Friday, August 6, 2010

Belated weekend recap

Not quite a full week later I finally have time to write-up a run-down on my trip to Fredericksburg.  I chronicled my prep work already, but I left out my route planning.  I had a vague idea of where Fredericksburg is (South), but my grasp of its position was weak enough that I consulted the maps of Google for advice.  It gave me two routes, the one that I had thought to use myself (123 to 95 South), and another that I thought existed but wasn't sure of (out to Manassass, then 234 to 95 South).  The two routes looked similar enough that I went with the one that I was more familiar with, taking 123, though the alternate Manassass route would have dropped me onto 95 a couple miles further south.  This decision would come back to haunt me.

Things started well enough.  I packed up the car and hit the road a bit before the 930 start time that I was aiming for.  I had a inner debate in the days leading up to Saturday about breakfast.  Half the attraction of Fredericksburg was Sonic, a place that I see ads for on TV all the time, a place that looks like it's tailor-made for me with the all day breakfast and extensive drink selection, a place that is 45 minutes away from me at its closest location.  I'd never been to Sonic before so I wanted to make the most of it, which would mean having breakfast there.  However, I was anticipating roughly 1.5 hours of travel time, which is quite a while to drive before having breakfast.  I decided to bite the bullet though, so when I went to the McDonald's drivethru it was just for coffee.  I turned on to 123 a few minutes before 930, so I was ahead of schedule, and had an easy cruise up to 95.  Which is where things went wrong.

95 is bad at the best of times, and when I entered traffic it was far from the best of times.  The time was not quite 10.  Traffic was moving, so parking lot is not entirely accurate, but traffic was moving slow enough that I would have gotten out and walked if I could.  Traffic moved so slow that I took a picture of how fast I was going.
Blazing speed.
Yep, 0 miles per hour.  This wasn't a consistent speed obviously, if it was I never would have arrived, but it was painfully slow.  I had brought reading in case I got to Fredericksburg earlier than expected, and I continued to think that I might use it, but as the minutes and hours rolled by that became less and less realistic.
I plodded slowly along, growing tired of traffic but amazingly I didn't get frustrated.  The trip is a longer drive than I'd usually make, and when you combine hellacious traffic with the long drive I would have expected to be very irritated, but it never happened.  Instead I started keeping track of how much further I had to go and trying to guess when I'd hit mile markers or actually arrive at my destination.  Things were so slow I had time to take another picture while driving.
At 0 mph I'll arrive at Fredericksburg at nevero'clock.
It was about 35 miles to Fredericksburg from where I came on at.  If you can squint you can see that the clock reads about 1030, which means I went about 8 miles in 30 minutes, far less than the 60 mph speed limit.  I'm still optimistic though.  Even at this slow, slow rate of travel I should make it in time.  I had time enough to take yet another picture while driving.
More traffic.
I was trying to get a shot of the HOV lanes that were also at a standstill.  Traffic moved a bit on me while I was taking the picture, as you can see, but it also serves to show how things went.  I'd be stopped, then 5-6 car lengths would open in front of me, then I'd stop again.  Fun stuff.  At least I had plenty of podcasts to keep myself occupied.

I did eventually make it to Fredericksburg.  I got off 95 at about 1145, which left me with a hard choice.  Should I go and get breakfast at Sonic, or head straight to the store?  You'll recall I had skipped breakfast before leaving, figuring I'd have plenty of time to find the store, find Sonic, and have breakfast before sign-in started at 1130.  Ultimately I decided to have breakfast first as I wouldn't be any good to anyone if I skipped breakfast and lunch.  Since Sonic and Game Vault are on the same road, I noted my turn and proceeded on towards breakfast.
At long, long last.
I wanted to take my time studying the menu, so I went counter to my usual fast food instincts and parked the car so I could go inside.  This worked great, except you can't go inside at Sonic.  Fortunately they have menus at the little seating pavilion, which I later found out you can order from, so I took a gander and decided on "breakfast": bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with tatertots and a cherry limeade.  The sandwich was on a kind of texas toast, which was a new thing to me.  The eggs seemed to be grilled, instead of microwaved like at McDonald's, which was an unexpected bonus.  The tatertots were tatery, and the drink was tasty as well.  A good first experience, about what I had expected.

With nutrition secured, I headed back to Game Vault.  I had a moment of concern as I seemed to be heading off into a residential area, or just a section of woods, but I found my second turn and the store shortly thereafter. 
The field of battle.
I arrived at noon, which is when the tournament was supposed to start.  I had been worried that if I went to Sonic I would miss the start, but since most of the players were coming from the same area I was I figured they'd be stuck in traffic too, which is what happened.  I was the first one there by a wide margin, so I had time to get settled in and recover from my journey.  Game Vault was different than I had expected.  My experience with game stores is limited to the two Game Parlors and the Compleat Strategist in Falls Church.  The latter is a small store with no real gaming area, just a single table that goes to roleplaying in my limited experience with the store.  The two Game Parlors are subtly different, but both are basically a 60/40 split in favor of retail space.  They have plenty of tables, but there's no doubt that they are stores first and places to game second.  Game Vault was at the opposite extreme, with maybe 20% of the store being actual store, while 2 entire rooms were dedicated to gaming space.  There were 4 tables in the back room where we were, and another 8-12 in another room where a Hordes release event was going on.  Nice store, well lit, friendly staff, good place all around.

I chatted with MadDrB, who organized the tournament, while waiting for other players to show.  About a half hour after I arrived Gorgor showed up and we got down to business.  Vatank showed up somewhat after then, and someone I remember only as "Shades" came in between the other two.  As I may have gone into before, the idea of the tournament was three rounds: 2 rounds at 500 points, then the final round with 1 player at 600 against 2 players at 300.  With 4 players that structure went out the window, but we got in some games all the same.  I played Gorgor first.  I posted my list a few posts back, but I'll reproduce it because I'm wonderful and it's late enough that I probably won't finish this post tonight anyway.
Battleship - 120
Airship - 85
2 Cruisers - 100
3 Frigates - 105
2 Destroyers - 90
500 total

Gorgor ran something like:
Battleship - 110
War Dragon - 65
2 Cruisers - 110
4 Frigates - 120
2 Destroyers - 90
495 total

Looking at it written down now, our lists were very similar.  We played on a table with a single island for cover, plus some reefs that didn't block LoS, but would cause collision damage to any ship that ran into them.  They're the white bits in the picture. 
Game 1 setup.
The wind started blowing right to left, so I deployed on the far right side to make Gorgor run into the wind as much as possible.  I planned to use my standard "take cover and run around the island" tactics.  I ended up splitting my fleet, sending the frigates and destroyers north of the island, while the cruisers and battleship stayed to the south.  The airship floated around and caused havoc.  Things went well for me in this game.  I managed to turn the wind in his face, even more so than it started, which helped to limit the TE's mobility.  I sunk all his frigates, all his cruisers (I think), one of the destroyers, and had decent damage on the dragon and remaining destroyer.  The battleship was scuffed a bit, but still a threat.  My shining moment came not when I dropped the bomb, but instead with my battleship.  Gorgor used the frigate block on me, I guess to try and put some space between my battleship and cruisers.  What he didn't know is that I was holding Dwarven Gunnery, which let me fire before moving.  I played the card and gunned down the frigate directly in front of my battleship with the fore guns and one off to the side with a broadside.  Then I rammed, and sunk, the last member of the frigate squadron.  When time was called I was in a dominant position, but time is time.  We added up the VPs and it was 299-200, which means I think I lost all my frigates, a destroyer, and a cruiser.  Not too bad.

Vatank (Dragon Lords) and Shades (Orcs) had started their first, and only as it turned out, game while my first rounder was going, so we skipped ahead a bit and went to the 2v1 game.  I fielded the 600 point list I've discussed previously, but will again list for your convenience, and faced 300 points of Gorgor's Elves and MadDrB's Shroud Mages.  Lists:

Iron Dwarves
Battleship - 120
Airship - 85
2 Cruisers/Heavy Cruiser - 185
3 Frigates - 105
3 Frigates - 105
600 total

Shroud Mages
Battleship - 110
2 Heavy Cruisers - 150
260 total

Thaniras Elves
Flagship - 145
2 Heavy Cruisers - 150
295 total

It wasn't the double battleship, double flagship setup that I was expecting, but it was close.  The only restrictions on the 300 point lists were minimum squad sizes, so you couldn't field just one frigate or cruiser, but beyond that it was anything goes.  The table was completely open except for two big strips of land on either side of the board that created a bottleneck in the middle.  I took cover behind my side of the bottleneck.  I figured I'd steam to the middle and start shooting, which is where I made my mistake, but that will develop shortly.
Game 2 setup.
This was a brutal game with everyone being funneled into the middle.  This meant it took longer than usual to drop the bomb while trying to avoid DF from every ship on the table.  Things were going well enough at the start.  I focused on the Elves and had piled a decent bit of damage on the flagship, which is much more resilient than their battleship.  I sent my battleship and cruisers parallel to the line that would connect the two towers, broadsides blazing the whole way.  My frigates snaked around to envelope the enemy fleets and start raking their little hearts out.  Things were going fine.  I had dropped the bomb on the Shrouds, sunk both their heavies, and had damage on everything else except a single TE heavy.  Then a Magazine Explosion on the SM battleship hit absolutely every ship in my fleet, which was a crippling blow.  It didn't sink all, or even most, of my ships, but it did push them to the brink of effectiveness and buoyancy.  I got the TE flagship down to a single hull point, and one of the heavies, but that was as good as it got.  In retrospect, I should have stayed further back on my half of the table and used the bottleneck to cause confusion and traffic jams amongst my opponents, or I could have steamed straight up the middle, firing double broadsides the whole way.  In reality, I was down to a half-strength airship when we called the game.

Wait, called the game?  At a tournament?  Yep.  Things had started to break up by then.  Vatank had left, Shades was MIA, Gorgor was up against his time limit, and MadDrB was in the same boat.  With 4 people we could have done any number of setups that would have produced a viable tournament, but the traffic-induced staggered arrival times meant things were a bit chaotic from the start.  Combine that with this being the first time MadDrB had run an event like this, and his being fairly new to the game I believe, and these snafus are understandable.  At the end of the day there wasn't a full tournament, but I had a good time, and I think everyone else did too, so it was a success.  I got a certificate declaring me a Vice Admiral, as much because I was the last guy there as anything I think, which was neat if a bit unsatisfying. 
3 rounds, 1.5 rounds, close enough.
What was satisfying was that I got a discount at the store, so I picked up Strakhov (finally), a Winter Guard Rocketeer, and another ID battleship for my 1200 point list.  Shades reappeared somewhere during my shopping, so we went to Sonic with MadDrB for lunch.  This time I had a monstrous chili cheese dog that they called a footlong but was probably more like 14", fries and a grape slush, which was very much like a Misty from Dairy Queen.  The hot dog was very good, especially considering it came from a drivethru, and it puts the A&W drivethru dogs that I can get here to shame.  We ate a talked for a bit before people had to go.  I hit 95 North just before 6 and was in Falls Church at 645, which was just amazing considering how bad traffic had been heading down.  I guess I fixed my traffic karma in the morning.  Even the Mixing Bowl was moving at speed.  It was the kind of traffic you never see in the area.

All in all, an enjoyable day.  Traffic was bad at first, but better late.  I managed a decent sampling of Sonic's menu, though not as extensive as I'd hoped, and the food was tasty.  The "tournament" didn't go quite as planned, but I "won" which was my goal for the day, so I guess that worked out too.  This event was as much about trying to establish and grow a US community in the DMV as it was about cut-throat competition, and in that first goal I think it succeeded.  It was kinda funny that all the players came from NoVa, but I guess they have to come from somewhere.   There were two guys that came up from Richmond to check things out, and a couple other passers-through.  Every time I'm at a gathering of US players there are randoms who walk up and look interested, or that have ships but didn't know anyone who played, so hopefully things will snowball a bit and a robust community will gel.


  1. I-95 is always a mess. I consider that highway impassable on the weekends during summer because that's just how it is.

    Depending on where you live you have an alternate route to get to our store. If you can get on 29 or 28 S, take it *past* where 17 goes to 95 (so its just 15/29) to Brandy Station. From there its a left (at a lighted intersection) on Atlantius Road then your first left on Brandy Road and a quick right onto SR669 (Carrico Mills Rd). Take that to Rt3 Germanna Highway and take a left so you are on 3 east, follow until you reach the store.

    Its a longer drive than 95 but you can reliably plan that route to take as long as it takes to drive since there's never any traffic.

    Glad that you were able to make it to the store even though the traffic piper was against you.

  2. Couple things.

    1. Awesome that you finally got a taste of sonic. Mrs. Promotable and I get drinks from there 1-3 times a week cuz they do half priced drinks 2-4pm.
    2. Sucks that the traffic messed up tourney timing, but still cool to see how the 2 on 1 battle went. Also good that you hopefully stirred up interest in the area with all the onlookers that have ships. May you have many more opponents after that.

  3. The dashboard pics made me laugh.

    It was a good experience for me organizing an event, and it was still only the third time I've played US with other players. I'm planning for more events.