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Unique Sculpts/commanders discussion

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Unique Sculpts/commanders discussion

PostFri Feb 09, 2018 10:00 am

So I recall reading a post from TTC/Hawk about how they were debating internally how they view and balance unique/character units within the game as well as how they are going to market exclusive miniatures and the like and thought that it would warrant its own thread to talk about the topic and what the community feels.


My views:
1) It's great that TTC/Hawk is looking to reward loyal fans to the franchises through the release of unique sculpted models. These are, of course, not free and in most cases are often a high cost, lower profit item since they often don't revolve around continual long term sales. They might be one-off sales or they could be short-term repeated (eg every major convention or annual christmas etc...). They are a nice way to give players something different to put on the table that doesn't rely upon the customers conversion skills (not everyone has the time or inclination to learn how to sculpt and convert and ranges like DFZ/DCZ are often very challenging to convert faithfully).

2) Unique short term or once off sculpts are, in my view, best done when they are unique versions of existing models within the range. This allows players to put down something different, but at the same time means that those who own those ships have nothing different over the standard retail choices when composing their fleet. This means that those who own such units gain no advantage nor disadvantage by using their unique models. Furthermore it means they can use them in regular matches all the time, rather than having to wait for someone to agree to let them use them in a game (no matter how well balanced, if the stats are different many will see them as over/under powered).
This also means if the mould breaks and the model isn't brought back into production for regular limited releases; new loyal fans of the series are at least not left out from having choices to use in battles. Sure they can't get the sculpt, but it changes nothing on the tabletop with regard to rules.

It's also important to consider community fracturing. If models are released which are usable only in specific game modes or which give a player an advantage over regular units sold then you are essentially splitting that group who want to use those units into their own sub-group. Sure they can leave those units out and play regular; but if they want to use them (and most will) then they've got to convince others to buy into or allow them to use those units. This essentially starts to split the community and whilst it might promote sales of unique units; at the same time it might foster resentment. Not everyone orders online or can attend conventions for limited releases; and if a limited release is no longer produced then people are automatically locked out (and you can't just use a regular and "counts as" as that defeats the point of the unique sculpt in the first place - sure it can be done, but its not what most want to do).
Community split in a game that relies upon two or more people to play games is a huge risk.

3) Characters. There was more debate on if named character should be given their own stats or treated just like a unique sculpt, just one with a name and sold on general sale rather than in limited release events. In my view if players are to be encouraged to purchase named characters and if those named characters are to be sold in general and thus mass produced and supplied to stockiests then they need offer a real in-game bonus.
Many of the commander sculpts are different, but not vastly so from their regular unit counterparts - so whilst they offer a neat flavour, there's no vast pressure, in my view, to customers wanting to buy them over their regular versions. If the unit has no purpose or difference on the table then customers might well stick to the regular; which is all well and good, but means TTC/Hawk is investing mass market investment into a product which is essentially boutique/limited market in target.

Also many other series that have named characters often have them as individual units with their own stats in the game. Heroes are heroes and they are not just another unit, but a unique version of that unit with their own stats. The trick is balancing the once-off unit so that its powerful, but balanced within the core of the game. They don't have to be overpowered, just balanced like any other unit in the game so that it becomes a choice, like any other, in if they are included or not.

Another option would be to have a "commander mode" of the game; whereby commander units have much greater influence in game balance through their stats and unit buffs; beyond the normal balance of the game. This essentially splits the community games into commander or regular games. This can work and it can fail. I would say there's more chance of this working where the models themselves are often physically much larger than regular (and thus also much much more powerful). Many a game has introduced gargantuan or titan units along those lines - however at the same time most of those games eventually end up balancing those units into the regular game in some form.





So in the end my view is that unique limited-release sculpts should only ever be alternate sculpts of existing models. Whilst unique named commanders should be balanced with stats into the core game. This might be achieved by having commander/no commander game formats or might be done by having commanders allowed in any regular army.

I think the core of any successful tabletop wargame is allowing free choice within a single rules system. It's more important for wargames over many other types of game because the time required to play a match is such that many might only get one or two games a week at best. More format types and choice restrictions tend to work better in games like Magic the Gathering; where matches can be over much faster, thus allowing gamers far more matches in a given period of time. This thus allows most to play more than one or two game types.
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Re: Unique Sculpts/commanders discussion

PostWed Feb 14, 2018 6:05 am

Not a lot of talk on this, so I figured I'd throw in my two cents. All of this is very much IMHO:

Limited edition sculpts are fine as long as they're variations of existing models (ex: Saratoga is one for the New Cairo). This was how Hawk always treated such sculpts in the past with DZC and there was little problem with it. The only difference for PHR players who had Aegaeons instead of Neptunes was how jealous people got that you managed to get a hold of enough of them.

I'm hoping the plan is that the Centurion is not bucking the trend on this and that it'll be available as a regular release model (or another "mass production" sculpt is made available).

As far as Special Commanders go, I feel that they really belong in casual play along the lines of campaigns. Allowing them in tournaments opens up the game to the situation 40K is in now where every competitive vanilla Marine army is bringing Roboute Guilliman. Players are going to quickly figure out which Special Character is the best for each faction, and that's all you're going to see at the top tables. Relegating them to campaigns and casual play frees them up to be a bit more, well, special and not force TT to keep a critical eye on them to avoid every PHR army at Invasion running Jocasta Caine.

IMO, these should tend to be alternate sculpts of existing models as well, if for no other reason, to encourage tournament players to purchase them for stand-ins for those other models. I personally wish I had bought Cato's model instead of the regular Ferrum for my UCM army.
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Re: Unique Sculpts/commanders discussion

PostWed Feb 14, 2018 11:30 am

I think the commander spam worry is more one based on balanced than on the unit being a hero/commander. At the end of the day a commander is just a model like any other we put on the table; if its an alternate model then its simply an alternation of existing stats based on an existing model.

So the balance worry shouldn't be any more nor any less an issue than balancing in any other model in the game.

The only major balance issue I think is that when its a replacement of another model, there is indeed a risk that the base version of the model could become invalidated in competitive play situations. That isn't saying that all the commander units stats are outright better, but that it offers more than the base edition does in general. Of course the flipside can also be true and the commander model could end up underperforming at the competitive end.

The one issue with having commander as freeplay only and not tournament focused; or purely as an alternate sculpt is one more for the manufacturer than the gamer. Alternate sculpts or units with limited allowed use in the game are always going to be luxury purchases within an already luxuary hobby. As such they might well sell very few in actual numbers. It's why you oftne see such models being very overly large or decorative or using a different material (eg resin) because they are always going to be a low-sale-volume item so the manufacturer capitalises on that aspect.

Of course if your limited sale item proves popular enough to start selling in viable numbers it can lead to big changes along the way. Consider the rise of knight scale models in 40K over recent years. Going from what was once the top end of Forgeworld to the affordable, if still high price, end of the plastic core game.
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Re: Unique Sculpts/commanders discussion

PostWed Feb 14, 2018 2:59 pm

I am not certain how special characters will work in DFC. In DZC they not only have different stats, they also modify list construction and the command deck. For example, there's a Resistance character (Salakan(sp?)) which is not only an Alexander with better stats and a passive save, he adds additional cards to the command deck and changes the org chart so the Resistance player can take Hannibal tanks as a standard choice and other Alexanders as a heavy choice.

The idea of allowing them to be used as alternate models just helps to get tournaments players on board with buying them. Honestly, i think they should probably involve a few unique pieces that are easily packed with a regular model to help with sales. Wade, for example, is functionally the same model as the Broadsword for UCM.

Strong support for narrative events can certainly help sales too. I know GW used to run global campaigns to encourage freeplay, I see no reason why TT couldn't do the same.
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Re: Unique Sculpts/commanders discussion

PostFri Feb 16, 2018 1:55 am

Suggestion of famous commanders is in the current rulebook.
I think its leaving the possibility of particular fleet combinations to get bonuses. Would be a good way to incentivise underused units by giving bonuses/ extra command cards -(looking at the statistics on DFList some units hardly get a look in)-

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