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 Placeholder Cards: Are they the best solution? 
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Denizen
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From the current beta document:

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PLACEHOLDER CARDS

Players use a placeholder card in their ready queues when they can't fill their queues with units. The placeholder card takes up a slot and makes a player “skip” an activation. When the placeholder card moves into the ready spot, choose one of the effects on it and resolve it. A placeholder card is not a unit card.


My understanding of the justification for the introduction of Placeholders is to incentivise having as many Heroes as you have Queue Slots, this is because during 1.0 lists were designed that deliberately shortened the number of models to ensure maximum activations of the most powerful units. This, I felt, improved the game in 1.5, but as I read more reports on 2.0 and look at the rules more I think it isn't needed and this can be addressed more simply.

2 Steps to Fix Cadres:
  • A Cadre must have at least the Knight plus enough Heroes to fill the queue. For example at 50 points a Cadre would have to have at least 2 Heroes and a Knight/Avatar.
  • A maximum of 3 Boosts can be included in a list. (Possibly with a cap of 2x on a Boost type.)

Why Remove Placeholders
Simply, because having a placeholder puts you at a disadvantage if you are already loosing, in essence it makes you loose more and that isn't fun. If Placeholders didn't make you loose more they wouldn't actually solve the problem they were created to solve!

Placeholders work by disrupting the activation economy of the player with a Placeholder. This means that if both players started with equal numbers of activations and one now has a Placeholder and the other doesn't, the one with the Placeholder has their activation economy disrupted and that places them at a disadvantage.

Loosing Units puts you behind on your opponent automatically because they have more options to use to pursue victory, but having your units not activate for a turn (more on this later) costs you beyond that as well. This becomes particularly clear when you consider 2 players who are in a close game where it is easier to gain the last VP to win by Flipping for a Condition. If 1 player has 3 Heroes and the other 2 and a Placeholder and both have 2 Minions, the one with the Placeholder looses 2 chances to gain the VP every cycle of the 3 slots. In fact because of this activation advantage the player with 3 heroes can use 1 activation every cycle to attack the other player's units and still have a statistical edge in the Flips, thus potentially further compounding the other player's disadvantage. It isn't any better if both are playing for the kill, the Placeholder becomes a stalling point in the game, because each time it comes up it can slow the game by healing 3, even though this is just slowing the inevitable.

Both players getting a Placeholder doesn't actually improve the situation, because at this point both players now have a point in their queue that has limited effect on advancing the game. Gaining Held Esper and moving may allow you to advance, but are not going to advance as much as a Hero activation and significantly less than a full Hero/Minion activation, and Healing 3 slows the game down by making it take longer to kill Units. So at this point both players are essentially forced to mark time, when they could be doing something, so the game is slowed down.

Removing Placeholders also removes rules from game play (if not game set up), which means less things to worry about remembering (more on this later).

Losing Cadre Flexibility
It is true that if minimum Cadre sizes were adopted that this would place some restrictions on list construction that currently do not exist. However while Placeholders exist, I believe that flexibility isn't really present, and if it is then Placeholders are not doing what they are intended to do.

For example when discussing this on FB it was suggested that having a minimum Hero count would mean that someone couldn't choose to take a small number of powerful units and then use the Placeholder as free extra movement/healing/Esper as appropriate to boost those units. I would hope that making that choice would not be as successful as designing the list to have no Placeholder, because of the limits the Placeholder creates as outlined above. However if it is possible to create such a list I'd be very interested in seeing results of games played with it.

Recognising that there may be Cadres that benefit from the existence of Placeholders, I still believe that the game as a whole would benefit more from removing them that it does by keeping them, because at best the flexibility gained by their existence in list construction is gained at the cost of Placeholders not fully achieving their design goal. (It's either a trap for inexperienced players, or an unintended boost that needs to be addressed,)

Opening Up Design Space
One thing that I think having tighter Cadre design restrictions and removing Placeholders from the queue for having lost units does is open them up for design use in other roles. While this would mean keeping the Placeholder card rules it would mean they could be used for Knockback effects for example. (Knockback, Press for Placeholder) They could even be used for things like "Place Placeholder in Queue, this Hero is removed from the board while the Place holder is in Queue. When the Placeholder is no longer in queue return this Hero to the board anywhere on the board" and other wild effects. Yes these effects could be created now, but are either too powerful combined with standard Placeholders or are crippled by their existence, so taking out the 'punishment' aspect of Placeholders opens up that design space for exploration, perhaps not in the 2.0 rules, but in later expansions.


Conclusion

Placeholders can be removed from the game by adjusting the Cadre construction rules to ensure initial queues are able to e filled with Heroes. Doing this removes their negative effects on the game, specifically making a player loose more by activation disruption and slowing the game down. It also opens up the possibility of using them as a proactive design element for future units in the game. These benefits outweigh the small gain that they allow for possible Cadre compositions that do not have a full queue. So I would recommend removing them and adjusting the composition rules.

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March 28th, 2017, 7:36 am
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THe main problem I see with doing this, only making a minimum starting hero number, is that there is nothing after that to fix the problem. This means that every hero has to be super significant. There can't be any, for lack of a better term "light heroes" that cost less points, have more limited ability, but are still heroes. Why? because teams will start taking these disposable heroes so they can take much bigger heroes to fill the rest of the minimum space and use these speed bumps to do things that can't be ignored, force them to be killed, and suddenly have the whole problem of hyper activation to take advantage of again.

You say that the placeholders are bad because they make losers lose more (this could be adjusted and looked at, but that's not the point of this). But, this suggestion goes the other way enteirly. It makes a player who starts "losing" suddenly much much stronger than the "winning" player. That's a horrible way to go. A player should never have to say "well, i can't actually try and foil what my opponent is doing, because if I do, in any situation I do it, they will become more powerful because of it". There shouldn't be a piece on a team (or, soon, an all teams) that is either voluntarily invulnerable or a super-power-up on death piece.


March 28th, 2017, 8:00 am
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You realise that my change returns the game to 1.0 without the Link rule problems or the danger of limited unit Cadres, and that your argument is people might choose to run sacrificial units (whose easy destruction hands out VPs) so this is bad?

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March 28th, 2017, 8:50 am
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Removing placeholder cards doesn't make the losing player stronger, it lets them keep a hope of staying relevant in the game. Okay, so their hero gets more activations, that's good if the right hero manages to survive (you're assuming your opponent is going to target the hero you don't want). But with no perfect damage mitigation anymore, and the fact that there's suddenly less targets for your opponent... that hero is going to start taking heavier fire, and that damage will add up. You're still at a disadvantage for having lost a unit, the only difference is that you get meaningful turns and the hope of swinging it back around, instead of the game basically saying "oh, you lost a hero? Let's replace it with a bunch of dead turns and frakked action economy".


March 28th, 2017, 9:12 am
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Viper, Field Medic, DS Kisa, and DS Hero of Time all come in at 7pts or under. There are a few at 8, but the rest of the heroes tend to be 10+ points. We I'd argue that we already have "light heroes" that fill a support role. But as Obsidian-Crane pointed out, using them in a way that encourages their death is risky behavior. You may gain activation economy when comparing specific units, but you lose board presence in the process - let's not forget speed has been reduced across the board, meaning the list that was most problematic in exploiting the short queue won't have the same area of influence.

With the increased effectiveness in combat and the hero-minion mechanic, I'm more worried about the death spiral that placeholders create than I am about 'super lists'. I'm not a fan of adding more requirements to list-building, but I think that is a better solution than placeholders. An alternative would be to remove placeholders from being used unless you start the game with fewer heroes than are necessary to fill the queue. This would leave players to use whatever units they want, but would not allow players to gain an advantage. Though I agree this could wind up being a trap for players who don't realize that they're giving up on turn economy. It would allow placeholders to stay in the game for the other wildcard uses as described (I like the idea, though it could also be interesting to package any unit that has such an ability with a paceholder card specific to their ability, but that's another thread...)


March 28th, 2017, 3:01 pm
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And even without the ability to make your crew intentionally as small as possible the repeatedly activating your relic knight over and over again was really clunky and really killed my and my group's enjoyment of the game. I don't think placeholders need to stay or go, but I really don't want to return to the possibility of" Relic knight activates, Relic Knight Activates, Relic Knight Activates, Relic knight activates again", especially since now they can activate a minion unit as well. Doing that again relegates the majority of your list to chaff you actually want to get rid of as soon as possible.

The come from behind mechanic this entailed was just silly. If you want nothing but your relic knight going play a game where you and your opponent agree to bring nothing but your relic knight.


March 28th, 2017, 3:26 pm
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Placeholder cards are probably necessary in the Continuous Round System.

Relic Knights is balanced in a point buy system like most miniature games. The more powerful the unit, the more points it costs, the fewer other units you are able to bring to the table. That's all pretty obvious so far, of course.

The part that's relevant to our discussion is that the trade off of having more powerful activations is that you have fewer activations overall in most game systems. The CRS circumvents this balancing mechanism by giving the player with the fewest units the same number of activations as the player with the most possible units.

With the placeholder system intact (and assuming the player knows enough to build with enough heroes to cover the opening ready queue), the CRS system still gives the player with the fewest units an early advantage; they have more powerful activations and the same number of activations as the player with fewer units. The placeholder system makes it so that the early game advantage is traded for a later game disadvantage... but that disadvantage is ultimately still better than the inherent disadvantage that having fewer units should provide in a point buy balance system.

The argument that removing the placeholder card would expose the team to increased focus fire is flawed because the player with more units does not get more activations with which to focus fire. Instead, it would create a situation where the player with fewer units would probably be whittled down rather quickly since they would get no more activations than the opponent with fewer units, and the activations that they do get would still be less powerful.


March 28th, 2017, 4:01 pm
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Denizen
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Jak7890 wrote:
With the placeholder system intact (and assuming the player knows enough to build with enough heroes to cover the opening ready queue), the CRS system still gives the player with the fewest units an early advantage; they have more powerful activations and the same number of activations as the player with fewer units.


That's not exactly the case though. Unlike most other games, Relic Knights requires resources, and the abilities are balanced in power primarily on the resource costs. The difference in point costs reflects speed, durability, and ability diversity more than it does raw damage potential. There is some disparity in the cost effectiveness between different types of units, but this isn't like other games where your more expensive units automatically more damage for the same activation.


March 28th, 2017, 4:25 pm
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Major Glitch wrote:
Jak7890 wrote:
With the placeholder system intact (and assuming the player knows enough to build with enough heroes to cover the opening ready queue), the CRS system still gives the player with the fewest units an early advantage; they have more powerful activations and the same number of activations as the player with fewer units.


That's not exactly the case though. Unlike most other games, Relic Knights requires resources, and the abilities are balanced in power primarily on the resource costs. The difference in point costs reflects speed, durability, and ability diversity more than it does raw damage potential. There is some disparity in the cost effectiveness between different types of units, but this isn't like other games where your more expensive units automatically more damage for the same activation.


The need for resources is another reason that a cadre with fewer units is innately stronger than a cadre with more units. The stronger attacks require more resources at once, yes, but they also punch through more armor. For instance, a 6 damage attack vs 2 armor is better than three 2 damage attacks or two 3 damage attacks even though the gross damage output is the same. And that's not even taking into account the speed with which you can put out the damage via one attack versus two or three.


March 28th, 2017, 5:35 pm
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Denizen
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This is fair, though when you're down to one unit, resource cost diversity becomes an issue. And while your analysis of damage is correct, my point was that most units fall in a narrow range of damage potential, with many examples of cheaper minions being able to do more damage, for roughly the same resource cost. There are other considerations (LoS needed for a squad to reach the damage potential, etc.), but to say that a more expensive unit simply has a stronger activation is a little overly simplistic.


March 28th, 2017, 6:12 pm
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Major Glitch wrote:
This is fair, though when you're down to one unit, resource cost diversity becomes an issue. And while your analysis of damage is correct, my point was that most units fall in a narrow range of damage potential, with many examples of cheaper minions being able to do more damage, for roughly the same resource cost. There are other considerations (LoS needed for a squad to reach the damage potential, etc.), but to say that a more expensive unit simply has a stronger activation is a little overly simplistic.


You're right, this discussion and my statements were simplified.

I agree that minions can sometimes have a higher top level damage output than some heroes but I don't consider that a consistent reality. A 5 model unit may have a top line damage of 7 for fewer resources (this is of course a simplification as well since it doesn't take into account cards spent vs. esper spent) when all members of the unit have the range and LoS to the target, but after a hit or two that damage potential drops drastically on cheaper units.

They still have value, of course.


March 28th, 2017, 6:55 pm
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Just to further clarify, the reason I started the thread is to generate discussion of what is one of the larger changes in the game, yes my initial position is that the game would not be harmed, and may benefit (due to design space) if Placeholders are removed, I'm not wed to that position.

In fact the only official feedback I've given on them is that perhaps they should allow minion activation, as this would balance hero loss' effect on the game. It's possible that if they did that however a minimum Hero count would still be needed. (To stop RK + Minions lists.)

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March 29th, 2017, 11:40 am
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big problem of win to win...
the place holder card take place instead of hero.... with activation of minion too ?

another problem is the size squad? very very major prob for deploiment and game start without random.
i know i start. i place specialy big squad or two. active hero and adequat squad... one shot or destroy adversary squad.....
the game is more deadly now. but with no guard ..... its very difficult to make scenario ? i'm play over 100 games on 1.0 et 20 on 1.5... the game change ! its not good or bad..... but little few innovant... the agressivity is more important....

wait and see stat card of all unit.

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March 30th, 2017, 10:09 am
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Denizen
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Play 2.0 first, we are not talking about 1.0 or 1.5, they are not relevant to this discussion.

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March 31st, 2017, 10:09 am
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Denizen
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I like the idea of the placeholder allowing the activation of a minion as if it were a Hero activating myself.

But another possible solution could be to tweak Minions so that they can be placed in the queue if no heroes can, thus prolonging how long it'll be before a place holder unit is required, and make it so that the minions aren't just twiddling their thumbs while waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

This would allow the losing player to continue to have meaningful, if poor quality activations rather than doing nothing while the opponent gets to win more.

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April 1st, 2017, 12:45 am
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I think the simplest solution would e to tune up the power of the placeholder options. They shouldn't equate to a full hero activation, by any means, but the choices could be better. Among them could be something like "activate a minion" following all the normal minion activation restrictions and whatnot, of course. two or three more, roughly equivalent, options and I think much of the problem would be solved.


April 1st, 2017, 2:16 pm
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Obsidian-Crane wrote:
From the current beta document:

Quote:
PLACEHOLDER CARDS

Players use a placeholder card in their ready queues when they can't fill their queues with units. The placeholder card takes up a slot and makes a player “skip” an activation. When the placeholder card moves into the ready spot, choose one of the effects on it and resolve it. A placeholder card is not a unit card.


My understanding of the justification for the introduction of Placeholders is to incentivise having as many Heroes as you have Queue Slots, this is because during 1.0 lists were designed that deliberately shortened the number of models to ensure maximum activations of the most powerful units. This, I felt, improved the game in 1.5, but as I read more reports on 2.0 and look at the rules more I think it isn't needed and this can be addressed more simply.
I believe there was also an element of preventing the super quick cycling of units as cadres decrease in size due to losses.
I.e. destroying opposing units makes your opponents cadre more powerful.
Not necessarily a big issue in big games, but certainly an issue in smaller games.

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April 1st, 2017, 8:46 pm
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hausdorff space wrote:
Obsidian-Crane wrote:
From the current beta document:

Quote:
PLACEHOLDER CARDS

Players use a placeholder card in their ready queues when they can't fill their queues with units. The placeholder card takes up a slot and makes a player “skip” an activation. When the placeholder card moves into the ready spot, choose one of the effects on it and resolve it. A placeholder card is not a unit card.


My understanding of the justification for the introduction of Placeholders is to incentivise having as many Heroes as you have Queue Slots, this is because during 1.0 lists were designed that deliberately shortened the number of models to ensure maximum activations of the most powerful units. This, I felt, improved the game in 1.5, but as I read more reports on 2.0 and look at the rules more I think it isn't needed and this can be addressed more simply.
I believe there was also an element of preventing the super quick cycling of units as cadres decrease in size due to losses.
I.e. destroying opposing units makes your opponents cadre more powerful.
Not necessarily a big issue in big games, but certainly an issue in smaller games.

You are correct. Basically, before people built cadres that were just a Knight and a pile of Boosts, they'd build cadres that were a Knight and a bunch of easy-to-kill models that they'd throw at the opponent hoping they'd get wiped out.

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April 6th, 2017, 4:06 pm
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