Combat dice systems for board games

Comparing combat dice systems

Using six-sided dice for a combat system

Using six-sided dice for a combat system

I have recently been investigating the use of different combat dice systems for ‘Sovereign’.  This is mostly because I currently have the number on the dice going up to thirteen. Rolling and adding six-sided dice is not going to be fun for the player and will slow down play dramatically.  I am also trying to avoid introducing ‘hit’ points, as this will add further complexity to the game.  After some investigation, I discovered some alternatives. Here is a list of the systems I am now aware of, and have considered.

  1. The system we currently use is 1d6 for each point of offence or defence a unit has. So a unit of 8 offence will roll 8 dice against a defending unit’s defence number. Whoever has the highest number wins the battle. In the case of a draw the defender wins. The losing unit is destroyed. I have tried to keep this simple by not including¬† things like hit points and making it only possible for one unit to attack another at any one time. This is a limitation of the simplification and I think I would like to find a way around this (more test playing needed).
  2. Risk uses a simple but effective system of three dice against two.  Each dice is matched up against the other, highest to highest, next highest to the next highest etc. The higher dice wins and destroys the opposing unit. While offence is favoured through the extra die, defence is balanced against this by giving advantage to defending units in the case of a draw. For example
    • Offence rolls a 5, 3 and 1: defence rolls a 4 and 3 – the offence wins first roll (5 to 4), defence wins the second (3 to 3), and third attack roll is disregarded.
  3. Axis and Allies use multiple units attacking, multiple units. Units have an attack/defend value which represents the value a six sided dice must roll under or equal to. Each unit that rolls successfully destroys one of the opposing units. Attacks can continue until all units on one side are destroyed. There are exceptions for bombardment and artillery, but this is how the majority of battles play out. For example:
    • 3 tanks with attack value 3 roll a 5, 4, 3 attack two infantry with a defence value 2, who roll a 3, 2. Each team has one successful attack/defend. Killing one unit from each team.
  4. Dungeons and Dragons, use a range of dice with bonuses adding to the resulting roll. So you can have a 4 sided dice 1d4 with a bonus of +2 having the potential to roll between 3 and 6. There are variations on this situation with range of dice types and in a range of games.
  5. There are many more examples, but most of them start to become more complicated and involve things like hit points or tables that explain how each combat scenario should pan out. This will most likely slow down the game.

Testing different six-sided dice combat systems

I have run some test combat scenarios with some programing trying to give some indication of the number of wins to loses on all of these situations. In doing so I was trying to ascertain how quickly the advantage changes in favour of the upgraded units. I am trying to avoid units becoming obsolete too quickly and hence players avoiding even building certain units in the first place.

Of the combat systems I found the most appropriate for Sovereign was option 4. Reflecting on 2 and 3, they did not leave enough room for expansion of units. With 6 levels of research available we needed a certain amount of possible unit advancements and I could not get this to work well with 2 & 3. I was also trying to avoid using another system by directly taking it from an existing game. I found with option 1 that the odds changed too quickly. A player fighting with a 3 dice unit against a 1 dice unit had on average, a 95% chance of winning. This made units obsolete far too quickly.

My goal was to achieve around 20-30% increase in the chance of winning as you upgraded allowing at least 3-4 upgrades before a unit was completely obsolete. System 4 also provided the opportunity to render units completely redundant at some point as well. I think this reflects reality, helping player immersion in the game world, for example a warrior unit would not be able to beat a marine because the difference was greater than the maximum warrior roll.

As a result I have worked out that all units will roll one six-sided dice and then add their attack or defence bonus to the number. Five then becomes the obsolete point for lower units as the maximum difference is 5, a player rolling a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 6 on a dice.

Balance for novice and experienced players

There is also an extra dice for defending cities and forts, which increases with future research. This adds an element of randomness/luck and improves the chances of players who are behind defending themselves while they catch up, and reduces the chances of an experienced players always winning against a novice. A good game goal is to have experienced players win slightly more often against novice players.

6 thoughts on “Combat dice systems for board games

  1. I like the concept of the numbered hex tiles. It certainly would play much quicker. I noticed that in the light rules about the Helicopter transport that it can carry 2 units. Perhaps those two units should only be ground units. i.e. a tank or horse would not physically be capable of being transported in this method.

    Anyway just a thought.

    Y.

  2. Pingback: Boardgame testing with multiple players « Sovereign :: An Open Source Board Game Project

  3. I got this ѕite from my friend who sharеd wіth
    me conсerning this web site and at the mοment this time I аm
    visiting this ωebsitе аnd
    reaԁing very informatiνе artiсles at this time.

  4. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.

    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  5. Just because a game needs a chart for determining battle outcomes does not mean it will slow down play for all time. Once a fairly simple ruleset has been employed, players will eventually learn what the outcome will be without the need for using a chart. If the game is immersive and fun, players will be more apt to go the way of patience in regards to learning the game.

  6. @Justin: I agree, that the game would not slow down once players became accustomed to the chart, but that does then depend on the complexity of the chart. The system changed slightly in the end to 12 sided die, as this allowed for a greater variance in the possible attack/defend value so that players who were a little behind in technology might still have chance of winning battles. I also agree that if a game is immersive and fun, players will happily be patient, and this has been the case with any games we’ve played. At the same time I am trying to keep barriers to taking up play to a minimum so as to encourage new players to play. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter, thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*