I’m not sure if anyone above touched on this before (and if so I apologize for beating a dead horse) but from a game design standpoint the Raid system is not unfair or broken, but it is an excellent example of a poorly-designed game mechanic.
The issue that provokes players to post threads like this over and over (and prompted me to create an account and post), is that Raids use the same opponent attack mechanic as PVE battles. Defender’s special attacks charge over a certain amount of time and are increased with damage, while the player’s specials increase based on number of matched tiles. Additionally, since the defender’s attack methodology is a black box (meaning it isn’t based on a board the attacker can see, but on some unknown algorithm), the player gets the impression that the defenders are attacking based on character power or HP, instead of on their position in relation to the board like an attacker does. A defending team’s center player will be statistically more likely to absorb a majority of the attacking team’s attacks, since they take up 3/7ths of the board, but the defenders attacks do not seem to focus on the center character in an attacking team.
Long story short - the rules are different for an attacker and a defender.
This leads to a situation where two exactly-matched teams would never fight each other to a draw, because a “dry” board (one that has an even distribution of colors and no opportunities for combos) would underpower the attacker and the defender’s specials would charge first, or a board with a decent number of combos would give the attacker the advantage that many people talk about in this thread. If you are wondering why the attackers have an advantage when there are combos it is because combos count as multiple normal attacks, something the defending team’s players never do. If the rules were the same for attackers and defenders, they would occasionally hit your attackers multiple times at once.
All of this can lead to frustration on the player’s part because they see identical characters on the defending team consistently being more powerful than their own attackers. This is because Raids are PVE with more powerful enemies instead of a “PVP lite” with computer-controlled defenders. PVP would require the same rules to be applied to both sides - the same rules of special charging and attack targeting. PVP would imply that the defending team uses the same algorithms or methodology to attack. Raids are not this - raids are a different PVE and you are actually doing two totally separate things: building a defense team based on one set of rules and attacking with a team that follows another set of rules.
It doesn’t help that the suggested way to measure an opposing team’s power is the same for attackers and defenders, despite having two different mechanics. This is why this thread is full of people suggesting you ignore power and measure the team. This is the equivalent of comparing pitchers and hitters in baseball by salary and not by RBI and ERA. If that is confusing and you are saying “how would you even compare pitchers and hitters using RBI and ERA” then you understand the issue of using the same metric to compare defense and attacking teams.
Here’s the thing - I build and work with complicated systems for a living and completely understand why Raids were built this way. Writing a 3x matching algorithm that can both match a human’s skill and run efficiently is not easy. You can see how poor the built-in matching is when letting a level run automatically - easy combos and multiples are missed all the time, and the computer prefers direct attacks to charging specials, and focusing or ignoring enemies is far beyond what it is built for. Making raids a balanced, equal PVP system would be really, really hard unless they became real-time PVP instead of player-vs-computer.
So what is the solution? If changing the raiding mechanic is unlikely to happen, maybe making it more obvious that defense and attack are different would help. Place the defenders behind a visual barrier or inside a fort to make the difference more obvious, add some kind of additional “attack charge” meter to make the defender’s normal attacks more disconnected from the attackers.
Oh, and change the way trophies are presented and calculated - this doesn’t require massive rebuilding, just a “rebranding” - mostly to do away with the implicit but illusory trophy “market”. Players have the impression that defenders and attackers are exchanging trophy values and the imbalance makes that seem unfair. Changing this to a cost/reward system instead of an exchange would help a lot. So if your raid is against a tower or castle, you assume that beating the defenders will net you a reward. But losing against someone you attacked is less jarring if instead there was a “cost” to the raid. So now if a raid is +20/-20 it makes it seem like the defenders take $20 from you for losing or you take $20 from them if you win. If instead the raid cost $20 but netted $40 if you won, it has the same effect without the problems of exchange - you can sell it as costing the player 20 cups to transport their troops to the enemy tower, feed them, and carry out the raid. If they win they get 40 cups, which is really just 20 additional over your cost, but it seems like a bigger reward and if you lose it doesn’t imply that the opposing player gets anything from your raid. For defenders you present a separate unconnected reward for winning or losing much like you get now, just with better storytelling - just a single “you got 30 cups from the bodies of the defeated attackers, or the attackers stole 40 cups from your treasury”. The biggest change in messaging would be to not imply that there is an exchange in trophies, because that implies a market for trophies or a limited supply of trophies that does not exist. Losing a revenge raid is much less frustrating when you know that it costs you money to move your troops.
This would also allow for later additional monetization and expansion with defensive tower expansions or the integration of items into raids without making the mechanic seem broken. A siege engine item or meteors brought along to raid a castle make sense IF you know that the defenders are using a different mechanic.