Heavy Gear League Journal: Weeks 3 through 6

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The store’s Heavy Gear league is in full force, and unfortunately one slow week followed by my personal life crowding into (paving over?) my blogging time has resulted in me not posting a league update for, what–FOUR weeks?? Ugh. Well without further ado, how things are in the league right now –and just in time for this week’s league night!

Week 3 Feb 22-23

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Peace River Defence Force vs Colonial Expedition Force (Earth)

I was only able to pop in momentarily on this evening; and, due to it now being buried in the depths of time, I’m a little unsure of who showed up to play on that league night. I know it was a slower night for Heavy Gear gaming, but I’m pretty sure three or four people showed up and played a couple of games (even though there had been plenty of other miniatures games being played that night–solely of the historic variety: Victory at Sea, Black Powder and Flames of War). Geoff, Bradford, Adam(S) and Curtis were all gaming that night, but I have no clue who squared off against whom; I also seem to recall some  Saturday Heavy Gear gaming in this week between Bradford and Curtis.

Week 4 March 1-2

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Adam’s fantastic-looking NuCoal squad!

This was the second week in a row that showing up for league night just wasn’t in the books for me. I managed to swing by the store to grab some paperwork; and I did my best to survey the turnout during the five minutes I was in the store. I think the highlight of this week –another slow week for turnout– was that the league had new members! Sean and Justin bought starter army boxes earlier in the week and both showed up this evening. A third person also joined the league, a second Justin (a friend of mine who, like me, almost started playing the game a few years ago but then got distracted by other things and never came back to Heavy Gear). So, while the only established league player showing up on this evening was Adam(S), he had a game against Justin(P) and showed off the mechanics to the other Justin and  Sean. The net result of this week was that the league’s roster grew by thirty percent!

Week 5 March 8-9

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Southern Republic vs NuCoal

For the third week in a row, I was unable to do anything more than pop my head in the store–this time almost literally, as I stopped in to grab something before hitting the highway for a weekend excursion to Edmonton (to make use of my free passes to see the Star Wars Identities exhibit …and drink the nights away with old friends!). So, in the few moments I was in the store I checked out attendance for league night; and it was exceptional: we had seven people come out to play! Both Justins showed up as did Geoff, Curtis, Alem and Jimmy. Aric was also at the store with his Caprice force now fully constructed. By the sounds of it, the gaming was really good this week also, which was a fitting end to the 300-points stage of the league.

Week 6 March 15-16

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Southern Republic versus Eastern Sun Emirates

This was the first week of 600-point armies –a week that I think Curtis, Alem and Bradford have all really been looking forward to (they all have more than 600 points fully painted). For me, family movie night with the Avengers meant I didn’t arrive at the store until it was too late to play, but I came nevertheless to see how the night had shaped up. Bradford, Alem, Adam(S), Sean and Curtis had all played games this night. From what I gathered, Curtis played twice that evening: against Bradford and Sean; Alem and Adam also squared off against each other.

It was a solid night of gaming –and really, I could have played that night too: the store ended up staying open late to allow the Magic the Gathering FNM night to finish properly. However, myself and Justin(P) managed to play a game at the 600-point level on Saturday! It ended up being pretty long: this was the first game I’ve played without someone more knowledgeable at hand, resulting in our 600-point game being fought over a couple of hours. Despite the game length and the undeniable loss on my part, the game against Justin(P)

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League Standings

HG League Week 6 standings

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Changes …Again (sort of)

Because Fridays have been working for league nights so well, and because Saturdays have been a better “standby” Heavy Gear day than Wednesday was, the store changed its March Nightly Gaming schedule and took Heavy Gear off of Wednesday evenings–no need to accidentally have someone drop by on a Wednesday and leave the store thinking that no one plays Heavy GEar …because our community all tends to show up on a different day of the week.

Also, whereas it’s pretty easy for four guys to agree to paint 300 points of Heavy Gear every two weeks; it’s an entirely different matter once triple the amount of people are involved. In the last league update post, I made changes to better accommodate everyone’s schedules: I decided that we’d be gaming at each the point level for a little longer than originally planned. I’ve adjusted things again but this time just the points levels for the last two thresholds in the league’s timeline. Instead of the next points limit increasing by 300 points and the one after by only 100 points; we’ve decided that the next two tiers will increase the points limits by 200 points each time. Our goal still remains 1,000 points of painted miniatures by the end of the league.

Below is the dates and points level for each period; none of the league’s other basic rules have changed.

Weeks 4, 5 & 6 – 600 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, March 6th to Sunday, March 24th.

Weeks 7, 8 & 9 – 800 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, March 27th to Sunday, April 14th.

Weeks 10 – 1000 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, April 17th to Sunday, April 28th.

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C.E.F. (Earth) Flails in a game between Curtis and Bradford.

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NuCoal (Adam S.) face off against Southern Republic Gears (Justin P.)

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One of Curtis’s (many) C.E.F Hovertanks engaged in battle.

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Heavy Gear League Journal: Week 2

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Week two of our Heavy Gear “Slow-Grow” league  has now gone by, and here is how the week behind us looked.

But First…Week One Late Additions

What I wasn’t expecting to happen last week did: mere hours after posting the Week One results on Sunday morning, some league members showed up and played some more games. Technically they count as “Week One” seeing as how the games were played on the weekend (I’ve decided each league “Week” begins on our regular Heavy Gear evening: Wednesday and continues on Friday through to Sunday …though Sundays are tricky as that’s one of our regular Warhammer 40,000 days). Anyway, because  Sundays aren’t an “official” league day, the few guys who showed for a few games didn’t get any raffle tickets but did earn league points for playing some more 300-point games (as was detailed in the post with the league’s basic rules).

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Week Two Overview

Friday’s league night saw us with six people playing –a drop from the first week; mind you, the number of people who showed up on Week One’s Friday night had a certain amount of guys who came to see what the turn out was, not so much to play games. This week’s number of players also took a small hit due to a couple of the league’s players showing up to play Flames of War as part of someone’s birthday celebrations. (But hey, if my store is a component to someone’s birthday festivities, I’m certainly not going to complain!) But all in all, it was a good second week.

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What also made it good was that, for the second week in a row, my wife was exceptionally understanding and gave me the green light to come to the store and game on a Friday night. To be clear, by mentioning this point, I’m NOT being passive-aggressive towards my wife about my “hobby time”; my wife works all day on Fridays and doesn’t get home until close to 6:00 –exactly the same time I try to be at the store in order to get a game or two in. So, yeah, anytime she agrees to take over my childcare obligations after her long day of work so I can go play with toy soldiers, I’m pretty extra appreciative.

I arrived at the store to see a North versus Black Talons game in progress, a game (I presume) finished up and a player waiting for an opponent to play against. And all this on top of a decent-sized Flames of War game going on and about twenty people at the store for Friday Night Magic. I think this is what made the gaming conventions of the past so cool: a room filled with bunch of like-minded people playing a variety of games (not just a room filled with everyone playing the same game), exposing everyone present to a myriad assortment of games and activities they might never have looked into on their own.

I think I remember hearing that Alem’s Northern army, in a rematch from last week, defeated Jimmy’s Black Talon force (if I’m wrong about that, I’m sure I’ll hear about it in pretty short order!); I played against Aric, who, still waiting for arrival of the Caprician models the store ordered for him a week ago, borrowed some Southern Gears and had his very first game of Heavy Gear. With Curtis’s help, he gave a pretty good showing against my Southern force; alas, my quantity defeated his quality in this battle (he fielded an improved-skill  Strike Cadre of veterans against my force of a standard-skill Strike Cadre and Sagittarius strider). By the sounds of it, Geoff’s Northern force also eked out a victory against Curtis’s Earth invasions force, making it overall a good night to hail from the North.

WEEK 2 STANDINGS

WEEK 2 STANDINGS

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League Basics…Amended

The response to the league has been more than a little favourable; we’ve even had some people decide to join the league from seeing the first night’s games in progress! Because of this (and because these new players are starting armies without the benefit of getting a head start on them before the “start” of the league), the newer league players are behind the eight ball to get small games in to better understand the rules before the army sizes grow –and shipping delays from Dream Pod 9 has exacerbated this: some players are still hoping to get their first 300 points assembled before the league’s battle level is increase is set to 600 points. This has led me to alter some of the league’s rules a little.

Despite some alterations, I don’t want to change the league’s basic tenets as I’m a huge fan of the goals its’ striving for:

1 – COMPLETE ARMIES
Each participant would have a fully painted, tournament-sized army Heavy Gear force of 1,000 points by the end of the league.

2 – RULE LITERACY
Each participant would know the game’s rules so that games would move along fairly fluidly IE: they would be well above having just a basic grasp of the rules and would be ready to play in a tournament environment (timed games etc).
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On the Dream Pod 9  forum talking about our league, there were suggestions that we shouldn’t require league games to be played with painted models. Though I’m altering some of the league’s framework, I don’t want to alter too much: which with gamers’ tendencies being what they are, can only be realistically accomplished if everyone to have fully painted forces by league’s end, and I think the only route to that goal is through requiring all games to be played with fully painted models (again, for clarification: “fully painted” being defined as 3 colours, no primer showing and bases textured). I think the only hiccups we’re experiencing are due to a few people (myself included) joining late –which is good!

To keep the painting schedule brisk enough while avoiding a break-neck pace, the points values for battles each week have been changed.

Below is our new league schedule:

300 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, Feb. 6th to Sunday, March 3rd.

600 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, March 6th to Sunday, March 24th.

900 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, March 27th to Sunday, April 14th.

1000 pt. Forces – Runs from Wednesday, April 17th to Sunday, April 28th.

Starting February 8th, the size of armies playing in the league will start at 300 points. Every THREE weeks, the points values of players’ armies will increase by 300 points –with the exception being the final stage of 1,000-point forces will go to the first weekend of May rather than for a full three weeks.

This new schedule extends the league’s length by one month –hopefully that isn’t too long, as leagues and campaigns that overextend themselves risk never running their full course to completion.

Heavy Gear League Journal: Week 1

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We just had our weekend of the store’s Heavy Gear “Slow-Grow” league, and response was phenomenal!

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Week One Overview

his past Friday (2013-02-08) was the first evening for the league, and we had NINE people show up! For the sake of transparency, it should be mentioned that two of the nine who showed up didn’t play but instead just watched some games. I’m also counting myself in that total –which is totally legit as I came to the store on my evening off and actually got a game in as well! (But I think the game I got in might be better fare for a post on its own …possibly part of a “work in progress” report?)

Sure, nine players sounds pretty small potatoes, but in a store that feels absolutely packed when there’s a dozen people playing  miniatures games in the store, nine people is pretty awesome –especially for a smaller game like Heavy Gear.

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The Challenges Facing A Gaming League

The biggest challenge when running leagues is continued attendance: so many league and campaigns peter out just before or just after hitting their stride. More accurately, the challenge given the organiser lies in the balancing act of ensuring player participation while simultaneously not cultivating a culture that instills in players the feeling that winning is all that matters (unless of course the league’s goal is all about finding out which player is the toughest and meanest at playing with their action figures; if that’s the case, then the challenge is simply keeping everyone playing).

I’ve seen it time and time again throughout the years working with GW’s games: people who aren’t new to a system play in these start-up leagues alongside people who are new to the system; the established players make lists and play their games with a very much “business as usual” attitude …which tend to utterly destroy the new players’ armies and ultimately punish them for taking perceived sub-optimal troops in their lists and for making mistakes during games.

I’m a firm believer that the essence of games –and ALL play in general– is providing a safe place where one can make mistakes; this is where “fun” comes in: essentially, you’re not made to feel bad if something you attempt doesn’t play out as optimally as you hoped. That line of thought is a little idealistic, I know –of course to some people, I’m completely out to lunch and quite beyond being a simple idealist in thinking that games are strictly for fun.

Games are NOT Fun

Going back to the challenges faced by leagues, I have it in my head that if new players are forced to game in a way they don’t like playing, their desire to continue showing up for league play will diminish as the league goes on. I’ve seen it where the hardcore gamers inadvertently chase away all the “scrubs” just because the new players didn’t think being outclassed by their experienced opponents and getting utterly defeated week after week after week was very “fun.”

So that’s what I think I’m up against: I need the league to be engaging enough for players to keep coming back every week while also ensuring the league isn’t effectively telling the players that “only winning matters” …which is why I think granting points and recording official standings for winning or losing games is one of the worst ways to keep (most) new players involved in a league for its duration.

League Basics

A lot of this was already posted on the store’s Facebook page, the Calgary Gamers Forum and the Calgary REGIMENT‘s discussion forum back in January, but I’m including it here for the sake of completeness and having all the information in one spot. And really, with this league, I’m just running with a ball that’s already in play: the league was actually thought up and initiated by a few players who were just getting into Heavy Gear and thought that a “painted models only” league would be a great way to accomplish two goals by its end date:

1 – COMPLETE ARMIES
Each participant would have a fully painted, tournament-sized army Heavy Gear force of 1,000 points by the end of the league (March, 2013).

2 – RULE LITERACY
Each participant would know the game’s rules so that games would move along fairly fluidly IE: they would be well above having just a basic grasp of the rules and would be ready to play in a tournament environment (timed games etc).
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I decided that the Heavy Gear League days should be both Fridays and Saturdays, with the hopes of better accommodating people’s’ schedules; and instead of armies increasing in size weekly, we agreed that starting with essentially one-squad armies and increasing the army size by roughly one squad every two weeks would set a brisk enough –yet relaxed enough– pace for players to paint up their models.

As was mentioned above, to ensure that everyone has tournament-sized armies that are fully painted by the end of the league, ALL league games must be played with fully painted and based models. (And for our purposes, fully painted means three colours and no primer showing; model bases must be textured. In the case of sculpted resin bases,  those bases must be be fully painted.)

Points Values

Starting February 8th, the size of armies playing in the league will start at 300 points. Every two weeks, the points values of players’ armies will increase as seen below:

300 pt. Forces – Runs from Friday, Feb. 8th to Saturday, Feb. 16th.

600 pt. Forces – Runs from Friday, Feb. 22nd to Saturday, Mar. 2nd.

900 pt. Forces – Runs from Friday, Mar. 8th to Saturday, Mar. 16th.

1000 pt. Forces – Runs from Friday, Mar. 22nd to Saturday, Mar. 30th.

Because the league has stricter-than normal parameters, I thought it would be appropriate to have prizes for those who commit to the Heavy Gear League. The prizes will be supplied by Imaginary Wars (thereby making it so there’s no entry fees involved with being in the league) and will be awarded for players’ participation.

There will be no tracking of player victories or awarding league standings based on army performance.

Every time players game on a league day (and of the appropriate points level for that week), they’ll earn a raffle ticket; at the end of March, the store will raffle off a few cool items as a way of thanking those who participated.

As a second level of prize, the store will give a points bonus for the store’s “Imaginary Dollars” points reward program to the top three players who play the most games during the league. (The total pool of points to be awarded will be determined by how many people are active in the league.) Obviously, to track who plays the most, we’ll need to have league standings –which, yes, I generally eschew, but these standings will be based strictly on the number of games people play each week.

As I saw with the last escalation league the store ran (for Warhammer 40,000), there were just over double the amount of small games played in the early weeks than there were larger games in the final weeks. I fully expect a similar dynamic to play out in this league –and it makes sense: smaller-sized armies means shorter games …means more games get played. In later stages, larger armies …longer games …fewer games get played. This dynamic works directly against fixing the challenge of keeping players involved through to the end. I mean, after several weeks of constant gaming, players need only show up once or twice just to spend that evening watching other players’ long games and unable to play their own game before deciding there’s little point in making the effort to show up.

To (hopefully) combat that, we’ll be doing two things:

1) players can play Heavy Gear on any day that they like (providing there’s a table free to play on, of course) –they’ll also likely have to arrange that game with another player on a non-league day rather than simply show up unannounced and expecting to get a game in.
2) players will be awarded more points per game as the size of the armies grows: this makes it so that the people who play many games early on will not have an unfair advantage against those who only play a game or two each week, the whole length of the league.

It should be noted that League Standing points will only be awarded for each full, four-turn game played at Imaginary Wars (so at home games totally don’t count) and they will only be awarded for games played at that week’s appropriate points level. Points will be awarded according to the points limit set for each period as such:

300 pt. Forces – 1 League Standing point per game played.

600 pt. Forces – 1.5 League Standing points per game played.

900 pt. Forces – 2 League Standing points per game played.

1000 pt. Forces – 2.5 League Standing points per game played.

With the first half of the first 300-point week now done, here’s how the League currently looks. Yeah, the standings look a tad meager right now; but these standings reflect only one night’s gaming so far; though it was a BUSY Friday night of gaming, there was plenty of room for players to get games in on Saturday. I think if our pool of players come down to the store across both days, a good deal of players will stand to earn more league points.

WEEK 1 STANDINGS

WEEK 1 STANDINGS

Because I was busy helping out the store on a busy night and then later on, getting in a game of my own with Heavy Gear, I really didn’t get many pictures of the League’s first night. However, I did get one photo from Friday night –and another photo from a game being played the next day (though only two people showed up for the League’s first Saturday of gaming).

Curtis with his CEF (Earth) force facing off against Alem's Northern Gears.

Curtis with his CEF (Earth) force facing off against Alem’s Northern Gears.

A close up of Bradford's Peace River Defence Force as they run up against (and over) Curtis's Earth army.

A close up of Bradford’s Peace River Defence Force as they run up against (and over) Curtis’s Earth army.