The Play Was FULL-ON No-Holds Barred From Start To Finish
By Gordon “Cobalt” Smith; Founder, STAGOPS • Photography by Jolly Green
The founders of MSATO/Cohorts were among the earliest innovators of Northeast MILSIM. Forged by several bona fide vets of the USSF community and talented event producers, MSATO/Cohorts has decades of combined experience built over years of running hardcore, ground-up, MILSIM operations. I was psyched to hear they joined forces and came out of a multi-year hiatus earlier this year, since MSATO always delivered solid-foundation, MILSIM events that seem simple at first but morph and test the player in ways they cannot prepare for as the event rolls up to speed. Running an op like this rewards everyone–from the veteran to the newer player of any age–and it takes a lot of experience and skill to pull it off without unraveling. With the CBR triad series, MSATO nailed it.
The op was originally named “RHODY” because it was planned for a plant in Rhode Island, but typical for National/Industrial” events, the original location was defeated by local politics. Ultimately the event was moved back to the site of the original CBRPATRIOT, a shuttered 30+ acre industrial chemical plant in western Massachusetts.
The game format was a 24-hour MILSIM marathon, and the turnout was comprised of hardcore veteran teams, as well as younger teams looking to test themselves. Experience ranged from infantry veterans to MILSIM junkies, with ages ranging from 16 to 60, and players came from around the Eastern Seaboard, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic states.
The rules were realistic, simple, and intuitive; semi only for riflemen, midcaps only, red rags/chemlites for day/night hit detection, uniform standards that were clearly identifiable, medic rules using a simple red cord with knots representing the number revivals a player had before respawn, and so on. Simulated nuclear spills, mortars, IEDs, actors and a wide variety of well-hidden, detailed, interactive props and decoy props enhanced the overall experience and added the complexity that challenged everyone.
As a roving reporter, I was fortunate enough to roll with most of the Freedom Fighters at different times throughout the event, taking structures and heading out on missions with legends and newer teams alike, such as 811, NAA, GSO, GMSOG, STRATEGEM, 617MILSIM and the “Silent Soldierz” of ____Z.
Tasked with invading the 30 acre “radiological research facility,” the Freedom Fighters assaulted uphill, over rough terrain, through or over tall barbed wire fences and locked gates to gain entry to the facility. We pushed through the withering defensive fires from every rooftop to gain entry into the facility, moving from single points of entry pinned under fire, and expanding the points of return fire until we gained the momentum needed to start pushing structures and eventually taking the rooftops.
Throughout the next 20 or so hours, the play revolved primarily around taking and holding and clearing and conquering the enormous industrial facilities of the plant. Several structures were built into hillsides and spanned as many as five stories, with catwalks, ladders and steel staircases, as well as office buildings, supply rooms, labs, tank farms, ovens, boilers, seemingly unending pipes, and warehouses.
Lighting was mixed during the entire event and the whole location had an eerie feel to it. Some places still had coffee cups, tools, and computers set up from the day everyone was laid off. Lockers had people’s uniforms in them, and if you didn’t know better, you’d swear this was just a “day off” at the plant.
Interspersed between fighting over structures were a number of fragmentary orders–side missions of urgent timing and great difficulty, often with layers of confusion and distraction thrown in. At times the challenges were physical—track down HVTs before they escape, move partially filled 55-gallon drums across the facility and up steel catwalk stairs into specific rooms; other times the challenges were mental. Identifying specific machines and computers by VIN codes, assembling multipart devices and systems from components hidden throughout the entire location, deciphering codes correctly. Too many and too varied to cover here, the fragos were a massively distracting, difficult and rewarding set of challenges on top of the amazing facility and incredible game play that relentlessly poured out of staff throughout the entire event, shifting in difficulty and complexity as the game rolled further into the night.
The play was full-on, no-holds-barred furious from start to finish. At one point the game had to be called to warn the players to pace themselves, but the pace never slowed down until a mandatory break was enforced. After that break (and a few moments to rub the sand out of our eyes and grab some coffee), the play took off hardcore again and lasted throughout the next day.
Some of the players opted for a half-break at night, heading out with nods and flashlights to do damage in the dark. Many of us, me included, took advantage of the whole five hour break. Even the hardier among us were forced to rest for at least a few hours for safety. Once the game picked up again in the morning, a few more challenging fragos and hours taking and holding territory gave way to one final scenario–the total domination of Building 16’s five-story rolling complex. The Coalition forces got the jump on this one though, and despite hours of multi-location breach attempts and coordinated platoon sized movements, Freedom Fighters watched as the West Point Close Combat team hoisted their flag atop Building 16 and remained until the end. Score-wise, it was close, with 16,425 points scored by the Coalition Forces, and 15,100 going to the Freedom Fighters.
Masterfully managed and balanced, MSATO guaranteed everyone was able to set their own involvement and get what they wanted out of the event. Event staff periodically checked in with players and command through interviews and observations, getting feedback as the game developed. The staff accommodated the players to a TEE, and did so without sacrificing quality or fairness in the event. Those who wanted night ops and to marathon the whole 24 hours were able to do so (minus a mandatory two-hour break for safety) and those who wanted to chill and grill and choose their participation were encouraged to do so as long as it was coordinated with command to avoid being disrupted. MSATO has a long history of innovation and MILSIM in the Northeast and, with their CBR series events now drawing people from throughout the East Coast, they are bringing the “National/Industrial” level of play to the Northeast with skill and pride.