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Diplomacy-style Combat Systems

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/31/1969

I am developing a larger scale strategic wargame. The location will be some island or something and it should be for 4 or 5 players. I want to keep combat simple and less random so the combat can be played more like Diplomacy, Dune (without treachery cards), or Game of Thrones. The economic side will also have to be simpler, but I want to work the economy around the military. This will be primarily a negotiation game, as you could probably tell by the three games I want to model combat on!

I was thinking Game of Thrones is really where I want the game to be closer to, because there should be a big emphasis on pushing armies back rather than destroying armies flat out. However, unlike Diplomacy or Game of Thrones there should be some attrition to both sides like there is in Dune, only without the overwhelming victories Dune supplies. There should also be, like in GoT and Diplomacy, a chance for other armies to provide support.

The only way I could really think to do this was using Game of Thrones' method of cards dealing or preventing damage. If anybody has any other suggestions, though, they would be highly appreciated.

The game will most likely use simultaneous orders like Diplomacy, but that is still up for debate. I am very fond of bidding for turn orders, so I'm not quite sure how that will work.

Thank you for your time and suggestions.

Nestalawe's picture
Joined: 08/07/2008
Diplomacy-style Combat Systems

Hey BagpipeDan!

Welcome to the boards...

What will the theme of your game be? Fantasy, Futuristic, Modern, etc etc. Sometimes the theme will help (it does for me anyways...) inspire ideas for how mechanics may be implemented in a game.

What are the golas of the game, what are players trying to achieve? What purpose do they have for moving against and attacking other players? What risks do they take?

I am also a big AGOT fan, and like the combat mechnic found in this and Diplomacy. In general I like these styles more than Risk dice-fests, so I am interested in what you may come up with.

The tricky thing is keeping the balance between total randomness (however meted by play that puts the odds in your favour...) to total open pay where you know 100% that you will win on any particular attack.

Dungeon Twister has a similar combat mechanic as AGOT in that each player has a set of numbered combat cards, but unlike AGOT once you use up a card it is gone for good... This makes things interesing as well, and can lead to quite different games. I haven't played it enough yet, but the games are fairly quick, so most of the time you wouldn't use all your cards, unless you get into a big troll slugfest as I did i my first game...

I digress.

You say you want the economics based around the miltary - in what way? Are there strategic points to capture? Will terrain or the map affect combats? Are there many different unit types? One choice may be to have various Tactics cards, which may or may not give each side bonuses depending on what tactics the pther player chooses to play. Different unit types would let you play different tactics.

What is hidden in the game and what is known to all players? How much knowledge about the enemy will one side have before attacking?

A few things there for you to think about ;)


Joined: 12/31/1969
I was going to discuss that in another post...

while here I was only concerned about the combat, but I could see how that would be important :D

The theme will be an ancient time period. Battles should simulate a clash of, more or less, equally armed and trained men resulting in some losses, and then major losses occuring in the route. However, I would like there to be numerous smaller battles, too, not just big battles which decide everything.

For the goal of the game think GoT. However, I was also working on a mechanism where at the end game final support is thrown around in proportion to military gains and influence levels of the players, so a very strong, powerful player cannot win if everyone else hates him but supports the much weaker (but more popular) second most powerful player. This is an interesting mechanism which will require a "play nice" strategy, but I have an interesting way of working this out which, I believe, can be a whole different discussion. For the purposes of battle, just imagine you want to conquer areas, control them, and (possibly?) built fortifications or something, who knows?

About the "total open play where you know 100% that you will win on any particular attack" I don't know how familiar you are with the mechanics of Diplomacy (where you can only win with the support since there is only 1 unit per space) or with Dune (where you have perfect knowledge EXCEPT how many men your opponent will risk... well, and also the treachery cards and leader part but I don't want to use that... possibly...)

I don't necessarily think terrain will affect combat other than there may be restrictions on how many units may be allowed to cross a certain type of terrain (think Hammer of the Scots allowing only 6 units per move over a mountain line) or how many are allowed to be in a space (plains spaces hold 6 pieces while mountains can only support 3 pieces). There should be, economically as well as militarily, some objectives to capture like towns or fortified cities (not really castles because of the era).

The enemy should know everything about your unit strengths (planning on using cubes or summat) since there is only one type of piece, and they are all nicely arrayed out on the board. Cavalry pieces, I had figured, would only travel with leaders and would therefore be represented on the cards (see below) than on the playing fields themselves.

The only unknown could be your leaders. There will be a card aspect to the game where leaders (political and military) will be represented by cards. They can provide combat bonuses, influence bonuses, and while you might know what armies are using leaders you would not know which leader figure represented which figure card (example a nickel on the field corresponds to the facedown card with a nickel on it, while the dime general up in the north will represent the card with the dime on it). Don't ask about the political leaders, I'm still hammering that out.

I hope that answers enough questions so that we can talk about the actual combat itself, which is giving me the most trouble and putting a block on all my plans.

(I haven't even revealed the twist to my game! but I will save that for ANOTHER post!!)

Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008
Diplomacy-style Combat Systems

A long time ago (over two years now, in fact!), I made the first submission to the Game Design Workshop, with a game called Warzone (link here.) I was trying to develop a strictly mechanical system (that obviously had no plausible thematic component) in which everyone would know everyone else's positions before they committed to their attacks/defences, along with a limited amount of bluff (since you had a limited pool of actions but so did everyone else.
But you might like to have a look at the way someone else tackled an (admittedly not similar at all) problem.

[I have since developed the basic action selection mechanic in a completely different direction, and it has nothing in common with Warzone anymore. But hey ho, that's what game design is all about...]

Joined: 12/31/1969

Also forgot to point out there will be an area movement map, and basically every unit will move once, and attacking will not be a "special" move but will simply involved moving into another army (either by meeting at a border or sharing a space at the end of a turn). The only options an army will have (in terms of combat) will be:

Defend (Possibly? depends on what we decide here)

Joined: 08/03/2008
Diplomacy-style Combat Systems


Welcome to the forum!

You're certainly emulating some great games; AGoT and Dune are among my favorites.

Here's a link to a discussion where the gang here helped me with a similar mechanical challenge. My game was/is a Civ-building game, and I needed a quick-resolving, but thematically interesting, mechanic.

The gist of my mechanic was that the units in the field contribute a base combat rating, which is supplemented by "tactics cards", which have ratings in 1-3 categories: Speed, Attack, and Defense. The player with the faster Speed attacks first, and does so by comparing his total Attack rating to the opponent's Defend rating, then takes casualties, then they reverse roles and repeat. What made it interesting was the way that cards were acquired, and the mechanics that governed how many cards you could introduce into battle.

In the end, I removed the mechanic, as it was too complex for the minor role that combat plays in the game, but it might be useful for you to look at a solution to a similar design problem.

Another point that that thread founders is that in genreal, one is way more likely to get good answers to questions of the type "Please tell me what you think of [mechanic X] that I've devised for [problem Y]" than of the type "Please come up with a mechanic for me to solve [problem Y]".

One other comment:

However, I was also working on a mechanism where at the end game final support is thrown around in proportion to military gains and influence levels of the players, so a very strong, powerful player cannot win if everyone else hates him but supports the much weaker (but more popular) second most powerful player.

I'm not sure I like the sound of this -- Petty diplomacy is annoying enough, but it would be even worse if it decides the game. Consider TV's Survivor, for example; the winner is decided by those who have been eliminated, which sounds like an interesting concept but in practice frequently becomes an excercise in petty vindication -- "you were mean to me, so I'm not voting you to win!"

Of course, in practice, it could work out, and there's almost certainly more to the mechanic than what you've told us. Just don't have the outcome of your game decided by a meta-game.

Good luck with your game, and definitely tell us more about it when you can; it sounds fun!


Joined: 12/31/1969
About the cards

I was thinking about this and the leaders would provide a pretty good random element for battles (provide maybe a few points in army strength and also provide cavalry support which would determine damage in routes). If the leaders* are the only random element though there is a few problems.

1. Either every army needs a leader or else the leaderless armies are assured to lose, which is never nice, and giving EVERY army a leader is a little tough. Maybe there would be a "generic leader" deck. That could work nicely, actually. Who knows?
2. It works out to be too Stratego-like then, where once you know the leader in charge of a force you know how strong that force is. While this is fine in general then there is no RANDOM factor anymore, which I don't like.

Plus I'm still not sure how attrition would work, how pursuit would work, what the small random factor will be, etc.

Joined: 01/04/2009
Diplomacy-style Combat Systems

Maybe, each turn every player gets dealt a leader which they then match up with a cavalry squad (the dimes + nickels + pennies, oh my!). Every player writes down where they're armies are moving to (not holds though, with more pieces than diplomacy it just takes up too much space) and maybe specifies the leader they are fighting for (so every attacking force must always have one leader, no more, no less). A sample order would therefore be :

# A - B, CD

Where the "#" is the amount of units, A is the start territory, B is the end territory and, if it is an attack, C is the side of the owner of the leader and d is the leader marker (like, player 1, nickel leader). If a leader is moved the player just specifies who, from where and to where.

Battles are seen when the orders are revealed and the defenders can choose any friendly leader present to help, otherwise they go leaderless. If more than one attacking force is present, maybe it could work like diplomacy, strongest man wins and defender gets to stay if it is a tie. For attrition, there could be something like the army loses x units for every x enemies, maybe supplemented by leaders. Idk how economy would work...

Joined: 12/31/1969
Diplomacy-style Combat Systems

I was designing a board game (Droped because it was too complex for a board game and now working on it to become a computer game :D).

The basis was that each territory allowed the player to have 1 extra tactic card. These tactic cards gave various bonuses to battle (eg Ambush: You gain first attack, Higher Ground: Melee attacks against you are at -2 to their attack roll, Forced March: Move 1 extra territoy, etc). Once a card is used then it is removed from play and put into a dicard pile (which is shuffled and put back into play when all tactic cards are used). A Leader (there was 4 but only 1 for all armies) could take an action to gain a new tactic card.

There were 3 types of units: Archers, Pikemen and Cavalry. There was a simple Scissor/Paper/Rock relation ship between the units: Pikemen beat Cavalry, Cavalry beat Archers, Archers beat Pikemen.

Archers could shoot their arrows into adjacent territories (and so couold attack without being attacked. Pikemen had the best attack stats and Cavalry could move 2 territories where as archers and pikemen could only move 1.

Combat was performed by rolling a D10 against the opposing armies defence stat (higer would be victory).

I hope that this system (now abandoned) will give you some ideas to help in your game.

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