View Full Version : Balancing The Books.

Mad Doc Grotsnik
24-04-2006, 21:44
Or, does victory go to he with the deepest pockets?

To me, this is the single biggest hurdle any game will face with regards to balance and fairness.

For example. Magic The Gathering. Unless you play by the rather strict tourny rules, he who has been collecting the longest often has killer combos simply not open to his opponents. Equally, due to the random nature, unless several players buy cards individually, he with the deepest pockets, and thus the most cards, is most likely to have the dominant deck.

But does this apply to Games Workshop? With the rising cost of the hobby/game (however you want to see it) I feel this could become a critical issue.

It's all fine and well for an army to have a rock hard elite unit, say, Grave Guard. I'm plotting my Undead Army, and intend to have a unit of 30 armed with Halberd and Shield. Although a lot of points, this will require a fairly hefty expenditure of money as well, namely 82.50. Personally, although somewhat stinging on the pocket, I'm okay with the price, as I *know* I'll get use out of it. And besides, with a full time job and a part time job, money is something I'm okay for.

However, other people are not so lucky financially, for whatever reason. Does this give me an unfair advantage over my opponents, in so far that I can, in theory (though not necessarily will!) buy up units to counter whatever they throw at me.

What do you think? And if your here just to bash GW, keep it to yourself for once. This question is just as valid for every other games system!

24-04-2006, 22:11
Interesting question, since I've myself been thinking in these terms. Here's an example. I've just started collecting an orcs & goblins' army, and bought my first gobbo regiment. In my build-up for 1500 points I had included two gobbo units with hw & shield for 2 pts/head (skaven slaves but without the leadership). I was amazed of how much weaponry and equipment there were in the sprues, but lo and behold - no hand weapons, just spears or bows. Now, basically, if I wouldn't have had a large bitz box (something that comes automatically with years of hobbying) I would've lost between 50-100 % of my points. It strikes me as slightly odd to have to convert your unit into its basic equipment, which also happens to be the most effective (whether with or without light armour). In my case, it wasn't the most expensive units, but the cheapest that cost me the most.

To get back to your question, money can sure make your army slightly more effective by getting the most out of your restricted points.

In WHFB in general, I'm not convinced that buying the expensive models alone would bring you victory on the battlefield. Often, these alternatives strike me as rewarding either in awesome models or easily recognized good army choices. I'm equally convinced that you can buy just as competitive armies by lowering your monetary standards. After all, that's the whole point with a points system. You would surely have to buy some blisters, but tell me of a miniatures collector that doesn't buy ONE blister.

24-04-2006, 23:29
It's an interesting thought but I don't think money is that critical in making a good army.

This isn't like a RTS, where specific units are required to "counter" other units. IMO the most important thing in Fantasy is not so much which units you take but rather how you use them.

Also, I'd say that most of what "countering" there is, occurs at the Hero level, not at the unit level, particularly when it comes to Magic and magic items. For Magic, all that's required is enough heros to switch between for different lists, and magic items are generally represented very loosely making it easy to switch between them.

Conversions are also nice for moneysaving, especially with all the plastic kits floating around these days. Also, occasionally the expensive units aren't necessarily good ones.

Personally I think that all having more money means is that you'll have more freedom to buy the bits you want for conversions and be able to make your army look exactly how you want it to and pretty and whatnot, but with little effect on actual play. If you don't have the money to buy a metal regiment over a plastic one (and these days the difference is not that much), then you probably didn't have enough money to buy a full army at all. As a percentage of the cost of a 2K point army, the difference is small.

Commissar von Toussaint
24-04-2006, 23:38
In fantasy, the problem is less acute since most units can destroy each other. It's been discussed often enough, but it is a fact that the weakest regiment in the game (goblins) can defeat the hardest (chaos knights) if it has a superior position.

So in that sense, money won't buy you victory per se.

However it is a known fact that GW prices models based on their points. This is particularly acute in 40k where everything is so specialized that the truly nasty stuff naturally costs more.

Because fantasy is a different beast (and descended from the old school miniatures concept), there is less correlation between cost and elite status.

24-04-2006, 23:42
Money is simply a tool. The more tools in the tool box, the better.:D Money will always be an advantage. However, time is an equally useful tool that can compensate for money.

Overall I think that the single greatest tool in the box is the willingness to put time into planning and to stick to those plans. A gamer who puts time and thought into planning can easily triumph over the richest of gamers.

25-04-2006, 02:25
Money isn't neccessarily an advantage. Many people will build up a 2000 point army and then go on to build up another 2000, and then another, and another until they have 4 or 5 2000 point armies.

Others will build up a 2000 point army, then decide they'd like to mix things up a bit and add another 1000 or 2000 so they aren't stuck with the same army list every time they play. They end up with more things to select from, but probably less armies overall to choose from. I could have alot more armies, but I choose to get alot of things for my armies so I can easily switch things up so I won't get bored.

The big "problem" with Magic in this issue is that every few months a new set comes out and you will have to purchase new cards to remain competetive in a Tournament scene. If you don't shell out the money, chances are you are going to fall behind. This doesn't happen with warhammer. When new armies come out, you didn't have people going "Oh Crap, now I need to buy X, Y, and Z or else I'll get PWNED in tournaments". You can build up an army and field it with one army list and be fine (until years down the line they re-release your book so that your army plays completely differently in some cases like Undead to Vamps and Khemri).

A Warhammer player could buy 2000 points, and if he was wise in his army selection, will never have to buy a thing after that (as long as he can restrain his addiction . . . I can't). It won't matter that their opponent has 8000 points to select from for the most part.

25-04-2006, 04:51
I suppose if one knew exactly what his opponent was fielding and the terrain and scenario etc, clearly owning more models would be a big advantage. However, speaking as someone who has every army, ranging from 3000-15000 points, having them confers no particular advantage upon me. In fact, I find the opposite is true, I rarely think too deeply when creating an army list, rather I field what strikes my fancy that day, and being spoiled for choice means that I rarely "master" any aspect of any of my armies, whereas often my opponents are college age kids who can only afford the 2000 they play with. And if they spend well and play often, they become quite proficient at getting the most out of their familiar troops.

On a related note, I have also found in two-plus decades of Warhammer that as I have increased my income (and thus model collection), my wins have decreased. This despite having played more games of Warhammer than virtually anyone I have ever played. Not that I'm upset about that. I find I enjoy the games more now than I ever did as a student or in my twenties and early thirties, win or lose. It could also be said that the multiple editions I've played over the years actually hurts me as well. I often mix up rules between editions to my demise...

25-04-2006, 05:45
I think this is an excellent discussion topic, I must say! Honestly, it's not something I've given incredible amounts of thought to up to this point, but now that's it's been brought up, sparks a little bit of well-deserved thought. So first and foremost, props on the topic, Mad Doc! Very interesting...

I'll admit that sometimes when me and a few other guys get a bit bored and have a little extra time, we'll play a few games of Magic the Gathering. This is, for the most part, pretty enjoyable and could be easily compared to a few of the guys sitting around playing a game of poker in terms of atmosphere and seriousness. Yes, we all play to win(to a certain degree), but for the most part, it's a casual way of killing time. That said, one of the guys recently has spent well over $200 CND on Magic cards, buying individual rares and uncommons, in an attempt to have "the best" deck around. Well, long story short, he succeeded, and his $200 deck is nigh unbeatable, especially with the rest of us using fairly standard or "average" decks...at most being worth 25% of what his deck is. So, I suppose this could certainly be an example of those with the deepest pockets coming out on top.
Honestly, in a game like Magic, it almost makes sense that this is the case...much of the game works on power levels and rare combos, much moreso than any kind of tactical use of the cards. Don't get me wrong, there are definately tactics at play in Magic, that much is for sure! What I'm trying to get at is, in general, whatever tactic you use either depends on, or is secondary to, the card(s) involved. This isn't a good thing or a bad thing, simply the nature of the ccg beast.

Now, Fantasy on the other hand seems to have a larger space in which for tactics to be involved. Much like in Magic, the tactics you use will revolve around the unit(s) to which said tactics apply...to an extent. This extent just happens to be a lot less than is typically so in Magic. The units, warmachines, and characters we use in Fantasy have a much less defined, and much more vague, quality than a Magic card. Models in Fantasy can basically do whatever we want them to...within the limitations of their rules/stats and the rules of the game itself. Not only that, but most units give the option of customizing in some way, great or small. Basically, the units we get to use in Fantasy can be put to many, many different uses, based on the player's wants and interpratations.

I guess all this means that many games, like Magic, are much more..."defined", in a sense. Fantasy on the other hand is much more open to multiple uses in most cases. Because Magic is more dependant on what the card actually does, and often less dependant on exactly how it's used(of which the uses are typically limited, as well), a person is generally forced to buy the best cards in order to be competitive.

Fantasy is more open to interpratation, and, to risk sounding anti-magic(I'm not!), more dependant on the tactics employed by the player.

After all of that, there's still a couple more differences between Magic and Fantasy that lead me to believe that Fantasy is'nt so much a "most expensive army wins" type of game.

First of all, rarity levels. In Fantasy, there are no "rares"...unless you're looking in the force selection limits in your army books. In Magic, rares cost more money to buy, and are also very limited in quantity when buying normal booster packs and whatnot.

Secondly, there isn't much in the way of randomness when buying models for Fantasy...you know what you're paying for and getting. In Magic, unless you're buying over-priced singles or pre-constructed decks, you don't know at all what you're getting.

Of course, the more money you spend on a given army will usually amount to you having more units and more variety...meaning you have more efficient ways of dealing with specific threats as they come up. So yes, spending more money on a Fantasy army may occasionally result in you being able to tailor your force in a specific manner to face a specific enemy army or unit, but....that's about it.

All of this, is of course totally generalized...

25-04-2006, 09:39
That said, one of the guys recently has spent well over $200 CND on Magic cards, buying individual rares and uncommons, in an attempt to have "the best" deck around. Well, long story short, he succeeded, and his $200 deck is nigh unbeatable, especially with the rest of us using fairly standard or "average" decks...at most being worth 25% of what his deck is.
I can echo that totally. My friend went to eBay and other sources spending upwards of 11 a card (!) to get the most powerful white cards available - and playing simply isn't fun anymore. He just butchers whoever he plays.

Thankfully the points system of WFB balances out most armies. MDG's grave guard will be a massive point drain, and so won't necessarily give him the edge over other players.

Mad Doc Grotsnik
25-04-2006, 09:48
But it still gives me a horrifically hard unit, which those who don't have Elite infantry of their own will genuinely struggle to beat.

Granted, tactics do indeed play (or at least should, gunline, RAF and SAD players take note!) the biggest part in Warhammer. But if you don't have the right tools for the right job, or at least a big whacking hammer equivalent, your at a disadvantage.

25-04-2006, 11:40
Money issue makes collecting big elite units harder and really big hordes almost impossible... but it's not the only limitation; skill and patience in painting is another one. Even if you can afford 500 gobbos to use in 1500 points game (for stupid instance) you still need to paint them. On the other hand, if you have skills and collect right army, you can convert a lot from basic plastic regiments, bought at reasonably lower price. Of course, not all armies elites are easy to convert from plastics (Dark Elves infrantry make good counter-example, Orcs and Bretonnians as good example), so there are wallet-dependent armies out there... But they can be succesfuly counteered by cheap and heavily converted armies.

Hashut's Li'l Helper
25-04-2006, 13:01
Having the extra unit variety certainly helps if you are tooling up an army to play a certain opponent, But in a take on all comers army the difference between acheap well designed army and an expesive army seems like it would be minimal.

25-04-2006, 13:45
Bah, Sir_Turalyon made most of the points I was about to. :p

I think there's a clear case for expense genuinely warping the Warhammer metagame - 200+ model hordes are simply less common than more elite builds, and consequently some aspects of the game become more powerful (I'm looking at you, magic phase!).

(On the M:tG issue, let's just say that the different formats exist for a reason. Personally I find Extended balances fairly well for casual groups - plenty of the top tournament decks are worth less than $40 and they don't shift too often; casual groups obviously don't even need that much.

If one member of the group goes out and spends radically more money on netdecks, have a talk to him about the rudeness of bringing knives to a gunfight - ultimately it's about manners, not money=power.

...Alternatively, play 3+ player formats. Those are much harder to beat with raw money - plus you can gang up on people, and there are no existing tournament decks to copy!)

Dr Death
25-04-2006, 17:01
Hmmmm interesting concept but im not particularly sure if money does equal success in warhammer. In certain arena's it does, large elite metal regiments do have serious advantages if you're willing to spill out the money for their purchase, but its as much about what you buy as how much you spend on it. Because of the modelling and aesthetic element to this game over (the running example of) Magic the Gathering, you could well relish more money than makes sense on making an army look good, or buying expensive versions of models (An army of forgeworlds ellysians for example or a regiment of old metal skaven slaves) so in its most literal interpretation money doesnt nessercarily mean a better army.

But going back to the large elite metal regiment element, they are effective in the game. Not unbeatable but effective, both in their increased ability (in the hands of a reasonable player) and in the "wow" factor. Regardless of their actual effectiveness, coming up against such a regiment (say phoenix guard, Stormvermin or any other such regiment) certainly puts a degree of wind up you.

In Lotr i would say money is however a more dominant factor for winning. With all the base troops on practically a level playing feild and available in similarly numerous plastic boxes it is those expensive set peices and heroes which break the deadlock between a game otherwise reliant upon tactics rather than regiments. The Mumak and Balrog are great examples of this. A Harad force without a mumak is not bad, but it is better with one, both practically and psychologically. The Balrog has a similar effect. Rabbit in the headlight syndrome does have a prominent place in points match lotr.

So overall i would say money does have its uses but only if spent concentrated and wisely.

Dr Death

25-04-2006, 19:44
It depends on the game, fantasy, not so much since no one is invulnerable, Ive had my Giant squash a unit of slayers only to be droped by a cannon ball. The slayers were the most expensive unit (20 strong) and the cannon the cheapest. 40K, yes money can buy you love.

Games that play like a wargame like Fantasy have fewer surething units. games that are more skirmish tend to be very list driven so those tend to have the advantage going to the deeper pockets, but good tactics and luck can bring a victory against hard units. Games that play like a CCG like warmachine tend to fall in the must buy the newest to to stay competitive.

If you can afford the really cool stuff, go for it, but remeber to always be a good sport when your killer hero or big bad $120 dollar unit gets driven from the battle feild by some gobbos with rocks or skaven slaves with sharpened sticks. In warhammer it can still happen. (Lets hope that dosen't change in 7th)

25-04-2006, 20:38
Mad doc - yes, you have a very large elite unit, but if they get charged in the flank, or worse, rear, by.. let's say... a large unit of Empire Swordsmen with the Banner of Griffon and a converted plastic Elector count, then they are going to get dusted, 80+ or not, whilst he will have spent at most 36 on 2 boxes of swordsmen and will have a load of models left over.

Money alone will not win you games of Warhammer.. you need tactical sense and good generalship as well, and if you have those you can do well even without the expensive metal units and just sticking to plastic core choices and heroes.

40K is a slightly different kettle of fish though.. I'm glad to see you posted it in both forums, and I think it will be interesting to see how the replies differ..

Lord Brrrp
25-04-2006, 20:57
Sure some of the best troops cost the most money but unlike some games like Magic, the cost of building an army is finite and the army tends to stay put for several years.

When making changes, the majority of your investment stays intact.

A lot of concern with money (some infantry troop options that are not plastic) can be fixed with a bit of converting.

GW games are more of a timesink in that you have the modeling and painting aspect. BUt if you like that (or are willing to pay to outsource it), it is one of the best wargames around!