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Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie» Forums » General

Subject: Heroscape and Strategy rss

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Aaron Dusso
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Hi all, this is my first post, although I have been enjoying this site for over a year now.

I’ve been thinking about games and strategy. Everyone seems to agree that strategy in games is a “good thing.” So I’ve been thinking about how we conceptualize strategy. What in games gets credit for being good strategy and what does not?

In particular, Heroscape seems to get slammed as a “dice fest” (i.e. having very little strategy). However, why is it when I play Euphrat & Tigris my choice of whom to attack or not attack, or whether to get ready for an internal or external conflict is called strategy. But when I make my choice of whom to attack or not attack and with which unit, or maneuver my units to avoid devastating special attack in Heroscape it is not strategy. I assume that the answer may focus on how conflicts are decided. But it seems to me that they are decided in very much the same way. The player who manages probability best wins the majority of the time.

In Euphrat & Tigris, when I know that I am going to initiate an internal conflict I find myself trading in all of my none red pieces in order to get as many red as I can before I initiate the internal conflict on my second turn. In Heroscape, when I know I want to attack a particular unit I get to higher ground and/or try and get on an attack bonus glyph, thus giving me more dice to roll. In the end I’m doing the same thing, managing probability. If I have 5 red pieces to play in Euphrat & Tigris against my opponent, then I am giving my self a better chance to win. If I have 6 attack dice to roll in Heroscape, then I am giving my self a better chance to win. And, of course, in both games one could still lose, but in the long run (in the world of probability) I will win most of the time.

In the Settlers of Catan, why is it strategy when in the beginning of the game I place my towns, but in Heroscape when I am choosing my units it is not? It seems to me that many people think of good strategic games as those that give you many choices to make on every turn and the best games will not over do this (there can be too much of a good thing). Heroscape gives one choices to make as do the other games I’ve mentioned. I suggest that there may be an unconscious bias against games like Heroscape by some in the “German style” game community. Just as there is an unconscious bias against “German style” games in the general populous. Just seeing my brother and I play Euphrat & Tigris makes my wife run away in horror! Yet she has played and enjoyed Heroscape. Someone had called the graphics used in Euphrat & Tigris “history channel graphics.” I think this is an apt comparison. I would call Heroscape’s graphics and/or presentation Cartoon network style. So it seems to me natural that some gamers who identify with “German style” games would instantly recoil form Heroscape, focus on the dice and say the game is all luck.

Anyway, I must state for the record that I love both Euphrat & Tigris and the Settlers of Catan. I am always ready to play those games. But I think that, at base, I am doing the same thing in all three of the games I mentioned –managing probability.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931),

"“dice fest” (i.e. having very little strategy)."

I don't view it this way at all. Strategy and tactics may exist with or without luck.
 
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Michael Denman
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
It's not that the game has NO strategy. It's just that the luck of the dice can so easily disrupt any strategy you might form. With a more strategic (tactical?) wargame, there often comes a point where one side can throw in the towel and concede. With Heroscape, I wouldn't admit defeat until my last character was dead.
 
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Steve Werth
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Wargames and minatures games are completely different than other types of boardgames. Also, German analysis games are just full of analysis, with little opportunity for creativity. Not so with a minatures game - or a wargame. They are completely open-ended. Miniatures games try to replicate fighting, unlike games like Settlers or Puerto Rico, so the objective is also completely different.
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931),


Aaron,

OUTSTANDING first post. Your questions make important points. And you are obviously a thoughtful, rational, balanced human being.

Keep on posting!!!

Foob
 
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Damon Van Demark
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931),
It would seem to me that in a "war" game there is a certain amount, or should be a certain amount, of choas. One stacks the probability decks as best as one can, but no one plan will survive contact with the enemy. Now, Heroscape may contain rather a lot of "chaos", as represented by the large number of dice being rolled, but for the level of conflict being represented, i.e. skirmish, it seems appropriate that one should play right down to the last man. The odds may be against you, but, as in actual combat, the outcome is never foregone. Perhaps it is the level of conflict that makes it work here. Large scale, "strategic" conflict may lessen the impact of chaotic dice rolling, but man to man, or man to dragon, you want (I want) that last Viking to stand some chance against all those golden scales. In addition to the "reality" of his small chance, not that "reality" is of much concern in Heroscape, there is a goofy pleasure created by the weensy chance that he might pull it off.

Speaking of chance, just let me damn Ne-Gok-Sa to the probobility underword. He done stoled my samurai. Again.
 
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Ubergeek
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931),
–managing probability.

I think you say quite a bit with the last statement. This is very true also in card games and games involving cards when determining a strategy. Hand management is all about the probability of drawing future cards you need. Ask any great poker player.

Obviously there is luck in the draw of cards for any game involving them. The nice thing about cards in games when used as events, they force you to reevauate your strategies by throwing in unforseen circumstances. The same could be said for a very lucky or unlucky roll of the dice in Heroscape.

In many games including Heroscape and T&E, knowing when to defend is just as important as knowing when to attack. In something like Settlers, defense may be as simple as not trading with a certain opponent to curb their advance. In Heroscape, defense may mean running for cover or bringing up the rear guard after certain units take a few hits.

At the most basic, good strategies are based in Sun Tzu's Principles of War. Calculated risk taking is a part of strategy. Return on investment is a part of strategy. Managing probability is another tool to use in developing your strategy to gain a desired result. Having or creating flexibility is a good strategy. It all depends on the game you're playing and what you have to work with.

Changing horses mid stream may not be a good strategy, unless the horse you're on happened to die.

Good topic. meeple
 
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Seth Owen
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931), and others.
There is a certain kind of player who enjoys devising a clever plan and carrying it out and becomes exceedingly annoyed when "luck" ruins it. (It doesn't matter whether the random element comes from cards, dice, a foolish or inexperienced player in a multi-player game, etc.)
But war is very chaotic and just about every wargame, from a simple one like Heroscape to the supercomplex Advanced Squad Leader, has a significant amount of luck in it.
Coping with bad luck and learning how to exploit the good is an inherent part of wargame strategy. If real war, which is far more chaotic than wargames, is recognized to have a lot of "strategy" then how much more so for wargames, even one like Heroscape. Sure, you're clever plan may get upset by bad dice. But if you're a clever planner you need to take that into account during your planning. Over and over again one reads negative comments about what a "dicefest" a game like Axis & Allies, Memoir'44, Battle Cry, Heroscape, War at Sea, Napoleon, Hammer of the Scots, Squad Leader, etc. etc. are. Well, no one can make you play a game you don't like, and there is no accounting for tastes, but blaming a wargame for having luck in it is like blaming a beach for having sand.
There are wargames where luck may play too great a role, but A&A, Memoir'44, Heroscape, WAS, ASL, block games are not among them. The better player will win at least as often as the better poker or Backgammon player will win those games.

 
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Miguel de la Casa
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931),

For me, the term "strategy" in a game refers to the amount of "meaningfull decisions" the game involves. In other words, how much of the game outcome (when talkgin about a single move outcome we use the term "tactics") comes from your decisions and how much does not.

Therefore I wouldn't say that a high "strategy" factor is neccessarily a good thing. For me, it is anyway. And that's why I'd rather play Puerto RIco than Heroscape. But it's difficult to imagine a good (war)game at the skirmish level without a high amount of "chaos" (meaning the opposite to "strategy": much of the outcome is not decided by your decisions).
 
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Chris Palmer
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
All good points. One thing that I'm learning about HS is that the luck factor in the dice is high enough to occasionally disrupt normal tactics (height advantage, glyph control, etc.), but that the most meaningful decisions you can make are in the draft and how you utilize the special powers of your units.

For example, if I surround Deathwalker 9000 with Samurai, he's probably a goner. You can only attack engaged units and he has a large attack value, but the samurai's defensive special means that he has a really good chance of taking a hit. Likewise, if he disengages, he has a high change of dying (more for each engaged figure). On the other hand, Grimnak can chomp samurai all day and there is nothing they can do about it.

Likewise, the agents are essentially immune to Syvaris' double ranged attack. We are still exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the units.

Another thing that greatly increases the strategy of the game is to play scenarios with victory conditions other than "kill everyone else". As others have pointed out, the luck factor is high enough that a single survivor might overcome insane odds and defeat multiple enemies to win (which is actually kind of exciting in its own way), but in a race to a specific victory condition, choice of units, deployment, and territory control are more important.

Finally, from reading the profiles of people on Heroscape.net, it is obvious that the big market (if not the intended market) is game-obsessed parents playing HS with their kids (a demographic I fall into). Heavy strategy (or abstract strategy) games are often frustrating when the experience levels are mismatched, as when playing with kids. HS balances this quite well in that, against my 10yo son, I suggest a few strategies to him, but he makes all of the choices and it all evens out on the last man standing scenarios. We're going to play some of the new scenarios this weekend.
 
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Aaron Dusso
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Thanks all for the thoughtful comments.

It seems that strategy in a game can be thought of as the set of choices and decisions one makes, which culminates in a plan of action. The question then becomes how will a game’s structure allow one to implement this plan? (1) Will there be random events which one will be forces to deal with (either dice or perhaps cards that must be drawn)? Or, (2) will the events that must be delt with be the actions of one’s opponent (as in chess)? It seems to me that most games are a combination of both 1 and 2.

I might argue that a game needs both 1 and 2 in order to be great. Chess’s big problem is that at every move there is a “right” and “wrong” move. This is why a computer can beat a human (even the best). I have yet to play a computer strategy came that, after awhile, I could not beat (and the only way to make it harder is to let the computer cheat). Yet, Chessmaster is nearly impossible to beat on the higher settings and Big Blue can beat even the best players.

 
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Peter Mc
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Chess is also a finite game, theoretically...even it wasn't, computers can look ahead more moves than humans can, and win by finding the "right" moves this way, as you suggest. The only human shot against big blue is intution and luck.

I've played games from all genres (Euros, boardgames, wargames, fantasy, miniatures, RPGs even--but I don't admit it in public)...and I have to say I am really biased against Euros. I hate them. I hate all the accounting and planning that goes into games like Tikal or Puerto Rico.

I like games that are open-ended, as defined above...and where there are enough dice that luck factors itself out in the end...the more dice the better, if the game is doen properly. The main thing is sound play should rely on strategy.

Does Heroscape fit this? For me it is too early to say...but I have a suspicion that the game is just shallow enough that it might not be a strategy game that holds up to repeated play. Fun, but not really a game of strategy so far for me at least.

As an aside I don't think the given scenarios work very well with so few units available right now to choose from. How many Dragon vs. Orc battles can you fight? There just aren't that many useful combinations of 300 or 400 points, even if you have two sets. The game needs at least a dozen more army cards.
 
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Ava Jarvis
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
petermc (#55356),

You can combine armies though. Who cares if orcs are fighting besides MIB? Or that samurai and aliens are in coalition against Mimring and a big winged babe? There are a bunch of 300pt to 400pt teams you can make with just one set.

Thematically wrong, yes. But fun.

http://www.kelto.net/heroscape/ is a team generator that can do teams that are balanced, focused on specific "tribes" (or whatever), or can just do your basic random team....
 
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Overgauss .
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Geosphere (#54933),

I don't see HS as a dicefest either. The way that I got into strategy games was by playing games on consoles such as Masters of Monsters(genesis), Military Madness(TG-16 My first love!), Kartia, Final Fantasy Tactics, Culdcept, Iron Storm (Saturn), Shining Force III etc. etc. The point is that it was all about maximizing percentages (CPU controlled dice rolls) to the best effect. In my mind HS is like one of these console games come to life. As such I actually enjoy the randomness. It makes for great fist shaking and exuberant exclamations. But then, I like to talk to the dice before I roll. "C'mon baby, don't give no bullS@#t!" "YES!" "Well done! I'm going to change your oil later! You deserve it!" (Deathwalker 9000) etc. etc.
 
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David K
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
aaron444 (#54931),

Very few games are completely without strategy -- heck, even tic-tac-toe has some level of rudimentary strategy. There is, however, varying levels of strategy -- strategic depth, if you will.

While it might be uncommon, a game of HeroQuest (or Memoir '44) could be decided, win or lose, on the role of the die. In chess, however, there are no unknowns. There is no random fate. When you lose, it's because your strategy was, on the whole, inferior to your opponents. He/she simply out played you.

But back to my original point: that still doesn't change the fact that you have to milk every strategic/tactical advantage you can -- whether it's chess, or HeroScape. And those strategic/tactical advantages add up over time. Or, to put it simply: a good player getting bad rolls will win more games -- over time -- than a bad player getting bad rolls.

-V

 
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David K
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Volstag (#57400),

I feel compelled to mention that I would play HeroQuest over chess any day.

-V
 
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Chris Palmer
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Volstag (#57500),

I may have pointed this out before (I remember typing it somewhere), but IMHO, I can forgive the luck factor affecting careful strategy because the theme and eye-candy appeal of the game is so strong. If I'm moving cardboard chits on a printed map, I feel like I'm making almost abstract tactical decisions, but in a strongly themed game like HS, it is almost like an RPG in that extremely lucky (or unlucky) die rolls make each game tell a story of sorts. Read some of the session reports about lone characters surviving incredible odds, or odd quirks like Ne Gok Sa's mind control with a 5% chance of success working twice in one game.

I still say there is strong strategy in drafting and in specific unit interaction and no matter how much luck is involved, basic strategy will probably win over no strategy at all. And we are talking about fantasy and very broad fantasy at that. An unarmed, wounded soldier in a realistic wargame might have a 0% chance of taking out a fresh tank (or at least such a low chance that it isn't worth rolling and certainly isn't worth attempting), but in a game like HS, a lowly squad member who takes out Mimring the dragon with a lucky shot just makes for a cool game moment.
 
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David K
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
cmpalmer (#57829),

Chris! I agree with you!
 
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Lyle Schulz
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Re:Heroscape and Strategy
Great thread, and very interesting comments.

I would argue that because the luck of the dice can so easily disrupt your strategy, it makes strategy (the choosing of units and how and when to use them) even MORE important in Heroscape than in games with less luck involved. It is the only sure way to give you an edge in the game... And besides, it's nice to know that if you screw up a turn, you still have a chance to win (Unlike pure strategy games, where if you mess up against a good player, you might as well quit, as you are done, anyway).

 
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