Thursday, 15 October 2009

Balancing Magic

There's a pretty interesting thread over on warseer discussing what people would and wouldn't like to see changed in 8th edition.

One of the phases that people have focussed on is magic.

It is not a problem that has an easy solution, but it is a problem.

True in most fantasy fiction there is a mage who is capable of pulling off huge feats due to magical power - and therefore Warhammer has to reflect that in some way. The only problem here is that in these fictional scenarios, this magical feat generally only happens once, yet in Warhammer it happens turn after turn. Ok there is the miscast table, but let's be honest how many players have seen this do anything significant? The mage may take a wound, but all this achieves generally is to reinforce the bunker mentally of the mage.

The main problem with the magic phase is that it distorts the game - ok you can argue that ItP does too - because it forces players to at least take part in the magic power game, and in turn makes players take mages.

Which raises the fluff question of whether or not the Warhammer world really is so full of magic users? And more to the point if the magic users that populate the world, really are as powerful as those that appear on the table?

After all if that is the case, then how come the army books and novels are mainly about warriors?

Let's face it if the fluff were reflective of the game, then very few arriors would last more than one battle in the face of strong magic, let alone lead an incursion of chaos, a might Waargh, or the defence of an Empire city. And more to the point why would people follow a warrior, when anyone with eyes can see the mage is more potent and liable to live.

Which raises the question of how to make magic more reflective of the power level of the other game phases.

Perhaps a simplification of the miscast table along the lines of the misfire table. Or perhaps making all doubles miscasts - meaning that the big spells are harder to get off - and the speels being subject to the kind of drift artillery is subject to, meaning that spells might actually miss their intended target *gasp*. Or perhpas rolling for spells each turn to reflect the way in which the winds of magic are changing, with a chance that the mage is not able to access the power.

Though a simpler solution would be to change the targetting requirement to make bunkering characters less of an option. Or allowing a free hit against characters refusing challenges, which would affect mages more than warriors, and favour players who out-manouvred the enemy and managed to track a mage in combat.

Obvioulsy the problem for the game designers is that they have to keep magic a part of the game, so it's a subtle balancing act they have on their hands.


Monday, 12 October 2009

Roolz Roolz

The results of the UK GT Heat 1 will no doubt re-ignite the issue of game balance in WFB.

There are two ways to look at this - the first is to shout and scream and treat it as the end of the world. The second is to look at past results and conclude that at certain times, certain builds and armies overpower all else.

Obviously being a Wood Elf player I would have liked to see more than 1 Wood Elf finish in the top 45 qualifiers. But then again it doesn't really effect me, because I already know that it is next to impossible to build the kind of power army required to compete in this competition - ok a wood elf player got through, and no Bretonian, Skaven, O&G or Ogres did.

Which brings me to the issue of balance.

The common cry is that the game is imbalanced, and it is true. But the problem is that each army complains that the game is imbalanced in a different way - which in turn allows GW to make the perverse logical claim that the game is in fact balanced.

Personally I think the problem is that the game mechanics are not particularly dymnamic.

For instance one dryad surrounded on all sides but 20 strong blocks, is as frightening as 20 dryads surrounding 1 Empire swordsman.

Or a unit tests on the same leadership if it is advancing with both flanks secure, no enemy in the rear, and all enemies fleeing before it, as it does when cut off surrounded and it's general in full flight.

Or indeed the skirmishing rules that force units to test leadership for skirmishers doing what they are supposed to do, as for a designated combat unit fleeing through them.

The implementation of a dynamic system could be easily introduced, without a wholesale overhaul of the current games system - for example the abandonment of D6.

There are other things that need changing, like over powerful cavalry and a review of the way magic works, but these are technical issues and not as relevant to testing the skill of the general.

Rumours abound about 8th edition and we shall have to wait and see what comes of them. I suspect that the only major change will be the implementation of scenarios and objectives which I personally think is rather a beardy solution to the problem.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Kindling For Sale

It's one of the unwritten rules - well if you ask me it is - of Warhammer that whenver you try a new unit, that unit will be an epic fail. So I can't say I approached this game with much hope seeing as this was going to be the first outing for my all-singing, all dancing wild riders and also my new branchwraith.

Add to this that I was breaking another of my rules - I love dryads and have had success with them in units of 8, so what could go wrong with having two units of 10 and bunker of 16 for the branchwraith? Stick to what you know....

Right that's the excuses out of the way but let's face it I was playing against a really good player, who was playing a magic heavy elite force of High Elves - the game was 1999 points, and his army was 2 bolt throwers, a unit of archers, two units of shadow warriors, white lions, pheonix guard, sword masters, bsb and two mages. I looked at his troops and thought - 'where's the rest of them?'.

My army was three glade guard 2*11 and 1*10, dryads 2*10 1*16, 5 wildriders with warbanner, 6 glade riders, 8 wardancers, 3 treekin, 6 waywatchers, branchie, mage and alter noble with gw and amber pendant - oh and while I'm making excuses the branchie and the mage were upgraded because I was 100 points short, ideally I would have prefered another unit - alright I'll stop moaning and get on with it.

So it came to terrain deployment - and I thought I'd try something new. Normally I just go wqas a hill and two woods, but this time I deployed a house one one flank, a hill on the other, (both half way across the field) and a walled field in the centre. Against this my opponent placed a hill in the deployment zone, and two woods. We rolled for sides - I won - and because I wanted to deprive the bolt throwers of a hill, we swapped sides - and I effectively handed him a redoubt - doh!

In deployment I lined one of the smaller units of dryads and the larger unit of drayds on my left, screening the wardancers and treekin. The archers formed a line between the woods and the hill on my right. and on the right flank I deployed the other dryad unit screening the wild riders, alter noble and glade riders, whose job was to use the cover of the hill to sweep around the flank and take out the bolt throwers in the redoubt.Against this was deployed swordmasters on the right, and the white lions, along with the two units of shadowwarriors with the mages. The bolt thowers and archers took up position behind the walls of the field and the pheonix guard guard their left flank against the flanking move by the cavalry.

I had intended the waywatchers to go in the house, but misunderstood the rules for buildings, so they ended going int he woods beside the archers.

I won for turns and elected to go first.

Turn 1

The dryads in the left and centre pushed forward. On the right the dryads moved onto the hill and moved towards the pheonix guard. The cavalry and the alter noble set off on their flanking move. The archers in the centre moved around to get better fields of fire. Nothing much happened in the magic phase - a bit of treesing that moved the woods around a bit. I targetted the archers in the field in the shooting phase - needing 6's to hit, I killed 4 of them but they passed their panic check.

The High Elves responded in kind to my overtures, by pushing foward on the right with the swordmasters, white lions and shadow warriors. The pheonix guard stood still by the redoubt. Then the magic phase began. Fire balls flew around, targetting the archers - my dispelling was frankly lame and one of the glade guard was reduced to below half strength in no time. And another was pretty much mangled in the shooting phase.

Turn 2

I only declared one charge, on the far left the dryads used their skirmishing abilities to declare a charge on the shadow warioors and mage lurking behind the swordmasters. They fled, and for some reason I disn't pursue into the swordmasters as I could have done, instead I setlled for a failed charge - I'd like to say that this was tactical genius but it wasn't - and it turned out to be disasterous. The large dryad unit also didn't charge - in part because I was trying to set up a combat with the white lions in which the treekin could pile in the side - whilst the wardancers moved forward to contest the house with the other unit of shadow warriors. On the right the cavlary appeared around the hill, with the glade riders screening the alter noble and the wild riders, the other unit of dryads continued over the hill toward the pheonix guard. The archers in the centre moved forwad to bring the phoenix guard into close rnage. Again not much happened in the magic phase. A bit of treesinging to help with setting up the treekin attack, and a filed attempt at fury of the forest. Shooting concentrated on the pheonix guard and took off about four of them thanks to some good rolling on the ward saves.

The swordmasters and the white lions overcame their fear and charged the respective units of dryads facing them. The shadow warriors who fled rallied - in such a poisition that the mage could now hit the treekin - drat!. And sure enough in the magic phase, my dispelling failed epically, and the treekin took a fire ball full in the face taking them down to one wound - and the wardancers lost 6 of their number to another burst of firey magic. Oh and there was a miscast, that gave me a free spell - 'great' I thought 'fury of the forest' - the only problem was that the only thing I could hit was 18 1/164th" away - so all I could do was to treesing a wood a few inches. Shooting didn't ammount to much - maybe two or three acrhers died - but we were both more concerned with the combats. On the left the swordmasters attacked first and managed to kill 2 dryads - a chance, a definite chance - except that the dryads were not up for it and though they killed three swordmasters, they still lost the combat, though they held. A similar thing occured between the white lions and the dryads with the branchwraith, the dryads killed more of the enemy but ranks, banner etc swung the combat, and again the dryads passed the test.

Turn 3

With the wardancers and the treekin decimated there was nothing that could come to the help of the dryads, so it was a case of damage limitation and try to get somethying from the cavalry flank attack and shooting. First I needed to shuffle things about in the centre to make sure that if the dryads went they didn't take stuff with them. I toyed with the idea of the alter noble trying to take out the BSB with the pheonix guard but decided against it. And so he and the cavalry pushed on behind the pheonix guard to fulfill their mission to take out the shooting in the redoubt and hopefully to plough on in the shadow warriors protecting the mages. Again the magic phase was a damp squib. In the shooting phase I fired everything at the pheonix guard and killed 6 or 7 of them, they passed the panic check. The combats finally went against the dryads, the swordmasters ran down the unit on the far left, while the 'uber' unit (lol) in the centre through a 12 and the white lions managed only an 11. But in terms of the game it wasn't exactly a disaster because effectively these units had been taken out of the game - except for table quarters.

At this point my main concern was lasting out to turn 6 - and my opponent was of the opinion that I shouldn't.The pheonix guard charged the dryads on the right, the white lions charged the fleeing dryads and ran them down and the only other movement of signifacance was the one of the units of shadow warriors - with accompanying mage - moved away from the building and towards the centre. The glade riders did their job in the magic phase of screening the wild riders and alter noble - they lost two horsemen but continued to block line of sight, and for once the magic didn't melt the army. This was helped by a miscast that did a S6 hit on the caster. The waywatchers took three casualites and decided to cack their pants. In the shooting the bolt thrower closest the glade riders shot them and reduced them to the musician but still they wouldn't flee. As for the rest of the shooting a few archers may have died, but it was not significant. The combat between the pheonix guard and the dryads went like all the other combats pretty much, the dryads killed more than they lost but banner and ranks won the day - though by now the unit was reduced to under half strength.

Turn 4

Charges - the sole remaining glade rider charged the repeat bolt thrower. And then I decided to take a gamble - it was at extreme range - the alter noble charges the shadow warriors with the enemy general. My opponent hummed and haaaed at this - his first reaction to flee, but then he decided to stand and shoot, 6 shots - 6 misses - and the alter noble piles in. The fleeing waywatchers continued to run, as did the dryads, In the movement phase the wild riders moved forward to the wall, perparing to charge the archers or the other bolt thrower the next turn. The archers moved about a bit and my general and the last treekin - with his one remaining wound tried to keep out fo the way - I should I suppose mention that the last two wardancers had somehow succombed to magic while hiding in the house. In the shooting phase I fired two units - by now about 15 men at the pheonix guard who were reduced to five men and a BSB, and the remining archers - about 6 men - fired at the shadow warriors who were not engaged with my alter noble, killed two or three of them, forced a panic check, which they failed and made them run a massive 2 inches. And so to combat. The crew of the bolt thrower did no wounds, the glade rider did no wounds - 'drawn combat' says my opponent - 'musician' says I - they pass the test. The alter noble challenges the mage - who duely runs away to hide at the back - there is much talk of how my nobele is about to die horribly, but he has different plans, kills two shadow warriors, they do nothing, he wins the combat but the shadow warriors manage to pass on the general's leadership.

Clearly the antics of the alter noble are alarming the my opponent, because he declares a charge by the archers in the redoubt, who hop over the wall and charge the alter noble in the flank. The pheonix guard charges a unit of archers, who stand and shot but don't do much. The fleeing shadow warrios rally and the swordmasters and white lions amble about to ensure table quarters. The magic phase is a bit of a non event, except for the cowardly general managing to get an extra ward save off on the shadowwarriors fighting my alter noble. The shooting phase is the last bolt thrower firing at the wild riders, they kill one, thanks to the wall protecting them. The pheonix guard rout and catch the archers - no surprise there. The fight between the bolt thrower and the glade rider again goes in favour of the muso - though this time he kills a crew man - or rather his horse does. The alter noble again declares a challenge against the general - who again hides - and again the alter noble - using the amber pendant to strike first - kills two shadow warriors, and fends off all attacks, wins the combat and again the enemy hold.

Turn 5 - actually it must be Turn 6 - the narrative is correct but I seem to have missed a turn somewhere - it must be all those damned fireballs have wiped my memory.

The wild riders jump over the wall and charge the bolt thrower, the waywatchers and dryads rally, and the archers jiggle about to get better shots at the few remaining targets. The general finally makes it to a place of safety in a unit of archers, and the treekin takes cover behind another unit of archers. The pheonix guard manage to save one casualty thanks to the ward save but are reduced to the four elves and the BSB. The shadow warriors not fighting the alter noble take a hit. In combat the wild riders kill the bolt thrower crew, the glade rider finally dies, and so it all comes down to the heroic alter noble. The general has no where to go now, he can't refuse the challenge - four attacks, 3's and 2's (or something like that) needed what can go wrong - uh dice that's what - the alter noble only manages one wound, the general manages one wound, the noble loses combat through out numbering, fails his leadership, and runs an epic 7 off three dice and is run down.

The game ends with the archers shielding the treekin fleeing and leaving the treekin to be destroyed - either by magic or shooting - it hardly matters, and one wild rider being killed.

The result was a victory to the High Elves by 1100 points and thus a massacre.... which is rather better than I faired against him last time a played, when I was reduced to a single mage left on the table, and they were fleeing.It was a good game, I was generally out played - though I find myself cursing my dispel dice. The flank attack worked well, but I doubt I'll be using dryads in large blocks again - well at least until I draw up another list:) - since it was putting too many eggs in one basket and playing for the failed fear test. In the end I can only really conclude that the army lacked it's usual fighting spirit - on another day the dryads would have punished the fluffed attacks from the white lions and the swordmasters, and the alter noble would have carried his attcak through to the end - or at least all three of them wouldn't have failed.

Also I find myself cursing the charge of the dryads against the shadowwarriors which placed the mage in LoS of the treekin when they rallied - I guess I was just trying to be too clever - and should have piled into the swordmasters at the first opportunity - they might have lost anyway but heyho!

And at least the wild riders didn't die:) Oh and I managed to get to turn 6.... and the general didn't die.... and.... and.... and.... and.... there's always next time....

Oh and not to self - take your camera....


The Dreaded First Post


This is my blog about my adventures in the world of Warhammer - and maybe other wargames too.