Monday, September 28, 2009

[ 06 / 28 / 05 ] I see silver people...

Get out your pencils, class, because today's I'm going to make the trip all the way from a bit of artistic snobbery all the way to substantive discussion of the Balanced-TR system without even the slightest hint of non-sequitor.

Please keep your brain inside the ride at all times.


I hate playing against unpainted teams. Given my choice between winning the game and seeing 22 painted miniatures on the table, I'll take pigment every time. Maybe I'm just missing the point here, but aren't the toy soldiers the point of this hobby?

Let's be honest with ourselves for just a moment, ok, the game itself blows goats. I can think of at least ten board games available right now down the corner at wal-mart (all probably manufactured by child slave labor!) which are more enjoyable, better designed, and more interesting than Bloodbowl. The game is unbalanced, overly-complicated, inconsistent, and essentially flawed. Why the hell do we even bother playing it?

We play it because it looks cool. We were all drawn to Bloodbowl by the aesthetics, by the concept, by the intangible groove of it. The box art piqued our interest and the miniatures sealed our fate. This game has really cool miniatures (even those rather unfortunate 3e Morley pieces). I tolerate a lot to have an excuse to collect, sculpt, paint, and admire Bloodbowl miniatures - but someone sitting across the table from me reducing my experience out of simple laziness is not one those things (for the record, those things are crap rules, annoying opponents, and trafe on the pizza).

Seriously, even the most ham-fisted (speaking of trafe) layabout can slap down enough paint to meet tournament standards, not doing so is essentially nothing more than a passive-aggressive and anti-social failure to uphold your end of the social contract. When one participates in the toy soldier hobby, one agrees to a few unwritten rules of the community, and anyone not complying with these rules will be treated to even greater levels of awkward introvert scorn than the rest.

Rule #3 - Bathe.

Rule #2 - Make sure no one is a vegetarian or has other dietary restrictions (like not eating pork, damnit) before ordering the pizza.

Rule #1 - paint your miniatures.

Now, anytime someone breaks any of these rules, they impact their fellow hobbyists' ability to enjoy their afternoon, and since some of us only get out on odd weekends, that is simply unacceptable. Furthermore, the other gamers will talk about you behind your back, and we are very catty and petty about these things (If you need help with this, ask the guy with a girlfriend for pointers).

Funny thing is, Hobby Rule #1 and Phil's Rule #1 intersect nicely. To recap, Phil's Rule #1 says, "The game is supposed to be fun." Now, I'm not saying that you absolutely cannot have fun while forced to sit across the table from someone reeking of their own filth and shoveling piece after piece of swine lover's pizza down their maw while shoving silver miniatures around the pitch, but I am saying it is a hell of a lot easier to have fun when you don't.

But this is a hobby after all, and it is not always easy to get people to do something difficult when nothing other than the undying scorn of people who still live with their parents is on the line, so the truth is that peer pressure and Rousseau-tinged civic responsibility simply aren't enough, you need to hit them where it hurts, make it a rule.

No, no, you can't get away with just making a rule as brief and trite as "You must paint your miniatures. period." because no one will really be moved by it and it's a little impractical anyway. You must lead the horse to water - then catheterize him!

Don 't tell the bum that they can't play unpainted figures, he'll either quit the league or test your resolve - and you'll get nothing good from either outcome - tell him his team's TR cap is 145 until he meets the painting guidelines.


The sublime subtlety of it, I almost want to cry.

The painting rules I recommend are as follows - a coach is exempt from the painting guidelines with a team for the first three matches that side plays. Thereafter, if the minimum requisite of 11 miniatures painted with at least three colors and obvious effort is not met, then the team's TR threshold is reduced by 5 points until such time as the requirements are met.

The beauty is that it really isn't that big of a deal, but it'll bug the shit out of anyone who shows up with little silver men. Even in the contrived parity of the balanced-TR system, a team down 5 points will still be essentially as competitive as those still at the usual threshold, but psychologically, the impact of being a) systemically penalized and b) a perceived underdog will be sufficient to get brushes going where once they were idle.

it 's a good thing.

Now, about those table manners...

As long as I'm already on the topic of getting all soft on the "Hard Cap" I might as well delve into a related notion, cap movement.

One of the most tiringly constant complaints about the balanced-TR system is the fact that it 'doesn't allow for advancement' over time. While this is ultimately an argument which I find short-sighted and incorrect, I do at least appreciate the psychological impact of moving those numbers up and down (see my rationale for the painting rule, after all). Thus, I am toying with an idea about which I really would like some feedback from you, the readers of questionable sanity who bother to get this far into one of my rambling diatribes - namely, allowing for some TR-threshold variation based on Fan Factor level.

Recall that in the Balanced-TR system, FF is never purchased, it is earned and all teams start at (and cannot go below) 1. With all other rules for gaining and losing Fan Factor left alone (for now anyway), I would like to consider the idea of allowing teams a +5 TR bonus for every full ten fan factor. This variable cap would adjust immediately following a game, and would go down should a team's FF ever drift backward sufficiently.

This system would allow for a tangible benefit to longevity and success. While the FF system is a bit random, the overall trend does favor teams that win, and teams that stick it out for very long periods almost cannot help but gain some. That said, the best of fan factors rarely get out of the twenties with the '-1 per 10' rule in place. Thus, we are really looking at a realistic 10 point variance in threshold favoring older and more successful teams. This range is not fully within the spirit of the balance the system seeks to enforce, but it is never insurmountable in a match either. Even an average coach is not going to find the prospect of being 10 TR down, even to a veteran squad, overly prone to creating a diminished day of gaming, and yet, the aged veterans can still feel like they got somewhere at the end of the day. It is tightly controlled advancement, true to the nature, if not religiously steadfast to the overall scheme of Balanced-TR, and it may catch a few more flies than the vinegar has to d _

I might put a clause in about the bathing too.