Favourite combat systems

I have mentioned them in passing a couple of times but I wanted to highlight a couple of games with what I think are truly ingenious approaches to combat: #Cry Havoc and #Rising Sun.

In #Cry Havoc there is a battle board with three objectives: 

  • Region control - Whoever has majority gains control of that area and 2 VPs
  • Capture prisoner - Majority takes one of their opponent's miniatures permenantly and scores 1 VP from it every round
  • Attrition - Kill one of your opponents miniatures for each miniature you have on it and score 1 VP (no majority needed

Each player takes all their troops in the contested area and attacker first places them on the board in whichever objectives they want. Then the defender does likewise. (this obviously gives the defender a significant advantage) After this players (starting with the attacker) can play cards from their hand which usually allow you to move your units about (occaisionally add new ones or force your opponent to move them). These cards are also used to take actions and are limited so saving them for combat is a sacrifice but not saving any for combat is a huge risk as you let your opponents have the last move.

I really like this system as players can come in with entirely different goals. You might really want the territory so you can score points in scoring rounds or you might just be looking to inflict as much damage as possible on your opponent to weaken them for a later battle while scoring a few VPs in the process. As such both players can end up happy or unhappy with how the battle went. 


#Rising Sun has a somewhat similar system: When a battle happens, the winner wipes out the entirity of the opposition force, reagrdless of numbers and will claim a token for contorlling that area (which will help with end of game scoring). However, there are a LOT of scoring opportunites within each battle. Players get gold throughout the round and use this to secretly bid on one of four power, whoever wins the bet may use that power and they happen in order:

1) Seppuku - your entire army commits ritual suicide, you gain 'honour' for each miniature

2) capture a prisoner - you remove one figure (which may contribute a lot of strength to the opponent) and score a VP, can help swing a battle in your favour

3) deploy Ronin - each player may have also acquired mercenaries throughout the round, you can then add these to the battle to tip it in your favour

At this point the battle happens and one army is wiped out

4) imperial poets - you score 1VP for each miniature that died in the battle regardless of whose it was.

These all provide really interesting options, you know how much gold and how many Ronin your opponent/s (can have multiple players involved) has going into the fight but there are some other considerations too: you may be due to take part in several battles over the course of the battle phase so you may wish to save some gold/Ronin. The 'loser' of the battle receives half the gold that the winner spent, so you can purposefully lose a less important battle to bolster your reserves for a later battle. 

I adore this system, as you can do some incredibly interesting manoeuvring. For example, in one battle where I had an numerical advantage I did the following:

I had my entire army commit suicide, which bumped me up the honour track (as well as scored me several victory points due to an upgrade I had) which meant I won any ties. My opponent had bet on the capture prisoner (which would have tied the fight and as he was higher honour would have won) however as all my soldiers were dead there was no one for him to capture. I won the Ronin power and so deployed a number of mercenaries equal to his force. The battle happened, it was a tie but because I now had higher honour, I won. I also won the imperial poets one, and so scored more points for both my forces and his. Now I scored a tonne of points but had left myself poor for later battles and lacking board presence for the next round. So hard to say if it was a good long term move but it was so much fun to pull off.

Similarly a lot of betting happens more to deny your opponent a power (for example you might have no Ronin, but just want to make sure your opponent can't deploy his).

I adore both of these combat systems as they happen relatively quickly, the result is as  unpredictable and exciting as dice while giving the players so much more agency.

All that said, rolling dice can be a tonne of fun too, but I have just really enjoyed these takes on how it can be done differently.

What are your favourite combat systems? Do you think different systems work better with different themes?

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Supporter3 months ago

They Rising Sun system sounds really nice.

3 months ago

If it weren't for the excessive miniatures I would for sure buy it

Supporter3 months ago

I hear that.

Linked Games
Rising Sun
Cry Havoc
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