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Rules for an RPS-based fight, too complex?

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Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011

I designed a game which I quite like, but the fights are a bit too complicated to explain. When writing this I've made quite some progress in simplifying the description, so I'd like to check out if it works.

The fight is fully deterministic (and must stay so). There are fights of two armies each consisting of up 7 units. There are 5 kinds of units:

  • R, P, and S (rock, paper, scissors; the real names are of course different)
  • K=knight (heavily armored)
  • L=leader (weak but important; at least one in each army)

By "RPS unit" I denote any of R, P, or S.

Each fight has two phases: One army (determined by things not explained here) strikes the other and then the remainder of the second army strikes back. So it's enough to describe one phase.

The units in the striking army act and either kill or injure the units in the other army. An unit which has already acted gets ignored for the rest of the phase. A killed unit gets removed from the game and an injured unit returns to its owner, in any case it gets ignored for the rest of the whole fight.

The following rules are sorted according to precedence, any rule conflicting with a previous one gets ignored. The potentially conflicting rules are given in parentheses as "(check X)". Reading from the top, find what unit(s) act(s) and how, then start over. The phase ends where no more actions can be found, i.e., when either all units the striking army acted or all units in the other one were killed.

  • 1a: As long as there's any RPS unit in the struck army, no other gets harmed.
  • 1b: As long as there's any other unit in the struck army, no leader gets harmed.
  • 1c: Unless the rule requires differently, leaders act before other units.
  • 2: Single R kills one S, single S kills one P, single P kills one R.
  • 3: The RPS units get harmed in the order R, then P, then S (check 2).
  • 4a: Any two units kill one RPS unit.
  • 4b: A single unit injures an RPS unit (check 4a).
  • 5a: Any four units kill one K.
  • 5b: One to three units injure one K (check 5a).
  • 6a: Any non-leader unit kills one leader.
  • 6b: Any two leaders kill one leader.
  • 6c: A leader injures one leader (check 6b).

As an example consider LLRP (i.e., two leaders, one rock, and one paper) striking LRR:

  • According to 1a, R gets harmed.
  • Keep in mind 1c.
  • According to 2, P kills R (forget 1c since the rule requires P acting).
  • Now P acted, R got killed, and we continue with LLR striking LR.
  • According to 1a, R gets harmed.
  • Keep in mind 1c.
  • According to 4a, R gets killed by two units. The two units are LL because of 1c.
  • Now LL acted, R got killed, and we continue with R striking L.
  • According to 6a, L gets killed.
  • Now we're done with the phase, since all units of the acting army acted (moreover, nothing remained of the other army).
  • The whole fight ends, since there's nobody to strike back.

Do you understand my above description? Can you find out what happens e.g. when LLRPSS strikes LKRPS?

Any improvement ideas are welcome.

pelle
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Joined: 08/11/2008
Maybe if you can provide some

Maybe if you can provide some simple diagram for each players to use to not have to memorize all of that or keep looking it up in the rulebook it would work.

Looking at the number of rules in your lists, I can't help thinking maybe there is a way to cut down on number of rules without making the game less fun? (Insert quote about design not being done until there is nothing
more that can be removed.) I have a deterministic combat mechanic (briefly mentioned in a recent thread) that is defined by a small table (3x6 cells, currently, might add more rows later), for 3 different unit types, played in a sequence of identical attack phases.

Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011
Thank you

pelle wrote:
Maybe if you can provide some simple diagram for each players to use to not have to memorize all of that or keep looking it up in the rulebook it would work.

This sounds good, although currently I don't know how to do it. Some example could help.

pelle wrote:
Looking at the number of rules in your lists, I can't help thinking maybe there is a way to cut down on number of rules without making the game less fun?

I was already thinking about it, but came to no solution. I need the following to hold:

  • The fights are deterministic.
  • No army gets completely eliminated unless grossly overpowered.
  • The RPS units behave all about the same unless when the RPS mechanics comes in play.
  • The RPS units get harmed first, knights next, leaders last.
  • The knights are pretty hard to kill.
  • The leaders are the weakest units.
  • If the striking party is not strong enough to kill a unit, the unit gets injured.

pelle wrote:
(Insert quote about design not being done until there is nothing more that can be removed.)

Here I can quote myself:

Maaartin wrote:
I like thinking about each rule like having a cost (proportional to its complexity) and a reward (improving the game experience). If the reward is less then the cost, I drop the rule.

Obviously, this is more easily said than done.

pelle wrote:
I have a deterministic combat mechanic (briefly mentioned in a recent thread) that is defined by a small table (3x6 cells, currently, might add more rows later), for 3 different unit types, played in a sequence of identical attack phases.

I've been recently reading nearly all posts here, but can't recall this; could you provide a link?

pelle
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Maaartin wrote:pelle

Maaartin wrote:
pelle wrote:
Maybe if you can provide some simple diagram for each players to use to not have to memorize all of that or keep looking it up in the rulebook it would work.

This sounds good, although currently I don't know how to do it. Some example could help.

Like the artillery fire flowchart available for ASL. Can't find it online unfortunately, so not much help. Maybe just printing the list on player aide sheets would be good enough. Just wouldn't want to pass the rulebook around the table every time someone forgot the priority order for what losses to take.

Quote:
I was already thinking about it, but came to no solution. I need the following to hold:
...

One obvious solution is to question everything you think the game needs. Over and over again. Maybe you do not need injuries? Maybe only leaders need injuries (like in ASL)? Maybe drop the knights? Maybe ...? Impossible to even suggest something of course without knowing all of the rules.

Maaartin wrote:
*I like thinking about each rule like having a cost (proportional to its complexity) and a reward (improving the game experience). If the reward is less then the cost, I drop the rule.*

Good rule. But you also need to consider that even if all rules are worth more than they cost, if you have 20 of them you might get a better game by cutting down to 10.

Also sometimes you can improve the game without removing anything, simply by moving information. I have this priority list of where information should be to make it easier to use:

1. on the unit, card, or map location the rule applies to
2. on the map board along the edge if there is room
3. on separate player aide sheets/cards
4. back of the rule book
5. inside the rule book

Kind of obvious, but easily forgotten. Also for information on a card or unit it is better when something is a generic value, like a number all units have, rather than some little special icon or color used on some types of units. For instance in your case if you could figure out a clever non-transitive numbering system to print on the units that would result in the combat outcome you want, then there is no need to remember any rules other than how to compare the numbers to see what units are destroyed. Probably an ideal case you can't often achieve, but it is nice when it happens.

Hm, I should think about that priority list for my own game, instead of having a table maybe I could print the results on the units. :)

Quote:
Obviously, this is more easily said than done.

Amen.

Quote:
I've been recently reading nearly all posts here, but can't recall this; could you provide a link?

http://www.bgdf.com/node/5397#comment-20690

Not much of a game, more a combat system looking for a game to use it for.

disaac
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Joined: 02/26/2011
Something like this?

I may be a bit confused about some of the rules
-- in particular 1c --
but are you looking for something like the following chart:

1xP Kills R
1xS Kills P
1xR Kills S

2x(LKRPS) Kills R
1x(LKRPS) Injures R
2x(LKRPS) Kills P
1x(LKRPS) Injures P
2x(LKRPS) Kills S
1x(LKRPS) Injures S

4x(LKRPS) Kills K
1-3x(LKRPS) Injures K

1x(KRPS) Kills L
2xL Kills L
1xL Kills L

Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011
Thanks to both

Actually, I think my rules are quite easy in practice: You start with leaders only, and it takes some time till you get other units, and even then you rarely see groups with more then 2 or 3 kind of units. According to my experience, everybody can remember all the fight rules after having used each rule twice or thrice. But the fight is just a part of the whole game so I'm glad for any simplification.

disaac wrote:
I may be a bit confused about some of the rules -- in particular 1c --

It looks useless, but it's not. At the striking side all units work the same, except in 6a (any non-leader unit kills one leader) and 6b (any two leaders kill one leader).

For example, with like LLR striking LR you first need two units to kill R and you want to use LL for this, so you may continue with R killing L (rather than L injuring L).

disaac wrote:
but are you looking for something like the following chart:

Yes, something like this will help. In the part starting with "2x(LKRPS) Kills R" you've got it a bit wrong, all the kills come before all the injuries. I'm reformulating all the rules and there's currently this one:

  • If there are not enough units to kill a unit, it only gets injured.

pelle wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
This sounds good, although currently I don't know how to do it. Some example could help.

Like the artillery fire flowchart available for ASL. Can't find it online unfortunately, so not much help. Maybe just printing the list on player aide sheets would be good enough. Just wouldn't want to pass the rulebook around the table every time someone forgot the priority order for what losses to take.

Agreed. I currently managed to shrink the ruleset from 12 to 8 by using more abstract formulations. It's not perfect, but easier to remember and easier to scan through.

pelle wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
I was already thinking about it, but came to no solution. I need the following to hold: ...

One obvious solution is to question everything you think the game needs. Over and over again. Maybe you do not need injuries? Maybe only leaders need injuries (like in ASL)? Maybe drop the knights? Maybe ...? Impossible to even suggest something of course without knowing all of the rules.

I see. Actually there's a good reason for everything on my requirement list, but I see your point. I'm even thinking about dropping the whole RPS mechanic... but no, I'm not ready for this yet.

I'm thinking hard about "The leaders are the weakest units.". This is necessary, and it gets complicated by the fact that they mustn't be too much weaker. In my new ruleset this costs 2 of 8 rules, that's too much.

pelle wrote:
Also sometimes you can improve the game without removing anything, simply by moving information. I have this priority list of where information should be to make it easier to use: ...

Kind of obvious, but easily forgotten.

Indeed, a very good point.

pelle wrote:
Also for information on a card or unit it is better when something is a generic value, like a number all units have, rather than some little special icon or color used on some types of units. For instance in your case if you could figure out a clever non-transitive numbering system to print on the units that would result in the combat outcome you want, then there is no need to remember any rules other than how to compare the numbers to see what units are destroyed. Probably an ideal case you can't often achieve, but it is nice when it happens.

The numbering system indeed can't work because of the RPS mechanic, but it could nearly work for the rest. Just nearly but I'll think about it.

pelle wrote:
http://www.bgdf.com/node/5397#comment-20690 Not much of a game, more a combat system looking for a game to use it for.

So you simplified it down to units winning automatically depending on what units attacked what other units and thus removed the luck element?

pelle
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Maaartin wrote: I'm thinking

Maaartin wrote:

I'm thinking hard about "The leaders are the weakest units.". This is necessary, and it gets complicated by the fact that they mustn't be too much weaker. In my new ruleset this costs 2 of 8 rules, that's too much.

Maybe the rules just have to be written in a different way. If some of the wargames I play had all special cases of combat rules written in one long list it would be much worse than that. :)

Quote:
The numbering system indeed can't work because of the RPS mechanic, but it could nearly work for the rest. Just nearly but I'll think about it.

A bit off-topic, but I think you can, at least in simple cases (inspired by how non-transitive dice work). For instance if you have three combat values that you compare in order, and the one with two higher values win, you could have RPS given the following sets of numbers:

R 5 - 2 - 2
P 3 - 3 - 3
S 4 - 4 - 1

You could probably add some knights and leaders too, but it wouldn't handle your system anyway since you need to allow units to combine in different ways I think. Or maybe you could, but I'm too lazy to figure it out, and it might end up being more complicated than the original system anyway.

Quote:
So you *simplified it down to units winning automatically depending on what units attacked what other units* and thus removed the luck element?

Yes. The game I was inspired from to begin with, Victory - Blocks of War, has lots of dice. When trying to come up with something faster/simpler, I figured by keeping the hidden information (blocks) that would be unpredictable enough. I do not like full-information deterministic games, but since you do not know exactly what is defending an area until you attack, there is some "randomness" even if everything is 100 % deterministic. So it ended up sort of like Stratego I think.

SilentFury
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Joined: 10/23/2011
Here's your simplification.

From your comments it looks like you can choose the order you do stuff in (where you use the two leaders to kill a unit, then use the R to kill an L).

Try this system on for size - it should do pretty much everything you have.

All units except knights and leaders have 2 HP.
Knights have 4 HP.
Leaders have 1 HP.

All units do 1 damage.

Rs that attack Ss do double damage.
Ss that attack Ps do double damage.
Ps that attack Rs do double damage.
Ls that attack Ls do half damage.

When you attack an enemy army, assign your units as you like to attack RPS first, then knights, then leaders. If you don't completely kill a unit, it's injured (and you can't attack another unit while your current assignments only injure one).

In your LLRP vs. LRR example:

Assign P to attack an R - R dies.
Assign two L's to attack the next R - R dies.
Assign remaining R to attack L - L dies.

Same effect, easier to explain.

disaac
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Joined: 02/26/2011
Maaartin wrote:disaac

Maaartin wrote:
disaac wrote:
are you looking for something like the following chart:
Yes, something like this will help. In the part starting with "2x(LKRPS) Kills R" you've got it a bit wrong, all the kills come before all the injuries.

But if all kills come before any injuries, then rule 3 (combined with 4a & 4b) would be incorrect, because it states that you have to "harm" all R's before moving to the P's & S's.

Also, forcing kills before Injuries would make the knights somewhat useless, as you would be able to kill a Leader rather than Injuring a Knight if you have just one or two units left.

Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011
Thanks to all

pelle wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
I'm thinking hard about "The leaders are the weakest units.". This is necessary, and it gets complicated by the fact that they mustn't be too much weaker. In my new ruleset this costs 2 of 8 rules, that's too much.

Maybe the rules just have to be written in a different way. If some of the wargames I play had all special cases of combat rules written in one long list it would be much worse than that. :)

Sure, that's why I started this thread. I didn't rewrite the rules yet, but I'm sure it'll get much better.

pelle wrote:
Quote:
The numbering system indeed can't work because of the RPS mechanic, but it could nearly work for the rest. Just nearly but I'll think about it.

A bit off-topic, but I think you can, at least in simple cases (inspired by how non-transitive dice work). For instance if you have three combat values that you compare in order, and the one with two higher values win, you could have RPS given the following sets of numbers:

R 5 - 2 - 2 P 3 - 3 - 3 S 4 - 4 - 1

You could probably add some knights and leaders too, but it wouldn't handle your system anyway since you need to allow units to combine in different ways I think. Or maybe you could, but I'm too lazy to figure it out, and it might end up being more complicated than the original system anyway.

I'm quite sure it will.

pelle wrote:
Quote:
So you simplified it down to units winning automatically depending on what units attacked what other units and thus removed the luck element?

Yes. The game I was inspired from to begin with, Victory - Blocks of War, has lots of dice. When trying to come up with something faster/simpler, I figured by keeping the hidden information (blocks) that would be unpredictable enough.

Sure, hidden information works similar to randomness.

SilentFury wrote:
From your comments it looks like you can choose the order you do stuff in (where you use the two leaders to kill a unit, then use the R to kill an L).

Try this system on for size - it should do pretty much everything you have.

All units except knights and leaders have 2 HP. Knights have 4 HP. Leaders have 1 HP.

All units do 1 damage.

Rs that attack Ss do double damage. Ss that attack Ps do double damage. Ps that attack Rs do double damage. Ls that attack Ls do half damage.

When you attack an enemy army, assign your units as you like to attack RPS first, then knights, then leaders. If you don't completely kill a unit, it's injured (and you can't attack another unit while your current assignments only injure one).

This is nice, and I'll do something like this.

disaac wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
disaac wrote:
are you looking for something like the following chart:
Yes, something like this will help. In the part starting with "2x(LKRPS) Kills R" you've got it a bit wrong, all the kills come before all the injuries.

But if all kills come before any injuries, then rule 3 (combined with 4a & 4b) would be incorrect, because it states that you have to "harm" all R's before moving to the P's & S's.

By "all kills" I meant the 3 kills in the block

2x(LKRPS) Kills R
1x(LKRPS) Injures R
2x(LKRPS) Kills P
1x(LKRPS) Injures P
2x(LKRPS) Kills S
1x(LKRPS) Injures S

Sorry for the confusion.

I'll probably change the rules a bit to get it simpler. After some playtesting I'll post it here.

Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011
Simplified?

I came up with a slightly different ruleset, which makes the RPS units a bit harder to kill without the RPS rule. The game is nearly the same as before, so I like it.

I'm sure the new ruleset is much easier to explain and remember, however my description is quite long:


Each fight has two phases: One army (determined by things not explained here) strikes the other and then the remainder of the second army strikes back. So it's enough to describe one phase.

The units in the striking army strike and either kill or injure the units in the other army. An unit which has already struck gets ignored for the rest of the phase. A killed unit gets removed from the game and an injured unit returns to its owner, in any case it gets ignored for the rest of the whole fight.

Each phase consists of the subphases executed in order:

The fight phase rules

  • 1: RPS subphase:
    • 1a: Single R kills one S, single S kills one P, single P kills one R.
  • 2: HP subphase:
    • 2a: Be X the total attack strength computed as the number of units on the striking side (ignore those which has already struck).
    • 2b: The units on the other side get struck in the order R, P, S, K, L.
    • 2c: If X=0, the phase is over.
    • 2d: Be Y the number of hitpoints of the next unit to be struck (see the cheatsheet).
    • 2e: If X<Y, the struck unit gets injured and the phase is over.
    • 2f: Otherwise, the struck unit gets killed, subtract Y from X, and continue with 2c.

The fight phase cheatsheet

G ► R ► B ► G

unit    HP
RPS     3
K       4
L       2

I'm quite happy with the rules, but not so happy with the formulation.

SilentFury
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Joined: 10/23/2011
Short Re-formulation: 1.

Short Re-formulation:

1. First, match up your army's RPS units to the enemy's RPS units - R matched to S, etc. Take all those units out - the defending army's units are dead, the attacking army's units have struck.

2. Match the units remaining in the attacking army to the units of the defending army at a rate of 3 against 1 for RPS units, 4 against 1 for knights, and 2 against 1 for leaders. Each unit that has the full number matched against it dies, each one that has less is injured, and you must fully match in the specified attack order.

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