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Old July 10th, 2008, 01:00 PM
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The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

This post was inspired by another thread on a similar topic HERE and in part by my own series of posts HERE

A free for all poses several unique challenges, and since I’ve been playing mostly Three-For-All's on my recent game nights I’ve decided to present some ideas here. FFA’s can be VERY fun and are definitely worth the time it takes to get things right.

More to the point, there are three key aspects to having a successful and enjoyable FFA:

1) Map Design
2) Army Build
3) In Game Politics

Points one and two are true of basically any game of scape but three is particularly unique to FFA’s, I will however examine them in order.

The map design for an FFA is very important. To balance the fact that everyone is at war, startzones MUST:

1) Have the same number of spaces*
2) Be equally distant from each other OR have massive hazards hindering two zones that are closer together
3) Be equally distant from glyph’s*
4) Be on the same height*

Points one, three and four can be bent slightly with the players total point cap being adjusted according to any advantages / disadvantages afforded to their particular start zone. This process is generally pretty easy to resolve with a group of half-way experienced players and is often a great way to help everyone analyze the map before the game starts.

Point two is very important though, as if one player is far removed from the action they can simply turtle, wait for the others to duke it out and clean the last player standing off the map. FFA’s work best with three (triangular map), four (square map), 6 (hex map), 8 (octagonal map) etc. because these shapes are pretty easy to keep the vertices (start zones) equally distant from each other.

Another important point to remember is that you want everybody to be participating in the fight, so it’s best to have some powerful glyphs and/or some good elevations twards the center of the map, and to make the center easily
accessible to even the slowest figures (Zettian’s I’m lookin’ at you). This way even if a player opts to turtle the remaining player that had the guts to fight it out early will have control of height and some glyphs, giving them a shot at taking out the cowardly (if not smarter) player that held back.

Next we have your army build. Since there are a dozen and two ways to construct armies I will talk more generally about which units get a boost in this situation and which get a value hit.

First and foremost range gets a major spike in such a game, for two major reasons:
1) Range gives you the ability to pick and choose your targets much more effectively than melee. If you find one player has taken a big enough hit, aim your guns elsewhere.
2) Melee figures have to be in the thick of battle and most cannot flee once engaged (well you can always risk the wound). This makes YOUR melee figures targets and makes you fight with an enemy that you may wish to cease aggressions with.

As such, your army should be mainly (if not entirely) ranged figures. Any melee should be restricted to screen type figures that are low cost and will just be running a block for your ranged core. (Reavers are an obvious example).

Other than the major spike in range, figures that can get in and out of combat get some love, stealth flying gets a nice bump for this reason (and are the major exception to the range first rule I just put forword). Figures with this ability can fly in on key targets and then get the hell out of dodge and back to safety. (Cyprien is another obvious example)

This core army building strategy (Being able to cause damage without committing to any one point on the map or enemy) really has a lot to do with the politics and mentality of FFA’s so this is a good place to transition to point three.

The politics at the table often decide the victor of an FFA. The key to being a good FFA player is to always make your opponent look like a bigger threat than you. There are several ways to accomplish this, some are much more subtle than others. For example I find that the girls I play with have more success at FFA’s because us boys tend to give them room to breath once they start looking for a temporary alliance. Some people are just good at lobbying for cease-fires while other just make you want to attack them once they start begging for peace. Outside of working on your diplomacy checks there are some more quantifiable ways to give your self an edge when bargaining for peace.
1) Try and participate in skirmishes when they break out, but spread the attacks out. If everyone thinks you are attacking everyone they are less likely to team up on you.
2) Try to avoid being the one to kill key figures on enemy’s teams. Such a move may SEEM to be a great idea but it will often lead to what we call “blood feud” or “vendetta” with the player that controlled said key figure. You always want to keep the channels of communication and diplomacy open.
3) When possible, get your figures in a position of defensive power. Height and jungle are great for this. Often times it’s a better idea to forgo a few attack to leave squad members in defensively better positions. An opponent will often attack figures wit less bonus dice than ones with +2 or more.
4) Keep particularly devastating figures in the back for as long as possible. If your enemies have ton’s of common’s then for the love of Valhalla DON’T send out Zilrig as your first wave. The others WILL gang up on you, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll be down one Dragon pretty quickly. Remember you never, EVER want to be seen as the “main threat” at any point in the game… until it’s to late for anybody to do anything about it anyway.

It’s important to always be talking to your opponents too… every time it’s someone else’s turn you should be reassuring them that you are not focused on THEM, but that you BOTH need to focus on another player. You are never at odds with the current player on their turn. You are always on their side. Downplay your own offensive abilities; talk up the possible attacks of others. Remember you are never in a position to win, you always need help AGAINST the big threat, you are small and weak and not worth a round of attacks…

This type of play is why the army builds I talked about above are so very important. With lots of range you can give everyone the impression you are not turtiling, yet you aren’t taking many casualties. With stealth flyers you can assure an opponent that Cyp has way bigger fish to fry on his next activation and will be flying out of there and onto a bigger threat to the both of you. The ability to make other players see you as an unimportant target is the KEY to being a successful FFA player.

Some Strong Example FFA Army Builds: (500-600points)

Krav
Nikitas
Q9
Laglor
Rae-Rae(RotV)
Isamu

Lots of range, a few SA’s good defensive abilities and Isamu can act as your “Hey I’m in the middle of this battle too guys!” hero.

Hive
StingersX4
DronesX4

This one is great because you can keep sending wave after wave into the fray, but never give anybody the impression that you are winning. Ideally you’ll loose a few drones or stingers every round, letting the enemies kill off each others figures while you just spawn all yours loses back.

Feel free to throw some good FFA armies out there, or any other insight you have on this amazingly fun variant on the game.

Looking for quality maps for 3+ players? Think your latest map-masterpiece deserves a place of honor? Join in the discussion of The War-zones of Valhalla

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Last edited by Dredd Stev; July 10th, 2008 at 01:05 PM. Reason: added some links
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Old July 10th, 2008, 02:25 PM
Karl Marx Karl Marx is offline
 
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Good thoughts. I agree with everything you said, and as I play 3-4 player games with my friends and end up being the primary target this post will be very helpful. You just about nailed the group politics bit, but won't some intelligent person figure out that you're kissing up to everyone or deflecting thier intentions eslewhere every turn? Maybe your just a better politican than I am...

As for FFA armies I like to use Minions of Utgar x3, stingers x2 and MBS. This gives you a powerful yet subversive fighting force. The minions are hardy enough to take some heat and dish it out +intrest, stingers are just a solid ranged squad and MBS can preform assasinations like Cyprein without the pricetag or target on his back, you know how people tend to feel about an undying, murderous vampire, yes?

btw, rep+ for added links and good thread.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 02:53 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

I'm glad you liked Mr. Marx! It was a lot of fun to write, I'll tell you that for free. Thanks for the Rep too, I LOVE when I get that +1 from new members!

As for your army, I'd argue it's a little heavy on melee for my liking... but that 6def is nothing to sneeze at. Though high costed the MoU CAN act as a effective screen for your stingers, and MBS is a great option to bypass high defense figures. Just be sure and move the Minions slowly (that much shouldn't be hard!) and close together.

As for the politics... sometimes you need to be a little more reserved so as not to tip your hand. But in general I do talk it up on EVERY turn, even more so if other people are remaining silent.

Looking for quality maps for 3+ players? Think your latest map-masterpiece deserves a place of honor? Join in the discussion of The War-zones of Valhalla

It doesn't get any more classic than this: The C3V project

Last edited by Dredd Stev; July 10th, 2008 at 03:04 PM. Reason: formatting
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Old July 10th, 2008, 03:08 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dredd Stev View Post

Point two is very important though, as if one player is far removed from the action they can simply turtle, wait for the others to duke it out and clean the last player standing off the map. FFA’s work best with three (triangular map), four (square map), 6 (hex map), 8 (octagonal map) etc. because these shapes are pretty easy to keep the vertices (start zones) equally distant from each other.

Please tell me I'm wrong because I have been struggling with this for sometime, but it is impossible to make a map with four starting zones that are equally distant from each other. With just a simple square they will be close, but the ones diagonal from each other will be farther away from each other than the ones right next to each other. That is if the starting zones are in the corner of the square. So the next logical choice was to try and make a "plus sign" style map, but I ran into the same problem here. The only way I have been able to make a fairly balanced 4-player map is to make it very difficult for units to move around the edges of the map and to make the middle of the map the most favorable position of the map so that it is actually fought over instead of avoided.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

I don't have any examples but I'm sure I've made maps with perfectly distanced startzones from each other.

I find the best thing to do is:
1) Decide on the number of players
2) Pick the shape of the map based on the number of players (as I stated above)
3) Decide on the number of start zones
4) Build the map withoutthe start zones. Again I don't have any images on hand but I'm positive you can make a perfect square and perfect equilateral triangle.
5) Connect the start zones on the corners of the map, trying to keep them as close to the same shape as possible (a little deviation is fine it doesn't have to be PERFECT)

I can't say that I've ever run into a problem with this method... other than running out of hexes.

EDIT: I just re-read you're post and I realize what you were trying to say. It can indeed be tricky to build a map with EACH corner equally distant from ALL other corners. But as for the game play this shouldn't matter, as EVERY player will have TWO enemies the same distance from them. Granted players are less likely to charge at the far opponent, but that where good map design come into play...

Looking for quality maps for 3+ players? Think your latest map-masterpiece deserves a place of honor? Join in the discussion of The War-zones of Valhalla

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Last edited by Dredd Stev; July 10th, 2008 at 07:37 PM.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 03:18 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Great article!

But don't forget to mention one of the best FFA balancing options out there.... "Kill the player to your left." (or the right... either way...)

This is particularly fun in 3-player FFAs. you need to simultaneously defend yourself against the guy to your right, while also trying to pound on your objective - the one to your left. The really crazy-fun aspect of this type of FFA is that while defending yourself against the one trying to kill you, you don't want to hurt him too much, otherwise you're helping the one you're trying to kill by killing off units of the player he/she's trying to kill, and thus possibly helping your target to win the game...

If you've never played a "kill the player to your left" FFA, you can only imagine the hair-pulling politics and tactical decision-making involved!!

And of course, with this set up, it really creates for a majority of well-balanced games with no-one being able to turtle, or even gang-up on one player too much, because in doing so, you'll only be helping another player to win HIS objective, costing you the game. Most of our games of this sort come down to the wire. Much much fun!!

Again, great article!

SW8K

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Old July 10th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Good article. I've been involved in several free for alls. Most of what you said is spot on. Not to much politicing happens in my games, but some does occur.
Whats been stated about map design is also very important. In the beginning I struggled with map design, and our games quickly went from free for all to screw your neighbor. I've gotten much better however.
As for taking mostly range units, I'd have to say thats not always true. Using cover to your advantage and playing smart can lead to using melee units effectively. I will say having range helps, but is not absolutly needed. I played a free for all last week where the core of my army was Marcus and the Roman legionaires, and had some success.

All in all though, a good article with some very sound advice.

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My goal, play every official 'scape unit in a tournament at least once. 149 down, 55 to go!
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Old July 10th, 2008, 04:00 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Nice work. As many here know, I play a lot of three-for-alls (and have posted in most threads related to them). What you've said here is spot-on in my view.

I'll agree that range is especially important. It is so easy to get tied up in engagements with melee figures that end up not really helping you (i.e. in a death lock with a player who is going down as fast as you--while the third-man-out laughs at your quandary). Range figures are a lot more flexible and that helps. (My daughter tried out Wo-Sa-Ga the other night and got herself locked in a melee battle that just wasn't worth it, for example.)

As you say, talking it out is a huge part of these games. Someone else is always the bigger threat--you just have to figure out a way to argue that, no matter what .

I'm a big fan of central rewards--make the fight worth it--draw people to the middle. And of smaller sized maps (not too small, but small enough that everyone gets into the action and turtling in a start zone makes you a sitting duck). The starting zones should not only be the same height, but also be low height.

Let me just throw in here that attacks to the left/defense from the right can lead to great games and that trying some of the official scenarios for 3-players is a great way to begin to get a sense of how to really balance three-for-alls (and they are not all equal, some are much better than others--but they are a good start). (We've also played plenty of bigger games and they can be fun in the same kinds of ways--as you've said here.)

Excellent thread. Thanks for posting this up. [BTW, I've added this to the Index.]

Last edited by 1Mmirg; July 10th, 2008 at 04:57 PM.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 04:12 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Mmrig
Excellent thread. Thanks for posting this up.
It was, quite literally, my pleasure.

Looking for quality maps for 3+ players? Think your latest map-masterpiece deserves a place of honor? Join in the discussion of The War-zones of Valhalla

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Old July 10th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snotwalker 8000 View Post
Great article!

But don't forget to mention one of the best FFA balancing options out there.... "Kill the player to your left." (or the right... either way...)

This is particularly fun in 3-player FFAs. you need to simultaneously defend yourself against the guy to your right, while also trying to pound on your objective - the one to your left. The really crazy-fun aspect of this type of FFA is that while defending yourself against the one trying to kill you, you don't want to hurt him too much, otherwise you're helping the one you're trying to kill by killing off units of the player he/she's trying to kill, and thus possibly helping your target to win the game...

If you've never played a "kill the player to your left" FFA, you can only imagine the hair-pulling politics and tactical decision-making involved!!

And of course, with this set up, it really creates for a majority of well-balanced games with no-one being able to turtle, or even gang-up on one player too much, because in doing so, you'll only be helping another player to win HIS objective, costing you the game. Most of our games of this sort come down to the wire. Much much fun!!

Again, great article!

SW8K
Now THAT is something I've never done before. Hmm. That has a LOT of potential. *thoughtful chin stroke*

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Old July 10th, 2008, 08:24 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

I agree that the basic undesirability of melee goes up even more in a FFA game. When I engage you, I force you to attack me, whether you want to or not. Engagement with the enemy can also lead to mutual slaughter as enemy area-attackers show up and blast the front lines from afar. Overall, a really nice article!
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Old July 10th, 2008, 09:34 PM
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Re: The Dynamics of a Free-For-All

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dredd Stev
1) Try and participate in skirmishes when they break out, but spread the attacks out. If everyone thinks you are attacking everyone they are less likely to team up on you.
I disagree with this statement. If you are attacking EVERYONE, then EVERYONE will want you gone, so they will ALL attack you. It is a great article, and thats the only think that I find that I don't agree with. GREAT job, Dredd Stev!
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