Falkenhorst - The Anatomy of Failure
As the airsoft player I have been participating to games, that may be considered as not very successful. There used to be various reasons behind that. Mistakes however, are absolutely normal piece of both smaller and bigger events. What must be done to force all the participants unanimously call the event a catastrophy? While describing for you the event Falkenhorst: Conquest of Zadar (2015.03.27-29), me and my fellow redactors from WMASG.pl will try to answer this question...
Falkenhorst - The Anatomy of Failure
Rally, mil-sim, maneuvers or simply the game - Falkenhorst was advertised really wide. People were encouraged with the promises of hundreds of players from the whole Europe, the possibility of feeling as during the regular (but not only) warfare of two feuding nations (Galadania and Tangau) and a lot of more and less important gizmos, that the game was likely to bust Combat Alert or even Border War. Well, I bet you are not surprised now, why me and my team decided to be a part of it. Both as the player and vigilant WMASG.pl redactor I felt, I must show up there. As my hometown, Gdańsk, is located on the far side of Poland, I needed to take 500 kilometers trip to Złotoryja - the little and picturesque town located in southern Poland. We purchased the quarters in youth hostel "Zacisze", that occured to be really wonderful place.
We arrived 24 hours prior to the event to have a chance for announced earlier registration. It was to guarantee us skipping queues, expected the next day (the game was to start at March 27th and was supposed to last until March 29th). I don't event know how can I express our amazement, when we made it at 08:15 PM to the game HQ and the only proofs of human presence were three portable toilets, unmarked field with another three or four civilian tents and a lot of chaos. The mess was complete, there was no parking spots, HQ, finally found thanks to some hints given by the players as lost as were, occured to be even less helpful than downpour, present - with some breaks - almost all the time during the event. Despite numerous trials, organizer couldn't have been reached on the cell - he simply didn't pick up even a single call. We packed up and got back to the hostel really pissed off.
The next morning, geared up and ready for fight we returned to our future battlefield just to find out, that almost nothing has changed since last night. We found some changes though - in the daylight we spotted three specimen standing in the mud next to the chronograph and a bit higher number of players and tents. Still, it was as far away from military camp as it could be. Even at a lot smaller and cheaper games it used to look better. The number of players also seemed to look insufficient, considering the registration list. After parking the car in the nerby street (still no parking lot anywhere, car were left all over the town, sometimes blocking access for inhabitants), we took our stuff, military tent and headed straight to the chronograph. There it occured, the organizers fulfilled at least one promise - we met guests from Germany. Unfortunately, there came more foreigners from even exotic countries.
We got our toys checked quickly and guys responsible for it marked our guns with - watch out - insulation tape in three popular colors - red for the strongest guns (460 - 614 fps), yellow (380 - 460 fps) for weaker ones and green for the weakest (less than 380 fps). No one expected us to turn the hop up off, tape was sticked anyhow and - what is the most interesting - we were notified, if colors disturb us, we can use some camouflage paintjob! Really peculiar approach for safety standards. As it occured later, everything of it was expendable. So called sidearms weren't event taken out of holsters.
After "measurements" came time for registration, but there appeared one problem - where it should be done? Exactly. There was nothing like "registration point". We decided, that until it's operational (no one knew when where and how it would be done) we focus on setting our piece of camp. After that we met the Echo company (Galadania LRRP) leader - Izzy, who occured to be a splendid lad. The commander presented us the list of tasks to be taken by our platoon. They seemed to be prepared in somehow mil-sim style, as their objectives were mostly securing some checkpoints and avoiding engaging the opponent. We were let to act according to our own procedures, what is absolutely correct, as each team got it's own way to deal with different situations in the field and it seems to be pointless to change them just for one game. When we finally got our missions listed, we decided to search for registration point. What was, well - pointless. It was happening 90 minutes after registration started due to the timetable at the event's website. We walked around the camp then. It still seemed to be pretty empty and made an impression of wide-open for local citizens, that was pretty attracted with it. It didn't take very long since then, when white, not marked delivery car stopped next to the camp, opened it's sliding door and the registration started.
It looked simpy ridiculous and brought us back in time about 30 years. We almost most felt like buying some potatoes on the black market. After 40 minutes of standing in the line, that seemed to be longer than we expected we finally got "registered". Quotation marks are adequate here, as the "registration process" looked like that: one of the organizers was asking about your name, was showing you the rules list to sign and was handing out the "participant pack", I will focus on in the minute. Instantly questions started - why did we need all of the "codes" and "safety protocols" sento to us via e-mail after transfering money to organizaer's account. No one asked us for any kinf of ID and the list was getting prepared on the empty sheet of paper. It was absolutely possible to get into the game without payment. We weren't given any pass or anything like that. Not to even mention armband or something similar, that would state I am entitled to participate in the game.
Now - The Golden Participant Pack. It was almost as good, as the event itself. Inside we found an laminated A4 map, without any kind of grid. On the back it had regulations printed. Another piece of paper - ONE hot meal voucher to be used in the canteen. Last but not least - random color smoke grenade, worth like 5 PLN (~1,20 EUR). Why we got smoke grenades. There were to be used for something. Until today we don't know for what.
After complicated and absolutely greatly coordinated "registration" process, we made our way to the "canteen". It was serviced by nice lady, who was doing her best to keep the tent attached to the ground, as it was trying to fly away with strong wind blows. Really wise of him. If I wasn't bounded with the paymet, I'd probably do the same. By the way - have you spotted I didn't write a single word about patch, that was to be given to us during the "registration"? I didn't, because no got anything apart from the promised it will be delivered "soon" and everyone will obtaind what paid for. We grabbed everything we could and went to the HQ to check, if any kind of briefeing will happen there. It wouldn't. Actually, It took place, but not for LRRP. For regular grunts and special forces only. If it wasn't for Izzy, we wouldn't know any codes, passwords or simply nothing to cooperate with other troops. Plural is on purpose here, as each kind of forces had own procedures. We felt there is nothing like coordinated command. Or maybe the HQ was trying to level the command to the rest of the event?
The Main Point of the Trip
After sailing across the Sea of Troubles That Shouldn't Even Happen, we decided not to lose any more time and walk straight to the checkpoint we were told to cover. Have you realized I wrote "walk"? That's the point! Organizer promised us vehicles, however the only "military style" vehicle was the Land Rover belonging to one of the participants. Obviously it was totally off game. We didn't spot any other vehicle to be used during the skirmish. Nevertheless, the game was to last for 48 hours, so at that time and still hoping for huge amount of fun, we trusted vehicles will magically appear from thin air in the series of explosions and layers of smoke. Forget it. At the briefing it was stated no vehicles are to appear in the forest. Including roads.
We left the base in a very brisk way, just to find out the terrain of the game is rather, well, limited, especially considering the amount of players listed to fight for Zadar province (there is a rumour, organizer trimmed the terrain down just before the game. Nevermind. Short march on the asfalt road, cutting the terrain litterally in the middle let us pass through regular grunts and special forces. The number of players in the formation was impressive. It wasn't 200 or 300 of them, but at least 120. When we entered the forest, we quickly found out it's not the regular place we know from other mil-sims or rallies.
We got charmed with the surroundings reassembling us mountain trails - boulders, narrow paths and sudden slopes, only motivated us to soldier on. I am not surprised the area was announced the sanctuary. I must admit, I am still not sure, if organizing such a big rallies in sanctuaries is legal. Nevertheless, after 20 minutes of climbing we got to the checkpoint Observatory, located on the top of one among many hills in the neighbourhood. We found there giant steel cross. It was used as the aerial by local guerillas during WW2. Organizer used it in the similar way. Additionally some of the trees was connected with black stretch foil. It occured all the "facilities" in the field are marked like that. Ghost towns - totally deserted. Civilians known for instance from Mission Afghanistan were impossible to spot there. Generally Mission Afghanistan is another game making Falkenhorst look pretty pathetic. It simply looked sad and ridiculous - foil attached qucikly, without any idea, with giant holes in it.
After some time spent at the observation (we were to stay at the checkpoint until 0800 PM) the first hostile contact appeared. Finally something started to roll in a very slobby way. We bombed the players with all the codes we knew and struck in them with any password we could remember from the briefing we weren't allowed to participate at. Nothing happened. Firstly, the small group attacked us. We held them back. A minute later the huge wave of opponents overwhelmed us. Seconds after our survivors evacuated from the checkpoint, all of our forces - regular army, specials and LRRP shown up. The really bad mess begun and it was really epic. I spare you describing the details, but I must admit - it's a long time since I witnessed such an honest gentleman game on both sides. Medics really tried to medic, commanders were commanding their butts off and the rest of players did whatever their could to put even a little part in this battle. Pity for us, as we got shot in the beginning, so we left the playground and went back to the camp, passing through on of the three cities - the trees raggedly covered with stretch.
Galadania camp - according to our expectations - occured to be the abbandoned place, totally deprived of military vibes. HQ didn't know what to do with us, so we were orderd to sit ducks and wait for being respawned, what was to last three hours. Fortunately, we managed to nail promised patches, done very nicely by Combat-ID company. It's god we managed to get them so early, as there was not enough for everybody! After 40 minutes we met organizer again. He stated we are alive and... we can do whatever we want. The best - to go somewhere else. We were surprised with their reckless approach for the forces present in the camp. Mil-sims we used to participate in made us get used to constant tension and drill. This was absolute negation of everything we saw before.
For the first time we had the opportunity to chat longer with people from the HQ. Unfortunately, impression was rather poor. We didn't find answers to a lot of questions in their tent, despite perfect space management there. We did't even expected them to tell us anything about organizational matters, but at least to know something about the plot. The most frequent reaction to our inquiries were "not now!" and "we don't know, you must come later". I understand, that fellas was struggling to move rusted and broken ratchets of this event to make at least one more spin, but with such an apporach was just the last straw that breaks the camel's back. We didn't required vast knowledge, we just wanted them to show just a bit of commander's charm, so boldly presented by company's leaders - Grey, JarekM and Izzy. As it occured later, their behaviour was deliberate, but the performance seemed to be rather awkward. Nevertheless, we left the camp only to wander around a bit, as we couldn't find any opposing forces and the darkness following dusk killed the game ultimately. Around 08:00 PM, the forest got silent.
In the field there left just skeleton crews of players equipped with NVGs. They were rather walking the park, as there was no chance for any enemy contact. We were wondering, why they didn't try to take the initiative utilizing our absence. We got backto the camp and following the example of other groups, we set the fireplace. We spotted then, that majority of players simply abbanndoned all hopes for mil-sim and celebrates the victory over Tagau, although the most of our grunts had nothing to be happy about, as despite capturing three "cities" and lasting in the filed for 6 hours they had no single contact with op-for.
We held our horses with it, as we felt upset about the whole situation we were in. It costed us plenty of time and money. Our morale got even lower, when we witnessed the pair of organizers visiting players and asking about the feelings. They came toward us as well. They were unable to share knowledge about plot, tasks, vehicles or some minor things, blaming innocent HQ for all of that. This conversation occured to be a waste of time. Arounf 11:00 PM we decided to take some sleep in our freezing tent.
After the rest and taking some chow from vital MRE (as the canteen was deserted, what is another advantage of - for instance - Combat Alert, where you could get some warm piece of food even in the middle of the night), we went to the field, planning the route, that was to lead us to the Observatory, one of the cities and anywhere else. Leaving the camp, we spotted guys from SpecShop setting up their tent with some goods. When we were arriving, they were getting prepared for the way back. We were not surprised at all. In the Observatory we met Marines we knew from the yesterday and another group of foreigners - from Slovakia this time. Their grumpy faces perfectly expressed opinion about Polish airsoft games. We felt literally hurt and ashamed then.
After conversation with regular forces unit commander, we contacted our leader and went to the next city, that was still covered with "fog of war" for us. On the way we heared stron explosion, so we speeded up to get in the middle of another epic fight.
"Wounded" players were laying on the road, getting aid from medics, others were flanking, smoke from grenades was hurting the eyes, but we assaulted enemy positions, already decimated by Grey's troops. Covering wounded with smoke and letting our medic do his job, we held the counterattack and after short chase we returned to the road, where we met another LRRP squad involved in onther task. We decided to proceed our journey to the local "stretch" city with allied unit we discovered on the way, just to get in the clever trap, set on us 100 meters further. Pity for them, they had to few people to sustain our "pellets storm" connected with "grenade rain". That's where we spotted we severly outnumber them, as sides were not balanced at all.
Did really organizer neglect even such an essential matter as balance of firepower? One of the opposite players gave us an intel according to their assessments, there is no more than 30-40 of them. Some of our allies was out of the game as well, but still they were outnumber like twice. We returned to the point conquered and held by our units and checked the situation in the Observatory. We were keeping the post for two more hours, when we witnessed another giantic flaw of the event. One of the locals passed by taking her dog for a walk. To make it clear for you - for the amount of 200 PLN (~50 EUR) we expected the "battleground" to be closed for "civilians" or at least properly marked! We were promised referees patrolling the game field. Such a person would be highly desired then.
Despite marvelous co-players and splendid terrain, too long time of idleness and the lack of understandable orders from HQ killed the spirit on our side. We decided to leave the game for now and get some lunch anywhere else. While heading back to the camp we met other civilians only partially aware of what's going on near their yards.
After reporting in the HQ and conversations with pther players we made unexpected and somewhat sad decision about leaving the evant and going back home. The perspective of another night spend in the tent with pointless wandering around the field or event in the camp made us literally discouraged. The view of other participants gathering their stuff in the cars only made us sure about the rightness of our choice. We also saw extremely disappointed players from abroad. We felt very pity for them. They were promised to participate in abother huge simulation and were given poorly prepared skirmish with great companions. However, even the best company is too little for such a game, as even better organized events happen locally everywhere every week. We hope our foreign fellows won't compromise Polish airsoft totally and will give another chance for proven, successful games. Nevertheless, we can be sure, the infamy will follow us for a long time.
The only thing we didn't spot in the camp was organizer. He vanished into thin air as a ghost, leaving only a lot of negative emotions and HQ attacked by angry players. In the meantime, it occured why they were so rude to us, not providing with sufficient amount of intel - they were in touch with our opponents for the whole time and wanted to buy them even a bit more time to respawn and regroup in order to balance a game. They actually failed, but shouldn't be blamed for it. Game lasted for 23 hours. It costed each one of my team - The Wild Unit - over 500 PLN (the average salary in Poland is about 2800 PLN).
After this reportage, so full of my negative emotions, I got simply one question - what has happened there? Silly ones would say - "Organizer happened". But we are not sill and according to us the "organization" is a lot better word here. There lacked everything, aparto from splendid players, who tried to do the job of people they paid. There was no humility nor even trials of fixing on the way revealing problems. There was no will nor charisma, just frequent blaming of HQs (!), subcontractors (!!) or even players (!!!), what simply made the dam collapse. The conversation with organizer, probably already seen by interested ones does not give us high hopes for happy end, as the statements of one of the genlemen are at least rude. Fortunatley, the organizers of this flop won't be involved with any other enterprise soon, what will be ensured by us - players gathered in WMASG.pl.
I am really happy, there is not just Falkenhorst here. We got plenty of fabulous games ahead - Combat Alert for people keen on explosions and heavy vehicles or Misja Afganistan with LARP elements, that will let you feel the atmosphere of the Afghan mission. There is also a lot of other games deserving for trust, so much overexerted here. We will be there and share our feelings with you.
Just for explanation about current situation - for all the charges for organizers, please visit appropraite topic at our forum and forum dedicated for former participants. You can also visit Facebook group called very adequately "Fuckhorst". We monitor situation constantly and if anything milestone appears, we will notify you.
Suming up this reportage from the crime against airsoft, I will share the wise words of my buddy: "Falkenhorst is the game you go only once in the lifetime". I bet you got the point.;)
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