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Advance Wars Balance Discussion

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Advance Wars Balance Discussion

Post  JakeSamiRulz on Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:22 pm

Given the struggle of CO Tiers has still not been normalized between the AW communities, I did a lot of digging around to figure out why for the game of Advance Wars it is still very hard to have a good generalized view of balance. It sparked me to write up a generalized document about it, which you can read up on here...

Discussing Game Balance
http://cwtactics.blogspot.com/2015/02/off-grid-discussing-game-balance.html

My main issue is that with the amount of games played, and information available to all communities, we still have a very shallow understanding of why tiers differ so dramatically with subtle changes. Even AWDoR, with a strict attention to unit balance detail, managed to create CO's which where dramatically overpowered (Isabella) or just outright broken (Caulder).

But the problem is a bit more than that...

I know that inevitably, if the tools are available for people to tweak the values of the Commanding Officers and units, they will be tweaked. In the original Custom Wars, they seeked to balance the game by completely stripping the Commanding Officers of their abilities. For those who read the document above, it is a bad move to outright remove things because then it strips the soul of the characters away.

What is keeping this team, or even people playing with the stats, from making the same errors?

I want to discuss this document with people who are interested, but I also want to hear about other Advance Wars based issues that I should attempt to cover. This game has a lot of issues and problems.


  • It is pretty difficult to ignore how underplayed and undervalued the navy units are in Advance Wars.
  • I would find it interesting to talk about the underplayed "Missile" unit, and what can be done to make it more useful.
  • I would like to discuss the loss of the AW1 Tutorial mode, and if placing Tutorials within the Campaign was a better move.


This game has a lot of serious topics, and a lot of challenges, but I think a lot of these topics are just touched on and never dug deep into. I want to change that a little bit and really put some thought and dig in deep into the problems with this game.

This topic is open to any discussion about the topic above, and any new topics you'd like to be covered in the future.
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Re: Advance Wars Balance Discussion

Post  WalkerBoh on Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:51 pm

I don't have any detailed thoughts on the specific points JSRulz laid out above, but I do have a few general comments about balance in AW.

There are really only two possible culprits for imbalance in AW: CO's and units. For the most part, I think units are relatively easy to balance - it's a matter of cost vs. utility. Naval units are under-used because they are disproportionately expensive compared to the benefits they provide (and the benefit is heavily restricted largely due to being water-locked). Meanwhile stealths are considered broken despite being in the same cost range because they are immensely effective and hard to counter. If a battleship were an air unit, I'm sure they would be built much more often too... In the end, balancing the units just requires turning one of those knobs until the cost/reward balances out (and there are many different ways to turn the "utility" knob).

CO's, on the other hand, are quite a bit harder to balance. I think the fundamental difference here between CO's and units is that each unit's characteristics only affect one thing: that unit. There are no units in AW (that I know of, but I haven't played DoR) that affect multiple units in the game - for example, if APC's boosted the range of all adjacent indirect units, then APC's would have a wider sphere of influence on the game.

But for the most part, AW confines the broader effects to CO abilities - thus making the CO's much harder to balance. The more units that are affected by an ability, the more complicated it is to balance that ability, because there are more possibilities for abuse. This is especially true in a game like AW where each player can move ALL of their units each turn, meaning that a broken ability that affects all units will be exponentially more broken than in a game like chess. You can stratify CO's even further into CO's with strong day-to-day abilities vs. CO's with strong one-time powers. It should be non-controversial that CO's with broken day-to-day abilities are even more powerful, since their abilities affect every unit on every turn. This is why CO's like Colin, Kanbei, and Sturm are often broken, while someone like Eagle is not (despite having a ridiculously powerful ability).

(Quick sidenote, but the usage rate of CO powers also matters. Essentially the d2d vs. power CO balance comes down to a tradeoff of how often the power can be used vs. how useful it is. This is why AW3 favors CO's with strong powers more than something like AWBW does; the power bar rates allow CO powers to be used much more frequently, making CO's with stronger power proportionally stronger.)

I agree with JSRulz that stripping CO's of abilities is the wrong path for balancing, especially because the variety of CO powers is one of the strongest selling points for AW, both for the diversity of tactical and strategic decisions, as well as for flavor. But I'm also not convinced that it's a problem that needs to be fixed; as long as multiple viable choices exist for any given game, then I think balance and variety is preserved. There is a lot more that can be said about on this topic, but I'll leave it here for now.

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