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Subject: Making combat less "Mathy" rss

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I'm working on my first ever game design, a 2 player combat/area control game - and I'm pretty happy with most of the mechanics and how it has play tested. However, I'm finding that combat seems a bit clunky during gameplay, and I'd like to try and streamline it.

Here's how combat works now:

Quote:
a. The attacking player first declares which friendly unit is attacking which target enemy unit.
b. Both players roll 2 6 sided dice
c. The attacking player adds the Attack of all friendly units in the combat space to their dice roll total
d. The defending player adds the Defense of all friendly units in the combat space to their dice roll total
e. Players compare their totals. The player with the higher amount has won the combat.
f. The unit that was defeated in combat takes 1 damage.
g. If the player’s totals have tied combat is a draw. No unit has been defeated and no damage is dealt.
There can be a max of 3 friendly units in a combat space - so potentially 6 if both players are maxed. Here is an example simple scenario:

Quote:
Joe has 3 units in a combat space and wants to attack Jane.
Joe's 3 units have a total of 4 attack.
Joe declares and attacks one of Jane units.
Jane has 2 units in the combat space with a total of 6 defense.
Joe rolls a 7 (+4)=11.
Jane rolls a 4 (+6)=10.
Joe has won and Jane's unit takes 1 damage.
This situation isn't too bad on it's own - but what starts to hinder game play is when items/equipment are thrown into the mix. Items can be played to add more points to a roll after the roll has occurred. Equipment provide permanent attack/defense bonuses. Here is the above example with items & equipment:

Quote:
Joe has 3 units in a combat space and wants to attack Jane.
Joe's 3 units have a total of 4 attack and an additional 2 from equipment, totaling 6.
Joe declares and attacks one of Jane units.
Jane has 2 units in the combat space with a total of 6 defense and an additional 1 from equipment, totaling 7.
Joe rolls a 7 (+4+2)=13. Jane rolls a 4 (+6+1)=11.
Jane plays an item to gain an additional 3 defense on this roll, bringing her total to 14.
Jane has won and Joe's unit takes 1 damage.
See what I mean? This might not see too bad to heavy gamer, but I'm trying to make the combat approachable to a wider audience.

I've got the following ideas to try an simplify:
-Use custom dice: 2 attack symbols, 2 defense symbols and 2 blanks - and for each attack/defense point the player gets an additional dice? So 3 attack = 3 dice?
-Eliminate equipment: Get rid of equipment altogether and maybe have "levels" for the units? This way players are not counting units/items/equipment - but just units and items.

What do you guys think? Any suggestions to simply or eliminate extra math? Thanks!
 
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Matthew Proper-Lee
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Without trying it out directly, my first reaction is that combat seems awfully slow. After doing everything, only one damage point is given out for each combat roll?

If so, that seems way too slow if you have even a handful of units with even a moderate capability to take 3 or more damage before being destroyed.

Do you truly need the complication of additional Items to be played in the middle of an attack? Equipment seems reasonable, but adding in Items as well seems like overkill, again, partly because the slow damage dealing when only one damage is done per round.

Admittedly, I'm leaning more towards simpler combats in recent years, but when you compare it to the very quick resolution found in Risk, Nexus Ops, or even Conquest of the Empire, this seems overly slow.
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Ryan Byrd
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I had a similar problem on one of my designs. I ended up just raising the base Defense value of everything by the average die roll. Then just rolling for attack and comparing the total to the Defense. This allowed the following:

1. Ability to vary Defense values to make them more unique/thematic
2. Less rolling of dice
3. Less math
4. Faster combat

Keep in mind, my combat modifiers (for Attack and Defense) use cards that line up icons to the base values on other cards. This makes it easy to add modifiers since they are visually next to each other.

At first, I was worried that this system would be less meaningful for the Defense since no die roll would modify the outcome. It turned out that it made everything better and I have never looked back. Thematically, my Defense is now more realistic since armour does not change how well it protects the wearer. Only Attacks vary - which is like skill. However, my system intentionally does not account for Dexterity or maneuverability.

I also designed each battle to last about 2 attack rounds (small damage) to keep it flowing. My game is also not one player vs another, but each player is fighting encounters.

Hope this gives you good ideas.
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klz_fc wrote:
Without trying it out directly, my first reaction is that combat seems awfully slow. After doing everything, only one damage point is given out for each combat roll?

If so, that seems way too slow if you have even a handful of units with even a moderate capability to take 3 or more damage before being destroyed.

Do you truly need the complication of additional Items to be played in the middle of an attack? Equipment seems reasonable, but adding in Items as well seems like overkill, again, partly because the slow damage dealing when only one damage is done per round.

Admittedly, I'm leaning more towards simpler combats in recent years, but when you compare it to the very quick resolution found in Risk, Nexus Ops, or even Conquest of the Empire, this seems overly slow.
Thanks for the feedback. A little more context: both players start with 10 units on the board. 8/10 of these units only have 1 health. The other 2 have 3-5 health. So 1 damage is pretty significant to the overall game. Our playtests range from about 40-60 min. I feel this can be even less if I can fix the clunky combat.

I agree, if I can cut out items it would simplify alot - but I'd lean toward cutting out equipment first. I feel the equipment are causing the most confusion because they are not represented on the board in the combat space. Right now, the units all have their attack/defense on their board tokens, so it's very easy to see and add. Equipment cards are in front of the player, so its clunky to add and easy to forget about because there is no board representation.

Maybe some equipment tokens to stack ontop of units to signify equipment on the board? Like a +1 Attack token?

ryan_c_byrd wrote:
I had a similar problem on one of my designs. I ended up just raising the base Defense value of everything by the average die roll. Then just rolling for attack and comparing the total to the Defense.
This is a great idea! I'm going to give this a shot in our next play test to see how it feels.
 
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Kristian Järventaus
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You've already mentioned my preferred suggestion, changing to a dicepool system (custom dice). Counting is better than calculation, and dicepools allow that.

Currently your system can be described (if we ignore items) as 2d6 + Defense vs. 2d6 + Attack.

Here's a quick script to compare the probabilities of Attack 1-6 vs. Defense 1, ties go to defense. Use the Transposed view.

http://anydice.com/program/704b
Att. > Def. Attacker wins %
2d6+1 > 2d6+1 44.37
2d6+2 > 2d6+1 55.63
2d6+3 > 2d6+1 66.44
2d6+4 > 2d6+1 76.08
2d6+5 > 2d6+1 84.10
2d6+6 > 2d6+1 90.28


Let's compare it with a simple dicepool system that goes like this:

Defender and attacker roll as many dice as they have Attack or Defense, and get a success on a 5 or a 6. The side with more successes wins, ties going to defense.

http://anydice.com/program/704c
1d > 1d 22.22
2d > 1d 40.74
3d > 1d 55.56
4d > 1d 67.08
5d > 1d 75.86
6d > 1d 82.44

Eh, somewhat close?

Comparisons for various Defense values:
http://anydice.com/program/7050 Def 2
http://anydice.com/program/7051 Def 3
http://anydice.com/program/7052 Def 4

In the same ballpark, at least.

If the particular odds aren't that important to you, a simple dicepool should work. That can be either just "5 and 6 count as successes" or using custom dice with Attack and Defense symbols (which is basically the same mathemagically).

I was going to suggest another simple system, but after calcumulating it in anydice the low-end curves are funky: http://anydice.com/program/7053

For those curious about what I was about to suggest, it was simply that both sides roll d6's equal to their Attack and Defense respectively, remove any shared pairs between them and the result with the highest single die value wins. So if the rolls are Attacker 3 = (6, 6, 5) vs. Defense 4 = (6, 5, 5, 4), Attacker wins. Basically, whichever side has more of the highest value. Simple and quick, but there is a surprising jump from 1d vs 1d to 1d vs 2d.
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Graham Muller
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To keep the combat similiar to what you have
I would go with the single dice vs defense as well
But instead of adding the average defence to each unit, make the base success roll a 4+ or even a 5+ and then add the defence/attack modifiers.
you could also with this system have 1s as auto failure.

For equipment, could you not replace the actual unit representation with another one? If units are tokens then +1 Tokens or if units are miniatures then with a defence version or attack version?
Pawns vs Knights or Castles etc.

EDIT: Removed a bit with 0s for default values as it provides no benefit for additional units.
Although you could simply add 1 to the diceroll for each additional unit one side has over the other. Then add any additional benefits a unit could have.
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Christian Kalk
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Here's an alternate approach, which should result in quick battles with minimal calculation.

Set up a "Combat Track", with one end marked A(ttack) and the other marked D(efense). Set a Combat Marker a few spaces to the D side (3 soaces seems right, assuming use of a D6)

Now apply all applicable modifiers. Attacker has a +1 modifier? Move the marker 1 space in the A direction. Defender has a +1? Move the marker 1 space in the D direction. (Alternating one modifier per player will help keep the marker from running off the track.) Once all modifiers are applied, the Attacker rolls, and moves the Marker that number of spaces in the A direction. Apply and "Last Minute" modifiers if the gane allows it. If the Marker now sits to the A side of the starting space, Attacker wins. D side? Defender wins. Back at the starting point? Tie.

Applying one bonus at a time like this replaces the calculations with a string of quick counts.

A single die-roll vs a target number is no more or less random than comparing 2 rolls...however choosing 1d6 vs 2d6 vs 3d4 or whatever can allow you to balance the power of each 1-point modifier (draw the Combat Chart according to the size of the modifiers and the die-roll range). Could also allow use of different dice for different characters if you want...if the attacker has a Hero, for example, and the defender doesn't, you can use a D6 marked 3,3,4,4,5,6.

Just a few thoughts.
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Over the Thanksgiving break I was able to rope in a few playtesters who have never touched the prototype I'm working on. I went with the attack rolling against a base defense - and it was definitely a big improvement.

However, I still ran into some clumsy problems - some with my design in general, but still having some "mathy" issues in combat. It just does't feel like it is resolving fast enough to be fun.

I think I'm going to scrap a bunch of things on the prototype and try again with a simple dice pool system. I'm thinking 1 A or 1 D = 1 dice with 3 attack and 3 def symbols. Defenders win ties, but attackers would have a potential for exploding dice.

KamikazeJohnson wrote:
Here's an alternate approach, which should result in quick battles with minimal calculation.

Set up a "Combat Track",
I like this idea, alot, if there was only one space in which combat could occur. Every space on the board (about 20 or so) can be a space for combat, so messing around with the track could get clumsy.

Naeddyr wrote:
You've already mentioned my preferred suggestion, changing to a dicepool system (custom dice). Counting is better than calculation, and dicepools allow that.
You are solving my math problem with math! Thanks for the advice and calculations, it's really helpful!

gmuller wrote:
To keep the combat similiar to what you have
I would go with the single dice vs defense as well
But instead of adding the average defence to each unit, make the base success roll a 4+ or even a 5+ and then add the defence/attack modifiers.
you could also with this system have 1s as auto failure.

For equipment, could you not replace the actual unit representation with another one? If units are tokens then +1 Tokens or if units are miniatures then with a defence version or attack version?
Pawns vs Knights or Castles etc.
This is the approach I went with on my recent test. Big step forward, but I think a dicepool will be the best solution.

Nice idea with the equipment! I suppose I was thinking tokens now for ease of prototyping, but having some sort of modifiable mini would be really cool.
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