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Fantasy-themed 'arena' combat

7 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/12/2017


The game can be played with up to 6 heroes, with the total number of heroes being used divided evenly into teams. Each hero has HP, and the game ends when only one team has a hero with nonzero HP remaining, that team of course being the winner.

The game takes place on a hexagonal grid. Each round consists of two phases: a movement phase, where the heroes move across the map, and the ability phase, where the heroes cast spells etc..

My questions for you

The following is a very rough idea for a game that's been brewing in my mind for the past week or so, and ultimately I am wondering if the idea is interesting enough to others for it to be worth it to pursue further (e.g. by creating a prototype).

Note that almost all of the specific numbers I use are there for the sake of concreteness and would almost certainly need to be tweaked during play-testing. In addition, none of the specific mechanics are "set in stone", and so I would love to hear your opinions on anything you think could be improved. For example, the choice of direction and extra energy spent might be more conveniently implemented with a dial, or tokens, or something else altogether.


The game can be played with up to 6 heroes, with the total number of heroes being used divided evenly into teams. Each hero has HP, and the game ends when only one team has a hero with nonzero HP remaining, that team of course being the winner. (Of course, a "team" can consist of just a single player, and they can even control only one hero if they like, but I imagine the game would be more fun the more heroes were used. One player is allowed to control more than one hero, and so it's possible to have two players each controlling 3 different heroes. It's also possible to have more than 2 teams. For example, you could have 3 teams of 2 heroes, 6 teams of 1 hero, etc..)


The board

The game is played on a hexagonal board with hexes, with each hero starting at a vertex of the hexagon.


Each hero will have a maximum/initial HP, a maximum/initial energy, and energy gained per round, energy being used to move and perform abilities. (The energy could basically be thought of as "mana", but "mana" suggests that all the abilities are magical in nature, which is not necessarily the case).

All of this information would be contained on a character sheet given to the player using that hero. Each side would contain a different hero, and one side of which would all contain the same hero. (This way, if player's want to play a symmetric game in which everything starts out exactly equal, they can---this is similar to how Eclipse works.) Each hero might have one passive trait, one unique ability that they can use during the ability phase (see below).

The game is played in rounds, with each round divided into two phases: a movement phase and an ability phase. The rounds continue until one team is victorious as described above (every hero on every other team has 0 HP).

(One important point that was key to the design is that these actions are performed simultaneously: each player secretly decides upon their choice, and then once everyone has decided, the choices are revealed and resolved accordingly (see below). This (i) means that the game has little to no downtime and (ii) resolved any unbalancing issues that might result from some player going first.)


Each hero will possess 3 types of cards: (i) 7 direction cards, indicating which direction the spell is to be cast (one card indicating a self-cast); (ii) 6 ability strength cards indicating the amount of extra energy they would like to spend on an ability (0 to 5 extra energy); and (iii) 10 ability cards themselves.

The direction and ability strength cards would be the same for all heroes.

For the ability cards, each hero would have (i) a move card, (ii) a rest card, and (iii) a special ability card. (The special ability card refers to the unique active ability on a heroes character sheet.) In addition to this, each hero would have 7 additional ability cards. How these are distributed among the heroes would be up to the players: the game would likely come with recommended choices for each hero, the players could choose some sort of draft, they could do it randomly, etc..

Once all heroes have their cards and the miniatures placed in a symmetric fashion on the vertices of the hexagon, the game would be ready to begin.

Movement phase

During the movement phase, each player picks a card corresponding to the direction they would like to move and places it face down in front of them. When all players have done so, the cards are revealed and the heroes are moved accordingly and one energy is deducted for each hero that moved a hex. This phase ends when every player reveals the "self-cast" direction card.

You may not move into a space already occupied by another player or the edge of the board---doing so would be counted as a "self-cast" direction card. This applies even if the player obstructing your movement leaves the space you wanted to occupy this round.

If two players wish to enter the same hex, if they like, they can 'bid' energy, the person with the highest bid losing that energy and moving into the space, with the other opponent losing no energy.

When everyone has finished moving (by revealing a "self-cast" card), the round ends.

Ability phase

During the ability phase, each player chooses (i) an ability card, (ii) a direction card, and (iii) a strength card. Once again, these cards are chosen privately, and once everyone has decided, they are all revealed simultaneously.

Every ability card will have (i) a type, (ii) an energy cost, and (iii) an initiative. Additionally, many ability cards will given the option of spending extra energy to use a more powerful version of that ability.

The possible types are healing, moving, melee, ranged, resting, and they are resolved in that order (from moving to resting). If, for example, two ranged attacks are played, the attack with the highest initiative is resolved first. In the rare case that two spells of the same type with the same initiative are cast simultaneously, the rules for resolving this will be specific to the spell.

Moving works the same as it does in the Moving phase, except now (i) it costs 2 energy to move the initial first hex and (ii) you may move one extra hex for every additional energy you spend. (Part of the motivation to allow moving in the ability phase is to allow for dodging.)

Resting costs no energy and recovers 1 HP.

All other abilities will be specific to the cards (or the special ability on each character sheet). Some possible example idea are listed below:

The ability phase ends when every hero decides to rest.

Example abilities

(For some context, I was thinking ~20ish HP and ~10 energy, with ~3 energy per round.)

(I have not listed initiative because there doesn't seem much point right now---this is just to give a vague idea of what I hand in mind.)

  • Self-heal: Type-Healing. Cost-2 Energy. Heal 3 HP. +1 HP for each additional energy spent.
  • Group-heal: Type-Healing. Cost-3 Energy. Every friendly unit heals 2 HP (including you) in every adjacent hex. Increase this radius by 1 hex for every additional energy spent.
  • Shock: Type-Ranged. Cost-3 Energy. The first enemy unit with 2 hexes of the direction cast loses 4 energy. If this results in that player being unable to cast their spell because of a lack of energy, when resolving their spell, their energy is reduced to 0 and the spell they cast has no effect.
  • Sword swipe: Type-Melee. Cost-3 Energy. All enemies in the 3 hexes including and adjacent the hex in the direction cast lose 3 HP.
  • Fireball: Type-Ranged. Cost-3 Energy. The first enemy within 3 hexes of the direction cast loses 2 HP. Increase this damage by 1 for every additional 2 units of energy spent.
  • Shield: Type-Healing. Cost-2 Energy. Ignore the next 3 damage dealt to self.
  • Revive: Type-Healing. Cost-9 Energy. Target ally which died within 2 hexes of caster is placed in their starting location with 1/4th (rounded down) of their maximum HP. Furthermore, their maximum HP is permanently reduce by 1.
  • Massive strike: Type-Melee. Cost-4 Energy. Enemy within in the hex of the direction cast loses 5 HP.
  • Freeze: Type-Ranged. Cost-3 energy. First enemy within first two hexes must skip their next move phase.


If a hero reaches 0 HP, that hero may no longer act, but their miniature still remains on the battlefield (it will affect line of sight, movement, and will mark the location they might be revived).

End of round

Every hero receives energy equal to their energy-per-round as indicated on their hero sheet.

Closing comments

Of course, these are just examples to give you an idea of what a potential spell card might look like. Almost certainly these would have to be tweaked, or even removed, after play-testing.

So, ultimately the question is: Does a game like this sound fun enough to be worth putting some effort into developing it? Furthermore, while I do play board games, I haven't played hundreds and hundreds, so I can't be sure if something like this is too similar to something already on the market.

If it does sound interesting enough to be worth pursuing, I would love to hear your ideas for improvement and expansion on the game.

BHFuturist's picture
Joined: 11/01/2008
Some quick thoughts

First, Every idea is "worth" working on, and in a way all ideas are also not "worth" working on. Ideas are only found to be good or bad once they are put into practice and "work" is added.

    Idea + some work = knowing if it has "worth"
    Idea with "worth" + less work = bad outcome
    Idea with "worth" + more work = good outcome
    Idea without "worth + any more work = wasted time

It sounds fun, but players might be turned "off" if it "feels" like "RoboRally" with a fantasy theme:

There are some subtle difference between:

    Simultaneous Action Selection
    Action & Movement Programing

You should research both mechanics and try and understand the subtle differences. I think (other than combat balance) the hardest part of this will be to make the game "flow" rather than a "pause + Play + Repeat" stutter. Board games already have enough start/stop, they don't need more :)

--Just some other thoughts--
Having movement direction "declared" but not "finished" until after the "ability" phase. could make for ranged attacks needing to "lead" the target. Then if the "ability" "played" was "run" the ranged attacks now "miss" because that hero moved more during the "ability" phase (if their run action was before the attack action in order).

Rather than "abilities" having "initiative" they should have a "time" attribute. The less time it takes to do that action the sooner it happens. This can make some heros "faster" than others at some types of actions and the two can be "added/subtracted".

A [Fast-Hero] card might say "can run -2 time"
the "Run" ability card is 3 time

So [Fast-Hero] + [Run] = 1 time (and would happen before all actions with a 2 time "cost")

and [normal-hero] + [Run] = 3 time (and is "hit" by attacks with a 2 time before the run action)

In games with "mix & match two or more things" you can "play up" the idea of building combinations.

I hope this rant, helps in some way.


Evil ColSanders
Evil ColSanders's picture
Joined: 12/08/2010
Go for it!

I actually nearly done with a game similar to yours, though no programmed move and attack, or energy. It's 5 adventurers in a 2x3 arena with customized decks made of armor, weapons, and skills/spells.

BUT! Big BUT. I'm sure your idea is completely different in execution. Pursue the idea regardless of similarities! Variation is key!

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
Hmm. This actually has some

Hmm. This actually has some common features with my last game.
Take a look, maybe you'll find something useful for your design.

Joined: 05/11/2010
Declaring direction/power

Declaring direction/power separate from your attack is not that common. Using cards for moves and attacks is interesting. So you can't attack in the direction you move, since you already played that direction. But you CAN move and attack in the same turn, if you have enough energy to do so. And bidding energy to move into a contested space stands out as well.

Playtesting time I say. Keep it simple though - 7 direction cards, maybe 2 attack powers, and 3 types of attacks (run, shoot, heal?) Just something that you can play with the mechanics and see how it feels, adding more in little by little. It is like when you are cooking - don't pour all the spices in at once. One at a time, then taste, and see what that spice does to the flavor.

Joined: 01/12/2017
Speed mechanic


What do you think of this idea to address your concerns about initiative?

Each ability would still have an initiative, but each hero would likewise have a "speed" attribute. The sum of the hero's speed and the abilities initiative would decide the order in which the abilities would be resolved (with special rules in place to determine what happens in the case of ties).

This might also make having a fixed resolving order (moving, healing, etc..) unnecessary. This could be taken into account with appropriate choices of initiative and speed.

Furthermore, regarding what you said about having to "lead your target", that was actually put there by design, the idea being that it would add another layer of strategy---"Do I think my opponent is going to move in order to avoid my shot, or do I think he is going to try to cast a spell of his own?". If the hero did not have enough speed, then you might not have to "aim", but otherwise, you might have to anticipate which direction the hero is going to move, if at all. Alternatively, in order to guarantee a hit, you could choose a weaker ability with a wider area of effect.

I also worry about the "stutter" you mention. Assuming no player suffers from serious AP, what do you think might be the biggest cause of this in a game like the one described?

BHFuturist's picture
Joined: 11/01/2008
No concerns at all about the coolness

First, I am sorry... the way I said things seems to have been misunderstood.

Keep the IDEA of "initiative" but change the "name" of it to TIME. The reason would be that "powers/actions" don't have such things only people do... it was a word choice suggestion only. and for the "lead the target" thing I also was pointing out that this could be a cool thing base on what you had said. So, I liked it :)

For the stutter issue that will only be a real problem if actions selection is a brain game that players have to think through a lot each round. If even one player gets "analysis paralysis" (AP) the "play at the same time" can slow the game down a lot more than normal. So, yet again you already knew about what I was trying to say with "stutter".

That one player now gets that every turn (if they are new or less skilled at the game). Normally when a player gets that only their turn is longer... and all other player turns are still fast. But when it happens in this format every player must wait every time for that one player.

But there are "other things" that can make The "stutter". Like, too many "special" rules only found in the rulebook and too many rules trying to make the game a real time combat simulator. The less players need to learn (to start playing) and the less they have to stop and check the rules to make sure they are "moving and attacking" the "right" way for this hero the better.

As long as you keep all the information on the cards and keep it clear and short, the players should be able to "sort out" most situations. AP is not just caused by player skill or inability to make a decision... sometimes it is game complexity making them not understand what to do at all.

It is amazing how removing the need for a "normal" type of turn order can make things "cloudy" for players. but there is a danger of not explaining the order of how cards and events are played vs. how they are resolved.

I like the ideas you are talking about and was in overall agreement with you, that it was a cool idea and was not trying to say "change anything" (other than the "name" of something).


Evil ColSanders
Evil ColSanders's picture
Joined: 12/08/2010
I like the idea of everything

I like the idea of everything having a "speed". Just call it speed.

as an example:

Run: speed 1
Jog: speed 3
Walk: speed 5
Sword Swipe: speed 4
Shock: speed 3

You program "walk" and "shock"
Your opponent programs "Sword Swipe" and "Run"
Everyone reveals their first programmed actions from 1 to 5.
His "Sword Swipe" triggers on 4, then you walk away on 5.
Everyone reveals their second programmed actions from 1 to 5.
His "Run" triggers on 1. Your "Shock" triggers on 3.

Either that, or you keep "adding time". By that, I mean, if you play "Jog", "Shock", "Shock". You add the time to trigger over a longer interval.
"Jog" triggers on 3, you first "Shock" doesn't trigger until 6. The 2nd "Shock" triggers on 9, so long as you have the energy/ability points/mana to do so.

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