Well that seems to have caused quite a stir!
I’m disappointed that a lot of the comments on yesterday’s post about the new rules for launching the ball are rather negative. Rather than say the same thing to each comment I thought I’d post some of the rationale behind it here, in one go.
Firstly, why make the change?
Well, because you guys said it needed to be done. Sometimes in words, sometimes in actions, the driver was the DreadBall community.
Whilst I was personally quite happy with the original rules, they were increasingly used in one of two problematic ways. Some Coaches were standing a good Striker where they could intercept a newly-launched ball and then by scoring once they could catch the newly-launched ball and score again before their opponent had a chance to do anything. Rinse and repeat a couple of times and you have a landslide. All entirely legal, but not much fun for either player.
The other problem was pushing your opponent into the same position, but making sure it was one of their players who had little chance of catching the ball, thus causing the end of their Rush as soon as a new ball was launched. More un-fun landslide potential.
Now I’ve been told by quite a few Coaches that they simply wouldn’t stand for this sort of nonsense in their group, but you can’t rely on the social dynamics of groups to fix loopholes. After all, both of these manoeuvres were entirely within the rules as they stood.
So I either sat on the rules as they were or did something to improve them. I opted for change.
The core problem as I saw it was one of predictability. You knew the ball would be in a certain place, so putting a model in front of that would basically guarantee the result. So, I made it unpredictable. Of course, people will still push opponents into the line of fire, but it will no longer cause the end of a Rush or a landslide. One injury more or less in a DreadBall match is hardly a major concern.
Then, if the ball is launched with extra force to get to this position of being uncatchable on launch, the subsequent scatter follows naturally. The momentum has to go somewhere.
Now, the naysayers seem to think that this is disasterous. Well all I can say is that it hasn’t seemed so when I’ve played it. Either way, the possibility of a model dropping a catch and ending a Rush from this scatter is rare and also unpredictable (thereby fixing the original problem). In order to drop a catch a player has to be (a) in a position the ball can scatter to, (b) the player has to be facing the right way, (c) they have to be the right kind of player, (d) they have to fail their catch.
So, if we use Line’s percentages as a starting point (http://www.lines42.de/Material/DreadballLaunchProbabilities.pdf) and imagine that our player is in one of the few “worst case” 11% hexes, that’s a mere 1 in 9 chance of the ball getting to them. But it’s rather less than that chance of a dropped catch. He’s still got to be the right kind of player, the ball still has to get to him without stopping at or bouncing off someone else first, the player still has to be facing the right direction and they still have to fail their catch. So decidedly less than 1 in 9 at the end of the day, and that’s a worst case. If you actually try to avoid the problem then you can make it drop into the 1 in 1000s.
So why is this perceived as a problem?
Sensible readers may chose to stop here. The following is a mini-rant that can be happily ignored for the purposes of the new launch rules 😉
So why is this perceived as a problem?
Well, I’d guess that people don’t like change for a start. I’d also say that there is a strange double-think among many gamers that goes on about chance. Some kinds of random are seen as acceptable, and others are an issue. If I fail a dice roll on a 1 in 9 chance then that’s acceptable. I’m not happy, but hey, them’s dice. If the ball scatters onto me from a launch (another dice-driven process) then it’s somehow worse. I have no answer for why that should be, but I’ve seen, read and heard it expressed many times. It also happens when the same dice odds are translated to cards. This seems like another example.
Is that wrong? No, not at all. People can like and dislike what they want, and I’d always encourage people to house rule what they felt would give them a better game among their friends. However, I’d also always encourage gamers to try a game a few times as written before they decide to change it. I’m talking in general here, about all games, not just mine. When I review stuff I always play it repeatedly using the rules as I understand them. Very often I can see what they were trying to do after a couple of games, and that may well not have been obvious on a first reading. Only when I feel that I have a solid grasp of how the game is supposed to work will I then start to mess with it. My Dreadfleet variation was an example. I tried that game several more times than I really felt it warranted, straight out of the box, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Only when I’d played against several different opponents did I try some changes. Partly this is out of respect for the designer because I know from experience how much effort these things take and how much trial, error and consideration one line of rules can represent. However, it’s also a selfish wish not to short change myself. I assume that the designer wanted the best game possible (until proven otherwise). I also assume that they’ve played a lot more than I have and so can see the meta game better. For example, I played Chaos in the Old World the other day. Several aspects seemed a bit random and odd on first explanation, but you hang in there and it all falls into place. I still don’t have a proper grasp of all the rules after a single game and some still seem a little out of balance, but after one play I’ll assume that it’s my lack of understanding rather than a squiffy game and carry on as written when I play it again.
All of which is a bit of a side rant I hadn’t meant to get into. Ignore that if you will – it’s just my approach and you may have another. At the end of the day, it’s your time playing your game and you should do whatever you need to to maximise that enjoyment. Few of us get the amount of gaming time we’d like, so it makes sense to up the quality of that limited time whenever we can with whatever means we have available.
Happy gaming 🙂