Flak, that's a question that's probably as old as wargaming. The double blind nature of the standard War at Sea game really kind of encourages it. There is a natural tendency to gravitate to "optimal" builds over time. I know I personally still have some favorite units that are probably not the very best that I still use regularly, but yeah, unless an opponent and I agree to a specific scenario or some kind of other limit, I generally try to build a good fleet that I think has a strong chance to win. One player might say that is completely natural, another might call me a blood sucking min-max power gamer. All in the eye of the beholder. I will admit to going easy on a new player a bit to help them learn and enjoy the game, but if I'm playing an experienced player like you or Brigs, you get my "A" game. Because unless you tell me you want to do something casual, I'm going to assume that I'm about to get your "A" game. And that includes fleet building. I absolutely don't expect to win every game - I can certainly have fun on the losing end of a match, but I do find taking a sub-optimal fleet up against an good opponent that has an optimal one to get kind of old after a while. That said, if we're trying to recreate a historical match-up, strengths and weaknesses are what they are...good with it.
As to the current card deck, I think its very important to get the cost of units right if we can. The game literally has hundreds of units in it at this point (I checked...counting Team cards...645 if Hap's spreadsheet is correct). There really isn't much of an excuse to produce over or under costed cards. We have plenty of units to compare a new card to. We should be able to derive an appropriate cost based on the all the units that have come before unless we're really messing with something very new and different. From my perspective, its not about power gaming, its simply about balance. Case in point...Haguro. That thing literally took a dozen IJN cruisers out of competitive W@S games. Totally busted from my perspective...but now its there and has to be accounted for. If we think a particular Navy or faction or year is at a bad disadvantage, I think we can fix that with new units and abilities, not by warping unit costs. Undercosting units leads to obsolescence, which is particularly offensive when it kills an iconic, historic unit. Another example...Warspite. Used to be awesome, now no one takes it both due to lack of any kind of torpedo protection and other more cost effective units. Over costing creates units no one will use in a competitive game....looking at you P-38. They become purely scenario and whimsy pieces, which is OK, but wouldn't it be better for them to be that, and get the cost right?
Depends on the context. In a competitive tournament, I would argue that the unsportsmanlike conduct would be getting upset when somebody else puts a serious effort in to winning, including understanding all of the optimal choices and unit interactions.
That said, I would consider a game that has an obvious optimal unit/build with no counter to be flawed for competitive play. Some effort would be needed from the community to "patch" the game and make it more interesting.
For any kind of narrative/scenario/historical play, spamming the most cost-effective unit is about as silly as it can get.
Even as a complete rookie, I immediately noticed the "value" in Haguro. I haven't played enough to notice anything else so egregious in other units. As has been alluded to above, it seems as though some consensus could be reached in the playing community as to what units should be valued that are obviously incorrect now that there is a bigger context of units for comparison. I'd suggest Haguro should probably be valued at about 24 - at least that's my rough guess. If cost were no issue, I think I'd take it over Tone and about even with Myoko.
Yes, Haguro is a beast, but she's also dive-bomber bait in many games. Depends on the size, matchup, and year. Is she a better value for her points than any other IJN cruiser? Arguably yes (although Tone is such a force multiplier that she is in the running).
As for fleet-building, depends entirely on the context. In a competitive game, unless a pre-agreed upon limit is in force, you're basically being whimsical if you don't at least put together a competitive, synergetic build. And some of those pre-game agreements can lead to "victory through metagaming" too.
(SWO's heard this story too many times, but...) Such as the times back in the club season I would play Soviets vs. Germans and my opponent insisted "no fantasy ships!" and then showed up with two Tirpitzes whilst I chugged along with Oktober Revs...
EDIT to add: I meant Chikuma, above, not Tone, but they are both good that way.
That's why I've seen more hate and discontent over the term "fantasy ship" in this game than anything else.
There's nothing on any card that identifies a ship as "Fantasy". I had one guy try to tell me Shinano was a "fantasy unit", and my response is, "Oh yeah? Why does Archerfish have Carrier Killer, then?"
And the same "no fantasy ship" guys will use Akagi and Kaga in 1945 like they weren't on the bottom of the ocean, so...
Metagaming is a thing. How ya'll play is up to you - the game is for fun, after all!
+1 to SWO and brigs. Unfortunately, it is more than just a costing problem IMO. The stats for aircraft have been bad since the very first set with the Wildcat getting a vital 9, even the Dauntless at a 5/8. Those stats are already maxed out relative to AA values in the game. RB left no room for better aircraft. And the Helldiver and F4U-1D Corsair are just plain fanboy disasters IMO. I have tried redoing aircraft armor values (and that requires some SA adjustments too - it cascades), by year. A spreadsheet sort by year makes it very easy to see which aircraft armor values are out of whack (outliers). But fixing them becomes very complicated very quickly. Not only do the aircraft need adjusting, but then it becomes clear that the AA values on some aircraft - and ships too - need adjusting as well. (Looking at you Enterprise, Atlanta, and Tirpitz!).
So even though we have over 600 cards, the reality is there is a significant amount of inconsistency. And that inconsistency (and just plain wrong stuff) means it isn't so clear as you would think when you go back to compare values. The USS Hancock development thread is an excellent example. All the Essex's are too cheap, and then Bunker Hill came along and put the capitol "P" in power creep. So with Hancock do we cost it where it should be in the big picture, or do we cost it so it gets some play and add even more power creep? And that of course leads to even more units being left behind. I don't have a great answer because there is no great solution. One way or the other there will have to be a compromise.
Personally, at this point I think if you want to avoid power creep then you have to start thinking about making units that fill unique scenario niches. The days of making a "must take" max/min all-purpose should really be behind us. That doesn't mean they wouldn't be a "max/min" unit in a specific range of scenarios, it just means they won't be a "no-brainer must use" in almost any highly competitive standard open tournament.
Do you want the new units to be show stoppers/best in class, or do you want to keep as many exiting units "in play" as possible and aim for scenario units? There are clearly people each camp.
BTW, most of the players in my club are max/min players. They play lots of games and are "gamers" first and "historical" a very distant second. So that is the environment I mostly play in. And it goes without saying at GenCon and Origins... Especially when cool prizes are up for grabs.
Everyone plays differently. Big fish, small pond and all that. MOST of my games are online and 300 point, year specific, with class limits and theater limits (if not nation limits). I know Weeds' group plays 200 point games, and that seems to be the way most tourneys go as well.
Its a game, I don't fault anyone for putting together a fleet with an eye towards winning.
My day job is as a naval historian so I can't shake the compulsion to build fleets the way they were historically and I wish the game would reward you for more "historical" builds. Carriers had all sorts of aircraft not three squadrons of torpedo planes, capitol ships should be surrounded by escorts, subs don't really coordinate with surface ships.
I also have a bad habit of taking my favorite ships instead of ships with good game synergy.
Like Syzmo says, I pretty much have to put a fighter squadron, a dive bomber squadron, and a torp bomber squadron on all my fleet carriers - just can't make myself do it differently - just don't seem raght!
I'm so bad with the history prejudices that I usually can't bring myself to mix ships with early war models with ships with late war models.
I've worked on museum warships for 13 years now. Started out as a tour guide on Constellation, did some preservation work putting her through dry-dock, ran an overnight program on the submarine Torsk, was site manager on USCGC Taney for 4 years, and for the last 2 I've been the curator at USS New Jersey.
That's really cool. We are members of the Hornet museum in Alameda, and a pretty good aviation museum just outside El Paso. We have a small aviation museum over in Slaton (about an hour away) that I volunteered to do some work for. They have several pieces associated with the USS Cabot. I have a PhD in history, but a lot of my emphasis was on 19th century - Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, etc. I would love to be a professor, but I'm not communist enough or anti-American enough to ever get a job in that field! So I'll have to fall back on being an annoying know-it-all at parties. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!