Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview for HOP- SinSynn

I wrote a series of articles about designing better games for House of Paincakes over the past 2 months or so. While I was working on the process and developing material for the series, I conducted a good number of interviews with various people across the internet, as well as some real life folks.

Up next, my favorite Xeno-

This guy has a great mind with the ability to create incredible conclusions. I always enjoy talking with the man from another planet; even if his tentacles DO go places they shouldn't! I've got the owner of the Disintegrator Ray ZX3000, SinSynn on tap for you. Warning, we both swear- a LOT.

SinSynn: So I was talking with Ultimate Rival today (is yelling considered talking? Discussing?) about mission design. There's only one mission in FoW where you can deploy yer entire army, and it's only everyone's favorite.

Lo: I saw that

SinSynn: Yeah- it's stupid. I have NO IDEA why Battlefront is gonna release 3rd Ed. without a variation of free-for-all.

Lo: Shrug

SinSynn: The whole 'reserve thing' affects list design horribly. People include 'throwaway platoons,' who will arrive last and contribute NOTHING, just to push their platoon count up to an even number. I don't like this mechanic. Especially since you'll end up playing Free-for-all at every tournament anyway.

Lo: I have a friend that plays Eldar who does an all reserve list every time. I dunno if it works like this in FOW

SinSynn: It's popular with 'Nids, too.

Lo: But there's a surefire way to screw it up

SinSynn: There always is... In FoW, just camp the spot where reserves arrive.

Lo: It's predetermined?

SinSynn: In most scenarios, yes. FoW has a careful balance between Infantry and mech, with the 'Defensive Battle' rule (infantry always defends against tanks). So designing a balanced mission is gonna be interesting. Infantry in the open, not dug in, are TOAST.

Lo: Ok. WHY does infantry defend against tanks? That is just..................dumb

SinSynn: Cuz if they move, tanks MOW THEM DOWN. Tank guys always know they'll be attacking, so they build accordingly.

Lo: Right.

SinSynn: If they bump into another tank list, it's just 'swirling tank battle' time.

Lo: So, there's not artillery battery lists? or..airplanes? or..........engineers with bridgers? lines?

SinSynn: If my infantry lists bumps into another infantry list, we roll off to see who attacks...infantry are REALLY bad at 'attacking,' so it's usually a mess. And yes- there's all of those things in FOW, except supply lines.

Lo: Wow.

SinSynn: Everything from pillboxes, trenches, mines...

Lo: Scouts? Paratroopers?

SinSynn: Yep.

Lo: I'd think someone would come up with a workaround on tanks, ie... bomb them from outer space. It's the only way to be sure.

SinSynn: The recon rules are real recon rules, actually...not lame ass space marine scouts.

Lo: Hey, Hicks was a bad ass space marine!

SinSynn: Artillery is unreliable- you can just spread yer tanks out, minimize the effect. Hicks died horribly. Nice job, Hicks.

Lo: I'm sorry,  I know way too many artillery dudes that can get their shells within a foot of their target for that to fly with me.  Even using old telemetry.

SinSynn: A platoon of guns can only saturate a certain area, kiddo. Command radius in FoW is far enough to avoid artillery hitting multiple tanks....Sorry.. well, except rockets... 'devastating barrage' mechanic... anyway- FoW DESPERATELY needs another 'proper' mission... This town needs a better class of bad guy....and I'm gonna give it to 'em. The FoW forums have a thread for missions. I'm not sure how it's gonna work, yet...I'll hafta see what the restrictions are.

Lo: Well go for it, bro.

SinSynn: That's da plan. I figger if something needs fixing, and no one else is gonna do it... Stupid historical knuckleheads....

Lo: Do it yourself


Lo: Man I hadn't realized there were no supply lines. That's just........dumb. Sorry, I am a woman and I understand men.

SinSynn: The time frame for the game, and the scale, don't call for it.

Lo: Take away their food and things get bad, quick.

SinSynn: You're thinking of a Battalion scale game. This is Company scale....a handfull of platoons. They'll be dead before they need or run outta supplies.

Lo: Ah ok, sorry, I  learned games where supply really, really matters.

SinSynn: I've played a bunch of Board games that use supply lines...

Lo: Advanced Squad Leader which also uses them to good measure.

SinSynn: In FoW, one tank represents one tank...In Battalion level games, one 'piece' usually represents a company.

Lo: True. sorry, I forget.

SinSynn: Like a 'chit' or 'marker.'

Lo: Yep. ASL, the game of a million chits.

SinSynn: So then supply comes into play. the time frame of a battle in FOW is probably about an hour....and then everybody is dead.

Lo: So, Mr. "should consider game design"

SinSynn: Yes, may I help you?

SinSynn: Yes, yes you may...

Lo: Can I ask you some questions for my interview series?

SinSynn: So I can embarrass my overly inflated ego, sure...

Lo: What makes a game (any kind, really) "broken" to you?

SinSynn: Poor balance between the forces that are in the game. That's the worst. Combine that with years between army updates, and you know why I have issues with 40k.

Lo: How does a player determine that there is poor balance just by looking at rules? Or does it take play to understand this?

SinSynn: You won't know until you've played for a while, most likely... I dunno if I could recognize it just from the books....It has a lot to do with unit interaction and stuffs. It takes a while to learn how statlines work and everything looks good when yer new.

Lo: When someone says a game is "terrible", do you ever wonder if they have that opinion because they lose a lot?

SinSynn: Hmmm...I dunno...If I'm being honest, 40k is pretty awful (don't tell anyone I said that), but people love it. I think a lotta gamers don't see the forest for the trees, cuz they're very casual. Yes, people that lose a lot can blame the game, but they should know they're probably running a bad list. 40k is one of the only games I've investigated that has COMPLETELY USELESS army book entries.

Lo: Let's pretend we are not talking 40K some other game. Maybe Sorry? or Chess.

SinSynn: If you're losing constantly at a game like GO...can we use Go? The Chinese checker game? The one with white and black checkers- you know Go, right?

Lo: Yes.

SinSynn: If you're losing constantly in a game with inherent balance, then it's you. Maybe that's not your 'thing,' I don't wanna say that anyone is dumb, but everyone's mind works differently.

Lo: So you feel Go has inherent balance?

SinSynn: It's virtually a perfect 'game'.

The very nearly perfect girl... 

Lo: I wanna hear this. Please go on.

SinSynn: But, like Chess, has that '50/50 chance' of one player going first that can be perceived as unbalanced...'White is OP.' Beyond that, however, Go and Chess have perfect balance. The winner will be determined via pure skill and knowledge of the game mechanics.

Lo: You're talking mechanically, then?

SinSynn: Balance of power would be a better term. Beyond the 'who goes first' issue, each player has the exact same 'army,' so lists do not come into play.
And that 'phase of the game' does not exist (list building/manipulation).

That's balance. The worst thing you'll hafta deal with is having a plan for going first or second.

Lo: But the perfection isn't artistic, or thematic, or emotional. It's just mechanically "perfect", did I understand that right?

SinSynn: Exactly....when those things come into play, balance gets thrown out the window.

Lo: I have one or two games in mind where it doesn't but... that's a long way off in my series.

SinSynn: What are the games? Do they feature disparate forces?

Lo: As almost perfect games all the way around. Magic being #1

SinSynn: I gotta I can play them... Oh...card games.

I have my doubts about Magic, though.

Doesn't Magic have 'power decks'?

Lo: It CAN.

SinSynn: Hard to come by cards that are ultra powerful?

Lo: Yes again. my premise on how it's "almost perfect" is as such

SinSynn: I don't think balancing a game with 'Rare' cards is good balance...

Lo: Art- there is no game in the world that compares to the pure talent that is hired to do the art.

SinSynn: Art is just pretty pictures and does not affect balance.

Very pretty. 

Lo: mechanics- the mechanics are intentionally built so that every option has a counter and the game is inherently built to have randomizers into it

SinSynn: then you're into 'rock paper scissors' territory, and that's bad. Can I use chess as an example for a minute?

Lo: look you asked and I am using the criteria I set out in my first article

SinSynn: What's the most powerful piece on a chessboard?

Lo: tone/setting- can be anything you like, based on what you put into it.
emotional connection - this is where it's a little weak, but you have to admit either you love it or you hate it

Chess: I know what I am supposed to think is the answer but i dont play that way

SinSynn: Of course- it's the Queen. How does chess BALANCE the queen?
It doesn't. You have to trap her. Sacrifice a piece, whatever.

Lo: Well, by putting other stuff in the way- you cant just whip her out, no.

SinSynn: There is no COUNTER to the queen. no 'rock paper scissors' to the queen. except another queen, and that's balance.

Lo: I'm not sure I agree but I see your point.

SinSynn: I'm just saying- with a game like Magic, when a new, powerful thing is introduced, they're obligated to have a Counter for it... cuz Magic is huge.
and they keep introducing new stuff. So I'm sure balance is a difficult issue at that point. and they fall back on tropes like 'rock paper scissors.' Which I think is a poor substitute. *shruG* kinda like an 'easy way out' You want to introduce cool, powerful stuffs. But when you 'introduce' that stuffs, everything that came before gets 'thrown off' a bit.


  1. I dunno, I think the man-beast-tentacle-thing has a point in re: Magic. The game is less a feat of balance and more a feat of constantly adjusting imbalance to keep the sales up. That it is at times an enjoyable game is largely testament to that job's being done well.

  2. to an extent, there's a lot of truth to SinSynn's M:tg complaints on a macro level. But only if you're looking at Vintage and Legacy formats. Hands down, those two formats are the most reliant to how much money you have and how broken a combo you can make. Unfortunately, two turn wins and the existence of $1000 cards are the reasons everyone is aware of these formats and nothing else.

    But in the wider world of M:tG tournaments, there's a whole lot more going on than the there is with the low hanging counter arguments of Vintage and Legacy. there are just so many more ways to play and interact with the game.

    I'm with Lo when she says M:tg is the closest thing to a perfect game.

  3. That was pretty dynamic, and more than any other post has me interested in finding out how FoW actually works. It's great being along for the ride with this series, and I love how the thing ranges around and has so many different tones.