Balance TO's Foolish Goal

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Balance TO's Foolish Goal Empty Balance TO's Foolish Goal

Post  CKO on Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:45 pm

Hi, my name is Chad Knight (aka CKO aka Kenpachi) and I am a few steps away from being an elite 40k player. In order for me to call myself elite I will have to win a GT and I have yet to do that.  I have gone to 3 GTs (Wargames Con or now Texas Con) 2010 didn’t know what I was doing but still managed to get to the top tables, 2011 tournament I was top 16,( Sean Lowery one of my 3 Sensei and fellow South Mississippi Gamer member won it all that year) the last GT I went to (2012) I came in 5th place. I am a member of South Mississippi Gamers although I am the crazy relative that they reluctantly have to claim. (lol) I am getting back into the game after a long break but I have been lurking and playing casual games. Now that you know a little about me and my credentials, I am writing this to give my opinion on this topic called “balance”.    

I see a lot of tournament organizers scrambling to figure out ways to balance the game, because supposedly GW has a flaw in their gaming system they are unaware of. Regardless of restrictions people are going to get steamrolled and that has nothing to do with balance, thus it is a foolish goal from the start.  “Balancing” gives the tournament organizers and inexperienced players this false hope that they will control the overall power of the elite player’s list. The inexperienced players buy units that are not going to beat elite players and, be of absolutely no use once the player gets better at the game. While the elite players in response to changes go out and buy new units to dominate the new tournament rules, I guess that explains GWs marketing strategy not much of a flaw now is it. In actuality “balancing” creates more variables which are harder on newer players because your elite players will constantly be changing.

In order to fix something you must first identify the problem and, I don’t see the problem I turned to this article for help. article Reecius is a tournament organizer and elite player (if you are reading this have you won a GT), I figure his concerns and issues with “balancing” represents a large portion of our community so I will be quoting this article a lot.


The meta though, as predicted, was a bit stale. Over 50% of the armies there used Eldar, Tau or Space Marines in some fashion. And, Daemons were also a force, just as predicted.

I don’t understand why the metagame at Adepticon was consider stale? At any competitive setting certain things are going to be used more because you have a better chance of winning, Typically 3-5 decks dominate card game’s tournament there is no difference with 40k. I think Space Marines, Tau, and Eldar dominated the top tables and that made it seem as if there were more of them.


Lastly, as I called (to no one's surprise) Inquisition was everywhere. In the finals, nearly every list that could take Inquisition, did. So am I bringing this up to pat myself on the back? No, not at all. Just pointing out that the imbalance in the game is at an all time high, currently.

I remember reading that article Reecius did call it, but I don’t think inquisitors are unbalanced. They give their allies access to divination, servo skulls, and grenades for a very cheap price nothing game breaking. What army cannot get re-rolls if they want them? Whenever someone says balance I immediately replace it with power, powerful, or to powerful. So when you say “the imbalance in the game is at an all time high” I see ‘the power in the game is at an all time high”, which to me is a good thing.


Yes, there have always been power lists. We all know this. But what we have now is unit combinations that become SO points efficient that it approaches absurdity. TinBane posted the numbers to explain this concept to those less mathematically inclined over at FLG, which you can read here.

Do you the reader think it is possible to rid the game of unit combinations that are so powerful due to allies? Tournament organizers should have two types of events one with absolutely no restrictions and another one where there are restrictions, bans, and require list approval before the tournament. That way the tournament organizers have absolute power guaranteeing a fun game for all participates. If a player doesn’t like the tournament organizers decision with their list changes, tell them they can play with the sharks in the no restrictions tournament.


The data there explains concretely what most of us already know intuitively: that some units are unfairly good for their points cost. A unit that becomes almost invincible due to rerolled saves, is fast, fearless, hard hitting and in general an order of magnitude better at everything than anything else in the game is not only good, it is too good. These units should cost many, many more points than they do to justify their power, but don't. Thus they obviously become the competitive choice as they are hyper points efficient.

These units will be created regardless of restrictions. As long as allies exist there will always be hyper point efficient units. Rule changes make you buy new stuff to dominate, which is a good thing everyone enjoys fresh air. Restrictions are really helpful in regional or local tournaments because new units are winning instead of the same old thing. The restrictions do no not balance the game because in order to obtain balance everyone has to have equal opportunity to hyper point efficient units and that will never happen.


7/16 players took Eldar in some way, 4 of those were Beastars. 9/16 took Inquisition. It's like Grey Knights from two years back, all over again. And it's not just here, either. The UKGT had 7/10 Eldar in the finals. 5 of them were Beaststar lists. The writing is on the wall. It's not to say that these players are not good (they are) but that these specific Deathstars are too powerful.

This is blown out of proportions to me. To me this entire paragraph says, “Beastars are the most powerful unit in the game according to tournament results”. 7/16 eldar is less than half and 9/16 inquisition should be 6/16 because 3 of them just spent 34 points to get the servo skulls. The variety in the 2014 Adepticon top 16 is the main reason why I am coming back into the game, a freaking drop pod list made it, that’s great!


One of the keys to writing a good list in 40K is reducing variables. Chance is just that: chance. It is fun and creates exciting moments, but it is totally outside of player influence. Too much of it and the game feels like it is playing itself, and that skill in the game takes a backseat. The more variables you take out of the game, the more the outcome is determined by player choice. While that is good in general terms in my mind (I don't want to play a game that is totally random), if you go too far down that road you end up with Chess. Chess is a great game, but the craziness of 40K is part of its charm. The key though, the art of the design process, is to strike the right balance between randomness and player determination of outcomes. We want enough of the random element to create the tense, fun moments we all love, but not so little of it that the game becomes overly predictable.

What the hell are you talking about Willis? lol


This is exacerbated when only one of the armies in a game are subject to randomness and the other is not. It creates a grossly imbalanced situation. When my Riptide rerolls to hit at BS9 due to marker lights, wounds on a 2, possibly with rerolls, ignores cover, armor saves, etc. it's shot becomes many, many, many times more powerful than my opponent's shooting that might miss, might not wound, and might bounce off of my armor or cover, etc. Even if that weapon is more powerful than my Riptide's, it isn't as good because it may not do what you want it to but often, costs the same or less points. That is imbalance

The word imbalance creates this false illusion that there is a flaw or a mistake which is false. Remember balance equals power so when someone says that unit is imbalance they are saying that unit is powerful. Don’t you think Tau should have way more powerful shooting attacks? The said Riptide squad will be facing things like the beaststar unit? Riptides vs Beaststar who would win that fight, it can be determined by tactics or a tournament organizer. Either the TO makes it to where we don’t get to see this battle unfold because they make it impossible with their rule changes or one unit gets dominated because somebody gets the subjective nerf stick from the tournament organizer.


The same goes for rerolling saves. If I can reroll my 2+ save it is not just twice as good as your 2+, it is SIX TIMES as good. Shouldn't it then, cost 6 times as many points? They don't. And therein lies the problem.

Once more these units will be facing off against other monstrosities such as Riptides, beaststars, and other 2+ rerolling save units, bring your cheese to counter their cheese. Shit just got real after escalation, the destructive capabilities and defensive capabilities of our units are crazy powerful but that’s the direction GW is going in. We give the stiff arm to the escalation book but the books they release afterwards also have some kick to them as well and there is nothing we can do to stop the constant barrage of powerful units. I don’t like the words balance and imbalance when a player use those words it doesn’t sound like they are complaining, but that’s what he/she is doing.


The top players will take Deathstar lists often to stay competitive with one another. I understand that 100%. If you are a player that is driven to win, then you will take the best tools available to you. However, now more than ever the result for the overall scene is games that are often foregone conclusions before they begin. Now, I am not saying Deathstars can't be beaten. Highly skilled players can and do beat them. In fact, many of us enjoy the challenge. I do. But a casual player that doesn't come to the table with the skillset they need to handle these lists gets utterly steamrolled. I have watched the impact it has on players many times and it isn't pretty. It is also one of the root causes for the ongoing migration of 40K players to other games that has been slowly increasing over the past two years.

This is an excellent point! The competitive player is going to steamroll the casual player regardless of what restrictions are made. I have to put this in bold letters, THE NICK NANAVATI’s OF THE WORLD ARE GOING TO STEAMROLL CASUAL PLAYERS REGARDLESS OF TOURNAMENT ORGANIZER’S RESTRICTIONS. I understand your concern about the decreasing 40k players as I was one of them. I left the game because they threw everything at us including the kitchen sink with this edition and it was too much change to quickly and I couldn’t handle it. It is ironic that the same thing that pushed me away is drawing me back; I now look at 40k differently. I am going to face crazy super powerful units but I have access to crazy super powerful units, it’s a trade off. We have to make sure that new players when building their armies do not play stuff they have no chance of winning against. We have to literally baby them into the game, which is the way it should be done. Just make sure that before they make a large purchase that they have one game against a crazy super combo list so they can see what true power is.


So what to do?

It's time for some self restraint in order to have more enjoyable, more challenging, and more accessible tournaments for everyone. The best players will win in any meta. It really doesn't matter. They are wired to find the most points efficient lists that exist and have the experience to master them relatively quickly. No matter the tools available to them, they will build the best possible lists. They will also almost always be the guys at the top tables as they have been, year after year. Changing the meta as a group really doesn't impact them. Who it does impact is everyone else at the event that wants fun, fair games.

Why can’t this target group of players have a separate tournament to guarantee they have fun fair games? Tournament organizers have to protect casual players and that is why the best option is a separate tournament where the organizer has absolute power. They will be able to say no to beaststar, seer council, and screamerstar list.


What we're doing to limit some of the craziness is the following:
1. Only two detachments in a list. What that means is you can take a primary and secondary detachments, but no more. Space Marines+Inquisition. Space Marines+Imperial Guard. But not all three. You can take add-ons that fit in your primary detachment such as Be'Lakor that won't count towards your limit. This cuts back on the cherry picked Inquisitor that sits around throwing magical grenades and adding Servo Skulls randomly into lists as well as less of the ubiquitous Coteaz. You can still take Inquisition if you want, just not all of it at once. You have to make choices instead of just taking the best of everything. Too many Inquisitorial allies cuts down on variety as if you go to an event knowing 70% of the field will be able to totally shut down your Scouts/Infiltrators/Deep Strikers/Etc. people will choose not to bring those types of units. Plus, it is stupid to see an all
Xenos army led by a Coteaz against Imperial armies...also led by a Coteaz. Yeah.

Sacrifice an entire ally slot just to cancel scout moves and infiltrating, not happening few armies would use Inquisition if that’s the case. One sentence stands out in this paragraph, “You have to make choices instead of just taking the best of everything”. This sentence proves my main point that restrictions create false hope. Do you the reader think this will prevent the elite player from taking the best of everything? The answer is no elite players will always take the best of everything that is available and steamroll inferior list.


Formations are in, but count as a detachment. This means you can take Skyblight or the Tau formation but at the cost of an ally. We find this to be quite fair and it makes Nids a top tier build who bring anti-Deathstar ability to the game to help balance the meta. Plus, it opens up some cool, fun lists.

Making formations count as detachments limits certain factions. The suggested limitations create an illusion that you achieved victory before the game has started. A player gains zero advantage if the restrictions forced their opponent to use something different to beat them with. In fact your opponent has the advantage because he knows how to kill you with the new stuff and you have no idea what to do as a casual player, where previously you would know I need to kill that Centurion Squad. .  


Imperial Knights are in. We would have done this anyway as Knights are super fun, but Imperial Knights can do sufficient damage to Deathstars with support to crack them and make them not so ludicrously durable. It will force players to think twice about taking a Star if Knights are on the prowl.

I agree with this, GW really knocked the ball out of the park with Imperial Knights.


Missions. Missions fundamentally change the game. By using the right missions in the right ratio, you can make units like Deathstars less viable by altering win conditions.

This I also agree with changing missions is a perfectly fine.


I think so long as we as a community decide to take the bull by the horns and acknowledge that the game as is is grossly imbalanced and not conducive to fun, fair competition, we will have no problem adjusting. It will also take the acknowledgement of those that play Deathstars that their lists are inherently, mathematically, objectively, undeniably imbalancing to the game. I am not demonizing these lists or players at all. Deathstars aren't unbeatable, Adepticon was won by an FMC Daemon player after all. Although in fairness, at that level of play lists become far less relevant and luck and skill are by far more important. The hyper powered list just makes it easier for the top players to get to the finals.

Reecius clearly doesn’t like Deathstars so he wants to nerf them or get rid of them completely. Star list are auto wins against non top players but in this article Reecius admits that even with changes those non top players will be demolished anyways, so what is the point? Even if changes are made new units will rise to be just as deadly, so what is the point? The point is that, TO’s make rule changes not because it “balances” the game but because it makes the game more enjoyable for casual players. Making regional modifications to make sure that everyone in your area enjoys themselves is a good thing. At a GT where people are flying in from all across the country, the rule modifications that were made to make the regional players happy might screw over another region's players.

To sum it all up balance is controlled by GW, we use the word balance too loosely. We can make changes that will force us to use new units and tactics which will keep the game fresh and exciting. The number of units available has tripled since 6th started, making it impossible for TO’s to balance the game. They are doing the best they can to make sure that the tournament they are running is successful so just sharpen or dull your list according to the restrictions and enjoy the game.

Feel free to put this on the SMG Blog guys.

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Balance TO's Foolish Goal Empty Re: Balance TO's Foolish Goal

Post  AArdvark085 on Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:50 pm

Chad, Great article however I think you should tweek the format just a bit. Instead of attempting to highlight Reese's comments just present your argument. I think it will make for a much better article. Great content! Keep them coming!

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