Tuesday, April 30, 2013

League of Legends: ARAM Queue!

Today saw the release of a fairly big content patch for League of Legends. There's a new champion, two remade champions, and a bunch of lore around those champions. There's also a revamped 5v5 map, with only one lane. All 10 players are given a completely random champion and have nowhere else to go except that one lane. So it's one giant cluster of people spamming spells and such back and forth. There are also rules preventing you from healing back at base or from buying new items unless you die. So it's just a lot of back and forth death until someone wins.

Players had been organizing such games for a while, but the problem initially was you had to trust everyone to pick a random champion. And you had to trust they wouldn't go heal, or buy. Riot made a map that removed a lot of that required trust by forcing random picks and restricting purchases and whatnot. But then the problem became that there was no penalty for leaving the game before it started. You could see all 10 of the random champions, so if you didn't like your champion, or your team, or the enemy team you could just leave. And join another game in a matter of seconds. With no way for anyone to blacklist you for doing such a thing! So the same people could cycle through games causing them to not really start over and over again. It was rather frustrating. Especially if you were the sort of person who just took whatever random champion you got since you were apt to lose. (Any time you had a big advantage the game wouldn't start, but any time you were at a disadvantage the game might start since you weren't quitting.)

The big innovation in this patch is to build a queue for the map. So there's the same penalty for quitting during champion selection as there would be for a regular game. Quit and you can't join another game for 5 minutes. Do it again and you can't join another game for 30 minutes. On top of that they've hidden the champions that the other team randomly generated so there's no way you can tell if your team is 'good' or not. The icing on the cake is they give you a limited number of 'reroll' abilities which let you trade in your random champion for a new random champion. It felt like I'd probably be earning a new reroll every 4 or 5 games, which feels like a good spot. You can't reroll all the time, but if you really don't want to play Karma you don't have to.

ARAM isn't a great game variant by any stretch, but it is a fun, quick diversion. And I'm glad they've put a little more support into it to get rid of the annoying people aspects that used to exist. Boo people! Yay systems!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Battlestar Galactica: 2-Player Variant?

Snuggles commented on my revealed cylon post by saying he thinks the chaos spread by an unrevealed cylon is actually the biggest thing and he's strongly opposed to having both cylons reveal early. He posited the thought experiment of considering a game where the cylons start out revealed, and he asserted the humans would win almost every time. I feel the opposite, and that the cylons would win every time. I spent some time in the tub last night thinking about how to test this out. The easiest way would be to get 5 people to agree to a test game, but I've rarely found 5 people around to play an actual game of Battlestar Galactica. I don't know that I would even want to convert one of those games into a test game, and I doubt I could convince 4 other people to do it either.

On the other hand, if the cylons start revealed there's not really any need to have 5 people at all. It's a lot like Scotland Yard at that point... Ostensibly a 6 player game, but actually a 2 player game. BSG has a little bit of extra stuff going on (the humans get an advantage by knowing precisely what cards will be thrown in instead of having to use the 'little' or 'lot' of help explanations) but once you remove the randomness from who is on which team you get a pretty reasonable two player game. One with some wonky book keeping (needing to keep 3 separate hands and turn order), but probably still reasonable.

What sort of rules modification would you need? I'd think the following would be a good start...

  • Draft characters in order, human-cylon-human-cylon-human. Then randomly choose two of those five players to become cylons. This keeps the humans from overloading with strictly awesome for the human characters. I'd prevent the cylon from picking two supports, which means the humans are guaranteed to get to pick a second pilot with their last choice. My main reason for setting it up this way is to keep the human team from always being Helo-Starbuck-Apollo-Kat-Roslin, or whatever the optimal split is. This way the human has to decide if they want to deny the Boomer (by first picking a pilot) or lock in the Helo (the cylon will likely pick a military leader second pick if the human starts with a pilot, probably Gaeta). 
  • Turn order would be in the order drafted. So some games you'd get the cylons acting in sequence. Other games you'd get them split up.
  • I'd put some sort of 'announced punting' rule in. The first time a human player could add cards to a skill check the human has to tell the cylon if they're going to throw any cards in with future players. This is to try to bring back some of the 'secret hand' stuff from the main game. Though with the cylons drawing 2 cards per round and a max of 3 skill checks they may well have a card to throw in every time anyway.
  • Start the cylons on the resurrection ship with a super crisis each. I'd also start players 2-5 with 3 cards from their initial skill-set. If the first player is a cylon they only get 1 card at the start of that turn, which hurts, but they get to go first, which is pretty sweet. Launching a super crisis while the humans have drawn a total of 9 cards as a team could be pretty hot.
Depending on who is right between Snuggles and I you may need other rules tweaks to make the game not be an auto-win one way or the other. Options to do that would be...

If the cylons need to be buffed:
  • Deal out two 'you are a cylon' cards at the start of the game and resolve them to get some initial damage in there.
  • Reduce some of the starting dials.
  • Go back to the old version of the cylon ship space which lets you play a crisis by removing the jump prep icon again.
If the humans need to be buffed:
  • Don't start the cylons with super crisis cards.
  • Let the humans draft 3 characters of their choice and just randomize turn order/cylon seating.
  • Let the human player have one hand containing a max of 30 cards. (This has the advantage of reducing bookkeeping issues, but is a really serious buff.)
  • Add free resources to the starting dials.
  • Make it easier to shoot centurions?
  • Some sort of tweaks to allow repairing to be more reasonable? Though I think the answer to this problem is just to draft the Chief as a character.
Anyone see any flaws in this plan? Other suggestions for rules that need to be tweaked? Own a copy of the game and want to play?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Don't Starve!

A week ago Sthenno posted about a game he'd been playing in beta that was due to be released shortly. The game is called Don't Starve, and he made it sound like the game actually made good use of a beta period so would be launching in a relatively finished state. When Steam advertised the game as being on sale for only $13.49 I took the plunge. Despite having tons of games to play and (soon to be) no income. I'm not a very smart guy is what I'm saying.

Don't Starve was totally worth it, though. I've put in a few hours playing in the last couple days and it's been really fun. It's a game of exploration and death, so it's the sort of game I can't say much about without feeling like I'm ruining it for other people. And when it comes right down to it I don't even know what I'm supposed to do. Other than keep my character from starving. I'm proud to say that I haven't starved. I've died many times, mostly to bees, but I haven't starved.

The game actually reminds me a lot of the game Alchemy. In that game you started off with access to the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire) and combined them together through trial and error to make all sorts of things. Planning out different paths to test different combinations was the whole point of the game, and it was a ton of fun to just experiment with things. Eventually I remember giving up and looking up on the internet how to make a robot or an alien or something. It got me over a hump in the tech tree that I couldn't figure out on my own but it pretty much killed the game for me. It was fun to try new things. Getting told the thing to try killed that fun.

So while Don't Starve has similar combinations of things that can make you slap your forehead, and I'm sure it would be great for progression to look that stuff up, I want to play in the dark. The trick to getting manure made me laugh it was so simple/silly/awesome, and it's worth figuring it out on your own I think. I got to feel really clever when I acquired my first rabbit, even though it's probably blatantly obvious what you need to do.

It's fun enough, and cheap enough, that I think people who like trial, error, and dying to bees should give it a shot. Just don't tell me how to do something awesome!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Final Fantasy VIII: Addicted To Cards

My characters just got launched into space by a giant rail gun. Rinoa has been in a coma for a while and there are some doctors up here who might be able to help. Squall has been getting progressively pissier and pissier about the whole situation, and he's been snapping at the doctors. He's yelling at people to hurry up and get to work. Logically, I should run out of the room and try to find the head doctor to come look at Rinoa. Instead I turn to the assistant guarding the room and challenge him to a game of cards! Actually, more like 7 games of cards. He might have a rare card I can win, so I need to give him plenty of time to use it!

Lino asked me the other day if I knew of any stand alone games similar to the card game in FFVIII. He's tired of having to deal with all the annoying RPG parts of his CCG. I really like the RPG parts too, but the CCG is really quite good. I didn't know of one for him (Tetra Master, which came packaged with FFXI, has apparently been closed down) but if one does exist I am interested in finding out about it.

So... Does anyone know of any good positional CCG style computer games? Preferably without a 'pay a ton of money' feature.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Battlestar Galactica: Revealed Cylon Changes

Andrew commented on Facebook that he thought Sara was a human because she didn't choose to reveal as a cylon. Now, I've long asserted that a cylon should reveal as soon as possible, and I feel like I've said that a lot to Andrew over the years, so maybe I've brainwashed him into that line of thought. If that was true, and if there wasn't a shelf, then I can see the logic path that leads to executing Byung. Byung did have a full hand of cards, and if he was a cylon then he probably could have done some damage that would be prevented by executing him. But is it true? What exactly changes when a cylon reveals, and are they actually better off revealing at the earliest opportunity?

  • An unrevealed cylon draws 5 cards at the start of their turn. A revealed cylon only draws 2. Skill cards are worth 2.2 on average, so a revealed cylon draws 6.6 points of skill power less each time around the table.
  • An unrevealed cylon can throw any number of cards into a skill check. A revealed cylon can only throw 1. This really means that a revealed cylon can't cause any given check to fail, but their existence does put extra pressure on the humans. Every skill check is potentially a little harder. An unrevealed cylon can pretty much guarantee any given skill check will fail, assuming they draw the right colour of cards.
  • An unrevealed cylon is restricted to certain card types. A revealed cylon can draw any colour card, including treachery. Unfortunately the treachery deck sucks, and is only worth 1.8 on average with a max of 3. The colour split only really matters if the unrevealed cylon has a very restricted colour set. Yellow and green tend to be positive, so it's harder to make a check fail if that's all you draw. Someone who draws lots of red and blue cards is in a great position to make skill checks fail.
  • An unrevealed cylon has access to their character abilities, which can include some truly powerful once per game abilities. If Cally reveals without executing a human first it's probably a huge mistake, for example. 
  • A revealed cylon gets access to the cylon board spaces. Generally speaking the cylon board spaces will inflict more damage than the human board spaces. Way more damage. Most human spaces can only help the humans along. Probably the best you can do is draw extra cards or play 'launch scout' cards.
  • An unrevealed cylon can hold a title. The admiral gets to choose the next destination and controls the nukes, both of which are very powerful abilities. The president can potentially draw cards to throw people in the brig. The CAG can't really hurt the humans, and they have to be pretty blatant to refuse to help the humans, but it's still something.
  • An unrevealed cylon who plays it straight seeds potential confusion and disruption amongst the humans. As soon as the cylons have revealed the rest of the humans gain complete trust with each other. This has to have some benefit, but it's really hard to quantify and depends on the paranoia level of the other players. It seems like staying unrevealed has the potential to put Andrew on tilt, for example!
  • An unrevealed cylon can be targeted by actions which hurt humans. They can be thrown in the brig, they can be sent to sick bay, and they can be executed. They can be forced to discard cards. If you've played it really straight you probably won't be abnormally hit by these, but if you've been at all shady you might well get hit. I've often said it's just fine to force the humans to waste a bunch of cards throwing you in the brig, but there are crisis cards with 'failure' conditions which force the humans to do bad things to one of their own. Having an unrevealed cylon as a target for these penalties is awesome for the humans. They don't need to pass the skill check, they get to hurt the cylons, and they don't get hurt themselves.
  • A cylon that reveals on their own accord (not executed or in the brig) gets to use a powerful special ability when they reveal, they get to draw a powerful super crisis card, and they get to keep 3 cards from their hand. A cylon that reveals from the brig still gets the super crisis card. A cylon that is executed has to discard their hand and gets nothing special. 
  • Cylons don't get a crisis card at the end of their turn. This both slows down the damage done to the humans and slows down their progress towards game end. The lack of jump prep (which is apparently on 67% of the base game cards) is the biggest reason I've always wanted to reveal early. But is the extra damage done from those crisis worth it? On the one hand they're going to need the same number of jump prep to end the game so they're going to hit the same amount of damaging crisis cards along the way. As such revealing has to be good, because you can throw non-crisis damage their way. On the other hand by spreading those crisis cards out over more rounds around the table the humans get to draw more cards to use passing them.
Unrevealed cylons actually have the advantage in almost all of these bullet points. Some of the advantages are pretty big, even. Holding the admiral title, using your once per game ability, and being able to make a skill check fail are all huge. On the other hand the advantages you gain for actually revealing are really powerful. The revealing ability tends to do at least as much damage as failing a crisis, and the super crisis cards are often worth the damage of a couple crisis cards as well. Slowing the game down by denying jump prep is actually good. I think staying unrevealed to sow discord sounds really good, but doesn't really work out. If you do minor damage while staying unrevealed you risk a crisis coming up which brigs/executes a human player and then you're in big trouble. Getting executed for free is brutal. Even getting thrown out the airlock is pretty bad. 

I feel like in a game with inexperienced players, where you can do minor damage and get away with it, or where you can really making someone else seem suspicious then it can be worth sticking around. If you can manage to stick around and cause multiple crisis skill checks to fail it'll be awesome for you. But I'd always be keeping my eye out for a way to do some blatant damage and reveal as soon as possible. 

I actually wonder how viable it would be to claim to be a cylon right after the sleeper phase. In a 'hey, other cylon, whoever you are, executive orders me so I can use my once per game and reveal' sort of way. The best would be if you did that, were human, and got someone to executive orders you. And then you threw them out the airlock! Mwahaha!

At any rate... Do I think Sara should have revealed as her very first action? No, I don't. She hadn't had any opportunity to do any damage at all on her way out. She was Baltar, so she didn't have any good abilities to use (I think the cylon detector was broken), so maybe not? But sticking around for one turn around the table in order to cause a skill check to fail seems pretty reasonable. She was also president, so she had the potential to dig for 'brig you' quorum cards and she could make bad choices on 'president chooses' cards. The biggest thing, I think, is none of the other players had even had a chance to make obvious pro-human actions. There was a ton of opportunity for chaos and discord still. Especially with Byung and Andrew at the table. It would be a little different if I wasn't already revealed as well. Getting the first cylon revealed to slow the humans down a little and start using cylon actions is very good, and it doesn't cost you the chaos potential. So I probably reveal in her spot as the first cylon, but not as the second one. But the first chance I had to hurt the humans, I'd be all over it. (She eventually revealed to make use of her cylon reveal action, costing Andrew 7 skill cards which was pretty great.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speedy Von Ogre!

One of the neat things about the FumBBL site is they track stats for every player that has played on any team in any of their divisions. I've mostly played a human team, and my big guy Ogre happened to get +MV on his first level and +AG on his second level. This seems pretty terrible, since it only makes him average on the human team in terms of movement and agility and he suffers from having loner and bonehead. But I thought it would be fun to try to score a bunch with an Ogre and see if I could top those leaderboards.

Turns out that really wasn't a very hard thing to do at all. It takes 10 touchdowns to get on the leaderboard and there hasn't been a single human Ogre to score 10 or more touchdowns. My Ogre is up to 8, so he's not there yet, but he's getting close. There are some other categories though, and Hulk X-90 is getting up there on all of them! Here's his position on the all-time blackbox leaderboards.

SPP - #6
Casualties - #13
MVPs - #16
Games Played - #23
Blocks Thrown - #13
Rushing Yards - #1

There are no Ogres on the top passing, scoring, fouling, intercepting, or passing yards lists. My Ogre does have 1 interception, but no fouls or passes at this point. I don't think he's ever going to try for a passing record. But I hope to live long enough to put up tons of touchdowns and rushing yards. Hulk X-90 will be immortalized forever! Assert!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Battlestar Galactica: Favoured Side

A few months ago back at the Niagara Boardgaming Weekend Sara asked me while in a teaching game of Battlestar Galactica which side was favoured to win. I was playing something else at the time so I gave a pretty basic response: cylons win more when people are first starting; humans win more when people know what they're doing. I didn't elaborate any more (I wasn't asked to do so, and I was busy) but the idea has been spinning around in my crazy little brain ever since. I played a game of BSG last week with Sara, Duncan, Andrew, and Byung which the cylons won, but I feel like Andrew made a bizarre human play that pretty much caused it to happen. He figured I'd post about it, and I don't want to let him down, so I'll try to weave the two together...

At any rate, BSG is a game where any individual player can be in one of three states, each with their own goals and decisions to be made. You can either be a human, a hidden cylon, or a revealed cylon. The play behind each of these states evolves as you get experience with the game, and I feel like these evolutions are what causes the favoured side in the game to change over time.

First off, human players are at their very core playing a resource management game. You have access to a lot of different resources and have to make decisions about which ones to lose at which points in time. The whole goal for the humans is to survive until the end of the game. The biggest resources humans have to contend with, and one most people don't really think about, is cards in hand. Frequently over the course of the game the humans are given options to trade cards in hand for other resources to prolong the game. I've found that rookie players often feel like they need to try to pass every skill check that comes up and will throw cards into lost causes. Alternatively, and just as bad, they'll throw way too much into a skill check. If you need to get your total up to 10 it's great to end up in the 10-12 range. It's fine to end up around 15, or around -5. It's terrible to end up at 7, or at 25. When you end up at 7 you've thrown a bunch of cards away and still lost your skill check. At 25 you've thrown even more cards away. Giving up, staying at -5, is actually fine. You're going to fail some of the skill checks in the game. You can still win. So there's a lot of play involved in figuring out when to pass a skill check and when to intentionally fail it. New players don't have this ability. They won't be able to predict whether a skill check will end up at 0, 7, 12, or 20 without their help. They aren't going to know which resources are critical to protect and which can be sacrificed for the common good. A game with a lot of new human players is therefore going to be more inefficient with their resources than a game with a lot of experienced human players, and efficiency is pretty much everything for the humans. You can use up most of everything and still win, you just can't go critical on any one thing.

Revealed cylon players tend to have a pretty easy job regardless of their game experience. There are very limited numbers of actions they can take, and a limit impact they can have on skill checks. For the most part they exist merely to slow the game down and bleed off human resources. You can certainly be a better revealed cylon if you know what you're doing, but the difference between a passable revealed cylon and an awesome one isn't very big. For the most part it's pretty hard to target down a specific human resource so the revealed cylon is just trying to do damage anywhere they can, and that's an easy thing to grasp. Especially when pretty much anything you do will cause some damage somewhere! Certainly some games get won or lost based on the revealed cylon being able to shift gears at the right time and focus on a critical weakness, don't get me wrong... But a mediocre revealed cylon isn't apt to make big mistakes. A mediocre human player can make huge mistakes.

Unrevealed cylons are tricky. You'd think having a lot of experience with the game would have a big impact on how much secret damage you can inflict as an unrevealed cylon but I haven't found that to be the case at all. The thing is that as the humans gain experience with the game they become better and better at noticing strange plays. It's the start of your turn and you're the CAG... If no one knows what they're doing it's easy for you to 'forget' to use the CAG special ability. Probably everyone else will forget too! And if they notice you can easily feign ignorance and then do the action. I can't pull that off with experienced players. If I'd tried to 'forget' to use my CAG ability the jig would have been up. I probably wouldn't have gotten executed for it, but the spotlight would be on and I'd never be able to get away with anything. In the game last week I actually gave the CAG title away so I wouldn't get caught using it poorly. (As Apollo I could also use Duncan's CAG activation to reveal out of turn!) But now that I've done that once, I don't know that I can do it again. Now, maybe I'm just bad at being an unrevealed cylon but I find my best play is just to do blatant damage and reveal ASAP. Flipping up more jump prep on crisis cards only helps the humans out, I feel. Regardless, I think that the humans gain more in cylon detecting with experience than an unrevealed cylon gains in stealthiness. At least in games I play I find the unrevealed cylons have to go to great lengths to take pro-human actions or I'll sniff them out.

Which reminds me of a game a long time ago at Andrew's place where a brand new player was an unrevealed cylon. She made brutal misplay after misplay which hurt the humans. Everyone else at the table was convinced she was just new to the game and making mistakes. I knew she was a cylon, but I was playing as the cylon leader who wanted the humans to lose so I saw no reason to rain on her parade. It was glorious, and the humans got obliterated. But if the humans had more experience with the game at the time, or if she had more experience and couldn't play the newbie card, it likely wouldn't have worked at all.

My feeling is the humans get a lot better at managing their limited resources and at uncovering unrevealed cylons as they gain experience. This in turn makes the job of an unrevealed cylon harder! (Especially if you take into account human players who will track card colours in people's hands and in the destiny deck.) A revealed cylon can get better, but not much better, and the unrevealed cylons actually feel worse to me in an experienced game than in a newbie game. All of these things combine to make it more likely the humans will win with experienced players, and I think they contribute enough to shift the balance of power from the cylons to the humans.

And yet, the cylons won the game last week. And not by a little bit... Sara and I were in a dominating position. Four damaged sections of Galactica, 3 boarded centurions, and all four resources in the red. I don't know if the humans would have won one way or the other, but Andrew made certain they couldn't win. The sleeper phase went off at the end of Byung's turn, giving everyone a new loyalty card. I was already a revealed cylon at this point, so I gave my extra card to Andrew who was the admiral at the time. Duncan was next, and used an Ionian Nebula character to throw Andrew in the brig, taking the admiral title. Duncan then put out a new Nebula character, into the brig, and could either make Andrew discard his hand or let him out of the brig. Duncan then took a fairly human action and ended his turn. Sara went next, drew two Quorom cards, and said go. No skill checks came up on either turn. Andrew was next, found that Duncan had let him out of the brig, and decided that meant Duncan was human. Sara hadn't revealed, so obviously she was human. Therefore Byung was a cylon. So Andrew threw him out the air lock. Andrew spent 5 cards to pull it off and managed to convince Duncan that this was a good idea so Duncan chipped in a card as well. Byung was not a cylon. This cost the humans a morale, and it cost them all the cards in Byung's hand, and it cost them the 6 cards they spent. I think Sara and I also threw in a card. All told it was something like a 14 card loss, and a resource lost, and Andrew didn't take a real action on his turn. Oh, and we were playing with the 'set aside' loyalty card, so Andrew gave me a 50-50 chance of getting a cylon friend if it happened to be the shelf that was the extra cylon.

Byung hadn't taken a single action. Not that he hadn't taken a pro-human action... He hadn't done anything at all! I was convinced Andrew had to be a cylon because he took that action, but no. It turned out Sara had just punted her first turn in the hopes of getting a good skill check to sabotage before revealing. I'd say it worked out pretty well!

I was the next player in line, and since Andrew had killed Byung instead of letting Duncan go defend the space areas I was able to take my turn to shoot down 3 civilian ships. Which in turn cost the humans enough population that Duncan couldn't pick a far away planet on their next jump as it would have cost too much pop to pull off. Which gave the cylons enough time to decimate all the human resources. The game goes very differently if Andrew doesn't throw away a ton of human resources for no reason. But even though I had an awesome start to the game (I was revealed with 2 base stars in play and their jump prep track was still at the start) it was by no means in the bag.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Missile Command Insanity

I just stumbled upon an interesting website that tracks video game high scores for all sorts of games. The company started back in the 80s as an arcade tracker and now have all sorts of crazy rules when it comes to submitting a new high score. Like you have to video tape the entire playthrough, including turning the console on. And if it's an arcade machine you need to film the mother board inside the machine in order to prove you're playing on the right settings. Oh, and you have to pay them a bunch of money to even look at your submission. But for a chance to put your stamp on history? Worth it!

At any rate, it turns out there was a high score set all the way back in 1982 for Missile Command. It took that guy 56 hours to set that record. FIFTY SIX HOURS! What?!? Playing an arcade game for more than 2 straight days seems absurd. And the record tracking website rejects plays that abuse glitches in a game, so it's not like Pac-man where you could just hide in a corner and go to sleep for 8 hours while the game runs. (Though looking at their Pac-Man leaderboard it seems the fastest perfect game is less than an hour, so I imagine using that little glitch isn't actually needed.)

A guy from Sweden made it his goal to beat the Missile Command record score. He streamed his game live on Twitch and you can actually go and watch all 56 hours and 15 minutes of it over two videos. I jumped around a bit to check out what was going on and it seemed like a lot of the time he was just staring at the screen without trying. It turns out while you have 6 cities to defend on every level the enemies will actually only kill 3. Once 3 cities and all 3 missile bases are destroyed the wave ends and you move on to the next level. So you can quickly move through levels by not defending and just letting yourself get blown up. This lets you trade in extra lives for mental sanity and also moves you closer to levels 255 and 256. Which is apparently important because they have absurd score multipliers. Wave 255 has an insane amount of incoming bullets to shoot for points. Wave 256 has no enemies at all so you just score up all your missiles and cities with a huge multiplier. And then because you get extra lives based on how many points you score you actually rack up a ton of extra lives just by clearing wave 256. The game then resets at wave 1. So if you possibly made it that far once you're pretty much set to go infinite since the first time around you had no extra lives as a buffer and now you have 80 plus whatever you'd earned up to that point. Around the 36 hour mark or so the guy actually mentioned he needed to lose a bunch of lives because he was about to collect a huge number of them and would end up rolling over his extra life counter.

So he didn't need to play perfectly for 56 straight hours, but he did have to pay enough attention to track his extra lives, millions, and current level. He set up a program to track it when he typed on a keyboard that auto-updated the stream with the info which was pretty sweet. Oh, and when I said it would be easy to go infinite after wave 256? For a robot, maybe. But humans start to degrade after staying awake that long. There was an article up on the tracking website that talks about how he'd started hallucinating. He was getting paranoid that someone was watching him from behind, and he started thinking the game was a multiplayer game and he only controlled one of the three missile bases. And yet through that he still played pretty darn well to keep going and going and going.

It reminds me a little of when Andrew wanted to try to break the world record for longest bridge game. It was something like 5 days? I would have gladly tried, but I feel like we would have actually gone crazy at some point. I just checked again and it looks like the longest card game was 170 hours which is a little more than a full week. But they cheated. They used 6 people are just tagged in and out. That seems like something that would be pretty "easy" to beat with a little commitment from people...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Civ V Unhappiness

I recently started playing Civ V again after not playing in an awfully long time. I quickly found myself with a very unhappy empire and didn't really have a good plan to get out of it. I feel like I probably didn't know how to deal with it well back when the game first came out and I have absolutely no idea now. So, I decided to look up what was going on...

First off, unhappiness. Every city you make gives you 3 unhappiness right off the hop. On top of that every citizen in any city is worth 1 unhappiness. So from a strict unhappiness standpoint having fewer cities is better. This is probably where I most went wrong, as I had 4 small cities that couldn't grow because I was unhappy. I could have fit those many people into just 1 or 2 cities and been happy. Conquered cities are worse for unhappiness. Apparently if you play on bigger maps the unhappiness per city number gets reduced, and the same if you play on easier difficulties. This game was on a randomly sized map, but if playing on a huge map makes my people happier I think my next game will be on the biggest map I can find!

Next, happiness. A big source of happiness, and one I got unlucky on, is luxury goods. Each different one is worth 4 happiness. Now, when you consider that a new city is worth 3 unhappiness and a luxury good is worth 4 happiness it seems like a reasonable idea to build a new city to pick up a new luxury good. I did this recently in my game, by building a desert city by some gold. The desert city isn't great, but my civ is a little happier as a result.

You can also get happiness by building happy buildings (colosseum, theatre, etc...) but it turns out you can't just stand a ton of them in little cities to get really happy. Each city can contribute only one happy face from these buildings per base unhappy face from population in that city. This makes me sad, but I guess it means as long as you can build some buildings in a reasonable time the first 12 or so people in the city are 'free'.

You get 9 happiness right off the hop for playing on a decent difficulty rating. You get more free happiness on easier settings.

Every natural wonder you find is worth 1 happiness. I stopped exploring in my game, so I only found 2 natural wonders. I bet there's a lot more out there that I could find if I bothered looking for them. Probably not going to happen this game, but it's definitely something I need to keep in mind in the future. Having a scout or two just wandering around makes sense.

There are a few wonders you can build worth happiness. I got beat to them in this game because I stalled out on science (turns out when your cities refuse to grow it becomes hard to get science).

There are a bunch of social policies which can give you happiness. There are some that make your other buildings give happiness (for defenses, or libraries, etc...) and apparently this happiness is above and beyond the happiness from the normal happy buildings, which means a small city filled to the brim with these can actually net you happy faces even after accounting for the extra 3 unhappiness per city.

The India civ has a unique ability which halves unhappiness from citizens while doubling unhappiness from cities. So every city is an extra 3 unhappiness tacked on, but each citizen in those cities saves you half an unhappiness. So once a new city hits size 6 it's break even, and every guy above 6 is golden. I think my next game might feature India...

I don't feel like I have a good handle on how to deal with happiness yet, but at least now I understand what I'm dealing with. My tech plan in this game was really random, and I think I didn't get to a point where I could even build a happiness building until it was far too late. I was stuck building a city wall for one happy face thanks to a mediocre social policy. Really I think I needed to not expand out to 4 cities until I got the tech to build colosseums. Live and learn!

Friday, April 19, 2013

FumBBL: High TV BlackBox Team Stats

Earlier this week I went over the stats for starting Blood Bowl teams in the BlackBox division on FumBBL. I wanted to look at stats as teams got higher in TV to see what sort of things would change. In particular I wanted to take a look at the TV band where our Cyanide league will likely see most of the games played: 1600-1900. New teams will start at just 1500, but if they set themselves up to have a bunch of guys near leveling I'd expect them to jump over 1600 in 1 or 2 games. Current teams cap out around 1850. So, while this range won't cover everything it should cover most while still being relatively narrow and the same width as the one in my last post.

Once again, I need to mention that these games are played in the auto-matchmaking environment on FumBBL and there is a propensity for people to try to optimize their TV or to try to kill people. I don't know that this is actually that different from our games, though. It's a scheduled league so we can't avoid killers, and we do have a couple people building some pretty scary dudes in our league. There aren't any full on claw+mighty blow+piling on guys yet that I know of, but some are getting pretty close.

Before looking at the numbers, what do I expect to see? Well, I bet Amazon, Norse, and the Dwarf teams fall off in winning percentage now that the other teams will have caught up with block/dodge/tackle of their own. I expect to see the casualty differentials become more extreme because the bashy teams will get better at bashing while the squishy teams can't really use levels to get less squishy. And with claw being taken even the tough teams will become squishy! I've been told teams like Chaos and Nurgle get much stronger as they level up, so I guess I expect them to start winning more often. I would guess the super finesse teams will end up winning most often. Skaven and Wood Elves on top, maybe? Lizardmen seem like they should be really good in this band, too.

TeamGames PlayedWinning PercentageCasualty Differential per 100 Games
Wood Elf250259%-240
Dark Elf265058%-160
High Elf80554%-202
Chaos Dwarf594852%79
Chaos Pact303748%14

Yikes! Wood Elves win a ton, but get murdered! All the finesse teams are, in fact, on the top of the winning chart. The top 6 teams are the 4 elven teams, Skaven, and Amazon. At the other end the terrible teams seem to have gotten even worse. Halflings really didn't play many games, and they didn't win very many of those! Halflings continue to have the worst casualty differential as well.

Just looking at the biggest movers between the two charts we have Halflings and Goblins which each lost more than 10% of the winning percentages. Vampires, Chaos, Nurgle, and the 4 elf teams were the biggest gainers. Orcs, Ogres, Norse, Undead, Amazon, and Dwarfs were the biggest non-stunty losers. Lizardmen actually lost a fair bit, which surprises me a little. I'd have thought getting skills on saurii would help, but I guess the enemies getting claw probably hurts them a lot.

Looking at casualties inflicted only 2 teams got worse at hurting people by leveling. Elves and High Elves were more damaging at low levels than at high levels. This seems odd, but I guess is probably explained by high level elves simply refusing to throw many punches. When your linemen start getting dodge and fend it gets pretty easy to run away and then you're less likely to need to fight back. Chaos gain nearly 2 full casualties per game! Leveling up causes them to more than double their casualties inflicted per game. I am not surprised at all. Nurgle is the next biggest gainer, which also doesn't surprise me. Next are Underworld and Chaos Dwarves as the only other teams to gain more than 1 casualty per game. I was initially surprised by Underworld, but they do have 3 guys with normal access to strength and mutation skills. So all 4 of the big gaining teams can fairly trivially build the claw+mighty blow+piling on machine.

Looking at casualties sustained is a depressing picture for the lifespan of high level players. Only two teams take fewer than 1 extra casualty per game than they did at low levels. Those two are Chaos and Nurgle. I guess they just inflict so much extra damage that they take less punishment back. Goblins lead the way in newfound squishiness, with almost 2 extra casualties per game. Underworld, Halflings, Skaven, and Lizardmen make out the rest of the newly squishy dudes.

In the casualty differential difference it comes as no surprise that the team that inflicted the most extra casualties and sustained the fewest extra casualties is dominating the charts. Chaos, Nurgle, and Chaos Dwarves are actually the only teams to make gains in this category. Every other team lost ground, with most teams losing a ton of ground. Goblins, Halflings, Vampires, and the 4 elves were the biggest losers.

It seems like, in general, you either want to have 4 agility or be able to mutate. If you have 4 agility then you're looking to win games. If you can mutate you're looking to wipe the other team off the board. Wiping people out seems like a fine winning plan too, with both Chaos and Nurgle doing better at winning at high TV compared to low TV. Chaos actually win a fair bit. They're below the finesse teams, but not by a ton. Amazons didn't fall off nearly as much as I thought they might which really makes me want to try them out. I'm very surprised that Orcs fell to only winning 41% of the time. I guess when so many people have claw it takes away from the Orc gameplan? But Dwarves are still at 48% wins, so it can't be that alone. Maybe the guard spam Dwarf plan is actually good enough to contain a kill focused Chaos/Nurgle team?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blood Bowl: Catch vs Diving Catch

There are two different agility skills that help one catch the ball. They do it in different ways, so I was wondering which you should get first. Well, and if you even want to get both of them or not. And in particular I wanted to look at which one a loner would want to have since my human team often passes the ball to an Ogre for fun and profit. So what do those two skills (catch and diving catch) do?

Catch seems really easy. If you try to catch the ball, and you fail, you can reroll it without using a team reroll. This actually has more play than it initially seems. When I look at the 'free reroll' skills I generally find myself thinking about how often I even make that roll and how often my team uses up their team rerolls. My dwarf team, for example, has sure hands by default. But if they didn't start with it, I don't know that I would take it. I may pick up the ball once or twice in the game, and most of my rolls are so consistent that I rarely need to reroll. Catch has some interactions above and beyond just saving a reroll, though. For one thing, you can't use a team reroll on the other player's turn. So if you're trying to intercept the ball and you have catch you get to roll twice. Sweet! Bouncing balls also count as catches, so if the ball comes loose from a cage and starts bouncing around your guy with catch gets 2 chances to get the ball. I don't use team rerolls on these if it happens on my turn because generally the guy is in a tackle zone and it isn't a turnover if it fails, but it's obviously awesome to get a second roll before bouncing it again. Catch also works on hand-offs, but I suspect hand-offs will often have a team reroll handy. Another corner case is going to be on dump-offs, if you happen to have that skill on your team. Dumping off to a guy with catch gives him two chances to catch the ball. Also in the loner case, you only get the team reroll half the time, but you get the catch reroll every time!

Diving catch has two pieces. The first piece is when a ball lands near you, but not in your square. Typically this will be on an inaccurate pass but it could also happen on a kick-off. It does not work on a bouncing ball. If the ball lands beside you then you can roll to catch it as if it had landed on you. So you use the enemy tackle zones on your current space, not on the space where the ball lands. This mechanic won't come up very often unless you happen to take the hail mary pass skill since most passes tend to result in either a fumble or an accurate pass. If it is an inaccurate pass then apparently you're looking at a 42.16% chance of diving catch working. That's not great, but it isn't terrible. And it gets better if you have a bunch of diving catch guys in the area. The second piece of diving catch is a flat +1 to your die roll if you're trying to catch an accurate pass. That's pretty sweet, but it only applies to a pass, not a hand-off or a bouncing ball or a kick.

So, which is better? I guess that's going to depend on which situation you often find yourself in.

Hand-off: Catch is the clear winner here, since it actually does something. On the other hand if you're doing a hand-off you're not rolling many dice, so maybe you'll have a team reroll to use. I guess you're probably only handing off under a time constraint and therefore might be making some go-for-its later in the turn too, or maybe you had to reroll to pick the ball up in the first place. I think I'd probably rather have sure feet than catch, or sure hands on the other guy, but on stunty guys that may not be a realistic option.

Bouncing Ball: Catch is the clear winner here too. Actually catching a bouncing ball when a cage goes down is quite strong. It actually seems like having the corners of your cage with catch could be useful. But for most teams I suspect you'd rather have the corners of your cage with diving tackle, or side step, or guard. Catch seems cool, and is better than diving catch in that it does something, but I don't want to take either one.

Actual Pass: Catch gives you the free reroll, and since you're also throwing at least pass dice this turn you may not actually have the team reroll available. Diving catch gives you +1 to your roll. If you have the team reroll available then diving catch is the winner. Your overall odds of catching the ball go up since you get two chances with +1 instead of two chances without +1. If you don't have a team reroll then you can either have two chances at even or one chance with +1. At 2 agility you have 75% with catch and 67% with diving catch. At 3 agility you have 89% chance to succeed with catch and 83% with diving catch. At 4 agility you get no benefit from the +1. With catch you have 97% chance with catch and 83% with diving catch. So with no team reroll around catch is between 6 and 14% better. With a team reroll around diving catch is 14, 8, or 0% better. If your thrower has sure hand and pass, as many do, then diving catch just seems right since you're likely to still have the team reroll around, at least if you have 2 or 3 agility on the catcher. With 4 agility, or if you don't really have a passer, then catch is better. But if you don't have a passer are you really going to be passing with any regularity? Probably you don't want either one in that situation.

Inaccurate Pass: Catch will only work around 4% of the time when you're targeted with an inaccurate pass. Diving catch will work 42% of the time. One of these numbers is way better than the other one! If you're often throwing inaccurate passes then diving catch is going to be way better than catch. Inaccurate passes are a function of how far you throw the ball and how high your agility is. Having a higher agility makes it less likely you'll throw an inaccurate pass. If you fail, it will likely be a fumble. Having passing skills (accurate, strong arm, or hail mary pass) will work to increase your inaccurate passes by reducing your fumbles. A team with a 3 agility passer and a passing game is going to see a number of inaccurate passes. (Throwing into the -1 band will have 2 fumbles, 2 inaccurate passes, and 2 accurate passes. The -2 band will have 3 fumbles, 2 inaccurate passes, and 1 accurate pass result.) An agility 4 thrower will have one more accurate pass and one fewer inaccurate pass. An agility 2 thrower will have one more inaccurate pass and one fewer accurate pass. So I can actually see a case for a Khemri team, for example, going the diving catch route instead of the catch route if it wanted a passing game. (HINT: It doesn't want a passing game, but sometimes people are crazy.) Hail mary pass turns every throw into 1 fumble and 5 inaccurate passes, at super long distance. I think this might be a legitimate game plan for teams like halflings, goblins, or maybe even lizardmen.

So, which would I want to have? I feel like I have decent reroll management skills (or maybe I just buy too many of them) so I like the way diving catch looks. Ok, I don't actually like the way either of them look. Even for my Ogre, if I get lucky and roll doubles, he will be taking block or dodge or pro. But my lizardman team is stuck with agility skills on the skinks and I feel like diving catch is a better choice there. I don't hand off very often (if I have time and space I'll hand off to a saurus) and if I'm going for a miracle play I'd want diving catch instead. Especially since my passer is apt to have 1 agility! Inaccurate passes ho!

I want to make a hail mary pass team. Maybe I should play goblins in some league and try to hook up the bomber with hail mary pass and pick up diving catch on the loser goblins!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Final Fantasy VIII: Limit Break Absurdity

The limit break system in the Final Fantasy series debuted in Final Fantasy VI. In that game you had a very small chance, upon issuing an attack command at low health, to do a super attack. You could only do one per fight, and it really wasn't worth trying. Most enemies died in one hit anyway, two at the most, so trying to do a 20x damage hit just didn't have a lot of upside. Enemies also did lots of damage back, so running around at low health was just asking to get killed.

Final Fantasy VII improved on the system. Now you have a meter that charges up when you take damage. When the meter fills up your next attack command is replaced by a super attack. Enemies, especially bosses, tended to have more health relative to your normal damage output so doing a limit break felt like it mattered more often. There was an interesting system where you had to use a limit break a bunch to unlock a more powerful one. You'd need to take more damage to fill the bar on the better limit breaks. It felt like a reasonable way to dish out powerful attacks on a reasonably infrequent basis.

Final Fantasy VIII has a twist on the system, and it's not exactly a good one. FFVIII decided to ramp up health on both players and monsters while ramping down damage. Fights take longer, and as a result are more tactical. It also means you can afford to stand around drawing 300 of every spell without worrying about getting killed. Coupling extra health with lowered damage means getting a limit break is a huge deal. Zell in particular can expect to do almost 40x as much damage with his limit break compared to a regular attack. Man, I sure want to do one of those! FFVIII got rid of the meter system from FFVII and went back to the system from FFVI where you have a chance, when low on health, to do a limit break. The difference is that while you needed to enter an attack command in FFVI and hope here in FFVIII you get told when the menu pops up if you got lucky or not. So you can limit break when it pops up, or do something else when it doesn't. Draw some spells, cast something... Or pass your turn.

Yes, that's right. You can do nothing at all and let the next person in line take a turn. If the rest of your party isn't ready to act the next person in line will, in fact, be you again. And you'll get another chance at having your limit break spawn. So you can actually, quite reasonably, have every action you take be a limit break. Zell has done almost all of the damage in every fight I've had for quite some time, pretty much all with his limit break. There's not even much risk to hanging out at low health in FFVIII since you can junction an awesome spell to your maximum health. Zell gets to limit break with more health than a character without HP-Junction would have! And since Rinoa is running that much health, and staying at full, there's no real risk of a wipe even if Zell somehow dies. She'll just cast life on him and he'll go back to punching the enemy.

It almost feels like cheating to do this, but the enemies have so much health and regular attacks do such a small amount of damage that it would take forever to kill them without using limit breaks. I feel like maybe the game designers gave the enemies more health because of the way you can limit break so often. Or maybe they let you limit break so often to allow people to beat their enemies with so much health. The only thing that seems really silly is the fastest way to win a fight when I start at full is to beat up Zell instead of the enemy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

FumBBL: Low TV BlackBox Team Stats

There's an interesting site that collates Blood Bowl game results from the BlackBox division on FumBBL. It lists information like winning percentage, inflicted casualties, and sustained casualties, by race and team value. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some stats in the starting team value range to see which starting teams are really good.

My gut feeling before looking at the stats is that teams that start with a lot of core skills are going to end up on top. Norse, Dwarf, and Amazon teams in particular start with pretty much everyone equipped with block or dodge. This means they should remain standing longer, which means they should have a better chance of overwhelming their opponent. So I expect to see a big positive casualty differential form them and I expect that to also translate into more wins. On the other hand I expect expensive teams with few to no skills to lag behind. Chaos, Nurgle, Vampire. I also expect the teams I think of as being terrible to do poorly just because they're terrible. Ogre, Halfling, Goblin.

Now, some things to keep in mind... These stats are based on BlackBox games which aren't necessarily going to be typical of league games. Matches are drawn up automatically and matched by team value. This means you're able to 'twink' out a team by managing your team value to stay in a good spot. I hear horror stories on the FumBBL forums about, for example, Chaos Pact teams that just buy linemen, few or no rerolls, and stack only killing skills. These guys will keep a very low team value and get to 'prey' on actual starting teams. I haven't played against any such teams myself, but I also leveled out of the starting band pretty quickly. BlackBox teams are also free to completely stack killing stats since their opponents can't choose not to play against them like they could in the ranked division. I have played against plenty of such teams, but I tend to beat them because they're so one dimensional. They do kill some dudes, though!

Using games where the teams are between 900 and 1200 TV (a team starts at 1000 TV), which is where I'd expect most games in a fresh 8 team league like a recent turbo league I joined, the following stats come out:

TeamGames PlayedWinning PercentageCasualty Differential per 100 Games
Chaos Dwarf634955%73
Chaos Pact564551%47
Wood Elf373651%-127
Dark Elf436650%-50
High Elf222345%-65

Amazon come out far ahead of the pack in terms of winning percentage. All the really terrible teams fall way down to the bottom of all categories. They win the least, they get played the least, and they get beaten up when they do play.

I feel like there's probably a pretty high correlation between average team armour and casualty differential. Dwarves are the best, then Orcs, Chaos Dwarves, Undead, and Nurgle. It's not shown here but the team that actually inflicts the most casualties is Ogre! They just take more back than anyone except terrible Halflings. Go stunty and titchy! Amazon and Norse both have low armour but are even in casualty differential. I'm pretty sure that is because of starting with dodge and block. The other predominantly 7 armour teams (wood elves, elves, skaven, vampire, goblin, halfling, ogre, underworld are all way down on the differential chart.

I'm a little surprised that high elf is so low in winning percentage. Being below Nurgle, Chaos, and Khemri seems really bad for you. Khemri are actually winning as many games as they're losing! I guess low TV teams don't have much of a way to deal with 4 tomb guardians.

I started a Skaven team in our turbo league, and I am definitely feeling both the high win percentage and the brutal casualty differential. Skaven do have the advantage of pretty cheap linemen which is nice. If we start another one of these things I'd have to look long and hard at starting one of the other teams at the top of this chart. I've never played Amazon, for example... The great thing would be if many people took that stance and then the teams that start with tackle would obliterate them. Dwarves and Chaos Dwarves are also at the top of the winning list...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blood Bowl: Death!

I played my first round game in the Wheel of Chaos today. The game went to overtime with me way down in men. I had 8, he still had 11. He won the coin toss, so I didn't really have a lot of options. I decided to set up for a blitz. I stacked my kick-off team in one corner, aimed the kick right near the line... Blitz! Yaus! My thrower with 5 levels ran under the ball. I tried to give him some back-up, but couldn't really do it. I needed my opponent to roll poorly on his blitz (my thrower had block, so he only had 2 die faces to knock me down) and went for it. My guy caught the ball. He hit my guy, knocked him down, and killed him. My best player, dead. I'd previously used my apothecary, on my thrower, when he'd suffered a -AV injury.

I'm not happy that he's dead, but I'm not too sad either. I used him in an attempt to win a game, and he died valiantly in the line of duty. And now I get to level up a new thrower! That's a good thing, right? The only problem is going to be coming up with a name to follow up Rich "Uncle" Pennybags. Maybe I'll just cheat and go with Mr Monopoly and reuse the image.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blood Bowl: Salary Cap

The second season of our Blood Bowl league is due to start on May 1st and there was plenty of debate a while ago on Vent and the Facebook group with regards to how to regulate teams joining the league. Everyone wants as many people as possible to be playing, and they want everyone to have fun, but there are different points of view in terms of what is fair.

One group of people likened a Blood Bowl league to a Magic tournament, and your team to a deck. This point of view dictates that everyone should follow the same set of rules to build an initial team, and they should all work out to be even in power. You can, and should, use any means necessary to get your initial team up to maximum efficiency. Everyone else can, and should, do the same thing. This will result in even matches in the first week of the league at the very least, and things will then evolve based on game results and luck from there. This line of thinking is what led to my fan factor post which itself resulted in me burning away all my fan factor before joining season 1 of the league.

The other group of people view Blood Bowl as more of a long term role playing game. Your guys gain experience, they level up, they get hurt. If they get good levels or bad levels is up to the whims of the dice. If they suffer permanent debilitating injuries is also up to the whims of the dice. They think the power level of a team should depend on the results of the meaningful games the team played and not on mathing out an optimal team and then peacefully farming your way into it. These people have problems with conceding games to burn off fan factor, since teams should organically acquire that fan factor and be forced to keep it. They hate the idea of firing off your big guys that don't roll doubles for block, buying a new one, and playing more games to level them up. They absolutely detest the idea of conceding games back and forth in order to accumulate cash and levels with no risk of injury.

Looking back at my history with Magic, I can totally understand both points of view. For the longest time I was firmly in the anti-netdeck camp. I thought of myself as being way smarter and better at the game than the people I'd play with. I could outplay them, and I could outbuild them. Having us both play tested professional quality decks was just evening the playing field, but since I had the initial advantage that evening of the playing field was detrimental to me. In retrospect I stuck to those guns way too long. I steadfastly refused to play the high tide deck, for example, during an extended season where it was both the best deck and where I was awesome at playing the deck. I played it a ton in testing to give my friends something to play against, but I refused to play it in PTQs. And that hurt my results. Turkish Prison was a great name for a deck, but the deck was terrible, and I should not have played it in a regionals event. Eventually I got over this irrational hatred of netdecks, but by that point my core Magic group had moved on and I never put as much time into the game. But, I've gotten off track...

At any rate, the two groups of people weren't going to agree and Sceadeau ended up coming up with a compromise. Teams that grew organically in the first season of the league would be allowed to continue as is. They'd be stuck with their fan factor, and they'd be stuck with their injuries, but they could carry as much experience and cash as they could have accumulated over 7-10 games. New teams to the league would have to conform to the initial joining rules from the first season. Cash on hand plus all potential TV (injured players counting at full value) have to equal 1500 or less. This would put the new teams 7-10 games behind the existing teams, but these teams would have the doors open to any sort of 'cheesy' play. So the new teams could concede games to burn off all their fan factor. They could fire guys who got a niggling injury and just play more games to earn them back. They could get other teams to concede to them in order to get close to 1500. They probably shouldn't have a huge number of concessions in order to accumulate enough levels to get a ton of +ST level rolls, but even then they wouldn't be able to got many of them before hitting the cap.

Doing this would also, hopefully, encourage teams to stick around season over season. The benefit there is you can establish rivalries of sorts with other teams. The example Sceadeau gave was Mike's played Olaf, who started the season as a bit of a beast and everyone wants to kill. If Mike was able to level a new team, with 'cheesy' tactics, and come in at the same power level as everyone else then he'd be incented to get rid of Olaf, and that would be bad from an RP point of view. I clearly believe this to be true, as the primary reason I'm going to keep playing my dwarf team is to give other people a shot at taking out the champion.

Now that the first season is over I wanted to take a look at the power level of the existing teams to see if I felt the entry bar was a fair one. From a strict power level point of view, would I rather level up a fresh dwarf team to 1500 or play my current one? Would I rather pare my current team down?

What are the old teams looking like? Looking at the final four from last season... One team got completely decimated near the end of the season and lost a bunch of players. His TV is currently only 1480, and he has 9 FF. He has a treasury of 80k. He has a niggling injury and a -AG. It looks like his skills include +ST, a single double, and the rest are normal skills. If this was my team I would absolutely want to start over. Well, I really like the one guy who has +ST and the double skill, so I'd probably just play a couple farm games with the team and burn off all the FF. I think he is clearly disadvantaged if he plays on.

Another team has 1520TV, 160k in the bank, 6 FF, and 2 skills still to choose. He has no permanent injuries. He also has a +ST and one double skill. This team doesn't have much to gain by starting over. He could burn off the 6 FF, and all his cash, and then if he rolled normal skills with his 2 pending levels would be at just 1500. He does have 2 guys missing the next game, so he could get them both back and ready to play during one of the FF burning concessions. Maybe he'd be better off doing that, but I don't know that 6 FF is so inefficient that it justifies throwing away the 160k in cash. As is he's pretty resilient against a death or two in the first game of the season. With no cash he might have troubles. And the two guys missing the next game probably give him inducements in his first game next season, and maybe enough to get a wizard. In all, I think he is better off just jumping into the next season.

The finalist has a TV of 1630. He has 340k in the bank. He has no permanent injuries. He has 8 FF. He has 2 +AG skills, a +MA skill, and a double skill. There is no question in my mind that this team is _way_ better than a 1500 capped team. He would need to burn off all his FF and fire a guy with multiple skills to fit under the cap, and he has no injuries to fix. His skill rolls are very good. Maybe not perfectly optimal, but actually pretty close.

My team has a TV of 1830, with 210k in the bank and 8 FF. I have 2 niggling injuries and a -MA for permanent damage. I have one +ST, 2 +MAs, and two double skills. I would like to get rid of those injuries but they're all on guys with skills. I have one player who I misbuilt (and who rolled 4 regular skills) that I wouldn't mind firing too. I have 560k tied up in those 4 players and my FF, so I could get rid of all that, buy two replacements for 150k, and still have 80k to play with. Like, say, getting guard on 4 guys to replace the 4 guards I'd have sold. But that would leave me with no bank, an 11 man roster, and would cost me my +ST guy and one of my guys with mighty blow. This would have potential to go places for sure, but any serious injury at the start of the season could be crippling. I think I'm better off sticking with this team, but giving my opponent inducements coupled with the permanent damage I'm carrying does make me leery.

Looking at 3 other teams from last season that already joined the new league they're carrying a combined one injury. (A niggling injury on a +AG ghoul. That guy is going to die, but he'll probably win a game or two first.) They are all significantly higher than 1500 TV, even counting their FF, and most have huge banks. They all look to be much better off than a capped 1500 team.

Looking at the remnants of the old league we see a bit of a different story. There's a decimated elf team that's almost certainly worse than a fresh 1000 TV team, let alone a 1500 one. There's a team with 5 permanent injuries, 2 guys missing the next game, but is higher than 1500TV and has a big bank. There's an elf team that's already played 2 post-league matches. After that there's a bunch of team well above 1500 TV, with very few permanent injuries, and decently sized banks and skills. Even Robb, who has his traditional lineman with multiple permanent injuries, is looking very good. 1930 TV, 3 FF, 140k in the bank. 3 +MA skills, 2 +ST skills, a +AG skill. No injuries beyond that one lineman. His team is _way_ better than a 1500 capped team would be.

I look at the farm league, to see who may be close to joining, and I'm not encouraged. There are a couple of chaos teams close to the cap, but one has no stats at all and the other has a permanent injury. Robb's human team is both not near 1500 and has a permanent injury. Lino's team is rocking 3 permanent injuries.

Having looked at the teams carrying over, it really looks like all the talk of permanent injuries and bad skill rolls has been pretty overblown. A couple of the 16 teams are clearly worse than a 1500 capped team. A couple are on the fence one way or the other. But the rest are way, way better. Most of the teams that are carrying over have fewer injuries than the teams set to be joining up. I think part of the problem is going to be that people aren't actually being super 'cheesy'. The system is set up to make the optimal new team be worse than most carried over teams, which is fine, but it's making it so non-optimal new teams are going to be at a significant disadvantage.

I don't know if there's a solution, though. Inflate the starting cap value maybe? Actively encourage people to optimize their teams? (My halfling team will give or take concessions!) Give new teams that played legitimate games the whole way up (excluding self-concessions to burn off FF) some cap relief for injuries? Your first 5 relevant permanent injuries are worth -20k, that sort of thing? Possibly impose some sort of cap on the teams that are carrying over, too? I think it's silly that there are some teams holding 200k in cash in the treasury, and I'm one of them.

I also think the argument that home grown teams suffer permanent injuries that new teams don't isn't proving to be true. Many of the other teams carrying over are pristine. Mine isn't, and that makes me sad. I don't like that I'm worse off than some of the luckier/better teams that are carrying over. I don't like that I'm better off than anyone bringing in a new team.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Through The Ages: Wonder Choice

The most recent wave of games just started in the 2 player TTA league. In one of the games I was going first with the opening card row featuring Pyramids, Hanging Guardens, and Moses. Neither Caesar nor Aristotle were visible further down the card row. Pyramids and Moses were both going to fall off before my first turn if neither player took them. What is the right play?

I can take Moses, letting my opponent have Hanging Gardens and a yellow action card worth a rock. Pyramids will fall off, meaning I don't get a good age A wonder. If either Aristotle or Caesar show up then my opponent will get the better leader and the better wonder, which feels like it's pretty bad for me. Alternatively I can take one of the wonders, letting him have Moses and the other wonder. This way I should end up with the best wonder, and I get the better leader too if either Aristotle or Caesar show up.

I decided to go the second route, and took Hanging Gardens. My opponent took Moses and Pyramids. Caesar did show up, so I'm pretty happy with the result.

But I'm not terrible good at the game. Is my evaluation here correct? Is Hanging Gardens better than Pyramids? Are Ceasar and Aristotle better than Moses? Does anything change when you consider this is a 2 player game instead of a 3 or 4 player game? My feeling is Caesar is the best age A card period, with Hanging Gardens definitely the best age A wonder regardless of number of players, but I'd like to hear other opinions and why so I can potentially learn new tips!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blood Bowl: Victory!

Season one of our league ended last night. My dwarves barely squeaked into the playoffs on tiebreakers and then had a potentially rough road through the playoffs. #2 in the other division, #1 in the other division, #1 in my division, who was one of my two regular season losses. I remember after that game ended feeling quite annoyed because the dice were pretty slanted in his favour. 5 casualties to 0, despite me having the board position to throw way more blocks.

The finals decided to reverse that particular trend, as his team got significantly better at killing dwarves between then and now, but his dice were only slightly above average instead of way above average. And in one important case, his claw/mighty blow guy, much worse than average.

In the quarterfinal game I got beat up badly, but used an agility potion and an apothecary in order to have an out in overtime. I managed to get a guy free for a long pass, pulled it off, and then Mike couldn't roll a pow on 4 dice to finish him off. The semifinals were against an undermanned skaven team, which induced a wizard, and decided to go for the gusto by engaging my team with a huge fireball. I barely managed to hold on to the ball, and the massive scrum that ensued worked out well for the team with block, guard, mighty blow, and 9 armour as opposed to the team with 7 armour. I did fail a 8 in 9 dodge roll at the end of the first half to score, but had such a numbers advantage in the second half that I was able to get the ball off him and stall out. Stall out an awfully long time, as I waited until turn 20 to score. The Cyanide game uses a questionable overtime system where if the game is still tied they just add 4 more turns instead of kicking off again. So I just didn't score and kept grinding down rats until it was a guaranteed outcome. Most of the damage was KOs, so I really didn't want to give him a chance to stand up and pull off a miracle.

The finals actually didn't go to overtime, but it was a very similar situation to the semifinals. I had a man advantage in the second half and just tried to protect the ball with minimal men while grinding out the rest of his team. Repeated blitzed with a mighty blow dude resulted in KO after KO on his 8 armour dudes. I certainly got luckier this game, but I also feel like I had a good game plan. My opponent actually scored on turn 3 of the first half which gave me time to move the ball down the field and score myself as well. I think the real lucky part was not getting murdered by the claw/mighty blow guy. I'm not convinced I can pull that off if I had to do it again. On the other hand, the game actually crashed on turn 6 when I felt I was in a strong position the first time around, and got into a similar position the second game, so maybe it would work out?

We both had a guy die in the finals, which should have made the bloodthirsty fans happy. Woo death! Woo!

I was strongly considering making a new team for the next season. Dwarves are very one dimensional, though I have built up a pretty good passer for surprise plays (and having that option won me my quarterfinal match). But as defending champion I feel obligated to bring them back again for more. Especially since I want to level up my blitzer who had mighty blow and +MV and give him piling on. More killing!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wheel of Chaos Draw

The FumBBL Wheel of Chaos draw happened today. I ended up signing up for the horns qualifier, despite it being the reward I wanted 3rd most. I assigned it one slot on a d6 and that's what I rolled. Go chaos!

I don't really have a good way to dig into things, but here's what things look like:

Very Long Legs - 8 people made the main event, 16 into the secondary one. It looks like 13 teams didn't get in, with the highest such team 1630 TV. 1950 was the lowest TV in the main event.

Two Heads - 16 teams in the main event, only 15 in the secondary one. Because they only got 31 signups. 1900 was the lowest TV in the main event.

Extra Arms - 8 teams in the main event, only 14 in the secondary one, so I guess this one only had 22 total teams sign up. 1720 TV is the lowest in the main event.

Horns - 16 in the main event, 16 in the secondary one. It doesn't look like anyone missed out, so either I can't read the webpage right or exactly 32 teams signed up. 1950 is the lowest TV in the main event.

It looks like most of the teams in every main event are either Nurgle or Chaos. I wonder if that's because the killer teams are actually really good, or if that's just what people play in the box.

It looks like the signups were 37, 32, 31, and 22. It looks like my guesses as to which team was the underentered one Duncan commented about yesterday were right. Extra Arms, the one mutation every team should want, didn't get nearly enough people. I would have made the main event cut there, even with only 8 teams getting in. I assumed more people would heed the post of the organizer warning that there was a really underentered event. But even if I didn't think that, the spirit of chaos would have demanded I roll dice!

At any rate, I am up against a 1900TV undead team. He has one guy with piling on and a very leveled mummy. He only has 3 guys with 3 agility. It feels like he's not really a good scoring team or a good killing team. The team has only won 43% of their non-draw games. My TV is 1830, and I will probably throw in 100k in order to get two bloodwiser babes. Now, 2 of my 4 best players died recently so I don't think I'm in a great way, but I hope to at least have some play. Better than playing one of the 2200TV Nurgle teams full of killers, anyway!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Battlestar Galactica: One Cylon

A couple times in the last month Sara and Duncan had me over to play Battlestar Galactica. They have both expansions for the game and play with a mix of the rules variants from the expansions. In particular the games have used Pegasus, treachery cards, the cylon fleet/CAG/super vipers, and the new method of building the loyalty deck. They have not used the conflicted loyalties or the final five loyalty cards. Prior to playing these games there had been a Facebook thread discussing a wonky game a few months ago that only had one cylon which had people suggesting rules variants to 'fix' the issue. Having never been in a game with only one cylon I didn't really have anything to add to the discussion at the time.

It turns out both of the games I played recently also only had one cylon. Both games were trivial victories for the human players. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise since it feels like a 4-1 split should be heavily weighted towards the humans. A 3-2 split is supposed to be somewhat balanced, after all, and a 4-1 split is a massive power swing. It's hard to really quantify, but you're going from a game where there are 50% more human players to one where there are 300% more human players. In both cases I think the cylon player didn't play perfectly, but the humans won by such huge margins both times that I don't think even perfect play would have been anywhere close to good enough. In both games the single cylon appeared in the sleeper phase, which is even better for the humans, but I feel like even a single early cylon doesn't have a ton of play. I think that game isn't unwinnable by any stretch, but it feels like it should slant heavily in the humans favour.

I think part of the problem is with the way the game is 'balanced' in general. I feel like the game is built such that the expected value over a long series of games will result in a relatively even split of wins between humans and cylons, but that any individual game can suffer from uninteresting blowouts. Assume for a minute that a 3-2 split is tilted slightly in favour of the cylons. Then throwing in the occasional 4-1 split can help make the long term balance between the sides even. The problem with this fix is that the 4-1 games aren't nearly as fun as the 3-2 games. I have a similar problem with the cylon leader mechanic. I think including the cylon leader makes the game more fun for whoever is the cylon leader but can make individual games less fun for everyone else. So if you played enough games, and let everyone rotate in as the cylon leader, and everyone was happy with tons of fun 1 in 6 games then it's fine. But if you play sporadically, or if some people don't like being the cylon leader, or if people want a constant fun level it's pretty bad.

At any rate, I think the ruleset we've been using is flawed. So do the other people who were playing most of those games, since apparently they've had a real rash of 1 cylon games. It'll happen 18% of the time (unless the humans play suboptimally) so it's not actually that rare of a thing. I want to fix this issue. I think the best way to approach the problem is to identify what is added to the game by using the new loyalty deck rule and then trying to find a solution that keeps those additions while reducing or eliminating the 1 cylon problem.

So, what is the new loyalty deck rule exactly, and what does it accomplish? The original rules for a 5 player game involved shuffling 2 cylon cards in with 8 not-a-cylon cards, shuffling them up, and dealing one at random to each player at the start of the game and another at the mid point of the game. If you have a cylon card you're a cylon. If you don't, then you are a human. There's a rule in place to handle what happens if the same player gets dealt both cylon cards (they can give the extra one away) so after the second set of cards was dealt out it was a guarantee that you'd have 2 cylons and 3 humans. The new loyalty deck involves shuffling 2 cylon cards with 9 not-a-cylon cards. Deal them out the same as before, but you have one extra card lying around. The twist here is that if someone gets killed off they get to respawn as a new character, but they have to get a new loyalty card which is either the set aside card or a random not-a-cylon card.

This twist is the key, and accomplishes a couple of things. The first thing it does is allow the conflicted loyalties cards to work out. The second is it prevents the human players from obtaining perfect information regarding the cylon status of specific players, in particular the admiral. You see, in the first expansion they added an action to execute another player. When this happens they have to reveal if they are a cylon or not. If they are a cylon they become a revealed cylon and give away their other loyalty card. If they are not a cylon they reveal all of their loyalty cards, the humans lose one morale, and the player respawns as a new character. A new, guaranteed to be human, player. It quickly became known, at least at Andrew's place, that a strong tactic was to execute the admiral right after the new loyalty cards are dealt out regardless of how shifty they've been. If they were a cylon you desperately needed to get rid of them since a cylon admiral can be a real disaster. If they were a human then you lost a morale, which sucked, but it let you know for sure that the respawned player was human. And if they were smart (and we were) they'd choose someone who would get assigned the admiral title when they respawned. This would guarantee that the admiral was human, which ensures that you always jump to a pro-human location, and that you get the right choice made on the 'admiral chooses' crisis cards, and that you have access to the nukes when you need them. It also gives the humans a safe target for the executive orders card, so they can go hit the FTL button when needed.

Guaranteeing a human admiral is a huge deal, and there wasn't a logical argument the admiral could make to avoid this from happening. As a human admiral I'd advocate for executing myself, because of how awesome it was for all the human players to gain the information. I actually was strongly in favour of executing as many people as possible. You gain information each time you do it, each time you miss you get more likely to execute a cylon the next time you do it, and I'd much rather execute a human (and lose a morale) than send a human to the brig which I feel sets the humans back too much. Losing 1 morale and a few cards is nothing compared to lose out on jump prep from crisis cards. It made it hard to play as a cylon admiral, since if I was human I'd be trying to convince people to execute me!

With the new loyalty deck this is no longer true. When you execute the admiral, and they were human, they're going to respawn as a human 50% of the time (new not-a-cylon card) but they'll respawn as the set aside card the other 50% of the time. 18% of the time that card is a cylon card, so you could well be trading in a human admiral for a cylon admiral. Only 9% of the time, to be fair, but it's still a chance. And since they were only 18% to be a cylon admiral anyway (assuming they were human going into the sleeper phase) you're not actually making a huge gain. Losing the morale, the action, and the cards to not get perfect information is rough. Add in the fact that you may be throwing away a guaranteed human win (when the cylon card is set aside) by getting that card back into play and it becomes a bad idea, I think. If the admiral makes a sketchy play then you should absolutely still kill him, don't get me wrong, but it's no longer the strictly right play to execute the admiral as the first action after the sleeper phase.

The problem here is you're removing a strong human tactic by replacing it with an even stronger human tactic. Having the game end with a 4-1 split is super strong! It's so strong that even if you're using the conflicted loyalties cards I think the humans don't want to achieve those goals early on just to preserve the chances of keeping the 4-1 split! Inexperienced human players will still work at them, and it will cost them, but I don't think balancing the game around people making mistakes is a good idea. And regardless, we're not using that rule anyway.

So the new loyalty deck exists primarily to increase uncertainty. Someone who respawns can't be trusted for sure because they might be a cylon! I like this idea in general, but the specific implementation is bad. It's too easy to keep the extra loyalty card out of the game entirely, which gives the humans an 18% instant win. I do think the goal of keeping an easy human admiral out of the game is a good one. How else can we solve that problem without just throwing the humans a win 18% of the time?

We could force the set aside loyalty card to come into the game at some point. Duncan suggested giving a revealed cylon the option to give another player that loyalty card. Having it cost a full action seems a little weak, though. Maybe tack it on as a bonus to one of the other cylon actions? Whichever of the 4 is the 'worst' one? Maybe if you activate the 'give a crisis' space, and don't play the super crisis, you can give the set aside card out unseen? This way the cylon player gets to decide if the humans can have a safe execute or not.

Alternatively, you could force the card to go out, randomly, after a set distance. Say if you hit distance 7 or more? This could be really unfortunate for whoever turns into a cylon at distance 8, though. They'd go from what seemed like a sure win to a sure loss. So maybe you'd need to do it at distance 6+? Then to get screwed the humans would need to jump from 5 to 8 in one go. And in that case they're probably going to win anyway? On the plus side this would open up one more time to accuse people of being cylons, which is one of the best parts of the game.

An idea I suggested after out last game was to reassign titles instantly when someone dies without waiting for them to respawn first and remove the new loyalty deck rule entirely. So if you execute the human admiral they'll come back as a guaranteed human player, but they won't be the admiral. That will pass to one of the other players instead, who is 50-50 to be a cylon. (Assuming no double-cylon action... In which case they should reveal and give the other card to the new admiral anyway!) So while the humans can guarantee a human player, they can't guarantee a human with a title. Not without putting in even more effort, by then executing the new admiral too. Or tossing him in the brig, I guess.

Another option would be to make executions harsher. I feel like this plan makes it so the humans really want to avoid executions and the cylons really want to pop one off. Like if you lost 2 morale for executing a human with a title or something like that. Make it bad enough that it isn't an auto-do for the humans.

One idea I had while waiting for the bus is to build an extra loyalty deck. Stick 3 not-a-cylon cards and a 3rd cylon card into a pile and shuffle them up after the sleeper phase. Then if a human gets executed, give them one of these cards. This makes executions into a very scary proposition. 25% chance that the game becomes 2-3 instead of 3-2, which is very, very bad for the humans. It also adds some uncertainty back in. The new character who respawns might be a cylon! Again, this makes it so cylons really want to see humans get executed. And probably ends up skewing the game too much the other way when it happens.

Maybe use the extra loyalty deck from above, but only give one out to someone who respawns with a title? Then all the crisis cards and such that execute people don't swing too much in the cylon's favour. If a titled dude gets him with one of those they can just respawn as a support or something, unless maybe they want to be a cylon? I guess they always take that option, since either they become a 3rd cylon or they get a title.

I feel like assigning titles before respawning might make the most sense. I like that it removes any chance of a 4-1 or 2-3 split no matter what happens, which makes the game feel more like the initial BSG. It kills off executing people to gain immediate perfect information, but it still makes executing humans decent for both sides. The humans lose a morale, which is bad, but they gain less useful information, which is good. It also adds a bit of a twist where the next in line for a title has extra incentive to bump off the current person since they're guaranteed to get the title off of them no matter how they respawn.

Thinking about it more I also like the 'revealed cylon can give out the set aside card' rule. I don't think it should be their entire action. Ooh! Maybe you shuffle in a new not-a-cylon card with the set aside card and hand it out as the add-on to their other action. Then executions are going to maintain the slight uncertainty no matter how far into the game you go. It also has potential if you're using the conflicted loyalties cards, since then the cylons can try to funnel as many of them into the game as possible!

What do other people think? Anyone else had issues with the single cylon spawn? Have you tried any solutions to fix the problem?

Monday, April 08, 2013

Blood Bowl: Dodge Mechanics

By popular demand (one person asked for it) I'm going to take a look at how exactly dodging works in Blood Bowl. Dodging is similar to the way assisting works in that there are a couple of very logical ways in which it could work but only one of them is actually right. This makes the mechanic fairly confusing since for many people the intuitive way the rules should work isn't the way the rules actually work. With assists the complicated park is figuring out where you need to stand to give assists (standing beside your friend doesn't help; you need to stand beside the enemy). With dodging the issues comes with who makes it harder to dodge.

(As an aside, I am always more than happy to receive topic ideas. Restriction breeds creativity, or so I've been told. I wouldn't expect much if you ask for Shakespeare reviews, though. After all, I haven't even read King Leer.)

There are two components to how dodging works. When do you have to make a dodge roll at all, which is based on your current square and the style of movement, and what modifiers you have when you make the dodge roll, which is based on the destination square.

When do you have to make a dodge roll? You have to make a dodge roll when you're currently standing in an enemy tackle zone and voluntarily move to an adjacent square, with five exceptions. If you're using the leap skill, you don't have to make a dodge roll. If you're using the shadowing skill, you don't have to make a dodge roll. Note in both of those cases you have to make a different kind of roll instead, but neither of those rolls have extra modifiers based on the positioning of enemy units. If you just made a block or blitz, and you pushed the enemy back, and they don't use the fend skill then you get the option to follow up into the newly vacated space. This move is free and does not require a dodge roll. If you happen to have the ball & chain skill then you move randomly and don't need to make dodges at all. The last exception is when your opponent has tentacles and you fail the tentacles roll. Then your action ends, you can't move, and you don't need to make a dodge roll.

Ok, you're moving and have to make a dodge roll. What do you need to succeed? The most frequent dodge is going to be into the open field, with no nearby enemy units. Doing this requires a successful agility roll, with a free +1 for making a dodge. So if you have 3 agility this type of dodge requires you to roll a 3+ on the d6. If you have 4 agility you only need a 2+. 2 agility needs a 4+, which actually isn't super unlikely. It's not something you want to count on by any means, but it's not impossible either.

The typical extra modifier on a dodge roll is going to be for dodging into one or more enemy tackle zones. For every tackle zone into which you dodge you get -1 to your die roll. The key here is that it's how many tackle zones you're dodging INTO, not how many you're leaving. It just took one tackle zone on the initial square to force the dodge, any extra tackle zones on the initial square are irrelevant.

Compare the two set-ups in the above picture. Your moving unit is marked by the M. The enemy units are marked with the Es. You're trying to move into the target square marked T. On the left you start off in 5 tackle zones, but the target square has no tackle zones on it at all. So if you have 4 agility you're looking at needing to roll a 2+ to dodge away. Pretty good odds! On the right you start off in a single tackle zone, but the target square is in 5 enemy tackle zones. This means your dodge will get -5. So even with 2 agility you'd need to roll a 7! Fortunately you auto-succeed on a 6 so there is a chance you'll succeed, but it's really not very good at all.

There are also a ton of skills which can modify the way dodging works, both positive on you and negative on enemy units. And to make things really wonky, the negative skills on the enemies actually count on the enemies around the initial square, not the destination square!

First, what are the positive skills you can have yourself to make dodging easier?

  • Two Heads - This mutation gives you +1 on every dodge roll.
  • Dodge - This agility skill lets you reroll a failed dodge roll without using a team reroll.
  • Break Tackle - This strength skill lets you substitute your strength for your agility on a dodge roll. On someone like an Ogre who has 3 more strength than agility this will give you +3 to your dodge roll! Note you can only use break tackle once per turn, but you get to wait to use it until you need it. So if you roll a 6 on your first dodge in a turn you can use break tackle on a second dodge.
  • Stunty - This exceptional skill (only people who start with it can have it) means you actually ignore all enemy tackle zones around the target square. So a 3 agility guy with stunty always needs a 3+ to dodge. (Well, unless one of the negative skills below comes into play...)
  • Titchy - This exceptional skill (only found on snotlings) means you get +1 to dodge rolls. (It also means enemies ignore your tackle zones around target squares!)

How about negative skills the enemy can have? Remember, these skills have to be on the guys around the initial square, not the target square.

  • Tackle - This general skill turns off the dodge skill. So you don't get that free reroll on a failed dodge if you're trying to dodge away from an enemy with tackle.
  • Prehensile Tail - This mutation gives the dodger -1 to his roll when he dodges away from you.
  • Diving Tackle - This agility skill is interesting. When someone dodges away from someone with diving tackle they can choose to fall down in the initial square in order to give the dodger -2 to his dodge roll.  Note that you get to see the result of the roll before choosing if you want to fall down or not. Also note that even if they then choose to reroll they have to take the -2 on the new roll as well.

When it comes right down to it there are three things you need to look at before making a dodge roll. Are you currently in at least one enemy tackle zone? Do those enemies have anti-dodge skills? (Tackle, prehensile tail, diving tackle, tentacles, maybe shadowing.) How many non-titchy enemies have tackle zones around the destination square?

Often I'll see people throw extra guys around a ball carrier, for example. Sometimes they'd be better off putting those guys a little further away to force them to dodge into more tackle zones. Making them dodge out of more tackle zones doesn't do anything useful! On the other hand, putting only one guy on the ball carrier means the enemy team can just blitz them away. So there's no simple rule and often you will want multiple guys on the ball carrier. You just want to also think about blocking the dodge routes too!

One final situation worth considering...

You're the M, and you really want to stand in square T. Maybe you have guard and want to stand beside the bottom E so someone else can blitz him. I sometimes see people move straight from M to T. The problem there is you're dodging into 3 tackle zones and therefore knocking 3 off of your die roll. Instead, you should dodge into square T2. That dodge will have no negative modifiers. And now that you're not standing in any enemy tackle zones you can move safely from T2 to T without having to roll any dice at all! Woo!