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Subject: Things I Dislike about This Game rss

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Steffan O'Sullivan
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Song of Blades and Heroes (SoBH) is a skirmish miniatures game (1 figure = 1 character) that is, for the most part, a very well-done product. It's a simple game that produces fun and believable results, a combination I applaud.

However, there are a couple of things in it which bother me so much I have to rant about them. Especially since, in my opinion, there's no excuse for them!

High Quality vs high quality

The first thing that bothers me about this game is that the higher the Quality of a figure, the lower the number used to denote it. For example, a Quality 2 is better than a Quality 3. Since I've never read any designer's notes, I'm not sure why this counterintuitive approach was used. I suspect it's so that a high die roll is always good, given that you want to roll high in combat. (There are only two stats in the game, and the second one, Combat, is logically represented: a Combat 3 character is a better fighter than a Combat 2 fighter.)

So to activate a character (or pass a morale test), you have to roll your Quality or higher on a d6. So a Quality 2 character is activated on a 2-6, while a Quality 3 character is activated on a 3-6.

It would be very easy to represent a higher quality as a higher number, though: simply have the player roll Quality level or lower. So a Quality 5 character would activate on a roll of 1-5, while a Quality 4 character would activate on a roll of 1-4. Easy, and you instantly understand that a high quality value is better than a low quality value.

Having played hundreds of games GURPS, where you want to roll low to hit in combat and then high in a damage roll, I have no problem making the mental switch knowing when I want to roll high and when low. This approach means a Skill 12 is better than a Skill 11 in GURPS, an intuitive, logical system.

The thing that surprises me is that the author of SoBH (who is a very nice guy, BTW, and very active in supporting his games, even to the cost of his health in carpal tunnel issues) has published GURPS articles in magazines, and so obviously knows GURPS well. So I'm not sure why he chose this system for SoBH. Perhaps he's had players who could never make that mental adjustment that in some games it's good to roll low.

I would like to point out that my dislike of this mechanic is not simply personal taste. It interferes with the game. It's so natural for me to use the terms "high quality" and "low quality" that I have to modify my speech to play this game. This is frankly awkward.

Worse, there are even instances of confusion in the rulebook! For example, the section on a randomly rolled mutation has this for a result of "1": "Model's Quality is reduced by one." Does that mean it improves or degrades? Fortunately there's an example in which he talks about what happens when it's "reduced" to 7 (6 is the lowest, er, worst quality allowed in the game), so he really should have written "Model's Quality is degraded by one."

SoBH actually refers to the Quality of characters with a "+" after it: Q:2+ or Q:3+. This doesn't help me understand that 2 is better than 3 at all.

At any rate, even after many enjoyable games of SoBH, this issue continues to bother me. I dislike having intuitive speech ("higher quality") be inaccurate. This has lowered my rating of the game by 1.

Point-Built Forces

The second issue is more one of taste than objective standards. Yet the fix is as easy as adding an additional paragraph. This is the decision not to publish the point cost formula in a game using point-build forces! Instead, the book lists many sample armies with individual figures and costs.

All right, this is taste, but I have never used one of those sample characters. Not one. I prefer to create my own characters - that's part of the absolute joy of this game. I assemble the figures I have (mostly Mage Knight Dungeon figures, but a fair mix of others), choose one and say, "What's this character like?" I've collected the fairly lengthy list of Special Abilities from the main book and first two supplements (one of the great strengths of this game is the great number of Special Abilities!) and look them over. "Ah," I say, "This is clearly a Longbow Archer and Stealthy Forester." Or, "This model inspires Terror, no doubt about it!" And so on.

I then refer to a printout I made of point costs - I've uploaded the file to BGG, so you can see it yourself. This gives me an initial point cost for my figure. I continue selecting figures and setting Quality and Combat scores, and choosing Special Abilities until I get close to our 300-point per force limit, then go back and tweak the Q and C values up and down until I'm between 290 and 300 points and am then happy about it.

To me, that's a quick but enjoyable process. I don't want to look at pages and pages of army lists. It's fine to include them for those who prefer that system, but why not include the formula? I had to find an excel file online to figure it out, and then make my printout sheet. And of course the formula would actually be simpler if higher Quality meant higher quality ...

So, I docked the game another point off my rating. It's down to 8 now.

Things I Like about the Game

And that's where it stays. Because the rest of the game is brilliant and massive amounts of fun! I love the push-your-luck activation mechanism. I love the simple yet brilliant movement system, the bane of most miniatures games. The fact that each figure is represented by only two stats plus possible Special Abilities makes bookkeeping painless. The decision to allow any figures (with distance scales given for both 15mm and 25-28mm) instead of relying on company-produced figures is a relief from many other games.

The combat system seems to be based on Hordes of the Things, another miniatures game I love, and that's a good thing: both sides add a d6 to their combat scores and compare numbers. Results given for ties, one side ahead, one side twice the value of the other, and one side triple the value of the other. Easy and effective.

I love this game! I would love it unreservedly if he had just made two other design decisions ...

Okay, I'm done ranting. Thanks for letting me vent. I feel better now. I've gotta go play some SoBH!
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Andrew Walters
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The inverted Quality number takes a couple minutes to get used to, and while that's annoying I don't fault the whole game for it. I run the Quar version, Songs of Our Ancestors at conventions so I've played with a lot of different people and it's never caused significant problems or delay.

The "contested die roll" mechanic where we each roll, add a bonus and compare goes back much further than HotT (1991). DBA (1990) uses it, so does The Sword and the Flame (1979), and it goes back pretty far in British miniatures rules. It's a good mechanism.

As for the point formula, I strongly suspect that it's pretty involved. that's no excuse for not putting it in the book or on the web. I've always been able to find values for what I want to do: there are a lot of published characters, just find the stats you want and change the name, who cares if it used to be an elf?

Luckily there's an online calculator that will let you build custom characters. You can always reverse-engineer the formula from the javascript.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20110830/NEWS02/110830004/Dispu...
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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Hi Andrew, thanks for pointing out the contested die mechanic goes back beyond the DBA family. (Yes, I knew DBA had it and is older than HotT, but I consider HotT a more likely ancestor for SoBH.)

As for the inverted Quality number taking "a couple of minutes to get used to," well, congrats. You have a more flexible mind than I do. I've played well over a year and am not used to it yet. Yes, it really bothers me.

The point formula is not complex at all! It's quite simple:

Total cost = X*Y, where:
X = (Combat * 5) + (Special costs)
Y = (7 - Quality)/2

[Edit: and if Higher Quality equaled higher quality, it would be even simpler. Y would then equal Quality/2.]

As for finding a character that matches what you want, I agree who cares if it's listed as an elf. I just don't want to thumb through many pages hoping to spot a particular combination I have in mind when I can just use my own system to create it.
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sos1 wrote:
It would be very easy to represent a higher quality as a higher number, though: simply have the player roll Quality level or lower. So a Quality 5 character would activate on a roll of 1-5, while a Quality 4 character would activate on a roll of 1-4. Easy, and you instantly understand that a high quality value is better than a low quality value.

Having played hundreds of games GURPS, where you want to roll low to hit in combat and then high in a damage roll, I have no problem making the mental switch knowing when I want to roll high and when low. This approach means a Skill 12 is better than a Skill 11 in GURPS, an intuitive, logical system.

I would like to point out that my dislike of this mechanic is not simply personal taste. It interferes with the game. It's so natural for me to use the terms "high quality" and "low quality" that I have to modify my speech to play this game. This is frankly awkward.

But for others, the idea that you roll high for one and low for another is more confusing than always wanting to roll high and then the result depends on what you are rolling for. Personally, I would find the other more confusing and interfering with the game. But then again, I am an old Warhammer player and used to things like armor saves working that way. Or ranged attacks in LotR. Or any number of other systems.

sos1 wrote:
Worse, there are even instances of confusion in the rulebook! For example, the section on a randomly rolled mutation has this for a result of "1": "Model's Quality is reduced by one." Does that mean it improves or degrades? Fortunately there's an example in which he talks about what happens when it's "reduced" to 7 (6 is the lowest, er, worst quality allowed in the game), so he really should have written "Model's Quality is degraded by one."

I will agree this can lead to some confusion.

sos1 wrote:
SoBH actually refers to the Quality of characters with a "+" after it: Q:2+ or Q:3+. This doesn't help me understand that 2 is better than 3 at all.

And to me that makes it abundantly clear (but it is notation I am familiar with from multiple other mini games).

sos1 wrote:
At any rate, even after many enjoyable games of SoBH, this issue continues to bother me. I dislike having intuitive speech ("higher quality") be inaccurate. This has lowered my rating of the game by 1.

Point-Built Forces

The second issue is more one of taste than objective standards. Yet the fix is as easy as adding an additional paragraph. This is the decision not to publish the point cost formula in a game using point-build forces! Instead, the book lists many sample armies with individual figures and costs.

All right, this is taste, but I have never used one of those sample characters. Not one. I prefer to create my own characters - that's part of the absolute joy of this game. I assemble the figures I have (mostly Mage Knight Dungeon figures, but a fair mix of others), choose one and say, "What's this character like?" I've collected the fairly lengthy list of Special Abilities from the main book and first two supplements (one of the great strengths of this game is the great number of Special Abilities!) and look them over. "Ah," I say, "This is clearly a Longbow Archer and Stealthy Forester." Or, "This model inspires Terror, no doubt about it!" And so on.

I then refer to a printout I made of point costs - I've uploaded the file to BGG, so you can see it yourself. This gives me an initial point cost for my figure. I continue selecting figures and setting Quality and Combat scores, and choosing Special Abilities until I get close to our 300-point per force limit, then go back and tweak the Q and C values up and down until I'm between 290 and 300 points and am then happy about it.

To me, that's a quick but enjoyable process. I don't want to look at pages and pages of army lists. It's fine to include them for those who prefer that system, but why not include the formula? I had to find an excel file online to figure it out, and then make my printout sheet. And of course the formula would actually be simpler if higher Quality meant higher quality ...

So, I docked the game another point off my rating. It's down to 8 now.

I actually don't find the formula that friendly to use and think that it might have scared off a bunch of more casual gamers (no, they wouldn't have to sue it but seeing it could give mathaphobes the willies). The online troop builder is wonderful. It figures it out for you. Tells you what rules come from what books that your warband is using. Prints off a roster sheet for you. Again, a matter of taste, but I think, especially given the easy availability of the formula or tools to make you own warbands, I understand it.

sos1 wrote:
Things I Like about the Game

And that's where it stays. Because the rest of the game is brilliant and massive amounts of fun! I love the push-your-luck activation mechanism. I love the simple yet brilliant movement system, the bane of most miniatures games. The fact that each figure is represent by only two stats plus possible Special Abilities makes bookkeeping painless. The decision to allow any figures (with distance scales given for both 15mm and 25-28mm) instead of relying on company-produced figures is a relief from many other games.

The combat system seems to based on Hordes of the Things, another miniatures game I love, and that's a good thing: both sides add a d6 to their combat scores and compare numbers. Results given for ties, one side ahead, one side twice the value of the other, and one side triple the value of the other. Easy and effective.

I love this game! I would love it unreservedly if he had just made two other design decisions ...

Okay, I'm done ranting. Thanks for letting me vent. I feel better now. I've gotta go play some SoBH!


Rant away, especially as your rant was couched in good and bad for a game. Nicely written, too. I understand your points even if I don't necessarily agree with them. Besides, the games too fun to worry about things like these.
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sos1 wrote:
...I have never used one of those sample characters. Not one. I prefer to create my own characters - that's part of the absolute joy of this game.
I would propose that the target market for the game might not be so keen on creating their own characters from a stock of figs/ideas they have. In other words, I think Song aims more at a casual crowd that will pay the $5.95 for the PDF and mess around a little, but not get so deep as to involve character creation. I'm guessing that most people that get into a game at that level have a myriad of choices far more complex and "hardcore" than Song to devote their time to.

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Steffan O'Sullivan
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fightcitymayor wrote:
sos1 wrote:
...I have never used one of those sample characters. Not one. I prefer to create my own characters - that's part of the absolute joy of this game.
I would propose that the target market for the game might not be so keen on creating their own characters from a stock of figs/ideas they have. In other words, I think Song aims more at a casual crowd that will pay the $5.95 for the PDF and mess around a little, but not get so deep as to involve character creation. I'm guessing that most people that get into a game at that level have a myriad of choices far more complex and "hardcore" than Song to devote their time to.

And I certainly don't advocate removing the sample characters from the books! I actually think it's great that they're there. I just think it would be easy and beneficial to add a paragraph explaining the formula for those of us who prefer to do it that way. But then, I suppose those of us who want a formula can poke around on the net and figure it out, as I did ...
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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manyslayer wrote:
But for others, the idea that you roll high for one and low for another is more confusing than always wanting to roll high and then the result depends on what you are rolling for.

I find this mind boggling, but then I don't know any Warhammer games. I've played thousands of different games (I'm old), and sometimes you want to roll high, and sometimes you want to roll low. That's just life in the game world. I find it much easier to adjust to that than to think high quality equals a low quality value.

Quote:
I actually don't find the formula that friendly to use and think that it might have scared off a bunch of more casual gamers (no, they wouldn't have to sue it but seeing it could give mathaphobes the willies).

I agree the sample armies should be left in the book and it's a great idea to include them. I just want an additional section for other personality types.

Quote:
Rant away, especially as your rant was couched in good and bad for a game. Nicely written, too. I understand your points even if I don't necessarily agree with them. Besides, the games too fun to worry about things like these.

Oddly, the subject of this review was originally a joke because this is my favorite miniatures game and my group knows I love it and will play it any time they suggest it! It was only when I started writing that I realized I really do dislike the low Quality numbers a lot more than I realized.
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Frédéric Larré
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If the quality bothers you so much, just write the 7-Q value on your warband sheet and make your roll under or equal that value...

And to make your characters have a look at :
http://www.ganeshagames.net/download/
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I noticed the "Quality issue" (not really an issue...) while explaining the game to my son (10 y.o., at that time). I admit that it make colloquial rule explaining a bit hard.
So, i changed the "Absolute quality" in "realtive quality". So, Q:1+ is "1st quality", Q:2+ is "2nd quality" etc. It immediatly make sense also for my kid.
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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flarre wrote:
If the quality bothers you so much, just write the 7-Q value on your warband sheet and make your roll under or equal that value...

I don't do this because I'm hoping to play at game conventions with people from outside my group, and it would cause lots of problems.

I'm much more likely to change the word "Quality" to "Activation", as that word doesn't automatically imply higher is better like the word Quality does. The only reason I haven't done this yet is because you also roll Morale on Quality ...

Quote:
And to make your characters have a look at :
http://www.ganeshagames.net/download/

I'm very aware of all the online character creation tools, thanks. I just like to sit at a table with the figures, away from my computer, and pick up a figure and look at it, trying to derive the Special Abilities it's certain to have ... I'm very happy with the system I devised using the file in the files section. I've tried all the computerized ones, and just prefer a pencil and index cards.
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parduz wrote:
...I changed the "Absolute quality" to "relative quality". So, Q:1+ is "1st quality", Q:2+ is "2nd quality" etc. It immediatly make sense also for my kid.


Very clever, makes it very intuitive and easy to understand that way.
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sos1 wrote:
Hi Andrew, thanks for pointing out the contested die mechanic goes back beyond the DBA family. (Yes, I knew DBA had it and is older than HotT, but I consider HotT a more likely ancestor for SoBH.)

As for the inverted Quality number taking "a couple of minutes to get used to," well, congrats. You have a more flexible mind than I do. I've played well over a year and am not used to it yet. Yes, it really bothers me.

The point formula is not complex at all! It's quite simple:

Total cost = X*Y, where:
X = (Combat * 5) + (Special costs)
Y = (7 - Quality)/2

[Edit: and if Higher Quality equaled higher quality, it would be even simpler. Y would then equal Quality/2.]

As for finding a character that matches what you want, I agree who cares if it's listed as an elf. I just don't want to thumb through many pages hoping to spot a particular combination I have in mind when I can just use my own system to create it.



I'm happy to say that the formula is given in the revised rules, p.51.
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I have to say that I find the notion that lower quality is better to be counterintuitive. I've replaced it term "quality" with "error score," and that works for me. Lower "error score" is better. Purely and issue of word choice, but for me it makes all the difference.
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I haven't read the rules for this game yet, but an easy way to look at the Quality numbers maybe is to look at them as ranking numbers? The number 1 figure is rated highest in Quality. Combat numbers would work differently, since those directly represent strength. I do agree that this asks for some mental flexibility. To my non-gamer friends this would mean another layer in the rules that needs explanation. And they don't like rules explanations to begin with, so... hmmm...
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After many games my main concern for SOBH is the scrum nature of the final stage of games. I have many times ended up with half a dozen models in the middle of the board that can't seem to easily kill each other. So you roll, push back, try and gang up etc. It does not always end in a major scrum but balanced forces often do end up scrumming it out toe to toe in a huddle.

I feel this is because the core D6 process is very similar to DBA/DBM and can turn a game into a bit of a barn dance with models bouncing around each other.

Overall I love it though and can put up with the various points you raised. The barn dance aspect of the game is a little tricker to deal with but we normally get around it by trying to have different forces e.g. ranged vs melee or tough characters vs weaker mobs. That way it is not as likely to end up in a scrum shuffle.


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parduz wrote:
I noticed the "Quality issue" (not really an issue...) while explaining the game to my son (10 y.o., at that time). I admit that it make colloquial rule explaining a bit hard.
So, i changed the "Absolute quality" in "realtive quality". So, Q:1+ is "1st quality", Q:2+ is "2nd quality" etc. It immediatly make sense also for my kid.


This is a good point. An equivalent way to say it is that Q1 characters are 1st rate, Q2 second rate, Q3 third rate and so on.
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inrepose wrote:
After many games my main concern for SOBH is the scrum nature of the final stage of games. I have many times ended up with half a dozen models in the middle of the board that can't seem to easily kill each other. So you roll, push back, try and gang up etc. It does not always end in a major scrum but balanced forces often do end up scrumming it out toe to toe in a huddle.


I agree with this. Sometimes it seems like it will go on for ever, models falling down and getting back up and never getting weaker. I'm loath to introduce hit points, but there have been times when I thought some mechanism along those lines might help, something like the second time you get knocked down your combat score is reduced by 1.
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achates wrote:
parduz wrote:
I noticed the "Quality issue" (not really an issue...) while explaining the game to my son (10 y.o., at that time). I admit that it make colloquial rule explaining a bit hard.
So, i changed the "Absolute quality" in "realtive quality". So, Q:1+ is "1st quality", Q:2+ is "2nd quality" etc. It immediatly make sense also for my kid.


This is a good point. An equivalent way to say it is that Q1 characters are 1st rate, Q2 second rate, Q3 third rate and so on.

Like I said, consider them ranking numbers. The most popular game on the 'geek is also the number 1 game in the list.
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I think the issue is not with understanding the mechanism but with the language in the game. 'Quality' is not a good name for this parameter, given its effect. A better name would have been Rating or Rank.
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achates wrote:
I think the issue is not with understanding the mechanism but with the language in the game. 'Quality' is not a good name for this parameter, given its effect. A better name would have been Rating or Rank.


I think both of those have the similar flaw. My choice would be "Class". First class is the best.
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RogMcK wrote:
achates wrote:
I think the issue is not with understanding the mechanism but with the language in the game. 'Quality' is not a good name for this parameter, given its effect. A better name would have been Rating or Rank.


I think both of those have the similar flaw. My choice would be "Class". First class is the best.


First rate also means best.
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Wow....the "lower the quality score the better" concept took my group of non-war gamers about 10 seconds of game play to internalize. Amazed a whole thread has evolved around this! My fear is that this thread basically arguing over semantics will leave somebody investigating whether or not they want to try this game with the impression the rules are overly confusing or cryptic, when nothing could be further from the truth. I've never played a war game in my life, and this rule set was an absolute breeze to pick up, and a joy to play.
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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*sigh* Let me reiterate:

sos1 wrote:
Oddly, the subject of this review was originally a joke because this is my favorite miniatures game and my group knows I love it and will play it any time they suggest it!
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jvincentp wrote:
Wow....the "lower the quality score the better" concept took my group of non-war gamers about 10 seconds of game play to internalize. Amazed a whole thread has evolved around this! My fear is that this thread basically arguing over semantics will leave somebody investigating whether or not they want to try this game with the impression the rules are overly confusing or cryptic, when nothing could be further from the truth. I've never played a war game in my life, and this rule set was an absolute breeze to pick up, and a joy to play.


Well said! I could care less what someone dislikes about this game. I love it and play it with my 11 y.o., no problem. The rules make perfect sense.
 
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Greg Romans
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Blood bowl uses the same mechanism. Lower the skill, the higher chance you roll above it to succeed. Also a failure in rolling results in a turnover.

Also Magic Realm uses a roll "low to succeed" mechanism.

It is nothing novel.
 
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