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 Issue 6 - February 27 2506
The Ladder Division - Can it be Saved?
by Mezir

The Ladder Division has never been a very active division. In the beginning, it was the TR 100 non-progression division, where stars battled stars in boring matches that checked how well you could power-game your team. It was fun sometimes (the star-studded Goblin team I had was funky to play with) but basically it was the same old line-up of humans with Morg and the Count, Dwarfs, Norse and Amazons.

The division slowly died, but then, change came! A challenge system had previously been on the lips of many. It would, so people claimed, be something that would eliminate cherry-picking. And thus the new Ladder division was born. It was to be a Living Rulebook environment, with full progression. There were Ladder points to be fought for, and there were Challenge points to be earned. If your Challenge points were non-negative, you could challenge any team with more Ladder points than yourself. Win games to gain Ladder points, and avoid losses so as not to lose them. Play challenge games to earn Challenge points.

The Division idea was simple. Play in an open system, and once a week you get to issue a formal challenge to a team. There was some attention for it in the first few weeks, but then it petered out, as pretty much any new division but Faction has done. Complaints were made about lay-out of the pages, the challenge format, and more things, claiming they were to blame for the death of the division.

Here are some comments from Ladder coaches sk8bcn and celas.

sk8bcn: "Too many players don't really know ladder and think it is still the old non-progression division. My opinion was that ladder’s state was because of a total lack of interest of the admin that was in charge of ladder. (Editor’s note: there is no admin “in charge” of Ladder)

"There are a few things I dislike on ladder though. You can challenge everyone that has more points than you, but I wouldn't like to see the eternally losing killer team being able to challenge the elves of the top of the ladder. To play against the top of the ladder, you should have to be near that top.

"This is currently not a problem, though, because the ladder community is a nice one, with guys that loves the challenge concept. I’ve seen nobody abusing of the concept.

"The second thing is that there are too many old teams from inactive coaches in the standings. You can't really find your real position when you are in the middle of the ladder. Some teams close to yours might be inactive."

celas: "The Ladder division is a unique place to play that is overlooked by most. Along with keeping track of win/losses/ties, and trying to development your team, the division also keeps track of “Ladder” points and “Challenge” points. This sets up a “King of the Hill” type division in which you are trying to knock off the top teams. Challenge points also help to make the division unique. An official challenge is different than offering a game to someone in the other divisions (although this method of getting a game works just as well in Ladder). This increases the strategy involved in playing in the division and gives one more stats to look at, which everyone seems to like.

"The strengths of the Ladder division are the unique challenge system and the ability to see how your team is rated on the Ladder compared to other teams (which is similar to the old team ranking which was removed from ranked years ago).

"Although this division has an interesting style of play, there are some weaknesses that need to be adjusted. For example, some teams have very poor match ups and some coaches may take advantage of this (i.e., dwarf teams repeatedly challenging zons). Also, there is no +/- 40 TS rule, therefore challenges to significantly weaker teams may be made. Challenges do not have to be accepted, which means that teams can still dodge poor match ups as long as they can challenge and play games with teams that are favourable (i.e., all elves could play each other and dodge bashy teams, sound familiar?). Another weakness is the inactivity of the division overall and especially at the top of the division. There are not enough teams in Ladder or on gamefinder to reinforce play in the division. A number of teams that currently sit atop the Ladder have not played or even accepted a challenge in many months. A final concern, which may be applicable in any division, is the example of a coach who keeps a low TS by making challenges and spending money on Stars. Imagine a Khemri team that makes an average of 60k a game and can hire Ramtut and buy a skeleton every other game. I realize Khemri have their disadvantages, but 5 mummies is a little hard to handle for low AV teams with only 11 on the roster."

Some time after these comments were made, several more changes were brought to the Ladder division. For one, teams that have not played a game in the last 14 days are removed from the Ladder table. This means that the Ladder table is currently very diminished since it no longer records all teams in the division, merely the active ones, but it also means that you know which coaches are actually currently playing in the division, allowing you to issue challenges with a greater certainly of getting a reply, and finding matches becomes a lot easier. The Ladder page has now also received a direct link on the menu, much like the Faction division has, which, rather than point at the list of teams in the Ladder division like it used to do, now leads to the much cleaner formatted new and diminished page.

There are also some user-based initiatives, headed by EvolveToAnarchism and aided by others, such as the Active Ladder Teams group, a group that sprang to life before the Ladder table was diminished and which acted in much the same capacity – allowing coaches who wished to play Ladder games a better opportunity to find opponents.

If the Division truly comes to life once more, or gives the semblance of doing so, perhaps a few more changes might be looked at. Formal challenges might be limited within 3 Ladder points, with the restriction that the team can be no more than 20 TS below you. Formal challenge games might be deemed worthy of double the Ladder points to be earned or lost.

Some final comments:

sk8bcn: "Ladder is great and somehow, revives and becomes active. It's a small group of 50 coaches I think but challenging, reaching the top is a fun goal. Try it and Join. I really love it so far!"

celas: "A number of things could be done to improve the Ladder division. I believe that marketing the division would help, however, there must be changes in the system or it could turn out to be another ranked division with a few additional stats where agile teams and bashy teams can only get/accept games within their own genre. There has been talk in the past (I believe suggested by Mully in the forums) about requiring teams to play a mix of teams. Perhaps dividing the teams into three groups, agile (i.e., elves, zons), bashy (i.e., orcs, dwarves), and mixed (i.e., humans, lizardmen), and requiring teams to play an appropriate mix of each group. Teams should also be required to play at least one game during a given team period or they lose a Ladder point until they only have zero. It would also be interesting to keep a record of a team’s challenges and who they were challenged by, to identify cherrypicking. I would also eliminate the use of stars, but that is probably more of a personal bias than anything else."

Have any comments yourself? Wish to make your voice heard? Then head over to the discussion forum for either the Ladder division or the Grotty Little Newspaper and sound off.

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