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Formations: What are they, why have them?

 Post subject: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 5:59 am 
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In thinking about how to go about setting a system for valuing model values for the Points Formula in such a way that it is easier for people to have pre-made variable-composition formations, I've come up against a few problems. Well, issues might be a better word.

First, why do we have formations at all? The main reason, of course, is because 2nd edition Epic had them (the cards) and NetEpic tries to largely mimic 2nd edition. But aside from that, why have formations at all?

Is it because it more closely represents how a rigidly structured army is composed? Admittedly, this explanation would work well for Imperial factions, as the Imperium IS very rigidly structured. They do a lot of "thou shalt do things this way or HERESY!" The Imperium is not big on flexibility in any way, thus it makes sense for them to have fixed composition formations. But that reason does not work well for Orks or Chaos, who also have fixed composition formations. Admittedly, Orks are somewhat flexible with their Mob structure, but the formations themselves are fixed.

Is it because it helps promote game-balance? This is - was probably true back when Epic was still being commercially published, but not so much now. Besides, the Points Formula will - should - provide the balance between models by giving them fair values.

Is it because it makes selecting your army easier? They do. A formation exists so that the player can quickly select a few of them up to a certain limit of points and be ready to game in short order. Admittedly, this was easier back when the game was new and there were fewer options.

[In my opinion, selecting a formation to place in your army should - in the vast majority of cases - be the last decision one makes when building an army. A person should not have to make further decisions about the composition of a formation once it is selected. Such a thing can no longer be considered a formation, as you are still doing army building even after choosing it.]

So why do we continue to use formations at all? What purpose do they serve for NetEpic going forward? Discuss please.


Second, why Company, Special, and Support? Why these specific divisions? Do they really have any significant meaning now that the game is entirely fan-supported? Should we keep them or ditch them? If we keep them, how shall we define them? In my view, they really need specific, tight definitions if they are to be used going forward. Definitions need to include what the formation type is intended to represent, what types of troops are placed therein, and why. For example (for most factions), the current setup seems to be that a Company represents the troops that that faction has the most of and that are most often used in large numbers. A Special is a troop that the faction has very few of, but are still seen on the battlefield at times. A Support is used for all of the troop types that the faction has a reasonable number of and have a decent chance to be used in battle. Are people fine with these assumptions? If not, what should they be?


Third, assuming the current setup persists, once all formation-building modifiers are integrated into Model Cost (Morale, Command, Type, & Break Point), the list of costs will be much longer as it will have to account for all possible (or at the least - all used) Morale scores and the three Formation Types (Company, Special, & Support) costs at the least. As examples, the current base Marines list for Gold uses Land Raiders at Morale scores of 2 and 1. The Guard list has several different models with up to 4 different Morale values depending on the formation. All of these would have to be listed at the least.

Mind, I'm not saying that I'm unwilling to do all of that. I'm just saying that it will take more effort and thus more time to do. I'm also a bit leery to really begin that until the formula is a bit more stable.


I think there was another issue or two, but they aren't springing to mind just now. I'll bring them up when / if they do.

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:23 am 
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Its an interesting idea, and worth discussing.

I was toying with similar thoughts a while back after reading through the Epic 40k rules and trying to work out a way of playing smaller, skirmish games of ~1000 points on small 2x2 tables - doing this using the current Company/support/special formation cards meant very limited unit choices.

So one solution would be to have a 'detachment' system like e40k where you could mix up models, but i presume they would still need to have some sort of command unit, overall morale value, break point, victory points value and coherency distance? - do-able i think!

Another would be to take a bit of a leaf from current 40k (i might be getting this wrong as i don't play - but just keep an eye on it) - As far as i can tell they now have pre-built formations/small armies that benefit the player with various fluffy bonuses, or points cost reduction etc over having them individually/out with the formation.
I suppose this isn't dis-similar to the current SM2/NE ideas of, for example a SM battle company; being cheaper, harder to break, and have a 'free' command unit, rather than if you had bought the detachments individually - it would have cost more, you'd lose the command unit and have smaller BP/VPs

It does remind me of when i was young playing SM2 and if we had some how ended up with an odd few units that couldn't make up a formation on a card we'd sometimes make up a company/support card with a bit of fluff/justification to allow them to being added in (in a similar way that White Dwarf was encouraging towards the end of this era when it published the Krugers heroes, Scythes of the emperor etc)

colour me intrigued!

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 1:32 pm 
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Short answer ... Formations = organization ... Even with the Kampf Groupe, Task Force, Company Tm, etc. concept you have a some sort of "organization" under a unified command sturcture. More of an Order Of Battle [OOB] than a more closely structured TO&E. But even with a TO&E, you have Authorized and Oh-Hand. Now an OOB is what the you actually have "On-Hand" for a certain mission, operation, battle, etc. ... And that includes Attached Assets that are not organic to overall unit TO&E and it's command structure. Like we see with Kampf Groupe, Task Force, etc. ... In my M113 Mech Co. I was authorized 14 M113s. But on any given day, that number could vary based on mechanical breakdowns, etc. ... And in Combat that number would also suffer from combat loss as well. In the Company Tm concept, based on the Combined Arms Concept. My Mech Co. would trade one of my Mech Plts to an Armor Co. for one of it's Armor Plts temporarily. So my Task Organization [or OOB] would be 2 Mech Plts and 1 Armor Plt. Plus I could have a Combat Engineer Squad or Plt and maybe an ADA/AAA Team or Section. As well as combat support assets like a Maintenance Tm and Medics from our HQ Co, etc. ... So I think most "lists" in the pletora Epic gaming systems have some sort of method that reflects, the Combined Arms Concept, Task Force, etc. paradigm for organizing for unit(s) for Combat Ops. The other method, which was sometimes used in dire situations. And you saw a lot of this in WWII. To have a Kampf Groupe, Battle Group etc. thrown together from bitz & pieces, dribs & drabs of units under one unified HQ. You'd see such units called things like a Kampf Groupe using the overall commander 'sname like "Kampf Groupe Skorzeny", etc. ... So in a gaming situation like Epic you'd "pay for" indivdual tanks or guns or stands of Infantry, etc. ... If that is what you are proposing ? That is one way to do it. But in modern real world militaries. You always have a chain of command. So those 5 soldiers over there are under the comand of Team Ldr. Or that tank or field gun under a commander. Usually the senior ranking soldier. So for gaming purposes it's easier, more organized, quicker, more "realistic", etc. to organize by units of some sort. Than just grabbing a bunch of models. That being said, do what works for you ... not me ...

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:33 pm 
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Hi!

Wonderful topic for discussion Magnus, I do enjoy this line of question since too often we focus on the "how" in regards of certain game mechanics and not the "why" they even exist. Sometimes when these types of questions get asked it leads to very interesting conclusions.

In a nutshell there is no real reason to use formations in net epic. From a game perspective it is too rigid as it stands and has never given the opportunity to players to use their collections as they are. As you've pointed out the game is purely fan supported now, so the structure of formations should serve the utility of the player base as it stands now and take in consideration what models are available to those players.

That said the army construction process should include an organizational structure, not because the mechanics of the game require it (it doesn't) but for the "flavor" or "feel" of the army as it plays in an actual game.

Running the risk of sounding like a broken record once more but 1st edition had the "right" of it. If you haven't looked at that type of organization method in a while Magnus, take another look at it since I believe its more attuned to what you may be trying to accomplish. Note that others (Mattman, Craig, etc), have also formulated schemes of organization very similar to the structures used in 1st edition.

Basically what that type of organization makes is a loose "command" structure and how the army would be organized overall, but does not define beforehand the structure of the actual formation nor its constituent elements.

In other words its shows a organizational flow chart where the player gets to "fill in the blanks" in any way he chooses. Therefore the ultimate formation size is left to the player. Which maximizes the players use of his collection as it is it does not does not straight-jacket the player into pre-designed formations (to which he may not have the complete model number to build).

The organizational chart in it of itself serves nothing more than to give the player a sense and feel that his army looks and feels "different" on the table from another. The actual organization for each army is less important than the ability of the player to make his own formations to taste.

This method has another benefit and it does away with the Company/support/special designations.

The only reasons those exist in the context of net epic/ second edition was for game balance due to the way units were priced. Given the existence of a formula which makes pricing a more objective exercise, these distinctions are no longer necessary.

You'll recall I recently answered some of Bisslers questions regarding certain army restrictions in regards to purchasing certain formations in a given army list (Orks, chaos, etc). I consider the card designations (company, special, support) in the same vein I do those other restrictions. Totally superfluous and unnecessary in light of having a proper pricing method (the formula).

In summary, I agree with your premise. Neither formations nor stratification of those formations (company, support, special) are currently necessary. They were balancing tools used in lieu of having a proper formula. Since that is no longer the case, their utility is lost.

Therefore what I would suggest are organizational charts that provide a loose framework for each army to make them "feel" or "look" different, but the structure of the component formations be left "open" for the player to decide.

One important point I would like to stress however. Emigrating to such a method does not preclude the use of army cards!

For those whom are content with the current method, such an open system can accommodate the original formations as well and it is trivial to have a pre-made "deck" of army cards with all the original force compositions. In other words one doesn't invalidate the other.

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:07 pm 
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What I'm reading so far is that most people feel that the current formation system needs an overhaul of some sort, but there does need to be a baseline organizational structure. The specifics of the structure will vary from faction to faction of course.

I'll have to dig out my 1st edition rulebooks and have a look at that again. It has been a while.

I'm going to wait for a while for a few more people to post thoughts & suggestions before proposing anything specific.

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:54 pm 
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MagnusIlluminus wrote:
What I'm reading so far is that most people feel that the current formation system needs an overhaul of some sort, but there does need to be a baseline organizational structure. The specifics of the structure will vary from faction to faction of course.

I'll have to dig out my 1st edition rulebooks and have a look at that again. It has been a while.

I'm going to wait for a while for a few more people to post thoughts & suggestions before proposing anything specific.



Hi!

You are correct. :)

Given what I have seen from several posters here (many of whom already were doing some sort of project), were advocating similar things.

I am interested in what Bissler has to say though. He's been waving the "conservative" view of late. ;D ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 12:50 pm 
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IMO, SM1 was the best way to go ... Here's what we did ... And just a note : Rule #1 Do what works for you ... Rule #2 Don't re-invent the wheel ... everything old is new again ...


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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:20 pm 
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Legion 4 wrote:
IMO, SM1 was the best way to go ... Here's what we did ... And just a note : Rule #1 Do what works for you ... Rule #2 Don't re-invent the wheel ... everything old is new again ...


Hi!

I was thinking specifically about you when I answered L4, since I knew you still used them with some modifications. ;)

Why they ever abandoned that method of army construction is beyond me.

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:48 pm 
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Indeed Sir ... Indeed ... 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:24 pm 
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Legion 4 wrote:
Indeed Sir ... Indeed ... 8)


Hi!

I've already decided to use your modifications for the 1st edition update I'm doing, so I figure why not use them for all the systems. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 2:38 am 
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Works for me ... works for you ... It's all good ! ;D

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:38 pm 
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Legion 4 wrote:
Works for me ... works for you ... It's all good ! ;D


Hi!

Its cool when we all agree! ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 6:43 pm 
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primarch wrote:
MagnusIlluminus wrote:
What I'm reading so far is that most people feel that the current formation system needs an overhaul of some sort, but there does need to be a baseline organizational structure. The specifics of the structure will vary from faction to faction of course.

I'll have to dig out my 1st edition rulebooks and have a look at that again. It has been a while.

I'm going to wait for a while for a few more people to post thoughts & suggestions before proposing anything specific.



Hi!

You are correct. :)

Given what I have seen from several posters here (many of whom already were doing some sort of project), were advocating similar things.

I am interested in what Bissler has to say though. He's been waving the "conservative" view of late. ;D ;)

Primarch


Cheeky fudger! ;)

I'm not against the scrapping of companies & special cards at all. As you say, the Points System which myself and Craig are pretty satisfied with during playtesting does level the playing field properly for the first time. That said, I'm wary of going so far as saying there should be no formations.

I would be more than happy with a system where everything was a support card (it would be called something else obviously) with similar formations as exist now, possibly with some minor tweaks; you might want to buy a formation with an HQ for example. You would have total freedom to buy as many of these formations as you like, even if it was simply a force consisting of Titans for example.

Where I do have more of a problem is the idea that you could buy one stand as a single formation. The reason is activations. Obviously I have selfish reasons for worrying about activations because of Evolution but this does affect Net Epic Gold also. Serious consideration has to be given to the affect a whole lot of tiny and cheap units will have on the balance of the game itself.

One of the things that is becoming increasingly apparent with the points formula is that forces with large or expensive units (see Orks and Squats) is that they are losing out big time to the likes of IG which can buy huge masses of troops which will out-activate any enemy. I'm having to apply a fix to the Orks which I'll be testing out soon where a mob will be split into three units of 5 just to fix the balance. The Squats are harder to work a fix on because of their reliance on Praetorians - although that has always been a problem in Net Epic IMO. Definitely the recent adjustments to the formula seem to help the Squats out a bit but I'll need to do more testing

Please note that I am not whingeing about the formula; as I said above we're pretty happy with the project, it's more a case of we're discovering these minor issues but want to find fixes for them rather than reverting back to the old system.

Anyway, in short, yes, free up everything but keep a close eye on the effect of it for activations please!

Also, please don't label me "conservative" again, it makes me feel very grubby indeed! :D ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 7:23 pm 
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Hi!

Quote:
Cheeky fudger! ;)


LOL! ;D

Quote:
I'm not against the scrapping of companies & special cards at all. As you say, the Points System which myself and Craig are pretty satisfied with during playtesting does level the playing field properly for the first time. That said, I'm wary of going so far as saying there should be no formations.

I would be more than happy with a system where everything was a support card (it would be called something else obviously) with similar formations as exist now, possibly with some minor tweaks; you might want to buy a formation with an HQ for example. You would have total freedom to buy as many of these formations as you like, even if it was simply a force consisting of Titans for example.


I'm not sure how much you remember (or have experience with) SM1 era organizations and army building. But they function to a large degree like a system where everything IS a "support card". The main thing is that there is an organization "matrix" guiding how those "support formations" are organized. The only thing the player days is "flesh out" the template. Take a look at L4's pics (while not exactly what we may use it gives and idea).

Quote:
Where I do have more of a problem is the idea that you could buy one stand as a single formation. The reason is activations. Obviously I have selfish reasons for worrying about activations because of Evolution but this does affect Net Epic Gold also. Serious consideration has to be given to the affect a whole lot of tiny and cheap units will have on the balance of the game itself.


Let's say you made a SM company that has an organizational slot of "3 formations" to fill and you filled them with 3 single stands? You get 3 activations but they would be extremely ineffective, not to mention brittle and easy to gain VP's from. Another player could fill those same 3 slots with more models per formations have the same amount of activations and be much more effective game wise.

The problem of activations in net epic gold is the way army construction is built. Meaning 1 company card can attach 5 support and one special card. EVERYONE can do this, regardless of formation cost.

That and not formation composition is the reason for the activation inequity. If you give everyone the same organization, but formations cost differ then the army with cheaper formations gets more activations.

With the organizational charts you can make them "flavorful" but you can also make them in ways that takes into account the average formation costs and thus let those armies use a framework so as to enable the player to maximize "activations" in the way he builds his force.

For example IG are cheap, but their organization is "ponderous". IG companies can consist of 1 or 2 formations slots. Since they are cheap he can build HUGE formations, but the organization would limit him to a few formations slots per company, thus few activation.

On the other hand Squats are very expansive, but given the background they like working in smaller more numerous formations. So for example a squat brotherhood could have 4 formations. Due to cost those formations may not be very big (much smaller than IG ones), but the squat player has the liberty of "matching" activation with such a force making smaller ones. Of course they may not be as resilient as larger ones, but that is part of the squat's "feel" to work with small formations.

Therefore the activation limit is determined by the organizational chart for that army. We could make them taking in consideration each armies particularities. Thus elite armies usually have more, but smaller formations per unit of organization and large attrition armies have less formations per organizational unit but could have more of those units since they are cheaper.

In a nutshell we can basically "even out" the total activation/formation for the armies without using the same one for each army (which is essentially what net epic gold does) by tailoring each organizational chart to be attuned to the way that army due to cost may be structured.

Its all on the organizational structure and it would leave formation content totally up to the player, but in the end it wouldn't matter since organizational charts, while different between armies would balance formation/activations as a whole.

Understand what I'm getting at?

Quote:
One of the things that is becoming increasingly apparent with the points formula is that forces with large or expensive units (see Orks and Squats) is that they are losing out big time to the likes of IG which can buy huge masses of troops which will out-activate any enemy. I'm having to apply a fix to the Orks which I'll be testing out soon where a mob will be split into three units of 5 just to fix the balance. The Squats are harder to work a fix on because of their reliance on Praetorians - although that has always been a problem in Net Epic IMO. Definitely the recent adjustments to the formula seem to help the Squats out a bit but I'll need to do more testing


The card system, army unit buying restrictions, etc are all by products of how units were priced under the older paradigm (arbitrarily). Once all units are priced in accordance with a formula that applies itself equally to everything then none of those conventions are necessary.

However a framework to guide people on how the army is constructed needs to exist, but not for the purpose of solely balancing, but for the purpose of translating how an army looks and feels on the field of play and how it maximizes how that army would be organized.

Quote:
Please note that I am not whingeing about the formula; as I said above we're pretty happy with the project, it's more a case of we're discovering these minor issues but want to find fixes for them rather than reverting back to the old system.

Anyway, in short, yes, free up everything but keep a close eye on the effect of it for activations please!

Also, please don't label me "conservative" again, it makes me feel very grubby indeed! :D ;)


I would think that it is more an issue now of thinking how a given organizational chart should look like to best represent a given army. While SM1 offers some guidance and examples there are many armies/forces with no representation in those rules and we must determine how best to represent their "fluff" in such a chart.

No worries Bissler, I love ya, grubby or not, LOL! ;D ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Formations: What are they, why have them?
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 7:35 pm 
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I don't really remember SM1 well enough to understand the formations examples that L4 put up and I don't pretend to understand everything you mention above Primarch, but I think I understand it well enough!

The main thing I'm taking from it is that there will be some sort of system to regulate the activations and that is all well with me. I'm trying to avoid the nightmare scenario of someone turning up for a game where every single piece on the board is a separate unit. Yes they'd be brittle but if they made pretty much all of your force move first they would have a big advantage. I'm not concerned that anyone I play against would do this but I think as a matter of principle it should be set in stone that this would not be acceptable.

A bit like the Points Formula I know I won't be great at coming up with the rules for this. I'm happy to sit back and wait until a system is put in place, at that point I'm sure I'll be at the forefront for playtesting! ;)

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