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Author Topic: Skeleton Unbreakability test  (Read 10314 times)
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WarpGhost
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« on: April 18, 2009, 06:03:53 PM »



Following on my remembering TT rules for skeletons dying faster, I performed a test with the help of OllyOrc to determine if it applies in DO. In essence, this is what im talking about:

 * Certain units the the game (Flaggalents, Black Grail, all Skeletons, and the Banner of Defiance) have a rule called Unbreakable. This means they can never be forced to flee from combat, or panicked by missile fire; ie. they are extremely reliable troops, though it has no effect on how well they fight
 * In DO, the Skeleton regiments have marker in the rules called a 'racial flag', which identifies they are subject to a certain rule other units are not subject to.
 * In the TT game, Skeletons also have a form of Unbreakable, but they have a rule built into this whereby they actually take additional casualties by simply losing the combat they are in, as well as the casualties caused by actually being killed by the enemy; this is to balance out how they never normally flee (which is otherwise very expensive), because it means they are actually much easier to kill off than a unit where you literally have to kill them all off with regular attacks to get rid of them.
 * So it follows that in DO, the reason Skeletons have a racial flag is because they are also subject to this rule. This would make sense as it would stop you having to face truly Unbreakable units all over the place, which is a powerful ability even in 1 unit (as the heavy use of the Defiance Banner in multiplayer shows). It also means that in multiplayer, we charge a high points cost for an ability which isnt actually as good as people have assumed; essentially meaning Skeletons (who are below-average fighters) are treated as being a better unit than they actually are.

To test this out, i made an army of 10 Skeleton Warrior rediments, and used the unit editor to remove the racial flag from 5 of these (referred to as 'unflagged', with 'flagged' units being those who still have the racial flag). I also disabled Fear on all of them, so that it wouldnt skew fights as we're trying to determine how their Unbreakable works, not Fear.

First match: 10 Skellies vs. 10 Halberds
Simply put, we lined up the combatants in wide ranks and Olly charged his human troops into the Skellies front. The Skellies were grouped into unflagged on one side and flagged on the other, to clearly differentiate results. We followed this format in all tests, so only the 'dice' and the flagged/unflagged nature differ between combats.

This test was a little disappointing, as the halberds actually cut through all the Skeletons in fairly short order. Whilst there was a definite difference in time between how long the flagged skellies lasted, and the unflagged ones, it was not what I would call very conclusive. Because the same combat is repeated 5 times, it reduces the variables further but the halberds appear to have been so capable of generating normal kills that we couldnt get a good look at the different interactions! I believe that one of the unflagged units did manage to cause its opponent to flee however, but given other results this can be put down to luck.

Conclusion: The test showed a trend to the skeleton racial flag having a negative effect on Unbreakable, but it was pretty inconclusive because the fights were simply over in too few rounds of combat!

Second test: 10 Skellies vs. 10 Swordsmen

We switched to swordsmen in this test because both units then have hand weapons, and thus equal Strength. Otherwise both Swordsmen and Halberds have higher Initiative and Weapon Skill than Skellies, making them identical for this test. It would mean that the test would last slightly longer by limiting casualty rate without sacrificing the superiority of the human troops, giving us a clearer result but same relevance.

Interestingly, 4/5 unflagged Skellies won their fight and broke the enemy, but in 2 instances were reduced to just 2 men and their enemy was still ~10+ (and I think the other 2 victories may have been due to those Skellies being on a small hill). In the final unflagged fight, the swordsmen killed all skellies without loss. So this tells us that whilst skellies are poor fighters, the inherent randomness of the system never guaruntees victory to the 'better' unit; put another way, skellies fight like goblins but even goblins can sometimes get a bit lucky if they arent totally overmatched.

However, the flagged Skeletons all sucked and died very quickly (with combats lasting on average about less than half the time with the unflagged units), without causing more than 4 casualties on any of their opponents. This is a clear indication that the normal Skeletons do take additional damage as a consequence of losing combat, as well as the normal casualties from the enemy killing them.

Another interesting point, though not relevant to what we were testing: All skeleton units took fairly heavy casualties from the charge, but once the charging round of combat was done, the flagged skellies clearly died a lot faster. This could mean that DO gives some bonus to charging troops beyond simply the ability to always strike first in that round.

Conclusion: The result much more strongly indicated that the skeleton racial flag does alter the rules of their Unbreakable nature, making them much less good at hanging around compared to true Unbreakable units like Flaggelents and units with the Defiance Banner. Thus their apparent ability to never flee is actually worth a lot less than it is on other units that have it.

Third test: 10 Skellies vs. 10 Swordsmen

This was a repeat of the second test, as the Swordsmen had proved to be better at showing results at a slow enough speed to be useful. In this one, we saw basically the same results as we had previously; flagged units died much more quickly than unflagged units. The only differences were that 1 flagged unit (with very heavy casualties) actually broke their enemy, but conversely only 2 of the unflagged skeleton units broke their opponents this time. Again this shows more that DO is based on a system that places a lot more emphasis on variable results than most games. Again, the Swordsmen took low casualties, even the units that fled had only suffered 3-5 dead.

Conclusion With 3 sets of results in the bag (a total of 15 seperate tests each way), it was now clear that the racial flag does indeed have a noticable impact on how Skeletons perform. With it, their Unbreakable ability is much reduced in effect compared to other units with Unbreakable. With only 1 flagged unit in 15 actually defeating a roughly similar foe, it is clear that they depend on supporting units for effectiveness (though only a test where Fear is not turned off will give a true indication of the relative power levels), and also that they are not the tarpits they are commonly assumed to be or compared to.
Conversely, the fact that they won 6/15 (possibly 7/15) combats when they were unflagged shows that even troops with inferior stats benefit from normal Unbreakable, because you can hang in the fight so long you jjust need to get lucky in 1 round to potentially cause the enemy to flee. Thus it is this very racial flag that stops Skellies being a match for other armies 'basic' troops (Fear then being an equiliser, but not a winner in itself).

So Skeletons with Fear and their version of Unbreakable are roughly equal to, but not as some have supposed superior to, other enemy basic troops. Only the skill of the player will determine their true effectiveness, but thats not something the point system measures.

Another interesting point: At this stage, people are probably looking at the difference between results for Halberds and Swordsmen and thinking “Swordsmen must suck!”. Well, let me offer something in Swordsmen defence (other than “they cost half the price of a 2nd unit of greatswords/halberds”).  Halberdiers have polarms which makes them effectively Weapon Skill 3/Strength 4, which means they are more likely to wound people, whereas Swordsmen have WS4/S3, which means they are more likely to hit in the first place. However, its not a case of ‘higher the WS, the better’; you simply only have to exceed the current enemy’s WS to get the hit bonus. So a WS6 Black Grail is no better at beating up a WS2 unit than a WS4 one! (all other factors being equal, although if you have less than half your opponents WS they get a penalty to hit, but goblins/skellies against BG and Vamps are about the only instances). Because both Halberds and Swordsmen had higher WS than Skellies, Swordsmen’s advantage didn’t count; their strength comes from fighting WS3 (they hit more) and WS4 (they stop the enemy getting the hit bonus) enemies. This just happened to be one of those times Swordsmen couldn’t play to their strengths.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2009, 06:13:50 PM by WarpGhost » Logged

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Mr Shadow
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« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2009, 06:18:15 PM »

Very nice test!
Not quite conclusive perhaps, but I like the fact that you set out to find out about this.

How about;
Pitting Skeleton Warriors against another units of Skellis?
One flagged Skel unit charged in front and back from two enemy Skel units.
And a mirrored, but unflagged set-up.

Wouldn't this prove it? Fear and difference in stats would not be conclusive.

/Mr Shadow
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« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2009, 06:36:50 PM »

Very nice test!
Not quite conclusive perhaps, but I like the fact that you set out to find out about this.

How about;
Pitting Skeleton Warriors against another units of Skellis?
One flagged Skel unit charged in front and back from two enemy Skel units.
And a mirrored, but unflagged set-up.

Wouldn't this prove it? Fear and difference in stats would not be conclusive.

/Mr Shadow
No it wouldnt, because all you are really testing is the effect of generalship (and army selection insofar as having more units than the enemy allows more chance to get a unit into the rear of the enemy), not the strength of the unit itself. As long as the same unitThats why the Wraith test made isnt any indication that Wraiths are 'weak', because it relied on creating a situation where generalship not the quality of the units was the prime deciding factor. With correct generalship, even goblins can beat a superior foe (I know, I made an entirely goblin army but found I could only deploy about 10-12 points worth of units against the enemy's 15!), so proving that well-used skeletons can kill stuff is no better an indicator of balance than badly used skeletons not killing stuff! All I set out to prove was exactly what the Skeleton's Unbreakable rule is not actually the same as other unit's Unbreakable abilities; as I said, a straight test with Fear enabled is needed to show if their raw power is still worth twice the points of other basic troops.

Its also why we moved from halberds to swordsmen, because that extra strength took them above comparison with Skeletons, and as such was interfering with our ability to tell how Unbreakable was working. Another reason why not to use say Cavalry or elves was because their superior movement gives them advantages that skeletons have no comparison to, whereas Swordsmen are the equal in that respect.

To perhaps make it clearer, im theorising that Fear will bring Skeletons up to a level with other basic troop regiments, but what I have is practical proof that the Unbreakable ability they have still leaves them inferior to troops that cost half as much in points.
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2009, 07:00:22 PM »

My apologies, I didn't make myself clear.   Embarrassed

The suggestion was regarding the existence or non-existence of the undead CR-special rule in the Dark Omen racial specific skeleton flag, not about balance issues or generalship.

If the theory about the skeleton flag is correct, then wouldn't the unit without this flag last longer?
All units are fearless, unbreakable and have the same stats, but if the Skeleton flag works the way we think it does, it would be obvious.

/Mr Shadow
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« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2009, 11:31:40 PM »

If the theory about the skeleton flag is correct, then wouldn't the unit without this flag last longer?
Ive just spent 3 games and the report post proving its not a theory but a verifiable mechanic... If we make the combatants too identical it just makes the results more ambiguous not less; we want the skellies to lose by enough to actually show us its happening, but not by too much or too little that we cant get any useful info from it. Just to prove this, I did a quick test with Olly where 10 flagged skellies fought 10 unflagged skellies. All it came down to was who had charged, which is generally always going to be the decider in mirror match-ups.

The system used before is used because its identical across both groups, with only 1 variable, that of the racial flag. We could probably have the skellies do the charging and get a different result, but all that proves is charging is good and leaves you in a better position. After the bonus is expended, matches go 50/50 between combatants and are won by such small margins that the Skellie flag doesnt generate enough additional casualties to make a difference. We arent testing charge bonuses (or pumping the strength bonus button for that matter), we're testing Unbreakable Wink .

Incidently, we performed another test with swordsmen vs. Skellies, same result; flagged skellies died quickly and with little to show for it, unflagged skellies actually wiped the floor with their enemies despite relatively higher casualties (because they didnt have the flag to cause them additional casualties over what the better Empire troops could cause naturally). It shows how powerful true unbreakable is in a fight they arent overwhelmed in; the enemy needs to win every time; the unbreakable need only win once to potentially cause their enemy to flee, and given the randomness of DO, thats quite likely! Full Unbreakable seems to add a certain resilience thats quite out of odds with simple stats, perhaps explaining why Flaggalants appear so damn effective.
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2009, 01:34:29 AM »

Nice test, but I think, that not the close combat is important for skeletons/undeads but the attacking and causing fear. So I think: let them take more damage compared against empire and greenskins, as long as they cause fear Wink

Ok I stop kidding and am serious: This test is terrific for the "skeleton flag" but says nothing about the true "strength" of the skeleton, you cannot take one point from the skeleton and say: this is their weak point => they suck (yeah they do in this way), you have to see the "whole" skeleton with their weakness AND their strength.

Edit: #300 post  Grin
« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 01:43:51 AM by bembelimen » Logged



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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2009, 09:13:08 AM »

human units also have relatively good leadership

orc units have lower leadership and will suffer very badly if skeletons become too cheap

very interesting test thought and im impressed with the effort put into it, well done warpghost
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WarpGhost
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2009, 02:30:04 PM »

Quote
human units also have relatively good leadership

orc units have lower leadership and will suffer very badly if skeletons become too cheap
And O&G have more toughness and numbers, which makes it even less likely for Fear to even be put to the test let alone succeed (and Orcs and Human mainstay troops both have equal leadership).

Quote
This test is terrific for the "skeleton flag" but says nothing about the true "strength" of the skeleton, you cannot take one point from the skeleton and say: this is their weak point => they suck (yeah they do in this way), you have to see the "whole" skeleton with their weakness AND their strength.
Well this skeleton flag was the reason for the test, so for people to argue that Unbreakable was the reason for their high cost but now go and say "actually its Fear thats the problem" is more than a little dubious; as ive pointed out before the main argument people seem to make against Skeletons not being weak is the Unbreakable, not the Fear. Now people are turning around and saying the opposite. I wonder if people are actually reading this properly: Skeletons are getting their arses handed to them on a silver platter by cheaper units when it comes to a straight fight! Fear will need to do a damnsight more than give them a 50/50 chance to make them worth double the opposing basic troops! I also stated that another test will be needed to see if Fear is actually worth what people are attaching to it by uninformed default. But I dont appreciate people now suddenly doing a 180-degree turn on their positions of why skeletons should cost so much when their previous position is undermined.
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2009, 03:29:01 PM »

I did not mean to offend you but 1 pts units such as swordsmen, goblins, ghouls and zombies,
the 1 pts empire units and orc boyz are by far the best 1pts units, but they cannot really be 2 pts that would be overpriced.

Skeletons are stats-wise no better than goblins or zombies but they are unbreakable and cause fear. Now they are no use in an even fight but they will unlike the 1 pts units not break and be run down by a cavalry unit like seen many times. So there for they have 2 advantages over the 1 pts, they are unbreakable and cause fear. So they 100% reliable, they wont be able to fight unsupported as your test shows but they will slow down or bogdown a strong enemy, something that 1 pts units cannot be expected to do.

I can see that 2/2/2 seems to be a fair price but not lower.
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2009, 01:26:04 AM »

Posted a reply to your thread in another forum asking if you had connected the skeleton flag to the additional casualties for push-back rule, but then I found that you had already answered it here. Goodie goodie, more information is appreciated: we're coming closer to a full mapping of the DO data set.
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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2009, 09:40:44 AM »

Quote
So they 100% reliable, they wont be able to fight unsupported as your test shows but they will slow down or bogdown a strong enemy, something that 1 pts units cannot be expected to do
nice point

from other way, if they really suffers so much even against swordmen, that means that their real "power" is less then swordmen cost.

this "fear" or "blocker" ability is another value, is a tactical aspect.

so my reasonings for making skeletons for 2/1/2:
1) not only skeltons cause fear, but also ghouls, zombies, etc. so its not a big argument
2) as even ghouls seems better than skeletons (cause i guess they clost to swordmen in stats but also cause fear) argument for "good blocker" adds up a value but since they suck in close battle i think they may apply concept of 2 for first unit (to prevent it use as "free blocker" and 1 for the second cause they really suck.

p.s. btw, warpghost, what do you think about cost for mages as 2/3/4 (increasment for every futher unit) just wonder:)


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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2009, 09:49:54 AM »

Yes Alavet but Ghouls are extra unreliable because of their Cowardice trait and Zombies are destroyed when they flee hence why these 2 are 1 pts units

Skeletons lose many men but so would a goblin regiment with banner of defiance, thats how i think of them
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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2009, 11:48:58 PM »

Yes Alavet but Ghouls are extra unreliable because of their Cowardice trait and Zombies are destroyed when they flee hence why these 2 are 1 pts units

Skeletons lose many men but so would a goblin regiment with banner of defiance, thats how i think of them
Youre missing a vital factor in the 'speedbump' theory of bogging enemies down; getting stuck on decent units that arent unbreakable can slow you down just as much of not more, and inflict more casualties along the way on top.
Ive seen 1-point Human and Orc troops hold up an enemy as effectively, sometimes more effectively, than ive ever seen Skellies do it; the Skellies may not have the possibility of breaking from combat, but they have the certainty of just being bad troops. Yes, they'll get lucky every once in a while but you cant base balance on luck. Even when things are going well, Skeletons will still be bad troops whereas even Ghouls have the advantage of being decent troops when its fair weather.

Also, lets clear something up about Fear: it doesnt get better with units, its exactly the same regardless of quality. Its also only a factor when you outnumber you opponent, thus its greatly diluted by both the troops being crap as well as the points costing them too high. Elite Undead units cant use their Fear effectively because there simply are far too few in a unit and on the battlefield as a whole. As strange as it may seem, the most effective Fear-causing unit in my experience has been Zombies, precisely because they are the only UD unit that has 20-men basic and reasonable points cost. Does that make Zombies a powerful unit that needs to be increased in points? Hell no, the whole point is that Fear and that very cost are what makes them worthwhile; they lose either one of those advantages, and they're useless. Thats the point that Skeletons are at right now; they dont contribute to UD in quality, and their excessive points cost means they actually damage UD because you need numbers of models and unit, moreso than either of the other sides. With the much greater cost of their 'elite' units factored in, and UD are in a catch-22 whereby its difficult to have the support to make the expensive elites work, but they dont have the quality to make hordes work either.

Quote
Skeletons lose many men but so would a goblin regiment with banner of defiance, thats how i think of them
See this is what I find really frustrating. Ive just spent all this effort proving that this is absolutely not the case! The goblins will actually do a much better job! They dont die as fast (and have 4 more goblins than skeletons as base) and not only that, but if you choose archers you actually have a much better archer unit too (BS3 compared to skellies poor BS2)! The whole point is that by any measure, Skeletons are not good troops. They are bad fighters, they are bad archers, they're bad Fear-causers (compared to Zombies that have numbers and Ghouls that can kill enemies which raises the chances of Fear doing something), and theyre bad Unbreakable troops too (even compared to Banner'd goblins)! Their only strength is that they are reliable, but by most measures that reliability manifests as them being reliably bad. I might be able to bog a unit down with them but if I dont have the support to make use of this (hardly out of the question given Zombies unreliability and crapness, Ghouls cowardice, and most other UD unit's high points cost), they're a bad choice.

Quote
p.s. btw, warpghost, what do you think about cost for mages as 2/3/4 (increasment for every futher unit) just wonder:)
All mages should be 2 points for starters. As for the increment increase, whilst its true that subsequent mages cant use magic effectively, all mages are annoyances to kill off and once the other mage is dead, you have a repalcement ready to step up to the plate. So in strict terms they arent necassarily worth the escalating points cost, in the big picture its probably a good disincentive to potentially very frustrating gameplay.
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« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2009, 09:08:19 AM »

You are right no i dont expect skeletons to leave the battlefield with their unlife intact, they will most likely die to another unit, even to orcs or swordsmen.
Most people have very little expectations for the performance of Ghouls and Zombies so i guess they have a decent chance to surprise. Where as skeletons in combat will not leave that combat and most likely die in it. They have weak stats, even maybe the weakest stats, i am aware that goblins with banner might have a better chance to come out on top, however a goblin with the banner would prolly get killed as they would be a magnet for enemy units. Skeletons suffer from the same magnet effect because they are unbreakable.

I think your experiment is a very good one and i do respect it, i apologize if ive offended you

i guess we can atleast agree to disagree on their worth  Wink
Part of my resistance to 1 pts skeletons is not to say to you that they are as good as other 2 pts units, i dont think they are, they have unbreakability that why i like them as 2 pts, but i guess the deeper reason that i dont like them as 1 pts is that the undead race has been subject to quite a few cost decreases lately and with making skeletons 1 pts would overpower the undead race, compared to Greenskins and Empire, but that is an even bigger dicussion.

ps. Im pleased too see that you have entered the tournament, you are very devoted Warpghost and thats a good thing, dont let an old codger like me hold you back  Grin
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olly
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2009, 01:41:17 AM »

Great initial Concept for Tests WarpGhost and Ive certainly learnt

that Skeletons are'nt as good as I personally once thought.


Mapping all the Dark Omen game mechanics is a facinating Subject

and the more we can confirm Table Tops Rules in action, so much the better.


http://wiki.dark-omen.org/do/ARM


All of this just further enhances Dark Omen's reputation as a true game of Quality.

Thnx


Smiley



« Last Edit: April 22, 2009, 11:13:44 PM by olly » Logged

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