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Creating cool mechanics for a turn-based game that encourages separation

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Hey all! 

 

I'm designing a turn-based strategy game with a focus on interesting warfield mechanics and asymmetry between factions. The game also includes base-building and resource collection elements. So far I've been playing with abstracts and general gameplay mechanics and thought it was about time to get detailed so I started creating tech-trees, abilities and units for different factions, but I think I've hit a wall -- I'm not able to think of abilities and mechanical concepts that would encourage the "separation" playstyle for a certain faction. 

 

Now let me elaborate and give some examples of what I mean by that. So each faction has at least 9 units with different characteristics and roles. Let's say faction A is the one I'm struggling with and faction B is kind of the opposite in terms of design which I have successfully fleshed out already.

Faction B's main playstyle revolves around units helping each other: while separated they are quite weak, but in numbers and certain combinations they form a formidable force. I found it quite easy to design the mechanics for this -- I've used abilities that would buff, give defensive auras, bond and shield allies or mark enemies so that other friendly attacks would have additional effects.

For faction A I wanted the complete opposite (the said "separation" playstyle) -- units to be stronger and specialised when fighting alone, units that would have clear weaknesses when fighting together. And that proved to be far more difficult that I thought! To enhance the playstyle I thought about couple of designs that deal directly with the abstract: AOE suicide-type damage ability that deals damage to friendly units as well and is also detonated when the unit is destroyed (means you don't want to have these close to each other because one's death might trigger the other one to explode without reaching the enemy); an assassination ability which deals bonus damage if there are no allies around and gets even more powerful if the enemy is isolated from their allies as well. After these two I could not think of any other interesting abilities that would encourage the "separated" playstyle. I could take a safe (but boring) route and just give a universal passive to every unit which would basically give different bonus effects if the unit has no allies around, but I'm thinking maybe there're some mechanics that I'm missing.

Maybe you guys have got any references from other games where this is used as well? Would love to do any research, just don't really know how to search something like this. Any ideas will be appreciated! 

 

Thank you for your time and looking forward to reading any replies from you guys! If you'd like me to explain something in more detail I'd be happy to, just don't want to overwhelm with too much info, seeing as this post is already pretty long as is. 

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Variation on that AOE effect. You can have a unit, that has -5 armor aura that applies also to allies.

 

Or you can have positive non-stackable AOE aura. For example +5 armor to allies. If you would have two units that give this aura, you would still have +5 armor on each. Or you can say that the aura is not on self, so it would be most effective to go in pairs. Also you can make it so that auras do not generaly stack. So if you have one unit that gives +5 armor and second unit that gives +5 damage, third unit will only get +5 damage (suppose that this aura has higher priority). This will not realy encourage separation of units, but it is a aura mechanic that does not directly encourage units to stay together.

 

A non-stackable attack modifiers, for example a poison attack. On attack, 'poisonned' debuff is applied to target unit. This debuff deals some damage over time. Or you can have 'frost' attack modifier that slows target. You can also say that these attack modifiers do not stack on target with each other. So you can have an attack modifier on each unit in this faction and only one will be working at a time on single target. This is interesting, because it does not directly penalizes player for having units together, but it is ineffective to attack single target with all units at once.

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Or "Shared Fate". All damage, buffs and debuffs that are applied to a unit are also applied to all nearby friendly and enemy units. This is interresting, because it can be used to your advantage if you do not have many units.

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Ambushers, units that are hidden if they're not in range of allies and not actively attacking

 

Weapons that "lock on" to a random target in range. They can only hit that unit this turn, or get a big advantage for doing so. A single unit will get this benefit every time, but a pack will often overlap and after somebody kills the target the rest lose the bonus/chance to attack. This has the nice effect that it's largely a question of ratios, so you can have a few more units together if they're facing a larger enemy force.

 

Coordination costs to movement when adjacent to an ally, kind of a weak friendly ZOC. This could even apply to both sides, making B a little more ponderous and A more agile and skirmishing.

 

Give B splash damage attacks.

 

Bonuses for flanking entire forces or getting past them (cut supply lines, capture depots, ...) Basically, make it so that if B bunches up, A can spread out and win. Then make A slightly stronger in general. Now A has an advantage if they can strategically set things up to force B to spread out, and B has an advantage if they can force the fight into choke points, or defend the gaps between smaller clumps of units.

 

Skirmish Lines: Units that can stall individual enemy units or otherwise disrupt a large force. The idea is that with a small number of them you can force the enemy to decide between leaving his best units behind or slowing movement of his entire force to a crawl. While you could send a bunch of these units, it's a diminishing return thing: if they're already forced to delay movement, slowing more units doesn't accomplish much

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Some units could have the ability to hide, or be invisible until they attack, and the more of them there are nearby, the easier it is for the enemy to detect them and kill them before they have a chance to strike.

 

Another option is to have some units that depend on having terrain available to deal big amounts of damage. Something that comes to mind is, what if you had wizards that collect energy from the terrain around to cast spells? The more wizards that are in the same area, the less energy each of them can collect, so with the right formulas it would be better to have a single wizard in a given area being able to collect all the energy of that area than having two or more wizards sharing the energy. Also, you can play with different kinds of terrain potentiating different spells to add another tactic factor.

 

Also, depending on the setting, you could have big and stupid monsters that will attack anything they see, so it's better to send them against the enemy without distracting them with ally units.

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I don't know if you have any lore or context for these sides yet, but you can justify a lot of mechanics through lore that wouldn't make much sense without it. 

 

Take Orcs and Goblins in Warhammer. There are certain units that can "feud" cuz they don't like each other, and if those two units are within a certain range of each other and far enough away from the enemy, they'll lose movement/turn because they are preparing to brawl against each other (and I think there used to be rules that actually have them fighting and killing each other). 

 

Maybe some of the units in this side are the same way? If they are near each other but not near any enemies, they get debuffs or even outright fight each other.

 

Maybe one unit in the faction disallows the use of special abilities near itself, and a lot of the other units in the faction depend heavily on special abilities.

 

You could encourage separation on a tactical/strategic level as well: if map control is important to your game and the side in question has few units at any given time (but units that can handle themselves well against superior numbers as you seem to suggest) then they'd need to split up just to get the kind of area coverage needed to compete.

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Units that can go berserk, and will attack the nearest unit, friend or foe, but gains big bonuses while in the berserk state.  Probably want that ability to be activated by the player's choice.

 

Units that harvest things around them to do something.  A unit that consumes all the trees/minerals/rocks around it in a radius to heal.  (variation on AoE, but instead of enemy or ally, targets terrain)  You'd be forced to spread them out a bit to get the best use of their power.

 

Large Units that can crush other units underfoot (friend or foe)

 

EDIT:  Also, for the AoE, use more than just circles.  Flamethrowers are more of a cone, blowback from rocketlaunchers could be a reverse cone, steam-powered robots could vent scalding steam to their sides, or a coal powered tank could vent noxious gasses behind it.  Giants swinging swords hit everything in their arc, etc.

Edited by ferrous

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How about units tied to towers?  And the towers must have at least X distance between them.  The towers could be, say, eagle nests and the eagles are only at max strength if te have enough territory to forage for food in without competing with other eagles.  Then you could also have a tiger unit and if any two tigers go too close they'd do a small amount of damage to each other then run away until they were comfortably far apart.

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Are you sure separation is fun in a RTS? It sound possibly frustrating for the player. It also seems counter-intuitive since in all armies cooperation is vital.

 

Maybe another way of making the army unique is better?

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