Pocket Battles: Data Crunching

If you don’t know what Pocket Battles are, there’s a wonderful video summary and review by The Dice Tower. That review is for a historical set, Celts vs Romans; there’s now a fantasy set, Orcs vs Elves, and expansions are planned for both branches. Not to mention that, if you’re of a Heroscape bent of mind, you can combine the two sets. Mainly the difference right now, apart from theme, is that the fantasy set is quite a bit more dynamic than the ancients set. Quite a bit. I feel that the balance is still there, but there’s definitely far more back and forth than with the more controlled ancients set. A matter of taste, that.

Anyways, one thing I noticed while using an impromptu drafting variant ((By the way, with the variant, both sides seem to almost always end up within the range of 60 points per army, so taking 30 points seems a quick way to deal with determining game end conditions without having to individually calculate army sizes post-drafting.)) is that point values for a few similar units—well, apart from army affiliation, the same units with different names—can differ from army to army. Obviously this was designed from the get-go with pre-game army construction in mind, but it’s a little strange when it comes to impromptu drafting.

A little bit of ruby script, and thus far there’s only one type of unit across multiple armies that’s the same for all attributes except for point values: the Elves’ spearmen (worth 2 points) versus the Orcs’ orcs ((Not a typo.)) and Romans’ Legionaries (worth 3 points).

Is it an error? I have no idea. It does make Elves a little more powerful with constructed armies, since they can include a few more points, so it’s a bit strange—of course, I haven’t used the Elves anywhere near enough to determine if this is simply the way it is to balance pre-constructed armies. I use drafting mode for now and don’t terribly care.

For people interested in units that are the same across multiple armies, including point values, here’s a complete list (note that the particular distribution shooting or engagement dice may differ across armies; these are simply counting the number of shooting/engagement dice), modulo mistakes in my little YAML database of units.

Shooting dice 2, formation 4, wound 1, points 3: 
   Romans' Archers, Elves' Archers, Celts' Slingers

Shooting dice 1, engagement dice 1, formation 4, wounds 1, points 2
    Celts' Javelinmen, Orcs' Goblins

Shooting dice 3, formation 1, wounds 1, Reactive and +1 Shooting, points 5
    Celts' Hero, Romans' Scorpio ((One's human, the other's a catapult. I double-checked.))

For folks concerned that there’d be too many unit copies across the different armies, well—there’s not, apart from the most basic of backbone foot units.

I like this game series. And not only because I’ve been so riddled with PTSD and bipolar the last week that this has been the only one I can endure the length of. It’s very short, especially for a wargame, but it’s satisfying and there’s still a depth of gameplay that one wouldn’t expect out of a game so small. There’s some luck, but it can be mitigated with formation building—yes, even during the drafting variant—and, for what it’s worth, mitigating risk while managing logistics is pretty much what non-abstract wargames are about. And abstract ones, too, if you’re hoping your opponent doesn’t notice what your last move just did, and that you’ve grasped the implications of what your last move just did.

Also, I love shooty unit formations where the chances of hitting something are at least 50%. ((I absolutely love the Orcs’ Boulder Thrower, and before that the Romans’ Scorpio and the Celts’ Hero.)) Those and big wound-soaking units or sacrificial engagement units ((Never underestimate the utility of single-unit formations. Plus there are plenty of 30% hit chance engagement units these days.)) are the only things that hold back the Celts’ Gastae from overtaking the board—but they can be rather effective. Then again, I also love overwhelm-and-rush formations.

Me and myself, we tend to be polar opposites, us.