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Minimal combat mechanics in Euro-style games

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Rick L
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I wanted to get some thoughts and insights on the role of combat mechanics in games that are NOT war games, but basically Euro-style in the sense of having main objectives involving building or progress of each player's individual "engine".

For a couple of examples, take Scythe and Manhattan Project. I haven't played these, but I've read the manuals through and watched demo videos. I wish I had a huge base of personal experience from such games to draw from, but no one can play every game out there, right?

Personally, I'm seeking insight on making sure I end up using the best fit of such a mechanic in my game project, so I figured why not discuss how these minor combat roles are implemented in various games.

So please share any examples of games you've played or researched!

In Scythe, I've looked through forum discussions on BBG, and even participated in some. The combat in this game is fairly simple, and most people seem to be satisfied with how it's implemented. It's not a war game - combat is just a way to interfere with other players, but not meant to hijack the main point of the game.

I get that completely, and my only thought is that the combat doesn't really seem to have much of a combat "feel". It's basically just a hidden bid that both players reveal at the same time. "I choose to use this many points from my power track plus a few extra from a card, and you chose to use so many points from yours respectively..."

In Manhattan Project, the focus of the game is worker placement to get the necessary resources and buildings to build nukes, and to score points from that. Combat involves building a supply of bombers and fighters. Fighters can be sent to reduce an opponent's number of fighters or bombers, or kept to defend against a similar attack. Bombers can be sent to damage buildings, so opponents must repair them in order to continue their work.

These are examples of mechanics that are designed to interfere with the gameplay of the other players. There are games where combat is very basic, like 7 Wonders, where you don't really interfere - you score points for having a bigger military than neighbors, or you lose a point if your military is weaker.

I'd like to focus the discussion mainly on the interference type of mechanic, since that's what I'm working on, but anything that's relevant will help!

To start it off, I see these interference mechanics as types of mini-games, since they usually have a special set of rules and components that are not used in any other parts of the main game. That may not be an absolute definition - in Scythe, for example, having mechs on the board is a way of deterring opponents from making certain choices, and characters can be used in combat, but they have important functions in exploration as well.

So how simple should these mini-game interference mechanics be? Are there examples of games with a lot of complexity in them that still work well? Or does complexity always steal from the main theme?

For me, simple seems best, but if the concept of interference is combat-oriented, I think it should have enough complexity to strategize a little. As I posted recently in another thread, strategy or tactics require options, and the more options, the more complex the mechanic gets, so to me, balancing that out is the trick.

Daggaz
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I don't know, seems to me

I don't know, seems to me that as soon as you have combat options that involve units then it's essentially a war game or at least capable of being a war game if you have aggressive players. Doubly so if you can cause the removal of player units.

For non combat interference.... Actually road building in settlers of catan basically works like that. You could argue it is actually combat however. They just got rid of the battle abstraction completely,and instead it is winner takes all, with the first unit to arrive on the field designated the winner automatically. But you are essentially fighting with roads.

Its hard to be specific with your last questions, but I agree that simplicity is key. The complexity should arise as an emergent property as much as possible. Too many options,and especially too many rules ends up killing the game.

Rick L
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I never thought of road

I never thought of road building that way, but you're right, it does serve as an interference mechanic. There isn't much of a feeling of tactics or strategy, as you said it's just "get there first".

Using combat units isn't necessary for battle - my mini-game uses dice, upgrades, and cards which represent combat events. Even in the examples I used above of Scythe and Manhattan Project, where there are units it doesn't turn things into a war game.

Daggaz
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There is strategy in that you

There is strategy in that you have choices about where to build, driven by your current houses, what resources you are pulling now and what you will need, and where your opponent is situated. You don't have unlimited building opportunities after all. It's all about claiming the right land and how to get there.

And that is the secret to one of the strongest settlers strategies: when you place your first houses, prioritise wood and clay above everything else. He who builds the most roads usually wins.

As for units, no they aren't necessary but as soon as you have them you embody the most direct aspect of war: strategic control of physical space through direct competition.

Rick L
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Well, settlements and cities

Well, settlements and cities in Catan is strategic control of physical space through competition, but then we might as well call every Euro game a war game!

We could define any competition as a form of "non-lethal" combat, just as we could say combat is just a competition that has lethal or destructive results.

But the subject I want to get into is regarding games that have a SEPARATE mechanic for interference using combat. If Catan is a game of non-lethal, non-destructive combat, well, that's still the main mechanic - there's no separate mini-game for it.

So whether it's guns or swords, spells or spaceships, which games are examples of using separate mini-game mechanics for a combat-style of interference, whether it's battle, sabotage, or magical interference? Which games do it well, and which are examples of doing it poorly, and why didn't it work?

larienna
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I have been working lately on

I have been working lately on a game that has war with an euro feel. It's simply an area of majority game. And the number of cubes you have in a territory will determine how many dice you roll. For example:

1 cube = 1 die
3 cube = 2 die
5 cube = 3 die

So eventually the game becomes more tactical since getting the right amount of cubes inn place could give you extra combat dice.

The Odd Fox
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Ryan Laukat

Ryan Laukat, from Red Raven Games, has a very euro style feel to his games and has included war-like elements. The Ancient World does not have direct combat between players but has each player building up armies to attack against Titans that threaten the civilizations in the game. I thought this was a good way to include battles in a very euro like game. City of Iron has more direct combat but still retains a euro feel. These don't feel like Scythe at all and may give some additional perspectives on how to incorporate war in euro style gaming.

Rick L
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The Odd Fox wrote:Ryan

The Odd Fox wrote:
Ryan Laukat, from Red Raven Games, has a very euro style feel to his games and has included war-like elements. The Ancient World does not have direct combat between players but has each player building up armies to attack against Titans that threaten the civilizations in the game. I thought this was a good way to include battles in a very euro like game. City of Iron has more direct combat but still retains a euro feel. These don't feel like Scythe at all and may give some additional perspectives on how to incorporate war in euro style gaming.

I've looked into some of Ryan Laukat's games but sounds like I need to check those out. He's worked with a friend of mine on several published games, so I've been wanting to try a bunch of them!

BenMora
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Example of bad implementation

I'd say if the focus of the game (the part that SHOULD be the most fun) is not combat, then combat should be as simple as possible, echoing what others have said.

Has anyone played Dungeon Quest? When my friends and siblings play it, our house rule is that we completely omit combat from the game. If you draw a card that requires you to combat a creature, we just discard the card and redraw. The combat in the game has a complexity that is disproportionate to it's importance in the game, such that it drags the game down to almost a halt and distracts from the FUN part of the game which is exploring. The combat is actually not too bad in Dungeon Quest if it was in the context of a combat game.

Rick L
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I've tried finding demo

I've tried finding demo videos of the dungeon quest combat but it's either skipped over with the dice tower review or it was a different edition or something - combat seemed a bit more streamlined in the one video I found.

But still, a 5 min battle definitely seems like it would distract too much! Even 2 min would, I think.

I'm re-working my resource mechanic in my own game, and it has led to a more emergent need for combat, so that's made a big difference.

Thanks Ben for that example of bad implementation - I might look for better vids on that, but if anyone else has similar examples of games where the combat didn't work right for the game, please mention it here!

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