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Subject: Restricting combat - a discussion and brainstorming rss

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Michael Ptak
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In the recent strategic-level game designs I've been thinking up there's one thing I'm trying to include organically in the design, and that's putting a price tag on following a conquest route.

I come from a background with games the likes of Risk, Chaos in the Old World, and Civilization. In these games there isn't really a limit or penalty to pursuing the path of beating the snot out of your enemies (though in Risk that's understandably the point). But in Chaos in the old world, Khorne gets a stupid easy win for killing things and in Civilization there's no drawback for essentially following the conquest route to victory- all other paths succeed only if the mongrel player makes the mistake of letting you live long enough to get them. ANd if you're following them, you're open to conquest by a military player.

What I want to do is explore ways to restrict combat to a short-term activity. Basically one CAN perform combat, but there's a restriction on how long they can sustain a military campaign other than how many units they have in their army.

One idea i'm pursing right now for a solitaire (perhaps multiplayer eventually?) Empire-making game is to take a gradual toll on the player's economy for the duration they are at war with an enemy empire. Eventually the cost of supplying your army would outstrip the production capabilities of your empire and you'd essentially run your empire into economic ruin. This would force a player to limit their campaigns to something short-term, or seriously consider negotiation if two empires ganged up on him.

I'd like to encourage solutions which are organic to gameplay and not some arbitrary restrictions like 'battles per turn'. Does anyone have any creative solutions to putting the brakes on enthusiastic combat-happy players? Or does anyone know of any examples where fighting was organically limited?
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Old Gamer
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This is quite a fun thing to consider. One idea:

You could make it take some time for occupied territory to become friendly/productive, and make progress in this respect expensive (economically/militarily).

e.g. a game of Risk, each time you take an opponent's territory, three markers in their colour are placed on the territory.

Until the markers are gone, you do not count the territory towards reinforcements at the start of your turn, and you cannot deploy to that territory.

Each time you end your turn with 3 or more troops in the territory, one of the markers is removed. If they take it back before you establish full control in this manner, the suffer no such penalties. After full control is established, it is as if they never held it.

Edit: I should point out that this is not my idea, I think it is a pretty common one, especially in computer gaming.

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ben harvey
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Well, drawing from historical phenomena, you could have something like
'battle fatigue' occur in a nation/faction that is fighting and declaring wars ALL the time. Belive it or not, wartime is not always great if your just some civilian, even if your on the 'winning' side.

I imagine the mechanic would be something, like for every army unit you raise in excess of X or every combat action you make in excess of X some penalty occurs, a drop in 'happiness' or simply 'battle fatigue' begins to affect your population. X goes up if you haven't battled for a long time, it stays low if your always fighting.

Just an idea.
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Terren C
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In the Total War series of computer games they balance this by making your armies cost an amount of money based on their size every turn. The point of say, Medieval: Total War, is to conquer an amount of Europe before you run out of turns. Throughout this, you have to balance your economy to keep your people happy as well as feed/pay your military. You can also pursue diplomatic relationships with the other factions to forge alliances and help take out common enemies.

The game is hard. Almost every time I play the cost of my armies outweigh my income. Thus my cash reserve is eventually drained to the negatives and improving my countries infrastructure is impossible. Really, the only way to sustain your armies is to engage in battles AND win those battles. A win grants you some income from taking the city/country, a loss just grants you nothing but heartache and a lack of extra income for that round.

Basically, you could implement a system where the cost of having a standing military is great enough to discourage a bullying situation. But balance so the option is still there for a military victory, if you want that.
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Michael Ptak
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So a garrison requirement, National Fatigue, and Maintenance upkeep eh?

I feel like the Garrison requirement is more like a speedbump instead of a price tag. Say in Risk for example, you just leave behind the three troops and move onward with the rest of your bulldozing blob. Unless you have a means to para-troop in reinforcements to re-take it, it doesn't seem to be a significant drawback as I would have liked. But it could be the basis for other ideas.

As an aside, my prototype I'm toying with has no garrison requirement because you always face the risk of Rebellion in one place or another if your nationalism counter is too low. But more on that if/when I make a thread about it here.

I'm iffy about Battle fatigue because I look at historical modern empires like The British Empire, Nazi Germany, WWII Japan, Russia, etx. Aside from some assassination attempts against Hitler I don't recall dissatisfaction with being successful and grabbing up more land. If the empire is thriving and succeeding then there's no cause for slowing up the wheel of progress. Sure, soldiers die, but it's all in the cause of advancing the good of the Empire. Besides, the people you're oppressing you never knew in the firstplace and are little better off as slaves.

On the other hand, sustained losses can take a big hit against your national Morale. So only as long as you keep winning your battles, you'll have a proud empire. But even the smallest losses incur doubt in your troops, and your cause might not be as divine as you'd hope. That is another penalty I would like to incur in my solitare game.

Maintenance upkeep is an idea I like in a multi-player situation because it gives players another dimension to attack their opponent. I would want to make the situation so tenuous that a player has a choice of either a small army with a robust economy or a large army with a fragile economy. Kicking them there shouldn't just mean they remove units from the board to disband- it should have longterm effects as well.
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Tim Mirkes
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You might want to take a look at how Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game handles military campaigns.

Each territory has a series of battles that must be fought in order to conquer it (I think it's called the "campaign track"). You invade with your army, and begin to battle. If you win, you advance one space on the track and have the option to sacrifice a soldier in order to press your assault for one more battle. It's theoretically possible to rush a campaign and conquer a territory in one turn, but it WILL cost you troops, and given the stacking limit in Conan, it means a significant fraction of your army will be lost in the process if you try to do it quickly.

Perhaps something like this could be adapted to fit the consequences you want? It's related to the "pacification" ideas mentioned above, but done in an interesting way that represents that war is less of a "we move in, roll some dice, and it's ours" event and more of a "we WILL lose soldiers, this is going to take time, and there's no guarantee we'll even win" investment.
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Sim Guy
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Every time that you create a soldier, you remove an able-bodied member of your national workforce, in favor of a non-productive high-end consumer of national resources. Depending on the genre or era you are using as the basis of your game, the effect could range from negligible to significant. If you remove enough of your workforce and devote enough of your national resources to your military establishment, your economy will eventually be affected. This goes hand-in-hand with the maintenance and upkeep of your military forces you don’t just buy a soldier they need to be fed and otherwise supplied. The same goes for equipment - they need fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and trained crews to power and maintain them. The larger your forces, the greater the expense and effect on your economy. There are a number of ways to reflect this in a fairly simple fashion, depending on how detailed you want to get. The simplest way I can think of is to make each successive unit slightly more expensive than the last, in both ‘purchase’ and upkeep. This could regenerate somewhat, over time to reflect population growth workers moving into the workforce and manpower pool.

You mention that a successful empire maintains its popularity with the home nation, this is true to an extent, but how the empire treats its new subjects also has a great deal to do with it. The subjugated nations may take a while to assimilate, and some assimilations will be more successful than others, for a variety of reasons such as the nationalistic feelings of the conquered people, their status within the empire, the oppression level of the conquering power. There are numerous examples in history of empires that established themselves through conquest and colonization, and many levels in between. The conquered people may be more or less cooperative in furthering the goals of the conquerors, and support and resources will be more or less accessible/available depending on such factors. Think of the Ukraine in WWII; the German forces were initially received as liberators, freeing the locals from Soviet oppression, who were inclined to cooperate with the Germans. But then the SS showed up and started terrorizing the neighborhood, precipitating a troublesome rear area resistance movement. Thus, an asset that could have been a source of manpower and resources was turned into a liability that required additional scarce resources to keep in check. To reflect this effect, nations could be considered on a case by case basis, as to their value as an asset or a liability to the conqueror. Unless the surrounding nations’ prior relationship with the empire was being considered, a simple way to handle such a situation would be to determine the leaning of the conquered territory, and to base the benefit gained from the conquered territory on the result: Unfriendly = requires a sizable garrison and the conqueror receives only 25% of the resource value of the territory; Neutral = small garrison, 50% of resources; Friendly = no garrison, 75% resource benefit. These leanings may change over time depending on circumstances. This could get into some bookkeeping, however, and it may be simpler just to assume a Neutral stance (gar./50%), with a possibility of turning Friendly (no gar., 100%) over time.

National Will may also be taken into account. As long as the people are seeing something at home (treasure and resources) to go along with national prestige, their support will be easier to come by. At some point, however, the treasure and benefits to your empire may not make up for hardships and deprivations endured by your population and they will begin to pull back their support. Think of Germany at the end of WWI for an example. The effect will be especially pronounced if things take a turn for the worse, and even more so if your enemies are able to strike back the closer to home the worse the effect. The effects may be manifested as increasing costs for military forces and upkeep, to the current government or ruler being replaced, either by democratic means or by open revolt.

Also, your enemies may decide to band together for defense, and may eventually tire of the expansion of your empire. They may make things difficult for the empire by funding resistance movements, or declaring war. This is more or less what happened in WWII: eventually the great powers saw that appeasement wasn’t going to stop Nazi Germany and they banded together to put a stop to it. The chances of the neighboring, or otherwise competing, powers forming alliances against an expanding empire could increase as the empire becomes more threatening, or as it conquers more territory.

If you want to restrict combat, make it expensive and potentially unpopular. It’s easier to get the populace to support a war at first, but over time, the shine quickly wears off, especially if the enemy isn’t the pushover you thought they would be. Short, quick, campaigns are preferable over long drawn out conflicts.
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James Hutchings
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Make defence easier than attack.
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