Balance Datasheets are...Exhausting

Started by Wyddr, September 7, 2023, 01:27:34 PM

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Wyddr

[oldmanrant]
As many of you probably know, I've stepped away from 40k for the time being to focus on Age of Sigmar, which is now a very clearly superior game in every capacity and I've found it to be substantially more fun.

Part of the reason is because of nonsense like this latest 40k Balance Dataslate, where they change or otherwise invalidate various parts of the rules and change nearly *all* of the point values of units across the game so that their mostly stupid game balance data will wash out. My decision to play Chaos Knights if anything at all in the future has borne fruit, since most of this nonsense makes no difference (except the changes to Towering but whatever), but Christ, there is absolutely nothing approachable about this game anymore.

How could I possibly recommend a person start playing 40k these days? Not only do they need an army and paints and all the money/time that entails, but the codex they bought becomes obsolete mere weeks after its purchase, the main RULEBOOK is subject to change whenever GW feels like it, and you need to maintain a web presence and pay a subscription fee to even play the game, which by the way will ONLY BE FUN if you play on a completely symmetrical battlefield of LOS-blocking ruins and at no other time whatsoever. 

beslubber. All. That.
I'm honestly flabbergasted that people put up with it. It's a damn crying shame, is what it is.

[/oldmanrant]

Radec

Well, since it is rant time....
We are back to the state where every player has a codex(index), index faq, base rules faq, balance dataslate and a points datasheets :) Why did we move from 9th anyway?? They even brought back the 9th morale autopass stratagem. Though there are good things in 10th there are bad things too and the problem is that it seems again, for the N-th time, they are there not for the sake of a better game, but for change's sake alone...
For me 10th is playable enoug (atleast on the level of 9th and 8th)  and my biggest gripe with it is that factions have less identity represented in the rules than ever before as unique rules are being transformed in bland, generic ones.

Several weeks ago an Ukrainian friend of mine came back from Poland and we played a game of 4th. He wanted me to give him an introductory game since he's been in 40k only from 8th onwards and it turns out that Oldhammer is a big thing in Poland. So we played a game using the old codexes and such and it turned out that my rose coloured glasses were not that rose coloured after all - the game felt like a real 40k wargame again and certainly better than the current incarnations of the rules. Regardless I'll always be playing the new editions - that's what everyone is playing anyway so it is better to be playing any 40k than none at all :)

Wyddr

Yeah, I know what you mean about playing the latest edition. But given that the 40k scene around me is pretty dead (and has been since the debacle that was 7th edition), it's VERY hard to get new opponents when the barriers to entry are so damned high.

I do generally prefer the basic ruleset of 10th over 9th, which was among my least favorite editions of the game, but my problem isn't the generic rules (they're easier to keep track of, anyway) but that the fundamental mechanics of the game don't make for an interesting, tactical game.

4th - 6th (my favorite era of the game) were all VASTLY superior to the gameplay experience now. Yeah, it had its hiccups, but nothing on the scale of the BS we're dealing with. And then, when you throw in that GW will change the whole damned game every couple months (and routinely fix the things that are only problems in tournaments), it's just deeply disappointing.

Sigmar is better, full stop. There is absolutely no comparison and no dimension along which 40k favorably compares.

Grand Master Lomandalis

I'm hesitant to step in here because any time the discussion has been around the current state of 40k, I continually get shouted down for my support.  But... once more unto the breach, eh?

I've played 40k since 3rd edition on, pretty much, a continuous weekly basis.  That time included playing against anyone from the regular casual gamer, to facing off against some of the best players in Canada (Grand Tournament winners, repeat winners at Adepticon, etc).

I absolutely prefer the current way GW handles the game over how it was handled in previous editions. 

Gone are the days of being stuck with an over power / under powered codex...
Gone are the days of game breaking mechanics lasting the entire lifespan of the edition...
Gone are the days of under priced units being allowed to perform for the entire codex life... 
Gone are the days of spending multiple editions using an outdated codex...
And sadly, gone are the days of being familiar with every army's rules.

If we stayed with GWs old way of doing things where the rules were never updated, then that would have meant that we would have gone the entire length of 8th edition with 7 Flyrants / plague crawlers, and being able to deep strike your entire army turn one.

Honestly, when people tell me that they prefer the older editions, I truly believe they are looking at those times with rose coloured glasses, because they are not nearly as good as they seem to think.  Yes, now we can recognize codex creep as a marketing ploy.  The latest and greatest is released as the most over powered bullamphetamine parrot in existence because people will chase the meta and buy a full army within a month of release.  Then, GW drops the hammer and they are brought back in line with everything else.  What was the practice before hand?  Codex creep was permanent.  The latest codex would drop and be more powerful than anything else, and because they needed to make something more powerful to sell better... they would just make it more powerful.  If your army was one of the first codexes released that edition (if you even got one that edition) then you were screwed until the next time your codex was released.

No, GW having an active hand in keeping things balanced is absolutely superior to them just leaving us stuck with unbalanced bullamphetamine parrot.  If I have to keep tabs on a quarterly rules update, then that is a price I will gladly pay.  Do I care if my codex points are irrelevant before the codex is even released?  No, because I use army building software that updates the points for me.  Flavour will return to the factions as more codexes are released and the detachments fit play styles better.

Personally, I feel the game is in much better condition than it has ever been.
If there is anything that recent politics has taught us, it is that quotes taken out of context can mean what ever you want them to.
Quote from: murgel on June 11, 2017, 08:30:34 AM
Well I always liked the globals...
I knew I had fans!!!

Quote"Dark Angels are Traitors" is the 40k equivalent of Flat Earthers.  You can provide all of the proof you want that says otherwise, but people just can't let it go...

Lachdonin

I'm with Lomandalis on this one. I think the inconvenience of having to brush up on changes periodically is vastly outweighed by the benefits of frequent balance changes and tweaks to react to unforeseen problems.

I mean, without that, Eldar would simply continue to be unbeatable monsters on the tabletop until a new codex was released specifically to counter their frankly broken nonsense. And all that leads to is constant power creep, with rules being designed specifically to be more powerful than whatever is currently dominating the scene, which only serves to make everyone else's experiences worse.

Is it a chore? Kinda. But chores are necessary a lot of the time.
Remember, you can make yourself a Hero, but only others can make you a God.

Wyddr

I remember all the unbalanced crap from the old editions (Leafblowers, DAVU Falcons, Thunderwolf Spam, Rhino Rush, Fish of Fury, Taudar, and so on and so forth) and, honestly, very little of it was unbeatable. If you played smart, played the mission, and had a plan, you had even odds of squeaking out a win.

I even think that is, to some extent, still true. There are a couple caveats to it, though, and a couple indicators that something is more seriously amiss *now* than there ever was *then.* My problem, honestly, is less with 10th edition specifically than with what GW is doing with the game overall.

To enumerate:

1) The game is brainless
There just...isn't any thinking involved in 40k anymore. At least not that I've been able to detect. Every time I play a game, there is never a turn where I feel like I need to make a strategic choice which will dictate how I play my game from there on out. There's very little strategic flexibility.

I feel like the game is decided more-or-less at two times: When you make your army list and when the dice are rolled. Nothing I do on the table requires much thought at all. The units go to claim objectives or score secondaries, and there is always a pretty obvious, optimal way you need to do that, and either it works or it doesn't (dice) and nothing else really matters. This is partly why the Aeldari are so dominant right now: they can functionally remove part of the equation that's randomized (dice) and then it's all about movement. End of conversation, really.

In earlier editions, there was some of this at play, but never to this extent. Part of this is because the way objectives were structured were different (4th edition with their VP system, 5th with only troops claiming objectives and then only at the end of the game) and that killing your opponent's *entire army* just wasn't usually in the cards (this was a function of cover being much, much better). The other part was, honestly, the size of the table shrinking. 

I remember thinking when I played 40k. That hasn't happened much for me since 7th edition (which was a trash fire, and no mistake, but it was honestly more fun).

2) Barriers to Entry 
If I understand what proponents of modern 40k have told me (over and over again), the game is (1) balanced at 2000 points and (2) requires a massive amount of LOS blocking terrain to be evenly spaced all over the board.

Now don't go telling me "that was always the case!" because it very much wasn't and I have the battle reports archived on this site going back over a decade to prove it. The game used to be balanced around 1500 points or so (we used to joke how absurd the 'Ard Boyz amphetamine parrot was with its 2500 point limit), which meant the armies were smaller. Additionally, you could play a perfectly balanced game with a variety of terrain types scattered around. You could even do this asynchronously, since cover wasn't always essential to every unit or even every army, you could create your *own* cover, and so on and so forth. Yeah, games on Planet Bowling Ball were sort of stupid, but at least they were plausibly playable experiences.

With the game as it stands now, you need a lot more models to play a balanced game ("Combat Patrol" you say, but what exactly are you supposed to do between the 400-500 point level and the 2000 point one, eh?), you need a lot more terrain to play a balanced game (so I guess you're going to an LGS or just, like, not playing), and then they also regularly change the point values of your army, meaning you, newbie that you are, can find your only collection of models no longer useable as they were. This if fine for those of us who have been in the hobby long enough to have a deep bench, but how the hell does the new guy feel?

Seriously, how do you get new people to play? Because nothing about this edition is conducive to it, and pretty soon we'll be paying subscription fees just to use the Yhwh-condemneded app.

3) The CORE RULES are unbalanced
I think this is a pretty major distinction between the old editions and this one. Yeah, vehicles were pretty powerful in 5th edition and psychics were really powerful in 6th/7th, but all of those problems were adaptable problems. You took a bunch of meltaguns in 5th and figured out how to deliver them and vehicles were manageable. Psychic powers were always a giant beslubbering gamble in 6th/7th, so even money you did okay without needing to counter them. Etc, etc..

But here comes 10th, and pretty much instantly everyone is moaning and groaning about Devastating Wounds and Lethal Hits and Towering and a half dozen other core mechanics of the game which, if people complaining were to be believed, broke the game. I'm sorry, but that's never been a beslubbering thing before this edition. Well, okay, the Virus Grenade in 2nd Edition, but...anything else? Can't think of it. People howled and howled about flyers showing up in 6th, but other than those Necron Invasion Lists (which were rough), it didn't matter that much.

Who knows? Maybe Towering wasn't that big a deal either, but we'll never actually know, since GW hit it with the nerf bat barely a year into the edition existing. But something tells me that what is actually going on is simply this: GW stopped playtesting their games sufficiently or, barring that, GW is deliberately unbalancing their game with the understanding they can just go back and fix it later, thereby leading their loyal fanbase around by the nose as they get them to be buy Thing A only later to force them into buying Thing B, and, sure sure, this has always been a part of the game, but at least back in the old days you had a year or so of playing with your toys before the rug got ripped out. Now? Sounds like a waste of money to build anything according to the rules you are provided with, since they aren't really the rules you'll be playing with for more than a few weeks, and maybe some of you can go out and buy/build/paint a whole beslubbering army in a month, but I sure as hell can't and neither can anyone else I know.

4) The Balance Data
As a final note, I'm going to take some issue with the idiotic Balance Data that GW has been throwing at us over the last edition or two after each major tournament. They give each army a win percentage based upon their performance at the tournament in question, with the idea that the ideal balance is something at "50%" or so. Okay, so some basic statistical problems here to go over:

1. These are small data sets. Even several tournaments are fairly small datasets. Now, granted, I don't know what other data they could collect, but a couple hundred games in one region among a subset of, what, 200 players? Hmmmm....

2. There is simply no way to account for the experience or knowledge of the players in question. Now, granted, there is an extent to which this doesn't matter (see my first argument about the game being mostly brainless), but to aim for a 50% win ratio for all factions seems to suggest that player skill or experience does not matter at all, since, statistically speaking, every game is a coin flip. In other words, GW is deliberately designing the game so that the outcome is functionally random in any given game. This is bad. A good player should beat a bad one pretty much all the time, and of course the good player will play a faction that works in accordance with the rules such that it will be functionally very difficult to beat, so every tournament should (and does) see statistical swings. This is normal and good. What should happen in a healthy game is that those statistical outliers should be able to be brought into line with the existing ruleset though adaptive play and clever plans.

That is not how 40k works. It never quite worked that way, per se, but it was less like that back then, which leads me to my last point here:

3. The outcome of games is presumed to be static barring intervention by the "balance dataslate" which is, at its heart, a dishonest way of shunting fans from buying one kind of army into buying another one. If you have a low tier faction, the odds of you winning the game are much, much, much less than with a high tier faction, by design, and this just didn't used to be the case. Yeah, there were stinker factions from time to time, but there were bigger swings. I remember a Dark Eldar player being at Table 1 in round 5 of the Baltimore Grand Tournament one year--this was *5th Edition* Dark Eldar, which were not very good at all--and we were all impressed at how well the guy played. I won a tournament at PAX East some years ago with Imperial Fists (who have sucked since time immemorial), taking a quirky, bizarre list that had no business beating Abbadon and his bullamphetamine parrot. Statistical outliers, sure, but back then Games Workshop didn't give a amphetamine parrot about tournament players (as well they shouldn't) and focused, instead, on whether the game was fun for the casual player.

I don't know what a "casual player" of 40k even is, anymore. I can't reasonably see how such a person might exist. I guess if they just ignore all the rules GW keeps changing (I suppose how would they be expected to know they are changing, anyway?) and just sort of plays the game. But that kind of play isn't supported anymore. It's not the focus. That is what I miss. But somewhere along the line GW figured out that if they catered (and manipulated) tournament players, they could make money forever, since they couldn't get the volume of casual players to buy in to a game getting progressively more expensive and more complex.

You can disagree with me all you want, but this game is in a very unhealthy place. I've defended it for ages--decades even--but I can't really do it anymore. Unless you are already in, there's very little reason to start. The older editions were absolutely more playable (NOT YOU 7th). They were more fun, too, so long as you weren't playing some WAAC jerk. Now? Now every game I play is a blowout win or a blowout loss, and honestly I haven't lost a game of 40k in years and years.

I plan on trying more 10th edition, but it's not looking good. I barely know of any players, let alone know ones who want to play. I'm very bummed out about it, too - hell, I'd love to be proven wrong. I'm just not seeing it. GW has weaponized the worst aspects of their business model to make a game that is uncomfortable to collect and boring to play.   

Radec

Regarding points balance, well yes, for me it is without doubt much that GW (or some other outside player groups that send their recommendations to GW) has taken upon itself to follow the meta and revise the point values in an effort to bring equality on the table. I think that sometimes they're doing a superb job (9th edition GSC was an exemplary codex at release both in internal and external balance), but more often than not codexes are either VERY obviously gimped at release or totally overpowered. That hasn't changed through all the years we've played and the regular balance slates do nothing for the fact that this practice still endures for some reason...

Whatever, I'm not concerned that much about how fair the game is as much as how the game actually plays. It constantly fluctuates, not finding the balance between playability and rules complexity, flavor and clarity of rules. Currently, IMO, the game is at an all -time low since the end of 7th because it checks all the wrong ticks on deadliness, unit speed and board control, terrain rules and faction rules. Terrain is part of the core rules, but the others stem from the army books. Most codexes (to my knowledge) have some kind of movement all over the board (while the game table was shrunk to accommodate for smaller, standardized tables and to shorten play time), access to re-rolls and the ability to boost the deadliness of a unit beyound the reasonable levels along with their faction rules themselves now being rolled in some bland statistic like better save, more damage or more hits. All this makes for a game that feels vastly different to me than its previous incarnations and not for the better IMO.

For me, games in 10th are already boring and bland to a certain extent. Unfortunately the honey moon phase was shorter than I expected. I feel that none of my games in 10th deserved a battle report. I am doing one for Sigmar now and am as excited for the game as ever, while 40k's theme park train continues to go up and down and right now I'm feeling somewhat tired of the ride.

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