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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

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MusedFable
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I know what I want from my combat mechanic. I just haven't figured out how yet. The baseline that I'm comparing it to is Risk. Everyone knows the Risk dice mechanic. It's simple, intuitive, and uses easy to find d6s. I'm not adverse to using other dice or completely different mechanics than Risk I just wanted to point out who the audience I'm aiming for (Easier to learn than Axis and Allies, but more depth than basic Risk). After I figure out the basic mechanic there will be plenty of things that mess with it, but I need to figure out the foundation before adding anything crazy.

The Requirements:
-Has to use only one kind of die (yes, it has to use dice. Advanced stuff might add different dice)
-It's a conquest game with only one unit type (so, no paper-rock-scissor stuff).
-The average result is a 1:1 loss ratio (if it's a little off that's okay, but not by more than .1)
-No simultaneous elimination (This only means that I don't want the possibility of any territory being empty after a combat)
-The maximum number of units you can lose is double the other army. I'd prefer if this was elegent and not the ugly statement “You can't lose more units than 2x the opposing force”. (example: If I attack with 10 guys vs your 4 I should never lose more than 8; except for Advanced rules).

Preferences (I'm not likely to be swayed unless it's otherwise perfect)
-Use d6s, d8s, d10s, or d12s (I don't care if they're pools, or added together as bell curves, or something else)
-If dice with non-standard faces are used there shouldn't be to many dice used (to keep costs down)
-No percentile dice
-No Charts
-No subtraction
-No division
-Just try to keep it simple

If you've got some ideas for Advanced rules I'd love to hear them too, but right now I really need to get the basics down.

I feel I should add something about myself to help clarify that I know a lot about game design and that I actually plan to publish this game, but anything I write is just me talking so I'll make it short. I've played a huge plethora of games. Everything from Starfleet Battles to Wallenstein including plenty of simple games too (like Java or Zombies). I also understand pretty high level math, and strategy. The point is that I don't want anyone babystepping or holding back.

I plan on posting quite a bit more on this site, so hopefully I didn't come off to bad in my first post (I tend to sound blunt and pushy when typing).

Zomulgustar
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Violating the letter but not the perhaps not the spirit of your requirements...how about something like 'Warlord'?

The attacker secretly sets a die to indicate how many troops he's attacking with, and the defender tries to guess this number and sets his own die to show this. If the defender guesses correctly, the attacker loses as many units as they attacked with. Otherwise, the defender loses one army. If no defenders remain, the number of 'comitted' attackers enter the territory. Note that the system also had a mechanic for discouraging over-concentration of forces, and various twists to this general rule depending on the terrain of the attacker/defender.

filwi
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

How about a simple "higher die wins" coupled with a "third army kills", that is if an army rolls and wins against two armies then the thrid army kills it outright without a roll. You could explain this with exhaustion, run out of supplies etc.

Jpwoo
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Quote:
-The average result is a 1:1 loss ratio (if it's a little off that's okay, but not by more than .1)

You could go with the diceless mutual anihilation. Attacker removes a defender, defender removes an attacker, until one side is eliminated. (or defender first if you want to make defense better) This is kind of boring.

You could go with everyone rolls 1d6 per unit, only 1's are misses. This is a bit higher than your .1 variance. Roll d10s and 1's miss puts you almost dead on. This could result in mutual anihilation though if both forces are equal in size there is a good chance of it.

This all sounds incredibly lethal to me

TheReluctantGeneral
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Re: Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

MusedFable wrote:

-It's a conquest game with only one unit type (so, no paper-rock-scissor stuff).

Why not?

* Have a set of 3 non-transative d6, dice A, B and C (A normally beats B, B normally beats C, C normally beats A)
* have players secretly select a particular dice from a non-transative d6 dice set (See recent threads about this).
* Have constraints on which type of die players may pick to spice things up
e.g.
- "player with the most armies fighting may choose A or B or C dice, but player with least armies may only pick from A or B

I'm not sure how you would make this fit your loss ratio requirements though. Just saying the R-P-S can be done with a single unit type, should it have any merit for your game.

Epigone
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I have a question about the average 1:1 loss ratio. Do you mean that the most common cases in any individual battle should be losses in a 1:1 ratio or that after many battles, the most common result should be a nearly 1:1 loss? Here's my problem. Suppose many, many battles involving exactly one unit on each side were fought. Either no one dies or exactly one unit dies, to avoid leaving the territory empty. What do you want to happen in that case? If it's 50/50 who dies, it seems problematic to extend that to a larger battle in a non-fiddly way without violating your other constraints... which is, I guess, why you posted. : )

By the way, what happens in Warlord during 1 on 1 battles? Shouldn't the attacker always set his die to 0? Or if that's not allowed, shouldn't the defender always set his die to 1? Or maybe it just discourages 1 on 1 battles...

jwarrend
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Re: Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

MusedFable wrote:

I feel I should add something about myself to help clarify that I know a lot about game design and that I actually plan to publish this game, but anything I write is just me talking so I'll make it short. ...The point is that I don't want anyone babystepping or holding back.

Ok, great! Question one for me is how can you be planning to publish a game that you haven't even designed yet? Don't you need to first verify that whatever you're going to come up with is fun to play?

The question I have that is more pertinent to your post is to ask why Risk's combat resolution is inadequate to your needs. What role does combat play in the game? Is this a conquest game, like Risk or A&A, or is combat of more limited importance?

A game's combat resolution system should be directly integrated into the decision-making processes of the game so that even though the die rolls themselves are random, the player with the "better" army on the field would expect to have an advantage. But "better" could mean different things. In a game like Axis and Allies, for example, there are different types of units which have varied to-hit stats and varied costs, so you're really trying to put an army in the field that is the best blend of military strength, cost-effectiveness, and ability to absorb a few casualties without breaking the bank.

You might look at the combat system of War of the Ring for inspiration. It has three unit types: basic, elite, and leader. Basic and Elite units are the fighting forces, and each hits on a roll of 5-6 (with cards modifying this), and the number of Leader units you have allows you to reroll that many misses to try to convert them to hits. Basic units are destroyed with one hit but elite units require 2 hits to destroy. So within a pretty simplistic framework there's room for some variety in what you muster, and that should be the heart and soul of a good combat mechanic -- it should emphasize the player who has been more effective in his mustering strategy. (But effectiveness should be highly situational so that there isn't always one obviously "best" unit that a player should always buy). Other good combat systems you should look at include Dune (excellent) and Pirate's Cove (pretty good).

I came up with a 2-unit combat system a while ago in which fighting abilities could be modified with card play. I'm also working on a 3-unit system right now with a phased combat structure (like Samurai Swords) and in which your general's ability determines what the successful die rolls will be for each unit type. Using cards could be a way to inject some variety into your combat, making it about "your general's tactics" as opposed to "the innate fighting abilities of your troops".

With a single unit type, there may not be much need for a clever combat system. I don't think it would be all that hard to come up with something that fits your requirements; what have you come up with so far? And again, knowing how combat fits into the game will help us to assess what you're looking for.

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I've been really impressed with the combat system from Blood Feud in New York. It's a pretty simple system, you roll 1d10 per unit. Better units have lower 'to hit' numbers. First the attacker rolls for ALL his units - wounding one unit per hit. Then, the defender rolls for ALL of his units as well, even the wounded units. After a wounded unit shoots, it dies.

You go back and forth, with this wounded unit getting a parting shot until everyone's dead (or everyone on one side anyway). This gives a bit of an advantage to the attacker because you get an extra roll relative to the defender. Some buildings you can buy give the defender a bonus (makes it harder to hit for each unit type).

- Seth

MusedFable
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Zomulgustar: That mechanic is quite a bit like the Dune boardgame. I like the mechanic, but it's not the flavor of this game (which is a meant to feel like Risk).

Filwi: I don't understand the whole mechanic you're presenting. What kind of dice? How many dice? Thank you for putting in that seed of an idea though. Maybe it'll end up as “the larger army automatically gets one hit”.

Jpwoo: The game needs to be a dicefest (but hopefully in a good way). The “almost everything is a hit” idea came across my mind. If I use d12s it gets even more even. But, it can end with mutual annihilation so it won't work without modification.

TheReluctantGeneral: Well it cooould have PRS, but I don't want the focus of the game to be the dice mechanic. I'd prefer if the dice where a simple randomizer with the parameters I layed out. Maybe an advanced portion of the combat might have PRS, but not the basic mechanic.

Epigone: The 1:1 ratio just needs to even out over lots of rolls. I'm looking for balanced statistics mostly so that the game is “fare”. If the statistics said that each side of a 1unit vs 1unit battle had a 50% chance of winning I'd be happy. Risk has this kind of problem too. The ratio is almost 1:1, but at really low numbers it won't feel very even since one side can be wiped out quickly.

Sedjtroll: Yes, I've played Blood Feud. Not a bad game, but it still has the 1 guy taking out 5 problem.

Jwarrend: It is a conquest game. There is a large chunk of people who like these kinds of games (me included). I've played most of them including old and new. I've played the Gamemaster Series, Dune (I'd say more diplomacy than conquest), the new Risk's (2210 being the “best”), Eagle Games (Blood Feud, Attack!, revised Conquest of the Empire), and I'm sure I'm leaving out some.

The game will be published using a POD method. It doesn't cost anything until somebody orders a copy. Well, except for the infrastructure but that's a long story. The game is targeted at casual/light wargamers. That's because I am one, and I don't see my needs being filled. Most games made are more complex then they need to be, or they take to long for the fun created. I'm looking to make a streamlined conquest game. Currently Risk 2210 is my groups most played conquest game. It's almost 5 years old and I think there is a void to fill. 2210 has quite a few problems that I hope to address.

Some of the things I feel that most game publishers miss about my demographic is: We don't care about historical accuracy (why I don't like A&A. The rules become fiddly just to get the “feel” right); We don't want it to take more than 2 hours (most Eagle games take a good 4 or more); Conquest games need to be about combat and attacking (Twilight Imperium 3 got this all wrong); and the atmosphere and production values need to be really high (nothing better than little plastic men, but if you go cheap on just one thing we'll noticed and complain about it).

All of your suggestions are good, and they may be used in the Advanced areas of combat. *The Advanced part of the game isn't going to be separate or an add-on, but I'm not going to have it shape the basic game mechanic*.

What is Risk combat inadequate for my needs? The problem with the Risk mechanic is that 1 unit can kill 30 in a horribly unlikely chance. But I've played enough games where I've seen it to many times for my liking, and It's a common complaint levied at the game. So, the Risk mechanic is almost okay, but I don't see any way of making it elegantly not going over a 2:1 loss ratio. That's why I'm looking to create an all new mechanic.

I think it's kind of funny that I've played so many games, but the one I want to make first is a Risk knock off. At least I'm not trying to make a new Monopoly game :p. It's hard not to sound amateur when your first post is talking about making a better Risk :lol:.

I've got funny sleeping habits, so I haven't thought about this to much because I posted then went to sleep. What I'm going to do is try and figure out a way for a minimum loss vs maximum loss to end up with a 2:1 ratio. I don't know the best way of doing this (I can understand high level math, but I'm not good at starting it). I'm not going to concentrate on dice right away. I'm just going to figure out the common %s and # of units that are lost.

I'm really happy with the amount and quality of the posts here. I wish I would have stopped lurking earlier.

filwi
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

MusedFable wrote:

Filwi: I don't understand the whole mechanic you're presenting. What kind of dice? How many dice? Thank you for putting in that seed of an idea though. Maybe it'll end up as “the larger army automatically gets one hit”.

Sorry for the vagueness of my post.

What I meant was that you could use any kind of dice as long as both combatants get the same die.

Say that you let each party roll a D6 and let them reroll throws that are equal. Whomever gets a higher roll wins. That way you could get a 1:1 ratio. But once an army has won two rolls it will get killed by the third opponent no matter what - without a roll.

Or you could use D10:s and say that on an equal the defender wins (or the better army wins for example), giving the defender a 10% bonus.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

One idea could be to use the ratio of attacker to defender to dictate dice amounts, which would keep numbers low. Find the ratio, rounding down, and each side adds two dice to their totals. Then each side rolls their d6's and the defender lines theirs up, low to high. the Attacker then matches his highest against the defender's lowest, and so on. Spare dice can be held in reserve, and a single reserve die can be added to any matchup, to try to top the opposition. High roll wins each matchup, ties are won by the defender, except when there is a supporting die, in which case both sides lose a single die (so the supported force would still have a single die remaining in a tie). Low rolls (or totals, if supported by reserves) are removed.

Survivors could either clash again, or, in a super-quick system, the defenders withdraw to another territory.

Using this system, an attacking force of 17 fighting a force of 7 would have a ratio of 2:1. The attackers would roll 4 dice to the defenders 3 (adding two dice each set, remember?). Resolving this is quite painless. A simple cap of six dice in the larger force eliminates the "bucket 'o dice" effect.

Since this system isn't linked one-to-one with the number of troop units fighting, simple rules could dictate losses. A complete wipeout of dice means total loss. A tactical withdrawl (if you allow them) eliminates half of the withdrawing force (rounded up), while a successful attack should cost one attacking unit for each die the defender used. This is abstracted in the extreme, of course, but allows for forecasting events and planning.

Even so, such a simple system allows for special effects such as forts (which act like a reserve die for defenders), difficult ground (attackers lose one additional unit for a successful attack), and elite commanders (allowing the reroll of a single combat die in fights they take part in).

hawaiiirish
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Not sure if this helps...but, I've tinkered with a combat mechanism that fits some of the requirements you're looking for. There was an original post:http://www.bgdf.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=3882.

I've since refined the system a bit:

1) each side rolls dice equal to force, up to 4 dice
2) matching combat dice cancel each other
3) un-matched 5 or 6 kill
4) un-matched 1 is a NO EFFECT
5) un-matched 2,3,4 disengages or retreats an enemy (attacking space, friendly space - choice is yours)
6) Single round of combat.

(This is geared toward a single unit type approach). The link above talks about ideas for including differing unit types, bonuses, etc.

I've playtested this combat mechanism and there is some tension with it. Although a few comments said this was "too deterministic" and "boring" - I disagreed with them. Sure, there is an advantage to the larger force. Why not? But, when faced with huge odds, the best a defender can do is fight for a stalemate (holding or delaying tactic, right?). In this model, if the defender scores hits - unless the attacker outright misses - the defender is going to get hit. Mutual destruction.

You will find that some spaces will end up with co-mingling pieces, which depending on the design requirements may make sense (a forced combat phase, etc.).

Anyway, thought I would share these thoughts with you - good luck.

MusedFable
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I've spend the last day or so racking my brain. When I come back on I see 3 completely wonderful mechanics. I love this place.

This is just a short reply, but I promise to post a longer responce once I've absorbed all these great ideas and worked out what I plan to do about my mechanic.

Did I say I love this place.

jwarrend
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Here's an idea that I've come up with that could be more broadly applicable than just this game.

Springboarding off of Zomulgustar's idea, each player, at the start of the battle, secretly indicates how many troops, between 1-6, he'll commit to his initial attack on the "front line". These are revealed, and the players roll one die per troop in their attack. Troops hit on a 6, and casualties are removed immediately but only from the troops currently on the front line.

Then, the players use a die again to indicate how many troops from their reinforcements will join the battle now. They reveal, and only those troops attack. This time, the troops hit on 5-6, and remove casualties only from the initial attack (or perhaps, only from the initial attack AND the first wave of reinforcements). Survivors from the 2nd wave are now considered to be part of the front line, and can be selected as casualties in the next waves.

The process continues, with players adding a third wave of reinforcements that hit on 4-6, and so on with a 4th, 5th, and 6th wave if appropriate.

After all troops have fired, the battle either ends or the process repeats from scratch? If at any time all of a player's troops in his front line are defeated, [he loses the battle immediately] or [his foe gains one combat point and the winner of the battle is the one with the most combat points at the battle's end]...there are a few different directions this could go.

I think there are some strengths to this system. First, it's sort of thematic for how battles used to be run, with both sides lining up and duking it out but with some troops held back in reserve. Second, it gives some nice potential for quick but potentially tough decisions; do I hold my troops in reserve, where they'll be more effective, or commit them to the battle initially, hoping that they'll take some quick casualties and maybe win the battle outright? Third, it really helps reduce the chances of a single unit taking down a huge army. Because that unit would only get to attack in the intial wave, the other side is going to get a whole lot of unopposed shots at him, so the chances of him surviving should be negligible. That's the key difference between this and Risk; the number of die rolls reflects the number of troops in your army, but the advantage is that because of the rules about the front line and about the improving effectiveness of reinforcements, it's more interesting than just "roll a die for each unit and count up the hits".

Note that it would really work best in a game where the typical armies have a decent size; maybe at least 7 or 8 troops.

This might work well in my 30 Years War game, although I'll have to think through how it would need to be modified in a scheme with more than one unit type.

-Jeff

hawaiiirish
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Jeff,

Nice post...thank you! That's a good mechanic.

I did a little play-testing with it and the result was:

1.) Both sides started with 8 units (Blue / Red)
2.) Blue selects 4 units, Red selects 3 units - no hits rolled (on 6)
3.) Blue selects 2 units, Red selects 2 units - no hits rolled (on 5-6)
4.) Blue selects 2 units, Red selects 3 units - 2 hits rolled (1 each side 4-6)

This got me thinking...ok, where do I go from here? I think that the process starts over from scratch - only begin the hit number + 1. So, I did that...

1.) Both sides started with 7 Units (Blue / Red)
2.) Blue selects 4 units, Red Selects 5 Units
Blue scores 2 Hits (5-6)
Red scores 3 Hits (5-6)
3.) Blue selects 3 units, Red selects 2
Blue scores 1 Hit (4-6)
Red scores 2 Hits (4-6)

Blue has 2 units left, Red has 4. At this point, there should be a condition to allow either side to withdraw with penalty. Or, a subsquent round of combat - this time with no reserve and hitting with 4,5 or 6.

Plays pretty well.

jwarrend
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Thanks for giving it a test drive! I suspect that modifications would be needed to be made to make it run smoothly, and those could include adjustments based on the number of units in a "typical" battle in a game, or tweaks to the to-hit rolls of the front line vs the reserves, rules about where casualties can be taken from, etc, as well as defining what happens at the end of a round (your solution seems fine). But I think the core idea is a nice start that strikes a good balance between simplicity and decisions (and does so with no additional infrastructure such as "combat cards" or the like!). It even has some similar decision making as an RPS mechanic (I think that he thinks that I think...), but again, doesn't require the extra rules that such a mechanic might need.

It might be interesting to just try it out as a Risk variant. The problem there might be that it's probably only a sensible mechanic for big battles; it might be overkill for skirmishes between small numbers of units.

-Jeff

hawaiiirish
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Small battles would be a bit overkill. Of course, you could say "no reserve" rank (all front rank) for armies under, say, 6 units to wrap that up nicely - and make it lethal (hits on 5 or 6).

Negot
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

MusedFable,

You say that you would prefer to keep a mechanic more similar to Risk - so why not try something very simple?

The "invincible defender"-problem in Risk is the result of 2 things:
1) Defender always wins on a "6"
2) Attacker can only roll a maximum of 3 dice, regardless of the number of armies he is attacking with.

Both of these can be easily altered, e.g. by allowing the attacker to roll more dice (maybe maximum of 5?) or by allowing a "6" by the defender to be beaten by e.g. a pair of "6"s from the attacker. This way you can reduce the odds for the defender's victory against large forces to you liking, by altering the number of allowed attack dice.

An alternative way to solve the problem could be to allow an attacker to choose a certain victory by sacrificing 2x the number of defenders - thus, the attacker can try to beat the defender at little or no loss (with the risk of losing a lot), or pay to have a certain (but relatively expensive) outcome.

MusedFable
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I've probably created a bunch of different methods now, but they all fail to keep the defender to within a 2:1 ratio without crippling some other part of the system.

One option I looked into was having 3 "misses" count as a hit. Any time you have dice that lose or are unopposed you get a "miss". You can accumulate them over the rounds of combat. This succeeds in keeping the defender to within 2:1 (or very close to it), but then you end up with the possibility of mutual annihilation. To fix that you need to assign either the defender or the attacker to remove units first. If the attacker removes his own dead first the 2:1 ratio goes up to about 3:1 in some circumstances. If the defender removes his own dead first then an attack of 3 vs 1 (attackers:defenders) ends up with the defender not even getting a chance to fight back. So the defender dieing first can't work.

Then I tried changing the ratio of how many misses equals a hit. Lowering it to 2 makes the attacker win automatically in a 2 vs 1 combat (with the possibility of losing one unit). Upping it just makes the defender kill ratio sky rocket.

Using the 3 dice +1 die for outnumbering 2:1 (+3 dice for 3:1, ect) means that it has to be really abstract. This means I'd have to have wins and losses represent fractions of troops. This causes the anomaly of 8 vs 4 being better than 9 vs 4 because if you lose ½ your troops (round up) you'll lose 5 guys instead of 4. Rounding down does the same thing in other areas. The other problem is that this method loses the Risk feeling of “push your luck”. If you have 12 vs 4 in Risk you could lose 2 the first round, then do you keep going? What if you lose 2 more; keep going? With this ratio system you can lose huge chunks of guys in very little time. That could be a feature on a different game, but I'd prefer the “push you luck”.

I also tried holding over dice, but that doesn't actually fix the 1 defender killing 17 attackers problem. It just makes the odds really low. All it ends up doing is shifting the %s a bit and added another paragraph onto the combat rules. I could do the same with simpler methods.

I tried a few other things, but it just kept getting more complex with almost no benefit.

I'm beginning to believe that “push your luck”, 2:1 ratio, and keeping it simple are impossible. It's like a round peg and a square hole. It's just never going to be an elegant fix.

I think I'll just try and make the odds of 1 defender killing more than 2 attackers really low and make up for it by keeping the system really simple and adding advanced options that add to the unlikelihood of the 1 defender problem.

MusedFable
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I've come up with my simple combat mechanic. As soon as I start building onto this I won't be able to change it unless there's an extreme problem. I don't want to work on this forever, so if it's not perfect it won't kill me. I'd prefer to meet a deadline.

It uses the Risk compare highest dice mechanic. But...
It uses d12s. That cuts the defender tie bonus down to a 1:1.18 ratio (with d6s its 1:1.4). It would require a d20 in order to get it down to 1:1.1 (and I'm barely comfortable with d12s; I might switch to d10s).
The number of dice you roll is:
1 for each unit; up to a maximum of 3 dice.
You get bonus dice for outnumbering your opponent by x2, x3, or x4 (+1die, +2dice, and +3 dice). The multiplier bonus doesn't go any higher than x4.
If I have other bonuses (mts, forts, commanders) I might limit the maximum dice.

Examples:
1unit vs 1unit (1die vs 1die)
2units vs 1unit (3dice vs 1die)
3units vs 1unit (5dice vs 1die)
4units vs 1unit (6dice vs 1die)
2 vs 2 (2dice vs 2 dice)
3 vs 2 (3dice vs 2 dice)
4 vs 2 (4dice vs 2 dice)
5 vs 2 (4dice vs 2 dice)
15units vs 3units (6dice vs 3dice)

This system is pretty easy (I'm sure a 12 year old could remember it). Plus it makes the odds of the invincible last defender pretty low. Here's a chart to compare to normal risk (this is the chance the defender will win if the attacker keeps going until he runs out of units):

    |My Game%|Risk% |My Game  |Risk<br />
1v1 |54.2%   |58.7% |13/24    |7/12<br />
2v1 |8.6%    |20.2% |1/12     |1/10<br />
3v1 |.4%     |4%    |1/250    |1/25<br />
4v1 |.01%    |.8%   |1/10,000 |1/125<br />
5v1 |.0002%  |.17%  |1/500,000|1/500<br />
9v1 |        |.0002%|         |1/500,000

I added the 9v1 to show the comparison between it and my game at 1v5.

The mechanic works pretty well, but I'm not overly thrilled with how little a chance a defender has at 2v1. He still has a 15.9% chance of taking out at least one guy, but that still seems kinda low. I was think of adding a bit to the rule stating something about having 3 or more units to qualify for the multiplier bonus, but then you have a 3 dice difference between 2v1 and 3v1. I'd rather it have a smoother transition than worry about this one circumstance.

I'll just make it a feature instead of a bug. In the strategy tips I'll tell the player that defending with only 1 guy is a really bad plan. I'm sure somebody on an internet forum will be convinced it's more “realistic” that way and if anyone complains they're not intelligent enough to play this game. :D

EDIT: I have made the impulsive decision to swith back to d6s. It's easier to visually match up d6s compared to other dice. Pips are cooler than numbers. And this changes the odds of the 2v1 combat to around 11% for the defender (with 1/3 of a chance to get at least a single hit).

jwarrend
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I'm not sure I understand your motivation any more. It seems like the only thing you're concerned with is ensuring that 1 guy can't take out 15 guys. But paradoxically, you're placing a cap on how many dice you want to be rolled. Why not just roll one die for each unit in the battle? The odds of winning a 1-on-17 battle will be tiny.

The problem I see with your new mechanic is that the bonuses fluctuate too much from round to round. The rounds are pretty short, but the bonuses change every single round. For example:

Rd 1: Red 6 vs Blue 3. Red rolls 4 dice, Blue rolls 3. Red hits 1, Blue hits 0.
Rd 2: Red 6 vs Blue 2. Red rolls 5 dice, Blue rolls 2. Red hits 1, Blue hits 2.
Rd 3: Red 4 vs Blue 1. Red rolls 6 dice, Blue rolls 1. Red hits 2, Blue hits 1.

Red wins with 3 troops remaining.

It isn't that complicated, but you're making your players think without giving them any actual decisions to make, which is almost always a waste of mental energy. I suspect you'll need to switch to a system where the bonuses and modifiers are less variable.

Quote:
As soon as I start building onto this I won't be able to change it unless there's an extreme problem. I don't want to work on this forever, so if it's not perfect it won't kill me. I'd prefer to meet a deadline.

The idea of rushing to put a system in place but then having it become immutable right away seems like a design contradiction to me. I've found that it's always better to take your time and be patient in designing, and to always be flexible. Problems will pop up and you'll need to deal with them, and you always have to be willing to make changes if doing so will make the overall game better. No one will ever seek to play a flawed game just because the designer was in a hurry to get it done. They'd rather wait for the finished product.

-Jeff

MusedFable
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

jwarrend wrote:

The idea of rushing to put a system in place but then having it become immutable right away seems like a design contradiction to me. I've found that it's always better to take your time and be patient in designing, and to always be flexible. Problems will pop up and you'll need to deal with them, and you always have to be willing to make changes if doing so will make the overall game better. No one will ever seek to play a flawed game just because the designer was in a hurry to get it done. They'd rather wait for the finished product.

-Jeff
Uh, I'm doing this because I want to get the game done in a reasonable time. Sitting and thinking about the most basic of mechanics for a month isn't going to get much done. The comment about people not playing flawed games is completely wrong. Lots of people play games like Zombies!!!, Munchkin, Runebound (I'm talking 1st edition), or any other non-perfect game (including any Risk game, Car Wars, Twilight Impirium, Axis and Allies, Beowulf, ect.). Plus, you can't say a game is "flawed" if the mechanic works. It may not be perfect or as streamlined as possible but it's not flawed.

About the mechanic:
Your example can't happen. The hits only occur for the higher of the dice (like Risk). The number of dice will change every round though, so your argument is still valid. I'd just comment that my mechanic is only attempting to improve (in a specific way) Risks mechanic.

I don't want it to require any decisions beyond "push your luck". I'm not in love with the modifier bonus dice mechanic, but I don't know of any system that would lower the possibility of invincible defender that wouldn't be as complex. I don't see a bucket of dice as a better option (because then you have to add rules about mutual annihilation, and "to hit" numbers). I'd prefer to stick closer to Risk, because my game assumes a working knowledge of Risk (but not any other game). That means "to hit" numbers would be a new mechanic to learn for these players instead of something they already know. So in the end it’s more of a marketing and target audience decision.

I have more ideas than time right now, and I don't think pondering over how to make this mechanic work slightly better is as productive as getting it made within a reasonable timeframe. I'm only going to get better as a designer by making mistakes and practicing. Why throw away every mechanic because it's not perfect. It's the best I can do right now. Sure, in 6 months I'll come up with something better, but by then I can be making another game or (if my POD business model works) I can create a revised edition and update the rules.

How else do you get a game done on time?

BTW, I'm only disagreeing with you; not saying you are wrong. I'd love to make every mechanic perfect and every game 110% of it's potential, but that's not going to happen in reality.

I'd still love to keep this discussion open. If somebody comes up with something brilliant it should be shared. So, if I have something to add I'll definitely come post it, but I'm not going to dismantle a game that's over half way done (my game isn't near that threshold, so I am still willing to change the mechanic).

hawaiiirish
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Regarding the "invincible" last defender tragedy: any system that utilizes a mechanic that compares an attacker's diceroll -vs- a defender's diceroll (i.e, high roll wins) runs the "RISK" of allowing a "last defender invincible" scenario.

If you employ a system where both sides can be hit, the chances of the last defender scenario go way, way down.

[EDIT]: to clarify, the log-jam happens when you get to ONE defender...I understand that in RISK, exchanges do occur...

My point is: run the numbers all you want; throw more dice at it, give bonuses...but, unless you are prepared to use a deterministic model (like Chess) you MAY run into a situation where the last defender is invincible. For that, my friend, you need only look to the campaigns of North Africa during World War 2 for solace and insight on how greater numbers aren't always victorious.

jwarrend
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Quote:
The comment about people not playing flawed games is completely wrong. Lots of people play games like Zombies!!!, Munchkin, Runebound (I'm talking 1st edition), or any other non-perfect game (including any Risk game, Car Wars, Twilight Impirium, Axis and Allies, Beowulf, ect.).

That's actually a good point. People will buy pretty much any old piece of garbage that comes out as long as it has a lot of plastic. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's something to aspire to!

My point is simply this. You are all set to publish a game that you haven't even designed yet, and seem to be looking to set things in stone as quickly as possible, and I'm just asking, why the rush? Just take your time. That doesn't mean you need you need to spend a month working on a mechanic, but it does mean that you should maintain a willingness to modify systems that are shown by inspection or by playtesting to need modification. It would be silly to see a flaw but say "well, I just have to live with it or I'll never finish this thing!"

And keep in mind that when I use words like "should" and "ought" I'm merely making suggestions from my experience as a designer, and not at all saying it's the only way to do things. But I do think the principles I'm encouraging -- of patience, of flexibility -- are commonly evidenced by many of the designers here, who will often labor over their games for months or years. The before and after clearly validate the soundness of such an approach.

Quote:
Plus, you can't say a game is "flawed" if the mechanic works. It may not be perfect or as streamlined as possible but it's not flawed.

Well, there are flaws and there are flaws. Is the Risk mechanic "flawed"? It's sort of a matter of perception. Part of this is shaped by what the game is trying to be. Risk by its very name presupposes a large role of luck in the game, and so "lucky" or "unlucky" occurences are easier to tolerate in a game of its scope than a more serious game like Chess.

Then there are playability flaws. A mechanic may not be flawed in the sense of being unfair, but if it's difficult in practice for the players to carry out, it can still be considered to have a flaw. (commonly referred to as "fiddly"-ness). If it's a big enough pain, the game won't be as fun to play, and people won't want to play it as much.

Quote:
I'd prefer to stick closer to Risk, because my game assumes a working knowledge of Risk (but not any other game). That means "to hit" numbers would be a new mechanic to learn for these players instead of something they already know.

I guess, but I think "roll one die for each unit and count all the sixes" would be easier to absorb than "you get a bonus of 1, 2, or 3 dice if you have double, triple, or quadruple the opponent's # of pieces". Obviously, the best thing to do is to just try it out and see how it plays and what players think about it.

Quote:

How else do you get a game done on time?

On time for what?

-Jeff

OutsideLime
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Quote:
Quote:

How else do you get a game done on time?

On time for what?

-Jeff

Agh. You beat me to it.

~Josh

PS - No intention to come off as condescending here, or anything like that. I'm genuinely curious as to what your deadline could be.

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OutsideLime wrote:
Quote:
Quote:

How else do you get a game done on time?

On time for what?

-Jeff

Agh. You beat me to it.

~Josh

PS - No intention to come off as condescending here, or anything like that. I'm genuinely curious as to what your deadline could be.

The deadline is GenCon. At the bare minimum the game should have all the rules "done" and be ready for playtesting. At the best I'd probable have everything including all the art and game components ready to manufacture.

In the same way that you're saying "What time limit?" I'm saying "Why keep designing indefinitely?". I'm not going to declare the game "done" if it's a piece of junk with big gaping holes in the rules, but at the same time I'm giving myself a specific time goal so I know when I should pull the plug.

I'd say I'm taking designing this game more serious than most people on this site. I'm looking at this as a career and not just a hobby to tinker with. That's not saying anything bad about it being a hobby. I was a hobbiest before I decided to try my hand at making it a job. I have a feeling that that sentence is going to be taken out of context.

Even if I wasn't planning to bring this to market I'd still have the same attitude towards it. Either I want steady measurable progress or I don't feel productive. I'm a goal orientated person. I think I'm probably incapable of just doing something with no end in sight.

To be more specific about the original topic. I pretty much know I'm going to figure out something better than what I've got. That's a good thing, but it doesn't mean what I'm doing right now isn't worth pursuing. Just because my first painting sucks doesn't mean I shouldn't finish it and sell it. It won't be worth as much or make as much profit. Hopefully I'll design lots of games.

How many train games has Martin Wallace made? Should he have not published the first one because he knew he could improve on the design?

Discord
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I skipped the last few posts cause I'm short on time, but it seems to me there's a simple solution to what you want.

You want close to 1-1 attrition, like Risk, but with no battle ever being worse than 2-1(unlike Risk).

So...use Risk rules with one small change:

If one army outnumbers another army by MORE than 2-1, then that army only risks X units, where X is double the smallest army. In this instance, regardless of how the battle plays out, the outnumbering army wins.

Note that you can still roll 3 dice if your opponent has only 1 defender.

So.... 8 vs 2 becomes an instant victory, though you may lose 0-4 casualties.

4 vs 2 is played out like normal risk.

2 attackers vs 7 defenders won't be able to conquer a territory, but may be able to knock off 4 defenders before they die.

Discord

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Discord wrote:
I skipped the last few posts cause I'm short on time, but it seems to me there's a simple solution to what you want.

The last few posts where just side talk on my arguably hasty decision on what mechanic to use.

Quote:
You want close to 1-1 attrition, like Risk, but with no battle ever being worse than 2-1(unlike Risk).

So...use Risk rules with one small change:

If one army outnumbers another army by MORE than 2-1, then that army only risks X units, where X is double the smallest army. In this instance, regardless of how the battle plays out, the outnumbering army wins.

Note that you can still roll 3 dice if your opponent has only 1 defender.

So.... 8 vs 2 becomes an instant victory, though you may lose 0-4 casualties.

4 vs 2 is played out like normal risk.

2 attackers vs 7 defenders won't be able to conquer a territory, but may be able to knock off 4 defenders before they die.

Discord
Putting a solid cap on the casualties is a good solution. I asked my play testers and they said it just felt "wrong". So, there's nothing wrong with the mechanic, but it seems there are some people (the dozen or so I talked to, so my sample is pretty small) that feel it is arbitrary and takes away from the theme.

I tried explaining that other mechanics also stop you from getting more than 2x casualties. They just said it still "felt" wrong. I guess they'd prefer to be "tricked" into it then have a rule that says "you can't".

OutsideLime
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

Quote:
I tried explaining that other mechanics also stop you from getting more than 2x casualties. They just said it still "felt" wrong. I guess they'd prefer to be "tricked" into it then have a rule that says "you can't".

I try to keep this in mind when creating mechanics. Many players, including myself, feel this way. Mechanics that create their own limitations intrinsically are far preferable to me than mechanics that must have "beacuse that's the way it is" limits imposed upon them. Not so easy to stick to in practice, however!

~Josh

MattMiller
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Working backwards on a Combat Mechanic

I haven't read much about the period (and I'm not sure if this is the period you're after), but my understanding is that casualties in ancient battles were very lopsided. What would happen is the two sides would bang away at each other, with neither side taking many casualties, until one side broke. That side would then get slaughtered as they were running away.

This suggests a system like the following: roll 1 die for each unit. The side with the most 6's wins the battle. Loser takes two hits for each unit on the winner's side, and any surviving units must retreat. Thus, it's possible for a small force (even a tiny force) to repulse a large one, but they won't do more than a few units damage.

If you want the battle to be more of an event, and/or you want a "continue or retreat" decision in each round, use a track for the banging-away-at-each-other stage. One end of the track would belong to the defender, the other end would belong to the attacker. At the beginning of the battle, place a marker in the center of the track. In each round, each player rolls one die for each unit, and moves the marker one space toward the other guy's end for each 6 they roll. At the end of each round, players can choose whether to run away. If a side decides to run, its casualties will be either 0, 1, 1.5, or 2 times the number of opposing units, depending on how close the marker got to their side of the track before they fled (just put 1's, 1.5's, and 2's in the boxes on the track to indicate this). If the marker goes off one end of the track, that player must flee, taking maximum losses (maybe this could be more than 2x, just to make it more undesirable).

You could put other bells and whistles into this track-based system without much effort. For example, some boxes on the track, in addition to indicating the casualties that'll be taken if you flee, could indicate that you take 1 or 2 casualties right now (i.e. at the end of the round), just to increase the pressure. Another thought might be to smooth out the casualty ramp by, in addition to the 1x, 1.5x, 2x level, saying that some units will escape for free (so a box might say "1.5x-2" meaning that at least two of the retreating units will survive, even if the whole retreating force is less than 1.5 times their enemy forces). You could also make terrain influence combat by just changing the starting point of the marker (e.g. in an attack on a castle, the marker starts in the space that's beside a picture of a castle, much closer to the attacker's end of the track).

Might be fun.

-- Matt

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