[XCOM2] When you see a good move, look for a better one

YouTuber Marbozir, an experienced XCOM 2 player, faces a tough situation on a heavy-activity black site mission. Topics from the highlights below include the importance of mobility, avoiding fair fights, taking necessary risks, asymmetry in risk evaluation, and target prioritization.

Most of the clips here come from the early stages of a single difficult combat, but we start a point raised earlier in the video. Space and time can be thought of as spacetime, a real life physics concept that is also fundamental to gameplay. Every game has time, space, and movement in some form, and spacetime dis/advantage in its various forms (incl. speed, positioning, territory) is highly impactful. Here, Ryan's poor mobility is potentially problematic. With one soldier slower than the rest, Marbozir has two choices. The first option is to voluntarily pass up on using some of his XCOMs' mobility and keep the squad grouped, or he can allow faster squadmembers to range ahead but dangerously stringing out his team:

Now to the dangerous fight. Continue reading "[XCOM2] When you see a good move, look for a better one"

[MTG] 3 Vintage Super League match commentary higlights

Rachel and Randy, commentating on a Vintage Super League match between Davids Ochoa and Williams, start out with a discussion of Williams’ hand. Williams, playing a Monastary Mentor deck, has not drawn the explosive mana pieces that sometimes lead to enormous early pressure. His hand will not speedily play out Mentor, but it does have ways to buy time towards finding one. He holds two 1-mana removal spells with many targets in Ochoa’s artifact and creature reliant Workshop deck:

Unfortunately for Williams, while he does find time to draw two copies of Mentor, he does not draw enough land to combat the Workshop deck’s soft-lock mana denial elements. Williams loses game 1 of the match with Mentors stranded in hand, an example of “threshold of effect” that I introduced last week. Williams, due to not mulliganing his opening 7 and also playing card-drawing spells, has access to more cards than his opponent, which is abstractly an advantage. However, without the ability to actually play the cards, their contribution is illusory. Despite Ochoa mulliganing his opener to 6 cards and not once actually drawing extra cards, he effectively has the card advantage:

Finally we have an interesting discussion of how recently printed magic cards have influenced the Vintage metagame. Vintage is a powerful format, and it’s fairly unusual for new cards to be strong enough for the Vintage context. New “toys” for Vintage decks have included Monastary Mentor (for a cheap spells deck), Paradoxical Outcome (for some storm decks), and Walking Ballista (for Workshop decks). Rachel favors Mentor, partly because Stony Silence is an effective hoser against both Outcome and Workshop decks:

[Civ4] Early game Babylon commentary selections

Here we have a commentary moments from a Civilization IV playthrough recorded by YouTuber Chris67132. Some highlights below are more game-specific, and others have more direct cross-game applicability, but all showcase the type of thinking and commentary we want to see here. Topics covered include settlement priorities, ally choice, and a situational short and early war. I've inserted a short discussion of how the Slavery civic gives a "rule-breaking" capability that enables exchange of normally nonexchangeable resources, which requires a paradigm shift in evaluation.

In this first clip, we hear that Chris is not a huge fan of the Babylonian bowman on deity difficulty. The bowman is a unique archer replacement, an early defensive unit. An early defensive war will seriously severely hamper the player's opening development, even with the bowman. Chris does later concede that the bowman is much more effective at defending against barbarians than an archer:
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[FTL] Eke out marginal advantage, create opportunities for luck

At the start of this post's source video, FTL player DarkTwinge (DT) was in a very bad spot. Without fuel for his warp drive, he drifted until the pursuing rebel fleet overtook him, leading to hard combats and low rewards. With only difficult choices available, DT does his best to survive. In these clips we'll see ideas of marginal value, cooldown rotation management, threshold of effect, and luck favoring the prepared.

In the first fight (not shown here), DT won 4 fuel but took more hull damage. In these two clips from the second fight (vs another elite fighter), he's still in rebel space. Since DT now has a small buffer of extra fuel, and since elite rebels drop poor loot, his goal is to escape taking minimal damage rather than to destroy the enemy ship.

DT activates cloaking to dodge just a moment before the first salvo reaches him, eking out every bit of marginal value. An earlier cloak would have been wasted while the shots were still harmlessly mid-flight, and would also expose his ship to danger earlier by moving up the decloak time. By activating at the last second, he forces the enemy to sit wastefully on recharged weapons for longer on the far end of the cloak's duration:
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[Chess] When an opponent’s position is harder to play, let them stew in it

In this pair of clips, ChessExplained's commentary sheds light on the cross-game theme of soliciting a misstep from an opponent by preserving a position that is harder for them to navigate than for you.

In this first clip, white's e5 move is committal, as pawns cannot move backwards. By committing to e5, white limits his own options and reveals his plan to black. Before (and after) the e5 pawn push he enjoys a space advantage that gives him more room to maneuver. If white had not locked himself into an e5 pawn structure here, he could have continued to make some easy and flexible strengthening moves. Black's more cramped position limits his options, and he would still need to play around white's multiple possible pawn advances. By pushing e5, white cuts himself off of these other plans, and black does not have to play around as many ideas at once. White passed up a chance to leave black in a less-comfortable position for a few more moves, which would give black more chances to err:

Another related but distinct theme crops up in a missed opportunity for black that Chris highlights: fix an enemy weakness in place so that it cannot be easily strengthened or traded off. One parallel appears in League of Legends laning. Let's say purple team's mid laner is low on hp or mana and would like the opportunity to return to base for a refresh. The blue mid player might ward up and push, pinning the purple mid to the tower. If purple goes back, they will take tower damage and miss extra xp, but if they stay they cannot fully contest lane, and may even be slain by a tower dive. Here, black could have used his own pawn to achieve a similar effect:

[Meta] Statistics only go so far

There was an insightful digression of flame's that I had cut from the curated clips in my recent Overwatch post. In the cut clip, flame shares his thinking on why the recent harsh criticisms levied against Genji-player Ahran may be unfair, with critics looking only at scoreboard performance while missing important context. With some reservations, I ultimately removed the bit from my write-up as it did not fit the theme or flow of the post. However, I recently came across this article by Australian LoL analyst VolSig that caused me to reevaluate the clip's relevance. VolSig's discussion of the limitations of blindly analyzing with statistics brought to mind flame's worthy critique of Ahran-critics. Ultimately, I feel the point made in the clip merits a highlight:

The power and limitations of statistics is a theme that I expect will crop up again, as analysts in gaming and other fields increasingly turn to big data to make decisions. In this particular case, Ahran's performance needs to be understood through more than just the lens of scoreboard results. Performance statistics are aggregated from specific instances of play, and to really understand their meaning one must take the time to understand the component instances. By directly comparing Ahran to other top Genji players, critics fail to account for important differences in context, including differing personal playstyle, support quality, and team strategy.

[SupCom] Heaven critiques a replay

Supreme Commander YouTuber Heaven reviews a replay and in the process addresses key cross-game ideas. Topics raised include efficient resource gathering strategies, harassment, prophylactic (i.e. preemptive) defense against predictable threats, opportunity costs of idle or ill-chosen units, the importance of converting an advantage into a greater one, and unit efficiency improvement via increased alpha-damage of massed lower-dam units.

This particular map, Loki, has trees near the players' starts that can be reclaimed for energy, allowing construction of power generators to be deferred. However, not all reclaimable trees are created equal: some are actually "tree groups" that can be sucked up by a single reclaim action and contain more energy, while others are less efficiently-reclaimable single trees:
Continue reading "[SupCom] Heaven critiques a replay"

[OW] Flame reviews C9 vs AFBlue Match

Overwatch player/caster flame critiques C9's play in a match against AF Blue. Here are a few key moments of analysis.

Both teams field tanks Reinhardt and Zarya and supports Lucio and Ana, characters very strong at the top level on king of the hill maps. Team Cloud9 fills out their remaining two slots with with Roadhog for tank/burst/disruption and Tracer as their single DPS. Team AF Blue instead runs double DPS in the form of Genji and McCree. Flame prefers AF Blue's comp for having more options for ranged (McCree) and close (Genji) DPS, and for having more permutations of ability synergy to enable good engages even without Zarya ultimate. Cloud 9 will need to take out the ranged McCree in order for the close-range Tracer to have openings to threaten the supports, and the Roadhog will need to find successful hooks to be relevant:
Continue reading "[OW] Flame reviews C9 vs AFBlue Match"

[HoMM3] Chris67132 uses move superiority to efficiently take a battle

In this Heroes of Might and Magic III combat, YouTuber Chris67132 uses his army’s superior speed to kite and efficiently defeat a group of nagas.

On the first turn, Chris’ hero casts a 402 damage lightning bolt for 8 sp, taking out one of the 2-naga stacks. He then issues wait commands to his genies and giant, deferring their actions until the end of turn 1, after the nagas have approached. This action lays the groundwork for a huge turn:

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[PA] AndreasG on the ComReclaim foundational build order

Planetary Annihilation YouTuber AndreasG presents a fundamental build order for maximizing income in the initial couple minutes of play. The economic foundation laid by this build is capable of supporting transition into various strategies. Here I've pulled a couple moments of insight with cross-game relevance, but if you are playing PA yourself, it's certainly worth checking out the rest of the video.

It is important to place the initial bot factory close to the core metal points, to minimize the time the early fabricators ("fabbers") waste in travelling to construct the metal extractors ("mexes"):
Continue reading "[PA] AndreasG on the ComReclaim foundational build order"