Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Sign in to follow this  
Bufkin

What do we actually mean with game balance?

Recommended Posts

What do we mean when we say that a game is balanced or unbalanced?

I really think that the word balance is a pointless word for games like AoS. Games were both players build their own "gaming pieces" and then play each other can’t by definition really be unbalanced. Now if you have a board game and one side has to play with X and the other one has to play with Y and the player who has X always win, then the game is unbalanced but thats not the standard situation in games like AoS, in AoS there are thousands of X and Y and they interact diffrently with each other.....

...but if you have an umpire that build two AoS forces and design a scenario for them to recreate a battle and then one side always win, then that is unbalanced.

That also means that if you have a AoS playgroup where you have 2-3 friends, and everyone buys one army, and one setup of models in that army, and everyone will stick by that… then it’s a fairly large chance that you have created an unbalanced game for your playgroup. That makes your playgroup unbalanced, not the game.

So the concept of a balance in “build your own game” make no sense. Sure there are some cornercases for games like this if the choices available are so small that only one choice exist (a mirror is ofc still balanced, but as I said, cornercase) but AoS is not even close to that, so as a general rule, games like AoS cant really be balanced or unbalanced.

Now this is of course a problem for a lot of reason, and one of the big ones are expectations.

We have a built in expectation that when we play games they should be fair and balanced and that expectation is reasonable, but its also very important to realize that the game does not start at the table and if you think that of course the game is unbalanced. Its starts when you choose your army and you create your list. People can say that’s not the intent of miniature games, and sure it might not be, but that does not really matter, the intent of design choices does not change the facts about the consequences from them.

So the game start at army choice and list building, that’s just a reality, you might have a preference that it should be otherwise, but it does not matter, that’s just how it is. This is for most people totally counterintuitive and it’s a great mental hurdle you just have to overcome if you are going to enjoy these kinds of games in “normal” play. AoS has in this regard a lot more in common with deckbuilding games like magic the gathering than with “normal” board games.

Now if you don’t like this it might not be a big deal anyway. If you have a close group of friends who try to create your armies around each other armies, then you will just create your own balance or if you go hardcore narrative you are not even playing a game at all, you are instead having some sort of experience… and that is perfectly fine.

But if you go to tournaments, or if you play with large playgroups, or if you play with small groups of friends that are not willing to create a fun experience for each other, or you just play matched play pick up games at stores and so on…. you need to learn to accept that the game start at list building and sometimes you will have bad match ups or you will have a bad time….

…..and if you cant, and you cant find people who like to play the way you prefer, then that is fine, but that does not make the game unbalanced, its just not what you would prefer and then you should really consider if this is the right game for you rather than if the games is flawed.

And sure we can have different definitions of how we should use the word balance, but at the end of the day it usually comes down to a question of semantics, what kind of words should we use to describe what, but I think there is a problem when we describe preference of game design as balance since that will lead the discussions towards that there is something actually wrong with the game instead of helping people to think about how they could enjoy the game and then what they need to do to achive that.  

That’s my take on balance atleast, what are yours?

  • Like 1
  • Sad 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what it's worth there was quite a long discussion about balance a few months back here worth a read:

 

Also highly recommend reading the White Dwarf article from Jervis Johnson I linked to at the end of the thread.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I mostly just care about whether people can pick the army they choose, build a fairly standard army with stuff that appeals to them, and then have a fun game against most opponents.  That strategy does not have to lead to winning, but you should not get completely tabled early or else be totally ineffective.  At the end of the day this is a game that is meant to be fun for the players and that should be the primary measurement.

A poor example is back in 6th edition 40k.  My friend and I decided to play a game and we both made semi-decent lists using a lot of stuff we liked in the army.  I played Orks (and have since Rogue Trader) and he was playing Tau.  This was when the Riptide first came out and of course he wanted to use it because it is a giant stompy robot.  I can't fault anyone for that line of thinking.  I took a relatively standard ork list with a bunch of guys and some specialists & vehicles mixed in.  The result was that I basically ran an army ineffectually straight into a wood-chipper.  It was one of the most pointless and un-fun games I have played and my opponent thought much the same despite winning.  I put my army back into the closet for the rest of that edition.  If I had run that list into a competitive tournament net-list that would be one thing.  But when it's just two people playing for fun and selecting units with "rule of cool" as their primary motivation then a game system should not lead to such lop-sided experiences.

  • Like 6
  • Thanks 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Skabnoze said:

I mostly just care about whether people can pick the army they choose, build a fairly standard army with stuff that appeals to them, and then have a fun game against most opponents.  That strategy does not have to lead to winning, but you should not get completely tabled early or else be totally ineffective.  At the end of the day this is a game that is meant to be fun for the players and that should be the primary measurement.

I think this is exactly right. The "balance" we should strive for is not an equal chance of all lists winning an event. It should be players can pick up the models they like and be able to actually "play" the game in a meaningful way.

"Poor balance" imo occurs when the game is constructed in such a way that I can look at an army list and say "that army is garbage (Or my army is so drastically superior that every other army that is not my own is garbage), your chances of beating me are zero, and not only will you not win you won't touch my army or score any objective points."

"Good balance" imo is something where I would read a list and say "that's an interesting list you have there, doesn't seem optimized and I should have the edge with my optimized list, but if i'm not careful I could lose this game"

Edited by svnvaldez
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I mostly agree with @svnvaldez if I exclude the " have the edge.. if not careful I could lose.." which sounds like we are really really close. Whenever we have non optimized list against an optimized list the optimized list should have many chances of losing and easily. Else, there is no difference between optimized and "hey those are the miniatures I decided to bring 5 minutes before leaving home." 

However, as he said, balance for me would be to not have armies that table you turn 2 or 3 in the vast majority of times regardless of scenario or match up. FEC have scored 5 - 0 at every single tournament since the book came out. And this happened to all the tournaments registered all around the world. This is an example of "non balanced" army imo. 

We can't have all armies be equally strong but when situations that one player doesn't even get to play happen oftenly ( and the players have similar level of skills of course, not a full - fledged tournament player vs a new hobbyist ) something is a bit out of place !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/22/2019 at 8:21 PM, Skabnoze said:

I mostly just care about whether people can pick the army they choose, build a fairly standard army with stuff that appeals to them, and then have a fun game against most opponents.  That strategy does not have to lead to winning, but you should not get completely tabled early or else be totally ineffective.  At the end of the day this is a game that is meant to be fun for the players and that should be the primary measurement.

A poor example is back in 6th edition 40k.  My friend and I decided to play a game and we both made semi-decent lists using a lot of stuff we liked in the army.  I played Orks (and have since Rogue Trader) and he was playing Tau.  This was when the Riptide first came out and of course he wanted to use it because it is a giant stompy robot.  I can't fault anyone for that line of thinking.  I took a relatively standard ork list with a bunch of guys and some specialists & vehicles mixed in.  The result was that I basically ran an army ineffectually straight into a wood-chipper.  It was one of the most pointless and un-fun games I have played and my opponent thought much the same despite winning.  I put my army back into the closet for the rest of that edition.  If I had run that list into a competitive tournament net-list that would be one thing.  But when it's just two people playing for fun and selecting units with "rule of cool" as their primary motivation then a game system should not lead to such lop-sided experiences.

Great post. 

While would agree that complete balance isn't possible in a game as large as either 40K or AoS I think that some sort of near balance between armies is preferable and if possible even some in-army balance between units. Sure a unit can a slightly less effective and thus not end up in net lists.. but the difference shouldn't be as large that you're almost wasting points when picking a unit.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

External balance means that all factions are competitively viable with at least one build.

Internal balance means that within a faction there are multiple choices that are viable instead of just one build.

The old evocator and sequitors coming out invalidating things like liberators for example because their cost were similar or same but the evocator and sequitors were vastly better is an example of bad internal balance.

The kharadron overlord book is an example of bad external balance.   

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don’t forget BCR, a book that had an sort of unbalanced external to a very bad external unbalance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dead Scribe said:

External balance means that all factions are competitively viable with at least one build.

Internal balance means that within a faction there are multiple choices that are viable instead of just one build.

The old evocator and sequitors coming out invalidating things like liberators for example because their cost were similar or same but the evocator and sequitors were vastly better is an example of bad internal balance.

The kharadron overlord book is an example of bad external balance.   

And a book can have good internal balance, but bad external balance.. and vice versa.

If I wanted to play a perfectly balanced external game I would play chess. If I want a horrendously imbalanced game, but wild and zaney, I grab my teams and take to the pitch to play blood bowl. AoS has decent balance. Some armies are much stronger then others. That's a fact. A balanced Aos would mean the same stats, abilities and mechanics in each army with different "skins" and that sounds horrendous. 

Edited by sal4m4nd3r

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a difference in wanting a balanced game vs wanting a perfectly balanced game. And most people want a balanced game.

And there is a huge difference!

American Football is a balanced game with multiple different roles played by the individual players to form a coherent team.

Each player fills a specific role, sometimes that role isn’t as important as another one and there are different players who can fill each role. Some are better than others.

This doesn’t mean that all teams are equal. Some are better at passing the ball down the field and others are good at stopping them and stealing the ball for their team.

It’s not perfectly balanced. You can’t run a team of all Quarterbacks and receivers. You need things to help support the entire team as a whole.

League of Legends also has a similar field of units that play differently, and certain combos of characters can become very powerful even if they aren’t doing well for the early part of the game, or plow through the enemy like a sword through wet tissues.

League is still a fairly well balanced game overall even with certain overpowered combos.

Much in the same way Sigmar should be looked at and treated like. There isn’t as big a variety of  pieces in Sigmar, and certain builds can be more viable with spamming a certain unit, though there is still a need for other pieces to support this so it does balance itself out that those pieces are much higher value targets. 

Balance should be “My planned list of models should have a reasonable chance at winning because I know how to shore up my overall weaknesses in the battle plan and my army.”

It doesn’t mean every single unit is going to be viable, and depending on the matchup even your army could be at a disadvantage. It’s just part of the game. 

Let’s stop treating balance as “Oh then you just want Chess” and also stop with “I want to run my list of units that are not optimized to beat tournament standard lists” 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Balance is pretty easy as a thing most players are asking for - FEC shouldn't be 5-0 in every tournament its entered since it was released, DoK shouldn't have maintained an astronomical win rate, and someone should be able to explain how Skaven characters are pointed. 

No one wants perfect balance (you end up too close to KoW which just isn't a terribly fun game). I just want more of an effort spent on making sure that most units performance to cost ratio is closer to the mean. There are statistical outliers right now that create NPEs - fix that. I don't think a list of nothing but bad models should beat a well constructed list, but I think any army should have the ability to build a list that can compete in the current meta. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, sal4m4nd3r said:

And a book can have good internal balance, but bad external balance.. and vice versa.

If I wanted to play a perfectly balanced external game I would play chess. If I want a horrendously imbalanced game, but wild and zaney, I grab my teams and take to the pitch to play blood bowl. AoS has decent balance. Some armies are much stronger then others. That's a fact. A balanced Aos would mean the same stats, abilities and mechanics in each army with different "skins" and that sounds horrendous. 

I'm not interested in perfect balance either but I think the assumed reality new players have is when they go into the store and pick a faction that they have at least a passing chance of having good games once they get the hang of the game and that everything is competitively viable in some fashion.  I know that that is something we have to coach new players all the time in our store because we are all tournament players.

As a tournament player there is a large part of me that just wants to win however I can win, so I usually depend on my army to carry me a lot of the way, but another part of me wants to see skill be a little more rewarded than it currently is.  We have some pretty good guys that do very well all the time until they intentionally choose a less optimized list, and I don't think that should be as stark a case.

Edited by Dead Scribe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

for a given points value a unit has a given utility on the field taking into account synergies with abilities

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a complicated question, I think.

For me, balance has more to do with narrative and story segregation. The game is less fun for me if, for example, there is a high chance of some random fellow just up and killing say, Nagash. A low chance of it happening is reasonable - that allows for those epic moments where "Joe Handgunner" blasted Nagash right in the face and killed him - I like to preserve those.

But 40k right now has a lethality problem. You could bring "Zarakynel, the Exalted Keeper of Secrets and Bringer of Torments" gets fairly trivially swatted aside by a regular tank. That, for me, is troublesome. I think AOS is much better about this - when my big things die, it is typically because they slapped the enemy just as hard before being brought down in some sort of epic fashion.

This means that the game has to have a consistent scale. Right now, I think AOS is straining a bit - it's getting to the point where regular Battleline units can tear up Nagash, the God of Death! Perhaps Nagash is too "big" of a model to balance (And I mean that lorewise). He's the God of Death, so anything that can kill him is kinda stretching credibility, but at the same time, having an unkillable model makes for an unfun game.

So I guess in conclusion, part of the way to balance the game is to scope it - there might be titanic conflicts in which Sigmar gets into a menage a trois with Khorne and Nagash for a dust-up, but I don't want a Sigmar or Khorne model on the table-top, and it's pretty beyond the pale for Nagash to be on the tabletop too, if he's supposed to be able to have a go at those two. So the game must scope down to a smaller part of the narrative, in which Greater Daemons are big, scary models, and Steam Tanks, and Dracothion's spawn, etc. while the out-of-scope fellows become too "unbalanced".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, Unit1126PLL said:

his means that the game has to have a consistent scale. Right now, I think AOS is straining a bit - it's getting to the point where regular Battleline units can tear up Nagash, the God of Death! Perhaps Nagash is too "big" of a model to balance (And I mean that lorewise). He's the God of Death, so anything that can kill him is kinda stretching credibility, but at the same time, having an unkillable model makes for an unfun game

Well a thing to point out is that in story canon it’s not Nagash there in full when he is on the battlefield but a fragment or avatar of the Death God. He’s actually spread all across the realms and working on multiple things simultaneously. So he’s not really at his full awesome powers, just a fraction of himself, and instead of dying his presence is just disrupted to where his influence drastically weakens and he cannot manifest there anymore/temporarily.

Edit: Totally Nagash and not a Disney reference: “I’m travel size for your convenience! If I was my real size your cow here would die of fright.”

There can be a semi story balance that “Gregor the Murderous” should be a gruntstomping battlemaster but I think for the most the intent is trying to keep the focus on the troops over the hero’s too much, which thankfully we haven’t drifted back into Herohammer territory. There are some strong heroes but fortunately they aren’t going 1 vs army.

Edited by King Taloren

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, King Taloren said:

Well a thing to point out is that in story canon it’s not Nagash there in full when he is on the battlefield but a fragment or avatar of the Death God. He’s actually spread all across the realms and working on multiple things simultaneously. So he’s not really at his full awesome powers, just a fraction of himself, and instead of dying his presence is just disrupted to where his influence drastically weakens and he cannot manifest there anymore/temporarily.

There can be a semi story balance that “Gregor the Murderous” should be a gruntstomping battlemaster but I think for the most the intent is trying to keep the focus on the troops over the hero’s too much, which thankfully we haven’t drifted back into Herohammer territory. There are some strong heroes but fortunately they aren’t going 1 vs army.

I'm not actually sure that's stated anywhere (but it is a fair assumption) - in that case, the "avatar" or "piece" of Nagash is basically the same as a Greater Daemon, a "piece" of the Chaos God in question who is but a fraction of their deity, and instead of dying their ability to manifest outside the Realm of Chaos is disrupted and they can no longer instantiate themselves anymore for now.

So that meets the scoping problem I was talking about. If, indeed, Nagash's model and warscroll merely represent a tiny fraction of his manifest power (in the same way a Greater Daemon is a tiny fraction of the power of their own God) then the problem is fixed: the game's stayed rather well scoped, so we're not going to see Sigmar vs. Khorne on the tabletop - at best, we'll see the Celestant-Prime vs. Skarbrand or something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And that's how it works. There are multiple instances of god's avatars in BL books - Sigmar, Alarielle, Nagash... Read "Hammerhal and other stories" for example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right, now I need someone to set up a Nagash versus 120 Grot Stabbas + Madcap Shaman royal rumble. 

An exactly fair and balanced 800pts a side. Let's go. Would be much more interesting than literally EVERY single YouTube battle report I've suffered through.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, michu said:

And that's how it works. There are multiple instances of god's avatars in BL books - Sigmar, Alarielle, Nagash... Read "Hammerhal and other stories" for example.

Oh yeah, no, I believe you.

Just bringing it up because a friend was pressing me on this the other day and I didn't have citations. "Hammerhal and Other Stories" is what I will tell him to read though, just as proof that the "Nagash" model isn't the literal god of death who is here walking around.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Dead Scribe said:

I'm not interested in perfect balance either but I think the assumed reality new players have is when they go into the store and pick a faction that they have at least a passing chance of having good games once they get the hang of the game and that everything is competitively viable in some fashion.  I know that that is something we have to coach new players all the time in our store because we are all tournament players.

As a tournament player there is a large part of me that just wants to win however I can win, so I usually depend on my army to carry me a lot of the way, but another part of me wants to see skill be a little more rewarded than it currently is.  We have some pretty good guys that do very well all the time until they intentionally choose a less optimized list, and I don't think that should be as stark a case.

Pickup games against strangers happen all the time. It requires a modicum of conversations..which boils down to..

hey I’m prepping for an event..mind if I run my competitive list?

Or how long have you been playing Age of Sigmar? Oh couple months cool..*swaps out broken wombo combos for something more chill*

I don’t think it’s GWs job to legislate a simple conversation out of the game by tweaking points and rules until each army wins 50% of its games. I’m not saying you are suggesting this. Sounds like we agree...just expounding in my point.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IDK... I just want to have fun and I enjoy AoS over any other game I've played.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, JPjr said:

Right, now I need someone to set up a Nagash versus 120 Grot Stabbas + Madcap Shaman royal rumble. 

An exactly fair and balanced 800pts a side. Let's go. Would be much more interesting than literally EVERY single YouTube battle report I've suffered through.

Oh man, that sounds like fun!

Would you play it on a 6x4 table?  Which Battleplan would you use?  Full Realm Rules?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think "balance" means to most people being able to take what you want and always being able to complete / be able to give anything else on the other side of the table a proper game. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, AaronWIlson said:

I think "balance" means to most people being able to take what you want and always being able to complete / be able to give anything else on the other side of the table a proper game. 

This.

Do  it GW!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, AaronWilson said:

I think "balance" means to most people being able to take what you want and always being able to complete / be able to give anything else on the other side of the table a proper game. 

No.... 

just no...

Balance should be “I take thought out list and it has a chance to win against most other armies.”

No one should be able to think they can run an army of whatever they want and have an equal chance of wining as someone who carefully put together their list. It kills 3/4 of the strategy of the game if you remove the reason for lost building 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...