Issues with T9A unit pricing model

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  • Issues with T9A unit pricing model

    This will be quite lengthy post so bear with me. I want to describe some issues I see with pricing of units in the game that I believe create a lot of problems we have with book design and internal balance but seem to be overlooked by T9A staff. I believe that this could be caused by being close to legacy pricing model. I'll try to structure my post in sections containing symptoms, causes and my proposal for solutions. Of course these are my views based both on my observation of the game over the course of around 200 games and 10+ tournaments and reading a lot of lists from around the globe.

    The whole point of this post is to propose some constructive solutions that in my eyes should increase list building variety and simplify the design of the game.

    Also given that I play mainly HBE most examples will be about this army but I believe that they transfer reasonably well to other armies.

    Character pricing issues
    Issue #1: There are no naked characters
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    Symptoms:
    I haven't seen a character with no equipment or upgrades ever and minimally equipped characters are also a rarity (especially for combat ones)

    Cause:
    Characters are priced with end utility in mind (so what fully kitted character brings on the table) and seem to be relatively balanced in this final cost. None the less, since for example HBE prince without equipment has only 3W 6+ save and hits comparably to 4 Flame Wardens. Yet he is priced close to 20 man spear unit, or 14FW. Needless to say without equipment he doesn't have any justification in the list. On the other hand once you add equipment (even 50 points of magic armor and great weapon) his utility is greatly increased.

    Solution:
    Base cost of characters should be significantly lowered while cost of equipment and upgrades significantly increased so that the fully kitted character costs similarly to what we have now but there are multiple states in between instead of all or nothing.


    Issue #2: Multiple characters are taxed as cost of being potential general has to be included inside.
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    Symptoms:
    Characters with high LD are noticeably more expensive than their counterparts from other armies even though they have very similar utility (and usually benefits from said LD are not seen due to the fact that general has even higher LD) (especially seen with wizard type characters as most of the profile is irrelevant bar T, W and LD)

    Cause:
    As in issue description

    Solution:
    Remove the added cost from character profile and make it paid upgrade. This should further help more varied character configurations.


    Issue #3: Ridden monsters
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    Symptoms:
    Ridden monsters are rarity while at the same time monsters in general are quite popular (in case of HBE 2x phoenix is a go to build for many armies while dragons or griffons or even ridden phoenixes are not really seen)

    Cause:
    Putting already expensive naked character (see issues above too) on a monster doesn't add up much net value to the monster. Sure we get more force concentration but at the expense of putting our expensive model in more danger. That is extremely visible in case of ridden flame phoenix. That is a model that you do not usually want in combat and that does most just by harassing with sweeping attack and creating threats. You can also use it as a last resort chaff. Now you can take that 380pts phoenix and ~700 pts general separately and do all that just fine or you can merge them together, loose extra 400 pts from character allowance since phoenix as mount is even more expensive and have the same phoenix utility, 3 less wounds and exposed general or BSB.

    Solution:
    Solving pricing issues 1 and 2 would help a bit, also moving mount to it's category instead of characters too. Also monstrous mount should be cheaper than unmounted version as you loose all character wounds and cannot add any meaningful protection to the monster - so effectively all defensive capabilities of the character are wasted.


    Unit pricing issues
    Issue #4: Multipurpose units with conflicting purposes are overpriced
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    Symptoms:
    Units like HBE Seaguard who are hybrid of long ranged shooting and CC are overpriced and not really seen on the tables despite their seeming usefulness.

    Cause:
    Since unit has two conflicting roles (which cannot be used at the same time) you can either play it optimally for one wasting the other or sub-optimally for both wasting bits here and there. In Seaguard this manifested in following ways:
    • You either played them as archers or marched to reach CC effectively wasting one of their capabilities
    • Or you advanced so you could reach CC barely hitting any shots due to move and fire penalties and reaching CC later as you could only advance and not march
    Solution:
    Price such units similarly as you would price their strongest counterpart (in seaguard case I would base cost on Archer) and add a small increase for flexibility as both roles are mutually exclusive. Note that not all flexible units suffer from that - like sky sloops which can perform both advance and unhindered shooting at the same time. The key here is that the possible playstyle doesn't let you use both of your capabilities at the same time.



    Issue #5: Suicidal units are one dimensional and are just bodies to sacrifice (fast cavalry - yes I'm talking about you)
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    Symptoms:
    On the battlefield we tend to have some units that from the get go we know that will die. We even coined a term for them and that is chaff. It leads not only to quite un-immersive behavior of parking ancient mighty great eagle in the corner of enemy unit turn 2 and watching him die (I believe that unless HBE have huge industrialized farms of great eagles, they would run out of eagles pretty quickly), on the other hand chaff units are usually abysmally bad in CC or shooting so there is not much tradeoff - if you can gain something by sacrificing otherwise useless unit then of course you will go for it.

    Cause:
    redirectors are usually priced similarly to units that will stay around longer even though they impact the game with their attacks much less than normal unit. In HBE example 5 reavers usually start battle parked behind the hill and then when the need arises ride out get charged and die. They do not even usually use their bows or spears.

    Solution:
    There is a fast cav unit in the game that is already done right and these are EoS Reiters - they shoot and fight well enough that you have to make meaningful tradeoff between sacrificing them and keeping them around for longer so they play much more like real fast cavalry used to - riding around flanks threatening backline and only if dire need arose sacrificing themselves (unlike most other choices who just blindly ride to die)

    So taking inspiration from reiters fast cav combat and shooting capabilities should be increased significantly (or at least to be enabled via non mandatory equipment) at reasonably low cost so that you would have to trade keeping decent unit around or using it as a mere speedbump.


    Issue #6: Categories shoe horn you in certain builds
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    Symptoms:
    If you look at popular HBE lists there is a visible trend to field 2x phoenix and either 2x sloop or 3xSGR. Conversely that is what fits exactly into categories.

    Cause:
    My understanding of categories is that they were created to forbid most abusive builds (in HBE case that would be taking 4 sloops and 3 phoenixes for example), none the less with too much granularity a lot of weaker/fluffier builds were also removed. For example if I were to trade 2 flame phoenixes for a single sloop (so I would field 3 slops for seaguard themed list) all my regular opponents would be delighted as this would be significantly weaker list. None the less it is made illegal by measures that supposedly were to take out overpowered builds and not weaker ones.

    Solution:
    I have two ideas for that: first instead of categories assign restriction points to certain units and have a pool of those that you can use: so phoenix could use up 3 slop 2 and so on and all builds are fine if you make it into restriction points pool.

    Second: merge categories into broader ones so that I can trade sloops for phoenixes or phoenixes for sloops inside of one category (also it makes list building simpler as an added bonus and simply taking 2 dragons would leave me less points for heavy shooting so design monstrosities like Prince of Ryma could go away)


    Issue #7: Points and category limits are tailored to ban certain combinations
    Display Spoiler

    Symptoms:
    I am sure that multiple times during list building you found that you are off by 30 or so points in certain category rendering the whole idea useless. Also it has been highlighted multiple times in T9A team posts that such things are done

    Cause:
    As in issue description

    Solution:
    Limits on units seemed much simpler to use (also restriction points from #6 could be more interesting) For each army having lets say 1 restriction point per 500 pts. (or any other number depending on how you value some combos)


    Issue #8: [b]Units Sharing the cost of the effects of other units (thx for that @theunwantedbeing)[/b]
    Display Spoiler

    Symptoms:
    Units like skeletons are priced higher than their performance would suggest the same goes for many units in dread elf army, therefore armies without raising or altar are penalized.

    Cause:
    Undead are priced like that because they can be raised, DE because of their synergy with altar.

    Solution:
    That is definitely not easy but there are some possible things that can be done:
    • shift cost to buffing unit.
    • introduce counterbalancing mechanic eg: unit destroyed while under the effect of altar yields +X extra VPs.

    Summary

    I hope that this was interesting read and that it might spark a bit of change in the way the game is designed. I am tagging some people that I believe could be interested:
    @DanT, @Herminard, @Calcathin
    My gallery: Adam painting stuff (HBE, VC and lots of terrain)
    My battle reports: Adam Battle reports

    Help for new HBE generals: HBE Beginners corner

    The post was edited 1 time, last by Adam ().

  • I could not disagree more. First cheap characters without equipments are a horrible idea. It would make them either monster rider for just getting a cheap dragon. Or in the case of some combat character they would just pick a single weapon and otherwise stay clean.
    Leadership is just something you get with your army. That one extra ld is part of what makes your prince a prince. Again cheaper characters are not a good thing. No reason to play characterhammer

    Fast cav and skirmishers might not make so much sense. But it is what makes the game going, it is what make big busses manageable.

    Number 6 we already have. You can not have 3 SGR and 2 Sloops at the same time. Yes Phoenix is not a part of that, since it is filling another role. Pointcost changed is the way this should be changed, since we already have the bracket system. This leads me to number 7. There is a reason for removing some combinations, as a SA player i would like to have far more in guirilla, but i cant and i understand why. (why core skinks with javalins are a part of it is another talk)
  • @AngusArmsved I think you need to read my arguments again as you clearly misunderstand them. I do not want cheaper fully equipped characters, I want cheaper characters with no equipment as even though they have entries in the books they are not fielded at all. The same goes to other arguments.
    My gallery: Adam painting stuff (HBE, VC and lots of terrain)
    My battle reports: Adam Battle reports

    Help for new HBE generals: HBE Beginners corner
  • In the issue of 3# i very much agree. Ridden monsters are too expensive and you pay for both the character and the monster, even though you only get the monsters wound. Also many of the monsters are flat out overpriced. Who would pay 300 points for a Bull of Shamut ? Not me..

    In the issue of 4# i disagree :) I think that having troops that are elite in more than one aspect at a time is an important way to differentiate between armies. Also it can be extremely effective if used well and should therefore be priced accordingly. I do however agree that in my meta we dont see Sea Guards much, but that could be due to their specific cost - doesnt mean its a general problem.
  • Cheers for tagging me @Adam

    You make some good points, but I think you are missing some of the nuances.
    Your questions/comments deserve a detailed reply that I am too busy to deliver right now.

    Tag me into this thread again on Saturday morning, and I will see if I have time over the weekend to reply in more detail.

    Dan

    Balancing team

    EoS Community Support

    "Two things gamers hate most is change and the way things are" - Stygian
  • There are some nuances that I should probably address too. But largely you are correct - we could well increase diversity without meddling with the overall power level.
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  • Regarding point #4. I'm not going to say anything about whether Seaguard are currently appropriately priced, but I disagree with the solution that such units should be just slightly more expensive as the equivalent mono-role unit.

    The thing is, if such units are used as part of a battle plan that envisions both roles to be used at different times, depending on the flow of the battle, the unit is significantly better than a mono-role unit.

    Seaguard, for instance, I could imagine useful deployed en masse as a kind of shooty MSU that uses archery to wear down the enemy and force him to engage, while having the combat ability to fight the enemy in close combat when he finally engages, while citizen archers in such a situation would more easily melt away before anything that manages to get stuck in. Alternatively, as part of a more balanced HbE build, seaguard could hang out on a flank and shoot it clear of enemy chaff, then swing inwards to flank whatever's fighting in the centre of the board. Now, this is admittedly just theorycrafting from the hip, but this should illustrate the point nevertheless.

    Myself, I have used Empire handgunner support units as multirole ranged/melee units as part of a defensive semi-gunline, even though they have the stats, rules and equipment of mono-role shooters. I fielded them three ranks deep way before it became known they'd be able to shoot and fight in three ranks in 2.0, I'm a hipster like that. Needless to say, I'd pay more than just a slight premium for letting them have something like spears or halberds in addition to their guns.
  • I think that you raise some good points and am interested to see what Dan has to say.

    In particular, the restriction points could be worth looking into. It may not be a doable thing though. For instance, in your example, a 4.5k list could take 3 phoenixes or 4 sloops, but if you increase the restrictions on each by 1 point you are more restricted than you are now.

    This could be doable in general though but would require a lot of maths make sure what is acceptable is allowed and what is not, is not.
    Never argue with Idiots. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
  • I think you're missing one.

    Issue #8: Units Sharing the cost of the effects of other units
    Some units like the DE Altar cause the other units in the army to be priced higher than they should be as a way to offset their own cost.
    So if you don't take an Altar, your army is paying for something it's not getting which is nonsensical. The cost of the effects of a model should always be shouldered entirely by the model providing that effect.

    As for comments
    1. Agreed. The cost to fully upgrade a character is often too low compared to the starting cost, which means you see few characters without much equipment because it's so little extra to fully buff them. It needs addressing, as does the actual item combinations available as some are quite a lot more powerful than anything other armies can field
    2. The BSB is a separate cost, there's really no reason why the General can't also be and it should help simplify the way characters are priced as it's one less thing to take into consideration
    3. Agreed. Although it's just one of many issues Ridden Monsters face
    4. Agreed
    5. Some are some aren't, part of the issue is that re-directors only need to exist as a unit you can take and what other things they can do is irrelevant since that doesn't matter. A change in how they work would help alleviate the issue
    6. Agreed
    7. Agreed. This is something T9A needs to not do and what drives players to play larger size games than the recommended amounts, also some choices can't be taken to the maximum amounts in a standard 4500pt game which is very silly, you should always be able to individually maximise a given then at the recommended battle size of 4500pts
  • I really like what you've said about characters - Point the naked characters lower, and up the cost of their gear - this will really help with making smart gear decisions as well - and puts the points exactly where they need to be - into the stuff that makes them deadly/effective.

    Especially the General/BSB cost. all generals should pay a point value for the upgrade just like BSB's

    As far as ridden mounts - I do agree on the problem - they are expensive for what they accomplish. You end up with all your eggs, in essentially the same basket - but now its also a bigger cannon magnet.

    I think having the Mount be part of either Characters, or their monster slot is the better way to go - having it count to both just seems harsh.


    To put in 40k terms: If you take a commander and he can have a Land Raider as a personal transport, that land raider should count to either the HQ or the Heavy Support - not both.

    Otherwise its only effective if the monsters are stupid OP for the points and you want to spam as many as the game will allow you.

    I also agree with Chaff being somewhat annoying - but well... no matter what there are going to be sacrificial harassment units.

    The way I've always seen them is that the Eagles maybe don't die, they just fly away wounded when they've had enough.
    a "Kill" in this kind of game (fantasy and historical) has always been abstract - they represent "combat ineffective"

    Same with the mounted fast cav chaff - they are harassing and holding up, but their death is likely more 'combat ineffective' they run in, do their job, take a few casualties and likely run away, possibly joining other units (I've never played the game assuming a 1:1 scale)

    So I think there is always room for unit refinement to increase usefulness, you cannot forget the abstract aspect that is inherent in mass combat miniature wargaming.
  • Issue #1 is also partly caused by the fact that, for the most part, you can't tool up a character properly with just mundane equipment, especially when it comes to armour, unless he's mounted. If the armour save bonus for being mounted was done away with and both infantry and cavalry could get saves all the way up to 2+ (a conclusion that many, many threads on the topic have produced), characters with no magical equipment would be a lot more viable.
  • I am really happy with the amount of positive responses so far.


    Now to address couple of points:

    AngusArmsved wrote:

    I could not disagree more. First cheap characters without equipments are a horrible idea. It would make them either monster rider for just getting a cheap dragon. Or in the case of some combat character they would just pick a single weapon and otherwise stay clean.
    Leadership is just something you get with your army. That one extra ld is part of what makes your prince a prince. Again cheaper characters are not a good thing. No reason to play characterhammer

    Fast cav and skirmishers might not make so much sense. But it is what makes the game going, it is what make big busses manageable.

    Number 6 we already have. You can not have 3 SGR and 2 Sloops at the same time. Yes Phoenix is not a part of that, since it is filling another role. Pointcost changed is the way this should be changed, since we already have the bracket system. This leads me to number 7. There is a reason for removing some combinations, as a SA player i would like to have far more in guirilla, but i cant and i understand why. (why core skinks with javalins are a part of it is another talk)
    Character hammer is direct result of the fact that you cannot field efficient naked character just for LD. I would happily field 150 prince without equipment to lead from backline and use 600 pts for a unit or two. Sadly that is not possible so once I decide to field a prince it is more efficient to kit him fully and I am left with 750 pts lion chariot prince.

    As far as cheap monster riders are concerned - that is exactly the point. Ridden monsters are not used so that would help them appear on the tables.

    My fast cav points were about possibility of giving them extra role so you could use them for something more than protecting your deathstar or crippling enemy deathstar. As for now they are quite boring and one dimensional units (apart from reiters). Also they are always taken in minimal possible numbers leading to false choices in the books.

    As far as #6 goes that is exactly my point - I do not like to be forced to take certain build because in the process of banning something it was a side casualty (by the way it seems that far more weak builds were banned by accident than OP builds by design)
    My gallery: Adam painting stuff (HBE, VC and lots of terrain)
    My battle reports: Adam Battle reports

    Help for new HBE generals: HBE Beginners corner
  • Konrad von Richtmark wrote:

    Issue #1 is also partly caused by the fact that, for the most part, you can't tool up a character properly with just mundane equipment, especially when it comes to armour, unless he's mounted. If the armour save bonus for being mounted was done away with and both infantry and cavalry could get saves all the way up to 2+ (a conclusion that many, many threads on the topic have produced), characters with no magical equipment would be a lot more viable.
    I agree completely - Being mounted should not affect armour save - it should affect Defensive skill, Toughness, or Wounds in a combined profile - Not your armour save.

    I'm also of the opinion that AP needs a nerfbat for all armies to make mundane armour more worthwile... but thats another thread and another topic.
  • I agree with a lot of this, too much to say to cover it all from my phone at the moment.

    I think the biggest agreement I have is with naked characters, or lack of them. Cut the price, raise the magic item allowance and double cost of magic items. Yes they will die more but also be cheaper. Care will be needed as with all things.

    I am not sure multiple purpose units are overcosted. I think there are isolated examples where it is true but not in general. Look at swormasters - anti infantry, anti cavalry, and even pretty damn good vs a lot of monsters, pretty much weak vs shooting and the toughest stuff/tarpits only.

    I think That the opposite is true: look at great weapons. Great against almost everything - armoured or tough or even just a little of both. They are cheap enough that most armies that can take great weapons on their infantry do so. From what I have seen WotDG sometimes declines, and that is about it.
  • on issue 6/7... I think there is work that could be done.

    I do think a lot of armies look similar. Take as much fun stuff from each of the specialist category, then take core, general, maybe a wizard and fill the rest from special.

    You take what you can and there isn't a lot of trade-off. Sometimes taking a monster stops you taking another, different one. Sure you pick your war machines but the feel of the army is very similar.

    I wouldn't mind a structure that promoted more distinct lists whilst keeping the cap on things that would be abusive in larger numbers.

    Say if you forgo all but one of the rare/specialist category then some element of special can be taken as core. This would mean the the unit you could then spam would be different to the capped unit type in "rare" (but thematically linked). Choices about what to take could be more meaningful.

    So if you want an HbE example you could forgo Phoenix in order for swordmasters to be considered core. Of course this has to happen in context of retaining overall balance - but shouldn't be too much of a shift.