Monday, March 14, 2011

The Economy of Wargaming: Part 1 (Points)

Sir_Mike here again.  Something has been on my mind for awhile when it comes to wargaming.  Many credit themselves with being master tacticians or extraordinary list builders, but cannot give an explanation as to why other than "I win. A lot."  Ok, cool so you win a lot, but you can't explain why?  UNACCEPTABLE.  Strategy is more than being able to pull off a victory, and there is a place you have to start first.  Economics.

This has more to do with the planning period of a game than it does with Gamesworkshop increasing the cost of models.  Though we can wish we could effect that with out planning.

1. The Economy of Points: Spending.
So you got yourself a cool new army, wargamer?  Awesome. What did you buy?  Why did you buy it?

What gamers fail to realize is that points rule everything around them.  Look at chess, while not a hard indicator of how you are doing, pieces are rated by a point system that is based on their perceived effectiveness (minus the king, though he is rated by importance).  Did your queen get removed?  You are at a distinct disadvantage now showing in your points.

A better example of an actual wargame is Axis and Allies.  You spend points per round to buy units based on the point values of territory you control.  My dad and I play every time I head home, and we have a pretty even win/loss record.  He is a much better tactician than I am.  We are talking a guy who has been wargaming since they used lead to make minis, who makes military maneuvers that leave your jaw dropped.   The way I win these wars of attrition? Economics.  I look at the amount of points I can spend, look at the board and decide what unit composition would give me the most bang for my buck.  Not the standard "I'll take one of those, and a few of those maybe?" I look at exactly what he has been building and where, has he been massing large battleships and aircraft carriers with few destroyers in the area?  Submarines are cheap and attack strong, planes can't attack them.  The key idea in point spending is knowing what you are going to do with the unit before you get it on the board.

And hopefully economics will sink their battle ship.

Spending points is something that players think about, though not on the level they should perhaps.  First consider the unit and what it can do, and what you will use it for.  Will it sit back and claim objectives?  Go forth and destroy?  Fulfill some deeper purpose?  How much is that really worth to me?  Let's talk about this in the realm of 40k.

For this reason scouts and the half of the combat squad with the long range weapon are great for protecting upfield objectives.  They cost little, and add effectiveness (long range weapons that don't seem like much threat and scouts have a natural advantage in cover).

This is one of the reasons that "Best of Marines" works well.  Massed cheap units that are all good at why they do per point.  Sure rifleman dreads could have been loaded up more, made venerable or even eschewed for a terminator squad with a chainfist and cyclone missile launcher. However, for the amount of points you are spending you are getting a very reliable unit.

For 5 points less on those Wolf Guard you could have gotten a power fist vs. a thunder hammer (are the hammers that much better? only situationally) and saved points add up.   Jalil posted a little about this in reference to HQ's and I couldn't agree more.

Though I will say the name of the game isn't completely about being spendthrift.  Sometimes an HQ will have something you need to make your list work (which is often why they are a good place to start shopping before building your list).

Let's say I'm looking for a HQ for an aggressive CC army.  Should I pick the cheap generic HQ or go with the special character?  Depends on point level played at and how much that HQ is.  If you are playing at less than 1.5k I wouldn't even look at a Special Character that is more than a little over 150 (Ko'Khan is often a good choice for this reason, loaded up with a few good special rules and only 65? points more than a naked captain).  Around 1/10th isn't too bad a ratio for your HQ slot, I wouldn't apply this logic further and take 2 HQs being 1/5th of my army though.
I used to run around my local store shouting Sanguinor!
After finding out about the mini, but before looking at the point cost.

A lot of times as war gamers we seem to gravitate towards what is cool vs. what is effective.  Certain badass units are "goodish" but over-costed with points that could be spent in other places.  This is also why we see a rise in mech: transports got both cheaper and safer because of the revised vehicle damage table in 5th (no longer steel coffins, but unstoppable steel trucks).

2. The Economy of Points: Denying
While spending points is mostly what people think of when discussing the matter, denying your opponent points is equally as important.  I'm not advocating telling them the wrong point value to play at while you bring a much bigger army...though that would probably work.

When looking at the board notice where they place their units, do they have their expensive units guarded?  Are their units spread out to ensure board control?  How do they deploy?

As a wargamer, I'm sure you know what units cost what points, and often they are a good indicator of how much you should worry about a particular unit.  You should also keep in mind how hard they are to get rid of (or render ineffective) and concentrate on targets of opportunity.  For every unit you destroy that is that many less points for him to play with, try to keep this ratio in your favor.

Monoliths are a classic example of this conundrum.  They are expensive but very difficult to render ineffective, most will say that you should ignore them and concentrate on the phase out.  It's a tough call often, what gets your anti tank fire power?  Goon #28 or a big floating pyramid?  I can't answer that question, however the monolith is extra effective in preventing phase outs by giving a unit a chance to re-roll we'll be backs and teleporting them away from harm.

Everything is an opportunity cost, which will lead us to my next article: The Economy of Time

No comments:

Post a Comment