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Armageddon Days 4 and 5

On Sunday we had a slightly later start (on the bus by 7:00 A.M.) to head over to the Laser Quest arena. I've already addressed my feelings about this game earlier in this blog, but it is what it is and at least this one is more about shooting than strategy. However, you have to question any game that begins with "find out which sensor on the pack works and just shoot at that".

I have played Quest several times, but this was the first time I can recall playing on teams as opposed to free for all, so there's another element that was different from my previous experiences. Another thing that was different was that four teams went into the arena at once. The arena had a long strip of tape splitting it into two halves and we were instructed "don't shoot across the tape". Sheesh...that makes it difficult to get certain angles and for what it's worth, that didn't seem to keep people from doing what they wanted anyway. At one point some helpers started carrying chairs into the arena. Are we playing laser tag sitting down now? Ha! No, the chairs were used to make a more solid barrier under the tape because apparently some people were stepping under the tape to use more of the arena than was permitted. Really? Sigh.

I could tell this was frustrating for some on our team as the game lends itself in many ways more to chance than skill. However, you can't just not do it, so carry on soldier. Truthfully, I find it a little maddening too. Not that my showing was great, but a score variance from 351 to dropping into double digits was not something I had every experienced before (the last Quest game I played before this I think I was in the 700s, so it was a bit disheartening to see where even my top scores fell). But at this point the writing was on the wall. Although most of my team was still holding their breath for Tron later that night.

OK, here we go. I have only played Tron once in my life (well a couple of games, but one visit to the arena in Amherst) and my take away from my pre-Armageddon experience was this...try to score points and shoot the base. Apparently, I had this game all wrong. This was the system that seemed to mean the most to our team and yet I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could contribute here, and this is why...

All I heard about for three days was "we've gotta play with chips, we've gotta play with chips" (mind you, I was rooming with Andrew, so I probably heard this more than anyone else in the whole tournament, but it was echoed by several others as well). This was not something that I expereinced previously. I do remember having the option to select certain settings on the phaser (like spy mode) from my previous experience, but in this Armageddon they were playing with random chips that would just be assigned to you sporadically during the game. The chips that you could get were "energizer" (the power to recharge your teammates from wherever you were in the arena), "deactivator" (the power to take an opponent out with one shot) and "stealth" (the power to briefly avoid getting shot). Since our captain is a Tron employee he was assisting with...I don't know what exactly, set-up his brother Cage was giving our team the rundown. I suppose I misunderstood something he said because I remembered him referencing that you could be a shield at the base if you got stealth mode. Well, first game out my first feature is stealth. In a moment of panic I turned to Georgio and said, I'm stealth, what should I do, but he didn't hear me. Meanwhile I heard the whole opposing team calling me out as having the stealth mode. So, in a moment of gutsiness I thought, if they can't shoot me, I should try for the base. Well...from the yelling that ensued from our captain informing me that stunt cost us a thousand points and telling me to NEVER go for the base...I resigned myself to not having the foggiest idea what this game was about after all. Good thing I have a thick skin from years of working in sales or that yelling might have hurt my feelings...worse. But I was not the only one to be rattled by the game. One of our players grabbed a pack with the wrong number and as a result had no score to show at all for that game and took some heat from some for that costing us the game. I want to take a moment to defend him. In hindsight, I think it is very possible that nobody actually instructed him that he had to look to the monitor to see which number he was supposed to pick up. In all the other games one pack was as good as the next and for someone who has never played before this would be a completely understandable oversight if clear directions were not given. If I hadn't played before I might not have known to pick up a specific pack either because I can't recall this ever being addressed. In fact I think there were several times when instructions were given in such a rushed manner to not lose time that relevant things may have been glossed over for all the systems (or maybe just assumed to be understood by those who had played before even though there were a number of us first-timers in the event). So, while the heat wasn't on me for very long I did choose to take a walk for my own mental reset and then Georgio and I found the player who made the mistake and made sure he was ok. After all, this is just a game.

The next few rounds our leader put me in the best position I could be in...noisemaker. There were no expectations of my being any good at Tron after that first game (which was probably for the best as the intensity of some of my teammates had rattled me), so instead Bill had me guard the base and just call out loudly who got what chip (as I could clearly watch the monitor) and scream bloody murder whenever someone reached the base. Fine by me, tough to screw that up. And I think I was able to make an ever so slight contribution by shooting at the opponent until the real Tron players could get to the base...and occasionally they did. I would love to say this evening didn't kill my desire to learn and improve at Tron, but to be honest I am going to have to really work to get my enthusiasm back for trying this one again. We'll see how I feel by the end of this month when the new Tron location opens in Rochester.

The next morning was another early start and we were playing Zone, which is my home system. As the only regular Zone player I was given a bit of deference for my opinion on how to approach. Oddly, this was a bit jarring to have that weight put on me. Normally when I play Zone I play solo. I go for the high score and don't worry about the rest of my team. But that's because I've never played in a tournament and the team result does not actually mean anything to me on a casual Saturday night. There is a whole other element when you have to consider the welfare of the team, even knowing what I am typically capable of. I studied the map and made a strategy recommendation based on what I would do if I was playing at home.

It didn't work as well here, but I stand by it nonetheless. I was surprised to feel such a weight on me for the system I thought I would enjoy the most. Bill asked me how good a Zone player I am and I told him that after playing this far in the tournament I couldn't really gauge it any longer, but that I average in the 20,000s on Infusion and have hit as high as the 30,000s (yes, it's lower when I play Rift or Nexus, but how do you answer a question like that anyway?) which he said "I don't know what that means. Can you beat Assassin?" Incidentally, Assassin is probably the best Zone player in the nation and had come in as an alternate to play this system. "Um, no I can't beat Assassin...can you beat Assassin?" Well, I only said the first part of that out loud and just thought the second...apologies, I was a little tense. Then, suddenly shaken by a weird feeling of pressure I went outside to psyche myself up with my laser tag anthem that always helps me get into the right head space. Incidentally, if you want an empowerment song, here is mine...

We played the first couple of games trying to take the bases out first and ending up in dog fights. I was relieved that, even though our team lost, there were games that I took first place on the team at least and some where I was second on the team. In my home system I really wanted to do well here.

It may not have been the best I've ever played...then again, maybe it was. Score aside, I was playing with some of the best so inevitably whatever happened in there was happening at a much higher level, so maybe I need to be thankful that I got to play at that level at all. For the final few games our captain switched strategy. We all collectively rushed the second level (which was more like a spiral ramp building to an apex cage at the top) and just shoot down at everyone from below. The logic being, why take on a dogfight when you can snipe. It was more fun this way, if no more effective. And since this version of Zone include reload stations (something I don't have to deal with in any of my local arenas since the base reloads have long since been removed) when I had an excuse to return to the lower level I figured, nothing to lose, I'd try for bases. And you know what...I got them. We didn't take the games, but I know at the very least I went down fighting and doing what I know how to do. I'm glad that this was the system we went out on. And at this point the Armageddon was over. The results were the Swedish team "Rage Before Beauty" in first place, "Here Comes the D" in second and "#Rekt" in third...narrowly beating out my local friends who were playing on "ZAPOC" (Zombie Apocolypse), the team that tied for third before a tiebreaker decided it. After all this I was ready to get back on the bus to go home and absorb what just happened. I think I will need a whole other posting to properly recap my first Armageddon experience.

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