Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When roleplay gets in the way of rollplay

I was talking with Wendy today about Blood Bowl and the various strategies one needs to employ to play at maximum efficiency.  One of those strategies is planning when to score a touchdown.  Unlike in real football where any time you can get a touchdown you take it there are definitely times when you don't want to score in BB.  For example, if the opposing team takes a minimum of 3 turns to score a touchdown you want to score with only 2 turns left in the half so that they cannot get a touchdown in return.  There is a big incentive to hold on to the ball in that situation so that you guarantee you score the last touchdown of the half.  Holding on to the ball and not scoring has its risks of course because your ball carrier might get taken down but it is a risk you can manage.

Wendy thought this wasn't a very good mechanic because it really went counter to the basic idea of football where you always want to take any opportunity to score.  I see that point of view and agree with it to some extent - having the optimal strategies of the game feel like they match the 'roleplaying' strategies of the game is an important goal.  However, in this case I feel like it isn't a big problem because holding on to the ball is risky and usually I just score as fast as I can.  There existing some situations where I don't score right away is fine as it offers some deeper strategy for those who are willing to think that far ahead.  If the entire game revolved around never scoring and just holding the ball until the last turn I think I would have a problem with it but it isn't that extreme.

One problem that is a lot more serious is Fan Factor.  Each football team has a FF rating that inflates the team's overall ranking (which measures their power and effectiveness) but which doesn't help them win.  Teams who have high FF end up having a much higher ranking than is appropriate and thus their matches will tend to be lopsided if they face teams with low FF but with similar ranking.  The real crux of the issue is that some teams will concede matches to each other which artificially reduces their FF.  This could certainly be solved by reducing the amount of influence FF has on team ranking in online matches but I doubt that will happen; realistically it is up to each group of players in a league to police that sort of behaviour on their own.

I totally get why FF is there and it makes sense of a roleplaying perspective but the numbers don't work very well.  Having a measure of how popular a team is with the bloodthirsty fans is a fine thing indeed until it starts to make matches unfair.  This isn't unique in BB to be sure as it is a tremendously fun game but has lots of problems with the math behind the scenes.  Games Workshop tends to do that a lot in my experience.  Those guys really need to hire me to fix the numbers for them.


  1. NFL player declining to score to prevent the other team from getting the ball:

  2. Fine, fine, it can happen. :) Not nearly as often as in BB obviously but managing the clock is a real thing in the NFL.

  3. It seems to come up more often in Blood Bowl, but that's because a Blood Bowl game has 8 plays per half and an NFL game has more like 65. So there are so many more plays in an NFL game that aren't near the end of a half so it's less obvious that stalling in an NFL game will help you instead of hurt you. (Are you really denying your opponent a drive if you stall on play 6 or are you denying yourself a drive?)

    But clock management is actually a real thing in NFL games, and being bad at it does lose games and get coaches fired.

    The problem with FF is it's a balancing mechanism. It's in there to punish teams that win games. It's a bad thing to have on your team, and persistent teams have to keep it. We tried to get the league rules set up such that games would be fair by everyone being around the same TV. The people now complaining about forfeiting away FF are the same people who were steadfastly against letting new teams come in even footing. They think they should get to win games by sole virtue of having played in the previous season and others of us strongly disagreed with that point of view. So new teams had to come in under leveled but were allowed to throw away the terrible FF. It was a compromise at the time that no one was terribly happy with.

  4. Basketball actually had to implement a shot clock because teams would get a small lead and then just play keep away for the rest of the game.

  5. I have not played BB for quite a while (and I think it was 4th edition), but didn't FF increase your winnings, and give you bonuses on the funky events table roll?

    Besides if your rating becomes a problem you can burn your cash on team re-rolls, which basically halves the TV to money won ration.

  6. FYI for Peke:
    Fan factor does do things, it just doesn't do nearly enough for the amount it inflates your team value. If you wanted fan factor to be ok to have, you'd probably have to put it's value at something like half the TV it currently is. Maybe 1/3rd.

    Money is only counted towards rating when you join a league, and if you wanted to burn money you can buy cheerleaders and then immediately fire them.

  7. If you want to know what fan factor really does, check out Nick's blog post on the subject (just click through his name above). It's a "good" thing that doesn't help you win games.

    I have to imagine, Sky, that your and Wendy's experience with football is more of the, "hey, let's play some football" than of the analysis of professional football games variety. Clock management is always big, and football has a clock to get set up on the field just like basketball has a clock for a shot. In bloodbowl the only way to manage the clock is to run circles on the field during a play, which is not something that you would see in the NFL, but the basic idea that at any given game state time is on the side of one team is there and they use it.

  8. In older versions of the rules FF had a bigger impact on money earned and (I think) on the special events. It used to be every team had to buy max fan factor because fan factor was worth so much money every game. That's no longer the case. Even if I have 18 FF the most money I can get at the end of a game is 20k (while the 18 FF is costing me 180k in team value). And that's a best case scenario. Even with 18 FF it's possible I'll end up making no extra money at all.