Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
With our hands on the dull metal post we call home, my teammates and I wait with bated breath for the enemies to make the first move. We don’t wait long, as one of them, Jake with his horned eyebrows perpetually mocking us, saunters to the center of the court radiating a swagger that screams “FUCK YOU, TAG ME”.
He crosses the imaginary boundary separating their turf from ours, puts his hands on his knees, and gives us that signature shit-eating grin. My teammates give sidelong glances to each other, as if urging on the other to try and catch one of the fastest runners in the game this early. Without saying a word, I break into a sprint heading straight for Jake, knowing full well I’m running into a trap.
I know the risk, but I believe in my bones that I can catch him and put the smug motherfucker in his place.
Agawan Base reminds me of the familiar concept of the good old game Capture the Flag wherein two opposing teams face off in a playing field with the objective of stealing the other’s prized possession. The key difference is that in Agawan Base, there’s no need to run back to your home base with a token to score a victory. All you need to do is get close enough to “tag” the base.
By not including this seemingly crucial phase in the gameplay, you’d think the fun you’d have would be cut in half. However, the lack of such a stage brings to the game a much higher sense of urgency, resulting in an interesting dynamic.
Because players don’t have to worry about having to escape enemy territory once they get there, the offensives are fast and brutal. This is aided by the gameplay aspect where tagged players don’t get kicked out of the game; they merely spend time on the opposing team’s base with their hands out hoping to get tagged by their teammates to save them from purgatory.
It’s not surprising then to see players go on kamikaze runs for a chance at making contact with either a teammate or the enemy base itself.
On the defensive end, players are forced to be extra careful in guarding the base. There is no making up for mistakes by catching the one who managed to sneak through your human fortification. You screw up once, you lose.
Adding complexity to the game is that tag priority is determined by the order in which the players touch and leave their home base. The first one to leave the home base is vulnerable to being captured by the rest of the opposition, but that player can then lure one of them out of their safe zone to get captured by a teammate fresh off of leaving the first player’s home base.
Considering the difficulty of penetrating a base fully guarded, the game more often than not becomes a concerted effort of feints and fake-outs to trap enemies with the intent of weeding out the competition. The less enemies darting in and out of their base, the easier it is to steal it.
Accomplishing any of these goals though ultimately requires one thing that certain players are just gifted wit – speed. Some players just have it, some don’t. If you have it, you’re golden. If you don’t, well, you better get used to sitting on either your home base or the enemies’.
Fortunately, there is an auto team balance feature that somehow manages to even out both teams with a fair distribution of runners. And looking at how my last game resulted wherein I traded tags with that smug motherfucker Jake who everyone says is one fast motherfucker.
Of course, teamwork is still essential to achieving victory considering the back and forth play between the teams’ offense and defense players necessary in actually scoring goals. Being able to develop a rivalry with any one of the opposition only serves to add to the game’s depth.
There are also multiple levels you can play in aside from the basic concrete schoolyard court map. There’s the outdoor grassy field where small pools of mud can slow you down. There’s the beach area where everybody plays barefoot and the sand starts heating up to the point that it actually hurts to run, cutting the game time short which then adds a sense of urgency.
All these different game elements coalesce for an experience like no other, except for maybe this game: