For those of you so inclined it appears that the opinions are running around 50/50 over on PBN as to the worthiness of this layout. Some of the most recent positive reports coming from peeps who claim to have played it. I do not doubt their experience. Only their competence and that of their opposition. (If you think I'm talking about you, rest assured, I'm not. How could any reader discerning enough to hang out here at VFTD not be a brilliant player?) (Ouch, I did it again. That darn sarcasm thing. Note to self. Don't alienate readers.) Besides, what you will do against some numpties in not-even-a-real-practice usually doesn't turn out to be how you play at an event when the points count and the refs pull you out when you get shot.
First I want to comment on the potential positives--and then it's gonna get kinda technical. I will not be discussing how to play this layout. (You never know when you might catch an opponent by surprise.) On the plus side the snake is okay. And I'm fine with the SD in back center although that will be a serious handicap (and hardship) for a lot of teams. Well, that was easy. So much for the positives. Oh, and depending on how you look at it this field will reward gun skills largely because field position is very neutral.
My concerns with this layout are that lanes of movement are limited and predictable. That aggressive movement isn't rewarded in giving up killer shots. (Who does the 50 Dorita kill?) The design pushes the play into halves of the field unless teams keep players back in which circumstance points will slow. (The exception to this is the D-side Aztec [Temple] which is also the primary avenue to the 50--and brings me to my last concern.) The field has easily identifiable essential bunkers--positions that almost have to be played, particularly early in a point, which will lead to repetitious, and quite likely defensive, play especially in the lower divisions.
To keep things relatively simple I'm going to discuss aspects of three bunkers that should go at least part of the way towards explaining my previously stated concerns. The Cake in the D-side corner and the snake side MD & MT. There is nothing wrong with the Cake and it is legitimately playable but what does it do? In and of itself, almost nothing, though it's another place a player can use as a launch point in moving to the Aztec. The wire lane is nearly pointless as movement up the D-side of the field is accomplished inside the wire. And the Cake's natural shots are limited and inconsequential although the Cake is sufficiently "protected" that it can be played more aggressively by a player simply staying in the vicinity of the Cake and even conceivably standing up at times.
*I'm going to take a moment and discuss "elevation" and by that I mean is the level the player plays a position at because the player's field of vision and shot opportunity is directly impacted by their elevation. Crawling in the snake, tucked into a Cake, on a knee in an Aztec, standing in a Can. In the case of this Cake the placement in the deep corner along with the other surrounding bunkers contributes to the Cake's lack of playable options.*
The snake side MD offers three principle options; movement snake side, snake side shots and D-side lanes and shots. I expect the majority of the time it will be used to try and lock down the D-side of the field because A) it has the best lanes for doing so, and, B) it positions the "odd" player where they can swing snake side as needed. My concern isn't the placement of MD itself but the angles and lanes created by its spacial relationship to the D-side bunkers. It offers so much more than most of the other bunkers that it almost has to be played.
The snake side MT is an interesting bunker because of the elevation advantage it confers. This is partially neutralized by the placement of the Can inside the snake but I am curious to see how the relationship between the MT and the opposite diagonal beam plays. Otherwise it is the dominant position on the snake side of the field as I suspect the snake itself will be very difficult to play for effect.
That was the Cliff Notes version (for you, Mick) but if anyone has any questions post them up in comments and I'll probably answer to much greater length than you ever wanted to read. Consider yourself warned. Additionally, for our Euro friends I'll do the Bitburg MS layout (next week) and I will discuss how to play that one.