Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

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Killer595
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Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Killer595 »

I've played Wesnoth for a few years now, and I've started to realize that it is really hard to be good at it. I've played enough to know 'good' strategy, to know when to attack and when to run, what is good against what, and yet I'm still not good. I've realized that it is psychologically unnatural for a person to be good at Wesnoth. Here's why.

1) Pressure. This is mostly evident when there is a timer, especially a quick timer. When you're under more pressure, you are more inclined to act on instinct, i.e. to make decisions that would normally seem irrational - for example, attacking a skeleton with a wose even though there are four adepts waiting to zap you. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is an excuse I make all too often when I start losing.

2) Fight-or-flight. The natural instinct to stay and fight or run away from conflict. Of course, it's intensified under pressure, so it's even harder to resist. Preservation instinct might tell you to not 'risk it' if there's a chance for a bold attack. I've found myself sitting around waiting to be backed into a corner and forced to fight many times - maybe that's why my favorite faction is knalga.

3) Critical distance. This is a big one, and it ties in with fight-or-flight. There's a certain distance at which the flight mechanism is deemed as no longer an option, i.e. when the enemy gets too close. You forget you can run away and believe your only option is to fight. How often do people make ridiculous attacks at ridiculous odds? I know I have, and afterwards, I thought, what the heck was I thinking? The bottom line is, the enemy got too close, and I responded in the only way I knew how. Critical distance can also be dangerous for the attacker, of course. Sometimes I play a threat-based game, backing the enemy into a corner. But if you get too close and they attack, they quickly realize the intimidation is just that, and there's no actual power behind the army. This is responsible for why a few well-placed troops can hold off an invasion, or why some idiot would want to attack 30 dwarf guards on 30 mountaintops.

4) Inertia. Another big one. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. It holds true mentally as well. So often I've been in a 'winning' position, so I kept attacking - and had my force decimated - and kept attacking. I just watched a game where this happened. It kept going back and forth - one guy would overextend his line, it would reverse, the other guy would overextend. After this happens, I often wonder, why did I do that? Of course, I failed to realize my position was no longer good. It worked once, it'll work again.

So basically, to be good at Wesnoth, you have to go against human instinct under extreme pressure. This is also why people can be amazing at 2v2 games and horrible at 1v1 and vice versa. For me, 2v2s are much lower stakes because I can always blame my buddy. So I do better. Ironic, no?
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Turuk
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Turuk »

That's an interesting psychological take on the game, and definitely aspects I have noticed before, both in other players and in myself. I can be particularly guilty of giving into momentum at times, and not just be willing to back off, wait a few turns, and then push the attack forward again.
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Yogibear »

One of the hardest things for me is to overcome the temptation of "just killing that one more unit". If it is your preferred time of day and your attack is going well, often people stay just a little bit too long - and they almost always have to pay for it.
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silent
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by silent »

agreed with all

I particularly find this a problem with the chaotic factions/ a dwarf heavy knalgan army

lawful factions I think are somewhat better as they are much more mobile, unless ZOC'd (for example, horseman for loyalists and the majority of the drake army)

Caphriel
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Caphriel »

Thank you for pointing out everything I do wrong :mrgreen: I think my cardinal sin among those is giving in to pressure, especially as the game drags on.

I watch more than play lately, and I've seen a lot of games lost to those things, especially the fourth one. Players who are winning tend to want to finish the game. They see they're winning, and they try to force the issue, and stay in enemy territory into the wrong time of day, or let their force get worn down. They try to hold the villages they've taken instead of retreating for a few rounds.

My experience with strategy games in general tells me that the way to be good at Wesnoth is to play it dispassionately, and to evaluate the situation and every move objectively. This is hard. Strategy games in general and Wesnoth in particular tend to encourage cognitive biases by their mechanics. People tend to overestimate the probability that they will get good luck and underestimate the probability of the reverse. When they think they see a good plan, they are blind to its weaknesses. Newer players especially, but even sometimes experienced players, fail to cut their losses and retreat, accepting the loss of a unit or two, and instead lose more. (As an amusement, check out the list of cognitive biases on Wikipedia and see how many of them have immediately obvious relevance to Wesnoth.)

Most players have probably have noticed that their judgment is better when they are watching a game than when they are playing it. Part of this is attributable to complete information, but I believe it's also because the player is not emotionally attached to either side, so their feelings don't impair their judgment.

One thing I disagree with you on, Killer, is instinct. As players gain experience, their instincts for what is a good move improve, allowing them to player better under pressure when they don't have time to properly evaluate moves and positions.

Killer595
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Killer595 »

yeah, my instinct definitely improves over time, and i begin to see better and better moves with every game. but i still tend to fall into those weaknesses over and over again, and the 'good' moves tend to be good only with a given response, another dangerous thing to do. never expect the enemy to do the expected.
if a good move is made for bad reasons, is it still a good move?

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Aethaeryn
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Aethaeryn »

silent wrote:I particularly find this a problem with the chaotic factions/ a dwarf heavy knalgan army

lawful factions I think are somewhat better as they are much more mobile, unless ZOC'd (for example, horseman for loyalists and the majority of the drake army)
I don't know, I think Drakes are very vulnerable for staying too long at the wrong time of day because they're rather fragile on the defensive. Even if they're more capable of retreat, it doesn't necessarily mean the Drake player will retreat in time.
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Turuk
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Turuk »

Aethaeryn wrote:Even if they're more capable of retreat, it doesn't necessarily mean the Drake player will retreat in time.
I have seen this happen a number of times when my opponent had Drakes as a faction. They become too reliant on their mobility to pull them out of trouble, and let themselves live on a fine line of being caught, hoping that this or that unit will not fall and allow me to get around them.
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silent
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by silent »

to aethaeryn and turuk: I think what I meant was that it seems easier in comparison to a notoriously slow faction such as UD, who are extremely difficult to retreat due to average movetype and few mp, since their only fast units are not designed for combat (bats), or simply not worth the expense because they're too weak to be useful (ghosts).

But yes, the mobility issue with drakes I can also agree with, especially if you can inflict a ZOC on them

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Turuk
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Turuk »

silent wrote: I think what I meant was that it seems easier in comparison to a notoriously slow faction such as UD, who are extremely difficult to retreat due to average movetype and few mp, since their only fast units are not designed for combat (bats), or simply not worth the expense because they're too weak to be useful (ghosts).
Yup, agreed, that's why I only quoted the latter part of what he posted. Slower factions alter some of those points a bit.
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silent
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by silent »

Actually, what really gets me is that I used to follow, to some extent, these rules. I could actually patiently wait for my opponent to come to me, and watch as their horde wipes themselves out, but now when I get a chaotic faction when I select random, I seem to lose the plot and blindly ignore consequence

Yoyobuae
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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Yoyobuae »

I frequently fall for many/all of those.

I've had to correct them little by little over time. But it was hard to even notice what was wrong in the first place. Trying to analyze what went wrong didn't really help. Not knowing was really frustrating to me. It eventually made playing Wesnoth too painful, and many times stopped me from playing.

Now I decided to accept the fact: I'm a poor Wesnoth player. Losing will just be part of the game. I'll just keep playing, trying and not to feel so bad for defeats.

But playing more games, even if losing, makes it easier to see the patterns. Perhaps that's one reason Wesnoth can be dificult. You'll have to observe longer to notice the patterns that dictate the outcome of battles. But while you can't discern this information correctly, the result one can achieve would be random at best (it's walking blind, pretty much).

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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Araja »

silent wrote:Now I decided to accept the fact: I'm a poor Wesnoth player. Losing will just be part of the game. I'll just keep playing, trying and not to feel so bad for defeats.
Not an option open to me, I'm too good at first person shooters to accept repeated defeat. My mind just isn't geared to cope with it, so I play RPGs and observe.

Lots and lots of observing, because I like the game but am unable to play it well :wink:

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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Yoyobuae »

It is still very hard for me facing defeat. Frequently I react to imminent defeat by giving the game away (suiciding). I try to tolerate it, but sometimes I just can't. I frequently hesitate before joining a game, fearing the possible defeat.

But all that was scaring me away from playing a great game. I like the challenge as much as I hate defeats. A victory gives me a rewarding feeling much greater than the pain of defeat. So I decided to tolerate defeat in order to experience a victory every now and then.

I'm essentially just keep rolling the dice, it's only matter of time before I get good results.

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Re: Why it is difficult to be good at Wesnoth

Post by Turuk »

Yoyobuae wrote:You'll have to observe longer to notice the patterns that dictate the outcome of battles. But while you can't discern this information correctly, the result one can achieve would be random at best (it's walking blind, pretty much).
I think you touched on something here, and that is the fact that usually the turn in which a player loses (or the turn before) is never really the actual losing turn. In most matches, there is a specific point that decides when a winner and loser are decided. A player makes a grave error, and then spends the rest of the time defending and drawing out against the inevitable conclusion. Granted, some players can recover and put the match on an even footing. I think the issue you are having is seeing the point at which you lost, in order to understand why you lost. TSI and I will always talk after our matches about what each of us thinks the point was in the match at which one of us became the loser.
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