EA balance under 3.4

MThomas722

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First of all – thank you for this excellent scenario. Over the years it’s given me more hours of entertainment than I’d care to count-up (right up there with things like ‘M1 Tank platoon’ on my Amiga, ‘Lords of Midnight’ on my Spectrum, or playing ‘Counter Strike’ against a room full of other games-devs in terms of best game experiences of all time). The amount of work that must have gone into it staggers the mind. I don’t really play TOAW anymore, but I do play EA :laugh:

After coming back to EA after quite a gap, and enjoying it again immensely, I do believe there’s now an issue with balance. I played 5 long games of EA back around 2001/02 (ACOW), and one in 2007 (TOAW3) . Most went past 100 turns with a clear decision, one way or the other. I played as the Allies and Axis in equal measure, so saw it from both sides.

Recently I’ve been playing 2 games under TOAW 3.4, one as the Axis (on T126), and an ‘eastern crusade’ as the Allies (my first EC – on T56). So I’ve recently seen Barbarossa from both sides. It’s been great fun to get back to EA, but the thing that’s struck me about the recent games is that the defence is now king.

As the Axis I barely took Paris (v.heavy losses) and when it came to Barbarossa got badly stuck on the Stalin-ine forts in north and central Russia. I did do well in the south, largely because the Russians don’t have quite enough units to make a solid line in Ukraine early on. I took Lenningrad with the help of the Finns, but all of this has cost the Germans dearly. My opp is a very good defensive player, but it’s dawned on me there’s more to it than that.

In my EC game as the Allies my Russians in the north are holding the Stalin-forts with ease, even during the ‘Barb’ shock. My opp makes breakthroughs in the south with the help of paras, but they will soon be used up. With my massive reinforcements there will soon be a solid line from Orel to Rostov. I’m not doing anything particularly clever as the Allies.

My point is that EA didn’t used to be this way. It used to be quite easy to knock out the French (was under TOAW3), and Barbarossa used to be a sweeping battle of maneuver from north to south. The Germans could do ‘anything’ but couldn’t do ‘everything’. The skill was in picking the targets. Of course this might not have been strictly historically accurate, but it was a fun challenging game that both sides could win. Under 3.4, with good defensive players, EA seems to bog down into WW1 too easily. I might still be fighting for Paris if I hadn’t had some luck from an unexpected direction.

I don’t believe EA has changed greatly since my last 2007 game(EA1.7?), but I’ve read that TOAW 3.4 made some changes that marginally favor the defence. The most significant to my mind are that retreats are now less likely to happen, as terrain is now taken into account. I remember from old-EA that the Germans got a lot of push-backs on French/Russians, and also lots of over-runs in the movement phase. This doesn’t seem to happen so much anymore.

Game balance is a delicate thing for a monster like EA. I seems to me that with 3.4 the balance has shifted. Note that this is not the same thing as historical accuracy. I’d tend to believe that EA and TOAW3.4 is now a more accurate sim of WW2, as with good allied commanders, a knowledge of WW2 history, and perfect C2 WW2 would no doubt have bogged down into a re-run of WW1.

EA is still great funto play, but baring an Allied player that makes bad strategic mistakes (of a massive kind) I think the scenario will reach equilibrium far too early. I can’t see how the Axis can take Moscow+Stalingrad. I’m sure the later war allied offensive will run into the same issues, but I’ve not got that far yet. I just wanted to know if anyone else has shared this experience of EA under TOAW3.4, as compared to earlier versions, and if there’s any belief that the defence is too heavily favored, and if so is there a workable fix?

Perhaps a way to asses this would be to keep a ‘master log’ of EA results under different versions, and see if a pattern emerges. Something that includes a brief one line summary of how the game went at the top level. This would be very interesting regardless of the above issues.

Thanks for reading so far. I wouldn’t make the effort if I didn’t love this scenario so much.

Cheers,

Matt Thomas
 

sapper32

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Yes i agree that defence is a lot easier under the 3.4 patch which does cause problems, i have attacked France in 3.4 version but against a noob player so had no problems but i will be doing the same in another game shortly so i will let you all no my losses and how i feel it went as you said under the old patch France was a bit of a walk over and you had a chance to gain a victory in the USSR,Ive only played one EC game and it ended in stalemate with both sides unable to gain an advantage over the other but that was played under the old patch.
The use of the TOs has become even more important to gain you every advantage when attacking and planning your attacks and axis of attacks needs to be thought about much more now im looking forward to attacking the USSR in my games.

Ian
 

toawguy

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Important question here MThomas722:

A) How many 'combats phases' are you getting out of each turn?

TOAW is all about how many combat phases you can get out of a turn; with the answer to this question, we can get a better idea of the validity of your claim.

Secondly, with the increased ease of defence that is certainly the case with the new patch, balance in EA could certainly be affected.

What we need to do is have several people play two-sided playtests, i.e. where both players play two games against each other, with each opponent playing Axis in one game, Allies in the other. We also need to try our best to ensure that people are reasonably matched skill wise.

If we can get enough people to do this we can get a good idea of what the balance is like, and get an idea of what changes would need to be made.

FYI, for a historical background, EA used to be slightly balanced in favour of the Axis, though the wonderfully amazing Mark Stevens mostly addressed that in his final updates.
 

basil

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Having been playing one game against Matt and another against another similarly matched player, I've been getting 2-4 combat phases per round and sometimes more. In instances where I have had attack odds of 7-1 or greater against a redlined unit, I was still struggling to either get the defensive unit to retreat or evaporate. Where possible to manuever openly, this issue reduces somewhat from my experience (although not entirely), but in EA the role of manuever gradually stalemates once fixed lines are formed. I suppose if WW2 leaders early on had been more rational in their deployments, it would have been inevitable that a WW1 environment might have formed. Perhaps greated emphasis on artillery being able to reduce fixed positions could be a solution, since artillery was the single largest contributer of WW2 casualties in combat?
 

Secadegas

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I have been thinking for some time about the present EA's balance under new 3.4 version. The problems are clear and were already detailed on earlier posts in this thread.

I consider EA one of few trully gems ever created to TOAW and people loving this scenario should not resign to present status which produces awkward historical results, ruined playability and doesn't allow any degree of simulation.
To be realistic we should not hope for a quick fix of the problem the new RFC (retreat from combat) adjustment brought to this and other scenarios.

Using the new design possibilities which the new version also allows - the 3.4.0.202 version is a great effort and a real upgrade to the game, if we exclude the AAA unit icon bug and the RFC radical adjustment - i think there are ways of trying to bring back some of the nice (and well tested) former EA's balance and enjoyment.

Before sharing my suggestions i'd like to make clear i do not want to create a EA mod of my own. Some other popular TOAW scenarios suffer from this "plague" with a lot of different mods, some of doubtfull quality and without an "official" version which only leads to players' confusion and scenario's discredit.

So being my suggestions are just intented to be my contribution to this great scenario and should be thoroughly debated and tested.

Let's start...

1 ) MRPB (max rounds per battle) limited to 3. This is pretty obvious on a "global" scale scenario. This way a "burned" attack on the western desert should not effect all combat operations on the Eastern front. And makes attacking management easier to less experienced players.

2) Entrechement rate reduced to 80 (instead of default 100). This reduces the entrenchement chance by 20% but still allowing a more than decent degree of entrechement level. Players can easily create fortified lines but makes things difficult to defender when counter breakthroughs. At present the attacker clearly needs that extra help.

3) Enemy-hex conversion costs reduced to 80 (instead of default 100). Each enemy hex converted costs the moving unit 10% of its movement allowance (reducible by high recon levels). Reducing this cost by 20% helps the attacker to kept the well needed advancing momentum.

4) Reducing ZOC (zone of control) costs from 25% to 15% (from 100 default to 60, both forces) also improves attacker chances as on Enemy-hex conversion costs without dramatically effecting playing feeling or balance.

5) I would suggest increasing the rail repair capacity from the present 6 to 8 (both sides). I fully understand the reason behing reducing the value, in the past, in sake of historical realism. However playability will be increased while supplying further help to the attacker.

6) Attrition divider set to 6 (instead of defult 10). This represents an increase of 80% on combat losses. AD affects both sides (attacker and defender). At first sight this 80% value seems a huge increase on combat losses but this effect is necessary to cause defenders damage enough to make them retreat if, of course, reasonable conditions are met (this effect is crucial on small "stubborn" units retreats). On other hand this substantial losses can be compensated by the introdution of timed increased replacements levels.
Respecting the present and well tested inventory and replacements table, there is the possibility of increasing Axis replacements by 20% until T170 (end of 1942) partly compensating this side of its extra losses on its attack "period". From T170 to T215 (mid 1943) this effect would neutral and from then on the Axis - on its defending "period"- would suffer a decrease of 20% on replacements. On the opposite the Allies would have, during its defending period (until T160 - mid 1942) a reduction of 20%, until T200 (Spring 1943) a neutral effect and from then on a replacements increase of 20% (conresponding to its full attack "period").
This timed events must be combined with the already existing replacements' events. Not difficult to do.

It's my firm belief that stronger AD (more losses) makes EA's combat results more realistic. I tested this option and the results are positive. If well played, Warsaw can, once again, be taken in 2 or 3 weeks and Paris in 5 to 6 weeks (turns). The losses are higher, probably not absolutely historical but playability and enjoyment is resumed. In the end that's what matters...

I would like to have feedback from EA community (specially from you Mark...)

And, of course, i'm sorry for the long post and the poor writing style...
 

toawguy

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I have seen many comments indicating that under TOAW's latest patch, 3.4, the defence has been vastly increased. Having been away from playing TOAW extensively (as I used to prior to 2011), I have yet to play TOAW's 3's version 3.4.
Has everyone really experienced a vast increase to the power of the defender? The TOAW 3 testers at matrix games seem to indicate that they have no hard proof that this is the case. Further, it appears that, while Ralph has been unavailable for a sustained period of time, 3.5 is now going to be arriving sooner than later.
Before anyone was to make wholesale changes to EA, we would need to have a consensus that the strength of defence has increased substantially. Further, if this consensus could be reached, it may be better to bring this concensus and any proof we have to Ralph et al. at Matrix games in an attempt to get them to investigate this imbalance and correct it with 3.5,which seems to be closer than it did even 1 month ago, rather than trying to make massive changes to EA which would ahev to undergo years of playtesting (again) to ensure the balance is restored.

Ralph has transposed code before that has had detrimental effects on the engine only to fix it in a later patch. I think the right course may be to gather evidence of increased defence and present said evidence to Ralph, rather than try to change scenarios to make up for that error in code, if it does exist...
 

Secadegas

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I have yet to play TOAW's 3's version 3.4.
After reading your post that goes without saying...

I think the right course may be to gather evidence of increased defence and present said evidence to Ralph, rather than try to change scenarios to make up for that error in code, if it does exist...
As you said "I have seen many comments indicating that under TOAW's latest patch, 3.4, the defence has been vastly increased." I'd add saying those comments are from some of the most active players. I can't understand why you still put it in doubt.

If Ralph and the team ever fix the present problem we can always resume the previous EA's version.

Please note that some of the most solid scenarios - CFNA series as an exemple - were adapted to the new version using most of the new features. As far as i know EA didn't.

You may prefer to gather further evidence and wait. I (and others) prefer to play the game and get enjoyment from it.
 
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Heldenkaiser

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The defensive does certainly seem to be very strong in my EA game with Stefan. But this is my first EA game so I cannot make any valid comparisons.
 

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Guys,

A couple of improvements and a couple of significant bug fiixes have combined to make the defense tougher under 3.4. There's no doubt about that.

The FRC increase may have been overcooked and will probably get looked at again (it will not necessarily get changed though) but the other changes are generally welcome (by me at least) and I certainly hope that they remain "unfixed". We don't really want to unfix the bug fixes. And I always did think that general combat results favoured the attacker.

The problem is that older scenarios (pre 3.4) were balanced under the old system and now require rebalancing. I like the scheme proposed by Secadagas. It would relatively painless to implement and looks about right - though only playtesting will prove it or not. Keep in mind that I don't have extensive experience with EA though.

Best wishes,
Steve
 

Raver

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Well for what its worth I largely agree with Secadegas - especially his point 6 (although I could take or leave point 5).

From memory 'ownership' of EA transferred from Mark to Veers around about (or maybe just before) T3 came out and while there were plans for a uber update at some point, the game was never rebalanced/ upgraded to cope with T3.

EA remains a remarkably good scenario in my opinion, but I wonder whether there is anyone interested in making some of the changes suggested in this thread? If anyone did, I would be happy to emerge from EA retirement to play test it.
 

shunwick

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Raver,

Yes, point 5 may need more careful consideration.

An uber udate is unlikely unless someone is willing and able and dedicated enough to take on a huge amount of work. I can understand why Mark transferred the project to Veers. As I understand it, Veers had done a fair bit of work on it but then lost it all in a disk crash. Beyond that, of course, unfortunately Veers appears to be lost to community - for the time being anyway. I don't know if anyone has been able to contact him.

The best plan is to try to persuade Mark to implement these changes. In that way, the version can be 'officially' sanctioned. None of these changes would take long to implement (we are talking minutes not weeks or months) .

It's whether or not we can persuade Mark that creating this version does not mean that he will be sucked back in to supporting the scenario beyond this. Who is the best diplomat on the forum?

Best wishes,
Steve
 

Raver

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Yes I agree that would be the best option as far as we are all concerned, but last time I talked to Mark about EA he seemed pretty much finished with EA. Might be worth a try though - perhaps if we draw a pentagram somewhere in the forums and all chant his name .....?
 

Raver

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Of course an alternative to conning Mark into it would be to have his officially sanction and help someone suitably committed from the forums?
 

shunwick

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Raver,

Ok with pentagrams and name chanting but I am not sacrificing any chickens...

I don't do that anymore...

Best wishes,
Steve
 

shunwick

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Mark,

Several chickens around here are looking most relieved... :)

Best wishes,
Steve
 
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