Diceless battle simulation ramblings
I've been fiddling recently with the idea of having a quick battle simulator, capable of recreating the dynamics and outcomes of medieval-ancient battles without the need of dice, complex tunrs and maneuvres that most of the time resulted in the very same clash and bloodbath.
This time, I wanted to synthetize the concept of the battle into more abstract units. Their position in the field is going to be abstract as well: two lines represent the actual troops and the reserves waiting for their turn in the fight.
At the main forces' sides there are the flanks, where fewer troops fight each other to gain the strategical advantage: the winning force on the flank will be able to influence the front, providing support with ranged weapons or with light cavalry to pursue the routing enemies.
In fact, routing must be one of the focal point of the battle: rather than ending in certain bloodbaths, it's far more believable to consider the morale as the main drive for quick defeats among the troops. Therefore, I needed a way to simulate the morale solidity provided by tight formations, as well as the loss of it when things go south. Shared bonuses between the troops can work for that, since as soon as the first troop disbands the bonus is no longer there and the adjacent troops will likely route too, and so forth.
The last important aspect for such a game should be the absence of tiring and essentially unnecessary dice rolls. There can be enough uncertainty due to partial hidden information (such as covered cards known only by their owner), and when used properly it can de facto act as chance.
In the specific case, the device used would be a series of colored squares to define the troop qualities and at the same time to track its morale and life. The three colors (green, red, blue) represent discipline, violence and protecion and react with each other with a rock-scissor-paper scheme.
Up to this point, things are still entirely deterministic. However, when the order of the three squares is different in each card, the outcome of the units' confrontation is unknown until both are revealed and confronted. There is still a good number of speculation that could be done: an aggressive unit of mounted knights will likely lose against spearmen and win against archers, but you won't know by how much until everything is revealed. Moreover, when the cards are covered only the troop type is public (infantry, ranged, horses) and knowing the opponent army structure becomes vital to guess the troops you're facing when positioning your troops on the table.
With this premises, the game outcome does depend heavily by the initial disposition of the troops. The actual color combinations should be irrelevant at this point (unless you REALLY are talented with numbers and mnemonics), but using cavalry, pikes and infantry to counter the weak points of the opponent formation does help a lot to win.
To balance the game in an implicit way, a pool of command points is provided to each player. Part of it is given by the general, part of it by the choice of troops. Those points will be used for maneuvres during the game, replacing tired troops in battle and rallying routing units. However, with the same pools players should buy their order of deployment. Three secret auctions are performed in parallel, each player investing part of its command influence to win the strategic advantage for the front and the flanks. Winning the advantage on the front gives you the right to choose the fights resolutions order and damage assignment, but that does cost precious points that the opponent will be able to use to outmaneuver and outrun you.
That is the overall idea of the game so far. A draft of the rules is already there, but the battle duration is still a parameter that varies dependin by several factors that are still to be defined. When a time scale will be more clear, the actual format of the game finally will be decided.
Till that point, stay tuned and check the updates on the facebook page!