View Full Version : Patience is a Virtue, the role of inaction in victory

05-10-2013, 09:31 PM
When I first started the game, I came up with a rule that shaped my strategy: Maximize my productive turns (doing 3+ points of damage every move) while causing my opponents to waste theirs (leaving maimed units, luring fights away from shield varls so they'd be stuck walking.) It wasn't a bad rule but it was certainly not a complete one for creating good tactics.

What the Vigrid tournament has taught me more than anything is sometimes staying back and retreating really is the best option despite chances to make nominally worthwhile moves. The reasons can range from being overexposed, avoiding punctures, wanting to keep Varl armor intact until will has been spent, get a strong turn advantage, or convincing the opponent to spent will on movement among others.

Could this be considered turtling? Honestly, I'm not sure. I know the Steam forums is littered with threads mentioning "Turtling is the key to win"- which is easy to debunk when Turtling is defined as "staying still in starting position until things move into range". Is subtlety rearranging your front line in response to opponents movements and waiting for them to overexert (and/or baiting with a maim proof low priority unit) "good strategy" or "rewarding defense too much".

The game certainly rewards aggression in some extents: first significant strength hit in a 1v1 usually ensures victory because they can't counter (but it's a team game); killing a unit with will is like free damage prevention (but you usually need lots of will or your highest strength unit to do it unless they overexposed archers); time and time again, once I got past a certain skill level of opponent, the one who waited with his team together beat the one that made first strike.

To draw a distinction, the "passive strategy" that I seek winning doesn't throw away good moves that can made with minimal reprisals; I've seen where passivity failed to take good opportunities and cost games. Mostly I'm talking about the initial approach being passive and the endgame when mid-High strength, low armor units are all that's left.

My goals for the discussion here include such topics as:

1. Am I not seeing cases where aggression approaches works even at high skill level?
2. Is waiting for your opponent to "lose the game" with his opening move an appropriate state for the metagame?
3. If 1 and 2 is No, Is there anything worth changing to reward forward momentum or otherwise punish waiting.

05-10-2013, 10:39 PM
This should probably be moved to Tactics :)

Actual "turtling" (not taking the initiative, letting the enemy get to you first while huddled together) is not a good tactic. "low level" players might get away with it and anger a vocal part of the community in the process, but an experienced player would have a field trip against such a player.

1. I believe aggressive approaches are globally very viable at the higher skill levels. 3RMs pushing forward is aggressive, 2 warriors is aggressive (and still works even if not in favor at the moment), not to talk about ojustme style berserk builds.
2. It would be problematic if the metagame was in that state. I don't believe it is.
3. I don't see a problem that needs to be addressed.

However, there is an interesting point (which I thought you were getting to) about the value of "wasting" turns. I too started up doing all I could to maximize efficiency of each turn. With more experience, I realize that it is not the best approach (unless you are able to take into account the next ~12 turns in your maximizing calculation, in which case you are a better player than I am ^^). As you rightfully point out, there is a large range of reasons that can make a retreat or even inaction better on the whole than a straightforward attack.

05-10-2013, 10:53 PM
Yeah, the thread starting on "hey, inactivity is a good strategy at times" note, but the whole question of whether it amounted to "first swing loses" was weighing on my mind and I wanted to dispel that notion.

I figured keep in Discussion because I wanted to discuss whether my perceptions were wrong; rather than discuss the depths of the tactic itself, but the mods are welcome to disagree.

Ojustme berserk builds: can you give an example, only thing I've seen was his (no offense meant) terrible 5/5 archer warleader setup.

05-11-2013, 02:54 AM
Let me put some notes in some of my ways I used to win.

1. Keep a Warrior away from the game for ever!
2. Keep a strong arm away from the game forever!
3. Don't attack my enemy until he hits me first.
4. Very passively move my RMs forward while the rest stay just out of range of enemy attack and wait until he attacks.

All 4 of these approaches involve some sort of "I will not attack you until you attack me and expose yourself" all while avoiding the whole turtle setup. In a way you could say this is an aggressive turtle?

So if I was to use this term then. Turtling is a very bad thing to do and wont get you victories while aggressive turtling will grant you a high win percentage.

05-11-2013, 05:10 AM
To explore this concept some more, you have a couple of potential scenarios. Say you have two raiders lined up against each other, both with 2 exertion. If the game is set up such that getting the first hit is worth a lot, the optimal move is to stay 8 squares away (4 + 2 move +1 attack +1 safe space), because if you move any closer, they'll get the first hit. If the game is set up such that getting the first hit isn't worth as much compared to staying in formation, you can get more like 5 squares away (not counting eagleeye + refresh BM) and then just sit there before anything other than exposed archer can hit you. Either way, on some level moving into enemy range isn't going to be the best idea.

RMs break this dichotomy somewhat, as do skystrikers by making ranges asymmetrical, but other than that you're usually going to see situations where you don't want to move forward because it'll provide enemies with an advantage. Most of the time though, you're making a trade between getting the first hit and being able to collapse your entire team on whoever made the first hit while the enemy units further back can't catch up. The latter tends to be pretty good unless you give a warrior or archer some really broken turn advantage, so rewarding straightforward aggression is likely to involve unit abilities that facilitate it rather than being a universal property of the game mechanics.

05-11-2013, 07:01 AM
Let me put some notes in some of my ways I used to win.

1. Keep a Warrior away from the game for ever!
2. Keep a strong arm away from the game forever!
3. Don't attack my enemy until he hits me first.
4. Very passively move my RMs forward while the rest stay just out of range of enemy attack and wait until he attacks.

All 4 of these approaches involve some sort of "I will not attack you until you attack me and expose yourself" all while avoiding the whole turtle setup. In a way you could say this is an aggressive turtle?

So if I was to use this term then. Turtling is a very bad thing to do and wont get you victories while aggressive turtling will grant you a high win percentage.

Yes, these were the kind of patterns I was noticing, but my internal conflict was whether this was turtling- if both players followed these strategies, would games be interesting and fun, or a test of patience and deliberately designed into the game?

As for Shiri's point, yes the first hit is worth something, but a well armored breaking unit can often afford to stand in that 2 exertion move range and take all that unit's will; the rest of the team finishes or maims the aggressor while being positioned in such a way that counterattacks require similar exertion from the rest of the aggressor team to make.

05-11-2013, 07:17 AM
I am not anywhere near Your guys skill level, but in my case early aggression only pays off if it's an all-in.

Even when You land a beautiful first blow with WL/WH it can still go down the drain if the enemy gets a full round to lick his wounds and kill the brave Varl.

On the other hand if he has high str warrior echoing damage among his raiders, BB's one jump away from his archers and a Provoker making fun at his strongest unit's haircut all within first round - Yeah, setting target priorities gets a bit harder.

I guess that, to a point, this is what many of us are doing anyway - trying to setup a situation, where we can challenge the opponent's multitasking/damage potential the most (except ojustme, who sacrifices his archers, does some magic and wins O_o).

I can understand how in unexperienced player's eyes this may look like turtling.

EDIT: On a side note - I have yet to see a good player attempting the turtling strat, so far it was mostly fresh level 6's, who kept denying their own archers any shots and blocking key units due to turn order. I'm curious how the top vikings would attempt to build/play it.

05-11-2013, 08:56 AM
As for Shiri's point, yes the first hit is worth something, but a well armored breaking unit can often afford to stand in that 2 exertion move range and take all that unit's will; the rest of the team finishes or maims the aggressor while being positioned in such a way that counterattacks require similar exertion from the rest of the aggressor team to make.

That was part of my point, yeah. Either the first hit is worth it, in which case you don't move into first hit range, or it's not worth it because staying in a position where engaging forces enemy overexertion is just better.

Units like old SA that could jab at you while also making counterattacking bad break that down to make taking offensive action first profitable, but at the cost of, uh, being too good. It's just part of how this game is.

Evil Laughter
05-11-2013, 09:51 AM
I have been having some fun with a 2 BB, 2 WM, 2 BM build. Very aggressive, just start everyone at the front and don't hold back. I wouldn't say I have a huge win percentage but not much lower than my more careful build. I think once I get the balance of stats right it will be a solid team. That being said, I often wait a turn or two before rushing in so that I don't blow as much WP getting into range.

TL;DR aggression works if you do it right.

05-11-2013, 10:38 AM
I guess the thing you're missing here is that even though enemy approaching at you is generally better then you approaching the enemy (just because this way you can mainly use all of your units effectively) you still should provoke your enemy into doing this. The only way to do it is to create your own offensive possibilities so that if enemy waits too much you're going to do some damage to him. With my tournament build i do this with the help of one 4/8 BM who lands some armor breaks with the help of 2 WL so that the other 2 BMs (8/8) can make a hole in opponents units. It's a threat because of which enemy tries to engage first. Normally all other builds do pretty much the same things. You have to engage 3 RMs before they put you in the corner. You have to engage enemy Warriors before they get a hit. The only thing is that if you attack too bluntly, if you don't really calculate the advantages and disadvantages of early engagement, then yeah - your're going to lose. I liked it too much and i lost games because of it. But it wasn't about offensive tactics being not viable, it was about me choosing bad timing. Quite fair :)
About berserker builds - i guess my SA 2BM TH WH WL is better though i agree that it's far from being competitive right now. Though i still insist that extremely low-armor archers can do many great nasty things. When i first threw up my 2 WL build it also was not competitive but the idea was right so now it can win smoothly. Same with this one - 3 archers here not only create turn advantage. They also intimidate the opponent into going for them. With 4/5 he can't do it with 1 BoP shot so he has to engage giving you not only necessary turn advantage but also targets to hit. The only thing left is to think what's best approach to implementing it. Maybe it's really better to make archers 4/8 or 5/8 and change approach to handling it. Some time later, i hope, i'll make this thing competitive enough. Or maybe someone else will :)

05-12-2013, 08:23 PM
Yeah wholeheartedly agree. It's one of the things that make the game more strategic, but also more boring lol I also feel like this has a lot do with archers. Whenever you go on the offensive, you bring the fight into their archer's puncture range while your archers have to move, and also your shieldbangers have to play catchup. I understand strategic retreats, but it seems like the units are more geared towards defensive play and I wouldn't mind if stoic made more aggresive units as well (backbiter seems a bit lackluster atm to build your team around, however many people do build their team comp around their archers)

05-12-2013, 08:41 PM
Sometimes I get so bored with all the coy maneuvering, even if I'm winning, that I just say screw it and go Leroy Jenkins. I think this is probably one reason Raidmasters are so popular. The consequences of charging around the battlefield with them tend to be a lot lighter than with the other units. It sounds like BBs were in a similar space before their stats were adjusted.

05-13-2013, 02:04 AM
Knowing the right time to engage and keeping your army cohesive (all within range to attack or support each other) is key to victory.

Aside from strats involving leaving a Warrior away from the fighting forever (which only works because of the unique turn mechanics in Factions), you generally want your entire army to be able to attack or make useful actions at any given time. This means that it's usually bad to use 2-3 WP to charge into the enemy army, because your other units will have to use 2-3 WP to support him, or else only a tiny part of your army is taking actions while the entire opposing army can beat on your unit who dived in.

This is why in many games the first 10-25 actions are usually small moves or maneuvers, with armies getting closer and closer but not engaging. Getting the first hit in, or getting in hits based on your own chosen timing (say, right after his archers have moved) is very valuable, so sometimes you want to engage before the opponent finds his perfect timing...

Regarding turtling, the closest I find turtling/retreating to being useful is when the opponent runs up with Raidmasters and uses stonewall. If you retreat your whole army out of their move range, it makes them waste willpower.

Relevant image:

05-13-2013, 08:21 AM
Yeah, I ran away from a 2 Skystriker opening trap spam to great effect as well.

05-13-2013, 11:54 AM
I ask this question, you run away from what they did. They rest. What now? :D You are out of range to hit them and are now backed into a corner. So they pretty much got a free closer on you and can pick and choose targets while yours will get in the way of each other.

05-13-2013, 03:55 PM
Well, if they rest, I'll move closer on those turns, and it's not like I'd run far, or perhaps I'd move a team around a side flank. Also the case I had in mind was using rank 2+ traps without any provoking, so they were using will faster than I could rest.

05-14-2013, 07:42 AM
Yth has a good perspective of things. And I want to point out how ironic and what an oxymoron "aggressive turtling" is. Myself, I use the term "push", like in starcraft parlance. Sometimes tactics involve not outright aggression but aggressive positioning and pressure (passive aggression). You create a threat by "pushing" forward and encroaching upon your opponent's territory.

Looking back into the beta days, positioning was so crazy that there were times formations got into non-willpower range before engaging because of how crucial the follow ups were. I also agree that the game boils down to 2 options. Strike from a position where you cannot be ideally countered, or present a calculated threat to the enemy which they must attack by design, so you may counterattack or gain the initiative.

What to do I mean exactly? The first case usually happens using archers, when you position an archer to take a good shot while blocking with melee units, forcing an engagement and taking the initiative but protecting your archer. The second case usually involves putting a SB, RM or TH in range which does 3 things: 1. if the opponent does not engage you can land a strike with the unit 2. If the opponent runs away, you can reach some other juicy target 3. if the opponent engages, you land a decisive counter attack, effecting a trade-off you're happy with.

This generally means that yes, there are benefits to keeping certain units out of a fight until the right time. But also that having all your units able to engage the enemy team is also crucial. In the event that the opponent keeps a key unit out of the fight, the key point of victory is making sure you use the 6v5 advantage to win the game and end with a sufficient pillage. If you allow the opponent to match your 6 units while "defending" only with 5 and cleaning up with the 6th, you have strategically been outmatched.

The game isn't as clear as first hit advantage or turtling advantage, it's nuanced enough where "pushing" and "patience/reserved" play are effective strategies just as rushing and turtling have their own place. Landing the first strike can be very important in many cases, but in specific scenarios such as: 1. hitting a warrior for decent damage before he hits you. 2. breaking a SM with your guys before he gets BtP on. 3. hobbling/maiming and archer or BB before they make a key attack. And all these can be played in the opening moves.

05-14-2013, 08:35 AM
At lower levels there is also the added psychological element to sacrificing an unit early - even if the enemy knows better a part of his brain goes: "F#ck yeah! We got this bro! Attack! Ride now, Rohirim! Forth Eorlingas! All batteries FIRE!".

For some reason I find it extremely funny to watch :]

05-14-2013, 09:04 AM
I really enjoyed your post Raven (and the others too).

A provoking thought I've had in response to how "RMs and SS make asymmetrical movement" or how "SB, TH, or RMs as a Calculated threat can force your enemy to attack"- does this imply with no glaring mistakes between opponents the lack of this unit utility will lead to defeat; or is this functionality spread around enough (the previous unit lists was just a short example) that there isn't a "bad team"?

05-14-2013, 09:16 AM
I think there isn't a bad team. I was pondering the idea the other day that...

1. Yes, there are actually "optimal" builds. I think there are builds which jive really well and key in on a key strategic dimension and play on it. These builds specialize but their units don't, which multiple units overlapping in role. (Think super break (RM SM) or super armor ignore (TH WM)or super push builds (3 RM) or super puncture (2 BM))
2. Because there are "optimal" builds, we also have "sub-optimal builds", builds which are closer to hybrids. They work on several dimensions but don't clearly excel in 1. These builds don't specialize, but the units themselves specialize in their respective role. (No unit duplicate unit builds, some others I can't think of)
3. Sub-optimal builds remain viable even if they are harder to play or win with.

I think this is quite an achievement, balance wise. And if you happen to wonder how accurate or founded this idea is, just try observing the various builds you've seen, played with or played against. There are those you've seen which seem easier to play with and win. There are those that seem unique and interesting, possible to win with, but harder to do so. This generally means it's up to the player's skill, preference and playstyle, how they want to play and what they personally find fulfilling.

What does this have to do with your question? Well at some point, you're skilled enough to beat 80-90% of the players out there, no matter what build you run. So there isn't a bad team per se...I would say however stats play the bigger role. If you don't stat right, even the best team isn't worth scrap.

In general the game does have a set meta or pattern to follow or win with, like what has so far been the implied discussion of this thread. What I've observed is:

1. Neutralize the highest str threat.
2. Neutralize the highest break threat.
3. Neutralize the greatest puncture threat.
4. Neutralize the most durable unit

In that priority. The tactics so far described in this thread, and in another recent discussion just started, I think play on achieving these 4 sub-objectives, in order to achieve the greater goal of winning the game.

In conclusion, whatever unit variety and utility a player decides on, if the team executes the above pattern better or faster than the opponent, they should win.

05-18-2013, 08:27 AM
Wow, you guys are really applying philosophical techniques to analyze the game's strategies!

It saddens me to say that I can't really contribute to the discussion, as I play the game much more casually and thus lack the subtle perception required. The only relevant point I can make is that, since I play casually, I won't typically employ "slow" techniques, preferring to engage the opponent relatively "fast". This has earned me many a defeats and also made me hold this virtue (patience) in high esteem!

PS - I was thinking of bringing the lack-of-luck factor into the discussion, but decided not too (minus this postscript ;))

05-22-2013, 04:01 AM
Regarding optimal versus sub-optimal builds:

I believe that different playstyles take advantage of certain tactics better than others. So different playstyles can utilize certain types of units to their best strengths, while certain other units are tough to use. So depending on your own playstyle, certain unit combinations "jive" and work well, and other unit combinations conflict and stutter along.

The ultimate transcendant goal of a competetive player would be to embrace/emulate all playstyles, to allow him to use every team comp to its best potential. But failing that, the best thing to do is find a team lineup which fits your chosen style of play and specialize in that.

So in my opinion, optimal or sub-optimal are relative: what is optimal changes with your playstyle.

05-22-2013, 08:28 AM
Well there's definitely truth to that Yth. Still, one of the major reasons we concern ourselves with balance is that there are team comps/units/builds that are just easier to win with. That is, builds which close the experience/skill gap, because they are easier to win with or use. In that sense, there are also objectively more optimal builds compared to others. Our attempts to balance are efforts to keep this within fair and fun boundaries :).

05-22-2013, 08:46 AM
That's understood. But it is also my understanding that sub-optimal builds in fairly well balanced games can succeed at all levels of play except the very top 1~2% of any given competetive scene.

This means that for 99% of the people playing the game, it is more suitable to go with a build which matches your given playstyle than it is to go with the "best build" which has been mathed out. Fun should trump "optimized" teams.

I just re-read your original post regarding sub-optimal builds and I think we actually aren't disagreeing on anything :). This game is well enough balanced that sub-optimal builds can still be successful, they just sometimes take a little more effort to execute. See the big group of people who are loving playing with teams which were randomly built by Rensei's tool.

05-22-2013, 09:53 AM
Indeed I am not disagreeing with you Yth, and that post you just made captures the point well.