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  Mechanic #205 - Comp-Grid Dice
Posted: Dec 15, 2014

A board game style implementation of the Comp-Grid Army battle system that revolves around assigning dice.

  Comp-Grid Dice

Recently, I've become somewhat enamored with the concept of solo board games. They seem like a particular challenge to design, as there is little room for hidden information and the solo player must ultimately control his "opponent", whether that opponent is time (the doom track from Arkham Horror), simple AI opponents (like Gears of War, Mice and Mystics, Zombicide), or even just game flow (such as a tower defense-like game). One of my personal favorite mechanics is the concept of building something - a team, a spaceship, a town - and pitting it against a series of obstacles and encounters to see how it does.

This is just part of a solo board game idea. Specifically, it is the combat and encounter system. The basic premise is that a combat group is a small grid of units that fight each other, not unlike [#017 - Composition Army]. The difficulty here is in creating a system that takes advantage of the Comp-Grid nature while also being simple enough and quick enough for a solo board game player to enact multiple times over a single game session. Also, it has to involve rolling dice, because rolling dice is super fun. The more, the better.

  The Combat Group



Fig 205.1 - Composition Grid-based Team.

The player will create a single combat group which he will then pit against a series of encounters against enemy combat groups. The framework for how a full game would be played is beyond the scope of this article, but the basic idea is that the player has a 4x4 grid of slots that he can place units. Units come in many different varieties (melee, ranged, defensive, and so on), but their most important attribute is their color.



Fig 205.2 - A Multinational Team of Blood Thirsty Killers.

Many of the units come in multiple colors. For instance, a melee unit can be red, blue, or green - as can a ranged group. The color indicates what dice color is rolled during battle. There is a one to one correspondence between unit and die, such that having four red units (in any combination) will result in having exactly four red dice that will be rolled. If a unit should happen to be defeated, remove the pawn from the tile and then take a similarly colored die from the pool

  Engaging in Battle



Fig 205.3 - Two Combat Groups Engaged in Battle.

When two (or more) combat groups engage in battle, they take turns attacking. Remember that pool of dice that has exactly the same number of colored dice as you have pawns in your combat group? Roll all of the dice at the same time.



Fig 205.4 - The Battle Hath Begun.

That roll represents the combat potential of your team. Starting with the front column and moving towards the back, for each unit, assign that colored die according to that unit's abilities. For melee units in the front column, they can assign a same-colored die to any enemy unit with no units in front of them. A ranged unit can assign a die to any unit in the same row/column. Defensive units can assign their gray dice to friendly units in adjacent squares.

You'll notice that there's no way to tell which unit is associated with which dice roll. That's okay, because they can use any die of the same color. So if a red ranged unit and a red melee unit roll two red dice, you can use them for either purpose, so long as you assign the dice from front to back. The melee unit on the front lines can choose either red die, while the ranged unit in the back will have to use whatever die is left over.

In this way, units can be beneficial even when they aren't able to attack. A blue melee unit in the back can't assign dice to the enemy, but his presence adds an additional blue die that can increase the odds of good rolls for units in the front that can assign dice.



Fig 205.5 - Dice Have Been Assigned.

Once the dice have been assigned, it might look something like this. Basically, for each enemy that has dice assigned to it, if the total value of dice assigned is higher than that enemy's defense, the enemy is defeated. Remove the pawn from the board and its colored die from the enemy's dice pool. Defense dice (the gray dice assigned to your own units) simply add to that unit's defense during the next turn when the enemy attacks.

As units are lost, the dice pools shrink. Melee units that couldn't attack before may find themselves on the front lines as units in front of them are defeated. The battlefield changes with each attack, and the player must adapt his tactics to the direction the battle will take. But there's one more wrinkle to battles that I'll discuss below. Before that, however, I need to talk about how enemy combat groups are formed and automatically engage in battle.

  Enemy Combat Groups



Fig 205.6 - Enemy Combat Group Card.

Enemy combat groups come in pre-printed cards, with the types and colors of each unit already represented on the card. As a player, you just need to find the right pawns (which can be placed directly on the card itself) and the correct pool of dice. The cards also indicate the "front" of the formation, which will be important when I talk about encounters.

As for the actual combat, just roll the pool of dice as normal and assign them for each unit in each column, working front to back. Each enemy unit will come with a short list of instructions for how to assign the dice. For instance, a melee unit will attempt to assign the die to the front enemy in the same row/col. Failing that, it will be assigned to a front enemy in an adjacent row/col, and so on. When two or more possible placements are available, the unit could prefer melee units, then ranged, then defensive. In the case of two melee units, it prefers the one which would go first in an attack.




Fig 205.7 - Encounter Description.

An encounter is a small description of the type of battle you will face. It is just a couple of icons along with positioning information. I'm thinking something that could be put on a card, so you'd draw an encounter that has something like the above on it.



Fig 205.8 - A Typical Encounter In Action.

The encounter card lists the enemies that you will face, as well as their position relative to the hero team. The enemy combat groups can be listed on cards, with the icon referring to a specific pile. For instance, a normal E tile means that you draw a single enemy combat group from the basic enemy pile. Then you place them according to the card.

The position is important because combat groups will change in function and effectiveness as the columns become rows, or even the front becomes the back. At the begin of a turn, the current combat group can turn a quarter-turn in either direction. So, a sneak attack could begin with the enemies facing away from the heroes, while an ambush would have the heroes pointed the wrong direction. If you wanted to get really fancy...



Fig 205.9 - An Ambush of Considerable Difficulty.

You can combine multiple enemies of varying difficulties to create complex encounters. In a situation such as this one, rotating formations and battling multiple foes, the combat group you design will be put to the ultimate test.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.