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Unit limit (4 of each unit max for example ) a must for customizable armies?

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I have been trying to make a turn based strategy game which allows players to customize their armies. Its a small game where both sides control generally less than 10 units. One rule that I am beginning to consider is limiting how many of each unit players are allowed to put in the army. For example, if the units are : Footman, Archer, Cavalry, Wizard. The most a player can use is 4 Footmen, 4 Archers, 4 Cavalry, 4 Wizards. This rule is common among Collectible Card Games (CCG) like Magic : The Gathering, which impose a "no more than 4 of each card" limit. More abstractly, Chess have a unit limit for each unit type : 1 Queen, 2 Bishop etc. I started out with having no limits on the number of each units but would often run into situations where building an entire army out of one unit is more effective than mixing. A way around this might be to have "counters" : give some units an advantage over other units so players are forced to mix if they don't want their entire army defeated by a small group of counter units. For example, in many RTS, some units will do extra damage to certain units. However, I hated this system. (personal preference) I want players to actually use one unit to beat another instead of simply winning because the rules say so. (and i don't want my players to have to memorize which units are strong against which) I am beginning to believe that in a game without arbitrary "counters" (this unit do extra damage to that unit etc) like Chess, there is no way around having to impose an artificial limit on each unit.

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[1]
A method to implement limit on group size without a hard limit is to introduce area effect attack. For example, the target of the attack is the entire hand. If that hand has many cards then all of them would get the same damage. So it is not good to have a lot of cards on one hand. It becomes a damage multiplier for the enemy.


[2]
Another method is to restrict the number of targets or action a hand could attack in each turn. For example, if a hand has a mix of attackers, healers, and defenders, during each turn it can only do one of the three actions against one target, whereas a player with a hand of attackers, another hand of healers, and another hand of defenders could possible do three things to three different targets (this player could attack while healing its own units, whereas when the first player wants to attack, its healers would also be attacking). The trade off here is that if, for the second player, the hand of healers have no defender at all, when that hand is attacked they will be all dead. But the first player's group would have a better defense.


[3]
Another common method is that an army always travel at the speed of its slowest unit. So there is an advantage to break up an army if it has fast units and slow units.

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Quote:
Original post by Girsanov

I am beginning to believe that in a game without arbitrary "counters" (this unit do extra damage to that unit etc) like Chess, there is no way around having to impose an artificial limit on each unit.


The two most common balance issues with customizable anything seem to be:

1) Use all of one type
2) Include just one of something that it's assumed you'd invest heavily in.

Hard limits completely get rid of the first potential balance issue. They're also a good way of maintaining overall balance. Even if an individual unit is overpowered, the limit prevents it from just being dominant, as you still have to fill out the rest of your army/deck/skills/etc.

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Personally, I feel that hard limitations indicate a flaw in your balance metrics. If an army of longbows can devastate most opposition, then longbows should be altered in some way that reduces their net power, while keeping them interesting. You say this is a turn based strategy, and that could also indicate that the problem lies within your schema for creating units. If the strategy of pumping non-stop footmen is superior, it might be because I can make a more effective use of resources by not investing in archer/cavalry technology or buildings. If this is the case, reduce the initial power of your footmen, increase the utility of their technology advancements and make those advancement predicate on technology improvements of other units. This will encourage the player to diversify since they are going to be spending resources to improving units they don't use otherwise.

A common strategy for balancing the tactical area of a game is to use a Rock-Paper-Scissors method. Archers kill footmen. Cavalry kill archers. Footmen kill cavalry. This works, but it is boring, easily identified by expert players, and breaks down as you add a greater variety of diverse units. However, adding RPS elements can be beneficial to your situation. For instance, if the benefits of a unit's armor are logarithmic ("diminishing returns") then an armor reduction ability will have a greater impact on lower armored units, while an armor-piercing ability will have a greater impact on higher armored units.

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Well, it's obvious you don't want to use RPS mechanics, so look at your units and where the user can customize them.

Weapons: A typical medieval army may have poorly trained peasants with spears and axes, footmen was axes, maces, and swords, maybe some flails; with the more elite troops may have great swords, pikes, and the like. Viking-style forces use war axes and the fearsome Dane Axe among others.

While you don't need to model all of them, a variety of weapons, each with advantages and disadvantages vs each other, would go a ways to building a unique army without resorting to limits.

Armor: What about armor? While you only really need 4 types (none, light, medium, heavy), what effects do they have on your game's units? You can have it affect movement speed, attack speed, whatever.

Movement Speed: Cavalry can move faster and further than foot troops. But what about difficult terrain? Mountains aren't easily traversed by horses. You could have mounted units not able to cross deep water or rugged mountains, necessitating foot units.

Costs: Both monetary and training time costs can be modeled to some extend. Cavalry may be fast, but costs far more food and money to produce and maintain.

Other Traits: What about units that are trained to cross mountains? Deep water? Build bridges and trenches? Other structures?


I've designed something similar, and basically I give the player the choice between weapons, armor, and trained skills. Add in 1 week training time per skill/weapon level, plus upkeep costs, and it tends to balance out fairly well, at least to the mid game.

Things get to be dominant once a player has enough resources to train huge numbers of troops up though. So I've got rudimentary supply line mechanics added which gives a smaller player a chance to weaken larger armies that otherwise they couldn't take on directly.

RPS mechanics are not there, and it's fairly easy to get a semi-competent army up and running. It's a rough design, but since I hammered it out during a dry spell while working on my main project, a rpg, it's works pretty well.

I would avoid hard limitations, instead impose them via game mechanics that make sense. In my case, you're limited by population, food, and silver (money). You can only recruit x% of your population, which costs y silver and z food to maintain. Then you add modifiers for the mounted units (more food and silver to maintain), various non-combat skills (engineers, etc...).

It's still a hard limit, but it allows for huge armies in large games if the player wants them.

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Example: A platoon-based hex TBS without hard limit on platoon size:


Unit types:

Footman: The normal melee soldier. Default stats.

Archer: Slightly faster than Footman. Weaker melee but has ranged attack.

Cavalry: Fastest unit. Melee.

Wizard: Equal damage to every enemy unit in the hex regardless of enemy orientation. Short ranged. Slowest movement.



Platoon Rules:

P1) A platoon takes more damage when it is attacked from the side or from behind.
P2) Each platoon can only move once and act once per turn
P3) A platoon moves at the speed of its slowest unit
P4) A platoon can only act toward one target hex per turn
P5) Each unit in the platoon share the same action. If the target is out of the unit's action range, the unit will be idle in that turn.
P6) A non-cavalry unit's attack is stronger if it has not moved or rotate since the last turn.
P7) A cavalry unit's attack is weaker if it has not moved during the current turn.
P8) During a turn, a platoon can let a part of itself split into a new platoon that can move instead of moving itself.
P9) When a platoon moves into an ally platoon the two are combined. When this happens the combined platoon cannot move further during that turn.


Defender Rules:

D1) Melee attack is first absorbed by the footman in the platoon.
D2) If the platoon has no footman, the cavalry will absorb the melee attack
D3) If the platoon has no cavalry, the archers will absorb melee attack
D4) If the platoon has no archer, the wizards will take the melee damage.
D5) Damages inflicted by archers are shared among the units in the platoon
D6) Each unit in a platoon get the same damage inflicted by a wizard.


Meaning of D5:

PlatoonA: 6 Archers
PlatoonB: 4 Footman, 2 Horses, 1 Wizard

During a turn, A attacks B. A fires 12 arrows. Dice are rolled. By chance:

Footman1 gets 2 arrows -> 50%
Footman2 gets 1 arrow -> 75%
Footman3 gets 2 arrows -> 50%
Footman4 gets 1 arrow -> 75%
Horse1 gets 3 arrows -> 40%
Horse2 gets 1 arrow -> 80%
Wizard gets 2 arrows -> 0%, Wizard dies


Meaning of D6:

PlatoonA: 6 Archers
PlatoonB: 4 Footman, 2 Horses, 1 Wizard

During a turn, B attacks A out of the attack range of the footmen and the
horsemen. Wizard casts Fire.

Archer1 gets burn -> 60%
Archer2 gets burn -> 60%
Archer3 gets burn -> 60%
Archer4 gets burn -> 60%
Archer5 gets burn -> 60%
Archer6 gets burn -> 60%


Meaning of D1:

PlatoonA: 6 Footmen
PlatoonB: 4 Footmen, 2 Horses, 1 Wizard

A attacks B. There are 24 slashes. Each footman can take 5 slashes.
Each Horseman can take 4 slashes. Wizard can only take one slash.
Dice are rolled to see which footman would get the slashes.
When there is no more footmen left, dice are rolled to see which
horseman would get attacked.

Footman1 gets 5 slashes -> 0% dies
Footman2 gets 5 slashes -> 0% dies
Footman3 gets 5 slashes -> 0% dies
Footman4 gets 5 slashes -> 0% dies
Horse1 gets 3 slashes -> 25%
Horse2 gets 1 slash -> 75%
Wizard is unharmed -> 100%


Meaning of P1:

Scenario 1:

PlatoonA: 6 Footmen
PlatoonB1: 3 Footmen
PlatoonB2: 3 Footmen

A attacks B1.

B-Footman1 -> dies
B-Footman2 -> dies
B-Footman3 -> dies, Platoon B1 is defeated

B2 attacks A.

A-Footman1 gets 2 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman2 gets 2 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman3 gets 1 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman4 gets 1 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman5 gets 3 slashes -> 40%
A-Footman6 gets 3 slashes -> 40%

A attacks B2.

B-Footman4-> dies
B-Footman5-> dies
B-Footman6-> dies


Scenario 2:

PlatoonA: 6 Footmen
PlatoonB: 6 Footmen

A attacks B.

B-Footman1 gets 4 slashes -> 20%
B-Footman2 gets 5 slashes -> 0% dies
B-Footman3 gets 5 slashes -> 0% dies
B-Footman4 gets 3 slashes -> 40%
B-Footman5 gets 3 slashes -> 40%
B-Footman6 gets 4 slashes -> 20%

B attacks A.

A-Footman1 gets 2 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman2 gets 3 slashes -> 40%
A-Footman3 gets 2 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman4 gets 2 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman5 gets 4 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman6 gets 3 slashes -> 40%

A attacks B. B dies.


Scenario 3:

PlatoonA: 6 Footmen
PlatoonB1: 1 Footman,
PlatoonB2: 1 Footman,
PlatoonB3: 1 Footman,
PlatoonB4: 1 Footman,
PlatoonB5: 1 Footman,
PlatoonB6: 1 Footman,

A is surrounded by B. A attacks B1, B1 dies.

B2 to B6 attack A:
(ignoring the fact that some of the B's get bonus attacking from behind)

B2 attacks first:

A-Footman1 gets 1 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman2 gets 1 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman3 gets 0 slashes -> 100%
A-Footman4 gets 2 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman5 gets 0 slashes -> 100%
A-Footman6 gets 0 slashes -> 100%

B3 attacks next:

A-Footman1 gets 0 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman2 gets 2 slashes -> 40%
A-Footman3 gets 0 slashes -> 100%
A-Footman4 gets 1 slashes -> 40%
A-Footman5 gets 1 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman6 gets 0 slashes -> 100%


B4 attacks next:

A-Footman1 gets 0 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman2 gets 1 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman3 gets 1 slashes -> 80%
A-Footman4 gets 1 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman5 gets 1 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman6 gets 0 slashes -> 100%

B5 attacks next:

A-Footman1 gets 1 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman2 gets 0 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman3 gets 1 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman4 gets 0 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman5 gets 2 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman6 gets 0 slashes -> 100%

B6 attacks next:

A-Footman1 gets 0 slashes -> 60%
A-Footman2 gets 0 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman3 gets 1 slashes -> 40%
A-Footman4 gets 1 slashes -> 0% dies
A-Footman5 gets 1 slashes -> 0% dies
A-Footman6 gets 1 slashes -> 80%

A attacks B2: B2 dies.


B3 attacks A:

A-Footman1 gets 1 slashes -> 40%
A-Footman2 gets 1 slashes -> 0% dies
A-Footman3 gets 1 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman6 gets 1 slashes -> 60%


B4 attacks A:

A-Footman1 gets 1 slashes -> 20%
A-Footman3 gets 1 slashes -> 0% dies
A-Footman6 gets 2 slashes -> 20%

B5 attacks A:

A-Footman1 gets 1 slashes -> 0% dies
A-Footman6 gets 1 slashes -> 0% dies

B6 has no target.





[Edited by - Wai on May 2, 2009 2:21:44 AM]

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The famous rock, paper, scissors argument. It usually goes something like this, "I don't want a single unit, to be good against another unit because the game says so; I want the player's skill and ability to determine the outcome of a battle." It's a valiant effort, and I personally believe the Rock, Paper, Scissors argument for designing military units is complete rubbish. Nobody really follows that outline, it just gets to complicated to quickly, and really allows for no "strongest" unit, which most games have.

I think the answer to your question lies within the actions your "units" or "cards". If one creature is good at aoe damage, then the second can do more damage, and maybe a third unit can heal or give you an extra turn... It's the actions your cards can do that will fix this problem.

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Why don't you simply use the warhammer system?

Each unit costs a number of points.
To be fair, the armies of all players playing together should amount to the same amount of points. Depending on the type of game, it can vary between 500 and 3,000 points.

A footman can cost 1 point, but a dragon costs 750 points. It's up to you to see what you want your army made of.

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Hi, I have just realized that this topic is not about the unit limit on a hex (as in Kohan) but the limit on the entire board. In that case I agree that you need some kind of point system as in Warhammer.

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Personally I think when a player often gets an advantage by using many of the same type of units, you probably designed the units bad.

If I ellaborate on this it will probably turn out to come down to a discussion about RPS systems, but that just a abstraction of what you want.

Look at the real warfars. Airplanes, although powerfull, can't hold land.
Tanks are mainly usefull against other armored units, not infantry.

The machinegun only came on to his own by combining it with barb wire.

Make your units more interesting, give them several purposes that can be combined for new results. If players try to just make one type of unit, he will probably lose, because he can only fight in one manner.

It's like putting a supply depot in a choke point in Starcraft. Although never intented to be used in this way, it magnifice the power of the marine.

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Lets look at the Archer, Cavalry and Pikemen.

Although these actually form an SPR relationship that is not what is of interest. What we need to look at here is how they are used.

Archers are good at skirmishing. This means that they are not good at holding land. For them to be able to defeat pikemen, they would need to retreat (skirmish).

Pikemen are good at holding land as they are a defensive unit. To get the best out of them you have to let the enemy come to you. This makes them excellent for holding ground, but are not good at attacking (especially if the enemy has archers as they can retreat and you will take lots of damage).

Cavalry are great at taking ground as they are fast and can defeat archers. This enables them to out manoeuvre the slower pikemen and ride down the archers.

What this means is that all unit types are necessary. If the enemy just uses Pikemen, then you can either employ archers to turn them into pin cushions, or if the terrain favours it (open spaces) then you can use your cavalry to just go around them.

If you know that the enemy is going to use archers, then you can have a few cavalry units in reserve to go out and wipe them out. If they are using cavalry, then you need to look to the environment (choke points) to make the most use of your units.

So, even though the units have a hard SPR relationship, there exist tactics and strategies that go beyond this, just because we implemented the system through how the units beat the opponents, rather than just giving them a modifier to their attack power.

This forces the player to use all unit types so as to give them more flexibility in how they approach the problems.

This solves your second problem, but what about the first?

Actually the first is the most trivial. If the players ahve a limited amount of resources (say leaders to lead your troops, or gold to pay for them), then you have a natural limit that is imposed on the size of the army. The only difficulty is making this limit plausible (but there are many ways you can do this).

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Re: Edtharan

Your description is missing some parts because if pikemen suck at chasing archers, what is it that allows the pikemen to hold ground against archers (the pikemen obviously need to chase them, in order to kill them, and by doing so they are leaving the ground they are holding)? You said cavalry is good at taking ground because they can beat archers and pikemen, but you previously assumed that pikemen are good for holding ground.


The point about tactics is to allow archers to beat cavalry. The description could be that archers would beat cavalry if there is a wall and the archers can shoot from the wall. So when there is a wall/cliff/river/mud, archers would be the best unit to hold ground (until the wall is breached).

Another way to describe the interaction is:

o pikemen are good when they can fight without moving a lot
o archers are good when they can fight and the enemy can't fight back
o cavalry is good when the enemy is scattered across an area or in a sparse formation.

In this description, I don't need to say what unit beats what. It is up to the player to recognize the situations. For example, a group that is moving away from you is also a group that doesn't fight back. You shoot them regardless of their composition.

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Quote:
Original post by Wai
Re: Edtharan

Your description is missing some parts because if pikemen suck at chasing archers, what is it that allows the pikemen to hold ground against archers (the pikemen obviously need to chase them, in order to kill them, and by doing so they are leaving the ground they are holding)? You said cavalry is good at taking ground because they can beat archers and pikemen, but you previously assumed that pikemen are good for holding ground.



To take ground, archers have to displace the pikemen, which they can't do unless they get in range of the pikes :) Killing the other unit is not the only measure of success.

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Re:

But the archers did displace the pikemen. They are dead and they decompose into the ground. (!!)

My point was that pikemen could not hold ground. Not that archers could hold ground instead. The assumption was that pikemen could hold ground, but according to the description, they couldn't if they are fighting against archers because they would have to leave the ground to attack them, or they would just get killed. So that contradicts with the assumption that pikemen could hold ground. I was just suggesting that the wording could be changed to that pikemen are good at fighting enemies that come to them on their own.

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Massing a single type of unit should be a valid strategy in your game that sometimes works. If a player wants to do it, he should be able to.

However, if your massed units are a win EVERY time or a win MOST of the time, then you've got a problem. You need to put some kind of restriction on the unit itself, or make the other units in the game more appealing.

The only way to do this is through extensive playtesting.

For instance, in TA:Spring, an early strategy was the "brawler rush" in which the player would amass vast numbers of air units that were never intended to be in swarms. When the devs wanted to "nerf" the brawlers by making them prohibitively expensive, the players of this game complained, as it had become an integral part of the strategy of the game. So instead, they simply created a cheap and effective weapon that was great against swarmed air units, and average against lone air units (ie, it had a lot of splash damage). This made swarming brawlers less appealing, as it could easily be countered. So instead players started supporting their brawler swarms with bombers to take out the ground-based anti-air, or would sweep in with a fast ground attack before sending the brawlers in. Often, players would try a brawler rush with the belief that the other player wasn't building anti-air. If the other player did forsee the rush, and built the anti-air, the brawler-rush would be completely demolished, and the player making the rush will have wasted almost all his resources. Occasionally, a brawler rush would succeed, yet knowing he could have easily countered it, the other player is not left with a feeling that he was cheated. With a bit of tweaking, this made a brawler rush a "gamble" for the player making it, rather than a "sure win."

In any case, the moral of the story is that you should balance by playtesting. Creating artificial limits in code may stifle innovation on the part of the players. You shouldn't simply close off a strategy unless it obviously breaks gameplay. The only way to figure out if it breaks gameplay is to test your game.

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