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Melee Tactics

9 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/18/2018

Two combatants face off in melee combat. I'm looking for ideas regarding "tactical advantages" that one or the other can obtain during the course of battle.

The two most obvious advantages are:

+X to attack,
+X to defense.

But I'm wondering if there are other tactical advantages which do not just boil down to attack or defense bonuses. Any suggestions?

Juzek's picture
Joined: 06/19/2017
What are some of the other

What are some of the other stats you are working with?
obviously you have attack and defense

Are you doing this with any sort of randomness added in? manipulating the random rolls, adding re-rolls, changing card orders etc.

Do you have Hit points? HP gain, HP steal, damage reduction, temporary HP.

Are there other resources in your game or knobs/levers to pull?
Interacting with another game system is great.
Stealing resources, gaining action selection preferences, gaining an advantage to be used later, etc.

Just some thoughts, feel free to give more details about your situation to get better brainstorming out of me :)

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Depends on what kind of mechanics you add or remove

Like for example, IF you introduce a RPS-3 which means that BEYOND melee, you also have Ranged and Flight and create a relationship "Melee -> Ranged -> Flight -> Melee" means that you can have have other ways to defend and/or attack.

You can for example, change the attack "order". In my game "Archon: Circlet of the Heaves" (ARCH), players take turns assigning six (6) order tokens. This determines how the cards in play get resolved. But you could have a card with a mechanic like "Rush" which means you can pass before the next revealed card (in terms of order of resolution).

Or you can have a "Counter-strike" mechanic which means that instead of the opponent attacking YOU, you get to attack them again affecting the order of card resolution. And this can be a "Instant" or "Interrupt" ability/mechanic which can be played at any time.

You can have a bunch of "Keywords", I think I have thirty (30) of them in my reserves for mechanics that affect the battle. I'll give you a few of them and then you can be on your merry way to designing your OWN "Keywords":

#1 [Absorption ?]: This unit takes ? damage instead of another unit.

#8 [Dispel]: No spells may be used against this Unit.

#13 [Fear]: This unit cannot be directly blocked in combat.

#20 [Outcast]: If this Unit is exiled, the attacking Unit is also exiled.

#30 [Warsong ?]: When this Unit attacks, other attacking Units gain +?/+0 until end of turn.

Of course #30 is one of many ways of BOOSTING a card. When you start thinking in this manner... You'll see ... You will be able to define mechanics specific to your game. In my game (ARCH), Players have BOTH a Discard Pile which get "re-shuffled" and an Exile Pile which means that a card is "Removed from Play".

I know this might sound a bit "strange"!? Like WHY would I have "Keywords"??? Well you don't need to USE the keywords, they can be kept for yourself. Just state the tactics that are employed with the card in practice. Or you can have BOTH ("Keyword" and tactic). I am leaning towards BOTH for ARCH.

The basic idea is SIMPLE: take everything in your GAME and see how many options you have with the cards. The more COMPONENTS your game has (like a Hand, a Discard Pile, an Exile Pile, an RPS-3, etc.) the more you can design RULES for these components. And then the exciting part could be that after following the RULES, you can then design some "Keywords" that BREAK those rules.

For example: "You may only have a Hand of FIVE (5) cards." = RULE. Break it with something like: [Reinforce] "Draw +1 cards this turn." = BROKEN RULE...

When you start thinking this WAY. You'll see; you'll probably be able to define like 50 "Keywords"!!! The only thing is to remember either you use BOTH or the Tactic alone. NEVER just use the "Keyword" because this requires Memorization... And in a GAME, I have seen this in "EPIC: the card game", it's NOT FUN. Just using the "Keyword" is too HARD for players and it can spoil the enjoyment of the game BECAUSE of the memorization required by them ... That is only IF you don't state the Tactic itself.

Happy Designing ... I'm sure once you get into the PROPER mind-set... You'll be able to DEFINE a TON of game mechanics specific to YOUR game!


Note #1: I'll give you ONE additional ability ... Because it will FORCE you to think BEYOND +x attack and +x defense:

#24 [Slave Driver ?]: Opposing selected Unit in play loses -?/-? until this Unit is discarded or exiled.

In this case instead of a BONUS, it is a PENALTY. So the player who plays this Tactic DECIDES which of the opposing Units gets this PENALTY.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I am also thinking about using LANES

Why is a "lane" mechanic IMPORTANT?! Well like I said, the MORE "components" you have, the more RULES you can decided upon...

So I explained that there was an Tactic called "Fear". And it talks about "Blocking". But what if I were to use the LANES for a similar this Tactic as well(!?)

It could be like:

#31 [Blunder]: The facing unit in this lane cannot attack.

So that would be another Tactic inspired by "Fear". This makes for an interesting mechanic, in that it introduces more "structure" into the game.

Again, this is me sharing with you MY process and what it is that I am working on BEYOND "+x/+x" bonuses. Cheers!

Joined: 04/18/2018
In More Depth...

Thank you for the quick responses!

The core gameplay has a lot of character specific manipulation already, including an abundance of keywords! (And I agree, using the keyword alone is not sufficient, which is why my cards spell out each condition, persist when necessary, etc..) The closest game to my “Boss Battle” phase (there are 3 phases to my game) is probably Aeon’s End. Like AE, my game is two player controlled characters against one AI boss. (My mechanisms are very different, but the concept is close enough.) Now, imagine each character and the “nemesis” has their specific deck, and now imagine ANOTHER separate small Tactics deck off to the side which offers various bonuses.

These special Tactics offer an “add on” for more choice and variety. For example, our hero on his turn COULD play his card that does 2 Slash damage and causes Bleed for 1 round, OR he could go for a temporary Tactics card (such as “high ground”) which affords him an ongoing bonus to future attacks (such that next round, he’d hit for 3 damage and cause Bleed for 2 rounds, etc.) And if he doesn’t take it, his opponent might! (There are more reasons that just always taking an available Tactics card might not be advantageous, but TMI for now.)

So the challenge is to consider what ongoing Tactical Advantages might make sense to offer. These Tactics cards need to be generic enough to apply to all characters and creatures, (all who come with a plethora of special abilities), which is where I found myself considering what options might exist beyond boosts to just attack and defense.

The other “stats” do include HP, but things like HP steal (“vampirism”) are covered within a specific character’s “keyword” abilities, and not something generic that any combatant could thematically benefit from.

I do like the “stealing resources” idea! Initiative is something of a resource in my game, and that might work really well to use the opponent’s initiative resource against them!

I also like the counter-strike mechanic as an idea! Reflect a certain type of damage back when hit.

As for absorption, players already decide which one will take the hit.

I also may consider temporary Spell/Physical immunity. (Range is something I’ve been thinking about integrating, but I want to explore this on a separate thread.)

Fear, Outcast, Slave Driver don’t really fit for what I’m thinking for general add on Tactics, and I do have “Battle Cry” (as opposed to Warsong) as a character ability.

I thank you both for your ideas so far! I think there are a number of things you’ve suggested that I can work with.


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Difference in play

treeves3 wrote:
...As for absorption, players already decide which one will take the hit...

See there are differences! In ARCH the unit in your LANE gets damaged. BUT if you have "Absorption", another unit in one of the other two (2) lanes may instead be dealt damage "Saving" you from losing MORE "points".

My Rounds are based on Victory Points. The player with MORE "VPs" in a round WINS that round. You need to win 5 rounds to WIN the game... So a maximum of nine (9) rounds. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to play... So it is a "lighter" game.

In any event... Enjoy thinking about how to TINKER with your cards/units. That most probably will be the best way to find more "generic" bonuses.


let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Battle Stance

There are some games that allow players to opt for a specific "battle stance," where game modifiers are applied from round to round (or sometimes for the length of an entire encounter) depending on their attitude or relationship to their opponent.

"Berserker Rage" is a common form of this. A character/unit "flips the switch" and begins a series of reckless, savage attacks at a certain point in the fight and receives bonuses to damage, and most likely a penalty to defense. Another term to describe this in modern RPGs and squad games is "all-out attack."

On the flip-side, there's "defensive stance," which would provide immense bonuses to defensive capabilities, while penalties to attack were provided.

In the Palladium RPG (I think), there was an option to "pull your punches" during a fight, so as to soften-up an opponent instead of potentially killing them.

"Strike to subdue" is a similar tactic, introduced in the later years of AD&D (2nd edition) I think, with a similar result. They used phrases like, "strike with the flat of the blade" and "shield buffet" instead of attack.

I recall reading that in some cultures, there is a social reward for warriors who do a bit of show-boating (for lack of a better term) in battle. For example, there are accounts of Native American Indian warriors "counting coup," effectively slapping opponents with a stick in a non-lethal but noticeable manner, in an effort to gain honor in battle as opposed to kills. Shaming opponents can have just as debilitating effect: primarily a cultural construct, affecting morale and social status.

For a non-combat situation, you can allow "total focus" or something like that, providing some kind of bonus to succeed at a certain task (repair, spell-casting, lock-picking, etc.) while the character does nothing else: they do not attack, and do not defend themselves when attacked by others.

In all these cases, there were modifiers applied to various dice results, be it to-hit, damage, defense, etc. There might also be a lingering after-effect. For example when a berserker's assault is ended, there's some kind of "recovery" period where their attack and defense capabilities are reduced until they've recovered from their exertions.

Maybe a concept like this can help you determine some options to explore.

Joined: 04/18/2018
Great Inspiration!

I've toyed with "Battle Stances" to some extent, and they are already baked-in to the character decks themselves. I have a "Reckless Lunge" card which allows a character to do extra damage by reducing their defense, somewhat similar to Berserker Rage. But, something you mentioned really sparked inspiration...

I spoke on another thread about having passive (armor) defense, and active (battle stances, if you will) defenses. I've already got some mechanisms which bypass/mitigate/rend armor. However, I really like the idea of an attack focused on negating the active defenses! Thus, rather than focusing on damaging the opponent, the attack would apply all damage directly to various active defenses. A "feint" comes to mind, which would reduce active defenses (which come in 4 categories in my game), softening up the opponent for the next attack. I like this idea more as a character ability (say, part of a tactical fighter build) than a generic battlefield tactic any combatant can grab, but I'll definitely include that ability in one way or the other.


Joined: 09/06/2017
Sorry for the lateness of my

Sorry for the lateness of my reply. It takes me while to write stuff out.

Attack speed -  Could Some attacks are faster than others? Maybe a player get to play another attack, dodge, grapple, change stance card, or some other bonus if their attack is substainally faster.

Fatigue - Could attacks that are particularly damaging, cause the inflicting player to become fatigued? Then the player could recover by doing less damaging attacks. Of course there would be some penalty for becoming completely fatigued. Maybe you opponent gets a free attack.

Range - could you introduce the concept of range? Still in melee, but some attacks like grapple only work when you are closer to your opponent?

Draw pile/hand (of cards)/discard pile manipulation. - Since mostly more cards in hand is better for the player, and powerful cards in hand are also good for the player. There are a ton of ways to introduce card advantage into your game.

Feel free to disregard use or improve upon.
Good luck with your game.

Joined: 04/18/2018
Fatigue's opposite

Hi Fri,

Thanks for the feedback!

I like the fatigue idea. However, rather than using fatigue as a penalty, my game uses stamina as something of a wildcard bonus. But a combat advantage that allows the player to gain Stamina would be highly valuable!


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