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Heya Space Cadets,

The mechanic I would like to dive into today is combat, or at least things to consider when designing our combat system. Right now the combat mechanics in The Deepening are all up in the air, but we can talk about what combat is going to be and how we’re looking to make it more fun and more strategically important.

Given that your miners are now NPCs and far more numerous than your Heroic Characters, for balance reasons they can’t be as good at defending themsleves as they used to be. But I don’t want players to get frustrated at restaffing their mines every time a monster sneaks around their defenses, so instead of making them as flimsy as a crappy goblin let’s give them Union Membership, good running legs, and a contract that says they don’t need to defend themselves. Fleeing is a fun mechanic, as it lets enemies harass the econ of a player without it becoming a bloodbath. We can make structures manned too, so instead of having to burn them down Warcraft style an enemy can disable them just by scaring the workers off.

Now for the fun stuff. With our new hexes so small, Dwarfs can’t mob up, they’re going to need to spread the entire combat team out across several hexes. It also means we’re not attacking guys on the SAME hex, we’re attacking guys on ADJACENT hexes. Given the layout of our maps, that means one guy can be attacked from up to six directions, with both facing and elevation possibly coming into play.

Ranged attacks zip in from multiple hexes away, and area effect attacks hit multiple hexes at once. Giant mobs of goblins won’t all pile up on the same hex, which is good for a million reasons, and you may be able to pull a Thermopylae on certain enemies by putting strong defenders at a choke point. Controlling angles of attack will be huge, and with Fog of War, you never know if an enemy is retreating out of fear, or to maneuver you into a two-pronged counterattack!

Getting attacked is also no longer a do-or-die affair, it will be a short trade of blows by the involved parties. One buddy of mine referenced swashbuckling movies as a good place to model flashy combat, with groups fighting back and forth for control, and losers retreating before a more skilled opponent. Strategically this works with Delve Deeper’s emphasis on controlling the map, and it would look awesome.

Making this work well presents a few problems. First is that you may not always want to advance, or to retreat, or either. You might also want out of combat as fast as possible. This might be controllable by stances, Press Attack, Stand Ground, etc, and I think it would be interesting to explore a Combat Morale system where a weaker combatant will choose to cede territory to a stronger one, like how just about everyone else behaved when faced with Errol Flynn one on one.

Giving up ground like this would give the weaker fighter a chance to avoid a lot of damage, which means two equally skilled duelists would fight back and forth across a few hexes without doing much damage to each other until they are either ordered to go all-out aggressive or something happens to mess up the duel. Dead end, trap, backstabbing rogue, that kind of thing.

This retreating behavior could also happen in the face of a vastly more confident foe, since the delicate dance of Combat Morale between two duelists goes out the window when your opponent is a raging berserker or a mindless slime. The difference here is the impact on the opposition: The brainless slime is simply immune to morale effects, but the frenzied berserker is a terrifying foe not only immune to morale but causing an opponent’s morale to evaporate, even if the opposition would normally kill the berserker in a few turns. It’s not hard to find other examples of terrifying foes that would cause forced withdrawals or retreats, like Dragons… or our new Trolls.

Spacelab Signing Out

I love how visual and thoughtful this makes combat, and morale might be the missing element to doing this without elaborate combat rules, especially since I was already playing with Cowardice/Bravery metrics on Goblins and such things so they may break and panic when you’ve killed enough of a horde. Reusing a mechanic is KEY when your team is small, and getting the most possible mileage out of a single cool idea is absolute gold.

I hope you guys are pumped about combat, and have questions, I’d love to keep talking on twitter or facebook or here, but I can’t unless you guys comment! Jay is very strict about me not posting novellia-length blog entries.

Neil Wickman is the single leading cause of violent death among Goblins.

He has been working for Lunar Giant studios since its inception, one of the lead designers and the Creative Director. Listen to his arty nonsense @LunarNeil on Twitter.