Wow, lots of good posts here. Brad, are you actually going to read all of this?!? I'll try to keep it short
My 2 Eurocents:
AoE vs. Combat Speed: Disagree with Brad, agree with most others: Sauron should have had an AoE and low combat speed.
10 COMBAT PHASES, COMBINED ARMS, and COMBAT SPEED: I could imagine a way of combining these aspects, much like Star Chamber did. This would allow for excellent, fun, but simple differences between arms types and demonstrate something of weapon speed. Star Chamber gives an *EXCELLENT* method of implementing combined arms, speed, and combat phases in a combat turn: 10 turns, and each WEAPON TYPE activates once in discrete combat phases: Phase 1: Torpedo, Phase 2: Torpedo, Phase 3: Beam, Phase 4: Missile, Phase 5: Beam, Phase 6: Missile, Phase 7: Cannon, Phase 8: Cannon, Phase 9: Cannon, Phase 10: Special. So if your unit had a Beam weapon with 6 damage, it would do a total of 12 damage, 6 in phase 3 and 6 in phase 5. Thus, units with beam weapons get to shoot first, before big cannons can; yet cannons get to fire three times, but units with cannon damage need to survive until the end of the combat turn in order to do so. A unit with beam and cannon weapons (rare in that game) had the advantage of both. Hence there is an element of strategic planning in mixing your armies: you want units that fire hard, but last, to be sturdy, while units that fire first might want to escape before the end of the battle (e.g. plan for units with only Torpedos to exit battle after Phase 2 would be optimal, with Torpedo and Cannon would be a tradeoff between optimal damage output and survivability). Hence my suggestion:
10 Combat Phases: Whereby units may MOVE X tiles according to their movement speed instead of attacking in any phase they choose, whereby there might be special movement rules for mounted units
- units wielding small weapons such as daggers may activate an attack maneuver (I still envision multiple attack possibilities based on techs learned, e.g. "stab", "jab", "hook", "riposte", "slice", "parry", etc., which I call learnable maneuvers) in phase 1 OR phase 1 and 4 (if higher "combat speed") OR phase 1 and 4 and 7 (if yet higher) OR 1 and 4 and 7 and 10 if highest
- units wielding medium weapons such as swords or maces may attack in phase 2 OR 2 and 5 OR 2 and 5 and 8 OR 2 and 5 and 8 and 10
- units wielding large weapons such as poleaxes may attack in phase 3 OR 3 and 6 OR 3 and 6 and 9 (large weapons should tend to do much more damage, since they may only attack 3 times maximum?)
- units firing ranged weapons such as bows or crossbows (which should have low attack speed) may attack in turns 4 OR 4 and 8 OR 4 and 8 and 10
- units casting spells: phase 10 (only 1 spell per turn)
- siege units or large machined units: phase 9 OR 9 and 10
- units with special attacks (dragon breath, spider web) need to be categorized as one of the above
Another possibility would be to make for more than 10 combat phases in one turn and to make for additional breakdowns, e.g. 20 or 30 Combat Phases, so that 1 "turn" might be substantially "longer" if there are units in play with significantly high attack speeds.
This system would allow for units with high attack speeds to still be differentiated from units with different exemplifications of the types of combined arms there are. It would require only that each unit in the game have at least one "type" flag (small, medium, large, siege, ranged, mounted, special).
WINNER NEED NOT TAKE ALL and LENGTH OF BATTLE: Winner need not take all -- in fact (please hear me out!) there need not even be a clearly decisive winner!
- Dominions3 demonstrates that uncontrolled retreat (rout) can be implemented without great difficulty and interesting effects, plus useful to help demonstrate some effects of fear; I would like to be able to see controlled retreat be possible with a substantial pentalty to defense while retreating. Thus, the "winner" might even be he who runs away and lives to fight another day. Dominions3 battles lasted N=50 turns, after which auto-rout is induced. Uncontrolled retreat: You cannot control into which neighboring tile your troops flee.
- Undecisive Battles are fun: Star Chamber's battles were EXCITING -- and only lasted 1 turn! That is to say: Opposing players could occupy the SAME TILE for more than one turn: enemy troops in the same tile were not disjunctive! That is to say: LONG battles MAY take up LONG game time. In other words: Two armies meet: they fight for N turns (anywhere from 1 to 50 seems ok to me); after which, the tactical battlescreen darkens and the curtain drops, a day has gone to end, and the battle will be continued NEXT game turn -- or not, depending on whether the player moves what members of his armies he still can move (perhaps some become immobilized, unconscious, crippled, or charmed) away or not. The strategic map screen shows that at least two players are contending for one strategic space and have not had a decisive victory. This would not even be terribly complicated, just somewhat new.
- Auto-Resolve: You hinted elsewhere that there might be a button for auto-resolution of tactical battles. For people worried about battles being too long (anything more than 30 turns is REALLY LONG) -- would it be possible to click the auto-resolve button to end it sooner and let the computer AI figure it out? I think that tactical battles with thousands of troops will probably take hours, no matter what restrictions you put in. That's the tradeoff. Perhaps the thresholds can work the other way then, too: If battle has >100 troops, then timer?
- In any case, it would seem like there are no severe disadvantages to allowing for battles to be restricted in length (N < 50) and for there to be survivors, be these those who somehow flee or those who remain in the same tile to fight later.
RANDOM vs RICH MAPS: Like most others, I agree that representation of the strategic map's terrain in the tactical battlefield's map itself should be important; if that means randomness, then I would prefer randomness, though I am not sure I understand why that need be so.
SPECIAL MOVES, RADIAL ICONS, LEARNED MANEUVERS, and EXPERIENCE: I'd like to see the tactical battlefield be the place where a player may select a squad of troops (squad = troops of same skillsets, but perhaps different individual stats), whereas skillset = which abilities those troops are able to activate. I could imagine that when a squad is highlighted, there could be a radial menu much like NWN had, or the bottom menu opens up into a little "toolbar" showing icons (much like Dragon Age has for each selected character), one icon for each action that troop may perform, e.g.
- move to
- default attack
Each squad should at least always be able to perform these two basic actions (unless hindered, e.g. by being immobilized, charmed, incapacitated, made insane, morale = 0, etc.) BUT units or squads may open up additional icons if those units have "earned" them, either by gaining experience or by having researched the appropriate tech or both. Some of these special moves should have a "cooldown" time (also much like Dragon Age), e.g. perhaps only usable once per turn:
- defensive stance (units gain a substantial bonus to defense, but may only auto-parry incoming melee attacks, and this at a substantial penalty) -- a maneuver / icon such as this should be easy to unlock, perhaps after learning any tier 2 Warfare tech whatsoever, with no experience required
- special defensive maneuver 1 (which requires special equipment, e.g. a shield), e.g. "shield wall" or "high guard"
- special offensive maneuvers: e.g. "bash" (requires medium weapon, does substantial additional damage at a small defensive penalty), "called shot" (requires ranged weapon, greatly increases chance of critical hit and adds small armor piercing ability at the cost of defense and weapon speed) or "feint" (requires any melee weapon, greatly increases defense but lowers damage and slight penalty to attack), etc. etc.
Dragon's breath, special magical attacks, etc. should all belong to categories such as these.