T9A design - why I'm leaving

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  • T9A design - why I'm leaving

    This is another “Why I am quitting T9A” post. It’s long (>2300 words). It’s a long time coming, I wasn’t even going to post it but I have a lot of thoughts and want to get them out. If it is too long just read the underlined and bolded parts. You should get the gist.

    Sometimes I give examples of rules changes. I am not saying: “this should be the rule.” It is the distillation of an idea. Big questions should be answered before discussing minutiae. Note also I have been out of the loop a while so I may not be addressing the most up to date ruleset.

    I am not an a$h*le
    I have major respect for T9A team. The project is super ambitious, a lot of hard work and all for the love of the game. Seriously, love and respect all round.

    Modellers don’t want complicated, people who like complicated have better options
    What is the point? What are you trying to achieve? If you want a game with massive strategic depth and army variation and subtle mechanics you can capitalize on to show your expert general-ship? Leave the gaming table. There is no way any number of D6s can provide the kind of statistical variation a computer can and gaming tables will never be big enough for artillery, fast cavalry and 28mm models to reasonably co-exist. There was a big stink in the gaming community when they said it but GW has said they are a model company and they are. They know their niche. Their customer base is mostly people who love the models and some people that like an excuse to play with them. There could be some space for some alternate rules for table-top gaming but you have to know what you are making and for who. Hard core gamers have better options and modellers just want to throw dice. The niche is incredibly narrow - something simple enough to appeal to modellers but with enough tactical depth for those with a gaming bent. Very difficult

    Complexity and depth aren’t the same thing
    A complex game is not a deep game. Look how quickly AI solved chess vs solved Go. Rules mostly tell you what you CAN’T do, not what you can. Lots of rules often make a game have LESS depth not more. If you are good at that kind of game you aren’t a grand strategist, you are a lawyer.

    Project limitations - Evolved system, top-down vs bottom-up, grand design. Ask big questions first so there is a unifying goal, then design
    T9A chose to base their system on WHFB 8th ed. It was what they knew and enjoyed, they wanted transition to be easy and wanted all their models to be playable. It makes a certain kind of sense but it places massive limitations on design choices. It is also very difficult to make design choices without a clear goal. 8th ed but better is not only vague but means different things to different people. Ask a group of 3 gamers for their opinion and you will get 8 conflicting opinions. To get clear goals you need to ask clear questions:

    How much are you willing to sacrifice “realism” for gameplay? For example, a bow has a higher rate of fire than a crossbow. A “realistic” rule for this would be let archers roll multiple shots per model. The ultimate result is more wounds are inflicted. Statistically the same result can be achieved with bonuses to hit/wound. If the result is the same but one is easier/faster/ better for balance/ gameplay, which will you choose?

    Will you accept binary results or single rolls changing the game? In real battles a unit fleeing the battlefield at an inconvenient time can make an epic story and is kind of realistic. Having chance play a role is exciting and can keep a losing player invested. It can also be super disappointing. Steadfast, BSB, champion supported charges etc makes units reliable but its reliability also kind of makes psychology pointless. Binary results also seem to frustrate many players. Let units flee or remove the rule for something simpler and graded. Eg. Make every unit unstable.

    Is strategy going to play out as the game progresses? If yes then players need options and player choices need to matter. If army selection wins the game, why setup at all? I understand facing/LOS rules are a mechanic to make facing important, but it is unrealistic (no one in the unit turned their head?) and more importantly it limits gameplay. When units are big, slow and can’t see they can’t do anything. Players need to be able to play. Turns don’t need to be limited to 6 but they will be limited so players need to be able to do us much as possible/ reasonable in those turns. Remove LOS arc, make infantry faster and let friendly units move through each other. Replace facing rule with some bonus when a unit is attacked from multiple directions / eneveloped.

    Do you want all options to be viable? When every unit has S4=AP1, AS6+ is literally worthless. Light armour needs to protect against most attacks. AP can not be linked to strength. It should be related to the weapon used only. Diminishing returns can also help, instead of to-wound rolls being {4-S+T] you can use [is S>T?, Is S>2xT?] I think 40k and AoS use this system. It allows for subtle differences between units, which currently exists and seems to be desired, but is also a big boost for weaker units which are otherwise fodder, as rolls are usually 3+ or 5+. 6+ rolls are mostly a waste of game time. Similarly, 2+AS should be removed/ limited as these units are invincible against regular attacks. It is unrealistic that cavalry has better armour than infantry and its one more reason not to use infantry. If AP is linked purely to weapons it needs to be possible to get those weapons where they are needed, another reason to make infantry faster.

    What tactics should be viable? How many ways are there to win? Objectives or deathmatch? Are we going to look at historical battles for inspiration on how games could play out? On a larger scale – force concentration, pincer movements. Envelopment needs to actually be beneficial. Far too often in T9A sending more troops into a combat is detrimental because of the attacks it will receive. No value should be double counted – I have already said S and AP should not be linked, but WS should also be removed. A simple to Hit roll for a unit is better (and realistic tbh. It’s a melee not a duel). It speeds the game and narrows the gap between elite and basic units. If being attacked from multiple sides a unit should get a penalty to hit and it’s opponents a bonus to hit. Units should be able to hold – I have already mentioned making all units unstable and the bonuses to basic armour and basic units should help. Another option is to have simultaneous turns. If we play unit-by-unit instead of player-by-player there is an advantage to having multiple units, another bonus to basic troops. It is also a bonus to missile troops and medium sized units – small units can be quickly eliminated giving the opposing player a tactical advantage.

    What about bows and guns? Something T9A has had a lot of trouble balancing is missile attacks. They are either OP or useless. To-hit penalties make a castle/ gunline obligatory. Volley-fire removes a “realistic” counter to missiles. Missile troops were countered traditionally with cavalry or screening. (Missile troops were also a counter to cavalry depending on specific army composition and positioning). Screening can be performed by armoured troops, skirmishers or meat shields. For any of these tactics to be viable friendly units need to give each other cover and need a reasonable way to move through each other, current rules are purely limiting. To make shields more appealing they could be given an additional AS vs missile attacks. To hit penalties for movement should be removed.

    What about cavalry? Largely already addressed in other sections. Short version – cavalry is faster, has more tactical options and can pick its fight. Therefore, cavalry needs to lose to infantry if both units are the same points. Cavalry also shouldn’t be able to tank. All cav should have -1AS compared to infantry with the same equipment. Barding and shields only useful vs missiles and when charging.

    What should monsters do? It’s a fantasy game. Players want big monsters. Monsters need a role but can’t be strictly better than cavalry or infantry. Its also a game, every play needs a counter-paly. Monsters will be vulnerable to envelopment but it also makes sense that units/weapons are optimised to kill monsters. If monsters and game design in general are not changed significantly a monster killer weapon should offer S and AP bonuses and multiple wounds at the cost of to-hit, in this way the added expense is not worth using against standard troops. Monsters would not use weapons, instead having “XX claws” with whatever properties designers thought appropriate for the model.

    How big should armies be? The game requires models. Who wants to paint 40 of the same model? Crazy people. Units of 25 are cheaper$, faster to paint, faster to setup. But then rules also need to make 25 model units viable.

    How powerful should heroes be? Should heroes be a one man army or support units? What restriction will there be on targeting characters? The specifics of envelopment and psychology will affect this but have already been addressed. Another variable is armour. Power-creep has given all heroes 2+/4++ or better. I think T9A is already giving heroes more W but less armour. This is good. Models should use armour or ++ not both.

    What can magic do? Is it obligatory? How reliable is it? Is magic a kind of glass cannon with high damage output but low defence? Is it subtle with unit buffs etc? Magic is similar to missile troops. Balancing seems to make it OP or worthless. Making it risky is against the semi-predictability favoured by players and doesn’t address the issue of giving players options and their choices having meaning. Reasonable counters to magic must be available and they must use non-wizards if magic is to be non-obligatory. The simplest solution is for magic to have very short range and limited effects. Giving players the option of using many dice (winds of magic, dispel and power dice type system) also lets them effectively choose which spells are cast. This is the only part of the game that allows that and means the opposing player has no realistic way of countering it. Let wizards cast 1 or 2 spells a turn whose difficulty to cast is independent (unless the same spell?), give some characters a dispel per turn, let MR affect all spells targeting the unit not just direct damage.

    How different should different armies play? If you have read everything so far you may have read something that you think invalidates your idea of your favourite army. Let’s talk about that idea. To me this is one of the most important questions for game design, partly because it connects to every other design question. “Classic” fantasy trope has elves as essentially fast, skilled humans. On the battlefield this makes them “glass cannons”. They are good at alpha-strikes and force concentration, need that alpha-strike as their price makes them fragile. But alpha-striking is always good, force concentration is always effective. They will play exactly the same as other armies except you will have less models and roll less dice. If armies are to play differently they need to use different ways to win or different mechanics. Example: what if an army ignored casualties when calculating CR? Opponents would be forced to envelop and delay even if they used an elite army. If you can win by holding objectives instead of killing your opponent, what about an army that automatically holds objectives within a certain range? Or one that generates VP simply by existing every turn? Both the player and their opponent would need to rethink target selection and force concentration. An army using different unit activation order rules could make their opponents delay when they would otherwise charge. Different deployment rules, etc. Having an extra S or WS is cosmetic, which might be ok for some but T9A has 16 factions. What if some armies didn’t use winds of magic, instead getting magic dice based on casualties inflicted or charges declared or quarters of the board controlled or distance between the general and friendly units or if units can elect to pray, forgoing all other actions to generate spell dice?

    Faction design so an army plays differently
    Is VC supposed to play like an unending horde? Let them ignore CR so you have to kill every single one. Instead, from turn 2 onwards every unit in the army will crumble. The controlling player then has to find some way to replenish /maintain their army. This can be done through magic but also if every unit has something like Red Thirst – every time this unit inflicts a wound roll a D6, on a 5+ the unit can replenish a wound. This will force players to rush in and engage in fights they would not otherwise choose but also make the undead feel like a mindless undead horde to the opponent.

    I have peppered my own opinions throughout this post but feel free to ignore them. The important thing are the questions, especially what you want the game to be, how to make options viable, how you can win and how different factions can play.

    While I am leaving because I think other games answer these questions better, I want to thank T9A. I have really enjoyed my reflections on game design and I probably wouldn’t have started if you hadn’t started the project. Cheers.
  • Strategy, realism, immersion, design..

    Ultimately this is a board game with all associated restrictions as well as the whole social aspect. I mean with a computer game there will never be:

    - "Oops forgot to shoot my Cannon. Is it okay if I do it now"
    - "We agree between the two of us that your unit is to the front of mine, right"
    - "So your General miscasted himself out of existence in Turn 1?. Reroll that cast eh" (not applicable for tournament for better or worse)

    Or any of the bandying, new combos or commiseration over awful dice (a computer just don't care).


    It's fine that you leave if other games or more to your liking (though remember this is a "living" game...), but maybe board games just isn't really you?
  • Krokz wrote:

    Still some points are very valid and have roots in core design. I especially like this one :)

    RobotsWillRule wrote:

    If you are good at that kind of game you aren’t a grand strategist, you are a lawyer.

    Compared to what? AoS? 40k?

    I can kinda see the point, but I don't agree.

    I will win versus someone who is newer at this game because I can plan ahead and predict movement and how things will play out. A newer player might just do stuff and see what happens.

    Case in point I had an exact game like that 2 days ago in a tournament. Ogre mirror versus a new player, I hardly won because I "rules-lawyered" him. He missed a few stuff, but I always try to teach my opponent tricks and rules when I play to even the gap. He thanked me for a great game and said he learned a lot, but that he probably didnt have a chance to ever win because he couldn't plan for the next turns to come, but he obviosuly saw that I did set things up.

    No lawyering, just strategies and mind games.
    Rules Questions?

    ETC 2016 - Referee
    ETC 2017 Warm-up Herford - Head Judge
    ETC 2017 Salamanca - Head Judge
    ETC 2018 - Team Sweden - Ogre Khans (ETC HYPE - CLICK ME!)
  • I think you missed the point. A lawyer was meant as heaving a brain capacity to memorize all the rules and consequently be better at the game due to knowing rules exceptions and details that helps you win the game. Point was that knowing this nuances of the rules helps you win more than being a good strategists. Not all the people have the brain capacity (or time to play) to know all the rules, I know people that were still making rules mistakes that costed them games after playing 8th edition for more than 4 years!
    It is why we have this outcry to freeze the rules. And outcries to make it simple(r).
    Army Design Team.
  • Krokz wrote:

    I think you missed the point. A lawyer was meant as heaving a brain capacity to memorize all the rules and consequently be better at the game due to knowing rules exceptions and details that helps you win the game. Point was that knowing this nuances of the rules helps you win more than being a good strategists. Not all the people have the brain capacity (or time to play) to know all the rules, I know people that were still making rules mistakes that costed them games after playing 8th edition for more than 4 years!
    It is why we have this outcry to freeze the rules. And outcries to make it simple(r).
    Understandable. But that's never been the point when people have talked about rules lawyering IMO.

    The game is complex.

    Funny thing is when the rules are updated, people complain about constant change. When they were frozen, people complained about nothing changing :gwhistling:

    But I'm looking forward to the freeze as well, the small changes are horrible to keep track of. Like apparently you take DT when fail charging now, which has never been the case. Learned it at the tournament :D
    Rules Questions?

    ETC 2016 - Referee
    ETC 2017 Warm-up Herford - Head Judge
    ETC 2017 Salamanca - Head Judge
    ETC 2018 - Team Sweden - Ogre Khans (ETC HYPE - CLICK ME!)
  • If you are new to the 'regimented fantasy battle games or 9th age' and not liking it this is great input that the devs can look into. There are inherent issues with turn based strategy games where your opponent can see all your moves before they make theirs, e.g no surprise flanks/ambushes, no fake retreats (even without getting charged). Hopefully the game can evolve to become more strategic/immersive etc and you should give it a chance maybe after 1-2 years.

    If you are an old WHFB player who is leaving then every bit of feedback that you have given is yet another unnecessary static as all of them were multiplied by a factor of 10 in the old WHFB. If you are an old WHFB player, I see this as yet another 'the game doesn't play the way I want to. GG'. Again the 'regimented fantasy battles' has never been this balanced, strategic, fun and fair for all players and armies. So enjoy your new hobby.
    I am the fat Turk that infiltrated the Norwegian Druid Caste.

    I would have been better than you if I could roll a 4 on 2D6.

    To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of ELVES.

    Sylvan Elves
    Dread Elves
    Beast Herds
    Daemonic Legions
    Warriors of the Dark Gods
    Storm Cast Eternals (WAIT WHAT?)
  • These are very good fundamental questions about game design. Of course they don't have single answers and reflect big choices made by the game to achieve its purpose. I would love to read a commentary from the RT about them, though I suspect a lot of the answers would lie in subtlety and grey area rather than black and white situations (still, an explanation pointing out the major and minor end-members that the game needs to balance would be insightful).

    I agree with you that complexity and depth are not the same thing. But the next part I didn't agree with:

    RobotsWillRule wrote:

    Lots of rules often make a game have LESS depth not more. If you are good at that kind of game you aren’t a grand strategist, you are a lawyer.
    There is nothing in principle that makes more rules detract from depth. It can happen, but that means the execution was flawed and need to be revised. If the design is well thought, more content and more mechanics will give more meaningful choices to the players, which for me is the definition of tactical depth. I don't think it is linear though, meaning how much depth you can gain by adding one rule (even with perfect implementation: something that doesn't cause older mechanics/content to break down or become obsolete) decreases with how many you already have. It doesn't mean it can't be done, it just becomes harder (diminishing return).
    I also disagree about the lawyer versus strategist distinction. Being good at game mechanics is always about knowing how to turn them to your advantage, and this is true regardless of the complexity of the game. Of course you first need to know and understand the rules, and it is fair to point out that this takes more time when the game is more complex. But this is precisely where skill is gained: experience. Victory can sometimes hinge on how to interpret the rules, but in my experience it is far more important that you know how to deploy and position units, to manage your resources (when to cast what spell, when to use your once per game effects) and to assess your odds at winning a particular combat before engaging/giving your opponent a chance to engage. I assure you that, though I can be quite good at knowing what's legal or not given a bit of time reading the rules, that does not stop me from losing. :D And that's because I still lack experience (in a competitive environment). (I am quite happy remaining a mediocre player though, as I enjoy the hobby aspect first)

    Anyway, I hope you do find other games that better suit what you're looking for, and perhaps you will come back to tell us what good and bad you found out there. The door is always open if you want to give T9A another go. :)
  • RobotsWillRule wrote:

    I understand facing/LOS rules are a mechanic to make facing important, but it is unrealistic (no one in the unit turned their head?) and more importantly it limits gameplay. When units are big, slow and can’t see they can’t do anything. Players need to be able to play. Turns don’t need to be limited to 6 but they will be limited so players need to be able to do us much as possible/ reasonable in those turns. Remove LOS arc, make infantry faster and let friendly units move through each other. Replace facing rule with some bonus when a unit is attacked from multiple directions / eneveloped.
    I always understood line of sight for shooting as physical line of sight (whether the missile troops can see a target or not), but for charging I always understood line of sight as an abstraction for "in time to manoeuvre", so a unit B very close to a unit A but outside its LoS will be physically seen by the guys in Unit A, they simply do not have space/time to manoeuvre to charge them.

    Also if you make infantry faster what is the point of cavalry?

    I don't understand why you claim lack of realism and then you ask for treating friendly units as open terrain (quite unrealistic) and reducing the movement difference between being on foot and mounted (unrealistic too).

    Other points are quite spot on (it would be really cool to have a graded flee mechanic instead of a binary hold vs break mechanic), but this I really do not agree with.
    "It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things."
    Terry Pratchett, Jingo!
  • In what scenario would a cav unit fail to charge infantry and then get charged themselves in real life :D

    Or how come knights can charge knights but only one of them can effectively use their lances? Did the other knight unit pause for tea?
    Rules Questions?

    ETC 2016 - Referee
    ETC 2017 Warm-up Herford - Head Judge
    ETC 2017 Salamanca - Head Judge
    ETC 2018 - Team Sweden - Ogre Khans (ETC HYPE - CLICK ME!)
  • Krokz wrote:

    I think you missed the point. A lawyer was meant as heaving a brain capacity to memorize all the rules and consequently be better at the game due to knowing rules exceptions and details that helps you win the game.


    Many rules and procedures are not written for laymen in the beta. This is where lawyering really becomes important beacuse you migth not be able to even understand a rule whereas someone else is.


    Having many rules for many different situation is fine so long as they make sense and are easy to remember. Remember the old frenzy rule? Even if it's a complex rule, it's still easy to remember because the name fits the bill: these guys are frenzied. They have +1 Attack, they have to charge and pursue if possible and are immune to psychology. Makes sense.

    Do you remember the new rule for frenzy? I don't and a big reason for that is that it's been complicated. They're frenzied enough to charge but only half the maximum distance? They don't get a bonus in combat but they do get Battle Focus which DOES give them a bonus in combat? They are not(?) immune to psychology, i think?

    Point being, if a rule has a name that accurately describes the rule and if it's a rule that adds to immersion, it's easy to remember and easy to teach. The rules also need to be straight-forward. Re-rolls are straight forward. +1's are straight forward. "Get another attack if you roll a 6" is less so and that's still okay but you need to have fewer of those kinds of rules and more of the easier ones, and all rules should be named appropriately. I still have no idea what an Aegis is - or how to even pronounce it :P

    The post was edited 1 time, last by Hombre de Mundo ().

  • Lagerlof wrote:

    In what scenario would a cav unit fail to charge infantry and then get charged themselves in real life :D

    Or how come knights can charge knights but only one of them can effectively use their lances? Did the other knight unit pause for tea?
    Fair points, although for the first one I think WFB had the premise (carried over here) that a failed charge means the unit becomes disorganized and is unable to react to the infantry charge to counter-charge themselves. It would be cool to add a counter-charge Reaction but there has to be some risk for cavalry involved when they fail a charge.
    However, it is also a byproduct of the turn-based system.

    For the second point I have no answer and I concede :)
    "It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things."
    Terry Pratchett, Jingo!
  • LegioIgnatum wrote:

    If you are new to the 'regimented fantasy battle games or 9th age' and not liking it this is great input that the devs can look into. There are inherent issues with turn based strategy games where your opponent can see all your moves before they make theirs, e.g no surprise flanks/ambushes, no fake retreats (even without getting charged). Hopefully the game can evolve to become more strategic/immersive etc and you should give it a chance maybe after 1-2 years.

    If you are an old WHFB player who is leaving then every bit of feedback that you have given is yet another unnecessary static as all of them were multiplied by a factor of 10 in the old WHFB. If you are an old WHFB player, I see this as yet another 'the game doesn't play the way I want to. GG'. Again the 'regimented fantasy battles' has never been this balanced, strategic, fun and fair for all players and armies. So enjoy your new hobby.
    Fun is subjective. I’m playing 4th edition warhammer at the moment and sure, it’s completely unbalanced and magic is way over the top but I consider it far more “fun”. It has fantasy immersion factors to it that 9th age doesn’t. Like split profiles for monsters/riders, fallen giant templates, Allies, Rampaging chariots when the crew die etc. Fantasy elements that (to me) make the game interesting.

    That’s Fun for me.
  • Chack wrote:

    Now imagine what would happen if all the changes you suggest were to be made :
    - The game would be totally different and probably target a different kind of players
    - A lot of people would leave for the exact reason others would jump in, so is the usual situation that DanT call "damned if we do, damned if we don't"
    QFT.

    The unit facing, LoS and related stuff the OP mentions is the single biggest factor in why I play T9A and not other games, it adds a level of tactical depth which I find essential to the game. If that went, I wouldn't play T9A anymore.
  • Guys,

    Pithy responses like 'Go play AoS' etc aren't really helpful. Fine - you may not agree with everything said/the direction implied but that doesn't mean that there's not good parts in there that can be teased out and used.

    Should the project turn around and change everything - no. Should it(/we?) ignore everything straight off and not have any discussion - also no.

    Disagree, but disagree with respect.
  • RobotsWillRule wrote:

    I have major respect for T9A team. The project is super ambitious, a lot of hard work and all for the love of the game. Seriously, love and respect all round.
    Thank you. Have fun with what ever game you play in the future.