The Shaltari are on the tongue and this pretty much sums it up.
There’s been a lot of discussion on why Shaltari are seen as broken, and the spectrum appears pretty balanced. For me there are a few reasons, and not all which are the Shaltari’s fault. In this post I will be going over one of them, which I call the spread.
The spread is a double entendre. Firstly it means the spread of objectives and focal points, which I will now refer to collectively as goals. Its second meaning is the spread of missions played at tournaments. Tournaments are just one of many ways to play DZC, but a lot of the Shaltari backlash is generated from them, so it seems necessary to address it.
Before I get to the hog of the matter, you may have noticed that goals is objectives and focal points. The reason I am not including intel and search is not because of my personal views, but they are widely seen as unsavory. For this reason, I am just leaving them out. Killpoint missions, encroachment, Sieze Ground, and the like are sometimes brought up, but I am not convinced they will help the situation. For the time being Shaltari can stay off the board, meaning in killpoints if they really want to win they can gain a lead and then disappear. Encroachment and Sieze Ground are basically larger modified focal points in my eyes. This bigger target will only aid the Shaltari, as it is hard to box them out of normal focal points already.
I cannot think of one goals mission supplied by Hawk that doesn’t fit one of the above layouts. In fact, if you discard Targets of Opportunity and Military Complex the rest of the goals missions use the die layout. Not to say that the die is bad, but is it partially to blame for Shaltari dominance?
I have no proof, but I have a feeling that when players and TO’s set up the die they put one in the exact middle, which is fine and good, but then the other 4 go in the center of the 4 quadrants. This may appear balanced, but is it? Hold on to your pen protectors, I’m bout to bust out some math.
So the distance from a table edge to the first goal is 12”. From that goal to the center goal is 16.97”. From one corner goal, to the opposite corner goal it is 33.94”. In the case of the former, most factions can make a hop that distance when maxing their 3” embark and disembark freebies, but it’s relying on some perfect positioning that may expose that drop ship. In the case of the latter, there is only one faction that can make that leap in a single bound. This is huge in a popular mission known as Secure the Flanks. What if we modified the layout a bit.
Now the distance between those two focal points is 16.97” which is much more manageable for all.
On the right is a Take and Extract mod that brings everything to the center, which means the Shaltari will still be able to run, but they will not simultaneously win the mission quite as easily. Some may feel this is unfair because some factions may not get a search roll until turn 3, but by bringing them closer together it means they can get to the next goal quicker. Also it allows them to project their power more efficiently, as the area they need to project it over isn’t as large.
The ‘targets’ layout does not suffers as much as the goals are usually no more than 12” away from another. Sadly, this layout is only used once in a tournament typically.
Recently, I’ve had a few fun games with yoink101 where we place goals evenly in a new pattern. These have been 2000 pt games with 7 goals, but you can easily do something similar with 3 goals for skirmish and 5 for clash, though there are fewer symmetrical patterns to make with fewer goals. Here is one I’ve had in my head for some time meant for competitive play.
The idea here is that the two focal points on the right are too close to over commit to the lone focal point on the left. These goals are interchangeable, what is shown is just the initial incarnation of the bootleg, though I like to have focal points more than 12” apart to make endgame scoring a bit easier.
Some have pointed to too many objective and focal point missions lend itself to Shaltari, but is it the objectives and focal points themselves, or the distance between them? Do the other missions really impact the Shaltari? Shaltari can remove killpoints from the table, so I do not think killpoint missions will help any other faction. Shaltari can maneuver any distance as long as gates are in the area, so playing missions that are spread out only strengthen them. Whether it is intel or possible objectives, or table quarters, the aim is much larger than simple objectives and focal points. In my eyes this makes objective and focal point based missions the most balanced, assuming the distances between the goals are kept in line, as it forces the Shaltari to commit to a particular area to win the game. Every other faction can only move so far in one turn, so when the distance between goals exceeds all other faction’s speed, it seems only natural the Shaltari will dominate. Closing these distances will mitigate their advantage and force them to commit to win the game.
So what do you think? Am I wrong? Am I forgetting something? Flame me in the comments!