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Poncho160
24-02-2012, 19:47
Something that has been bugging me a while is how the GW game developers come to the decision of how many points a model / unit is worth.

Do they randomly decide on how much a unit is worth or is there some kind of system in place.

Do they decide on a rough points idea and then after playtesting adjust the points on how well the unit performs or how well it meshes with the army as a whole.

Or do they have a set system in place where for example a Ballistic Skill (BS) of one is worth 1 pt, a BS of 2 is worth 2 pts, a BS of 3 is worth 4 pts, a BS of 4 is worth 8 points ect, ect. After doing this for all the models stats and then adding in points for weapons and extra rules they come to a points total this way.


Does anyone have any insight into how a model / unit is pointed? Or is it more complicated than this?

Cheers

IcedCrow
24-02-2012, 20:17
There is no set math. They have stated many many many times that points are artificially created based on performance, rarity, and other outside factors (for example, undead zombies costing 6 points a pop when they are worse than 2 point goblins, for the sheer fact that they can be raised and caused fear)

wyvirn
24-02-2012, 20:39
I think they have a loose formula for the base stat line (I recall they mentioned on the site that toughness cost the most of all the stats), but then they modify the price based on play testing.
Or if you're Cruddance, find the model's tank counterpart. :cries:

Charistoph
24-02-2012, 20:57
Really, I thought they just threw D6 darts and however many points that was, that was the base price of the model.

Baaltor
25-02-2012, 00:04
I don't think there's a solid system for it. As the abilities and stats for a model go up, its efficiency has to go up, because even though it's powerful, it detracts from less tangible benifits like presence. If you could have two tough units, or one REALLY tough unit that amounted to the same strength and cost, they would both lose to one another in a fight, but were they needed the ability to split, the two would win out. Plus there's the fact that in 40k durability means little (at least it used not to), and really tough stuff can still be blown apart in a shot, whats the difference between a grot+a lascannon, and a space marine captain+a lascannon?

xxRavenxx
25-02-2012, 00:39
They used to use some sort of system, but it led to creating some really crap units.

I remember the sisters repentia were once discussed. Their creation was something like:

7 points - Base human.
3 points - faith
5 points powerfist
5 points - combat unit in a shooty army tax.

Final cost: 20 points, for a pile of useless points-sink. Oops.

The designer commenting on them used them specifically as an explination of why cost based on a formula doesn't work. (I suspect it could work, but would need a really complex formula which would take a years development and testing to get).

Baaltor
25-02-2012, 09:12
They used to use some sort of system, but it led to creating some really crap units.

I remember the sisters repentia were once discussed. Their creation was something like:

7 points - Base human.
3 points - faith
5 points powerfist
5 points - combat unit in a shooty army tax.

Final cost: 20 points, for a pile of useless points-sink. Oops.

The designer commenting on them used them specifically as an explination of why cost based on a formula doesn't work. (I suspect it could work, but would need a really complex formula which would take a years development and testing to get).

Wow, I didn't know they used to use that system for creating prices, I thought GW always eyeballed it. Although that does explain some of the prices I've seen and wondered why on earth they were so high.

Firaxin
25-02-2012, 17:59
They used to use some sort of system, but it led to creating some really crap units.

I remember the sisters repentia were once discussed. Their creation was something like:

7 points - Base human.
3 points - faith
5 points powerfist
5 points - combat unit in a shooty army tax.

Final cost: 20 points, for a pile of useless points-sink. Oops.
Eh, it's not as bad as it sounds, that was back buying wargear as simple as boltpistols/etc cost numerous points

Bloodknight
25-02-2012, 18:16
Formulas would only work if the survivability of the model grew accordingly with the number of skills. Just slapping more and more special rules on the a T3 model with not a lot of armor will create an expensive model that is still not very good. The old Dark Elf Black Guard from the last DE book are a good example of that.


I'd assume that nowadays they go by gut feeling and adjust.

Classic Battletech uses a very detailed formula (the 3rd system since 1984 or 85 currently, Battle Value 2) including offensive and defensive formulas with points values of several 100 points per model for fine-tuning and it still doesn't work convincingly. Even with all that math there are still units that are clearly better than others that cost the same.

TheKillerCoyote
25-02-2012, 18:56
I'm pretty sure they start out with a general number and then refine it through playtesting.
After all, everything's theory until you hit the board with it.

Bubble Ghost
25-02-2012, 20:23
I'm pretty sure they start out with a general number and then refine it through playtesting.
After all, everything's theory until you hit the board with it.

Unless things have changed drastically in the last 10 years, this is the A-Z of it. You just get a ballpark figure based on mental comparison to models that already exist, then test it and refine.

Ronin_eX
25-02-2012, 23:59
Formulas would only work if the survivability of the model grew accordingly with the number of skills. Just slapping more and more special rules on the a T3 model with not a lot of armor will create an expensive model that is still not very good. The old Dark Elf Black Guard from the last DE book are a good example of that.


I'd assume that nowadays they go by gut feeling and adjust.

Classic Battletech uses a very detailed formula (the 3rd system since 1984 or 85 currently, Battle Value 2) including offensive and defensive formulas with points values of several 100 points per model for fine-tuning and it still doesn't work convincingly. Even with all that math there are still units that are clearly better than others that cost the same.

Really? BV2 works quite well. It has a few weaknesses (skill upgrades are slightly overcosted but fixable, clan-tech weaponry is a little overcosted, some force multiplier stuff like C3 inflate prices a lot past lance/star level) but overall I have found it to be a lot better than systems that eyeball things.

My problem is that GW (and many other companies) decided to use a large-sum point system when adjudicating a model's worth. The human brain is not well set-up to making large-sum systems work. It leaves to much room for ineffectual tweaking that means nothing (playtesting shows the unit is overpowered but the designer bumps it by 1-5 points, those 1-5 points likely don't matter and it is still probably overpowered).

If GW want to eyeball things then they should take a page from Warmachine/Hordes and start using a small sum point system. These are more grainy and tend to allow the human brain to do what it was meant to, compare things with each other and rate them on a small scale. In warmachine you will have the average game running at 35-50 points instead of 1500-2000. The difference in a single point is a big deal and people will often sort units by individual price when comparing what good choices for given tasks are.

It is a lot easier to balance using this method if you don't have a formula. Take a unit in question, assign it a ballpark value on your finite scale after looking at what it does and comparing it to some benchmark units (in 40k's case that would be the value for an average human). Play test the unit for a bit and compare it to other units that share a category/price with it. If it is under or overperforming then compare it to the immediately adjacent categories above and below. If it fits in one of those ones better then move it up or down. If it does not then alter its stats so that it performs within spec for its cost level.

The best part about this system is that it actually tends to get easier to compare things as you go because you have more data in each category to aid sorting.

The sums GW use in their point system will defy all attempts at eyeballing and will lead to half-arsed decisions where they will bump or decrease a units value by an insignificant amount instead of making a true stand on the unit's worth. You see it all the time in codex design, especially the marines (they are much better for these kinds of direct comparison examples). Look how often their point costs shift by a point or two, or how often their special weapons will be rejiggered in price. GW will, of course, pull some weak justification out of their **** if questioned but it doesn't make the waffling any less obvious. The truth is that even after playtesting for months GW may never know why a normal marine costs 16 points and a Grey Hunter costs 15. They don't really know why some units get free special and heavy weapon options and some have the prices infalted. They don't really know if its balanced or not because when you are summing everything to fit in to a 1500 point game it is ridiculous to think that tweaking something by 1-2 points will have a noticeable effect.

Large sum systems are only helpful when they are backed up by maths. Infinity, for example, is the premier example of a large-sum system done right. The number of unbalanced units can be counted on one hand and they never stray from their calculations one iota. If a unit with certain combinations of abilities are over or under powered then they will change the unit's rules instead of the price. This ensures there are no unaccounted for discounts or variations and that I can compare unit X and unit Y on the same scale.

If a game isn't willing to put in the work to make a real rubric for calculating values in a large-sum point system then they should do what PP did and switch to small sum which has all the advantages of eyeballing without any of the massive errors that creep in because the human brain has troubles working with the kinds of numbers thrown out in large-sum systems.

Now to be fair, GW isn't the only company that does this and small-sum systems are actually kind of a new thing. But the switch is worth it if dealing with most games because balance troubles become very apparent when you can't just tweak a unit's price by five points and call it a day. You either have to choose the right category for a unit or you have to make it fit one. Now waffling allowed.

Bloodknight
26-02-2012, 00:11
Really? BV2 works quite well. It has a few weaknesses (skill upgrades are slightly overcosted but fixable, clan-tech weaponry is a little overcosted, some force multiplier stuff like C3 inflate prices a lot past lance/star level) but overall I have found it to be a lot better than systems that eyeball things.

It's definitely working better than gut feeling, I give you that (can't comment on clan tech etc, I play strictly 3025 with some 2750). It's also better than CV was with its massive overcharging on engine size (I remember the CGR-1A1's price tag with horror ;)), but the pilot levels are out of whack, zombies tend to be undercosted compared to explody units, aeros are too cheap in aero/ground interaction (ok, that's because of the underwhelming rules that look like an afterthought, even with TacOps targeting and ignoring strafing and bombing) and combat vehicles are artificially weak and unreliable for their BV compared to mechs. Of course, that only means that the formula needs to be looked at, not that it's a bad system.


But as I read, they're reworking the system currently, I'm thrilled to see what they'll be coming up with next. :)

I don't believe in small sum systems, though, at least not if the units are complex in what they do, as you can't actually finetune.

Panzeh
26-02-2012, 00:22
It's strange how some of the costs are done, for example, Fire Warriors cost 10 points per model, while IG Veterans cost 7 base, who in their right mind would consider fire warriors a more useful unit than IG Vets(the transports make this even worse)?

Bloodknight
26-02-2012, 00:23
That's because of the age of the Tau codex. Back in the day of the first Tau codex when the FW was introduced at 10 points, an IG vet was 10 points, too, and much much worse.

kardar233
26-02-2012, 00:44
It's definitely working better than gut feeling, I give you that (can't comment on clan tech etc, I play strictly 3025 with some 2750). It's also better than CV was with its massive overcharging on engine size (I remember the CGR-1A1's price tag with horror ;)), but the pilot levels are out of whack, zombies tend to be undercosted compared to explody units, aeros are too cheap in aero/ground interaction (ok, that's because of the underwhelming rules that look like an afterthought, even with TacOps targeting and ignoring strafing and bombing) and combat vehicles are artificially weak and unreliable for their BV compared to mechs. Of course, that only means that the formula needs to be looked at, not that it's a bad system.


But as I read, they're reworking the system currently, I'm thrilled to see what they'll be coming up with next. :)

I don't believe in small sum systems, though, at least not if the units are complex in what they do, as you can't actually finetune.

Quality zombies are damn hard to build and harder to find. The only ones I like of are a couple variants of the Archangel (and the PLG-4Z, though that's less a zombie and more an invisible spiky-fist creature of doom), though I've built one that I'm quite fond of.

I'm going to have to differ with you on vehicle costing; I often stomp my brother's Bears with vehicle-only CHH.

This isn't a CBT thread though...

The big problem with GW's costing is that they try to adjust things mainly through cost rather than their actual abilities as they tend to throw whatever abilities are flavourful on the model and then try and cost them. In certain cases, a model is just so obscenely good that there's no point trying to balance it by points, especially when playing Victory/Kill points; cases being Nob Bikers (before Krak missiles started becoming standard issue) and Invulnerable Falcons (before 5th's SMF changes).

Beppo1234
26-02-2012, 01:47
Unless things have changed drastically in the last 10 years, this is the A-Z of it. You just get a ballpark figure based on mental comparison to models that already exist, then test it and refine.

and also take some fluff into account (not much, but some) ie. wargear prices go up and down depending on an armies access to technology

fluffymcfluff
26-02-2012, 02:35
The system is A little imbalanced IMO. Just by comparing models that I own, why is a standard terminator the same points cost as a bloodcrusher?. The statline is way off, granted the termies can shoot or even have a better invulnerable save, if you run assault termies with storm shields.

Overall with standard deployment being 24" apart, five plain bloodcrusher will own five termies nine times out of ten, IME anyways.

Same thing with orks and guardsman, one point differance for a higher WS,T,A and furious charge, the only advantage the guardsmen have is BS3. For a single basic troop model the points cost is a little out of sinc, not taking into account the upgrade options for either unit,or FOC, just based on a single model.

Seems that with every edition the points change a bit, I remember back in 2nd a basic tactical squad was 300 points, IIRC, compared to the 170 that it is now, but thats a whole new can of worms.

Beppo1234
26-02-2012, 03:14
but like I posted earlier, I think army backgrounds come into play. For example, is a world that should be: Deathwing Terminators should be slightly cheaper than Ultramarine Terminators. Essentially the same unit, but the ultras only have 50 or so suits, while the DAs have 100. So on that basis, they should be cheaper as far as rarity goes.

obviously there is a baseline, from which units are then then shifted from given other factors. Size, speed, weapon effectiveness, special rules, other units in the army etc. and their various and infinite combinations which can also affect unit costs.

if it were as simple as a mathematical formula, then GW would never need to play test, and all they'd have to do to create new units, armies or even races would be to mess with the variables in the formula. But it's never that simple, because so many things are intangible.

Project2501
26-02-2012, 03:57
I honestly bieve it's a mix of system and gut feeling. They base their decisions on everything available to them just like we do wben we p!ss and moan about it after the new 'dex is released. From the previous codex to the current codex they're workin on and in the case of space marines, the other chapter codexeses as well.

You can see both progression of design philosophy and points cost philosophy as each new codex is released.

Here's a few examples off the top of my head:

C:SM Predator
+ Fast
=
C:BA Predator

We now have a base price for fast.

Here's a more complicated one.

C:SM/BA Razorback TL AssC
+ C:BA predator base price
+ Scout
=
Baal predator

We now have a base price for scout.

BUT!

C:SM Rhino
+ Fast
=
C:BA Rhino with and extra 5pts outta nowhere based on the above and other codex comparisons.


Granted these are quick and dirty examples, but I feel they prove (to me at least) that GW does have a baseline they work from, but they still adjust as they feel necessary as well.

Geep
26-02-2012, 05:11
A formula is fine as a base, but playtesting is needed to come to a workable final points (and a 'theme breaking' points tax is fine IMO).

No points will ever be perfect- there are simply too many variabilties in the game and points can't be worked out in a vacuum. Noting that 5 bloodcrushers will beat 5 terminators is meaningless- things need to be compared at a much wider scale (where the AP system makes a terminator's 2+ save damn good).

I hope GW will never fo the route of WM/H with really small scale points values- I don't think that would work for a game of this style, with so much variety and large scale battles.

Firaxin
26-02-2012, 07:13
Small numbers wouldn't be grimdark enough, anyways. Who'd be excited to play a 200pt Apocalypse battle?

Charistoph
26-02-2012, 07:27
Small numbers wouldn't be grimdark enough, anyways. Who'd be excited to play a 200pt Apocalypse battle?

Depends, 200 points in Warmachine is actually quite large with up to 3-4 'Casters each. I don't even want to think of how big a 200 stone Malifaux army would look like. Whereas in Infinity it's a Starter game, 40K a Kill Team, and not even really very viable in Fantasy.

However, higher points means its easier to tweak and minor point fluctuations don't matter as much. Too bad GW spends 6 years to tweak a point list for an army, though.

Gir
26-02-2012, 10:09
My problem is that GW (and many other companies) decided to use a large-sum point system when adjudicating a model's worth. The human brain is not well set-up to making large-sum systems work. It leaves to much room for ineffectual tweaking that means nothing (playtesting shows the unit is overpowered but the designer bumps it by 1-5 points, those 1-5 points likely don't matter and it is still probably overpowered).

If GW want to eyeball things then they should take a page from Warmachine/Hordes and start using a small sum point system. These are more grainy and tend to allow the human brain to do what it was meant to, compare things with each other and rate them on a small scale. In warmachine you will have the average game running at 35-50 points instead of 1500-2000. The difference in a single point is a big deal and people will often sort units by individual price when comparing what good choices for given tasks are.

You REALLY have not thought this through at all, and you it seems like this is just a "subtle" way for you to show how you think warmachine is better. Low points systems only work when you don't want to give your players and options (like Warmachine does).

I mean, if a marine costs 1pt, a terminator costs 2pts, and a predator costs 5pts, how many pts is it to give a predator a storm bolter, or a marine a meltagun, or a terminator a heavy flamer?

Tarax
26-02-2012, 10:52
but like I posted earlier, I think army backgrounds come into play. For example, is a world that should be: Deathwing Terminators should be slightly cheaper than Ultramarine Terminators. Essentially the same unit, but the ultras only have 50 or so suits, while the DAs have 100. So on that basis, they should be cheaper as far as rarity goes.

Rarity should not be a part of the points cost. Points cost is part of the effectiveness of a model. Rarity should be reflected in the availability of said item of unit in an army. That is why you can have an army of Deathwing Terminators and not of Ultramarine Terminators.

When I started reading this thread, I thought back to 4th edition Fantasy. There points were open and available. An Elf (of all kinds) costed 8 points, a Dwarf also, a human costed 5 points, a Goblin 2.5 points and an Ork 5.5 points. Back then I tried to make a formula of it. Compairing both Elf and Dwarf, as they were the same points, the differences were in Movement, Ballistic Skill, Toughness, Initiative, Leadership and a Dwarf special rule. I never foudn out what the formula was. But if you compare a human to a Goblin, maybe you could. A Goblin had -1 WS (-0.5p), -1 I (-0.5p), -2 Ld (-1p (2x-0.5p)) and Animosity (-0.5p). However, not all characteristics would cost 0.5p I based that on the fact that, as with equipment, when a model would be less than 5 points (basic) everything costed half. An Orc would then cost +1T (+1p), -1I (-1p) and Animosity (-1p), thus not 5.5p but 4p. But then you could say that some characteristics are more worth/expensive than others. I could go on like this, but I'd guess you know what I mean.

Poncho160
26-02-2012, 11:13
I assumed all them years ago when I started this hobby that for instance, a 200pt unit facing off against another 200 pt unit would win 50% of the time, i quickly learned this wasnt true! haha

I still feel it should work this way.

Bloodknight
26-02-2012, 11:39
I remember back in 2nd a basic tactical squad was 300 points, IIRC, compared to the 170 that it is now, but thats a whole new can of worms.

That was a marketing decision, nothing else. A guard squad was 100 points before upgrades, cut into half at the beginning of the 3rd edition. Since IG at the time were only available in metal and very expensive in comparison to other armies there were not that many IG players at the beginning of 3rd. ;)

megatrons2nd
26-02-2012, 23:40
At one time I had worked out several formulas that worked with most of the armies. Space Marines almost always broke it. They were typically 10-15% cheaper than they should have been. When I worked it with marines as the base start, several armies cost 3-5% higher than the they should have. The marine as a base was closer overall. I did, however, never check by edition. So I will agree that a formula is used to start, and modified after some play testing.

The formulas I worked on were done mid 4th edition. Tau and Dark Eldar were two that did not fit within the 5% margin of error I allowed for points tweaks, and special rules I could not quantify with a "value" that was consistent across several units. Maybe I should try again and see where it takes me.

A side note, I have tried to work points on a standard Land Raider, 2 Ravagers with shadow field and night shield, and a Devastator squad. The Devastator squad seems to be a bit off. The 2 Ravagers and Land Raider seem to be pretty close with a slight edge to the Ravagers mostly due to it being multiple units, but not as much since the Land Raider can split it's fire, and can even fire when shaken or stunned thanks to the machine spirit.

itcamefromthedeep
27-02-2012, 04:01
If GW want to eyeball things then they should take a page from Warmachine/Hordes and start using a small sum point system. These are more grainy and tend to allow the human brain to do what it was meant to, compare things with each other and rate them on a small scale. In warmachine you will have the average game running at 35-50 points instead of 1500-2000. The difference in a single point is a big deal and people will often sort units by individual price when comparing what good choices for given tasks are.Warmahordes Mark of the Deux has a granularity problem. This is particularly noticeable in the many 2-point solos.

There are a number of models that would really do well by being half a point cheaper or half a point more expensive, and in that regard a number of the open-beta playtesters were pushing hard for the points scale to be doubled during the Mark II playtest.

As it stands 40k has models like Marneus Calgar who are literally worth fifty times or more what a Guardsman is. With less granularity in the points values you would end up with things like Guardsmen that are worth 1/5 of a point each or less, and without going into fractions of points it becomes very difficult to price certain very weak upgrades that should remain optional, such as searchlights.

Having said that many codexes are very near to a system with less granularity by pricing models and upgrades in multiples of 5. You could do Space Wolves easily enough using a scale that's 1/5 the price. Hoverer, you really feel that lack of granularity in the difference between Grey Hunters and Blood Claws. Grey Hunters aren't worth 20 points each and Blood claws aren't worth 10, but they shouldn't both sit in the middle. What looks like the decision to round to the nearest 5 points on most models led to a real problem that everyone facing Space Wolves will be feeling in the butt for years to come.


I assumed all them years ago when I started this hobby that for instance, a 200pt unit facing off against another 200 pt unit would win 50% of the time, i quickly learned this wasnt true! haha

I still feel it should work this way.It can't. As much as we'd like that to work out it's not possible. I'm not exaggerating at all here.

A lascannon is more valuable when shooting at a tank than it is when shooting at infantry. So 150 points of lascannon Guard heavy weapons teams will probably win against 150 points of Dreadnought, but lose against 150 points of Shoota Boyz. That's how it should be, or the game becomes bland.

The game will never be perfectly balanced with any kind of variety in the interactions between units and variable force selection. It can't happen even in theory. There are degrees to which it can be better or worse, but it will never be perfect. Because unit interactions in this genre of game will always have a rock/paper/scissors element to them you can't balance an army that leans rock-heavy against all comers.


Large sum systems are only helpful when they are backed up by maths. Infinity, for example, is the premier example of a large-sum system done right. The number of unbalanced units can be counted on one hand and they never stray from their calculations one iota.I've heard that kind of claim made by many players about many different systems. It has never proven to be true.

With my point about the stark impossibility of perfect game balance in mind I really think Infinity is going to have the same problem of good army lists and bad army lists that every game in the genre has to deal with. This means that some units that are balanced for a particular context might find that the situation they excel in occurs all the time or disappears completely with the winds of the metagame, shifting the value of a model printed with only one points value. If all you face are Green Tide Orks then meltaguns will not be as valuable as the price in your codex says they are. If everyone you face is sitting in a Land Raider then the price of that meltagun will also be incorrect for your context. They need to come up with a price that will account for the possibility of both a Monolith spam army and a Tyranid list where the melta rule means exactly nothing, which is frankly impossible to do because some gaming store populations will have more Monoliths and Land Raiders than other areas.