As mentioned before, the part of the game that scares and excites me the most is the combat system. In any self-respecting boardgame/wargame/skirmish, players should really enjoy fighting with their characters and staging epic clashes between bitter rivals!
The combat system, whether is a range or melee one, should give to the players a nice balance between realism and timing, a fact that as you may imagine is not easy at all!
As a game designer, you may start to try to reach an incredible amount of realism, adding tables, charts, bonus and malus to represent in-game any kind of ability or fighting situation, but the result might not be as expected when the players spend half an hour just to see if a character hits the opponent!
On the other hand, simplifying too much the mechanics could give you a fast and thrilling pace, but it may trivialize the many differences between the characters and their unique weapons and inner abilities: if the combat system is just "roll a die and you hit with 4+" for sure it's easy and effective, but what about the uniqueness of deploying a brutal Orc, rather than a sneaky Elf?!
I confess that I tried many different combat systems, and still I'm searching for the perfect one: unfortunately, the only way to find it out is to...try! Often, many ideas that I have in mind seem interesting, but once brought into real life, they just don't work.
So let's give a look at the combat system that I'm developing, still to be polished and properly tasted, but I think it's promising.
THE WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS SYSTEM
How to perfectly represents the unknowns of a melee? After all, I thought, when two warriors fight they don't say to the opponent their next moves*, but the thrilling part of the fight is the risk: you have to predict your opponent's moves and carefully choose when to attack or when to focus on the defence.
I wanted to recreate this kind of "combat gambling", imagining a combat system that handles melee fights this way:
•There are three different types of dice: Red die (Attack), White die (Defence) and Black die (Feint).
•At the start of a melee, each character involved have 5 dice to roll (obviously, special abilities, weapons, spells etc. can modify the number of these dice) and can decide freely which assortment of white and red dice to use, according to its combat strategy: it can choose, for example, to roll 4 red dice and a single white one, for an unscrupulous assault, or it can choose a more balanced strategy rolling 3 red dice and 2 white dice. Moreover, of these 5 dice, a single one can be a black die. It's up to you to choose the best combat dice set according to the characteristic of your warrior, your strategy and, of course, your opponent!
•The combat is resolved simultaneously (so the two players roll their dice at the same time) and, as you may imagine, the selection of combat dice is secret: you will know the assortment of your opponent's combat dice only after they are rolled!
•Each type of die, as you may imagine, resolves a specific effect: with red dice, you try to hit the opponent and do damage; with white dice, you try to protect your character from your opponent's attacks; with black dice, you try to mislead your opponent with a feint.
•After having rolled all the dice, it's then easy to resolve the fight:
1) a white die "block" an opponent's red die if its result is equal or higher than that of the opponent (so a white die that makes 4, block a red die that makes 1-2-3-4, and so on)
2)if there are no white dice to block a red die, it hits the target.
3)The result of a black die can be added to that of a white or red die, at the choice of the player that controls the character.
This is, in brief, how this system resolves the melee, I think it's somehow elegant and funny, and above all it is easy to learn and with a fast pace in-game. Moreover, this system can bring interesting side-mechanics, which I like to call "the mighty combos!".
The Mighty Combos are a way to give a unique flavour to the many different characters of our game, using the combat dice assortment system (I need to find a badass code name for that...): a particular selection of dice, in specific characters or with specific weapons/abilities/etc, produces additional effects, let's see some examples to give you a clearer idea of what I've in mind.
- Adamantine Resilience: "during a round of melee, if the Iron Crow Iron Warrior manages to block three or more attacks, the opponent's melee weapon is destroyed."
-Shadow Warrior: "The Silent gains one additional black combat die on each round of melee"
-Wind of Blades: "If you roll 4 or more red dice on a round of melee, you can add re-roll 1s"
-I'm too old for this s**t!: "Black dice halve their results when rolled against an Iron Crow Veteran"
-Natural Balance: "If you roll an equal number of red and white dice on a round of melee, the Elf Warrior can re-roll 1s"
-Shieldwall: "during a round of melee, if the Iron Crow Warrior rolls 4 or more white dice, it can add +1 to their result."
Of course, there will be not only "positive" combos that will reward your characters depending on their combat strategy, but there will be also combos that will affect a character negatively, generally to represent malfunctioning of weapons:
-Grade A Overload: "during a round of melee, if the Iron Titan rolls 3 or more red dice, it suffers 1D3 damages".
As you've imagined, the actions system will crucially influence the combat system, so it will be important, when you build your character, to choose the right Actions assortment for your character, to help them in combat!
For example, let see a couple of actions focused on melee available to the Iron Crow Veteran, considering that you can pick only two actions per character (and there will be many actions to choose from, some of them exclusive for specific characters, some other available for everybody!).
-Not on my watch!: "'till the beginning of the next round of play, all allies within 6 squares from this character can reroll a single combat die per round of melee."
-Ye Old trusty manners: "till the beginning of the next round of play, all allies within 6 squares from this character can reroll 1s, but they can't roll black dice in melee."
-Who do you think you are?!: "during a round of melee, for each black die rolled against this character, you can add 1 to the Iron Crow Veteran's red dice result."
-Filthy deceivers!: "till the beginning of the next round of play, all allies within 6 squares from this character can subtract 1 from the opponent's black dice results"
...And what about weapons? And range attacks?
Well, this is another story, that I will tell you in the next blog post!