Visions in the Flames: Abilities and Adjustments in Update 1.5

We continue our look into the upcoming 1.5 changes with a split topic today: one part unit adjustments and one part core rules. We’ll begin with exploring one of what we consider the “major” rules revisions taking place in the new update.

We specifically used some “quotations” there because, while this is impactful in the volume of things it effects, we also believe the overall level of change it creates isn’t the most impactful when it comes to the core rules. Sounds contradictory and complicated? Nah! Let’s break it down:

ABILITIES AND YOU

Yes, this change has to do specifically with Abilities and what impacts them. In the current rule-set there is a distinction over Abilities, Attachment Abilities, Abilities from NCUs, and specifically how all those mesh together and interact. Attachments grant Abilities to the unit, so can NCUs, and Combat Units have their printed Abilities. Its all relatively simple, but then gets muddied when you begin utilizing things that turn off/cancel Abilities. While fundamentally this isn’t a major issue, as the cards specify just what they do/don’t turn off, that fact also meant that a player had to specifically pay attention to all text, because Card A might be similar, but different enough, from Card B. Again, nothing wrong with this, but it does add extra steps and spot-checking on these cards that can drag things down. In some cases as well it could be overly ambiguous as to just what “scope” of Abilities a card could affect.

In 1.5 we took a look at streamlining this process and, in doing so, just how much of an impact it would have on the overall - a process that every change in 1.5 went through. It’s not just about “how easy would this change be to implement?” but “what are the far-reaching/ripple effects of this change?” that had to be considered as well. Given that, the change we implemented was as follows:

ABILITY CANCELLING IN 1.5

Sometimes an Ability or effect will remove Abilities from a Unit. When this happens, the unit loses the effects of all non-Innate Abilities printed on their card, as well as Abilities and effects from any Attachments on the unit. Removing a unit’s Abilities will have no effect on Abilities/Effects granted by NCU or Tactics Cards unless specifically mentioned.

In the current ruleset, as we mentioned above, cards needed to be exceedingly specific in just what they cancelled, e.g. a card could cancel a Combat Unit’s Abilities, but it would leave their Attachment’s Abilities on. There were also cases where cards could “attach” to a Combat Unit, granting effects, but were not considered Abilities unto themselves (such as Night’s Watch Vows). Further still, sometimes a Tactics Card could grant a unit Abilities, and sometimes it merely created an effect tied to the unit (the cards that specifically added Abilities stating as such - Rattleshirt’s Tactics Cards, as an example).

Now that is a concept of the past (or rather, will be) as now its very cut-and-dry as to what can and cannot be removed: If the Ability originates from the unit itself, or an Attachment on the unit, effects that remove the unit’s Abilities remove all of it. Meanwhile, Abilities/Effects from “attached” cards (such as Night’s Watch Vows), NCU Influence Abilities, Tactics Cards (such as Northern Ferocity granting Sundering) are completely unaffected unless specifically called out by the effect (Paid Mutiny, for example).

The pendulum for this balance does swing two ways: It makes cancellation effects a bit stronger versus Attachments, but it also decreases its overall effectiveness in relation to card-play. This means that you can utilize a level of predictive cancellation, but there are still other factors to consider- its not blanket, and will require analyzing the situation more. It also rewards players for knowing just what their opponent is capable of and planning for such things as well.

So there is our discussion about one of the core rules updates. Overall, its a brief explanation, but its importance can be seen by those familiar with the game. For those with less familiarity, it should lead to an overall more streamlined experience moving forward.

Alright, that being said, let’s now move on to a specific Combat Unit update that we’re sure is a top contender to “shake things up”:

OUR BLADES ARE SHARP

We decided to give special spotlight to this change because, out of all the adjustments and changes to units, this one is one of our top contenders for community discussion. We know that there will be a decent number who look at the above and go “Flayed Men were OP! I knew it! Serves them right!” but… Well, the actual reasons for this change are a bit more complicated than that.

Flayed Men created a bit of a strange situation when it came to the game overall, and not in the way you might think. The decisions to change these guys essentially came down to two points: The first was what a game-wide access to a 2+ Defense Cavalry caused. This was not so much from a raw “balance” perspective but the homogeny that it caused across factions - Neutral choices should be there to supplement existing options within an army, not be a direct competitor to them. Being that a 2+ save was exceedingly attractive, this often overshadowed other choices, since it was a unique aspect not available to most armies. While yes, Neutrals should include alternative options compared to inter-army choices, it shouldn’t be relegated to “these guys have the best Defense Save in the game”. It should be more on their themes of Panic manipulation.

By moving them to a 3+ Defense save, in line with most other “heavy cavalry” options, their focus shifts more to their actual abilities - a.k.a. the aforementioned Panic manipulation. In that regard, however, we felt they could use some improvement as well, specifically in functioning more… Well, like Cavalry. For this, we removed Spread Fear and in turn replaced it with Ferocious Assault, putting more of a focus on their charges than being in prolonged engagements. Of course, they still retain their ability to do so via the nature of their War Flails (as compared to a fully-devoted Charge weapon, a.k.a. Lances).

The second, and much more technical reason, for this change was actually due to compiled gameplay and tournament data, which ties into the first point. Analyzing compiled tournament data, a unique trend was seen: most high-level lists, those that would routinely place 4th or higher, consistently featured exactly 0 Flayed Men. Not to say they weren’t seen, just on average a higher-placing list did not contain them. Conversely, there was an extreme trend that, in the lowest performing lists, you would routinely see 2+ units of Flayed Men.

So what does that mean? Well, it gets back to a fundamental “issue” with the nature of the unit: they were an extreme point investment, but also generated a sort of “safety net” for players. What we mean by that is, if a player knew how to deal with the Flayed Men, they often became dead-weight and/or a points-sink for their owner. Meanwhile, if a player didn’t know how to deal with the unit they could determine the game all on their own. Both these cases though caused two things to happen: it forced the opponent to find/know the solution to the problem, rather than the player properly utilized the unit and implemented superior strategy/tactics. Bluntly, a player could be overly reckless with them and still come out ahead if their opponent didn’t know how to capitalize on that. And while that can be true of many units, it was exasperated by the tankiness of the unit in question.

Ok! With all that being said, we couldn’t just nerf these guys and keep them at 10 points, so they did receive a points reduction to 9. While it may not seem like much (fully noting that, from raw stats-and-abilities perspective, they were “a strong 10 points” already), it does place them right where we want them in terms of power-level-to-cost, for what they offer to all factions, as well as internally to the Neutrals.

And that’s what we have to say today, players! The march to 1.5 continues, and we move ever closer!

Visions in the Flames: Abilities and Adjustments in Update 1.5

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