Balanced or unbalanced missions?

Posted: 19 September, 2014 by egges in Discussion, Dropzone commander, Egge, For tournament organizers, Missions

Now that Jens/Nimthar is posting here directly I’m thinking it puts some pressure on me to blog more. I think people will like his posts better anyway but I will try to make an effort to compete. Today I’m thinking about balance in the missions. And not the type of balance I think you are thinking…


In the basic rulebook you have missions that are part balanced and part very unbalanced. I will try to make an argument that this is one of the key aspects in DZC’s balance and that it helps the game a lot.

Most missions in DZC has a balanced layout. That is, both player has the exact same starting point and more or less the same amount of objectives to find or do. Then the player’s armies come into play and try to tip that balance into their favor with the player’s tactic of choice. Targets of opportunities for instance. Let’s use this mission as a basis (Too). Too is very balanced as both players have basically the exact same kind of starting point and distances to the buildings closest to them. Sure it might vary a little bit on how the buildings are placed but generally the buildings should be fairly equally placed on the table. Many players like to have units to destroy the building with an objective on the opponent’s side, or go for the main objectives in the center with fast dropships and so on so the player’s tactical choices can vary making sure the missions are played out differently dependent on who you faces and with what. But the mission is equal for the players starting point. They have the same goal and need the same type of units to get a victory.

At the same time the mission is highly unbalanced. There is only one type of unit that can get you victory points in Too – Infantry. If you don’t go with any Infantry the chance to win the mission is zero (or close enough). The best you can hope for is a draw and then win by having killed more than the opponent. Chances are that will not work often enough.

I have now heard many players stating that they think Infantry is too good in the beginning when they are introduced to the game because you only need to spam them to win. And in a way they are right (especially when demo games are almost always Too). In a real game you would find that more infantry tend to die in houses and that the opponent will have infantry that are more effective per point spend on them than the player with lots and lots of infantry. But in Too the player with more infantry will have a clear advantage. And there are many missions like this. Recon, Military complex and so on. So the missions in DZC are highly unbalanced when considering the type of units that can get you victory points.

What balances it out in a tournament setting is the different missions you can use as a Tournament Organizer to force people to take a balanced force. A player can decide to go for all destructive power to demolish buildings but many TO’s put in some missions with Bunkers, Focal points (hard to reach without any dropships) and buildings with armour 8 as well as an increased amount of large buildings to balance this out.

The unbalance in the missions makes the balance – you see? The Hades became Rare with the expansion Reconquest phase 1 which I find kind of strange – few player (if any) could use lots of Hades and win in a tournament setting. If you play an opponent and they always forces you to tell which mission to play first and they bring 3 Hades if it will give them a guaranteed win they are a dick – don’t play them (even now when the Hades is rare you should ‘t play opponents who you know will act like that). The unbalance in missions makes sure the Hades is not the best choice all the time – it is slow and only good at taking a few focal points as well as destroying buildings but not objectives further away.

Just a side note. The Hades is one of the worst units to take if you want to destroy buildings. It is horrible expensive for that purpose. It costs 33 pts per destruction point on a building per turn and a Enyo cost 14 points per destruction points. Meaning that the Enyo is more than twice as effective to destroy buildings as the Hades.

So though the missions are unbalanced in that way that only a few units can give you a win, TOs can use the different missions to force people to construct balanced and well rounded army lists to their tournaments. My random mission generator had the same idea – to force people to make an balanced army list first and then see which mission you’d play.

Now here is the interesting part; with the new expansion came new missions (in truth they came out for free in Hawks amazing free downloaded tournament pack 2014) and with it some very interesting, cool and sensible missions that uses different mission objectives. It is a logical step and meant to be perfect for tournament play.

But they aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong. They are really good and balanced missions but read all I wrote above again – balanced missions in a game whose balance comes from having unbalanced missions that require specific units to succeed? That will cause some balance issues. Again, don’t get me wrong. The missions with both Focal points and Objectives in buildings are a good idea as long as they are not over used in tournaments. The point being; balance in DZC comes from the fact that if you spam a certain type of unit (AT, AA, Dropships, Demolish , Fast Movers or Infantry) you will find some missions will be extremely tough for you to win. Most likely two of the five missions in a tournament setting will be hard (try Encrochment with an all walk on demolish PHR army and see how it goes…) for the player to win and will most likely make the player concede a higher standing to a player with a more balanced army list.

But if you take some of the mixed missions you will make an extreme list better. It is an active choice to add missions with mixed missions to a tournament pack and that active choice is to make sure extremely unbalanced armies will be better. What those missions does is basically just to increase missions where there are points for an extreme army to take and will decrease the amount of missions that the extreme army will loose. See the point?

I’m not saying it is bad with these missions – they are really good and balanced. But TOs should know of the consequence of their actions to include these missions. All in all I would say 1 is pretty ok. But 2 is a bit much. Most likely the players will already play a Too, Recon or a Focal point mission as well (or all of them) and the new mixed missions makes sure extreme armies has a greater chance of being effective since they tend to focus on AT and demolish units.

There are some ways to counter this of course. Even if you want to include two missions with mixed mission objectives:

1. Make sure the rest of the missions are extreme and not including objectives easily destroyed or Focal points. Bunker assault and Encroachment are two very good missions to balance it out with as well as Search.

2. That’s it…I couldn’t come up with more…

If you have read this post (and yes, you are most likely a little slow in your head if you care for anything that I write) you will most likely note a very important thing regarding extreme armies that I have ignored. Do you know what? I’ll give you the time to the next sentence to figure it out: I don’t consider Infantry-extreme armies part of the Extreme armies. Having objectives in buildings will make sure Infantry has a better usage in your army – even used en massed. I like infantry deciding the winner and the rest of the army is a support cast. I love it! So I don’t consider an extreme army of infantry a bad thing – the fact is that is will not work either, I think.

I think I should mention another thing I see has been in development in DZC and that is the decreased importance and focus on infantry as more missions includes Focal points. It has decreased the role of Infantry to only objective grabbing instead of tactical positions at the end of the game. Since I love infantry I’m thinking that infantry inside buildings should always contribute twice their points to focal points as well. But that is only because I love infantry.

I’d love to read your thoughts on this matter.

  1. nimthar says:

    I get your point and I agree! IF missions become more and more alike and with both objectives and focal points in each mission, I also believe it takes away from the more “focused” missions. If I new I were gonna play five missions in a tournament with rather similar setup and victory conditions it would probable affect my army list into that kind of mission.

    I hope future missions will introduce some interesting mechanics like secret victory conditions assigned at the table, it could promote really cool table setups where the table does not have to be a mirror setup. Or perhaps the adaptation of attacker/defender scenarios with different victory conditions.

  2. Peter Simcic says:

    Interesting article.

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