Author Topic: Brief Update on Playtesting  (Read 1515 times)

Hannibal

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Brief Update on Playtesting
« on: November 25, 2013, 03:45:23 PM »
It's gone quiet a bit longer than I'd expected, but we have actually managed to get in a pair of games last week.  After the last playtest game (Greek vs Orcs, Scott and I ended up in a relatively unusual situation where we disagreed over something and one side simply couldn't convince the other.

Its the Lock Shields ability.  I came up with the idea, so obviously I'm positively predisposed towards it (although I do fairly often come up with an idea, try it once and say "yeah, that's a terrible idea").  At the end of the game vs the Orcs, Scott stated his dislike for it based on three reasons:

1)  he's not a fan of "spend 1 CA to mark 2 boxes."
2)  he felt it was too powerful.
3)  he doesn't like the defensive nature of the ability.


We'll come back to #3 later, but we agreed to try out two games of Greeks the next chance we got and just play them.  Rather than takes pictures (which does slow things down), we'd just play a couple of games and see if becoming familiar with it would settle the first two issues.  Going in, we tweaked Lock Shields after the Greeks vs Orcs game so that it doesn't have an option to force the reroll.

The first game we played Seize the Objective, Greeks vs Orcs.  We played on the map with a small central hill and two offset small forests.  I took some Perioikoi, Corinthians, and a Theban Sacred Band.  He took a fair number of Scutarii and Libyans.  The Elephants stayed in the box, but Hannibal's Chosen did show up.  I used skirmishers to grab the hill and the Sacred Band followed up, being uphill against Hannibal's Chosen. But my shorter line meant I had to take a Two's Company with my Perioikoi and the combined attacks destroyed them.  I ended up forcing a draw because I claimed the objective and ended the game before he could exploit the breakthrough.

The second game was Persia vs the Greeks, with this time Scott taking the Greeks.  He went with a fairly traditional alliance of Spartans, Helots, and Thebans.  I went super-shooty, with Immortals and Sparabara plus some Satrapal Cavalry and Kardakes to fulfill Core (and a unit of Royal Guard to exploit a breakthrough).  The mission was Breaking Point, so I figured this was the best chance I had.  I ended up killing his Spartiates, creating a hole in his line where I could pinch and get to 1200 pts but his infantry smashed half my Sparabara on the charge turn alone.

In both games we used a lot of Lock Shields and his assessment was that the ability is "annoying but not overpowered."  That probably fits my opinion as well, because when I used it against Carthage, I didn't feel I got good return on spamming it but when I played against it with my shooty army, it was very tense (would I destroy the Spartiates before the rest of his army rolled me up).  Which seems that it fits the design mantra: less good vs a card most times, but sometimes better.  (i.e. against shooting or anytime you have multiple attacks going on a single unit you get fairly good return because you can erase both boxes in one turn).  Scott suggested that we tone it down a little more so that you can't spend 1 CA to mark two boxes on two different units, but rather have to mark two boxes on the same unit.  Which was fine by me.  It makes using Lock Shields and Deep Ranks together less efficient, but that's okay.  One thing I learned from Vlachold is that even if stacking abilities is balanced, it's not fun for an opponent.  Better to make something stronger but not stackable.

So having resolved concerned #1 and #2, we were brought back to #3.


In the end, I don't think there is a way around this one.  Greeks having a defensive army ability is an intentional design decision, to make them grindy vs breakthrough.  His feeling was that although Greeks have a lot of dice, those dice are on (mostly) mediocre attack stats and so can be trumped very easily.  Therefore, if they're facing D:2/3 or D:3/2, they need command cards more than most factions.

My argument against some offensive army ability is exactly the same:  because these guys have a lot of dice, an ability that gave them a boost to hit/wound would likely be way too good.  Furthermore, it'd alter their play-style and the intent was always for them to be very grindy.  Setting up a grind isn't Scott's playstyle and so it makes sense he wouldn't be thrilled with a faction that does that.  While I see his point on the issue of their mediocre attacks, I don't really see a way around that without making them too good.  For the moment, we're going forward with the Lock Shields as a defensive ability.

There you have our current progress.  I think at this point we're coming very close to winding down playtesting.  We've done the "Greeks as allies" portion of it and are satisfied.  As for them as a stand-alone faction we're feeling pretty good, mainly because there aren't a lot of combos to test.  The faction has a lot of one troop type, so its a fairly bland faction in that sense, but it also means you get a handle on its balance fairly quickly. 

RushAss

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Re: Brief Update on Playtesting
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2013, 10:56:21 AM »
Could you post the current Lock Shields ability here for reference?
"You can never break the chain - There is never love without pain
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Hannibal

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Re: Brief Update on Playtesting
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2013, 03:17:08 PM »
Here it is, from the Sixth Draft:

Lock Shields:  You may spend a Command Action to mark the Lock Shields boxes on one of your units.   During an attack, after your opponent rolls to hit, you may erase one box to change the result of one die to a 6. You may not use this ability if a unit is engaged on the flank or rear.

Deep Ranks: After deployment, you may cross off 1 Green box on one of your Phalanx units and mark 1 Lock Shields box on another of your Phalanx units.  You may damage a unit once with Deep Ranks, but you may damage multiple units to mark both Lock Shields boxes on a unit.  Denote which Lock Shields box was marked because of Deep Ranks.  During an attack, after your opponent rolls to wound, you may erase one box marked because of Deep Ranks to change the result of one die to a 6.  This counts as playing a Command Card.

RushAss

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Re: Brief Update on Playtesting
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2013, 11:49:01 AM »
OK, so this ability is essentially giving your unit two built in fumbles on the to-damage roll.  Here's how I break it down:

Argument for Lock Shields being balanced
Each use of this ability is slightly worse than a fumble because you can only use it on the 1st roll.  If your opponent has a really high offensive skill or plays a command card like Accuracy, then the ability isn't going to help you.
Not being able to use the ability when the unit is flanked or being rear attacked somewhat mitigates the fact that you get to use the ability twice per command action spent.

Argument for Lock Shields being too strong
As Scott pointed out, you get 2 uses out of the ability for a single command action.  That's pretty sweet.
As I understand it, you can still play defensive cards on the unit while using the ability.  That's doubly sweet.

Judging from the above, I agree with Scott that the ability is a touch too powerful.  Here's a few suggestions:

Make it just one box, but remove the restriction about being flanked or attacked from the rear.
If you really wanted to keep the flank/rear-attacked restriction for flavor, make it so that you could could play the ability after either attack roll.  In other words it effectively becomes a fumble.
Keep it as is with the 2 boxes, but place a restriction on playing defensive command cards on the same turn that ability is used.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2013, 12:11:03 PM by RushAss »
"You can never break the chain - There is never love without pain
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A healing hand, as secret touch on the heart"
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Hannibal

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Re: Brief Update on Playtesting
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2013, 04:34:52 PM »
OK, so this ability is essentially giving your unit two built in fumbles on the to-damage roll. 

Lock Shield is a fumble on the to-hit roll, not to-damage roll.  Two fumbles on the to-wound roll would be flat out too good.   ;D

You can, through the use of Deep Ranks, get two fumbles on the damage roll but that comes at the cost of weakening your line elsewhere as opposed to the free resource that are Command Actions.


Quote
Argument for Lock Shields being balanced
Each use of this ability is slightly worse than a fumble because you can only use it on the 1st roll. 

More than slightly worse.  If you assume 3s and 3s to hit, then it's half as good as a fumble.  The higher your Def skill, the better it becomes, of course.


Quote
Argument for Lock Shields being too strong
As Scott pointed out, you get 2 uses out of the ability for a single command action.  That's pretty sweet.
As I understand it, you can still play defensive cards on the unit while using the ability.  That's doubly sweet.

Judging from the above, I agree with Scott that the ability is a touch too powerful.

I compare it to the original version of Lock Shields (flat -1 die) and Faith Armor.  Faith Armor prevents 1 pt of damage per CA.  The original Lock Shields prevents .25 damage per turn (assuming 3s and 3s to hit) for 1 CA.  This Lock Shields prevents .5 damage per CA (again, assuming 3s and 3s to hit).  All of them can be used in conjunction with Blue cards.

If the combat goes 4 turns (which is what we estimate), then this version of Lock Shields negates the same damage as the original Lock Shields (-1 die) and Faith Armor:  1 pt of damage.


Quote
Make it just one box, but remove the restriction about being flanked or attacked from the rear.

1 CA to negate 1/2 pt of damage is a terrible ability.  The defining trait of any army ability is that it is usually worse than drawing a command card but in certain situations its better than a card.  Having it be 1 fumbled to-hit per CA is almost always worse than drawing a card.  This would put it almost in the category of Precision.

Quote
If you really wanted to keep the flank/rear-attacked restriction for flavor, make it so that you could could play the ability after either attack roll.  In other words it effectively becomes a fumble.

I mean, we could do that, but it'd almost be a waste.  You'd so rarely use it on the to-hit that it'd almost be a waste to put the language in there letting you do that.  And thematically, the idea was to have Lock Shields about preventing you from getting hit, not from getting wounded.  The whole idea of lock shields = harder to wound?  I don't see it.


Quote
Keep it as is with the 2 boxes, but place a restriction on playing defensive command cards on the same turn that ability is used.

If it is too powerful, this would be the way I would go.  My concern is that if it counted as a card it'd still be too weak. 

One of the things I've noticed is that when BGFW has done checkbox abilities that affect the attack roll, they're generally considered weak if they add/prevent less than 1 damage.  Look at Precision and (pre-eratta'd) Fury:  both are/were considered weak powers and almost always not worth it.  For example, it was only under the Pow-charge that Precision was worth it  and even then only when used on Chariots or Cavalry (i.e. guys who got an additional +1 Pow).  Precision was only really worth it in situations when you got +2 Pow, meaning that the ability granted almost +1 pt of damage.

Contrast that with the "combat" check boxes that are usually considered good:  Spirit Guidance (a Cunning on the to-wound), Pain Touch (a Cunning on the to-wound if you did a point of damage), Faith Armor (a Fumble on the to-wound).  Rune of Uruz doesn't have a neat comparison like this, but you'll note that people say to mark the Rune early to make it worth it.  I'll bet the same maxim would hold true: if you get 3-4 turns of combat out of the Rune, you usually got your money's worth for that CA.

All the 'good' abilities usually do 1 pt per CA.  Both the offensive ones count as a command card.  The defensive one doesn't, which is why we went the way we did.

(Playing Devil's Advocate to my last statement is that Lock Shields is an ability for a D:2/2 faction whereas Faith Armor is an ability for a D:2/1 faction.  Context matters, of course.)


When we playtested, we both spammed Lock Shields.  When I did it, my feeling usually was that in certain times I would have spent the CA but in most cases, if I'd been playing 'for real' that I would have rather had the card.  In other worse, usually the card is better but there were times when the CA was better.   ;D

I'm going to keep revisiting its power of course.  I think that whatever Lock Shields is, its right on the line.  If its too good, its only slightly too good.

ElDiablito

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Re: Brief Update on Playtesting
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2013, 11:04:59 PM »
Make it just one box, but remove the restriction about being flanked or attacked from the rear.
If you really wanted to keep the flank/rear-attacked restriction for flavor, make it so that you could could play the ability after either attack roll.  In other words it effectively becomes a fumble.
Keep it as is with the 2 boxes, but place a restriction on playing defensive command cards on the same turn that ability is used.

Personally, I would get miffed if locking shields aided when being hit in the flanks or rear.  Shields face only a single direction; forward.

Worrying about ignoring a hit or a damage roll is mostly irrelavant to me, so long as the army is balanced compared to it's peers.