The 11th Company 40K Podcast

Welcome to the 11th Company BLOG. The 11th Company is a Warhammer 40K podcast dedicated to players, strategies, and tactics.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Tiered Competitive Event Part 3b

Still trying to figure out the best way to group like skilled players prior to an actual tournament! Last time, I ran some algorithms which would attempt to place 64 players into appropriate brackets (say a Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) based on the skill level of the player. The idea of course is to put like skilled players together into brackets of 16 whereupon they can compete to win in the bracket with players close to their skills.

Read the previous post to see what the 4 algorithms used were. Basically put, I wasn't really satisfied with any of it!

So, I decided to try a new algorithm this week to see what my results would look like as well as a serious modification to the old algorithms to try and get better numbers.

In a nutshell, here's how it works! Take 64 people and rate them from 1 to 64, where 1 is the worst player in the group and 64 the best. The idea is, if our preliminary matching works, when it's time for the actual tournament, players 1 - 16 will be in the bronze bracket, 17 - 32 will be in the silver, 33 - 48 in the gold, and 49-64 in the platinum. If it fails, players of non-like skill will be scattered all over the brackets.

So, the first new thing I wanted to try this week was adjusting battle points based on the proximity of the players to each other in skill level. The idea here is that players are NEAR LIKE skill shouldn't end up with much of a battle point spread whereas players who are no where near each other in terms of skills should end up with a blow out. For example, if player #46 plays a game against player #50, the game should be pretty close with battle points reflecting that. Whereas, if player #60 and player #8 play each other, it should be a complete blow out where Player #60 gets full points and player #8 gets 0 points.

Using this theory, I changed the way the original 4 algorithms calculated battle points which resulted in the following: (the number in parentheses is the original % correct)

--- Percentages reflect the % of players correctly placed in that bracket
Algorithm #1:
Bronze: 80% (78.756%)
Silver: 50% (41.25%)
Gold: 58.75% (42.5%)
Platinum: 86.25% (75%)

Algorithm #2:
Bronze: 66.25 (60%)
Silver: 43.75 (35%)
Gold: 51.25 (33.75%)
Platinum: 71.25 (62.5%)

Algorithm #3:
Bronze: 78.75 (75%)
Silver: 57.5 (38.75%)
Gold: 61.25 (43.75%)
Platinum: 82.5 (76.25%)

Algorithm #4:
Bronze: 75 (65%)
Silver: 53.75 (41.25%)
Gold: 45 (42.5%)
Platinum: 66.25 (67.5%)

Here's some food for thought on this idea. First, all algorithms got better across the board, some with substantial gains in placement. This is completely expected because we are attempting to model "reality" now with battle points and not just a random occurrence. However, this "reality" has a few problems.....

..... First, we are assuming that somehow we have devised a set of missions that will lend itself to the idea of "spreading' battle points based on player skill.....

..... Second, we are assuming that players will play to their ability each game....

So, aside from those caveats, this appears to work much better than last time, but it's still not really satisfactory! Satisfactory is a 75% on average in every category!

So, I decided that I would incorporate the concept of "Player Choice" into a new algorithm we'll call Algorithm #5. Player Choice is the idea that players will have some "say" in which bracket they want to attempt to play in.

Imagine that you walk in the door of the tournament. I tell you that for Day 1, we are doing pre-lim matches that will decide placement into the actual tournament which will take place on Day 2. There will be 4 brackets, designed to group players of like skill together to ensure everyone has fun and a good chance at winning in their bracket. I tell you that before we start the pre-lim matches, I would like for you to tell me which bracket you think you fit into:

Bronze Bracket - A bracket reserved for new players or players with little to no game skill or experience. You expect to lose every game you play today!

Silver Bracket - A bracket reserved for players who know the game but don't consider themselves strong gamers. You expect to do your best today but definitely not win all your games.

Gold Bracket - A bracket reserved for players who play well but don't consider themselves "great". You might be the guy that knows the game well but doesn't consistently do well at tournaments. You expect to win most of your games today!

Platinum Bracket - A bracket reserved for players who consider themselves good players or who are looking for the challenge of playing against top gamers. You normally place well in tournaments and could go 4-0!

So, you place yourself! Thing is, I'm not so dumb as to believe that people will spontaneously or magically pick the right spot for themselves. First reason is that they don't know the other players very well. Second, people don't always do such a good job at being honest with themselves. :)

That being known, algorithm #5 takes over. First, I assign each player to a "chosen" bracket. The way this is done is by looking at the player #, where Player #1 is the worst, and Player #64 the best, and have each player pick their own category. I do this by stating that each player has a 50% chance to choose correctly, a 35% chance to pick a category that is either 1 higher OR lower than their actual placement, and a 15% chance to choose a category that is either 2 higher or 2 lower than where they actually are.

From there, we match players in each chosen bracket for 4 games. We simply, randomly match the players in each bracket, recording Battle Points using the same system as above where players of like skill are close in battle points and players with huge gaps create blow outs.

At the end, we try to determine a calculated bracket for each player. To do this, we examine their battle points which should be representative of how well they did in their chosen bracket. If they have a lot of points, we can assume they might be playing against players they don't need to be playing with. Likewise, this is also true if they don't have very many. So, if a player has less than 10 Battle Points or greater than 70 (where the max battle points to be earned each round is 20), we adjust their bracket by 2 either down or up, respectively. If they have 11-25 or 55-70, we adjust one bracket. Otherwise, they are in the bracket they chose.

Lastly, we sort by Calculated Bracket and then by total Battle Points. This gives us an order between 1 and 64 for all players. We then break them into the 4 brackets with the first 16 being in the bronze bracket, the next 16 in silver, etc.

Algorithm #5:
Bronze: 78.75
Silver: 60
Gold: 68.75
Platinum: 85

So, I looked at this, and it is better than the other algorithms but only ever so slightly. Mostly, it's better in the Silver and Gold brackets which is where we have weakness. It is worth mentioning that some data sets placed 100% and 93% in some categories which hasn't happened yet with the other algorithms.

The next thing I wanted to test was to see if maybe I wasn't so pessimistic on people's ability to place themselves. So, this time I said players have a 70% chance to pick correctly, a 20% chance to mis-place by 1 bracket, and a 10% chance to mis-place by 2 brackets.

Algorithm #5 Modified:
Bronze: 85
Silver: 73.75
Gold: 76.25
Platinum: 86.25

Wow! First time we got numbers that hit the satisfactory mark! Sweet! Problem is....

.... We are still relying on people to properly place themselves. The more accurately you place yourself, the better the matching system works. Problem is, it's complete speculation as to how well people can place themselves! What would you think people would do?.....

.... Still got the issues with battle points......

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tiered Competitive Event: Part 3 a

So, I'm really interested now how one could go about setting up a tournament format in order to appeal to the amateur competitor. Remember that the amateur competitor is the person defined basically as someone who wants to play in a competitive event but wants to play with people of like or equal skill.

This really should be something we should strive for: pairing players of like skill against each other. This creates an environment that is both competitive yet fun for all involved.

So, I've been putting some serious thought into how this might get accomplished. The biggest challenge, of course, is how does one determine the skill level of a player so that they can be matched together?

Well, the first thought that comes into mind is a preliminary event that must occur in order to rate and/or rank players. From there, we could make determinations about like skills.

So, I wrote a computer algorithm which would randomly explore 3 types of pre-liminary matches for me. It would then conclude a final ranking system for pairings for an actual tournament. It would run the experiment 5 times and find an average of the ability of each algorithm to properly place individuals in the actual tournament.

In less complex terms.... take 64 players and rank them from worst to best in terms of skill. Now, pretend that we want to run a tournament where we put "like skilled" players together. Let's say we are allowed to run 4 brackets. That puts 16 players in each bracket. If our algorithm for determining their placement works, players 1 - 16 (the worst to the 16th worst player in our group of 64) should all be in a bracket together. Likewise, players 48 - 64 should all be in a bracket of 16 together as the best players. Hope that makes sense!

So, the computer program I wrote is going to randonmize and test 3 algorithms which seeks to create 4 brackets of 16 as described above. It then calculates the % of players in each bracket that were properly placed. In other words, if the worst players in the lot somehow ends up in the "top bracket" this creates an error both in the top and bottom brackets. What we then measure is the % of players in each bracket that are properly placed. The algorithm which achieves the highest average %'s in each bracket is the superior yard stick for player placement.

Each Algorithm assumes you will play 4 games as a prelim.

Algorithm #1 is a random algorithm based on W/L pairings. Round 1 is an entirely random matching of players. From there, Rounds 2, 3, and 4 randomly match players together based on their current W/L record. So, for example, in Round 2 everyone who won in Round 1 are randomly matched as is everyone who lost in Round 1. In Round 3, everyone who is currently 2-0 gets randomly paired, everyone who is 1-1 gets randomly paired, and everyone who is 0-0 gets randomly paired. Also, a random amount of battle points is assigned each round for 0-9 for the loser and 11-20 for the winner.

Algorithm #2 pairs individuals based on W/L pairings and battle points acrued using a seeding algorithm. Round 1 is entirely random. Also, each round, battle points are assigned for 0-9 for the loser and 11-20 for the winner. This is important because those battle points are then used to seed for the following rounds. From there, like W/L records are used, but instead of being randomly pairied, the top battle points player in the bracket is paired with the worst battle points player in the bracket.

Algorithm #3 is the same thing as Algorithm #2 expect instead of using seeding, the top players in each bracket are paired, then the 3rd and 4th players in each bracket are paired, etc.

No science experiment is complete without a control. The Control Algorithm in this case is randomly pairing each player, every round, and at the end, assigning them to brackets based on W/L record and Battle Points just like the other algorithms do.

The results of all of this are actually quite disheartening! Take a look.

Algorithm #1 Average Correct Placement %:

- Low Bracket: 78.756%
- Middle / Low Bracket: 41.25%
- Middle / High Bracket: 42.5%
- High Bracket - 75%

Algorithm #2 Average Correct Placement %:
- Low Bracket: 60%
- Middle / Low Bracket: 35%
- Middle / High Bracket: 33.75%
- High Bracket: 62.5%

Algorithm #3 Average Correct Placement %:
- Low Bracket: 75%
- Middle / Low Bracket: 38.75%
- Middle / High Bracket: 43.75%
- High Bracket: 76.25%

Control Algorithm Average Correct Placement%
- Low Bracket: 65%
- Middle / Low Bracket: 41.25%
- Middle / High Bracket : 42.5%
- High Bracket: 67.5%

So, Algorithm #1 and #3 are almost identical in results. Algorithm #2 and the Control show no significant differences. It would appear that all algorithms are much better at placing players into the Lowest and Highest brackets, but the middle brackets are a total crap shoot.

In all, I'm not really satisfied with ANY of the results. I would like to be able to correctly place around 75% (or 12 out of 16) correctly in EACH bracket. Otherwise, it's not a very reliable method for placing people for the actual tournament. 12 out of 16 means that 2 players in every bracket have been displaced.

Any ideas out there?

Monday, November 8, 2010

#1 Tip for Improving Your Game?

Simple. Know the rules. The first tip we ever issued on the Podcast, episode #1, was RTFM (read the rulebook in less abusive language :) )


So before getting into WHY this is going to improve your game, let's cover a few obligatory topics.....

First and foremost, most likely, you are not a genius or a memory master, and most likely, just like me, you don't have the time to drill 40K rules on a daily basis to ensure that you could compete on a 40K Game Show like this goes does sports trivia: (

So, accept your human limitations, and go ahead and get all the "boo hoo I don't have time to memorize rules" out of your system. Nobody does! You are not a computer, and no one expects you to be. You never will be. This is something that Chess players recently figured out. (Computers versus Chess Players). Second, that guy at your local store who seems to "know it all".... he doesn't. So, just because he says it doesn't mean he is right. Look it up yourself. Also know that the more you look things up, the more apt you are to remember them. Practice makes perfection.

Third, know that there is a seemingly limitless supply of ambiguous and contentious rules in 40K. Next time you are really bored, do some research on the topic. The more familiar you are with these ambiguous rules and how they get resolved at large, the better you know the rules. Large FAQs like the INAT are a good place to start. Don't take anyone's word for it on a rules ruling, but you most certainly should discuss them with your play group. Also know how contentious and ambiguous rules will be resolved at any event you might want to attend. (At least be prepared for some core rules to get changed on you in the middle of the game by a judge. That's also just a fact of 40K life. )

Lastly, before I really start discussing how knowing the rules is going to help your game, beware the "this is the way we've always done it" mentality. Lots of people play this game in a certain fashion because they didn't update themselves on the new editions. It's okay to house rule things, but know what is and is not a house rule in your local club. This could be a big problem if no one even knows that they are using a house rule.


So, how is knowing the rules well going to improve your game? First, it'll make the game go by faster since you aren't stopping to look things up every few minutes. This will let you get more games in in an allotted time which will equal more practice!

Aside from that, let's examine what is at the core of any strategy game. The foundation of any game is decisions. You make decisions to reach an outcome. The assumption that strategy games "insert" is that there is such thing as a "correct" decision, or more often than not in strategy games, a "most correct" decision given a certain circumstance. Theoretically, if you always make the "most correct" decision in every circumstance, you win! Some things seek to disrupt this though when it comes to 40K. The first, most obvious, disruption is dice rolling. Since dice are random, it is quite possible to always make the "most correct" decision and still lose a game because your dice go sour. Another big kicker in 40K is differences in codices. Sometimes, the "most correct" decision in any given circumstance might still net you a loss because you have a bad match-up. Scenarios are another great example. It's exactly this randomness, though, that makes 40K more entertaining in a lot of ways than chess because the decision trees are much, much longer. You also can't simply study and memorize them.

So, what's a decision tree? A decision tree is a long list of this... "if I do this, and then this, then my opponent will do this, which means I will respond with this, to which he will respond with that.... " and so on. It's a tree because you take a fork every time a decision is made, and the combination of all the decisions made will give you the outcome of the game! If you were a computer, like a chess computer, you would calculate billions of outcomes in a matter of seconds and choose the path that leads to victory! You aren't though! :)

So, what does this have to do with knowing rules? Well, you should always be striving to make the "most correct" decision in every CIRCUMSTANCE. A circumstance is defined by the rules of the game! Think about it. The position of your models, what they can do, what will happen if you shoot, move, assault, and even what your opponent will do to react to you is all defined by the rules of the game. If you don't know the rules, you can't fully analyze your situation, otherwise known as your circumstance, and thus, you won't be able to define the "most correct" decision because you haven't yet to define the circumstance.

Simply put, the more rules you know, the better able you are to see and comprehend what the best decision to make is because you more fully comprehend the situation you are in.

Here's an analogy. Let's suppose you are blind. Now, you can rely on your other four senses to help you negotiate the world. You can smell, touch, taste, and hear. You can use those four senses to help you make decisions about many things in your world. However, these decisions won't help you know to "duck!!!" when someone tosses a dodge ball at you. The thing is, you know what ducking is. You know that it is an appropriate reaction when something is heading for you, but what you DON'T KNOW, is that the circumstance you are currently in might warrant ducking as the "most correct" decision to be made because you can't see the oncoming ball.

Here's a 40K example. If you don't KNOW that Orks can declare a WAAAGH! once per game that gives them fleet, you might think you are SAFE from assaulting to be 13 inches away from a big mob. You won't even find out you were wrong until next turn when your opponent is on your poor marines like white on rice in a snowstorm because of his WAAAGH!. Had you have known about the WAAAGH! move, you probably could have made the "more correct" decision which would have been to GET AWAY! (or DUCK as in the previous analogy).

Often, I get asked, how do you think TACTICALLY? The answer is actually a lot simpler (as it always is in life) than you might first think. Thinking tactically is simply making the best decision possible in a given situation. The only way you can do that is to fully comprehend your situation or circumstance. In the game of 40K, the only way to truly comprehend your situation is to know the rules to the best of your ability.

Quiz yourself. Challenge yourself to answer questions, and then, check the book to see if you are right. These are all great exercises to help out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Building an Argument for Balance Part 3: Exploring the Arbitrary System

So, last time I posted about this topic, I had created a system for arbitrarily assigning point values to units in a Codex in an effort to empirically examine units to discover if balance exists.

To recap, why are we doing this? The answer to this is simple. We can argue till we are blue in the face about our opinions as to why things are or are not balanced, but none of those arguments will have empirical results capable of being reproduced behind them (i.e. actual evidence). So instead of approaching this conversation from a "but I knowz DA IGz da bestest cuz my BFF tablez me every thyme we playez", it should make a lot more sense to spend energy developing a system that we can approach from a measurable stand point. Then, we can expend our energy arguing the system into an acceptable state rather than spinning in circles. If we build our system correctly, eventually, point gaps will exist which show clear distinctions, provided there actually are any which we don't know for a fact, which will hopefully overcome the invariable "nit picking" that will be associated with it.

So, last time I came up with a system which contained very little thought which allows us to make actual measurements and can be reproduced. What we need to do next is start arguing the validity of it (the subjective piece in all this). An boy howdy are there a lot of problems with that system!

Before I get started, I went ahead and used that points system to break down several troop choices across a few codices just to see what the system produced. Here are the results: (note that I am not including all calculations because it would be far to long, just the results)

Space Marines Troops Analysis:

Tactical Squad
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 12 Points
Assaults: 0 Points
Saves: 4 Points
Stats: 3 Points
Special Rules: 8 Points
Total Points: 28

Scout Squad
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 15 Points
Assaults: 0 Points
Armor: 2 Points
Stats: 1 Point
Special Rules: 11 Points
Total: 30 Points

Space Marine Troops Average Score: 29

Space Wolves Troop Analysis:

Grey Hunters:
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 37 Points
Assaults: 2 Points
Armor: 4 Points
Stats: 3 Points
Special Rules: 8 Points
Total: 55

Blood Claws
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 32 Points
Assaults: 3 Points
Armor: 3 Points
Stats: 1 Point
Special Rules: 10 Points
Total: 50

Space Wolves Troops Average Score: 50

Necron Troop Analysis:

Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 9 Points
Assaults: 0 Points
Armor: 4 Points
Stats: 3 Points
Special Rules: 2 Points
Total: 19 Points

Necrons Troop Average Score: 19 Points

Chaos Space Marines Troop Analysis:

Chaos Space Marine:
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 37 Points
Assaults: 5 Points
Armor: 4 Points
Stats: 3 Points
Special Rules: 0 Points
Total: 50 Points

Khorne Berserker:
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 0 Points
Assaults: 13 Points
Armor: 3 Points
Stats: 5 Points
Special Rules: 4 Points
Total: 26 Points

Noise Marines:
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 1 Point
Assaults: 0 Points
Armor: 3 Points
Stats: 5 Points
Special Rules: 1 Point
Total: 11 Points

Plague Marines:
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 34 Points
Assaults: 0 Points
Stats: 5 Points
Armor: 3 Points
Special Rules: 4 Points
Total: 47 Points

Thousand Sons:
Movement: 0 Points
Shooting: 0 Points
Assaults: 0 Points
Armor: 6 Points
Stats: 2 Points
Special Rules: 3 Points
Total: 11 Points

Summoned Daemons:
Movement: 1 Point
Shooting: 0 Points
Assaults: 1 Point
Armor: 1 Point
Stats: 2 Points
Special Rules: 5 Points
Total: 10 Points

CSM Troops Average: 26

Average of all Codices: 31 Points
Standard Deviation of All units: 16 Points

This post is long enough as is, but here are some things to chew on while you look at this analysis. Remember, the goal here is to point out areas of glaring error so they can be corrected.

1) Necrons, Space Marines, and Chaos Space Marines are all within 1 Standard Deviation of each other. Space Wolves are not. Will this change if we included troop choices from other Dexs? I think so! Necrons will likely fall outside of 1 standard deviation (maybe even 2) and Space Wolves will likely be 2-3 standard deviations out as well. Standard Deviation is a good way to detect outliers. In our case, analysis of units that fall within a single standard deviation are "close to each other" where those outside of that are likely less balanced.

2) It would appear that, overall, there is a problem in the shooting category as some units get very high scores there and other get very little. The cause of this is their ability to obtain cheap melta guns or combi-meltas in amounts of 2-3, and they are picking up points for killing or damaging vehicles since we have no range restrictions in our calculations. Likewise, it would also appear that we may not be giving enough credit for killing Infantry, as can be evidenced by Thousand Sons getting no points in shooting despite having AP 3 bolters.

3) We may not be assigning enough points for the assault phase. There are many problems here not the least of which is no calculation about sweeping advance potential, causing morale checks, fearless wounds, etc. We all know that the Assault Phase is generally more "killy" than the shooting phase, but this is not necessarily represented well. Only Khorne Berserkers score any significant amount, and the points earned do not balance with shooting potential. Should they balance? I'm not sure on that at the moment considering that most people "prefer" the shooting phase.

4) Noise Marines and 1K Sons are certainly outliers. Our system does not appear to be appealing to any of their strengths. The only other alternative is that they do not have very many significant strengths. Which is it? What is the system missing?

5) Wolves got VERY high scores, but this is because they dominated the shooting category due to multiple meltas + combi-meltas being able to kill vehicles.

There's more, but I will analyze further later!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hosting a Tiered Competitive Tournament and a Non-Competitive Event: Part 1

Non-Competitive Event:

So, in response to the introductory article, Nathan Fluger posted up a non-competitive event idea which I think was an excellent example of exactly what we are looking for in this area. Recall that a non-competitive event is an event designed to provide a game play feel but involve no real competition. The suggestion was a 40K scavenger hunt. The idea here is that a big list of “events” are created and handed to each player. The goal for each play in the event is to play as many games of 40K as they can stand across the event with as many players as possible. As “events” occur in those games, they can get their list checked off for the event having occurred.

Example: One item on the check list might be “rolled a Snake Eyes to pass a Morale Check”. If that occurs during your game, you can get it signed off on that it occurred.

I want to examine why this is a fantastic set-up so we can use it as a basis to describe some core components of what I think make for a great Non-Competitive Event.

1) The format is designed to get people to play games. This is critical as the intent is to have a “game play” event not a convention. In fact, the more games you play, the more chances you have of checking items off your list! This could encourage people to play all day and all night!

2) The format has no relationship to winning or losing your games. Thus, you no longer need be concerned with the list you bring, the tactics you will use, etc.

3) “Winning” is a matter of randomness throughout your games. It can’t be controlled and thusly no need for competitive attitudes at the table. Also, no need for competitive lists or feeling like you got “crushed” if you lose.

4) It doesn’t require any tactical skill to participate!

5) Others?

These are exact qualities you look for in a non-competitive event. The above idea does have a few flaws in it which can potentially be gamed, but this is an excellent descriptor of exactly what we are looking to find. Perhaps he can use a concept like this to design a system which promotes game play not winning?

Amateur Competitive Event:

Similarly, I want to come up with a list of things that I think will make for a good amateur competitive event. From there, perhaps we can distill those ideas into a good format.

1) Don’t offer crutches or handicaps. I don’t think that anyone really wants to feel like they are being “helped” to win.

2) Refrain from a scenario in which players will feel like they are being “crushed” by a competitor who is out of their league.

3) No comp. I really don’t want Comp. The reason is that preferably, you shouldn’t have to tell anyone what they are or are not allowed to field.

4) Others?

I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, but so far, I’m not sure they are well formed or even feasible. The point of the exercise then is to make them well formed and determine feasibility or alternatives. Hopefully we can then construct a list things we want to see and lastly a system which will fulfill them.
Somehow, as described by the “tiered competitive” portion of the title, it would be ideal to have tournaments for amateur competitors be tiered such that you are putting “like skilled” players in the same brackets. This is similar to how we put Heavy Weight fighters and Light Weight fighters in different brackets. How do you do this? Some sort of pre-qualifier rounds? Based on armies? Vet decisions? I’m not sure! This would be ideal though as it would help considerably with alleviating a player’s feeling that he didn’t have a chance. Truth be told, we can’t fix “whining about losing”, but we can make steps towards making sure that we aren’t putting the seals in with the sharks. Not to mention, this would seriously help competitive players find what they are looking for which is not (shouldn’t be anyways) playing against weaker players.

I really want to refrain from artificially handicapping or boosting players. By this I mean that I don’t want systems like comp which attempt to give advantage to one player or another. There are lots of reasons why comp is both good and bad, but in all, I don’t want to be telling people what they should or should not have in their lists. So, how do you make something more competitive when it simply isn’t? If it comes to this, I have much less of a problem boosting a codex than I do trying to “comp down” a codex. This is simply a design strategy. Don’t take away, just give in equal amounts! People in general will be much happier that way.

I realize that you can’t stop people from whining about losing. That’s life. However, don’t get hung up on that. I do believe that you can create a system where people will at least recognize it as trying to be as fair as possible to them. Currently, most amateur competitors just find tournaments as frustrating because they feel like they didn’t have a chance or were not given a fair shake. The perception here could at least be remedied. The truth is, it's not whining about losing if you really were handed a knife and told to go participate in a gun battle. Real sports recognize this (as alluded to by Heavy/Light Weight boxing). There should be a way we can recognize this as well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hosting a tiered competitive event and a non-tournament event: Introduction

So, I’m all about some competitive tournament events. Since the “NOVA” phenomenon, I have also attended the BfS and intend to go to Bolter Beach, another event based off the NOVA Open. These are a ton of fun if you are into the competitive scene.

What if you aren’t? There’s no need for me to further generate ideas on what a good competitive tournament would look like. The Whiskey and 40K crew already figured this out for us. Indeed, they even attempted to reach out to the rest of the community as well by involving equal prize bases in that format for things such as Sportsman, Best Painted Army, and Renaissance Man. Combined with the seeded matching system, hopefully players at the event get to face off against opponents which are basically on par with them. That being said, at the end of the day, it’s still a competitive event.

As large (and VOCAL) as the competitive community is, there is an equally large if not larger 40K community out there that doesn’t associate with that competitive community. I’m sure you are familiar with the groups, but here are my definitions for them:

- Non-competitive: These groups of individuals just want to game and be a part of the hobby. Winning is completely irrelevant.

- Amateur Competitive: Groups of individuals that truly are competitive, but want an arena where they can actually compete because they aren’t into the hyper-competitive scene.

So, let me describe some of the characteristics of these two groups of individuals, and I’m sure you will be right on board with what I’m talking about.

The Non-Competitive Gamer:

The non-competitive gamer is generally characterized by the “beer and pretzels” mentality. These are the guys who just showed up at your event because showing up was the primary goal. Often, these guys are more into the hobby than into the game, although not necessarily. Winning a game means nothing to them nor does losing it. They don’t come to events expecting to win prizes and are happy just to play some games and get some laughs in.

Often, these are the major hobby guys. They show up to show off their armies. If they can get some fun games in to boot, great!

Amateur Competitive:

These are the gamers who are characterized by a desire to compete but general inability to do so. Generally, this is the group of gamers that characteristically is known for wanting comp systems, complains about hyper-competitive gamers at events or “hard” lists in a competitive environment, or just a general want of “fairness” or “balance” in a tournament scene so they aren’t getting crushed by the hard-core competitive crowd.

Believe it or not, most of the gamers I meet fall into this category.

So, the competitive crowd has put a TON of effort into devising plans for competitive tournaments. In efforts to include other types of gamers, those events include other tournaments within tournaments such as painting, sportsmanship, etc. However, what they don’t do is include game play related events which would appeal to the Amateur Competitor or Non-Competitor. The NOVA did a good job of addressing this by their seeding methodology, which tends to by the end of the day put like-skilled gamers together as well as offering more prizes the more you lost. This was a fantastic layout while also trying to cater heavily to the competitive scene with a single-elimination tournament in play as well.

That being said, not so much effort has been put into trying to come up with events that cater to these other two crowds in terms of actual game play. I think there are several reasons for this, but why is not as important as moving forward. What I would like to do is come up with events for these other type categories of gamers.

Now, this is not just your average “we need a better tournament format” BLOG post. On the contrary, as far as tournament formats go, the NOVA format pretty much solves the problem.

So, what is the point? Many events do their best to try and combine all categories of gamers under a single roof. This makes sense given how small our hobby is in terms of players. You want as many people to show up as possible. However, I really think that the best solution for catering to these groups of gamers is to separate the events.

In other words, if you really want that group of gamers to be happy, you should really have different events. Have an event for your competitive gamers, one for your amateur competitors, and one for your non-competitors. Rather than trying to figure out how to combine them, have three different types.

We are already doing this in most cases. Tournaments with comp attached are directed exactly at the amateur competitors. There are a bunch of GTs already doing this. They include made up scenarios, comp systems, and many other elements which competitive gamers abhor but amateur competitors love. What I want here is an event structure as solid, well thought out, and copyable as the NOVA format. The difference will be that we don’t have to focus any longer on trying to cater to all groups, just one.

As far as non-competitive events involving game play….. are there any? Most of these are just conventions, but non-competitive gamers want to play, not just attend a convention as well. What would an event look like that involved game play that isn’t competitive at all?

I’ve got a lot of ideas to explore on these notions. For example, what about tiered tournaments for amateur competitors where you match people based on their skill level, armies, comp preference, etc?

I’m interested to see where this thought process can lead.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Building an Argument for Balance Part 2: Starting with an Arbitrary System

Creating a system to quantify fairness or balance:

In order to make an argument that balance is not as all encompassing as we want to believe, we must first come up with an objective and quantifiable means of defining fairness or balance between codices. How can this be done?

Many systems of Comp have already tried to do this. The biggest problem with most of these systems is that they are entirely subjective and generally utilizing rules which do not apply equally to all codices involved. So, to get started, we must agree that if we are going to come up with a system where we can quantifiably judge balance, it must be able to do so without anyone interjecting any “opinion” into the system. It needs to be based solely off of a set of factual, measurable rule statements.

Measurable statements are statements which can be equally applied as a measure to all codices. This means that we should really stay away from statements which can only apply in given circumstances and only for a given Codex. The overall goal of the creation of these statements is to create a metric by which codices can be compared. These create an empirical study rather than just a subjective view point. The only problem will be that creating those rules WILL involve some subjective statements. The difference will be that the subjective nature will produce measureable values rather than “but Space Wolves ARE OP” raving.

However, we can quibble ourselves into a philosophical quagmire trying to debate how to create a perfect quantifying system for balance. To avoid that, one tactic I like to use is to simply “take a shot” at coming up with a system and seeing what happens. The reason why this is effective is because a measurable system has reproducible results. It is also effective because reproducible results can be reviewed by others and argued to a finer standard.

Your lawyer brain is probably flashing red lights at this point. That’s okay. It’s another human flaw and response to a given set of assertions to argue rather than to simply play along. What you should be recognizing though is that almost any game you have played, be it table top, computer game, or what have you, uses ideas just like this to try and maintain a balance. Any game which doesn’t flounders with imbalance. We do attempt to seek balance in a gaming system for creating measurable values and then using subjective measures to fine tune the numbers into a system which can eventually be used to create empirical evidence.

For example. You may be familiar with terms such as “Damage Per Second” or “Mitigation”. These are empirical values generally assigned to games which are used to make comparisons. These comparisons can then be used as evidence for balance. In Warhammer 40K, we already do this with statistical analysis of dice rolling, stat lines, point values, etc.

***On that note, before I continue, and I will come back to this…. How much effort do you think has thus far been put into trying to empirically balance 40K? A lot or a little? Why do you think that? If you think that not a lot of effort has been put in, can you still justify to yourself that the game is balanced? ***

So, I have just arbitrarily come up with a system for trying to assign quantifiable values to different codices. This system is entirely arbitrary! It has no meaning other than something I just quickly put down on paper as a starting point for achieving a measure of balance. After I get done explaining it and showing some results, I will come back and analyze it in another post to show you exactly how the “back and forth” works with coming up with a subjective, empirical system. (This as opposed to NO SYSTEM AT ALL.) This is simply an example of the exercise of coming up with a system which we will refine as we move forward.

A randomly created value system put together with little to no thought

  • We will attempt to assign point values to different units in each codex. These points will be based on the rating system below. When finished, we will add up all the points, and the final value will be the “score” for that unit.

  • From there, we will compare those scores for each unit within a single force organization of a codex. We will find the “average score” for that Codex for that Force Organization.

  • We will compare the values between Codices in a search for balance.

  • We will see which codices fall within 1 standard deviation of the average and outside of that standard deviation as an initial measure of balance.

Movement Phase:

  • If a unit CAN ALWAYS MOVE 6 inches: 1 point

  • If a unit CAN ALWAYS MOVE 6-12 inches: 3 points

  • If a unit CAN ALWAYS MOVE 12+ inches: 5 points

Shooting Phase

  • If a unit CAN statistically, on average, kill a 5 man marine squad not in cover in a single turn of shooting: 5 points

  • … 10 man marine squad in a single turn of shooting: 10 points

  • …. 3 man marine squad: 3 points

  • ….1 marine : 1 point

  • If a unit CAN statistically, on average, kill an AV 10 vehicle not in cover in a single turn of shooting: 1 point

  • …. AV 11: 3 Points

  • …. AV 12: 5points

  • …. AV 13: 10 Points

  • …. AV 14: 15 points

  • If a unit CAN statistically glance or penetrate an AV 11 vehicle no in cover in a single turn of shooting: 1 point

  • … AV 12: 3 points

  • …. AV 13: 5 points

  • …. AV14: 10 points

  • Lastly, subtract one point from each category for every 50 points spent to use the unit in the least expensive configuration possible to achieve the goal.

Assault Phase

  • IF the unit CAN statistically kill 1 marine in Close Combat without charging : 1 point

  • ….. 3 marines: 5 points

  • ….. 5 marines: 10 points

  • ….. 10 marines: 20 points

  • If the unit CAN statistically kill 3 marines in Close Combat by charging: 1points

  • …. 5 marines: 5 points

  • …. 10 marines: 10 points

  • If a unit can charge 6 inches and subtracting 1 point for every 10 points the average model in the unit costs: 1 point

  • …. 12 inches: 5 points

  • > 12 inches: 10 points

  • Subtract 1 point from category for every 50 points spent on the unit except for the last 3 categories about charge range for the least point expensive configuration needed to achieve the category.


  • For vehicles, subtract 1 point for every 50 points of cost on the vehicle. For non-vehicles, subtract 1 point for every 10 points spent on the average model in the unit.

  • If the highest armor value is AV 10: 1 point

  • …. Av 11: 2 points

  • …. AV 12 – 5 points

  • …. AV 13 – 10 points

  • … AV 14 – 15 points

  • Standard Armor Save of 5+: 1 point

  • …. 4+ : 3 points

  • …. 3+: 5 points

  • …. 2+: 10 points

  • Invulnerable Save of 5+: 2 points

  • ….4+: 5 points

  • …. 3+ : 10 points

  • …. 2+: 20 points

  • For armor, you will take the highest possible point value given wargear additions and subtracting costs. You will get points for each category of save but only the highest point value allocated for each level.


  • Not applicable to vehicles

  • +1 Point for Strength, Toughness, BS, and WS being a 4.

  • +3 point for each point higher than 4 in Strength, Toughness, BS, WS, or I.

Special Rules

  • For each USR in use: 3 points

  • For each positive special rule: 3 points

  • For each negative special rule: -1 point

  • For a rule that be both positive and negative: 2 points

Overarching rules
- No value may ever go below zero in any category.

So that’s it! For better or for worse! So before I crank out an example, let’s do just a little reflection on the system. First, we can see the subject end is the measure itself as well as the point value assigned. The non-subjective bit is that these rules can be applied to every unit and the same result reproduced.

Example: Space Marine Tactical Squad

Movement Phase

  • Can move 6 inches: 1 point

Shooting Phase:

  • @180 points can kill 3 Marines = 3 + (-3 …. Cost of the unit) = 0 points awarded.

  • @90 points can kill 1 Marine = 1 + (-1 … cost the unit) = 0 points awarded.

  • @175 points can kill AV 12 with Melta + Multi Melta = 5 + (-3 cost of unit) = 2

  • @100 points can DAMAGE AV 12 with Combi-Melta = 3 + (-2) = 1

  • Etc.

  • Total: 12 points awarded

Assault Phase

  • Space Marine Tactical units cannot meet any categories and earn points versus their cost

  • Total: 0 points awarded


  • 3+ Save = 5 + (-1 point for 15 point marine) = 4 points


  • +1 point for Strength, Toughness, BS, and WS of 4: 4 + (-1 for 15 point marine) = 3 points

  • Total: = 3

Special Rules

  • ATSKNF – 3 points

  • Combat Squads – 3 points

  • Combat Tactics – 3 points

  • Cost: -1 point

  • Total: 8 points

Space Marine Tactical Squad: Grand Total of 28 points

So that’s it for our very first, arbitrary, with no real thought put into it, system. My next post will attempt to examine this little system and point out some glaring flaws. It will also show you an analysis of several troop choices and show you what has happened.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Orks for Battle for Salvation Part 2

So, I'm still obsessing about my list.

Decided to go for a little more balanced approach! This one "feels" a little better.

Orks @ 2000 Points List #2

Ghazzie - 225
Big Mek + KFF - 85

4 x Mega Nobz w/ Battle Wagon + Deff+ RPJ + Armor Plates - 290
10 x Lootas - 150
10 x Lootas - 150

4 x Mega Nobz w/ Battle Wagon + Deff+ RPJ + Armor Plates - 290
18 x Boyz + Nob + PK - 149
18 x Boyz + Nob + PK -149
29 x Shoota Boyz + Nob + PK + 3 Rokkits - 245

Battlewagon + Deff + RPJ - 115
Battlewagon + Deff + RPJ - 115

Total: 1998

Okay, here's more thoughts!

#1: 3 of the 4 deployments are going to be 40 inch + gaps between myself and the enemy unless he moves forward. This means a few things. First, 1 extra turn for Battle Wagons. Second, long range guns are more in play here .

#2: Only 1 of the 4 missions is Objectives. Thus, needing to hold objectives is not a big deal. I'm thinking the 30 man Shoota Boyz can handle that job. I beefed them up with a Nob + PK because in missions where I don't care about objectives, they can mad dash towards the enemy and get ready to support the battle wagons in a brawl. For this, I would have preferred Sluggas, but in missions where objectives might matter, I'll be happy they can shoot. It's a big trade off!

The three rokkit MIGHT get one vehicle all game. The shootas will protect me from Scouts in the center. But, I now have 2 Lootas squads to do that as well. The Shootas can spray down any Strakken Blobs I don't want to mess with. All these are good.

Unfortunately, Ork shooting really, really sucks. So, in missions where I don't need the shooting, what good are they? They are even more terrible against BA who have FnP.

I'm torn here :(

#3: The extra 10 Lootas will allow me to potentially pop some transports before my Wagons get there plus provide more answers to Vendettas. if my opponent chooses to target my lootas, awesome! Because of the deployment, I can keep Lootas mostly at 48 inches. "Torrent of Fire" weapons don't usually have that kind of range. So, if they want to plink at my Lootas with Rockets or Cannons instead of my wagons, BE MY GUEST!

This adds more infilitrating scout defense as well.

#4: Big Mek got Armor and a Klaw. I figure at the 40 inch to get there range, there's no coming back! So, he might as well be ready to fight!

I'm also toying with the idea of splitting the 30 man shootaz into 2, 20 man shootaz with 2 rokkits each and no Nob. However, lack of objective missions makes me think this isn't worth it because I don't really need the troop choices.

Talking Points - 1800ish Points

The next range of points commonly seen is the 1750-1850ish point range. For some time, this was the “standard” tournament size in the states. Although this is not necessarily as true anymore, it is still a common points range for a normal game.

The 1800ish Points range is generally considered the compromise level between a small 1500 and a larger 2000 point game. As an entity all of its own, the 1800ish point range offers a compromise between the Pros and Cons at the 1500 and 2000 point ranges, hence the compromise.


  • The additional 250-350 points over 1500 points allows for this range to have a bit more diversity. As such, it also allows for most armies to start to flesh out into a more “balanced” style list. The extra points allow players to pick up that “extra” unit or weapon which will allow them to “handle” a little more variety of opponents.
  • As with 1500 points, the point level is still small enough, especially at 1750, to generally appeal to a player’s ‘sense’ of having to be tactical while building a list but is less restrictive.
  • This point value comprises the sweet spot for some armies. Some armies needed just that little boost over 1500 to start working some new strategies that weren’t possible at 1500. For example, a “Loganwing” starts to become a little more viable and reasonable that this point level than at 1500 because the cost of Logan Grimnar himself is covered in the points boost.
  • This points level start to see a little more balance be applied to the game, especially for older codices which could not pack in a lot of power at 1500 unlike newer dex’s can.


  • Just as it is a pro that the point value increases for some armies and players, it is also a con for other armies and players. Albeit adding a bit more flavor, it also adds more room for some armies which some player will contend means generals are no longer have to be choosy about what they take.
  • More points mean more flexibility. You will start to see the breakdown of some very “rock, paper, scissor” strategies at around the 1850 level before armies have become more flexible and able to handle more situations. This is actually both a PRO and a CON. Some people prefer it this way. Others do not!


1850 is the standard game size.

This is so far from true as to be ridiculous. As many people that play at 1850 also likely play at 1750, 1500, and 2000.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Talking Points: Introduction and 1500 Points

I wanted to muse a little bit about varying points levels. Most people that I have met do not have much of a preference to a given points level. Some people are quite vocal about their preference for points! For this article, I would like to take the opportunity to discuss varying point games and some potential effects on game play they might have. I will be breaking down the conversation along the following sub-sections.

  • 1500 – Widely considered the smallest, acceptable size for a normal game of 40K.
  • 1750-1850 – The old tournament range. This is for the players that usually want the best of both worlds, not too small and not too big.
  • 2000 – This is for the people that enjoy the flexibility of a larger game.
  • 2000+ - For people that enjoy much larger games!
Each one of these varying point levels has an impact on the way the game is played, especially games at the 1500 and 2000+ point levels. Each codex also has a seeming sweet spot for points which could be a hotly debated topic in its own right. I’m going to hit the Pros and Cons of varying point levels. In truth, I think everyone should try all the different levels. MY personal preference is usually, the bigger the game, the more fun it is to play!

1500 Points

1500 points is generally considered the smallest, acceptable size for a normal game of 40K. This is also the standard size of play for some major, local areas in the US as well as the standard size for play in the UK.


  • This point level severely restricts many codices from being able to overload the board with power. Most codices see somewhere between 400-500 points spent in just compulsory troop and HQ choices. For example, two, basic ten man tactical squads with rhinos and a captain costs 510 points. This does not mean that you can’t try to fill your compulsory choices on the cheap. (2 x 5 Scout Squads + Captain = 250). Usually, though, once you have given a working kit to your troop choices and given wargear to your HQ, you’ll end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 33% of your points already spent just in compulsory choices. This only leaves you 1000 or so to fill in your strategy.
  • This point level restricts an army’s ability to handle “all situations” and usually gears itself more toward “adopting a strategy and running with it”. This is because the points available to you are generally low so that you can’t have everything you want! Generally, people who adamantly defend 1500 points as being the appropriate point level refer to this as having to be tactically choosey about what you can include in your army.
  • There is more room on the board, generally, and less going on. This makes games easier to track, faster to play, and it is generally easier to maneuver.
  • Some armies truly excel at 1500 points because any points in excess of 1500 sees them filling out excess points rather than gaining anything overly useful for the extra points. These armies are the most efficient at 1500 because any more points just go into fluff. For example, in my opinion, Tau are at their strongest at 1500 points. This is because they can max out their force org with 1 Broadside each, 1 suit each, some troops, and some HQ. The addition of more troop choices doesn’t really help Tau that much, and the inclusion of more suits is only necessary once the points start going up.
  • Many effective and fun strategies are only possible at 1500 points. These strategies usually rely on the opponent not having access to enough of their force org or units in order to combat them. For example, Dark Eldar Lance Spam works beautifully at 1500 points. It is not so effective at 2000 points where the opponent can usually stand to soak some of the damage and keep coming.
  • Hammer Units and Elite Units tend to function better at the 1500 point levels because there is “less opposing army” to deal with them. This is also true of bigger characters and creatures. Usually because the weapons needed to deal with these units only come on more expensive squads. This might seem counter-intuitive as Hammer Units are usually very expensive and thus take up more of the valuable points at 1500. However, you must also imagine that at 1500, the opponent doesn’t have access to the variety of tools needed to deal with them.
  • Just as some armies excel at 1500, some armies are terrible at 1500 points in terms of balance. For example, in my opinion, 1500 points severely restrict Tyranids from being effective. This is because generally accepted builds are Hive Guard, Tervigons, Termagaunts, and HQ. You cannot effectively fit these elements in at 1500 points and still get an effective quantity (i.e. 2-3 Hive Guard per slot) at the points. This puts them at a pretty major disadvantage to armies that function very well at 1500, like Dark Eldar for example who can pack in an unbelievable amount of Dark Lances even at low points.
  • Some armies, especially newer ones, can pack in enormous amounts of fire power into highly under-costed units. This can truly unbalance a 1500 point game because not all armies have access to these “super units”. At higher point levels, other armies can mitigate a lot of this imbalance by packing in more units, especially since usually the player having access to these units usually has run out of force org slots even at 1500. Great examples are Vendettas or Long Fangs. Because these units are so effective and so cheap, an opponent’s ability to mitigate them at 1500 is severely limited, especially with older codices that don’t have that great new pricing available to them.
  • Many, very effective strategies and variety get restricted at lower points. There are many builds that simply aren’t viable at 1500 points. For example, many very expensive HQ units are simply not viable in 1500 point games because they eat up to many of the available points to allow for a balanced army build.
  • These smaller games tend to exacerbate imbalances found between the older and newer codices. Once again, this has to do with costing and the ability for older codices to offset some of that bad costing once the newer dex has run out of force org slots for their cheap stuff. This is not true in all cases, but it does hold true in most cases.
  • 1500 points are more likely to suffer from “paper, rock, scissors” problems. This is because higher point games allow for players to construct more balanced lists which are capable of handling a variety of situations whereas 1500 point games tend to prefer lists which are very pointed to a particular strategy. For example, if someone shows up with 3 Land Raiders at 1500 points, the availability of weapons necessary to deal with them in a balanced 1500 list will be not be very high. At 2000 points, there are usually plenty of weapons necessary to deal with such a “rock” army.
Common Misconceptions

For each point level, I want to point out some common misconceptions and address them.

1500 points is a superior level because it forces players to make choices because they can’t include everything they want.

- This is the most common misconception from people who generally prefer 1500 point games. For those of us who player at higher points, there are plenty of sacrifices and choices you have to make even at 2000 points. You can’t always have what you want. In fact, for many armies, 1500 points is so restrictive they can’t get what they NEED let alone WANT. The theory behind this is nice, but this is also what introduces the exacerbation of codex imbalance. For example, how many Long Fangs will a Space Wolf player have at 1500 points? 15. How many will he have at 2000 points? 15. You can see how the effectiveness of such a powerful, widely under-costed unit gets diminished at higher points and not at lower points.

There are builds that don’t work at 1500.

- This is true! However, it is also true that there are builds that work at 1500 that don’t work at anything more. So, this statement is not a valid reason not to play at 1500.

1500 is balanced and the point level intended for play by GW.

- It may be the point level intended, but it is certainly not balanced. No point level is truly balanced for all codices. Some function better at 1500. Some function better at 2500.

1500 point games are faster.

- Most games at ‘Ard Boyz finish in the 2 ½ hour time limit at 2500 points. At the NOVA, all of my games were done before 2 hours at 2000 points. It’s not the point level that matters, it’s the players. The number one factor in making a slow game is looking up rules while the game is going on or by people that don’t have charts memorized or their basic army stats.