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Rolf Jensen

Gameplay advice for turn-based, top-down, strategy game

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Hey

I am creating a small (but hopefully fun) turn based multiplayer strategy game. Each player can choose two armies (Human, Orc, Undead, Dwarves etc) each with 10 units, giving the player access to 20 units with different stats and abilities. Each player also has a "castle", which will lose them the game if destroyed.

However, after play testing the game for a bit, i've found it difficult to choose how players actually deploy these units into the game. I've come up with a few options:

1) Let players create their army before the match begins, and deploy all the units when the game begins

  • Strategy before the game begins - Allows players to theorycraft
  • Less choice during the game, and no 'countering' the enemy's army.
  • As the army gets killed of during play, the fighting gets less intense during the match, instead of more intense during later stages *No real surprises during gameplay (You know everything the enemy has)

2) Let players deploy one or more units each turn based on some cost (An archer costs 5 energy or something)

  • Players get strategic choice during the game, and can actively counter the opponent
  • Players can choose between all units, thus there is often a 'correct' choice of unit, which will always be chosen.
  • Again, no real surprises during gameplay, as players know exactly what the enemy has, and when he can use it.

3) Let players get a choice between random units, and 'draw' new units each turn. Similar to how cards are drawn in Heartstone

  • More power to the RNG gods
  • Players don't know what the other players can play, more suprises and twist endings.
  • Only 20 units to choose from, compared to 40 cards in a Heartstone deck.

4) Something else?...

I've tried playing with each of these solutions, but neither of them quite hit feels right.

So therefore I am now asking you for advice and suggestions. Thank you in advance smile.png

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Preselecting units and placing them all at the start of the game is a pretty standard, strait forward approach. I would consider this a baseline deployment strategy. It makes sense enough that players generally don't question it and it is in use in other similar games to such an extent that I don't think it would cause the game to be less fun.

Drawing troops from a random pool is interesting, but it makes it feel more like a board game than a tactics/war game... this may work well if you are going for a lighter or more casual mood for the game.

Another possiblity may be that, on each turn players are given n action points where n is constant regardless of the number of units available on the board. An Action point could be spent to move/use an ability on an troop already deployed, or an action could be spent to deploy a new troop. You could even make powerful units that require multiple action points to deploy. In this case, I would think that each "Army" might have one pre-designated unit that is the starter unit. At the beginning of each game, after players have chosen their two armies, they place the starter unit from each army. The players would then start the game on a clear board with two active units each. They would then have to choose between positioning/mobilizing their existing forces or deploying the troops in reserve.

Unless your game already contains mechanics regarding resources and resource management I would steer clear of implementing method 2... I would think it would be too much overhead if you are using it only to determine troop deployment.

You could make it such that while most units can be deployed willy-nilly there are other troops that require certain conditions to be met in order to allow deployment. For example, perhaps one unit is a goblin trooper... these can be deployed whenever troop deployment is normally allowed and say, an orcish squad leader which can only be deployed when there are three existing goblin troopers on the board. Or A phoenix which can only be deployed if a unit has been destroyed the previous turn.

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4) Something else?...

Have you tried Wargame European Escalation or any of it's many sequels?  It has you basically selecting units beforehand, but you don't actually start with them all on the board.  Sort of a hybrid of 1 & 2.  Units have both a cost to have in the deck / army, and a cost to deploy.  It's a wargame, but to put it in fantasy game terms, you could take 30 footmen, 3 knights, 1 dragon pre-game, and then that's all that you could build during the game, and if your one dragon dies, you cannot deploy another.

 

Oh and players gained more resources by capturing territory on the board.  I like that mechanic over harvesting from one's homebase or preset amounts, as it forces players to not turtle.

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What is your action economy?

What units can a player move each turn: can they move a single, two or three units only, or all of their army? 

Do they move their army all at once then pass to the opponent, or does some form of "order" takes place (similar to games such as X-Wing Miniatures and Attack Wing where Pilot skill gives specific units an edge in initiative)?

 

This is critical to best determine which model best suits your specific game model.

 

You also have to realize that 1 and 2 are radically two different game types:

 

1 - Squad-based gameplay. This is a tactical game skirmish.

Every game "ingredient" should alter encounter outcomes (cliffs which grant greater range, rocks that grant better defenses, etc.)

 

 

2 - Economy-based game. This is a turn-based strategy game where resources are most likely to come in.

Resource locations should force players to seek to scatter their forces to acquire more resources to create more units, but spreading their forces too thin will make them too weak. This is a risk/reward model.

 

 

3 is also very different as it is essentially a play on 1, but as a TCG (such as Hearthstone).

 

Therefore I think the solution lies not necessarily in the deployment per se, but requires that you answer the above questions first and foremost.

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What is your action economy?

What units can a player move each turn: can they move a single, two or three units only, or all of their army? 

Do they move their army all at once then pass to the opponent, or does some form of "order" takes place (similar to games such as X-Wing Miniatures and Attack Wing where Pilot skill gives specific units an edge in initiative)?

 

This is critical to best determine which model best suits your specific game model.

 

You also have to realize that 1 and 2 are radically two different game types:

 

1 - Squad-based gameplay. This is a tactical game skirmish.

Every game "ingredient" should alter encounter outcomes (cliffs which grant greater range, rocks that grant better defenses, etc.)

 

 

2 - Economy-based game. This is a turn-based strategy game where resources are most likely to come in.

Resource locations should force players to seek to scatter their forces to acquire more resources to create more units, but spreading their forces too thin will make them too weak. This is a risk/reward model.

 

 

3 is also very different as it is essentially a play on 1, but as a TCG (such as Hearthstone).

 

Therefore I think the solution lies not necessarily in the deployment per se, but requires that you answer the above questions first and foremost.

 

 

You make a very good point. I need to determine what kind of game this is, before asking the question of how to deploy units.

 

Originally I envisioned it as an economy based game, where certain tiles would provide an economy boost. However, I also had the desire to make the game available on mobile, and a large map made it somewhat difficult to play on smaller screens. The game therefore gradually changed towards more simple gameplay, and in some regards grew similar to games such as Heartstone or duelyst. 

 

I will have to do some thinking it seems :)

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I will have to do some thinking it seems

 

Don't worry, I end up asking rubber ducking these forums quite a lot myself, but it does help to bring 'a question' to the table sometimes only to be told we're not asking ourselves the 'right question' just yet.

 

If you still do need help afterwards, don't hesitate to followup!

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