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Subject: Introduction: The perfect Combat System ? rss

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Jochen Eisenhuth
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I’m working on my game Super Fantasy Brawl for some time now, and in this thread I’d like to discuss the combat system and compare it to other combat systems (especially dice-based systems).
This video explains how combat works in SuperFantasyBrawl:


I think, compared to dicebased systems that system has some very strong advantages:
1. Risk Management: As you can attack the same hitzone twice, to apply damage/effects twice but at the risk, that a single defense card of the opponent showing the same hitzone cancels all damage, this system allows to go full risk/high reward or distribute attacks on different hitzones for less but safer damage/effects. Players can use this for example, if they know that they have follow up - damage in the same round, so reducing hp will result in a kill anyways and there is no need to go full risk. This leads to the fact that your combat strategies are interlocked with the overall game state/strategy which is a good thing. I know that you could achieve similar effects with dice too, but in this system it’s very natural.

2. Control: Even if there is definitely luck involved in this system, players at least feel that they are in full control. Hitting a crucial attack on an high impact hitzone feels very rewarding, and there is a lot of tension when cards are played face down (along with some trash talk uncomforting the opponent ). If you chose to attack 2 times head doing enough damage to outright kill the opponent while the opponent thought: “he cannot choose 2 times head as he knows that I need to defend this” and defended torso feels much more rewarding than rolling a critical 6 on a die, the other way round it feels cool to avoid attacks by guessing, where your opponent tried to hit you.

3. Attack modulation:
Parameters for attacks are Attack-Value ( number in the yellow circle - that indicates how many cards you are allowed to attack with) and the hitzone-table showing the effects, that attacks on different hitzones have.
Here are some examples:


High impact attack but with only one attack card this is not very reliable. If the gladiator, that can perform this attack gets is hand on a buff/item granting him +1 Attack he gets a beast though. Even if the opponent has an additional defense card, this has a chance of doing still well (opposed to other actions, that fall off quite hard, if the enemy has +1 defense)


With 3 Action cards this is also very good to attack targets with 2 defense, as you still can do some damage. The foot will allow you to move 2 spaces if your opponent does not block Torso - so this attack gets very strong if you can create a situation, where moving fast is crucial (foir example to control an objective) - in this case your opponent hast to evaluate, if he wants to risk damage (3 per hit on the head) or risk scout moving to the objective (or out of counterattacks - the action is called Hit and Run…)


This is the Fairy Zap action, hitting torso will teleport the opponent back to his home base . As you can see, 10 damage will kill almost every hero, but as long as the enemy has 2 defense, this action can do nothing (you would need to reduce defense first with the attack of another hero, to make zap a thread)



This is the Wolfrider Bola Strike, and while the damage is kind of low, you still can go for double head (4 damage) if your opponent cannot afford to be slowed or immobilized. Again, creating situations, where your opponent must move, makes this a very strong attack.


4 Bluffing, Double Guessing Mindgames
Even the execution of small attacks is very fun. The first reaction of new players when they see this





attack here for example is: “I’ll always block head” (with one defense card available). But, if you do this, you’ll always get 3 damage (two torso, one foot attack). It’s like Poker, saying “I only play with good cards” . Then, after 2 or 3 attacks they start to risk more and experimenting, and this is the time when combat gets really fun. There is still luck (and I think, a good combat system needs it) but the whole “I think, what you think that I think” aspects makes combat really special.
Placing down the cards, looking in your opponents eyes, trying to read what he’s up to creates a good deal of tension. Sometimes, one player has more information (for example, the action card he selected for another hero) and that changes the whole game too (for example if you know, that applying one slow is enough to prevent the opponent to get out of range this turn…).

Now compared to dice, there are some disadvantages, first one being that it takes slightly more time and that both players need to look at the hitzone table of the attack card to execute an attack. Then some people just like rolling dice. Still I think, that the combat system is quite unique and has a lot of potential, while having only slight disadvantages vs dice based combat.
I have an entry for my game to the 2 player pnp contest 2016, where you can find all information, how to try the game and the combat system if you want to give it a shot https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1526309/wip-superfantasybra... (PnP and Tabletopia version available). Reactions of playtesters were very good in general, so I can only reccomaned to try it yourself.
It would be cool, if you could offer some thoughts and give feedback here or in the WiP thread!

Happy gaming,
Chordcommander

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David Ainsworth
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I don't think the time it takes compared to rolling dice is a problem, so long as the act of resolving the action is fun. This looks like it could be fun.
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Jochen Eisenhuth
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Yeah, it's rather fast as soon as players get the hang of it - but still rolling dice would be faster most of the times (unless you play some GW system and you need to roll 45 dice 3 times ).

It definitly was considered to e much more fun by most of the players, because (even if it's still kind of random) it does feel as if you got full controll, and if it was you, who failed that javelin toss and not your dice.
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Kai Bettzieche
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Freebooter's Fate as well as my own Duel at Dawn use a hit-zone mechanic with bluffing elements as well.

The method is not perfect, though: Countless runs of the above mentioned games have shown, that there is no mindgame, even though intended:
In the long run the desired results come more reliable, if you don't play the mindgame at all and draw blindly instead..
Which is sad, since the mechanics support a mindgame.
However, the incentive to play it simply is not given at all.

A breakdown of the probabilities of hitting anything would be nice to see, too ...



Kind regards,
Kai
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Jochen Eisenhuth
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Thanks for the feedback.

I don't know Duel at Dawn, but I know Freebooter's Fate (which is a nice miniatures game btw.). It misses some opportunities regarding combat system in my opinion though.

First: in FF effects on different zones are not distinct enough(I dont know the game too well, but mostly you do 1 damage, sometimes you can cripple a weapon etc, but it normally is not game deciding, so when I played it once I ended up choosing randomly, too).
You will drastically reduce your chances of winning if you choose randomly in my game (though there are situations with 50/50 chances where you can - which is fine too).

Second: In my game you can attack the same hitzone up to twice (while blocking it once will prevent all effects). This is huge, as it allows you to choose how much risk/reward you will take with each attack.

As you can apply lots of different effects as well, you need to understand the game state (and anticipate which actions your opponent has chosen) to understand, what effects are most beneficial to you (for example dealing damage or slowing/stunning the enemy so that he cannot reach an objective in time or one of your low health heroes). This is partially information, your opponent doesn't even have that you need to consider. If you choose randomly, you completely lose that advantage.
If you know for example that you have enough follow up damage (or you think you know, based on enemy actions that potentialy can intercept your plans)you can go for safe attacks by splitting hitzones, you attack. If your opponent has more information (for example that he can avoid your follow up damage) he will know that it's best for you to split and just defend the higher damage/impact zone.

One more example:
You attack with 2 cards, and attacks on the head do 2 damage, on the torso 1.
If your opponent chooses randomly, you will win in the long run by selecting double head always (you will deal 0,5 (50%) x 4 Damage = 2 damage which is more than in any other constellation). If your opponent plays it "safe" and defends only head every time, you just go for the double torso every time, and he will get 2 damage per attack as well.

You cannot escape the mindgame here.


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Michael Tan
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It's a nice system overall but it's difficult to evaluate unless viewed within the context of the entire game. My gut tells me that there isn't enough variance in combat results. It would seem that the system is prone to players memorizing their opponents cards. For instance, knowing that the club strike card ONLY does 3 damage, I'd use that information to send in a creature with 1,4, or 7 hit points to face the troll instead of one with 3 or 6 HP. I could think of dozens of examples with just the cards you presented but I'm sure you get my point...

I believe combat is chaotic and requires some truly random chance. As the game designer, you have the freedom to vary it as much or as little as you want. My inclination, within the framework of your system, would be to add more chance. For instance, what if the defender still played a card, but the attacker rolled colored dice corresponding to the same three hit locations. For instance rolling 6 "leg dice", each with a 50/50 chance of hitting would yield an average of 3 hits with the club strike but much more uncertainty. For less variance roll 4 "leg dice", each with a 75% chance of hitting...
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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m3tan wrote:
It's a nice system overall but it's difficult to evaluate unless viewed within the context of the entire game.


In case you needed it:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1526309/wip-superfantasybra...
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Jochen Eisenhuth
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Yes, as I wrote seeing the system in the overall context of the game-state makes it even more interesting.
You don't really need to memorize your opponent's action cards, as they are played face up before combat, but in some situations it definitly helps to know if he does 3 or 4 damage on a certain hit zone. Picking targets with the "right amount of hitpoints" is a valid strategy (as avoiding attacks, that can potentially kill you). But, as you choose one of 2 action cards for each hero at the beginning of the turn, your opponent will never know which attack you wil perform until you play the action card.

Another thing is, that actions become stronger, when you play them so that every effect on every hitzone hurts your opponent.
Let's stay with the clubstrike.
You got 2 cards, hitting head will knockback the enemy, hitting torso will stun him (he cannot attack during his next activation) and hitting legs would deal 3 damage. Opponent got 1 Def card (that is the default value).
If you manage to play this card in a situation where:
- opponent has 6 or less hp (maybe even only 3)
- needs to stay in place because otherwise you will control an objective (maybe winning you the gamne)
- needs to perform an ability/attack this turn to kill one of your units (or heal/buff one of his..)
you did it right.

Your options:
Head/Torso: will either displace opponent(you score) or stun him (he cant kill you) or both if he defended legs

Headl/Legs: Displace or do 3 wounds

Torso/Legs: Stun/3 Wounds

Legs/Legs Potentially 6 wounds with the risk of doing nothing

Imagine how hard it is to defend this and how many possible outcomes there are . And imagine the defender has another hero on the board with an action card allowing him to move very quick. In this case he can afford to get displaced and can defend legs or torso, depending on what benefits him best. Even attacking with the same action card can result in so many different combat situations that there are allways new and intersting choices.
I played about 200 games now against different players, and still combat feels engaging and fun. I think a lot of games could profit of a system like this. I still can only offer to try it out, using the links above.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Just found this thread.

Yes, I agree: dice-based mechanics are popular but not necessary. And, to certain degrees, a level of bluffing is very appropriate to combat.

I've used a few in my own:

(PnP) Strike, Feint, Riposte! v1.0 (5-way RPS with a twist)
which relies on memory, some deduction, and some intuition

Duel for an Empire! (WIP- Hidden Roles)
which has a stronger "ladder" mechanic, but still uses player memory, deducton, and intuition.

I used to play a lot of trick-taking games in college -- primarily Hearts and Five Hundred. And often times, we had the same 4 players. (On some nights, we'd have two tables going). But because we played so often against the same people, we learned a lot about each other's playstyles. So at that point, it became a matter of learning how to bluff
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Jochen Eisenhuth
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Yes, the system creates a kind of first person feel, that is very engaging. Even if there is a situation where it is 50/50 if you kill your opponent, you willblame yourself if you fail. I don't know exactly why psychologically, but it's not only me feeling this

I'll check your games out, too as I'm interested in these kind of bluffing systems.

I as well happended to play a lot vs the same people. It's intersting that there are more careful characters who will split all attacks to not risk getting nothing. And then there are the tryhards, that go for double hits on one hitzone all the time . What is interesting is, if characters change their strategy, this is when it gets funny .

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Abraham Gray
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This looks lovely. It reminds me of an old Roguelike game, "Omega", where you could decide how your character attacks and blocks. I always wondered how to do this in a board game and not be just a simple Rock,Papers,Scissors mechanic.

Well done, Chordcommander!
 
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