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Wavinator

Have supply lines ever been done well?

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Has any strategy game ever implemented the concept of lines of supply well? In most strategy games I've played, particularly RTS games, invasions are almost viral in nature: Enemy units move across the map unhinged from any real need to control corridoors of approach save for things like bridges or other chokepoints. Without lines of supply I think there are a lot of interesting strategies that are closed to players. Sieging a castle, for instance, or deploying a defense in depth where you bog down an attacker until you can surround, starve and destroy them aren't really possible. What are some (real or hypothetical) ways supply could be done and yet still be playable? Note: I'm not counting mining units in typical RTS games, btw, as they usually have no impact on the units already deployed.

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Something from way long ago, dunno who might remember. In the first Warcraft, building a town required you to build roads, you could only build off the road, adjacent to it, and to expand you had to expand roads first. I think if you too k that idea, made it a bit more flexible, and stuck supply caravans on those roads, you might have what you are looking for. Something like supply caravans need to take you supplies, and you build roads to facilitate that. reflect that with a travel speed boost, but let them go over rough terrain if need be. Also, dont lock building to the roads, but let the speed boost be a good reason for players to stick to the roads.

Doing this though will mean you need a system to induce loss if the troops go without supplies or have too few. There is a huge range of things you could do there, everything from defecting troops, to starvation, to slowing of travel speeds and weakening of attack power, to out breaks of disease and inability to heal, or even all of the above.

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Whilst I am sure there are some cult isometric TBS games out there that have implemented highly realistic supply lines, few commercially successful games have implemented such a concept. A few examples I've come across are simple and not exactly realistic, but they do offer some hope to those who take enjoyment in starving their foes into submission.

1. Rise of Nations
Rise of Nations is an RTS game that attempts to create the environment of nations and cities in a map which really isn't up to that task. It does, in a stylised way, pull it off though. The only form supply lines really take in this game is that of attrition. Soldiers in enemy territory take damage unless accompanied by a supply unit.

2. Total War
This series of games is a little more complex on a strategic level than most. It offers a lot more in the form of diplomacy and has a greater tactical depth. Unfortunately it is still rather limited. It does offer some measure of supply lines though.

Firstly there's the obvious example of sieging cities. When doing this cities will be able to hold out for a set amount of time based the size of the city and 'food stocks'. In addition, troops and structures will not be able to be constructed in the besieged city. This forces the defender to take a number of courses of action to relieve supply lines.

The player could, for example, sally forth from the city and attempt to fight off the attackers. The player could also sit and wait hoping the enemy will bugger off to do something else. If one wishes to hurry that eventuality then one can send an army to siege one of the enemy's nearby cities to force them to lift the siege to reinforce their own city. Alternatively the player could just rock up with an army of their own and kick the crap out of the enemy. There are also the options of pursuing peace or bribing the army.

Another example is that of blockades. Fleets may blockade the ports attached to cities. This serves two purposes, besides provoking the enemy. It forces any enemy ships that wish to leave the port to fight your navy. It also cuts of all trade entering the city from sea which can drastically reduce income and make the people unhappy.

Other examples of supply lines being exploited in the game is the ability to simply cut off enemy armies from reaching the locations they wish to be. Setting up fortresses in strategic passes or positioning a fleet in the Straight of Gibraltar can really throw off enemy plans. If you're lucky you may also intercept enemy generals on their way to govern distant settlements. Armies also effect the territories in which they reside - reducing income from trade and reducing food supplies. They also make the population unhappy.

Proposed Supply Lines System
A simple system for effecting supply lines would simply to provide an 'area of effect' around either armies/fortresses/bases or units/bases depending on the game. Inside this area of effect the following would happen.

1. Trade belonging to allied nations or the nation itself would pass unharmed.
2. Neutral nations' trade would pass through with some tariffs imposed.
3. Enemy nations' trade would either be taxed extremely heavily or would be destroyed.

This would include food supplies to armies beyond. Income to settlements would be measured something along the following lines:

<--Example of Trade with Friendly City-->
[value of target city's trade goods] * [amount traded] / [trade connections]
= Trade Per Route.

(other factors such as distance may come into it if you want to work it out fully)

[Trade Per Route] * [tax rate] = Tax Per Route

(for income actually attributed to the player)

[Tax Per Route] * ([Number of Routes] - [Routes Blocked])
= TOTAL INCOME


<--Example of Army Resupply-->
Army re-supply would require an unblocked connection with a city, fortress or base within a set distance. If no base is within this distance then food will be looted and pillaged. If that food is insufficient in combination with any resupply then army size will begin to fall.

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Dawn of War: Soulstorm uses supply lines in the game. You have to kept each territory connected to your "capital" or you can't send reinforcements and I believe it also reduces their strength. Really makes fighting on multiple fronts dangerous.

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Settlers 2 had a wonderful supply line system. Troops existed at forts, which in turn provided an area of influence. You could build within that area. If the fort was lost, any building not within your (now lessened) area was destroyed. Troops could only attack within that area + a little.

Empire expansion was then fairly deliberate. You could double-cover important or warzone buildings, though it was expensive and a tradeoff to do so.


Moonbase Commander was less of a supply line sort of design, but similar. You had a start building, and each successive building chained off of that one. Break the chain and everything along the line was destroyed. It punished players for over-fast expansion, and again provided a strategic choice between gobbling territory or protecting the line.

This is a post I made some time ago about a supply line mechanic for a TBS I'm working on. I've yet to get a prototype into playtesting so it is likely terrible.

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Ontop of my previous posted suggestion, I'd like to add that looting your enemies towns should be allowed to relieve the negative effects of not having a supply line be able t reach you. Alos, the supply lines should be physical things in the game you can attack, destroy, blockade, and otherwise manipulate. It shouldnt be special case scripts based on cities, ports, and armies, but rather it should grow from the fact that units need supplies, and there is a system of movies supplies from your base to the units, and a system for taking supplies from other units. You need to figure out where the supplies come from, and how they are moved to the units. As I suggested, physical supply caravans with waypointed roads would work best.

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well just about every RTS game ever made gives all units infinite energy/fuel and ammo.

Except Homeworld, where your ships would run out of full. Dark Reign needed supply lines. It was probably the best thought out RTS game of it's time, as it had several features that even today's games still lack.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Reign

The problem with it having supply trucks that provide fuel/energy and ammo is the micro management of it.

And if done correctly, you would need to have them shuffle back and forth constantly to replenish the front lines.

That is alot of clicking back and forth.

What a game should do is allow you to create groups or fleets (control 1 control 2 etc assigning keys)

and/or specify an area that requires constant supplies. The suppliers that are available would automatically begin going back and forth to whatever supply lines or fleets/groups you specify, and if needed you can assign them manually, stop them or focus them all to one area or fleet/group.

The player of course would have to build them, you can also give them an auto-supply order so they automatically just find far away units of just groups of units to supply them, so they do their own thing.

Then as the other player you could go hunt them down to really hurt the supply lines of the enemy.

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Quote:
Original post by ViperG
Dark Reign needed supply lines.
No it didn't. I agree that it was a beautifully executed game with a lot of very cool features which havn't been seen enough (if at all) in newer games, but it didn't have supply lines as defined in the current discussion (which excludes having to protect your resource gatherers (AKA "mining units"), as this is common to most RTS games).

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Quote:
Has any strategy game ever implemented the concept of lines of supply well?

Sure. Space Empires immediately jump to mind. Every unit have a "supply" bar and in some mods even "munition" bar, which demand to be replenished every now and then, or your ships will slow to a crawl, and fire every 10 turns instead of every turn. You can build supply networks out of designated supply ships, supply orbital bases, supply stations in the middle of nowhere. You can also transfer resourses from the bulk of your empire to the frontiers, so ships could get built there instead of dragging them from the other end of the galaxy.

Stars! did it much, much earlier, and even give you the ability to completely automate every operation you can execute with the resourses, but the operation list is much shorter than Space Empires one.

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After a supply caravan drops off supplies (which could use a quartermaster station as a supply point) there can be foot units that run supplies out to the lines automatically. They could stay inside the bunker line supply point until they are needed to protect them. The supply lines themselves could be waypointed to follow roads or other paths and left to it, same with the supply runners. An important part of the automation would be being able to select units as waypoints though. Also a command to seek out nearby units to give supplies to would be needed. It doesnt have to be micromanagement, though it would take some attention from the player to set up and watch over, especially considering its strategic importance to the enemy.

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Blitzkrieg is another computer war title that uses supply lines. Combat is focused on the units (no bases) so managing a supply truck doesn't get in the way. On the map there are several fixed supply crates. Any units within range will rearm. When attacking another point on the map, a supply truck must drive to a controlled supply crate, load up, and drive back to the unit (mostly tanks).

It has been awhile since I played it but I believe the ground units (soldiers) were exempt from needing supplies and only the bigger units (tanks and such) needed supplies. I can't recall whether or not you could destroy the supply crates but you could destroy the supply trucks.

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Closest thing you can do in Civ4 is to just spread a billion units over the enemy's territory after you've pillaged their road/irrigation/mining/resource network into oblivion. It's not really a supply LINE, but it has the same effect if you destroy it.

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To be honest, I can't ever recall a single game using them. Total War really doesn't use supply lines, at least as of Medieval TW; you could starve out castles under siege, but there wasn't any real lines of supply.

I've worked on occasion on a Civ-type game, which would include logistics as a tech, but everything was automated. Each unit had an invisible route mapped by the system to the nearest allied city or fort/base. If that line had an enemy unit placed on it or adjacent to any of the tiles it crossed, it was compromised and the unit would take damage until it was re-established or the unit destroyed.

It's not well fleshed out because I've only barely worked on the TBS idea here and there; it just popped in there.

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