Game design philosophy - what is Core?

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  • CariadocThorne wrote:

    IMO, the ideal scenario is that people usually bring more than the required 25%, not because only core are scoring, or to unlock access to more special units, but because the Core choices are worth taking more of.

    Core should be more efficient general purpose choices, with non-core filling more speciality roles.

    For example, core infantry blocks should be more efficient as a main combat unit, which can be pushed forward and left to slug it out with an enemy unit. Meanwhile, the non-core infantry would fill roles such as extra reliable anvil who can hold whatever is thrown at them until they get some help, or dedicated monster hunting infantry, or elite blenders who might not beat and break an enemy unit,ź but who can be relied on to inflict massive casualties, leaving that unit vulnerable to follow-up charge next turn, or simply reduced below combat effectiveness for the rest of the game.
    I see what you mean, but personally I don't mind the existence of elite units that are simply overall better than core units. As long as they're priced high enough that all-elite armies aren't viable, and high enough that you really need to get the elite unit into the right place at the right time to make it worth the investment in points.

    The post was edited 1 time, last by Konrad von Richtmark ().

  • Konrad von Richtmark wrote:

    I see what you mean, but personally I don't mind the existence of elite units that are simply overall better than core units. As long as they're priced high enough that all-elite armies aren't viable, and that you really need to get the elite unit into the right place at the right time to make it worth the investment in points.
    I agree in principle. In practise, however, it is very difficult to make the Elites simply better, but not viable as an all elite army, so we end up with "artificial" balance in the form of duplication restrictions etc or armies dominated by Elites. Point costs alone are not enough.

    I can't see a realistic way to let Elites be better, but still have people choose to take core, rather than being forced to.

    IMO, the next best thing is to make Core generally better, with Elites slightly more specialised. Not neccesarily super-specialised (although these units should exist in non-core), even just a little more specialised, and just a little worse than Core outside their preffered role/target.

    I'm not saying that is ideal, but it is close, and most importantly, achievable.
  • What about making core troops the generalistic troops? They would be cheap and not particularly good nor bad at anything, i.e. rather cost effective.
    Special troops would be specialists, very good at their specialty (more cost-effective than core), and very bad (i.e. less cost-effective than core) at everything else.

    Besides, elite troops would be better than core at everything, but at such a cost that they would not be cost-effective.

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  • Calisson wrote:

    What about making core troops the generalistic troops? They would be cheap and not particularly good nor bad at anything, i.e. rather cost effective.
    Special troops would be specialists, very good at their specialty (more cost-effective than core), and very bad (i.e. less cost-effective than core) at everything else.

    Besides, elite troops would be better than core at everything, but at such a cost that they would not be cost-effective.
    I endorse this simple and meaningful classification and game design philosophy.

    I might add, an all-elite army should defeat an all-core army in the hypothetical scenario where the core units get in a queue and fight a series of straight 1v1 fights with the elite units, and thus get killed piecemeal. In a real battle with competent players on both sides, the all-core army would likely win due to having more units and being able to envelop and flank the elite units. An even better counter to the all-elite army would, though, be a mostly-core army with a few proper anvil units to prevent the elites from breaking through while the envelopment is carried out.
  • Baranovich wrote:

    The problem therefore as I see it, is that too many players still look at Core as a "choice" among choices in the army books. In other words, Core is a category in a linear list along with Special, Rare, etc. Actually it's not. If you can visualize this, Core is actually like the CENTER of a wagon wheel, and the "spokes" of that wheel that radiate out from Core are all the other choices in the army book! Core isn't "taken along" with your cool stuff, Core IS the center of the army, or at least that's what the rules and the mechanics of the game should reflect.
    Nicely said.


    Also as you can notice in the individual army books notions of special and rare have been removed, no there are different thematic elements of the army of which some component are part of the armies core identity thus have an additional signifier of "core".

    Core units are those units are can expect to see with regularity in all armies fielded by a certain AB as they represent the axis around which background wise these armies are built. If we wanted to make the game more historical we could always up the percentage to 50 or 75, but we keep it at the level we do as less "realistic" (can we even use that word) armies are part of the fantasy feel we strive for.

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  • Regardless of other definitions.
    If units are defined as special, they should remain in special and not be counted against core points when special requirements are met (unit size).


    In my opinion CORE represents the basic trooper of an army. In different variations, the basic shooter, basic infantry, basic cavalry...
    These units are there to represent the most economic way of building a battle force. And so they should represent the biggest chunk of troops in a given army.
    Elite units tend to get the best and most expensive gear, best weapons, get better payment, and so these units tend to be small, efficient, but expensive. So no army would only build a force of elite soldiers.

    So...the armies should have a good part of their force built out of core troops. Difficult to reflect this in 9th age with the given units and army books. Most players tent to take as little core unit points as possible because there is some weird CORE TAX on a lot of units. Making elite units better point for point in most cases and make most people feel the core choices are to expensive (most, because there are some books with amzing cheap core units in comparison).

    A thing to make core units more viable is the scoring rules.
    What if very small, battle depelted units would be not able to score any more. A minimum number of models left to still keep the scoring rule?
    Making it more difficult to field minimum sized units and flood the table with scoring unit.
  • Anselmus wrote:

    Gentlemen, please design a game around these principles. I'd love to try it out! :)

    Or does Field of Glory play like this, perhaps?
    I actually believe that to be entirely possible in T9A, by adjustments in points costs and unit stats, rather than sweeping systemic changes.

    No idea about Field of Glory. I actually own its rulebook, but somehow I never got around to read it. All I know about it is that apparently, it was supposed to become the next big thing in Ancients/Medievals wargaming after it turned out the De Bellis game systems create too much and too abusable geometric weirdness from how units are to be placed against each other in combat.
  • berti wrote:

    A thing to make core units more viable is the scoring rules.
    What if very small, battle depelted units would be not able to score any more. A minimum number of models left to still keep the scoring rule?
    Making it more difficult to field minimum sized units and flood the table with scoring unit.
    This part I like :)

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  • I also want to say for the sake of the thread that I am not against games where every unit is specialized and armies are smaller, and the game is about high-level stats and high-level competition. I've played scenarios with WH 8th Ed. and with 9th where we had nothing but like Black Orcs vs. Hammerers, it was like two elite corps of troops on the march that collide with each other and have their own battle. HUGE amount of fun, very, very cool.

    I am also not against competitive play, I support it because competitive play is what drives a game to stay fresh and to stay vibrant for all types of gamers, immersive and otherwise.

    But I think that what happens is that when you pull on one thread, you affect another thread. Trying to make Core viable in a game that is largely played on an ETC competitive level is difficult because when the game isn't about narration or immersion, Core really loses its visual and lore position in the army. And I totally understand the frustration over Core's averageness and that it grinds in the middle of the board against the enemy's Core and can lead to stalemate-y type combats where very little is removed off the board and not a lot "happens".

    But again the problem is that because Core is supposed to be average, a grinding combat with not many models removed each turn actually reflects perfectly what Core would do! Core troops can kill enemy Core troops, but not very quickly or efficiently as Specials and Rare. And, ironically, that represents Core perfectly! But I acknowledge that for many players it makes for frustrating mechanics in which the game doesn't get resolved quickly enough or decisively enough. No one wants to be bored or stalemated playing a fantasy battle game.

    I guess our gaming group and myself are sort of whackjobs, lol. We actually love that huge, grindy Core combat that make a game take forever to finish! We actually love that Core is so average. I guess we are like the old crew at GW that more than anything wanted to see everybody's painted armies on the board, and enjoy the visual pageantry of it over anything else. Hell, we've played siege scenarios where we had nearly every miniature we owned jammed onto the board just to see what it would look like to have that many armies attacking a castle. Spectacular fun, and also a game that took 10 hours to complete, lol.

    Was it balanced? Oh HELL no, lol. But man we had a blast fighting over that castle.
    There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
  • This is a great topic.

    As was stated, core is the center of an army. Even with today's standards, the "grunts" are the most numerous. Then comes training and specialization. I agree with what was posted of increasing the core%. Too many people go straight for the elite units and want them as there core. A core troop is most numerous and least trained. Not saying they are not trained, but have the least.

    Great points for discussing that point for point the elite should defeat the standard trooper until a certain point cost. Problem is here. At what point difference should the elite be placed? If prices incorrectly no one will take them, or the opposite and want to take nothing else. It is a fine line.

    To me, how do we get players to look at core as the center of the army rather than a tax? Those elite fighters started from a grunt and then became the fighting experts. Because this is a game and players don't always associate it with this concept, it may be a game redesign. Only have core choices and then then customize the units. The issue again becomes points. Where do players draw the line as to what is usable vs over cost?

    The way the system is now actually I think serves it best. Each player must take this cost of basic trooper. Then you can venture out from there. I do see ways on how to change this, but don't like the results. It creates issues of balancing armies that much more difficult and there would be more "power" players showing up.
  • Edit: This was meant as a reply to Baranovich.

    Yeah, well, thing is, what kind of units "should" be in a force would really depend on what the game is supposed to represent. If it's meant to be a pitched battle between armies engage in full-scale war, there's every reason why there should be a relative abundance of core units on the field.

    Anything else than that, highly situational, there's almost a scenario for every possible army composition. Then, though, fluff differences between armies would actually start mattering. Imagine, for instance, the High Elves and Dark Elves of Warhammer. Their core units are described in the fluff as citizen levies. Reservists. Meaning it'd make sense if they were called in when it's time to drop the hammer on the enemy and go total war, but that they'd be mostly or entirely absent from the usual raiding, skirmishing and other constant low-intensity warfare going on between the elven kindreds. Thus, in battles between these two, it'd make more sense to have a large share of elite troops (who are presumably full-time soldiers) if the game is small, and massive core grind if the game is large.
  • Really great thoughts and points being made in this discussion!

    Another problem which I fully, fully appreciate (and make me glad that I'm not one of the 9th Age developers! lol) is that not all Core is created equally.

    Obviously, some factions/races will have better Core than others. You can't make a goblin spearman stat-wise able to fight on equal footing with a chaos warrior or beastmen, you just can't. It would feel wrong. That of course leads to great frustration for players who love and play factions who have the weakest Core. Very frustrating from a list-building perspective.

    Core is a particularly challenging thing to balance for the developers, particularly when it comes to the horde-type armies. Vermin swarm rank and file and goblin rank and file couldn't be made better so that it was equalized with other faction's Core. It would feel silly.

    Even more difficult for the devs. is how do you make horde-type armies feel like they being a horde is their cental strength? It's no big secret that vermin swarm and orc/goblins from a lore perspective are intended to overwhelm the enemy with astonishing huge numbers, not through particular skill in combat. But to make that translate into actual gameplay on the tabletop? That is very hard.

    People reading my posts over the past year know that I often offer very little in terms of actual mechanical solutions to the issues discussed with the game. I just don't have that kind of mathematical, synergistic brain. I think in immersion terms first, can't help it. My solutions for our own gaming group are not the most sophisticated and really aren't a lot of help for the community overall. But they work for us.

    I am big on critical charts and also big on random things happening that reflect in a realistic way something happening on the battlefield. We have critical charts that really add flavor to the game, and they are very much a random-type philosophy towards the game. We have an "arrow in the eye rule" where there is a random chance after combat between two elite units that something psychologically bad happens, such as the unit commander takes an arrow in the eye, or that a soldier in the front rank is decapitated. Things that would really shake a unit from a psychological standpoint. Again, not even close to balancing the game, just making it feel more real.

    We have a critical chart for KOE knights when they charge, in which there is a chance of something extra-nasty happening to the enemy being charged. We also have a "stuck in the mud" chance rule where a charge bogs down and fails because it attempts to cross over difficult terrain. A lot of stuff in our games is resolved with these charts, including things like an "attrition" critical where if by a certain turn Core seems to be floundering in the middle of the board, a dice roll on the chart determines that because of attrition, one side or the other loses extra models that turn.

    Again, I know this stuff is not practical for much of the community, my solutions are totally corner-casey and immersion-driven. And they don't always work, sometimes they affect a game in a negative way that can leave one player or the other feeling kind of like it was unfair.
    There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
  • WastelandWarrior wrote:

    When core units don't cost roughly the same as their superior equivalent from special you will see more than min core. I'm not quite sure why core units have an added "tax" built into them, it would be nice to see this levy lifted.the reason
    The reason for the core tax is that it allows the army books to have a wide variety of units. Without it, they would need to delete entries in order to have good internal balance. You already see this in the OnG book. They have so many infantry units that perform the same role that the rules team is having a hard time balancing them out. Mind you this is all caused by the stipulaton of keeping a unit entry for all the old GW models. I think this is holding the game back a bit and I think if deleting a unit improves the balance, it should be done.
  • Morgan_Treeman wrote:

    WastelandWarrior wrote:

    When core units don't cost roughly the same as their superior equivalent from special you will see more than min core. I'm not quite sure why core units have an added "tax" built into them, it would be nice to see this levy lifted.the reason
    The reason for the core tax is that it allows the army books to have a wide variety of units. Without it, they would need to delete entries in order to have good internal balance. You already see this in the OnG book. They have so many infantry units that perform the same role that the rules team is having a hard time balancing them out. Mind you this is all caused by the stipulaton of keeping a unit entry for all the old GW models. I think this is holding the game back a bit and I think if deleting a unit improves the balance, it should be done.
    I agree. I don't think there needs to be a 1 to 1 unit preservation carried over from WH. The mass battle aspect has been carried over, which was hugely important, but I don't think the 9th Age army books have to necessarily have all the units as they were in GW's army books. You could do some streamlining without losing all of the categories of troops.
    There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
  • Baranovich wrote:

    Really great thoughts and points being made in this discussion!

    Another problem which I fully, fully appreciate (and make me glad that I'm not one of the 9th Age developers! lol) is that not all Core is created equally.

    Obviously, some factions/races will have better Core than others. You can't make a goblin spearman stat-wise able to fight on equal footing with a chaos warrior or beastmen, you just can't. It would feel wrong. That of course leads to great frustration for players who love and play factions who have the weakest Core. Very frustrating from a list-building perspective.

    Core is a particularly challenging thing to balance for the developers, particularly when it comes to the horde-type armies. Vermin swarm rank and file and goblin rank and file couldn't be made better so that it was equalized with other faction's Core. It would feel silly.

    Even more difficult for the devs. is how do you make horde-type armies feel like they being a horde is their cental strength? It's no big secret that vermin swarm and orc/goblins from a lore perspective are intended to overwhelm the enemy with astonishing huge numbers, not through particular skill in combat. But to make that translate into actual gameplay on the tabletop? That is very hard.

    People reading my posts over the past year know that I often offer very little in terms of actual mechanical solutions to the issues discussed with the game. I just don't have that kind of mathematical, synergistic brain. I think in immersion terms first, can't help it. My solutions for our own gaming group are not the most sophisticated and really aren't a lot of help for the community overall. But they work for us.

    I am big on critical charts and also big on random things happening that reflect in a realistic way something happening on the battlefield. We have critical charts that really add flavor to the game, and they are very much a random-type philosophy towards the game. We have an "arrow in the eye rule" where there is a random chance after combat between two elite units that something psychologically bad happens, such as the unit commander takes an arrow in the eye, or that a soldier in the front rank is decapitated. Things that would really shake a unit from a psychological standpoint. Again, not even close to balancing the game, just making it feel more real.

    We have a critical chart for KOE knights when they charge, in which there is a chance of something extra-nasty happening to the enemy being charged. We also have a "stuck in the mud" chance rule where a charge bogs down and fails because it attempts to cross over difficult terrain. A lot of stuff in our games is resolved with these charts, including things like an "attrition" critical where if by a certain turn Core seems to be floundering in the middle of the board, a dice roll on the chart determines that because of attrition, one side or the other loses extra models that turn.

    Again, I know this stuff is not practical for much of the community, my solutions are totally corner-casey and immersion-driven. And they don't always work, sometimes they affect a game in a negative way that can leave one player or the other feeling kind of like it was unfair.
    the problem of horde armies having the horde as their stength is that the core rules favour elite units with small footprints and frontages. This is due to a fixed table dimensions and rules for movement and combat. A big bus of rats can't overwhelm the enemy because the combat rules prevent them from using all their troops to attack. They can only bog them down with steadfast and tarpit them. In 6th ed. you could lap around to surround a unit, but no longer.
  • Horde core do have some advantages though. If you put them against something like Elven core, the Elves will clearly show their individual superiority, but will steadily be ground down because even hitting on 2+, they don't have the killing power to kill enough goblins.

    There was an interesting discussion a month or two ago where someone suggested that if one unit has a much larger frontage, unengaged modeks in the front rank make supporting attacks, just like 2nd rank etc, to represent them lapping around, but without moving the models. It would only add a few attacks usually, like a 10x 5 spear horde vs 5x5 enemy has 7 engaged models, 3 ranks of supporting attacks = 21 supporting attacks, +3 unengaged files = 24 supporting attacks, but that would be enough to change the balance a little. against single models like monsters it has even greater effect, 5 engaged files= 15 supporting attacks, +5 unengaged files = 20 supporting attacks.

    Changing the to-wound table to punish S3 less would also help most armies' core units somewhat.
  • Most important factor to strengthen the Core units is in my opinion to separate strength from armor piercing.
    Strength should only influence the to wound roll. Armor piercing depends on the weapon used. Helps to make weak armor saves a bit more viable again, and in addition it softens the strength race we see in this game.

    If there were a limit of 10 models, 5 cavalry, 3 monstrous inf for scoring purpose (at the moment scoring happens, so usually at the end of the game), even mass core units would find their place in more lists.
  • Morgan_Treeman wrote:

    this game is more about how many high strength and high hitting attacks you have PER MODEL rather than the number of weak attacks you have. It's because a huge unit of 60 rats can only have 11 attacks...the same a 10 elves.
    you are right, depending on the formation. However the 60 rats will have better staying power and grind out those 10 elves.