Today I will be talking about viewing Action Points (AP) as a resource. Doing so doesn’t change much, but it helps to explain logically what most players already understand intuitively. Spelling things out like this can sometimes help point us in the right direction when we have a difficult in game decision.
When selecting your crew, you have a number of AP which will be available to you throughout the game. An average crew crew can probably get about 85 AP over the course of an average game (8 models x 2 AP = 16 +1 AP for the master = 17 x 5 turns = 85). This varies depending on the number of models, additional actions the models can take, etc. It’s good to know about how many AP your crew can generate in game.
The point of the game is to collect Victory Points (VP). So, ultimately, the winner of the game is the player who most efficiently spent his or her AP to gain those VP. The more AP it costs you to get any single VP, the less viable that objective is. For example, an objective that requires you to cross the board is good for a crew with a high walk stat (as they will use fewer AP to cross the board), but another objective that involves killing models may be less appealing to the crew if they deal low damage (as this objective costs more AP for the crew). This may seem obvious, but as I said earlier, this is mostly an exercise in expressing logically what most people grasp intuitively. “Keep to your strategies and schemes,” is common Malifaux advice and what people are essentially saying is, “make sure you accomplish as many VP as you can with as few AP as possible.”
Of course, the number of AP a crew generates in a game is not a set number. While 85 might be the maximum potential for most crews, this number is going to go down as the crew loses models throughout the game. This brings me to my next point: not all AP are created equal. If a model is very survivable, it is much more likely to survive the game, and thus it is likely to be able to generate every AP possible. Because of this, survivable models will generally have less potent actions.
On the other hand, a model might be very good at causing damage.
“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!”
In this case, the model can deny your opponent AP by removing their models. Additionally, in kill-based objectives, the model can generate VP at a more efficient rate.
During the transition from 1.5 to second edition, one of the major shifts which we made was to reduce the number of specific AP in the game. Specific AP comes from things like melee expert which allows the model more attacks, or nimble which allows it a free walk action, etc. These abilities were found on the vast majority of models with a cost of 6 or greater. However, these models were generally tough, good at killing things/accomplishing objectives, and they generated extra AP every turn on top of it. One of the disadvantages of fielding a crew of nothing but the most expensive models is generally that you will be getting fewer AP every turn, although the ones you do get will be more valuable. In 1.5, most of the models could both generate numerous AP and use them very effectively (and the expensive models which did not have specific AP very rarely saw the table). By reducing specific AP in second edition, crew selection has become much more difficult. People generally want a few heavy hitters, but they need some good objective runners as well. Hard choices are a good thing for a game.
Of course, we didn’t want to swing the other way either. In the early M2E beta test, there was a great amount of concern about “swarm” lists. In other words, lists which ran as many cheap models as possible in order to maximize AP. However, this is generally balanced by the quality of the AP those models generate. And the key faction which is best at doing this (Gremlins) generally pay for their extra AP by way of damage. While this mechanic is very fluffy for the gremlins, it also serves a very important balancing function; when gremlins suffer damage to generate more AP, they are essentially risking the AP they can generate later in the game in return for AP on the current turn.
Abilities which increase a crew’s AP potential during the game are incredibly powerful, so they are usually relegated to Master-level actions. The most common form of this is summoners who can spit out a number of smaller models to accomplish various objectives. These often prove some of the most difficult abilities to balance. The earlier in game the model is summoned, the higher its maximum AP output becomes. This is why there are often restrictions on summoning which make doing it in the early game restrictive or more expensive (i.e. requiring corpse markers which won’t drop on their own until later in the game, or in the case of Molly having to be near the enemy). Coming up with mechanics which restrict the early game more than the late game can be very difficult and is one of the reasons summoning is hard to balance. Another tool we use to balance summoning is having the summoned model take damage, meaning it is less likely to achieve its full AP potential.
Finally, there are even ways to transfer AP from one model to another (for example, with Obey you can spend one AP with one model to allow another model to take an action worth one AP). This is very useful if you have a big, heavy hitter with whom the AP would be more valuable. In other words, the heavy hitter has a limited number of AP, so other models funnel theirs over to him.
Of course, Obey-type actions aren’t just used to give AP to heavy hitters. They can also be used to allow models in critical locations to take interact actions or drop scheme markers. This brings us to another important aspect of viewing AP as a resource: positional value. We have already established that not all AP are created equal, but up to this point we have only explored how this is true because some models have better stats than others. However, the model’s position on the board also plays a part. A bayou gremlin may be a cheap model with low stats, but if it is in position to place the last Scheme Marker for Line in the Sand and score some VP for you, it may be the most valuable model in your crew. In other words, the value of a model will change as the game changes, and this is something which I call positional value. Again, this is understood intuitively by most players, but it can be useful to spell out.
This is another tricky thing about balancing summoners. Frequently, summoners place models right in the middle of the action, increasing their positional value. A normal model might need to take three walk actions to get to the center of the board, but if a model is just summoned right there, it has essentially gotten 3 AP worth of positional value right off the bat. This is a big reason why summoned models are slow and may not interact the turn they come into play.
A lot of players talk about a model’s effectiveness by referencing its soulstone cost (i.e. “My 8 soulstone cost Coppelius held up 13 soulstones worth of models. Pretty good!”). While this isn’t a bad rough estimate of a model’s effectiveness, the thing which I place the most value on is its AP efficiency; how many AP does the model need to spend to get me a VP? While Coppelius in the example above may have done a good job, he’s not going to win the game for you if your opponent has a 2 soulstone gremlin running around throwing scheme markers everywhere. In other words, don’t ignore the positional value of models. Once the game has started, how many soulstones the model costed you is totally irrelevant; all that matters is VP.
I hope this wasn’t too dry or too obvious for you. Leave a comment and let me know if you found this post interesting, and what sort of posts you would like to see in the future.