The Miniatures War College
Advenio paratus. Egressus melior paratus.
D&D Miniatures strategy and analysis.

March 28, 2005

Asymmetric Encounters

One of the things I noticed at last wekeends tournoment that 200 point games ending on time are just not satisfying in some way. And I got to thinking, it didn't feel too much like I was playing D&D either (partly because I'm not). Think about it, how often are both you and whatever your antagonist are going for is exactly the same? Usually it's not. Often one has the upper hand in some fashion and the other is fighting to defeat it. And that got me to think about a differnt type of format that would probobly make a minis game feel more like D&D: Asymmetric Encounters.

Here is the brief summary: in an asymmetric encounter one side has an objective and the other side's sole objective is to frustrate the first team. Let's call them attackers and defenders. Actually, let's pretend it's football and call it offense and defense. For example one side wants to rob the caravan and the other wants to defend it. One side wants to rescue the princess and the other wants to stop it. Etc. Etc. These are more classic D&D type encounters.

But how would you score it in a game? In football the winner is determined (generally) by which offense scored more points than the other offense, and the defense gets no credit. So in an Assymetric Encounter you would play the same encounter, but switch sides. Only one side can score, and a match winner is determined by who scores more when they are on offense. Constructed properly they can provide a satisfying resolution even if time is called.

But that presents a rather difficult tourmoment problem: we cannot realistically double the size of the tourney. So my thought: cut things in half. 6 figure limit, 22x17 map, half hour limits (added together makes for an hour round). And the most importiant: pre set maps. Thats like 10 minutes in some games. Each round would have a different encounter (or each table would have a different encounter) and each encounter would have a different scoring criteria for the match. Encounters could even have a schedule like the triad format.

As a brainstorm, here are some encounters. I'll write up some more of my thoughts later.

Caravan Raid
Map: Forest Caravan Road (relativly straight 4 square road short way across map)
Setup: Defense sets up first, with 3 2x3 wagon counters (one is a decoy). Offense then sets up on the short sides of the map.
Special Rules: Raiding: When an offense piece bases a wagon, they can make a DC20 + level of defenders threatening it save to get a "treasure" from the wagon. If the decoy is raided it is not discovered as a decoy until successfully raided. Treasures can be taken or given to another figure as an attack replacement. Destroyed attackers drop treasures that can be picked up by other attackers as an attack replacement. Each treasure wagon has up to 3 treasures. Attackers with treasure can run off either short end of the board.
Routing: Defenders rout off of either side of the road. Attackers rout off of either of the short sides of the map.
Scoring:First criteria is who scored the most treasure. If tied, the attacker that lost the least points of creatures. If still tied, the attacker who scored the least defenders points (being a robin-hood high value-low blood raid).

Prison Escape
Map: City Prison
Setup: Defense sets up first anywhere on the map, with no more than 2 figures per room. Offense then sets up in the prison room.
Special Rules: Delayed Response: defenders can do nothing until they have had LOS to a defender or an active attacker.
Beaten Down: Attackers start with half their hit points.
Blocked Doors: Attackers moving through a door make a DC20 save if threatened by a defender.
Routing: Attackers do not rout. Defenders rout to the city street. Once on the city street attackers are scored as Victory Points. Minons and summons never count for victory.
Scoring:First criteria is the most escaped prisoners (2 goblins is better than one snig), minions and summons do not count. Second is the value of the escaped prisoners, again minions and summons do not count. Third is most un-activated defenders, fourth is highest value of defenders eliminated.

March 24, 2005

Warband Generator

Wizards of the coast has updated their warband generator for Deathknell, to version 1.6.

While that normally isn't interesting in and of itself, what is interesting is the tiles page. First, they included all four Sandstorm Tiles: Oaisis, Jagged Wasteland, Mummy's Crypt, and the Sun Temple.

Second, there are two tiles that have been releast that are not there. The first is the Scortched chamber, which may not be there because it is the newest prize tile.

The second? Treasure Room. All of the other 7 harbinger tiles are there, but not Treasure Room. Was it a mistake or does the person writing the Warband generator know something we don't?


Update: The treasure room is there in the 1.61 version of the builder.

March 22, 2005

Time Limit Strategy: Planned Withdrawl

Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away, away!
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!

Sometimes the rules of the tournament and the rules of the game interact in strange ways. Recently at a couple of 200 point events I noticed a strategy that plays off of the limited time and relative durability of a few creatures vs. the squishyness of others. This is a move I call 'pulling a Sir Robin.' In the last round a player takes his pieces that can be eliminated and moves them as far away from the opponent's graps as possible, at least a single move from all opposing figures.

Seriously though, when the goal is to deny your opponent more points than you can score sometimes the only reliable way is to keep him from eliminating your creatures. And as the rule currently stands routing creatures score no points.

So how do you exploit this? First, make sure it is really going to be the last round. If time has already been called it's easy. But when time is short you play a dangerous game. You cannot stall (that's cheating) but you can weigh out your moves. And your opponent will be weighing out the their moves too. So the rule of thumb I use is that if there is 45 seconds per activation remaining, I treat it as the last round, 12 unactivated figures will take about 8 minutes to resolve. But be sure it is the last round! If a creature doesn't rout off the board in one turn, it almost certialy will in 2, and by then your opponent has caught up with the runners. But the 3/4 rule is a relativly safe bet, especially if you pull the following stunts:

  1. Turn the Other Cheek: Provoking Attacks of Opportunity isn't bad, unless your opponent can kill you with all of the AoOs possible for that creature. An injured creature is worth as much points to your opponent as a completely healthy creature: zero.
  2. Fear is your Friend: Dont worry about half hit points, unless you are within a double move of routing off of the board. In fact, routing is good! You get to move at double speed if you have already attacked and moved or even moved some more. So wisely done you could concievably get a triple move off of a lat round move.
  3. Hide and go Seek: Failing morale is generally good, as long as you stay on the battlegrid. You cannot choose to not add your command bonus to morale saves, but you can hide your commander behind a wall! This is one time where command is bad.
Remeber, discrestion is the better part of valor!

March 17, 2005

Functional Analysis of DeathKnell

For those of you reading my blog, I thought i'de give some heads up on some of my statistical analysis of the upcoming DeathKnell set and what figures, based on number crunching, are your best buy.

First, we will start with Functional Hit Points. I haven't created a blog entry describing my formula, but briefly it is HP/2+(HP*Morale)/20/2+(AC-10)*HP/20 (morale=20 for fearless). 3 of the all time top 10 are from DeathKnell: Thaskor (175) , Zombie White Dragon (162.5), and Aspect of Nerull (162.5). For FHP/Cost effeciency, the stats are even better with 4 of the top 10, including the top 2 spots. Dwarf Phalanx Soldier is far in the lead with 5.06(!), Zombie White Dragon at 4.39, then the old leader Dread Guard was at 4.34. Wood Woad is at 4 with 4.20 and BloodHulk Fighter is at 6 with 4.07. It should be noted that most of the top 10 have some drawback, like requires commander or slow attack, and in the case of the dwarf speed 4. To give some scale, only 20 figures have an efficiency higher than 3 and the median effeciency is 1.7.

BloodHulk Fighter has an interesting drawblack that actually works in the favor of small damage! A 5HP attack is effectivly doubled, taking 10 to topple giving it a reality of 50 HP, while a 30HP attack will take 3 to drop it, making it a 90HP equivilent, so it's effeciency number is kinda bogus.

Your top 10 for functional hit points at the pre-release will be Dwarf Phalanx Soldier, Zombie White Dragon, Wood Woad, Bloodhulk Fighter, Timber Wolf, Boneclaw, Celestial Dire Badger, Burning Skeleton, Bullywug Thug, and Undying Soldier.

For Functional damage, things get complicated. One centerpiece figure, the Beholder, does not use normal attacks but uses a unique random eye ray system. Based on that I calculated it's average damage based on a save value of 8 to be 39.15. Against Undead and Constructs it drops to 8.7. Consdering it is all at range sight it is basically considered a ranged attack, and it out-does the HEBI by an effeciency of 0.47 to 0.43 on a full attack, making it the most efficient ranged attacker in the game!

The Centaur Hero is the only other DeathKnell figure to crack the Ranged top 10, and then that is at full attack only, with a 0.26 efficiency. The Hero also has a dismal Melee efficienct at full of 0.35 and it's Functional HP efficiency is 1.37 placing it in the 30th percentile of all minis. That makes it a rather disappointing figure statistically, speed 10 may be able to make up the difference, but I don't see this figure shaping the constructed arena like the HEBI did.

Moral of the story for ranged attacks? Use your abberations pieces at the pre-release.

Melee functional damage efficiency is a different story. Only one piece cracked the top 10 in single, multiple, and average attacks. Tied with the Abyssal Maw is the Orc Savage at 0.75. Only bested by a full attack Eye of Gruumsh. The Beholder made a single attack showing at #8 w/ a 0.47 and Rask, Half-Orc Chain Fighter made the full attack list also at #8 with a 0.63. Still bested by the Frenzied Bezerker you have to figure in the Melee Reach 2. Dual FBs will become Chain&Sword bands with a simple figure for figure replacement of Rask and one of the Scarlet Ladies.

Based on average damage your best bets are Orc Savage (0.75), Beholder (0.47), Rask, Half-Orc Chainfighter (0.46), Dire Bear (0.43), Goliath Barbarian (0.4), Skullcrusher Ogre (0.38), Ibixian (0.38), Death Knight (0.33), Thaskor (0.32), and Ettin Skirmisher (0.31).

Based on Full Attack go for Orc Savage (0.75), Rask, Half-Orc Chainfighter (0.62), Dire Bear (0.55), Goliath Barbarian (0.48), Beholder (0.47), Skullcrusher Ogre (0.46), Ettin Skirmisher (0.45), Death Knight (0.41), Ibixian (0.38), Centaur Hero (0.35).

Based on single attack go for Orc Savage (0.75), Beholder (0.47), Ibixian (0.38), Dire Bear (0.32), Goliath Barbarian (0.32), Thaskor (0.32), Rask, Half-Orc Chainfighter (0.31), Giant Frog (0.30 + swallow halflings whole), Skullcrusher Ogre (0.29), and Bloodhulk Fighter (0.28).

The Orc Savage looks to be the common to get, provided you can trip it's Savage fury. You may want to charge the weakest figure you can get to. But if you have a beater your best bet may be to base it, then bring the beater in and be in position for a morale save AoO. Also, if you opponent has a Savage and you have a 5 point guaranteed damage to burn at it (magic missile, Elf Warrior, etc), it will generally be worth it to take it out.

So Ibixian, Orc Savage, Kenku Sneak, and Timber Wolf look to be the commons to make room for.

Uncommons to make room for seem to be the Wood Woad, Bloodhulk Figher, Skullcrusher Ogre, Dwarf Phalanx Soldier, and Burning Skeleton.

For the rares, pray for a Beholder, Rask, Gold Dragon, or Coutal.

March 16, 2005

Possible Rumor

Apparently my joking around about a Liger on the MaxMinis board has paid off. I got an e-mail from someone who calls themselves "Throat Wolf." Apparently they are working on Liger (a Lion/Tiger cross bread) and Tigron (Tiger/Lion, switch the mom and dad) minis for the set after Underdark. They haven't nailed down all of the stats, particularly for the Liger. But the Tigron will have a new ability: Improved Incited.

Ok, I hear the complaints now, "how the #@$% can you improve incited?" What makes it improved is that it always acts first in the round, even if you lose initiative. There are some corner cases WRT both players having a Tigron, or three: in that case they activate in initiative order. And there will be "split phases" if you have an odd number of Tigrons.

At least they aren't doing goofy things like Dual Activation+Incited+Inhibited. (Acts first and last in the round). But give them a few sets, and an opportunity to make an RPG monster that works like that and they will. Perhaps some sort of uber-haste effect?

March 1, 2005

Scenario: Kill the Dragon!

With a title like that how can you resist the urdge to put on a Viking helmet and sing (in your best Elmer Fudd) "Kill The Dragon" to the tune of "Ride of the Valkyres?"

Kill the Dragon

Number of Players:

Warbands: Each warband must include at least one figure with the type of 'Dragon.' If there are multiple dragons in your warband you must select one as the 'Designated Dragon' (herafter simply refered to as the Dragon). All other rules as normal.

Terrain Setup: A 22 x 8 square 'Dragon Zone' exists along the ends of the short end of the map, the 22 x 18 area in the middle is the 'Neutral Zone'. You may not place tiles anywhere in your opponent's Dragon Zone, but you may place tiles in the Neutral Zone, your Dragon Zone, and you may place tiles that go into both. You may place your assembly tile on either end of the Dragon Zone, without respect to wherever your opponent has placed theirs.

Victory: The first player to kill their opponent's dragon wins. If neither player kills a dragon and time expires, both players lose.

Special Rules:
  • Limited Movement of the Dragon - The dragon cannot leave it's own Dragon Zone for any reason. This includes movement, slide, push, pull, pushback, tranposition, dimension door, or any other such reason. Any attempt that an opponent has to cause the Dragon to leave it's own Dragon Zone fails if there are no legal alternatives. The Dragon may choose creatures in the Neutral Zone (or even the opposing Dragon Zone) as valid targets of any attacks, spells, special abilities, etc. assuming all other rules allow it to be selected (nearest target, etc.)
  • Respawn - Creatures that are not the Dragon respawn after they are removed from the board for any reason (elimination, destruction, etc.). This only applies to creatures in the initial warband. Minions only re-spawn with an appropriate master (and only if one is available from the initial warband), and summons/created creatures do not re-spawn. Creatures with a "Requires [creature]" choose their attached miniature when they re-spawn, and a valid miniature must be on the board when they respawn. The round after a creature is removed it can enter the map with any exit square of an assembly tile being it's first square of movement. The creature is completely new and has no lingering effects (such as poison or enfeeblement) and all of it's limited use abilities are all available again.
Play Notes: This presents an interesting design challenge balancing attack and defense at the same time. Do you attempt to kill the opponent quicker then they can you, or do you invest in the defence hoping that you can delay your death until after your opponent's Dragon falls? Investing too much in the Dragon may not be too wise, because if neither dragon falls, you both lose! (Take that you Silver Staller!)