map as well.

Some time late into the NA night, we lost Redvale, our supply camp as there simply weren’t enough organized militia outside of the main zerg to defend it. Folks might have wiped on the tide of FA that were swarming around the bay keep, and gotten frustrated and moved off, while the zerg force had to be there to protect the gaping hole in the wall (and also take the opportunity to mow down FA.)

Fort Aspenwood is also notoriously strong in the Oceanic time period, and it was getting closer and closer to that hour (not to mention, it was a Sunday, so Oceanics were likely already playing too) while the Tarnished Coast NA folks were dropping off.

So eventually bay was taken. Though it took the better part of 2+ hours.

I'm sure you'll find this scene in videos from both parties' viewpoints.
I’m sure you’ll find this scene in videos from both parties’ viewpoints.

Funny story behind that. Objectively, there was a stalemate going on. Previous engagements had shown that FA’s forces available-at-that-time could not match the current TC force being fielded on land. They got repeatedly ripped apart. FA ended up trying to bait our mixed group into the water by the quaggan nodes, where they had greater numbers and had no doubt previously practiced tactics as a guild before. Our commander tried once and promptly disengaged us, knowing very well that it wasn’t going to end in our favor. Which eventually led to the above scene – with both parties daring the other to come onto terrain of their choosing.

I think our final downfall was the critical flaw of a not-rehearsed group used to working together. The inner north gate was being banged on, by superior rams (thanks AVTR, I think), and there was already a hole in the wall on the south side for quite a while. The zerg went to respond to the north, and got pulled apart enough that as a whole bunch of FA came rushing through the southern hole in the wall, not enough went back in time with the commander to area deny at the chokepoint.

I was lagging enough that I got about the way to the lord room to already see the first few FA in and rushing towards us, and reeled back in time to see the characteristic feedback bubbles enveloping where I was (thanks AVTR again, no doubt) and a whole bunch of conditions popping up on my bar. Splat went my little Asura.

Sheer numbers poured into the lord room and overwhelmed the rest shortly after.

Had I been a little more experienced with what the heck my build was supposed to be doing, and/or a little less lagged, perhaps I might have cleared them in time – though that would probably have prolonged survival for just a little while more. Then again, tanky guardians are all about being annoying by prolonging survival. 🙂 Oh well, something to try for the next time. Learn something in retrospect every day.

Damn good fight though.

Oh, as an aside, I also made the personal decision to learn how to fight with autoattack off, because I am sick and tired of auto-killing myself with 8 stacks of confusion before I even realize it’s on me (not just a WvW thing – our guild mission today included Diplomat Tarban and damn did the entire guild fall over repeatedly because we got blasted with some 25 stacks of confusion before we could react.)

The whole zerg vs zerg thing today I fought with it off, and it was good practice.

There were one or two individuals on map chat that seemed a little annoyed or frustrated at the tactical focus over the strategic at that point in time, but you know, on a personal level, I’m starting to realize that it’s not just “must maximize PPT all the time” or “must pwn all players all the time” that is the entirety of the WvW experience. With that as a goal, one is bound to get frustrated at “losing” at some point.

Especially because everybody’s got to go to bed some time.

Today, I was following commanders I trusted, having seen them work for PPT strategically and pull ridiculously long hours before, and the decision today seemed to be, let’s just have fun killing, never mind the score. In the long term, it might make our players incrementally better for getting the hang of zerg vs zerg tactics, and not instantly losing morale and fleeing on seeing a zerg come at them. At any rate, I certainly got educated ever-so-slightly more.

Mad respect and props to the big zerg guilds that professionally practice these things. I just got a slight taste of it for three hours or so, and I can see the appeal.

In a way, it’s almost like raiding, perhaps. But PvP-style.

On a personal level, I’m a dabbler, and I know I’m not cut out for hardcore full-on WvW for hours on end. I’ve pulled some ridiculous shifts for two days now, and I can feel the sleep-deprivation headache beginning to build as my timezones get all twisted. (Kinda reminds me of IoJ’s one time in tier 1 where everyone went all out.)

But it makes me happy to think that as long as things don’t implode, I’ll be able to jump on and participate in whatever style of WvW I feel like for the day. Whether it’s individual roaming, small group disruption, defending or zerging, there seems to be room for a whole bunch of playstyles.

(And one other too, I hear some people love 1 on 1 dueling and some folks organize little fight clubs for it. It’s not my thing, so you won’t hear much about it here, but it’s there.)

And room for longevity because there’s always trying to improve oneself that bit better than your opponent.

Even if things do implode (because drama can happen to anyone), what isn’t lost is the knowledge and the memories of good times. That makes it all worth it in the end.