Mike Montgomery was looking at defeat in the 3rd Annual AADA World Championships, until fate lent a hand. Despite having lost half his crew, Montgomery used the improbable results of two collisions to fulfill the victory conditions in the last possible second before the end of the match.
"It was the most incredible finish in the history of the AADA tournament," said a happy AADA President Bill Wendland after the event. "In fact, the entire 2035-36 season has been the best yet. And the credit goes to great young duellists like Mike Montgomery."
Montgomery, representing the Texas Region and Austin's River City Autoduel Association, combined conservative tactics, great driving, and a devastating laser-guided triple-RL attack to the close victory over Clive Henrick, an At-Large qualifier from Palo Alto, CA. But the July 6 finals were only part of a weekend filled with autoduelling action at Origins 86, the national game convention held in Los Angeles, CA.
Designed to give AADA members who did not belong to any club a chance to participate in the World Championship Tournament, the AADA At-Large Qualifier was held Friday, July 4. Fifty autoduellists came to the event, hoping for a shot at the big prize. The tournament was run by dividing the duellists into 8 groups, and letting each group decide which arena map they wanted to use. Car designs were checked by other duellists sitting at other tables. The eight winners immediately advanced to a final round, with the top three survivors qualifying for the World Championship.
The eight finalists in the At-Large Qualifier were: Scott Stys, Christopher Boily, Chris Long, Paul A. Lebowitz, Chris Ganiere, Brett Lynam, Fabian Stretton, and Clive Henrick. In a second-round match featuring quick action and even quicker casualties, Stretton, Long, and Henrick advanced to the World Championship.
The World Championship duel was held in a slightly modified Armadillo Autoduel Arena. Twelve 3 3/4-foot (1/4" game scale) squares were picked at random throughout the arena and designated as goals. The object for each participant: Be the first to cross all 12 goal areas, either in a vehicle or on foot. If all participants should be knocked out of the action or the time limit expire, the player who had crossed the most squares would be declared the champion.
One special rule was added: Grenades with a 0-second delay were not allowed. A 1-second delay was the shortest possible, so grenades could not go off until the end of the turn after they were thrown or launched. This gave the targets more time to get out of the way, and further reduced the effectiveness of grenades in general. It worked really well, putting the grenade in a more appropriate place from a game-balance perspective. Due to the success of the experiment, an official rule change has been made - see "The Driver's Seat."
In addition to the three At-Large qualifiers, four Regional Champions came to Los Angeles for the tournament. Mike Montgomery represented the Texas Region, Andrew Buttery of Melbourne, Australia, represented the Overseas Region, John Sullins represented the California North Region, and defending World Champion Duilio Ramallo represented the California South Region.
It had been a nervous three days for the participants before the event was finally held. Three of the four Regional Champions attended the At-Large Qualifier, hoping to "scout out" the opposition. Many of the At-Large participants knew exactly which Regional winners had made the trip to L.A. and which ones hadn't. And everybody seemed to be spending all their free time around the Steve Jackson Games booth in the dealer's room, hoping for a little advance word on the tournament format or a scrap of information that would give them an edge.
At the start of the match, most of the participants were content to race for squares and ignore each other. The first to exchange shots were Ramallo and Stretton, in a high-powered slugfest that started when neither would back down from the other's saber-rattling threats. With an occasional potshot thrown in from other passing vehicles, Ramallo's side armor was breached and his car rolled to a dead stop.
The second duellist to bite the dust was John Sullins of the NorCal Transit Authority. His car was sent into a roll courtesy of Andrew Buttery, and the rolling mid-size came to a stop on its top in the middle of heavy-duty flaming oil slick. Sullins managed to escape the burning car alive, but Buttery finished the job with a turreted Vulcan blast to score the first kill of the match.
Meanwhile, At-Large duellist Chris Long's car had lost both front wheels to Buttery's potent and accurate fire, and Long took to the arena floor as a pedestrian. By staying away from the heavy action, Long was able to stay alive to the very end of the event, though he did not finish with a very high score.
After that initial burst of combat, things quieted down for a few seconds while everyone tried to pick up a few more squares. Montgomery and Henrick established themselves as the early leaders at this point in the event, building a three-square lead on the rest of the pack. The pair decided that while combat was inevitable, it should be done later rather than sooner - a strategy that paid off this day.
The next big surprise came at the 20-second mark, when Stretton's car passed close by the "dead" Ramallo, only to have Ramallo, whose driver had been protected by component armor and was only playing dead, sit back up and blast Stretton! Stretton's well-built vehicle was able to withstand this sneak attack, but the extra damage was unappreciated, to say the least. Stretton returned fire with a vengeance, and this time he left no doubt as to Ramallo's fate. The defending world champion became the second confirmed kill of the event.
Henrick and Montgomery, meanwhile, continued to extend their lead. Both drivers covered their 11th square before their closest competitor had managed to cover 6. In the final battle between Henrick and Montgomery, the Austin duellist showed tremendous driving skill and a little of the luck that all chaimpions need. Buttery had left mines directly on top of some of the squares that he had covered early in the going, and Montgomery had no choice but roll directly over them to cover his 1lth square. But the mines failed to go off, and then Montgomery managed to keep control of his vehicle through a series of high-speed maneuvers that had observers marveling.
The exciting finish had Montgomery heading around the corner of the Armadillo's central building to cover his final square. Henrick, who needed a different, more distant square to win, was about 90 feet behind him. Stretton and Chris Long, who had found Ramallo's still drivable vehicle and had commandeered it, were coming around the corner behind Henrick, hoping to catch up. Buttery - heading the other direction - was barreling straight for the square Montgomery needed for the win, hoping to cut him off.
To further complicate things, the convention schedule required that the tournament end at a certain time, and that time was fast approaching.
Montgomery, slowing to a safe 30 mph, rounded the corner of the building and set his sights on the final square, only 30 feet away. Buttery, who had been constantly accelerating, made it to 55 mph just before the two collided head-on! The collision destroyed Montgomery's front-mounted weapons and stopped his car dead, just 3 feet short of the winning square! Buttery came out no better, with destroyed front weapons and a damaged power plant.
The turn after the collision - the 36th second of the event - was to be the last. Time was running out . . .
Montgomery's gunner tried to keep Buttery pinned down by firing a rifle loaded with anti-vehicular ammo, and did succeed in further damaging Buttery's power plant. Montgomery's driver climbed out of the car, looking for a pedestrian touch to win the world championship. Buttery had other plans, however, and his turreted Vulcan scored its second kill of the event as it blasted the pedestrian against the wall of the Armadillo.
Meanwhile, Montgomery's bad fortune seemed like a turn of good luck for Henrick and the others, who were looking to move up in the standings. As Henrick cut for the same corner Montgomery had been stopped at, the trailing Stretton put a pair of rockets and a recoilless round into Henrick's rear. Since Henrick was barely maintaining control as it was, the results of Stretton's shots were predictable - and spectacular. Henrick's vehicle went into a roll, headed straight for the back of Montgomery's car!
Buttery now had to do something to protect his nearly-destroyed power plant if he had any hope at all to move up in the standings. So he backed up from the collision site, swinging his exposed front away from Montgomery's shots. As he did that, however, the rolling Henrick slammed into the back of Montgomery's vehicle, pushing it onto the 12th and final square! Driver dead, car nearly destroyed, and with only a gunner in a rear seat, Mike Montgomery claimed the 2035-36 AADA World Championship!
Clive Henrick, an At-Large entrant from Palo Alto, CA, was second. Andrew Buttery, the Overseas Region Champion representing the Royal Autoduelling Association of Australia, was third. The other finishers: Fourth, Fabian Stretton, At-Large qualifier from Melbourne, Australia; Fifth, Chris Long, At-Large qualifier from Plano, TX; Sixth, Duilio Ramallo, defending World Champion and California South Region Champion, representing the NOMADS; and Seventh, John Sullins, California North Region Champion, representing the NorCal Transit Authority.
A few pointers gleaned from watching some of the best autoduellists in the country in action: Andrew Buttery mounted a minedropper and a heavy-duty flaming oil jet on the back of his luxury. Early in the match, every time he drove over one of the goal squares, he dropped mines and sometimes flaming oil on top of the square! This changed the complexion of the entire event, as the other participants avoided the loaded squares until the last. Buttery stopped the practice after the first two or three squares, as the rest of the participants got on the radio and threatened to gang up on him unless he stopped.
Duilio Ramallo's "play dead" trick was a classic. After his side armor was breached, Rainallo merely announced, "I'm dead," and retired to another table, looking every bit the part of the defeated duellist. A few minutes later, one of his friends snuck behind the referee and passed him a note, explaining that Ramallo had component armor still protecting the driver, and was merely playing dead. Since no one had come particularly close to Ramallo's car, and no one had paid it the slightest attention, the referee allowed the charade to happen. Sullins was killed, rather messily and in plain sight, at about the same time, so when the AADA status board rang up one kill, no one was curious. Eventually, someone would have noticed that the status board indicated only one dead and figured things out, but it didn't happen in the few seconds Ramallo played possum. (The referee rolled, using an arbitrary judgment and the "two dice and pray" method, every few seconds - no one had noticed the discrepancy.) Of course, Ramallo gave up the charade before anyone discovered it on their own, with painful results for his target.
Fabian Stretton came up with a very good defense against laser-guided rockets. First, he used smoke dischargers to block the laser itself, and later, after they were used up, he dropped limpet beacons out of his car and onto the arena floor. Limpet beacons have a chance of diverting radar- and laser-guided weapons, and since he dropped the beacons in twos and threes, they were very effective. One of the reasons Ramallo's surprise attack on Stretton didn't take Stretton out was that Ramallo used two rocket launchers linked to a laser, and while the laser hit Stretton and did regular damage, the rockets were diverted by the limpet beacons. The limpet beacons were destroyed when hit, of course, but they were still a tremendous bargain for Stretton.
Montgomery's winning gunner wasn't really a proper gunner, inasmuch as the crew member had no vehicle controls of any type. Instead, Montgomery's second crew member was a passenger, requiring only one space. Montgomery gave that extra crewman a rifle with anti-vehicular ammo, and that extra firepower made quite a difference.
As World Champion, Montgomery receives a lifetime membership in the AADA (and the lifetime subscription to Autoduel Quarterly that goes with it), and a wonderful trophy. All eight Regional Champions (including Montgomery) will receive embroidered AADA jackets. And all Club Champions received certificates good for $15 worth of Steve Jackson Games merchandise.
What's next? The 2036-37 AADA tournament season, of course! The upcoming season promises to be even better than the last, because even more clubs will be eligible to participate! The At-Large qualifier was very well-received, so we will undoubtedly do that again. The next World Championship tournament will be held at Origins 87, scheduled for Baltimore, MD, next summer. Hope to see you there.