There’s Nothing Wrong About Breaking Games With Cheap Strategies. It’s Fun


#1

The Grasshopper was always one of my favorite BattleMechs, going all the way back to the original FASA BattleTech board game. In a game that valued maneuverability above armor, the fast-jumping Grasshopper was able to jet around the battlefield and maintain near-continuous fire on its targets while they struggled to hit back. There were harder-hitting mechs its size, but they were shot-magnets, getting absolutely smashed in the opening volleys of each game, but the Grasshopper would often be hanging tough right until the end as its complement of medium lasers finally started drilling into critical components on enemy machines. If it overheated, all it needed to do was jump into some cover and rest for a turn before resuming the fight. Let’s see an Awesome manage that.

But the final card the Grasshopper could play, if heroics were called for, was a Death From Above attack. It was dangerous, as its legs would take damage in the effort and there was a risk it would fall on landing. But it was also a way for the Grasshopper to turn its tremendous mass into a weapon deadlier than most mechs’ entire arsenals.

It took me a while to get a Grasshopper in the new BattleTech tactics game. I had been waiting to get my hands on this mech since I installed the game, and arguably since the last time I played the board game in college. I killed a couple but got poor salvage off them, as their aforementioned evasiveness often meant that they died in hails of missiles and cannon fire rather than from disabling surgical strikes. But shortly I after I finally cobbled together my own Grasshopper—and found it was about as good as I remembered—I spotted an unusual piece of loot a list of salvage: A leg modification that would add 15 points of damage to each Death From Above Attack.

A couple missions later, I got an even rarer leg mod that would reduce by 30 points how much damage I would suffer from performing the attack.

Look, I can read a sign as well as the next guy, and in the vision of a dive-bombing Grasshopper, I saw my road to conquest.

The first draft of my DFA machine

It wasn’t easy getting both mods on the Grasshopper. I stripped off its Large Laser and while there’s an argument to be made that the Large Laser is so weight and heat inefficient as to be worthless, it gave the Grasshopper a very useful long-range ability. Now, with both its Large Laser and its tiny long-range missile launcher sent to storage, my Grasshopper was going to be completely reliant on short-range lasers and Deaths From Above.

I needn’t have worried. With my best pilots flying it, the Grasshopper has turned into a bird of prey. The moment they break cover, my Grasshopper puts enemy mechs on the ground with swift strikes from the sky. Every turn there’s the sound of metal getting ripped apart, usually followed by the sound of ammo explosions and enemy mechs hitting the deck. Only rarely do they get the chance to stand up again, while the Grasshopper has already flown after its next target.

This strategy may not be entirely balanced. Knockdown attacks are so devastating in BattleTech that the Grasshopper’s ability to execute them at-will means that I can basically destroy an enemy mech every single turn. On the other hand, BattleTech is a game that is at least partially balanced by the scarcity of truly great equipment. I have put something like 60 hours into this campaign and have seen this particular damage-reduction leg mod exactly once. Like Icarus’ wax wings, my Grasshopper is going to crash back to earth if one of those souped-up legs is ever critically damaged. But for as long as I’ve got them, I’m going to use them to absolutely ruin my enemies.

When I shared my mech design on Twitter, I received some useful ideas for further augmenting the Grasshopper. A lot of folks want me to go all-in on its already somewhat min-maxed design: Small lasers have almost no range in BattleTech, but at point-blank they pack as much wallop as a medium laser and at half the weight. Since that’s where my Grasshopper already lives, I’d probably end up with greater firepower overall. It’s something I’m thinking about, though I might like the Grasshopper as a skirmisher too much to commit fully to the strategy.

A fistfights-only version of an Atlas made by Twitter user @lim_ak

But people also started sharing their own attempts at gaming the system, and creating their own idealized murder machine. One person is still rocking a plucky little Vindicator, cutting it down to wafer-thin armor but kitting it out with an even greater arsenal of jump gets and sniper weapons. One follower, Andrew Lim, showed me a 100-ton assault mech that carries upgrades to both its fists so that each melee attack will do about 240 extra damage (apparently its performance in the field has been disappointing).

It dawns on me that in each of our attempts to “cheese” a favorite game, we reveal a little something about ourselves. I can’t quite bring myself to make the Grasshopper a one-trick pony, but I’ve transformed its underlying flexibility and survivability into a weapon in themselves. There might be a more specialized, efficient build available, but none that expresses so perfectly the the hopes I harbor in each battle, and the eventualities I am forever hedging against.

What is your favorite cheese tactic or build that you’ve created? How was it meant to work, and did reality match your expectations?

Let me know in today’s open thread!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/4354md/theres-nothing-wrong-about-breaking-games-with-cheap-strategies-its-fun

#2

It all depends on the game and level of gamebreak that cheap strategies have. Even for games like Persona in my NG+ becomes so boring because battles are tedious. If I don’t limit myself to weaker Personas, the smaller battles are just useless to me.


#3

Yay! I got my very silly mech in a Waypoint article :smiley:

I figure I should also share the revised version here as well.

Moved the build to a Battlemaster, it gains some extra speed and an extra jump jet which massively solves it’s mobility issues. Downside is that it also loses 700 points of armour to do it :frowning:. It works a whole lot better just because it’s no longer spending 5 turns jumping towards the enemy to get into combat, but I just don’t think the Battlemaster is quite invoking the fear into my enemies the way that the Atlas did.

I did manage to have a perfect map for All Might to get to work the other day. Enemy assault lance in a tight corridor with a cliff on one side and hill to the other. All my other pilots just at one end with All Might jumping behind them and just punching them in the back one after the other. It was glorious.


#4

It’s a bit different with competitive games, but I’ve always loved the Momochi tech in Street Fighter 4. He took advantage of the leniency the game gives you to time your directional inputs for special moves and teching throws to create probably the most impressive option select I’ve ever heard of. Essentially as he stood up from being knocked down he would block for a brief instant, then transition into an invincible shoryuken with a throw input hidden behind it. If you attack him exactly as he stands up he blocks, if you throw him exactly when he stands up he breaks out of the throw, and if your attack or throw is delayed at all you get hit by the shoryuken. I wouldn’t call it game breaking but it definitely cause a big change in strategy and decision-making that he did an amazing job of taking advantage of.


#5

Awesome build! Where’d you find all of those arm mods? :smiley: Have you considered putting that build into a Banshee? I know it has an absolutely awful amount of free tonnage at max armor, but it’s the same speed as a Battlemaster and if you’re putting every spare ton only into punching, you could maybe make it work! https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1DlFtZXxF-62ovX0FM9n0zs4_TRAJX1GhjBIn4DZPYXY/edit#gid=0 is a good comparison spreadsheet showing free tonnage of different mechs when max armored.


#6

I love it when games have complex systems that allow for this kind of experimentation. Which is why one of my worst fears is a game series I enjoy starting to focus on multiplayer. While there’s nothing wrong with multiplayer games is inclusions necessitates the removal of weird, unfair, or just plain broken strategies. Multiplayer made Halo 2’s pistol bad and the entire series grenades less effective than wet farts. The Civilization series increased focus on multiplayer has held designers back from creating the very wild and unusual civilizations that the mechanics allow. One of the reasons I have no interest in Elder Scrolls Online is that the joy of the Elder Scrolls games in finding the broken cheesy strategies that the game’s open ended mechanics allow. Without that the series is much less appealing.

There’s an enormous joy in a well balanced multiplayer game. But when designers have to split the difference between making the player feel empowered in single player and fair in multiplayer it can leave the game mechanically dull.


#7

Hey, as long as you’re honestly enjoying yourself!
But I don’t think it’ll ever be something for me.

On one hand there is the joy of finding use for something in a way the developers might not have intended, but if that creation makes playing the game less interesting I will immediately stop using it.

I remember Austin talking about his inability to go for a sub-optimal strat, even if it makes a game less fun to play. Hearing something like that makes me glad I don’t have that compulsion.

Min-maxing rarely gives me pleasure in video games, and my priorities are rarely based on efficiency.
In fact, I kind of love the lack of optimization. It’s something that makes me feel human, as opposed to the cold hard logic and precision of a well-oiled machine or computer program.

.

I’m the person who wrote in to Waypoint’s Battletch review/discussion, asking if I could play without the tiny laser weapon that permeate Battletech. I haven’t been able to fully rid myself of them but I’m definitely trying to keep them to a minimum, even though it’s hurting my funds/combat performance/survivability rate.

Even in fighting games, a genre I like a lot, I have a hard time with optimization.

"What if I end my combo with an axe kick instead of an uppercut, even though it does less damage and puts me in a worse situation afterwards?"
Well maybe I just like the look of the axe kick more or think it fits my character’s personality more.

Not being optimal and efficient puts me at a distinct disadvantage in a competitive setting but if I am having more fun because of it, maybe it’s worth playing this way?

My line of thinking and preferences are probably an evolutionary dead end, but I’m glad that, as a human, I am afforded a certain reprieve from the ruthless survival of the fittest rat race. Especially in my leisure time.

So I say

  • Assign the stats of that Souls character purely based on how cool the armor you want them to wear looks!
  • Lay out that Stardew Valley farm in a completely inefficient way, just because you feel like it!
  • Give that RPG character 0 dexterity because in your mind they are suffering from severe arthritis!
  • Refuse to make your knight wear a sallet because they are very precious about their hair!
  • Group all the generators of your military base in the same area, even though it means your entire power grid will be knocked out after a single air strike, just because you think it looks tidier that way!

#8

I’ve been playing Total War: Warhammer 2 nonstop for the last few weeks and on Thursday they released a new high elf leader, Alith Anar, whose special ability is that every attack of his has a chance to be an ambush (which means you get to deploy your units practically all around your enemies while they start the battle in a column.)
I thought this was kind of a lame ability until I realized that as Alith gains levels, you can also increase his ambush chance. By the end of my campaign, his ambush chance was in the 60% range and I was ambushing people who were laying siege to the city Alith was in.
Since his faction has such a high ambush chance I would also leave weak armies out in the open, surrounded by much stronger friendly armies in ambush stance.
It was the easiest campaign I’ve ever done and I have no doubt it’s because I was ambushing virtually every army and I absolutely loved it.


#9

In Final Fantasy Tactics, I put together a very stupid but effectively unkillable team. The underlying principle could certainly be used to make a much better team than the one I made, but I had fun. My team was

  1. Ramza as a Bard, with the Ninja’s reaction ability to turn invisible if attacked
  2. A generic (non-story) character with the Dancer class and a Chantage accessory equipped
  3. A generic (non-story) character with the Dancer class and a Chantage accessory equipped
  4. A generic (non-story) character with the Dancer class and a Chantage accessory equipped
  5. A generic (non-story) character with the Dancer class and a Chantage accessory equipped

The Chantage is a completely overpowered accessory that makes a character never die. If they hit 0 HP, they do the 3 turn countdown like normal, but instead of disappearing at the end of the timer, they just get back up. Note that this only works as long as you have at least one living character out on the field. So I’d start a battle with one of my characters punching Ramza in the face so he’d turn invisible. Then I’d hide invisible Ramza off in some corner and ignore him for the rest of the fight. Then I’d send out my fabulous dancers to cast status effects and deal tiny amounts of damage to all enemies at once, knowing that even if all 4 of them went down, they’d always come back as long as the enemy never found Ramza, who has been doing nothing but skipping his turn so he could stay invisible.

The only thing is that the Chantage can only be equipped by female characters (and Cloud), so I could theoretically have made a much MUCH better team with 4 Chantage’d Monks or something. But 4 Dancers constantly poisoning, silencing, blinding, and frogging the enemies was funny to me.


#10

this truly is hilarious


#11

Tried the Banshee first, but it’s jump jets cost it an extra 4 tons so it ends up with a paltry 400 amour. Like I just don’t get it, why is the Banshee so bad!

I think I found most of them just slowly over time in salvage, I’m well past the end of the campaign now just maxing out my rep with everyone for funsies.


#12

My favorite cheese build was not in a video game, honestly, but rather in 7th edition of Warhammer 40k.

I was a player of the generally underpowered Chaos Space Marines and somewhat flukey Chaos Daemons (who were a top bracket competition army for a while, but only with a few specific builds, and before some major releases power crept them into obsolescence). They did have some particularly janky probability-curve-pushing BS available to them, though, so when I wanted nobody to have fun, my loadout looked something like this:

  • Fateweaver, a special character who allows you one reroll per turn, plus has access to a broad array of psychic powers and is quite hard to kill as long as he stays flying.
  • A herald with the Grimoire of True Names, an item that gave me a 2/3 shot at greatly improving my invulnerable saves and a 1/3 shot at lowering my save (the primary use case for Fateweaver’s reroll being when this failed to go off)
  • (allied in from a CSM contingent) Be’lakor, a special character who was guaranteed to have access to the spells that provide Invisibility and Shrouded-in-a-6"-radius

Then a variety of units with easy access to 4+ cover saves from jinking, like motorbikes, especially tzeentchi demons who reroll 1s on their saving throws, like the also-anti-tank flying manta ray Screamers. Also some more units of Horrors to act as rear-field objective holders and psychic power generators.

These various highly mobile units could then easily get 2+ or 3+ invulnerable saves (usually rerolling 1s, so that’s rerollable 2+ saves), could be made invisible from one or two casters based on how my spell rolls at the beginning of the game went meaning they can only be hit by enemies shooting at them on 6s, can get 2+ cover saves from jinking near Shrouded with ease…

It wasn’t hard to end up with units who could only be hit on 6s, then who had rerollable 2+ saving throws, making units effectively immortal unless the opponent had some highly specific counter.

I basically designed a highly mobile elite army which was able to deal with tanks or enemy infantry both, and then abused probability to make high risk high reward items and spells work in my favor, while also ensuring that I dominated any psychic phase that came my way. From there, I attacked the enemy’s ability to a) hit me in the first place and b) then actually be able to hurt me in the event that they managed to hit me.

The downside was that it wasn’t fun to play against, so I only brought it when an opponent said they wanted to play competitively or to test their tournament army lists, not for casual pick-up games.


#13

Yeah, the Banshee is ridiculously bad in terms of free tonnage (7 tons after jump jets? Really?). I didn’t know how heavy those arm mods, though, and thought that maybe they could be squeezed on if you dropped jump jets. Ah well. I’m past the campaign, myself (really hoping for some DLC in the near future!) so I’m gonna have to collect a Battlemaster and try making my own One Punch Mech. :smiley:


#14

You should try Skaven next. They get that ability built into the whole faction, as well as being an unending tide of verminous Starscreams.


#15

I’ve tried them a few times but I think they are a little tedious because armies are so weak by default that you can’t auto-resolve fights against minor settlements and stuff like that. I heard Creative Assembly rebalanced the way food works so i might give them another go! Thanks for the tip!


#16

The king of this will always be the Calculator in Final Fantasy Tactics. Calculator let you use different parameters to choose which characters were targeted by a spell. For example you could target everyone whose level was a multiple of 5, etc. This is obviously extremely flexible, but the calculator himself had low magic power so his effectiveness was limited. Until you switched him back to the Black Mage job with his calculator skills as secondary. Then you could freely cast max-power skills in very custom ways, just poking through the list of parameters till you hit one that would wreck most of the enemy characters while sparing most of yours. The cheapest thing i ever did was to have my Dragoon jump into the air (where he’s effectively removed from combat for a turn before landing with an attack) then have my Calculator Black Mage cast Flare on a formulation that killed literally every character on the board, including himself. Then the Dragoon landed and declared victory. In FFT you only lost a character if they were dead a certain number of turns, so I won that one with no ill effects.


#17

The Banshee 3E and 3M are so bad because all of their tonnage is used up by the engine but they still don’t move that far and the initiative system screws them over. The great irony is the 3S variant with a smaller engine is legitimately one of the best assault mechs in this era and is useful for a long while, it’s just a shame they didn’t include it.


#18

honestly, I agree. Cheese strategies come from one of two things in games usually - either a way to make an otherwise frustrating part of a game easier, or a way to curbstomp things with the system for some fun, and both are great imo.

For the former, my favorite strategy i found was in Dark Souls 1, where i found out that, with the Black Bow of Pharris (the longest range normal bow in the game), poison arrows, and some patience, you could poison the Silver Knight archers to death, despite the insane range meaning that they didnt actually take damage from the arrows. for the latter, im less sure- i cant think of anything truly cheesy ive done in most games, outside of maybe finding out for the first time that in Skyrim the 100 stealth perk lets you get stealth crits on enemies from any position at any time, multiple times in a row, by just crouching, but even thats kind of boring.


#19

My biggest cheese was reading about Mage Knights in DA:O. Before that I tried a rogue and a ranger, but still ran into situations I was just getting blasted from high magic and other situations. Here comes Mage start/gun for heavy armor subclass/ stack auras/ be a pokey death machine.


#20

Oh, each one of those large arm mods are 6 tons each. It’s kind of a lot.