Battle Rating and Comparing Armies

Just downloaded the docs after pledging to blow my lunch hour on the Battles document first.

I can’t find if it’s said out loud anywhere (D@W Battles doesn’t seem to list the term “Battle Rating” in the text - but:

Can Battle Rating do double duty as a way to quickly compare two armies’ relative effectiveness? I’m looking for something that would equate to “point spend” in many other wargames to construct two armies that should be relatively equal, for purposes of pick-up games or just randomly generated scenarios.

Would two units of Ogres (BR 11 total) stand against 2 Human Light Cavalry (6), 1 Human Heavy Infantry (2) and 3 Human Light Infantry (3) (BR 11 total)? (Two units vs 6 may not be the greatest example)

Or is the spend on the units in gold the better measurement (if a bit fiddly)?


To date most of the playtesting down in D@W has either used historical battles for reference; has emerged from actual campaign battles; or has used GP. It honestly had never occurred to me that you could use BR as a point-buy to build armies. I think the only way to know if it works well is to test it.

That said, I don’t think 2 Ogres would win against 2 LC, 2 HI, and 3 LI because of the superior mobility of the cavalry and light infantry, which could avoid the ogres and grind them down with ranged weapons.

The problem with any sort of point-buy system for D@W: Battles is that the best armies are those with synergies between troop types. A great example is a Macedonian-like army with heavy cavalry, light cavalry, heavy infantry, light infantry, slingers, and bowmen. You’ll find that the heavy cavalry relies on the slingers and bowmen to disorder the enemy, the slingers and bowmen rely on the heavy infantry to shield them from melee, and so on.

Point buy army building in any wargame has that “issue”, but it is more of a feature than a problem. The strategic process of deciding force composition is an integral part of nearly every wargame.

Point-buy systems are a good rule of thumb allow for an agreed upon system for creating finite armies that are, in theory, relatively fair. Trying to create a composition that is especially effective when used in a certain way or able to counter certain strategies is just another part of competition.

Now the true question is: Is BR a GOOD way to compare army strength if one wants to try to fight with fair armies or should another heuristic be used such as comparing monthly wages cost, equipment costs or some other quantifiable measure?

I wouldn’t think to be able to come to the level of madness that is Warhammer or the like, but something that would allow two players of the same relative skill could field quasi-comparable armies would fit the bill.

I’d expect well-conceived armies to be the case under whatever limitations presented between two people familiar with wargames or the tropes of the genre.

To really work one might have to expand the concept of ‘special abilities’ to include more mundane things like the armor class of the unit, ranged attacks, etc; so that your peasant conscripts are your “One Point” units and build up from there. Qualitatively testing that out may be beyond mortal ken; I’d be curious what GW’s testing metrics are (or how heavily they rely on the player base for feedback).

Anyway, just something that flapped through my brain when I got to Chapter 9. Thanks for the reply!

I disagree with this. I find the idiosyncracies of point systems are bugs, not features. Also, there are many, many wargames that do not have a point-buy “strategic minigame” for army selection.

Moreover, while I think that it’s true, in a way, that trying to create an effective force composition can be fun, I don’t think that really means the same thing to everyone:

For some games this means you have simply picked a more effective force, regardless of how it’s used, because the point-buy values do not (or can not) accurately reflect various units’ effectiveness.

For other games, it means you’ve picked a selection of units that, combined with your plan of use, terrain, and scenario conditions, will be particularly effective.

These two are radically different to me. The latter is fine, but I suspect D@W is far more likely to end up with the former. Other wargame companies have spent enourmous amounts of time balancing far smaller amounts of options than those that exist in ACKS, often with results that are still poor and prone to abuse. I would say that the odds of Autarch being able to come up with some kind of point-buy system within the next 6 months that isn’t blown totally to pieces as soon as it’s released into the wild are somewhere between slim and none.

The last thing I’ll say is that I also think that addition of a system, such as some kind of army point-buy, for measuring relative “fairness” of armies is detrimental to D@W’s original purpose: modeling RPG battles and campaigns.

Having army composition grounded solely within the RPG and economic framework of ACKS avoids many of the sorts of problems that crept into D&D3.x once people started treating CR and EL as inviolable rules instead of general guidelines. I’m having great difficulty believing a point-buy system wouldn’t end up being the catalyst for a similar problem within ACKS.

Creating scenarios that are well-balanced is much easier than creating systems for balancing any two armies. People who want to sit down and play an isolated D@W battle for its own sake will have a number of scenarios to choose from. It'd be nice to support people who want to create their own armies and then bring them to the table for an isolated D@W engagement, but I think that that category of players will be smaller than those who use it as part of a RPG campaign (in which forces are determined through play) or those for whom scenarios will provide the desired balanced challenge.

In a RPG campaign, the selection of the abstract Campaigns battle resolution or the tactical Battle one can be made on the basis of "is this engagement well-matched enough to be worth playing out in detail?" I wrote about this at The Mule Abides in the context of "combat as sport" (carefully balanced matches) vs. "combat as war" (each side seeks to use strategy to bring overwhelming odds to bear). I do think that looking at the fight in terms of battle rating will give a good feel for the decision to use the Battle rules or not.

Tavis pretty much said what I was going to. While it’s nice that the system can be used for one-off battles, the focus shouldn’t be on that. This is an RPG supplement first and foremost. If you want to know if your forces are “balanced” against the enemy, send spies and scouts. :slight_smile:

That said, I agree, it would be nice to look at a potential fight and know whether it should be handled tactically or abstractly.

I’m sorry if I was unclear, I merely mean that it impossible to make a point-buy army system where every permutation of is equally viable (save for trivial examples). Therefore an important aspect of strategy is force composition (or at the very least, avoiding an army with a huge weakness like having only unsupported, immobile siege units that infantry will slaughter, etc.) I did not mean to say that intentional imbalances that make certain combinations clearly better should be inserted into the game. Just try to make the game fair, but not at the cost of killing variety.

As for your point of dropping a point system for purposes of supporting D@W’s purpose to model RPG battles, I think we still need some rules of thumb. Maybe not a strict point-buy, but perhaps go by an in-game economic comparison, so that a Judge can easily estimate the amount of forces that an enemy can bring to bear. On the other hand, the ability to make roughly equivalent forces for a strictly war-game play-through will help for play-testing purposes (not everyone’s current character is at the conqueror level yet.

No, you were quite clear. My point is that squeezing advantage out of the point system is very different than being good at conceiving of and executing an effective battlefield strategy. Does that make sense? I don’t think the former adds anything to a system whose purpose is supporting RPG campaign play.


And I’m very much a wargamer (board and miniature) as well as an RPG player, but I want and am interested in D@W as a complement to ACKS, not as a standalone bring ‘n’ battle game.

boboblah, my sentiments on this issue mirror your own. I don't intend to offer a true point-buy system for D@W and I think offering one would probably give players the wrong idea about the nature of the game.

As a rule of thumb for balancing scenarios and playtesting, I recommend:

  1. Allocate each player a "monthly budget" of GP for troops and officers.
  2. Units cost 120 x monthly cost (or 500 or 200 x at epic scale). Officers cost their monthly cost. 

The game assumes that the average cost per soldier is 24gp per month. If you build armies naturalistically (e.g. respecting the rules on training, availability of mercenaries, and so on), you'll end up near this range. If you arbitrarily build armies that are wildly outside this range, wierd things begin to happen. I would recommend that you require that average cost be a minimum of 12gp per troop for humans and demi-humans and 6gp per troop for beastmen; and maximum cost be 60gp per troop for any army.  




It is a really awesome standalone game, FWIW ;)


Is that your totally unbiased, professional opinion?

It's my professional opinion. I'm not sure it's unbiased. :D