Your Daily McMaster: killing Kermond

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In light of the announcements that Kelly Wand, Desslock, and Erik Wolpaw will join Tom vs Bruces if the Kickstarter campaign reaches its stretch goal, I’m going to offer advice to those playing against Tom Chick in a strategy game. I spent most of E3 deathly ill at Tom’s house. In the rare hours I wasn’t sleeping or wishing for sweet death, Tom and I played games. This included Age of Empires III and Sins of a Solar Empire. I waged war against Commandant Chick for ownership of the age of discovery, the age of colonization, the industrial age, and even entire galaxies.

After the jump, wisdom. I has it.

Though I lost a lot, I had a really good time. Most of that time has been spent in Age of Empires III. We loaded it up and checked whether the online multiplayer was still working. After all this time, Ensemble Online is still running smoothly. Well, relatively smoothly. After some fiddling with settings and router configuration, I was able to play with Tom. Well, I say “play with Tom”, but I feel more like Tom was playing and I was fumbling. He won the first 15 games.

I felt pretty bad about myself as a man at that point. Losing that many times is demoralizing. But even if you’re losing, playing with a friend makes it better. Tom gives me tips and insights at the end of matches and I’ve been slowly getting better. So I keep at it for another 15 games.

After about 30 games, I have won exactly 2 of them, both as the British. In the early minutes of an Age of Empires III game, you spend your food on villagers and your wood on houses. But British houses cost more wood than the rest of the world’s houses. This is because every British house comes with its own villager. This effectively lets you get villagers for wood, saving up food for quickly getting to the second age, which is where you can bring in an army. One of the special British cards — every faction makes a deck of cards that it can use over the course of the game — gives the British church the power to summon eight Black Watch Highlanders for 1,000 food.

These units are pretty tough, and if you use the market to juggle your resources, you bring out the Black Watch within a few minutes. Marching these units into Tom’s camp rattled him enough to slow down his routine. A few minutes later I followed up with musketeers and finished him off. I broke the streak. The streak immediately renewed, but at least I broke it.

The second victory came a few games later. Tom had just switched to the Iroquois, a race that can get a crazy attack bonus by sending all its villagers to dance around a fire. But I switched some cards around to make cheap artillery. When Tom’s horde approached, backed by the power of fire dancing, they were met with the thunder of British artillery. It turns out artillery beats fire dancing.

Those two basic strategies won, but he wised up and started countering me. He’d lie in wait for my Black Watch or send cavalry to rush at my artillery from behind. I’m still working out how to effect my third victory, but I figure it’s just a matter of time. Sometime between now and the 45th game, I fully expect to beat Tom again.

But here are some general tips to trick Tom into making mistakes. You need to keep things fast and loose – all loosey goosey, even – and get in his head. Refer to the following list of proven McMaster Techniques (TM) to throw him off his game.

  • Tom will, mark my words, make a coffee. Not “some coffee”. Not “a cup of coffee”. “A coffee”. Sometimes, he’ll put the game on pause to do this. Start the game back up and go to work. Don’t worry, he won’t come back for 15 minutes because he has to jumpstart his espresso machine.
  • Tom will inevitably find a pet of some sort while exploring. It will have a name like Beatrice or Kermond. Kill this pet immediately and then offer to send him some flowers for his pet’s grave. He’ll be distraught and make foolish mistakes.
  • Tell him exactly what you’re doing because he won’t believe it.
  • Type a partial and incorrect lyric from Phantom of the Opera and, while he’s replying with the corrected lyric, attack.
  • Tom’s feline companion, Shadowcat, is a notorious Tory and will try to sabotage any attempt to undermine the power of the British Empire. Use this to your advantage.
  • Most of all – have fun. Tom hates fun because it weakens him. It’s like sunlight to a vampire.

Good luck, Bruce, Kelly, Desslock, and Erik, and Godspeed.