Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's Best To Be Prepared


Some intelligent people have realised that New Zealand is a possible platform for the takeover of Australia. (It might happen, no one scorned John Marsden for his 'Tomorrow' series!). In order to take over the country, terrorists have infiltrated the Beehive (Parliament Buildings) and are holding hostages. The SAS are busy saving the rest of the world, the armed defenders are at a sports tournament in Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand's answer to counter terrorism has come down with a malicious case of dystentry.
But all is not lost.

All over the country there are groups of civilians who are ready to step up to the mark, people who have practiced their tactical assult methods and are ready to move in as a cohesive group to save the day...

Okay, so I'm taking the piss, but be warned - this post is about die-hard fans of tactical war games. Incidentally some of them are my friends and I was given the oportunity to see for myself what they get up to 'of an evening.' I was asked by one of these friends to come along to a particular night in order to take photos as a 'non combatant.' (perhaps, a foreign correspondant - a war journalist?)
My friend's boss and workmates had shown a lot of interest in this RAM (Random Action Marker) and he had offered to take them through their paces for a night. They dutifully turned up to learn how to handle the weapons and go through some basic tactics. I arrived a while later after having hitched a ride with the rest of the group (also good mates of mine), who were to comprise the 'enemy party.'

To explain what I'm talking about here;
Think of paint ball. You know what paint ball is? A whole lot of work colleagues go to a field or forest, get dressed in overalls, pick up ungainly looking pneumatic plastic shooter thingys with a huge canister (hopper?) attached at the top for some big looking balls of paint. Then they run around the paddock trying to steal flags screaming things like "You go, I'll cover you!" And generally feeling very militant and something like the guys from Platoon.

To translate this to RAM. Take away the paintball guns and replace them with replicas, realistic replicas, of military weapons, replace the big balls of paint with small and speedy little rounds of paint encircled with a ring of metal for loading into a magazine (Which also go 'tink tink tink' as they are ejected out and fall to the floor - rather like spent brass rounds...). Take away the overalls and replace them with DPM - destructive pattern material (Camo) - sets of clothes, webbing and holsters. Take away the rectangular field designed to race from one end to another and replace it with an empty, two storey building late at night. Lastly, remove the 'capture the flag' scenario and put in place an 'enemy party' complete with hostage trying to hold their position while the good guys have to find them, eliminate them, rescure the hostage and get him/her back to HQ safely. Oh! And gung-ho shouts of martyrdom are left at the wayside. Genuine calls of "contact front!" "This room clear!" and "HIT!" are the order of the night. Please see an example of a typical player of RAM, detailed below.

The scenario was fairly simple. The team had to enter the building and find the terrorists, 'kill' them all without shooting the hostage and extract the hostage back to their HQ (the room they started in) without letting him get shot. In order to do this they had to make their way through some corridors, up the stairs, through more corridors with rooms to the side which might hold the enemy, to more rooms and back again.

Please bear in mind - it was eight o'clock at night, coming into winter - it was DARK in there! People had to switch on torches attached to the ends of the barrels of their weapons just to clear the nooks and crannies. I couldn't aim the camera - the digital screen at the back was blank, and the strength of the flash was not only amazing, but destroys any idea of how hard it was to see. I was stumbling up the stairs!

In the picture above, the team has made it up the stairs and through the maze of rooms to this large area. They know the terrorists are in the next room. If someone gets 'hit' they must walk five metres behind the last person in the group and come back before they may re-enter the game. Because these folk are new to the game they have been given this option of 'respawn' to help them out. In the next game which was played by the sportsmen themselves, there were no respawns, and some where 'out' after only five minutes in the game!

I like the next three photos a lot, because they are almost as good as the video would have been. It was really hard for me to get these shots. As I mentioned I couldn't aim the camera, not with the view finder, and not with the digital screen. Both only showed me shadow. The hostage is in the white shirt. As I stand at the top of the stairs, the team makes their way down, taking the hostage with them when MORE terrorists (who have snuck into the building behind them) open fire - directly up the stairs!


Contact! Contact front!
Back up! Back up! Protect the hostage!

The team covers the hostage while their 'coach' opens fire (guns blazing?) on the hostiles

Finally there was a lull in gunfire and the team has a little time to collect their thoughts and their men as their coach encourages them and coaches them through their next moves. Fortunately a couple of more experienced members of the team snuck down the opposing stairwell and took out a couple of the terrorists. Now the workmates regroup. These two below are about to follow the hostage and the rest of the escort down the bottom of the stairs. They're a little more alert now!


A lurker (my term) at the bottom of the stairs

Finally, after a little more stress and shots fired, the team managed to get the hostage back to their own room. Their coach would not let up on them though - they had to clear that room too in case their were more enemies camped out there! The hostage had been hit - orange paint on his white shirt told the truth - but in the spirit of good fun and a fair go for first timers, it was declared a mere flesh wound.

In victory did they celebrate with the letting off of many rounds and the emptying of magazines into the walls and floors so that no others may come to harm from their weapons of local destruction.

I wish I had pictures of some of the bruises. Not from this game, which was relatively calm and controlled. I saw some terrible results from the next game. The work-friends had gone home satisfied, and my friends the regulars took on a team from a different club. These folk ran off different rules, and I understand they had bored out some of their weapons to make them go faster. I don't know how that works so don't ask. There were blood blisters and some very angry spots of grazed and broken skin, ringed by deep purple and angry red. I'm glad I don't play the game - I am happy enough with hockey.

It was certainly interesting and though I give my mates a bit of stick for their odd choice of recreation you have to give them credit - they work very hard at doing things properly, and have a pretty rigid concept of honour when it comes to calling out that they've been hit. So that was my introduction to RAM. I just have to resist the temptation of trying to join in!

Incidentally, has anyone noticed that it's been many years now since the Chernobyl Disaster and there are still no superheroes?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Think I Need New Armour

Ball came from this angle
Hit at approx this point

Bruise made through protection
(Half day later)

A Quick Update

My apologies for my recent silence. I would say I have been super-busy, but to be honest I just haven't had the inclination. My activities over the last couple of weeks don't seem to warrant comment - let alone a full post.

But last weekend I went to Auckland's Aquarium - Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World - to have a look at the fish. Though the smell was not particularly pleasant it was not overpowering either and there was plenty to see which kept a person both distracted and fascinated. The best part of the place was the tunnel under the water. For the first section we got to watch a variety of small sharks, the sleekest of all being the notoriously aggressive mako. It was interesting looking at the difference between the breeds - they were all roughly the same size with different dorsals, tails, gill-fins and nose/mouths. I was most fasinated by the rays however. Kelly Tarlton's had several short-tailed sting rays and a couple of eagle rays. A short-tailed ray can weigh up to 200kg for only being 2 or 3 metres in length, though they can grow up to 4.3 metres in length. Seeing them in the tunnel was cool as one of them was very active, swimming up and down the tank and scratching his (her?) belly on the top of the tunnel. We got so many clear views of the ray's mouth and gills which are all on the white underside of the ray, and one of them even had brown-ish speckles on their underbelly, so even a fish can be a ginge!!!

There were plenty of other sights to see - puffer fish, angel fish, sea horses, moray eels and the hugest snapper I have seen. One of the moray eels was quite curious about us and followed us for a way along the tunnel. Though the skin is red-brown and looks very dry, the eyes were a bright blue and looked much more intelligent than your average cold-hearted fish! We watched an octopus squeeze his entire body into a film canister in order to get the fish inside and saw crays so massive Sarge almost cried.
Maalie - birds were not left out. Kelly Tarlton's has an antarctic section with two varieties of penguin - King and Gentoo.
Though we missed the feeding time for the penguins we were allowed to jump in a little 'snow mobile' and take a tour round the outside of their enclosure. They were a lot bigger than I had expected, but very very cool.

King Penguin


The week so far has included for me two hockey practices. I am in a quandry at the moment, as the team I played for last year has gone up a grade from Champ 2 Women to Camp 1 Women. This is wonderful as nearly all the girls in the team deserve to play in the next grade up and it's nice to see they have the oportunity. The old Champ 1 team had mostly gone up a grade too, into a new grade which has just been created this year. Above the senior grade are the premier grades. Last year there were two - Prem 1 and Prem 2. Now there is Prem 3.
Here's the problem. The team created for the new grade (mostly the old Champ 1 team) doesn't have a Goal Keeper as the regular has taken time off for her new baby. So both the new Champ 1 team (my old team) and the new Prem 3 team want me to play with them. I have the choice of jumping up one grade from last year or one and a half grades. I have been making a list in my head of the pros and cons of each and I still don't know what I want to do! Champ 1 is still a step up and will be a challenge, all my friends are in the team, the practice times are better but playing day is worse. It's cheaper. (Though still expensive.)
Prem 3 has a coach who knows what to do with a GK, worse practice times but I'll play on Saturdays, costs more - but their old GK is happy to start playing again as soon as I go to Texas which I am doing for work in the middle of the year.
The dilema!

So at the moment I am attending both practice sessions which is interesting as I am pretty exhausted by the second one. All my muscles for spending an hour bouncing on my toes and holding my hands out at right angles are SCREAMING at me and my gear is still waterlogged from the rain!

Haha - it's good to be back!
This Saturday we have 'club day' where every team in my club (Western Districts) will play their equivalent from a different association. Western is a part of the Auckland Hockey assoc. and we're playing a club from the North Shore assoc. To help me make my desicion I'm playing for both the Champ 1 and Prem 3 teams - one after the other!!! I'll try to get someone to take photos for me and post them up, when I recover!!!