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JPjr

What with current posts on whether PTG is balanced and the 'Gunkulator'...

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I was reminded of this from 1988 on the difficulty of assigning PVs across a range of wildly different models.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say in Bretonnia.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.01.07.png

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I think there's a few things to consider;

1) Unit VS Army balance. The example above shows that its not always possible nor even desirable, to balance a whole game based on specific units vs unit. A dragon and goblin are at a stage where goblins can't hurt the dragon but the dragon can hurt them. Balance wise you can deal with this on a unit by unit basis by making it so goblins can hurt the dragon. However another option is to balance it at the army level, whereby you give the goblin army a troll which can hurt the dragon. The goblin is still useless against the dragon, but its not supposed to be a threat to it, instead that is the role of the troll. Meanwhile the goblin is good against spearmen who are, in turn, very good against trolls. 

2) Scale. In games like 40K and AoS there's a limit on how many models you can get on the table before things get silly/unfun. That in turn limits how many situations like the above, can be supported before things start to break. You can have one dragon type unit, but if you then introduce more units that require specific counters to them you can fast end up where you've so many that army composition almost has no choice (you have to take counters for everything which leaves you limited with no choice to pick other things); but also where an opponent can focus on one aspect and thus overrun because the enemy  takes a balanced list and thus only has one counter unit.

3) Hard VS Soft. In the above example its a hard counter, the goblin cannot do anything to the dragon at all. However a soft counter might be that goblins can harm the dragon and/or can lock it in combat (ergo dragon will take many rounds to kill them whilst enforced in combat). Therefore the goblin player has a chance to win the game, perhaps not on kills, but they can throw goblins to distract the dragon and tangle it up in combat so that its busy chomping and smashing whilst the goblin player secures objectives. 

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I should note, hard counters can work in greater number when there's reduced flexibility of army composition, but a greater variety of unit types.

This works when you have something like the old Force Organisation chart, where you are required to take specific numbers of certain units, but also limited in what specialise options you can bring. Ergo you can bring your dragon, but you've got to bring 50 peasants too. 

 

Another option is what Spartan Games started to work with which was the idea of a helix system. In that instead of picking individual units, the player picked specific groups of units that had a unified role. Eg a heavy armour unit might have two tank destroyers, but would also come with three anti-air batteries and four regular infantry. 

The idea here is that the player has freedom to choose groups of units, but each group presents a variety of choices. SG took it further by making it on a helix grid so that you couldn't take infinite repeats of the same unit group and taking one type would void you taking another. The idea there being that the army composition also discourages and prevents extreme min-max choosing. 

 

 

In general army balance can be harder to work with when armies have far more freedom to choose models. This is because it leaves them more open to min-max choices and heavily weighting armies down very specific pathways. This can make the army very hard to counter by any force that isn't specifically designed to counter it. Thus it can have an advantage provided that the counter-army choice is rare in the player community. Restricted free choice (or structured) allows freedom to choose models, but at the same time helps to limit this aspect.

Alliances between armies can also break things because many armies often have inherent bonus and negatives to their operation. Alliances (where there are based on whole core factions) often allow players to, again, min-max their army into the extreme. 

 

In general army balance is often not just about numbers, but also about providing a system that lets players put down fun armies. Fun often meaning varied model choice (players want to put down models they own); and also multiple viable choices. Armies where there is only one viable build can be strong, but at the same time can be dull to play with and against; plus commerically its a poor choice because it means some products are going to over-sell and others are going to undersell. Whilst that might even out, it does mean that the company is paying for models that are intentionally going to sell very poorly because they don't fit into the min-max meta. 

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The fundamental issue is that highly competitive people want a "fair" competition. However 1) that isn't combat and 2) that's chess.

Don't get me wrong that urge to "fairness" is a legitimate one but that doesn't mean it actually has a place in any discussion of Warhammer. Warhammer points values are a metric for the internal value of a force. For example in 40K a 1,000 point Deathwatch force has few models than an Imperial Guard force. This roughly represents the combat sitaution of a special ops team versus a garrison of NCOs.

Same in AOS/WHFB armies will and should never be "balanced". And if you want that just play chess.

All that said;

  • Is there place in  the world for a game that has an open source, logical and reasonable points system? Yes.
  • Is there place in the world for a DnD level of model design (i.e a skeleton archer with heavy, armour and cross bow  = x points)? Yes.
  • Could it work with or be compatible with GW models. Yes.
  • Does this exist? Kinda, Gary Gygax co-wrote Chainmail, a DnD D6 mass combat rule set. But it is quite incomplete.
  • Will it work with AOS, 40K, WHFB as they exist? No way. It wont work with GW games because its just too full of baggage. Look at T9A. You need a clean break for this.

Ultimately, IMHO there's 2 choices play warhammer or do the hard thing - make your own game from scratch and find people to play it. 

 

Edited by zedatkinszed
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Hi JPjr,  I'm guilty of starting that thread, so I'll try to clarify some more.

On the point of the project

Spoiler

 

First, and most importantly, the project is about trying to "decode" the points system that already exists and that is currently used.  Please read that sentence again.  It is not about trying to create a points system where none exists, and it is not about throwing out the current points system and designing a new one.  It is about trying to understand how the current points system actually "works."  The current points system is a black box to us.  The project is first and foremost about lifting the lid off the box and trying to figure out what's inside.

I don't think this is unreasonable.  In fact, I was motivated to actually try and find others here who were interested in collaborating on this topic precisely because there is a really well developed intuitive sense of the point system across the community.  In the GW is Asking for Feedback thread, I kept running into examples of people who were offering thoughts on how the points costs of certain units should be adjusted, and when out of curiosity I ran those units through the gunkulator, the output agreed.  For example, "I think Sequitors should cost 20 points more," (gunkulator calculated them as 25 points overcosted), or "I think Stormvermin are overcosted because I am comparing them to Bestigors and it seems unreasonable" (gunkulator calculated Stormvermin as spot-on, but Bestigor as very undercosted).  What I am saying is that a lot of people seem to have a very refined intuitive sense of the point system we all use...  all I'm curious about is can we shine some light on these intuitions and flush them out mathematically.  

I think the current version of the gunkulator can be improved on a lot.  But even that said, it is currently calculating over 60% of the test units in-line with GHB18 values.  That makes me somewhat optimistic.  And many of the units that are currently calculating materially out of line with GHB18 values are units that I think the majority of the community would agree are pointed incorrectly (e.g. Grimghast Reapers, Morrsarr Guard).

 

On Points and Balance More Generally

Spoiler

 

Let me start off by saying that I agree about the impossibility of completely balancing a game like AoS.  Again, that's not the intention here at all.

That said, I think it's fair to say that points systems can be better or worse than each other.

Think of balance like a destination you are trying to get to, and a points system like a map.  You may never get to the destination, but some maps will at least get you going in the right general direction, and some will even get you into the neighborhood.  Combine that with refinement to other aspects of the game like objectives, abilities, etc., and you have something pretty darn fun to play.

When AoS first launched and players comp'd their armies using Wounds, the "map" was pretty primitive.  Wounds were the de facto points system.  It was better than nothing, and it was probably better than using something completely unrelated to the game (like, say, you bring $500 worth of models and I'll bring $500 worth of models), but it was the map equivalent of saying something like your destination is South of here.

Our current points system is very good.  It's a much more accurate map.  But I think almost everyone agrees that it suffers from some internal inconsistency; that there are certain units whose current points values don't make sense.  Forget about the question of balance... they don't make sense just based on internal consistency.   That inconsistency may be purposefully engineered by GW, or it may be a flaw in their points costing model.  The project wants to explore that further. 

 

I'll will work to ensure that any project talk is limited to that one project thread.  I don't want it to become a distraction on the forums, but I do want a place that everyone on the forums can access to see everything that is being worked on with full transparency, and to contribute whatever and however they are able.

 

 

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hey it's all good, I think it's fascinating and the kind of subject that's well worth thinking about, and quite impressed with the effort people, and you especially of course, are putting in to decoding how points can/should be allocated. I just saw that entry in the 3rd edition rulebook and it made me laugh, a good reminder that after more than 3 decades...

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

Balance is such a tricky thing, personally I'm on the side of it's always going to be imperfect, with the occasional very odd decision, and there's no way to really compare like-for-like across wildly different armies with myriad different abilities so we shouldn't get too hung up on it BUT by the same token we need something, and improving that something doesn't hurt.

After all even the fluffiest narrative game where you're purposely setting up an unbalanced scenario requires a quick way of knowing, even roughly, how powerful models are so you can make it unbalanced in a fun and interesting way.

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44 minutes ago, zedatkinszed said:

Ultimately, IMHO there's 2 choices play warhammer or do the hard thing - make your own game from scratch and find people to play it. 

I want to play warhammer! 😉

Maybe everyone is seeing something I'm not, but all the project is to me is a puzzle.  Can we solve for a method whereby we can replicate GW points values?  Can we "crack the code" and approximate whatever it is that GW is currently doing?  I don't think that GW is just using a RNG to calc points for their units.  From what I've seen so far:  1) there is a method there, 2) we can get similar values in the majority of cases, 3) there are outlier cases that we don't yet understand.

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I'd also like to point out that back when that was written, weapon skill, strength and toughness did make it impossible for goblins to kill dragons. In the new game system it is 100% feasible for the goblins to kill a dragon, with more or less unchanging hit/wound rolls on attack profiles and worse saves across the board (no more 1+ save on archaon 😔)

That said, like lemon pointed out it isn't about replacing GWs points system it's about the process

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What a blast from the past! I used to use that example from 3rd to show people how points are pointless.

It's part of I why I was so happy to see points go away when AoS hit - GW was finally walking the walk.

Anyway, the current biggest reason I think trying to get to the heart of a points system is pointless, either making one or understanding one, for AoS is Battleplans.

Going back to the dragon vs. goblins example, if 1000 goblins took on a dragon in a scenario where the army with more models in each quadrant of the board after round 5 was the winner, then the dragon finds it impossible to win.

Battleplans equalize things in a way that is nearly completely independent from point values.

Edited by Sleboda
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Hi Sleboda.

49 minutes ago, Sleboda said:

What a blast from the past! I used to use that example from 3rd to show people how points are pointless.

I think there are probably two different mistakes being made here with how people are using this example:  one is a simple conflation of something being difficult and something being useless, and the other in general being a category mistake regarding what points actually are, and what they are not.

Let me try an analogy.

  • Money is an abstraction that is meant to give a common frame of reference across "wildly different" things in order to facilitate an economy.
  • Let's say the current economy values a bottle of water at $1.00 and an X-Box One at $300.00.
  • It is quite easy to imagine a context in which these valuations "don't work" (e.g. to someone dying of thirst in the middle of the desert).
  • It is incorrect to conclude from the above that:
    • the concept of money is useless
    • all monetary methodologies are equally useful
    • there is nothing to be gained from studying the economy!

The reality is the vast majority of the community is intuitively gunkulating already.  Most people think that a unit like, say, Grimghast Reapers are undercosted.  That only happens because there is a common frame of reference across all units (points) that seems to be internally inconsistent with itself (e.g. in an economy where unit A is worth X points, and unit B is worth Y points, it doesn't make sense to us that unit C is only worth Z points).  Or to put it another way, Grimghasts are on sale and if we're putting an army list together, it's more often than not the right answer to simply take more Grimghasts since we value them more than they cost.

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Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to wee in your cornflakes. If you're enjoying the project, and others are enjoying it with you, then rock on!

I'm just saying that a few points up it a few points down here and there won't account for all the variables within the system (so, not talking about the value of a dollar in the external 'system' of water-deprived people in another nation).

Just sticking totally within AoS Matched Play, the variables introduced by Battleplans make an objective/this-vs-that-in-a-fight analysis a brass ring that's forever out of reach. Reach for it, sure, because it's great to have aspirations, but be aware that it's never getting grasped.

It works be different if we were back in old Warhammer where there was only one standard scenario (it was called Pitched Battle) and the only objective was to kill more points worth of stuff than you lost, but even then points were a super complex thing. Now, with hundreds of Battleplans, the conditions of victory are largely divorced from points. Which brings me to ...

When AoS first hit, you would pick a plan, pick your models together and eyeball what looked fun and fair. I did that plenty and had several great games with not a single point value in sight! 

I maintain that that method is _at least_ the equal of point values. 

Can you do tournaments that way? Probably not, but then again, so what?

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6 minutes ago, Sleboda said:

When AoS first hit, you would pick a plan, pick your models together and eyeball what looked fun and fair. I did that plenty and had several great games with not a single point value in sight! 

Remember your post about proxies, and discovering vast swaths of people being too insecure to rock the boat and complain about them?

Warhammer without points is exactly the same thing.  We pick a plan, I let you have whatever models you want (and let you limit any models of mine you like without comment) because I don't want to rock the boat, and we play the game you want.  I played a few games like that...

Edited by amysrevenge
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For old Swiss composition system discussions (an extra highly math intensive calculation that was on top of the points values in 8th ed used by some to help balance things)  I used to say something along the lines of a 'a high degree of mathematical granularity gives the impression of precision  while promoting the delusion of accuracy/fairness.'   

As pointed out in this thread in a couple of ways the battle top situation / army list interactions / terrain available in a local community/ actual scenario rules / learning curve to get value out of a unit all provide an extra layer of complexity to 'what's this unit worth'  discussions. 

I don't think you can be really 100% accurate on a granular fashion on unit value across the entire world of situations where people play.   There are communities that just don't play certain scenarios.  Or have lots of vertical terrain (or none) where ethereal/fliers have a huge movement advantage. There are local communities using all oldhammer armies and others where the local meta is always predominantly  whatever won the last large GT.     A community with lots of large models and low model count armies makes mortal wound spam much more useful then one with lots of hordes.  

You can make the math very granular and try and adjust for various situations but you can't get full accuracy with a system as open ended (in terms of how we play it in 'our' vs 'your' local communities)  as AoS.  

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5 hours ago, zedatkinszed said:

Same in AOS/WHFB armies will and should never be "balanced". And if you want that just play chess.

White is OP, please nerf.

More seriously, balanced doesn't mean a mirror match game. It means the effective might of one force is balanced by the effective might of another force. I don't get this whole "just go play chess" nonsense I keep seeing posted about like the idea that balancing the game means every army has to approach the game the same way instead of it being about the effective might brought by both forces being as close to the same as possible to ensure fair and fun games no matter if you play open, narrative, matched or even in a GT.

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9 minutes ago, Sleboda said:

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to wee in your cornflakes.

Haha!  Don't ever worry about that.  You're doing me a favor quite frankly by interacting.  I put it out there because I want the discussion, both the collaboration on the actual project, and the challenges to it.

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I can't shake the feeling that we are not starting from the same place, and so we are talking about different things.

Let me try this another way....

What would a "perfect" points system look like?  The closest thing I can imagine would be something akin to the stock market.  Let's unpack that a bit:

  • It's dynamic and evolving according to external conditions
  • It's investor driven--things are worth what people value them
  • How people value them is driven to some degree by rational methods (even if those methods are not fully articulated)

In AoS terms, there is a cost at which no one would ever run Unit X.  There is a cost at which everyone would run Unit X.  And there's a bell-curve like distribution in between.  These valuations change through time as battle plans change, as the meta game changes, as realm rules roll out, as allegiance abilities and artefacts evolve, as new battle-tomes are released, etc.  

I think where some people are having problem has to do with a misunderstanding of the question, "what's unit X worth?"  This is not the same question as "what does unit X cost?"  And it is not the same as saying there is some objective number that exists in ideal form that is always and forever the truth.  It is simply a matter of asking "how do people currently value unit X?"

For example, Glaivewraith Stalkers cost 60 points for a unit of 4.  They are not worth 60 points for a unit of 4.  I can say that irregardless of claims about the irreducible complexity of the game based on the simple fact that very few people actually run them.  If people valued them at 60, you would see a lot more of them.  In stock market terms, their current price is higher than their current perceived value.  This doesn't have anything to do with right or wrong.

The premise of a project like the gunkulator rests on this notion of points and value, as coming from players, not from the game itself.  It is bottom up, not top down.  Since there are a limited number of things that units do in the game, it is not unreasonable to assume that how people are valuing a unit should therefore correlate to 1) the value they place on each of the possible things a unit can do, 2) the effectiveness of that unit to do each of those things.  The hope is that something like the gunkulator can help illuminate patterns in these evaluations, and that probing these patterns helps to understand and talk about the game better.

Or not.  But it's an interesting nut to try and crack.    

 

Edited by Lemon Knuckles
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7 hours ago, Lemon Knuckles said:

I want to play warhammer! 😉

Maybe everyone is seeing something I'm not, but all the project is to me is a puzzle.  Can we solve for a method whereby we can replicate GW points values?  Can we "crack the code" and approximate whatever it is that GW is currently doing?  I don't think that GW is just using a RNG to calc points for their units.  From what I've seen so far:  1) there is a method there, 2) we can get similar values in the majority of cases, 3) there are outlier cases that we don't yet understand.

:) I actually think it much of a macgyver or cluge solution than people think. The reason so many people like the no points methods for open, narrative and skirmish play is because the point system is (and always was) absurd. 

Like others said, that's not say a project like this is not valuable. Many of us probably tried to do it too. Making a system wherey a given model has a consistent cost is a good idea but honestly IMHO striving for balanced armies is a nonsensical act. Combat is about over coming your own forces weakness and the enemy's strengths. 

The reason people think wargames should be balanced is because in teh twenteith century most games evolved from HG Wells's Little Wars which was basically an evolution of Kriegspeil which were war games for the Napoleonic era (18th century) which were ranked combat with equal forces and may the best man win (in theory). The reality of war was never ever thus.

(As above I think Warhammer clearly is more influenced by Chainmail but the ranked combat is a meme beginning with Kriegspeil)

Edited by zedatkinszed

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32 minutes ago, zedatkinszed said:

:) I actually think it much of a macgyver or cluge solution than people think.

I had to google "cluge."

33 minutes ago, zedatkinszed said:

The reason so many people like the no points methods for open, narrative and skirmish play is because the point system is (and always was) absurd. 

There's lots of reasons.  I honestly think just as many people would like no-points open and narrative even if the points system was not absurd.  Look, matched play introduces another element to the game.  It's not only about what happens on the tabletop.  It's also about trying to maximize your plan within the constraints of a budget and within the context of a fixed economy.  It's not better or worse per se, but it is a different kind of game.  And I can completely understand why people might not want to play that game.  I definitely enjoy the chance to play it in all three ways.  

41 minutes ago, zedatkinszed said:

Making a system wherey a given model has a consistent cost is a good idea but honestly IMHO striving for balanced armies is a nonsensical act. Combat is about over coming your own forces weakness and the enemy's strengths. 

I don't disagree with anything you've written here.  I just don't see the relevance?  I think there's two things at play here, and neither one of them is particularly about striving for balanced armies.

  1. How does the economy actually work?  It's an important part of the game; it seems silly not to try and understand it.
  2. How does the economy relate to the current state of the game?  

It's information, not a destination.

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I'm not a tournament player. I write pages and pages of narrative fluff for my armies that no one will ever care about. That being said I get really ornery about people who are dismissive of people who do want to play in tournaments. An equally dismissive stance would be a competitive gamer asking "if balance and winning don't matter then why play a game against an opponent at all? Why not just paint the models and set them up in dioramas?" If I'm playing a game it sure makes it easier to have a good time with a complete stranger when there is a baseline for what we can bring. 

The idea that narrative gaming and balanced gaming can't exist together is a myth.

5 hours ago, Sleboda said:

Can you do tournaments that way? Probably not, but then again, so what?

Really dude? Just because you or I may not enjoy the game a certain way doesn't mean it isn't a valid way to enjoy the game. Holy moly.

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10 hours ago, Fulkes said:

White is OP, please nerf.

More seriously, balanced doesn't mean a mirror match game. It means the effective might of one force is balanced by the effective might of another force. I don't get this whole "just go play chess" nonsense I keep seeing posted about like the idea that balancing the game means every army has to approach the game the same way instead of it being about the effective might brought by both forces being as close to the same as possible to ensure fair and fun games no matter if you play open, narrative, matched or even in a GT.

As someone who has said that in the past I’ll bite and try to give the comment a bit of foundation.

At the top level: if you see balance as the absolute goal, you will end up with two perfectly matched sides with the biggest differing point being who goes first. Like chess, black gammon, etc. 

At a more fundamental level, at least for me, those games achieve balance because both sides have the same options. I like warhammer because it allows you to fight asymmetrical battles. And the assumption in these mental and mathematical exercises is, no matter how  asymmetrical It gets you can quantify it into points. And from my point of view that’s just not possible. Because then you change a little here little there in points. But that doesn’t change win conditions based on magic users capturing objectives vs the amount of models. And even if you try to balance two asymmetrical factions to perfection, there are 15+ more waiting in the wings. 

And even if you try to fix point two, by changing rules of factions you’ll enevitably draw them closer and closer together. Until the only difference is who goes first aka chess. 

Also it’s universally accepted to be the list bslanced tactical game, so if your looking for balance... the perfect game already exists 😁

Edited by Kramer

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50 minutes ago, Kramer said:

As someone who has said that in the past I’ll bite and try to give the comment a bit of foundation.

At the top level: if you see balance as the absolute goal, you will end up with two perfectly matched sides with the biggest differing point being who goes first. Like chess, black gammon, etc. 

At a more fundamental level, at least for me, those games achieve balance because both sides have the same options. I like warhammer because it doesn’t  you fight asymmetrical battles. And the assumption in these mental and mathematical exercises is, no matter how  asymmetrical It gets you can quantify it into points. And from my point of view that’s just not possible. Because then you change a little here little there in points. But that doesn’t change win conditions based on magic users capturing objectives vs the amount of models. And even if you try to balance two asymmetrical factions to perfection, there are 15+ more waiting in the wings. 

And even if you try to fix point two, by changing rules of factions you’ll enevitably draw them closer and closer together. Until the only difference is who goes first aka chess. 

Also it’s universally accepted to be the list bslanced tactical game, so if your looking for balance... the perfect game already exists 😁

I have to disagree with your point since balanced asymmetrical games exist as well. No one is demanding symmetry here, just wanting the things we buy to be just as viable to bring to the game as the things other people buy.

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5 hours ago, Lemon Knuckles said:

In AoS terms, there is a cost at which no one would ever run Unit X.  

I'm glad you're interested in the conversation and that you understand I'm not attacking you or your idea.

 

I'll come back with more comments (fighting a cold, so focus is limited ATM), but I'll pick this one line out for a quick reply.

I'd suggest that, even though I'll use an extreme example, this isn't true ... Because of Battleplans.

If a Battleplan said "the army with the largest base on a model is the winner" and I owned 3 arachnaroks and my opponent only owned Skaven slaves, the point cost of the spider is meaningless. If it's on the table, I win.

In my opinion, there cannot be a perfect points system.

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4 hours ago, Fulkes said:

I have to disagree with your point since balanced asymmetrical games exist as well. No one is demanding symmetry here, just wanting the things we buy to be just as viable to bring to the game as the things other people buy.

Can you name some? Because I genuinely know of no game that as versatile in its factions as warhammer that is balanced to the degree that everything you buy is as viable as other buying options  

also in the same manner I would like to hear your thoughts on the following: do you feel the factions are designed to make every option as viable as others? 

I personally doubt it. In a recent twitch stream they discussed the design process and, besides some cross departments inspiration, the basic design process is cool concept first, design the model, making it play and feel as the model and fluff suggests and then balancing. Balance is not goal one, and for that reason it  (close to) impossible to balance in points after the fact. 

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20 hours ago, JPjr said:

I was reminded of this from 1988 on the difficulty of assigning PVs across a range of wildly different models.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say in Bretonnia.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.01.07.png

In AoS though everything can wound everything due to simple To-Hit and To-Wound values. That‘s why balancing is easier.

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1 hour ago, Kramer said:

Can you name some? Because I genuinely know of no game that as versatile in its factions as warhammer that is balanced to the degree that everything you buy is as viable as other buying options  

If we venture into the world of computer strategy, the blizzard strategy games are quite balanced, even though the 3 (Starcraft) / 4 (Warcraft) factions play immensly different. But I have to admit, patching a virtual game is easier by far; and 3-4 factions are less then the warhammer world provides. But those asymmetrical games exist and have a large fanbase and constant competitive community, that is so large blizzard does bring out a makeover for WC3 as well as SC1

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