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Turn-based tactics: a battle system

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We're building a fairly simple game featuring turn-based battles with fantasy units. This is the skeleton of the battle system I've devised - I'd love any feedback or comments anyone has to help me improve it. ** Overview ** The game is a turn-based tactics game where you start with a small warband of rookie units, then fight battles with them. Doing well in battles can improve your units (xp -> levels), and give you money to expand your warband or improve the equipment of your existing units. It will be a single player game. ** Battles ** Battles take place on fairly small square-based maps (top-down), probably under 20x20 tiles. Your warband will start with about 3-5 members and probably max out around 10, so battles shouldn't be massively long affairs. You win by eliminating the enemy. ** Battle System Goals ** 1. Be simple & easy to understand at first 2. But have emergent complexity 3. Have an element of chance, but not be ruled by it 4. Be fun to play through each battle (tactical choices + challenge) 5. Be rewarding to build up your warband over time (strategic choices) ** Units ** Each unit is a fantasy-themed warrior with the following stats: - Speed: squares moved per turn (avg 5) - Health: Damage taken before being removed from battle (avg 20) - Strength: Ability with melee weapons (avg 5) - Agility: Ability with ranged weapons (avg 5) - Armor: Depends on equipment Units can also have skills though most will start as rookies with no skills. Skills will give new abilities and are the main vehicle for 'emergent complexity' where combinations of skills will yield new & interesting tactics. Units' battle power will largely depend on their equipment, particularly as rookies. This can be upgraded between battles. Units will be of a certain type/class that will dictate their skill choices (eg infantry / archer / scout / cavalry). ** Attacks ** Each turn a unit can move and then attack. Range of melee weapons is adjacent; for ranged weapons it is adjacent + diagonally. When you move into a square next to an enemy (their 'zone of control') your move ends (though you can still attack them), meaning you can't run through to target the weaker/wounded enemy at the back. When you make a melee attack you add your strength to the strength of your weapon and roll a 1d10: 1-2: miss 3-9: hit 10: critical hit If you hit you add the roll value (3-10) to your attack strength to get a damage total. The target's armour value is then subtracted from this to get the actual damage sustained. A critical hit means the target's armour value is halved for this attack. Also some weapon types have some special rules, explained below. Ranged weapons work the same way except you add your agility to the weapon strength, and the enemy can only counter-attack if they are also using a ranged weapon. ** Counter-Attacks ** If a unit survives an attack they immediately attack the unit that attacked them, using all the normal attack rules. Each unit can only make one counter attack per turn, no matter how many times they are attacked that turn. A unit with only a melee weapon cannot counterattack when attacked by a ranged weapon. A unit with a ranged weapon attacked by a melee unit counterattacks with their knife rather than their ranged weapon. ** Equipment ** All equipment is of a certain type with basic rules governing it; within each type there are actual items of varying cost & power (eg of type sword: short sword, long sword, fine broadsword, etc) Armour Types: None: +0 to armour; no penalties. Leather: +1-3 armour; no penalties. Chain: +4-6 armour; slight penalty to speed and medium penalty to agility Plate: +7-10 armour; medium penalty to speed and high penalty to agility Shield: +1-4 bonus to armour; bonus doubled vs 1st attack sustained each turn (shield block) Weapon Types: Knife: free for all units (eg ranged units), allows basic melee attack with +0 strength Sword: versatile melee weapon; +strength based on quality of sword (eg short sword: +1, long sword: +2, etc); allows 'parry' which adds strength to armour vs 1st attack sustained each turn (vs melee only) Axe: offensive melee weapon; +strength based on quality but higher than comparable swords (double?); bonus vs shields (bonus halved?) Spear: defensive melee weapon; +strength based on quality, similar power as comparable swords; bonus to +strength when counter-attacking; allows 'first-strike' when attacked which lets you deliver your counter-attack before the enemy makes their attack 2-handed sword/axe: same special rule as 1-handed version but higher strength (eg +4); can't use shield Bow: Ranged attack (uses agility; can attack diagonally; melee units can't counterattack); can't use shield ** Thoughts ** The main goal here is allowing a fairly complex 'emergent' set of tactics from a simple enough system. Things that allow this are the choices of weapon types; positioning during battles being important (ganging up is best, but difficult due to zones of control). Your first battle would feature pretty much all of the above. Later you would add some more complexity with the 'skills' units gain as they level up. For example a scout type of unit could choose 'Evade' which lets them ignore the first zone of control they walk into each turn, and so on. Thanks for reading!

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Sounds a lot like battle for wesnoth. You may also want to look at pox nora and wee war. They're all decent systems, but they grows old quickly.

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One thing that might be a good idea is reach weapons.

With your spear, you are simulating it by allowing a "first strike" effect. But one of the big advantages of spear type weapons (pikes for example) is that you could have several ranks of them lined up and because of the reach ability, you could bring many more weapons onto the targets.

So if you included a "Pike" which allowed an attack (as a counter attack - which would count as that unit's counter attack for the turn) on any enemy unit that enters its space (you might still cause them to stop, but I would allow movement through the area). However, instead of this space being directly next to the unit, it would be at one square removed (it would hit enemies at a range of 2, but not at a range of 1).

This way, any enemy attacking the "pike hedge" would be subject first to the front rank and then to the second rank. The other advantage is that if the enemy didn't have reach weapons themselves, they could not directly counter attack.

This is a very powerful ability, so to counter it you need to give them some restrictions. The first would be that they can't attack and move, which makes them a defensive build. You would use them to control the battle field and direct enemies where you want them to go (funnelling them into traps and such), but their weakness would be in that ranged units could skirmish against them and wear the down.

One of the big problems with a lot of implementation of ranged units in battles is that they either totally dominate, or ineffective.

In these types of battles (which are wars of attrition), you can use Lanchester's laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanchester%27s_laws) to roughly estimate the outcomes of the battles. In real battles, which are rarely wars of attrition, these rules are not very accurate (but are still useful), but for the purposes of games, they work quite well.

There are 2 laws:
Linear Law: Which states that because any one unit can only attack one other unit at a time the number of units the winner will have will be determined by subtracting the smaller force from the larger force.

The Square Law: Which states that because ranged units can concentrate fire on a single target and move onto the next, the number of units left will be determined by subtracting the squares of the number of units and finding the square root of that.

As you can see from these rules, ranged units are typically very powerful. But if you shrink the battle field so that they can be engaged in melee, then they can no longer use the square law and are subject to the linear law.

As the square law assumes equal weapons, and archers are usually lightly armed and armoured for melee they are not usually a match in this circumstance which make them very weak and almost useless.

So, either Ranged units become too powerful, or they become too weak.

However, by introducing a method to control movement on the battle field, you can protect the ranged units, but still allow them to be attacked if the battle field is not controlled well (the defensive units are killed or out manoeuvred).

Ranged units will be important, but then so will defensive units to screen them, and then units designed to kill the screening units (likely the ranged units) and then units that excel at melee and can then engages the range units will be needed.

This is a similar structure to the way ancient (and medieval) warfare was conducted.

Range -> Defensive
Defensive -> Attackers
Attackers -> Range

If you are trying to get the feel of that era warfare, why not use the combined arms structure that developed from warfare in that era?

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It's an okay battle system, but I don't think it will give you the emergent dynamics you want. Unfortunately, I'm not in a creative enough mood to help you with that. Sorry. [sad]

For what it's worth, I think you should use a hex grid. That will make the movement attributes more balanced.

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Thanks for the feedback. I had a look at Pox Nora since it's the only one mentioned I hadn't played before; it's got a pretty good battle system- based on action points & lots of skills.

Edtharan, yeah I'm not totally happy with how spears work right now. Once we have our prototype finished we'll be able to play around with different settings, maybe a 2square reach as you suggest for pikes would be good.

Thanks again!

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It is actually based off of a combat system I designed for a real time RPG(ish) FPS type game (which was based off of real medieval battle strategies).

In my system I had a more complex relationship between weapons.

First of all I divided the weapons into 3 main categories:
- Melee
- Range
- Reach

Melee weapons were close in combat weapons, Range weapons were weapons that could hit at a long range, and Reach weapons were weapons that could hit at a lightly longer range than melee.

Under Melee I had 3 categories of weapons:
- Axes
- Short Blades
- Long Blades
- Staves

Axes were weapons that did a lot of damage, but were slow to use. Short blades did only a small amount of damage but could make multiple attacks in the time it would take an axe to hit. And, Long blades were faster than axes, but slower than Short Blades, and they did less damage then Axes, but did more damage than Short Blades. Staves were the similar to Long Blades.

Also, as this was an RPG(ish) game, the players had stats.

If the player had a high Strength, then Axes got more of a bonus than the others, but if Strength was low, then Axes got the bigger penalty.

If the Player had a high Dexterity, then Short Blades got the biggest bonus, but if the Dexterity was low, then Short Blades got the biggest penalty.

If Strength and Dexterity were both high and balanced, then Long Blades got the biggest bonus, but if both stats were low, then Long Blades got the biggest penalty.

Staves did not get any bonus or penalty based on Strength or Dexterity (as the player would have puts their stat increases into other stats).

Lastly, I had Armour reduce damage from each strike. So a Fast attacking weapon (like a Short Blade) would be less effective against armour than a slow but powerful attacking weapon (like an Axe).

So, armour would make you more protected from hits, but it would also slow you down. This way there was constant pay-offs between weapon speed, protection and stats.

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