Monday, January 27, 2014

Been on a WWII kick

I love Tiger tanks.

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts but I've been on a WWII kick as of late.

I've been playing a lot of Men of War: Assault Squad in preparation for the sequel that'll be released in February.  It's probably one of my favorite RTS of all time despite it having the worst user experience UI I've ever seen.  The thing that stands out the most about the game is its unique battle engine.  You can literally go into a third person perspective with any unit on the battlefield and control it to the best of its ability.  It's one of the only games where real life armor penetration is taken into consideration and the lethality in the game is enormous.  After all, if you hit a pack of flesh and blood soldiers with a volley of 20mm, they're going die terribly.

This got me thinking about Flames of War too.  I would play that game in a heartbeat if it had a bigger following.  They're the only ones who have an established WWII themed minis game out there and I think they fit a very niche market.  Maybe too niche when you consider that not a lot of people play it in my area.  Most people have never heard of it and is not willing to try another game system that requires hundreds of dollars to play.  When you look at the minis, I'm not sure if they're worth the dollars you spend on it when you can find perfectly fine replacements from a kid's toy box.

Just some wild ideas running through my head:
  • If I could start my own gaming company, I would definitely like to work with a similar engine to that used in MoW: AS.  It's a great engine that really offers players the ability to min-max their game and really separates the better players from the rest.  That's the biggest winner for me.
  • If more people played FoW in my area, I would be very intrigued in giving it a go.  The prices are not very attractive to me, but the gameplay looks pretty solid.
  • I wonder if a WWII 15mm game that comes with pre-painted minis on a medium scale (not skirmish, not epic) would do well if they were well priced.  All plastic minis, think X-Wing quality stuff, but WWII themed and with good rules.  I would jump on that shit in a second.

That's about it!  Oh, and I'll be playing a 1500 game with my Dark Eldar this Thursday.  It's my first real game off Vassal in a while and it should be pretty fun.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Daemons of Chaos rework?

Oh man.. where to begin?

This pertains to Warhammer Fantasy!

I haven't responded in this thread for a while now ever since this post a while back:

I find it quite amusing that the thread goes dead quiet after I respond with actual industry experience calling GW out on their shenanigans.

Even though I've been playing my Deamons still, because you know, they're one of the armies that I own and love, I can't help but feel sadness, contempt and frustration over a lot of the design mechanics.

One recent quote in this thread upset me more than it should have:
I found myself mainly agreeing with Phazaels points. We are top tier army and have many good builds we can use, so overall the book is very good stuff.

Do you think just because the book plays well at competitive levels with a few builds (Nurgle, beasts, khannons, choir) means it's a good book? In all my years of game design, this is the number one fallacy that competitive players, pro players or those heavily involved in WAAC play present over and over again. Hey, the book is super strong in the meta, it must mean its a good book.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. This is the worst mentality to have! You have to look at the big picture, the product as a whole and weigh it against others of its kinds (in this case, other army books). What you have here, in the 8th Ed. army book, is a piece of garbage unlike any other. You see some good design ideas that brings Chaos back to its roots, but what you have here is poor implementation, demonstration of poor or no internal testing, and awful execution in relation to big picture. Chief among those design ideas is the universally loathed Reign of Chaos table which not only takes tactics out of the players hands constantly without any form of negation, double-punishes the player, and draws out the game. Every single aspect of that table is a negative, even the benefits that it could possibly offer the Daemon player still needlessly prolongs the game (which is a negative in itself).

The area that they did alright in was the magic items. Sure, it wasn't the best implementation, but it wasn't the worst either. It's actually quite difficult to analyze the cost-effectiveness of all the BRB items while designing new daemon-specific gifts and weighing the effectiveness of both if you included all the items. Weapons should of been available to all, and maybe it would of been good to make Arcane as a secondary for Tzeentch, Armor to Khorne, Talisman to Nurgle and Enchanted to Slaanesh like some of suggested, but this is some serious item combinations to consider, and much more playtime and analysis needs to be done before its called good.

This ultimately brings me to my point, so in the case of the 5 biggest misses in the entire book, I don't have 5 I only have 3. The last one is internal pricing. External balance aside, there's just absolutely no justification to have ridiculously weak Heralds be overpriced and have what appears to be randomly priced locuses at the same time. There's no reason why a GOOD design feature such as the flexibility of heralds and different locuses should be priced to an extent where no one would take them, ever. Why are Beasts their price or Khannons their price? If they are going to be that good, why price them the way they are?

Enter the post I made months ago, sometime around our army book's release. NO ONE with any sense of intelligence did any playtesting with this book. As a industry professional who has been focused on multiplayer gameplay and game balance for the last 12 years, I can say with confidence that no respectable game company could release such a product if they did any playtesting or implemented feedback from intelligent people. No one with a sane mind would say that that Skull Cannon is well-priced at 135 if they actually played the game, and that's a fact.

So for the folks they did playtesting for this game, I can only say that they're either lying, or outright bad, or GW deliberately ignored your feedback and released an unfinished, unpolished product.

Let's talk about the top 3 things they did right, from a broad, design overview perspective without regards to how it was actually implemented.

Good idea, poor implementation:
  • Bring Chaos back to its roots, random tables for gifts with the ability to default to 0.
  • Introduction of different Loci that provides players with more options, customization and playstyle.
  • Bring back mono-God viability and re-implement God rivalries.

Bad idea, even worse implementation:
  • Reign of Chaos table is a negative in every way, function and form. If something of this must be implemented, it should look similarly to the HE Phoenix table where it only affects the Daemon player, should not be a giant kick in the balls if you roll low already, and is not punishing to the extreme. Numbers wise, it should not the outcome of the army the player purchased, designed, painted and fielded, and should not affect battlefield tactics at all. At least 40K was sane enough to mitigate the effects of a bad roll with Instruments, exactly how disconnected was the design team in this regard? Do musicians not exist?
  • The internal pricing of some of these units and upgrade options are beyond laughable. It's to a point where some units are unplayable and a perfectly good design idea (different Loci) isn't even used! That's just awful.
  • There was no visible playtesting that took place with this book (bad idea). No experienced player would say Khorne is fine, Tzeentch matches their fluff, Nurgle is perfectly balanced compared to everyone else, and Caco Choir shouldn't be 6-diced in every game. I can't even say model sales are the cause of this, considering they have piles of Slaaneshi chariots building up because they're garbage ingame but good looking models otherwise. The 135 point Skullcannon though, that raises some eyebrows because maybe 1/10 people I've talked to actually liked the model.

How I would of done things:
  • If Reign of Chaos has to exist, I would of built it with 3 must-have design clauses in mind: It will not affect player tactics, it will not apply a double negative, it will not draw out the game.
Quick idea:
Either make it resemble the HE Phoenix chart, or have it only affect the game if the rolls equate to 6, 7, 8 or 9 for the corresponding God's unholy numbers and effects. Notice how that's only 4 results and not 11? 6-7-8 is more towards the average roll and thus, the results that happen the most. For this reason, the player should have things happen, but not an exaggerated or harsh result. 9 is the furthest of the spectrum, so it should be slightly more powerful, but not to the extent where it gives a overwhelming double positive to the Daemon player. Hell, if this isn't fast enough, we can even say that 6 only powers Slaanesh units and hates on Khorne and that's it. No rolling for other players units because these already benefits yours.

  • Internal pricing of units and upgrades will be reworked and given better prices to increase viability and Loci.
Quick idea:
Let's not make 135 point Skull Cannons and focus more on overpriced Slaaneshi Chariots.

  • The Random Gifts table will have god-specific gifts if they choose to go with a 0.
Quick idea:
There's a million and a half unused Daemonic gifts that are obviously god-specific that are unused from the last book. For some of you who did not play the previous edition of Daemons..
Bloodthirsters could take..
Awesome Strength, Dark Insanity, Obsidian Armor, Axe of Khorne, Firestorm Blade, Immortal Fury, Spellbreaker, Armor of Khorne, Collar of Khorne
Lord of Change..
Twin Heads, Tzeetnch's Will, Staff of Change, Spell Destroyer, Power Vortex, Dark Magister, Daemonic Robes, Flames of Tzeentch, Iridescent Corona, Master of Sorcery
Great Unclean One..
Balesword, Nurgling Infection, Staff of Nurgle, Trappings of Nurgle, Noxious Vapours, Pestilent Mucus, Nurgle's Rot, Soul Hunger, Stream of Bile, Slime Trail
Keeper of Secret ..
Spirit Swallower, Etherblade, Temptator, Allure of Slaanesh, Daemonic Robes, Enrapturing Gaze, Siren Song, Soul Hunger, Soporific Musk, Torment Blade

So to sum it up really quick, I would eliminate the doubles, fine-pick some of these to be used as alternative Exalted, Greater and Lesser Gifts for players can choose from that are God-specific.

1 Exalted, 2 Greater, 3 Lesser that are God-specific for example, so someone like Tzeentch can default 0 to a choice of Tzeetch's Will (just the name) as an Exalted Choice, Mastery of Sorcery as a Greater choice, or Flames of Tzeentch as a lesser choice. This will ensure that someone like the Bloodthirster, will always be able to default to Armor of Khorne or Obsidian Armor if he so chooses.

Daemons of Chaos rework anyone?  Should I?  I think it would be a fun side-project!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tyranid Vanguard on the way!

Up next for Tyranids..

What can this be?  What rules do you think will be in this one?
Does this feel like a day 1 DLC?
Is GW really taking after some video games of releasing an "unfinished" product and patching in playable fixes?

I hope they give every Genestealer old Ymargl rules.  That would be insane.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A quick word on Nids

Squirt, spurt, squirt, dead.

By now, most of you know that I'm a Dark Eldar player.  In the last 3 or so years since the Codex release, I've built only a single Venom.  Just last night, I put together my second Venom out of sheer boredom because I felt like modeling while I'm home sick.  Some of you who have been following my blog for a while will also know that I like playing my Dark Eldar a certain way.  It might not be the most effective or even the most tournament worthy, but it's the way I like to play and its been working out pretty well.

For those of who don't know, I like to play Kabal heavy with no Haemonculi elements and I like Raiders over Venoms with full man squads.  Unfortunately, I get the shit kicked out of my by Ignore Cover because mech heavy Dark Eldar needs their tricks to survive.  It goes without saying that I'm not doing so well vs. optimized Taudar lists.

Just today, I played against a chap on Vassal who I know is running the new Nids.  Alright, cool, I figure why not.  Let's put my 1850 pure DE list to the test.  Keep in mind once again that my list is built for all-comers, Raider heavy, Lance heavy, and it only sports 2 Venoms.

Exact list is the following:
20 kp

Succubus (Agonizer, Haywire) = 90

5x Warriors (Raider NS, Blaster) = 130
5x Warriors (Raider NS, Blaster) = 130
10x Warriors (Raider NS/SR, Blaster, SC) = 195
10x Warriors (Raider NS/SR, Blaster, SC) = 195
10x Warriors (Raider NS/SR, Blaster, SC) = 195
9x Wyches (Raider NS/AS, Hekatrix/VB, Haywires) = 198

3x Trueborn (Venom NS/SC, 3x Blaster) = 156
3x Trueborn (Venom NS/SC, 3x Blaster) = 156

Ravager (NS) = 115
Ravager (NS) = 115
Voidraven (FF, 2x Shatter) = 175

The guy I played was running Swarmlord with 3 Tyrant Guard, 3x Exocrines with Regen, 2x 2x Venoms, and a unit of 3x Zoans.  The rest of the army was filled with 20x man units of Terms and I think that was it.  Regardless, he was running fodder cover, 3+ Shrouded play from the Venoms, and Exocrines because they're pretty good units overall.

After 2 turns in, he calls the game, calls me a douchebag cheater, a list tailor and leaves the game.  Now I don't know what planet he lives on, but I don't think a Raider-heavy, lance heavy list that runs 2 Venoms is anything close to tailoring lists.  If anything, this list shits on MEQ much harder than anything else out there.  He just got outplayed and outplayed hard:  I always run Night Shields on my ships and I used their range to pick apart the first Exocrine (extreme focus fire), waited until his Terms covering one unit of Venoms moved into range before focus firing and destroying them utterly.  I then focused lances into the exposed Venoms, ID'd them off and finished off a second Exocrine before the rage rant started happening.  Even after I explained to him that this is my standard list, it's not a tailored list and I pretty much play the same shit every game, he doesn't believe me and tells me off.

Gah, it's so lame man.  Get a better sense of sportsmanship please!  Even with 2x Flyrants, I don't think he would of done well.  One failed grounding test and you're done, every lance in the army will go into you, especially since Dakka Flyrants have to get close to do damage to my ships.  Once the Synapse units are dead, it's pretty much a turkey shoot.  If anything, Nid players should take from this game one important thing:  No matter what happens, enough wounds will do you in.  The 3+ cover Shroud is awesome to have, but you really need a way to hide those Venomthropes entirely.  S8 might be pretty rare these days, but there's some armies out there that are still packing them.  If they get an opportunity to hit your exposed Venomthropes, their measly cover save in the open will not be able to save them!  The name of the game is opportunity, and good players will always find an opening.

One last thing:  If you're going to bitch the second you hear Dark Eldar when you're playing Nids, you need to expand your horizons a bit more.  You're never going to become a better player if you give up before trying to out-think your opponent.  Unless he's packing a douchebagery 9-Venom/Blasterborn/3 Ravager list, you should be alright.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I'm back! My Nids list

This marine is so fucked.

Here's what I'm going to roll with this weekend since I'm still missing my Flyrants. Keep in mind that this list can be well-equipped in a huge number of ways to fight different metas. It just happens that I play in a pretty MEQ heavy meta and this list is more casual than for tournament play. However, it's still pretty mean with all things considered. There's a huge number of psychic potential and T6 wounds in this list.

14 kp

Swarmlord = 285
Hive Tyrant (Strangle, Reaper, Adrenal) = 240

10x Termagaunts = 40
10x Termagaunts = 40
10x Termagaunts = 40
10x Termagaunts = 40
10x Termagaunts = 40
10x Termagaunts = 40

3x Hive Guard = 165
Venomthrope = 45
Venomthrope = 45

3x Carnifex (TL Devo) = 450
Trygon = 190
Trygon = 190

This can be re-adjusted to take Mawlocs, in fact, it'll drop your list to 1750 exactly. This gives you 2x Tyrant Guard if you so choose. Another variation would be 1x Mawloc and 1x Trygon Prime for added Psyker hate.

The biggest thing to note in this list is that I'm walking just about everything. The way this list will be successful is by interlacing infantry and hiding your Venoms behind the wall of Fexes. Cover is pretty easy to come by, and even your most basic Terms can get cover if you use a dotted formation to mix the squadrons and maximize on cover. Swarmlord and the other HT can get cover from the Fexes, and the two Trygons will offer a lot of deadly options for your opponent to shoot at. In total, you're looking at 39 T6 3+ wounds through Shrouded cover that your opponents need to chew through to.

Just don't pop out your Trygons like an idiot, the 2+ reserves from Swarmlord should help. Play with 4x Term units for starters and then reserve 2 to backcap points. Keep the Venoms separate because your opponent will have to waste fire at one without wounds carrying over the other.

Oh, and I don't care about flyers much.  You can ignore them just fine, but if they don't down your Fexes, they'll be walking into a no-fly zone.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Army books and game balance

Honestly, now that I've seen the Tyranid codex in all its "glory",  I think it's time for me to say it:

I think Games Workshop needs to hire a community manager and or balance designer immediately.

I just can't see how this book turned out the way it did if GW paid any attention to its fanbase. I know a lot of people are in the camp that GW are a miniatures company and their job is to sell minis first, but that's horseshit.  The second they decided to start writing rules to go with the models they create, they became a game company. They put out physical product that have rules attached and thus, they need to honor the gamer as well as the hobbiest.

Having combed through the book, I don't think they have a community manager at all. If you had someone who monitors the forums, read fan blogs and filters through the Internet, GW would know this codex is not what players wanted. The truth is that while some people will be happy,  the majority of them will be highly disappointed. This includes myself as I think the new book is hastily put together, poorly executed and lacks all forms of character. It's uninspired,  unoriginal and it's more of a WD update to streamline the old book for 6th ed. more than an actual codex. In fact, to call it an update would be to give it credit. The book makes tons of meaningless changes that doesn't improve the quality of the army but detracts from its original 3rd edition design even further. In terms of design, this book was a disaster. Not in the sense that the internal balance is poor, or because the power level is completely underwhelming, but it's simply not what players wanted. This seems to be an ongoing tread as of late and I'm not sure what the issue is.

Whenever I do game balance for any of the game systems I'm responsible for, I pay very close attention to the community. I am always heavily involved with the competitive players and the min-maxers without losing focus of the original design content. You also have stats of model sales, which common threads pop up, and which units are commonly taken to tournaments. There's just no excuse when you can pull hard data as well as gather feedback from trusred sourcces. You see, many people think in order for a game to be successful you need to appeal to the casual. This is false. If your background, your universe and the fantasy you provided for your players is good enough, the casual players will come and buy your models. They might enjoy the look, the art or the modeling potential. For them, this is enough since they casually play the game as a secondary hobby element. If you design the game to be balanced, only the competitive players will notice. The casual players are not into the hobby for the gaming element so what do they care about the state of the game. I think this is where GW has its disconnect. Because their targert is the younger, casual player who has disposable income, they think it doesn't matter if the game is poorly balanced. In truth, a properly balanced game does not hurt you in anyway, it only helps you. The reason why is because competitive gamers are usually the most vocal: they blog, they register on forums, and they're the ones who kick and scream when they get handed imbalance. This is negative publicity for your game instead of free, positive marketing. Imagine a world where GW gamers from all over the net praise each books release, or avidly promote their game at every convention. This type of free marketing cannot be bought, and it's one of the key driving forces for building a unified, successful gaming community. Currently, this is not the case.

Balance design is something of a niche field. It's essentially taking the idea of something and making sure it works with everything else. I'm pretty sure that the design department over at GW has no such field or anyone who specializes in the balance of army books. By now, I'm not even sure if they really have play testers or if they're making that stuff up. Or they have play testers, but their focus is purely to see if the models don't break when you handle them and if everything looks visually impressive when you put them on a mock battlefield. The reason I'm being this harsh is because there's no way a design studio can put out the Skullcannon, Heldrake, Wave Serpent, and the Tau codex with educated and experienced play testers providing you feedback. It's just not possible in the gaming industry, and this is coming from someone who started his professional career at 16. The only way this is possible is if GW deliberately doesn't care about game balance even when they know balance issues exist. This hurts me beyond measure because I know how successful they can be with one. Their games would be more fun for the ones who play it, for both casual and competitive players. In turn, this will lead to a more positive community, a more unified community with more tournaments, who would have no problem providing free marketing and publicity for your game system. This ultimately results in higher revenue and sales.

I wrote all this from my phone. Please don't kill.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

So how about those Tyranids

I'm still on vacation in Southeast Asia and I've read some crappy stuff on the new Nids book.

The gist of it is that while costs went down on most units, we lost Biomancy, a lot of problem areas were not fixed, and some units were nerfed for no reason.

I'd love to read what you guys think..