Combat Roster – Some Thoughts
Let us delve into Combat Roster and see what those Tech Priests have been doing...
Well, it’s here! The 40K Combat Roster from Games Workshop. Well done to them for doing this firstly! It seems there will be a mobile app to for this – which is great. Because by the Emperor soul it needs it. Tom who built this is not part of Games Workshop. He was commissioned to create Combat Roster. So Games Workshop didn’t build this. Either way Games Workshop had a hand in it so good for them! Do we know if they’re building the mobile app?
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Sometimes I think this hobby is just a hobby. It’s me and a blog and paint and plastic and friends. And that’s all it is. Then sometimes I’ll have a conversation with someone in person, via Twitter or via Reddit and I’ll think…
No, this isn’t just a hobby – I’ve been doing this for a while now; me, paint, plastic, friends and blogging. I’ve experience!
It takes another person to sometimes make one realise they’ve actually achieved something.
So this is my placing my eyes and four years of building digital stuff for 40K onto Combat Roster.
What shall we find? What should be pleased about? Frustrated about? What do we want to see from a mobile app?
In case you don’t know I’ve built a few 40K projects over the years. All personal projects of course. All with varying degrees of success.
- Shadow War Zone
- The Battle Directory (now shut down)
- 40K Companion (on hold)
- MathHammer 9th Edition (a joke)
I’ve also more ideas to come plus stuff I’ve done and never put into the wild. But over the years I’ve done a few. Had hundreds of comments and suggestions from users and had hundreds of conversations with those users.
I’m sure my projects haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of numbers compared with what Combat Roster will get. But my experience still stands, I think, as valid and pretty unique within our hobby.
Well, it’s Power Level only but that was said from day one. No surprises there and I’m sure there will be those people that find that very useful. I don’t.
It doesn’t contain any rules or stats like BattleScribe does, therefore, it’s not useful during games.
From reading other feedback there are options that are missing or wrong.
So not a great start. But as a first thing for Games Workshop to have done, it’s a step in the right direction.
There are also some other points to consider:
- It cannot be awesome, because then we won’t buy the app.
- They can’t place rules and stats on it because they can be easily lifted by anyone. More on this below.
- Doing this stuff is difficult- those codexes have a lot of data in them and mimicking that in code is time-consuming.
Combat Roster is fairly useless in its current format and will probably stay that way for the vast majority of 40K players.
Something that becomes very obvious very quickly when writing code for Shadow War/40K data is where there are F*** ups.
When writing Shadow War Zone, that uses a similar data structure as Combat Roster, just by entering the data you can immediately see where Games Workshop’s data is wrong. E.g, where the damage of something is zero your code, doesn’t work because damage should be a positive number.
It then becomes very obvious that Games Workshop doesn’t test properly. The data while complex isn’t complicated at all. It can be easily entered into a spreadsheet and tested. The codexes must be written in Word, passed around the office and to their playtesters and then just signed off as good. There is no way the data in a Codex went anywhere near a spreadsheet or code to test the data before being published.
I hope that Combat Roster changes this approach. In a matter of minutes, you can now write tests using code to see if adding unit X and Y equals the expected points value. If it doesn’t, the data is wrong. Or just write a test to calculate the total cost of a list. When a Codex update occurs, update the data and rerun the test. Has the total cost changes? If it has, is that change OK or has someone messed up the data entry for a Baneblade?
It might just be a standalone web app, but with a mobile version coming too we can but hope Games Workshop ups their game with data entry and testing.
Combat Roster – Some Tech Bits
I had a little poke at it to see what I could find.
Firstly the page linked to from Warhammer Community is an iframe. An embedded version of Combat Roster. This page is much nicer to use – it’s stripped down and hasn’t got the Warhammer Community design. It’s decent on mobile too.
And this JSON array is why Combat Roster as a web site will always be poor. It has all of the Codex data for power levels. This is basically the Codex data is an easily usable format. If it contained rules and stats then you could just take it and make your own awesome Combat Roster probably in an evening of coding. It’s Games Workshop’s IP and they aren’t going to just make it public.
Of course, the data could be stored on the server and not as a file on a public server. But that involves more powerful servers to do all the list creation on the server. Rather than in your browser.
Wishlist – Combat Roster App
This list could be massive. Testing of data is top of my list. It’ll stop bad Codex prints of Power Swords that do zero damage, yes that happened to the Astra Militarum’s Commissar.
- A much-improved output for rules and stats like BattleScribe.
- Customisable output like BattleScribe so if you want a stripped down version that’s an option.
- Various output formats because PDFs are just yuck on mobile and do not allow you to edit them easily.
- Access to a Codex’s data relatively cheaply. I’ve not used the AoS app I think that does this?
I’d expect at the very least a clone of BattleScribe’s abilities. Anything less and the laugh from hobbyists will be deafening.