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Pirate ship combat dice Mechanic

3 replies [Last post]
drktron's picture
Joined: 07/18/2010

Having revamped my combat mechanic a few times, I'd like some feedback on this idea.

Over the course of this game players will play as a pirate captain engaging in combat with merchant ships (NPC), Naval ships (NPC), and other pirates (other players and NPC). This is not the whole of the game but a fairly significant part. I want the combat to be relatively quick, easily modifiable (crew and ship upgrades having significance), and intuitive.

There are a wide variety of ships with different attributes from nimble sloops to large Galleons. A pinnace might have a maneuver rating of 5 but a cannon rating of 1 while a galleon might have a maneuver rating of 1 but cannons =6.

Combat uses custom d6s with faces: 3 X, 2 Y, 1 Z (x might be cannonballs, y cannon icon, z skull and crossbones or whatever)

Players will have a hand of multi-use cards that perform different functions/modifications but all of which have a Wind value

When battle is initiated, both players may simultaneously bid one card from their hand and add its wind value to their ships maneuver. They then roll a number of dice equal to their ship's cannon rating and resolve them as follows:

The player with the higher maneuver scores "hits" on Xs
The player with less maneuver scores hits on Zs
If the maneuver value is equal, they both hit on Ys

Hits result in damage.
Of course the players can use their various crew cards and ship upgrades to reroll, modify rolls, etc.
So a slow galleon has a low probability of hitting per die but rolls a lot of dice. It does have a lot of potential firepower if it manages to hit you.

I think this system emulates the feel of the different ships but I'm unsure of how intuitive it is when the thing you're rolling for varies depending on the targets attributes. Sometimes your rolling for skulls whereas in other battles you're rolling for cannon icons, etc. A lot of combat systems have a consistent target roll; hit on 5&6 or hit on a roll greater than some attribute. Is this a valid concern or am I overthinking it?

Joined: 07/26/2015
It's an interesting mechanic,

It's an interesting mechanic, and feels quite natural to me, but it boils down to:

Faster ships has a bonus to accuracy.

So if you know the distribution of XYZs on the dice, and the distribution of wind values on the cards, you can calculate how much damage on average each ship can deal to another ship.
Bluffing has a role in it, but in the long run, some ships will be better than others. Statistically. Assuming the effects of the cards don't change things too much.

If you want to make things more thematic, instead of having the faster ship roll for different things, let the faster ship choose which icon they want, while the slower ship is forced to use cannons, or match the faster ship.
So skulls represent boarding action maybe, and if faster ship rolled more skulls than cannons, they can choose to use skulls. If the slower ship also rolled many skulls, the faster ship can choose to back off, and use cannons, making the skulls useless. This seems more thematic, but I don't know if it will be possible to balance.

Joined: 12/27/2013
I would be weirded out by

I would be weirded out by having to roll different icons for a same action.
Are the custom dice just for the thematic purposes? I feel that normal dice would be more flexible to use, at least with just the three different faces you got here.

You could try to add a secondary icons to each die face, like a wind icon (among others) which would make shots whiff against mobile targets etc. Or maybe have the slower ships count skulls as a -1 hits. Balance aside, this would mean that all players try roll cannonball icons when shooting.

Joined: 08/18/2015
More Maneuverability = More Speed = More cannonballs miss?

Here's a thought: What if you standardize it so that every "cannonball" (X) icon counts as a ranged hit, every skull (Y--could change to a grappling hook icon) counts as a grappling hook hit (enough grapple hits...say 2-3 and you can initiate a boarding action), and Z is a wind symbol which adds 1 to maneuverability for this turn/action.

Combat could then look like this:

1) Roll dice and tally all hits (cannonballs and grappling hooks).
2) Compare the maneuverability of each ship (including wind dice bonuses.) I'm going to call the ship with a higher maneuverability rating H, with a rating of h, and the ship with a lower rating lower L with a rating of l.
3) Ship H gets (h-l) "dodges" or "block" enabling them to disregard an opponents rolls. Perhaps 1 or 2 dodges blocks a cannonball, and 2 blocks a grappling hook (grappling hook is a harder roll and needs more to succeed, so for balance concerns it should probably be harder to "block")? These numbers could be modified to avoid giving too large a bonus to higher-maneuverability ships which would be a statistical problem in your current maneuverability = accuracy format.
4) Resolve all damage received from cannonballs.
5) Resolve boarding action somehow (maybe with a combination of crew card/skills and dice rolls? and each ship has a different number of crew members?)

I don't know if that would change the flow of your game too much...but that's my $0.02.

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