Combat Speed. Your combat speed determines how many “moves” / attacks you get during a particular turn. In the begging of Lord of the Rings, what makes Sauron such a bad ass is that he can attack so many units at once. He has, in game turns, an incredible combat speed.
Hmm... I like that idea, I think. But how does it work exactly?
If a combat turn is, say, 20 segments, the initiative rating is the number of segments that must pass in a combat turn before a unit can accept orders, and combat runs continuously but pauses whenever a unit needs orders, I think I may be in love with the idea.
Morale. Unit morale matters but for fun purposes, we try to keep it straight forward. Units have High Morale (25% combat bonus), Normal Morale (no bonus), Low Morale (25% combat penalty), and Panic (you don’t control them). It provides a whole new avenue for us to play in.
I think you should make High morale depend on the unit's integrity, at least. For example, regardless of how the unit is faring in a battle, it shouldn't be capable of having High morale if it's, say, standard bearer, is dead.
I also think units panicking while in close combat should have a chance of being destroyed outright, especially if the panicking unit can't leg it faster than the unit it's close combat with can run it down.
Further, I can imagine watching a big nasty dragon lay into the enemy along side your own troop of puny little spearmen (or whatever) would make you feel something close to invulnerable, so having fantastical units continuously generate positive/negative morale for less fantastical units watching them, seems pretty reasonable. And of course, watching fantastical allies biting the dust is probably a pretty disheartening experience too.
Finally, I think panicking units should be allowed to flee the field, and a percentage of them reappear after the battle as possible reinforcements for whatever unit types fled the field.
Terrain. This is where the tile based part mattered for us (and for the AI). Some terrain, obstacles, and tiles simply provide better offensive and defensive bonuses, Controlling them matters.
I don't know why combat would need to be tile based for that to work. Why not simply use distance measures & areas of effect?
WINNER. TAKE. ALL. This is the part where we want to hear your opinions. We do ask that you keep an open mind on what we ultimately go with. My opinion is that the attacking player has the onus to finish the battle in N turns. After N turns, the attacker morale starts to go lower and lower at which point the defender can come out and make mince meat out of them. The question is, what should determine what N is? Or should we allow retreating? Should we allow draws? I’m against retreats or withdraws because it’s one of those things that allows the game to drag on. It’s a strong personal preference of mine that two men enter, one man leaves. (Your heroes will tend to escape though).
I really, really, really think you should introduce some logical objectives for the attackers & defenders in each battle, because I agree having a maximum turn count is a good idea and that kind of limitation just makes more sense (and it's more fun to play the battles) if the objective isn't simply to annihilate everything that moves. It shouldn't be too hard to associate a couple (or more!!) sensible objectives with the squares armies can stand on in the game.
As for what should determine what N is: if you go with mechanics somewhat similar to the ones I mentioned above regarding unit initiative, I think N should be a random number between 5 and 7, possibly modified by the objective(s). I also think you should count each turn as 1 hour in the game world, so things like light levels and weather can both matter and change during battle.
Should you allow retreats? Yes, but! I think you should let the attacking army decide when, time-of-day-wise, it wants to attack. If it attacks during daytime I think the defender should have the chance to flee the field without repercussions. If the defender is attacked by night, though, how about handling it like this:
Let the defender pick a non-fantastical unit for sentry duty and randomly spawn it as a bunch of much smaller units near wherever the attacker deploys, and modify each mini-unit's initiative rating by a random number. Let the attacker set up, and then see how many sentries the attacker can destroy before one of the mini-units comes up in the initiative order. If the attacker can destroy them all, the defender can't flee the field before the battle. If the attacker can't destroy them all before a sentry comes up in the initiative order, the defender can flee as normal, but loses whatever number of individuals in the unit he had on sentry duty.
I really hope you decide to allow draws, based on whether some, all or none of the fighting sides accomplished their objectives. You might modify this based on how much damage the sides inflicted on each other, but that might be overkill. I'd suggest draws force all involved to remove themselves from the tile the battle occurred on. It could make going for a draw a viable strategy for critical positions - or in general, even (for the defender, I mean), if you decide to reward armies for accomplishing objectives during battles.
Combined Arms. Archers have range. Mounted Warriors have great combat speed. Foot soldiers tend to have better weapons and defenses. It means putting together your army matters a lot. It also is important to us that players understand precisely why they won or lost a battle.
Two requests: Multiple outcomes/randomness is good, but please don't go overboard with it. Keep possible outcomes to a few reasonable ones and make the most reasonable ones the overwhelmingly likely ones. I don't ever want to see Elemental's equivalent of snotlings fight off a cavalry charge.
Secondly, please make numbers matter. A lone lance-guy on a horsey charging 50 footmen should die horribly, no matter how good lance-guys on horsies are against footmen.
Thresholds. Players can set the tactical battle threshold in the menu. That is, they can say it requires 10 units on each side before it’ll actually go into tactical battle. At any point, players can have a tactical battle auto-resolve.
Very cool idea.
Controlling the length of a tactical battle. We believe that users should have a lot of control over how in depth they want their battles to be. Should a tactical battle finish in less than a minute or should they last 2 hours? How do we make it so that players can control this?
Hmm.. I'm biased. I'd love battles to be 30mins and upwards, and, well.. You do have that auto-resolve feature. But bias aside, I don't really see how you could make any one combat system that flexible and keep it fun & interesting for everyone. Which is why I'd rather you spend your energy on making 2 hour battles worth fighting... The bias talking again.
Randomization vs. Richness. I won’t lie to you, we have a trade off in front of us and it’s a big one. We can randomly generate the battlefields in tactical combat OR we can have it pick from a series of pre-made tactical battle maps. The randomly generated ones won’t be as interesting but they’ll more accurately reflect the local terrain. I’m preferring the pre-made ones because we can add some spectacular strategic when we’re crafting them and have hundreds to pull from
Normally I'd want you to go with the randomly generated ones, because no matter how interesting your hand-made ones are, they won't be as interesting as randomly generated battlefields two years from now. And if that is the choice, please consider this a vote for random maps.
But you've been talking & talking & talking about how moddable Elemental is, so assuming it applies to battlefields in normal, randomly generated games, I'm fine with either RNG or hand-made battlefields - under the assumption that I can supplement the hand-made ones with more from nice, creative Elemental players.