Articles by fjugin 2

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  • The second instalment in the design philosophy blog (this is the controversial part).
    First part can be found here: Armybook design philosophy #1

    Armybook uniqueness
    We want each armybook to have a unique feel to it, both in aesthetics and in play styles. Each army has its own strengths and weaknesses, and this is one of the things that sets this game apart from several other wargames. A common mistake with many community/amateur created armybooks, are that the books are given the tools to deal with all their weaknesses, and lots of new units to make the army more "complete". In the end, we fear this will lead to all armies being too similar, and the choice of which army to play would be more almost purely about aesthetics rather than play style (it should be about both).

    What does this mean for new unit and items?

    For magic items, we want to limit them to a rather short list, so that they can stay unique, and so that we can have a chance to keep them balanced. Creating 30+ unique, balanced and useful (remember internal balance, all choices should be viable) magic items for 16 armybooks, not an easy task. In the first version armybooks, magic item lists will be quite limited (10 items*), but hopefully they will all be useful, so in practice more variation than before. This lists would then be expanded (or even replaced) in the future in order to keep the game fresh.
    *Obviously this would not apply to armies without access to common magic items

    On the same note, we are not looking at adding a myriad of new units to each army. First, we want to focus on making all current units playable. If all armies would get new units to fill the empty gaps, we would soon have 16 more or less identical armies.

    There is also another reason for restricting addition of new units, and that is the long term plan for the 9th age. The longevity of the project is too important to ignore. If we truly want to save the hobby, we must have a plan for the future, and this entails two key aspects:
    1. Keeping the game fresh and preventing of from growing stagnant and boring. This keeps people interested in the game, and prevents major fall off with time.
    2. Keeping the amount of complexity down. Too complex, and attracting new players will be exceedingly difficult.
    Both to these aspects points towards keeping the number of new unit low at this stage and gradually adding more units during the coming years.

    One way to do keep the game interesting is to add new unit choices. Say a year from now, we add a new unit to each army, and then we keep doing this in regular intervals. Now, if we add 3-4 new units now already, how many unit choices will the books have 3 years from now?
    We don't want every armybook to have too many unit choices. This becomes a nightmare to balance, and more importantly, the added complexity from all the new units makes the game exceedingly hard for new players to pick up the game. And being able to recruit new players is a very important thing of course.
    I hope people can understand this approach, that we must plan for the future and therefore cannot give everything to everyone :0

    So, we will not "add new units for the sake of adding new units". Before we add something, we must ask ourselves,
    - Will the new unit fill an actually needed role?
    - Can this role be better filled by redesigning an existing unused unit?
    We aim to create short, concise, simple armybooks, but still with much character, variability and a great deal of possibilities.

    With all that said, will there be no new units?
    Yes there will. But not for all armies in the first version of the armybooks, and no more than 1-2 units per army.
    Note that many existing units are getting new equipment options, these I do not consider "new units".

    Special characters
    In the first version of armybooks, there will be no special/named characters. For several reasons. Special characters would increase the number of units we have to find a role for, and more importantly, find good balance for. Furthermore, special characters without the background are rather meaningless. When the fluff is more developed, we might start adding special characters. But for the first version of the armybooks, no special characters.
    We will however make sure that all your old models are usable (some examples of this already in the TAC file).

    Army diversity
    We want all armies to have multiple play styles, and have the possibilities for playing themed lists. For some armies this happens naturally, while for other armies one might have to give them a small push. In the TAC file there are some examples of a few ways to help themed lists (greenhide horde: mark of the boss, daemon legion: mono-god armies, Vampire covenant: blood lines).
    Here we have to be careful to not overdo this. We want both mixed lists and themed lists to be viable. And we want balancing the armybooks to be possible, so we can't do too many possibilities where each book essentially contains 5 completely… [Read More]
  • Armybook committees (ABC) are working hard on the new armybooks. Most of them still have a long way left before they reach the beta phase. In the meantime, I will tell you a bit about the design philosophy and guidelines we have put up to ensure the books are made with a somewhat similar mindset.

    First, the work is being done mainly on a hidden part of this forum. Army support has access to this forum, and their purpose on that forum is to help with communication between the larger community and the armybook committee, making sure they create something that the community wants (just remember that the community consists of individuals with lots of different opinions, so often the community is not so clear with "what it wants"). They will summarize feedback, suggestions, opinions etc from the community and forward these to the ABCs.

    Design Goals
    One of our overarching design goals for the 9th age is "simplicity, without removing tactical depth". This is a quite vague term. Below are some more concrete examples of what this means for the armybooks:

    1. We don't want a game where every single unit has a unique special rules or equipment. The rule book is full of special rules, representing all kinds of effects, abilities, skills etc. For this reason we are avoiding inventing new special rules when there are similar special rules in the rulebook already. I.e. so called "stream lining"

    2. Having units with identical statline but different equipment as two separate units in the armybook does not really fill any purpose, it's just waste of space. For this reason we are looking at merging similar units, and differentiating them with weapon options or upgrades.
    There are many examples of this in the TAC: Empire of men infantry, greenhide horde core goblins and orcs, Dwarven Holds merging of scouts and ambushers into core unit upgrades and so on. Note that not all units that were merged in the TAC will stay merged. We also don't want to go overboard with this, it should still be fairly easy to get an overview of what the unit can do, so not too many option for a single unit.

    3. We are avoiding items/abilities with significant overlap with rulebook items (for example, we don't need a race specific magic item that gives 4+ ward save).

    Balance, both internal and external.
    External balance (all armies of equal power level) is something we value highly. As you can probably imagine, balance is a very difficult thing to get right without extensive play testing. The first version of the armybooks will be beta versions. This means that they will not have been extensively play tested, and will likely not be perfectly balanced. Still, we do play test (we even have a whole play testing team to help out here) and try to balance all armies toward the average power level of TAC armies.
    Note "average". This means that if we do it right, roughly half of the armies will receive a reduction to their overall power level!

    Internal balance (choices within the army of equal power level) is something we also value highly.
    No unit in the armybook should be auto-include, and every unit or option in the armybook should be useful at least in some builds. This means that all units should have a role to fill in the army. If it currently doesn't, it will be redesign.
    We strive to allow more than one play style for the army, and we strive to reduce the worst random elements (not all, just the most game breaking effects of completely random stuff that the players have minimal control over).

    On a related note, we also want to limit so called RPS (Rock-paper-scissor) effects. I.e. very matchups dependant lists. We don't want a game where the outcome of a match is determined before armies are even deployed. To achieve this, we are looking at making very one sided armies (pure gunlines, flying circus etc) impossible to create. Having a few extremely good matchups and a few extremely poor matchups does not make for a fun and interesting game. We as game developers should try to discourage this.

    This was only half of the design philosophy we have put up for the ABCs. The other half will be posted in a few days. Stay tuned. [Read More]