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Starcraft PnP

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Joined: 02/16/2014

With the lack of interest in my PnP MOBA, I was wondering if there was any interest in a Starcraft style PnP? A little while ago, I had made a playable pen and paper "RTS", but I no longer have the paper with the rules. Luckily, I remember fairly well how it works, and was wondering if there was any interest? If so, I'd probably start with a pen and paper playtest, and if all goes well, make it PnP.


X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
You got my curiosity. I had

You got my curiosity. I had many pen and paper "RTS" in the past when I was young. I copied most dune and C&C games and thought of some units myself that fit right in.
At first it was a drawing of Dune2 maps where I only would draw my base with units against an enemy base with units. Later on I wanted to do battles, so the units where cut out and could move around on fields. Most version could be played on a chessboard. And later on I also used graph paper as field.

I had lots of fun.

It is a big history for me. And I learned a lot back then already. But mostly, that I hated making the balance right. So eventually I started calculating and testing a lot. And back then I concluded that balancing a RTS would be impossible.

I now know better though, it depends on the mechanics that you use. So I got one PnP version that is fully tested and balanced.


Here are some questions :)

What kind of rules, mechanics and math do you use?
What statistics do you use?
How much RPS do you have?
And do you have the natural and/or artificial RPS?
And most importantly, did you really have RTS, or was more of a step by step, simultaneous fight?

Joined: 02/16/2014

Well sweet!
Currently, I am working on some other games, but I definitely want to start this up again. I actually was successfully playing this with some other friends a little while back, and it worked quite well (for a prototype)

Now, let me give a little insight into how mine worked. Technically, an rts wouldn't work as a pnp/boardgame, so I did mine as a turn based game. I DID successfully implement fog of war, which made me pretty happy. The gameplay was actually very streamlined and quite fun. I had one game were I was slowly building up my base, and my friend secretly sneaked up into the middle of the map (because of the fog of war) and built a bunker. I sent out troops and blammo, the were shot down. It was pretty awesome!

So, I'm typing this off of a Wii U Pad, but I'll try to give a fairly concise explanation. The game is based off of Starcraft (obviously...)
Units have health, defense, attack, range, speed, and any other special abilities. The units also have their mineral/gas cost. Units do interact with other ones in your RPS style, in that they have their own strengths and weaknesses. Each turn you can take an action with each of your units. Roll a # of dice equal to your units attack, and the target rolls a # of dice equal to their defense. 1-2 are shields, 3-6 are hits. Each shield rolled by the defender negates one hit from the attacker. Any left over damage is dealt to their health.

If you've played Starcraft, it's fairly similar to it. I was experimenting with custom factions to! Even the resource collecting is nice and simple (IMHO) At the start of your turn, each worker unit may take it's turn to gather 1 resource. To keep it even more simple, you don't have to move your workers to and from your base to transfer resources. It just goes straight to your base. The fog of war also works surprisingly well.

I had some different maps I drew on graph paper, and use letters/tick marks for the units, though I DEFINITELY could make this into a PnP.

Yes? No?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Good job.

Well, still trying to get a picture. But if it is starcraft, I already know what the units are going to be. However, I think you did make some changes for better balancing. Since starcraft is a linear game without randomness.

I suppose you have rules written down somewhere?

I have a lot of questions. To some of them, I got something alike. But I am curious if you have them figured out and how.

- How does your fog work? I never got fog working.

- The number of players that I can have is 2 to 6. Can you have 2+?

- Do you use the 3 damage type as well? Or did you thought of something similar? (Currently, I have 3 damage types, but I can expand with more)

- By how you described your hits and shields. With equal weapons to equal defence, we get that about 50% hits go through. But even the highest shield might let damage go through. Although, are players willingly to throw around a high number of dice?
Siege tank, siege mode. 70 dice?
Reaver, 100 dice? After upgrade 125 dice?
I got several dice rounds too, but only in the worst case scenario you have to throw around 36 dice for 7 times. On average about 12 dice for 2-3 times.

- In what way did you balance the costs?
I got a little manual for that. But the balance is about 99% now without a play test.

- And how long does a game take?
2-3 hours in my case.

- What about upgrades?
I allow XP, upgrades that cost money are not in my game (yet).

- And are you keeping track of weapons that fire slower?
The balance to that in starcraft was off. A lot of people where saying that Siege tanks are OP. So I calculated and concluded that the fire rate was still to high.

- In some older versions, I used the side bar pictures. You know, the pictures for building/training something.
SC has bad versions for that though. Did you draw the units? Since I am bad in graphics, I don't have my own designs in a professional way yet.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I'll be interested to see

I'll be interested to see what it looks like. I am a fan of the starcraft board game and theme, but I cannot play the video games (or most RTS).

Some time ago, I made the suggestion that they should make a deck building game about starcraft with something similar to Rune Age. Everybody seemed enthistic about it. Maybe that could give you some ideas.

I also have my Rats Craft project in design where some ideas could be borrowed depending on the type of game you want to make. It's basically a parody of the starcraft board game.

Joined: 02/16/2014
More Explanation...

Absolutely, you can have more than 6 players.

To some extent, yes, I did use multiple damage types, like StarCraft. There was the basic damage, explosive, and Anti-armor.
I was hoping on adding different "types" of damage also.

Whoa whoa whoa! 70 dice! NOPE! My dice was simplified to be 7 instead of 70, 10 instead of 100, etc. You get the idea. The same went for minerals/gas costs and stats. I found that really keeps it more simple and playable, while still allowing for variablility between different races/units.

Costs were based off of StarCraft (at the time), so a marine costed 5 minerals (not 50)

Yah, I think a game takes around that long.

For me, upgrades were purchases from specific structures/units. Once something becomes available, on your turn you could purchase it and you would write it down to note what it did. Upgrades varied on cost based on what they did and how they were gotten.

I'm toying with the idea of units that do exceedingly well, like one that kills a bunch of enemy units, etc. might be able to... rank up (?) and learn new skills or get better stats or just get a bonus? But I'm not sure if that would slow things down.

Um... not really :P Fire rate was actually the units attack. If a unit had an attack of 3, for example, they would roll 3 attack dice. Units with slower fire speed though, might be a good idea to implement. The Siege Tanks were slow and costly, but powerful. Siege tanks DO have a minimum range, though, to keep them more balanced.

As I have previously stated, this was an actual pen and paper game. All I used was the map drawn on graph paper, some pencils and dice, and the unit/structure sheet/rules. I am definitely interested in making this an actual pnp though, if it seems fairly interesting.

And now, for the fog... It seems fairly simple and like it might not work, but I know for me and my friends, it did. Some people here on BGDF have said that pen and paper games don't really work, but they apparently do for me and my friends :D
Anyways, what I did was have a paper standup/blind that you set in front of your unit that was closest to the middle. This allows for SOME simulation of the fog of war, as you only see what your farthest away unit can see. The opponent has the same. If I moved my unit into your base, you still wouldn't be able to see my base because of YOUR fog of war, but I could see your base because of MY fog of war. It's a little difficult to explain, but it really honestly did work. As I was telling in my previous post, my friend in a game used the fog of war to sneak into the middle of the map and build a bunker, right underneath my nose. It was pretty awesome.

Anyways, here's some more explanations. Obviously, I haven't posted the actual stats yet, but I hope I've put across the gist of it.

Yes? No?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
I would say, go for it.

I would say, go for it.

The fog of war issue though. When things are invisible to the opponent, even the position of something. Than players could cheat.
To keep things fair, even with stratego you could track the opponent too. And with the seabattle games you could check your opponent in the end.
However, I don't know if it is possible for your game.

I tried to get some fog as well, but I thought of a referee instead (normally you have a pc doing the job). That never worked though, the referee could get bored or could take sides.

explosive was the anti armor version.
I think the other one was called concusive and was used by ghosts/flamebats

The % of damage I still remember clearly:
Concusive: 100-50-25
Normal: 100-100-100
Explosive: 50-75-100
But back then I used simple numbers to multiply with. A percentage brings problems. For example, the hydralisk had 10 damage but explosive. So 7,5 damage against medium units. However, the game decided randomly if that last damage was done or not. If not, the very next time it was done. Made no sense if you ask me.
So perhaps it is better to have 4-2-1, 4-4-4 and 2-3-4.

With XP my units can rank up with stats chosen by the player. Speed, Range, Health and Damage. Since they can be increase infinitaly.
Other stats stay fixed like accuracy and agility. Since they would hit a maximum.
I realised that stats also need to be in balance as well. So I stopped using actual ranks and started to think of XP costs for each item. The cheapest is 50 XP while one of the most expensive is over 5000 XP. The effects too are different for each unit.

Still curious :)
Can you post some?

Joined: 02/16/2014
Hmm, I guess I never thought

Hmm, I guess I never thought of the fact that someone could be cheating. While the stratego method would "technically" work, it would show the size of your army and base. I still think that this method would work best, but how to enforce it?

Yup, exactly that for damage. Most units deal basic damage, but it will show alternate damage for attacks on their stat list. For example, if my unit deals explosive damage, it would show an increased attack value vs armor, and decreased attack value vs flesh. Heck, you don't even need alternate attacks. Just give the unit it's attack value, and then have +- modifiers for damage types.

You know, I was toying with an idea. Maybe something unique would to go somewhat the route of Warcraft 3, and have a hero unit. Your basic units stay the same, but your hero unit can level up and learn new skills. Functionally, the hero would act as a powerful unit, but can also be killed. To prevent the problem of sending your hero at the enemy base right at the start, maybe you could have your hero appear after a certain amount of time, or doing a specific thing.

OOORRRRRR, maybe units could be... "heroic"? Maybe you could earn glory points, and be able to spend some on a unit to turn it heroic, which drastically increases the stats and unlocks special abilities for it! Oh, I really like this idea! Yah, I think I'm going to use this. But how should you gain glory points? Xp style?

Glad you're interested!

Here's some units off the top of my head, probably VERY unbalanced and needs LOTS of work.

Hp 3
Atk 1
Def 1
Spd 2
Rng 2 (+AA)
Cost: 5 minerals
Requires: Barracks
Abilities: Stimpack (Must be learned)
Heroic: Yes

Hp 2
Atk 0
Def 1
Spd 1
Rng 1
Cost 5 minerals
Requires: Command Center
Abilities: Harvest, Repair, Build
Heroic: No

Anyways, still interested?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Yes, I am interested.

"Stratego" FOG
There was a moment when I had my whole squad stealthed. There where blanks too, and the number of cards was always the same size. However, after a while you could remember where the forces are by fighting them. So after some battle, a player would mix them up again.

This method proves to be good. But then we started adding XP. So we needed to use XP blanks too. And the pile could start tumbling. Unless we cut back on numbers/field.

Hp 3
Atk 1
Def 1
Spd 2
Rng 2 (+AA)
Escept for the AA, this marine resembles my Rifle Infantry a lot. Also 3 Health, 1 Damage, (1 Damage multiplier), 1 Armor, 2 Speed and 2 Range, further it has 100% accuracy and 0% dodgebility. But mine resembles the one from C&C. And costs 100.
The Marine in my game has higher stats and costs 250 (5 times the SC costs, I had my reasons :) )

XP can be spend on 1 unit while the entire squad made the kills. Thus with a basic healt/death ratio of 3. And a squad of 3600. Would result in a maximum of 1200 XP that can be gained. This on a Rifle Infantry that costs only 100. Well, if all is spend on health and damage equally. That Rifle Infantry would be worth 250. + 150.
If spend on 2 Rifle Infantry at the same time, we get 2 times 200. +200.

Now that aint much on 3600. (3750 or 3800). But after 3 fights. We have 6 Rifle Infantry that are twice as strong. (4200).

However, I still think this is to slow. But making 1 hero unit form a basic is possible.

Joined: 02/16/2014
Haha, well, I think the stat

Haha, well, I think the stat design for units works. Resource collecting works. Unit and structure production works.
Things to work on:
1. Individual unit xp OR Hero units (I think hero units are cooler)
2. Fog of War (My system works, except that you "could" cheat)
3. Theme (StarCraft? Steampunk? Post apoc? Fantasy? Etc.?)

I definitely see different races that have different structures, abilities, and units/heroes being a possibility. Different maps with different objectives would also work.

For mine, downtime wasn't so bad, because resource collection was quick, then you just took an action with some or all of your units.

Obviously, you won't have as many units on field like you do in StarCraft 2, but I'm fine with that, as it keeps thing more streamlined. To help with this, I DID implement the unit cap. You started with a cap of (?) 4 units. Building a supply depot increased it.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
For combat stats, in my rats

For combat stats, in my rats craft game, I limited the range of values (1,2,4 if I remember) buy I gave certain properties to certain units inspired on SC. For example:

Biological or Mechanical unit
Range or Melee attack
Splash vs Direct damage

So that I could have abilities like

Flame thrower: +1 damage vs biological, melee splash damage.

This is somewhat important because star craft is about having a rock-paper-scisor relationship between the units. Instead of just having a stat festival.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
True, besides of the

True, besides of the mechanical RPS.
Some statistics in Starcraft created a natural RPS system too. I am talking about the size of units, their speed and range.

It is size effect compared to choke points that I consider to be one of the most important RPS situation in SC. It is also why units like the Siege Tank felt so OP.

Range had a bonus when units where standing on a cliff or behind a tree/pile of rocks. A chance on hitting of 70% for each.

Minimum range created a natural disadvantage against melee. And a micro managment disadvantage against other units.

And speed (in combination with melee) could corner units, while ranged units in this chaos would be confused. The attacking melee units simply attacked 100% the unit they where standing closest to. This mean that melee units had 100% focus on 1 target at a time. The smaller ones had a better field.

Air and ground difference is a mechanical RPS relationship that is based on a natural RPS. Even though we find it logical that there is 0 damage here and there. The game has a 0 as factor, or hardcoded that it is impossible.


RTS from that time with real stats festivals where:

KKND; (yes, there was a 50% damage against infantry with big weapons, but not noticable since the big units where OP, and later on you went sniper against anything)

Warcraft 1 and Dune 2; the stronger the better. Except for the missile launcher. This one was the center of a RPS system that would be usefull in multiplayer games. But we didn't have those back then.

Warcraft 2; had a stats festival with the upgrades and the simple melee against the strong melee. Practically speaking, no difference. However, the stronger the better.

Warzone2100; while there where a lot mechanical and natural RPS. The fact that certain weapons had different tiers mad that a stat festival. The result was that most player went for the strongest weapon in that class any way. Light cannon? Medium cannon? No, lets have the Heavy cannon. Same for the chain gun.

Summarized, as soon as a game allows for, stronger=better. The game has a weakness against stats festivals.

Joined: 02/16/2014
Keep in mind...

I guess the biggest thing to keep in mind is that we want to keep this simple enough to pick up and play, and keep the gameplay simple and streamlined. If we start delving into all the different stats and such for units, it's gonna get pretty bogged down. What we can do is have the rps system more abstracted, like have certain units "counter" other units. Just like in StarCraft, melee units countered Siege Tanks, as they quickly swarmed them and took them down, and the tank could hit them at point blank. That helped keep the tank more... "balanced" so that it wasn't just build 50 tanks and steamroll your enemy.

I love all this deep discussion we're having :D

I hope once we get this fairly figured out, we can move on to the actual... design of the game.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Can you give us a

Can you give us a "simulation" of a battle? I mean, telling what is happening, how its happening, how players are thinking at that moment etc.
Because you did this before, right?
I would like to know if battles are squad based (including tanks etc.) Or each unit is by itself.

And I agree that something like steam rolling needs to be balanced OUT of the game :D. Besides, that was due to the high first shot. They never calculated that out. I once recalculated, and my conclusion was that the rate of fire of the siege tank had to be about twice as slow.

Now, a good way to give units less stats but more RPS system is just like how Larienna has described.
We can choose what to do. But instead of giving options. I rather start with lists to use for the body properties. Than think of weapon properties or simply saying, we are going to have bonusses against...

Material: Organical(Biogical) / Mechanical
Size: Small / Medium / Large
Range: Melee / Short / Medium / Long
Speed: None / Slow / Medium / Fast

Slow moving projectiles for example have a bonus of 3 against Speed = None.
Inaccurate projectiles have a bonus of 2 against Size = Large.
Explosive weapons have at least a bonus of 1 against Mechanical units.
So a slow moving inaccurate projectile will be having a bonus of at least 6 against large structures.

Joined: 02/16/2014

Each unit is separate. I didn't implement squads. Not to say that you couldn't have "squads" of units, or that it was difficult to make a "squad" (it wasn't), I just thought it was better with the individual units.

Well, I'll give it a shot at giving an example of somebody's turn:

Okay, so now it's my turn. At the start, I check to see if I have any SCV's adjacent to mineral patches. I have 3, but I'll decided to only have 2 of them harvest. I then take 2 mineral tokens, and those 2 SCV's are done for the rest of my turn. I move my other SCV over to my Refinery, for it's action. I then have 2 marines near the middle of the map. With my fog of war from the marines, I have uncovered one of your marines guarding your Supply Depot. Both marines are currently in range, so I'll attack with both.
Marines roll 1 attack dice, so I take 2 (1 for each of my marines). Your marine rolls 1 defense dice. No special modifiers or abilities affect this combat, so it continues as normal.
I roll 2 skulls, you roll a shield. Your shield negates one of my skulls, and the remaining one deals 1 damage to your marine, leaving him at 2 health.
Since you are able to take an action with each unit on your turn, I can still take an action with the Goliath I finished building last turn. I move it up the ramp, and because of the height bonus, it get's a slightly increased range/hit chance. Now, I decide to save my resources, not build anything, and finish everything up.

Now it's your turn.

Anyways, understand that unit balance still is rough, and will be polished. My biggest concern right now, though, is the single action per unit. Does that work? It really makes things simple, streamlined, and works, [but the problem I see is that if I move my army into your range, all I'm doing is letting you get free hits on them.]

Plus, would fantasy (like LotR) be a cooler theme?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
1 action per unit, well, you

1 action per unit, well, you get that each unit can do something. But with 30 crawling around, you have 30 actions to do.

It is a choice to make.

In SC you had the armor working against each opponent. You described as if it only worked once? If you do this, the number of units brings great imbalance to the game. Especially in the low numbers, when using +100% of forces versus your opponent. A 2 vs 1.

The damage already "doubled". But in a way, you declined the defence. For a RTS copy, we need to keep combat lineair in that regard.

I did not calculate it precisely yet. But here it goes.
A chance on 1 hit:
4/6 hit and 2/6 miss
A chance on 1 shield:
2/6 shield and 4/6 no shield

Comparing the 2 gives,1 marine attacking:
Doing 1 damage = 16/36 = 44,4%
Doing 0 damage = 20/36 = 55,6%

Now with 2 marines attacking:
Doing 2 damage = 64/216 = 29,6%
Doing 1 damage = 96/216 = 44,4%
Doing 0 damage = 56/216 = 25,9%

True average damage done is:
1 Marine = 0,444
2 Marins = 1,037

Thus a x 2,000 of marines means damage x 2,333

Please don't tell me that, the little lonely marine has 2 shields to deal with :).

Joined: 02/16/2014
Well, as I said, unit balance

Well, as I said, unit balance is probably skewed. I do like my combat system, though, because it's nice and simple. I just need to determine how I can skew the stats so that combat will be better. On average, 2v1 marines will take 3 rounds of combat to kill, which I think is somewhat not so great.

Rebalance stats?

More theorycrafting or should I start trying to put together a prototype?

On that, theme will also heavily influence the stats, rps, and combat. I don't particularly want to do Sci-fi, maybe fantasy. Ideas?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
If you want to use each unit

If you want to use each unit as separate in combat?
How about simply allowing 2 dice for the defender when facing 2 attacking units? This way 2 marines mean x2 in power again.
And if the defender has an armor of 2, it simply uses 2 times 2 dice to defend.

Of course you need to roll separately for each attack against each defence.
And it is still simpler (Obvious faster) than my combat mechanics that I normally use.

I don't know about theme. I can go with any thing:
- Medeval
- Sci-fi
- Modern
- Fantasy
- Sticks 'n Stones
- Eastern

It is mainly your game, you can decide. If you dislike Sci-fi, then we don't do that. But than I also recommend not using Modern.

Often, Fantasy equals Medeval. You mentioned LoTR, we might as well go with that.

With Sticks 'n Stones I mean prehistoric warfare. The most advanced war units might sit on a horse. But no mechanical constructions like a catapult. Those belong in Medeval. Units might use certain berries or pointy plants etc. And throw those.

With Eastern I mean ninja/samura/shinobi. Mostly only knifes and swords.

Joined: 02/16/2014
Yah, I guess so. Do you think

Yah, I guess so. Do you think a more complex combat system would be better? Mine worked, at least for me and my friends. I wanted to make this more streamlined, and avoid stat fests, calculations, etc.

Theme-wise, I don't know. Sci-fi is okay, it just seems so prevalent. If there was a unique spin on the sci-fi, that'd be fine... I'll think about it.

All in all, do you think this legitimately could work as a game?

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
For reference, take a look at

For reference, take a look at the ares project, it is heavily inspired on starcraft.

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