31 January 2010

Borka MKII Game Experience

This post was copied from Sevall at the PP forums HERE, his reference to posting should be done on the PP forums.

Post your thoughts based from in game experiences here. Lets make a nice repository of informed comments. There is a place for theorymachine, but with all the emotions we should really have a place dedicated to actual gaming knowledge.

Played two games with the following 50 point list.

10 Fennblades
10 Bushwhackers
5 Champs
6 Kriels + UA

30 January 2010

Mark Two: Squee Post

So, the Mark Two revised post-field test rules things are out, and that means it's time for someone who hasn't played Trollbloods since before Metamorphosis to give his ill-formed opinions on the whole shebang. I'm not just going to talk about the changes between the end of the Field Test and now, because I wasn't really paying enough attention TO the Field Test owing to having a) no Hordes models during it and b) only one guaranteed opponent, who I'm still training.

Madrak - Snap Fire excellent. Feat wording is all arse-about-face and busyfied - Overtake could be an Advantage and text eliminated for more better clarity. Scroll still not as stupid good as I remember it being. Battering Ram looks like it could be fun (lots of effects like that, with pushes and places and moves you abouts, which I like even if it's not very good. It's just funny.).
eMadrak - Snap Fire excellent. Feat still a curious beast that I see much potential in, but also many ways to mess up. Killing Ground is very nice. I like the look of him but he's definitely more complex than the original.
Hoarluk - Banishing Ward change excellent, exactly what I was hoping for. Stranglehold looks interesting but necessitates playing him closer to the front than I'd like. Nothing I'm madly excited about but I'd play him.eHoarluk - Whoa there feat turn. Interesting arc-node-esque mechanic in Primal Shock and interesting capacity to withdraw himself from danger with Refuge (shame it's not on the other one, but I suppose that's the point). I like that his melee potential has been concentrated on the Epic version, makes more sense that way. Wild Aggression woo yay. Cunning little beast.
Grissel - Who needs a hand cannon? Critical Smite looks like fun (again, it doesn't have to be good, but look at the model - it fits!). Damn it, I tore up my Rift marker. Still my preference in warlock, I think, with both Madraks and Grim both making a very strong case.
Grim - Feat turn whoa. Return Fire on an Impaler looks like fun. Wish he worked better with Minions, would love to do a list with him and a bunch of Farrow and Gatormens based on his mercenary days. Do ze goggles do enough? I'll have to check the Legion rules.
Borka - Better, but I've always been indifferent towards Borka. Wind Wall and Iron Flesh give him an interesting dynamic, and I like that the Keg Bearer serves some worthwhile purpose again (though Top Off needs proofreading, it's rambly and there are bits missing, much like this post).
Calandra - Still good, don't care, never liked her. Sorry folks. She and Borka are the kind of Trolllblood model I can't bring myself to own.
Pyre - fun, no longer competing with the Mauler for animus effect, nice cheap AOE, like it a lot.
Slag - Word of God proof that Fire > Corrosion, would like +2 to damage rolls on all Cryx attacks with Corrosion to maintain parity. (I'M JOKING.) Seriously, this troll hates Cryx. That's fine, I hate it too. Fugly model. Needs resculpt before purchase. Potentially useful for 'jack battering though.
Axer - targeting limitation on Rush makes me sad. Rush still clearer than it used to be though (I played it wrong from Primal's release up until, ooh, late 2007?). Still solid. Wouldn't want two now.
Bouncer - WANT. Shield Guard nice. Bump nice. Chain weapon situational but nice.
Impaler - targeting freedom on Far Strike makes me happy. Still good. Take two all the time? Maybe not.
Winter - nice touch on the animus. Not sure I'd need it with all the Bumps and Smites and stuff about but it could be useful, 'specially since I fight Khador a lot (Immunity = good). Still like the non-elementals more.
Blitzer - GUNFIGHTER! Whee! Repulsion another one of those effects I really like, and is now actually effective. Virtuoso potentially hilarious. Someone remind me, do you forfeit all your initial attacks to make a power attack? You do, don't you? Pity. Throw + Strafe = good times. Curse you, balance.
Mauler - like Seether on steroids. Not as exciting, to me, as the Blitzer; much much better model though, and as good a utility beast as always.
Earthborn - tough as old boots but Elemental Communion a bit situational for my tastes. Would rather have either of the other Dires.
Mulg - expensive and slow. Would rather have lights. Colour me indifferent.
Kriel Warriors - not totally awful, but almost totally outclassed by Fennblades. CMA not as good as Reach in faction that throws +2 to melee attack rolls around like it's going out of fashion. Caber still nice but needs Fortune to qualify for 'awesome'. UA is counterintuitive, extending formation space for a unit that likes to clump (CMA, Take Up). Could help with engaging multiple targets, I suppose, but could Fennblades do the same thing better, and do I have the patience to work out that many formation issues? Steady not bad, admittedly, but not worth it on this unit and certainly not when Fell Callers are about.
Krielstone Bearer - still not an anchor. This alone makes me interested in Trollbloods again. Glad to see it's maintained its competitive costing niche, stops Elder being a must-take, but would love Elder in ranged lists.
Thumper - there, are the Khador players happy now? Still hitting reliably, still good, still competitively costed.
Champions - still not a must-take, but appealing with increased utility (three semi-solos? would work well with Borka, knocking down on the first hit and finishing off on the second), capacity to spread out and flexible sizes. Like them now, rather than feeling bound to them.
Fennblades - good, they're more expensive than Kriels. They are still better than Kriels - more aggressive and Vengeance + Reach = Good. Reach makes me happy about working more mileage out of Madrak and Grissel's extra attacks.
Long Riders - Three seem good, five seem too many. Might need Fortune to work those criticals and ensure knockdowns, otherwise need Horthol to really shine (Bull Rush risks slamming things too far to capitalise effectively), but I play Cryx, I'm used to cavalry coming with a patch solo to work with more than one 'caster. What would I do with them, without him? Not sure.
Runeshapers - why must they be stupid comedy hand models? I like them but I cannot purchase, for lo! they look shoddy. Tremor on the charge, followed up with a buffed hit from the axe? One Tremors, others bludgeon target? I like these guys. Curse their stupid hands.
Scattergunners - nice figures but colour me distinctly underwhelmed about their rules. Not bad, but in same bracket as Fennblades so outshone horribly. Needs more UA with Granted: Something Interesting.
Burrowers - BLARG. I understand that they can't have the Helldiver's invulnra-Burrow, but they're too fussy in their implementation for me to bother with. Trolls is for not complicated time.
Bushwhackers - proof that sometimes you can do something interesting without unit-specific rules, much as Scattergunners are proof that sometimes you can't. Fun and flexible ranged option. Would like.
Fell Caller Hero - well, that's one way of making the Champion Hero feel less inadequate. Opening up Hero as a designated type? Very good, potentially a bit too good for that all-important 3 point bracket?
Chronicler - henceforth to be known as the Fennblade UA. VERY good. Now works the way I thought he did all along.
Champion Hero - still not convinced he does as much good as the Fell Caller, might still be the dud of the bracket, but he's not bad. Did you buy ten Champions in Mark One? Rejoice, then, for an interesting list is still accessible to you.
Whelps - do more to enable alternative playstyles than anything but the changes to the Krielstone Bearer. Practically a must-take - it remains only to choose how many.
Horthol - if fielding Long Riders and not Hoarluk, must-take: makes Critical Knockdown and Bull Rush worth bothering with. Interesting denial capacity with Stagger and Line Breaker, but ultimately you take him for the Long Riders. He and Darragh should form a support solo support group.

Conclusion - Overall, happy. Long Riders still represent significant investment, especially given must-field patch solo. Disappointed in Scattergunners and Burrowers. Praying for Blitzer and Runeshaper resculpts - they are good but their models represent Trends I Do Not Like and cannot bring myself to encourage with purchases. Skorne will have much work to do to persuade me that getting into them's a better call; Trollbloods excite me and make me clap my hands and bounce like a schoolgirl in a way that Skorne simply haven't, to date.

22 January 2010

MKII Homebrew League Standouts.

It's midseason here in Phoenix Games Homebrew League and we have some good looking standouts at the moment.

Brian Cygnar started slow with a painful loss but has picked up the pace.  Last week in the brawl after barely escaping with his life Caine finally scared Grim away.  When he was done with that the other five in the brawl had reduced themselves to just Mortenebra with whom Caine had no problems dealing with.   This week Brian pulls out another victory and scores a bond with the Lancer, who needs Thorn when you have a cheaper Thorn... I mean Lancer.

Cryx Mike has also been doing well but is getting outshone just a little by Khador Dustin.  Mike cleared the board in his brawl only to be mercilessly put down by Dustin at the end of the game.  Dustin's Khador on the other hand taking a big win last week in the brawl almost got taken to school by Blah and his Trolls, only to pull a victory from the clutches of defeat by killing Doomshaper.

McCryx started big in his first game grabbing the special objective and winning handily only to go down in flames in the brawl the next week dieing after only taking a single turn.  He paid Mike back for that last night with a sidestep and a pirouette by the Deathstalker to wreck Mike's night.

Menoth Jon has, as always had solid performances.  Those stinking flamers just wont die.  I coun't him as the sleeper in this League as he has consistently been near the top.  That and his second unit of Bastions are hitting the table.

KhadorAdam was a late comer in the League and has had a slow start.  He is looking to boost his wins and his ego by teaming up with McCryx in next weeks Teams Game.

The rest of us will have to beat some face next week in the teams game and claw our way back ahead of our leaders.

Bouncer takes one over Mortenebra.

With the MKII rules almost becoming final, I remain a bit underwhemled by most the Trollblood lights.  PS13 just seems a little wimpy.  But I digress, played a 35 point game last night against Mortenebra and who was the shining game winner... The Bouncer.  At Dice minus 5 for Damage and needing to roll 11s to hit the old boy came through with a couple of face smashing blows to her face winning the game for me.  I have to say this about him.  Its the first time he has EVER killed anything for me ever!  Granted I have only brought him a handful of times, but most often he gets in the way and softens stuff up before he dies horribly.


15 January 2010

Christmas Figurine Exchange

In my local LGS we did a Christmas figurine exchange.  We paired up guys based on what they had and wanted and they all painted a figure for each other $15.00 or less.  Here are most of what appeared a few days before when we had our Christmas Brawl.

03 January 2010

Point Of Order

This post is more a request for discussion/clarification than a proper Thought.

When he was introducing me, our gracious host thegreatblah said:

"I have always thought Cryx to be the army that is most like Trolls, though many will say it is Menoth or Khador."

I'd be interested in knowing more about the thought process behind this idea. I can certainly see parallels - both factions have a definite close-range tilt and are somewhat light on the conventional ranged attacks, although I'd argue that Trollbloods have access to more 'standards' (that's 'standard' in the sense that 'House of the Rising Sun' is a 'standard' song, appearing in the repertoire of many performers) in this field than Cryx, or at least more pieces which are taken because they have a ranged attack. Both factions punish you for engaging them - Trollbloods by hitting you back, harder, and Cryx by getting back up or walking through whatever just engaged them to get at the squashy bits behind.

I'd still be interested to know where else this came from, though.

Sevwall's Theory of Design

This post can also be found HERE at the Privateer Press Forums.

I’ve been expounding a bit recently on the difference between thinking like a player and thinking like a designer. I thought I’d just do one big post where I explain my thoughts, hopefully to encourage some of the same thoughts in you, or at the very least a bit on introspection on how you playtest and feedback during this fieldtest. If you don’t think I am qualified to give my thoughts (I am not a game designer, nor have been trained in anything beyond conventional graphic design.) please feel to ignore this post or feel free to read and refute my points.

This largely relates to posts where people complain about abilities and models that are not overpowered from a power perspective, but instead function strangely, counter intuitively, or with unpredicatable power levels.

Definition of terms
So that we are all on the same page, here is how I define some commonly used terms.
Design Space – The ability to add new models to the game without greatly expanding the number of rules that a player must known in order to play the game at a functional level. New rules open up design space at the cost of increased complexity. It is assumed that there is an upper level of complexity that a player base will accept before it starts hurting the game.
Overpowered – A model that is more powerful than a significant majority of similar models.
Unfun – A model that reduces either players desire to play the game.
Broken – A model that is either significantly overpowered or unfun.
Please note, neither term includes the term ‘unbeatable’. Nothing is truly unbeatable, so it is a bad way to define or desribe the above terms.

Greater Tenents of Design

0. Fun is a factor
This is the zeroth rule, the underlying rule above and beyond all else. The game must be fun, or it is a failure, or a job. Abilities that reduce fun must be balanced in some way, or removed entirely. This balancing factor allows for underpowered models and abilities to be balanced by the fact that they are a great deal of fun. This is a concept that does not apply as much to high levels of the game, but must be present to make a game broadly successful.

1. Adjust models to an even level

Models must be balanced against the majority of other models in the game. That is to say, if MAT 6 is average across all melee models, then MAT 7 is good, and needs some sort of penalty when compared to the average model (increased cost, lack of ranged ability, lack of defense, lack of power etc.). If there is no apparent penalty, then the model is better than average, and can lead to power issues. This ‘baseline level’ can be used to help determine if a model possesses too many advantages for its cost or its disadvantages.

2. Balance new models to existing fair models
This is the most important thing that there is. In every game system there are some mistakes, some overpowered models that are clearly identified as such. Currently, many people think Kreoss1 is an example of such. These models cannot be used to gauge the power level of new models. The goal of design should be to limit these overpowered models, so that in time they may be errata’d to a level more in tune with the rest of the models of that type. If you own an original copy of Prime, or played during that time, you will remember Sorcha, and her dominating ability to windrush multiple times and use her feat without LOS. If we were to have designed the game around that power level, the game would quickly devolve into second turn kills where the main way to win a game was to go first. Instead, the designers tried to balance the game around the average caster, and errata’d Sorcha when the opportunity arose.

3. Limited use cannot be a large balancing factor
A model that is useless 80% of the time and overpowered 20% of the time is broken from a design perspective. Some abilities are only useful in particular instances. Vendetta, for instance, triggers only vs Blighted Models. Banefire works only against undead. Disruption works only vs Warjacks, Equilibrium only vs Hordes. The fact that these abilities are not useful at all times, or even in all games does not allow them to be much more powerful than universally useful abilities. When those abilities finally become useful, as in the case of distruption, they must be balanced, or the game quickly becomes unfun. A good example that no longer exists was Precursor Knights in their old form. They were extremely effective vs Cryx, with no real balancing factor vs other factions. Vs other factions, they are fine, vs Cryx they are a bit much. Thus, they are a bit much from a design perspective. A good example of this in the current environment is immunities to non-friendly elements. Cygnar’s widespread immunity to lightning is okay, because it allows the army to ignore some forms of friendly fire. The assault commandoes immunity to fire and corrosion is a balance issue because it is either useless or very good depending on the opponent. Thus, it is very good, and must be balanced by other weaknesses. Another example of this is Drago. Drago’s bond with either Vlad is powerful enough that he must be costed to Vlad, or else be undercosted when used with Vlad. This means that used with any caster other than Vlad, Drago is overcosted for what he provides on the table. This is the only correct way to design with limited use abilities, and its and example of just how undersirable they can be to a player base and the ability to sell and use models.

4. Unpredictability cannot be a large balancing factor
This relates largely to the above tenant, but instead relies upon unpredictable events like rolling a 1 on a D6, or a 4 or less on 2D6. An overblown example is a gun with the critical effect ‘remove target model from play’. This ability is simply too good to be balanced merely by the fact that it is a critical effect. I would go so far as to say that even a very high points cost would not balance a model with this gun, because it can potentially end the game every turn it is brought to bear. A true to the game example is the Mage Hunter Assassin. Decapitate and Weaponsmaster combine to form a melee attack that can remove almost any model from the game when rolled well. Most melee weapons in the game cannot do this. Combined with the low points cost and the difficulty in stopping the attack, this ability to kill almost anything is not adequately balanced, even by its own rarity. This applies to weaknesses as well. The Berzerker is a good example of an unpredictable downside that, even though relatively rare, reduces the models effectiveness tremendously. Flip that, and it becomes clear that rare beneficial effects also tremendously add to a models value.

Rule 3 and 4 Addendum
Rule 3 means that limited use abilities are generally undersireable unless relatively weak. They may, however, be elegantly used when paired. A model that gains weaponsmaster vs constructs and undead, and +2 to attack rolls against living models, has abilities usefull against all models in the game. This is far easier to balance, and is much less of an issue than a model that only possessed one of the above rules. This is one of the main reasons that models with Grevious Wounds have been gaining Arcane Assassin, so that they have an equal power level against all opponents.

5. Rules must function logically
Rules must be primarily utilized in logical ways. Offensive spells or attack abilities must be best utilized against enemies. Buffing effects must be best utilized on friendlies. When the best use for an offensive ability is against your own models, something ha failed somewhere in the design. An example of this is Equilibirum. It is almost never used against enemy targets, counter to its designation as an offensive spell. As such, its use is not intuitive, and it could be changed so that it either functions correctly as an offensive spell, or is instead changed to a friendly spell allowing for its current function. You can see that privateer has partially embraced this logic, from the changes to how sould tokens work, to removal of some abilities like Are You Going to Eat That that functioned best when sacrificing your own models.

6. Rules should not be unpredictable
Rules that state that a model gains an unknown rule cannot be adequately costed for power level. This includes abilities like Mirror Magic or Replication that grant unknown spells to certain casters. The spells they gain access to have not been playtested for the factions or casters that they will be used with, so the power level cannot be judged. This can lead to unknown and potentially broken situations. These particular abilities tend to function like denial abilities against good players, and as such would function in a measurable manner if they were replaced with denial abilities.

Lesser Tenents of Design

Rules must have understandable and widely applicable names
The sword must not have the rule ‘heavy mace’, as it is confusing and unintuitive. This is mostly used to name specific rules. An example in the current game is Decapitation. The mere name of the effect implies that it can only be used on bladed weapons, or by a model capable of finesse. However, the rule itself could be widely applied, since it only provides a way for low POW models to threaten high ARM ones on high rolls. If the rule were called ‘Internal Injuries’ it could easily be applied to most models or weapons, unlike the current ‘Decapitation’. Another example is ‘Eye of Menoth’. This clearly only makes sense on a Menite model, while the effect itself could be applicable to any number of casters who would support an army magically. This means that either no other model can grant the same effect, or the effect must be named twice. Naming the same rule twice is undersirable, as it increases the terms one must memorize to play the game.

Rules should be broken down to their component parts
A rule must not encompass other rules. A rule other than Parry should not grant immunity to freestrikes. An example of this is Perfect Balance, which grants immunity to Combined attacks, backstrikes and free strikes. Memorizing that Perfect balance grants these things adds rules bloat to the game, where multiple rules do bits of the same things. Instead, a model that is immune to combined attacks, backstrikes and free strikes should have the rules Perfect Balance, Aware and Parry, with Perfect Balance granting immunity to combined attacks, Aware granting immunity to backstrikes and Parry granting immunity to free strikes. This increases the number of rules on the card, but increases the ease at which each rule is memorized and recognized. This also increases design space by allowing a model to be immune to just Combined attacks without also being immunie to freestrikes and backstrikes, or by creating yet another rule dealing with combined attacks.
An example of this was Critical death roll on Snapjaw. It granted KD and an additional die of damage on a critical hit. If instead he possessed Critical KD and Critical Brutal Damage, far less people would need to ask ‘what does that model do again?’

Everything that can be easily categorized should be categorized
Design space is a difficult concept, but it boils down to keeping your options open. It is best described by example. Trenchers were a unit. Finn gives leadership to trenchers. Thus, any unit that may be released in the future must either not be comprised of trenchers, or must be affected by Finn. This can be stopped by originally releasing trenchers as ‘Trencher Mudstompers’, and having Finn affect ‘Trencher Mudstompers’ with his leadership ability. Then, future trencher units can be released free of pre-existing interactions. If Finn’s leadership is determined to be desireable on the new unit, you release a small errata in the same release that contains the new unit, changing the rule to effect the new unit.

This, in practice, also means that anything that is Blighted is referred to as Blighted, or Ogrun as Ogrun, or any number of other terms that are deemed useful in the game. This, of course, must be kept under control. ‘Legion Blighted Ogrun Warspear Unit’ is more desireable that ‘Legion Unit’, but is also more desirable than ‘Legion Blighted Heavy Ogrun Warspear Warrrior Ranger Unit’. The number of terms used for each entry should be comprehensive but limited to a reasonable number of terms. This allows for more opportunities to interact with the models in the future without annoying errata or unitended consequences.


If you've made it this far, I hope you now have some appreciation for how a small segment of the population is approaching this fieldtest. Not everyone is purely concerned with the power level of a model, and instead may be concerned with the design of a model. When debating models, try to look at it from the perspective of a designer, to see if what you are debating is a design question rather than a power question.

02 January 2010

Troll Stories, by Von

No, I'm not talking about the Stone Scribe Chronicler. Not yet, anyway.

I still don't have my new Trollblood army sorted out (still waiting for December's pay, and waiting to see how much of that I get to keep - it might be closer to Easter before I can actually afford the army), but while we're waiting for all that nonsense, I'd like to talk for a bit about one of my favourite things about Trollbloods.

It's the IKRPG.

See, I have mixed feelings about much of the IKRPG content. Most of it is superbly well developed, in particular the four actual Iron Kingdoms and the Protectorate, and the religions. Some of it - the Iosans and the Rhulfolk in particular - lies closer to conventional fantasy territory, a redressing of archetypes rather than a reinvention of them in the strictest sense of the word.

The trollkin, however, are something genuinely clever. They occupy that slightly awkward nice of the half-orc; the noble savage who's never going to entirely fit, but they extend it so much beyond the rather limiting "somehow a human and an orc made a baby and that baby grew up big and green/small and pink and awkwardly caught between societies" of the stock species.

They're not developed as extensively as the humans are, but they're done in the same style. They have regional variations (between the Gnarls, Scarleforth, Thornwood, Wyrmwall, Bloodstone and Scharde kriels) like the humans' national-border-crossing ethnicities; they have religious tensions, between the angry, vengeful, red-in-tooth-and-claw aspect of the Ravaged Mother and the gentler earth-mother perspective on Dhunia; they have a distinctive architecture; a marvellous balance between integration with wild trolls and reluctant participation in industrial society, with urban trollkin and Boomhowler and co. and now Bull and the Cryxian Bloodgorgers all part of an advancing world not quite their own; and, my favourite part (I think) they have some customs like the Glimpse of the Mind and the fell callers and the various quitari and the trollshen that indicate a deep culture that's quite alien compared to much of the Iron Kingdoms. And they have that marvellous language, even if it does look a bit like cod-Klingon.

They're one of the most developed non-human species in the Iron Kingdoms, and one of the most interesting from an archetypal standpoint. That's what convinced me to give them a whirl when my gaming group of yore picked up Hordes and chose a faction apiece, and when we were designing our characters for an IKRPG game (I'm still sad that I never got to play my Fell Caller): that, and I thought the Blitzer looked comical.