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Medieval Combat System

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bottercot
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Hello,
I recently created a game with what I think is a pretty original way to represent differences in medieval weapons and their different uses in combat and such. Essentially, I wanted to create a "realistic" yet simple system.
The game is on a Commands and Colors scale, using the same board and terrain and stuff, but with custom tokens and pieces.
So essentially, I wanted a system that could differentiate weapons (i.e. Battleaxe, Sword, Spear, Halberd) and how they could be used. For instance, I wanted to simulate a sword's weakness to plated armor, and a Pike's strength against cavalry charges, and other things like that.
So... here it is.
For those of you familiar with C&C, you will understand the combat system usually used in games, which involves exchanges of dice. In my game, each unit rolls 5 dice, of different damage types.
How I currently have it is that all 1's rolled cause 1 Hit, and all 6's cause 1 retreat.
There are 4 damage types: Pierce, Slash, Bash and Hook. Each does different things.
Pierce is valuable when being charged. Any 5's rolled when being Charged or when Charging cause a Hit.
Slash is powerful, and can damage more easily. All 5's rolled can be rerolled.
Bash is hard-hitting, provided you do hit. Any 1's rolled, in addition to causing a Hit, may be rerolled once.
Hook is powerful when used against mounted cavalry. Any 5's rolled against Cavalry cause a Hit.

Each weapon has a combination of these damage types, up to a total of 5.
For instance:

Shortsword:
Slash 3
Pierce 2

Axe:
Slash 5

Halberd:
Slash 2
Pierce 2
Hook 1

Mace:
Bash 5

Warhammer:
Bash 3
Pierce 2

This simulates the differences between weapons. But, in addition to having a set of damage values, each weapon also has 3 other factors: Speed, Length, and Weight.
Speed is how fast the weapon can be swung and used. The difference between two battling units' Speed is the number of extra rerolls the unit with a higher Speed gets.
Length is how far the weapon can reach. A unit with a longer Length than the unit it's battling can roll and score Hits before the other unit.
Weight is how much carrying the weapon will slow its unit. Every 2 levels of Weight a unit carries decreases its hex movement value by 1.

For instance:

Shortsword:
Slash 3
Pierce 2
Length 2
Speed 4
Weight 0

Spear:
Pierce 5
Length 4
Speed 5
Weight 0

Halberd:
Slash 2
Pierce 2
Hook 1
Length 4
Speed 3
Weight 1

Pike:
Pierce 5
Length 7
Speed 1
Weight 2

The last thing that I have done is have different levels of Armor that units can have, as well as Shields. Armor and Shields allow a unit to ignore certain types of dice rolled by a unit it is fighting.
For instance:

Light Armor:
Ignore 1 Slash die.
Weight 0

Medium Armor:
Ignore 2 Slash dice.
Ignore 1 Pierce die.
Weight 1

Heavy Armor:
Ignore 2 Slash dice.
Ignore 2 Pierce dice.
Ignore 1 Bash die.
Weight 2

Shield:
Ignore 1 Slash, Pierce, or Bash die.
Weight 1

I can post more on the rules if needed, I don't know how clear this is.
But how do you feel about this system? Is it too complicated? How innovative is it? Are there any games that do this similarly?

let-off studios
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Weapon Vs. Armor Type

While reading, I immediately remembered ye olde "Weapon vs. Armor Type" table from my days of playing AD&D (2nd edition forever!). The advantage of using the table is that mixing units and equipment can be a strategic choice to maximize as much offense against the widest array of opponents.

The disadvantage? Yeah, lots of bookkeeping. So if your target audience is accustomed to that level of tracking, referencing tables, etc. then sure, give it a try. For those not so much into the C&C block style and/or wargaming play with some wrinkles, then they'll elect to stay far, far away from it. To the inexperienced player, it would seem too much trouble for what it's worth.

For reference, I couldn't find the table online anywhere, but this commentary explains a few examples in significant detail.

https://trekhead.livejournal.com/93653.html

There were also weapon damage variances depending on the size of the opponent/target struck, but in your game I assume you are having opponents all of the same general size and physiognomy, so small vs. medium vs. large isn't much of a factor.

For me personally, our gaming group opted to use standard damage for weapons, but we modified the status of critical hits. Different weapon types (Slash, Pierce, Blunt) would affect opponents in different, potentially-lethal ways, never in a good way for the receiver. The most complex lookup we ever dealt with was whether or not the target was wearing a helmet.

Jay103
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let-off studios wrote:The

let-off studios wrote:
The disadvantage? Yeah, lots of bookkeeping. So if your target audience is accustomed to that level of tracking, referencing tables, etc. then sure, give it a try.

Actually I feel like this could simplify all the bookkeeping. If the dice types are color coded, then armor would be a card that sits in front of you and has like one red and one green square on it, which means removes one red and one green die. Then the whole thing gets abstracted down to dice colors. Obviously it's a little less "My poniard pierced your plate mail!" when you do that, but no bookkeeping.

bottercot
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One problem is that I

One problem is that I currently have like 20 different weapons in the game, but I guess not all of them would be used in one game.

Jay103
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bottercot wrote:One problem

bottercot wrote:
One problem is that I currently have like 20 different weapons in the game, but I guess not all of them would be used in one game.

You want to have exactly enough to cover the basic strategy areas, and no more. Just because you can think of a weapon doesn't mean it enhances the gameplay :)

The basic weapons in my game are:

Name (avg damage)

Fists (0.33)
Dagger (0.50)
Mace (0.67)
Hammer (0.83, low variance)
Bow (1.00, high variance)
Sword (1.00)
Giant Sword (1.50)
Fireball (3.00)

There are a couple of variations, like a Magic Dagger uses the Mace die, but basically that's it. No duplication of anything, really. And each of those weapons is represented by one die of a unique color.

If you use color coding, weapons and armor will be very simple to play (just grab the matching dice). It will still take a little while for people to figure out the hard counters, but really if there's an armor card that has 2 reds on it, you know you want to avoid attacking with a weapon that uses red dice... Very visual, very simple.

bottercot
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I was going for historical

I was going for historical accuracy, and thus just created all the major medieval weapons I could think of:
Shortsword, axe, spear, mace, warhammer, halberd, pike, Scimitar, Bardiche, Guisarme, Glaive, Flail, Longsword, Lance, Morning star, Winged spear (partisan), Battleaxe, throwing axe, horseman's pick, reflex bow, recurve bow, longbow, crossbow, arbalest, catapult, trebuchet, rapier, bombard, musket and zwiehandler, as well as some Ancient weapons: Composite bow, sling, pilum, javelin, sarissa (longspear), onager, ballista and scorpio.
Quite overboard, I know, but hey, every weapon is different.

And the thing is I'm not making these up, they were actually historically used, so it's hard to deny any weapons.
For instance, the sarissa is very similar to the pike, but the greek hoplites used sarissas, not pikes (yes there is a difference), and I would cringe at the sight of hoplites with pikes.

Jay103
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bottercot wrote: And the

bottercot wrote:

And the thing is I'm not making these up, they were actually historically used, so it's hard to deny any weapons.
For instance, the sarissa is very similar to the pike, but the greek hoplites used sarissas, not pikes (yes there is a difference), and I would cringe at the sight of hoplites with pikes.

Well, I'm guessing any particular army wouldn't use more than two or three weapons.. So it depends on what your game is :)

let-off studios
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Speed + Initiative

Who attacks first?

Do you accommodate for the size/encumbrance of weapons in determining when attacks occur, and/or if smaller weapons allow for additional attacks?

...Asking for a friend.

bottercot
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When two units battle, the

When two units battle, the unit with the longer weapon Length can attack first. If weapon Lengths are the same, both sides roll dice and take hits at the same time.
All weapons also have a Speed value. When two units battle, their Speed values are compared, and the unit with a higher Speed value gets dice rerolls equal to the difference between weapon speeds.

X3M
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I am curious how much health

I am curious how much health you are using in your game.

Because average weapon damage is not always correct.
Average hit points for every weapon and health combination is more accurate.

Tim Edwards
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I very much agree with the advice to simplify

bottercot wrote:
I was going for historical accuracy, and thus just created all the major medieval weapons I could think of:
Shortsword, axe, spear, mace, warhammer, halberd, pike, Scimitar, Bardiche, Guisarme, Glaive, Flail, Longsword, Lance, Morning star, Winged spear (partisan), Battleaxe, throwing axe, horseman's pick, reflex bow, recurve bow, longbow, crossbow, arbalest, catapult, trebuchet, rapier, bombard, musket and zwiehandler, as well as some Ancient weapons: Composite bow, sling, pilum, javelin, sarissa (longspear), onager, ballista and scorpio.
Quite overboard, I know, but hey, every weapon is different.

And the thing is I'm not making these up, they were actually historically used, so it's hard to deny any weapons.
For instance, the sarissa is very similar to the pike, but the greek hoplites used sarissas, not pikes (yes there is a difference), and I would cringe at the sight of hoplites with pikes.

I'd advise you to whittle that right down so you have the minimum number possible (possibly just one representative of each class of weapon - or make the weapon descriptions more generic - "polearm", not "pike", for example. Then a hoplite could get away with it:) That will probably make the game more accessible for most people. Later on you might provide an expansion with more weapons with subtle differences. People who are already into the game could then enjoy the historical detail. Ultimately, the gameplay itself will be the hook for the game's success- and that might even get obscured by too many weapons.

I'm on the same journey with my Muay Thai game. I started out staring at a huge array of possible techniques (weapons essentially) which players could use. The decision to bring it right down to bare basics has totally liberated the game and the game-making process. The nuances of the strategy probably don't (or shouldn't?) actually depend on lots and lots of different weapons.

Cheers!

bottercot
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X3M wrote:I am curious how

X3M wrote:
I am curious how much health you are using in your game.

Because average weapon damage is not always correct.
Average hit points for every weapon and health combination is more accurate.


I was thinking 6 health per unit, but this may change.

bottercot
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Okay, I should clarify that

Okay, I should clarify that only a fraction of the weapons would be in the main game. I just created the stats for all those weapons, so that if i did make expansions, I could include them with ease.
I don't really like the idea of generalizing weapons, because the variety of weapons gives more potential for strategy and tactics. More variety also increases replayability.

let-off studios
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Limited Length Utility

Would you consider a ruling that weapons with a high Length rating can only be used in an initial engagement with an opponent, but then must be abandoned for a smaller-size weapon or the user suffers a kind of penalty?

I suggest this because is a defender with a lower-Length weapon is allowed to respond to the attack, they must have closed the distance between the two and Length no longer provides its initial advantage. It's doubtful they'll voluntarily retreat to effective striking range for the glaive when they've snaked in close enough to stab with a dagger. Maybe ignore the penalty if the polearm-armed unit voluntarily retreats?

Any thoughts on this, bottercot?

Jay103
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Tim Edwards wrote: I'd advise

Tim Edwards wrote:

I'd advise you to whittle that right down so you have the minimum number possible (possibly just one representative of each class of weapon - or make the weapon descriptions more generic - "polearm", not "pike", for example. Then a hoplite could get away with it:)

It could also be in flavor text, depending on what the game looks like. The hoplite description would provide an exact name, but the weapon's dice are shared with several other similar polearms.

Weapon subtlety is largely irrelevant in this sort of game :)

bottercot
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let-off studios wrote:Would

let-off studios wrote:
Would you consider a ruling that weapons with a high Length rating can only be used in an initial engagement with an opponent, but then must be abandoned for a smaller-size weapon or the user suffers a kind of penalty?

I suggest this because is a defender with a lower-Length weapon is allowed to respond to the attack, they must have closed the distance between the two and Length no longer provides its initial advantage. It's doubtful they'll voluntarily retreat to effective striking range for the glaive when they've snaked in close enough to stab with a dagger. Maybe ignore the penalty if the polearm-armed unit voluntarily retreats?

Any thoughts on this, bottercot?


I wasn't originally going to include "engagements", I was just going to have it where a unit adjacent to an enemy unit can attack them.
I really don't like the idea of abandoning weapons for shorter ones, because that would require having units carrying multiple weapons, which complicates the game a lot. While abandoning weapons might make sense in some circumstances, it doesn't in others. For instance, someone with a spear can constantly keep an enemy with a shorter weapon at bay by jabbing and retreating. Also, it's really hard for an enemy to get into striking distance of a group of pikemen, because the line of pikes is nigh impenetrable.
I can't really have units with multiple weapons, but I also see the somewhat unrealistic-ness of the retreating out of effective range. I'll have to think about that.

ElKobold
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bottercot wrote:Also, it's

bottercot wrote:

I was going for historical accuracy, and thus just created all the major medieval weapons I could think of:

bottercot wrote:
Also, it's really hard for an enemy to get into striking distance of a group of pikemen, because the line of pikes is nigh impenetrable.

Depending on which historical period we are talking about, pikes might have a detachment of arquebusiers and a few guys with two-handed swords to chop down enemy pikes as part of their unit. So you would end up with a unit using at the very least 3 different types of weapons.

What is your goal though? Are you trying to make a game or a historically accurate simulation? If it's the former, you need to simplify A LOT. If the latter, you need to narrow your scope A LOT.

You've mentioned command and colors. The success of that series comes from how much it manages to capture with so little mechanisms. It abstracts a lot of it. And simplifies the combat resolution mechanism to comparing symbols. It also focuses on specific time periods because different time periods require different approach. "Command&Colors: everything" would be a terrible game.

bottercot
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ElKobold wrote:bottercot

ElKobold wrote:
bottercot wrote:

I was going for historical accuracy, and thus just created all the major medieval weapons I could think of:

bottercot wrote:
Also, it's really hard for an enemy to get into striking distance of a group of pikemen, because the line of pikes is nigh impenetrable.

Depending on which historical period we are talking about, pikes might have a detachment of arquebusiers and a few guys with two-handed swords to chop down enemy pikes as part of their unit. So you would end up with a unit using at the very least 3 different types of weapons.

What is your goal though? Are you trying to make a game or a historically accurate simulation? If it's the former, you need to simplify A LOT. If the latter, you need to narrow your scope A LOT.

You've mentioned command and colors. The success of that series comes from how much it manages to capture with so little mechanisms. It abstracts a lot of it. And simplifies the combat resolution mechanism to comparing symbols. It also focuses on specific time periods because different time periods require different approach. "Command&Colors: everything" would be a terrible game.


Basically, this game came from me playing the game BattleLore, and not liking the rules. I have been developing my own rules for a long time now, and finally settled on this model.
Believe me, I have thought about the problem of armies not all using the same weapon. However, this game was developed from BattleLore, which had units using only a single weapon. I figured that if Battlelore was aloud to do that, so was I.
My goal is basically to remake BattleLore to be better and more realistic, I guess.
My time period is from the Ancient age (with Romans, Greeks, etc.) to the creation of gunpowder, all in Europe. Originally, it was just 100-year war-type time period, but I realized that this system could easily extend to earlier time periods.
I don't see any problem with having this system extend to multiple games. The openness just allows the system to be used for a very wide scope of battle scenarios.
How do you mean "different time periods require different approaches"? In what way?

ElKobold
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bottercot wrote: How do you

bottercot wrote:

How do you mean "different time periods require different approaches"? In what way?

Battlelore, Memoir'44, C&C: ancients and C&C: Napoleonics are all command and colors games by the same designer. Yet all use variations of the ruleset to better suit the specifics of the setting/time period they are simulating.

If historical accuracy is what you are after, I would really suggest to start with a narrow time period and then work from there.

bottercot
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If it works, why not?

ElKobold wrote:
bottercot wrote:

How do you mean "different time periods require different approaches"? In what way?

Battlelore, Memoir'44, C&C: ancients and C&C: Napoleonics are all command and colors games by the same designer. Yet all use variations of the ruleset to better suit the specifics of the setting/time period they are simulating.

If historical accuracy is what you are after, I would really suggest to start with a narrow time period and then work from there.


But what if my system works for a wider range of time periods? Like, it's originally for medieval Europe, but it works for the Ancient age too, so why not do that? A C&C: Medieval is coming out that is basically C&C: Ancients, but with some changes to units and stuff, but the same base rules.
I can see doing things differently if I were doing a game for modern warfare, but the two ages I want to cover are similar enough in how warfare worked that I think this system could work for both.
Now probably the base game would focus on medieval, and Ancient age stuff would be expansions, but for now I don't see any harm in keeping the system open.

Jay103
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bottercot wrote: But what if

bottercot wrote:

But what if my system works for a wider range of time periods?

I'd say focus on whatever period you're most passionate about, and then build on your success with a second product.

I'm pretty sure if you have a successful game sold to 2-300 people, you have a solid base to have a second successful game even if it's not that similar. If it IS similar, even better.

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bottercot wrote: I can post

bottercot wrote:

I can post more on the rules if needed, I don't know how clear this is.
But how do you feel about this system? Is it too complicated? How innovative is it? Are there any games that do this similarly?

Just trying to convey some friendly advice from one noobie designer to another:

When designing a game, and specifically when looking for feedback, I feel like it's important to decide from the beginning what some of the unshakeable tenets of your game will be, the bones and pillars that are just non-negotiable. Once you know what they are...focus on getting feedback on other aspects of the game. Getting people's opinions on these pillars is still important, but try to make it clear what you're actually looking at modifying based on feedback.

For example, one of my games has no dice. This is not something that occurred through the natural evolution of design: I set out to make a game without dice, because I hate them. Therefore, no matter how much feedback I may receive to the contrary, there will never be dice in this game. Otherwise, there's no longer any point in the game.

However, you specifically asked whether people think your system is too complicated for its target. The majority opinion happens to be that it is (I more or less agree, btw). Now, a lot of this is not even saying that the game or components are in themselves too complicated, from my understanding. Just that perhaps you should START narrower, and broaden from there. To me, that's just sound advice regardless. Especially in playtesting.

Just remember (and I swear I'm talking to myself here too): It's your job to build the game. It's everybody else's job to tear it apart. And that's a good thing. When you are passionate about your game, it's pretty freaking hard not to get defensive about it. I do it. I bet everyone else here has done it at some point. But it's not productive. Use it to fuel progress on your game so that it becomes a product that defends itself.

I'm in danger of beginning to ramble, so I'll just cut myself off on this: I like where your head is at with the concept for your game. I like the basic scheme you have in place. I do think that, like any game this early in its process, it's going to need some substantial work. But keep me in the loop because I am definitely interested.

bottercot
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Thank you. I guess I'll take

Thank you. I guess I'll take people's advice and narrow things down for the main game. I will narrow down the number of weapons to maximum 10, for simplicity, and leave the rest to be added as expansions or never at all. Like, I'll keep the bow, crossbow, shorsword, spear, axe and mace, since they're all pretty common weapons, and then maybe also have the pike and halberd. That should be enough to make the game work.
I will also confine the base game to medieval battles and theme, and maybe later have an ancient-themed game, too.

ElKobold
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bottercot wrote:Thank you. I

bottercot wrote:
Thank you. I guess I'll take people's advice and narrow things down for the main game.

Good call.

bottercot wrote:
I'll keep the [...] shorsword, axe and mace [...] since they're all pretty common weapons

Here are some points from pure "historicity" perspective.

I don't remember short swords to be used as battlefield weapon by any medieval army.

Another thing is there would not be a unit of "swordsmen" or "axemen" or "macemen" in a medieval army. Unless we are talking about ranged or pole weapons, medieval infantry "units" would use whatever weapons they owned. Same goes for armor.

Unless you are making a dueling game, there's no reason, really, to distinguish most of the melee weapons. In a mass battle, there is very little difference between them in terms of efficiency. And making uniformly-armed units would not be historically correct either.

Speaking of "medieval", which period of medieval do you have in mind? Late medieval military equipment and tactics would differ substantially from the early middle ages.

11th century knight: https://i.imgur.com/fmaEQAh.jpg
15th century knight: https://cdn.waterstones.com/lookinside/9781846030772_3.jpg

bottercot
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By shortsword, I mean arming

By shortsword, I mean arming sword. Generic sword.
But actually that has been something that's been bugging me. Single-weapon military groups weren't really a thing, I know. I just kind of figured, since BattleLore got away with it, maybe I could too.
I'm feeling more convinced that my combat system doesn't fit for the scale. You're right, I guess. It doesn't make sense for an entire unit to use only maces.
Although, it would work pretty well for ancient times, where there were groups of Legionnaires with pilums, hoplites with longspears, and Carthaginians with elephants. Maybe if I changed the time zone?
Or, on another note, I could just generalize things as people have been suggesting. The cringe would be somewhat present, but I guess it would be doable.
Like, generalize things in some ways, but keep things in other ways. Like, remove axes, shortswords and maces to just be "Infantry". Then, there could be "Polearm Infantry" to represent infantry with long weapons. Maybe I could even make some small sub-categories, like Pikes and Halberds, since units did exist of only those (for instance, the Scottish pike formations).
But the weapons could end there for melee infantry.\
Then, for ranged infantry, there would be simple "Bow Infantry", and then maybe subtypes, like Longbow Infantry (because the British used those), and possibly Crossbow Infantry (I may have to do research to see if crossbowmen organized themselves into large groups).
For Cavalry, there would of course be normal Cavalry, but also Lance Cavalry (these might be merged for simplicity). Then also Bow Cavalry, because those existed, and I would probably stop it at that.
Then there would also be some generic siege weapons, like catapults/trebuchets and maybe ballistas.
Okay, this simplicity works, I suppose, but the main problem is that the old combat system of Bash, Pierce and Slash only works for the duel style. This will have to be reworked somehow.

bottercot
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Same Combat Concept, completely new Time Period?

I actually thought about it, and I think maybe I could salvage this combat system and use it for a different time period.
For instance, modern warfare could use damage types of Gun/Bullet and Explosive. That would be interesting to experiment about.
I've also considered ding a futuristic/star wars-y C&C game, and maybe this could be used for that...
I don't know, I'm just thinking about things. I've thought about how to make a good medieval warfare C&C game for a while, I've gone through what feels like hundreds of models, and I still can't find one that works. This one, in my opinion, nailed medieval combat, but it doesn't work too well on a large scale like what I want for the context.
Either way, thanks for the feedback on things, I think I'll stop to think more about how to do this. My dream, I suppose, is to make a universal combat system that's accurate and flexible to be used across multiple eras of warfare. I might have a good starting point here, but I'll definitely have to think more about this.

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