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IndyPendant

The IACP can't truly balance Skirmish without swarms

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On 6/29/2019 at 11:33 AM, cnemmick said:

#1 is the direction I would prefer. It fits the theme of Stormtroopers: the Empire really doesn't care how many they lose, they just send more and more towards you. However, in your implementation, you are setting up a situation where the rStormtrooper player can lose a figure, replace it with Reinforcements, lose a figure, replace it, lose a figure... and give up a total of 0 VPs for 3 figures defeated. That's an unfair trade, especially if 2 groups of rStormtroopers are spread out, making it difficult to defeat 2 figures from the same deployment.

The scenario you're describing requires the rStormtrooper group be perfectly positioned, so that exactly one and only one figure is taken out from the group by the end of the round, that this happens twice over two entirely separate rounds, and that the player has both Reinforcement cards drawn by the end of Round 2 (or at most, Round 3).  With (sincere!) respect, this is extremely unlikely to happen, and I don't see it as a valid counter-argument.  That's like saying "Hunter cards need to be fixed because they would allow a Focused and Hidden eWeequay to play Assassination, Tools for the Job, and Heightened Reflexes to have a decent chance to take out IG-88 in a single attack!  That's an unfair trade!"

That having been said, I'm not insisting that my option #1 is a great idea; I suspect it isn't, and I agree it's almost certainly not a good first step in an attempt at balancing troopers.  A more moderate alternative should probably be tried beforehand.

On 6/29/2019 at 11:33 AM, cnemmick said:

Expendable: When the first figure of this group is defeated, it is worth 1 VP.

What do y'all think about that?

It's a good first step, and certainly worth a try (with as you say, the point cost reduction).  One immediate flaw I see: Reinforcements becomes all-but worthless here, since it's far more likely to just hand the opponent a free 2 or 3 extra points, than any other result.  May I suggest instead combining it with mine: "When a figure in this group is defeated, if there are least two other figures in this group still in play, that figure is worth 1 VP."

Edit: Upon re-read, there were aspects of this post that were unnecessarily worded in a manner that could have given offense.  I have (hopefully!) removed that wording. ; )

Edited by IndyPendant

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9 hours ago, IndyPendant said:

It's a good first step, and certainly worth a try (with as you say, the point cost reduction).  One immediate flaw I see: Reinforcements becomes all-but worthless here, since it's far more likely to just hand the opponent a free 2 or 3 extra points, than any other result.  May I suggest instead combining it with mine: "When a figure in this group is defeated, if there are least two other figures in this group still in play, that figure is worth 1 VP."

Edit: Upon re-read, there were aspects of this post that were unnecessarily worded in a manner that could have given offense.  I have (hopefully!) removed that wording. ; )

I prefer Reinforcements to have risk/reward balance of giving up a reinforced figure's full VP. In the case of Regular Stormtroopers, you are playing a 2-point Command card to increase that deployment card's ability to control an area, block line-of-sight, or make your opponent use at least one more attack to remove that deployment group from play. With Elite Stormtroopers, Reinforcements replaces the deployment card's ability to do 3 decent shots and increases the amount of figures that benefit from Last Stand.

In a swarm, most regular deployments are giving opponents 2-3 VPs a figure. A non-swarm opponent (especially those running mostly unique figures) will struggle with doing enough attacks to defeat 30+ VPs of swarm figures within a 65-minute game. Having more VP reduction applied to swarm figures (outside of the Of No Importance Command card) can make the swarm too good vs. armies with 7-8 figures. And in a list-building game like IA, having armies hard-counter one another isn't fun. (One of the things X-Wing 2.0 is doing right in their competitive balancing is ensuring certain types of ship lists - beef, swarms, aces - still have advantages in certain matchups but are not explicitly hard counters.)

That's just my opinion. Fortunately with IACP, we have the room to try something like Expendable & other abilities to make swarms better that don't manipulate VP output. And if it turns out that Trooper swarms really do need VP reduction for Reinforcements to be viable, then we'll have the playtesting feedback that shows it and we can implement something like that the next season.

(Also: the IACP's Season 1 change to Assassinate was due to edge cases like the one you described with a eWeequay one-shotting an IG-88. In a competitive dice game, preventing super-unfair edge cases makes the game's outcome better reflect the players' skill. Ensuring somebody with a swarm wins by a combination of skill and luck - instead of a one-in-a-hundreds chance of cards and VP denial that completely decides the game - is important for making folks feel that swarms is a fun list-making option and not another game-breaking swarm like Ugnaughts.)

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Time as an argument against swarms isn't valid, or shouldn't be. FFG deliberately made sure that no figure costs less than 2 points, putting a hard limit of 20 figures on an army (and I've almost-never seen that many in practice), for a reason - albeit that, it's true, you still rarely or never saw swarms, but at least in principle that could have been fixed.

IACP unfortunately chose to arbitrarily mess with points costs in a way that nobody was asking for, which FFG had never set precedent for, and which broke this guideline (e.g. eSTs are 7 points, so rSTs would have to be less than 6 if the changes were followed to their logical conclusion; that's less than 2 points per figure). If rSTs were 4 points to match, you could easily get 25+ figures in an army. Time then becomes a much bigger problem. This is what happens when partial changes are made in isolation without holistically considering the consequences or following existing best practices; the response was to decide to just not change regular units, rather than confront that mistake. But, not only does this make/keep iconic hordes of Stormtroopers non-viable, but also means that cards like Assassinate (which are worthless against cheap and weak swarm figures) are deemed too powerful, necessitating further clunky changes, because cheap swarm figures are never seen, so the downsides/risks of taking Assassinate vanish. (Compare to Celebration for example - a good card, but might be useless if the opponent has no unique figures, so not an ever-present.) And on it goes - the decision (conscious or otherwise) to just not spend time thinking about swarms, caused knock-on effects elsewhere, so that time is spent on trying to "fix" Assassinate et al instead.

tl;dr: the thread title is correct, but only a special case of the more general issue.

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17 hours ago, Bitterman said:

Time as an argument against swarms isn't valid, or shouldn't be. FFG deliberately made sure that no figure costs less than 2 points, putting a hard limit of 20 figures on an army (and I've almost-never seen that many in practice), for a reason - albeit that, it's true, you still rarely or never saw swarms, but at least in principle that could have been fixed.

IACP unfortunately chose to arbitrarily mess with points costs in a way that nobody was asking for, which FFG had never set precedent for, and which broke this guideline (e.g. eSTs are 7 points, so rSTs would have to be less than 6 if the changes were followed to their logical conclusion; that's less than 2 points per figure).

Breaking precedent isn't a bad thing if it improves the game. FFG did it themselves by changing the core rule where VPs are collected per figure. This hurt previously-released 3-figure deployment cards since players could no longer hide one of the figures to prevent opponents from gaining VPs; swarms of 13+ figures have not been viable with 3-figure deployments since. (There has been some successful competitive play with Riot Trooper swarms, which are not 3-figure groups.) Despite basically removing 3-figure swarms from the game, this VP change improved the skirmish player experience immensely. Skirmish event attendance climbed since the release of Jabba's Realm.

Figuring out a way to make swarms viable with this rule change should have fell to FFG. Instead, it's up to us.

I also strongly disagree that "nobody" was asking for deployment cost changes. In the ZF Slack channel prior to 2019 Worlds, a poll was released to see what kind of changes should be made to existing deployment cards: Somewhere around 70 people participated in the poll and roughly 3/4 of them selected "adjusting deployment costs" as a viable method. Of all of IACP's Season 1 changes, the most positive responses were directed to the price reductions of deployment cards. Given that FFG's own Skirmish Upgrades for Vader, Han and Chewie use a cost-reduction mechanic, it's natural that players want to see it implemented in other deployments that are overcosted.

I'm happy to be proven wrong. The IACP Season 1 Vote has a question where we ask what methods the IACP should use to improve the game & help keep the competitive meta fresh. Voters have the option to not select "Changing Deployment Card costs" and specify to us what they'd prefer. We want to know if a majority of players think that we're going the wrong direction with how we change things up. 

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I have recently been advised to read this discussion by one of the members of the IACP steering committee (for which I have only biggest respect). Perhaps it's a bit awkward to kick it after one year but it might be a good thing to re-approach topics of such importance every once in a while. Therefore here's my opinion.

 

Although I must admit everyone here has claimed some good points and gave interesting approach, I have to support the initial post which, while I was reading it, felt like the words I would write myself.

As a fairly new player to the game, the biggest fallback for me is the Meta. The build/smash hermetic feel of it, with just trying to put as much bonuses as early as possible feels a bit repeating (I would not say dull). Too 'hermetic'. Many of the games I've seen and played were the queen piece and most of them feel the same. That is the current Meta.

A counter-argument was that:

Quote

in Build/Smash lists, the order of activations are often obvious: build then smash first round, and smash then (if anything is left) build second round.  

Well that calls me to break it! Its a repeating pattern and it becomes dull soon. We need to have different ways to play the game 'right' and for them to be viable enough. As much as possible. That, in my opinion, brings freshness to it and makes it more interesting, with various approaches to list building, overall strategy, order of play, using units etc.
There is also a big advantage of not being a player with activation token in round 1. Although some claim it's not, I've felt that is indeed true in most cases. It's also part of the meta and it should be challenged.

Then, the discussion came to game time and stalling. That might be a good point, but playing SWIA I have noticed that most of the time is not spent of deciding whom to play next, but on resolving abilities, CCs and dice (attacking/defending). One can look at any game video to be able to notice that. So what keeps the game slow are the sheer elements that make it interesting and deep. It's the nature of the game. If we wanted to streamline it and make it faster, we'd have to look at dice rolls, abilities and special abilities, simplify them into a set of a limited number of shared abilities and even more limited number of CCs (or at least less chance to play them). I am not claiming that is the right thing to do, but that is the thing to to do in order to speed up the game. If anyone asks, I'm standing against it.

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("Do I activate my focused and wounded Onar and hope he takes out the wounded Hater Vader that is threatening my IG-88?  If I succeed, nothing else can kill my IG-88 before it activates, attacks, and flees.  However, if Onar fails to kill Vader, then I probably lose both of them!  If I activate IG-88 first he will probably survive, but then Onar will be an easy kill for my opponent before I can activate him.  And then there's Greedo and Palpatine to consider...")  These are hard choices to make

That's also part of the meta and slowing the game down. While I don't see anything against it lasting a bit longer (90mins) I reckon it might be a problem in tournament play.

Quote

My primary (but not only!) motivation for promoting swarms is to try to mitigate the single-strategy Build/Smash meta we have.

I could not agree more! My opinion is that meta should be our enemy, not the thing we want to achieve and polish, not to mention follow. Meta is what makes the game stall, focusing players on practicing the same actions, builds and strategies over an over again instead of trying new, unpredictable ones. At the moment, the main goal is to put together a strong list that will make the most of some of the already proven-strong CCs and DCs. Yes, that is the point of strategy games but what if there was no meta, if there were countless ways to bring a good list and put it to work either by going for VPs, kills, stalling or rushing or stealing VPs from the enemy/negating him VPs? We want to allow the game to evolve and flourish in most different ways, keeping always fresh and full of surprises, not follow the already prepared set of patterns.

Therefore I'm completely for swarms, as well as all other strategies and builds that make the win possible while keeping the game fairly balanced. To be able to see queen-centered, 4-activation, crap droid, trooper swarms, non-unique, spectre-cell, AT+AT, Vader+Palp, smuggler, hunter, droid or low cost-only or some other lists work well on different maps and occasions is what would surely keep this game alive and interesting.

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