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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

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Julius
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...and possibly I am looking for a way to eliminate it entirely.

In my card/board game, each card represents a unit, and has hit points. Hit points are typically 3 or 4 for a light unit, 5 or 6 for a regular unit, and 7 or 8 for a heavy unit, though there are some exceptions with more or less.

Typical damage is around 3 or 4 per attack, though as low as 1 and as high as 6. Units can be healed, though healing averages 2 points. Simply, when a unit takes damage, you recored a number (somehow), equal to damage dealt. When you heal, you remove that much. Simple enough, eh?

My problem is keeping track of it. Some things I've tried:

Damage Counters: What the game was designed for. Problem is, It is a little cumbersome, what with the large number of damage counters that accumulate.
Rotating cards: no rotation = no damage, 45 degrees = 1, 90 = 2, 135 = 3, 180 = 4... etc. The problem is it isn't exactly intuitive, and players seem to naturally want to "tap" a card to indicate that it has acted.
Dice: Probably the best method - one dice is set on top of the unit's card, and the number showing represents how much damage it has taken. Roughly one set of polyhedral dice is required per player. Not a problem for playtesting in my basement, but it would be expensive if the game ever saw production.

I'm really happy with the combat system, and the damage/healing aspect has a great balance, and is fairly well entrenched within the game. However, I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to nix damage and going with an "all or nothing" approach. The current system works, I just know it would be faster without it.

Oh, and cards themselves sit at the side of the board. You control a "squad" that is represented by a figure on the map. All of the units in front of you are treated as though they are in that space. It's pretty slick, and there are some neat things I've been able to do in terms of balance. So, you don't really have to worry about having to physically move the cards around too much.

Jebbou
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Each card could have a damage track, with a counter that would move on it. It would be an elegant and easy way of tracking damage. Furthermore, it would be cheaper to produce. The only disadvantage of this method is that it requires space on your cards.

Regards,

Jeb

phpbbadmin
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

How are the units represented? My guess is cards or a unit tile. I think the trick is to make the HP as visible to the players as possible which may be difficult if the squad is on the board and not the units. Have you considered paper miniatures? If so you could possibly use a rotating base to keep track of HPs like Wizkids does with it's miniatures games. Of course this is not very simple to implement so you'd probably want some other solution.

How about have life points as stackable chips (aka mini poker chips), and obviously when they get down to zero chips the unit dies. This way the players could easily tell how many HPs each unit had by the height of the stack of life point chips.

It's the only thing I can really come up with at the moment. Good luck!
-Darke

Yogurt
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

A damage track with counters is more realistic, but you could also use sliders on the side of a card, like Betrayal at the House on a Hill. Your cat won't knock those off. You could have sleeves that the cards sink further into.

As we saw in another recent post, Battlegrounds uses laminated cards and dry erase markers to track damage.

If you could get rid of hitpoints altogether, I'd cheer you on. It's such as effective way to track damage over time, but it's also a really entrenched system that could use freshening.

Yogurt

Julius
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Darkehorse wrote:
How are the units represented? My guess is cards or a unit tile. I think the trick is to make the HP as visible to the players as possible which may be difficult if the squad is on the board and not the units. Have you considered paper miniatures? If so you could possibly use a rotating base to keep track of HPs like Wizkids does with it's miniatures games. Of course this is not very simple to implement so you'd probably want some other solution.

How about have life points as stackable chips (aka mini poker chips), and obviously when they get down to zero chips the unit dies. This way the players could easily tell how many HPs each unit had by the height of the stack of life point chips.

It's the only thing I can really come up with at the moment. Good luck!
-Darke

One miniature represents the whole squad of units. The units themselves are represented by cards. So, if you've got a full squad, you have six cards layed out in front of you, and one miniuature on the board representing the location of the group of six units.

HP tracking is not that important to your foes as it is to you. When a squad gets attacked, a random target takes the damage (1d6, count cards left to right). If that man is already dead, nothing takes damage... smaller squads have a tendency to live longer, but are less effective in combat (fewer attacks). Your opponents really don't care about damage from one unit to another, they just fire at the group.

There are some exceptions... if your group is taking cover, you roll a d8 to see what takes damage, so 7 and 8 are always misses.

The squad based aspect has let me do some cool things. For example: movement is based on the SLOWEST member of your squad. So, while that guy with the heavy machine gun will mow down enemy troops, you may reconsider him because of how slow he is.

Some things: I considered using a slider, but came to the realization that it takes up a considerable ammount of real estate on a standard playing card. Stackable chips are really the same as individual counters, once you come down to it. Markers = messy. A miniature is great (I have a ton of mage knight miniatures), but again, one unit.

However, I didn't consider sliders on the side of a card. How does that work? Is it like a mini paper clip that grips the card and moves up and down?

JeffK
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

I have the same issue with my game (and roughly the same amount of health for my game's units). And, actually, I looked at ALL of the solutions you listed. I went back to the counters. The card rotation was too limiting and the dice were just too expensive to consider seriously. I also considered marking the cards (like Battleground: Fantasy Warfare does), but I just don't like writing on playing cards.

My final solution was to have three different colors of counters. Yellow = 1 health, Blue = 5 health and Red = 10 health (for things like dragons and castles). Thus far it's played pretty smoothly, and having three different levels of counters keeps things from getting too cluttered.

I'll be keeping an eye out here to see if anyone comes up with a better system. What I'm using is workable, but wouldn't mind finding a smoother alternative.

Jeff K.

RobBartel
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

I'm facing similar questions although, in my case, the cards move around the gameboard and represent individual units. I'm going with the marker solution for now but don't yet have a prototype up and running - hopefully the mess factor doesn't cause me too much grief.

As for other suggestions, consider a transparent space on your cards (either a punched hole or actual see-through plastic cards). The cards could then be placed on top of a paper or cardboard sheet and slid around to reveal their hit points through the hole. Hard to police, however, and prone to accidental movement but it does save you some real estate on the cards themselves.

Hope that helps,
Rob

Yogurt
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Julius wrote:
How does that work? Is it like a mini paper clip that grips the card and moves up and down?

Pretty much. You can see a picture here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/123818

The character cards in that game are thick cardboard and the tension is provided by the tight fit, rather than the opposing loops of a paperclip.

Discord
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Heh. I'm also working on a similar mechanism(it seems a few of us are), with Damage Counters in DISCORD, and Villainy Counters in STRIFE. The former has cards moving around, the latter has cards on the side like your own.

At the moment I'm sticking with counters.

However, one possibility that hasn't been mentioned, which MIGHT work for somebody, is card rotation. You rotate a card 90 degrees when it takes damage, and when it returns to upright, it's dead. This will work for any system with 4 HP across the board, I guess, but otherwise is a bit limited.

Julius
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Discord wrote:
However, one possibility that hasn't been mentioned, which MIGHT work for somebody, is card rotation. You rotate a card 90 degrees when it takes damage, and when it returns to upright, it's dead. This will work for any system with 4 HP across the board, I guess, but otherwise is a bit limited.

I tried that (though rotating 45 degrees for up to 8 HP... see my original post), but after playtesting, we found damage counters worked better.

I'm just unsatisfied with the counters, is all.

OutsideLime
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Julius wrote:
One miniature represents the whole squad of units. The units themselves are represented by cards. So, if you've got a full squad, you have six cards layed out in front of you, and one miniuature on the board representing the location of the group of six units.

How many squads can each player control at a maximum? This affects how much room you will have at the side of the board to lay out squad card-groups.

~Josh

TheReluctantGeneral
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

It seems like everyone (including me) is trying to find a way to avoid using those pesky counters!

How big are your unit cards, and how many of them must each player keep track of? If the answer comes out low-ish, then perhaps you could try something like this:

* Each player gets a player mat with tracks for say 10 small cards.
* Each track consists of the equivalent of 7 slotted bases glued onto the mat in a vertical column. So 10 columns of 7.
* Your cards start at slot 1, held upright, and moves down one slot each time until no slots are left, at which point the card is eliminated. Healed cards move back up the track.

This would probably be more economical as a single plastic tray with seven grooves that hold cards, wiht no specific division into columns. You could even have cards on the same track as long as they did not occupy the same space. Perhaps the lack of track space and assignment of cards to the same track could become part of the game strategy...

Julius
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

Each player controls one squad, so each player controls (at most) six cards that require damage tracking. At one point, I had equipment that you tracked (optionally one additional card per unit), but that was nixed.

Cards themselves are standard playing card size.

I think I've found a solution that eliminates damage counters from the play... tell me what you think:

Instead of hit points, units have an Armor Rating. When an attack is directed at a squad, roll a d6 to determine which squad member is struck (as before). Instead of taking damage, compare the result to that unit's armor rating. If it exceeds the rating, that unit is killed, otherwise, the armor prevents all damage.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Need help with a Damage Tracking system

I agree with Yogurt that HP as a concept is effective yet stale. But what, really, are hit points measuring?

In D&D, the originator of the term, a character's hit points represented a huge unber of variables which were abstracted together. speed, reflexes, luck, toughness, and so on were amalgamted into a single number representing a character's abilty to survive incoming damage. Theives dodged about, magic users used small sub-spell-level magical effects, and fighters deflected and absorbed injury as needed. All of these things were called "hit points". the origianl DMG waxes poetic about this.

The problem with this is obvious. The thieves dodge, and yet, after the battle, they still remain affected. Strained muscles from their heroic efforts? When Hp were lost, they suddenly converted into physical damage, and this was a huge headache. Weak characters are healed up to full health by a minor magic that restores 2 HP, and yet a mighty hero, presumably in tip-top shape, in totally unaffected. It might close a small scratch, but that's it. They still have 45 more HP to heal!

Your game might benefit by considering what you mean by Hit Points, and what it means to recover them. The difference could spare you record-keeping while enhancing the game-play.

Consider this: My index finger likely weighs about a tenth of a percent of my body weight. If we assume that HP represent my ability to take damage, and this is, in turn, reflected by my physical mass, then having my index finger lopped off should be inconsequential, hardly affecting my combat performance.

And yet it's easy to imagine that the effect of losing even a single finger would be more serious than mass alone would indicate. Physical effects, like shock, would immediately set in, and unconsciousness would not be unheard of. And then there's the psychological factor. Having just lost a finger to an opponant, I'd likely stare, horrified, at my injury, or drop whatever else I'm holding and cluct the injury out of sight. Niether of these allows me to keep up a steady level of combat-effectiveness.

So I think you should consider combat effects, and then make these different effects harder to achieve against tougher units. Remember, that the more individuals a unit represents, the more powerful the effects of disruptive, non-lethal effects.

Here are some affects that could be independantly eroded in a unit:

Cohesion: physical unity, the ability to maneuver and move as a group.

Command structure: the ability to understand and carry out commands.

Shock: Individual members of the unit can be stunned by explosions, violent attack, surprise.

Instinct: A unit that loses the ability of reasoned reaction is pinned (on the ground taking cover), or fleeing.

Losses: The unit actually losing members due to injury, or, (usually more rarely) death. Injurred members can be a heightened movement impediment (assuming the unit members don't leave the battlefield littered with their injured comrades), while slain memebers would be a heightened psychological one.

Malfunction: Damage and loss of equipment can cause specialize units to lose their effectiveness even though every member is alive and well. For instance, scouts that lose their communications equipment might be completely unable to report their findings.

Breaking up the concept of damage into game-impacting ability loss is better for everyone, avoids record-keeping (since every effect can be a yes/no situation), and heightens the potential for the design of new and interesting units and scenarios.

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