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Subject: Just huck it rss

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James Fung
United States
San Diego
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Background. I played ultimate in college. If my terminology is a bit rusty, I apologize. I wasn't a particularly good player because I'm not an endurance runner, so my man usually broke me after a while. But I do like watching games, the fluidity of play, studying strategies, etc.

I got Ultimate, the board game a long while back, but my roommate D isn't that into sports games, so it took a while to get this on the table. Until today. Rules explanation was pretty straightforward.

Huck! First off, none of our kick-off hucks made it halfway down the field, which was rather disappointing. Secondly, we didn't start the defense timer until someone picked up the disc, allowing the offense to setup before starting their first play. I don't think either of us abused this; actually, by waiting until they could move their players up to the disc, they gave the defender time to setup man defense. It was just weird spending about 10-20 turns before the disc was put into play.

First blood. Once the disc was in play, the game became much tighter. I was on defense first, but I didn't know how to run a zone defense with the game mechanics, so I stuck to man-on-man. This maximized defensive coverage and made moves a simple tit-for-tat: if one of his players moves into the open, his man moves to cover him. But with the defensive timer, the side with the disc only gets one turn to get someone in open before he has to throw.

As I shut down his forward throws, D settled for mostly short lateral passes. Just like the real game! However, none of my defensive rolls succeeded, and D eventually pieced together enough passes to get in my endzone. 1-0, D.

My turn. During my first turn on offense, I didn't bother setting up a stack. It would feel weird spending that many turns setting up a formation. Instead, at the first opportune moment (i.e. when I rolled a 6), I grabbed the disc and tried to get a receiver open. The receiver got covered, but I had a dump ready.

Both of us were getting pretty good at man defense now. Really what I was hoping for was rolling a 6, so I could get two people open, or a big roll, so one person could break their mark. Just like the real game! However, on one of my dumps, D rolled a 10 on interception. "Turnover!"

I already had a defender on D, and most of his players were behind the disc. Just like the real game! In this case, the defensive timer felt a bit short because he couldn't move his players into better positions. All game, I had trouble keeping the force to the same side of the field. Instead, I would force him toward the nearest sideline to prevent him swinging out to center. If D had a particularly strong offensive threat, I would position the marker to shut that down. Eventually, one of D's dumps fell 3 hexes short, and his dive was only 2. "Go through!"

However, D kept up the man defense. After passing it between my handlers for a bit, I got a couple people into the endzone, got it back to my middle, and hucked it at the best target. D missed his defensive roll, so touchdown.

The game was 1-1, but we spent 1.5 hours playing those two points, so we decided to stop there.

Analysis. Ultimate does simulate some things about the real-life game well. Against a man defense, it takes a bit of luck to get someone open. Forcing works. The result is that the offense will often make short lateral passes or use dumps to buy more time to setup a better play.

There may be a little too much dependence on luck. Because of the tit-for-tat movement, it can be hard to break cover. Really, the offensive player hopes to roll a 6 so they can get two people open. Meanwhile, the defense is just hoping that one of their marks hits their 1-in-12 or 1-in-6 chance of intercepting.

Toward the end of the game, I just said "screw it" and hucked the disc into the endzone. Because of the laser-guided throws and perfect receivers hands in the game, all I had to do was roll high enough to get it to the receiver and hope the defender missed their interception roll, which they did. In my experience, with any long throws that get a lot of air, someone on the defender's team will call "Huck!" as a warning so it's about 50/50 who actually gets the disc. So sometimes it feels you should just ignore the slim chance the defender have and just go for forward yards.

But probably our biggest issue with the game is the pace. D and I suffer from analysis paralysis a bit (games of Through the Ages get really long, especially in Age III), but I thought we moved fairly fast in this game, especially since the obvious move on defense is to cover the person who just made a cut. It's just that you only move one person a turn, so it takes many turns to make something happen. The result is the position feels kind of static, which is not what ultimate is like at all. Combined with the fact that defense is fairly automatic (few interesting decisions), the game was kinda dull. It may be a while before we break it out again.
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