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Squad-based Tactical Combat

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Joined: 07/23/2009

Hey there. I'm new around these parts of the internet and I was inspired from varying sources for a game, and would like some insight from folks who know more about this stuff than I do. There are some sketchy sections of the game design in general.

So, as mentioned in the title, the game's focus is on squads and tactics. So, before I get much further, I should describe what a squad is. A squad is represented on the game board by a token of some sort that has an implicit direction. Namely, there is a front, a back, a left, and a right. A squad may move N spaces per turn, where N has yet to be defined. The final direction of a squad is determined by which direction they've moved in prior. So if a squad moves up, then left, the squad is facing left at the end of the turn.

A squad, in more detail, is represented by a 3x3 grid that has up to 5 soldiers placed on it in whatever formation the player wishes. When 2 opposing squads occupy the same space on the game board, they are in combat. This is where directions become important. If a grid is represented with the top being the front with the following numbering:
1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9

A face-to-face battle between 2 squads might look like:
7 4 1 |X| 3 6 9
8 5 2 |X| 2 5 8
9 6 3 |X| 1 4 7

However, if a player attacked a squad facing to the left, the squad gets attacked in its right flank and you'll might get a battle like:
1 2 3 |X| 3 6 9
4 5 6 |X| 2 5 8
7 8 9 |X| 1 4 7

So, why does this matter? There are different kinds of soldiers, and their effectiveness is determined by which row they are in. So, for example, a unit might be twice as effective in the front row than in any other row, or in the back row. To put an American Revolution spin on it, you might put a line of musketeers in the front (who are effective at taking hits in the front due to the fact that there's a wall of them), and cannons in the back. Cannons do much more damage than musketeers, but they're more easily disabled. However, were this squad attacked from behind, the cannons would be exposed. Units can only hit the front-most unit in a column. That is, a unit in the middle of the back row is vulnerable if the front and middle rows only have units on the sides.

The actual mechanics of squad combat are still up in the air. However, there are several things I'd like each soldier to have. An attack strength, a defensive ability, hit points, and number of attacks in the front, middle, and back rows. Strength determines the power of the attacks, defensive ability determines how much of the blow actually gets through. Hit points determine how much of a beating a unit could take of the damage that does get through, and number of attacks per row determines the number of rounds of combat before the encounter is resolved.

In round 1, every unit with 1 or more attacks gets to attack the other squad. Exact resolution is up in the air, and I'm completely open to suggestions with the whole process. In round 2, every unit with 2 or more attacks gets to attack, and so forth.

So, let's say Squad A's formation has 3 units in the front row who do 2 attacks each and 2 units in the back row who do 1 attack each. Squad B has 1 unit in the front with 3 attacks, another unit in the front with 2 attacks, 1 unit in the middle with 1 attacks, and 2 units in the back with 1 attack each. So, it looks something like:
1 0 2 |X| 3 0 1
0 0 2 |X| 0 0 0
1 0 2 |X| 2 2 1

In the second round of combat, the number of attacks remaining looks like...
0 0 1 |X| 2 0 0
0 0 1 |X| 0 0 0
0 0 1 |X| 1 1 0

And in the third round of combat, the number of attacks remaining looks like:
0 0 0 |X| 1 0 0
0 0 0 |X| 0 0 0
0 0 0 |X| 0 0 0

When all units are out of attacks for the encounter, the amount of damage is tallied up for both sides. Whoever did the most damage is the winner, and the other the loser. In the unlikely event of a tie, neither is the winner or the loser.

So, a few things about squads.
1) It's a bit complex. However, I feel it's one of those mechanics that goes slowly the first 2 or 3 times, and then goes more smoothly. Like playing a card game for the first few times.

2) How attack volleys are resolved is unknown to me. Fast and simple would be best, but if it's deterministic, it loses some of its riskiness. Luck should have a very small part of it.

3) Keeping track of multiple squads will require a lot of table space. Limiting the number of squads is definitely a good idea (I'm currently thinking a cap of 4 or so).

4) Whether or not a squad's formation or unit makeup is public has yet to be decided. If it's obscured, I need to figure out how.

Also, a few things about units.
1) Different types of units are vital to this, given that some units should be awful in some rows and great in others.

2a) Upgrading units is something I'd like to see. However, the exact mechanic for this is shrouded in mystery. I'd also like to prevent the situation where a player gets more momentum and just facerolls his way to victory.

2b) Using specific unit types seems like a simpler way than handling individual statistics for all units. Namely, it's easier to say "Lamebot can become a Wallbot, a Gunbot, and a Cannonbot" than say "Unit A in Squad B has upgraded his attack strength twice and his number of attacks once."

3) Units can be permanently killed, but I feel there should be a way to replenish your ranks.

So, outside of combat, a player's turn is divided into 2 major steps. The movement step, and the combat step. In the movement step, the player moves their squads. Once all the squads have been moved, combat is resolved. In the event there are multiple choices (namely, if there are 2 red squads (r1 and r2) and 2 blue squads in a square (b1 and b2)), the current player chooses how combat is resolved. So, in the parenthetical example above, if it's the red player's turn, then he/she may choose whether r1 or r2 attacks first, and whether or not it attacks b1 or b2.

When a single encounter is resolved, the winner stays put. If the current player lost, he/she moves in the opposite direction of his/her facing (moves backwards, essentially) N spaces. If the other player lost, their squad moves N spaces in the direction the current player is facing (the enemy is pushed back). In the event of a tie, both squads move as if they had lost, but only half as far. In the event a squad is on the edge of the board, the squad moves in a direction orthogonal to the direction the current player is facing of the player's choice, given that the unit moves at least one space in that direction.

If a squad, when being pushed back, intersects another opposing squad, another combat ensues. The "forward" direction in this case is the direction the squad was moving. So if one squad was pushed back to the north and is facing east, and they intersect a squad facing north, then the ensuing combat is an awkward side-versus-rear combat. Once no 2 opposing squads are on the same space, the combat phase ends.

Hit points of all individual units are fully replenished after the combat phase. So, if a single unit has to deal with multiple encounters in the same phase, there is a much higher likelihood of having a unit die.

So, a few other things.

1) A game end condition would be fantastic. I feel like a total-destruction-Risk-style end condition would make the game stop being fun for some players fairly quickly (after all, there's almost always one person who loses quickly in Risk that gets to play Solitaire for the next hour until someone else loses). A certain number of turns, however, feels rather arbitrary.

2) Terrain that affects movement might be interesting. Rivers are impassable, trees and mountains slow you down, roads speed you up, and grasslands don't affect your movement.

3a) I'm toying around with the idea of points. Namely, every time you win a battle, you gain a point. Most points after N turns, first to reach N points, or something.

3b) I'm also toying around with the idea of bases. Namely, you have N points for every base you control. When an opponent takes a base (by walking into it and using one of their movement to capture it, or by pushing you out of it via combat), you lose those points if you had the base originally, and they gain them.

3c) As an aside to above, I feel like having a unit upgrade when their squad loses a fight ("Learn from your mistakes") might provide an interesting balance between "I want better units and squads to win, but I'm giving the enemy more points by letting them win." Probably one upgraded unit per lost encounter or something similar.

4) I'm toying with the idea of a very simple resource system with only one or two resources. Certain bases on the map might provide resources whenever a squad spends time. In order to upgrade a unit, you need to purchase the ability to get that upgrade. Could probably trade one of any resource for a point at any time if points are used.

Anyway, that's most of what I've thought of thus far. I apologize for the incredibly long and unclear post. This is (obviously) one of my first board game ideas (I have a few others). I feel this idea just has too many... incomplete sections and has an extreme amount of potential to be awful, hence, seeking input. Thanks! :3

Joined: 07/23/2009
Great explanation with a good

Great explanation with a good amount of AI there. Well there are plenty of Squad based tactical shooters out there. To come out, you would need something more innovative and unique :)

SiddGames's picture
Joined: 08/02/2008

I would suggest some kind of objective-based victory condition/scoring system. The squad composition (including positions within the squad) and unit facing seems to be a significant focus of the game, so you want to get those aspects into play more often than not; that is, you don't want most fights in the game to be front-to-front. If you could work in target objectives, such that units must often move in a specific direction, thus opening themselves up to attack from the flanks or rear, that would add more tension to the game, and force players to decide if they want to place their "front row" soldiers in the rear or side of the unit, and risk coming upon a face-to-face engagement, or hope to rush past enemies for a frontal assault, for example.

Give players a reason to maneuver and to compose their squads in ways other than the obvious oriented-toward-the-front.

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