On Friday evening at 11:30, about three hours after they originally planned to, Ben and Jenna picked me up (from my lovely new Birmingham abode, which I really should have posted about a week ago) and drove to Ben’s parents’ house in Loughborough. After a late-night Tesco run to secure sausages, we florped straight into bed, it being Late.
At Benny’s the next day, in the usual kitchen/dining room cat’s cradle of kettle leads and ethernet cables, the internet wasn’t working. It was later found out that it was a simple problem of something not being plugged in right and fixed it, but more tech-literate minds than me were stumped at the time. Compared to people who have been running LANs since forever, I don’t know anything about network issues. But we still had the local network.
We played Age of Empires 2, a game I’ve always loved but have only played against people a few times. As usual in these things I horribly underestimated my own skills, played incredibly defensively, begged for clemency from everyone and sucked up to better players than me. While not the best on the map (that was Benny) I was far from the worst (that was Kemp) and probably about even with Ben and Ramona. As things turned out my non-existent abilities in scouting and micromanagement were not put to the test and my reasonable abilities in economy management and brute-force siegecraft were what counted. After massive buildup and trading partnership with Benny, I rolled through Matt easily and somewhat unkindly, and was about to waste Kemp when he sent his sheep at me, a gesture of such hopelessness that I withdrew (and built a massive wall behind me). Seeing that Benny had annihilated Ben and had Ramona seemingly well in hand (well, his huskarls were getting slaughtered by her elephants, but he had plenty more to spare) and that he was easily the strongest player standing, I betrayed him.
With my mass longbow formations in position to defend my base and wipe out his villagers, my rams sneakily sidled up to his centres of troop production and my trebuchets placed to attack his castles, I switched stances and took out most of his war production in one Barbarossa-esque fell swoop. Before I could properly destroy him, though, his army suddenly returned from its campaign against Ramona and slaughtered my treacherous troops to the last man, as I threw my tiny reserve in and panic-produced more soldiers from my faraway buildings (distributed production, yo). I was still spamming longbowmen, probably the worst unit to take on the huskarls that made up most of his army (I playing Britons, he Goths.) Some serious attrition later, we were both out of men and had our front lines badly mangled, but he was trying to keep battles running at the same time as rebuilding his near-annihilated resource base from scratch, whereas I still had an untouched and fully functional economy with massive reserves of wood, food and gold. With a crashing of economic gears I built a dozen barracks, shifted production and upgrades to mass heavy infantry, monks and trebuchets, and after a long, grinding counter-counteroffensive destroyed his reeling Goths. This was unsporting, and unkind, and less lovely men than Benny would have resented me for it for the rest of the day, but a) it was going to happen one way or another, b) I remain convinced that in a fair fight he would have pulverised me – even knowing I had gutted his economy, until his last castle fell I was certain he was going to produce some sort of evil trick or last army and waste me and c) he still gave me a hell of a fight.
Then, I went to finish what he’d started with Ramona, and with every push I made a few dozen war elephants came and tore my army to ribbons before the last went down under sheer weight of arrows. I don’t know how she made them so quickly, but nothing would kill them fast enough, not longbows, not halberds, not Treb sniping or attempted monk conversions. I still had economic supremacy (and Kemp holding down her flank), and if I’d bothered to set up a proper forward base and come up with some halfway decent anti-elephant tactics rather than marching the same old troops down all the way from my production centres I could have bled her white, but after five failed offensives it honestly didn’t seem worth it, and I bowed out.
We played Blur. I suck at racing games and always have, plus I was playing with digital controls while everyone else got analogue sticks, and had never played this game before. So it came as a real surprise when I had a lot of fun there as well. Blur is 2010’s Mini Car Racing, where your recognisable real-world sports cars pop force fields and laser cannon all over the place and shooting is as important as driving. I never won a race, but was pleased with some damn fine (if I do say so myself) deflection shooting with zappy things and a reasonable performance in arena mode; more proof that I am better at pewpew than vroomvroom.
We had pizza and tea, and shared files. Benny is in every respect the model host. Even though his hair is now purple.
We played HL2DM and I actually enjoyed it! Probably because, thanks to HL2, Synergy, Minerva etc, I am now totally familiar with HL2 weapons, and thanks to my lovely new mouse I’m quite a good shot nowadays. So, after getting drubbed after every map change while trying to find the weapon spawns, I held my own with revolver and crossbow. HL2DM is still not particularly good, nor is it noob-friendly; any game which starts you off with a pissant MP7 while some fucker with a rocket launcher rains death from on high is griefing you.
We tried to play Emperor: Battle for Dune, another ancient RTS I’d always loved but never even expected to play against people, and it was broken. I don’t know what was up exactly, but the game made mouse movement appallingly unreliable and sticky, the speed went to “crack-addled hummingbird” regardless of how the host set it, and the latency was all over the place, resulting in a weird, unplayable combination of blindingly fast battles and insane lag.
We played a L4D custom campaign, and my graphics card overheated and shut my computer down, and after chips for supper I had to borrow another one from Benny to play the rest out on reduced detail. But that’s a matter for another post.
All in all it was the Best Benlan Ever, and I want to carry on going as long as he runs them.