1. Aggro Tactics Combat: The Basics

      written by Ray Benefield
      Big post today... well big day today. I get to begin describing the details of the combat for Aggro Tactics. Now that is exciting. As I introduce mechanics of Aggro Tactics, I will use scenarios to show how they mesh together to provide you with options. This should be a fun post and it will set the ground work for the rulebook that I am going to need to inevitably create. AWAY!

      Actually... one more thing. If you missed yesterday's post to make up for the lack of one last week then you should go check that out.




      Quick Overview



      Before I jump directly into the rules I want to make a few clarifications. Aggro Tactics is a tactical strategy board game. There are no RPG elements in it; no leveling, no character creation, and no story (at least not at first). The goal of this project is to establish a solid set of unique core mechanics and then building upon that to get to the level of options that many tactics games provide, like terrain. So the first goal of Aggro Tactics is to make a game that is fun without terrain first and then add terrain to create more interesting scenarios. So while the board looks lame due to its flatness, this is to ensure that we build up and not start with a convoluted design. Note that this post is not a quick start guide... it is filled with explanations and what not. Btw, like most games the goal is to completely eliminate the other team via damage. Each piece (class) has a max HP value and 3 special actions that define it... that's it. Everything else is universal to all pieces. Here is a summary of the main points:

      • Actions are planned first and once all players submit their actions the actions are executed
      • Actions are executed in order of highest threat character to lowest threat
      • Each character can use up to 5 AP a turn and a whole team can only use up to 15 AP a turn
      • Characters replenish 3 AP per turn; using more than 3 AP a turn creates diminishing max party AP each turn
      • Moving is based on a path of spaces, not just a destination space like most tactical games
      • A character's movement path can be blocked, shifted, or be changed in other deterministic ways
      • Most actions (like attacks) affect the character with the highest threat in range rather than the closest
      • All actions still execute whether or not previous actions succeeded as planned (like not being able to move before an attack)


      NOTE: All images can be clicked on for larger versions.




      Plan, then Execute



      The first thing that will be different from typical tactics games is that when you input an action, like a move or an attack, the action will not happen immediately. If you have ever played Frozen Synapse, it is kind of like that. Both players will "queue" their actions together into a pool of actions each turn. Actions will then be executed one at a time in order of the character with the highest Threat. Let's start with the talk on initiative.



      Initiative and Threat



      Let's say that the below parties exist for both players. Default games give both players the option to create parties of 5 characters of any available classes having as many multiples as you want. Yes you can have a party of 5 Priests... lol.

      • Red Team
        • Archer; 80 Threat
        • Priest; 70 Threat
        • Warrior #1; 170 Threat
        • Warrior #2; 130 Threat
        • Wizard; 140 Threat
      • Blue Team
        • Archer #1; 130 Threat
        • Archer #2; 110 Threat
        • Rogue #1; 150 Threat
        • Rogue #2; 90 Threat
        • Priest; 100 Threat


      Initiative is the order in which actions will be executed. In Aggro Tactics, a character's initiative is represented by their level of threat. The higher the threat the more reactive a character is, their adrenaline is pumping and they are expecting to be the target of many attacks. Threat is generated by doing stuff; moving, dealing damage, healing, and most other actions generate a particular level of threat. Actions that draw attention to you and make you a higher priority target will generate more threat.

      If we take a look at the parties above actions will be executed in the order below. All actions for each character are executed before moving on to the next.

      1. Warrior #1; 170 Threat
      2. Rogue #1; 150 Threat
      3. Wizard; 140 Threat
      4. Archer #1; 130 Threat
      5. Warrior #2; 130 Threat
      6. Archer #2; 110 Threat
      7. Priest; 100 Threat
      8. Rogue #2; 90 Threat
      9. Archer; 80 Threat
      10. Priest; 70 Threat


      There is a single tie above between the red Warrior #2 and the blue Archer #1. In cases of ties in threat HP is looked at. The character that has taken the most proportional damage when compared to their max will go first. So if the Warrior has 11/16 HP (68.75%) vs the Archer who has 6/7 (85.71%), the Warrior will go first. His injuries make him more reactive. However if they have the same damage taken (say both at full health). The lowest total will go first, so the Archer will go first. Why? Because feeble characters are much more cautious in combat and hence much more reactive. So now that we got that basic concept out of the way... we can move on to what kind of actions characters can execute.



      Action Points



      Most actions in Aggro Tactics take action points to execute. Every character can us up to 5 AP in a turn, but the entire team cannot execute more than 15 AP worth of actions (it can be less). So you can have your Warrior use 5 AP, Rogue 3 AP, Archer 3 AP, Wizard 4 AP, and your Priest not do anything that turn. 5+3+3+4= 15. This encourages players to use their characters as a whole team rather than just a couple pieces a turn. So why not the whole party like most tactics game? Because I think action economy and AP management is important. Maximizing your AP use is important. And sometimes you don't need a piece to move and I don't like the feeling of losing a turn with a piece because it is better for that piece to wait.

      One more detail before we move on. AP does not automatically refill to max at the end of every turn. Instead each character regains 3 AP every turn. So actions that take up to 3 AP are normal and easily recovered from, 4 AP is strenuous, and 5 is tiring. In the turn above, the Rogue, Archer, and Priest will have up to 5 AP available next turn, but the Warrior will only have 3 AP and the Wizard will have 4 AP. Strenuous and tiring turns cause the total maximum available AP to steadily decrease. If you use 3 AP with all characters, you will regain it all 15 points back next turn. This system also restricts strenuous activities to two turns in a row before having to wait (5-4+3=4 next turn|4-4+3=3 turn after that) and restricts tiring activities to every other turn max since after using 5 AP you will only have 3 next turn and if you use at most 1 AP next turn you'll be back to 5 the turn after.



      Movement



      So because actions don't happen immediately, movement has to be handle differently. Most tactical games highlight every possible space that a piece can move in. We can't really do that in a plan/execution system. There is just too many opportunities for impreciseness. For example, characters cannot move through spaces with enemies. If a character just has a destination, how does that player walk around an enemy? Which side do they go around... left or right? This matters because certain spaces can trigger effects. And I don't want to randomly decide. Random is not in my DNA. So instead actions are submitted in a sequential pattern rather than just a destination. Using the AP knowledge above, a single AP will allow a character to move up to 2 spaces. So with 5 AP in a turn a character could potentially move up to 10 spaces in a turn. NOTE: The character in these pictures is a Warrior.



      Having the player define the path the character makes allows the potential for actions that can change that path in a predictable and calculated fashion. For example, if a player can anticipate your movement they can cut you off with another piece that has higher threat and hence moves first. See image below. This can create a huge swing. Especially if your piece needed to be in a particular location to create a specific outcome. If you don't consider the pieces that could cut you off, then your plan can be foiled if it is obvious enough.



      In addition to just blocking a path, your path can be changed. There is a thing called Bullrush that exists as a combat maneuver that all pieces have access to. You'll learn more about combat maneuvers in a later post. But for this case, Bullrush allows a character to "push" another piece away as long as they are adjacent. This can result in a change in your end destination space (see below). If your destination had to be pseudo exact, there is a chance you might be foiled by a push. Your ending destination might have put your character in the line of fire for the Archer's planned attack later in the turn. You could even push your own pieces to put them into the right position or give them an additional space of movement. Now let's talk about attacking and the importance of your position.





      Attacking



      Attacking is a little more familiar at first than initiative, action points, and movement. Attacks have a particular range of spaces that they can hit and if the targets are available in that range, then your attack will hit otherwise it will miss. Fairly simple right? Well the difference is that in Aggro Tactics, if there are multiple options for a single attack the choice is not directly made by the player but instead by the stats of the targets; the key factor for most actions being Threat. Yep, threat is more than just initiative. So let's say for the coming scenarios the red Warrior has the following action:
      Melee Attack - Deal 4 damage to the enemy with the highest threat in 2 range
      Fairly simple, but let's break it down real quick. That means out of all enemies within up to 2 spaces of the Warrior, that the enemy that has the highest threat value at the time of attack will be hit by the attack. Let's start simple. The below attack will hit the blue Warrior if the attack were to go off now because the Warrior is the only one in range regardless of threat.



      Now let's say that the Warrior wants to hit the blue Archer. The first obvious plan based on the average tactics game could be to move up close to the Archer and smack her. Most attacks will run you about 3 AP so to move and attack in one turn means you can move up to 4 spaces (2 AP) and attack (3 AP). Actions for a single character will always execute in the order they were submitted. So moving will always try to happen before attacking if movement was submitted first. So given the situation, because of how threat works in Aggro Tactics that plan of action won't result in hitting the Archer. Looking at the graphic below, let's assume that Warrior has higher threat than Archer.



      Regardless of whether or not the Archer is closer than the Warrior, the Warrior will still get hit because he has higher threat than the Archer. So if we want the Warrior to hit the Archer even if it has less threat we just have to adjust our move a bit.



      That wasn't too bad... was it? Now let's go a little deeper option wise. So if the Warrior wants to hit the Archer, he has two movement paths, seen in the first picture below. Knowing that, the blue player can use the Warrior to block the Warrior. Whether or not the Warrior reaches the end of his move, his attack will still go off as seen in the second picture below. So if the Warrior cuts him off then the attack will go off where he stands even if he doesn't reach his destination hitting the Warrior instead of the intended target, the Archer.





      There is a 50/50 chance in this scenario that the blue player guesses right at the cost of 1 AP for moving. In a more complicated scenario an exact 50/50 chance has a very low chance of existing. As a player I don't like guessing... so there is an option for the blue player that exists to ensure that no matter which path the Warrior, there is still a gain for the blue player... and possibly a chance to still force the Warrior to hit the Warrior instead of the Archer even if he isn't blocked. But that will wait for the next blog post when we talk about Combat Maneuvers.



      Until next time



      This was a REALLY long post, however I really didn't cover too much in ways of mechanics. It really is just the basics of initiative, action points, movement, and attacking. These core details are very important so if you need any clarifications feel free to ask. If you come up with situations that may mess with the game logic feel free to mention it and I will let you know if that was considered and either tell you on the spot or let you know that that situation will be covered in the future. For example I'm sure many may wonder what happens when two potential attack targets have equal threat during an attack that can only have one target. The next post will cover more details on combat like that and talk about the concept of Combat Maneuvers... something I briefly touched on in this post with Bullrush. Hopefully this covered the basics well enough.

      One more thing, something I forgot to post in the last post was this video... a showing of the last iteration of Aggro for comparison going forward. And then I thought about it, that video might make more sense after this post. So here it is for those interested that haven't seen it. Note that a couple of observed mechanics in the video may be different than this post.