Thursday, April 15, 2010

Overpowered is for noobs


Before we begin, I'm going to be quite blunt in this following post.  One of my biggest pet peeves about this hobby is when people call things "overpowered".  To me, there's no such thing.  The correct word to describe something that's not in line with the rest of the army is called "imbalanced".  This is a word alien to most forumers in the gaming word and something that I strongly suggest looking up.

To make things easy, I have google defined it for everyone.  For simplificty's sake, let's just take the first definition:

Imbalanced - unbalanced: being or thrown out of equilibrium.

When a certain unit is too powerful, it's imbalanced.  In the same manner, if a unit sucks complete ass, it should also be classified as imbalanced.  Balance is achieved when everything has a purpose; where everything has a use and is functioning as intended by design.  Every unit, ability, map, scenario, mission type or any combination of those aforementioned is factored in (among many other things) and held in relation to other aspects of the same archetype (other factions, races, armies).  As you can see, with a possible hundred or more various aspects to any given game, perfect balance is almost never achieved.  Some companies do this better than others, but that's specifically proportioned to how many people play the game, and how many people can analyze this on a design level and make it "fair" for the rest of us.  Statistically, you need hundreds if not thousands of people playing the game on casual, intermediate and competitive levels to even begin analyzing proper balance.  That's just how the cookie crumbles.


Unfortunately for us, Games Workshop is not one of those companies that are particularly strong in the realm of balance design.  They rock hard in terms of game design; creating games that captures the essence of the army on the table-top, but in terms of balance, they lack a few things here and there.  I mean come on, you look at the SW book in comparison to the latest Nid book and you should have yourself a hearty long laugh.  As the great MG said to me once: "There's more people working in the studio than just one guy."  I forgot exactly what I was talking about.. but I'm sure it had something to do with Fantasy Daemons by Matt Ward.  What he said is completely true.  It's not just one author who writes an army book and then sends it off to publishing.  During the writing process, everyone chips in ideas and thoughts and the book gets complete by the collective teamwork of the entire design team.  It's not like they had 56 designers go into 56 separate rooms for a couple of months and come out saying "I bet my dude can beat your dude".  Maybe in MvC2, but definitely not at GW.  It still puzzles me what happened with the WHFB Daemons army book, but that's behind us now and I'm looking forward to 8th Ed.  So with this in mind, we continue buying their stuff because they tickle the sections of our brain that scream hobby fun.

So back at the topic at hand:  Overpowered is a term noobs use when they get their faces kicked in and have no idea why.  Most of the time, the guy posting has <50 total posts and speaks in a internet lingo unrecognizable by most of the human species.  They also don't sit down and analyze why they lost, nor do they replay the battle in their heads and realize any mistakes or battlefield failures.  They immediately go on the forums and post some form of spam cleverly disguised as "X army is overpowered!!!1" and go on screaming things with the caps key broken from nerd rage.  Now I'm not saying we should all be master game designers, but a part of me actually enjoys logic and common sense.  The ability for man to learn from their mistakes is one of the keynotes of the human species and one of the reasons we're still here and not inside dinosaur fossils.  Let's look at some cries about Blood Angels really quick.  Now I'm not going to link to anyone's posts or mention any names because I'm nicer than that (lol), but for the most part, Blood Angels are imbalanced because their vehicles are Fast, they have DoA and Mephiston is a god given form in a 25mm miniature.

First thing's first.  I can't remember the last time I actually paid for something in the Space Wolves codex.  Grey Hunters are 15ppm and come with Counter-attack, Acute Senses, CCW/Pistol and Boltgun and a crapload of utility, special weapons and wolf specific awesomeness (MotW, Wolf Standard).  Thunderwolf Cav are amazing for the price, Rune Priests are probably the best HQ in the game for points and WGT have more diversity than a candy store.  But on the other hand, Blood Angels are overpowered because they pay for their Fast vehicles, even more for an Vindicator, has Tacticals and Devastators in comparison to the Grey Hunters and Long Fangs, and have a relatively lame HQ selection.  Mephiston is good, but definitely not invincible.  T6 and 5W and 2+ (maybe FNP with the bubble nearby) does not scream imbalanced in the face of melta and plasma fire.  With Plasma Guns you wound Mephiston on 3s and Meltas own him on 2s.  One solid IG shooting phase can bring him down as long as they draw LoS.  With the way assaulting vehicles work in 5th, or assault in general rather, getting shot after a bloodbath is rather common place.  If that wasn't enough, let's just call DoA imbalanced too because a Space Marine Legion who has specialized in jump pack warfare for 10 millenia, had a Primarch with actual freakin' Angel Wings and have the same fighting assault-based military doctrine for all this time is too far-fetched and is not fair for the other armies.  If that's the case, we should all melt down our miniatures and build glorified chess pieces instead, because apparently, we live in the Dark Ages.

I could go on and on about the different army books as well, but I should really just leave it up to the player.  He should learn simply learn from his mistakes and do better next time.  No one starts out being exceptionally good at everything:  You play games, obtain battlefield experiences through victories and defeats (more through defeats), readjust your thinking and try again.  Don’t make posts complaining about things, don’t make posts that blame the game and not yourself, but do make posts asking for advice and critiques that’ll make you a better player.  Before doing any of that, you should always try to figure things out for yourself.  Analytical thinking makes you a better general.  Period.

With that being said, don't use the word "overpowered".  There's no such thing.  It's a word developed by lesser players to better describe defeat.  It's like calling Roger Federer overpowered because he owns you at Tennis.  Suck it up, you got outplayed.  To me, calling something overpowered automatically puts you into 2 categories:  You're bad because you're new, or you're bad because you're bad.

Comments, questions, concerns, thoughts, editorials or death threats, leave 'em here.

13 comments:

eriochrome said...

Well, I have to say you are wrong. You admit that GW has major balance issues both internal to and between codexes. Overpowered is just being more specific about which way the something is imbalanced.

Do people run to it way to fast as an excuse. Ofcourse they do way to much but that does not mean it is not truly a problem that GW should work harder on.

In Blood Bowl the rulebook pretty much tells you that some teams suck and you should not play them unless you are already good at the game.

HERO said...

In all my years of gaming, the game is often the last thing I blame.

Badelaire said...

The way I see it, in a game with the term "Forty Thousand" as part of it's name, there is no such thing as "over-powered". The whole game is over-powered; that's part of the fun of 40K.

But on the other hand, I do think there are instances where, for a variety of reasons, there are periods of time or certain situations or builds where you get a "perfect storm" in which a unit or army's effectiveness will be far out of proportion to it's point cost (look up "Leafblower Imperial Guard List) as an example.

I don't think this is a "tarrible" thing; it just happens. The rolling nature of rules editions and codex releases and the discovery of win-builds means that now and then, some codexes will be amazing, while others will be a little weak. Then the tide will turn and suddenly that amazing codex doesn't do that hot anymore.

I'm the antithesis of the Tourney Player, so I don't really have that cutthroat mentality that says no build is "too-powerful"; I do think there are certain types of armies that I wouldn't want to play against because I personally wouldn't have fun playing versus with my armies and my play style. But I won't claim these players are "doing it wrong"; they are just playing a different flavor of the game than I enjoy. No harm, no foul.

Derrick said...

You know, I honestly don't find BA to be unbalanced in comparison to other 5th edition codexes(you can't expect them to maintain balance with previous edition codexes as the game progresses). Even compared to Tyranids, though there certainly ARE internal balance issues there, the overall list can definitely be competitive.

BA *do* get a lot of stuff that's just *better* than similar versions in other lists, but without fail they pay more for it.

I honestly feel Space Wolves get a better list in terms of power:point cost ratios.

Yes, Mephie will kick your ass in close combat; but he's surprisingly soft when shot. Sometimes that's easier said than done, but so be it. There will always be a "most badass character in the game", BA's are the ones who have him now. ~shrugs~ There's no sense in whining about it.


Now, with that said, GW most certainly does release the occasional armybook/codex that IS grossly unbalanced, and it always annoys me when those players assume that they win purely due to some tactical genius on their part. While I will never blame armies when I win or lose, I do certainly recognize that army selection can indeed serve as a form of handicapping.

I can't remember a single time when an army was so broken that I could simply not beat it. Not once, since 3rd edition. In either game. With any army. The odds are not always even - in fact, they usually aren't. The game is never decided by army choice.

Anonymous said...

Most of the time when people say "imbalanced" they mean "overpowered" anyway. I rarely hear "imbalanced" used negatively - people usually just say that the unit sucks.


Of course, this type of gaming that GW does will never be balanced, or even close to balanced. This is because of the nature of the hobby itself - codicies take years to get released, and all the while newer and shinier armies come out. The update process for each army is staggered, so there'll always be some lists which get old and unupdated - like the DA codex with their CML and Machine Spirit, for example. This leads to a catch-22 of sorts - if GW updates, they only update one army at a time, leaving the others further behind; if they don't update, the hobby stagantes.

Compare this to a something like a computer game, for example. Everything is released at once, and patches are easily applied to fix balance issues. SCII is getting patches weekly, even daily, which try to resolve balance issues straight away. The closest thing GW has to patching is the occasional FAQ, and that's more of a clarification or patching up exploits rather than fixing the balance. Something like Warhammer will never reach the perfection of balance which was achieved in Starcraft: Brood War.

Sure it isn't so unbalanced to the degree of "you pick this army, you lose". In practise, dice rolls, terrain set-up and your enemy's lists make too much of an impact on the outcome of the game for this to happen. If you look at it theoretically, however, then there is no doubt that some army lists are simply better than others.

Kirby said...

Didn't read it all but when you make claims like SW being light years ahead of Tyranids I stopped. Another person who doesn't understand the Tyranid codex and lauds all over the SW codex. Yay for sites like Dakka and Warseer.

Furthermore, complaining about the fluff (the DoA and Jump Pack reference) and calling it imbalance just seems...odd. Would you prefer every army to be the same or have minor differences? Oh right, that's what it was like before and 40k wasn't as exciting. Now you've got 5 new books which are all fantastically made and offer a wide variety of options. I'd like more of that thanks rather than crys of imbalance.

Kudos to GW's design team over the past couple years. They've made the most balanced books of late and they still don't get mass credit from the masses.

HERO said...

It helps if you read what I wrote. For one, I think I understand the Tyranid book well enough considering how a good amount of the players I play against are Nids. Second, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the SW book is clearly better than the Nid book. You should read (and actually read) my thoughts on the new Nids back in March. And lastly, lol man, I wasn't complaining about DoA at all. Talk about Warseer and Dakka and here we are with someone with no reading comprehension.

Thank you and come again.

David said...

Commenting on the above "Anonymous" poster. I think the update process should move to emulate MMORPG's and the 'patching' system. This would require GW to have all the basic army lists and rules available online for digital download.

Every 3-6 months instead of releasing an FAQ or errata they could tweak the problem units/combo's/vague use of the english language. Any changes would be listed briefly in the patch notes and any effected book could get a V. 1.02 or something.

I am not saying this is a solution without its own problems but I think it would be a step towards the future and eventually lead into a "living rule book"

Badelaire said...

It's not a bad idea, the only problem with it (and it's one of the reasons things like Chapter Approved rules for armies were taken out of White Dwarves, for example), is that it requires players to be much more on the ball in terms of paying attention to all the updates. When you consider all the armies out there with their own codices, and all of those codices being updated every 3-6 months, players would really have to keep updated in order to not miss something big.

I suppose it's doable, but it would require a lot more mandatory effort on the part of players in order to stay current, and I don't think this is the path GW wants to go.

Kirby said...

I actually did you read your Tyranid analysis before, if we want to call it that. Hell I even linked it for lack of Tervigon analysis. I don't care if you play against 200 tyranid players, it's just like everything else on the internet, all we have to go by, unless we meet people at tournaments, is what you write. Just because you play against Tyranids a lot doesn't mean those players are good or run good lists.

I can take my Tyranid list and pit it against my SW lists or my friends' SW or any random's SW and assuming our generalship is equal (and the SW list isn't crap), it's more often than not going to be a close battle because both books are good. I don't care if you want to saw SW sits on the top of the pile. I won't argue hard. But seperating the "top" armies is next to pointless because none of them are at a significant disadvantage to the others compared to Daemons/Necrons/Orks/etc. This is what you're saying about Tyranids.

Digressing, do you seriously think 2x TFex, 2x Tervigon, 20x Guant, 9x HG, 2x Harpy + Prime is easy to beat? Or a spore army based around Zoans + Trygons? Tyranids can be in your face fast and you've got to deal with that and it nearly becomes priority of sacrifice. Against their slower lists they still have mobility (which is why they work now unlike before, 6x Carnifex and 2x Tyrant was not good because Mech laughed at them) through Onslaught, winged heavy guns (which are pretty reliable for Tyranids. stop crapping on the Harpy internet), 48" guns, etc. and have the survivability to go haha at you. What would give that army fits? Las-plas RBack spam thanks to its mass AP2. But guess what? Tyranids can reliably shut down 7 tanks a turn which suddenly throws the mech advantages away. I could go on but the point of my original post is to stop with blanket statements of what's good and bad unless there is evidence of such (you know? Daemons/Necrons/Orks crying against mech spam?). If you think the SW is the best of the best and the Tyranid is the worst of the best, fine but don't try and make out the Tyranid codex as bad when it's not.

Oh and if you want to try and claim GW is trying to leech money out of people with new armies (again, not going to argue) shouldn't you stop and wonder why some of the best or most interesting units have not come out with models? TWC, Tervigons, Manticores, Stormravens (interesting here; they can make a good list but not my cup of tea), T-Fexes, Rifle-Dreads, etc.

"If that wasn't enough, let's just call DoA imbalanced too because a Space Marine Legion who has specialized in jump pack warfare for 10 millenia, had a Primarch with actual freakin' Angel Wings and have the same fighting assault-based military doctrine for all this time is too far-fetched and is not fair for the other armies."

That's complaining.

HERO said...

A for regression and a F on sarcasm.

Da Warboss said...

'when a certain unit is too powerful...well gee, that sounds the same as overpowered.'

Da Warboss said...

You know what, I kik the shit out of wolves all the time, so that throws your 'fit in two catagories' schtick out the window. They are still overpowered. If I used Wolves, I'd do even better.

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