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Gun's Musings

Discussion of Patch #4 Play Test Rules

Discussion of Patch #4 Play Test Rules

It has been a while since I have written a blog post, as I tend to be pretty busy streaming and publishing other content, however today I wanted to discuss the rules changes we are currently play testing since there has been a lot of interest after our stream last night. Let's dive right in and take a look at what we have in store for the errata that becomes official on the 1st October. Note that these things are subject to change since we are still in the play test phase.

Curse

Curse

Curse has always been the poor cousin compared to the other conditions. Fire, Knocked Down, Poison and even Stun all have a bigger effect on battles than Curse. The truth was, unless your opponent was completely Fate starved, they would always be able to spend a Fate to shake the effect for any models they wanted to harvest a Soul, and ignore it otherwise. The other conditions, except for Stun, all had secondary effects that debuted a hero outside of their activation. Keeping this in mind, we thought long and hard about how we could add something to Curse that was in theme and improved its effectiveness.

Current rules for Curse:

A cursed model is unable to harvest Souls, either by attempting a Soul harvest or by killing an enemy model. If a cursed model does kill an enemy model, then that hero’s Soul does not spawn at all; the model is simply removed.

Additional rules for Curse:

A cursed model is unable to contest Shrines or un-harvested Souls. 

This essentially means the cursed model cannot add +1 to a friendly Soul Harvest attempt by being within 2" of it. Similarly they do not apply a -1 to the Soul Harvest of an enemy model.

These changes really ramp up the effectiveness of the condition with the ability to produce an immediate benefit in the form of enabling you to control a Shrine by stopping an enemy hero from being able to contest it. It is also an inherent buff for any models that have Curse in their kit. 

Nephenee

Nephenee

We actually published the errata for Nephenee a little while back. Safe to say that our laser wielding space-elf chick is getting a buff!

  • Immune to Parting Blows
  • Laser Storm - range increased to 4”
  • Jet Pack - can ignore impassable terrain models such as Effigies and Shrines

Nephenee was always meant to be a "dive comp" hero, being able to get to the squishy heroes in your enemy's backline, and now she can definitely do that.

Kogan

Kogan

Just as space-elf chick is getting a buff, the big scary man that is Kogan is currently facing a nerf. The Blunderbuss was always meant to be a situational weapon that under the right circumstances could wreak havoc, however it has become too dominant and is his signature play. At this stage we are don't want to change the way the weapon works other than reduce the times where you can use it to its optimum capacity. The health reduction is to bring him in line with other mid-range heroes, with the standard increase for being a minotaur.

  • Blunderbuss Range reduced from 6" to 4"
  • Health reduced from 18/20/23 to 16/18/21

Magical Artefacts

We always intended to increase the magical artefact pool, and since we announced going digital it is very easy for us to electronically release new artefact cards. These are the ones we are currently play testing.

Offence

Hunter’s Knife (1F): +2 damage vs Monsters.

Potion of Ogre Strength (1F): +1 damage vs Hero models for current activation. One use only. Once used this item is removed from play.

Tome of Experience (2F): Gain a level, then Tome of Experience is removed from play.

Defence

Ring of Teleportation (1F): port back to Effigy costs 1A.

Boots of Stability (1F): Knocked Down Combat Manoeuvres require an addition “J” to knock down this model.

Null Stone (1F): Models do not going statistical bonuses from magical artefacts while resolving attacks against this model. While this model resolves an attack against an enemy model, the enemy model does not gain statistical bonuses from magical artefacts. The bearer of Null Stone cannot be equipped with any other magical artefacts.

Ring of Invisibility (2F): Bearer gains the Active Ability: "Invisibility (1A): Bearer gains Invisibility".

Not Official Just Yet

I would like to re-iterate that these changes are not official, and won't be until we release the patch notes #4 on the 1st October 2018. In the meantime we wanted to share them with the community to let them know what is in store and give you all a chance to try them out and let us know what you think.

Until next time, take care and be Judged! :)

Andrew

 

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Judgement Multi-Player Play Test Day

Judgement Multi-Player Play Test Day

Yesterday, at the Company of Dice club day, we had a pretty cool play test of some multi-player Judgement rules I have been toying with. This involves 4 players going hammer and tongs on the larger map, each with their own effigies and Warband of 3 heroes. I was joined by Tort, Theo and Jeff on the day, and this blog post describes the ruleset, and some of the highlights of the battle. It was great fun.

The Draft

The players go through a draft phase to select their Warbands. We included all 28 heroes in this draft, which gave a good number to enable us to have several rounds of picking and banning. I will talk through the sequence now, and reveal which heroes were picked and banned. Before we got started we each rolled off to determine the order we would play, from player 1 to 4. We found it best, at this stage, to give each player a token with their number written on it to help keep track of their activation order from this point forward.

All 28 heroes lined up for the draft phase

In this image you can see all 28 heroes lined up ready for the draft phase. Every one of us took a deep breath at this stage and mentioned how we could not wait for the wave 2 models to ship. It is going to look truly epic. :)

This is the order of the draft that we went with for this game.

  1. Each player bans 1 hero each (24 heroes remaining)
  2. Each player selects 1 hero each (20 heroes remaining)
  3. Each player bans 1 hero each (16 heroes remaining)
  4. Each player selects 2 heroes each, 1st in activation order, and the 2nd round reversed, so player 4 gets 2 choices in a row (8 heroes remaining)

And this is how it went on the day.

The 1st 4 heroes banned

The 1st 4 heroes banned were Kogan, Svetlana, Istariel and Skye. The only one that I found surprising out of this set was Skye. For the record I banned Svetlana.

1st round of selections

The first 4 heroes picked. The discussion around the table at that point was we felt Soulgazers would be quite powerful, and since Svetlana was already banned we thought the best strategy was to grab a Soulgazer while we could. Jeff was the only one to ignore that strategy and set his stall out early by picking up the powerful Zhonyja. The picks were Jeff (Zhonyja), Theo (Saiyin), Tort (Xyvera), leaving me to pick Kruul.

2nd round of bans

The 2nd round of bans saw several more powerful heroes cast aside. Piper, Styx, Thorgar and Bastian are removed from the hero pool, which leads us onto the next round of double selections that finishes off the Warbands.

Round 2 selections

Final round of picks

Following the final round of picks, the Warbands were:

  • Andrew: Skoll, Kruul, Rakkir
  • Jeff: Zaffen, Kvarto, Zhonyja
  • Theo: Saiyin, Brok, Nephenee
  • Tort: Doenrakkar, Xyvera, Barnascus

The Battlefield

All of us seemed happy with our Warbands and the stage was set for an epic battle. Before I describe elements of the battle, I will go through some of the rules of the day.

  • Each player was an enemy to the others
  • We had our own Effigy with 16 health
  • When a hero dies, the harvest Soul was marked with the player who owned the Soul and that player's Effigy would lose 4 health, just like a standard game
  • When an unharvested Soul is harvest, the active player got to choose the enemy player whose Effigy loses 4 health

Deployment

We played on an altered map, with a Shrine of Arden in the middle, modified to grant d3 fate instead of 1, with each player's Effigy 10" from the shrine placed at the 4 points of a star. We then placed 2 standard shrines equidistant from the Effigies adjacent to it, and did similar with 2 Ashtooth monsters. The photo above shows the battle field just after deployment.

 The Battle

I won't go into too much detail here, however suffice to say the battle was a lot of fun. We were kind of cagey early, worried about extending one of our heroes who then has to survive 3 other activations before another of our heroes can activate to assist. The format was definitely a different spin on things and requires its own tactics to do well. The placement of shrines is crucial to force heroes to venture forth and in our game it worked very well. From a personal point of view, I had a strong Warband consisting of 3 orcs with fantastic synergies between them, and as usual in my games, Rakkir went ham in this battle dishing out damage like no tomorrow. I was also able to secure the 1st Soul through Kruul's Soul harvest. 

Mid battle screen shot

The battle really started to heat up rapidly and in quick succession I managed to kill Jeff's Zaffen, Theo managed to kill Jeff's Zhonyja and combined with Tort allocating 4 damage against Jeff's Effigy when he harvest a Soul, he was the 1st player to be knocked out of the game.

Jeff is knocked out

Very soon afterwards, Theo was knocked out, which left just Tort and I to fight it out.

Theo was the 2nd player knocked out

At this point in time I was in a very strong position. I had Rakkir and Kruul level 3 and Skoll level 2, and was holding 5 Souls, giving me a solid stream of Fate. Rakkir was equipped with the Vorpal Blade and the Boots of Agility, coupled with him casting Invisibility each turn, the mighty orc was nigh un-killable. I also had enough Fate for Kruul to keep Frenzy constantly up, so the damage output of my Warband was huge. At one stage Kruul was +3 damage on his Bewitched Attack, holding 2 Souls and Frenzy!

Despite the strength of my position, Tort was able to use Xyvera's Soul Link, Doenrakkar and Barnascus, to keep me at bay long enough while Xyvera was able to harvest the Souls required to blow up my Effigy. I did manage to drop Doenrakkar, however it took almost 40 damage, with him sitting on RES 3 to do so. :) These are just some of the awesome, epic things, that can happen in a multi-player game. 

At the end of the battle we discussed out thoughts and some options we can try in the future, and this is definitely something we will do again, hopefully next time on stream. Once we have the rule set in a good place, we will publish the rules as an official alternative to the Judgement we all know and love.

Thanks for reading my post, and if you have any comments/suggestions, on the format, please add them below. 

Guns

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Designing Judgement Heroes

Designing Judgement Heroes

A lot of people ask me how Judgement came about and what is involved designing a table-top miniatures game. It is not a short answer, and one for another day perhaps, however in this blog post I wanted to discuss how the Judgement heroes themselves are created. Before I dive into that topic, I feel it is important to set some context, take a step back, and look at the environment from which Judgement heroes are made.

The most important aspect of designing characters, for any game, is having a solid core rules system to start with. Every character, or unit, will inherit a base set of mechanics, and the more solid that is, the easier it is to flesh them out into unique heroes in their own right. With Judgement, getting the core rules rock solid, and dynamic, was the cornerstone of everything we did from the beginning. The combat system, the Fate and Soul mechanics, hero activations, right down to the terrain rules, all were meticulously designed to provide a rich canvas from which heroes could be born. A lot of games that struggle with balance or playability, when releasing new characters or units, often start with a poor core rule set. That base is so important and unfortunately, from my experience, often overlooked by game designers. The challenge for Judgement's creators was to analyse the MOBA genre, which we were basing the game on, taking the elements we liked, discarding the elements we did not like so much, and then casting the table-top lens over it all to determine what would, and wouldn't, translate well to a miniatures game. 

When designing a brand new Judgement hero, we will start with choosing the race, sex and class we want to fill. Note that these do change sometimes as the hero comes to life however we normally try to stick to our initial targets. The race and class provide a lot of baseline statistics for the hero, such as their MOV, AGI and RES, their starting health, as well as their Soul Harvest ability. The race and class can also provide one or two Innate Abilities, for example, Pathfinder for Elves. At this point we will begin to think about the theme for the hero and potentially adjust these racial traits if we want to move in a slightly different direction, RES 0 at level 1 for Brok, AGI 6 for Skye, and no Pathfinder for Saiyin, are all examples of this.

Once the base of the hero is designed, the fun part begins of fleshing it out with innate abilities, combat manoeuvres and active abilities. As a design team, we have a backlog library of cool abilities to choose from, which enables us to get a hero from base to play test pretty quickly. The library is a collection of things we see in various places, MOBAs, role playing games, trading card games and movies, it is amazing where we get inspiration for new hero abilities. Some abilities translate to the table-top well, and others don't, however it is important that we continually add abilities to the library whenever we think of them to avoid having to force inspiration when we are actually in the middle of hero design. We normally design a playable version of the hero at level 1, with perhaps an ability or two pencilled in for levels 2 & 3, however getting it to work at level 1 is the priority.

With a playable hero, we then throw ourselves into play test mode. This comprises a series of games alongside a random selection of heroes and maps. We play games without pick & ban initially, trying out the new hero alongside existing ones that share some kind of synergy. Then we introduce pick & ban, making the new hero un-bannable. During these games we consider whether either of us would in fact ban the hero if given the chance, because it is important at this early stage to gauge whether a hero is over or under powered. Another thing for us to consider is the hero in the context of both 3v3 and 5v5 games, because as you all know, all Judgement heroes are available in both formats. We acknowledge, by design, that some heroes work better in a certain format than others, however we always ensure a hero is competitive, regardless of the size of the game. 

At this stage we start to introduce level 2 and 3 abilities, which is an opportunity to raise the competitiveness of a hero, or tone it down if they are a strong level 1 character. Another thing we consider, when assigning level 2 & 3 abilities, is the number of early (good at level 1), mid (strong level 2 ability) and late game (strong level 3 ability) heroes we already have in the range. An example of a strong early game hero is Bastian, where a strong late game hero is Thrommel. Some of the fate hungry heroes, like Skye and Zaron, are strong late game simply due to the fact there is normally a lot more fate to spend later in the game, once both players have picked up a few Souls. Hopefully you are starting to get a picture of just how much goes into designing a Judgement hero, there is a lot to consider, however releasing a new hero is extremely rewarding, especially once you see players theory-crafting how they will fit them into their Warbands.

In addition to the core design team, we rely on a solid play test group who know the game well enough to thrash out a new hero under tournament level conditions. Brutal, honest feedback is essential at this point, to make sure nothing nasty slips through the cracks, however on the occasion where something OP does get through, the pick & ban phase becomes a natural composition restrictor until we get the chance to scale things back via our quarterly errata. Once we get through the more broader play test phase, the hero is ready for release. We currently have 28 heroes available in the game, and once our wave 2 Kickstarter ships, we look forward to reverting to the more natural release cycle of 1-2 heroes per quarter. Having no factions in Judgement provides limitless possibilities to where we can go with our hero design, just like the MOBA video games out there. The future for Judgement is so exciting, and we are all pumped to get the wave 2 miniatures out there into our player’s hands.

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Selecting a Tournament Warband

Selecting a Tournament Warband

The impending wave 2 release, increasing the hero pool to 28, will mean selecting a Warband for competitive play will take a lot more thought. The no-faction selection system provides a huge number of hero permutations and, for new players, selecting a tournament level Warband can be daunting. To kick off my new blog, I thought I would share my thought processes when putting together a Warband capable of winning a tournament, which I actually did today with heat 2 of the King of the Grove Tournament Series.

Tournament Format

To help frame this discussion, this particular heat was 3 rounds, the first two being 3v3 and the final round 5v5. All rounds included pick & ban and the 5 heroes you used in the 3v3 games had to be a subset of the 7 you used in the 5v5. Each player was allowed a single wave 2 hero "paper doll" in their 7, however I decided to not do this, and stick to wave 1 for this heat. The main reason for this was simply because I wanted to play with physical models rather than a tactical thing.

Where to Start?

My standard Warband selection method incorporates a bottom up approach. So in this case, I started with the 3 heroes I would want to field if there was no pick & ban, the 3 heroes that I would take every single time if given the opportunity. In this article I am not going to go into the tactics around which heroes I picked too much, because really, anything can work if you have a strategy, are able to stick to it, and know your heroes inside out. However the 3 heroes I wanted to base my Warband around were Skoll Bonestorm, Bastian Oriel and Thorgar, so these 3 were locked in.

Skoll, Bastian and Thorgar - foundation of my Warband

Pick & Ban Strategy

From this point I think about the heroes I would include if each of them was banned. The obvious pattern players often fall into is to pick heroes that can fill a similar role, however I don't necessarily do that. No 2 heroes in the game are like-for-like, so instead of trying to replace a hero with something similar, I usually look for opportunities to move the Warband into another direction, if possible, while still taking advantage of its strengths. 

Skoll Banned

The Skoll/Bastian synergy is legendary, and was identified from the very early days of Judgement and opponents will normally ban one of them whenever they appear together. As mentioned earlier, the temptation is to replace Skoll with another defender, Doenrakkar or Thrommel perhaps, however neither of them provide any real synergy with Bastian. Doenrakkar rarely attacks 3 times in an activation, often wanting to use Stone Form, and Thrommel only attacks once each activation, so neither gets much benefit from Bastian's Heroic Ballad aura. Marcus has better synergy with him but still not great. Fielding Bastian in 3v3 battles results in a dramatic drop in damage output, so you really need the two other heroes to benefit from his Heroic Ballad to make him worth taking.

If you take a step back however, other than Skoll, the other hero that has a wonderful synergy with Bastian is actually Piper. The combination of 3" reach and Heroic Ballad means that the two of them together are an incredible fighting force, raising Piper to an effective MEL of 8 and a 3/4/5 damage grid via Back Stab. I typically equip Piper with the Vorpal Blade artefact, making those statistics even better, and lets not forget Bastian's Enhance Magic. So that means Piper is in, leaving one more spot to fill.

Piper, Elf Illusionist/Thief

Bastian Banned

This is perhaps the most common ban, in fact in the King of the Grove tournament I only got to use him in round 1, and he was banned for both rounds 2 & 3. Without Bastian, Skoll drops off a fair bit, however he is still a very handy hero.  Bulwark is immense at level 1 and the sheer number of attacks he puts out, even when attacking with a single dice, can result in decent damage. Thorgar is similar as he can still operate ok without Bastian, and normally means I will give the Vorpal Blade to him when Bastian is not around.

This is where I pivot my strategy in terms of hero selection. Without Bastian I still have two high health melee heroes with decent damage output, however dealing enough damage can be an issue. In this case I opted to slot in Istariel. Quite obviously she plays nothing like Bastian, however Istariel gives me a great ranged option with high damage output and fantastic mobility. Her inclusion means there is less pressure on Skoll to do damage, and she provides a fantastic target for Bulwark. So that rounds out my 5 heroes, and gives me a clear strategy to implement if Skoll or Bastian are banned.

Istariel

Thorgar Banned

Finally, I have to consider if Thorgar is banned, and he also does draw out a lot of bans. However this actually opens me up for arguably an even stronger combination of Skoll, Bastian and Piper. In fact, in round 1 against Evan Ferris, he banned Thorgar and mentioned after the game how surprised he was in the damage output from the Bastian/Piper combination. With those three heroes I sit Bastian behind Skoll and Piper and let those two go nuts. All Bastian has to do is remove conditions, heal and provide his aura.

The Play Book

I now have a solid play book which lists the Warband I will field depending on the hero my opponent bans.

  • Skoll banned -> Bastian Thorgar Piper
  • Bastian banned -> Skoll Thorgar Istariel
  • Thorgar banned -> Skoll Bastian Piper

Expanding to 5v5

The 1st thing to understand is that 5v5 is a very different game to 3v3, and heroes have different power levels in each format. It is at this point that I look at the 5 heroes I have already, and considering whether they can be decent as a 5 strong Warband in their own right. Let's have a look at them again.

  • Skoll, Bastian, Thorgar, Piper, Istariel

It just so happens that this is a very solid Warband in 5v5s, in fact I would be happy to field this every game if given the chance, which is a fantastic start. If, when you consider your 5 heroes in the context of a 5v5 game, you find it lacking, then you will be forced to pick heroes that fix the problems you perceive it to have. In my case, I simply wanted to fill any holes that my opponent's ban would create. 

Skoll Banned

In the 5v5 game there are already 2 heroes, in Thorgar and Piper, that benefit from Bastian's Heroic Ballad so if Skoll is banned, slotting in another defender is viable strategy. In this tournament I chose Doenrakkar. I pretty much want to use him to protect Istariel, context objectives and generally be a pain in the butt for my opponent. 

Bastian Banned

Bastian getting banned is another pivot opportunity. The loss of his aura will drop my damage output down, and the lack of healing will mean I won't be able to compete so well in prolonged battles. To maintain my damage output, and potentially shorten the game length I actually replaced Bastian with Rakkir. A high damage dealer with a lot of mobility, Rakkir is a great addition and provides multiple threat vectors on every turn.

That means my Warband is now complete and includes:

  • Skoll, Bastian, Thorgar, Istariel, Piper, Doenrakkar, Rakkir

Thorgar, Istariel or Piper Banned 

In all three cases, the ban will have a negative affect on my damage output, so it is a no brainer to slot in Rakkir to bring that damage level back up and maintain my threat vectors. All the different combinations of Warbands look very strong and will be fun to play, which is always a good feeling when going to a tournament.

The Play Book

Here is the play book for the 5v5 version of my Warband.

  • Skoll banned -> Doenrakkar Bastian Thorgar Piper Istariel
  • Bastian banned -> Skoll Thorgar Istariel Rakkir Piper
  • Thorgar banned -> Skoll Bastian Piper Rakkir Istariel
  • Istariel banned -> Skoll Bastian Thorgar Piper Rakkir
  • Piper banned -> Skoll Bastian Thorgar Istariel Rakkir

No Soulgazers?

I am by no means anti-soulgazer, in fact in the past I have had great success with them, however in this particular instance, whenever I tried to put one in, it seemed to upset the balance of the Warband. I actually successfully soul gazed in all my games at King of the Grove II. Bastian has a Soul Harvest of 5 and Skoll is 4, and both of them can grab souls in a pinch. In fact, I won 2 of my games with Istariel soul harvesting the final soul to win, she has a Soul Harvest of 3 so with 1 or 2 friends around it is definitely doable.

Wave 2?

At the very beginning of this blog post I mentioned how putting Warbands together will become more challenging once wave 2 ships, however you can put together very strong Warbands evening limiting your hero pool to wave 1. I was the only player in the tournament to not take a wave 2 hero and I won my 3 games, however even with a hero pool of 28, you can use the same techniques I described in this article and focus yourself to a strong Warband.

Next Steps

The Judgement meta is still very new and, while growing, the tournament scene is small. It will be so exciting to see how the meta develops once we get more players involved and have much bigger tournaments. I am planning on publishing blog posts on a regular basis from this point forward, so if you have a topic you would like me to talk about, please reach out and suggest it. I would be only too happy to.

Cheers,

Guns

 

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