Friday, February 20, 2009 – Like a House of Cards

Those fallen cards on the right are just the beginning... Ah, Starcraft. You thought I’d forgotten you. But then Blizzard releases news like this, and I just can’t resist your siren song.

Last we left our hero me on my quest for glory, I was 2-6, having just claimed a victory with the cunning use of carriers. Having tasted victory twice now, my taste buds have become increasingly disdainful of dishes with even a dash of defeat.

So I battle onward, armed only with heightened expectations and an aptitude for alliteration. I can only hope my enemies haven’t mastered assonance.

The battle starts out like so many others: teams of three on a map called “Big Game Hunters.” Sidenote: I don’t know who’s the Game and who’re the Hunters. It’s not like we’re divided into two teams – Predator and Prey. If I’m the Game, I can’t really be called Big; my record’s only 2-6. Anybody Hunting me should know I’m the online equivalent of a quail. If I’m the Hunter, I hope the Game isn’t too Big – I’m more Francis Macomber than Robert Muldoon. Or…is it a pun on the word Game because I happen to be playing one? That’s a lot of speculation on a pointless topic. Starcraft, you’re just the gift that keeps on giving.

So. Yes. Three on three. Big Game Hunters.

I saddle up with the Protoss again. I like their style, and – as I’ve said before – the pressure of playing Zerg gets to me. Luckily, I’m teamed with a Zerg player (Yellow), as well as a second Protoss (Purple). Things are looking good, except that one of the enemies happens to be Zerg, too. He (White) and one of his two Terran buddies (Teal and Brown) have bases that box in my Purple. After initial scouting reports are in, Purple takes a few moments to type: “hurry i’m gonna get rushed.” Duh. Good thing I spoke up not two seconds earlier: “lets hit white.” I love issuing orders with a complete lack of authority.

We commence construction. I think my biggest weakness (among other things) is that I’ve yet to nail down a specific formula for base-building, particularly when dealing with unit construction. Whenever I look at a successful ally’s base, I always find about a bajillion gateways/barracks/hatcheries. But if you go that route (as I attempted in this match), you don’t have enough units for an effective rush. Hmm…quite a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. It’d be like instead of spending money on training and outfitting our troops, the US Army decided to just open up a bunch of recruiting offices, lean back in its chair, twiddle its thumbs, and wait. Bad plan.

God, I'm so slow.  So here I am – three minutes in, executing my bad plan – when White rushes Purple with six zerglings. They manage to take out the pylon powering his gateways (touché White) and distract/maim his two zealots. Yellow rushes in to save the day, calling for my aid. “bring ur men in,” he beckons. “soon as i get some,” I reply despondently. Yellow tries to capitalize on White’s troopless base but is driven back by a sunken colony. I have troops coming, they’re just not ready yet.

I lean back in my chair, twiddle my thumbs, and wait.

At the four-minute mark, Purple, having driven off the invaders with Yellow’s help, says the word “go” and commits three of his zealots to the war effort. Yellow’s cadre of bloodthirsty zerglings follow him on the march – as do my two zealots. Guys, I’m disappointed in myself. Two zealots? Purple got rushed, for pete’s sake, and he gave three. Awful. Just awful. Self-flagellation aside, our collective squad storms into White’s base, gunning for the defensive structures – the sunken colonies.

My zealot gets "poked in the eye" by the bleeding thing in the background. I’m not sure that I’ve discussed these disgusting structures in depth before. These Zerg ground defense buildings are represented in a Zerg player’s HUD by a lone eyeball. Its subterranean tentacles tunnel through the ground, popping up and presumably poking your soldier’s in the eye. I say in the eye because I don’t want to discuss something that could be much much worse. Suffice to say, a few good zealots lost their lives (and possibly their virginity) in the fight against these awful things.

While our coalition lays waste to the enemy base, war breaks out at home. Brown, the heretofore unheard from enemy Terran force, has marched a squad of marines right onto my doorstep. And despite their matching uniforms, they’re not selling reduced-size boxes of Thin Mints. Luckily, I had three zealots with a few more on the way.

Machinegun rounds pew-pewing off their plasma shields, my zealots charge the enemy with the intent of dislocating a few skulls. It doesn’t look too good at first. My boys take out a measly two marines before the combined enemy firepower cuts them to ribbons. Brown attempts to knock out my power grid by turning his guns on my pylons, but I’ve built four or five overlapping in the area. The damage he can do before more zealots arrive is minimal. Two of my troops stroll out of gateways and immediately begin racking up kills. One of them takes down five before the marines reduce him to Swiss cheese. Brown’s squad has only one man left, and Yellow swoops in with zerglings, devouring him instantly.

This piñata wasn't filled with candy. In all the chaos I hadn’t checked White’s base in a while. All of his other buildings destroyed, my team’s troops converge on his last hatchery like buzzards. Or maybe like sugar-crazed toddlers on a piñata. Either way, it’ messy. The living building explodes in a confetti of alien organs and player tears. White is eliminated.

But before we even have time to consider our next target, both of the Terran enemies leave. Victory in only five-and-a-half minutes! I like to imagine the enemy commanders issuing a strategic withdrawal, since the Zerg player we’d defeated provided their team with much-needed speed. And by removing the keystone, their army folded like a house of cards.

In actuality, they were probably just pissed that one of their teammates was such a goddamn n00b.