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Weapon counters

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Hi. I'm new on these forums, but I hope it's okay for me to post here. I want som insights regarding a counter system for RTS-games. I'm not talking about a counter system with 'hard' counters, like in the archer<cavalry<pikeman<swordman<archer-counter system from Battle for Middle Earth II, but more a 'soft' counter system, like from the one in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, were specific weapon types counters specific armor types, for instance pierce damage doing more damage to no-armor and light-armor, and less damage to hero-armor and fortified-armor. I want it to be realistic, and the counters should make sense, like Pikeman doing more damage to Cavalry (this counter is used in most strategy games involving Cavalry). I haven't done much research on this subject myself, but is there any historical or scientifical evidence on how different weapon types and armor types have countered each other through times of warfare, without taking practice with weapon into consideration? I mean, if a Two-Handed Swordman engages a Dual-Axes Warrior, is there any scientifical to say about the outcome? I believe there is, but I don't know much about this myself, and I want to know if anyone here have knowledge on this area. I know there are a lot of other factors when determinating the outcome of a battle, like height, strength, weight, agility, practice, preferance etc., but I have another question: Is there for example any "scientifical" prooves on wheter a swift person or a strong person can make the most out of a two-handed sword? I believe these questions are somewhat hard to answer (I can be wrong), but I want to know if you have some kind of feedback on this. I'm sure some games have a counter system like the one I'm asking for, but I haven't played any of them. What kind of counter system is there in Rome: Total War? Would someone make a vital mistake by introducing a counter system based on some, or all, of these weapon types? (I am not interested in how complicated it can be to balance, how complicated it is to learn for new players etc.) Two-handed sword Sword and shield Two-handed axe Axe and shield Sword and shield Throwing Spear Pike/polearm Halberd Crossbow Longbow Shortbow Magic Dual-wield (e.g. two small swords, axes or daggers) Cavalry attack Siege damage et cetera. Just some examples of what I mean: Spearman has 70% hit ratio versus a Two-Handed Swordman Two-handed swordman has 60% hit ratio versus a Spearman Sword and Shield Soldier has 40% hit ratio versus Two-Handed Swordman Two-handed Swordman has 25% hit ratio versus Sword and Shield Soldier Two-handed Axe Warrior does extra damage against Dual-Wield Thief Sword and Shield Soldier attacks less frequently than a Dual-Wield Thief Two-handed Axe Warrior has low attack speed, but high damage per strike Dual-Wield Thief has high damage per second rate and is faster than most weapon types Dual-Wield Thief is vulnerable to Spear, Polearm, Two-handed Axe, Siege and Cavalry attacks/damages Dual-Wield has weak damage output versus Heavy Armor Heavy Armor has slower movement speed, slower attack speed and a higher negative movement speed ratio on rough terrain than Light Armor I know these counters seem rather 'hard', but they are suposed to fit in a game were there are other factors, so that even though you have an army the enemy counters, you can still beat him based on micromanagement etc. That's why it's softer than the counter systems in most hard-counter games. Like if Archer counters Pikeman, and you have an army of Pikeman; the army with Archer would pretty much pwn you, and factors as micro would have little impact on the outcome. That's at least what I tend to think a 'hard' counter system is. I'm not saying any of these 'counters' are right or wrong, but that's actually what I really want to know! If there are any 'rights/wrongs' on this subject? What do you think? And what do you know? Many thanks, ManaSky

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Well I would keep in mind that its not just the weapon, but how its used in the battle, and other factors like terrain, range, etc.

You're example of pikemen countering calvary is true, but *only* if the pikes are massed and in the appropriate formation. A single pikeman would not be able to stand up to a single knight. However, horses will not charge into a mass of long sharp objects. But if the calvary can outflank the pikes and they cannot reform in time, the pikemen will be run down.

Archers used two types of arrows: broadheads and sharp point. Broadheads were made to inflict maximum damage on unarmored or lightly armored troops. The 'broad head' would slice through flesh and increase the chance of knicking an artery or internal organ. Sharp point were used to pierce thick armor like plate mail. They actually did not inflict as much damage as a broadhead, but broadheads would do little to no damage at all against a heavily armored opponent. The degree of armor penetration also depended on range. The arrow slows down somewhat in flight, and the terminal velocity of the arrow will determine the degree of armor penetration. And if you want to get pendantic, it also depends on the angle at which the arrow hits the armor. So sending up a volley of arrows at charging heavily armored calvary probably wouldn't do a whole lot.

Two handed swords were similiarly made for armor penetration. During the middle ages, knights generally wanted to fight other knights and didn't bother with the peasant army. So they were always trying to one up each other. The two handed weapon sacrificed shield protection for additional blow power. But two handed swords were slow and unwieldy. I would also add two handed battle axes and war hammers to this category. In your example a two handed swordsman that was heavily armored would probably defeat the dual-axe wielder at equal skill level, because the axe wielder probably woudldn't be able to penetrate his armor.

What other weapons were you thinking of including. Were you going to get into exotics like guisarmes, morning stars, etc. ?

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Truthfully there are too many factors to every fight to be able to determine the outcome by just looking at weapons and armor and numbers. But for a game thats what it comes down to.

In building a game I guess it just comes down to common sense. A man with a dual-weild sword kicks ass in damage but would be easily defeated by a guy with a spear and sheild - he has more range to attack making it less likely the dual-weilder will even touch him, and if he does then the sheild can block it. An army of light armed pikemen would easily be defeated by a group of archers.

What I would truly love to see in a war game though is advantage based on strategy. Like SunDog explained a group of pikemen would take cavalry, but what if they were flanked. Technically they should be easily defeated. If you could implement strategy into that would make the counters seem "softer" as you said. Well, thats all I have. I'm sure you'll get better advice though.

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Thanks a lot guys, your posts are very helpful. I liked the information of different types of arrows, DunDog, I'd never thought about that. :)

I have made board games since I was six years old, and have played RTS-games my entire life. Some years already I've been thinking on RTS-designs and how cool it would be to design a game (doh!). Like I'm the only one... Anyway, even if I'd probably never really develop a game, I've started to put a lot of work on it. The reason why I'm designing an RTS-multiplayer is that I'm so into multiplayer and all the aspects of balancing a game, and because it's fun.

I've been thinking on a counter system for many weeks now, but I want to make something different. I'm designing an RTS-multiplayer game. My ideas mostly relies around balance, inovations, tech-trees, abilities, factions etc., but I'm at a point were I have to figure out the fundament of a counter system.

I have to say that I'm interested in history, but not in historical warship itself, so I have no clue on weapons and medieval-strategies in battles etc. That's why I'm asking for help. I'm totally clue-less on this area.

The game has a traditionally fantasy-feel with creatures as Wood Elves, High Elves, Orcs (big and green like in Warcrtaft), Goblins (nastly little ones like those in LOTR), Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings and dark factions. Therefore, I'm not sure about 'exotic' weapons yet. I haven't put too much thought into weapons before now.

I believe flanking is essential for a competetive RTS-multiplayer game, as flanking gives a little twist to micro, and at the same time gives it a realistic feel. :)

Micro is the key-word, the essential word, the vital word. I want micro to be sweet and fun. I want the factions to be completely different in strengths and weaknesses. When you play your favorite faction, I want you to feel they are overpowered, and they should even be, in some areas. However, that doesn't have to be a bad thing for anyone, because micro is going to be more important.

So I really want an inovative counter system, but first I need to learn how weapons actually work. :)

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The first link is a list of all the Medieval weapon types and their descriptions. The second link talks about strategy and seige warfare and all that good stuff.

Good luck.

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A few things to keep in mind when thinking about arms and armour.

Armour is LIGHT, swords are LIGHT. Trained Knights don't need a any help getting up on their horse. In a few weeks I might be able to link to a video of a guy doing gymnastics in armour, or at least of a guy running around, jumping, doing pushups, situps, and maybe even summersualts. All of these things are possible in well fitting armour. (Some late period jousting armour is locked in place for added safety, but this isn't something used on a battle field.)
Nearly all swords in history are under 5lbs, many under 3lbs. The ones getting up to 10lbs or more (I think the largest period sword I've ever heard of was 13.5lbs) aren't really meant for battle as much as for carrying around and looking cool. Those that were used in battle were really more of a polearm. A staff weapon basically.

Most things that you will find that people "know for a fact" about history is BS and isn't worth anything.

Mail does not mean armour, the best modern traslation of the meaning of the word mail (better spelled maille for easier digital seraching) is armoured mesh/net/web. Armour can be made up of scale AND maille, and plate AND maille, but don't call them scale mail or platemail. You become a fool that talks about how much he knows about the interweb.

Few weapons actually punch holes in armour, no weapons cut through it.

Maille usually has a heavily padded shirt worn under it, and some are rather stiff. This means blunt force isn't 100% king instant death, but is still rather effective if you can actually hit the target with them.

There is 0 good evidence that arrows of any kind stand any chance of repeatly going through armour to a degree that is deadly. Yes, it is possible. It is also possible that you can be riding a bike and a bee hits you in the face and breaks your nose, sending bone fragments into your brain. But when was the last time you heard about that happening? It is also possible to dent or put a small hole in armour, however in these cases the arrow head rarely goes in far enough to make it past what is worn under the plate. It is however likely to make for an uncomfortable day, and maybe slightly stun the person. Armoured knights that die to arrows are most likely hit BETWEEN plates. There are gaps, this is where any and all normal attacks are directed.

Remember, buying a cheap helmet off ebay, setting it on a tree stump in your back yard, and then wacking at it with a wood axe or cheap sword shaped object you also bought off ebay proves nothing of use. All it proves is you can deform metal that is being held in place. Humans move when hit, absorbing huge amounts of the force that are deforming that metal, and cutting it open.

Armour is your LAST LINE OF DEFENCE. Idealy you DON'T get hit. You block with your weapon or shield, or you attack so aggressivly that the other guy CAN'T attack you. This is what made the norse Beserker so powerful. (Along with lore about them being so powerful and that they WILL kill you not matter how good of a fighter you are. Best weapon of history is that people were dumb)

Attacking someone in late era eurpoean armour means going for between the plates. There are no fighting manuals that mention attacking that large sheet of steel over the guys chest. Those open slots by the shoulders, the neck, between the legs. Those are all rather hard to armour well. Worst death I've read about is a noble that was walking across a bridge as a battle was winding down. A peasent under the bridge saw him, and stuck his spear through the borads.

So, how to balance all your different weapon types? Don't balance the weapon. Balance the skill. A peasent in a knights armour is likely going to be killed by the knight without armour, simply because the peasent doesn't know what he is doing.

Define your weapon types, and then include character's skills/trainings in attacking/defending against that weapon with the weapon they have. Compare attacking skills and defence skills, and you come out with the victor. Removes the total rock-paper-scissors feel to the game, and becomes a game of lining up your skilled troops to counter what needs to be.

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I'm not saying anything is true or false, but that was a great post Talroth. What I intentially wanted to do was in fact make a counter system based on skills and add abilties as a twist. For me, strength, agility and intelligence in a game is not enough, it's too 'wide.' For instance: The brutal and big Orc has a two-handed axe without any armor. He is slow, but very strong... if he manages to get a decent hit on a much smaller Wood Elf, the hit would almost certainly cause instant death. Even if the Orc didn't hit the Wood Elve's head or chest, if it hit his leg, he would be totally stunned/knocked down and incapable to continue the fight (at least the orc would have a great chance to 'finish it'). On the contrary, the Wood Elf is swift and has a potential "evasion" skill. Therefore, he is harder to hit. He also attacks much faster than the orc. However, even if the Wood Elf gets a hit on the orc, the orc is very tought, it can continue to fight even if it looses an arm or get shot by an arrow wherever it hits him, even his head (at least for a limited time). But the Orc can be unskilled, thus he does not manage to hit the Wood Elf, while the Wood Elf for instance use stealth, backstab for flanking bonuses, attacks fast, evaves, and managed to dodge the Orc's attacks while at the same time do more stabs on the Orc. Or it could be the opposite, the Wood Elf is not skilled and is not as good to evave the Orc's attack, while the Orc is skilled and manages to get a deadly hit.

Another thing is that maybe a High Elf has the ability to parry attacks, like a Human Soldier's attack, but then again, can he really parry a brutal Orc attacking with fierce power. He would probably get knocked down (or a chance to get knocked down?).

So basically, I believe a counter system is very hard to make, and I see why they're made so simple in games up 'til now. There are so many factors. Don't get me started on high trolls and dragons, magic etc.

And like... should aggressivness have a role in the game? What is it good to be aggressive against, what is it not good to be aggressive against? What about morale, formations? etc.

One of the first things I wanted to do, was to make different stats than the usual health/damage/movement speed/attack speed/armour-system. And more complicated than a strength/agility/intelligence-system. To be honest, they are boring after all these years with the same stuff in every RTS-game.

I started to have lots of stats for units, like fatigue/endurance, intelligence, willpower, morale, wisdown, strength, agility/dexterity, mov.speed/attack skill/defense skill/weapon/armor etc. Then decide which of them I wanted to bring on. Each category gives various benefits, like defence skill increases the chance to parry or block (if shield) an attack. Later I also thought about making those benefits race dependant, like the more agility Wood Elves have, the higher is their chance to get a critical hit.

But... then again... it's beginning to get very complicated!

I'll give it more thought anyway.

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Original post by Talroth
So, how to balance all your different weapon types? Don't balance the weapon. Balance the skill. A peasent in a knights armour is likely going to be killed by the knight without armour, simply because the peasent doesn't know what he is doing.

Define your weapon types, and then include character's skills/trainings in attacking/defending against that weapon with the weapon they have. Compare attacking skills and defence skills, and you come out with the victor. Removes the total rock-paper-scissors feel to the game, and becomes a game of lining up your skilled troops to counter what needs to be.

In that case, the more experienced unit will always win, reducing the game to simply trying to build the best units first. Rock/Paper/Scissors allows for shifting strategies depending on the situation.

Also, while the ability of the arrows to puncture armor has varied over time depending on armor technology, it is not an accurate statement to say that there is no evidence that they are effective. The mere existence and use of arrows designed to penetrate them is evidence of their effectiveness.

I agree that the ability to puncture armor greatly depends on the bow, arrowhead, range, and armor. But when simplified for an RTS game, arrows with narrow heads and heavy weapons are the logical choice for the counter to heavy armor.

[Edited by - Galliard on March 10, 2007 9:06:50 PM]

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Oh, and welcome to the forums by the way, and some rating points for posting an interesting topic.

A project that a group of us at my university have been picking away at is a large wargame. The weapon of the unit doesn't really matter too much, an old gun is an old gun for the most part. Based on large scale battles, the simulator was designed for controling 1,000,000 men or so.

"units" were basically companies of soldiers, the only 'soldiers' that ever had a name and personal stats are officers that command them.

Units then had stats like:
Number of men at each of the health levels, Prime, regular, unfit, wounded, (and dead, but thats a history thing)

From there we had numbers of men in each basic level of training, and another for level of experience, broken into 5 groups each.

15 shorts and we stored all the main data we needed for unit stats of about 200-300 men.

Since you want more weapons, I would suggest going with far smaller armies, but still with a formation system, rather than what most have of "I'll send a lone swordsman around here". Groups with decent unit and subunit (subunit being a single soldier, unit being a company basically) AI make for great fun to play.

so, you'll have a unit structure.

Unit One
Health: 10, 20, 30, 30, 0

Exp: 30, 40, 20, 0, 0
Train: 40, 30, 15, 5, 0

offensive weapons stats:
Sword: 0, 0, 5, 10, 10
Spear: 70, 10, 10, 0, 0
Axe: 0, 10, 15, 0, 0

defensive weapons stats:
Sword: 0, 20, 40, 20, 10
Spear: 60, 10, 10, 10, 0
Axe: 20, 40, 20, 10, 0

Sword: 20 Spear: 70 Axe: 20

So, this allows mixed units, and this unit is mainly Spear, with 70 elite spearmen, likely 5 good axemen, with 10 medium axemen, and 5 poor swordmen.

They take an attack and suffer 10 deaths, and 30 wounds.

They now loose:
1 prime health to regular,
5 regular health to fit,
and 24 fit health to wounded.
As well as 1 regular to dead,
3 fits to dead,
and 6 wounded to dead.

leaving their health looking like
Health: 9, 15, 8, 48, 10

You then take 1 mid to high level out of each of the other stats, 3 low to mid levels from each, and 3 low levels. (correcting for any negative numbers in a stat)

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