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Ideal X-Wing

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Each time we get a points update, we see some sort of "broken" combo- something that is hyper efficient for it's points. My question for the community (and I hope this can spark a conversation) is this:

 

In an ideal x-wing world, what does a season of "perfectly balanced" x-wing look like? Is it where everything is priced exactly right, such that any 200 pt squad could fight any other 200 pt squad and have the only in-balance be player skill? Or, do we have a sort of rock/paper/scissors situation, where there are 3+ major archetypes, that each have a hard counter? Is perfectly balanced x-wing even possible? 

 

lemme know what y'all think, and I hope we can have a good discussion about it!

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IMO Even is it's not perfectly balanced, you have to be a little lucky to:
- Do not hit the squad you fear the most against yours
- Get the choice of first player if you have paid the price (you have a squad at 194 points, and your opponents has a squad of 192 points.... meh)

As for the rest, I don't think there are unbeatable combos actually. There are stronger combos than others.

May the dice be with you, and fly casual !

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Perfect balance will never be achieved. Is also very difficult with 7 different factions and many more ships supporting different styles of play. 

For me an ideal x-wing world is were all 7 factions are able to compete and also different types of archtypes are able to. 

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Perfect balance seems good, but that’s only because we aren’t game designers and we don’t know what we’re talking about. 

In a balanced meta, there’s no reason to try anything new.  Everything is equally good, so find something you like and fly it forever.  That gets stale fast (and it isn’t a good strategy to sell spaceships).

After every pints change, the community gets to figure out what’s good in the new meta.  This is fun, and keeps the game fresh.

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There is a problem with a perfectly balanced game.  It was articulated really well on Warhammer Weekly a couple weeks ago:

If a game is perfectly balanced (take chess for example, and ignore the slight advantage the white side has), then the more experienced, more capable player beats the less experienced player 100 out of 100 times.

Now, X-Wing already mitigates that somewhat by introducing variance (dice).  You can also make the argument that imbalance can lead to the same problem (ie: “traps” that new players fall into that experienced players avoid), but these are things that can be learned quickly (like don’t load up a ship with every upgrade it can take).  And yes, an experienced player will beat a brand new player every time (barring some outstanding luck or the experienced player actively trying to lose), but someone with 6 months to a year of consistent experience will have a far better chance against Paul Heaver than I would against any ranked chess player.

So that brings us back to balance in X-Wing.  What does it look like?  Not “perfect balance,” certainly.  Personally, I see balance in the X-Wing context as an environment where all factions have a reasonable chance of victory against all other factions.  You can’t make every upgrade and list archetype equally viable in each faction, but you can make sure that every ship has a role to play in some type of list.

If I had to put it in a sentence, I think the perfect storm of X-Wing balance is when every faction can field 3-4 list archetypes that all have a 40%-60% win rate and all allow for some flexibility in list building.  No faction should be forced into a single archetype and no archetype/faction should be significantly above the 60% mark.

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I think ideal balance is that every list has the same chance of beating any other list.  It is all down to player skill.  And that just isn't happening.  I've been playing wargames for a long time and I think that unless you're playing chess perfect balance isn't happening.  

For me the standard is that each faction has a reasonable number of different feel lists that are very balanced against a range of lists from their own or other factions.  And I think that largely that's where things are.  You can make a crap list or a good one.  Good list against good list I think most of the time comes down to player skill.  

As a side note, I think there is more debate on small changes, list optimization, and minute points differences on boards like this.  That's true for a wide range of games by the way, it's not x-wing specific.  And it's because it is a lot easier to argue how to build a list on a board than to argue about how to fly it.  The choice space in building a list is way more finite than the choice space in how to use it, so cards get more talk in forums.  Sure, I want the best list I can get, but 4 points is a 2% difference in point usage.  You can't tell me that having a list that is 2% more optimized is going to change the outcome of a game nearly as much as player ability.  

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3 hours ago, FatherTurin said:

 Personally, I see balance in the X-Wing context as an environment where all factions have a reasonable chance of victory against all other factions. 

I have never really thought of it this way, but this is beautifully put.

It's not the minutia of "this ship" or "this upgrade" but rather the faction as a whole.

Although, I dare say, this makes me want to see the game have more factions/subfactions to team-build within.

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Posted (edited)

If perfect balance means that any list can defeat any other list, then no that doesn't really seem possible. There are just too many moving parts here for that. Different lists are good at different things after all. Because points are restrictive by design you can't really make a list that has no weaknesses, and because of that there will likely always be a list that can beat another consistently given player skill levels are even.

Perfect balance would likely just be each faction being equipped to play to a few different archetypes, each with variations, that are all viable for their own reasons. Basically I want the devs to get us to a point where each ship, pilot, and upgrade have a potential home in at least one list that is worth playing in a competitive context. That's an extremely tall order what with the ever expanding list of options, and the ripple effect that adjustments to anything can have on the meta. I'm not even sure that's possible either, but I'm content though as long as this is something that they're trying to reach. It seems like they are, since ships that haven't been announced for their re-release have been getting adjustments in the form of both buffs and nerfs, and continued adjustments to components that are no longer in the limelight of being brand new.

Edited by Hippie Moosen

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I don't believe any game this complex can be perfectly balanced, but a perfect season would have no major losers.  By that I mean:

  • Every faction is reasonably happy
    • No faction is left feeling abandoned and weak, nor is some other faction wildly dominating.  (Someone will naturally dominate somewhat, but everyone else should still be able to reasonably compete)
    • Each faction should have multiple archetypes they can fly (at least 2 or 3), instead of being shoehorned into swarms or aces because everything else they do is terrible in comparison.
  • Many archetypes are seeing use
    • Aces will always be the meta's gatekeeper by design, but we should have a variety of archetypes you can expect to face.
    • Some of the worst seasons have been just two archetypes like "aces and beef and nothing else", with little internal variation, or even dominated by a few specific lists because nothing else was worth flying in comparison.
    • I remember a tournament where nearly every table was Rebel Beef or Vulture Swarm; one guy brought something janky just to be different, and didn't do well.  FFG has been doing better since.
  • Lots of different lists in the meta
    • Fat tip on the meta, meaning as competition rises we don't get reduced to a couple of dominant lists.  1st edition had a sharp tip containing 2 - 3 meta lists.  2nd edition does a lot better.
    • We'll never achieve the illusory standard of "Every list is viable" or "Every archetype is equally good", but we want to see variety.
    • We want to see lots of different lists making their rounds at a tournament, not the same 2 - 4 everywhere you go.
    • You shouldn't know with confidence that you'll face a couple specific archetypes or lists; you have to plan for a much wider variety.
  • No serious NPEs
    • Negative Play Experiences can't be avoided when they dominate the meta; anything serious can kill the game for the players affected.  Ideally there isn't any serious NPE in casual/extended either.
    • We've seen FFG act fast to murder these before, e.g. the triple upsilon thrust list.
    • We've also seen FFG decide to ride it out for a while to see if it's really a problem, such as Boba Fett with Slave 1 or Sun Fac with Ensnare.
    • Sometimes the adjustment has been measured and moderate (Boba can still participate in the meta), while other times they've chosen to nuke from orbit (bye Ensnare).
    • As you may have noticed, what classifies as NPE is too subjective to be actionable usually.  But when a large enough part of the community is spitting venom over something that's seriously affecting the game (or worse, just quietly leaving), you have a problem.  Likewise if something drives new players away from the game or sharply changes the game to something FFG does not intend, you have a problem (sorry triple upsilons!).
  • At least some variety within lists
    • Ideally each popular list is seeing some still-viable customization, with different players tweaking things to better fit their play style or to better counter another list they find troubling.  Personalization and exploration are nice options even when netlisting; if you see an opportunity or deficiency, you want at least a little wiggle room to try to address it.
    • This is only possible if players aren't cornered into an optimal strategy because some card or combo or list is so efficient and effective that nothing can reasonably be gained by changing anything.
    • In other words, no component of the meta should be a Nash Equilibrium that traps players into playing that way.  If Nash Equilibriums dominate the meta, FFG needs to fix that.
    • Sometimes this is a broad problem (dominant lists reducing the meta to "play X or Y list or go home"), while other times it's narrow ("If you play this faction/ship, the correct strategy is X Y Z pilot with these exact upgrades and you're stupid if you change anything").
    • Example of a problem: Shield Regen Jedi back when shield regen was cheap.  You had to equip an R2 Astromech, full stop.  Any other option was vastly inferior, even if you hated the play style of shield regen jedi (actual complaint I heard from a local and really effective tournament player).  R2 was effectively stapled to Jedi until FFG adjusted points to make that unappealing enough to (slightly) decouple them.  Likewise Ensnare was surgically implanted into the early Nantex and playing Gravitic Deflection or neither talent was objectively bad.  There was just no real option there.
  • Many, perhaps even most, ships are seeing use
    • Getting this right for most or all ships is very hard in practice... and it's unsolvable.  There's so many ships, often with overlapping roles, that it's simply impossible to keep them all completely competitive with each other.  This is made worse since synergies and efficiency swarms and where the points edge cuts things off will create unavoidable winners and losers.
    • But we do have a goal: there shouldn't be anyone who bought, for example, the Kimogila or TIE Interceptor or whatever feeling left out because their purchased or favorite ships have absolutely no viable outlet in the meta.  That's a big problem for both new and established players alike.
    • I suspect there has never been a season that nailed this, at least not since the first wave or two when the game began.  ;)  It's just too complicated.

Some of these are repeats of good ideas posted above, of course, but I felt I should include and expand on them all the same.

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30 minutes ago, Wazat said:

I don't believe any game this complex can be perfectly balanced, but a perfect season would have no major losers.  By that I mean:

  • Every faction is reasonably happy
    • No faction is left feeling abandoned and weak, nor is some other faction wildly dominating.  (Someone will naturally dominate somewhat, but everyone else should still be able to reasonably compete)
    • Each faction should have multiple archetypes they can fly (at least 2 or 3), instead of being shoehorned into swarms or aces because everything else they do is terrible in comparison.
  • Many archetypes are seeing use
    • Aces will always be the meta's gatekeeper by design, but we should have a variety of archetypes you can expect to face.
    • Some of the worst seasons have been just two archetypes like "aces and beef and nothing else", with little internal variation, or even dominated by a few specific lists because nothing else was worth flying in comparison.
    • I remember a tournament where nearly every table was Rebel Beef or Vulture Swarm; one guy brought something janky just to be different, and didn't do well.  FFG has been doing better since.
  • Lots of different lists in the meta
    • Fat tip on the meta, meaning as competition rises we don't get reduced to a couple of dominant lists.  1st edition had a sharp tip containing 2 - 3 meta lists.  2nd edition does a lot better.
    • We'll never achieve the illusory standard of "Every list is viable" or "Every archetype is equally good", but we want to see variety.
    • We want to see lots of different lists making their rounds at a tournament, not the same 2 - 4 everywhere you go.
    • You shouldn't know with confidence that you'll face a couple specific archetypes or lists; you have to plan for a much wider variety.
  • No serious NPEs
    • Negative Play Experiences can't be avoided when they dominate the meta; anything serious can kill the game for the players affected.  Ideally there isn't any serious NPE in casual/extended either.
    • We've seen FFG act fast to murder these before, e.g. the triple upsilon thrust list.
    • We've also seen FFG decide to ride it out for a while to see if it's really a problem, such as Boba Fett with Slave 1 or Sun Fac with Ensnare.
    • Sometimes the adjustment has been measured and moderate (Boba can still participate in the meta), while other times they've chosen to nuke from orbit (bye Ensnare).
    • As you may have noticed, what classifies as NPE is too subjective to be actionable usually.  But when a large enough part of the community is spitting venom over something that's seriously affecting the game (or worse, just quietly leaving), you have a problem.  Likewise if something drives new players away from the game or sharply changes the game to something FFG does not intend, you have a problem (sorry triple upsilons!).
  • At least some variety within lists
    • Ideally each popular list is seeing some still-viable customization, with different players tweaking things to better fit their play style or to better counter another list they find troubling.  Personalization and exploration are nice options even when netlisting; if you see an opportunity or deficiency, you want at least a little wiggle room to try to address it.
    • This is only possible if players aren't cornered into an optimal strategy because some card or combo or list is so efficient and effective that nothing can reasonably be gained by changing anything.
    • In other words, no component of the meta should be a Nash Equilibrium that traps players into playing that way.  If Nash Equilibriums dominate the meta, FFG needs to fix that.
    • Sometimes this is a broad problem (dominant lists reducing the meta to "play X or Y list or go home"), while other times it's narrow ("If you play this faction/ship, the correct strategy is X Y Z pilot with these exact upgrades and you're stupid if you change anything").
    • Example of a problem: Shield Regen Jedi back when shield regen was cheap.  You had to equip an R2 Astromech, full stop.  Any other option was vastly inferior, even if you hated the play style of shield regen jedi (actual complaint I heard from a local and really effective tournament player).  R2 was effectively stapled to Jedi until FFG adjusted points to make that unappealing enough to (slightly) decouple them.  Likewise Ensnare was surgically implanted into the early Nantex and playing Gravitic Deflection or neither talent was objectively bad.  There was just no real option there.
  • Many, perhaps even most, ships are seeing use
    • Getting this right for most or all ships is very hard in practice... and it's unsolvable.  There's so many ships, often with overlapping roles, that it's simply impossible to keep them all completely competitive with each other.  This is made worse since synergies and efficiency swarms and where the points edge cuts things off will create unavoidable winners and losers.
    • But we do have a goal: there shouldn't be anyone who bought, for example, the Kimogila or TIE Interceptor or whatever feeling left out because their purchased or favorite ships have absolutely no viable outlet in the meta.  That's a big problem for both new and established players alike.
    • I suspect there has never been a season that nailed this, at least not since the first wave or two when the game began.  ;)  It's just too complicated.

Some of these are repeats of good ideas posted above, of course, but I felt I should include and expand on them all the same.

For me, it's all about the last point.  Ideal X-Wing, for me, is where every ship – every pilot even – has a reason to exist, not just the soulless, joyless garbage mathematically optimal stuff.

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Just now, clockworkspider said:

For me, it's all about the last point.  Ideal X-Wing, for me, is where every ship – every pilot even – has a reason to exist, not just the soulless, joyless garbage mathematically optimal stuff.

That's why I play casual, friend.  Chasing the meta will always be a narrow, soul-sucking experience compared to stepping down a rung or two to explore the rest of the game.  Sometimes playing the meta is fun, but it tends to be so limited and samey I find myself craving casual again very quickly.

Occasionally dabbling in game modes like Furball, King of the Hill, Mario Kart, Droid Match, Epic Play, and scenarios also tosses in some much needed variety over the standard 200 point matches.

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I’m continually impressed with how many times (moderate competitive level to casual) that the game is decided in the final round.....

Sometimes longer odds than at other times, but rarely does it seem OVER before you sit down. 

Points also, more often than not, stay pretty tight. 

I also observe this with viewing GSP videos. 

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Posted (edited)

Not to be cheeky, but for me an ideally balanced X-wing is one that's perfectly imbalanced, and that said imbalance morphs around. 

One of the perennial discussions has been missions and objectives based play. And that's actually a great way to go about achieving that shifting around. I really enjoyed the Imperial Assault organized play setup. You had like a million mission cards and maps to play around with at home. But a event season would have 3 of those maps, each with two objectives, so six setups total, announced and rotate.

So for squad building you had some ideas of what you were getting into and what would be helpful to bring. Like you had some Intel and were planning your mission. So as rotations happened maybe that sniper thing you had been doing for one season when the maps had some more open space and long halls wouldn't be as good, because the new maps didn't have those features. But they might be better instead to bring some melee guys. Or perhaps some tech specialist even.

If that objective rotation concept could be accomplished, you can still strive to hard balance the components in cost/effect for arena style play, which could still even be one of the missions you keep in rotation. And well they should continue to work on it. But then you have yet one more kind of relief valve where as one meta thing is a really good idea for awhile, it may not be as good or ideal later by changing it's environment around it while you make changes to the items themselves.

Edited by ForceSensitive

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