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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

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Nestalawe
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Hey ya'll,

Ok, am working on a Fantasy Empires game. I am trying to make myself stop, as I have other games that need working on, but I can't help it. (also the other games are in playtesting stages, so not too much I can do on them until my next playtest sessions...)

I am now working on the Armies/Combat section of the game and I want to find some nice ways to avoid having players make uber-stacks of armies.

The game will have General's, which are needed to move armies around - Armies cannot move without being led my a General. The board is made up of Provinces of empires, which armies move through. Most Empires will have 1-3 Provinces, so they are pretty large areas. Armies can be raised or dropped off in a province on their own (i.e. with no General leading them) but they cannot move, they would be purely defensive until a General came along and 'picked them up'.

Armies are pretty big too. I am imagining most Generals will be able to lead from 2-5 Armies, so say each Army is equivalent to 10,000 men (its a Fantasy wargame, so will have all sorts of different races...).

Players will also be limited to the number of Generals they will have in the game.

What I am looking for is some nice ideas on how to stop players from making huge big unstoppable stacks, either for defense or offense. There will be the 'natural' limitations of how many units the player will actually be able to build, but I want to have a nice, clean, easy to remember system that is fairly realistic but not over-complicated.

I considered having a Supply rating for each Province(the number of armies that may be in a province at any one time), but scrapped that, as it just adds more numbers and hassle.

I am now thinking along the lines of allowing only one General+Armies he is directly leading, plus up to 2 'unled' armies in a Province. But then more than one player should be able to have armies in a province. And then what happens in a combat where a player has a general+armies, and also two other unled armies in a province?

Anyway, writing as I think, but any other discussion would be helpful!

Cheers...

Nestalawe'

jwarrend
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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

You might look at "Samurai Swords", which has both of the effects you describe: armies led by Daimyos, and "garrisons". The forces under the Daimyo's control are placed on his "army card", which can hold up to 15 troops, and a "garrison" can hold up to 5 guys.

It sounds like what you need is a stacking limit -- a maximum number of armies that a territory can hold. Make it the same for all territories, for simplicity. It's a bit more complicated if you have multiple players in a territory, but this could always be a flashpoint for combat -- if the territory is overpopulated, combat ensues.

In my thirty years war game that I'm working on, I'm initially trying an "armies only" approach. The only moving pieces on the board will be the army markers; troops are placed directly on an army card. I'm making big armies expensive by having a "pay your army" effect; you must pay your troops for the number of occupied rows on your army card, but the number of troops each row can hold is dependent on the general (and, failing to pay your troops results in them plundering the surrounding territories, etc).

So, preventing big armies by giving an opportunity cost that scales with army size is another way you could do things.

-Jeff

NetWolf
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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

That's the best advice I could give as well. Simply place a standard limit on the number of armies a single area can hold. I did this in one of my games and it worked pretty well with the exception of a single player using up all the open spaces on a tile. Of course by my rules you had to be in the same space to engage in combat, so simply "holing up" in one location made for a great defense, but you couldn't win the game.

Based on the description you gave, it sounds like a 5 unit limit per area would probably work. That way there could be a general and up to four units following him, but at the same time there could also be three enemy units instead....

NetWolf
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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

[sorry. double post]

Nestalawe
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Yeah I remember Shogun... Considered having army boards, but decided against it for this game as I am trying to keep as much as possible on the board itself.

I think I will just go for the max army limit for provinces, which I may make different for general terrains. Its a starting point anyways. I will most likely make Generals have to retreat to an adjacent province, or City, if they lose combat, so that will cover having multiple player's armies in the same place. Any armies that cannot retreat into a suitable province without keeping to the size limit will be lost...

Each Province has a City in it as well, so I will also make them have a smaller max armies limit, similar to War Of The Ring. Thus armies will be able to retreat into them.

I'll see if I want to make anything more complicated once I have some testing underway, but its good to have a general starting point. Now I just have ot work out a nice combat system ;)

sedjtroll
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Re: Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

Nestalawe wrote:
What I am looking for is some nice ideas on how to stop players from making huge big unstoppable stacks, either for defense or offense. There will be the 'natural' limitations of how many units the player will actually be able to build, but I want to have a nice, clean, easy to remember system that is fairly realistic but not over-complicated.

My first thoughts are a 'stacking limit' for provinces, like War of the Ring has, and a similar 'stacking limit' with regard to how many units a General can move.

You could have them all be in the same 'army', but to move, for every 3 units, another General is required. So moving an Army of 7 Units would require 3 Generals. Maybe the Generals don't count toward the stacking limit (like leaders in WotR don't count) - and for that matter, maybe they don't fight either.

I guess I'm really impressed with the combat system in War of the Ring. In that game you roll 1 die per unit in the fight, to a maximum of 5 dice. So even if you outnumber the opponent 10-3, you only roll 5 dice to their 3. Leaders don't count as units, but offer re-rolls.

- Seth

Nestalawe
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Re: Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

sedjtroll wrote:

I guess I'm really impressed with the combat system in War of the Ring. In that game you roll 1 die per unit in the fight, to a maximum of 5 dice. So even if you outnumber the opponent 10-3, you only roll 5 dice to their 3. Leaders don't count as units, but offer re-rolls.

Yeah, WoTR has a good way of keeping the power of large stacks down, in that they make larger stacks useful for holding out longer against enemies, rather than being able to overwhelm the enemy immediately, it will take some turns. Also nice how you can retreat into strongholds. Can be very frustrating for the Shadow player ;)

I like your idea about Generals and moving armies, hmm, I might see if that would work...

Hegemon
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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

One can also introduce the concept of "attrition" that plagues pre-industrial armies. Simply require any force to roll a die at the end of it's movment phase and if it rolls over the number of armies in the province, nothing happens. A roll less than or equal to the number of armies present causes one army to "attrit" away (due to hunger, disease, bad weather, lack of pay, desertion, etc.) So big armies starve and small armies are beaten. A good dilemma for any would be general....

Units in cities could add +1 or +2 to the die roll to account for the better logistical infrastructure.

Infinite_Monkey
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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

What about the supply mechanic from Game of Thrones? Some territories give supply, moving a marker on the supply track. The higher you are on the track the more and larger armies you are allowed.

Emphyrio
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If you can balance the number of armies a player can build against the number of points he must defend, you may not need a stacking limit -- if a player concentrates his forces in one province, he's leaving some other vital area undefended. This would be particularly effective if the number of armies you can have is directly proportional to the areas you control -- if you concentrate your forces in one area, the other players can weaken you by taking over undefended areas.

Of course, in order for this to be an effective incentive, the other player(s) must be able to attack the undefended areas. If this is not feasible, you might consider having random events (barbarians, wandering monsters, whatever) which could pose a threat to weakly garrisoned areas.

Gogolski
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I don't know if it fits with what you're planning, but you could make larger armies more uncontrolable.

So a very big army with one (or no) general, is weaker/less-organised/whatever... than a small army guided with 3 generals.
I might get as bad as having a part of an unguided army being 'stolen/converted/colaborated' by an very well organised/lead army...

Dunno, first thing that came to mind. Point is that your generals wont be everywhere at once, and that unguided armies are prone to colaboration...

Cheese!

Nestalawe
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Hey guys!

Cheers, some good ideas have been coming through.

Emphyrio - I like the idea of balancing the need for armies in certain places. I have already made a condition that a player that conquers an empire must keep at least 1 army in each province of the empire, else the conquered empire may rebel and go hostile. So that will spread players' armies about. On the other hand, if a player Allies to an empire, they do not have to keep any armies in that empire. (Conquering an Empire gives different advantages to Allying with an Empire, and players are limited to the number of empires they may conquer or ally...)

I kinda like the idea of the game balancing out whether or not players stack their armies up - so that players can choose to have larger groups of armies, but they will lose out in some other way.

I also like the idea of having various events/actions that can affect large armies, so I think I wil factor that in a lot. Players with large stacks of armies will know that it is quite likely other players will have actions they may play against them to bring them down...

I need to think about how I want to model the effects of what a General actually does in the game world, and how they affect the game. i.e. if they add bonuses in combat, let players move armies, reduce attrition, provide morale and organisation etc.

clapjaws
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Looking For Nice Mechanics to Avoid Uber-Stacking

In the spirit of Gogolski's reply: armies without leadership figures could be prone to other things like bribery, desertion, etc. If your opponent has a general near one of your leaderless armies, maybe the lure of his charisma, or the coins in his coffers, forces you to do a loyalty check on those troops.

Or, if there's no leader for an extended period of time, they may tend to get more out of control, and start harrassing the locals, so to speak. Making that empire/province more likely to revolt, as the leadership drought goes on....

Sounds like a very cool system - good luck!
Jim

Nestalawe
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clapjaws wrote:
In the spirit of Gogolski's reply: armies without leadership figures could be prone to other things like bribery, desertion, etc. If your opponent has a general near one of your leaderless armies, maybe the lure of his charisma, or the coins in his coffers, forces you to do a loyalty check on those troops.

Hey CJ,

Good suggestions, and I can implement things such as bribery and desertion quite easily... I am about to begin working on the combat system, so will be looking at what ways Generals can be influential, which will give me more of a feel of how they should affect the game outside of combat...

Nestalawe
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OK, I have come up with a solution for now.

I am using all sorts of action cards (players will have hands of cards from three decks - Military, Infrastructure and Religion) which will allow players to implement a variety of actions such as bribery, plague etc etc, which will either target or have a worse effect on large groups of armies.

Armies may only be moved with a General. A General may move any number of armies with him. Each General will have a Command Rating. This will be the number of armies they may effectively lead in a Combat. Either, this number of troops will gain a bonus in combat, or any armies in excess of this number will be less effective in combat.

For Example, say a General with a Command Rating of 4 moves a group of 6 armies into an adjacent province and starts a combat. 2 of those armies will fight without the benefit of his leadership, and will be much less effective. OR, the 4 armies he can lead, will be much more effective.

Also, armies may only retreat if they are being led by a General. Either a General can retreat with all his armies, or can only retreat with a number of armies equal to his Command Rating. A Player may have multiple Armies in a combat if they are able to get more than one in the same position.

This means that players can have huge stacks of armies waiting around, but if they are not led by a General then they can get snotted if attacked, because they will not be able to retreat, and they will not fight as effectively.

This also means that players don't have to worry about stacking sizes etc for provinces.

One thing though, do you think that the Command Rating should give a bonus to that number of troops, or cause any left over troops to recieve a negative effect?

Thoughts?

Nestalawe
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Another thought, in that this could lead to interesting modelling of other things as well.

For Example, a Goblin General may be able to lead 2 Goblin armies for every Command point they have. So a Goblin General with a Command Rating of 4 could lead 8 Goblin armies, whereas any other General could only lead up to 4. Also, some staunch Armies, say the Crimson Knights, may take up 2 Command points to lead. It doesn't mean they won't be able to move or fight under a General, but if they are not Lead by one, they will not fight as efficiently.

Also, the other nice thing is that you only have to count up and allocate which armies you are leading when you actually enter a battle, so you don't have to worry about it when you are moving units around etc.

clapjaws
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Cool - so now what if an Ogre general tries to lead an army of gobs? Will they be less effective - or maybe more effective since they'd be scared witless by him??

Will the movement of leaderless armies be more difficult? For example - leaderless armies may take longer to interpret the message sent by pigeon, argue about who has to clean up the barracks, who gets the good donkey, etc. Maybe allow them to move, but at a slower rate?

Nestalawe
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clapjaws wrote:
Cool - so now what if an Ogre general tries to lead an army of gobs? Will they be less effective - or maybe more effective since they'd be scared witless by him??

Heh, depends on how I decide to categorise Armies etc ;) It will be possible to have all sorts of modifiers, but I will try and keep the system as intuitive as possible. Not even sure how I will be modelling the combat system yet ;) But yeah, could easily have it either way... Though I would not want too many Specials or exceptions floating around to complicate things...

clapjaws wrote:

Will the movement of leaderless armies be more difficult? For example - leaderless armies may take longer to interpret the message sent by pigeon, argue about who has to clean up the barracks, who gets the good donkey, etc. Maybe allow them to move, but at a slower rate?

Well, at the moment the turn mechanics are based around action cards. Players have several basic 'Permanent' cards (return to your hand after using, may only be used once per turn) in their hands, such as Move Leader, Raise Army, Destroy Structure etc. They are also able to draw 'One-Use' cards (discard after using) each turn, which are either stauncher versions of the Permanent cards, i.e. Move 2 Generals, or Raise 2 Units, or they are special Actions, which would cover things such as Bribery, Plagues, Trade Embargoes etc.

There are three areas of cards - Military, Infrastructure and Religion. Thus the basic 'Move' cards in each area are Move General, Move Merchant/Diplomat and Move Priest. Thus most of the Actions are based around the Leaders. But, I can easily have a card which lets you move a stack of armies without a General ;)

Ska_baron
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Quote:
For Example, a Goblin General may be able to lead 2 Goblin armies for every Command point they have. So a Goblin General with a Command Rating of 4 could lead 8 Goblin armies, whereas any other General could only lead up to 4. Also, some staunch Armies, say the Crimson Knights, may take up 2 Command points to lead. It doesn't mean they won't be able to move or fight under a General, but if they are not Lead by one, they will not fight as efficiently.

I'm just wondering if it would be simpler to just give Goblins a higher Command # and Crimson Knights a lower one... rather than having to remember x2 or 1/2 army movement per General - unless the command # is going to be used for something else too (rereading that it seems confusing) Does that make sense or am i missing something?

Love these ideas though, esp the card moving mechanics

Nestalawe
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Ska_baron wrote:
Quote:
For Example, a Goblin General may be able to lead 2 Goblin armies for every Command point they have. So a Goblin General with a Command Rating of 4 could lead 8 Goblin armies, whereas any other General could only lead up to 4. Also, some staunch Armies, say the Crimson Knights, may take up 2 Command points to lead. It doesn't mean they won't be able to move or fight under a General, but if they are not Lead by one, they will not fight as efficiently.

I'm just wondering if it would be simpler to just give Goblins a higher Command # and Crimson Knights a lower one... rather than having to remember x2 or 1/2 army movement per General - unless the command # is going to be used for something else too (rereading that it seems confusing) Does that make sense or am i missing something?

Hmm, not sure if I get what you mean...

Command Points would have nothing to do with movement. It merely represents how many armies a General can lead in combat. i.e. A command cating of 6 would mean the General could lead up to 6 armies during a combat. If the player had a total of 10 armies in that particular combat, the extra 4 armies would fight less effectively (have a -2 combat modifier or whatever).

The Goblin Thing - Maybe this particular Goblin General has a Special Ability - 'Lead 2 Goblin Armies per Command Rating' - Now, whenever this Goblin General is in combat, for each of his Command Points, he can lead 2 Goblin armies OR 1 other army. Any armies he does not lead will get the negative combat modifier.

So this means that a really crappy General, with a Command Rating of 2, may be part of a battle where he has 10 armies on his side, but 8 of those armies are going to fight really badly, because they have no one to lead them.

Hmm, thinking about it, it doesn't really help change players from getting big stacks, rather it would make players want to keep all their generals together, or would it? Hmm...

Ska_baron wrote:

Love these ideas though, esp the card moving mechanics

Cheers, will have to see how it all works in the playtesting ;)

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