Washington is Burning

IMG_20150822_193559_118 IMG_20150822_194025_183Last week, we had a thunderstorm that lasted a hair under three hours over my house.
It ignited over 200 wildfires.

The Nisqually delta’s bog is burning. Our Maxfield Parrish splashes of glowing cloud have been replaced by a feeble magenta eye struggling to punch through to us. Yesterday the smoke was so bad in Seattle, you couldn’t see across the Sound, and I stared straight into the sun for the first time in over a decade. It’s like someone stole the sun and traded it out for a red dwarf. Everything smells, tastes, like smoke.

This is the worst it’s been since my great-grandmother was my age.

For the Archive: Solaris Stable Tag Match (Battletech)

I was reminded of an old game mode I used to run years ago by a stray comment in /btg/ – Anon wanted to know what BV levels we preferred, and it came back in a flash.

The Stable Tag Match works best as a mid-season exhibition match or a semi-finals match if you’re doing a full-on AccountantTech Solaris season (and really, there’s no reason not to). It’s sort of a modified Grinder, but flashier, and it makes for a fun demo game. It’s also very much a make-or-break event for the smaller stables, where you have a chance to deal – or receive – crippling economic harm against the competition. I recommend playing it as a double-elimination tournament over a couple of weeks, but with small stables you can sometimes get away with running it as a full-day event.
There are also some other rules in here that I’ve used for most of my Solaris seasons, like the “Face/Heel” bonus purses (see Crowd Support).

Resources:
First things first: you’ll need the April Fool’s joke product XTRO: Royal Fantasy. It reprints all the necessary material from the old Solaris VII boxed set for free, including the map-sheets. You can even print them off in double-size if you want to use Dark Age clix minis, which I’ve done in the past to kick up visual interest in the game. Alternately, you can try to hunt up the Solaris map pack, but that’s been out of print for a good while. The scenario was initially designed for the Steiner Coliseum, but I’ve also used it in the Reaches, the Jungle, and the Factory to good effect.

You’ll also need at least four tag-out markers. I’ve used bottlecaps (good beer makes for good Battletech), Blip markers, repainted Krazy Glue bottle protectors with an LED in the tip, and cardboard hex markers with the word “TAG” on them in large friendly letters.  You can also add 2-hex-wide doors, one per player (I used Space Hulk bulkheads) to the edges of the map, representing the entrances at the edges of the arena.

Hiring Duncan Fisher is advisable but probably prohibitively expensive.

Force Selection:
Matches may be ‘Mech-only, or mixed, at the option of the organizers. The points limit is the total fieldable BV of the smallest stable in the Season, or an arbitrary value between 2,000 and 5,000 BV.  If playing with Stables during a season, the smallest stable(s) use their entire available force. The other stables must field ‘Mechs or other combatants, to the nearest 250 points (NOTE: You can go over, but only if you don’t have any units with a BV lower than the overrun. This is to keep you from winding up 500+ points behind because you can’t quite squeeze in a Light).
For single matches, the forces chosen must all be under the points limit.

Special Rules:
Tagging Out: If a ‘Mech successfully lands a physical attack on one of the “TAG” markers, the ‘Mech is swapped out with another unit from the owning player’s stable at the beginning of the next turn. Vehicles, infantry, and battle armor need simply remain in the same hex through the physical phase. The new unit is swapped directly on the tabletop with the old one, being placed in the same hex but with any facing the player prefers.
Tag Markers count as one vehicle for stacking purposes. They may be inset into one of the walls in a cramped arena, such as Ishiyama, at which point non-Mech units need only spend the physical attacks phase adjacent to the marker to tag out in this case.

No Tag-backs: If the player has more than two usable units, a unit may not tag-out with the most recently-used unit.

Forced Withdrawal: A unit that has been subjected to Forced Withdrawal must retreat to a Tag Point; they may not retreat to their stable doors.

Destroyed and Surrendered Units: If a unit is destroyed, or surrenders on the field, the killing player gets one free Movement Phase. The player who lost the unit may then move its replacement onto the map from their Stable Door in the Movement Phase of the next turn.

Crowd Support: The usual rules for Crowd Support are in effect; players may not agree to ignore them for tag matches. In addition, track each player’s highest total support rating in each match. At the end of the tournament, the player who achieved the highest total score in any of the matches gets the “Viewer’s Choice” purse of 25,000 Cb per match in the tournament. You can also award Viewer’s Choice after each round in the tournament.
At the management’s option, in tournaments with more than two players you may also include a “Heel” award of 5-10,000 Cb for the player with the lowest Support Rating after each round or tournament.
Note that tagging out is NOT considered surrendering; in fact, the Crowd Support rating is increased by +1 on a successful tag, representing the crowd’s excitement to see a fresh warrior enter the battle.

Example: Emily has just finished a match in the Factory. Over the course of twenty turns, she scored mostly sixes and eights, but after a particularly spectacular kill in the twelfth round her total support rating went up to 14, before falling once again to average numbers. The GM notes down “Support: 14” next to her win on the ladder chart; this places her ahead of Mike, who got a 12 in a Jungle match in the previous round of the Tournament. Her lowest rating, a 5, doesn’t come close to Dennis’s low water mark of -3 (bad rolls, cockpit hits, and away crowds are unforgiving at times), so she’s still not in contention for the “heel” award. 

Optional Rule: If players successfully execute a “flashy” physical attack (DFA, Charge, pushing an opponent off the fourth floor of the Factory or cliff) they gain +2 Crowd Support instead of the usual +1.
 
Set Up:
The organizer places the Tag markers before the match begins. At least one should be in a concealed but difficult-to-reach location and one in a highly-visible spot; try to keep them roughly equidistant from each other. In the Steiner arena, you can also roll a d6 at the beginning of a round to see the squares in which Tag Points have popped up; there is a Tag Point on each of the related black numbers for the rest of the round. If combining this with pylons, rolling doubles means there are no tag points available, only pylons.
Place each of the Stable Door markers into two adjacent hexes on the edge of the map, spacing them out as far as possible. The Coliseum already has two stable doors; for three and four player matches, simply add two more on the far side of the map.

Each player writes down their chosen unit on a slip of paper, and then rolls initiative for the first turn. The chosen unit must enter the battlefield from the player’s Stable Doors. Play then proceeds as normal.
Stables have the option to surrender at any time after having one ‘Mech or vehicle destroyed, and must surrender if all their available units are currently subject to Forced Withdrawal. A Stable surrender is considered a loss for the round.