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Befriend or Conquer Mechanics

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Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008

Still working on my space opera themed game, and I've been experimenting with variations on befriend and conquering mechanics with regards to encountered alien species.

My latest befriend mechanic is working pretty well, but I'm not happy with the conquer (combat) mechanic.
It should be noted that the ship-to-ship combat works really well, but I need something for character-to-character combat. I used to be using a striped-down variation of the ship combat mechanic, but it just isn't interesting here - even a bit tedious.

Basically, when you encounter an alien species, you can 'solve' the encounter by befriending them or conquering them.
Befriending is quick and easy, but only available as an option if you have the right social skills.
Conquering is always an option, but comes with risk, and takes more turns.

OLD:
What I had before was the player was presented with 2 or 3 units to battle (one battle per player turn). Using attributes: Attack, Defense, Reflex, Hit Points, Healing.
You would use the unit with the higher reflex to determine who goes first, then roll the die and add your attack score trying to equal or beat the defense score. If it is successful, you do a hit. Then the other attacks back. Repeat until one of the units is eliminated. Every turn the player can use healing, if any.

The problem is that the whole thing isn't very inspired, and seems to devolve into a die rolling fest since not much changes in between phases.
What I'd like to end up with is a single roll (or some other mechanic?) that determines the battle with that unit. While there should be some element of risk, the player should have a good idea of the probable outcome.

Also, in large part, this is an item collection game - you are constantly trying to get better equipment for your character and ship. So, naturally, there needs to remain a few areas where you can get items improve social and conquer outcomes, meaning I don't want to reduce the number of combat attributes too much.

NEW:
I'm considering eliminating the reflex attribute (if I'm reducing the battle to one roll) and giving the aliens a single toughness score. Somehow your attack score means something when compared to that, and also somehow it shows how many hits you can expect to take in return when compared to your defense. The die roll somehow modifies the expected result a bit.
Medical items can heal you up. Perhaps some items let you take on more than one unit per turn (speeding the conquering process up) Maybe an item can let you escape from a bad turn of events. Maybe an item can revive aliens (another player interfering with your conquering plans)
With bad rolls, the player may have to decide to change their plan, or spend more time healing, or accept increased risk.

Any ideas to fill the blanks?

EDIT:
Maybe a modified rock-paper-scissors mechanic could work here?
The aliens are assigned a property, and your weapon is assigned a property. There RPS mechanic will then give you a base expected result (did you hit? how many hits in return did you take?) And then a die is rolled that modifies that result a bit. Your defense value could then reduce incoming hits, while medical score can heal hits during your normal turns.

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Simple combat resolution is good

You said that you are already happy with your befriend mechanic.
Can you simply co-opt the same mechanic for combat?

If there are no meaningful player choices to make during the combat, then I don't see the point of having rounds, attacks, hit points, or any of that. A simple roll to determine success or failure functions the same, only faster. The complications only provide the illusion of choice, without providing any real choices.

One game design principle is that mechanics should be inter-connected. If you have a mechanic/attribute that is only used in 1 part of the game, eliminate it. For example:
- Are "hit points" used anywhere else in the game (e.g. characters can be injured during space combat, or they can get diseased/poisoned)? If not, eliminate them from combat also.
- Is "reflex" used anywhere else in the game (e.g. in space combat, or quick-thinking in diplomacy, or dodging asteroids, cheating in the casino)? If not, eliminate it.
- Are "attack" and "defense" used elsewhere (e.g. in space combat)? If not, eliminate them -- or change them into something else which also applies in some non-combat situations.
- Perhaps reconsider the application of healing. Healing typically doesn't help you during a fight, it just reduces the penalty for losing. For example, if losing a fight means you miss your next two turns recovering, then with healing you only miss one turn.

Regards,
kos

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Check out Terra Prime

May I humbly suggest that you check out Terra Prime for how Hostile Aliens are handled in that game?

When you encounter aliens, they are hostile and will shoot at you at the end of any action. As an action you can Pacify (befriend) them, by giving them resources. Or, as an action you acn attack them, which is resolved as a single die roll.
The die roll for attacking is modified by the number of guns on your ship. For each gun you roll 1 die, and for each result that is equal to or less than the number of dice rolled counts as a success. So the more guns you have, the more dice you roll AND the easier it is to generate a "hit." You only roll dice once per action, and to completely defeat aliens you must get enough hits (based on the number of Alien symbols). Hitting a 3-symbol alien cluster turns it into a 2-symbol cluster, hitting a 2-symbol cluster turns it into 1 single alien, and hitting a single alien kills it. At the end of your turn (3-5 actions) if the alien isn't dead, it reverts back to full strength.
 
Alien attacks work similarly, for each alien symbol you roll a die, and a 4, 5, or 6 counts as a hit against you. I originally had shields offer a roll to cancel hits, but that was too clunky and I switched it out for the current system in which shields simply absorb some damage.
 
I thought this was a good compromise between elegance of rules and excitement of combat. Depending on who you talk to, it turned out to be either great fun, or terribly luck driven (see comments on BGG). I think it works just the way it's supposed to :)

Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008
kos wrote:You said that you

kos wrote:
You said that you are already happy with your befriend mechanic.
Can you simply co-opt the same mechanic for combat?

Not really, as befriending isn't always an option. You need the right social skills.
So if I use a similar mechanic, it would imply combat isn't always an option too.
The combat choice is supposed to always be an option - but it comes with risk and takes more time. Good combat equipment can mitigate the downsides somewhat.

Now, my RPS musings, were an attempt at trying to sort of come closer to the social mechanic without eliminating it as a potential option based on equipment.

Quote:

If there are no meaningful player choices to make during the combat, then I don't see the point of having rounds, attacks, hit points, or any of that. A simple roll to determine success or failure functions the same, only faster. The complications only provide the illusion of choice, without providing any real choices.

Exactly. Tthis was a big problem with the old resolution method.

Quote:

One game design principle is that mechanics should be inter-connected. If you have a mechanic/attribute that is only used in 1 part of the game, eliminate it. For example:
- Are "hit points" used anywhere else in the game (e.g. characters can be injured during space combat, or they can get diseased/poisoned)? If not, eliminate them from combat also.
- Is "reflex" used anywhere else in the game (e.g. in space combat, or quick-thinking in diplomacy, or dodging asteroids, cheating in the casino)? If not, eliminate it.
- Are "attack" and "defense" used elsewhere (e.g. in space combat)? If not, eliminate them -- or change them into something else which also applies in some non-combat situations.
- Perhaps reconsider the application of healing. Healing typically doesn't help you during a fight, it just reduces the penalty for losing. For example, if losing a fight means you miss your next two turns recovering, then with healing you only miss one turn.

I hear what your saying here, and I find such reusing of attributes to generally lend themselves to a more elegant game. And most attributes in this game do have more than one use. For example, scanners are valuable to explore planets, but also used to gain the first shot advantage in combat as well as negate an opponent's cloaking effects.

The exceptions do seem to be centered around combat, however.
A weapon is a weapon no matter how you look at it. Now, there are occasionally other uses for a weapon besides for combat, such as a mission to destroy a comet that is going impact a planet. And also dual-use items, such as an engine that can also act as a weapon.

As to the attributes discussing character combat:
Hit points: Only used for combat - however they can dictate the rate at which you can enter into battle. (Though adding sickness to the list of random events is an interesting idea.)
For instance, if the outcome of a battle wasn't particularly great (took more hits than anticipated), you may want to rethink continuing to try and conquer the aliens. Is the increased risk worth it?
I'm considering taking away HP from the aliens though, seeing as the number of aliens is also effectively a type of HP. How else would you represent damage to a player? Make it a 'you're healthy or defeated' boolean status? I guess I could tie it into your attack score, meaning hits against you also make your attack weaker, and better weapons also make you tougher. Hmmm, that might work.

Reflex: Was introduced to add another angle to ground combat gameplay and item variety. It was only used to determine the order of battle - and that's one of the reasons I'm eliminating it.

Attack and Defense: These are separate from attack and defense values that your ship may have. There is a difference between ground character-to-character combat and ship-to-ship combat. A ship-mounted weapon is unsuitable for a character to use in ground combat, just as ballistic vest is of little use to the ship.
As above, I'm already considering merging HP with your attack score. Or possibly merging HP with defense. I don't really want to merge attack and defense, as it will limit item variation too much I think, and begin to make the ground combat a bit one-dimensional. Maybe possibly mix your attack and defense to make a total attack power? And then hits against you reduce your defense/HP and therefore affect your attack score to a lesser extent. Hmmm.

Healing: Already works as you describe it. In addition, it's not exclusively a healing score. It's actually a science/medical score and has other uses in gameplay - notably for missions and exploring.

@sedjtroll
At attacks assumed to be resolved simultaneously? If not, whoever goes first seems to have a huge advantage, as successfully hits will significantly reduce the target's capability to strike back. Which is how I ended up with a 'reflex' score in my trials.
I'm thinking how I could adapt such a system. In my case, I think successive attacks would take place on separate turns, and satisfy the time requirement for choosing to conquer. Interestingly, as the aliens get close to defeat they get weaker, and thereby may present a weaker player the chance to swoop in and steal the kill - and added element to strategy.

So, a weapon score becomes the number of die to roll, and you are trying to roll equal or higher than the toughness score of the aliens to shore a hit. The number of aliens is also the number of times they get to roll in return, aiming for your defense score.

**Digression Alert!**
I wonder how this changes the probabilities from the older mechanic of rolling once and adding the weapon score to hit the opposing defense score. (Using a 10-sided die)
Let's see:
Weapon: 3 vs. Alien Defense: 6

Multiple dice version:
3d10 with 50% chance each to hit =
0 hits = 12.5%
1 hit = 37.5%
2 hits = 37.5%
3 hits = 12.5%
87.5% for at least one hit

Single die version:
1d10 + 3 = 80% chance to hit

As your attack score changes, here's a table to show how the % changes.


chance to make at least 1 hit vs. a 6:
score ____1____2____3____4____5___
multi ___50___75__87.5__93.7__96.9
single___60___70___80___90___100__

While this naturally shows that the multi-die version produces a probability curve, and the other is linear, there are also some greater implications here:
1) The linear system may necessitate additional rules such as: 1 always misses, 10 always hits. The multi-die version does not need these.
2) The multi-die system yields more a natural result and also eliminates the addition step.

All in all, this is very interesting. It's something I'll have to keep in my tool-box for future reference.

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Desprez wrote:@sedjtroll At

Desprez wrote:
@sedjtroll
At attacks assumed to be resolved simultaneously? If not, whoever goes first seems to have a huge advantage, as successfully hits will significantly reduce the target's capability to strike back. Which is how I ended up with a 'reflex' score in my trials.

I don't know about your game, but in Terra Prime the combat is all player-vs-system, not player-vs-player. The aliens are intended to be a danger or penalty, so if you are unprepared then you are at a disadvantage. It's also possible to check ahead of time if you will be flying into an alien ambush, and prepare for it, and it's also possible to buy an upgrade which allows you to get the first shot, giving you more of an advantage.

In Terra Prime, combat is not simultaneous - aliens shoot at the end of any action, and players shoot as an action on their turn. Something similar could also be done if you consider shooting to be simultaneous though.

It's not necessarily the case that successful hits reduce the targets ability to fight back. That depends on how you resolve a 'hit' in your game. If it does not affect your guns (or whatever determines your attack strength) then it does not give you a disadvantage (unless I guess your ship blows up or something). If it's player-vs-player combat I think a simultaneous attack makes more sense than adding some kind of initiative value to figure out and keep track of.

Quote:
I'm thinking how I could adapt such a system. In my case, I think successive attacks would take place on separate turns, and satisfy the time requirement for choosing to conquer. Interestingly, as the aliens get close to defeat they get weaker, and thereby may present a weaker player the chance to swoop in and steal the kill - and added element to strategy.

In Terra Prime you get 3-5 actions in a turn, so you get several chances to kill aliens if you don't get them all in 1 go. In that game the aliens regroup after your turn, so another player cannot feast on your bad die roll which left a single alien when odds were on your side to kill them all. Also, in the end I awarded 'partial credit' for that situation by giving VP for each alien killed, so if you did crap out without defeating the aliens, at least you got a few VP for your trouble.

In your game it may be more appropriate to have the aliens remain weak so that another player could swoop in and ninja loot them.

Quote:
So, a weapon score becomes the number of die to roll, and you are trying to roll equal or higher than the toughness score of the aliens to shore a hit. The number of aliens is also the number of times they get to roll in return, aiming for your defense score.

That could work. Again, in my game I wanted the weapons to scale in power as you got more of them, so that fighting with 3 weapons was a LOT better than fighting with just 1 (in fact, fighting with just 1 is not really feasible). The idea was that 1 weapon is not enough to really fight, 2 weapons is enough to take on little wimpy aliens you might encounter, especially if you're willing to spend a few extra actions shooting at them, and 3+ weapons is for the guy that specifically wants to go out and hunt aliens.

I think I also mentioned in my game that I originally had shields work similarly, you'd roll dice to see how many hits got canceled. A vast improvement on that was changing shields such that they can soak up some damage, effectively canceling a hit without rolling a die. they are limited though, and must be replaced later.

Quote:
**Digression Alert!**
I wonder how this changes the probabilities from the older mechanic of rolling once and adding the weapon score to hit the opposing defense score. (Using a 10-sided die)
Let's see:
Weapon: 3 vs. Alien Defense: 6

Multiple dice version:
3d10 with 50% chance each to hit =
0 hits = 12.5%
1 hit = 37.5%
2 hits = 37.5%
3 hits = 12.5%
87.5% for at least one hit

Single die version:
1d10 + 3 = 80% chance to hit

As your attack score changes, here's a table to show how the % changes.


chance to make at least 1 hit vs. a 6:
score ____1____2____3____4____5___
multi ___50___75__87.5__93.7__96.9
single___60___70___80___90___100__

While this naturally shows that the multi-die version produces a probability curve, and the other is linear, there are also some greater implications here:
1) The linear system may necessitate additional rules such as: 1 always misses, 10 always hits. The multi-die version does not need these.


I don't see where this is "necessary" in either case, but if you like it it's always an option.
Quote:
2) The multi-die system yields more a natural result and also eliminates the addition step.

A more significant difference: the multi-dice method allows for more than 1 hit at a time. Is that OK?

Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008
Well

Quote:
Quote:

1) The linear system may necessitate additional rules such as: 1 always misses, 10 always hits. The multi-die version does not need these.

I don't see where this is "necessary" in either case, but if you like it it's always an option.
Quote:
2) The multi-die system yields more a natural result and also eliminates the addition step.

A more significant difference: the multi-dice method allows for more than 1 hit at a time. Is that OK?

May necessitate. Because in a linear system you can get situations where it is impossible to hit, or impossible to miss, and these are typically undesirable and/or game breaking.

I was just looking at it from a 1 hit perspective. I'm likely to only allow multiple hits based on some other weapon property. This gives the player some decisions to make, and allows for some greater item diversity. Should I take this stronger power 3 weapon? Or maybe the weaker power 2 that allows for multiple hits? It could even allow other items to grant multiple attacks.

Gameplay-wise, defeating the aliens in one turn should happen rarely, and only if they are particularly weak and the player has some good combat items.

Well, this has given me some thinking to do.

Ratmilk
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Joined: 02/03/2009
Screw dice!

I'm not a fan of dice but without an alternative I'd just be complaining; so here is an alternative. I'm assuming each one of your ship statistics are upgradable as you describe. Why not blind energy allocation as your combat mechanic? Break ship statistics into categories ie. Shields/weapons/maneuverability. The player allocates energy within the maximums of the ship statistics. The enemy AI does the same by pulling either chits or cards with variable scores and laying them out face down. When combat is initiated the chits are flipped and the comparisons made with damaged being resolved. Progress over multiple rounds were players can make changes to energy allocation shifting. You may even want to have a sensor or inititave rating for the player that allows the player to see an enemy statistic before his own energy allocation. This becomes scalable with difficulty as aliens becoming more powerful, the way you do this is level 1 aliens pull from a level pile which will vary from say 1-3, level 2 from 3-5 etc. so as the player advances his opponent become more difficult. The same system translates to player vs. player combat so you wouldn't need to change it. Combat resolution would be quick, thoughtful, and not random. Nothing sucks more than to set up the perfect battle and lose because of a single die role.

Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008
Hmmm

@Ratmilk:
This is a very interesting idea!

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