Variance should be Paramount

SWCCG game play discussion.
Hayes
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Variance should be Paramount

Post by Hayes »

Excluding the Endor GP and the MPC, I've played fewer than a dozen games of SWCCG this year. It's perfectly normal for my personal interest in the game to wax and wane with tournaments and real life, respectively, but this time it's felt a bit different (especially in light of the opportunity quarantine has afforded most of us). I'm not quitting, but I have often wondered about what keeps me engaged (beyond our amazing community itself).

Recently, playing some other games with some friends familiar with SWCCG, I asked why the current game was unappealing to them. The primary reason cited was a lack of variance. As the "Spike" profile mostly describes my playstyle, it was hard for me to accept their answer until it was spelled out for me. The oversimplified points are as follows:

• More successful / popular games often have a healthy amount of variance.
• Star Wars isn't really gaining a ton of players - certainly not a rate that exceeds how many we "lose" over time.
• Players, in general, tend to stick around longer when they have fun (and a shot of winning).
• Variance helps lesser players win against better players (on occasion).
• Reducing variance helps better players keep winning (more).
• Maintaining a healthy degree of variance helps more players than constantly reducing it does.

As this was being explained, the back of my brain kept screaming "Slavers!" and "Legend!" Those types of strategies allow a player to reliably establish the same set up every game, with consistency and very little risk.

Without variance, the game flirts with creating a Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) meta (where Deck A can never beat Deck B, and Deck B can never beat Deck C, and Deck C can never beat Deck A) and, if a "decent" match-up does come to bear, it may devolve into maximizing value of micro-actions ("Oh, he should have searched his reserve before he activated, not after."). Skill is still involved in a game with less variance, absolutely, it just might not be "fun" for everyone.

To bring all of that back to the current state of the game, we've recently seen a trend to reduce variance.
• Higher destiny cards (especially characters).
• More tutors.
• Destiny redraw text everywhere (EVERYWHERE).
• Automatic upload and download of cards (like with Jabba's Space Cruiser and Fanfare and Xizor's Bounty).

Of course, these individual elements are necessary, to a degree, to help many strategies move in the right direction, but they all reduce variance. Design should be extremely mindful of the cumulative effect these mechanics continue to have on the game, as a whole, over time.

This article says a lot more and I highly recommend the read:
https://rngeternal.com/2017/09/08/going ... ian-jones/

And for those not familiar:
https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/a ... 2013-12-03



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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by aermet69 »

I think I agree wholeheartedly, Hayes. Except, that variance is also important for very good players because, as Chu wrote in his very long and good post, it gives credit to those who can master it (specifically, lowering destinies in general, will also allow top players to set themselves aside from lesser mortals in tracking).

The other 'issue' with lack of variance, is that what variance you get hit by, can be game ending. "We" all anticipate reasonable destinies in battle, because the average is so high now, that a 1-1-1 can end the game.

But especially the lack of variance in setup is something I agree so much with, and one of my arguments against the new Beldon's Eye combo. But unfortunately, I think we are so deep in the non-variance hole, that it's not enough to just create new more-variance cards. It's a start, but I think we need to go back and look at pullers, destiny and setups a lot more - this will also help another issue of mine, the lack of early game.
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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by quickdraw3457 »

I could not agree more. Constant tutoring of every card that is deemed "necessary" for a deck results in decklists becoming more and more similar, and games unfolding very similarly. T1 is often the same path: download a specific location or two, upload a certain card, deploy someone for cheap somewhere, upload something else, consolidate, draw 4. IE, AOBS, Diplo, OA, QMC all have extremely scripted starts almost regardless of the build (and the builds don't differ much either, due to all of the "auto" starts). So many cards have been made to ensure consistency that without consistency, your deck is probably not viable.

Not just specific tutoring is a problem though. Open ended used pile pulls and force pile pulls are just as problematic. You might say "these are good! they require skill to play well!" And they do. But they increase the gap dramatically between the top tier and middle tier of players. The game has enough factors requiring skill already that it doesn't need this "artificial" increase in skill plays. SWCCG has always been about resource management, and it's less and less about that now and more about decision trees and risk mitigation. I always appreciated the resource management aspect of the game, but that's not a big factor when both players are activating 12+ turn 2.

This was already discussed by me in other threads (maybe some tweak set threads, definitely the wokling CB thread).
aermet69 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 7:22 am
But unfortunately, I think we are so deep in the non-variance hole, that it's not enough to just create new more-variance cards. It's a start, but I think we need to go back and look at pullers, destiny and setups a lot more - this will also help another issue of mine, the lack of early game.
Agree. It's not a matter of making new cards that aren't as auto, because those platforms won't be good enough if they don't have consistency, almost regardless of power level. And if we try to fight that, then we're going to lose to power creep.
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allstarz97
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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by allstarz97 »

Some good points here but this isn't anything all that new and we're pretty far down the rabbit hole of setups... variance in game is at an all time low, but start of game it's been that way for literally decades.. cards like jedi lev, rey, scout luke, imbats, rescue lowering variance is annoying, I agree there.

Gemp making matchups stale faster is a thing.

D&D has done a good job lately of putting out a lot of variety to help offset this, but they (we) are pigeon holed to a degree in what can get made and be competitive.

SWCCG in general is a game with very low variance.

For you personally, coming in 4th, or 3rd or 5th drives interest, coming in 1st does the opposite.

At some point a re-set will be needed, but I think we can hold out a little longer. The next major change/reset we should look at in game variance eliminators.. as the setup stuff is over micropscoped.

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by allstarz97 »

Like I'd rather these cards go away....

...jedi lev/sit fury
...rey
....imbats
....bow
....scout luke re-draw
....gmt/hera redraw
...legend redraw
....close call
....rescue

Than change the setup on legend/diplo/oa/ie/map/no idea etc.

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by allstarz97 »

A good example is whap and asm, both have redundant setups, but neither get to redundant mid game or the inability to like draw bad destiny so they aren't at the top of the power curve despite great activation ratios and in whap's case, a broken flip side.

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by Steve Buscemi »

Some great posts here and I definitely agree with the sentiment about variance. I think it is difficult to address all issues given the current card pool, but awareness of this problem will hopefully help future sets.

In a recent zoom session with the Dutch players I suggested looking at ways to penalize redrawing destinies, for example using a new shield (or modifying an existing one if the intent is not to create too many shields). This prevents having to tweak several existing cards but could alleviate some problems in an area that is running rampant in most decks.

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by Darth_Link »

Agree w Justin.

Auto setup has been a thing since 2000, and will always be a thing, meaning new decks and improvements of old decks will gear towards this. Otherwise people would revert to DB wars and HB or non-bg pullers only (which imo as WAAAAAY worse than something like Legend pulling their sites).

I would support some tweak of (or hate for) the redraw / pull cards like rey, jedi lev and imbats to make sure that decks like TRM don't end up with a hand of 1s and a deck of 5s every mid-game. Cards like Dark Time preventing redraws for example
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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by allstarz97 »

ban:

rey v
imbats
bow
jedi lev
sith fury
whatever the imp dom card is called now
gmt/hera re-draw text blanked
legend re-draw blanked.
scout luke/maul redraw blanked.
basically make it so a destiny drawn is a destiny drawn... if people want to re-draw make them play close call/ls mirror

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by aermet69 »

You have a point Emil, but I don't think objectives pulling locations or the occasional effect pulling a location (to help non-obj decks) are a big issue here - but when you top that up with character pulling (Endor Shield/ABR) and used pulls (Imbats/Rey/Bow) it gets unwieldly. Because not only do you get your locations, but you also get what you need to deploy to those locations (and maybe even what you need to prevent an early beat) - but I don't think we disagree per se, so no need to spell it further out for you :)

But to take it a step further anyway, I think location pulling on objectives is a good thing. It gets you going, AND it establishes a thematic setup for your deck be it the death star or jakku. Locations sitting there next to eachother to fan out the planet or base is part of the 'look' of swccg.
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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by chriskelly »

allstarz97 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 9:32 am
ban:

rey v :arrow: (maybe take one of her card drawing abilities away but Rey is a great card)
imbats :arrow: (this is what profit does and leads to fun variants of wys or tat CPv)
bow :arrow: (same but with FO and map is already bad right now)
jedi lev :!: (or make it just jedi)
sith fury :!: (or make it just dark Jedi)
whatever the imp dom card is called now (no, just change redraw text to something else. Imperial decks should have a scum-ish helper)
gmt/hera re-draw text blanked :!:
legend re-draw blanked. :arrow: (that’s what Luke does from beyond; maybe make it just your turn)
scout luke/maul redraw blanked. : :arrow: Jedi Luke is already a bazillion dollar card

basically make it so a destiny drawn is a destiny drawn... if people want to re-draw make them play close call/ls mirror (I like that idea to make those cards better)

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by allstarz97 »

I think that's emil's point, location and setup is fine, it's the other stuff that is getting too redundant. Good call on endor shield v, add that one to my list.

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by allstarz97 »

chriskelly wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 9:55 am
allstarz97 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 9:32 am
ban:

rey v :arrow:
imbats :arrow:
bow :arrow:
jedi lev :!: (or make it just jedi)
sith fury :!: (or make it just dark Jedi)
whatever the imp dom card is called now [just change redraw text to something else]
gmt/hera re-draw text blanked :!:
legend re-draw blanked. :arrow: (that’s what Luke does from beyond; maybe make it just your turn)
scout luke/maul redraw blanked. : :arrow: Jedi Luke is already a bazillion dollar card

basically make it so a destiny drawn is a destiny drawn... if people want to re-draw make them play close call/ls mirror (I like that idea to make those cards better)
Yeah, probably too ingrained into current swccg that a major thing like this would be too big and the ripple effect would be wild (liek all of a sudden whap is broken or something).

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by Hayes »

Totally agree we are too far down the rabbit hole at this point. It's a vicious circle. You can't simply stop "upping" decks now to meet the current set-up "standards" - else they would not be competitive.

I recall there was some legacy shield (or effect?), that made players use 1 force before uploading or downloading cards. That was surely a sign there was too much of that mechanic at that time. (A similar effect, to add a cost for redraws, wouldn't be the worst thing - but again, it would merely serve as confirmation that we've gone too far, without really solving the issue.)

I will say this: I don't envy D&D. I have a hard time viewing the game from anything but a competitive standpoint. There are so many factors to consider when coming up with new cards/ideas/concepts. Kudos to you all for your efforts!

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by seitaer »

I kind of feel it's double edged. The more variance in starts gives us less variance in decks being played, as players will always gravitate towards the more consistent decks. And some decks just wouldn't be playable without their current homogeneous first turns.

Not to mention this isn't some new thing to the virtual era. Scale back on the current virtual pull chains and people will just use slightly less synergous Decipher era pull chains to get consistent activation.

The redraw thing may be getting to be too much, but I don't think I've ever played a game and thought "that wasn't enjoyable because of redraws"

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by Berm »

Hayes wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 10:26 am
Totally agree we are too far down the rabbit hole at this point. It's a vicious circle. You can't simply stop "upping" decks now to meet the current set-up "standards" - else they would not be competitive.

I recall there was some legacy shield (or effect?), that made players use 1 force before uploading or downloading cards. That was surely a sign there was too much of that mechanic at that time. (A similar effect, to add a cost for redraws, wouldn't be the worst thing - but again, it would merely serve as confirmation that we've gone too far, without really solving the issue.)

I will say this: I don't envy D&D. I have a hard time viewing the game from anything but a competitive standpoint. There are so many factors to consider when coming up with new cards/ideas/concepts. Kudos to you all for your efforts!
I don't think we are too far down - if they could do like they had with set 12 and rework those cards, a few at a time each set, while staying mindful to the variance aspect it could be turned around (albeit slowly).
I know some people dislike the idea of having to re-learn the new/old cards, but it's not much different than simply learning the new vSet 13/14/15 cards whenever they come out. And I prefer attempting to find a solution rather than keeping ourselves painted into this corner.

Otherwise I wholeheartedly agree with your original post.

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by quickdraw3457 »

I have done the thought exercise a few times and to me you can trace it all back to docking bay wars. Everybody played iao/insurrection for the reliability of getting sites out (1/0 or 1/1). Then episode 1 upped the game with wesa/wmaop/speak, which really sped it up quickly. At that point, the ship has sailed. I was on d&d at the reset and I remember the discussions and difficulties with designing around that (and ie, which stayed from the reset). To keep up with those, it was decided it was better to pull battlegrounds than to let most decks default to playing 4-5 wesa, speaks, jcc, bnc, and battle plains. And it basically had to continue indefinitely after that.

I genuinely don't know what to do at the next reset regarding all the decipher location pullers. We don't want the game to become just docking bay wars again but how do you do something new that doesn't end up where we are now? Is discouraging wmaop/wesa even a good idea? If so how do you do it?

I don't have those answers, but personally I miss the days where you had to make big decisions turns 1-2 about how much to draw and how much to save, because you might only be activating 6 or 7 turn 2.
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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by stephengascrub »

I don’t think there’s an easy answer since if you don’t release fairly powerful virtual cards, people won’t play them. Then the game gets stagnant in another sense, and we still have an issue.

I definitely think limiting redraws, pullers, and filtering cards is something that should be looked at going forward and whenever there’s another reset/tweak set.

I guess one thing we could do, but it’s pretty radical and I’m not sure I’d even be on board with it, would be to not only be much more mindful when we have another reset x years down the road, but actually ban multiple cards. I get that this idea is pretty out there, but if we got rid of decipher’s problematic cards (that you can’t shield), you could really control the amount of variance you’d want to have in this game. I probably wouldn’t do this because it’s pretty extreme, but it’s something to throw out there into the ether.
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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by arebelspy »

Agree with a lot of the ideas of what to change.

Also agree we're way too far down the rabbit hole.

I hope we go the opposite: blow up the power creep over the next few sets to ridiculous levels (ala Legacy) for a bit to satisfy those whole love super strong stuff (see recent changes like R2 v), then reset and wipe a bunch of this and stop the automatic setups. Not immediately, or even soon, but at some point in the not far future. Scrap all these cards listed and start the next era that doesn't have these problems.

We keep learning, and making things better.

This era is better than legacy, and I think the next era will be even better due to these gains. :)

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Re: Variance should be Paramount

Post by Hayes »

quickdraw3457 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 11:28 am
I genuinely don't know what to do at the next reset regarding all the decipher location pullers. We don't want the game to become just docking bay wars again but how do you do something new that doesn't end up where we are now? Is discouraging wmaop/wesa even a good idea? If so how do you do it?
It would be super annoying to have to play main deck counters because both sides want to play efficient activation. Dark isn't so bad, TBH. WYS would rank higher on the totem poll, likely, if/when another reset occurs. And that WMAOP is limited to the deploy phase makes it less automatic than Wesa. I would certainly not recommend making another twix puller (for dark) to "balance" things.

Short of adding something to the K&D, cutting Wokling would be a great start. Will TRM then survive if it's looking at an 8/0 activation platform (assuming bplains not on table)? If it's still alive and dominating, then make other light decks more appealing and/or some dark cards to punish light going first. Like, rather than ADTFTR, maybe an immune to alter effect that has some primary function, but also says "your force generation is +1 if you did not go first this game" - effectively reducing TRM to a 7/0 ratio.

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