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Combat system for skirmish game - suggestions welcome!

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boxoftricks's picture
Joined: 07/24/2011

Hi everybody; been away from the forum for a while, but back asking for favours!

Backstory: Last week I was fortunate to be invited for a games night with a couple of guys in town. We played a game of Star Wars miniatures - my first time playing a game anything like this. (Aside: I have avoided the miniatures side of gaming like the proverbial for fear I might get sucked in. In another life I know I would have been heavily into Warhammer 40,000 but I can't face walking into one of their stores for fear of my reputation.) I'm not exactly a huge fan of Star Wars (understatement) but I was excited to try out a game that was going to be completely new to me. I enjoyed the game a lot, and have harvested some of the aspects I enjoyed about it, and created my own version over the weekend. (Aside 2: The world is obviously begging for a Doctor Who miniatures game, no?)

Main Course: The game is a kind of Cannon Fodder-meets-Worms clone as a board game, with Star Wars miniatures mechanics. Really what I'm asking for here is advice on the combat system. Ideally I'd like a combat system with no die, i.e. no chance element. But I'm not sure if that is possible. Can anybody point me in the direction of a game with a die-less combat system?

I play tested the game with cards inspired by the SW game, with each character having HP, Defence, Attack and Damage stats. I'd be happy to settle for that style of combat, with the die roll determining outcomes if there is no alternative, but in that case I would like advice on creating and balancing the character stats, as I had to pretty much make it up!

Many thanks in advance, and apologies for my ramblings; it kind of just comes out mangled sometimes.


Joined: 01/17/2011
Randomisation in skirmish games

There are a few miniatures games out that use card draws instead of dice for randomisation. The game function is the same, though mathematically it has some differences. In particular, if each player has their own (identical) deck to draw from then it reduces the extremes of randomisation where one player rolls all 6's and the other rolls all 1's. Some players feel that this is "fairer" than dice because they don't go away feeling like "I only lost because I rolled badly."

As for removing randomisation completely, it is certainly possible but I have reservations about whether it suits the style of game. I've played around with quite a few different skirmish-scale rules, including trying to make some that are no-randomisation. Thus far, I haven't been able to make a no-randomisation skirmish game that has the right "feel" to it. The rules work as a game, but so far my attempts end up feeling more like an abstract strategy game than a skirmish wargame.

One of the things I have found in my playtesting of various attempts at skirmish wargames is that a simple randomisation system actually encourages people to play faster than a no-randomisation system. No-randomisation can lead people into analysis paralysis if there are lots of options and lots of modifiers -- which most skirmish systems have in abundance -- because they know that a poorly executed action is guaranteed to fail (rather than just likely to fail) so they want to calculate every possible action in advance to assess whether or not it will succeed. When there are dice involved, players are more likely to say "I'll just give it a go" and roll the dice, even when there is mathematically a small chance of success. It is precisely these events (when the mathematically small chance pays off) which turn into gaming legends that you keep re-telling for years to come.

This is not to say that randomisation is a necessary part of a skirmish wargame. However, I think that you don't want to give the players both perfect knowledge and deterministic resolution. Wars and battles in the real world have many unpredictable factors, so a perfectly predictable wargame doesn't feel like a wargame any more (rather, it feels like Chess, which is a great game but not a wargame).

For example, you could remove perfect knowledge by having a strong fog-of-war so that the opposing units/strengths are hidden, or you could have a secret-orders-simultaneous-resolution (like Diplomacy) so that the success of your own actions is influenced by the unknown actions of your opponent. The Games Workshop style of games (and many others built along the same lines) have perfect knowledge and alternating turns, so they use randomisation as the only tool left in the toolbox to create unpredicatability.

If you want to create a wargame with no randomisation, I'd suggest starting from the question "How do I want to model unpredictability on the battlefield" and go from there.


Joined: 04/20/2011
Card system for skirmish game

For skirmish game, if you want a no-dice but fast system, and if you don't want the game become a long thinking & calculating game, which is not likely a war/battle game, I would suggest the battle card system.

You can see this system in many games such as a game of thrones: boardgame or dungeon twisters.
When 2 warriors/legions battle, each player choose and play a card face-down and then they open them at same time to resolve the battle.

This system can provide a blance between random and determined strategy. And also it will bring "bluff" to the game which feels like the commanders are struggling with their intellegence in the battlefield.

Also, there MUST be several cards with special abilities which will enrich the game, make you feel the warriors are using their skills. (like you use an orc to attack and play "critical blow").

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