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Math Mathonwy
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1 hour ago, Dogmantra said:

I'm interested in your justification for this statement.

It's an issue of modularity. Basically, if you want a system in which you're rewarded for taking different things each time, its more important that multiple things with wildly different properties exist at the exact same point level than it is to use the point system to properly balance things.  What I mean by that is if two things do similar things and one is slightly better than the other; its more important to change them to be more unique than it is to make the better one cost more.

Point systems simply break down modularity.  It's not an inherently bad thing, but it simply means that swapping models isn't as simple as trading out something I don't need for something I do.  If I need to put in a 6 stone model, I'd better not need another 6 stone model, because neither a 5 nor 7 stone model will do.  (The 7 isn't illegal, but my list is inherently just a little less efficient if I don't have a solid plan for the loose stone).  Realistically, you have to remove 15-20 stones of stuff and replace an entire chunk to get something as efficient as what you had working before.

That's all I mean by it.  It's not that points demand fixed lists, simply that they encourage them.

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4 hours ago, Dogmantra said:

This is a bad comparison. The goal of science is to increase the sum total of human knowledge, and building on previous scientists' accomplishments furthers that goal. The goal of a competitive game is to determine who is the better player (i.e. the winner), and using someone else to make some of your key decisions obscures that goal, not furthers it.

I'm ranked like #200 in the UK at Malifaux. I'm a fairly good player but I'm by no means the best. Let's say that I play in a tournament, but I let the top ranked Gremlin player (#5 overall)* play the first two turns of every game. I come in starting on turn 3 and finish the game. Is it fair for me to claim that I won those games? Of course not, credit should go to both of us, which is fine if it's some sort of team tournament, but generally the expectation is that you're one person playing and if I'm allowed to have a second better player play some of my game for me, that's clearly unfair and uncompetitive & I'm sure you'll agree.

But then why would netlisting be any different? Someone else, who is presumably better, is playing part of the game for you (and yes, in all games making a list/deck is playing the game, you're making decisions which can affect your chance of victory). Am I going to say that netlisting is cheating? Probably not, it's definitely not as egregious as my example above. There's a somewhat blurry line between netlisting and discussing options, and I certainly love to discuss options and I don't want to quash that. I don't even begrudge people for doing it. But I absolutely, very strongly believe that allowing another player to make decisions for you leads to an uncompetitive game.

 

*fun & unrelated fact: he started playing Gremlins shortly after we played each other in a tournament, and it was at least partially because our game was fun, so I'm basically the top ranked gremlin player.

Okey, i was going to read and answer you. I thought you were answering my post, and instead you just chose a silly analogy and ignored everything else which was the content on my post ? Way to go, i guess, nothing like cherrypicking.

And about scientific fields. While you might think there should not be competition, it exists, and it is actually how we can accept a scientific consensus as factual (ie: climate change), because we know that thanks to that competition, if the researchs presented were skewed, biased, etc, we would have scientists eager to take on it. It does not deter research, but the contrary, so i don't know why when i am using it as an analogy to what netlisting does for the game, as pushing the boundaries ahead, you think the analogy is not right, and talk about science as a whole, when that's not what or why i brought it up.

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43 minutes ago, Yipikayey said:

Okey, i was going to read and answer you. I thought you were answering my post, and instead you just chose a silly analogy and ignored everything else which was the content on my post ? Way to go, i guess, nothing like cherrypicking.

I'm sorry if you thought my original answer focused too much on your science analogy. Most of the post was me rephrasing my main argument from the belief that we were talking past each other, but on rereading your initial post, I believe that I understand what you were getting at. You are basically saying that netlisting is good because it lets newer players become more competent more quickly and having a more diverse and skilled playerbase is desirable for a competitive game, right? And I'd agree with most of that tbh. I definitely think that having a large and skilled playerbase is fantastic for a competitive game. I just don't think that netlisting is an exclusive way to get there. You can also get a good playerbase with quality discussion about the relative power level of options and the decision making process behind them, which I personally think works better than a prescribed netlist solution. I've been clear that I'm all for in-depth discussion from the start, the reason I disagree specifically with netlisting is because it undermines the fundamental nature of a competitive game: me vs you, let's see who's the better player (i.e. the winner). When you outsource some of the decision making to another person, it becomes unclear exactly who is responsible for the victory - was it the player who wrote the list or the player who piloted it? What if the player who won made consistently bad decisions and only won because of a great list written by someone else? What if the player who lost made amazing decisions and only lost because someone else gave them a garbage list? Did the game correctly determine who the better player was?

Can you get rid of netlisting? As long as a list is written before the match starts properly, I don't think you can. But that's why I play deckbuilders instead of CCGs. I hope that clears things up.

 

1 hour ago, LunarSol said:

Point systems simply break down modularity.  It's not an inherently bad thing, but it simply means that swapping models isn't as simple as trading out something I don't need for something I do.  If I need to put in a 6 stone model, I'd better not need another 6 stone model, because neither a 5 nor 7 stone model will do.  (The 7 isn't illegal, but my list is inherently just a little less efficient if I don't have a solid plan for the loose stone).  Realistically, you have to remove 15-20 stones of stuff and replace an entire chunk to get something as efficient as what you had working before.

Isn't this a characteristic of players (specifically players with a "core crew + extras" way of building crews) just not spending lots of time on constructing a list? Malifaux for example doesn't actually provide any incentive for favouring this style of play over, e.g. constructing a bespoke crew for every game you play, right? I 100% agree that some players will gravitate towards a fixed list because they aren't inclined to (for whatever reason) mess about totalling up a crew every game, but I'm failing to see how it's actually optimal play to do this and not just quicker.

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3 hours ago, Dogmantra said:

Although science itself shouldn't be competitive, there is competition over limited capital for research grants etc. I suppose you could frame competition over a research grant as a kind of "game".

I'm a professional scientist, so I feel compelled chime in here. You're mostly correct. There are a few main factors of competition in science, some of which predominate in certain settings. In academic research, the main competition is for limited capital to perform the research and pay salaries. A secondary, but not lesser form of competition, is recognition for your research. Being the first person to make a huge discovery is a massive boost to your career, so there's competition amongst scientists to make the next big discovery. This is connected to obtaining funding, because granting agencies are more likely to fund prominent scientists. In an indstry focused setting there's the natural competition of product development.

1 hour ago, Yipikayey said:

And about scientific fields. While you might think there should not be competition, it exists, and it is actually how we can accept a scientific consensus as factual (ie: climate change), because we know that thanks to that competition, if the researchs presented were skewed, biased, etc, we would have scientists eager to take on it.

In an ideal world with infinite funding and perfect job security, this is exactly how scientific research would work. Unfortunately, there are many examples of bias or poorly performed or fabricated science that take a long time to be discovered. Many of these examples do not get challenged for various reasons, most of which relate to obtaining funding. Almost no funding agency will give you money to repeat other studies, because you think they're incorrect or biased. There can also be political pressure to "discover" a result in a certain way in areas that become very political, such as climate change.

Also, a pet peeve - consensus is not valid scientific criteria.

 

Now for on-topic!

3 hours ago, LunarSol said:

I do really think the biggest issue Malifaux has with creating a diverse set of options is the communities resistance to identify the state of the game.  The game has existed for a very long time and we've still got new players jumping in with Mei Feng going through the same cycle of trying to make her work I've seen since M2E launched.  At some point the community needs to have an honest evaluation of how competitive options are so we can have an honest conversation of how to bring more masters on to the competetive stage.

I think this is a great point. The balance of Malifaux is very, very good, but perfect balance in this type of game is unattainable due to a nearly infinite number of variables, many of which aren't anticipated by the playtesters. Therefore, some models will be more competitive than others, and it's necessary to honestly evaluate these things to determine how to improve the lesser performing models.

 

To add my own opinion from observation of human competition. Humans naturally want to take shortcuts/learn from others/not reinvent the wheel, which means that netlisting is a natural outcome of any competitive human event from fighting, to sports or gaming. As follows from LunarSol's point quoted above, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel unless you think you can improve upon it. If a new payer wants to play Sonnia competitively in a tournament, why should s/he waste time reinventing PapaBox instead of netlisting it? If a player thinks there's a more powerful Sonnia list s/he is free to test and innovate. 

Do I think netlisting is a bad thing? Well, that depends. If netlisting becomes so predominant that the meta completely stagnates into a small number of lists, then yes. I'm not heavily involved in the Malifaux tournament scene, so I can't comment on whether this has occurred.  However, in my gaming group it's fairly rare for anyone to netlist, unless they're interested in trying out a combo they read about online. An interesting comparison is Magic the Gathering (assuming the tournament scene hasn't changed much since I played). With every new release there's a new set of netdecks that predominate, and new releases tend to shake up the predominant decks, especially if entire sets rotate out of a particular format. The Malifaux release schedule is much slower that MTG, so Malifaux and other miniature based games can't draw on this constant rotation of "game pieces" to refresh the meta, making them more prone to stagnation. Gaining Grounds seems to be a force that can be used to combat stagnation if it exists.

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3 minutes ago, Dogmantra said:

Isn't this a characteristic of players (specifically players with a "core crew + extras" way of building crews) just not spending lots of time on constructing a list? Malifaux for example doesn't actually provide any incentive for favouring this style of play over, e.g. constructing a bespoke crew for every game you play, right? I 100% agree that some players will gravitate towards a fixed list because they aren't inclined to (for whatever reason) mess about totalling up a crew every game, but I'm failing to see how it's actually optimal play to do this and not just quicker.

I guess my argument would be that even if I had 3 completely different loadouts for a master, they would still largely be a collection of fixed lists.  Sure, the list can simply not exist in any form until serendipitous generated on the spot, but that's very unlikely to be as optimized as one that's been put through the paces.

This is also an area where I think an aversion to the netlist does the game a disservice.  Lets even take Sonnia, a master who definitely has a lot of pieces in place to, say, spam Stalkers sped up by a Handler and punish anything that gets hit when they explode.  I think though lists of this type get a single pass somewhat regularly, but since they're never shared, no one tries to optimize them.  Even if its never as good as the Papabox version, the discussion helps inform what's needed to make it work and maybe we could see an upgrade on something like the Handler that brings it all together.

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As a player that plays a lot of Sonnia I have to say that theres a fixed list of models that work for most masters. Dashel without Guardsmen is pretty subpar. Sonnia without Papa Loco is also subpar. If she had a trigger for :+fate that would compete with burning she would probably not be so in need of him. She also is definitely weaker in melee  and has a low defence so this is why you take Francisco. She can easily kill at least a model per turn and guild lacks card draw mechanics so you take effigy. Sonnia netlisting doesn't come from lazyiness. Its a direct result of wanting to remove her weaknesses. Guild also doesnt have dont mind me or other fast models, so this is why we usually take auatringers. 

 

I believe it all comes to inner balance issues and its probably unfixable without a 2,5 edition. I also think that the problem is somehow extrapolated because one great player had a very good Sonnia list. I believe Hoff, McCabe, Nellie, Lilith, Seamus and a ton of other masters have much more varied model pools

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As I said, I don't particular care for net listing. That's a personal thing though as I feel it's one step toward a de-evolution of a game system into a WAAC Power gamer fest which is why I stopped long ago playing 40K and Fantasy competitively, but that was an entirely different game system and *cough* balancing system. It's also why I came to Malifaux because of the appeal of the "build on the fly" style of game play prior to each game instead of just showing up with your pre-built list. I just really don't want to see a game system I enjoy so much go down that path.

My feelings aside though, I am curious how much of this (pre-built or net listing) is more U.S. based vs U.K. based for example. We, the U.S. players, are cursed by wide swathes of geographic separation, so that when we do congregate for an event are more ill-prepared for certain match ups due to lack of steady and diverse competition within our own local metas. The U.K. on the other hand have a smaller geographic boundary, more events overall (damn near weekly), and are able to experience a wider variety of game play. Do the U.K. Master players make All-Comers lists, or do you build ala carte to fit each games schemes, and by that I mean maybe taking a core crew, and filling in the last 10SS to 25SS as you see fit depending on the strat/schemes, terrain, and opponent's faction?

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Certainly think netlisting helps newbies find things that won't disappoint/turn them off the game.

I'm sure when I first started reading these forums nekima was seen as too costly whereas now she gets in a lot of crews.

Similarly from my own experiences Howard Langston is held up as the top beater in the arcanists whereas I love the rail golem. Forum logic seems to tell people to take grab and drop on kaeris more often than not but I prefer to make my already tough constructs even tougher and my cerberi to regrow heads so purifying fire is for me.

 

My tournament prep tends to be write full lists when I know the strats and schemes then tinker once I know the opponent and scenery.

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The fact that you are to pick your crew after the schemes and factions are revealed means that Wyrd is clearly hoping for people to build their own. And at least for smaller locals, it's what increases longevity. What we need now is a scheme pool that better facilitates the need to hugely swap your crew around. The downside to that though is that for newer players, the barrier of entry is becoming a whole lot higher. Though I guess with the GG schemes you can easily make them the "Expert Mode" while the normal schemes are fit for everybody. 

One other interesting factor is terrain. At our locals we create wildly varrying types of terrain, sometimes come up with special rules for terrainpieces, and generally try to get as unique as possible in the world you play in rather than just throw down a housing block. The differences in terrain combined with my desire to not be stuck with a set list means most matches come with wildly varying lists on both ends. I think it'd be interesting if Wyrd made a collection/catalogue of boards or board-types that don't just show what types of terrain they balance for, but also types that take the possible layout of a table to the absolute limit of what they feel you can get away with. New tags or effects that cover pieces or the entire board - as optional set of rules people might flip for board types or effects. I guess this would be of limited use to people without a fair amount of terrain at their disposal, but it might prove to add an interesting "controlled" layer.

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7 hours ago, LunarSol said:

I guess my argument would be that even if I had 3 completely different loadouts for a master, they would still largely be a collection of fixed lists. 

I mean my reading of Math's original post is that it's not really what was originally asked about. At least my own personal definition of a fixed list would be something like the fixed Sonnia list that didn't change for all but 1 NOVA round and ended up winning. Having a few different crews that you pick from based on the scenario imo is pretty different since you're actually responding to the game state and making a decision based on it, even if you're not making as big of a decision as if you were building your crew from the ground up.

 

7 hours ago, LunarSol said:

This is also an area where I think an aversion to the netlist does the game a disservice.  Lets even take Sonnia, a master who definitely has a lot of pieces in place to, say, spam Stalkers sped up by a Handler and punish anything that gets hit when they explode.  I think though lists of this type get a single pass somewhat regularly, but since they're never shared, no one tries to optimize them.  Even if its never as good as the Papabox version, the discussion helps inform what's needed to make it work and maybe we could see an upgrade on something like the Handler that brings it all together.

Do you think that specifically using other people's fixed lists is necessary for this progression of community knowledge, or do you think that it could be gained by simply having quality discussion around the options? When I say I object to netlisting because I think it makes the game uncompetitive, I'm specifically referring to taking a list that someone else made and playing it in a game. I think that posting crews for critique and discussion is a different animal and is good because like you and a few others have said, it advances community knowledge.

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2 hours ago, Tokapondora said:

One other interesting factor is terrain. At our locals we create wildly varrying types of terrain, sometimes come up with special rules for terrainpieces, and generally try to get as unique as possible in the world you play in rather than just throw down a housing block. The differences in terrain combined with my desire to not be stuck with a set list means most matches come with wildly varying lists on both ends. I think it'd be interesting if Wyrd made a collection/catalogue of boards or board-types that don't just show what types of terrain they balance for, but also types that take the possible layout of a table to the absolute limit of what they feel you can get away with. New tags or effects that cover pieces or the entire board - as optional set of rules people might flip for board types or effects. I guess this would be of limited use to people without a fair amount of terrain at their disposal, but it might prove to add an interesting "controlled" layer.

Terrain does play a huge role though it definitely doesn't affect all crews equally. Many of the most competitive builds mitigate terrain disadvantages (through speed, extra actions, Pushes, ignoring of LOS, etc) and exacerbate them for the enemy (the walls are a good example of this though there are others that could fall into this category). A good net list isn't bothered much by terrain.

As for Wyrd introducing some official type of rule where players flipped for a global effect on the board, this has already been tried and was largely ignored (1st edition had rules for indoors and out, as well as global effects such as heatwaves, snow storms, forested boards, and dim lighting). Worth noting is you could also declare terrain items breakable last addition offering a method of curtailing terrain disadvantages. While I agree that it does add an interesting layer to the game, often times the effects were forgotten about during games making their impact negligible at best.

It would be wonderful if Wyrd showed a couple examples of what they consider a featured board (historically the boards they use at GenCon have been really bad at meeting even the minimum recommended levels though this years were much, much better than in the past). The question comes up often enough that it could really help, one reason the community has created a couple of threads to achieve that exact request (these are of course unofficial). One obstacle to this though is the difference between the recommended amount in the M2e Book (both big, small, and free download version) and the higher amount in the 2 player starter book. Another is, as you hit on, that not a lot of stores much less players have enough terrain to really kit out more than a board or two. This is beginning to change though as more and more games are featuring higher terrain densities (Infinity in particular though it is a different genre so there isn't a lot of cross over) instead of the lone tree on the otherwise open plain that our armies happen to be fighting by that was popular in the past (even Privateer Press upped their terrain recommendations slightly this edition).

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My main concern with netlists is that it gets pretty friggin boring playing the same list over and over. Having said that as a new player of a few months I have asked that dreaded question about a list in my early days and was quickly told they don't exist. This can be overwhelming to a new player, so many options etc. I am a firm believer in taking a limited pool of figures that I know and am confident in using. I like themey lists and really dislike taking model x because you should. At the same time I know that means I wont be ultra competitive.

I prefer to take models I like the look of rather than what's the most effective if those intersect then happy days. I made the mistake of buying models that I was told were the bees knees and a must take only to not enjoy them because I didn't like the model or conversely not taking a model that I like because it is suboptimal. Prime example is Santiago, everyone says he is not an optimal choice but bugger it I want as many Ortega's in my list as I can and I love the sculpt! I bought Iggy and Insidious madness for my Pandora crew because everyone said they were great, crew is still unassembled on the shelf because I am not inspired to use it.

I have an idea for a Shenlong list I am going to try which doesn't take the recommended picks just because I like the models. Shenlong, Yu, Izamu (using Genbu the tortoise), Mr Graves, Shadow effigy and 2 Komainu. I love every single model. I have ideas and plans for every type of scheme and strat and while it wont be really utra competitive I will have fun.

The other thing is when faced by the ultra abusive lists I know I will lose so I just set myself little goals and try to survive the battle while killing a few of my opponents. I don't care about winning tournaments, I never will even though it would be cool. Im just not that competent a player that "gets" the synergies on my own. I rely on discussion with opponents, friends and forums like this one to help hone my basic game.

So to answer the original question fixed lists-ok by me but netlists get pretty boring and in many cases unenjoyable for one player. My biggest gripe in Malifaux as a newbie is that I feel like everyone wants to noob stomp without a thought for the consequences. Lucky for me I have thick skin and like this game a lot otherwise I would have walked away after all the gotcha moments and destruction. Its not fun being beaten by a gimmick you had no idea about rather than true skill. I have faced Sonnia with papa box and it wasn't pretty and I didn't enjoy the game as I was just removing models. Sure taught me a few lessons but some softer opponents of similar skill level and /or attitude to the game would be a better experience. Sorry for the rambling rant.

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Aren't we digress too much on the "netlist" rather than the problem of balancing models to avoid fixed lists?

Because you might like / dislike / be indifferent in regard of the fixed lists...they will surely accelerate the process of find the best fixed lists, but the problem isn't this but the fixed lists themselves plus the very strict pool of really balanced models...and we almost all agree on it, right?

so if we mostly agree, maybe Wyrd want to consider some action to balance models and increase the level of compete with much more models.

I agree on what @Omenbringer said: I don't think they've done a great work balancing models in this game, but I do believe they've done outstanding work in doing the game mechanics with all its features and possibilities. And it would be a pity to throw this away by don't improve the "weak" part of the game. 

You correctly said that perfect balancing is impossible, and it can't be more true than that. What I think is pretty easy to achieve, it's to delete the extreme at the top and bottom of the curve, I mean the worst model you'll never consider to hire and the best model you never consider to do not hire. You can smooth these with very low effort and increase so much the pool of viable models. Meanwhile changing also the schemes to help the models otherwise you will rarely or never hire.

Maybe we can do a 3 days full of games nerd camp to build thousands of feedback and improvement for many models, that would be fun :P

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This is a really large and interesting topic, and one where I think we will never get full consensus.  Indeed, there is not really a full and deep agreement over which models are good or bad; at least I would note that some models that I consider good rarely seem to be recommended or seen.

I am part of the 'problem' in the sense that I favour using 'fixed' partial lists, such that I have a core crew for a master and then swap out a few pieces depending on my needs or moods at the time.  For example, I played a couple of tournaments earlier this year all using variations on a single Leveticus crew with only one or two models swapped between them.  This is because I find that I'm less likely to forget critical interactions between my own pieces if I have more familiarity with the combinations; my gaming time is limited so I make the most of what I have.

I would be interested to find whether people are genuinely seeing 'net lists' in practice.  I keep tediously detailed noted on my tournament games (posted in the Battle Report subforum if anyone cares to look) and a cursory review of these shows that there are no duplicate lists between different players after more than 4 years of tournaments; probably I've missed some so perhaps I'll be proven wrong if anyone has time or inclination to do a full review.  Even 'famous' lists like the Greg P Lilith crew (with Nekima, Doppelganger, Johan plus Retribution's Eye et al) which have been joked about being really common; I have literally never seen anyone but Greg use this list.

Overall my view is that crew building is the lesser skilled part of the game, and therefore that net-listing is not (to paraphrase my view of other people's opinions) 'outsourcing part of the win'.  But perhaps I'm taking that view since, as mentioned, this is a phenomenon I have not encountered at all in in the UK tournament scene.

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13 hours ago, Math Mathonwy said:

I agree with the general gist of what you're saying but just to nitpick the example given there's a guy who wins or places in basically all the tournaments he takes part in and he thinks that Mei Feng is actually really good (third wave gave her a huge boost).

I also think Mei Feng is really good and dont use 3rd wave stuff with her at all :D 

probably my favourite arcanist master and have ran her fixed crew at tourneys before (winning one and placing 3rd at my most recent one)

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I honestly think the issue was pretty hyperbolated based on one very good player winning a tournament playing the same list 5/6 times. If you read his battle reports he was forced to play convict labor most of the games because he couldn't really score anything else and still switched to Perdita in one round. The game is balanced nicely. I think most of the models have their way in a few lists and we'll always find weaker models so basically the whole mix with erratas and new cards is not worth the chaos that ensues

 

I think the Wyrd way of toning down NPE and extremely powerful models is a way to go.

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53 minutes ago, Blacks85 said:

Aren't we digress too much on the "netlist" rather than the problem of balancing models to avoid fixed lists?

Well, I think there's a bit more to it than balancing models. Of course ideally there should be perfect intra-faction balance and every, say, 5 stone Gremlin model should be equally viable & powerful as every other 5 stone Gremlin model. And I do think that Guild tends to be the faction that sees fixed lists and a bit less variety, so there's certainly merit to balancing out options.

But I do think the schemes & strats could do with a do-over, as Omenbringer has suggested. One major point that I think could do with an overhaul is the Always Available scheme. In the rulebook schemes, models like the Mech Rider, masters like Colette and probably Titania too, anyone who can dump out a load of scheme markers basically have a strong advantage in any scheme pool due to always being able to take A Line in the Sand and have a fairly easy time of it. Similarly, the Sonnia fixed list winner took Convict Labour pretty much every round because he knew he could get it off and he knew other schemes were too difficult.

It's not the whole reason a fixed list works, but it does contribute since knowing one of your 3 objectives that's guaranteed lets you build with that in mind.

Perhaps in GG2017 we might see the end of the "Always" scheme and some slight variance to replace it. Just off the top of my head, what if you added together the values of the two cards you flipped to determine schemes and that determined the "Always" scheme. Obviously there wouldn't be one for each possible total, but something like 2-9 is one scheme, 10-18 is another and 19-26 is a third scheme. Then there's a bit of variance and it makes it just a bit trickier to know that you've got at least one objective covered.

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This is a difficult conversation to follow. There are obviously a lot of complex issues interacting here, and several intersecting topics of discussion.

I haven't personally noticed fixed lists to be common, or a problem. I'm not sure why, given the opportunity to modify your crew to better suit the objectives, you would instead choose to take the same list every time - that's the opposite of optimisation. Far more common, in my experience, is taking a static "core" with specific synergies to your Master and a degree of "flex" to suit the scenario. The only advantage I can see to a fixed list is the benefit of familiarity (which is not to be underestimated, for sure).

Of all the games I've played, I've found Malifaux to be the most resistant to that tendency to collapse the competitive scene into a small number of fixed lists.

As far as the balance debate, it's true that there are particular models that will be commonly seen across a variety of lists. That won't ever change - if those models were reduced in power, or other models increased, there would simply be a different set of models that were commonly seen. There's no point at which balance is achieved and all models are exactly equally valid choices. I can agree that it could be nice to shake up the strong model pool from time to time - at the moment, the 0-cost upgrades are the intended way to do that.

The thing that's curious to me is the way that group perception can often blow things out of proportion. The Nythera polls were a perfect example of this - somehow, models like Iggy and Hans ended up being elected as one of the three "weakest" models in their respective Factions. The fact that a majority of the Factional playerbase can find those models somehow underwhelming - or Mei Feng for that matter, she is an awesome powerhouse - lends a lot of weight to the perception that most people try a model a couple of times, can't quite get them to perform, and simply write them off and return to their comfort zone. There are very, very few models in the range that I would never take in a list - it's just that many models have advantages that are more subtle than the obvious "strong" choices.

I can't really get into the "netlisting" debate, because I don't think there's even a common understanding of what "netlisting" entails here. At what point does selecting your crew change from "following other people's suggestions" (which is a great idea, especially when you're starting out) and become "netlisting" (which is apparently bad)? If you go to the Guild forum and learn about the Papabox, is it "netlisting" to include those models in your next Sonnia crew, even though you select the rest of the crew yourself? It's all so nebulously defined.

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24 minutes ago, katadder said:

I also think Mei Feng is really good and dont use 3rd wave stuff with her at all :D 

probably my favourite arcanist master and have ran her fixed crew at tourneys before (winning one and placing 3rd at my most recent one)

Oh aye, it was mostly the TT version which got the boost with the 3rd wave (IMO surpassing the Arcanist version in the process).

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11 hours ago, Dogmantra said:

Do you think that specifically using other people's fixed lists is necessary for this progression of community knowledge, or do you think that it could be gained by simply having quality discussion around the options? When I say I object to netlisting because I think it makes the game uncompetitive, I'm specifically referring to taking a list that someone else made and playing it in a game. I think that posting crews for critique and discussion is a different animal and is good because like you and a few others have said, it advances community knowledge.

I think a proper discussion of list optimization is going to result in using other people's lists regardless or at least approach the point where its essentially semantics.  Its like on the PP forums where you can't post stats, so model discussions have this silly "same ARM as an Ironclad" kind of tone.  You either give people the pieces they need to build the puzzle or you artificially inject unnecessary information to purposely cloud the issue.  I'd just prefer to cut straight to the point.

Also, this aversion to using someone else's list asks, at what point is a list significantly different?  If I swap Expert Sleuth for Debt to the Guild, is it a new list?  Do I have to use a different model?  At what point am I forced into a bad list because someone else has used all the good ones?

Also, on a slightly different topic; would this be as much of an issue if every model in the list had the Witch Hunter tag on it?

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12 hours ago, Blacks85 said:

I agree on what @Omenbringer said: I don't think they've done a great work balancing models in this game, but I do believe they've done outstanding work in doing the game mechanics with all its features and possibilities. And it would be a pity to throw this away by don't improve the "weak" part of the game. 

You correctly said that perfect balancing is impossible, and it can't be more true than that. What I think is pretty easy to achieve, it's to delete the extreme at the top and bottom of the curve, I mean the worst model you'll never consider to hire and the best model you never consider to do not hire. You can smooth these with very low effort and increase so much the pool of viable models. Meanwhile changing also the schemes to help the models otherwise you will rarely or never hire.

Maybe we can do a 3 days full of games nerd camp to build thousands of feedback and improvement for many models, that would be fun :P

Before any re-balancing occurs there are some holes in the core rules which need to be addressed. The primary ones are the Elevation and LOS rules, which while somewhat playable are a source of constant frustration (so much so that they are often ignored). The terrain recommendation section also needs to solidify the amount (no discrepancy between books and Starter) and provide a few illustrations so players can visualize what the expectation is.

11 hours ago, trikk said:

I honestly think the issue was pretty hyperbolated based on one very good player winning a tournament playing the same list 5/6 times. If you read his battle reports he was forced to play convict labor most of the games because he couldn't really score anything else and still switched to Perdita in one round. The game is balanced nicely.

And yet he still won his games because the Always Available option can always be built to.

This is an issue because most Strats/ schemes encourage action around the same area as Convict Labor. It aids in making his quick damaging list fairly effective without regard to what the Strat and Scheme pool is.

11 hours ago, Dogmantra said:

It's not the whole reason a fixed list works, but it does contribute since knowing one of your 3 objectives that's guaranteed lets you build with that in mind.

Perhaps in GG2017 we might see the end of the "Always" scheme and some slight variance to replace it. Just off the top of my head, what if you added together the values of the two cards you flipped to determine schemes and that determined the "Always" scheme. Obviously there wouldn't be one for each possible total, but something like 2-9 is one scheme, 10-18 is another and 19-26 is a third scheme. Then there's a bit of variance and it makes it just a bit trickier to know that you've got at least one objective covered.

I think the easiest solution is to just carry on the restricted scheme pool concept to its next logical conclusion, i.e. Strat specific Scheme Pools.

The big reason for this is that there are Schemes which are extremely low probability when coupled with certain Strats (i.e. rarely going to be taken) and extremely high probability when coupled with others (i.e. almost always taken over other options). Take for example Squatter's Rights which is center line focused, would Breakthrough (requiring you to get your your opponents deployment zone to score) be a viable option over the Always Available A Line in the Sand (which has the same center line focus)? What about Reckoning with Vendetta, Make Them Suffer, or Murder Protege (all of which are compliments to the primary Objective, I might even consider Frame For Murder in this category since you know your opponent is also going to be killing your stuff to score points) in the mix against Breakthrough? These are not equally viable options and yet they are worth the exact same max points values regardless of which Strat they accompany.

While it could be argued that some Strats encourage play deeper into an opponents deployment zone, even these don't require a substantial deviation from the center focused crew. Reconnoiter for example only requires 6" from the center. It is very possible that a crew could be in all four quarters and yet still able to support one another. Stake a Claim only requires your opponents half of the board which could be as close as the other side of the center line.

11 hours ago, Kadeton said:

This is a difficult conversation to follow. There are obviously a lot of complex issues interacting here, and several intersecting topics of discussion.

I haven't personally noticed fixed lists to be common, or a problem. I'm not sure why, given the opportunity to modify your crew to better suit the objectives, you would instead choose to take the same list every time - that's the opposite of optimisation. Far more common, in my experience, is taking a static "core" with specific synergies to your Master and a degree of "flex" to suit the scenario. The only advantage I can see to a fixed list is the benefit of familiarity (which is not to be underestimated, for sure).

Of all the games I've played, I've found Malifaux to be the most resistant to that tendency to collapse the competitive scene into a small number of fixed lists.

I agree the issue is much more complex than it would appear.

I also agree that the problem really isn't "Netlisting" so much, but the small "Static Core" which comprise most of the competitively viewed lists regardless of selected Master, available Strats or Schemes. It is rare to see a competitive Guild list without Francisco and/or Guild Austringers. Playing against Ressers? Better expect at least one Rotten Belle. The same exists in each faction.

While perfect balance is likely impossible (doesn't mean we should just except it), the goal should be to make everything as viable as possible. Currently that can't really be said even in casual environs. The goal of Re-balancing should be to improve this by making the present "auto-includes" and "never takes" much less so, expanding the hiring pool up substantially to more options. I would even go so far as to really bind to the "key words" making some things fluctuate based upon the selected Master. Why should Rotten Belles work just as well outside of a Seamus list as they do with him? Tie one of those suits in their Lure to Seamus (perhaps Sybelle as well) and now they do what they should for him (the Master ambush predator) without given every Master that can hire them the same access.

What I am saying is, while I accept that there will always be options that are better than others it shouldn't be either faction wide, only a small select pool, or 100% obvious in every situation. Things should work best with their themed Master/ crews and there should actually be a decision point for hiring one model over another (not simply takes this and don't worry about Strat, Schemes, or opponents crew choice).

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2 minutes ago, Omenbringer said:

And yet he still won his games because the Always Available option can always be built to.

Maybe he just won his games because he was better that their oponent?  

 

Rebalancing models the way you suggested requires rebalancing basically everything. If we for example lower El Mayor to +1 it turns out a lot of Guild Masters were balanced around the possibility that their DF and Wp can jump up by 2. This is a great effort and it can pretty much end in chaos and something like swapping Francisco for the Judge while the rest of the core be the same.

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While I mostly agree with what @Omenbringer proposes, or at least the thought behind it, I'd posit it wouldn't do much to change what already goes on now, and would be a sales problem for Wyrd.

First let me express that yes, if we are focused purely on mechanics then the sales motivations behind them don't matter. But we can't completely ignore it. Don't forget the financial implications behind Avatars were one of the reasons they were not included in the main game, and the reason totems are only included in the starter boxes. In a niche market, miniature wargaming, you have customers who generally only by niche sections of your product line, the models for the factions they play. If you then make models that are only really good for a niche section of that product line, models that only really go well with one of the faction's masters, you've cut off a large pool of potential buyers. I'm not saying that the real world business decisions to drive sales have to be front and center in an abstract discussion based purely on the rules of the game, Going down that route gets you into the territory of a familiar other company, who prints constant power creep versions of books and introduces new models that invalidate old models, just to drive sales. But you also cannot divorce yourself entirely from them either.

While I also support thematic models being better with thematic masters, let's not forget that was a major area of contention and toxicity during the first open. There were those that argued Omen's, and often my, position that theme should generally be better with theme. The opposing argument however had valid points that if thematic forces were better options generally than general models, then whenever you played against a master you'd almost always see the same list, because it isn't as if there is a whole line worth of thematic models for each master. For example, and for as much as people like to complain about Rotten Belles, Seamus hasn't had a thematic addition to his crew since Twisting Fates, which was released six Gen Cons ago, and in fact has lost 2 actual Belles because he can't hire Molly anymore, and Sybelle lost the Belle trait. He also, aside from staying alive, doesn't do anything with the Belle trait. A fact I hope gets corrected some time when new upgrades are printed for old masters, if that ever happens. The situation would be much as now, it would just mean the same masters would pretty much always field thematic options. While we see the much, though I don't see why, derided net lists now, we'd still see them if theme forces were always better.

While I also agree that in an ideal world there would never be always take and never take models, that will never happen. Don't forget we were attempting the same thing when the game system changed over, and we still got auto takes and never takes, and some of the never takes, which it sounds like Guild Guard are, I specifically remember people cheering about during the playlets about how they were worth taking again. I remember specifically the enthusiasm about the Ice Golem, and I hardly ever see it anymore, even in Raspy Lists. Perfect micro balance should absolutely be striven for, but let's not kid ourselves that it's actually achievable. Even if we for one shining moment did achieve it, to survive as a company Wyrd has to keep putting out new models, and the instant the next wave came out, the imbalances would start creeping back in. You can easily see this even in CCGs which have a faster release cycle, and who have been studying how players use their games for years and years, and you still get always use/never use cards, and you still have net decks. It is a feature of human nature that cannot be perfectly solved.

For me, rather than every model in the game being equally viable, I personally think as much as possible every master should be as balanced as possible. Those tend to be the models and personalities that get people excited and really involved in the game, and if every master can be reasonably competitive then you won't have the situation of someone loving the look of a master, buying it, and then getting told they are effectively trash for the competitive scene. It's one of the reasons I personally really like the upgrade system, because it allows focused and tailored power boosts, or lateral play experiences to be made without errata. I personally prefer it to trying to fix a model's perceived power with another model, like I believe they are trying with the Terracotta Warriors and Will O' the Wisps, because those models can easily accidentally boost the power in other interactions that get potentially missed during play tests. It's one of the reasons I really wish masters used during large events was tracked as well as faction. I think from the publicly available data Wyrd succeeded fairly well in making all factions viable in a competitive sense, with perhaps an arguable edge to NB and Outcasts. However it's very hard to tell how much of that is due to particular players, and especially which masters are seen over and over again. It's all well and good to say Guild won such and such an amount of events, and NB won such and such. But if it turns out Sonia won 80% of the Guild ones, while NB had a fairly even spread of Lilith, Collodi, the Dreamer, and Pandora, and in the history of M2E being out Lucius and Hoffman NEVER won or got on the podium at an event, even if a top player was playing them, then that perhaps means they should get another look.

Now, I do however, and have always liked, the idea that you can give models just a little bit extra when taken in thematic crews. Don't forget that was the idea behind upgrades like Not Too Banged Up, Promises, and Smoke and Shadows. The problem is they linked the ability to take that upgrade to specific models or just traits that can be taken in any crew. If you take Madam Sybelle you have option to super lure belles no matter which dresser master you play. If you want card draw and intend to bring Horrors along, even though you aren't Molly, you too can wage a campaign to Take Back the Night by just taking the upgrade. In retrospect I personally would have like to either see an additional Master Requirement, or just the master requirement. IE Take back the Night could be requirement Master: Molly. Anyone could take it if the master was Molly, but only if the master was Molly.

This was a pretty long and disjointed ramble, so apologies. For myself, on the topic, I don't think fixed lists are bad, and are just going, when they can be achieved, to be the natural evolution of a game. The particular problem, if you wish to call it that, with Malifaux, is that as a miniature war game, whose release schedule generally has one new book a year, the meta doesn't change often enough to keep the fixed lists consistently changing. One positive change to that is the current release schedule of new GG documents about 5 months after the current book comes out, which has the potential to shake the meta up as well. For myself, I feel that eventually one of the ways to help weaken fixed list generation is when we have a certain saturation point of strategies and schemes. While I do like the current evolution of limited pools, I think, and I'll admit I could be wrong, that one thing that could weaken net lists is the natural evolution of Schemes and Strats. I think if there are enough options for always available schemes that are different enough from each other that you cannot count on a particular version being available, and when the Strategy pool is as large as the scheme pool is now, and when more schemes are tailored like Hunting Party and Show of Force, which encourage different builds at the beginning go the game, and if ALL schemes had an equal chance of being picked, without the favoring of the suited schemes coming up more often, it would be much harder to create static lists, or even very large cores of crews, which show up all the time.

Of course then you get into areas of making the game too complex, and making it feel to a percentage of players they never get the play the same scenarios enough to ever get good at them. I don't think there is a perfect answer to be honest.

TLDR:

It's complicated, because there isn't an easy solution to any play or rules problem.

 

I do agree with Omenbringer though. Fix the Elevation and LoS rules, even if it's just something as simple and abstract as:

If you are on a vantage point you ignore any models or terrain for LoS purposes that are equal to or under the height of the target. The edge of the terrain granting Vantage point must be within a number of inches equal to your model's height along the line you choose to use for LoS.

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42 minutes ago, Fetid Strumpet said:

For example, and for as much as people like to complain about Rotten Belles, Seamus hasn't had a thematic addition to his crew since Twisting Fates, which was released six Gen Cons ago, and in fact has lost 2 actual Belles because he can't hire Molly anymore, and Sybelle lost the Belle trait.

Well, if we're going to say the card has to literally say Belle to be Belle themed we're going to have to face how arbitrary those monikers can be.  I mean, if what this really comes down to is Papa with Sonnia, then we've got to face that out of this crew that's almost entirely Witch Hunters, Sonnia would stand out more than Papa does:

IMG_5522_zpsw0j6wmkn.jpg

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A scheme pool variant I think could be interesting would be allow the player to pick each scheme only once in the entire tournament. This would require carefully thought out pools, larger pools, or perhaps free selection for each game.

In general I don't think TOs should be that beholden to using the standard scheme randomisation even though it's recommended by GG. Pick or at least adjust the pools to weed out some scheme that go too well with the strategy.

If GG17 don't want to come with new strats and/or schemes (or too many new), a selection of alternate scheme pool selection systems could still upset the meta a bit.

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