This year's edition of Border War was, for me and my team (RQS Airsoft), the seventh one in a row. During these few years of participation, we managed to return from the Vrchbela, in the Czech Republic, in various moods. Starting with admiration, through moderate satisfaction, ending with disappointment. Last year's tenth edition has been announced as something special. Small changes in the game did actually appear, but they were not big enough to change the general perception of Border War.
For this reason, even greater changes have been announced, ones that were to affect this year's edition, which bore the name "The Pestilence Blade". You can not fault the organizers here because the changes were really big. But have they really gone in the right direction?
CHANGES, CHANGES EVERYWHERE
The biggest change, one which has been announced months before the event, was the abandonment of the already tried and proven, but also somewhat boring after so many editions, game area located at Bela Motorland and moving the event to a forest in the neighboring town of Mimon. Putting aside the sentiments associated with Vrchbela, I personally consider this change as good. Despite the smaller diversity of the forest area in relation to the area in Vrchbel, one could feel a refreshing feeling, which has long overdue. The most important change related to the area of the game was the fact that it was no longer cut in half by a public road. Starting from BW7, it became a big nuisance for the players, because crossing this road was possible only in two places designated by the organizers.
The new terrain also brought with it a different location of the offgame zone, the car park, the bases and the village. The offgame and the car park were moved further away from the playing area, which encouraged players to sleep in their respective MOBs. As usual, the Task Force base was closer to the parking lot than the Guerilla base, but this is an inseparable element of BW.
Another significant change was the limit of the number of players to around 1500 (almost twice as little as at BW10), which, in the organizers' assumption, would result in a greater selection of players and, as a result, in the quality of the game. It was also a very good excuse to, indeed, raise the tickets' price. Tickets bought during the first 10 minutes of regular registration costed 70-80 EUR. Tickets bought before regular registration, as well as during the so-called "fourth wave" costed EUR 100.
The organizers have provided one additional opportunity: an option to buy a VIP ticket for 125 EUR. It authorized the buyer, among other things, to enter the VIP car park, located about 1.5 km closer to the game area.
The last noticeable change concerned the game itself. The intention of the organizers was perhaps a cosmetic improvement, aimed at eliminating activities done by players on their own accord, but in practice it changed much more. The MOB area was excluded from the game. Initially, it was supposed to be only at night, but it turned out that even during the day, players were not allowed near the bases of opponents. In the context of daytime activities, this did not really change much, however night engagements suffered in a significant way.
It is not even about the fact that our team could not continue the controversial tradition of previous years and enter the Task Force camp at night to create chaos. This can be overcome if other night activities are provided instead. However, the problem with Border War is that the organizers plan only one mission for each night, which starts at 21:00 or 22:00 and ends at midnight. Subsequent orders are issued next morning at 8:00, so each day the continuity of command is broken for 8 hours.
On previous editions, this was not a big problem. The lack of an official ban of playing night on their own resulted in the presence of many players in the field, for whom playing after dark is fun. This year, the exclusion of this possibility meant that hardly anybody left the base at night, because there was simply no reason to do that. The game nearly halted from 00:00 to 08:00.
This makes the announced 48-hour long game, which strenuously (and a little ineptly) aspiring to be called a milsim, provide only 32-hours of fun, almost devoid of activities after dark. The MOBs that could not be attacked were deprived of their worth and turned into ordinary campsites for the night. Should "Border War" really go in this direction, especially after the organizers' buzzing announcements of a stronger emphasis on the milsim aspect?
THE GAMEPLAY ITSELF
This year RQS Airsoft was included into the first team of the second platoon of Charlie company. The first team was commanded by Webski from WRU. Our platoon was lead by a sympathetic Hungarian called Despy, and the whole company, as last year, by Ace from WRU. The whole chain of command turned out to be the best thing that happened to us during this year's BW. The commanders were competent, interested in their subordinates and keep a perfectly balance between a simulation and a game.
Our group, for the most part of daytime activities, was on the forefront of our forces and was tasked with navigation. Thanks to this, we have almost always been in the center of events, which also contributed to raising the level of satisfaction from taking part in "The Pestilence Blade".
The first task assigned to us on Friday was guard duty. I do not know how much of all this was commands from the top and how much the interpretation of Ace, but fortunately we spent this time patrolling the area near the base, instead of sitting in the camp and freezing. Four hours, from 12:00 to 16:00, have passed without any serious incidents and only one eye contact with a small TF group.
The break after the guard duty was not too long, and our second task was to secure ... well, I do not remember what exactly. The orders recommended taking over stations with clocks and it was even well-justified from the game's story point, although the meager level of BW props did not allow to immerse in the atmosphere of the game. Anyway, the clocks we taken, we made a few kilometers and during one of our ventures we encountered a large group of TF soldiers. There were no major problems, the group of opponents was broken with just a handful of wounded on our side. After returning to the base (which was quite late) we had a little time to prepare for the night activities.
The night task was to set up an ambush for a passing vehicle and an interrogation the VIP transported inside. Several dozen volunteers applied for the task. And indeed, there was a vehicle, there was some shooting, but we do not know the end result. Most of us died from friendly fire due to the lack of coordination in such a large group. We returned to the camp and went to sleep.
Saturday greeted us with new orders. We were to go to the FOB area, and then carry out tasks related with reconnaissance and securing of an area near the bunker line. After reaching the FOB, we were very disappointed. Unlike in previous years, this time there were neither toilets nor a potable water tank, nor even a tent that could symbolize the location of the field staff. There was nothing, except a poster hanging on a tree that seemed to say, "yeah, you really are in the right place." Fortunately, it was the only disappointment that we experienced during Saturday's daytime activities. In terms of the number and intensity of contacts with TF forces, Saturday was for us one of the most dynamic days we've ever experienced during BW. There were long-range firefights, there was even a short CQB engagement in one of the bunkers, there were vehicles, flag waving, screaming and almost all the other attractions that can be expected by Border War participants during the day. It was a really good day, despite the fact that during one of the clashes we were completely broken.
After completing the regular respawn time in the FOB, we received new orders: go to the village and carry out personal tasks there. Almost all the way to the village went without problems, however, about 100 meters before entering the area, we detected a TF ambush. Another fire exchange took place, which lasted about 40 minutes and also involved the "neutral" UN units that supported TF in the fight against us. We incurred very large losses (also in our RQS team), but we eventually managed to clear the area from enemies and enter the village. It turned out to be less attractive than in previous years: deprived of a canteen and much more compact, even claustrophobic. Shortly after visiting the village, we went to regroup back at the MOB.
We had one more task to do on Saturday during the day. We moved with our entire company towards the village and then to the area of the Task Force base. While under continuous fire, we managed to push the opponent practically to the limits of his own camp, from where we were turned back by the game master. During the retreat, TF mounted a counterattack as a result of which some of our players fell. Soon after, we again met in our MOB.
Night was coming, so many players ended their activities for that day. Considering that the night part of the game is a priority for us, we could not forfeit the upcoming briefing. Shortly before it, however, it turned out that part of TF forces ignored the ban on entering the opponent's base and decided to arrange a diversion for us in our own camp. The attack came, if I remember it correctly, from two sides. One of them missed our positions, and the other ... went straight to our team's camp, surrounded by tarpaulins, which was on the edge of the MOB. It is worth mentioning that we have reconfigured all of our replicas for night actions. Given this, and previously prepared curtains from the tarpaulin ... the entire attack on our flank ended before it really began. The enemies were taken out within a few minutes.
We thought it might be a beginning of the upcoming night mission, but ... it was not to be. The orders were very interesting: go to the designated area and find three Task Force agents hiding in the field before they are evacuated from the area by their own QRF. But this was all that was to be, just the orders. After reaching the designated area and thoroughly sweeping it, we got information from the HQ that on the TF side probably no one undertook this mission. It was a second disappointment of that day. On the way back to the base, we came across an ambush prepared by TF forces. They had a vehicle, and we did not have any AT weapons. We were broken.
Seeing the big stagnation on Sunday morning, we did not decide to take part in the morning battle. As it could be later read in the opinion about the game on the BW forum, it practically did not take place.
This year's edition of Border War can not be considered successful in terms of organization. Increased ticket prices gave hope that something would change for the better. In practice, it turned out that they had no justification. Props in the field were few and far between, characteristic points were still marked mainly by posters. The sanitary infrastructure disappeared from the FOB, there were large disparities in catering available in the TF base and in the base of Guerrilla.
Also, information chaos was not helping to properly respect of the rules by the players, so you can not blame them for this too much. The organizers gave divergent guidelines regarding, for example, the players' dress code. The rules were formulated differently on the BW website, then different ones were given by the game masters on the BW forum, and yet different ones were presented in the WARNO sent to the players shortly before the event. This simply could not work.
The worst issue, however, is the described change regarding the activities after dark. Such issues should be described before registration, because giving them in during the game is a very big abuse on the part of the organizers. Many players could be very dissatisfied with the fact that the announced 48H of gameplay only 32H were left and the bases were turned into camping sites.
There were also problems with catering, lack of promised exclusive additions for players buying the most expensive tickets, event staff not speaking the "official language of the event", or other minor shortcomings, I won't even waste time to describe.
Can this year's Border War be considered a failure? Not quite. As always the situation was saved by the players who created a unique atmosphere during the Border War event. You should also take into account that the organization of activities for other parties to the conflict may have looked different, and also that not all players come to the Border War with a keen interest in nighttime activities. For them, the changes that occured this year could have been very attractive.
Are we planning to participate again next year? Our trust in the Border War Crew has been severely tarnished, but we will abstain from any declarations at this time.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who helped save this edition of the Border War and rekindle our hope that we will visit it again someday. Border War 12 - Op Sentinel Core has already been initially announced.
I would also like to thank my colleagues for sharing their photos for the purposes of this article. Authors of the photographs are: Jakub Papciak (Ciapciak), Bartek Papla (Baatt), Bartek Chrząszcz (Łosiu).