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simple battle mechanic

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red hare
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Hi gang, if anyone has any suggestions for a simple battle mechanic, I would really appreciate your help. My friend and I have been working on a war game that mostly involves area control ala Risk/ A&A. The game is 4-5 players. The theme is barbarians fighting over the remnants of the world. The map is your typical world divided up into 43 countries. We kind of took for granted early on in the design process that we'd use a simple battle mechanic in the beginning and fix it later.

Well... it's later... a lot later! And we still don't have anything that quite works. The invading army gets one D6 to roll for each barbarian that invades. You can invade with as many barbarians as you like but you can only roll up to three dice, while it's up to two dice for the defender. Anyone who rolls a 1,2,3 gets a kill. So in each battle, there can be deaths on both the attacker and defender on each dice roll.

The object of the game is to control a certain combination of countries to win points. So in other words, the game is about strategic placement as opposed to wiping your opponents off the face of the map.

First off, there doesn't seem to be any advantage to attacking or defending, except that one extra dice that the attacker rolls. We want to keep dice in the battle mechanic in some way, but there seems to be a high fatality rate since BOTH the attacker and defender can suffer losses in a single dice roll. The result is a whole lot of barbarians being pumped into the game and while it seemed like fun at first has actually created many little rules and busy work that makes the game way too complicated than it needs to be.

Since the game is more about placement as opposed to player elimination, should we use multiple unit types with different movement/ attack advantages? Or do you think it's better to keep it simple and only use the generic "pawn" type barbarian? Bonus on the dice for attacker?

Again, any suggestions would be helpful... thanks in advance!

Marx
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KISS

Simple is fine. As it is though, with no advantages to either attack or defense, the game is very reliant on the luck of the roll, which can hurt any elements of strategy. When dice are involved, luck will always be a large factor (I have seen the USSR defend against an incredibly large German army in A&A when the German player could not roll below a 4 and the USSR player threw 20/25 dice 1-2), but the more advantages you employ to a player who is using strategy, the less those die rolls matter. I have a few thoughts on what you're trying to accomplish here.

If all you're trying to do is emphasize strategic placement of units, then put a cap or some other limiter on the number of units each side can have on the board. This ought to give players some advantage in attacking one area or another. You said players ultimately must gain control over a certain combination of countries. The cap might be increased or decreased based on the number of objectives countries they control.

Multiple types of units with different advantages is always a fantastic idea, but it sounds like it might make your combat system a bit more complicated than you're intending it to be. Instead, consider adding in elements of terrain to the board, giving advantages to players attacking from a hill or to players defending across a river, or in a forest.

You could also consider giving an advantage to the person with greater numbers in a given fight, perhaps giving them an extra die for each unit they have over their enemy, or every two units, or some ratio of units.

Everything could be counted in terms of "dice". Let's say player A is attacking player B. Here is the situation:

Player A is attacking with 6 units from a hill.
Player B is defending with 4 units.
Thus, player Player A might get to roll 10 dice (6 units + 2 attacking from a hill + 2 because he has two more units than the defender), while Player B only gets to roll 4.
If, alternatively, Player B were also defending behind a river, they might get a defensive bonus and be allowed to roll 6 dice instead of 4.

I don't know the scale of your game in terms of units, but you get the idea. Terrain advantages would give players incentive to advance strategically.

Ewain
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I like Marx ideas, they sound

I like Marx ideas, they sound simple enough to fit the bill.
They also make map creation horribly complex, since I suppose every country need to be both defensible And conquerable..

Your presentation made me think of the assault rules in warhammer 40K.
In the terms of your game: if either unit scores 1:s only on the dice, it's considered a 'shock to morale' to the other side, which have to respond by (in this game) removing ½ the force from the fight -cowardly running flat out to mommy ;)

red hare
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Thanks for the suggestion

Thanks for the suggestion Marx. Giving more dice as an advantage is a really simple way to add possibilities for strategy. For some reason, I had over looked that option. Just so that you know the scale of the battles, a large army is considered between 8-12 units. A very large army from 13-18. One army usually doesn't get much bigger than that.

You have a great point Ewain. I think using terrain, while a good option, wouldn't work with the map that we have. We did think of a bonus for rolling all '1's .... but instead of the opponent "losing morale", the affected units would be added to your army as "enslaved" units...

But getting back to the map. Right now, the map is such that most countries can be accessed by many directions and there are few countries that have only 2 borders. In effect, there are few if any choke points on the map where it is strategically advantageous to hold and control that country. Like I said earlier, the object of the game is to hold a specific combination of countries for a short time and then move on, so the game isn't about dominating a section of the map and then expanding from there. It's about smash and grab if you will.

Am I missing out on having strategic decision making by not including choke points on the map? Also, the movement is set up where there are no unoccupied countries on the map. You must leave at least one unit in the country when you move. It has kept the game simple, but I'm starting to wonder if it is also cutting out other possibilities.

Traz
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ideas? you bet!

When you're talking a RISK-style game, simplicity is the rule of the day. The more complexity you introduce, the more length you add to the game. I Think I have a few ideas that might give you the solutions you are looking for, but I need a few more pieces of information about your game:

- is there terrain that can modify combat?

- on average [and I do mean AVERAGE], how many invading units vs. how many defending units in a typical combat?

Jean Of mArc
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Hey! All the ideas suggested

Hey!

All the ideas suggested so far sound good, and think you are heading in the right direction, so I won't say much on that.
I will say, though, that map variety DOES make for a more interesting game. Even within a game of chess, for example, a piece can only be attacked from certain directions at all times. If it is against a wall, for example, then it cannot be attacked from that direction. Also, having other pieces around it can block it off from potential attacks in other directions. This is what adds a lot of interest to the game. So in your example, if all units can be attacked from many directions all over the map, this will probably not create as many interesting and strategic movements as one in which a map has some strategic "hold" points (like bottlenecks) in which the teams will fight each other for. But then again, I haven't played your game, so maybe your way does work better... I just mean theoretically having some map design will make for more interesting games. :) Feel free to disagree though!

red hare
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Hi Traz, to answer your questions:

-There is no terrain to modify combat.
-There are basically two types of battles. In the beginning, battles will be about 5 attackers vs. 2-3 units. Then there can be massive battles between 12 attackers vs. 8-10 defenders.

However, in many battles, there will be a large army of about 8 units that invade weak countries that only have 1 or 2 units for defense. Like Risk, you can't be everywhere all the time, so a player in a good position will be able to wipe out an undefended area easily.

Does this help?

red hare
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I agree Jean de Marc, the map

I agree Jean de Marc, the map is as simple as a chess board... and the pieces are all essentially... well, pawns. The game is about occupying a special combination of countries, which has it's own dynamic, but I feel like there are some missed opportunities in the combat/ movement of the game... funny how we concentrated more on the theme of the war game, instead of the WAR part of the game...

Traz
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exactomundo

Good answer! I think I have a couple things for you to try....

1- for every two attackers=1 die. For every defender=1 die. Roll all the dice and compare the outcome. Whoever rolls the most removes the difference from the loser. Example- 8 invaders attack 3 defenders. Attacker rolls 4 dice and defender rolls 3 dice. Attacker rolls 12 and defender rolls 14. Attacker loses 2 units. Simple and basic. Large groups of defenders have the advantage, obviously. But at some point, if they want to win, they will have to go over on the attack.

2- if you want to give the advantage to the attacker then simply apply the 2 unit=1 die rule to both sides of the battle. Perhaps attacker round down and defender round up, so that in the above example, 8 attackers get 4 dice, but 3 defenders only get 2 dice. If both get rounded down, attacker still gets 4 dice, but defender will only get 1 die. Play with it some.

I think either of these suggestions will make your combat system simple and elegant. If you want to add spice, have a deck of cards. At the beginning of your turn, you draw two cards. You may only hold a maximum of 4 cards in your hand [so if you draw a 5th and/or 6th card you will be discarding before you get to move or do combat]. Here's a few suggested cards [you would get to play cards at any moment during the game, whether your turn or not]:

Add a die roll to combat
Add +4 to your roll
Subtract -4 from opponent's roll
Add a unit to the combat before dice are allocated

You get the idea. You might already have these items in your game. Anyway, just for fun, give one of these systems a try the next time you break it out and let us know how it works out.

red hare
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thanks!

Thanks Traz, those are some great suggestions. I think the latter has a possibility of working because we wanted to keep it an offensive-oriented game. We haven't included a card element to the game. I'll see what my friend thinks.

Thanks for your suggestions everyone. If there are others, please let me know.

red hare
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update

Just to give you an update. We added terrain - mostly geographic features like the Himalayan mountains, Black Sea, etc... - as barriers to limit where players could move on the map and we gave a bonus dice to the attacker as a reward for accomplishing some of the sequences.

We played two times in the last two days and we definitely saw improvement in the overall strategic element of the game.

Thanks for all of your suggestions... the game is better for it!

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