League balance and sandbaggers

With ‘sandbagging’ being a bit of a recurring topic on these forums - not least in @Tinsir’s excellent post on the state of Gold league - I was curious about how big a problem it actually was. Since I apparently hate myself enough to concoct mind-numbing tasks rather than actually playing the game or perhaps discovering what outdoors is like, I thought I’d try and come up with some figures. The sample size isn’t huge, but hopefully this may help the community decide how much they care about this issue.

Sandbaggers

Within the general theme of ‘people in the wrong league making it less fun for everyone else’, there were two slightly different things to look for:

  • Individuals whose level far exceeds everyone else in the league. These players imbalance wars; their bases can’t be beaten by the opposing team, and when they back their teammates’ war attacks they’re guaranteed to win.
  • Teams with lots of players whose levels exceed the norm for the league. These guys imbalance events; most other players in the league are scoring low against them - or looking for easier points from other teams. Meanwhile these teams’ high-level players can rack up points with impunity against any team that might otherwise be competitive.

Sample Teams

I looked at two leagues: Platinum 3 and Gold 2. I chose the former because it was easier to find the teams, since it’s the league I’m in. However, because sandbagging is supposed to be a greater problem further down, I also did some digging into Gold 2.

For Platinum I literally looked at every team in my current league; for Gold I used the search option until I’d found enough teams. I ignored teams that had less than 40 members.

I therefore had 25 teams from Platinum, but for Gold I decided to get a slightly bigger sample (since that was where those pesky sandbaggers were supposed to be hiding). 40 teams was the point I got to before my I could feel my sanity about to slip away - still not a massive sample, but hopefully illuminating.

For each team, I counted the number of players in level ranges of 50 (e.g. 1 to 50, 51 to 100, etc).

Individuals

Individuals with excessively high levels make wars less fun. The other teams can’t beat their bases without resorting to mercs, which in turn leads to interminably long forum threads causing players in every league to suffer. They also make every war attack by their team a formality, since they can back every run - defending is fruitless and therefore not fun for the other team’s players. An opposing team would also need levels of organisation rarely seen in lower leagues to even play for a defense-point victory, assuming they still somehow manage to tie for flames.

Looking for individual sandbaggers was relatively straightforward - there would be individual players whose levels were considerably higher than the majority of players in their league.

Platinum 3

There are 1243 players in my current league, with 20 of the teams having a full roster.

Level Range 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-2000 201-250 251-300 Over 300
# of players 84 658 308 100 60 21 12
# of teams 23 25 25 24 22 13 10
Cumulative % of league 6.76% 59.69% 84.47% 92.52% 97.35% 99.03% 100%

84.5% of players are under level 150, with 59.7% under level 100.

Less than 1% - 12 players in total - have a level over 300. Those 12 players are spread across 10 different teams. Although some people report seeing players over lvl 400 lurking in Platinum, there currently aren’t any in my league.

In general this league actually looks reasonably well-balanced. While only 10 of the 25 teams have a player over level 300, more than half the teams have a player over 250 and all but one has at least one player over 200. Only three teams could not field a pair of fliers both over 200. In Platinum you can still sometimes catch bases undefended, so wars might be tough but (perhaps) still competitive.

Gold 2

My sample included 1897 players spread across 40 teams. Only 13 of those teams had a full roster (and remember, I’d also ignored teams with less than 40 members).

Level Range 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-200 201-250 251-300 Over 300
# of players 790 918 123 42 22 0 2
# of teams 40 40 36 25 12 0 2
Cumulative % of league 41.64% 90.04% 96.52% 98.73% 99.89% 99.89% 100%

90% of players were under level 100, and 41.6% were under 50.

There were 2 players over level 300, on different teams. There were no other players over level 250, meaning those two really stood out. 12 teams had players over level 200.

It’s worth noting that neither of those 300+ players was on a team with a full complement. In fact, of the 12 teams that had a player over level 200, only 3 had a full roster. While there may be over-powered players in this league, this suggests that, often, other teams could counter their deciding impact on wars by addressing recruitment and participation. However, that’s probably of little comfort to many teams in this league: noting that 2/3 of the sampled teams in Gold 2 lack a full complement, teams that are able to address those issues are likely moving up, and therefore are not the teams and players left getting frustrated by the sandbaggers in their league.

Teams

Points in events are allocated by ordering the players in each team by level, with the most points awarded for defeating the highest level player. Each player down the list awards one less point. The same points are available from each team.

It is the relative levels of players within the team that determines the points, so having a single high-level player makes little difference. A team that is unbalancing an event would have lots of high level players, as that would force opponents to either hit lower-level players - for fewer points - or to just hit a different team instead.

Having lots of high-level players also means that team has more players able to score high points against their opponents, as they can run through the higher-order players of every team in the league.

As an indicator of the relative strength of the team, I looked at what level range their 1st, 5th, 10th and 25th highest-level player was in.

Platinum 3

As a reminder: 84.5% of players in my Platinum 3 league are under level 150, with 59.7% under level 100.

Range # of teams w/ 1 player # of teams w/ 5 players # of teams w/ 10 players # of teams w/ 25 players
301+ 10 0 0 0
251-300 6 2 0 0
201-250 8 7 0 0
151-200 1 9 7 0
101-150 0 7 18 5
51-100 0 0 0 20

On 20 of the 25 teams, over half of the team was under level 100. These are the players most likely to be frustrated trying to earn points off high-level teams in this league.

For two teams, their 5th-highest player was still over level 250. Seven more teams had 5 players over 200.

Seven of the 25 teams in my Platinum 3 league have 10 or more players over level 150, which would still make them challenging opponents for all those under-100s (59.7%) to earn event points.

Gold 2

Recall that 90% of players in this league were under level 100. 9 of the 40 teams I sampled had more than half of their players under level 50.

Range # of teams w/ 1 player # of teams w/ 5 players # of teams w/ 10 players # of teams w/ 25 players
301+ 2 0 0 0
251-300 0 0 0 0
201-250 11 1 0 0
151-200 15 2 0 0
101-150 10 14 6 0
51-100 2 23 34 31
1-50 0 0 0 9

One team’s 5th highest-level player was still over level 200. Two more teams had five players over 150. None of those teams had ten players that high level, but six teams had 10 players over level 100.

Comparison

In both leagues, there were a small number of teams with five players far above the average level for that league. However, in Platinum 3 there were more teams with 5 players in the bracket below, when compared to Gold 2 - there’s a more even spread between the highest- and lowest-level teams, meaning fewer of those teams are ‘untouchable’.

Three of the seven teams in my Platinum 3 league with ten or more over-150 players came top in the last PvP event, and only one was in the bottom half of the table. However, I’ll leave it to the community to judge if those teams are completely out of place in the league, or just representative of the strongest teams you’d expect to find. Either way, that doesn’t make life easier for the lower level teams and players in Platinum - arguably it’s harder, since there are fewer alternative teams to score points against.

Comparatively in Gold, the very highest-level teams will surely feel much more out of place, since few other teams even have many players in the next bracket. That suggests most players in the league couldn’t even earn high points against those teams by calling on high-level teammates to back them. However, there are fewer of them - demoralising as it may be for the other teams to be competing for 3rd or 4th, their equivalents in Platinum are fighting for 9th.

Summary

In conclusion: yes, there are sandbaggers in Gold. There aren’t lots of them, but they’re around. You all knew that, so I’ve wasted my time. However, for wars more teams appear to be struggling with recruitment than with sandbaggers. I didn’t find an out-and-out sandbagger in Platinum, unless you include every team’s highest-level player in that category - however, that might just be due to the small sample.

There are high-level teams in both leagues that are likely dominating events. Those teams probably face much less competition in Gold than in Platinum, but lower-level teams in Platinum possibly have a harder time being competitive against the rest, when compared to the smaller teams in Gold.

Of course PG will have more complete figures across the entire player base, which maybe they’ll be sharing with the GPF. Hopefully all the above is of use, or at least of interest, to everyone else.

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You have way too much time.

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:drooling_face:

Now that I wiped the drool off my chin…

How did you define “sandbaggers” beyond their level as it relates to the average of said league?

Is a sandbagger someone whose team came apart and they got warred right out of their socks and demoted to platinum / gold?

Is a sandbagger someone who decided “hey, I can make a good leader, I should put together my own team, bla, bla, bla…” and has to likely start in bronze and work their way up recruiting actives and dumping deadwood?

Is a sandbagger someone who doesn’t like the constant chore that this game can become and wants to take a break without losing their account?

I guess what I’m saying is I don’t think it’s easy to define or identify a true sandbagger. Someone could either correct me or confirm to me that the lowest prize in sapphire is better than the highest prize in platinum, and so on, and so on. I think there’s more to it.

edit - I forgot to ask what your solution / suggestion is?

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Looks to me like the problem is not nearly as bad as some make it sound. Then again, I never really understood the logic behind the accusation. Do high lvl players magically get more energy or inner fire for events? Does their Forge produce clocks faster? Do they get more tokens for their missions? The answer to all of these is of course No. Sure their towers earn more points per upgrade, but it also takes a LOT more clocks to free up a builder for another build, so that’s a wash. Where is the big issue?

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Typically the anxiety comes over the points per attack spread gets messed up. Having large imbalances in levels can also drive farming of the smallest team as well. E.g., it makes more sense to farm the team with highest points for lowest level in most events.

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Lvl 151 - 2000

O.O

Unless they make new team with lvl 300+ start in higher leagues, sandbagging can’t be solved entirely…

SavageTakeOver and SadSacks started with S1/diamond rosters in bronze, rose very fast tho.

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I planned on reading this in it’s entirety, when I woke up from my mini coma I just decided to post this response.

Good on ya for taking the time to research and write this up, I hope it resolves some.of the issues

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My concern with Gold League is that it is where active new players and fat and happy veterans converge. Comparing Gold 2 and Platinum 3 does not really do the issue justice. As a brand new player, I could end up on a first team in Gold 2. My first war could pit me against a team of level 200+ monsters, that is just demoralizing. Let alone how my first team may fare in events against that goon squad. By time you are in Platinum 3 you really should have a lay of the land and know what you are doing.

That being said, Bronze and Silver are just fly-over country now for anyone putting in minimal effort but should be where these new players are cutting their teeth. A bit of better balancing would go a long way here.

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I think the sandbagging people have a problem with is in the PVP events… for example, a level 300 in a league where the majority of players are between 60 - 150 has super easy targets for max PVP attack points, while their opponents can’t very well steal their flags, kick them back to the pit, conquer their hill, etc.

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@ItsJustJoe is right, and let me add:

there are plenty of inactive teams in all lower leagues.

My former team, DaReignOfFire has been abandoned since last Christmas. The activity level dropped to 4/100 by Boxing day, and the team is still a team with ZERO activity after 2 months. I keep an eye on them, surprisingly the team went down from Gold 1 to Silver 2, and yet it’s in Gold 5 now. (How?!)

Now tell me (anyone), how on earth is this game supposed to keep the new players, when the lower leagues are like a wave-torn beach with massive rocks and boulders?

Why can’t these teams cease to exist? With only active (playing) teams it would be still better, despite the presence of some sandbaggers.

You’re definitely right it’s not really possible to ascribe any motive or reason for these players being where they are - so the label of ‘sandbagger’ is perhaps an unfair generalisation. However, whatever the reason, the effect they have on other players in the league will be the same - especially on the lower level players who are just finding their feet in the game.

There’s already been a lot of discussion on potential solutions, so I’m not sure I have anything new to add. For wars, I personally like the ‘bench’ idea, although I know that divides the community. Having lower leagues have a maximum of (say) 240 flames would mean potentially having two players on the bench, as well as being able to ignore the very highest level bases. That would be enough to make wars feel fun rather than frustrating at these introductory levels, as that one change makes both sandbaggers and the recruitment/participation problems less of an issue. The training wheels would have to come off as the team progresses upwards, probably as soon as the team hits Platinum.

Events probably do need fixes to both prizes and PvP point scoring - the former to discourage true sandbaggers, the latter to just make events more competitive. Both need careful thought though, as even a balanced league would still have a strongest team, and you need a system that’s still fair to them. I’ve not managed to concoct such a scheme, so won’t further tempt scorn and ridicule by suggesting one - I suspect my support for a bench will have done plenty in that regard anyway!

I didn’t read all that seemed like a waste of time. However, we get accused of “sandbagging” in Gold 1 and we don’t even have a full roster we’re just event hustlers lol

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It’s probably more of a problem in pvp events than in Fort, where you’re right there’s more balance. However, higher level players will have more resources, because points mean prizes! Racking up rubies and gold chests from event prizes - earned from easier points against low-level opposition - will also contribute to their performance in successive events.

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Hey, great post, impressive work with data collection. Thanks for the tag and the kind words.

With regard to the issue of sandbagging, I actually wrote a detailed explanation of reasons why higher levels are in lower leagues (most of them aren’t actually dicks!), along with an elegant solution that would help everyone and hurt no one. Very few people read it and even fewer understood it, I think mostly because it was aimed at helping low levels, involved mildly complex thoughts, and wasn’t obviously dumb enough to laugh at.

I see a few problems with methodology:

a) Platinum’s probably less relevant, @Crankypants had a great reply covering this.

b) Gold 3/4 is actually better than Gold 5, in my experience. I haven’t been compiling detailed stats, but based on memory, I think we’ve been in Gold 5 for about 6 weeks. There was a team with multiple 130s+ who scored ~4x higher in points than everyone else for 4 out of 6. (Exception: one time, there was a league-appropriate team who beat them.)
It’s probably down to 40-50% or so in Gold 4? I’m paying less attention to frequency now that playing overwhelmingly better than they do in every possible way is sufficient to maybe possibly beat them. Also, we’ve been manipulating rank to avoid getting matched with known offenders.)

c) Generally, you are correct that there aren’t that many overleveled teams. However, having a single overleveled team in a batch of 25 lowers the rank of the other 24. PVP events that bound the number of teams available to attack at any given time (Fight Pits, Team Gauntlet) exacerbate the issue. The prize rewards are meagre to begin with; I don’t ask that they be raised because that’d increase the incentives to sandbag, but the effort to beat these guys is large and not proportionate to the rewards.

In PVP events, they can attack at the top of the team roster and hence get more points. They can’t be attacked back by most of the league. They won’t be targeted by most of the league. Their nearest league-appropriate competitors are likely to be targeted by league for extra victory points, thus the point spread will be greater. They have had more time to accumulate chests and rubies and thus can hit much harder than the average low levels. They are more likely to spend to buy advantages. They generally have a huge concentration of advantages that make competition with them absurdly unbalanced.

If you
a) can beat level 110 attackers with a level 70 base, (possible with a sufficiently bad 110!)
b) can smash reasonably built 150s with orange/green dragons (no Necryx)
c) farm silly amounts of bronze chests,
d) play smarter and use better strategies than people with 8 times the experience as you,

then, yes, you can beat them. No one else seems to!

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Another problem is if those players really like the team mates there. That’s something cant and shouldn’t be stopped. Aaaaand its hard to tell.

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Agreed! My veteran’s pool idea handles this issue, no one would be forced to split up.

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