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Thoughts in the Dark

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September 04, 2019

Amateur Boardgame Design - Sword and Planet pt. 3: Combat too confusing?

CO Updated
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Once again, thanks everyone for their comments and interest in this design process. It is always more fun being able to bounce ideas off of others, and I hope it helps the design process be more fluid. I know I tend to be a bit of a brick wall with ideas, but I'll try to stay open to suggestions.

I would also like to note, how I've come to think the title of this blog is incorrect. "Amateur" design isn't really all that different from any other kinds. I don't think designers are generally professional, and most certainly don't deserve to be given any sort of brevity.

Now, onwards to the update.

Previous updates have documented more of the character controlled aspects of the game, so I thought I would devout this entry to the other half of the game: WAR! This is, afterall, a game of warfare. Character will play an intregal part, but mostly in the leading of armies!

Players in the game represent common interests amongst heroes, and generally these interests don't coincide with the existing Kings and rulers of the world. Characters will travel between cities, building armies, recruiting mercenaries and building technology, all while the other players fight to prevent it. It is my hope that players will build armies from various peoples across the world, as the main strategic emphasis in army building will be on balanced forces. It also should greatly vary based off of the characters strengths and weaknesses, player goals and the enemy forces faced.

The big thing I wanted to do when designing the combat system, is completely avoid "Axis and Allies" style combat. I hate that mindless combat system, and find it to be both extremely random and boring. My natural tendency would be to use a CRT (Combat Results Table) as my natural tendency is towards wargames, but I also wanted to avoid making this a straight wargame.

The system I've created may work, but to be honest, I'm extremely unsure with how well it will play out, and if it is too complicated. That's why I'm posting this now, as it is the mechanism for the game.

So, to test it out, and to explain it, I've whipped up a test version for cyberboard to help me visualize and move around the bits. Please excuse the very rough graphics, I'm just learning how to use cyberboard, and my photoshop/artistic skills are quite limited. Especially ignore the green bits around the counters and cards - that's just the transparency on cyberboard not working well, and I didn't feel like taking the time to go fix it up yet.

Here we have a nice little mock-up of how things will eventually look. You've got two cities, with only Relliana under player control. I made the control counter too large, but that'll be fixed later. Provia is not under player control, but in fact has an army raised by a villain! Villains have character cards just like characters, but may never come under direct control of a player. They are villains afterall. There will, however, be ways for players to activate them and the longer they are left unbothered, the stronger they will grow. Notice there is no control marker on his city, but if a refresh card was to come in this region, it would allow Hovad to build more soldiers.

The layout of the board is pretty indicative of how I want it to progress. Point-to-point movement is the main feature, terrain printed on the point (HV - heavy vegetation, LV - light vegetation), the numbers below cities will track the strength and value of the city. I went over that in the first update.

The player controlling Thea Norvak decides to launch a strike against Hovad Senn. Take into account that I haven't decided how cities will intereact with combat, so we'll be presuming that it takes place on open ground. Thea Norvak has 2 Orik Axeman from his earlier journey to their homelands, but has also recruited 4 mercenary dragoons to aid his charge. Hovad Senn has 4 Coris Rocketeers, and also a single Mercenary Rifleman. This will undoubtedly be a bloody battle.

I want there to be a wide variety of unit types within the game, and for this to be appropriate, I needed a variety of unit stats. The three stats of units will be (and I hope to consistently refer to these in italics) charge, fire and melee. Depending on the stance that combat takes, different stats will be used and compared. Charge is almost exclusively used by the attacker, and is generally best in clear areas. Fire is useful in defense, but not exclusively. Melee is useful pretty much all the time, but needs to be balanced by other combat types to not be torn apart.

This chart explains the relative strengths and weaknesses of the combat units I have created so far. Thea Norvak has a good advantage in charge with his Dragoons and also a strong melee. Hovad Senn has an enormous advantage when it comes to fire which will be useful for his defense, and if he were player controlled, on the offense. I like this idea so far, but I am concerned about how players may feel of adding up the strengths of units. For that, I've provided a "combat board."

Here is the combat board with all the relavent information filled out. Don't freak out about all the counters, it is more just to help with memory than anything else. Most people probably won't need them, but I know I will.

As Thea Norvak has his army largely compose of charge units, he has decided to launch an "Assault" (highlighted in the Attack stance table). The attacker always chooses which form combat will take, but the defender always has a chance to use defensive maneuvers to change the stance. This is risky, as it can lead to an intensification of the battle just as often as it can lead to the new results. If Hovad Senn tried to use defensive maneuvers and succeeded an opposing cunning check (as listed on his card and counter) he could roll on the defensive maneuvers table under assault. This could be disastrous for him as intensification would lead him into a raid, which wouldn't do him well.

Combat is at most 2 rounds, with the second round always optional. Depending on the type of attack, the attacker or defender gets to choose. This choice is always made after the first attack round, so if an attack goes poorly, an attacker can choose to not pursue a second round.

Thea Norvak has chosen "Assault," which uses the attacker's charge value versus the defender's fire value. Thea Norvak has a total charge value of 26, while Hovad Senn has a fire value of 25. Both forces are well matched, but Thea Norvak has an advantage in combat leadership.

The first round would have Thea Norvak the attacker roll: 3 dice (base for all checks) + 1 (combat leadership differences) +1 (army strength difference) = 5 dice. Hovad Senn would only get the base 3 dice, as the defender will almost always have.

Thea Norvak rolls: 6, 2, 5, 1, 1 = 2 successes are added to the result, rolls 2 dice for casualties: 3 and 2. Inflicts no casualties on Hovad Senn's army.

Hovad Senn rolls: 5, 2, 3 = 1 success is added to the result, rolls 1 die for casualties: rolls a 3. Inflicts no casualties on Thea Norvak's army.

Thea Norvak survived the initial charge coming out with 1 additional hit. He could choose to end the round now, and would force Hovad Senn to retreat from combat, taking the city. If he chooses to continue combat, he would avoid fighting the firepower of the Rocketeers again, and would engage in melee combat, so he chooses to pursue a second round.

This time, he has a huge advantage.

Attacker now has a total of 26 for the second round for melee, Defender is now down to 15! That is an enormous advantage for Thea Norvak!

He rolls: 3 (base) + 1 (combat leadership) + 11 (army strength difference) = 15 dice! 6,1,3,2,2,4,2,2,2,5,4,4,1,6, and 1. His cursed luck does, however, hurt him as he only rolls 3 successes. He rolls again for casualties this time rolling 3, 6 and 5. Two casualties will be removed from Hovad Senn's army. Thea Norvak how now totalled 5 hits for the battle, so even if Hovad Senn rolled 3 hits, he would still win.

Hovad Senn rolls 3 dice for his base roll and gets 2, 6, and 4. One hit to roll for casualty, and he rolls a 6 inflicting one wound on Thea Norvak. He only totalled 2 hits this battle, so he loses and is forced to withdraw.

Next update, I'll give more examples of combat, especially uses of terrain to maximize an army's strengths and preventing what happened to Hovad Senn.

The question I pose to all of you... is this too complicated? It doesn't involve a CRT but is definately a step up from "axis and allies" type of play, encouraging players to build armies with long term goals. Armies will be forced to recognize weaknesses of their own, while pursuing those of their enemies.

An example would be if Hovad Senn were player controlled, his best option would be to pursue ranged combat on the offensive. Even if Thea Norvak succeeded in using defensive maneuvers, he would, at best, face an engagement. Engagements would compare fire values on the first round and melee on the second. At best, a ranged combat could tear Thea Norvak's army to pieces!

Let me know what you think. I think this is a great system, but I'm unsure how well others would take it.



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