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Karnot

TB space combat with very limited forces

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How to spice it up ? For example, a space turn-based game, suppose you have a shuttle transporting a giant robot, and get caught and boarded by space pirates, so you launch your single robot to fight them...and it feels like it will be really bland. If it was an action game - you could go in robot's cockpit and fight it out in space sim mode, but its not. Robot cant be too weak, cant be overwhelmingly strong, and most importantly - he is alone. In space. Meaning there is no terrain features to be used for cover, everyone can see everything, move everywhere, etc. Can anyone think of a way to make this setup interesting at all ?

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Maybe clever use of countermeasures to avoid being blown up?
Managing power distribution between shields/weapons/movement?

I suppose the aim is to introduce some kind of micro-management to increase the depth of the game.

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The (really) short and unhelpful answer is have high stakes for failure and simple addictive mechanics. The harsh punishment will keep the players nervous whilst the simple and addictive mechanics will keep them wanting to play. However, I appreciate that isn't a very helpful answer.

The harsh punishment is made easily enough but the addictive mechanics are slightly more challenging.

Firstly, space isn't entirely devoid of scenery etc, what about asteroids and the like. You say it is turn based, which makes it slightly more challenging to make it instantly addictive, as other turn based games tend to take a little while to get in to. Perhaps have the AI incredibly dumb and just walks straight towards you. You have very limited, short range weapons, so you must lure them in to a trap. Maybe have it so there is an asteroid coming towards you, so you must lure them in to it, then bam! they all get killed by the asteroid.

Vary the enemy units to respond differently to your actions - make some head straight towards you while others will use different tactics. Maybe they have heat seeking missiles, but if you manage to turn them around, the missiles lock on to their own allies. Perhaps you can create decoys or lay mines. Maybe make your "main" gun a last resort, a bit like the king piece in chess, can only attack one square either side.

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What about turning it into a game of strategic inertia management? Don't think of the ships or bots just flying up to each other and duking it out. Rather, make it a challenge to actually get there. Have factors like acceleration, fuel, turning rate, velocity and heat determine if a missile hits, for instance. If turning and movement is fine grained rather than chunked into the typical 6 or 8 facing directions and movement squares/hexes then you have room to create detailed intercept cones which widen or narrow as velocity falls or rises. You could then throw in intercept chances, spoofing and point defense and even collisions to add more texture.

If you do this you'd have to make sure that you create a wide variety of ordinance. Maybe you have everything from dumb rail projectiles to smart torpedoes, antimatter-powered rockets and nuclear warheads. It would also be important to balance the acceleration and maneuvering profiles so that you can't just jink or accelerate away from everything.

If you can track it down, look to a tabletop miniatures space game called Full Thrust for more inspiration. It has a very interesting damage model far beyond simple hit point depletion where critical components become randomly damaged as the ship takes hits. What's really cool is that you can have some tough models that take lots of abuse before components fail versus fragile platforms that can't take many hits before they fail.

EDIT: Just wanted to add-- just because the battle takes place between two actors doesn't mean that you have limited resources on the board. If you throw in drones, remote weapons platforms that are meant to be dropped, stealthed, allowed to attack from a different angle and picked up; as well as missiles that can be guided your two actors can have a lot of resources to move around the board. You could get the equivalent of fleet combat between two ships!!!!

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Original post by Wavinator
What about turning it into a game of strategic inertia management? Don't think of the ships or bots just flying up to each other and duking it out. Rather, make it a challenge to actually get there. Have factors like acceleration, fuel, turning rate, velocity and heat determine if a missile hits, for instance.

...

as well as missiles that can be guided your two actors can have a lot of resources to move around the board. You could get the equivalent of fleet combat between two ships!!!!

This is like a board game that I am developing.

In my board game you are a ship trying to destroy you opponent's ship. That is "the equivalent of fleet combat between two ships".

I use a Hex grid, and have "anomalies" like planets, asteroid fields and nebula.

The players design their own ships and each ship has 7 sections with two slots per section for equipment (weapons, engines, power plants shields, etc). Each section has a resistance to damage and a structural integrity (how much damage it can take before it and any equipment install in that section is destroyed).

There are two weapons: Beam weapons that have an infinite range and an instant hit but have a limited firing arc, and Torpedoes which have 6 move actions (move forward or turn) each round and only last 2 rounds (including the round that it was fired) and have an area effect (depending on their power) for damage.

Beam Weapons are blocked by planets, and nebula decrease their power (for each hex of nebula it passes through). Torpedoes can manoeuvre around anomalies, but if they pass through an asteroid field they might be triggered to detonate early.

Beam Weapons are good for sniping across long distances, but close in, ship scan easily manoeuvre out of your firing arcs and avoid damage. Torpedoes are good at medium distances and ferreting out enemies from behind cover (anomalies). As Torpedoes do area effect damage, up close they can be just as brutal to you as the enemy unless you are very careful (you can choose when to detonate a torpedo, but it can also be detonated if it takes damage from asteroid or from shots from enemies).

Shields protect an area from damage but will get depleted instead.

Ships can manoeuvre around the map by using their Thrusters to turn and Main engines to move forwards.

Positioning is very important as is your facing. As weapons have a firing arc (but as torpedoes can manoeuvre on their own so this is not as sever a limit to them as it is with beam weapons). Positioning and facing allow you to control if you can be hit and where about you are hit, which means that you can cycle through active shields as you recharge depleted ones.

Lastly is the part of the game where you have to manage your ship's energy and crew. Each ship has several crew teams (purchased at ship creation time) and the level of the crew team determines how much energy they can handle each round. Only one crew team can be assigned to any one piece of equipment each turn and a crew can only be assigned to one piece of equipment each turn (but these can change between turns).

As your ship only produces a limited amount of power, your crew have limited amount of power they can handle and you only have a limited number of crew teams how you use them is extremely important.

The order in which you do these things in the game (first fire weapons and move torpedoes, then move you ship, then assign crew and power) means that it is a very tactical game where you have to think several moves ahead. The design of the ship is also important and gives you various options in the game (in play tests I have seen players create "Space Station" ships without main engines and extra weapons and shields for a very effective, but largely immovable strategy, and in a recent update to the rules I added better rules to accommodate these kinds of ship designs).

There are rules for multiple players (more than 2) and even for team games (Fleet Action games) with several ships on each side. These can be quite brutal as you can have several enemies firing on the same target and this can really do some damage to a ship (but then you can bring in allies to provide cover and take hits, and even design ships for a specific purpose in the fleet - like a shield ship designed to take the brunt of enemy fire).

And yes, I am thinking of developing this as a computer game, but I want to get the rules sorted out better before I do.

So in answer to the OP's question:

If combat is going to be between just a few combatants, then you can go into more detail on the operation of those units and have these details give you the advantages you need.

As for terrain, you can fight in interesting locations, like with your example, the shuttle that launched the robot could act as cover and terrain. So instead of ducking behind a hill for cover, you jet in behind the aft stabiliser fin of the shuttle as your cover. If bits of the shuttle could be blown away, then cover is more dynamic and offers interesting tactical and strategic considderations.

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Firstly, space isn't entirely devoid of scenery etc, what about asteroids and the like.

I know that people are used to space battles amidst asteroid fields, but if you think about it - it doesnt really make any sense. Even if you actually manage to find a field of stationary asteroids (and they usually move at "cosmic" speeds,hehe) - firstly you cant expect asteroids just turn up whenever you get into a fight. Its common sense not to lay transport route too close to such extremely dangerous places. And even if its completely stationary and you use "game logic" - then still, its a perfect base of operations for pirates, who would ever get near it willingly ?
What i want to say is...even if you do get asteroids every time - its still not much of a variety, dont you think ?

Quote:
What about turning it into a game of strategic inertia management?

Thats a good idea. The problem with that is, that the combat can happen on 3 levels of scale, and i want to make GUI as unified as possible, without too many unique commands on every scale. For example, robots can fight either in open space or on the ground, and it wouldnt be a good thing to make an entire set of unique commands, rules, and options for each case.
Although just by adding something like limited fuel for movement in space might be enough, i'll have to test that.

Quote:
Each ship has several crew teams (purchased at ship creation time) and the level of the crew team determines how much energy they can handle each round. Only one crew team can be assigned to any one piece of equipment each turn and a crew can only be assigned to one piece of equipment each turn

This is a very tasty bit. I wonder if it'll start to feel like a chore in a videogame, unlike a board game ?

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Original post by Karnot
Quote:
Firstly, space isn't entirely devoid of scenery etc, what about asteroids and the like.

I know that people are used to space battles amidst asteroid fields, but if you think about it - it doesnt really make any sense. Even if you actually manage to find a field of stationary asteroids (and they usually move at "cosmic" speeds,hehe) - firstly you cant expect asteroids just turn up whenever you get into a fight. Its common sense not to lay transport route too close to such extremely dangerous places. And even if its completely stationary and you use "game logic" - then still, its a perfect base of operations for pirates, who would ever get near it willingly ?
What i want to say is...even if you do get asteroids every time - its still not much of a variety, dont you think ?

Well, the space lanes might be away form the asteroids, but the pirates could ahve forced the shuttle closer because it would give them an advantage and allow quick re-enforcements from their base.

Also, speed is relative. This means, that although the asteroid might be travelling a cosmic speeds, if the shuttle was travelling at similar speeds, then the asteroids would appear as stationary to the shuttle.

Quote:
Original post by Karnot
Quote:
Each ship has several crew teams (purchased at ship creation time) and the level of the crew team determines how much energy they can handle each round. Only one crew team can be assigned to any one piece of equipment each turn and a crew can only be assigned to one piece of equipment each turn

This is a very tasty bit. I wonder if it'll start to feel like a chore in a videogame, unlike a board game ?

I agree, this might be too complex for a real time computer game (although for a turn based one it would probably be ok). I posted it to give people ideas, rather than as a proposed solution.

You could use a set of sliders to represent the amount of power or the numbers of crew assigned to a particular area.

For equipment, any working ones could be available as a slider that gives a percentage of power. By increasing the slider, you increase the percentage of power that device receives.

When places get damaged, or require crew interaction, these could exist on an other set of sliders. Like the power sliders, the crew sliders assigns a number of crew to that device or repair job. If crew are in a location when it take damage, then some (or all - depending on the amount of damage taken at that location) are killed, reducing the number of crew available (and flash red to indicate loss of crew and damage).

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