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My Strategy Combat Needs Feeback

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BlueRift
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Sorry for the wall of text but I don't think I can shorten it. Anyways, I've been working on this space-themed strategy game for a while. I recently decided that using "hit" dice for combat is not the way I want to go for a number of reasons. I am shifting to a more deterministic combat resolution. I am quite adept at simulating combat in excel and I feel like this yields the results I'm going for.

There are a few things about my game that you'll need to understand for this to make sense:

Players have fleet tokens on a hex-board that move on the edges (settlers style). Each fleet token is numbered and corresponds to a stack of ship cards.

My design goals for these fleets is to encourage players to have a diverse set of ships to maximize effectiveness in combat. To this end, I have assigned each ship to contribute "combat points" into two combat pools. So far I have designated these pools "fighter" combat points, and "destroyer" combat points. The rationale is that larger ships have unique combat roles independent of fighter squadrons.

Players initiate combat by moving their fleet token into the same vertex as an opponent's fleet. My design goals for combat is to have a quick resolution where the fleet that consists of better ships has a higher probability of success. Either fleet can retreat after each round of combat to prevent weaker players from being squished flat-out.

Combat begins by each Player rolling a D6 with three possible outcomes (a 1/3 chance each) with the faces being: "fighters", "destroyers" or "player choice". Players must use the point pool that results or they choose if that face is up. This way, players have a 2/3 chance of using the aspect of their fleet that is best. Each player rolls this type of die so Player 1 vs Player 2 could be any combination of Player 1's fighters or destroyers, versus Player 2's fighters or destroyers. Basic ships of each type add 1 point.

At this point, players can play cards to modify their combat points. Players draw a fixed number of cards per turn and cards have both economic and combat bonuses making players choose between the two. The higher total of combat points and cards wins.

I have incorporated a means to allow players to win the game while being less-combat oriented (merchant fleets). I feel that in order to make this route to victory viable, I have to incorporate something that could allow a lucky and/or determined underdog to win. I suppose this can be accomplished through just cards but I have another possible solution.

There are 2 things I want to ask about:

1) What do you think of this type of combat? Will strategy board game hobbyists enjoy it and is it simple enough that non-hobbyists can play it?

2) Should I add a second die roll that randomly affects the combat points. I have played around with each player rolling a D6 with the faces: -2, -1, 0, 0, +1, +2. This number applies to whichever combat pool is being used for this round of combat. Players play cards after this die is rolled.

What I like about it is that it would allow a player with a combat strength 5 to beat a strength 10 if they roll a +2, play a card that is +2, and a player who has 10 combat strength to roll -2 and plays no cards.

I feel like the cards mitigate the randomness somewhat. However, I am a little worried that this 4 point swing may undermine fleet composition strategy. I have a couple of other concerns but this is already a wall of text and I'll post them in a bit.

MarkKreitler
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Some thoughts...

>1) What do you think of this type of combat?

Sounds like a solid direction, but much depends on the context of the surrounding game. How long does it take me to build up a fleet versus lose it in combat? How much of the total game time do you want players to spend resolving combat? And so on.

> Will strategy board game hobbyists enjoy it and is it simple enough that non-hobbyists can play it?

Don't know that things can be easily broken down into those two categories. I suspect hardcore grognards would find it too light, and purely casual players would find it too heavy. Personally, I would play it and I think it provides a good middle ground.

> 2) Should I add a second die roll that randomly affects the combat points.

Don't remember where I saw this, but it's a general rule that has served me well: you only need 1 randomizing element in a system. You already have the initial die roll for choosing which pool of fleet points the players use to resolve combat. I wouldn't add more until you see how that works out.

You also have an indirectly random modifier in the cards themselves. While the players' choice of cards to use isn't random, the cards they have in their had *are* random (I assume they draw cards from a face-down deck when they earn them).

Sounds like a good system, overall. I'll be interested to hear how play testing goes.

SlyBlu7
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Seems alright to me, but very

Seems alright to me, but very simple and potentially exploitable. Players who focus on building up just 1 type of ship (whole Destroyer fleet, for example) will have a 60% of simply obliterating their opponent, but a 30% chance of getting totally wasted themselves (provided the foe has the right setup and rolls well). Yes, an underdog might get a win, but when you think about it, it's only 66% of 33% of the time (~20%) provided both fleets are even.

I think that what you're going to see though, is that players are going to "min/max" their fleets - they'll focus on 1 type of ship so that they get that 66% beatdown, and then have just enough of the other type to prevent outright destruction on the other 33%.

You might end up with 'juggernaut fleets' during playtesting. What you have set up is a situation where I compare my highest number directly against your highest number 66% of the time. Combats are practically pre-determined; my fleet is bigger than yours, therefore I win.

As a Warhammer player, I hear a lot of people complain that they feel like too much of the game relies on a D6 roll - D6 vs. Chart to hit, D6 vs. Chart to wound, D6 to make armor saves, compare numbers and the loser rolls 2D6-Difference to see if they flee. They run 2D6, attacker pursues 2D6. People complain that it's too much randomization and not enough that you can reasonably count on. I feel that's untrue. I hate chess - every time I engage a piece, I know that I have beaten it, and you have no hope of surviving my attack. Randomization is the key to any battle - from the strong winds that blew Paratroopers off course at Normandy, to a gun jamming at a critical time and costing a soldier his life. Strategy and skill can only get you so far.
I would perhaps add in some kind of modifier to represent the half of the fleet that is not being used. Perhaps have a modifier dice of +0 or +1, and multiply that result by the number of secondary ships. This makes it more beneficial to have a balanced fleet.

BlueRift
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I agree

SlyBlu7 wrote:
You might end up with 'juggernaut fleets' during playtesting. What you have set up is a situation where I compare my highest number directly against your highest number 66% of the time. Combats are practically pre-determined; my fleet is bigger than yours, therefore I win.

To deal with this, I think limiting combat points, fleet size, or both is the best way to deal with this. I think limiting fleet size is the best route because it can force players to optimize.

SlyBlu7 wrote:
layers who focus on building up just 1 type of ship (whole Destroyer fleet, for example) will have a 60% of simply obliterating their opponent, but a 30% chance of getting totally wasted themselves (provided the foe has the right setup and rolls well).

Because of the ability to retreat, fleets lose ships slowly. This prevents players from being crushed entirely.

My biggest concern is that this project started out more similar to RISK and Axis & Allies. I don't think this combat method captures that same feel.

hvymtlmachine
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That's an interesting system.

That's an interesting system. I like that it moves away from the typical "roll for # of hits" approach which really does feel a little too random at times. Since tactical combat would take too long, I agree that focusing on fleet composition is a great way to make battles both quick and strategic. I also agree that giving players free access to retreats is a more fair and realistic system than a fight to the death battle. However, the 'fighter/destroyer/player choice' die roll doesn't sound very appealing to me. I think it might be interesting to assign a combat ability to each class of ship and then let those abilities play out in an order determined by the players. This is basically off the top of my head so these exact abilities may not work but something along the lines of:

Fighter - A. destroy one fighter or bomber
B. damage one destroyer for every two fighters
Bomber - A. damage one destroyer
B. damage one cruiser or carrier for every two bombers
Destroyer - A. destroy one fighter or bomber
B. damage one cruiser or carrier
Cruiser - A. destroy one destroyer
B. damage one cruiser or carrier
Carrier - A. prevent one fighter from being destroyed
B. prevent one bomber from being destroyed

The players would take turns choosing a ship class and executing one of the abilities until all ship classes have been used. Depending on the destruction relative to fleet sizes, that could conclude one round of combat or conclude the entire combat. Again, I don't know how well this would work in practice, but its not random and gives the players plenty of decisions to make that will influence the outcome of the battle (which class to activate first, which target that class will focus their fire on, etc.)

I can already see that there will be stalemate situations as well as possibly mutual destruction situations, but maybe it could be worked into a functional system.

SlyBlu7
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BlueRift wrote: To deal with

BlueRift wrote:

To deal with this, I think limiting combat points, fleet size, or both is the best way to deal with this. I think limiting fleet size is the best route because it can force players to optimize.

I'd say that limiting combat points would be the best way to force optimization. Coming from a Warhammer backhground more than any other game, I can tell you that Min-maxing has nothing to do with unit size. Players there's no difference between having 10 ships with 10 destroyers, or 100 ships with 100 destroyers, it's still going to come down to 66% "My fleet is bigger, I win". Even worse, limiting fleet size would actually place more emphasis on the die roll - "I see that you have brought 10/10 fighters, I have 10/10 destroyers, this all hinges on which of us gets the 60%, and which one doesn't".
I would say that limiting combat points would be better. You can only do a maximum of X amount of damage. Large fleets will still have an advantage in that it will take more turns before they start losing effectiveness, but the value of ships that serve as just 'ablative wounds' is vastly diminished over ships who are actually getting to attack.

BlueRift wrote:

Because of the ability to retreat, fleets lose ships slowly. This prevents players from being crushed entirely.

How slowly? If I have 10 ships and you have 2, could I not conceivably blow away your entire fleet in a single round of combat? If you give players the opportunity to retreat, they're just going to punted around the battlefield by the larger kids in the schoolyard. You hit me, kill a ship or two, I retreat, you attack me again, kill a ship or two, I retreat, lather, rinse, repeat. Retreating is the same as taking a loss in a territory-control game, just look at Russian during WW2 - they refused to step back because if they retreated from Stalingrad, the Germans would just attack again at Kursk. Games impose a time-limit, just like a Russian Winter - if you keep retreating, you keep burning out the clock and every colony lost is another battle that you're going to have to fight just to break even. It's better to take a scorched-earth policy. This is *especially* true if you are losing ships slowly - it could take an hour to wipe out a fleet and take the colony behind it, and after that hour, you might have to call the game on account of dinner.

As far as dice are concerned - I wouldn't write out dice from the combat result. Dice-combat has a bad reputation because most games rely too heavily on dice. Warhammer for example has very few modifiers to the dice. Dungeons&Dragons features numbers from 1-20, but rarely has a +20 modifier. The larger your modifiers in relation to the dice, the less random your game is. Two examples:
A normal dice has a 17% chance of scoring a 6+. If you have a +4 static modifier to that roll, you suddenly have an 83% chance of scoring a 6+.
If you have D10+5, you have results between 6, and 15, and the die accounts for a *very* rough average of about 41%. If you have D10+10, you have results between 11 and 20, and the die accounts for an equally rough average of just 30%. The larger your modifier in relation to the roll, the less the dice "counts" and therefore the less you rely on the die roll.

For your game, I would say that whenever a fleet attacks, roll the specialized dice to determine which aspect of the fleet engages. Then set it up so that players score 3xN (where 'N' is the number of ships of that class, to a maximum of 6) +d6 hits. This means that a fleet of 24 Cruisers will get 18+D6 hits, while a fleet of 6 cruisers will also get 18+D6 hits. However, after losing 2 ships each, the 24 cruiser fleet still gets 18+D6 hits, and the 6-cruiser fleet only gets 12+D6.
To make your math easier, I would also say that players do not roll against each other to determine the outcome, but rather, players destroy 1 ship per 2 hits. Both players might cause massive amounts of damage, but one might be forced to disengage because his fleet has too few ships left to mount a second attack.
This also fits the theme of space-combat in a "space as an ocean" style game. Think of the Age of Sail, when ships would draw up in a line and broadside each other - there was no defensive move, just the hope that your ship would hold up to the fire better than the other ship would. They fired simultaneously, so you just slugged it out until someone cried uncle and struck colors. In space, it would be very much the same, except that the fact that a small pinhole in a space craft can destroy an entire pocket of air through rapid depressurization, you have two ships inflicting horrific amounts of damage on each other, at the exact same time.

BlueRift
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BSG

So I'm watching Battlestar Galactica (it's my wife's first time) and we just watched an episode where the Pegasus and the Galactica engage Basestars. It solidified my justification for division of fleets into Destroyers and Fighters.

I like your suggestion Sly but I'm worried it will be to much math. My impression is to go back to a more dice heavy model. I play 40k too and I am definitely not afraid of dice. I'm thinking I'll do a parallel dice comparison. This will work by each player having say... red dice to represent fighters and blue dice to represent destroyers. Players compare their highest roll of each type to the corresponding type of their opponent.

My impression is to offer 4 ships: a basic ship and an upgraded ship of each type. Like a cruiser being a basic destroyer and a battleship being upgraded. Normal dice have sides 1-6 and upgraded dice have 2-7 on their faces. Only the highest dice of each pool matters and one ship is destroyed by the winner of each pool. Only 2 of each ship matters so the most dice you can get is 4 for each pool (2 basic and 2 upgraded). This means I'd need to include 16 dice total which may be too much.

This way Player 1 rolls a 7 for fighters and a 5 for destroyers while Player 2 rolls a 6 for fighters and a 6 for destroyers. Each player loses one ship because Player 1 wins the fighter roll and Player 2 wins the destroyer roll. All I have to do is up the ship costs so players don't purchase a lot. That makes 8 ships required to max a fleet out.

As to the slow death of a smaller fleet due to retreating, the board is small enough that most colonies are only one turn's movement away from each other. So retreating will usually mean losing a colony but allows a player to not lose the significant investment of a small but not insignificant fleet. Also, if you only have 1 of each type versus a full fleet, you have a chance (about a 6% chance) to win each side of the battle.

I guess this makes my original post useless. Maybe I'll update it.

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