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  Mechanic #064 - Deduction Tactics

Category: Tactics
Posted: 12/13/07

A tactics game where you don't know what types of units your enemy has and must use deduction to figure it out.



Deduction Tactics is something of a cross between Fire Emblem and the board game Guess Who. The premise is simple. You don't know what units your enemy is using. By paying attention to how they act on the battlefield, you can slowly deduce what unit is what. Only by figuring out a unit's type will you be able to find the advantage needed to kill them.

  Unit Types

For this idea to work, there needs to be a finite number of units, but in a broad enough spectrum that knowing only one or two pieces of information about them isn't enough.


Though you don't know what each unit is at the start of the game, you are able to assign certain attributes to them on the battlefield to help you narrow it down. For instance, if a unit strikes you with a bow, then you can assign that unit as a bow unit. Likewise, if your earth attack hits for critical damage, it could be because the enemy unit is a wind-based unit (you never know for sure - the assignments are purely cosmetic and for your benefit).

  Going for the Kill


Inch by inch, you are able to whittle each unit down. Once you've assigned a bow to the unit, you know that it is potentially only bow units. And then discovering that it is probably a wind unit with a bow, then you've narrowed it down to only two units! If you can figure out which attribute separates those two units and test it, then you've got the unit.

Finding out which unit is which is important, since each unit has a single weak point - usually a combination of being attacked from a particular direction with a particular element on a particular weapon and so on. Not something you are likely to stumble upon by accident (though lucky breaks are possible). Hitting a unit in his Achilles' Heel will do considerable damage above and beyond all other factors.

You can still kill a unit the old fashioned way, by taking his health down bit by bit. Once you know that fire attacks do critical damage to a unit, perhaps it's enough to keep pounding away at it like that - though it will take many more turns, even with criticals (after all, one critical can't compete with an Achilles' Heel).

  Brainstorming Special Abilities

Obviously, in a two player game, the core strategy would be to prevent your opponent from discovering your units. You might hold back attacking with a unit to prevent your opponent from figuring out the weapon type, or perhaps purposely avoid doing criticals against another unit so your opponent won't realize you have the advantage until it is too late. So the secret would be to figure out each unit's ability without exposing your own.

Perhaps it would be interesting to add special abilities that affect the attribution system into to the mix. These special abilities would be unique to specific classes. While they aren't obvious, for the most part, the effects of these abilities can exposure your units in a heartbeat if you are careful.

At the obvious end of the spectrum is the spy ability. Simply put, instead of attacking, the spy may request information on a single attribute on a single unit chosen at random. This ability, though unpredictable, could prove quite useful and would likely make the spy unit a primary target. Spying can only be done while standing still, so units which opt not to move or attack should be considered suspect.

Another possible ability is Fog. A unit with Fog equipped cannot be attributed. The enemy player could figure out which abilities he has, but he can't input them into the computer for tracking. He'll have to manually keep track and figure out which unit it is.

Maybe a Hold Pain ability which will report normal damage to the opponent, even when a critical has been accomplished. And of course, Fake Pain, which reports a critical hit even when one didn't happen.

Maybe something like Duel Wield, in which a unit can switch his weapon between sword and bow at will - use only one to throw off your opponent, then switch when he isn't paying attention.

Normally two units have the ability to switch squares when standing next to each other, but Confusing Movement will allow to units to switch (or pretend to switch) while losing all attributes. Your enemy would instantly know that one of the two was unit X, but he'd have to figure out which one is which first.

Obviously, these types of special abilities add considerable confusion and difficulty to the game. That's why I think they should be probably pretty rare - perhaps one in five units or something. Also, when an ability is used, it should be accompanied by some sort of animation or something that makes it obvious that ability X is being used. I think then that the fear of being exposed will make the abilities less omnipresent and more reserved for tactically changing the battlefield at opportune moments.




Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.