Sunday, 11 October 2015

Game Report 1/10/15 - LTARs, Mega Proliferation

Second Nerf event of the week, this one with the Equalz Dee group. A third is to come at MHvZ on Saturday, so I'm pretty sure my legs will no longer work by next week.
Saw a lot more Mega blasters in action than usual, and also had a few quick games with LTARs.
Trouble in Terrorist Town (TTT) - all players are given a playing card from a specific deck at random - the joker indicates the "detective", aces "terrorists" and any other card "innocents/civilians". The detective can generally be considered as simply a special civilian. Naturally no player can show any other player their card, except in the detective's special circumstances. The deck is formed such that the civilians outnumber the terrorists and there are very few (or only one) detectives (for instance: 7 civilians, 3 terrorists and 1 detective). Terrorists try to eliminate all other players besides fellow terrorists, and know who each other are. Civilians and the detective(s) try to eliminate all terrorists. In this manner, a player who eliminates everyone else will win regardless of which side they're on. Friendly fire is on, so civilians can eliminate other civilians, and terrorists can eliminate other terrorists. The detective can "inspect" an eliminated player's body by showing their joker, and the eliminated player must show the detective their card, this being the only situation in which a player should show another player their cards. If a detective is asked about the identity of a deceased, the detective must be truthful.
Octozombies v1.2 - a small scale version of Runner HvZ, using a small play area such as a basketball court. Effectively a Nerf-ed version of the beloved primary school game Octopus. Starting zombies get swords/bats/similar suitable melee. If a human is tagged, they become a zombie in the next round. At the end of each run the humans pick up their one shot if used (or just load a new one in). Humans are not permitted to scavenge off the ground during runs. In early runs, the humans have just one dart/disc/etc each and replenish only at the ends of each run. In later runs the humans as a group will have exactly enough ammo to stop every zombie if they don't miss (ie 4 zombies means 4 darts/discs/whatever), which can be distributed however they want.
Zombie hit rules (that we used):
If there are less than 3 zombies - zombies operate on x-second stuns - we used one for a lone zombie (zombie must come to a stop, say one, then can continue), and three to five (five for initiation rounds) for two zombies. Zombies can tag while stunned, but cannot move.
If there are 3-4 zombies - zombies operate on one-shot octopi - when hit they are immobilised but can still tag humans.
If there are 5 zombies - zombies operate on one-shot octopi.
Recall HvZ - every few minutes the safe zone is opened up for the humans to get upgrades and reload, also giving zombies upgrades. Regular zombie rules apply, with the starting zombies getting arm shields to shorten the game.
Survival HvZ - standard HvZ, humans try to survive as long as possible. Players who arrived late become zombies, and the original zombie starts with two arm shields.

Laser Tag FFA - free for all using the LTARs.
Laser Tag CTF - both teams try to take the enemy flag (which can either be carried or hidden) and get it to their own flag (which again can be carried or hidden). The first team to successfully get both flags to one person (or eliminate the other team of course) wins.

Other rules:
Double Tapupon a first hit zombies would be stunned for a short time. If hit again the zombie must go out of sight of the humans to respawn. Melee can only stun a zombie and cannot fully doubletap them. Mega, Vortex and Rockets all instantly doubletap a zombie with a single hit.
Bleed Out - upon being hit a human would go into 'Bleed Out' for 10 seconds, during which they can be revived by placing one's hand on the downed human and counting out loud from 3. Used only for TTT.

Zombie upgrades:
Sword - increases the reach of a zombie, can be used to block shots.
Shield - blocks all non-rocket ammo, a shield hit with a rocket is a 5-second stun, independent of the doubletap system. Small arm shields can be used for melee, large shields cannot (safety reasons of course).

Spitter (Mini Vortex Howler) - stuns a human for 5 seconds, during which they cannot move or fire. Can be picked up and reused as necessary.

LTAR system:
Health - 10 for regular players, 25 can also be used which we did for the team with less players
Fire modes - Semi-auto as standard, can switch to full-auto. If fired for too long, full-auto will overheat, disabling all functions for a few seconds. Semi-auto does not overheat. Full auto also has a longer reload time.
Ammo capacity - 10 for semi-auto, 15 for full-auto.
Shield - Blocks all hits. Lasts for a total of 15 seconds and does not replenish. Cannot shoot while shielded.

Rebelle Sweet Revenges (modded) - my standard modded dual wield pistols, mostly used individually due to the nature of the games we played. Still effective, though significantly less so.
Elite Roughcut - performed as usual.
Elite Strongarm - performed as usual.
ZS Hammershots - same usual, solid all round pistols.
Rebelle Secret Shot - saw only a little use, and no significant combat use.
Mega Thunderbow - same as before, a large, silly and intimidating Mega firing blaster that gets solid ranges.
ZS Flipfury - as usual, a Strongarm with a higher capacity.
Mega Magnus - a low capacity handcannon with decent range, not bad for double-tap HvZ but not great otherwise.
ZS Slingfire - not bad given it being clip (mag) system allowed a good capacity, but otherwise not too notable.

N-Strike Thunderblast - operated as expected, a blaster especially effective against zombies with shields, but otherwise practically useless.
Buzz Bee Extreme Blastzooka (Shamecannon) - like the Thunderblast, except even slower between rockets.
Mega Cycloneshock - combines the power of the Magnus (and the abilities Mega darts) with a perfectly reasonable capacity. Didn't like rapid fire as the rotation mech tended to slip in such situations, but otherwise worked very well, being also easier to reload than the Magnus.
Buzz Bee Air Max 3 (with Tyrant clip [mag]) - took the Magnus' low capacity to an extreme 12 Megas, but was only used in TTT where Megas behave no differently to regular darts. Quite solid in TTT considering most blasters had at most 6 darts.
Rebelle 4Victory - acted as a smaller, lighter Sweet Revenge/Hammershot with one less shot. In HvZ games the low capacity did start to become an issue, though still did quite well.
N-Strike Titan (absolvered) - ridiculously impractical but a lot of fun. Saw use in TTT, where it acted as basically a one-use blaster, as reloading and repumping it takes far too long. It's practically guaranteed to hit its target, and the spread also helps to potentially hit other nearby players and cause further chaos. Both lone players and groups were scared to approach me because of the threat of all of them getting wiped out in an instant, but if faced with two separate enemies, I had no chance given the reload time.
N-Strike Alpha Trooper - was used in a game where most other blasters were pistol sized, so the capacity advantage was big, especially for holding off multiple zombies. Performance wise was not notable.
DT Snapfire - the highest capacity one-handable pistol blaster present, however it appeared to be rather unreliable, often not properly rotating and leaving the user with a misfire. I believe this is due to the barrel posts being cleanly removed to the point where darts can be inserted further than intended, directly interfering with the rotation.

The play area was the same school that these events are usually held at, in the built up area that has a lot of passageways and cover. The walls and cover were especially important in the Laser Tag games, where range and accuracy are not issues.
We only had 7 players, but they all stayed for the whole event.

I'll cover the few Laser Tag games first.
The first game was a basic Free For All, just to get used to the LTARs and the laser tag system. It ran for a couple of minutes and was pretty unremarkable. I survived until the near end by staying away from the open central area, while still trying to get used to laser tag combat.
The second game was a Capture the Flag, where players can carry their flag around instead of leaving it at a set location. The idea of this was to make the game into a VIP style one, however ended up as basically a TDM, as there were no respawns and the VIPs behaved identically to regular players. The VIPs were also very well protected, leaving them as the last players surviving by the end of the round, somewhat defeating the point of the game.

The games themselves ran somewhat unremarkably, so instead I'll talk about how the LTARs worked compared to Nerf blasters. We used them without iPhones as none of us have iPhones. Obviously having the much longer range with perfect accuracy changed combat dynamics significantly. With Nerf blasters combat is almost exclusively within 8m ranges, since beyond that stock blasters are very easy to dodge and aren't very accurate. There's less emphasis on cover and more on maneuverability, and open spaces are not deadly, sometimes being very useful in zombie combat. Additionally with Nerf blasters upon firing you instantly give away your position.
In Laser Tag, since range and accuracy aren't issues, cover is crucial to not getting taken out quickly, and going into open areas is a great way to get taken out instantly. Because of the range and lack of a physical projectile, it's also practically impossible to spot a well hidden opponent even if they're firing on you. The lack of a physical projectile of course means that reloads are effortless, and so act as buffers against just constant firing.

With stockish Nerf blasters sights are not necessary as at close range you can easily get a hit from just instinctively aiming towards a person's main body mass. With LTARs this is not possible as the only hit detection is on the top of the blaster, making precise aiming necessary. What makes this worse is that the LTARs have horrible, horrible iron sights that run straight through the hit detection dome, which are impossible to look through to acquire targets. The built in solution to this is the blaster itself making a noise when you're aimed directly at an enemy dome, which is a terribly inferior system to being actually able to aim.
Another issue with hitting was that there were no other hit detectors, only the one on the blaster. As such instead of being able to just aim at a player, you have to aim at the top of their blaster, which is very easily obscured, whether intentionally or not. Being unable to hit anywhere besides the hit detection dome, coupled with the total lack of usable sights made it very difficult to aim and fire with real conviction that the shot would hit, without waiting for the lock-on noise.

There are also several flaws in the LTAR blaster itself. One that I found particularly annoying was the fact that the LTAR has only one speaker, and as such prioritises certain sounds over others. For instance the getting hit sound replaces the shooting sound if you're shooting while getting hit. Since there are a number of noise-based functions of the LTAR, having only one sound play at any one time is very annoying. Additionally when getting hit the hit detection dome is meant to light up, however in bright sunlight this was impossible to notice, especially when trying to aim at enemies, since the LEDs are typically pointed forwards.
One issue with using lasers instead of darts, as well as the lack of proper sights was that if you missed you couldn't tell how far off you were, or which direction you missed in, leaving you to have to guess and spam or wait and try to get the lock-on, neither of which I consider to be a substitute for being able to either track your own shots, or be able to effectively aim.

Having both semi and full auto I think was unnecessary. Semi auto works perfectly fine, especially if you have a quick trigger finger. Full auto doesn't fire any faster than a quick semi auto, and overheats instead of needing to reload if 10 shots are fired too quickly, which takes much longer than reloading. Good burst fire control lets you make the most of the 15 shot capacity, but you then have to deal with a longer reload. I never bothered with full auto, 10 shot semi auto with a super fast reload worked fine for me.

I never used the shield function properly, however I saw it used quite effectively in some situations. The shield is activated by a secondary trigger in front of the main firing trigger, which I ended up accidentally pressing several times. Thankfully when the shield is activated the LTAR plays a shield noise, and if hit while the shield is up plays a different hit noise, so you can easily tell if your shield is on or not. The ability to be invincible for a short time is very useful for changing positions in the middle of a firefight and moving about outside of cover, as I saw it used. While having it not recharge is an issue if the game becomes particularly drawn out, 15 seconds is more than enough to change cover several times and still have a little shield left over for emergencies.

Since the LTARs were designed to be used with an iPhone as a HUD, and we used them without iPhones, we weren't able to to access some of the features of the LTAR system. One notable thing that I sorely missed was a health indicator. In Nerf it's typically easy to count hits since it uses an easily noticeable physical ammo, however in Laser Tag if you're hit several times within a very short period the LTAR the only indication of the number of hits you've taken will be how many times the hit noise is played, which can be very difficult to count particularly in combat. One built in feature the LTAR does have for health is that if on 3 or less health, the LTAR will say "warning", but besides that there's no indication of how much health you're on.

Something that was not programmed was a respawn function, the closest thing being simply turning the LTAR off and back on again. As such we stuck with permadeath rules, which I really, really dislike. This is especially for Laser Tag where the players can spread out extremely far while still being in combat range, and so the games can go on for a lot longer and a lot more spread out. After I was eliminated in the CTF game, it lasted for another 5 minutes or so, which when you're not in the game is quite a long time.

Overall I wasn't a big fan of the LTAR laser tag system. I accept that some of the flaws come from it being a budget retail solution but there were certainly some that wouldn't cost much, if anything to fix, in particular the sights issue and the speakers. Just a little bit more thought and effort into the design and the LTARs would have been (in my opinion) significantly more usable and user friendly.
Additionally I'm not a fan of how the Laser Tag games ran. The permadeath system more often than not punished aggressive play with a quick elimination, rather than rewarding it with a swift victory by your teammates afterwards.
Something I really miss with Laser Tag was the physical aspect of Nerf. Having to aim at a small dome on the top of a person's blaster instead of being able to just aim at the person was extremely irritating, made worse by the general inability to properly aim the LTARs. Sure with stockish Nerf you have blasters effective only in close range and terrible accuracy, but you get to see where your shots went and how you should adjust your next shot, and you can see yourself whether you hit or not, instead of having to rely on your blaster telling you.
I personally would prefer to stick to purely Nerf rather than Nerf and Laser Tag with LTARs, the overall Laser Tag system of the LTARs in my opinion had too many flaws and weaknesses compared to the new abilities it offered. I've played outdoor Laser Tag with much more advanced blasters, with proper sights, a built in status readout, head hit detectors, stocks for the larger blasters and overall a lot more sophistication (though obviously they're not retail blasters and need to be rented and used under supervision in a set area) and I think that system works a lot better.

Survival HvZ worked as expected. We started with 5 players, one of them the OZ, with anyone who rocked up during the game just becoming a zombie for convenience. Zombies operated on a simple 5 second stun. The OZ started with two arm shields, since 4h vs 1z is a horrible matchup for the zombie. I used the Shamecannon, which was a terrible idea but I didn't expect anything different. My key advantage was that the arm shielded zombie posed no more threat than a regular zombie, since my rocket stunned through his shields anyway.
Early game the zombie posed little threat, there were more than enough humans to keep him covered and stunned regardless of the protection offered by his shields, especially with my use of the Shamecannon. As the other players began to arrive, the zombies began to pose a credible threat since the OZ could act as a makeshift tank, and the humans for the most part were limited to very rudimentary blasters. I was lost quite early on compared to the other humans, being able to stun the OZ but being unable to reload fast enough to deal with any other zombies, as expected. The addition of new players arriving during the game to add more zombies plus the zombies now successfully tagging humans meant that the humans only lasted another minute or two before all falling.
If some of the new players had been made humans instead of zombies, and had I chosen a useful blaster instead of the Shamecannon, the humans would have survived a fair bit longer, but the point of this round was just to get people warmed up while waiting for the rest of the people to show up, so no real issues.

Recall HvZ went a little awkwardly. With only 7 people, starting with 2 OZs and doubletap, the humans were under more threat than usual right from the start. The OZs were able to put a lot more pressure than usual for a Recall HvZ, and humans were lost much earlier than usual. 2z/5h is a ratio normally used for Survival, which typically runs about 5-10 minutes, not the 30+ minutes of Recall. The recalls were also not the same with the safe zone opening based on time instead of human losses. The first recall saw four humans return, however noone was able to survive to the second recall. I left the safe zone a little later than the other humans, and went in the opposite direction of them. As a result I was never able to link up with them, and they all fell before I could find any of them. Before witnessing their fates I was told by a zombie that I was the final survivor. I only had a single Sweet Revenge, which is not enough to break through a group of 6 zombies on doubletap, some of whom had upgrades, and so I was not able to survive until the safe zone opened again.
The idea of Recall HvZ is a much longer lasting game than the other HvZs, however with the small player count and starting with 2 OZs, I don't think Recall HvZ was suitable. The last time we played Recall, it was with around 10 players with 2 OZs, and that lasted a while as both humans and zombies received appropriate upgrades for every human loss/zombie gain, and by the time the zombie horde had grown the humans were sufficiently armed to effectively combat the threat. However this time the humans were not able to adequately arm themselves sequentially as too many humans were lost too quickly.

Octozombies worked pretty much as expected, a good warmup/cooldown event, short and casual, with minimal consequence for messing up. Surprisingly, no human was able to try the final run, the furthest any human reached was the 2 human run, at which point both humans promptly lost. Incredibly poor human coordination resulted in the humans often being wiped out at the 3 human run stage, however I believe one of the main causes was the slight rule change. In previous Octo games stunned zombies would be unable to tag, however this time around we played with Octopus-while-stunned, so stunned zombies could still flail about and try to tag humans.
This naturally resulted in situations where zombies who get hit slow down to a stop, but are still moving for a short time and with the octopus-while-stunned, could still tag humans when they shouldn't be able to. Additionally, in the 2 human run, zombies operated on one-shot-octopi instead of one-shot-eliminate, and as such they were able to block the entire area when spread out properly, and the humans were unable get past.
So besides the issue of the stun-octopi, Octozombies worked as expected, nothing new really.

Trouble in Terrorist Town worked a lot better without the Room of Revealing, which really unbalanced the game last time. For the first few rounds we played with no extra rules, just civilians, terrorists and a detective.
Since the detective is revealed before the game begins, they're the only person the civilians can trust, so both civilians and terrorists will try to earn the trust of the detective. The way this normally works is the detective picks the few least suspicious looking players as their bodyguards, and try to reveal the terrorists in the remaining group through various means, including intimidation and blackmailing. Since the detective doesn't know the identity of players until they have been eliminated and he/she can check the cards of the deceased, they don't actually know whether their bodyguards are civilians or terrorists until the end of the game.
If the terrorists get revealed too early, they get ganged up on by the civilians and taken out quickly, and so typically try to turn the civilians on one another. If the terrorists are able to get enough civilians eliminated without getting revealed, they can quickly eliminate the rest and win.

We had 7 players the whole time. In the first rounds we started with 2 terrorists, which I think is reasonably balanced against 5 civilians. Although numerically inferior, the terrorists have the advantage of knowing the identity of every player, which compared to the civilians who only know the identity of the detective, is a big advantage. For the most part, the games we played with 5v2 was reasonably well balanced. I think 5v3 would be better balanced, but alas that requires another person to attend. The terrorists normally had slightly less chance to win than civilians (something like a 40%-60% ratio), but still very reasonable if they work together well and can turn the civilians against one another.
We played a round with 3 terrorists, however it was quickly evident that this was heavily unbalanced since if each terrorist eliminated one human each on reveal, it quickly devolved into a 1v3, which is almost guaranteed to be a victory for the terrorists. So instead of the delicate psychological warfare of TTT, it became just a straight elimination heavily favouring the terrorists.

Something we decided to try was having a second detective, who is also a terrorist. At the start of the game both detectives are revealed, but the identity of the traitor detective is not revealed, except obviously to the civilian detective. The idea of this was to create more early game conflict. Usually in early game all conflicts are either verbal, or against a particularly suspicious looking/acting player. The detective would form one group of players, and the rest would float about until some combat begins. With the second traitor detective in the game, the two detectives would face off, often with players picking a side. One issue that arose however, was that the rest of the players could force the detectives to duel, which universally benefits the civilians. If the civilian detective wins and reveals that the defeated detective was a terrorist, meaning that there's only one terrorist left. If the terrorist detective wins, they can either refuse to reveal the identity of the defeated detective (upon which they get executed by the rest of the players), or reveal that the defeated detective was the civilian, and get executed by the civilians anyway. There is no outcome from this situation in which the terrorists get an advantage.
One change we intend to implement is to allow the detective to lie about the identity of the deceased, naturally to eliminate the key problem with the detective duel. With the ability to lie, the traitor detective can win the duel and pretend to be the civilian detective, adding a further element of paranoia into the game.

EDIT 11/10/15: Forgot the Bleed Out mechanic.
For the last couple of games, Bleed Out was instigated. Instead of a player being immediately eliminated, they go into bleed-out for 10 seconds, during which another player can revive them by placing their hand on the downed player's shoulder, and counting down from 3 loudly. If the 10 second elapses with no revive (or the player decides not to bother letting others revive him), the player is eliminated. This allows terrorists to potentially revive fellow terrorists, civilians fellow civilians, but naturally since everyone's identity is obscured until elimination, anyone can revive anyone else. The detective can only check the card of an eliminated player, not a downed one.
Naturally since it takes a short time to revive a player, the reviver is potentially risking their own life to revive someone they can't necessarily guarantee is an ally (unless you're a terrorist, or the downed player is the detective).
The Bleed Out mechanic tends to punish anarchistic players since their victims can be easily revived by the majority, and acts as a potential saviour for those who are eliminated by accident or unjustly. It can naturally also be used as a psychological element, trying to suss out who trusts/is in league with who, and thus who may be a threat. The detective was usually the one to drive this sort of play, as they can verify the identity of the deceased, thus benefit from people not being revived. Conversely, the detective will also try to revive their own bodyguards. Bleed Out also lends well to the tendency for players to form groups, as people within groups will revive one another, while forsaking those of other groups.
Naturally as a civilian, you don't know whether the person you're trying to revive is a civilian or terrorist (unless they're the detective of course), so you have no idea whether you're bolstering your own kind, or bolstering the enemy. Terrorists obviously know who fellow terrorists are, but to maintain their cover may revive civilians, or forsake fellow terrorists.
Reviving a downed player who was the victim of a (suspected) terrorist or otherwise, if directed by the detective, is a good way to gain the trust of the detective and most players. Typically the trust of the detective involves a lot of bantering or combat against people the detective sees as threats; reviving players is a non-combat and very quick method to potentially gain trust, though obviously you want to be wary of who you revive, as you may be reviving an enemy and not an ally.
Overall Bleed Out reduced the effectiveness of the anarchistic player who just attacks anyone, and adds in a buffer against being taken out early in the game, which is very much unfun.

Overall TTT worked much better without the Room, and the new traitor detective with the ability to lie should make future games really interesting. Bleed Out added a new element to the game that reduced the permadeath element, which partly serves to fix one of the elements I don't like about TTT. Though I still prefer more combat intensive games, this version of TTT is still enjoyable.


  1. This is did the ultra tek sidewinder fair?

    1. Noone used it, it was far too hard to load up.

  2. Interesting points on the LTAR. I have 6 of them from when they were on sale. The single dome is annoying. We get round permadeath by giving each player or team a fixed number of spawn tokens, each time you go to the spawn point and reset your blaster costs 1 token. When the tokens are gone your team loses. That stops people sitting around. They are great in heavier cover like woods where their range is negated and not having to find darts in bushes etc is a major bonus.

    1. These LTAR rounds were just quick introductory ones, the respawn was talked about after those rounds when we had switched back to Nerf, and I assume will be implemented in future games where appropriate. I would have liked perhaps a built in respawn function, but among other things it would probably be easy to abuse (though doing so does break the first rule).
      Yeah the ability to play in large, messy areas without having to worry about picking up afterwards is a huge plus.