A Pitched Battle

The stage was set over lunch two days ago. The plan was for me to meet Joe and Marc in Ventrilo once my daughter was in bed and asleep. We would then proceed to slaughter each other over a virtual World War II battle field in Company of Heroes. Because Marc is the RTS game expert, he would be paired with a computer player set on easy difficulty, while Joe and I would form a heroic alliance of heroes tasked with destroying the evil-doers. I couldn’t wait. The rest of the day was spent engaging in psychological warfare, bombarding Marc with propaganda, reminding him that neither Joe or I were any good at RTS games, we were new to CoH, Joe didn’t know how to do anything, that sort of stuff. Which was all true of course, but we may have played it up a little bit; Joe and I have a tendency to exaggerate at times.

With my daughter in bed, I hurried downstairs to my computer room like a kid on Christmas morning. Upon logging on to Ventrilo I discovered that Marc and Joe were already playing a 1 vs 1 game, and it didn’t sound as though things were going well for my alliance partner. It took just a few more minutes for them to finish their game, and sure enough, Joe was “slaughtered”. Marc was living up to his reputation as RTS King, or perhaps Joe was just living up to his reputation as all-around failure. Most likely it was a mixture of both. Regardless, with their game done, we quickly got to setting up our epic battle, choosing the Lyon map because it had a nice mixture of open and urban spaces, with a river running right down the middle. It was apparent right at the start that control of the four bridges would be key, at least that’s what every war movie I have ever seen told me.

Playing as the Americans, I started out in the very top of the map with Joe to my left. As soon as I got my bearings I started spitting out some engineers and sent a few of them to capture some resource points. Beyond that, I struggled to figure out what to do next. I had been playing as the Wehrmacht in my skirmishes leading up to this game, and the mechanics behind their play is slightly different. It was two minutes into the game and I already felt like I was behind everyone else, but I soldiered on. A squad of engineers that I had sent out soon discovered enemy territory to the right of the map, just across the northern bridge. There were two undefended enemy resource points in the area which I set my engineers to capturing. They came under fire from some German infantry (it wasn’t until after the game that I found out it was Marc as opposed to the computer) before they could capture the first point and were wiped out soon thereafter. The first shots of battle had been fired, and the war had begun.

Bridge BattleThe north bridge became my primary objective, and I started pumping out units to reinforce my front line. While that last sentence sounds impressively war-like, and “Great General-ish”, in reality I was panicking and saying in my head, “oh no! I lost the bridge, they’re going to be coming any second, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die,” as I frantically clicked on my build buttons to get some units out in the field. A steady stream of my infantry, along with some heavy machine guns took position on my side of the bridge. I was soon joined by several of Joe’s units as well. For what seemed like an eternity, we battled over control of the bridge. Marc would send some units over it only to have them blown apart by the mines I had set, or gunned down by the heavy machine guns fortified in the nearby house. Any American attempts of crossing the bridge met with a similar response from Marc. I continued to fortify my side of the bridge, placing sandbags, more mines, and even a machine gun bunker. I soon assembled a raid force consisting of three tanks, some infantry, two mortar squads, and two anti-tank guns and began to shell Marc’s side of the bridge with mortar fire and ordered my tanks to cross the bridge. Hidden in the fog of war however, Marc unleashed a Nebelwerfer (rocket artillery) which rained fiery destruction upon the bridge. While two of my tanks managed to make it across the bridge, the third was destroyed right in the middle. The ensuing explosion took out the bridge entirely, as can be seen in the picture. With the bridge wiped out, my two tanks were left to fend for themselves in enemy territory while I brought some engineers up to rebuild the bridge.

While I fought it out with Marc in the north, Joe was having great success in the south. Joe’s offensive push down below shifted the German attention away from my forces in the north and I was quickly able to assemble another raid force and bring them across the newly rebuilt north bridge. Marc’s army was the first to fall, after Joe’s tanks reduced his HQ to rubble. After that, it was only a matter of time for the combined might of the American army to eliminate the computer. We all had a blast and decided to play another quick game.

Joe DiesJoe’s efforts in the first game proved his duplicitous nature, and as a result, he was paired with the computer, this time on normal difficulty, for the second match. We chose a different map, I can’t remember which one, but it was much more open. Marc and I, playing as the Americans had great starting locations unlike Joe and the computer who were stuck practically on top of each other. This second game went relatively quickly. I made enemy contact within a couple minutes and the fighting was fairly constant from that point on. Despite multiple pushes, I was consistently repelled by the combined forces of Joe and the computer. During one of my pushes, which once again was being repelled, I sent a message to Marc indicating I was having some difficulties on the left side of the map. His response was a simple, “I’m coming,” backed up by several tanks, mortars, and plenty of infantry. We now had both the computer and Joe pinned into one corner of the map where we blasted their forces and buildings. The picture shows Marc’s army, backed up by one of my mortar squads, beginning the final assault on Joe’s base. I think it’s fair to say that Joe put up a good fight given the disadvantage the map gave him.

So now it looks like our next game will pair me up with the computer, unless we can convince one other person to get the game and participate. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to it, because this game is nothing but fun.

The Art of the Sell

I played a couple games of Company of Heroes last night with work buddies Joe and Marc. I’ll have a full write up of how the games went tonight or tomorrow, but in the mean time, what you’ll find below is an actual E-mail conversation we had today, copied word for word, trying to convince our other buddy Brian to get in on the CoH action so we can have proper 2 vs. 2 matches.

To: Brian
From: David (That’s me!)

Hey Brian, how interested are you in buying Company of Heroes (Game of the Year edition just $19.99) and playing with myself, Joe, and Marc?


To: David, Joe, Marc
From: Brian

Hmm, sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll pick it up then. Do you guys have it already? Also, what’s up for lunch tomorrow?


To: Brian, David, Marc
From: Joe

Yes we all bought Game of the Year edition. We played it together last night. It was super fun.


To: David, Joe, Marc
From: Brian

The problem with us playing RTS games is that we all know Marc is going to win. It’s all a matter of who comes in second. I have the day off tomorrow and should be back by lunch time if you guys wanna meet somewhere.


To: Brian, David, Marc
From: Joe

Actually, Dave and I won the first game over Marc and the Computer. Dave and Marc completely obliterated me and the CPU the 2nd match. We usually go for lunch at 11:30. So just show up and we’ll decide whatever.


To: Joe, Brian, David
From: Marc

In my defence…THE COMPUTER SUCKS!!!


To: Marc, Joe, Brian
From: David

Yet, the computer lasted longer than you.


To: David, Joe, Brian
From: Marc

1) You thought you were fighting the PC the whole game…when in reality…it was ME!
2) Joe was a cheap ass…stupid artillery…GOD!


To: Marc, Joe, Brian
From: David

1) I thought I was fighting the PC the whole time because quite frankly, I thought you were supposed to be good at this game
2) Joe is a cheap ass, and always will be. He is not God.


To: David, Joe, Brian
From: Marc

1) noob
2) shut up…


To: Marc, Joe, Brian
From: David

1) My poop
2) Your mouth


To: David, Joe, Brian
From: Marc

Anways…It’s a good investment Brian. The graphics are great and the game play can be compared to Generals / Dawn of War although the controls are a bit better…These fools love tanks, that’s all that Joe gets.


To: Marc, David, Joe
From: Brian

It looks like fun. I read that the resources are not harvested? You accumulate them over time depending on the territory you control? On a side note, I should probably stop using my work email for this, so from now on, send everything to <email address> kthx.


Perhaps I should go into marketing or something.

Schooled

While my motivation to play EQII has been waning of late, the urge hit me last night, so for the first time in a while I logged in. My Mystic Elrahir, is nearing the end of the quests in the Fens and I have never really been in Kunzar Jungle, so that’s where I headed. Of course, everything was kill on sight right away, so I had to carefully make my way to some quest givers to build up some faction. It only took one simple quest to no longer be kill on sight in the first village I came across, which gave me access to yet more quests. So, off I went to kill some Tigers, and Sabrecats, and whatever else my quest journal had tasked me to kill. It probably took about twenty minutes for me to realize I just wasn’t having any fun, so rather than push myself to continue, I sent an instant message to my work buddy Marc to see if he wanted to play Company of Heroes.

In my previous post, it was my other work buddy Joe who I was going to battle for CoH supremecy, but he was too chicken (that’s right, brawk, braaawwwk!) to log out of his EQII safety net, using the “I’m raiding” excuse. Marc however, couldn’t log out of World of Warcraft fast enough, he was so eager to get some CoH on. I gave myself precisely zero percent chance at beating Marc. For starters, he’s played CoH before, while I’ve only played a few skirmishes against the computer the past week. Secondly, he’s a real-time strategy game freak, posessing the ever important uber-micro skills. It was probably about two years ago now, that I was playing Rise of Nations a fair bit, to the point where I thought I was pretty good at it. I convinced Marc to pick the game up and give it a go. I figured I was going to slaughter him pretty good, what with him never having played the game before. Sadly, that was not the case. Apparently, RTS skills are fairly universal, and while I got off to a decent start, Marc eventually steamrolled over top of my army. So, knowing Marc had played CoH before, I was fully prepared to bow down in defeat.

Surprise!I was set up to play as the Wehrmacht, while Marc played the Americans. As soon as the match started I set my pioneers off on their merry way. It didn’t take long for me to have control of half the map, and the resources were coming in at a steady pace. I had set up some stationary MG42s and mortar units at some of the chokepoints, more as an “early warning system” than a defensive strongpoint. Our first little skirmish occurred between some infantry in the middle of the map, where my Volksgrenadiers proved their worth, wiping out the American squad. Not long after however, Marc sent some troops down my west flank, which conveniently enough for him, hadn’t been reinforced. Immediately after wresting control of one of my strategic points his squad ran straight into my newly deployed Panther Panzer (pictured). The Americans tried to run, but they couldn’t run fast enough, and within seconds my Panzer had obliterated them. I quickly re-took the strategic points and began to push forward. I have to admit, I smiled a little knowing full well that I took Marc by surprise. I was pretty sure he didn’t have any tanks at the time, so I’m assuming I sent him into a bit of a panic. Unfortunately, this moment would end up being my downfall.

Lights OutWith a renewed sense of confidence, I pushed my tank forward just as a second Panther was deployed. Marc, seasoned RTS veteran that he is, started deploying some anti-tank units. Crap. I forgot about those. Thinking that I had a good chance at an offensive, I focused entirely on my two tanks, forgetting about the rest of my production. It took just a few shots from the stupid, cheating, cheap-shot anti-tank guys to put me on the defensive. I started pulling back what units I had as the dirty Americans surged forward. The writing was on the wall as the American artillery rained fiery destruction down upon my positions. My production began to stall as Marc overtook strategic, and resource points as he pushed forward. I pressed my brave soldiers to fight to the death, and die they did. It wasn’t long before the Americans had my headquarters surrounded, pummeling it with all they had. I called in a Tiger tank reinforcement which managed to take on two American Sherman tanks, but eventually succumbed to more artillery fire. With that, my last stance, the game was over. The picture shows Marc pummeling away at my HQ next to the wreckage of my Tiger tank.

Despite getting my butt handed to me, I had an absolute blast. This is one fun game, and the graphical presentation of it is phenomenal. Joe says he’ll play tonight… we’ll see.