Author Topic: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?  (Read 4099 times)

RushAss

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Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« on: October 06, 2015, 11:55:07 AM »
OK, so I gave Persia a couple more spins at Council of 5 Nations this past weekend and some players expressed concern about the Royal Guard.  Every time I used them, they where deployed behind my line and they where able to achieve their King's Favor power up when the units in front of them put their respective opponents into the yellow.  At which point, they turn into (6) 6/6 killing machines all for the low price of 188 points.  I'll express my opinion here at a later time, but I'm going to list the pros and cons for the argument that Royal Guard are just too darned good. 

Too Good

1 - The unit costs only 188 points, yet they can get their ability triggered without even spending a command action and that ability turns them into a brutal (6) 6/6 unit.

2 - Naturally, you would want to shoot these guys before they get anywhere near any average-to-worse unit.  But the 4/1 defense vs. ranged makes that an unwise choice unless you've got a really good ranged unit.  And forget shooting them at all early in the game if they are behind the line. 

3 - 5 dice of Spears!  With a decent defensive stat to go with it at that low 188 points cost.

4 - Costs the same as a Battle Squad and fulfills the same role with similar success.  Which is fine, but they also have the potential to turn into a 188 point meat grinder which a Battle Squad cannot do.

Balanced

1 - You need to start them off behind your line for them to have a chance at achieving that greatness.  Meaning that for about half the game they are doing nothing for you other than backing up a unit.  In my games this weekend not a single Royal Guard engaged anybody until at least turn 6.  So the unit is scary, but you only get a few turns to use that scariness.

2 - The King's Favor must be triggered.  If the unit the Royal Guard is backing up gets destroyed before the opposing unit goes into the yellow, the King's favor doesn't trigger.  An obvious way to keep the Royal Guard from becoming a death machine is to shoot the hell out of whatever unit the Guard is backing up if you have ranged units.

2a - Of course you could purchase King's Favor for the Royal Guard at the beginning of the game, but then you lose a command action every turn for super charging a unit with only 8 hit boxes.  And remember, King's Favor is Persia's faction ability and the Royal Guard do indeed pay for it.

3 - They are Elite, meaning you get no more than 1-2 per game depending on points budget.  This means nothing on an individual basis, but at least it limits how many of these guys you can bring to the table.  There is no doubt it would be a broken mess if they where a standard unit.

To note - I have taken them in every Persian build since I started playing them.  Do I think they are too good?  I'll state that later (see my opening paragraph above), but I have always liked the unit and they strike me as a no-brainer when it comes to constructing Persian armies.  I feel they are a good value even if you are putting them on the front line.

Another note - Eric also played a game using Persia.  Persia never won a game.  The games used them in where team games so take that with a grain of salt, but there it is.
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Kevin

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2015, 12:59:07 PM »
Quote
Eric also played a game using Persia.  Persia never won a game

I'll be posting that report later, but the short version is that Eric lost due to both strategic choices and being out-diced, and he conceded the game early--well before anyone would've powered up.
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RushAss

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2015, 11:29:36 AM »
Here's a session report involving the Royal Guard.  One thing to note is that it took quite some time before they engaged anything.

http://ymgforum.com/index.php/topic,10332.0.html
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gull2112

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2015, 09:50:18 PM »
In the few times I've played AvP I've been very underwhelmed by Persia. V Alexander they don't get enough unit volumetric superiority to compensate for the fact that every unit they field is edged out at the least by an Alexandrine unit.

I've run them against High Elves and that was not pretty either.

I don't care for Royal Guard because I don't like units that are basically end game units because if your game goes to hell in a handbasket they aren't going to save you and if you do alright, you don't really need them. If the game is neck and neck and lasts for a long time, then they are useful. But that's a little more risk than I care to take (and I buy Bomb-Chuckers!).
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Hannibal

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2015, 11:37:55 AM »
I think this is a case of New Faction Shock.  I remember when Centaurs were thought of as the Golden Gods of Battleground, but eventually people found a way to contain them.  Were they good, certainly.  And while you could expect them in every game, its not like Ravenwood was unbeatable.  Most factions have a really nasty unit that you expect to see on the table. 

A powered-up Royal Guard is worth ~290pts by formula.  The thing is, in order to get them there, you have to put a 188pt unit behind your line for the first half of the game.  You're setting aside 200pts in the first half of the game to get 300pts in the second half.

Our playtesting has found that Mike hit it right on the head:  while its relatively easy to get the power up, often the game is already decided (one way or the other) by the time you do.  Heck, Scott thinks that for the points invested in Kardakes+Royal Guard (358pts), you're most of the way to Indian Elephants, which he thinks is a better value all around.  I agree the Indian Elephants are nice, but I also like the K+RG combo.

In looking at the one game that was posted, I can see why people would be wide-eyed at the Royal Guard's performance.  The powered-up RG got fed 600+ pts in nice bite-sized chunks (I'm taking the starting costs of those units, but at least two units were in the Yellow-Red).  It's like in the martial arts movies where the bad guys outnumber the hero but attack him one-at-a-time.

BubblePig

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2015, 10:27:28 PM »
2 - The King's Favor must be triggered.  If the unit the Royal Guard is backing up gets destroyed before the opposing unit goes into the yellow, the King's favor doesn't trigger.  An obvious way to keep the Royal Guard from becoming a death machine is to shoot the hell out of whatever unit the Guard is backing up if you have ranged units.

On paper it seems awfully easy to back up 2 units, which would make the ranged fire gambit seem unfeasible.


A powered-up Royal Guard is worth ~290pts by formula.  The thing is, in order to get them there, you have to put a 188pt unit behind your line for the first half of the game.  You're setting aside 200pts in the first half of the game to get 300pts in the second half.

I do not agree with your premise, but even if I did, you are "shaving points" in at least two ways here, which adds up to quite a lot of value. In point of fact you are setting aside less than 200 points. And while some might say that is a difference not worth quibbling over, I am not in that camp. If Royal Guard was between 200 and 210 points I just don't think we would be having this discussion. And while I do agree that there is a non-existent psychological "discount" to xx8 and xx9 point units, 188 is still closer to 180 than 200. Also, a powered up Royal Guard gets to erase the box to pass a rout check. Factoring that in it has got to be worth more than 290 points, probably closer to 310 points.

What also concerns me is that to a certain extent you can pay for an extra 188 points that sits behind your line with Satrapal Levies, which is an option not open to the guy who wants to take ~150 points off the line so he can shoot the hell out of the unit (or units) in front of the Royal Guard.

While I am not ready to pass judgement yet on whether or not they are broken, to me they give a distinct impression of a unit pushing the envelope.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 11:18:37 PM by BubblePig »

Hannibal

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2015, 03:17:10 PM »
I do not agree with your premise, but even if I did, you are "shaving points" in at least two ways here, which adds up to quite a lot of value. In point of fact you are setting aside less than 200 points. And while some might say that is a difference not worth quibbling over, I am not in that camp. If Royal Guard was between 200 and 210 points I just don't think we would be having this discussion. And while I do agree that there is a non-existent psychological "discount" to xx8 and xx9 point units, 188 is still closer to 180 than 200.

Yeah I was rounding up to the nearest hundred, but the absolute value is the same either way:  100pts.  The unit is 188pts as is, and would be 292 if it had the (6)6/6 from the start.  Okay, technically it's a hundred and four points. 

But again, those points have to be discounted by the fact that the unit has to be behind the line for half the game.  You can disagree with that assessment all you want, but our playtesting showed that that requirement was a steep cost. 


Quote
Also, a powered up Royal Guard gets to erase the box to pass a rout check. Factoring that in it has got to be worth more than 290 points, probably closer to 310 points.

The ability to auto-pass a single check is ~6pts.  Its so entirely minimal that we figured it was balanced out by the fact that the unit lost the (+1)+1/+1 to auto-pass.


Quote
What also concerns me is that to a certain extent you can pay for an extra 188 points that sits behind your line with Satrapal Levies, which is an option not open to the guy who wants to take ~150 points off the line so he can shoot the hell out of the unit (or units) in front of the Royal Guard.

Sure.  But there's a cost for Satrapal Levies, in CAs.  But if what you're willing to lose CAs for a suped up Royal Guard, just spend the CA on Royal Favor instead. 


Quote
While I am not ready to pass judgement yet on whether or not they are broken, to me they give a distinct impression of a unit pushing the envelope.

Well, I agree it is a good unit, but that was the whole point.  The Royal Guard pretty much went everywhere with the King (hence the name) and so if we made a unit that encourages would-be Šâhanšâhs out there to take them, I'm the opposite of upset by that.

I think this was a great discussion for 2-3 years ago, when there was open development.  With some playtesting to back up any concerns, the unit might have been changed.  Its simply too bad that Alexander & Persia were not played at events like this.  But that ship has sailed.  Greeks & Vlachold are still in development.  Perhaps its worth looking at trying out those factions at these events.

RushAss

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2015, 03:45:05 PM »
I do not agree with your premise, but even if I did, you are "shaving points" in at least two ways here, which adds up to quite a lot of value. In point of fact you are setting aside less than 200 points. And while some might say that is a difference not worth quibbling over, I am not in that camp. If Royal Guard was between 200 and 210 points I just don't think we would be having this discussion. And while I do agree that there is a non-existent psychological "discount" to xx8 and xx9 point units, 188 is still closer to 180 than 200.

Yeah I was rounding up to the nearest hundred, but the absolute value is the same either way:  100pts.  The unit is 188pts as is, and would be 292 if it had the (6)6/6 from the start.  Okay, technically it's a hundred and four points. 
Actually, 290 points is off.  The unit would be 290 points if it had those (6) 6/6 attack stats AND a faction ability.  But remember, the faction ability is was pumps those stats up to (6) 6/6, so to be fair you'd remove the faction ability from the points cost when calculating because the value is already factored into those powered up stats.  Faction abilities are 5% of a unit's cost, so that unit at (6) 6/6 with no faction ability is actually 276 points.
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BubblePig

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2015, 03:24:15 PM »
The ability to auto-pass a single check is ~6pts.  Its so entirely minimal that we figured it was balanced out by the fact that the unit lost the (+1)+1/+1 to auto-pass.
You might have put our finger on where I disagree most strongly with the formula (there are lots of places where this is the case and I don't think I ever made any secret about any particular disagreement at any time,) and by extension maybe the pricing on this particular unit. The formula might say that auto-pass a rout check is only ~6 points. If that is the case, and I were designing a faction with the objective of munchkinizing everywhere I could, I would start by giving every single unit this ability and cackle with glee at the idea that I was only spending 6 points apiece. Now in the case of Persia this is mitigated by the steep cost of marking that box. The cost is so steep in fact that it might be the case that most units should get some fraction of the no faction ability discount and Persian Guard in effect gets the benefit of that hidden cost. But then again maybe not.


Sure.  But there's a cost for Satrapal Levies, in CAs.  But if what you're willing to lose CAs for a suped up Royal Guard, just spend the CA on Royal Favor instead. 
No, I will be greedy and shoot for a Royal Guard with a marked King's Favor box and an extra unit. I already have a tactic for accomplishing this as efficiently as possible and I am going to use that tactic until it seems to stop working more than the vagaries of the dice would account for.  :P

Hannibal

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2015, 08:16:16 PM »
You might have put our finger on where I disagree most strongly with the formula (there are lots of places where this is the case and I don't think I ever made any secret about any particular disagreement at any time,) and by extension maybe the pricing on this particular unit. The formula might say that auto-pass a rout check is only ~6 points. If that is the case, and I were designing a faction with the objective of munchkinizing everywhere I could, I would start by giving every single unit this ability and cackle with glee at the idea that I was only spending 6 points apiece.

Sure, and I could design a O:(1)3/3 D:0/4 Mc 3.5" super-Zombies with 15G/0Y/0R boxes that only costs 76pts.  Any formula can be min/maxed.  Any formula.  Which is why the formula was always intended as a starting point, something that Chad has always said.  And frankly I think he sells the formula short.  I think it is a very robust formula that has held up incredibly well, all things considered.  Every time I read someone's skepticism of the pricing mechanics, I always shake my head because I think as long as the designer isn't trying to munchkin the formula, it turns out very good numbers.


Quote
Sure.  But there's a cost for Satrapal Levies, in CAs.  But if what you're willing to lose CAs for a suped up Royal Guard, just spend the CA on Royal Favor instead. 
No, I will be greedy and shoot for a Royal Guard with a marked King's Favor box and an extra unit. I already have a tactic for accomplishing this as efficiently as possible and I am going to use that tactic until it seems to stop working more than the vagaries of the dice would account for.  :P

Cool!  I mean, I don't think its the be-all and end-all like you do, but I think its certainly viable (and fun).  I basically did something like that myself once or twice.  It worked, but it felt to me like I could get the same result easier with other combinations.

Don't get me wrong, Royal Guard are good.  They're meant to be.  However, to make their thing work you have to have a confluence of events happen:  you have to put the points behind your line and not suffer for it (yes you can get a free 200pt with Levies, but there is a cost to that in CAs).  Then the unit in front of them has to put the enemy into the Yellow/Red.  Then that unit has to die.  Because if you win with that front unit, then the suped-up Royal Guard can't be used.  You have to win...but not too much or else you have 188pts behind your line that is all dressed up with no one to kill.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 08:28:22 PM by Hannibal »

BubblePig

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2015, 02:56:25 AM »
Hey, I didn't open this can of worms in the first place, and that goes for the griping at CO5N, too. Did people change their minds or something? Because from some of the stuff I heard, there are people who would say I am not making my case strongly enough when I say, "not ready to pass judgement yet on whether or not they are broken." I am officially done here. opening a new thread though.

NegativeZer0

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2015, 07:40:47 PM »
My gut reaction is defiantly that the unit is under-costed.  
But at the same time I do not pretend to have played them enough to put any weight behind that reaction.

In fact I have only played them in 1 game and that game went horrendously for me.  The game had a bunch of terrain (I built poorly in dealing with the terain and I misjudged how Kevin would build his army), I had not played Persia before, and the dice hated me that game.  
While it may sound like I'm whining/making excuses my real reason for pointing these things out is that I intend to try them quite a bit more and see if I can prove my theory.

The unit is suspicious to me but for now I agree with Ron and I am firmly in the "not ready to pass judgement yet on whether or not they are broken" camp.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2015, 07:50:36 PM by NegativeZer0 »
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Hannibal

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2015, 07:45:24 PM »
I don't think you're whining at all.  Those things matter, especially as caveats to your first impressions.

RushAss

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2015, 11:55:27 AM »
OK, I'll give this a go now.  On it's own the Royal Guard is basically a Battle Squad with spears that's more immune to ranged fire, but more susceptible to engaged combat due to the lower defensive toughness.  So costing them at 188 points is pretty much spot on.  The added sauce is that the ability to sprout a King's Favor when the unit they are backing up knocks it's opponent out of the green.  To me, this is an incredible upgrade.  You basically get to trigger the faction ability without having to spend a command action and the big drawback of the ability (lose 1 CA per turn) does not have to be paid.  Your 188 point unit becomes Longbeards with a Rune in the offensive sense.  But despite all this, there are balancing factors.

1 - As has been pointed out, the unit must start off behind your line where it does nothing for a good portion of the game.  The absolute earliest it could see combat would be about turn 4, but only if the unit in front of it blows up on contact.  And if that unit blows up so quickly, what are the odds that it put it's opponent into the yellow in that brief time?  In my experience, turn 5 is the earliest that the pumped up Guard is going to see action and turn 6 or even 7 is much more realistic.  So if you are playing Ticking Clock you'll get 2-3 full turns of the Guard kicking ass and the rest of the game with one of your star players riding the bench.

2 - As excellent as the offensive stats are, they are still a 3/1 defense unit with 8 hit boxes.  It's not like it's hard to kill them.  And the courage check auto pass is great, but if it comes down to that the unit is on it's way out anyways.  And with 3 green hit boxes it's not terribly difficult to get it down to that point.

3 - The unit the Royal Guard is backing up needs to be capable of hurting it's opponent.  If you have the Guard backing up Kardakes and the Kardakes are facing even a moderately tough unit like Orc Swordsmen... good luck with that.

4 - Once the power up occurs, the Guard still must find its way into the fight.  What if the unit it's backing up doesn't go down and neither do the units adjacent to them?  That's good for Persia in the sense that your line is holding up.  But where the heck is the Guard supposed to go?

5 - The King's Favor is the unit's faction ability.  You can't voluntarily mark it in a vacuum like pretty much any other faction ability.   

6 - They are Elite, so there's no way you can spam them.  Which is huge because they are a fine line unit in and of themselves.  In fact, half of the time I use them for exactly that.  There's a huge gap between Kardakes and Mercenary Hoplites and the Guard is the prefect fit for that range.  Except you can only have 1-2 of them depending on your points budget.  And taking 188 points off of your line in a 1500 point game can be a rough deal.

Ways to deal with the Royal Guard:

1 - If you have ranged units, shoot the heck out of the unit the Royal Guard is backing up

2 - Delay engagement with the Royal Guard stack for as long a reasonably possible.  You'll probably only get a combat turn's reprieve out of this, but it may give archery more time to beat up the leading unit (see above) or time for an adjacent unit to pound on a weaker Persian unit.

3 - Have an even nastier unit facing the Royal Guard Stack.  Ancients will pretty much eat anything not named "Indian Elephant" in the Persian faction.

If for whatever reason the mass consensus is that the Royal Guard is too good, my suggestion would be to leave it as is, just nuke a command action per turn for the rest of the game after the King's Favor box is marked starting on the next Persian movement and Command phase.  If that would be the case I suggest letting the Persian player choose to not mark the box if he'd prefer to keep the CA.

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Kevin

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Re: Persian Royal Guard - Broken or Balanced?
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2015, 03:10:03 PM »
The endgame doesn't worry me so much, as often you've lost by then and it's 5 vs. 2 or something like that.  I'm a bit nervous that it's open to abuse, such as assigning a Royal Guard to back up an Elephant (speed capped at 3.5), but keeping it mostly to the side so that it backs it up while covering its flank

EEEEEEEEEEEEE
EEEEEEEEEEEEE
EEEEEEEEEEEEE            RR
EEEEEEEEEEEEE      RRRRRRR
EEEEEEEEEEEEE  RRRRRRRRRRR
                    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
                 RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
                      RRRRRRRRRR
                          RRRRRR
                              RR

Or something like that.  Elephant slams into its target and puts it instantly into the yellow.  Royal Guard Powers Up and engages on your next turn.

Just might be able to pull it off with two RG backing up a Scythed Chariots, but most likely that's too tough to pull off in practice since the Chariots' can't get their speed capped.  But man would the table get flipped if you can pull that off!  :)
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. - Winston Churchill