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The difficulty of evaluating global balance is increasing


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#1 Robin

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 01:29 AM

Just a reflexion about the way one could evaluate if Descent favours the OL or the heroes.

 

The increase of expansions, with new heroes, new monsters, new OL cards and new quests - adding new features like secret rooms and new conditions - seems to make a global evaluation quite difficult, in an expansional way.

The simple addition of the CK does make thousands of new combinations, either of monsters or of hero teams.

 

Up to now, most of the evaluations are based upon anecdotical situations where one side cannot overcome a precise situations - or cannot get back on the road of success because of previous failures.

 

Even though any report of situation is interesting and adds to the debate, I really think that general statements about the game's balance are all but impossible.

 

I don't feel that I am a "fanboy" clinging to the idea that Descent must be balanced overall.

But I believe that, as more expansions will be produced, more Descent will be an adventure, where, even if doing their best to win (and thus honour their opponents), player will just spend a nice, fun time, whatever the outcome.


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#2 SolennelBern

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 07:18 AM

I think the term "balance" is something that doesn not exist in games.

 

How can you measure balance when you mix in the tools available from the game with a human being way of playing?  One cannot simply state balance when component, luck and human factors are in the mix...like one cannot simply walk into Mordor.

 

Player A is a great strategist but is known to have bad luck

Player B sucks at strategy but always have high luck

 

Which player will have better success in a game when strategy is as important as having good luck?

 

If Player A lose most quests because of bad rolls can we cry imbalance?

If Player B lose most quests because he just don't get how to get to the objective can we cry imbalance?

 

Balance/Imbalance doesn't exist, it's just another tool for the whiners to whine while drinking wine.


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#3 Kunzite

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 08:35 AM

100% agree.

 

In almost any of my other games, I am a bad dice roller. In Descent, I am pretty good. In the whole campaign we just finished, I missed 2 times. Blank deference rolls where more common, but still rare in comparison to my heroes. My friend gave up on using whirlwind because it missed EVERY TIME. Not joking. I stopped holding my breath for the nasty attack.

 

I am not a great strategist, but my heroes are. It makes for some really interesting games that really come down to who rolls better dice and who has better move. Dash is an unimaginably good card. I will miss it in Basic II.


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#4 Robin

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 10:36 AM

I started this thread, because of the numerous threads that state that Descent is not balanced.

 

I think the term "balance" is something that doesn not exist in games.

 

...

 

Balance/Imbalance doesn't exist, it's just another tool for the whiners to whine while drinking wine.

I like your final word!  :P

I started this thread, because there have been so many debates about the game's balance - with greatly diverging opinions.

A lot of house rules are crafted with the idea of making things more "balanced".

 

But I do think, as you do, that most of the criticisms are more about "whining" than about sound analysis.

 

Now, even if luck is involved in a game, one can still evaluate if a given single scenario (here: encounter, quest) is balanced in favour of one or the other side.

In the case of Castle Daerion, some players found the trick to make the heroes fairly unable to win, thus leading FFG to write an erratum about Militia entering later in the game.

First Blood clearly favours the heroes.

Statistical analysis can be usefull, too.

At that level, I see gamers of many other games offer interesting and serious evaluations.

 

But, for Descent, there is a quite recurrent urge for some players to venture a global judgement about the game's balance.

 

IMO, as already expressed, I do think that it is impossible to conclude about Descent's (un)balance as a whole, because there are far too many variables to take into account.

Each quest is different, and monsters and hero group composition can vary for the same quest, making things quite different from one playing to another.

Some "unbeatable" combinations can suddenly be outwitted by smarter players.

Etc.

 

We could go a step further than just saying that some people state that Descent is unbalanced because they are "whiners".

We could ask oureselves what they are awaiting from the game.

Are they overly obsessed by winning - at a point that they cannot have fun during the game, if they end by loosing it?

Are they unable to integrate the luck factor - at a point that they will blame the game to be less balanced than chess (and even chess is said to be slightly balanced in favour of the white player)?

Are they simply oblivious of the human factor (that makes some players better tacticians than others)? I am quite convinced that group dynamics have a lot to do with the way the game develops.

 

I have been playing many boardgames, and am present on many forums, but it seems that the obsession of global balance is something quite specific to Descent.

I am an ASL player (it is a very detailed WW2 tactical wargame), but I don't seem to ever have seen ASLers say that the game as a whole is unbalanced. There are debates about a given nationality's values, about specific scenarios being "three legged dogs", etc.

But never the global dismissal of a game as I have seen about Descent about a supposed global unbalance.

 

I am still scratching my head in perplexity about that phenomenon. :wacko:


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#5 Kunzite

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 11:06 AM

I have noticed something on the Descent form I thought is really interesting. Don't get me wrong when I say this. Rather I find this really cool.

 

The level headed Descent form people (the ones that are encouraging and defending the fun factor and/or the build of the game, such as OL smashes the faces of Heroes so the heroes can do the same for the OL, strategy and fun factor) are older, more mature people (mostly male for what I can see) from countries out side of the US. I don't fit any of that category, which is why I picked it up.

 

Americans (and I am one) LOVE to complain when things aren't heading their way. And younger people (and I am one of those too) haven't been burned enough to know what it means to have fun. Really, I think that is what it might boil down to is some cases. Allot of people that played D1 (I wasn't one of those) already know the good and bad changes that have happened for D2. Maybe, just maybe, they are more willing to play for the sake of playing.

 

And as the old saying goes, misery loves company. You get one simi valid argument going and all those that agree will cheer and say way this is true.

 

But, really, since both OL and Heroes cry OP to the other side, doesn't that make the game balanced? I saw a chart once of people that voted for how many times the heroes won in a campaign. BEAUTIFUL bell curve with 50% in the middle. That should speak for it's self.


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#6 SolennelBern

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 11:42 AM

I like this thread!

 

Great posts Robin and Kunzite.  I like you comparison and analysis of the many types of gamers and what each is looking for in a game.

 

I'm fully aware that Player A might enjoy powergaming and finding the best skills/items and stick with those from campaigns to campaigns and I also know that Player B just want to sit down with friends, gear up and smash faces while talking about the last hockey game or crying out how his girlfriend just pisses him off when he misses that important roll :P

 

So no judging here, just enjoying different play styles.


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#7 Kunzite

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 12:23 PM

And I think it comes down to people respecting the power player vs the the antithetical player. If the OL can't enjoy the game as the heroes do their thing, then maybe the OL needs to be a Hero. It happened VERY early in our first campaign. I was playing a scout. First blood, we ROLLED the OL and she was not happy. So she and I switched roles.

 

Now, I watched allot of Inspector Gadget, Zorro and Batman (the OLD TV show) growing up, so I was thinking I would lose allot, and I am ok with that. Being the better loser made the game work allot better. That's not what ended up happening, but most everyone was alright with that. Alright enough to keep me as OL as they look for harder ways to beat my monsters in submission. But that's what the game is about.

 

And it's not like FF doesn't keep this in mind. As a whole, LoR looks to be a little more equal in motion then SoR. Allot of the quests (I have read all of act one quests, but not act two) seem to have equal outcome for hero and OL because the tasks might be the same, or equally the same with enough verity to keep things interesting. They also are REALLY pushing for the OL to engage the heroes more, as in hitting them instead of running. >o I liked running and not getting hurt, BUT I can't get my way all the time. Even though I don't like it, I think it was a good move. With that came slightly better monsters to work with.


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#8 Robin

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 04:06 PM

Americans (and I am one) LOVE to complain when things aren't heading their way. 

Hee hee.

I believe that such a trait us much more universal.  ;)

Among French speaking players, you will find some frantic "bashers" who spend most of their time complaining about Descent (and quite often playing the game wrong anyway).

 

Rather than a national aspect, I would agree with you that it is a question of age and general gaming culture.

 

On another level, as my background is rather wargaming, I was first very astonished by the abundant house ruling that Descent players develop.

That is hardly the case among ASL players (because of the need to keep strictly to common rules, for tournaments and building a playing community).

I had to understand that the Descent playing community's gaming culture is more like a RPG one, where "everyone does as he likes, because there is no king in Israel" and where the idea of tourneys and sticking to the rules is much more relative.

 

So, people have different expectations and gaming cultures.

But, all in all, when some blanket statements are made, I don't follow suit if proof is unsufficient.


An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
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#9 Kunzite

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 09:23 PM

 

Americans (and I am one) LOVE to complain when things aren't heading their way. 

Hee hee.

I believe that such a trait us much more universal.  ;)

Among French speaking players, you will find some frantic "bashers" who spend most of their time complaining about Descent (and quite often playing the game wrong anyway).

 

And if you are playing the game wrong then you aren't going to enjoy it.

 

But I agree. There are no big-wigs telling you you HAVE to play this correctly therefore we do what we want. We run one house rule with large monster movement but mostly for thimatics then anything and it was one I pressed on myself, which I kind of feel that is how it should be.


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#10 PierreBoberg

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 12:44 AM

I think the term "balance" is something that doesn not exist in games.

 

How can you measure balance when you mix in the tools available from the game with a human being way of playing?  One cannot simply state balance when component, luck and human factors are in the mix...like one cannot simply walk into Mordor.

 

Player A is a great strategist but is known to have bad luck

Player B sucks at strategy but always have high luck

 

Which player will have better success in a game when strategy is as important as having good luck?

 

If Player A lose most quests because of bad rolls can we cry imbalance?

If Player B lose most quests because he just don't get how to get to the objective can we cry imbalance?

 

Balance/Imbalance doesn't exist, it's just another tool for the whiners to whine while drinking wine.

Hi,

I agree 100% I have played against different people as an OL, and some people loose and some win  :)

And many times in the end of the quest it just dependes what you hit with the dices how is going to win or loose.

 

Regards Pierre


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#11 Robin

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 03:12 AM

But I agree. There are no big-wigs telling you you HAVE to play this correctly therefore we do what we want. We run one house rule with large monster movement but mostly for thimatics then anything and it was one I pressed on myself, which I kind of feel that is how it should be.

I personally play the RAW, because I haven't felt the need to correct the abstractions of the system to something that sticks better with my expectations.

My gaming philosophy is "if it ain't broken, don't try to fix it".  ;)


An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
G. K. Chesterton

#12 Kunzite

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 05:28 AM

 

But I agree. There are no big-wigs telling you you HAVE to play this correctly therefore we do what we want. We run one house rule with large monster movement but mostly for thimatics then anything and it was one I pressed on myself, which I kind of feel that is how it should be.

I personally play the RAW, because I haven't felt the need to correct the abstractions of the system to something that sticks better with my expectations.

My gaming philosophy is "if it ain't broken, don't try to fix it".  ;)

 

 

Sadly, my heroes felt it was broken and I didn't see why I couldn't work with it. The idea was when a large monster moves it shrinks down to move, yes? The spaces I count is the space I count by where the head is. Where the count ended would be where the head would end up if it where moving normally. The only exception would be when the bloody beast needed to expand into a space that would only let it expand in one way. Being a visual thinker, it made since to me as I watched a shadow dragon trample through the field.It made everyone happy. Slow monsters remained slow giving my little guys more attraction to play in games where speed was needed.


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#13 Robin

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 08:26 AM

I tend to think that large monsters are given less speed, precisely because they can expand while interrupting a movement action (or after their first movement action) and re-shrink from a square further than the one they expanded from.

There have been a number of debates on BGG about this.

I understand that some players, for thematical reasons, restrict the shrink/unshrink mechanics.

And giving some advantage to fast, small monsters, is not a bad idea.

But I personally stick to the RAW, because my level of belief is quite high before it is suspended.


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An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
G. K. Chesterton

#14 Kunzite

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 08:34 AM

Yah, I have though of that as well. We have only done one full campaign, so we aren't very experienced yet. With having everything at our finger tips will set the mood for how things work in the future. If I, the OL, am having issues we will look back at making my larger monsters move faster again.

 

I have seen other house rules that would make it imposable for me to get anywhere with the quest and would take all the fun out of it. One of the heroes would be very upset if he knew I held back anything, even the rules changed for his advantage. That, I believe, should be the spirit of the game. And it's in that spirit that makes the game balanced.


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#15 Monsterberger

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:57 PM

I'm pretty sure that the play testers played a very large number of campaigns and probably used statistical methods to analyze their results. Generating the amount of data to evaluate the claim of balance or the lack thereof in this game would be an undertaking that is not worth the cost. Play it and enjoy it. If you have to win to have fun, you're playing the wrong game!


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#16 Robin

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 02:02 PM

Play it and enjoy it. If you have to win to have fun, you're playing the wrong game!

I agree.

I would add: try to win, so you offer your opponents a challenging game.

But if you don't find pleasure during the game, because the result only matters for you, try flipping coins: you reach the result much faster, without all the fuss of a full evening waiting for the outcome. :rolleyes:


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An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
G. K. Chesterton




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