Welcome to Dropping Dice, a blog about gaming life and having fun!
What to do for a first post? That's pretty challenging... need to set the tone somehow.
How about Mega Battles? Whoa boy. The type of everyone loves, but no one can figure out. Ooh wee!
What is a Mega Battle? Pretty much, it's a giant-normous game of whatever tabletop wargame you enjoy playing. You take a ton of models, slam them on the table, and are often part of a team of other players doing the same thing against a bunch of opponents. It could also just be 1v1 with two huge armies. Whatever it is, it's going to be huge. "Mega" even. Playing this kind of game is an experience that you should have, at least once in your gaming life. It's truly amazing to see so many models on the table, smashing against each other in huge waves and tides, getting aid from other players or lending your aid to other players.
For as great as these games can be, they have a lot of challenges. For one, these games take a long time. Even if everyone is using a force smaller than what they normally would, people tend to go as slow as the slowest player. This means you're going to want to give yourself a lot of time to do this, and everyone involved should be aware of that time. Furthermore, you can actually use a "time limit" in a way that encourages fast and reckless play, but we'll get into that in a bit.
You will also need to have a clear concept for the battle. Two big forces smashing against each other is fun, but without a clearly defined concept and goal, there will be problems. The biggest problem I find that occurs during a Mega Battle is the First Turn Advantage. Normally in a tabletop wargame, going first is very useful, but not back-breaking. This is because, while a good start is important, the size of the game gets players to really focus how powerful their lists are going to be, and so both sides are often of similar strength simply because players will have discussed things ahead of time. In a Mega Battle, you are encouraged to bring so much stuff that you will often be bringing some of your most powerful toys. This is a good thing, as this is the setting where you want to have these things! However, gamers being gamers, we will try to maximize their use and effect. What often occurs then is that two forces fighting against each other will often be woefully one-sided in terms of power, and even if they are not, the total damage that one side will do to the other in a single turn can often feel insurmountable for the opposing team. If you fail to deal enough damage to the opposing team on your first turn (even going first), the other team's damage is likely to be completely crippling in return.
In other words, in most Mega Battles I've participated in, it feels like the battle is effectively determined after both sides have had Turn 1. For example, recently I played a mega battle against a friend; 40k, 5000 points each. He had a Thunderhawk, which eats up a massive amount of points, but can deal a massive amount of firepower. Despite getting the first turn, and the explosion caused by that model's death, once I destroyed it (turn 1), I had dealt so much damage to him that it was a nearly impossible turn 2 for him, and by the end of turn 3 he had almost nothing left. This, or something very similar to it, has been the case in every single "two sides smash" mega battle that I have ever been a part of. You need to have a way around this. Here are some of my tips:
#1 - Have a "Game Master":
You need one player who can organize this game and not play in it. Some people love this position, but they are there to make sure everyone else is having a good time, mediate disputes, keep people on track and on time, and make sure everyone is fed and hydrated. Really, having this type of person is so incredibly important, as they really do make the Mega Battle experience so much better for everyone involved! Always thank your Game Master.
#2 - Multiple Boards, Interacting With Each Other:
Instead of having just one board that you smash against each other on, have multiple different boards, each with a different objective or something that lets the players on that board do something. You can also do the same thing with truly MASSIVE boards. For example, perhaps there's a location that, if you control it, allows your team to start bringing in reinforcements that are normally automatically available. You are able to perform a ritual that allows you to summon forth units that normally you can just summon at any time, or you fire missiles from an orbiting space ship onto a point of the battlefield.
#3 - Limit "Battlefield" Effects:
You have a model that makes it so that "your opponent" suffers a penalty or "you" gain a bonus? Instead, make this so only you, and not your team, gets the bonus, and only the opponent directly across from you, or things within a regular battlefield size, suffer the penalty. A good example of this was a unit from 40k in 7th that could summon a lightning storm, which would have a 1 in 6 chance of striking each enemy unit. In a normal game, this would be fine, as it might hit 1, 2, or (if you were very lucky) 3 units. However, in a Mega Battle, with there being maybe 60 units on your opponent's team, this would suddenly hit 9, 10, or 11 units - a HUGE amount. It would also hit them even if they were tables away! The only way this kind of thing should be allowed is if there's a requirement that these players need to achieve first (see the first point about interacting tables).
#4 - Different Sized Games are Okay:
Oftentimes, I see people playing Mega Battles where everyone is bringing the same amount of stuff. Mega battles are actually great places to allow each player to bring and play the size of game they want. This is where having different tables that are removed from each other (or very large boards) can be very helpful! If one team starts becoming smaller than the other, give that team some additional bonuses to make up for the difference, like magical barriers, regenerating units, teleportation powers, or more!
#5 - Have a Time Limit:
Lastly, you want everything to be moving. Set time limits for people to do things in the game, like taking turns, or deployment. You can use these time limits as some additional "carrot and stick" behaviour patterns. Players can bid time for how long they have to deploy, with the team bidding lowest going first, but anything not deployed not being allowed to start on the board. You can issue time penalties to teams that start going over their turn's time limit, like bonuses for their opponents, or penalties on all their actions for the rest of the turn. You can also issue "time sensitive" objectives, like things that appear during one team's movement phase in a dangerous position, but with a powerful bonus if it is achieved, but with a very brief time frame to do so!
Let me end this post with a description of my favourite Mega Battle I've ever been a part of.
I was hosting a New Years Mega Battle in my basement about 3 years ago. It was 7th edition 40k. We had six players. One board was a Kill Team battle over an orbiting Battle Barge. Control over the Battle Barge's control room would allow that player to initiate orbital bombardments on the main table. There was a second table with a Vortex Missile Launcher, which could be fired by whomever controlled it onto the main table as well. The main table was 4000 points of Imperial Guard assaulting 2000 points of Eldar, but the Eldar had a massive Shield Generator that would take all the hits from the Guard, and allow the Eldar to fire out of at no cost. Pretty much, the idea was that the main table's Eldar needed to survive long enough to make it a fair fight, but if the Imperials on the other tables could gain control of their objectives quickly, they'd be able to drop down the shields before the Eldar could whittle down the Guard. The shield almost went down turn 1 (Despite having something like 60 hull points and Armour 14, with "Destroyed" results removing d3 additional hull points). Turn 2 it kicked in the middle of the Guard's turn. At that point, the Imperials still had more units than the Eldar, but the Eldar could at least survive. The game ended with the Eldar and Xenos victorious, but only barely! This, to me, is a great example of how different sized games and different objectives and tables can bring things together, with everyone feeling like they were a part of something truly bigger.
Have fun, and happy gaming!