Monday, 27 July 2015

Where only fools dare thread 2: Points (The Dice Abide Article)

Whilst the meek sit safe in their homes and offices I have braved where only the foolish dare tread in the search of articles of (at least partial) interest in the parsnip soup of detritus and rage that accounts for what little of the internet isn't taken up with Facebook games and po rn.
The price of art
Hello again.
Personally been caught up in ETC-prep and work. Our last practice weekend was at Warhammer World this weekend just gone (too much tequila and balls-to-face, perhaps not enough warhammer), so wasn't there to see the Midlands event (which was meant to be the last 8th event, but now there is one in October too). Daemons won it, so not very exciting in the end high level wise (the nature of the win makes me want to look at the comp pack again and see if there were some comp loopholes, or whether it was simply German efficiency).
I would look further into AoS, but not only am I busy, I want to leave a bit of time for more to be out/more games having been played. I may also look at a couple of other games, but who knows.
In other news:
- Things I have learnt this week:
Apparently The Hobbit has quite the vibrant tournament scene in the UK. Seriously, who knew!?
- Deathwatch, the new game by the creators of the incredibly fun WarhammerQuest game, a game about... the Deathwatch... is proving incredibly good. Try it out. Just watch out for the damned Carnifex...
- Debate of the week within the England ETC team (rather than discuss the intricacies of ETC lists/matchups):
What is the best GW-related cinematic scene?

Warhammer Total War


Mark of Chaos

Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning

Dawn of War
I think my vote (based on impact of first viewing) has to be either Dawn of War or Mark of Chaos.
Today's main story: 
Today I stumbled upon an article from The Dice Abide ( ). A blog I associate more with 40k, its subject matter was something I have been thinking about - Points.
I have been rather fascinated with the Points issue that has exploded since the release of AoS. Those that know me will not be surprised by the fact I love looking at ideas that fundamentally challenge the validity of accepted truths (heck, I am even on record for changing my mind at least twice based on well reasoned internet arguments - I worry that such flexibility of thought will see me banned from forums... but so far so good).
So, all credit for the stuff in the box goes to Adam and The Dice Abide, whose views are their own. I found it interesting. Brought to you without the added spice of Trolls. If you want those, check out the original!

 Hey everyone, time for an opinion article, haven’t done one of these in a while, so this will be fun! Right now, the internet is...

Hey everyone, time for an opinion article, haven’t done one of these in a while, so this will be fun! Right now, the internet is all ablaze with righteous indignation in response to the gall that Games Workshop should try something new to revive a good game that had abysmal sales. It seems that everyone agrees that something had to be done, just a lot of people aren’t particularly pleased with totally changing the game.
Against my better judgement, I spent some time browsing some forums to see what people think about this new game. Of all the mechanics in Age of Sigmar that people seem to get riled up about, it’s by far the lack of a unified point measurement system. Not only did people seem to think that without points the game would be impossible to balance, but also, if you self imposed any sort of limitation, you’re not playing “real” Age of Sigmar… which is really what got me to start this article.
What’s in a Point?
First of all, lets talk about points, specifically in relation to 40k (since that’s a readily available comparison). Points are simply a fairly standard mechanic of allowing players to come up with some sort of baseline limitation of their army composition before they start a game. Many games have points, and they seem to get the job done adequately enough. When you play a points-based system, players typically agree on some limit, then do their best to take the most effective army they can within said restriction (I’ll mention what happens if you don’t in a minute). After deciding upon their army, they’ll take it to the battlefield, assuming that the points mean that their armies will be suitably matched for a fair game… This however, is frankly just not the truth. Every army for every game (that I’ve personally encountered) that uses points, has units it’s units that are winners, and losers, must-haves, and garbage. There are many units in 40k which never really see the day of light in a competitive tournament, because in an environment driven by points, efficiency is key.
One big limitation of using points as your basis for determining fairness is that they are not readily mutable. By that I mean, points remain consistent, even when they become a hugely incorrect assessment of efficiency. For example, Draigo, by himself, isn’t all that great for his points, similarly Centurions aren’t over the top either. When you take Draigo and put him with Centurions, their value can definitely be worth more than their cost. Using force multipliers is a big part of playing the game, and often times the army with the best force multipliers do so well in competition. Another example is adding 25 more bodies to a unit of 10 cultists… you definitely don’t see this very often, and why should you? It’s not an efficient use of points. You get the picture.
Well back to what I mentioned above, what happens when you don’t take the best units?  I like Berserkers (and I also agree that they’re too many points for what they do),  but when I take them, I’m aware that against a more point efficient army, I am essentially at a point handicap equal to the difference in what their cost should be for their efficiency. There are tons of units like this in the game, and most people who do take them, are doing so knowing the implications. Points never have been a balanced solution, they’re just a quick and dirty way to get balanced-ish games. Sorry, but not all 1850 armies are created equal. Ironically, the most balanced way to play with points is for both players to take whatever they can make the most point efficient, forsaking units that might otherwise be fun. If one player takes a “fun” list against a “competitive” list, the game is not likely to be balanced.

Morkanaut with KFF and riggers is more points than a Wraithknight with two wraith cannons. Yay points!
Culture of Restriction
Before you start a game of 40k, you probably have a whole pile of other implicit agreements. My local gaming group assumes all games will be made with Battleforged armies, consisting of 1850 points, with no more than 3 detachments, Forgeworld is totally allowed, as are most, but not all super-heavy vehicles, the base of ruins count as part of the ruins, and the list goes on and on, unless people agree otherwise. If you’ve been playing 40k long enough, you’ve probably encountered veteran players who are new to your group, and they have different customs and unspoken rules. In this case they’ll show up, have to change a little bit about how/what they play, and the next time they come, they’ll probably be prepared to play by those local customs. Those things don’t make either of your ways better or worse, just different, but in either case, there are going to be plenty of changes to just the “real” rules of the game.
Now, with Age of Sigmar, we have what is essentially an entirely new game. There are no long-standing traditions, or local rules built upon years of game play and evolution, and the game doesn’t use points as a limiting factor for army composition. So because of that, we shouldn’t play it, right? Or maybe we should take the army that we think can abuse the lack of a point system the most, that’ll be good. Since it is such a new game, it will take time for manners to develop, but you can be absolutely certain that gaming groups will self-regulate on what is considered acceptable practice in the game, just like they do with other systems.
Playing it “Real”
Back to what I said in the beginning about playing “real” Age of Sigmar. This isn’t something people do for any other game, why should they do it for Age of Sigmar? If you’ve ever gone to an ITC event, you’ll notice that there is a 19 page document of FAQs and rules changes, on top of playing 6 custom built scenarios! Does this mean we’re not playing 40k? Sure, I give Reece a hard time whenever they change the rules for their events (boo, Destroyer nerf!), but that doesn’t make those tournaments non-40k, it’s just the expression of the wishes of the people playing the game.

I’ll get down now.
With or without points, it is always up to the players to decide what they think is fair for the game they want to play. People will come up with agreements or systems that they want to use to come up with quick approximations of a balanced enough game, and that’s totally fine. This isn’t all that new of a concept, it just now means my Cygor is no longer 100 points more than it should be.
PS – iIf you want some good laughs, check out the Rage of Sigmar Facebook group, where I borrowed the masthead from.
About Adam B
Despot of the Black Legion, Seneschal of House Terryn, and Sentinel of Titan. Tyrant of the Frostgorger Tribe, and Guardian of Loren.   
Personally I see points as nothing other than the most basic of balancing mechanisms.
I do, however, think that GW need to put *something* out, fast, or momentum for their new game will be likely die...
Until next time

1 comment:

  1. G'day Raf,

    Points are a bit like money, they're not a perfect mechanism for establishing value but so far no-one has come up with a better one.

    Points are the currency of Warhammer, and other games too I guess. They are the means by which we establish a degree of equivalency between forces. This means that the result of a game is more likely to be decided by player skill. Without points we are left with two options;

    1. Barter, in that every game will need to be preceded by bargaining and agreement about the forces each player will take.

    2. Pre-determined scenarios, where imbalance is recognized and built into the game. Historicals do this all the time. Taking the French in a May 1940 Blitzkreig scenario means you know you'll get a kicking, but you're going into the game knowing this, and chances are the victory conditions are based on that. The thing is, do AoS players want to be restricted to a relative handful of scenarios (even 50 or more is not many)?

    Warhammer 8th had some horrendous points totals, from 25 point Warlocks to 275 point Cygors. This is not an indication that points are an unworkable mechanism, more a sign of GW's laziness and their perplexing refusal to fix their own game. An annual repointing of over/under priced units and items would have worked wonders, and taken hardly any effort.

    I've not played AoS yet, it's not attractive to me, though it looks like a lot of people are enjoying it. But without some sort of equivalence mechanism, I suspect there are a lot of one-sided games going on. If people expect that, then fine. But if they don't, then problems (not hilarity) will ensue.