What Makes a Good Battle?

Water warfare game types, ideas, rules, organization, etc.
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SEAL
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What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby SEAL » Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:28 pm

How to Make your Battles a Success - An Informative Article by SEAL

I'm sure everyone has had at least one battle where both teams find themselves face-to-face on the line, yet neither side can make any headway. In some cases, it could even result in a 0-0 tie. The objective of water warfare is to have fun, but I'm sure everyone can agree that such battles are not much fun at all. Worst case scenario, any new players in the battle might not want to come back. So how does one take steps to prevent this? In this article, I will outline all the important variables needed for a good, action-packed battle, based on my experiences with 16 community wars and numerous smaller fights.

1: Location

The single most important factor behind good quality wars is the location at which they're held. Completely open areas make for very boring rounds. This isn't Nerf; streams of water do not travel nearly as far, and do not move nearly as fast. This means you have to get all up in your opponent's personal space to make a hit. In open spaces, this is exceedingly difficult to do. Assuming equal skill, the first person to rush is the first person to die, thus nobody wants to rush.

A good water warfare battlefield has plenty of places to hide and take cover. Gameplay is much more intense when players can sneak around undetected and attack from out of nowhere. Cover/concealment should be spaced much closer together than for other wargames. However, there is such thing as too much! An extremely thickly vegetated forest hinders movement and makes fighting a very difficult task. Who is going to want to attack someone when they can't move enough to dodge the counter strike? Another concern that is usually more typical of urban environments is the bottleneck. This would be something like a hallway where players can only attack in one direction, and cannot make any flanking moves. Combined with lack of cover, such situations force the battle into a stalemate.

Finally, water warfare battlegrounds should generally be flat. With lots of hills, it often becomes a race to the top, and once one team gets up there, they won't be coming down.

Note that fighting at night (or at otherwise dark locations, such as caves) can transform mundane battlefields into excellent ones. Good night battlegrounds have plenty of places to hide in the dark, yet still provide enough lighting to keep things interesting and to illuminate potential hazards. Another thing to keep in mind is seasonal changes. The most amazing woods locations can become awful in the winter when all the vegetation has died off. It may be a good idea to stick to urban fighting during this time of the year, if you're crazy enough to be fighting then...

Examples of good battlegrounds include Sycamore Island with its sprawling vegetation that's thick, but yields to players and is easy to move through. Surprise attacks are all but guaranteed on the island. I have been on the giving and receiving end of many while playing there. Cedar Hill is another good one that has clumps of thick vegetation, but also open areas to switch things up, as well as some urban elements.

The Labyrinth has lots of cover and almost no open spaces. Played at night, this makes for a very ambush-heavy experience. However ambushing is pretty much a necessity, as there are a lot of bottlenecks that often make head-on fighting futile.

Less optimal battlefields include Saugatuck in the winter and the parts of Umstead used at Hydropocalypse. There feature plenty of trees, but no undergrowth. Carderock also suffers from this, and is also too hilly. For an urban example, the Beacon Hat Factory has too much open space, as well as bottlenecks.

2: Setup

Even with a world-class field, the game could be spoiled by poor setup. Play to the strengths of the field. Defense games at the Labyrinth generally keep the fighting in one spot, while it's more fun to sneak around the entire place. The bottlenecks could also make life difficult for attackers. Likewise, running half-hour 1HS at Cedar Hill would mean that the battle would most likely be over before first contact.

Boundaries are another thing to take into consideration. Don't be overly restrictive if the battlefield is already small. I like to say that if people are constantly running into the boundary line, the playing area is too small. Conversely, going no-boundaries at a place like Umstead would be ridiculous. Naturally, the number of participants factors in as well.

Team setup also factors into this. Equal teams will typically result in less action than unbalanced ones, for obvious reasons. If things are too slow, try giving one team weaker blasters, or less numbers. Note that unbalancing based on skill usually results in a slaughter, which, while not boring, is also not very much fun for those on the weaker team. Therefore I would only recommend unbalancing based on weaponry, numbers, or possibly both. AP-only 1HS at MOAB '13 is a good example where weaponry imbalance made for a very heated round.

3: Players

The last main factor is the type of players involved in the battle. This is included more for analytical purposes, as one does not necessarily have any control over what types of people show up. But the gist of it is, more offensive players will generally make for more action than having more defensive players. That should be obvious. Athleticism can also play a part, as participants who are in better shape can fight harder for longer, and make plays that might be difficult for a couch potato.

I've noticed that community wars have a lot of very strong defensive players. Duxburian is harder to hit than a housefly, Scott brings a terrifying offensive-defense to the field, and I've been regarded as a top defender before, which by extension also includes Chief because he and I are very similar. Other prominent players are no slouch on D either. This could be the cause of some of the more stagnant rounds we've had. There are more good defenders than good attackers.

So by taking heed of these factors, war hosts can improve the quality of their wars and ensure that everyone has a good time. Naturally, nothing will guarantee a good battle, but doing things right should significantly decrease the chances of the war being a flop.

-SEAL

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Feel free to discuss this topic and suggest changes to the article. It is possible that I've left things out or have some wrong information here. This is only the first draft.
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Re: What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby isoaker » Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:17 am

I agree with your three main points, but I'd put the importance of Players above the other two. Good Players can compensate for a bad location and/or set-up; bad Players will waste good opportunities.

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Re: What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby DX » Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:56 pm

I actually think we have far more offense-oriented players than defense-oriented. There is more to good defense than avoiding hits - things like keeping top opponents out of the rest of the battle, controlling vital territory, heading off opponents' moves, stalling for time/milking the clock, wasting opponents' water and energy, frustrating opponents into making mistakes then or later, etc. Good dodging makes defending more effective, but it's not a defensive trait. A good defender gets into your head.

A lot of times, we have stagnant battles because nobody is stupid enough to do stupid things. Other times, everyone has soakers with similar characteristics (especially CPS 1000-1200-2100s and Buzz Bee primaries). Location is probably king. A stagnant OHS in a place like the Labyrinth isn't really possible. A stagnant OHS in a place like Paine Island is all but guaranteed.

Most importantly, the attacker needs to be creative and keep the big picture in play. There is more to good offense than making hits. An overly cautious, pure defender is easy to push out of a battle - hitting them isn't the most effective thing you can do to them. Get them to flee well out of range and then use temporary number advantage to crash the opponent's line in their absence. An overly aggressive, pure attacker is a dead attacker. You need to be a complex, patient attacker, letting the right opportunities develop and cashing in. Else, a complex, patient defender has you right where they want you.
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Re: What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby Drenchenator » Thu Jul 21, 2016 7:10 pm

Good points, SEAL! This is a pretty good breakdown of how to make a good battle.

I think the main thesis here is a good one. In all the battles I've gone to I've tried to go for maximum fun rather than maximum chance of winning whatever scenario is at hand. For that reason I got hit A LOT MORE than anyone else. Still, I had fun because even losing was good at those battles, so I definitely agree that you gotta think about making it fun for everyone and not just the winners.
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Re: What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby SEAL » Sun Jul 24, 2016 12:12 pm

isoaker: It's possible, but based on my experiences, open fields just aren't suitable for water wars, period. Soakfests are another story, but this article is geared toward competitive battles. I'll probably add that as a disclaimer or something. Also, I should probably mention numbers as well. Battles are usually a lot more exciting the more players there are, though unfortunately I have yet to experience a battle with more than like 14 people. Of course that's another factor that you can't really control.

Duxburian: Well I'd trust your judgement more than mine, but it just always seems like people play more conservatively and often get stuck in line battles. This of course is often due to the battlefield, but I've seen it happen even at good fields occasionally. Perhaps it's just the nature of the game. Either way, I'll make some revisions to the article.

Drenchenator: You make a good point. A serious water war might not be as dynamic as a more casual fight. For example, if you're playing 1HS and are ahead in score, the best strategy is to either run away, or shift to the defensive and wall the s*** out of the opposing team. Neither of those strategies make for particularly exciting gameplay unless the enemy can break through. I used to do this type of stuff when we had the rivalry going, but these days I mostly just try to have fun. That said, it would be nice if we could hold at least one serious war each year.

So I have a couple revisions to make, which I'll get to later. Thanks for the input!
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Re: What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby marauder » Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:12 pm

SEAL wrote:1: Location

A good water warfare battlefield has plenty of places to hide and take cover. Gameplay is much more intense when players can sneak around undetected and attack from out of nowhere. Cover/concealment should be spaced much closer together than for other wargames. However, there is such thing as too much! An extremely thickly vegetated forest hinders movement and makes fighting a very difficult task. Who is going to want to attack someone when they can't move enough to dodge the counter strike?


This is a key take away. The battlegrounds I have been exploring lately have been border zones.

One was an old field that had a scattering of cedar trees and had been overgrown with young hardwoods. The cedars were big and you couldn't see through them - great for hiding behind. The young hardwoods were 8 to 15 feet tall, which made them easy to move through, and still dense enough to provide cover. Since it was an old field there was still a lot of high grass. There weren't any thorns either.

The Little Creek battlefield, for MOAB, resembles St John's Woods, but with the addition of high grass, and very few thorns to be found.

SEAL wrote:Finally, water warfare battlegrounds should generally be flat. With lots of hills, it often becomes a race to the top, and once one team gets up there, they won't be coming down.

I like this, with a few modifications. Abrupt, but short, terrain changes are good. One example would be ditches, since they abruptly drop off, but aren't terribly deep (up to a 6 ft drop is fine). Little ridges are also nice too. Riverwood has several of these. There are little hills, if you can call them that, which are 2-5 up at a steep to moderate angle. These are fun to play on and fight over, but don't promote a "race to the top" or whatever.


I'll get back to this. I'm in Army training right now, so I have limited internet access. This all applies to non soakfests. Soakfests can be fun in open areas if you have good people, though I still prefer those with places to hide. I think my new house would be a great place for a soakfest. We have multiple outside buildings, a few safety lights, and some good foliage to hide behind.
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Re: What Makes a Good Battle?

Postby SEAL » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:20 pm

Yes, I agree with small changes in elevation being good. I'll clarify that. Mounds and ditches are good, but hills aren't. As for soakfests, they're more for just cooling off on a hot day while having fun in the process. It doesn't take a lot to make them "good", at least in my opinion. I think there are some folks who play competitive soakfests, but I don't really have experience with that. I assume the same factors can be applied as with 1HK or 1HS.

I need to find time to make edits, haha.
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