Monday, May 7, 2012

[Open Design: Mercenaries #3] Conquering Territory

In the last Open Design article, we talked about the game's battle system - specifically, how complex or abstract it should be. The general consensus seems to be that it should be more on the complex side. Humandisaster brought up the subject of having some kind of system for fighting over territories. So, I've thought up two general designs for how the battle system could incorporate the concept of conquering territory. I'll layout the two designs below and see what anyone thinks of them.

Territories as Cards
Along with the deck of mercenary cards, the game could include a deck of territory cards. At the beginning of each battle phase, the top card of the territory deck would be revealed. Then, players would take turns in order.

On your turn, you could chose to play a merc card from your hand or you could hold. If you play a merc card, immediately apply any special effects on the card, and add the merc's combat value to your combat total. For each round that you choose to hold, you gain an extra resource point. So, holding will make it less likely that you'll win this territory, but it will mean that you have more money to bid on mercs in the next bidding phase.

When no player is able or willing to play another merc card, compare all players' combat totals. The player with the highest combat total wins the battle and claims the territory, and play proceeds to the next bidding phase. Territories would have special effects that could affect your strategy once you've claimed them, and they will also be worth victory points. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins.

Territories as Board
Along with the deck of mercenary cards, the game could also feature a board with various territories marked out on it. During the battle phase, each player gets a turn to declare an attack from any territory they control against an adjacent territory controlled by another player.

Those two players take turns playing merc cards from their hands. When you play a merc card, immediately apply any special effects on the card, and add the merc's combat value to your combat total. When neither player is able or willing to play another merc card, compare the two players' combat totals. The player with the highest combat total wins the battle. If the defending player won, they maintain control of their territory and gain an extra resource point. If the attacking player won, then they claim the territory from their opponent.

Then the next player can declare an attack, until each player has had a turn at attacking in the battle phase. Afterward, play proceeds to the next bidding phase. At the end of the game, the player who controls the majority of the board wins.

Those are just very rough models. Please give me any feedback you may have on which design you prefer, or any tweaks you might make to them. Also, if you have a whole other design in mind, it's not too late to propose your idea. Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. So my thought after reading this a few times is I guess it depends on what you want the role of the players to be, or what's the story of the game?

    If I were the ruler of my own personal little territory and my objective was to strike out and conquer surrounding areas, then I'd be inclined to want a board or map because knowing the locations that are being fought over and where they are in relation to other places would be vital to my strategy.

    If I were playing things as the name of the game suggests, in a more mercenary angle and my primary objective was gaining resources and it didn't matter where they came from then I would be in favor of cards, and a board or map would be pretty much unnecessary.

    1. This is a very interesting angle on this. I can see what you mean. At this formative stage in the development of the game, I think it could go either way. I'd be curious which "role" or "story" angle others would prefer.

  2. Territories as Cards:
    - Reminds me of card games like hearts or spades where how many "books" you have
    determine your score.
    - Players would have to be discerning about when to hold back and when to fight, while
    not going gung-ho trying to obtaining territory or slacking so as to have next to
    nothing at the end of the match.
    - My understanding may be incorrect on this one, but it also seems like the card version
    may provide for quicker pace.
    - Cards may do better for the different locations (i.e. I have just claimed your mines).
    - production
    Territories as Board:
    - By selecting an adjacent opponent, you have the choice of whom to cripple first.
    - Could each land have a capitol territory? (conquer outer territory to establish front
    against capitol) or would that be complicating things.
    - I am curious on the length of the battle phases in this method in comparison to the
    - Marking system for claimed territories
    - production

    For the most part in my ponderrings, I've gravitated towards the cards. Somehow though, I think the board could work out. So far that's what I can think of, if anything else comes to mind, i'll make sure to post it

    1. Thanks for the breakdown of these various points for each model! This kind of analysis is very helpful.

      One difference that stood out to me after reading your bullet points, is that in the card model conflict would have a lot more to do with managing your resources, where as in the board model conflict would have a lot more to do with tactical maneuvering.

      I think you're right about the card version having a quicker pace. The individual battle phases would likely be shorter, and the game would probably require less of them. If fact, the game could probably be set to last a specific number of rounds, where as in the board version it might go on indefinitely, with two or more players squabbling back and forth over the same territories. I think the existence of capitol territories (being the only territories that must be captured to win)would be vital to keeping the board model from dragging on.

      In the card version, all players would be more actively engaged in the combat at the same time, rather than one or more players waiting while two other players battle over a territory. The board version might promote more direct competition between players (players are attacking each other directly, rather than competing for a new territory that was just revealed from a deck).

      In the board model, territories would be important for their location (edging in on an opponent's capitol). In the card model, territories would be important for the victory points and other perks they provide (capturing mines might provide additional money on subsequent rounds, while capturing a fortress might provide a bonus to your combat total on subsequent rounds).

      Another point of comparison is components. In the card model the game could probably consist mostly of a couple decks of cards and some poker-style chips. The board model would require an actual game board and tokens for marking occupying forces.

      So, these are just some additional observations that were sparked by your comment. I'm curious to know if anyone has any thoughts on these.

    2. The more I think of it the more I dislike the board idea. I'm starting to feel like it'd over-complicate things. But I did have a different idea regarding the cards come to me that would incorporate the idea of each person playing having their own little kingdom they're trying to protect and/or extend (if that's the route you want to take story wise)

      I was thinking, what if you have a smallish deck that represents different resources, and they could provide various bonuses to the players and have different values, for instance farm cards, mines, villages, towns, etc. And then at the beginning of the game every player starts out with a certain number of them, and the resolution of the battle phase determines whether a player loses or gains resources. I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics of how that would play out cause that's not really my strength. I did think though with something like that, it'd be interesting to have mercenaries of varying levels of ability, like a weaker one might be capable of capturing a farm from another player, while a much stronger one (or multiple ones) could take on an assault on a town or city. And that's about as far as I got thinking that out. lol

    3. Having the cards from the card model divided among the players at the beginning of the game could be a way to implement what you are suggesting here.

      An important difference between this (as with the board model), and what I proposed in the card model above is that players will be trying to take resources (in the form of territory) from each other, instead of trying to claim new resources as they appear. This might make the game more competitive (which could be good or bad, depending on your preference).

      Here is another difference. If you're competing to claim new territories as they appear, instead of stealing them from each other, then after a few rounds without claiming any territory it might become impossible for a player to catch up and have any hope of winning. I'm not sure if that's good. On the other hand, competing over each others' territories might make the game drag on, as people keep yanking territories back and forth. Either way, I guess there will be pros and cons.

      About having mercenaries of varying levels of ability: one important effect of this is that a merc's value will be more easily assessed, rather than it being situational based on the specific circumstances and the other mercs each player may have, which may work against the auctioning system for hiring mercs(?).