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Simple Combat Systems

9 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/11/2015

Hi all,
I'm working on a few war-ish games but adding different mechanics that I hope will be the focus of the game. In doing this, I need a combat system that is simple enough that it doesn't become the focus of the game, and I'm also trying to make it a no-luck system, so no dice or cards. Any ideas for simple no-luck combat systems? The ones I can think of are:

1v1: Army A has 5 units, army B has 3. They fight, army A has 2 left, army B has 0

Rock Paper Scissors: 3 different types of units, A will beat B, B will beat C, C will beat A.

Tbone's picture
Joined: 02/18/2013
Hit or Kill

I have a mechanic in one of my games that works pretty well.

When two units are in combat you will compare attack and defense values. The attacking unit will compare with the defending unit's defense And the defending player will do the same for the attacker.

If the attack value is equal to or higher than the unit's defense you are combat with, the unit dies.

If it is lower the unit is "hit" thus getting brough back to the hit zone where the unit must be restored/repaired/healed etc.

Its cool because you can limit the amout of units that can be in the hit zone so that after awhile if you don't have enough space units will automatically die if hit. This allows for weaker units to be best in number because they can chump block and eventually start killing units if they are not disposed of quickly.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Pretending you have like only 10 units in an attack

For a really cool and simple combat system with "no luck". I like to borrow stuff form MtG. The vanilla combat system has some really interesting strategy aspects.
But now to add some RPS.

Example Rules:
- Attacker attacks first.
- Defender decides on blocking. multiple defenders can block 1 attacker.
- Remaining non blocked attackers can choose defender targets.
- In case of overkill, the remaining damage without the bonus can be placed on another defender. In other words, the bonus is only on the first target. And the remaining damage can be divided on new targets.
- Unlike MtG, you use up all attack power.

Example Units:
Attack/Defence, BonusAttack/BonusDefence
- Unit A: 1/1 with +1/0 against B
- Unit B: 2/2 with +1/0 against C
- Unit C: 3/1 with +1/0 against A

If you test this list out, well, every one kills every one. But having a health system of 2 for each. Makes it a bit more interesting. If you don't want to use health, you simply multiply the defence with a factor.

I am sure that a simple cost calculation can be done on this system.
And instead of a "unit bonus target", you could do a "unit [type] bonus target".

adversitygames's picture
Joined: 09/02/2014
A couple more questions you

A couple more questions you need to ask:

Do you want to weight it so larger forces have advantage (or disadvantage)? (eg does it make sense thematically that a force with a 10:1 advantage suffers the same losses as a force with a 2:1 advantage?)

Do you want there to be a defender or attacker advantage? (often games give the defender the advantage, for example in your 1 for 1 system the attacker takes one of their units off then the defender does and they continue until someone runs out)

How thematic do you want the combat to be? Eg do you want to represent morale/tactics/skill level in any detail? Or do you just want "force of strength A" and "force of strength B" to hit each other?

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013
If you're looking for a

If you're looking for a no-luck system, I'd certainly go with Rock-Paper-Scissors, but I'd expand it to incorporate the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock system include more varied units, however this will obviously limit the variety to 5.

Unless you're looking for more variety...that should work.

If you're looking for more range, you're going to need to quantize (assign numbers) and then a Magic-based system.

Either that or just a number with a "higher number wins" (a la Stratego)

You can also use a size differential. Physically make the units different sizes...larger units win over smaller units.

Maybe you can use a sign system. Create a hierarchy of symbols and explanations of which units they win over. Then assign the signs to the units. Or...if you're really good with graphic design, create an easy symbol system that makes it easy to identify which units win.

So these are a couple of ideas. Hope this works.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Main problem with RPS is that

Main problem with RPS is that you need some extra rules for the combat.

I think it would be best if the defender simply decides on how to block.

Forget about my MtG system, an easier version could be:

Simply needing more of a certain unit for defeating another.

For defeating 1 A, you need 2 of B
For defeating 1 B, you need 2 of C
For defeating 1 C, you need 2 of A.

Now, if someone has 3 of A, and the opponent has 3 of C.
Each A can be blocked with one C.
And each A will be defeated.

However, if the attacker with only A wants to defeat these C, the attacker needs at least 4 A.
Where only 3 A can be blocked. 1 A remains and can join another A. Now, 1 C will be defeated since you have 2 A on this C. And 3 A are still defeated.
What remains now is 1 A and 2 C.

When we take a look at 5 A against 3 C.
We have again 3 A dying, yet 2 C die as well.
2 A remain and 1 C remains.
With a round 2, 1 A remains while C is defeated.

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
If it is a "war-ish" game

If it is a "war-ish" game that doesn't have combat as the focus then the central mechanic should be what informs the combat system.

For example, if terrain is a big part of the non-combat element then have it influence your battles. I.e. cavalry get a bonus on plains hexes, alpine troops get a bonus on mountain hexes.

Alternately, if the game has an economic focus then make maintaining supply lines a vital part of game play. An army that is cut off without a clear line of supply (could work like LOS) halves its score.

Just keep your theme in mind when defining the combat mechanism.

Another thing you could do is have your armies represented by a single token that corresponds with an army card that can be modified with counters and attribute cards. For example, Army A has 4 infantry counters and 2 tank counters on its army card, as well as a tech card giving it superior firepower and a training card giving it jungle fighting experience. Combat removes counters, and the army token is removed once all of the counters are exhausted -- along with those hard won training/tech cards.

Lastly, consider having ancillary values. You can designate one unit as the primary, which receives support benefits from ancillary units that differ from what they would provide in a primary role. The primary is the first to be removed as a casualty, so the value of an army is constantly shifting as the unit roles change.

thoughtfulmonkey's picture
Joined: 12/04/2014

As well as the system itself, it depends how it's implemented. X3M's RPS might be getting a tricky to learn; but if use a look-up table (your troop num across top, opponent troop num down side, cell shows number lost, each player looks-up separately) then the rules could be quite complex.

A while back I posted another idea for resolving combat simply using markings on a token's edge.

In contrast I recently played the Adventure Time Card Wars game. The system is very simple - creatures have Att and Def attributes, attack simultaneously, and tokens are used to track wounds - but the practice of constantly rotating cards with piles of tokens on didn't really work.

JohnMichaelThomas's picture
Joined: 05/30/2015
Some small element of uncertainty might be good

One potential problem with a straight comparison no luck system is that if players can see the strength of the other player's units then they know if they'll win or lose before they attack. Rock paper scissors would at least keep some element of suspense even if it's clearly lopsided.

One possible way to resolve this is to keep the unit strength hidden. Depending on the other game mechanics, this may be easy or difficult.

Another possible way to resolve it is to allow each unit to allocate their strength to some battle capability (such as either attack or defense), and then resolve it by straight comparison between the amount allocated to each capability.

Some Examples:


Army A allocates 5 units to attack. Army B allocates 3 units to attack. Since Army B allocated 0 units to defense, they're wiped out. Since Army A also allocated 0 units to defense, they lose 3 units. This is essentially what your 1v1 system is.

Army A allocates 3 units to attack and 2 to defense. Army B allocates 3 units to attack. Army B's attack exceeds Army A's defense by 1, so Army A loses 1 unit. Army A's attack exceeds Army B's defense (of 0) by 3, so Army B is wiped out.

Army A allocates 3 units to attack and 2 to defense. Army B allocates 3 units to defense. Army A's attack doesn't exceed Army B's defense, and Army B didn't attack, so neither army loses any units. (This might make sense if Army B had a chance to flee or retreat after the first round of battle).


This system would give a strong advantage to the larger army, but still leave room for some variation in strategy, especially when armies of the same or similar size fight. It also adds a little element of poker face and learning to take advantage of the typical strategies of other players (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how much you want to de-emphasize combat).

Note that you could use other ways to allocate strength (e.g. ranged attack vs. hand-to-hand, etc.) or add uncertainty through special capabilities that negate some level of certain types of attack or defense. But in any case, some small level of uncertainty might be good.

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
I use hidden bidding in one

I use hidden bidding in one of the concepts.

There are some twists in my design, but the base idea is this:

1. Players reveal their available troops to each other.
2. Each player (in secret) picks amount of troops he wishes to 'commit' to the battle.
3. Both players reveal the troops they've committed.
4. Whoever committed more - wins. Loosing side retreats his non-committed troops.
5. All committed troops (including those committed by the winning side) are removed (killed/sustained major damage etc)

Good thing about this mechanic is that it prevents snowballing.

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