BWS (2012) – Conflict Resolution

I have been tiptoeing around conflict resolution long enough. In my design notes, I’ve gone through many iterations so far trying to come up with just that right feel. Here is how I want it to work in a narrative sense: Some units are in a Zone from both sides. The forces have been building and the tension has escalated and there is a battle. Unlike most wargames, units do not battle each turn unless Command Points are spent to ignite a conflict. Then, both sides roll a bunch of dice and interpret the results.

That’s the idea, anyway, but how to get there?

Zombie Dice
There’s this little game from Steve Jackson Games called “Zombie Dice“. It’s a simple affair: You roll 3 custom dice which have feet, brains or a blast on them. It’s a press your luck game and you want to get as many brains in your turn as possible without getting 3 blasts, because if you get 3 blasts you lose all points that turn. My kids and I play a few games of this a week, usually as a warm up to play something more interesting. What’s interesting about this game is the emergent narrative each time you roll the dice. You can almost hear the people running away screaming when you roll “feet”. Zombies are dropping when you see “blasts”. And some helpless civilian is going down to a zombie mob when you see “brains”. Just a simple roll of 3 dice can bring so much story! You throw the dice and then you can narratively interpret what happened.

I want something similar to this as the conflict resolution for BWS. When the tension has peaked, one player will spark a battle and then both players roll dice and interpret the results. Unlike Zombie Dice, we have a bit more complex world to deal with, so it requires a good bit of design to make it work.

One aspect I like in games is having to make tough decisions. So, the conflict rules should incorporate that. When you roll your dice during a conflict, all 4+ rolls are considered a success. You use these successes to perform conflict actions: attack, defend, move or skill-based. An attack obviously damages the enemy, however a successful defend action would soak that damage. A move action could be used by a unit to flee the combat and a skill-based action would be based on one of the skill mods.

So, I imagine each unit has an index card (or tracked on a single sheet) and you put your successful dice in the quadrant that you want to spend it in (move, skill, attack, defense). Once both players have assigned all dice (alternating placement to allow for reaction to each other) then the conflict is interpreted. This is where I see the narrative coming in as the players tell the story of what happened.

[EDIT: I just realized that I made a mistake in my image. The troop value should be 6. That’s one for the name of the troop and 5 for the mods that have been added. Sheesh…]

How does the conflict start?

Each side has 5 Command Points (CP) to spend each turn. These are like Action Points in the original BWS, but are also spent for things other than unit actions. One of the things you can spend your CP on is to start a battle in a Zone. The cost is higher (3 CP), but it also gives you a small advantage to be the one to start it (an extra die roll).

How many dice does each side roll?

This is the math/mechanics bit that always trips me up, so I would love some input, innovative thoughts or just brutal criticism on this. Here’s what I’m thinking:

[NOTE: all dice are D6…this might change later to allow more dice types, but for clarity, we’ll keep it simple right now.]

  • You get one die if you started the battle (ignited the conflict).
  • You get 1 die for each unit involved in the conflict. These would be any units in the Zone that the conflict was started in and any unit in another zone that can participate (with further range weapons, etc).
  • You also count up the all the troop values (just count the number of Mods plus the Name of the troop for this number) and divide by 6 (round down) for extra dice you can roll. This gives an advantage to the stronger side, but nothing overwhelming. This is where I’m thinking about allowing the other size dice and you buy different sized dice with the troop values (ex. 8 points could buy two 4-sided dice or one 8-sided die).

I think this is the feel I am going for. Now I just need to go through a bunch of conflict scenarios and playtest to see what falls out of this scope. I’ll refer back to John’s article on playtesting to make sure this is usable by new and veteran gamers alike. I want it to be simple to understand but with complex strategies.

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One Response to BWS (2012) – Conflict Resolution

  1. Erik says:

    I did say this whole design was going to be done out in the open, right? Well, we playtested just the movement and conflict resolution mechanics this weekend and found a problem. Initially I did not want to use a die for each Mod on a Unit as that seemed overpowered, but as it stands with buying dice it is too underpowered. In fact, it rarely made sense to add a Mod when you could just make a new unit and get the extra die. Now I need to reconsider using one die per Mod again.

    Not all is lost though as we came up with some good ideas after playtesting. But…I’ll leave those for the next blog post.