Does This List Make Me Look Fat?

IRL TonyIt’s one of those clever little ‘no right answer’ questions you hear on sitcoms all the time; “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?”

It’s a great setup and the classy follow-up is something along the lines of:

  1.  “I’m pretty sure the dress has nothing to do with it.”
  2. “I wouldn’t blame the dress, I think it’s your backside.”

Either way it’s a staple of the awkward and hilarious skirmishes in sitcom marriages.  So why do I bring up this anecdote?

New Warmachine and Hordes players are constantly fixated on making sure they have the “right” army and the “right” list.  I think there are a few similarities in the questions they’re asking.  This article is beginner focused, honing in on two phenomena: getting the “right stuff” as a beginner and the Skill Curve.  I’m also elaborating on a concept addressed in Episode 118 of MoM for listeners out there.

Now, a little bit about me you won’t really care about:  I used to play competitive golf at school.  The funny thing was that I played with REALLY old clubs.  Now, they were nice old clubs (Ping – Eye 2’s) but they were certainly not the newest, shiniest, contains a computer and rocket booster technology out on the market.

That said, whenever someone gave me grief, my response was always this;   “I’m pretty sure they’re not the biggest thing wrong with my game.” At the level I was playing, practice was a MUCH better investment than new clubs.  Plain and simple.

Ok.  Picture time.  Here is how I viewed the mix of elements impacting my game as I elevated in level of competition.

Dress1So here you can see a graphical layout of the impact of three elements on my game.  I could improve skill, the equipment I was using or my strategy.  Obviously, I’m not a professional golfer.  You can bet that the level of competitive play I faced was on the lower end of this scale.  As a result, Skill and Strategy were the elements that would most greatly impact my performance in the field.

At high levels of play, ALL of the golfers are good.  The difference between their skill-level becomes less of a factor and their strategies for the course and the equipment they’re using start to play a more dramatic role on outcomes.  Please notice, while this is the case for the pro’s, it’s not the case for most.   

I’m certain you already detect where I’m going, so I’ll just go there now.  Here’s the same graph changing the headings so it applies to Warmachine and Hordes.

Dress2Once more, I’m not a pro.  I know.  It pains me to write it as much as it pains you to read it, I’m sure.  Since I’m floating around the one or two mark on this graph, I really need to keep my focus primarily on improving my Skill level.  Do I have a strategy for every SR2013 scenario? Nope.  Do I ALWAYS practice using a timer? Kinda.  Do I get in as many games a week as I should? Absolutely not.  There is a world of things that I can do to improve my outcomes before I start blaming my lists or army.

As a result, I really don’t sweat having PERFECT lists.  There are just bigger fish to fry to improve my results.  So long as I’m playing something that’s not complete garbage, I’ll do ok.

So.  New Players.  Here is the lesson;

  1.  Don’t sweat the faction you’ve selected.  They’re all “competitive” at your play level.
  2. Don’t sweat having a perfect list.  They’re all “competitive” at your play level.

I’ve also heard high-end players complain about the other end of this spectrum.  Similarly to pro golfers, the Top Dogs in the game (Keith Christianson for Cryx, Jake Van Meter for Legion and John Demaris for Skorne) are at a roughly parity skill level.  This explains two things:

  1.  Their fixation on list and army selection.
    1. Because it’s a larger vehicle toward driving their success.
  2. Their disheartened attitude toward luck in the game.
    1. Because it simply plays a larger subjective role in their outcomes.

Now let’s talk about the term “Skill Cap” or “Skill Curve”.  I’m going to be short and sweet on this one because I think it dove-tails well into some of the ground that we just covered.

The Skill Curve is a relationship that describes the power of a piece relative to the skill of the player using it.

Simply said.  Implies quite a bit.  I’ll elaborate.

Gaspy2 is easy to learn.  That’s helped along by much of his army being easy to learn.  This means that even moderate skill  level players can access a high power level with Gaspy2 right off the bat.

On the flip side, Kromac has a much more subdued Skill Curve.  He’s harder to learn, but as you get better with the army, your mastery is continually rewarded with a higher and higher power level.

Rephrased: For equivalently high-skill players Kromac and Gaspy2 are in the same league.  For new players, they are not.

Another way I view this hails back from my days of Super Nintendo addiction.  Think about the difference between the Blue Falcon and the Fire Stingray in F-Zero.

The Blue Falcon has great acceleration but a lack luster top speed (lots of power right off the bat, less power at high levels).  This is like Gaspy2.  You’re going to being smashing face from minute one.  That said, his first round of tricks are going to only get you so far unless you become a wizard.


Conversely, the Fire Stingray had really poor acceleration but the highest top speed in the game.  If you were new to F-Zero, this guy was horrible.  Your bumping around on the track would preclude you from ever hitting those top speeds.  However, if you were good, this guy was MONEY.   Your top speed was higher than anyone in the game and as a result, any well seasoned F-Zero master gravitated toward the Stingray.  This is similar to Kromac.  If you’re new to Warmachine, your lessons on positioning, shifting stones and using Warpath are going to come hard.  However, once you know what you’re doing you’ll really get to open up and tee off.


Lastly, a note of caution.  I’ve told you to not worry about your list and then in the same article implied that certain pieces require less skill than others.  Abusing pieces with truncated skill curves will negatively impact your ability to get better at the game.  This is the reason why athletes over-train using weights. (and the root of No-Crutch 2012)  The only way to get better is to push yourself on the skill access.  So do it.

Knowing is half the battle.

Regression Morghoul 3

Author: Tmage

I'm a gaming and math enthusiast. I find games that balance strategic interaction with economic principles (delayed option, resource control, etc.) are some of the most rewarding for me as a player. I concentrated in Finance, Analytic Consulting, Decision Sciences and Management Strategy while getting my MBA at Kellogg (Northwestern University) and majored in Chemical Engineering during my undergrad at University of Illinois. I view gaming through this lens and share my perspective via periodic articles. Thanks for reading!

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