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Strategic dice fest mechanic

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

I realised that there I have a lot of game ideas where the combats are resolved in a huge dice fest. Once of the problem is that dice fest are a little boring considering there is little strategy in them. So it feels more like working.

So I was trying to find a way for the players to have some implication in the dice fest to keep them hooked until the end of the battle. Here are 3 game examples where there is a dice fest just to place you in situations.

WW2 game: When fleet fight each other, each ship type has a priority. For example, carrier attack first, ship with cannons, second, then ship with torpedoes. So you simply roll chunk of dices in a prefined order and remove casualties at the same step.

Civ game: Ther are wars with various types of units. So it means basically rolling various dice and adding values acoording to all units present in the battle and totalize the casualties.

Dragon Duel game: When each dragon fight, they first roll dice for their breath and then roll dice for their physical combat and finally roll dice for their damaging spells. Some spells influence other steps of battle.

So how is it possible to add some strategy to this dice fest. Here are some ideas, but I need additional ones.

A- In the dragon game, each dragon has a hand of spell cards. So they can use a certain number of cards to influence the outcome.

B- A battle could be lead by a commander which has special abilities. During a combat, you are allowed to use a certain numebr of special abilities. So the choice to make is when is the right moment to use the ability. NOw or save it for later.

Up to all, most of the solution above seems to play with the randomness of the dice. If you have a bad roll, you have a choice to overcome that bad roll, but you can keep it for later.

COuld there be other solutions than avoiding luck?

I do not also want the choice to be obvious, else players will do the same thing all the time. In that case there would be no real decision taken.

[Sorry no time to reread my post]

Joined: 05/25/2010
Since dice fest is mostly

Since dice fest is mostly about odds matching, a mechanic I always want to see is allowing players either through strategic movement and positioning, skill usage , or some other more tactical mechanic, add or subtract dice from the pool.

So in your WWII game, Every ship shoots, but what weapons are part of the combat fiesta at the round end are determined by how you as a captain positioned your ship (say you're behind an island, you can't be hit by torpedo, for example), or possibly you used some other mechanic like a reef to prevent a larger ship from getting close enough to use her short ranged cannons while you can still fire with your longer ranged cannons. So not making the dice stronger, or affecting their rolls, but strategy in play leading to more chances in combat.

And in games like the dragon game, having the dice represent how much stamina you use. You may roll 1 dice for each stamina you have, certain attacks cost more than 1 stamina (but grant more dice). So an adept player could say, hold dice back one combat round (possibly have an interest gaining system for held dice, sort of like a charge maneuver), and then unleash the next round, or overload and roll a dice for all of their stamina and possibly leave themselves open the next round as they recover.

you hit the nail on the head though, dice fests are work at times. So making sure that interesting and tactical mechanics directly impact the ammount, type, or power of the dice you roll would be key.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
You suggestion above are

You suggestion above are interesting, but that implies that

A) I use a tactical map for battles (which is currently not the case).

B) Combat last multiple rounds (which is also not the case).

So I agree that it limits a bit my possibilities.

Joined: 05/25/2010
Even if combat doesn't last

Even if combat doesn't last multiple rounds, surely in a game were two dragons fight the entire game isn't completed in one combat turn? The 2nd suggestion is meant to span the whole game, and carry over turn to turn. Where the turn structure us about adding or removing dice from the pool by completing other actions.

And I didn't know you already had a game in mind for this, I thought you were just abstracting about the theory of a strategic dice fest. Having specific parameters already in place does change things.

Hope it works well

rcjames14's picture
Joined: 09/17/2010
Tactical Level Command

To add a greater level of complexity to dice rolling (although still deterministic), you could make each battle a version of the game of Nim. So, after players decide which dice to commit and how many they roll, the players take turns removing dice until a certain objective is obtained. Perhaps once one player's dice has been eliminated. Or a certain number of turns have taken place. Or something else, depending upon what you want to simulate, the battle would be over.

In this case, rather than abide by the unadulterated rules of Nim however, you might instead imagine a rock-paper-scissors mechanic whereby certain dice defeat others. So... players decide how many dice they want to commit, both players roll dice, the player with the highest command rating in the results goes first (or perhaps just the player who rolled the fewest dice or something else), on your turn you may remove one or more of your dice from the board along with one of your opponents dice provided that your die type results can 'defeat' the opponent's die type (think infantry defeats cavalry defeats artillery defeats infantry), you place your opponent's die either out of the game or in his 'wounded pile' or whatever and your own die(dice) either back on the board, back into your active area, whatever. And then he gets a turn to perform the same action. Keep taking turns until there are no more dice to remove from the pool that was rolled.

If each die has a different combination of sides and there are many more than 6 types of units, then this form of combat would create very strange results because you don't always know what is going to end up turning up. This might work well for a game about brawling between two characters (like Cookie Fu) as long as players could choose the dice that they roll [let's say they have 10 total and they choose 6] and each die is weighted towards certain maneuvers, but for a game about armies using a board, you would probably want to add numbers to each of the dice instead and keep each die as a separate type.

So... in the army battle game, each die has a type and the result would tell you how well it performs. Under these circumstances, rock may beat scissors (1:2) but scissors could still beat rock as well (2:1). The math would quickly show that a mixed force will dominate a single unit force all things equal. But, it could leave open the possibility for a tactically inferior force to get lucky or for a clearly numerous force to defeat even a tactical inferior force just as long as it is willing to suffer high casualties for doing so. By introducing numbers you could also introduce a whole range of values for the dice as well... so a basic unit might have the numbers 1 - 6 but an elite unit might have the numbers 4 - 9.

In this case, the battle would still require some degree of recognizing your greatest threat and eliminating it. But, you could also use some of your units that you want to preserve early so that they are no longer targets. If you want to resolve the battle completely, then you could remove units on both sides (one for one), eliminate the 'victims' and then reroll with all the dice that weren't victims and continue this process until there really is only one player's units remaining. But, you may not need to depending upon the rules that you have for co-occupancy.

By introducing command as well as potentially a third dimension, you might also be able to create a situation where the outcome of forces is not completely obvious so the nim game is difficult to deduce. But, if the real game revolves around the strategic considerations of how to group your forces, where to move and where to attack, then you might not want to introduce non-obvious complexity into the battle resolution. As it is, this method would allow you to choose what units your opponent loses... so if there is a method of retreating, there may actually be quite a lot of decision making to perform in each battle.

Louard's picture
Joined: 02/09/2010
Have you looked at Button Men?

Button Men, IMO, is a great example of a dice rolling game that is able to translate to a tactical experience. One of the issues with dice that the game addresses well is the issue of low numbers. Because a die can be captured using a superior result on one of your own dice OR by matching it exactly lower die results become the perfect small increments you need in order to match those big rolls on your opponent's side.

I have no specific advice in mind but I would like to mention a couple things to keep in mind. By players rolling dice pools simultaneously at the start of a combat round rather than deciding actions then rolling to see the outcome much more choice can be infused into the game as players can get an overview of the situation and try to predict outcomes. Secondly, as mentioned above, find a use for low rolls, then the game isn't about crossing your fingers for high rolls but more about intelligently deciding what to do with your rolls.

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