Friday, July 20, 2012

HeroCraft: Combat Mechanics

Last night marked another play-test session of my board game. This time there were only two players, the bare minimum, and we didn't engage in PvP. Aside from the trivial spelling errors and a few missing numbers on the newly reprinted prototype board, there weren't any glaring issues. Unfortunately, reducing the parameters to the aforementioned really brought to light a weakness in my current state of combat rules. Before delving into the issue and my proposed solution, here's a primer on how combat works in the game.

A huge part of making HeroCraft accessible to players unused to hardcore board games was to make the core of the game, combat, easy to learn but difficult to master. Definitely easier said than done. Players (and Monsters) engage each other in one-on-one battles that focus around rolling D6's. Essentially, whoever wins a round with the highest number deals a Wound, and this continues until one side has been defeated (by reaching 0 HP). To spice it up there are several variables: Static Modifiers, Static Subtractors, and Conditions to name a few. In my current state the game is an arms race to amass as many Static Modifiers as possible. This has an unfortunate side effect of rendering players invulnerable quickly; if I have D6+10 an enemy with D6 cannot harm me, and even with 2D6 I'm nearly untouchable. This is a problem, as I don't want players able to draw 3 monsters and simply say, "None of them can hurt me".

To solve this problem I'm thinking of adding caps to Static Modifiers and Subtractors on a per-dice basis. Players with a single D6 can only have +5 in Static Modifiers; to continue to grow they have to seek additional dice (2D6 would be capped at +10, and so on). In a vacuum this doesn't solve my problem: a monster with a rating of D6 can still, at best, only tie a player with D6+5. But, it definitely helps control the issue, and with other factors at play I hope will really balance out nicely. Of course I'll have to completely scale all of my attributes to fit this, but oh well.

I do have one nagging doubt, and that is these changes will become stifling with higher numbers of players or with PvP heavy games. I'm going to play through once more with four people before considering implementing them, but I'm cautiously optimistic the end result will be more favorable. A secondary benefit of the new system will be an emphasis on diversifying your combat assets, which means I can scale monsters according to how many dice they have far more effectively, and adjust their EXP rewards accordingly. I hope the EXP rewards will have enough disparity to encourage players to fight monsters that are on their dice level, but only time will tell.

I'm sure none of this makes sense to anyone who hasn't played the game (and even then it's iffy) but I figured I'd rather post at some generic mechanics design instead of boring overviews again.


  1. If it doesn't lead to drastic overhauls in the game mechanics or contents, perhaps you should consider making static bonuses to dice rolls more of a rare commodity. In Ragnarok Online, level 99 players would rave when they found an item that granted them +1 to one of their base stats. It was a huge improvement compared to before they had that +1 bonus. My point is, make every number count as much as it can rather than bloating everything to "big numbers" like Blizzard has done with World of Warcraft (two separate genres, I know, but still somewhat relevant).

    Personally, I'd hate for your game to turn into a "numbers game" where whoever has the highest number automatically wins. One of the reasons I quit World of Warcraft: gear was reduced to a number value which resulted in other players not even considering you for a role in PvP or dungeons if it was too low, regardless of actual skill.

  2. I agree with Dennis. You have enough content to make the game more about strategy than just stacking bonuses. I think we saw this in the last play test when you and I PVPed.

    You could make experience harder to get so leveling a spell wouldn't be so easy. Also nuking the players skills, items, spells etc might encourage more PVP. in doing this you could also add a new element, the option of teaming up with someone else to do a particularly hard quest.

    Additionally with the options of so many buffs, it takes a long time to actually figure out what you have. I couldn't tell if i was + 29 or +32 at the end.

    I think more play testing is needed. Perhaps we could do a longer play test and write down comments as we play.

    Overall the game is really fun. Hope the constructive criticism helps. Let me know when you're going to do more play testing!