Saturday, May 14, 2011
Uber-Spells Rampaging Across the Midwest
After listening to a recent interview with the TO for the Midwest Rampage, I thought I would post my rebuttal to his comments about magic and lower point games. In the interview (which can be heard here), the TO implied that magic ruins the game at 1500/1600 points. Since my preferred game size is in the range mentioned by the TO, I feel I have enough experience to counter his argument and point out why I think 3000 point games are just as flawed when it comes to magic (but in different ways).
The main point of contention was that the uber-spells have too much of an impact at the ~1600 point size. While I agree that the spells have the ability to swing the game, one key factor is that typically an army is not going to invest in more than one wizard (most armies can only field one level 4). Along these lines, if someone invests in two wizards, what are they sacrificing from their army? If that player is blowing ~300 points on a single model, what could have been included that would have played a better role. Also, a player that likes to gamble on the big spells with lots of dice will typically find that they lose that caster to a miscast or because they are afraid to place it in a unit because of potential miscasts. In a sense, since the percentage of investment in the character is a lot more at 1600 points, most players will not gamble unless they do not have another choice.
Another reason people may be getting a false impression about how the uber-spells are impacting the game is that most players try to build the exact same kind of army that they would for games at 2400 or 3000 points. A person who brings an army with 3 or 4 units can expect to suffer badly from one well placed uber-spell, the same can also be said about a well placed rock thrower or pair of cannon balls. At 1600 points, a unit of 20 medium costs (~8-12 pts per model) units is a large unit. When you field a unit of 40 such models, a player shouldn’t be surprised when it gets hits by a Final Transmutation. The trick is to find a nice balance between the number of units in an army and the model count in each unit. I personally think the formula is different at different game sizes.
In comparison, at 3000 points, a player that wishes to spam wizards can do such with little issue and still include everything else that is considered “nasty”. Killing one level 4 has less of an impact when the player still has another plus a level 2 or pair of level 1’s. Even scarier, because the cap is raised on lord and hero choices, a player can invest in the more costly magic items that will help increase their potential for harm. Suddenly you have multiple spellcasters who have the ability to pump extra dice into their pool.
When it comes to the threat of a wizard, I always include something in my army that serves as a mage hunting unit. At 1600 points, that “counter unit” has a reasonable chance to succeed at its goal of killing its target while still being cost effective to be included in the player’s army. At 3000 points, you need to replicate the solution and also provide a different solution to account for the counter to your original counter. (Try saying that 5 times fast.)
Ultimately, the game is flawed at any level and there will always be players who abuse the system at any point size. When it comes to the issue of the uber-spells, I am of the opinion that the fundamental reason that comments like the one made by the TO exist because folks have a false sense of equality. It is not a matter of the actual mechanic, it is a matter of people feeling it is unfair that one model can remove 20 models, but that 20 can only remove one. Simply put, building a big unit takes a lot more time than a single model. When put in this context, I understand why the comments are made, but I don’t feel it validates them. The game is designed to represent a magical setting where high magic exists. Along those lines, the cost of such a wielder of magic is a lot more than a single model that is in a unit, which makes sense in terms of the mechanics. Whether or not the mechanic is the best for keeping the spirit of the game (i.e. fun) is a matter of opinion and not fact.
Good Luck to everyone attending this year’s Midwest Rampage. I have been following the blogs about it and it sounds like a great event if you like two day tournaments. If you would like more details about it, check out this link. If you would like to read a great blog that chronicles the journey of one person as they prepare for the Midwest Rampage, I highly recommend Random Digression Wargamer.