Play balance

Discuss John Butterfield’s Battle of the Bulge: Crisis in Command Vol. 1
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rbeyma
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Play balance

Post by rbeyma » Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:21 pm

I wanted to get a quick idea of how people feel about play balance in the game, and if one side has the advantage, how the situation can be addressed.

Personally, I feel like the Germans have an advantage among experienced players, especially with the viability of winning a long term game by killing an Allied unit here and there and holding 3-4 VPs of spaces a turn. Once they have what the need, they can sit in the good defensive terrain and ride out the victory safely. This is especially easy if the British don't come in early.

I would like to see a higher threshold for victory at the end than 25 for the Germans, or possibly some ability for the Allies to gain some territory VPs to force the Germans to press harder and take some risks.

gregorit
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Re: Play balance

Post by gregorit » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:00 pm

I see where you're coming from, rbeyma, the Allies have to resort to sniping for VPs a bit too often at the end and are often forced to take outrageous risks to try to get Verviers or Bastogne back. The double turn the Allies often get at the end of the game does help, somewhat, as it's often possible to launch a large attack, inflict some losses, and then replace the Alllied losses and attack again at the start of the next turn. I really think the Allies need to stretch out the German lines so that they don't face panzers stacked three high.

Bottom line: I do agree the Germans have a slight edge but getting a four activation Dec 16 will quickly overcome any disadvantage the Allies are at. Reducing the German replacement rate might also help.

Suggestion for the designers: Offer a few balancing options during the game setup, during the automatch process those would be accounted for so that no one ends up playing a game on the side they feel disadvantaged with without some compensation.

s_nkarp
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Re: Play balance

Post by s_nkarp » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:55 pm

Love to have a bidding system.

The results from the field so far (from tens of thousands of games played - both scenarios):

42% Allied wins
36% Axis wins
22% Draw

I suspect this will shift a bit to Axis as players get more experienced, but for now the balance is at least in the realm of reasonable :)

gregorit
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Re: Play balance

Post by gregorit » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:08 pm

Good stats, nkarp. I would love more visibility into my own stats, let alone the entire field.

Can you break out the stats by the scenario type? (I'm puzzled by the draw result - the VP thresholds seemingly preclude such an outcome in the longer game.) I must admit to only playing the Meuse scenario 'by accident', it seems to really teach some really bad habits and my suspicion is that it's hard to win as the Allies. The 17AM Commando appearance alone could ensure that the Germans win!

PS: I think fixing the "unsupplied 19AM German Win" bug will also help balance things as it colors every game I play as I guard against as the Allies and allows try threaten to win using it.

Yojimbo252
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Re: Play balance

Post by Yojimbo252 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:12 pm

I appreciate it's early days but those stats in terms of balance are pretty good all things considered.

daviddunham
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Re: Play balance

Post by daviddunham » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:02 am

rbeyma wrote:I feel like the Germans have an advantage among experienced players.
Just an anecdote, but as the Allies, I handily won my last two online games of “Battle of the Bulge.”

And like Nick said, we are tracking a bunch of statistics. Still haven’t done a deep analysis (e.g. per scenario or human vs AI) but it doesn’t appear to be unbalanced.

Draw is an option in Race to the Meuse, and those statistics were for all scenarios.

cosarara
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Re: Play balance

Post by cosarara » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:45 am

Race to the Meuse is a joke.

The only scenario worth playing is Battle of the Bulge, I would love to see stats (human vs human) for THAT.
All things considered the AI is pityful and beatable on your very first game.

I agree with the first post, Germans have the edge among experienced players and not a little one.
It takes luck and skill for the Allies to win the scenario if the German player plan in advance to win on points.
I dare say that allies are down to 20-25%.

gregorit
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Re: Play balance

Post by gregorit » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:59 pm

It's hard to assess balance from the statistics when there are so many mismatches in skill levels. I find that my Germans win half the time simply because my opponent doesn't guard against my getting a space controlled across the Meuse on 12/19 or allows me to rush a high VP unit off the map 12/20 and later. If the Allies stuff me on the Meuse, it's not hard to switch to point hoarding and unit saving mode and just slowly retreat. The only time I think about holding is for Bastogne or when I don't want to sacrifice an 'unfueled' armor that is stuck in the front line.

cosarara
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Re: Play balance

Post by cosarara » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:18 pm

@gregorit : couldn't agree more.
The same happens to me all the time, it's only some terrible combat result that alter this course of events.

rbeyma
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Re: Play balance

Post by rbeyma » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:06 pm

@nkarp:

Yes a bidding system would be great! Its really easy to bid VPs and starting the Germans at -3 or -4 would help balance the game significantly. I feel like I can win almost all the time as the Germans but its tough as the Americans. Maybe my American play just needs some help. :D

daviddunham
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Re: Play balance

Post by daviddunham » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:37 pm

cosarara wrote:All things considered the AI is pityful and beatable on your very first game.
For some values of “you.” It clearly could be more challenging for many players, but others are taking a while to master it.
cosarara wrote:I agree with the first post, Germans have the edge among experienced players and not a little one.
It takes luck and skill for the Allies to win the scenario if the German player plan in advance to win on points.
I dare say that allies are down to 20-25%.
Oddly, I am having the opposite discussion with someone now, who says that the Germans have a hard time of it. And, I just beat him pretty easily despite the fact that he was the German player and was intending to win on points.

So while I have not had time to slice & dice the stats, I am not convinced that there is a big disparity between the sides.

gregorit
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Re: Play balance

Post by gregorit » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:48 pm

I suspect the final arbitrator of 'balance' will be a series of blinded matches between those with opposing viewpoints. Anecdotal comments and summary level statistics are interesting but I'm not sure they are definitive given that the game is three weeks old. Let's get those leaderboards and detailed historical game stats up! I'd love to get an ELO system in place but, from personal experience, I know that's not trivial.

daviddunham
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Re: Play balance

Post by daviddunham » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:19 pm

I’d love to do more analysis of the raw data (missing my copy of Tableau from my last job!), but when I see over 48000 completed games in the last week alone, I’m willing to call that statistically significant. And probably large enough to balance out novice/expert differences.

It would indeed be nice to have better in-game stats and matching, but I would have to agree it’s not trivial.

Benbos
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Re: Play balance

Post by Benbos » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:38 pm

Just quiting games now with the Allies.

There is simply nothing you can do in the first day against a veteran German player. Just played a game against that Beyma guy. Your units are simply wiped of the map or are pushed north (that's not even a retreat).

When you play the mech unit in the north, the German pushes his Inf in the south, blocking the Mech US unit to Bastogne.

So that's it really' you can make exactly 2 moves with the US boys and the rest is passes. By the time you are in the third turn of day 2 it's over with some average DR. Big wide 3 way zone opened up and Bastogne lost, germans will get their reinforcements and then it is to him to decide if he pushes for a quick win or plays it safe and will win by defending.

No fun. Just downgraded the game from 10 to 4. A pity, it all looked so promising.

Balance is simply not there, unless you are playing a noob German player, nor is there any historical recreation.

Like I said, a veteran German player with some decent DR can simply not be stopped. He'll reach the Meuse by default. After that it is the German player who decides the play. Allies can only watch and pass in their first 10 moves.

So now that I played the game a dozen times: the game sucks. Your stats will change in just few weeks time: Axis will win unless complete bad DR's in the first day.

Sad. This should have been better play tested. Back to Ardennes 44 and Vassal.

Missed opportunity.

gregorit
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Re: Play balance

Post by gregorit » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:10 am

You need to play some more experienced Allied players, Ben. The Allies are hampered by the 'unsupplied victory' threat but even with that, it's not THAT lopsided. Match me on GC and I should give you a decent fight as the Allies, I'd minimally expect to take it into 12/24.

s_Uberskooper
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Re: Play balance

Post by s_Uberskooper » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:03 am

I was just thinking about this exact issue recently. I played several games recently, both as the Allies and the Axis, in which either I or my opponent ground it out through victory points in a fairly conservative game. In one game, playing as the Allies, I pushed the Axis back to their starting territories. My opponent was clever and kept retreating her damaged units behind her lines while holding the bridges so I couldn't move through in force. In the end I lost by 2 or 3 points but I felt like I should have won. I wish I saved a screenshot to show you folks.

This is just one game of course and could be an anomaly. I feel like the problem could easily be solved by increasing the Axis win ceiling by a few points. It's hard to say how many though.

Incidentally, I think the developers can investigate "balance" empirically pretty easily. Hard numbers are, in my opinion, better than endless rhetorical arguments that usually involve a lot of "yea, but..."

You can model the whole thing as a liner regression equation. Have the raw wins of a side (Allied/Axis) as one variable. You can control for player skill by entering the win percentage or ELO score for your population of players as another variable. If the side someone chose is still statistically significant after controlling for player skill, you've got bias. It's not perfect but it would go a long way towards letting you know if the game needs to be adjusted. I would be happy to run the numbers for you if you have them.

cosarara
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Re: Play balance

Post by cosarara » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:23 pm

daviddunham wrote:
I’d love to do more analysis of the raw data (missing my copy of Tableau from my last job!), but when I see over 48000 completed games in the last week alone, I’m willing to call that statistically significant. And probably large enough to balance out novice/expert differences
You know that a really big chunck of those games are "race to the Meuse" scenarios.
Give me the Battle of the Bulge scenario data and I call them significant even if they are 5.000 games.

Anyway it takes some time in order for "perfect strategies" to be widely known.
I don't have my ipad with me, but I got 20+ completed games (Battle of the Bulge scenario of course) under my belt and 15+ going.

my 2 c.

daviddunham
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Re: Play balance

Post by daviddunham » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:31 pm

Again, I don’t have the tools/time to really do a great analysis, but last week, about 51% of the games are the full “Battle of the Bulge” scenario.

rddfxx
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Re: Play balance

Post by rddfxx » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:58 pm

Lately I've been playing mostly Axis. I think it takes a number of games for the Axis player to figure out the scoring system. In my case, early focus on solitaire vs the AI and the RttM scenario really throws off your understanding of the real game, which IMHO is the campaign scenario on GC vs human opponents. I just lost a very exciting game, I played the Allies and got nipped by a point or two, generally because desperate attacks were generating a generous number of VPs for both sides, thus not making up ground (one step forward, two back, then vice versa). Still not sure where the balance lies yet, but I used to think the Axis was a tough go, but not so now. Certainly, any small error by the Allied player may cause a catastrophe, whereas the same is not true for the Axis.

cosarara
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Re: Play balance

Post by cosarara » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:24 pm

rddfxx wrote: any small error by the Allied player may cause a catastrophe, whereas the same is not true for the Axis.
I agree.

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