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City of Remnants» Forums » Variants

Subject: More combat variant rss

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In almost all of my games there has been very little combat. Typically most of the game has about setting up your home base and then, if you are behind on renown, you attack to try and upset the eventual loss. You cannot neglect combat because if you do then you will lose the critical 1-2 rounds of fighting and it will cost you the game. However, you also don't want to fight too much because it leaves you exposed to counter attacks from the other players.

Thematically, it seems like there should be more combat. This is a game about running a gang, but there is very little gang violence. I don't know if this is more "realistic", but it doesn't meet my expectations going into the game.

Mechanically, it feels strange to spend so much time setting up for combat when there is so little of it. As I mention above, you have to make sure your combat ability is strong because it will cost you the game otherwise. However, it still feels strange to have so much build up and very little climax.

HI have some ideas for how to encourage more combat. It seems to me that the main reason we don't fight more is because of the high risk of counter attack from a third party. Most of this risk comes from burning through most of the deck during one engagement and being unable to fight a second engagement. If you hold off on the first fight you will often lose, and if you go all in you will usually lose the second fight. So it seems like tackling the deck burning "problem" should help a lot.

There are two sides to burning through the deck that can be addressed. First, the problem can be solved by limiting the number of gangers that can be played. Second, the problem can be solved by putting gangers back into the the deck after they have been played. I haven't thought of any other solutions at this time.

My current homebrew ideas are:
You may only play 4 cards into a combat.
Dice are worth 1 point, and are not rolled.

You may only play 3 cards into a combat, but each card is worth double. The Fighter triggers when 2 other gang members are played.

Thoughts?
 
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Brian Bishop
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Yep, I can see your points Slacks...
A couple of questions pop into my noodle after reading your thoughts. Number one, are you playing mostly three and four player battles..? Number two, would you say that you've played more than ten full games?
I've played a snot load of two player battles and in those, the fighting is relatively sparse. It's true that there's a lot of buildup and not a lot of excitement sometimes. I try to see it like the cold war (remember that thing back in the eighties) where we all sat around and showed how big and bad our cards were, without actually ever shooting a cannon in our opponents direction.

At some point I discovered that the key was not how to fight but when and if you messed up on the when part, your game was pretty much over.
With my limited three player games, I learned that it was crucial to have somebody in "agreement" with me before I battled another gang. You simply have to have some table talk and an invisible "truce" with an ally otherwise you risk the counterattack with no cards in your hands.
From my few four player battles, I learned that you need the right cards in your hand and that with the wrong cards, well you lost before you started.

But before I break that strategy down, let's state first off, that there are two "major" tactics to playing the City. The first is to out economy your opponents and collect Renown and the second is to out military your enemies. It takes a bunch of experience to do both well...
So let's assume that you're a military Red or Yellow gang and you're committed to doin' some whompin'.
You "need" to have some serious warriors in your arsenal and you need to pay attention to what kind of forces your opponents have. Once you've acquired an army with potential, try to out maneuver your opponent into a situation where you have the majority of figures on your side.
Remember, when it comes to moving figures and fighting, City resembles an old fashioned game of Checkers. You have to have the right people in the right place at the right time. Get any of this wrong and you're going to lose people.
Think of it like a mini game. One where the rules are just about like Chess. My son, the Rook, always maximizes his recruiting and usually has a pretty powerful army. But my figure moving skills are better than his so I can "sometimes" out play him with the numbers.
With a three or four player game, join "somebody". Make a friend somehow and use them to your advantage (if you're the one being ganged up on, remind the others that they'll have to fight each other eventually...)

So okay, sorry for the lesson Slacks I know you don't really need it. Your "alterations" (to me at least) feel a bit diluting. Like you're taking your Jack Daniels and mixing it with Milwaukee's Best (that's good alcohol with bad beer for those of you non drinkers out there...)
So yeah, no offense friend, I just think it waters it down a bit. The way the game designers published it, is really the most advanced, the most perfected method and yes, it's for the big boys with their extremely large calculating minds.
If you wanted to play with some less experienced players or maybe like a "beginners" version, sure, I like the maximum three combatants rule (of course you're doomed going up against Red's Scrappers).
But in all honesty, my ten year old son wins with combat pretty regularly. It bugs the crap outta me and I struggle with his crazy thinking sometimes but he still does it. I fight tooth and nail with him and we go back and forth, some games containing ten battles or so.
And those are the ones I remember you know, those are the ones that make me really love this game and want to play it all the time eh.

All right, sorry my thoughts weren't very helpful. As always, try your changes and report back on how they affected the game.
Keep thinkin' and stretching the noodle, keep typin' so we can do our stretches too and keep fightin' the Yugai people..!
 
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First I'd like to say that this is a great game and I really do enjoy it as is. This is a variant for personal taste, not because I think the game is broken or unbalanced or not fun. Reading the OP, this does not come across well.

I'm playing exclusively with 3+ players. I probably have slightly less than 10 full plays against opponents with a similar level of experience. I agree that there are two big ways to get renowned, but they do not involve fighting the other players. The main way that players gain renown is by building and occupying tiles. The second way is to hunt Yugai.

Typically our games go something like this:
1. Build economy (T1)
2. Build renown
3. Attack the leader
Red may also try to recruit some Informers and hunt Yugai in parallel with the above steps. Other players can do this too, but Scrappers allow Red to do it for very little cost.

The thing I want to change is that "attack the leader" is generally a desperate move. Combat is very swingy with cards adding around 16 and dice adding 0-18 on each side. Notice that the dice can make up for a very wide difference in card value, combined with a small number of rolls the combat can be very swingy. That means that with even moderate preparation the defender has a good chance of winning. The defender will often have more dice as well since they can setup in a strong defensive formation. My point here is that fighting other players is too risky to be a viable strategy in its own right, it will always be a risky catchup mechanism. Again, fighting Yugai is a different thing entirely.

On to the more specific points:
I don't see how this is watering down anything, I suppose you'd have to define what you mean by "watering down".

The concept of "perfection" doesn't make a lot of sense when talking about personal preferences. I think "balance" is a better term, and the devs have made it so you must be prepared for the desperate attack. This is a reasonable balance, but I would prefer the have combat play a bigger role between players.

I don't agree that "you're doomed going up against Red's Scrappers." If Red gets in a position where he has 3 scrappers and the other players cannot add more than 2*6 fight to the check (including die variation), then Red can autowin some combats. That is very strong, but I don't think it will happen against prepared players. If Red loses any combats while playing Scrappers they are discarded, which will make it difficult to get this scenario to happen.

"As always, try your changes and report back on how they affected the game." I agree with this, ultimately playtest will determine if a variant is reasonable or not. What I'm looking for is brainstorming, what are some other ways to tackle this "problem" that I haven't considered.
 
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Brian Bishop
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Okay Slacks I can see where you're at and where you're comin' from a bit more clearly now. Sometimes it takes a bit when you can't hear someone's inflection or the "tone" they're typin' in huh...
Like I said, I mostly play two player games and I know how different it is with three or more; it's a whole different ball game.

To me, in the "beginning" when I was learning, I tried to stay all nice and balanced. I got my economy going, I started ploppin' developments and slowly acquired my gangers and Black Markets. But as I played more and more, I started to see something I was ignoring.
It was the teeter totter or the scale. I was trying to stay "balanced" and failing. So I went the complete opposite way for a bit. I threw myself way off balance just to see what happens. And man, once I built up a Blue gang that was crazy military strong (like two Advanced Weapons and two Energy Pills strong).
So going into a game, try it once or twice. Try to simply ignore the economy and the developments. In the same way that the Green looks at Products and scowls (because he doesn't need them in his economy), take the Yellow gang and completely ignore everything BUT the fighting.
No developments, no Renown, nothing but cards that offer you instant money and cards that can fight. In fact, don't even enter the City for the first round. Sit on the sideline and try to acquire only the best of the military offered.
Then, when you're as beefed as possible, flood the streets with your particular gang color. Attack and don't stop attacking (and try to win some battles if you can...)

A totally viable way to win is to eliminate every opponent's figures. With no one in the City, your people can walk right in to their buildings and holdings.
When I play, usually I fight in the first round. Almost like a boxer comes out and just throws a couple of jabs. He wants to see how his opponent reacts. Wants to see how it plays out.
So I fight for a bit, I study and I learn. In round two, I'll throw another couple of jabs, just to keep my enemies wondering. I'll snatch an Energy Pills and wander all the way over to near their crosshair and I'll just stand there for a bit so that every new figure entering the City from their end has to look at my four figures and wonder, shaking in their little gang boots.
In fact, now that I think about it, just about every round has me pressuring and harassing my opponents because it causes them to react. Sometimes I only commit one or two cards to a battle, just to force them to drop cards that they may want to use for other purposes.
So when I feel all good and warmed up, I throw the freaking world at 'em. I drop my six or seven cards, I make it the biggest roundhouse I can manage and I watch as a handful of dice fall from my hands.
And jeese, is there anything more exciting when you've got fifteen points worth of cards and six dice in your hand..? To me, being limited to only dropping four cards or not really rolling my dice, well it's like being handcuffed. Or, watered down.
I want my fights to be grand affairs full of holding breath and wispering sweet nothings like "all threes" to my closed fist of dice. I want my opponent to beg and cry and whine when I'm deciding if I need another War Drone in my arsenal.

Hey also, I in no way meant to diminish your preferences. I like when people brainstorm and share ideas, thoughts, it's what makes sites like these so awesome. I was simply trying to say that whereas we might've played ten or twenty (or even fifty) games, I think the makers must have played a hundred games easily and combat was one of the things they really focused on you know, they really (must've) tried a number of different aspects (including some of your ideas) when they were playtesting.
If only we could get more people to chime in, then we all might be able to play with a cool variant some night (or two).
Thanks for sharing (and elaborating) Slacks, fight the Yugai people..!
 
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I have seen a small number of games where the balanced approach beats straight fighting, and straight economy. That said, there were few games like this because these strategies seemed very weak compared to a balanced approach. I suspect this has to do with you playing mostly two player games... but I guess it could be worth another shot.
 
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Brian Bishop
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You know, I think it's one of the reasons I really love this game. It intrigues me, it makes me push at the boundaries of what I know.
When my son was young, I started him on an old game called Stratego. In it, you place a bunch of numbered warriors on your side of the map and slowly mash them against the other side's fighters. He slowly learned his numbers, he learned his early tactics and "basics", it was a good foundation you know.
And man Slacks, I beat him every time. I felt bad and I told him so but I also told him that he was learning and that's how we all start eh.

You can probably guess that after about twenty butt whoopings, it finally happened. He beat his old man... You should've seen it he was dancing and prancing about, claiming it was the best day of his young life.
So, many games and years later, he beats me pretty regularly at the City (he has unbelievable luck). And it freakin' forces me to expand my tactics. It forces me to think in a way that I haven't before, like ever.
So usually with a simple board game, I play it a dozen times and I see all that it has to offer. With City, man there's just no end to it...

I've tried playing with no military, with only military. I've tried heavy economy, light economy and everything in between. I've tried to experiment with the movements I take with my figures, I've tried to maximize my chances at the mini game that is combat.
And yet, every once in a while, someone will chime in with a tactic (check out the Smoke Bomb Batman tactic over at the Plaid Hat site, salutes to Blarknob) and I'll again go back to the old drawing board.

So if I could give you a smidgey of advice, I'd say get beat a dozen times. Accept the challenge that is the knife fight in the phone booth with three or four players. Push your boundaries man, expand your thinking and tactics.
And, don't stop typing about it, share the good results, the bad and the ugly. You never know what the rest of us out here might respond with.
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Michael Bomholt
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I don't think the game needs any variants, your playgroup just needs more aggressive players.

http://youtu.be/V2XGp5ix8HE
 
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Brian Bishop
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Man Blarknob, that video is oh so funny..!
Not that I want to dominate the crap outta this thread but I don't really think "aggressive players" is what Slacks' group needs.
I think back, to when I started, and I see a lot of similarities in the way that I played. And I think what his group is doing is the logical method. They see an "easier" way to win and they're right. A strong economy with lots of Renown making options is the best. The most "possible" maybe...

So I think right around the twenty ith defeat, I started telling myself, surely there's something else I could've done...
And I realized that the answer was combat. I could've made a charge, I could've thrown caution to the wind and my gangers into the human grinding machine that is the Stronghold.
But then it became a bit more refined maybe, like a master chef who continually worked with hot dogs (eventually he makes an awesome meal and somebody says hey, this is really good, what's in this..?)
So I think what they need is more butt whoopin's. More defeats in frustration because it allows you to learn, to experience, to break out of your safety shell I suppose.

And really guys, I think this is what gives the City a bad image sorta. It's a learning curve and it's "healthy". But if you stick with it, in the end you come out as one bad ass gang leader that can contemplate economy, figure movement, Yugai odds and retaliations. And man, once you're in that spot mentally, every game of City becomes earth shaking, every purchase questionable and every roll of the dice, significant.
Don't give up guys, you can do it (and the reward is super sweet) and if (and when) you get stuck on a tactic, type about it, we're out here to help do one thing...
Fight the Yugai!
 
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Michael Bomholt
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I agree. I think it takes a while to figure out the plot arc of this game. I also think it is one of those "easy to learn hard to master" kind of games.

Keep playing don't let a bad defeat keep you away from the game.
 
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Blake
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I've had City of Remnants for a few months now but my gaming group doesn't meet in the summer, so I've only had the chance to play it twice. I do however enjoy reading and thinking about the game.

Based on the OP I tried to think of a combat variant that would allow for less deck burning like you suggested. I haven't tried this out but thought I'd throw the idea out there for fun.

Currently for each battle you can play "influence (I)" number of cards and roll "adjacent figures (F)" number of dice. The variant I was thinking of would allow you to play (I) cards and roll (F) dice for up to two battles on a contested space. This way you're forced to split (I) cards and (F) dice between two battles however you see fit, rather than having (I) cards and (F) dice for each battle. This halves the number of cards burned from a 2 battle engagement.

For example:

Red is attacking and has an influence of 6 with 4 adjacent figures (2 in the contested space, 2 adjacent). Blue is defending with an influence of 5 and 6 adjacent figures. Example of combat would be as follows:

1) Red chooses Attack cards, up to 6, and lays them facedown (he decides to play 3)
2) Blue chooses Attack cards, up to 5, and lays them facedown (he decides to play 3 as well)
3) Red chooses # of dice to roll, up to 4 (decides on 2)
4) Blue chooses # of dice to roll, up to 6 (decides on 3)
5) Resolve battle, set used cards aside, remove a figure from losing side.

Regardless of who won, for the next battle on the contested space Red can play a maximum of 3 cards (6 influence - 3 played) and blue can play a maximum of 2 cards (5 influence - 3 played). Red has 2 more die for the next battle (4 - 2) and blue has 3 more die for the next battle (6 - 3).

The next battle would resolve normally with the limitations on card number and dice number. For the losses, the gang member cards can be removed from any cards played, regardless if it was the first or second battle.

One issue with the variant is that there can be three battles on a contested space if there are four gang members there to start with, and splitting "influence" number of cards three ways would be too thin. So as an option I thought of a more off the wall idea.

For the third battle each player will have one figure left on the contested space. All the gang members have already fired their weapons (from the dice roll), so all that is left is a dual between the two figures.

Before the duel starts each player has the option of being a coward and running away. They would concede the space, move their figure to their player mat, and move a gang member from their hand or deck to their discard pile. If not, the duel begins, which is the same as a battle except:

1) Each player can play three cards. If one player has a higher influence he can play one additional card.
2) Each player gets one dice to roll.

The loser removes his figure and a card from the game as normal.

Hopefully some of this made sense. I think this would open up for more fighting because less cards will be burned and you only have the risk of losing one gang member permanently because you can run away. Anyways, I thought I'd throw the idea out there because this game deserves more posting than it gets.

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Those are some interesting ideas!

I'm going to focus on coming up with combat heavy strategies using the existing rules for now. Please feel free to continue suggesting variants, but I am not actively working on this right now.
 
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I've read a few posts about people making comments about the combat in this game. They feel there isn't enough, or it's too tough, etc.

I haven't played this as much as I would like but the impression I get is that it's not meant to focus on combat. I look at it like a "realistic" situation. A real gang are not soldiers...they're likely just thugs and criminals who would like to avoid an all out fight with other gangs or cops. In my mind they would focus on controlling turf through intimidation and they would gain influence and money by selling drugs, or other illegal acts.

Another reason why a gang would avoid a fight is because of their small numbers. A small group would feel the loss more if certain key individuals got killed. Yet another incentive to avoid an all out fight.

When I play this game I try to keep these points in mind. If I'm making good money I don't mind bribing the Yugai. I'll fight when I want to make a push for new territory or if I feel another gang is coming too close to home.
 
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I agree, many of those posts are mine. I actually make several of those points in the OP.

However, this the variants forum. Even if the game was designed such that combat is supposed to be infrequent and risky, the point of this variant is/was to make combat more frequent.

That said, some have argued that combat is not infrequent if you are using certain competitive strategies. If that is true, I would rather figure out those strategies than modify a game I haven't grasped fully. Unfortunately I don't get to play the game too often, so I'm still working on developing some high combat strategies.
 
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Brian Bishop
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Ooh, thought of the day Slacks, and all the other gang leaders out there..!
If you really want to push the edge of the cold metal envelope, try reducing the City to only one of it's basics, the combat.
Next time you have a chance to play (or practice), eliminate the developments, the black markets, the renown. Reduce it down to only recruiting and movement. In fact, make those two your only available actions.
When it's your turn, you get to pick a recruit (for free, no money either, no bidding), or Move. You still move the amount of figures equal to your Influence and when you "battle" you're still limited in the amount of cards you can play to your Influence.
But in this way, you've basically split the game into a quarter (or eighth) of it's former self and you can really "zoom in" on the aspect you want to see better.

Playing a whole game like this, well it's gonna be brutal. Start with your seven figures and add as usual, whenever you Recruit. But when a figure dies and you toss your card to the graveyard, eliminate that figure (like he goes back in the box forever).
It almost makes it like the old fashioned War card game (remember this, it's when you take any old standard deck of playing cards, shuffle the crap outta 'em, deal two piles and draw the top one against your opponent's top one and whoever's highest, wins...)
So you still roll the appropriate amount of dice, you still get "lucky" (or unlucky if you're like me) and you get to see "lots" of combat.
And it's almost like an education in City fighting. It's "no distraction", just your dudes on a map against theirs.

And hey, when you report about how this played out, you can even report your "score". For example, I ended with three figures to their none, 3-0 (because all sixteen of theirs died, and only thirteen of yours...)
Fight the Yugai people..!
 
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I don't think I have a problem with tactics, but strategy. I know how to manouver figures and I think I know how to bid during a fight. The problem that I've struggled with is justifying fighting in the first place.

For example:
It costs -1 action to fight (move). It will probably also cost me a 1 figure from the board, which is about another -3 actions (recruit->move+cost)

If I win I get a development. To have that development it would cost me an action and some money. Let's assume that is +2 actions if I win.

If I win my opponent also loses a development and two figures. This costs them approximately -8 actions. This is pretty great if it helps you win the game, but it doesn't help if you attack the guy in last place.

If I lose I will lose another figure. This costs about -3 actions.

*****
If I attack the leader my risk/reward is -7/+6, so I want to win at least (1+7)/(6+7)=62% of the time to break even with a standard action. This is why most of my games end up with a last minute attack on the leader. This is also why I would expect a lot more combat in a two player game, among other things.

If I attack the loser my risk/reward is -7/-2, so I never want to attack the loser normally. Of course if this is a "sure thing" then I won't lose a figure and my reward is +1 action. In my experience this is very rare, but then my group attacks conservatively.

In a three player game, if you attack everyone equally, you will want to win (62%+100%)/2=81% of the time. In a four player game in the same circumstances you will want to win (62%+100%+100%)/3=87% of the time.
 
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@Bishop
That is an interesting idea. As I mention in the previous post, I don't think I have a problem with tactics. However, killing off enough of your opponent's gangers might be more strategically useful than I think.

You'd need to add some rule about keeping figures on the board or this will become a stalemate quickly. The winning play in 3+ player is to let the other players kill each other, there is no incentive to actually fight. In a 2 player you must fight to win, but as soon as someone is losing they can just stop playing onto the board and force a stalemate.

Maybe we could add a timer and whoever controls the most spaces when time runs out is the winner. That seems like it gives a better simulation of the other elements of CoR.
 
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Blake
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Just played again tonight which made me revisit this post. What about allowing a refresh action after all the battles are done for 3000 arcs? Then battling basically costs the same as a black market card or red development, plus the potential card loss. You could even allow this for the defender as well.
 
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Brian Bishop
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Ooh, that's a swift punch in the guts or, as my man Mr Dan Abnett says, one boss sausage you got there friend..!
Fight the Yugai people..!
 
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