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Combat System for a 4X Game

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Hello, I am creating a simple turn based 4X game and I'm currently stuck at designing a combat system that would suit the game in question. 

What i want:

  • The player has no combat input (you send the army to fight, end the turn and pray for the best), possible exception are some orders adjusting the behavior of the army, for example when to retreat
  • The system is simple to enough to understand, so that player can evaluate the relative strength of the armies quickly 
  • The system should encourage use of multiple types or subtypes of units, without it feeling too forced

Basically, I am trying to emulate the combat system used in Paradox games, Europa Universalis for example, but I want to add more units and troop types. 

The Paradox system puts each side's units into 2 battle lines (the rest in reserve), each round units deal damage to enemy frontline units depending on their shock or fire ability (alternates between rounds). In addition artillery units can fire from second row. 

Each faction just has 1 different unit for each type of troops, 1 infantry (basic unit) , 1 cavalry (big bonus in shock phase, expensive) and artillery(attack from second row, helps the unit in front on defense, extra expensive). I feel if I add a few variations of the basic unit types, I feel that the player will always choose the unit with better overall stats (or better cost efficiency) because it will yield better results, so I am looking for ways to make specialized units matter, but not be the go-to unit. For example, if you play games from the Total War series, you will want some basic units to hold the line, spearmen or pikemen to repel cavalry charges, heavy shock infantry to create pressure points in enemy lines, heavy cavalry to charge and flank, archers etc.


First idea i had was imposing some rules regarding army composition (employed by Warhammer(40k)), which enforces that each army consist of at least X percent of core units, max Y percent elite, max Z percent specialist units, max 2 same specialist units, and so on.

I was also thinking of reducing the stats of units if the number or percent in a single army goes over a cap.

But don't want to force the player to use crappy units instead of elites that he invested infrastructure in in such way, it feels dumb. "You can't have more than 2 knights in your army, cause that's how we roll around here, take some peasants instead, they want some dyin'!"


 I will restrict the number of elite units that can be produced by other means of course, but I think it will just cause the player to gather them from all around the country and form a doomstack. 


I was thinking of introducing more "basic unit types", that will have unique combat characteristics which will cause them to still have value despite having lesser stat numbers, for example combat formation consisting of multiple battle lines, archers can fire from backlines, spearmen can help defend the frontline units from second line, standard bearers can enhance stats of units in their line (so they are worth having in all lines).

In addition there will be of course some units better suited for fighting different faction, for example you would want to counter a faction that relies on units with heavy armor with some armor piercing units of your own. 


I would love some feedback and of course more ideas on the matter, I'm sure you have some.

And thanks for reading,  

Edited by Irenicuz

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Wow, that is some amazing stuff. I'll read it a couple of times and think about it. Thank you.


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