Skip to Content

Non-Combat Strategy Win

9 replies [Last post]
BlueRift
BlueRift's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/01/2012

So I'm working on a space-themed strategy game and my current project is the non-combat alternate win. I think I've had a break through and I'd like your thoughts on how I should proceed.

Currently, the game takes place on a hex-board where only the edges matter. Players can purchase a fleet and designate it either combat fleet or merchant fleet. Players conquer systems by moving a combat fleet onto it and ending their movement there.

Players win by accumulating enough VPs by conquering systems, upgrading them, and now this third alternative: economic dominance. I promise it's much less like Settlers of Catan than it sounds.

This is how I picture it working: Merchant fleets are "invulnerable" (think treaty or ability to hide). They cannot move through opponent's combat fleets so they can be blockaded. They also do not restrict movement of any other fleet. So basically, they are ignored.

Players can "economically conquer" a system by moving a merchant fleet on it in the same way a combat fleet would capture it. Instead of capturing it like a military fleet would, the merchant fleet would place a economic counter on the system and begin to generate income from the system.

Here's an example: Player 1 owns a system that generates 1 income per turn. Player 2 has a merchant fleet and moves it onto Player 1's system. Now Player 1 still controls the system (and thusly still gains 1 income per turn) but Player 2 can claim economic dominance and gain 1 income per turn from it. These incomes are just temporary and have yet to balanced.

This way there is like a parallel war going on: one between the military and one between the merchant class. My question is this: Should there be 'warlike' interactions between opposing merchants? Should a player have to roll to claim economic dominance?

Should there be a way to make a merchant fleet better than another so players can heavily invest in this type of win?

MarkKreitler
MarkKreitler's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2008
Sounds interesting

The merchant fleets sound like an interesting game element, but I'm not sure I understand how they fit into the overall picture.

Here are some questions your post raised:

1) The military can blockade merchant ships but there doesn't appear to be a way for merchant ships to affect the military.
If that's the case, what's the advantage of merchant vessels?
a) Maybe players can establish "neutral zones" via treaty through which military vessels can't pass?
b) Maybe merchant fleets generate net positive income if they remain in play long enough? In that case, are military fleets gimped by comparison?

2) What are the rules for establishing "economic dominance?"
a) Can more than one player establish dominance in a sector? If not, what rules govern who dominates? If so, how do players split VP and income?

Answering these questions will probably answer your question as to whether there "should be" warlike interactions between merchants. Chances are, thinking along these lines will expose areas of competition that require rules for resolution. At that point, you can decide if you want the resolution to be "warlike," "political," or "other."

Looking forward to seeing your solution!

Mark

BlueRift
BlueRift's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/01/2012
Sorry

I guess I didn't explain how the merchant fleets work very well. I've updated the original post to make it more clear.

To answer your questions directly:

1) The merchant fleets would not affect military fleets but by generating additional income, it would make creating new combat fleets easier. Economic dominance also grants VPs independent of military VPs.

2) Only one player can claim economic dominance for a given system.

I hope that makes it more clear.

MarkKreitler
MarkKreitler's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2008
That helped

Hey Blu,

Your reply helped. I still have questions, though, and I think answering my questions will help you answer your own question.

So, the questions:

1) Once a player establishes economic dominance over a sector, can other players contest that dominance? If so, how?

2) If someone tries to dominate my home world, can I resist? If so, does my resistance require the presence of my own fleets, or does my planet have innate defense?

3) Given that military fleets can blockade merchant fleets, can I send in military units to force merchant units out of a contested sector? If so, how many units does it take? Is the number relative to the number of merchant fleets displaced?

4) If Merchant fleets can be driven from a sector, either by opposing military or merchant fleets, what happens to them?

Mark

BlueRift
BlueRift's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/01/2012
Thanks

I appreciate your questions. They do help me solidify my opinions about things but I'd still like to hear how you feel about some of my ideas.

MarkKreitler wrote:

1) Once a player establishes economic dominance over a sector, can other players contest that dominance? If so, how?

I see it working just like normal combat. Only one player can economically own a system at a time and in order to take a system from an opponent, that player must move a merchant fleet to "capture" it back.

MarkKreitler wrote:

2) If someone tries to dominate my home world, can I resist? If so, does my resistance require the presence of my own fleets, or does my planet have innate defense?

This is the question I'd like to hear your thoughts on. At the moment I don't have home worlds but this could change depending on play-testing. If establishing economic dominance really does work like normal combat, un-upgraded systems (Colonies) have no innate defense and only require that you have defeated any occupying fleets. Upgraded systems (Core Worlds) have defenses and must be "defeated" to capture them.

MarkKreitler wrote:

3) Given that military fleets can blockade merchant fleets, can I send in military units to force merchant units out of a contested sector? If so, how many units does it take? Is the number relative to the number of merchant fleets displaced?

The way they currently work, merchant fleets ignore each other. How it works for combat fleets, unit composition in a fleet determines the quality of dice rolled but each fleet's units are required to stay with the fleet. You could have fewer ships (but with better luck or quality) and win, pushing out a larger fleet. How it works is Players roll until one player wins, and the loser has a ship destroyed then can chose to retreat or press the attack (both defender and attacker).

I'd also like to know your thoughts in this area. Should merchants be able to "fight" and push each other around? Should I be able to upgrade my merchant fleets so they are better than my opponents in the same way I could upgrade my combat fleets? These questions will likely only be answered after I play-test it more.

MarkKreitler wrote:

4) If Merchant fleets can be driven from a sector, either by opposing military or merchant fleets, what happens to them?

This would work the same way the normal retreat mechanic does. Each vertex on the hex board has 3 routes away from it. Players obviously attack from one of the three. When the defender retreats, it goes to a vacant vertex (combat is simultaneous so they won't move across the board in a single turn). If the attacker retreats, they simply go back to the vertex they attacked from. If a fleet is attempting to retreat and there are surrounded by opponents, the fleet "scatters" and is taken off the board. Players must pay a fee to "reorganize" the fleet and place in the same way as a new fleet.

SlyBlu7
Offline
Joined: 03/15/2012
As it stands, you just have

As it stands, you just have two parallel games taking place - one between the military fleets, and one between the merchants. The merchants are currently the "better" option though. "In-system" they fight just like the military ships, but they can't be engaged when moving between systems. Basically, they do everything that the military does, but with no risk of being intercepted.

This makes me wonder if there's a *reason* to even include the merchants. Why not just assume that the military carries enough non-combatants with it (support personnel, camp followers, etc) to establish economies or colonies on planets/systems that they visit? Players can choose to destroy a planet evil-genius style, or they can colonize it.

From my perspective, you already have a non-combat method for determining the wins. 'Risk', 'Axis and Allies', and other "area control" boardgames are all about non-combat wins, rather than being decided entirely by pitched battles. If I take all game to avoid your fleet and grab up space-colonies, while you doggedly chase me through the void, I'll win the game without firing a shot: I hold more systems.

Most games that rely on a strictly "battlefield" win, are actual battlefield games. Warhammer, Warmachine, Flames of War, Disposable Heroes, Ancient Battles, are all 'combat wins'. You kill off the enemy units and the winner is whoever has more troops left at the end of the game. Units aren't replenished, and objectives are only used to focus the combat onto specific areas (if there are secondary objectives present at all).

I'm not saying that you shouldn't include Merchants in your game - the politicking between merchant cartels will probably be even more intense than the fights between the military fleets, and that would be a huge draw for me. But try to make sure that they are thoroughly integrated into the game, rather than tacked on just to provide an alternate win condition.

BlueRift
BlueRift's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/01/2012
In reply

SlyBlu7 wrote:
As it stands, you just have two parallel games taking place - one between the military fleets, and one between the merchants. The merchants are currently the "better" option though. "In-system" they fight just like the military ships, but they can't be engaged when moving between systems. Basically, they do everything that the military does, but with no risk of being intercepted.

The disadvantage is that merchant fleets don't enable you to build ships from systems where you economically control but do not actually have power over. In addition, if you go "all in" on merchant fleets, you're opponent should find it easy to barrel through you combat fleets and achieve a win that way before you get a chance to take over economically. And because combat fleets can block merchant fleets but not the other way way around, a heavily merchant oriented player will be further hindered.

Also, I think when I begin to balance this, the merchant income from systems will be less than the "ownership" income generated by combat fleets capturing systems.

SlyBlu7 wrote:
From my perspective, you already have a non-combat method for determining the wins. 'Risk', 'Axis and Allies', and other "area control" boardgames are all about non-combat wins, rather than being decided entirely by pitched battles.

I think this is an issue of semantics. There is a great deal that goes into winning my game (just like the ones you listed) with only combat fleets including correct unit composition, maneuvering, and coordination. My intention with merchant fleets is to provide players with an alternate play style that could (A) provide income to boost combat fleet numbers or (B) give a VP edge to a player who is clever enough to survive an opponent while having fewer combat fleets.

I have yet to develop my "tactic card" system which players can purchase like RISK 2150 cards. I foresee cards that make it so merchant fleets can perform special actions that affect combat fleets and visa versa, linking the two systems more.

If you think there is a better way to incorporate an alternative play style, I am open to suggestions.

kos
Offline
Joined: 01/17/2011
Merchants vs Combat

I like the idea of having to choose between Merchants and Combat fleets, and also being able to win the game without crushing all your opponents' worlds.

You said that you would make the merchant income less than the colony income. Personally I would try the opposite, where the merchant income is significantly higher, and/or put an upkeep cost on combat fleets. The idea would be that a full-combat player can be starved of income by ruining his economy -- which is one of the real strategies used in many wars throughout history.

You said that a combat fleet can prevent a merchant fleet from moving into a system. By extension, I would say that any system which contains a hostile combat fleet earns no merchant income. This allows for the tactic of sending little fleets to dodge the main combat areas to blockade enemy systems and ruin their income.

Regards,
kos

MarkKreitler
MarkKreitler's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2008
Thanks

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Blue. I think I understand well enough to comment, now.

In general, I like the idea of having both economic and military means to victory. The difference in maneuver rules should produce some interesting game play. It's also neat that military conquest gives you higher production, but economic dominance gives you more resources. That system alone, properly balanced, should connect the two styles of play.

I agree with Sly that the systems seem too separate at the moment, but your strategy card system should take care of that.

I'm still not clear on the rules for removing merchant fleets from the game. If military ships can't directly destroy them, wouldn't they persist through the end of the game? Even if you introduce a system for resolving economic conflict between opposing merchant fleets, it seems strange that the loser would suffer losses in the traditional sense. I could see that if we were talking about trade routes or trade agreements, but not the fleets themselves.

So far, the design seems good.

SlyBlu7
Offline
Joined: 03/15/2012
I feel like I just had a

I feel like I just had a lightbulb moment when I read your reply to my criticisms of the system -

You say that Merchant fleets provide less income than systems held by warships. Why have the system-generated revenue be tied to the fleets at all? Why not just say that each system creates +X resources each turn, but there has to be a merchant fleet present in order to capitalize on that income? Players can upgrade different systems to have better resource generation, but they have to maintain a fleet presence to capitalize on that.
Furthermore, a fleet can't collect from the same system two turns in a row. They don't have to move off-system, but they can only collect for 1 turn. You might have to figure out a way to put markers on systems that have been "harvested" and then remove them during an upkeep when the system has replenished itself though.

In this way, players can put blockades on one another, as well as trade with 'neutral' systems, and even subvert trade by using merchant fleets as smugglers or blockade-runners and harvesting resources from an opposed system. Perhaps after harvesting an opponent's system so many times, the system actually rebels and falls under your control without anyone firing a shot.

This would be far more "realistic" in how economies actually worked in colonial warfare. Modern nations are largely self-sufficient, and it is possible for an army to return home from anywhere on the planet in 24hrs or less to refit and resupply, or for supplies to be sent to the frontline in the same time frame. But when it took months to travel between territories, blockades, privateers, and general mishaps meant that if your colony was at war, your homeland probably wasn't benefiting from the resources there, just through sheer enemy proximity.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut