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 Post subject: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:54 am 
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I was listening to last nights SHNN today, and they discussed at length about how Brutal Strike and Overwhelming Force were seen more in this set to counter the "tank squads". My goal is to open a discussion about future inclusions of these and other counters to tank squads. This isn't a rant about how peices with these abilites/force powers in this set and previous sets are bad for the game. I want to talk about where we are heading in future sets.


Tank squads have just recently entered the top tier squads in the meta. Personally, I am a player who favors tanks squads. It fits my play style. I think there is some valid strategy in making a good tank squad. My Caedus/Zannah took me to the top 4 in the Wisconsin regional. Did I think it was unbeatable? Heck no! Direct damage destroys it. Every faction can access Morrigan Corde, so I thought that this was a good counter to the tank squads we have already seen. The 2 best tank squads are the Caedus/Zannah or Caedus/Malgus squads. I see the point that the designers made about the insane amount of damage reduction in the Malgus squad. But really, does it need to be countered this much this early? Look at how many points the player invested into making that piece as tanky as it is! It costs 84 points to get Malgus to be that good, and even then he can still die by being shot at a lot. Is it really fair to make even more pieces to counter this huge investment? How many times did a Malgus/Ceadus squad win a regional this year? Not that many. How about we focus on making more counters to the Thrawn squad squads that have been reigning supreme for many years now (especially this year with them wining regionals left and right). I like how the Vong have a very good counter to it Thrawn builds (brilliant design on the Praetorite Vong Scout btw!), but other factions still suffer greatly at the hands of the Imperials. They make the top 4 a lot yes, but I think it is a dangerous thing to eliminate some brand new top squads so easily by introducing more direct counters when (IMHO) the meta hasn't really shown it to be such a huge problem. I caution the designers for future sets to hold back on such powerful Force powers such as Brutal Strike and Overwhelming Force since I think it hurts the game more than it helps it if we see a lot more of these pieces being made.

I hope this doesn't come off as me saying that the pieces with these force powers in this last set we horrible and broken. They aren't! They are all very good! And they are needed. I'm just voicing a concern that I feel that sometimes designers aren't letting the meta pan out to see counters arise to some squads that have become powerful as of late. This isn't really the designers fault. The reason why I think this happens is because we release 2 60 figure sets a year. I think this set is great! The design team did a really good job making these pieces and also listening to playtesters! I'm fine with the amount of pieces we see in this set as being counters to the "tank squad". The main point I want to make is that we not overreact in future sets be flooding the meta with more "tank squad" counters, because it not only hurts the few good tank squads, but also hurts a lot of other factions survivability. So do we really need more counters to tank squads? My answer is yes. I just think in a lesser capacity. Damage output on such pieces should be lessened and the prevelance of such pieces should also be limited in future sets.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:24 am 
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The problem with tank squads is that there are realistically very few real counters. Yeah, Morrigan is a good one, but doesn't do much damage and has a low attack, so she isn't a big enough counter to really discourage tanks. Other than that, what else is there pre-CotG? Direct damage, but there really isn't much direct damage that isn't save-based. Lord Vader had Overwhelming Force, but he has really phased out of playability over the years. Saba Sebatyne and the Jedi Battlemaster got Brutal Strike, but they aren't competitive pieces (although they were good pieces to introduce an ability like that).

So there were a few things that could make things more difficult for tank squads, but no true counters, and I'm a strong believer that everything in the game needs a counter. When we make counters, we want to counter the extremes; tank squads have begun to reach that extreme, so they needed to be brought back into line. Tank squads can still totally be good, because these characters with unavoidable damage either have counters to them already in play or have some kind of deficit that they need to play around (Luke's lack of a strong movement breaker, Kyp's reliance on Bravado so it doesn't even work on Zannah as well as his complete lack of defenses, Vader's expensive Force Powers compared to his relatively low Force Points). But now there is something for the tank squads to legitimately worry about.

I agree with you that high activation squads like Thrawn/Cad squads need a counter, too. I believe that Lancer and Yobuck were that counter, but we kind of hated them out of the meta, which I think was a mistake in hindsight. I was a person who really hated those pieces so I pushed for that, so I take some of the blame for that. However, note that we added more Strafe and Gallop in this set, too; those abilities can really take advantage of the weakness in those Thrawn squads, specifically that they don't have any beatsticks and are just a bunch of fragile pieces. There is also the Czerka Shield Technician, which helps bring those squads down a notch. Thrawn squads were, in my opinion, the other extreme opposite of tank squads, and got some needed counters.


I understand that you might like single-focused squads like tank squads, but I personally think the game is better without them being particularly powerful. I believe you should be occasionally punished for putting all your eggs into one strategic basket. When you build a squad, you should have the option of making a well-rounded squad that does multiple things well and can handle a variety of other squads, or you should be able to make a singular squad that does one thing amazingly well and dominates some squads but loses badly to others. Tank squads were getting to the point that they did one thing amazingly well and dominated some squads but didn't really have any competitive squads that they lose badly to.

I do think you're probably right that we don't need more counters to these things in future sets in the density that we got them in CotG. That was a specific goal that we had for CotG, and that goal doesn't necessarily have to be shared in future sets. The balancing act is done, we created new counters to the two extreme squad archetypes that are currently in the meta, future sets need to balance the game in their own ways.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:00 am 
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whereas BS and OF do counter tanks squads they also do something else, they create a quicker game.

There is a large issue at the moment that games just aren't finishing. A lot of that is to do with the amount of save based abilities in the game.

Initially, this game had very few and games didn't go that long but with the increase in activations and save based abilities the game has just slowed down. OR and BS speed it up because you can be more sure of getting the damage to stick and so you can predict moves a bit better.

None of these pieces do away with Tank squads, but like all figs, they now have pieces they legitimately fear. Tactical choices and squad building choices have to be made as a result.

As for letting the meta play out, it already has done. Malagus and Cadeus mopped up first then people adjust. These pieces that are brought out afterwards just allow other squad builds to alter their focus.

The size of Vsets has always been an issue for me but it seems like that is changing but even with smaller sets i think the rise of OR and BS was inevitable. When a certain faction becomes dominant they get countered. Its just the flow of the competitive game.

As for the comments about Imperials. They are always tough but when did they last win GC?

2006.

And i don't think they'll do it this year.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 11:09 am 
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There are more ways out there to counter the tank squads than just having Suppressive fire, BS and OF. 2 sets ago we got a piece called Watto, that not only gives a person Self Destruct but also the ability to gain Savage. With Malkili in the squad, all of a sudden you have a piece that can target anyone, and do unavoidable damage. The top tank squads were all melee focused at this point, and so I though Watto/Malkili were great counters. I think if people were a little bit more imaginative in squad building, you could make a lot of good squads to counter the tank squad dillema. As for the Vehicles of War set, yes it did introduce more galloping/strafe but for what factions? Yeah...the same factions that had it before. My point I was trying to make was that besides Republic, Seps (and now Vong thank goodness!) and to some extent Rebels, the other factions didn't have any good direct counters to taking out high activation squads. A case could be made for Imperials, but I'm not sure how good they those squads will do yet.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:19 pm 
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Yeah, Watto is a tank squad counter as well as a vehicle to improve Celeste and savage squads.

The problem is that you spend 31 points on just Watto and maliki so its hard to fit in.

Its even more of an investment than the 17 points often used to give Malgus Illusion.

The thing about tanks squads is that no-one should be able to just march a couple of beats down the center of a board and rely on luck to keep them alive.

If you watched how Trevor played his GC winner last year, he made calculated moves and "Tanked" when it was necessary or statistically advantageous but it was usually a last resort.

Having Tank squad counters emphasizes this play style and just takes away the luck aspect of the game and rewards clever play rather than relying on save rolls to go your way.

Excessive save rolls has been a large NPE for a long while, even before Vsets. So long as the pieces that come in are balanced and have definite weaknesses they shouldn't dominate, just offer alternative builds.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:54 pm 
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fingersandteeth wrote:
whereas BS and OF do counter tanks squads they also do something else, they create a quicker game.


And here is where I am going to strongly, strongly disagree with you. The upping of the offensive capability of figures does not create a quicker game. It creates a slower, duller game. You know what the biggest problems with Heroclix as a game is? Alpha strike. Whoever hits first will have the advantage. It wasn't that bad in this game for a long time. Not many figures could take out the big figs in one go.

Now, I don't know. When you have these figures, able to pretty much take out big guns in one strike, you are going to make the opponent a lot more hesitant to engage. Because if they don't strike at the exact right time, then they lose. No wiggle room. And if you don't think that jockeying for that right position causes more timed games than the "overabundance" of save abilities, than I think you are analyzing it wrong.

There has been no balance in design. And almost no reasonable work on increasing survivability. How many raised concerns that SSM being changed back would cause problems? The fact that it didn't cause problems should've raised some eyebrows, and caused some reflection, but it didn't.

I understand why some don't like save based abilities. I do think some reactions to it have been a little over the top. But prolonging the game, by actually making it a game is a good goal. But you can't do that when it is do or die. I've run my Dark Trooper squad against a few squads. It isn't a top squad, since it's firepower relative to todays standard is abysmal, but I challenge you to find a squad that has as much damage reduction, especially compared to the "problems". But it puts out a good enough amount of damage. Why? Because I'm able to be aggressive.

More reasonable defensive options to encourage offensive behavior, while not allowing the recklessness of GOWK or maybe Zannah, should be the goal. Not making it into a waiting a few rounds, than win 2 rounds later. But hey, you finished on time, so it must've been a good game.

TL:DR: Making figures easier to die does not quicken the game.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:21 pm 
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Sithborg wrote:
It wasn't that bad in this game for a long time. Not many figures could take out the big figs in one go.


Thrawn/Vader swap has been out since the 5th set

Bounty hunters released Boba BH with his auto defeat disintegration.

Your point, while not lost, is incorrect at the top level.

Before those sets i'd agree with you. But this game has been about "Alpha strike" since 2006.

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Now, I don't know. When you have these figures, able to pretty much take out big guns in one strike, you are going to make the opponent a lot more hesitant to engage. Because if they don't strike at the exact right time, then they lose. No wiggle room. And if you don't think that jockeying for that right position causes more timed games than the "overabundance" of save abilities, than I think you are analyzing it wrong.


People will jokey for position anyway, regardless of save abilities. one person has to be aggressive and if that reason is because you just lost a piece then so be it.

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There has been no balance in design. And almost no reasonable work on increasing survivability. How many raised concerns that SSM being changed back would cause problems? The fact that it didn't cause problems should've raised some eyebrows, and caused some reflection, but it didn't.


With the amount of figures giving out shields, crab armor, illusion, lightsaber defense, evade, mobile attack etc etc, how can you even say this? GOWK won Gen Con the year he was brought back full strength. What more evidence do you need that SSM is strong?

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I understand why some don't like save based abilities. I do think some reactions to it have been a little over the top. But prolonging the game, by actually making it a game is a good goal. But you can't do that when it is do or die. I've run my Dark Trooper squad against a few squads. It isn't a top squad, since it's firepower relative to todays standard is abysmal, but I challenge you to find a squad that has as much damage reduction, especially compared to the "problems". But it puts out a good enough amount of damage. Why? Because I'm able to be aggressive.

More reasonable defensive options to encourage offensive behavior, while not allowing the recklessness of GOWK or maybe Zannah, should be the goal. Not making it into a waiting a few rounds, than win 2 rounds later. But hey, you finished on time, so it must've been a good game.


so you are telling me you can build a defensive squad that doesn't do a lot of damage. Nice.
Most of the squads with the best defensive pieces also have massive firepower so they tend to get it all, alpha strike and defense. That really puts players in a freeze.

You can't really take away firepower (although the shield tech does that to a certain extent) but there are ways to cut through the defense.

The concept is all about balance.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:31 am 
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Games not finishing on time in my experience are almost completely because of the players, not the pieces they are playing. Introducing new gameplay options and counter options is the whole reason we are doing this.

Brutal strike and OWF are not on a lot of pieces nor will they be. They aren't abilities that will be givin out as often and their power needs to be realized and accounted for by design.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 11:27 am 
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Good discussion so far.

I wonder if we'd even be having this discussion if GOWK hadn't won the Championship last year. If Gerry's Naboo Troopers had won, we'd be talking about the absurdity of 5pt pieces doing 60dmg on a death strike. If Bill's Skybuck had won, we'd be having conversations about the need to adjust the win conditions in the playoff rounds of a tournament (because he won via gambit in both the quarter- and semi-finals). And so on....

GOWK did win the Champs, but has he won a single major tournament (ie, either in NZ or a Regional) since then? No, and that was before the BS and OF pieces in Set 6. Yes, Zannah/Caedus/Malgus have won some tourneys, but I would honestly chalk a lot of that up to the new mechanic brought about by SBM. People didn't know how to defend against it, and so they lost to it.

I was happy with where tank squads were and what they did for the meta, because finally, you didn't need 18+ activations and/or tempo control to have a competitive squad. Scissor squads have always relied on the ability to kill key pieces in one round (usually after out-activating), because they generally don't have the survivability to keep going if that key piece can survive and do its thing. But the rise of tank (ie, rock) squads has meant that scissor squads now face a genuine threat from a squad-type (rock) that they never really needed to fear before. The rocks/tanks finish their round, absorb some of the damage that the scissors dish out, and then get up in their face the next round. Basically, tank squads brought balance to the Force (ie, meta). Therefore I'm with Obikenobi1 on this: I don't want to see tank squads given an early death.

IMHO, if a piece has OF or BS or Suppressive Fire or whatever, then it should be a low-damage piece. Doing 120dmg with BS or OF is too much, unless you're paying out the nose to get it.

Rather, if we want to limit tanks without nerfing them altogether, then create a Special Ability that gives an enemy target a -4 penalty on saves made to reduce or prevent damage (but please not to the Sith, lol!). Call it Tracer Fire or Focused Attack or something. There are alternatives to fighting complete tank negation.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:32 pm 
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Balance is difficult.

We all view the game differently, and what is best for the game. But having such a counter piece to big, powerful figures, makes it tough to play the lesser versions, that don't necessarily have the same defenses. The counters are too broad. The same argument applies to a lot of the counters to Strafe/Gallop. You hurt what you want to hurt. But you also hurt the stuff that wasn't a problem as well. And we also begin getting into the area of where matchups determine who wins, which I'm not eager to enhance more than it has been in the past.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:25 pm 
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I agree that OF/BS should be on relatively low-damage pieces. That sort of rock-paper-scissors should be in effect.

A high-defense tank absorbs the damage from the high-damage piece and beats it.

An OF/BS low-damage piece cuts through the tank and beats it.

A high-damage piece has more output than the OF/BS piece and beats it.

I like OF/BS as another piece of the puzzle, but as TINT said, it should always be on a low-damage piece. Or an uber-high-cost. I was thinking about Zam - very well-costed piece. Doesn't have OF/BS but has the same effect (only when the enemy is in low objects). But her damage output is low relative to her cost and the fact she is relatively immobile.


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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:19 am 
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After seeing results from GC, (and not just the championship), Tank squads do not need more counters. They have plenty. The top squads were high activation, tempo control again. Just as some hate SSM and some hate lancers, I've always had a distaste for a ton of nothing figs spinning in the back one at a time. And now I'm starting to really get sick of it. I liked Caedus and SBM because although it gets beat by single activation/high activation squads, at least it gave me an option.
As of Obi saying Caedus/Zannah or Caedus/Malgus were the best of them. I 100% disagree with that. I've always thought Caedus should be run with Guns and not another damage sink. I thought I did enough to show that but apearently not. As for running Caedus again, I like him and he's more fun to play than these boring spin and sit in the back squads, I don't believe he is viable top teir option. There are too many counters to it that are top teir for it to be considered.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:46 pm 
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I concur with Sthlrd. After seeing the squads that worked at Gencon (and throughout the regional season) I think Tank squads have enough counters. In addition to OF, BS, and suppressive fire most factions have access to other direct damage options. The NR has unleash the force, the Vong have their immunity and bugs, the Sith and Imps and lighting, etc.

Having said that I think BS and OF are good and I don't think any piece in this set makes a Tank squad unpalatable to play. In fact since they are on more expensive pieces that's better for Tank squads. It's the pieces in the 30 price range that can do auto damage that really hurt the tanks imo. As long as those are kept in check Tank squads will remain viable. I think, but it remains to be seen, that the new Czerka can nerf pieces like Morrigan enough for Tank squads to remain competitive. That's what this game needs more of for tank squads, cheap fringe pieces that can be brought in via Lobot to help out in certain matches. That versatility allows Tanks to respond to squads effectively, and those kinds of pieces were lacking in set 4 and 5.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:01 pm 
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I never run tank squads, but then I always ran with scissors growing up so that's not surprising. Despite my aversion to them, I agree with those of you who've said that we don't need anymore tank hate for now. Tank squads are good for our game, and even if I don't run them, I want to keep seeing them. There's something about seeing the biggest names in movies, books, and games come to life on the gridded map.

Conversely, I don't think the answer to high activation squads is hate for them either. The problem for the rise in 2pt wins (I don't use the term tie here purposely) lies more with player motivation. Josh and I talked about this on the way home from GenCon this year and he made a statement I totally agree with and will borrow here. If we want to change the focus of player motivation, change it by creating incentives, not penalties. Both can come in the form of character design and tournament structure. I think we should take another look at our point system. Let's start with a very subtle change, one that would not take any rewrites to our software to implement. I'd like to see us try out NZ's 3-2-1 scoring system. Will has already written it into the program he so graciously created for us. I think that 1pt difference will be a big factor in getting people to complete games. Someone now satisfied with 2pt wins nets 2 in every game he wins. If he wins enough, he can usually overcome not getting 3pt wins. But...if he only nets 1 on players who score more 3pt wins, I think the players who play faster will benefit more from this scoring system because they will be more likely to score over half of the build total than more deliberate players.

I think to research this a bit more we should talk to the NZ guys. They don't seem to have a slow play issue there. Is it because of their scoring system or is it some other factor that has eluded us? Either way, I think it's always best to offer rewards rather than penalties, especially in today's climate. Do we want new players? If so, we certainly don't want to slap them down because they're nervous and indecisive during a regional or GenCon event with penalties and warnings.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:10 pm 
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+1. Well said Jim!

( I sure hope they were plastic play scizzors :) )


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:27 pm 
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Darth_Jim wrote:
Conversely, I don't think the answer to high activation squads is hate for them either. The problem for the rise in 2pt wins (I don't use the term tie here purposely) lies more with player motivation. Josh and I talked about this on the way home from GenCon this year and he made a statement I totally agree with and will borrow here. If we want to change the focus of player motivation, change it by creating incentives, not penalties. Both can come in the form of character design and tournament structure. I think we should take another look at our point system. Let's start with a very subtle change, one that would not take any rewrites to our software to implement. I'd like to see us try out NZ's 3-2-1 scoring system. Will has already written it into the program he so graciously created for us. I think that 1pt difference will be a big factor in getting people to complete games. Someone now satisfied with 2pt wins nets 2 in every game he wins. If he wins enough, he can usually overcome not getting 3pt wins. But...if he only nets 1 on players who score more 3pt wins, I think the players who play faster will benefit more from this scoring system because they will be more likely to score over half of the build total than more deliberate players.


Based on what I observed, and the results, there would have to be a much more drastic change. Pretty much, we would have to eliminate your win ratio (Ie 3-0, 2-1), and go straight to victory points as the main decider of player ranking.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:53 pm 
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I'd be fine with that. I've always liked what I've read of the 3-2-1 system, and if it helps to promote actual engagement, then I don't see how it can be a bad thing.

Let VPs be the main ranking criteria, and then back that up with number of wins/full-wins/SoS/etc. IMHO it's very do-able.


Regardless, the tank-hate issue is not entirely about time. Time is a factor (though not as big as one might think, since tank squads tend to be low on activations), but there are far bigger factors involved, such as meta-balancing and rock/paper/scissors issues.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:28 pm 
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I was not sure what the NZ guys used, so I saw the 3-2-1 as only changing the VPs.

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 Post subject: Re: Are more counters to "tank squads" needed in future sets?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:07 pm 
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Sithborg wrote:
I was not sure what the NZ guys used, so I saw the 3-2-1 as only changing the VPs.


You're right, and maybe going to VPs might be the way to go. I think it is worth looking into, anyway. Right now is when we should start researching and experimenting.

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