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Author Topic: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee  (Read 2553 times)

Offline Easy E

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Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« on: November 29, 2022, 03:39:33 PM »
Everyone knows that the basics of wargame design are the 4Ms.  Those stand for:

-Movement
-Missiles
-Melee
-Morale

I have spoken about the 4Ms and individual aspects of the 4Ms at various times.  However, as a designer one of my big fascinations is how to effectively deal with Melee as one of the 4Ms.  In many genres, Melee is the great "decider" and is the crucial mechanics for the period or genre.  That weight of decision for the game should come from Melee. 

Yet, despite the importance of it I have found Melee is often the anti-thesis of fun and instead simply bogs down into a game of Yahtzee where you roll and pray for a better dice roll.  The core of good game play is decision making, and in many games once you get into Melee there are no decisions to make.  As a player, you simply completing the mechanical process of the game to get a result, so you are not playing the game.  The game is playing you.

If you are inclined, the rest of my thoughts are on the blog: http://bloodandspectacles.blogspot.com/2022/11/wargame-design-avoiding-melee-yahtzee.html

What are some clever ways you have seen games add choice to Melee?  What games do you think are successful and making Melee really exciting and meaningful?  What made it work so well? 
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Offline ced1106

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2022, 04:23:52 PM »
Agreed. Whenever I see a "dice-chucker" game, I pretty much ignore it, as they appear often on KS. The Elden (?) boardgame looks interesting, as it agrees (?) with your post about melee, replacing dice with cards. Cards allow you to customize your attacks by, for example, weapon type. I haven't looked much closer, since the pledges are beyond the faith I have in a card-based game system (which arguably can be implemented badly).

Up Front is another card-based system that, while still relying on random numbers, does a better (though arguably abstract) job of first-person POV combat. Most miniatures games are "perfect information" about the terrain (I guess they had satellite imagery since the Roman days), which, imo, is anything but when it comes to actual man-to-man skirmishes.
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Offline Major_Gilbear

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2022, 05:11:43 PM »
Hmm, probably the "best" melee I've played in a game was in Malifaux. The melee mechanics are not really any different to any of the others in Malifaux, but the fact you use cards rather than dice, and can activate certain special outcomes if you meet card requirements, was actually what made it so different and interesting (especially because the special effects you could trigger were more frequently useful than the raw outcome of just inflicting wounds too).

I think that quite often, the things that would certainly help to make melee decisive and interesting in games, are the very things that most wargames only do in a token or perfunctory way. In particular: terrain, movement, relative model position/facing, and morale. I guess these are elements that are often regarded as complicated, hard to track, or which bog down speed of play...?

Offline has.been

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2022, 05:41:35 PM »
Combat should be more like Poker than Craps.
The ideal would be give each player a 'hand' of combat cards.
How/when they play them is up to them.

Best 'In game' system (for me) is Sea-Strike by WRG. All the hard work
was done by the designer with the card pack. No long involved charts,
buckets of dice etc. Depending on your 'task' (lock on, effect etc.) you
only need to look for something on the next card turned over. e.g. You
choose to try & lock your missile onto target = next card needs a cross
in the center. If you get that you draw one card (Guns would have drawn
two) for effect. As you fired a missile you look in the 'missile' quadrant of
the card.
I would love to play a system like that for Ancient Battles. I just need
someone to do all the flipping work.
 :D :D :D
Easy E
, are you interested????

Offline Aethelflaeda was framed

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2022, 06:06:24 PM »
The quick and dirty solution is to make facing and orientation resulting from movement and timing matter.  If you flank an enemy or attack from the shield-less side it should matter.  LOS and cover should matter. Maneuver, Mass, Economy of Force and Surprise are the valid military principles we act on. If that is worked into the melee roll as a modifier than it no longer is just playing craps.  If your opponent lacks imagination and only rushes pell mell into your steady line frontally there maybe needs to be a modifier that punishes such rashness. 

Offline Cubs

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2022, 06:09:43 PM »
I forget the name of it, but my brother and I used to play a simple wargame back in the 80's that had classifications of troops and troop types, armour status, plus the number of bases involved, the actions of both sides and then there was a table of possible results. Obviously the better your troops, the more advantageous circumstances, etc.. the more likely you were to win and win big, but there was still an element of randomness. All was done on one roll of the dice (3d6 I think, but it may have been % dice). The time was spent looking up the various permutations, but it got quicker as you got more familiar with the game. I always enjoyed that system and it was all very slick and quick.
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Offline fred

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2022, 06:34:34 PM »
The quick and dirty solution is to make facing and orientation resulting from movement and timing matter.  If you flank an enemy or attack from the shield-less side it should matter.  LOS and cover should matter. Maneuver, Mass, Economy of Force and Surprise are the valid military principles we act on. If that is worked into the melee roll as a modifier than it no longer is just playing craps.  If your opponent lacks imagination and only rushes pell mell into your steady line frontally there maybe needs to be a modifier that punishes such rashness. 

Very much this.

I think there is also a difference in approach between skirmish games and mass combat games on what works. I think in most of the mass combat games I play then flanks matter, support matters, type of weapon matters. I think in this type of game I’d be less interested in adding further mechanics around combat choices (eg feint, hold, all out attack)

Offline ithoriel

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2022, 07:59:02 PM »
My current project, at time of typing*, is building forces and terrain for Strength and Honour in 2mm.

I like the way it handles melee, as more a way of affecting force morale then of eliminating individual  units. Though units can certainly be eliminated in the right circumstances. Very much a top down rather than bottom up approach to the period.

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Offline Easy E

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2022, 08:17:58 PM »
Interesting that some of you mention cards and triggering special effects.  I will admit, the use of cards in wargames is relatively foreign to me, but a lot of great games use the concept. 

-Malifaux
-Longstreet
-Soldiers of God

The only one I have any personal experience was Kobolds and Cobblestones which is more of a skirmish game.  The cards were used to build Poker hands to play against each other.  I was not 100% sold on the game design TBH. 

That might be something I will need to review and revisit again.  I typically default to dice as a reduction to barriers of entry.  However, most folks also have a 52 card standard poker deck of cards around too.     

Offline Hobgoblin

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2022, 09:18:21 PM »
The Song of Blades family provides a lot of melee-related decision-making through the combination of its risk/reward activation system and its deceptively simple combat system (DBA-style opposed rolls).

As outnumbering is often the key to a successful combat, you need to weigh up the risks of double failure when activating (ending your turn) against the rewards of multiple actions (from moving and attacking to two-action 'power blows' to three-action move/move/attack from cover for the 'ambush bonus').

But there's much more to it than that. If you have plenty of actions, do you risk attacking with individuals as they close with an enemy (thus risking upsetting your outnumbering strategy for the potential reward of disadvantaging your foe), or do you simply hold off until you've got sufficient weight of numbers to launch an attack that's heavily weighted in your favour?

If you have a single model in combat with a stronger enemy, do you leave him there to tie up the other guy for a turn or risk a 'free hack' by disengaging? Or send someone in to help him?

If you have missile troops with the Evil trait, do you shoot into combat at risk to your own fighters?

If two combats are going on close by, do you up the ante by engaging other characters with both (thus upping the ante by making things more deadly all round)?

For such a simple ruleset, it does have a lot going for it in this regard - largely because of the way the activation system amps up the combat-related options (ambush; move and attack; attack with a power blow; attack; engage but don't attack; stay engaged; disengage).

Offline Pattus Magnus

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2022, 10:15:52 PM »
I can see the appeal of granularity for skirmish games. I agree with Hobgoblin’s assessment of the decisions in the ‘Song of’ game engine. I hesitate about taking it much further though - when I tried Rogue Stars with my kid, rules that are a more detailed extension of the ‘Song of’ rules, it fell flat. Kiddo described it as ‘Homework: the Wargame’. The added details bogged down the game too much for us to enjoy.

For mass combat games, I don’t mind the ‘Yahtzee’ approach (within reason), because it seems like the important decision points happen before engaging (maneuvering for advantage, throwing pila, etc) and commanders had very little they could control once hand to hand started. I just reread the Peloponnesian Wars and the commanders didn’t seem to command much by mid-battle. For me, it’s like playing a corps-level Napoleonic game- ordering battalions to form square doesn’t fit the command level being depicted…

Offline carlos marighela

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2022, 06:19:54 AM »
This. By the time it has got to bayonets and fisticuffs, there's probably not a lot of meaningful command and control going on even at section level, actually by the book at that point you are nominally fighting in pairs.   You probably want to hope that your chaps remember the quick orders about fighting through the objective and the reorg. Comes down to sheer guts and determination. Chucking buckets of dice is probably as good a solution as any.

I think the bit that probably does get the short shrift is the reorg phase following an assault. Re-orienting your troops, resupplying them or reallocating ammunition etc doesn't just happen magically, it takes time and a short pause is almost invariably warranted after the objective is secured, even if the intention is not to occupy it. Whilst that is probably more relevant to modern games, I suspect that even in the day of spear and shield there was a requirement to re-orient troops and do some basic post assault admin. In larger scale games I would assume this to be covered by troops post melee being 'disordered' and requiring some sort of role or command presence to reanimate them. In small scale games, it should at least merit a pause.
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Offline Norm

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2022, 08:07:00 AM »
Agree with the last few comments.

I am generally happy with most melee systems and don’t at all see the randomness as a crap shoot ….. but rather a better simulation of being in the commander’s chair.

There are two aspects to melee from the ‘commanders’ perspective.

The first is situational - what is behind the decision that now is the right moment to attack? Is the defender disordered, weaker, lower morale, caught in the flank, in defences, supported / unsupported or is it just simply an imperative that the attack needs to be made, even against bad odds! This is a command decision and the outcome with be nudged in a certain direction by attack / defence modifiers.

Secondly if you want to assume the role of army commander, you must release direct command control from the lower elements of your army, another commander is looking after that - the local one and you are not that person.

The most you can hope for is to say I want that brigade to attack that ridge …. That is your role, you leave the rest to your trusted commanders, who are essentially the dice and the modifiers combined.

I have 2 napoleonic boardgame systems that notably do this to good effect. The commander has a plan and puts the wheels in motion. Some bits will work and others will not, whatever falls out of it, the commander’s role is to re-asses and act with new orders.

From the commanders seat, you will have reports flooding in and perhaps see that over on the right you are not capturing the village - or even running away from it etc. Time to change the plan to accommodate that i.e. reinforce the right, or pull back etc ….. not roll your sleeves up and go over there to get stuck in!

How we play our games and enjoy them is a personal thing, but it is interesting how individual character traits either wants to unrealistically micro manage the entire army or unrealistically just leave it to chaotic self determination, somewhere between those two extremes is the better play and simulation …… perhaps a different place for each of us!
« Last Edit: November 30, 2022, 08:13:09 AM by Norm »

Offline Daeothar

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2022, 11:24:22 AM »
I totally agree on the buckets of dice thing, even though that does not prevent me from playing games like Dropzone Commander, because that game is still more about movement and tactics.

But I'm also of the opinion that the more dice are rolled in one go, the more chance is reduced and the stats of the units involved become the decisive factor. I often find games where I have to roll one die to get the result of a combat too swingy; one bad diceroll can completely F up your carefully planned game. In fact; lots of times in these games it comes down to that one particular diceroll that will decided the outcome of the entire game, no matter how well planned out your tactics, army composition etc. When playing that kind of game, I'd much prefer the 'softening' of the dice results by letting statistics do their work and dampen the results of the most swingy rolls.

However; the best dice-based combat mechanic I've ever played is the one in the game Bushido. It's a skirmish game, with individual miniatures (most of them named), with stat cards and their abilities on them. But when there is any type of combat involved (ranged, CC or magical), there are opposed rolls.

Each character has a certain dice pool and the players secretly decide how they split their pool up into defensive and offensive dice. these are then revealed simultaneously, and then the dice rolling takes place.

This means that there is a level of strategy and bluff involved in each confrontation; I could attack you, but only use defensive dice, meaning I won't do damage (generally), but I will force you to use your activation for the combat, which will then have implications for your further turns, etc.

It plays beautifully and adds extra tension to each opposed roll. Also, I've always wondered if this mechanic could not also be used in larger, unit-based games.

Then again; I've also played several card based games, and I do like how they play as well. Holding a hand of cards to be played whenever they're most useful also adds an extra layer. I'm thinking of Puppet's War (a Malifaux spin-off) and the recent Masters of the Universe game in particular here...
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Offline Aethelflaeda was framed

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Re: Avoiding Melee Yahtzee
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2022, 01:31:11 PM »
swingy dice are not always a bad thing.  My most memorable gaming experiences almost always are those where the obviously about-to-be-lost battle was actually won when a low-odds, hail-mary counter-attack rolls boxcars on the very last roll of the game.

very useful to rationalize my many defeats as well…

 

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