[Gameplay] TITAN-inspired combat mechanics

Reasons to separate combat movement from attack resolution

By on September 9, 2010 1:47:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


Join Date 03/2008

Anyone ever played a classic Avalon Hill boardgame called 'TITAN'? Recommended.

It included a tactical combat system played on a small hexgrid of inclement terrain, and had a number of elegant features that I think Elemental combat could benefit from. Specifically:

  1. Moving Isn't Attacking: We've already got a good mechanic for indicating the difference between character movement and their speed in combat. I think it's a pity that it's far better to wait until the enemy charges into you rather than taking the fight to them. Why not separate the 'moving' part of the round from the 'fighting' part?
  2. Running Away Isn't Safe: TITAN handled this by making it impossible for most troops to leave hand-to-hand once they entered it - you were committed until someone was on their back. I wouldn't go that far, but I think some form of 'free shot' should apply against a combatant who tries to walk away from an angry Darkling.
  3. How Much Kill Is Overkill? Another advantage to separating the 'moving' part (where you give the orders) from the 'fighting' part (where the effects of your orders are calculated) is that you can't be sure whether you've hit that spider quite hard enough until after you've done it. Commanders would have to choose where all their attacks would be directed before knowing exactly how much damage was being done. It'd add a whole lot of tactical uncertainty - do I concentrate all my attacks on the guy in the centre of their line, or can I spread them out and try to drop all three of them?
  4. You Hit Me, I Hit You Back: Another TITAN rule here. Whenever two enemies are side by side they fight, and each hits the other. In the context of Elemental I'd handle it like this: An attacker moves his pieces in and nominates who is attacking who (perhaps combining their hits to bring down a single opponent, perhaps just attacking their whole line). Then (when the attacker hits 'end turn'), all the attacks are calculated at once AND all the defenders strike out at every attacker in reach (and enemies with two attackers in reach split their attacks - perhaps dividing their attack strength?). THEN, once there's been an attack and a counterattack, everyone with no hit points left collapses in a pile of severed limbs and the other side gets to move their pieces.
  5. It's All Happening So Fast: Watching Elemental combat as it stands, I can't help but feel for the hero commanding a big army, twiddling his thumbs while everyone takes their turn. It's hardly at a hell-for-leather pace. Of course it's not supposed to be RTS, but if you handle the movement and resolution as two distinct phases you can inject a lot of mayhem. First: careful strategy and calculation and wishful thinking. Then you hit 'end turn', and everyone starts fighting at once (while the calculations are made), and dying all over the place. Then you get to pick up the pieces the following round.

Okay, that's enough for now. This is going to be an incredible game, and full kudos to Stardock for making it happen. We worship you, mighty ones!


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September 9, 2010 1:50:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That does sound like a much more exciting combat system. I like how you can tie up in melee, and having the orders execute all at the same time rather than one unit at a time.

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September 9, 2010 1:57:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Wait, are you saying that once you hit the end turn button YOUR troops make their move, or the enemies troops do so as well?

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September 9, 2010 10:12:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's like the boardgame... "Diplomacy", I believe. 

Basically, take RISK, but make it only Europe instead of the whole world. Remove the concept of turns. You have three stages: 


"Give Orders"



Discussion, you talk with all the other players and talk about who you want to gang up on and rape (in theory). You basically make an oral "promise" to do something. Something which you aren't required to do at all.

Then, you write your move (you only get one) on a piece of paper, which is given to a judge facedown. 

After everyone has written their orders, the orders are revealed and executed all at the same time. 


Since what you promise to do and what you actually do has no bearing, backstabs are super frequent and it's very hectic. But it's also designed for 4 or more people. 

Take away the "Discussion" step, and make it 1v1. Now you have to plan your entire turn at once, and you have to predict the outcome of your attacks, as well as what your opponent will do. It adds depth to the game, without adding difficulty. 

If the morale system was improved, it would prevent "Stonewalling". If morale shifted quickly, the team with the lower morale would be forced to act. 

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September 9, 2010 10:48:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think Haderak has a good idea here.

What I'd like to see is an impulse (badoom boom) system, where your combat speed dictates who goes first, as well as how many times you get to act in a 'turn'.

This would incidentally make a 3.7 combat speed mean a little more (currently 3 or 4 is all that matters).  Example:


Phase 1   Speed 5+ characters/enemies act, in descending order of combat speed

Phase 2   Speed 4+ characters/enemies act, in descending order of combat speed

Phase 3   Speed 3+ characters/enemies act, in descending order of combat speed

Phase 4   Speed 2+ characters/enemies act in descending order of combat speed

Phase 5   All characters/enemies act, in descending order of combat speed


You get the idea here.  You may want to do this as 'highest speed character goes, then highest speed enemy, then next highest speed character, next highest speed enemy, etc. so that a whole party of fast characters doesn't execute a bunch of attacks on a given phase before the monsters get their chance.  Also, you might find it preferable to change up the 'phase chart', so that slow characters/enemies get a chance to act earlier.  Example:


Phase 1_____________________x_______x_______x

Phase 2_____________x_______________x_______x

Phase 3_____x_______________x_______________x

Phase 4_____________x_______________x_______x

Phase 5_____________________x_______x_______x


GUI wise, characters not able to move in a given phase (or those you have already moved that phase) could be 'grayed out', so you don't have to wonder who can move on which phase.

One disadvantage to this system (using the current action points) is that if you move on a given phase, you won't be attacking on said phase.  Perhaps a 'charge' option might be in order in this case (at varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on your weapon).  And an 'attack while moving' option, at reduced effeciveness, could be implemented as well.  Parked/non-moving units could have a 'set vs. charge' or 'defend' option, giving them a bonus when being charged or attacked by 'attacking while moving' units.

I do like the current action points system that Elemental uses (an action takes 'x' speed points to do).  The 'all side A executes all actions before side B goes' thing probably gives the initiating (moving) player a little too much advantage, though.  I've been taking advantage of staying just outside of the movement range of the enemy, so that I can get all my attacks in first (i.e. staying 3 squares away from them, and letting them come to me). 

And for the most part the enemy does get to counterattack for every melee attack I make (I strike, he retaliates, I strike, he retaliates), but once the enemy is out of counteractions (i.e. has counterattacked two or three times), the rest of my characters get 'free' attacks on that enemy.  Dunno if this was a patch thing, or if it was always there, but it seems like a good compromise.  It'd be nice, though, if characters with bows could counterattack in melee somehow (at reduced attack strength) - once an enemy gets to melee range he gets two or three 'free' attacks in, with no counterattack.  This might have been a 'balance' decision (since bow characters get 'free' attacks at range), but it seems a little hokey to me.


I am enjoying the game so far.  I am looking forward to seeing some improvements in gameplay (through patches), though.  A 'stack manager' would be nice, but that's a topic for another thread.




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September 9, 2010 11:02:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I second the original poster's post entirely.

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September 10, 2010 1:33:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, I understand how it works, but unless the speed of the units is ridiculously low, you're gonna be sending your troops to empty tiles most of the time. I haven't played this game, so maybe I'm wrong and it works well, but I'd rather have a unit-based turn system, instead of the side-based method we have now.

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September 10, 2010 1:45:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Love this idea!!!!! Simple, elegant, strategic, balanced and understandable.

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September 14, 2010 8:36:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You couldn't have the movement being simultaneous I think.

Each player would still have to take turns doing movement and declaring their attacks, then all attacks from that players units are resolved.  However any automatic counterattacks could obviously be resolved at the same time, then the action switches to the other player.

Some interesting ideas here.

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