file Balancing Ashur Tablets

23 Jul 2014 20:56 - 23 Jul 2014 20:57 #63956 by AaronC
Replied by AaronC on topic Re: Balancing Ashur Tablets

What I am saying is that managing a finite resource (a library of cards) is a core component of the game. In as much as managing the finite resource of 30 pool is a core component of the game. VTES is also a game about making sure you're the last car to run out of petrol rather than the first car over the line. You only have to ensure you are still going when every other player is not... so resource advantages are big. This is the complaint against Giant's Blood (creating large swing in resources) and Pentex (effectively removing large amounts of resource).


This is an eloquent way to say what many players agree with.

Maybe it's because I'm inclined to be on your side, but your arguments against Ashurs have certainly seemed stronger than others' arguments in favor. Huge resource gains are questionable. Getting free access to many cards in your ash heap is questionable. The conversation veered to VC, which is also questionable.

It just sometimes feels like some people's reaction is: since it's been printed and I am familiar with it, it is balanced.
Last edit: 23 Jul 2014 20:57 by AaronC.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Juggernaut1981, TryDeflectingThisGrapple

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23 Jul 2014 21:59 #63957 by Juggernaut1981

What I am saying is that managing a finite resource (a library of cards) is a core component of the game. In as much as managing the finite resource of 30 pool is a core component of the game. VTES is also a game about making sure you're the last car to run out of petrol rather than the first car over the line. You only have to ensure you are still going when every other player is not... so resource advantages are big. This is the complaint against Giant's Blood (creating large swing in resources) and Pentex (effectively removing large amounts of resource).


This is an eloquent way to say what many players agree with.

Maybe it's because I'm inclined to be on your side, but your arguments against Ashurs have certainly seemed stronger than others' arguments in favor. Huge resource gains are questionable. Getting free access to many cards in your ash heap is questionable. The conversation veered to VC, which is also questionable.

It just sometimes feels like some people's reaction is: since it's been printed and I am familiar with it, it is balanced.


I'd love to take credit, but really it is what I've gotten from hearing Darby and ICL talk about VTES for a while. Plus other debates with Ben Peal and more recently Peter Rophail have convinced me that VTES is not necessarily about crushing all your foes like a tabletop wargame or Monopoly, but ensuring that you are the last one standing and you took others out on the way there.

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24 Jul 2014 00:50 #63958 by AaronC
Replied by AaronC on topic Re: Balancing Ashur Tablets
Perhaps the debate then becomes "Should VTES be a game with huge swings in resources?" If the answer is 'No', then it's hard to argue that cards such as Ashur's Tablets aren't unbalanced. Also included in the list would be the perennial debate targets Giant's Blood and Pentex Subversion, and certainly Voter Captivation (and maybe Autarkis/Con Boon?).

Your insight (or Darby's or ICL's) creates a good framework with which to judge card design. Ian (ICL) here voiced again his perennial criticism of VTES that the presence of uber cards means that very good cards see much less play.

Maybe VTES should be a game that makes huge swings in resources really hard to pull off. "A huge swing" would also include effects that allowed you to easily get around the uncertainty of what you were going to draw next.

That premise would imply that many of the cards we've just been talking about could be or should be changed to make them less good or harder to play. It would also mean admitting that some the popular cards currently in circulation have desiign flaws.

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24 Jul 2014 13:24 #63992 by Jeff Kuta

Perhaps the debate then becomes "Should VTES be a game with huge swings in resources?" If the answer is 'No', then it's hard to argue that cards such as Ashur's Tablets aren't unbalanced.


The retort is "Should VTES be a game with powerful cards?" That answer to that must be "Yes" or else the appeal of the game would be greatly diminished.

There is only so much design space if you limit yourself to effects that provide a bonus of 1 or 2 per card. People complain all the time about the disciplines and clans "losing their identity" as they are granted effects that replicate something another discipline does. Giving Thaumaturgy some damage prevention with Rego Motus wasn't the end of the world. There are many other examples where people fretted about this or that with every expansion.

But if there are to be powerful cards, some of them must have inherent risks associated with playing them. Ashur Tablets has a very big one built in. You can be totally screwed over if you lose the race to pop them. It is balanced by it being self-limiting. The main problem with Ashur Tablets is that KoT wasn't a big enough print run (could have easily been 2x as large), and now many printed common cards are effectively super rare and expensive.

If you want to really see how balanced or imbalanced Ashur Tablets are, play them in *every* deck. I use 6 of them in 95% of my decks, and all of my decks have 66 or fewer cards. I only own 6, but we allow proxies in casual play, and Ascendance is a good proxy card for AT.

It's obvious that I think the risk of playing with Ashur Tablets is well worth the reward. But many, many other people don't. Maybe they fear MMPA decks. Maybe they play 90 card decks so the random factor is too much for them. Maybe they don't proxy. Who knows? I think most likely the cost ($50+ per Tablet now) is prohibitive, and I also think this kind of anti-Mr.Suitcase sentiment is a subtext that isn't acknowledged with respect to expensive power cards. I know I wish I could afford to buy 3x Enkil Cog for all my large-cap decks.

Back to huge swings...
IMO the effect you get for 3 successful Master phase actions (no Sudden Reversal or Washes) and no "contesting" of Ashur Tablets is not a huge swing. As a thought experiment, consider this hypothetical card:

Tablet
Master.
Remove this card from the game as it is played. Gain 1 pool and move up to X cards from your ash heap to your library. Shuffle afterward.

What is the appropriate value of "X"?

When you are anvil, be patient; when a hammer, strike.
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24 Jul 2014 13:43 #63993 by cordovader

Perhaps the debate then becomes "Should VTES be a game with huge swings in resources?" If the answer is 'No', then it's hard to argue that cards such as Ashur's Tablets aren't unbalanced.


The retort is "Should VTES be a game with powerful cards?" That answer to that must be "Yes" or else the appeal of the game would be greatly diminished.

There is only so much design space if you limit yourself to effects that provide a bonus of 1 or 2 per card. People complain all the time about the disciplines and clans "losing their identity" as they are granted effects that replicate something another discipline does. Giving Thaumaturgy some damage prevention with Rego Motus wasn't the end of the world. There are many other examples where people fretted about this or that with every expansion.

But if there are to be powerful cards, some of them must have inherent risks associated with playing them. Ashur Tablets has a very big one built in. You can be totally screwed over if you lose the race to pop them. It is balanced by it being self-limiting. The main problem with Ashur Tablets is that KoT wasn't a big enough print run (could have easily been 2x as large), and now many printed common cards are effectively super rare and expensive.

If you want to really see how balanced or imbalanced Ashur Tablets are, play them in *every* deck. I use 6 of them in 95% of my decks, and all of my decks have 66 or fewer cards. I only own 6, but we allow proxies in casual play, and Ascendance is a good proxy card for AT.

It's obvious that I think the risk of playing with Ashur Tablets is well worth the reward. But many, many other people don't. Maybe they fear MMPA decks. Maybe they play 90 card decks so the random factor is too much for them. Maybe they don't proxy. Who knows? I think most likely the cost ($50+ per Tablet now) is prohibitive, and I also think this kind of anti-Mr.Suitcase sentiment is a subtext that isn't acknowledged with respect to expensive power cards. I know I wish I could afford to buy 3x Enkil Cog for all my large-cap decks.

Back to huge swings...
IMO the effect you get for 3 successful Master phase actions (no Sudden Reversal or Washes) and no "contesting" of Ashur Tablets is not a huge swing. As a thought experiment, consider this hypothetical card:

Tablet
Master.
Remove this card from the game as it is played. Gain 1 pool and move up to X cards from your ash heap to your library. Shuffle afterward.

What is the appropriate value of "X"?


At least 2 cards for it to be useful, but you have to take into account that it has no drawback, son it's way better than AT.

More than 3 cards would be an abuse.

And that said, that wouldn't avoid many decks of playing that card instead of AT for other sideeffects, but most of the decks would play ordinary tablets instead.

And what would you think of a triffle card called "Ashur Tablet Fragments". Same effect as AT, but you need 9 and triffle (or being able to combine it with AT). It would be cool on a new set to balance the fact that AT is not widely available to all players.

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24 Jul 2014 14:10 #63994 by ICL
Replied by ICL on topic Re: Balancing Ashur Tablets
I'd say the reasons Ashur Tablets aren't played more is some combination of:

1. Owning them (lack of).

2. Not realizing how to optimally leverage them.

3. Having other things to do.

4. Not needing them to win.

Obviously, you can with without them. You can win with all sorts of suboptimal stuff.

Now, whether Ashur Tablets are optimal is a function of a particular design. I am inclined to use them when I'm either playing a deck full of one-ofs or a highly redundant deck that blows through lots of cards or a deck like stealth bleed where you want to play with your deck mix during the game.

But, I'm not inclined to play with them hardly at all ... because it's boring to suck up 6/7/9/10/12/13/15 slots on the same card. The idea of playing six in every deck is rather unappealing from an aesthetic viewpoint. Now, sure, Blood Doll used to be a five-of in any deck without Minion Tap and WWEF was a six-of in any deck that reacted, but those cards still exist (well, On the Qui Vive exists, WWEF barely does anymore, which is mind-blowing when you think of how powerful it is), so now it's X cards to do one thing, Y cards to do another thing, Z cards to make "broken" decks. Boring. Deck diversity is an essential element to CCGs.

There are plenty of cards that could be abused more, not just by ownership of those cards, but simply because of the interest in trying to abuse them. In a two-player CCG, it would happen because you have to build the best decks possible to compete. In a multiplayer CCG, you don't need to build the best decks, so people often don't.

V:TES is still playable as a game because it's multiplayer. Every two-player CCG I've played that stopped expanding died. Every multiplayer CCG I've played to any significant level is still quite playable, even one that stopped expanding around a decade ago.

In fact, my problem isn't lack of new cards, it's too many existing cards. Aaron mentions my interest in getting rid of certain power cards. There are reasons to do that, though they aren't straightforward at all and may make a game worse - who knows until you do it? But, anyway, for a game that doesn't expand, one way to change the environment is to remove cards. Remove, say, all events from the current environment and the game won't play quite the same way.

Given just how large the card pool is, there are plenty of things I'd remove, not just from a power standpoint but from an ease of play standpoint to try to bring in new players and not flood them with a bunch of low value mechanics, like Red List, Slave, Scarce, Blood Cursed, Sterile.

Jumping to another point, I have often explained V:TES as a game of small effects ... with exceptions. I could say that I don't mind larger effects from larger efforts, but I don't know that that's true. What's wrong with a game of many interlocking small effects? In general, when I see large effects, I see worse games, whether it was "everyone dies to Return to Innocence" or "I call a vote and burn your vampire" or even just "prevent, Disarm, Decapitate", which is not remotely easy but a potentially massive swing. On the other hand, V:TES goes faster when people lose quicker, so there is an argument for causing people's positions to become suddenly untenable. Complicated stuff because there's no single answer. So many polls or threads are about removing one offending card. I'd like to see a rebuild of the game, weeding out a lot of both "boring power" and worthless junk, try to make the game playable to a new generation.

Shadowfist has kind of tried this with the Modern, non-random set format, but it doesn't seem to have made anyone happy (might help to actually market the Modern format), so there may be no good answer. Fortunately, V:TES is quite playable and arguably far less broken than it has been at other times.

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