The updated OPD dropped today and I’ll like to discuss the following:
“C. Deal seven Game Plans to each Player, face down. A
Player who is playing a Minor Guild is instead dealt
eight Game Plans. Each Player discards two, face down.
All Game Plan cards are kept secret.
Roll off to determine the Kicking and Receiving Player. A
Player who is playing a Minor Guild gains +1 to this roll.”
Here’s Steamforged’s explanation:
“We’ve playtested these Minor Guilds extensively, and we’re happy that they’re just as competitive as any Major Guild, but the lack of model options compared to other Guilds can mean that they could use a tiny boost in Regional Cup events, where Major Guilds can bring two more models than Minor Guilds.”
What is Balance?
At first glance this seems widely paradoxical to me. How can something be both “Just as competitive” but also “need a tiny boost”? Either they’re competitive or they aren’t? Perhaps it depends on how you define “competitive”. Let’s play with some imaginary numbers:
- Imagine Guild A, which has the following Guild vs Guild win-rate percentage distribution: 35/40/45/50/55/60/65
- Next imagine Guild B, which has a different Guild vs Guild win-rate percentage distribution: 46/48/50/50/50/52/54
Both of these guilds have a mean win rate of 50%, however we see the Guild A is much more variable. Guild B is very steady with having essentially even matchups throughout the day. Guild B can much easier overcome a -4% expected loss rate by player skill. Guild A, however, is going to have a much harder time of that. The result of their tournament is much more dependent on the luck of the draw in match making. What does this mean practically? Well, we’d expect good players piloting Guild B to be overall more successful as far as first place tournament finishes, Despite the fact Guild A and B have the same mean win rate.
So what is competitive? I’d imagine that’s up to the individual to decide. Shark, for instance, has very polarizing matchups, but I don’t know that anyone would call him “uncompetitive”. The difference here is Shark has Corsair to fall back on for those junky matchups. Piper doesn’t have that luxury. The Minor Guilds will certainly have Bad Matchups just like every other Guild, but their lack or roster diversity will not be able to smooth out their curve so to speak.
Therefore, I believe it is difficult to say Minor Guilds are truly competitive. Or at least the design itself promotes variance based on matchup. Their mean win rates may be in line with their counterparts, but unlikely consistent tournament victors. Unfortunately it is very difficult to playtest for such a thing. We don’t even keep track of this today (well, it’s out there, just not easily consumable).
Tech Choices in Guild Ball:
So what do Minor Guilds *not* get? What’s the minus to this plus? We talked about it above – Roster selection. The minus is they are not as able to adapt to a specific opponent on the fly. Specifically, minors are missing 2 models, one of which could be a captain or mascot.
Missing a 2nd captain, depending on what that theoretical captain helps you with, could be a pretty huge deal. For instance, Smoke’s win rate versus Vet Rage is currently sitting at 37.9% (all time since collection), but Midas has a 66.7% win rate. Disclaimer, this data might not be significant, but this is the type of shoring up is something Rats won’t have access to. You might never play Midas, but he’s there in your 10 for that one specific matchup. Same thing goes with particular squaddies such as Grace. That 9th and 10th player in your roster is there just for a specific matchup. So what are your odds of those players being impactful? Well it’d be (Win rate with tech – win rate without tech) * (likelihood of running into x opponent in tournament). To put it more simply, if half your local scene plays Vet Rage, you’re gonna want Midas in your 10.
So as mentioned previously, Minor Guild’s don’t have the ability to smooth out their matchup variance. They make up for this by Steamforged’s adjustment.
Did we pick the right solution?
This brings me to my next point. What should, or could, be done to draw in this variance? Is Steamforged’s solution the right one? As a reminder the Minor Guild will get +1 to the kickoff roll, as well as an extra Game Plan. While this may seem minor, it’s actually causing the minor guild’s player’s odds to drastically increase over the major player for kickoff. I won’t get into Game Plans for now because that is much more complicated/skill intensive than can be measured with easy math.
Major vs Major each player has a 50/50 chance to win the kick off roll. Same with Minor vs Minor. However the addition of the +1 to dice roll in the case of Minor vs Major changes the odds to 68/32. The minor guild player has *more than double* the chance of the major guild player to win the kickoff. Regardless of what is advantageous to each minor guild, kicking vs receiving, the player still gets the choice in the majority of games they play.
This could help shore up a Minor Guild’s bad matchups. Theoretical example: Let’s say Piper’s team drastically prefers to receive. Whenever he receives his Win rate increases. However, Piper is really bad versus blacksmiths. He simply can’t cut through that armor. Maybe his win rate there is 40%. If he receives, which he will most of the time under this plan, he’s at least in a better position to win that game. Maybe he gets closer to 48ish.
However, this unfortunately has the exact same effect against good matchups. Another example: Let’s say Piper is realllly good versus brewers. Piper still prefers to receive, but now he’s got a double positive. He’s got a good matchup, and he is favored to win the coin toss. We didn’t do anything to “smooth out the variance” here. We’ve entirely shifted the whole power curve of the guild up. How much? Overtime it’d be exactly equal to .1774*(receiving win rate – kicking win rate).
I’d argue this largely isn’t very fair, balanced, or competitive. Sure you improve their crappy matchups, but you dumped hard on that brewer by forcing him into a worse situation on an already bad matchup. The variance hasn’t decreased, it’s a strict power level increase. You bump all the matchups up, both the good and the bad, by x%.
Unfortunately neither way you look at this does it create a more balanced scenario. If you look at “competitive” from the average win rate, well you already had that and now you’re just arbitrarily increasing that number even higher. It’s a global win rate increase. If you’re looking at it from a tournament winner perspective, you’ve not done anything to shore up bad matchups at all, other than that global increase. The variance is still there. You’ve either made them weaker than you meant to, or this solution is stronger than necessary.
To think about it a different way – Imagine if you could allow major guild players to construct a 8 man roster with exactly 1 captain and 1 mascot. As a reward these players would receive the same +1 die roll and Card. Some would, some wouldn’t, but you can imagine there would be several players who would take advantage of this. It might even be some guilds are great with 8 and some really need to stick with 10. But you at least introduced a choice, and didn’t make Minors feel like they have a global increase. Is this something steamforged is willing to introduce? Would it upset the balance of the game? Does it make teams with a good solid 8 too strong?
I don’t particularly care for the way this is handled. I think it reveals an inherent flaw in the minor guild design. You could solution for this to force everyone into 8 player rosters, but that limits diversity and essentially kicks those tech models to the curb. Alternatively you could increase the roster size to 12, and allow minors to join majors in the same list, but that’s a lot of models and puts the new player under financial stress to buy more.
One thing I think Steamforged could do, is down the line, release 2 player blisters, like what was done with Grace and Benediction. Each blister gives a Minor Guild an additional captain as well as a veteran model. This means they’ll be sitting pretty at 10 along with everyone else. You won’t need a pity bandaid!
What are your thoughts? Let me know!