23 November 2015

Incentive To Game: The Royal Manticoran Army Marksmanship Program

As an avid reader of military science fiction, I have been a fan of David Weber's Honor Harrington series for many years.  I found out a few years back there was an organized fandom for the Honorverse, and became involved in 2014.  The organization is largely composed of members portraying Navy and Marine personnel, we the novels are focused on those branches of the Manticoran service, Navy much moreso than any other branch.  There was, however, a relatively small group within the TRMN club that portrayed the Royal Manticoran Army and the soldiers that made up the Star Kingdom's last line of home defense.  That was where I ended up upon joining TRMN along with quite a few of my friends.  We now make up Fort Shorncliffe, home of First Battalion, 342nd Armored Infantry Regiment.  Add in our good friend Dennis Sustare and his Home Guard at Sandgate Castle, and we have about 32 folks associated with the RMA who like rolling dice and doing tactical things.

  When we were an active part of STARFLEET, our group was criticized by some other groups for being too military in the way we did things.  Against Gene's ideals, they said.  I won't get into that argument, but sufficient to say moving to a club that is explicitly about military science fiction meant we fit in a lot better.  A lot of us are prior service (a couple currently serving) plus State Guard, current and former cadets, etc.  A certain amount of military flavor creeps in.  One person utters a "hooah" and conversation will be peppered with them for hours.

  We founded on gaming, and while gaming was something that happened on STARFLEET, and yes, we even started a whole yearly event dedicated to it, it wasn't supported organization-wide in any way.  This is where TRMN really fit how my friends and I do our thing.  Not only was our way of running our organization in keeping with TRMN, but TRMN actually had a program to encourage and reward gaming.  The Marksmanship Program.

  To avoid the legal hassle that would come with actual firearms use, TRMN instituted a marksmanship program in which gaming was the key activity.  Play games that were aerospace or wet naval in nature and were on the approved games list, and you racked up points toward a Pistol marksmanship qualification.  Play ground-based wargames, and the credits went toward a Rifle marksmanship qualification.  This was awesome, we could game and get recognition for it.  It also fostered some friendly rivalry.  And encouraged MORE gaming.  Thing was, we do a lot of roleplaying games, which were explicitly not on the list.  What to do?

  The Army, seeking to differentiate itself from the Navy and Marine Corps parts of the club, decided to create an Army Marksmanship Program.  This program would differ quite a bit from the Navy version in that it would be much more inclusive of other games.  It would count hours gamed instead of sessions played, since one can play 20 games of X-Wing, assuming one-on-one fighter duels, for every game of Axis & Allies played to conclusion.  An interesting mechanic introduced by the Army leadership had hours played multiplied based on how many TRMN members were in the game, up to a maximum multiplier of 4.  Thus, the program would encourage more gaming of more types of game with more people.  Perfect!  Plus, the program supporting casual and traditional games meant some of our members who preferred non-wargames could now find similar reward in play to the hardcore war game folks.  The Army came to us at Fort Shorncliffe to help put the categories together.  Here's what we came up with, and some examples of each.

Grenade: Casual games or party games.  Cards Against Humanity.  Twister.  Scene-it!  Trivial Pursuit.
Disruptor: Family games and traditional games.  Monopoly.  Chutes & Ladders.  Checkers.  Candy land.
Flechette Gun: Tactical board games, CCGs, or Deck Building Games.  Magic.  Firefly the Board Game.  Android Netrunner.
Pistol: Aerospace or Naval Wargames.  Starfleet Battles.  Crimson Skies.  Victory at Sea.
Rifle: Ground-based wargames.  Battletech.  Bolt Action.  Dust Tactics.
Grenade Launcher: Roleplaying Games.  (RPG, get it?)  D&D.  Shadowrun. D6 Star Wars.
Tribarrel: Strategic-level wargames.  Succession Wars.  Federation & Empire.  Conquest of the Empire.
Plasma Carbine: Tactical multiplayer computer games.  Starcraft.  Halo.  Battlefield 1942.
Plasma Rifle: Strategic mulitplayer computer games.  Civilization.  Master of Orion.

  So here's how it works.  Say my wife sits down to play Cards Against Humanity with our club's XO, S3 and a friend who isn't in the TRMN organization.  We play for 3 hours.  Since my wife, the XO, the S3 and myself are all members of TRMN, the multiplier is one less than our number, with a maximum of 4.  In this case, it's 3.  Non-TRMN players don't count.  Recruit the hell out of them so they will.  Multiply the hours played by the participation multiplier and get a total of 9.  Each of us has just gained 9 credits toward our Grenade Marksmanship category.  5 credits earns Marksman, but Sharpshooter requires 100, and the highest qualification award comes at 600 credits.

  And does it work?  Well, YEAH, so far. Since this program went live a month ago, the members of Fort Shorncliffe have been adding extra gaming on top of our twice monthly meetings.  It's been a lot of fun.  I've had the opportunity to dig out some older games and try them on new players - most notably Shadowrun DMZ, or Downtown Militarized Zone, the Shadowrun tactical board game.  I'll be blogging about that game sometime soon. 

  Personally, I find the concept of the gaming incentive program in a fandom organization to be a really good one.  It encourages members to get together and have fun.  It gives the entire organization an activity to take part in cooperatively and competitively.  It encourages branching out to try new types of game.  All in all, this is why I'm happy to be a part of this organization.  We can play D&D and get club credit for doing so... GRIN...

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