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Combat Design Challenge

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spaff
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I've been working on a combat mechanic for some time now and have ended up scrapping what I've come up with (I think, maybe it will resurface again).

I wanted to pose my initial thought experiment and see if any of you have helpful ideas to see if life can be breathed back into this mechanic.

For context – the game is a dudes on a map type game in the same genre as Nexus Ops, Kemet, Blood Rage, Forbidden Stars, Scythe, etc.
The combat mechanism needed to be both interesting on its own, but also not crowd out the game.

The specific thought experiment – design challenge I presented with myself was to design a dice based combat system that does not have a swingy randomness inherent in such systems. Most modern dice combat designs do this by giving additional powers to change die rolls (Forbidden Stars). Or not have a “miss” side to a die – so all sides have some positive outcome – but it might not be the exact positive outcome you wanted (block vs hit).

The solution I came up with was a dice-drafting combat system – players in combat roll a communal pool of die then go back and forth taking a die from the pool.

The main issue with this mechanic on its own is it’s too deterministic. Players can more or less math out what they need and know from assessing the communal pool what the outcome will be- the actual drafting doesn’t give much meaningful play.

I came out with a workable system to mitigate that determinism – but I’m just curious what your minds will come up with given the task to create a dice-drafting combat mechanism?

Jay103
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I'm not a big dudes-on-a-map

I'm not a big dudes-on-a-map player.. can you give a rough sketch of what combat looks like? How many vs. how many, what you intend an attack to look like, is it the sort of thing with multiple rounds, or like a "Risk" attack where the whole thing is over in one roll?

Tbone
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A Hybrid Draft

Maybe you could have everyone roll their own set of dice but have have two steps for the rolling phase of the game

Step #1 Everyone roll their dice and pick two secretly
Step #2 Everyone reveals their dice and people must choose two dice from someone else's roll

Combines a bit of bluffing, planning, and difficult decision making.

For example:

P1 rolls: Dodge, Hit, Hit, Block, Resource, Resource
P2 rolls: Hit, Hit, Hit, Block, Resource, Draw
P3 rolls: Block, Dodge, Dodge, Hit, Draw, Draw

Step #1
P1 chooses: Resource, Hit
P2 chooses: Hit, Hit
P3 chooses: Dodge, Dodge

Step #2
P1 chooses: P2's Hit and P2's Resource
P2 chooses: P1's Hit and P3's Block
P3 chooses: P2's Draw and P2's Block

Current Hand
P1
Unknown: Resource, Hit
Known: Hit, Resource

P2
Unknown: Hit, Hit
Known: Hit, Block

P3
Unknown: Dodge, Dodge
Known: Draw, Block

How do these all react and execute? No idea lol. Possibly do a Step #3 and secretly place them on an execution track and have them trigger one by one for each player.

Corsaire
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You have some RPS type

You have some RPS type defensive counters amongst the dice. The dice are different (like 2x1dmg punch, 1x2dmg kick, 2xblock, 1xmiss; another die has same offense but has dodge instead of block; dodge is good against kick, block against punch.) draft one then roll your die. This weakens a first pick advantage and still has random results.

You can have lots fun with the dice mix, maybe a heavy defense die when a hard hit was made.

let-off studios
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Different Attack Qualifiers

Maybe you can have cards with different criteria listed for hits and blocks. Reveal a card when it's used in combat, resolve its outcome, then discard.

Players can keep cards they have in their "arsenal" hidden until they're used, so they know what dice values they want, but their opponent doesn't know. Discarded cards can be seen by opponents so they know what's been used in the past, and can have a guess as to what might be coming up in the near future.

This could be a communal deck of attack/defense, separate communal decks for attack/defense, or each player has a custom deck for their faction. Cards can allow players to switch cards from their hand to the discard and back, optimizing future combat rounds.

Some cards could be flexible in terms of the damage they inflict or absorb. For example, an attack card looking for matching pairs of dice values might do the face value of the dice included in the pair, ranging from 1 to 6. Maybe there's a ceiling, so max damage is 4. Maybe a trio of any dice delivers a flat damage amount, or deflects all damage received from one source that round.

There are a number of options if you go with the card-tactic-plus-dice results method: the one I describe here, or one of your own devising. Hope this is useful!

ruy343
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Incorporating Liar's Dice

Have you considered incorporating a bluffing element to the dice-based combat? If both players roll a pool of dice (different numbers for different characters/combat styles such as ranged, melee, etc), then look at their own pools, you could then ask them to play liar's dice with the available, rolled dice. If you haven't played liar's dice, here's a quick sequence of play:

1. Roll dice, and look at your rolls. Do not reveal them to your opponent yet.
2. Beginning with [the attacking?] player, state a number on the dice and a quantity of those dice that they believe are present among the rolled dice (theirs and their opponent's). Note: 1s are wild, and count as any number.
3. Subsequent players in the round must now either raise the bid, or call out their opponent based on the information they have. TO raise a bid, either increase the number on the dice that you claim (meaning, if your opponent bids that there are two dice showing a 3, you could raise the 3 to a 4, 5, or 6, but keep the same quantity (2)), or you could increase the quantity of dice and choose any number (you cannot place a bid on the number of dice showing 2s after a bid of 2x 3s unless you increase quantity - e.g. 3x 2s).
4. In liar's dice, if your opponent calls your bluff, everyone reveals their dice, and all dice with the rolled number (including 1s, which are wild), are pushed to the middle and counted. If there were a number of dice equal greater than the bid showing the chosen face, the person who called their bluff loses a dice and play continues. If there were fewer such dice, the bidder loses a dice, and play continues.

You could alter the punishment as you see fit for your game, of course

This system would give each player an opportunity to bluff/mindgame their opponent with each combat, but it would be relatively simple and quick if the number of dice doesn't get too high in each combat (limited to 6-10 dice, for example). It also allows for multiple players to participate in the combat relatively easily.

Paul Ott
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The more it can tie into the

The more it can tie into the rest of your game, the better. So what is the rest of your game like?

Are they single units or armies? Do they have 1-hit dead or hit points? Do some have better offense or better defense? Is flanking a part of it? Are there resources? Are there action tokens? Additional ways to augment the dice or is it a set number of dice every time?

Maybe the attacker can roll additional dice, and select from the pool what they want to use to attack. Then the defender rolls less dice but has to use all of them.

Fri
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Joined: 09/06/2017
IMO, the general solution is

IMO, the general solution is to incorporate some form or form(s) of hidden information.

I like @let-off studios idea of using cards. Maybe you could even use the cards from Roll For It for some quick rough testing.

My idea on how to implement a combat system is to have each force in combat fight with the combined strength and initiative of it's units. (In this scheme one or more units compose a force) Each unit would have one die sized spot strength and one die sized spot initiative. The default value for strength would be one. The default value for initiative would be six. Players would draft dice and cover the default values. I have not thought of how to determine the number of dice in the pool, but maybe less dice available in draft then is needed for the completely cover all of the strength/ initiative spots. After all the dice have been drafted and assigned, the force with the lowest total initiative (the sum of the initiative each unit) attacks first. It could eliminate so many enemy units based on the force's strength (the sum of the strength each unit)(maybe like it requires 2 pips to eliminate a unit). Then remaining units from the opposing player attack the force that attacked first using the their strength.

There are some possible extensions to this basic scheme. One would be to allow players to use dice to activate other abilities like blocking. Another would be to use sliding scales for the default strength and initiative as units are added. Also players could have different cards with different values and abilities.

let-off studios
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Card Assortments Potential

Fri wrote:
IMO, the general solution is to incorporate some form or form(s) of hidden information. [...] There are some possible extensions to this basic scheme.[...]Also players could have different cards with different values and abilities.
To add to the known/unknown quotient, players could draft cards from a common pool/tableau to build (or add to) their deck of available cards.

I reckon this would add considerably to the set-up time, but it would also allow for some anticipation and prep for potential incoming attacks and/or defenses to beat.

Fri
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let-off studios wrote:

let-off studios wrote:
players could draft cards from a common pool/tableau to build (or add to) their deck of available cards.

I reckon this would add considerably to the set-up time...

If you went down this route you could have everyone have the same starting hand of combat cards and have players acquire new cards along the way.

One way would be to add combat cards to the draft. This provide players with an interesting decision to draft a combat card or die. It could also be used as a balancing mechanism, if you lose a combat select a new combat card possibly out of a visible pool of cards.

spaff
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Joined: 11/05/2015
posting these questions are

posting these questions are hard - because as some of you alluded to, you kind of need to know the whole game in order to properly answer the question, and I’d rather not write a full blown designer diary. I suppose a better way would be to phrase the question generally “If you were to design a combat system based on dice drafting- how would you do it?” I had hit a wall tackling this design challenge and was hoping to get fresh insight.

At any rate I’ve found my answer to lie in 2 aspects- playing cards from the hand, as has been suggested- but more importantly adding a resource of sorts to the battle that allows you to boost a die you draft. You can spend all the resource now and draft a very strong die, but your opponent might be able to counter, or you can evenly scatter the resource across the die. This adds just enough “unknown” into the system. How much will your opponent commit to his next die draft?

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