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Would you play a tactical combat game with no luck involved? Why or Why Not?

9 replies [Last post]
jejboulet's picture
Joined: 01/11/2014

I've been working for some time on a game called Centauri Rift and have begun to approach publishers with it. So far no luck, though a couple have told me that as players it looks good to them. As publishers they think the market is too small. I don't imagine the market is huge for such a game, but I am curious about what you have to say.

Centauri Rift is a game where players control one or more space ships (choosing from 3 models) in tactical combat, either individual or in teams. Each ship model has its own weapons, speed, and energy production traits. Games can be played with either an elimination or a point win condition. I estimate that games last about 15 min/ship.

Each turn involves filling up the main reactor energy track, effectively the energy available for that turn. The player may take as many actions in any order as the energy allows. In crucial turns more energy can be drawn from the auxiliary power track, while in other turns power can be saved for later in the auxiliary by reducing the main reactor track.

The strategy of the game involves managing the energy of the ship as well as tactical positioning. Weapons and shield systems are separated into front, back, left, and right, so orientation on the map is an important consideration. I have not employed dice or any other luck mechanics since the game is conceived as a battle to the death and/or war of attrition. Attacks within line of sight are sure hits. The key is making sure you don't leave yourself open to counterattack on your opponent's turn.

It is true that the game could be open to analysis paralysis, but in general I play with a 2 min time limit to simulate the pressure of space combat, to speed up the game, and to let players know from the start that the fun of the game is not making the best possible move, but rather trying the coolest thing they can come up with in a minute or two.

From my point of view the game is strong in that it gives players freedom (within a strong framework) to be creative with strategy, something I found lacking in many strategy games growing up.

Being highly competitive I normally find it difficult to enjoy a game that I don't win, especially if the game is 2+ hours long. By contrast, I have fun with Centauri Rift even when I lose because of the things I get to try out and because, even though it is all strategy, games go more quickly than Risk or other classic combat strategy games.

I welcome your feedback. Thanks for stopping by.

Joined: 07/26/2015
I would play that

Sounds pretty fun. Game where all you do is fight. No silly worker placement and economy phase.

Having no randomness is great. I hate games that are all based on luck and no skill.

Though, I suspect that having no random elements at all can make the game repetitive across many plays.

Is the game map semi-random, or is there a pre-fight phase where you can build your ships?

Can many people play at once, so there is the problem of diplomacy?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
The question

Ask yourself this.
Can players think ahead?
Is it a chess like game?

A game divides its 100 % amongst randomness and skill.
If a game is 100% randomness, then there is no need for skill. The game is a gamble. (Marine fights Marine, the damage is random)
As soon as skill is introduced. The randomness drops. However, a game can have 0 randomness, but not 100% skill.

Sometimes the game is just a hidden mathematical equation. (Marine fights Marine, no room for microskill)

Back to chess. This is the ultimate puzzle. And the more skill a player has, the more movements he/she can think ahead. Chess is a 100% skill game to this regard. (Marine fighst Marine, one of the players plans ahead and had taken a higher ground)

Introducing a time limit is a good way to make sure there is no stalemate. If it is truly a chess like game. Go ahead, the game is good.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
no luck means no random?

I play chess, shogi and other tactical board games without luck all the time and I enjoy them. I actually enjoy them far more than purely random games with no strategy or skill.

Your game sounds interesting but a little technical (just my opinion, people into spaceship games might well disagree)

What I want to know is if you need to have it so that the random element is eliminated entierly to keep "luck" out of the game.

Imagine a game like chess only the board was randomly generated by an algorythm or some such. The rules governing the pieces and how they interacted with one another were still as much the same as the board allowed (you could exclude board types in which it was impossible to play using the piece rules). Since niether player knew which board would come next it was about adapting to the variable and deriving an new strategy rather than simply seeing who rolled a 6 and who rolled a 2.
I know that the sort of game I'm suggesting would be unlikely to be that interesting to anyone except for theoretical mathematicians and quantum physicists(?) but I'm not suggesting an idea for a new game here, simply inviting you to consider ways of perhaps incorporating some random elements into games which won't cause 1 player to win because they started off in a 'lucky spot' or rolled higher numbers on the dice.

As I see it, random elements don't negate strategy, they make in necessarry, but that is just my opinion on the matter.

jejboulet's picture
Joined: 01/11/2014
Great points and good questions

Thanks andymakespasta, X3M, and Midnight_Carnival for responding. I appreciate your thoughts.

What I've realized is that Centauri Rift is in some ways similar to the skirmish modes of some RTS computer games (and no surprise since that has always been my favourite part). Players set the map up, pick their ship, pick the teams (or go solo), pick the win condition, and start fighting. My preferred scenario is one where there are two teams using all the ship models on both sides so that the contest is about both teamwork and making best use of the equipment. However, others will like the individual play where diplomacy, or perhaps rather player relationships, is more important.

In my opinion it is a chess like game in that it allows good players to think ahead. I have consciously designed the game to be a game of skill. The big difference between Centauri Rift and chess is that my game makes the strategy more concrete and less abstract. The mechanics have been built to serve the theme.

The question raised about randomness and its relationship to luck is a good one. I am intrigued about the possibility of randomly generated maps or even other scenarios. It is true that some random elements do not necessarily introduce luck, but rather present a fresh challenge. I admit I had not considered it before and so far there is nothing truly random about the game. The players get to make all the decisions. To increase replayability I've made the map modular and customizable. It is easy to add some planets, asteroids, and nebulae at the beginning of the game to set a new challenge for all players.

As far as repetitiveness, my humble opinion is that the game is rich with possibilities to explore. There are a few features of the ships which are designed to be available all the time, but only a good option in certain scenarios. We've had a lot of fun developing strategies for those options. The next step for players would be creating the scenarios (by thinking ahead as the game develops) in which those features would be maximally beneficial.

It is probably fair to say that the game is on the technical side, Midnight_Carnival. However, I've found that experienced board game players catch on quickly and find much of the game intuitive. That is perhaps especially true for players who are also sci-fi fans. Without trying to make the game hyper realistic, I have included a few features of realistic space physics. For example, speed is conserved between turns since there is no friction in space. Rather, acceleration and deceleration both cost energy.

Again, thanks for your thoughts and your time. I am glad to see that some people are still interested in a skill based game.

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013
One thing

The one thing I would have an issue with is that the game would be very punishing for new players. Once a person has mastered the game, he/she could just wipe the floor with newbies, which would discourage them from playing any more and then you lose players.

A luck element would at least help mitigate the feeling that a new player is just cannon fodder to experienced players.

But there have been games that are extremely skill based (chess), but these games have been borne out of hundred of years of iterations, changes, and modifications.

The managing of energy is a great mechanism, as it's currently in my game. It makes sense that a ship in space have a battery that you can only squeeze so much energy out of. A lot of games operate on an escalation system; that system can get chaotic real quickly. Making the player choose what they can do based on a fixed resource system is great...I think more games should incorporate this.

Just be aware that a skill based game (especially with something so quick) may produce mastery where one player incorporates one singular strategy that works for them every single time. Even in games with luck, it's a big problem. Don't underestimate the power of mastery...find those paths to mastery and eliminate them.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
sorry, I didn't answer your question!

I would play it if one of my engineer or physicist friends were playing it and probably enjoy the intereaction between people more than the game itself.
I find it interesting to read about though and may enjoy watching a game being played. I forsee the game becoming fairly popular amongst those who have the aptetude and intelligence to master it.

I think I would like to start a thread on one of the more random forums about luck, randomness and strategy.

Good - ummm strategic decisions with your game. ;)

Joined: 08/01/2015
No luck for battle game thoughts

I think a battle game where no luck is involved can be a good thing. I don't mind luck, and actually enjoy some luck based mechanics that replicate things in real life where luck or chance is involved. But, if your game involves battle strategies that don't replicate these things, then it's better to leave them out, in my opinion.

For example, if a player moves around a corner and doesn't know what's there, then a dice roll or card draw might be a good thing to determine what he finds. I like the idea of managing the ships energy, positioning, etc. It gives players something to think about rather than just running into enemies and fighting.

Is your battle mechanic based on cards or something else? Is every time you attack, as long as there's line of sight, an automatic hit? This could be the one place in the game where some element of chance could be left in, and whether or not a hit is made is dependent on the cards a player has or even a dice roll or something.

Just my thoughts:) Good luck with your game!

jejboulet's picture
Joined: 01/11/2014
valid concern

@radioactivemouse, thanks for replying. What you say is very important.

I think the game does have a not insignificant learning curve, but it isn't unique in that respect. I'd be surprised if anyone could win at Agricola the first time against experienced players, for example. As the designer of the game I know the game better than anyone, but even so I get beat by new players sometimes. Usually they play the first round, get the hang of things, and beat me on the second round.

I am on the watch for what you call paths to mastery. So far we haven't found anything that other players wouldn't be able to counter, but you are right and I appreciate the reminder. Honestly I think the biggest challenge in that respect is making sure the ship models are balanced.

jejboulet's picture
Joined: 01/11/2014
the model

@rjb, thanks for your input.

The model for the game that I've used is a high tech space craft with accurate sensors and targeting computers, meaning that in theory all the factors are known to the ship's captain. It is up to the captain (i.e. the player) to make the best of the information and devise a strategy.

So yes, if there is line of sight, enemy is in range, and weapons have not already fired this turn, the player can declare an attack and gets a sure hit. There are some energy weapons and some non-energy weapons. When the energy weapons are fired the player pays for the shot from the energy track(s) and when other weapons are fired the ammunition track is decreased. Attacking therefore has its own consequences that have to be weighed.

You do give me an idea to ponder though. If in an expansion to current gameplay there are unknown factors introduced, then perhaps at that point a chance mechanic might be suitable.

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