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.
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.
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.
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.
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.