Sideboard ideas (long)

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Moraturi
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Sideboard ideas (long)

From the other discussion, I started playing with some ideas for doing sideboards and wrote the following:

So I started thinking about how to build sideboards for DDM warbands. I looked over my list of warbands and tried to figure out how I would actually optimize a sideboard, instead of just switching out creatures for no immediate reason. Any sideboard should have a justifiable reason for making the switch in order to make a warband better, not just different. As it turns out, it isn’t so much what the warband is, as it is the concept of what you want the warband to do. Essentially, a sideboard boils down to a single choice between which of two warband variants do you want to run. If anyone can show a way a sideboard can run 3 or more meaningful variants in under 50 points, I would be interested.

All of what follows assumes a 200 point format using 50 points of sideboard. That is, you start with a total of 250 points and build down to 200. You will have a “core” warband of 150 points and one of two 50 point options to move around (one set of up to 50 points will start along with the core and one set of 50 points is the sideboard). There are a few ways to do this in the execution/timing, but they come down to essentially the same thing in terms of warband building.

As it turns out, this becomes the choice between one of two warbands that you bring to the table which share a core set of creatures. It is highly unlikely to build a sideboard such that you have 3 variant warband builds available. You essentially have one of two builds that you could play.

There is no point in switching out a Farmer (3 pts) for a Goblin Warrior (3 pts) as they both have the same points and fill the same basic role. That “choice” is already determined by the type of warband you have in your “core”. Likewise the difference between the Oni (38 pts) and a Skullcleave Warrior (39 pts) or the Thrall of Blackrazor (43 pts) is negligible for sideboard purposes. All three fill the melee hitter role in a warband. Changing one out for another doesn’t really change the warband all that much, and given the points, would use up pretty much all of the sideboard.

What a sideboard needs is a way to change the overall strategy of the warband as much as possible. For example, you could switch primarily melee creatures for creatures using ranged attacks, or you could switch offensive tech for defensive tech, or you could switch higher activations using weaker creatures for fewer but stronger creatures, etc. By its very nature sideboarding becomes an exercise in looking through alternate tech/support for a warband. Switching out one ranged attacker for a comparably costed ranged attacker has no tangible benefit. An obvious exception would be if your sideboard contained specific “hate” creatures like, for example, the Dwarf Artificer against constructs. If you don’t face constructs, he stays in the sideboard. Another example would be the Human Dragonslayer against dragons. If you don’t face dragons, he stays in the sideboard (both of these would be a waste of sideboard points in my opinion, as they are too narrowly targeted against specific threats you may not face).

As I was going through different warbands, it occurred to me that I wasn’t really looking at different warband builds, but rather I was looking for specific creatures in comparable point ranges that did entirely different things in a warband. A very good example in the Civilization faction would be changing a Warhorse (16 pts) which brings mobility, increased thereat ranges, and more melee for a creature like the Delver Sergeant (15 pts) which brings anti-invisibility tech and extra Champion powers. If you are facing an opponent with creatures that have Conceal on a map with lots of difficult terrain, you choose Sergeant. On a clear map against an opponent with no way to have Concealed creatures, you choose Warhorse.

I looked through some of my warband lists and pulled out multiple variants of some builds that have been used. For a number of them, while there may be a dozen or more popular variations, there were not many ways to effectively sideboard meaningfully. Most were the same build with minor variations based on preferences rather than optimizing against a potential opponent. Here are a couple of examples of core bands and some possible sideboard options and strategies based on what you might face.

Crusader warband (Wild), the core:
Divine Crusader of Corellon (Ang 79), Bralani Eladrin (BW 35) x2, Elf Warrior (Abr 4)
(total 153 points, 4 acts)

1st option:
Bralani Eladrin (BW 35), Elf Warrior (Abr 4) x3 (47 points, 4 more acts)
This option provides more of the same basic tactics of the core by adding another Bralani.

2nd option:
Celestial Pegasus (Ang 32), Kenku Sneak (DKn 6) x2, Gnoll (Har-Abr 3, 4 more acts)
This option provides more defense (usually for the Crusader) and Flight if you need it on some maps, as well as Hide on your Fodder to protect against ranged threats.

Dispater warband (Underdark), the core:
Dispater, Iron Duke of Hell (LoM 77), Duergar Cleric of Asmodeus (LE 48), Duergar Guard (LE 19), Skeletal Archer (Ang 5) (total 149 points, 4 acts)

1st option:
Shadar Kai Witch (LoM 26), Duergar Guard (LE 19), Skeletal Archer (Ang 5) (50 points, 3 more acts)
This option provides obvious protection for you warband from ranged threats.

2nd option:
Legion Devil Legionnaire (SE 18) x2, Infernal Armor (DW 7) x2 (50 points, 4 more acts)
This option provides more offensive melee output, and your fodder has better Defenses.

3rd option:
Legion Devil Legionnaire (SE 18), Grinning Imp (DW 9) x2, Infernal Armor (DW 7) x2 (50 points, 5 more acts)
This is basically the same as the second option but has more maneuverability (Flight) and 1 more act.
While I have listed 3 possible options here, you could only bring any two of them to a given tournament, probably either 1 and 2, or 1 and 3. 2 and 3 are too similar to be useful as alternates for each other.

I guess the key point here is that a good sideboard would have to contain one (or a couple) of specific creature choices that would work best against the main metagame you expect.

I hope that this has been useful.

Ira
Ira's picture

Wow! You are awesome, Moraturi. This is a thoughtful, interesting analysis. Thanks for posting.

Moraturi wrote:
(both of these {anti-dragon, anti-construct} would be a waste of sideboard points in my opinion, as they are too narrowly targeted against specific threats you may not face).

Perhaps those particular examples are indeed too narrow because we haven't seen a lot of powerful dragon or construct warbands in the recent metagame. But I could imagine some narrow-but-useful sideboards that focus against Drow or 7th Sigil, which I have seen a lot of recently.

I think another area of exploration would be items. Being able to customize which items you bring into battle could be interesting.

Moraturi wrote:
If you are facing an opponent with creatures that have Conceal on a map with lots of difficult terrain, you choose Sergeant. On a clear map against an opponent with no way to have Concealed creatures, you choose Warhorse.

As a note, I think you must choose your sideboard before the map choice is made, since the sideboarding process might change your champion rating. But your point is still valid, since you do get to see what map your opponent brought, even if you're not sure if you're using it yet.

I love that someone as experienced as you was able to get this deep already in warband construction. I'm sure you'd be able to come up with even more clever ideas with more time and thought.

In my mind, the goal of sideboarding is to create additional surprises and strategic choices at match time (which are fun and interesting), as well as deepen the warband construction process at home before the tournament. It could also increase the value of some under-used figures and items that are too narrowly focused to include in a main warband, but could be great for a sideboard.

One open question for me is the point value for the sideboard. Maybe 50 points out of 200 is too small. I picked it because Magic uses 15 cards with a 60 card deck, and 50 is a nice round number. But in Magic, you're actually able to make 15 swaps, which are a lot of interesting choices. In DDM, you'd only be able to make a handful of swaps, because each swap takes up many points. Therefore, perhaps it would be better to have a 60, 75, or even 100 point sideboard.

Moraturi, if you consider 60, 75, or 100 point sideboard, do you have different feelings about it?

Also, does anything interesting change if you get to see your opponent's sideboard in advance of making the sideboarding decision?

If we were going to try this at GenCon this year, what's your feeling about the right point value to try, given the goals of:
1) Deeper, more strategic warband building experience
2) Extra surprise and strategy at the start of the match

Moraturi
Moraturi's picture

Thanks. You are right about the possibility of creatures and choice of map, but I wanted my comments to be more broadly applied. Sometimes maps will be chosen ahead of time, and sometimes you will have a Champion test for choice. The sideboard will be dependent on exactly how it would be timed (after reveal, before map choice, after map choice, etc.). We would still need to work out details of start of match procedures.

As for the 50 pts value. I also play MtG and got the 25% of total from that source. I'm not sure how well it applies in DDM. I think any less and all you would be doing is moving Fodder around, and any more you might as well just bring multiple warbands from the start. Which, while off-topic, is another great tournament format: each player brings, say 4 warbands and has to rotate them through 4 rounds of pairings, never playing the same band twice (until the finals, perhaps). Alternately, bring different warbands for different formats in the same tourney, like 1st rd 200 pt Assault, 2nd round 200 Arena, 3rd round 100 Arena, 4th rd 100 Assault, 5th round 500 Assault, etc.

If the sideboard was closer to 100 points, the "core" changes so much that it is effectively another warband. Why have a sideboard at all? Just have a different format using multiple warband options.

For a lot of warbands I looked at, a 50 point sideboard just didn't seem very effective. For example, if the core was built around Elf Arcane Archers (a common, strong, warband, and one that has multiple key creatures right at the 50 point value) and you took out one of the Archers, what would you replace it with? another archer variant (Arcane Archer, Moon Elf Fighter, Qualinesti Defender, maybe the Windsoul Genasi Paladin)? It is still essentially the same build. The Paladin might be a pretty good swap.

Most of the metagame builds I looked at had this problem. The sideboard just didn't seem to bring enough with it, as the competitive warbands are already so prepared to deal with multiple threats, pre-sideboarding.

If we try this at GenCon (and I am all for that), I think 50 points of creatures/equipment is an appropriate value.

Ira
Ira's picture

Moraturi wrote:
Most of the metagame builds I looked at had this problem. The sideboard just didn't seem to bring enough with it, as the competitive warbands are already so prepared to deal with multiple threats, pre-sideboarding.

Then I think that's a problem with the metagame.

If your opponent brings a top level, Tier 1 warband, but you know in advance what it will be, you should be able to build something that will beat it 80% of the time, IMO. I wouldn't want to see simply an increase to 60-40. I'd want to see in the ballpark of 80-20.

Obviously a sideboard isn't as good as complete advance knowledge, but I would like to see some ability to counter-play against the strongest warbands.

Moraturi wrote:
If the sideboard was closer to 100 points, the "core" changes so much that it is effectively another warband. Why have a sideboard at all?

I'm not convinced here. Two warbands that share 100 points of creatures are definitely similar. Surely not identical, but not completely different, either.

If 50 points is "not very effective" and 100 points is "changing so much," then it seems like there should be a sweet spot in between. What do you think of 75 points?

50 points look right when considered on paper, but based on the analysis you did above, I'm wondering if a number like 75 points would lead to more interesting choices and surprises.

That said, if we're trying it for the first time, it's probably better to err on the side of a bit too low vs a bit too high. With a lower number, that means fewer start-of-match decisions, which speeds up play and I think that's an important consideration for all of this.

Moraturi
Moraturi's picture

I will toy with the idea of 75 points and see what I can come up with for warbands. With 75 points to move around, it might be possible to have 3 or so variants in the same sideboard for some bands, assuming a 1 to 2 creature swap of around 30 to 40 points.
Unfortunately, for me this is all theoretical, as I do not have a local group to actually play test. Still, I like the thought exercise of modifying warbands.
Even if we don't get a more formal event for GenCon, we can still try a few casual games if you want.

Thenameless
Thenameless's picture

Moraturi, have you thought about how the sideboards get implemented - specifically the timing? If one of the players has to choose his sideboard first, it gives the second guy an advantage, as he can "react" to what his opponent is going to field.

tried
tried's picture

I would implement it during Setup. And yes, the advantage thing applies.

(This is simply a practical response. It could be done blind, but it would really eat into the beginning of a match to take the time to outguess your opponent.)

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bshugg
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I feel like unless we design some clusters of figures designed for sb use this is kind of a futile effort. In my band designs I have already selected the optimum figure for the cost. There's almost no room for swapping. The only real open space to work with is items. I kind of feel items were a nice attempt but falls short in execution. The majority are too narrow in use or inefficient in cost or narrow of use to ever consider playing them. I would like to see the whole item system be revamped. Something like a pool of 80 items to pick from with:
Each band can bring 10 items
Items have no cost
Say 5 or 6 items can be assigned
Items are in tiers by level. I.e. Tier one can only be assigned to level 1-5 figures maybe
Items have faction restrictions maybe a few other restrictions if it improves flavor
More powerful items can be themed to lesser played options like halflings or monks

skyscraper
skyscraper's picture

bshugg: could this be implemented in optional rules? E.g. build a 200 point warband with no items (not even cursed). Then, each player has a pool of, say, 20 points for items (including cursed).

bshugg
bshugg's picture

That's a good idea. As long as it's not warband points being spent as sort of a half measure. The majority of items are still not helpful even if free. I would still like to see item effects and costs rethought

Ira
Ira's picture

bshugg wrote:
The majority of items are still not helpful even if free
Huh?! There are tons of useful items. For me, the usefulness depends on the magnitude of the effect (e.g. attack misses vs. -5 damage) and the likelihood of the trigger condition (e.g. only against lightning damage vs. all attacks).

I don't expect my items to come into play every game, but if they might matter sometimes, that's good enough for me. In the same way, I'll often include creatures with the Blindsight ability in my warband. Even if I don't come across any Invisible creatures in a given game, that doesn't mean Blindsight is a useless ability.

Maybe you were talking more specifically: in a particular game when you don't come across any Invisible creatures, Blindsight really is a useless ability (in that particular game). Of course that's true, but that doesn't mean that Blindsight should be a free ability.

I agree that some of the earlier items are overcosted (just like many early figures). Either the effect is too small, or the likelihood of the trigger condition is too rare. But I think many of the newest items are quite well balanced.

Personally, I want the core rules to allow players to not assign items they bring. So you're still building a 200 point warband, but if you include 20 points of items, and 10 points of items won't be useful this particular game, you omit them and play with a 190 point warband. It's still not great for you, but at least you're not giving away those 10 points, and allows for a little bit of side boarding built in.

tried
tried's picture

Personally, I am thinking that the core rules should not allow items at all.
There is no reason or mandate to included items, which were a DDM-guild expansion to the rules in any event.

Items should be part of the optional rules, though perhaps one of the more 'common' optional rules.

When I say 'common optional' rules, what I really mean is that DDM-guild sponsored tournaments will include items as legal.

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Thenameless
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I agree with no items in the core rules. The traditionalist in me remembers the original game not having items. What it does is make for a nice option.