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How would you represent Age of Empires II in a combat system?

11 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/04/2018

Hello BGDF users,

My question: What do you think of the following combat system, which is from an existing board game. Is there anyway to simplify this system whilst keeping the thematic ties to the Age of Empires II video game and retaining the principle of the system. One clear principle is that there should be no luck. The system also cannot be really simple (with no modifiers).


In the video game, there is:
Attack (
Armor (
Area of Effect damage (
Trample damage (
HP (
Range (
Rate of Fire (

Two types of armor:
Ordinary armor that resists melee damage
Piece armor that resists missile damage


The types or armor classes:
Cavalry Archer
Eagle Warrior
Gunpowder unit
Siege weapon
Standard building
Stone defense
Turtle ship
Unique unit
Wall and gate
War elephant


Essentially Armor Classes mean that certain units are OP unless you counter them with another unit that has a huge attack bonus against that unit.


In the existing board game, there is:

Combat rounds (3)
1) Archer combat round
2) Melee combat round (1)
3) Melee combat round (2)

Archers may attack and retreat (a hit and run attack) after the Archer combat round.

If Archers stay for rounds 2-3 then they attack with their melee attack value instead of their ranged attack value. Units may retreat after the 1st round.

Note that Cavalry essentially prevent the Archer combat round from happening (they counter Archers).


Unit vs Unit combat (Damage is dealt simultaneously):

Health = Unit_Tokens_(1-5) that are represented on a unit card.

Armor = Armor + Armor_Modifier

Attack = ((Unit_Tokens_(1-5) * (Unit_Attack + Attack_Modifier))/Armor) rounded down to the nearest whole number.

Damage (Health removed) = Attack


Damage modifier (Area Effect) vs Unit

Attack = ((Enemy_Unit_Tokens_(1-5) * (Unit_Attack + Attack_Modifier))/Armor) rounded down to the nearest whole number.

Damage modifier (Missiles)

Bombardment = Unit_Range

Minimum_Distance = Target_Cards_Away

In regards to missiles, the target must be "X" cards away in order to target that unit (Minimum Distance). The unit also has a range that dictates how far away that unit can attack ("X" cards away again)


Unit vs Building damage

Health = HP + HP_Modifier

Attack = (Unit_Tokens_(1-5) * (Unit_Attack + Attack_Modifier)) rounded down in increments of 10

Damage (Health removed) = Attack - Health


If you can see a way to simplify the current system then I'd like to know how. I'd appreciate any solutions that are compatible with the existing framework of balance.

Joined: 03/27/2014
I would advise against trying

I would advise against trying to make a note-for-note remake of how the computer game emulates combat. There's a lot going on under the hood that you don't need. Imagine trying to make a theme park emulator that had you tracking every park resident's mood/needs, every stand's supply levels, every area's cleanliness, etc. just like Roller Coaster Tycoon... it would become a major chore just to play the game.

Your players are here for the theme, not the complex algebra.

Here's how I would handle this, take it or leave it:

1. Each card has a priority number on it, with numbers closer to 1 dealing damage first. In the case of ties, a first-player marker or coin toss decides first damage.

2. A card has a Unit and Defense number. The Unit number shows how many tokens start on the card, and also represents how strong that card is attacking in combat. Defense is the "armor" an enemy must overcome to attack the tokens on the card.

3. In this example, let's say our Archer card has 5 Units and 4 Defense. They currently attack for 5 damage in combat.

4. An opposing Cavalry card attacks your Archer for 6 damage (they have 6 tokens on the card). 4 of that damage is soaked up by your Armor, with the remaining 2 "trampling" over and killing two of your tokens. Your Archer now has 3 Units on the card, and will attack for 3 damage in combat.

5. You can include a way to bolster your cards by increasing the number of Units (tokens) on them, or giving them immunity/defense from various things, etc.

6. If a card has no tokens on it, it dies and is sent to the discard pile.

Joined: 03/04/2018

Hello RyanRay,

I think that your proposal "almost works", which is good:
1. Priority number. You seem to represent the round structure of the board game via a priority number. I think that your idea that certain units could have a higher priority number against other units would work. However, the idea could be simplified to:
Cavalry: Initiative versus Archers
Archers: Initiative versus Infantry
Infantry: Initiative versus Cavalry

Units with initiative attack first. Afterward, the unit without initiative attacks. If both units lack initiative then they attack simultaneously. Archers may move to the space of infantry, attack with initiative, and then move back to the original space (as though they attacked from range). I suppose that you'd suggest just 1 round of initiative combat and 1 round of normal combat?

2. Defense. Your idea for Defense soaking up the damage works alright. I wonder if this could just be left as HP however.

3. A fixed amount of units upon playing a card. I think that this might lessen the amount of strategy surrounding how many units you ought to train on a particular unit card. I would nonetheless consider simplifying this number to "1" unit to represent "1" unit card. I would hence have to scale everything in the board game to x 5 resource cost and scale all of the HP/attack modifiers to x 5

4. Units being damage. I have one issue with this idea. I am not sure how I would represent attack in the video game in the form of unit tokens, especially as certain units can be upgraded / their damage can be modified. However, if we were to cap the units at "1" for "1" unit card I suppose that we could set a fixed damage value using the formula you and the other guy suggested with my requirements i.e. "Damage = (Attack + Attack_Modifier)- (Target_Armor if we don't just use HP, which is easier) - Target_HP". I suppose that this would keep things in whole numbers. Cards could have a regular Attack value and an Attack modifier against certain units. For example, Spearman (infantry) deal bonus damage against Cavalry. Their regular Attack could be "X" but their damage versus Cavalry could be "X + 10" thus piercing the armor very easily. One concern I have is the attack modifiers being too strong against the standard values for that unit. I suppose that this will result in instant kill match-ups. Good/Bad/What you think?

4. No tokens = death and discarded. Works fine. Same as original.

Joined: 03/04/2018
Derivative of Codex

Hello RyanDay,

It would seem that the predominant suggestion is to follow a system similar to this game (just 10 seconds):

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Hi Korei Khan, Because my

Hi Korei Khan,

Because my sense is your experience of AoEII is different than mine, can you describe what the thematic ties are as you see them? Do you want players to experience combat as they do in the video game or are you trying to match the mechanics of it?


Joined: 03/04/2018
Reply to Corsaire

Hello Corsaire,

I am interested in representing the mechanics of the video game in the board game. A perfect representation is impossible but a player of AoE II should recognize the following similarities:
- All of the board game units have the same training requirements: Age, Building requirements, a resource cost, and (sometimes) a required technology researched.
- All of the board game units have the same upgrades as the video game units. Attack upgrades change the attack. Armor/HP upgrades change the HP value.
- All of the board game units have most of the attack bonuses against units as the video game units do.
- All of the board game units can be trained in groups, which is the same as the video game. We might be simplifying this to an implied relation but this relation is currently established.
- Some of the board game units like the video game units are civilization specific, which means that only certain civilizations have access to those units. The civilization itself might change the unit values based on their civilization bonus.
- Abstract rules surrounding tower attacks, healing (from monks), conversion (from monks), attack orders, etc. is represented in the board and video game. Technically, elevation (which increases the statistics of units on higher ground) is represented via event cards, which may be played during battle.

- Most importantly, there is no luck involved. In the video game, if you do not have a good match up then you will lose the battle 100% of the time.

Hopefully this helps.

If you want to see somebody (indirectly) talking about the combat system in the video game then this should help:

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
In the video game, I often

In the video game, I often had no fixed armies and would tend to stream builds at targets. Managing attention, control, planning, and balance are the core of the RTS experience for me. Micromanaging combat results would be directly counter to my experience of AoE. If I rushed my ranged units out too early and din't stage them behind melee, then I could get bad results. If I focused on managing my army, I could overcome bad odds by flanking ranged units or such at the sacrifice of production and gathering management.

So, I couldn't imagine a version of your rework of this 2000 release game that would appeal to people who enjoyed the same aspect of rts games that I do. Additionally, I think there is a fair amount of functional luck in the video game around different players' decisions of when to pivot from production into war.

Joined: 03/04/2018
Reply 2

RE: No fixed armies
False: There is a maximum number of selectable units in a single group so there are fixed army sizes. In addition, are you saying that there should be no limit? All board games based on real-time strategy video games have a limit. StarCraft: The Board Game for instance has a 3 unit limit on the number of units you can make and have in a single space. Without such a limit, balancing the game is close to impossible. Additionally, games without an apparent limit are often intentionally limited by components.

RE: Determining the combat results would be counter to the experience of playing AoE II
False: The process is automated while playing the PC game. Board games lack such automation. You hence need to determine the combat results. I am not sure what your point is? Are you saying you'd rather play the PC game instead of doing the bookkeeping behind the PC game, which although is a perspective, is not a criticism of the board game. A criticism of the board game is spending too long calculating the results.

RE: Functional luck
There is still resource management in the board game. I do not plan to rework the non-combat system elements because they seem to work ideally.

Closing comments:
I am not sure if the rework would appeal to you. However, from my experience of playing the game with others, there is appeal.

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Good luck.

Good luck.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
It is as if I look in a

It is as if I look in a mirror here. A younger version.

I did the same, but with all the other sci-fi RTS games. I kinda blend them into one.

But here is the catch. You are making a board game. Copying an entire mechanic will not work. Since that mechanic is meant for pc calculations. You need to think of something that will imitate the mechanic, but at a board game scale.

Down time is of great concern, when putting together a game.
Also, keep in mind. Will players be having fun?

john smith
Joined: 06/26/2017
I would recommend pre

I would recommend pre calculating the formula with division and making a chart of it. Make sure there are copies for everybody.

I read that division is the lengthiest and most difficult to do in "you're head". Further, it is the only time division is used. It becomes the odd one to remember. Sort of like the rare times "I" does NOT come before "E." I believe the chart would speed play in this instance.

Joined: 03/04/2018
Reply to Corsaire 2

Hello Corsaire & John Smith,
I said that "there is no way to automate the combat system in the Age of Empires II board game because board games lack such automation". I was wrong.

I think that I could make a program to automatically determine the victor of the battle. I'll try this out before reworking the entire combat system and see if this makes the game significantly more enjoyable to play. Unfortunately a chart would be too HUGE (so many different units that could fight one another) but I think that this suits the principle of what you were saying so thanks for the advice.


By the way, it is hard to convey tone via messages. I am very thankful for all of the input so far :). I have put time into thinking about all of your ideas (even if I come across as reluctant)

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