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Hex Modern wargame: Avoid the RPS immunity between units?

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larienna
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I have played a couple of hex based turn based strategy video games, and there is an issue I see in most games that I would like to avoid when I design my own game.

Let say at the start of the game I have bombers, I cannot really use them because my opponent has fighter and anti-air ground units. So I am stuck leaving my bombers at home and wait until the annihilation of all my enemy's fighters before deploying my bombers.

I would like to avoid that issue, I would like to prevent needing to destroy an entire family to use some of my units. I tried to come up with certain solutions, but I wondered if you knew other mechanics that could prevent this syndrome:

1- Make production of flying units easier by dropping their cost and making them more accessible. So that the sacrifice of a unit is less dreadful. Normally air units are the most expansive to produce, so you keep them preciously.

2- Allow the use of escort, have a fighter and a bomber occupy the same space or adjacent fighter can protect bomber units if they are attacked.

3- Prevent ganging up units on the same target. Once a unit was engaged in battle it cannot be engaged again by another units. Since even if units are moved one at a time, they almost all fight at the same time.

4- Give anti-air ground unit only passive over-watch capabilities, or change them for "move OR attack" instead of "move AND attack". So that moving near a unit, but outside it's range, will still leave your air unit safe.

5- Limit the number of units moved each turn, if you attack with many air units, the opposing player might not be able to intercept them all.

Could there be other solutions to this problem?

Tim Edwards
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To me, option 4 feels less

To me, option 4 feels less contrived. I think one of the Civ games used this for anti-air and it seemed logical. You're either on the move or you're set up ready to intercept.

polyobsessive
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Depends...

What sort of feel are you trying to achieve in your game? And what sort of period/setting are you basing the game in? How are you representing units in the game?

If you can answer questions like that it may help you figure out your approach.

For instance, you might want to be fairly realistic, and consider air superiority. If your opponent has air superiority over a territory (generally gained by their fighters) you would expect any bombing raids into that territory to be suicide missions, so you would have to either go elsewhere, contest the airspace with your fighters to give the bombers a chance, or use stealth technology, if it is that sort of a game. Having fighters effectively keeping your bombers out would be a feature of the game, encouraging certain strategic and tactical approaches.

Or maybe you want every unit to be of some use, and make it more video-gamey, so maybe you make your bombers weaker than fighters in air-to-air attack, strong in ground attack, but tougher and harder to kill, so the enemy fighters need to swarm the bombers to kill them.

If you are making a hex-and-counter game where you can stack units, then you can stack up groups of aircraft and maybe the enemy kills the stack from the top down, so you sacrifice escort fighters to protect the bombers at the bottom of the stack.

Maybe you figure in altitude as part of your game, in which case it is likely that ground-to-air units would be of limited use against high altitude attackers.

Incidentally, I don't see the "problems" you describe as problems per se, more features of a wargame, establishing a framework within which you have to execute a strategy. If I can't attack you with my bombers because of your AAA defences, I should probably send ground units to take out your AAA at critical points so that I can stand a chance of getting past them, for instance, rather than just bemoaning my useless bombers. But I guess you have a different vision for your game.

X3M
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My bombers

1.
Consider the bomber as a "melee" unit. Would that not make its damage higher for once it reaches destination?

AA projectiles ignore terrain in my game. This makes them more expensive. Aka, the air units are relatively cheaper now.

2.
A cover system is good to have. I use it for all units, given they are on the same level. Ground protects ground, air protects air.
Fighters can take the hit for the bombers. But also vice versa if rapid firing AA guns are used.

3.
I don't know about this option. I would go with your second suggestion.

4.
AA in my game has range limits, just like any other weapon. Bombers are often fast enough to fly around or over these AA locations. This means that AA needs to fire while the bombers move. There is a reduction in damage in the form of a penalty, when this happens.

5.
A limit on how many dice can be rolled is a good option. A limit on how many units may move is another good option. Combine the 2. And you have a winning recipe.

Maybe allow them to stack in the air. Or have them move in a larger group at a slower speed.

larienna
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Here are some screen shots of

Here are some screen shots of 3 different games that has this issue:

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/-eZhn3KD5_8/maxresdefault.jpg

https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/screens/0/6/8/gfs_40426_2_5.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51t9h1Ld51L.jpg

So it's modern hex war game without unit stacking, except for 1 game where different height can stack. The second exception for one of the game is that you can have a plane hangar on airports, carriers and factories.

Quote:
If your opponent has air superiority over a territory (generally gained by their fighters) you would expect any bombing raids into that territory to be suicide missions

The notion of air superiority is interesting, I have seen it in some pacific WW2 game. The problem with the games above is if I have 10 fighters and my opponent has 1 fighter I clearly have air superiority, but sending my bomber still makes it vulnerable to attacks. The only way to prevent it, in certain games above, is to surround the bomber with 6 different units to make the attack impossible. Rarely occurs during the offensive.

In certain WW2 games, fighter will encounter each other, and the excess fighters of the player with air superiority will target the bombers. Here such mechanism is not possible. The only way to do that is using escort and interception. There are 2 ways to do that:

1. Allow unit stacking, which I don't like much. In that case I might be more tempted in using larger hexes with unit stacks, but that would change the look and feel of the game too much.

2. Allow interception of the surrounding area. If the interception range is more than 1 hex, a bomber could be covered by multiple fighter which would protect the unit.

Quote:
Incidentally, I don't see the "problems" you describe as problems per se, more features of a wargame, establishing a framework within which you have to execute a strategy. If I can't attack you with my bombers because of your AAA defences, I should probably send ground units to take out your AAA at critical points so that I can stand a chance of getting past them, for instance, rather than just bemoaning my useless bombers. But I guess you have a different vision for your game.

It's OK for the enemy to have a defensive position, and try to work on disassembling that defense. But when I cannot use any bombers because there is 1 fighter in range on the map (fighters have large range), it's just boring not to be able to use those units. I should be able to use those units to target certain objectives, with some degrees of risk. Else it's like playing rock paper scissors without any rock.

I think escorting, even a 2 hex radius escort could be a solution. Not sure which other kind of unit could be escorting other units. I thought of maybe infantry, but they have a slow movement compared to fighters. Or tank destroyers since they are fasters.

Quote:
Aka, the air units are relatively cheaper now.

I consider that Air units does have a certain advantage over ground units, since they are not restricted by terrain and they have higher mobility. But they don't get terrain defense either. In dai Senryaku, some assault helicopter can even capture locations, making it possible to win by using only air units, still, you will not be able to defend cities without ground units unless you blow them first using air attacks. So I am wondering if both air and ground units not equally strong.

The problem in many of the games above is that air units is a rich man's thing. And if you are short in cash because you are losing the game, you lose all possibility to make air units, cutting yourself severely again in the rock paper scissor relationship. So I was thinking either using similar price air vs ground, slightly more expansive air, or all units have the same price, since each unit has it's role to play.

Quote:
AA in my game has range limits, just like any other weapon. Bombers are often fast enough to fly around or over these AA locations. This means that AA needs to fire while the bombers move. There is a reduction in damage in the form of a penalty, when this happens.

In the games above. The older games only use adjacent attacks, so AA can run after planes to attack them, which makes no sense. In the more recent game, AA have a range, but using move or attack remove the running after planes syndrome. The drawback, is that now ground units are paranoing and moving constantly escorted by AA, which is in theory logical and it allows the player to take certain risk of not using AA cover to reach certain critical targets.

So the best solution so far seems escorting. It also seems to make sense with real life combat. Not sure if escorting is effective against ground AA, they could simply wait and target the unit they want. But ground AA is less a trouble because it defends a small area than you can deal with it using ground units, or low altitude units.

X3M
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What if bombers can drop

What if bombers can drop their load before the missiles of the fighters hit the bombers?

"Melee" in my game almost always goes first.

pelle
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I love the solution in Panzer

I love the solution in Panzer General, but I guess it is similar to the escort idea. If you attack an air unit and there is another enemy air unit adjacent to that unit they get a free attack on the attackers before the attack is resolved. And even if that counterattack does not eliminate the attackers there is a chance that it makes the attackers abort.

Same thing when bombing a ground unit with aa adjacent, or a sub attacking a naval unit with a destroyer adjacent, or a ground unit attacking another ground unit with artillery adjacent. Creates many fun puzzles and makes tactics much more interesting than pure rps.

Note that at least for artillery and aa they often can attack at larger ranges than 2, but the special defense/escort thing only works when they are adjacent to the unit they protect. On the other hand they get a free attack with no risk to themselves and a chance to disrupt the attack, so allowing this at longer ranges might be a bit op.

Jay103
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Allow cannibalization of

Allow cannibalization of units. You get a (reduced) set of resources back from dismantling your bombers, if you find you've badly miscalculated their usefulness.

X3M
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Is this the problem?

I think that the main problem here is that when a certain type of units is gone. The RPS system breaks. And the player with the best left over wins.

The RPS is just so strong, that "infinite" results are possible.

Like rock vs paper vs scissors. The paper is all gone now. And one player still has rocks. There is no way, that the rock player can loose now.

***

The second part of the problem is that the rocks are from the rich men world. So when a player reaches this level. All other players are practically doomed. Playing a game while being doomed is no fun.

***

Only regarding the air units. (Because I suspect that you actually only used them as example)

What about giving air units the weakness that they need to refuel? They need to land somewhere. Then ground units are able to attack.

The same can be said about reloading.
If you look at old RTS games (C&C), you see certain games forcing players to land their air units. This to reload before launching the next strike. This is meant to prevent the impasse in the middle of the map. Where AA is weaker due to only the mobile AA being present.

Air units can fly around being unharmed, yet doing damage to any target that is wandering off. So, they where forced to land.

***

All other units that could break through the RPS. What if you think of an weakness for every unit? One that forces them to do something, so that they are weak at moments?

Fuel and ammunition can be used here again. Imagine a tank having no fuel and no ammunition. It is very easy now for infantry to deal with the tank. They could get close and place a grenade on a weak spot or so.

McTeddy
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Imo, a sticky Zone-of-Control

Imo, a sticky Zone-of-Control "solves" your issue. Basically, when an unity steps into a tile adjacent to an enemy they end their turn. Wargames have been using this since the 80s to allow better "lines of defense"

This means that you can use 3 surrounding fighters to guard your bombers approach, or maybe send out a line of fighters to create a "Defensive Wall" to make it harder to reach your bomber.

- - -

But, I gotta agree with polyobsessive that I don't think it's a problem but as an intentional design decision that only affects games using RPS as the basis. Solutions are more likely to break the game overall than fix it.

You yourself mentioned that "Him stocking up on paper is taking away my ability to use rock." That's exactly the point of RPS design.

By focusing too many resources on one element, you've put yourself into a weaker overall position. (I did the exactly same thing in Fantasy General a few years back)

But giving Rock extra defenses means that both Paper and Scissor are made less effective overall. The balance of the triangle is broken.

My advice, just look at more wargames that don't use RPS a their basis. RPS is specifically designed to be simple and easy to balance... but it is far from the only way to design a game.

Things like Final Fantasy Tactics or Brigandine treat each troop as it's own unit rather specifically existing to counteract one another. While they do have some elemental weaknesses, they are a very different experience to the weapon triangles of Fire Emblem.

Heck, even advanced Wars has something like 16 different unit types that have varying levels of effectiveness against one another to reduce the issues of an RPS design.

Rather than trying to make RPS design work as something else, just pick a different starting point that gives the feeling that you want to create.

X3M
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Jay103 wrote:Allow

Jay103 wrote:
Allow cannibalization of units. You get a (reduced) set of resources back from dismantling your bombers, if you find you've badly miscalculated their usefulness.

Why do I see this only now?!

I second this suggestion, its good and works well. Dismantling any unit would do. Infantry can also be retrained if you think about it. And tanks can get another turret or so. Dismantling requires a base, to keep it fair.

If you don't like a refund. Shooting friendlies for XP has always been my second option.

Jay103
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X3M wrote:Jay103 wrote:Allow

X3M wrote:
Jay103 wrote:
Allow cannibalization of units. You get a (reduced) set of resources back from dismantling your bombers, if you find you've badly miscalculated their usefulness.

Why do I see this only now?!

Sorry.. I'm subtle :)

larienna
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Quote:"Melee" in my game

Quote:
"Melee" in my game almost always goes first.

Another interesting aspect. One idea was that instead of having a restriction of moving 3 units per turn, you could move 5 ground, 3 air and 2 sea units per round. Faster units moves first so both players move air, both players move ground then both players move sea. I am not sure yet, but that is just an idea. Another vairation is that only combat movement is used for the number above and all other units can perform non combat movement. Allowing transports and reinforcements to still reach their destinations. But it makes it less deadly than if all units could move an attack each turn.

What you seem to be using or suggesting is that grouping units by types. Like all direct attack units moves first, all indirect attack units move seconds, etc. That could be an interesting split. But I am not sure yet. I'll see when I have a running game.

Fuel is also a problem, thematically, when you cannot move all units. Idle units remains in air losing or not losing fuel, but the move X unit per turn might prevent you not to move any unit. This is why I am thinking that if I use fuel, I might need to move all units. But I still find some kind of charm in a move X unit per turn. It reminds me of blood bowl where you know you will not be able to move everybody, so you focus on the most important part of the game. But when map get's larger, that has the problem that reinforcement can never reach their destination, so it's good for small map and quick battles.

Quote:
I love the solution in Panzer General, but I guess it is similar to the escort idea. If you attack an air unit and there is another enemy air unit adjacent to that unit they get a free attack on the attackers before the attack is resolved.

There are 2 options, free attack, or engagement. For submarines and AA, free attacks seems more logical. For air vs air, engament seems more logical. Still in dai senryaku, sparrow missiles can target 2-3 hex away, that could make them perfect for free attacks.

The problem with free attacks is if a certain number of units have restricted movement and attack. Because it could multiply the number of activated units in a turn. If you can move 3 units per turn, you could make 4 additional interception giving you 7 attacks. A possibility is to have a kind of overwatch mode like in Xcom. Else a move OR attack could be the solution in most situations.

Quote:
Like rock vs paper vs scissors. The paper is all gone now. And one player still has rocks. There is no way, that the rock player can loose now.
...
The second part of the problem is that the rocks are from the rich men world. So when a player reaches this level. All other players are practically doomed.

Exactly.

Quote:
What about giving air units the weakness

Well, one solution would be to make Air units the same price as land units. I and trying to consider the tradeoff between both and it might be balanced. Here are a few issues:

Pro
- Air units moves faster and have no terrain movement restriction
- most air unit target ground units but monst ground units does not target air.

Con
- Air units has less fuel than ground units
- Air units has no terrain defenses, while grond unit can hide and get additional protection.
- Air units are more likely to die after beign hit once, while ground units are more likely to survive (that could be a key point)

About the damage system, to simplify keeping track of health, I want to use a 2 status HP, Normal and damaged. If you get hit once, you get damaged. If you get hit a second time, you are destroyed. But air units are much less armored than ground units. It's impossible for a fighter to survive a missile attack, but it's possible for a tank to survive a cannon attack. So air units woould be more likely to be destroyed on first hit, while ground units will possibly hold longer.

Than could be an interesting factor to make air and ground units have the same cost. So I could match the cost of ground and air units. The high tech plane will have the same cost than the tank. And if you are very short on resources, you might be able to build at least helicopters.

So if the cost are similar, sacrificing air units to destroy important ground units whould not be that much an issue because they can easily be replaced. This way, the RPS remains, it keeps the battle interesting and the player might be willing to take risks.

Quote:
Imo, a sticky Zone-of-Control "solves" your issue.

It's true that zone of control could help for example protecting bombers from other planes.

Quote:
You yourself mentioned that "Him stocking up on paper is taking away my ability to use rock." That's exactly the point of RPS design.

Well, If I can put the few rocks I have to good use, it's might not matter so much. It's like making a sacrifice in chess. Sometimes, the sacrifice is worth it, but you are able to make the sacrifice. Else you end up in a situation where you want to make a sacrifice, but you just can't. So in chess, it would be like I want to sacrifice my rook, but for some reasons it cannot move to the opponent's half of the board.

Quote:
Heck, even advanced Wars has something like 16 different unit types that have varying levels of effectiveness against one another to reduce the issues of an RPS design.

I consider advance war to be very RPS, in fact it's the kind of game I am looking into building.

X3M
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If RPS is key in your game.

If RPS is key in your game. Yet you dislike impasse or doom scenario's. Then some combi units should take part in the game.

Examples are:
mrls. Flak 88. Flakvierling.

They can shoot ground and/or air. It is relatively hard to balance. But it can fix the impasse/doomed problems.

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