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Sunday, 24 April 2016

SAC! - Combat and the Rule of '6'

Every game of conflict requires a good basing in maths. You want the better party to come out on top naturally, for at least the majority of the time. This seems only fair, but you also want a little element of surprise, of the unknown, the chance to beat the odds.

How and where to draw the line between the predictable outcome and the totally random, can make or break a game. With SAC! I decided to ask what I wanted from combat, then to take that idea and create a mathematical formula to achieve it.

The answer was rather simple. I wanted combat to have a purpose, something beyond the simple 'smash the enemy'.

My trouble with most other systems is that combat is swift and brutal. Its often resolved in one single round, with a single winner/loser, and routs and retreats. This is fair enough, but it rarely allows for tactical maneuvers of a grander scale.

Consider a basic 'flanking maneuver'.

Here the Blue unit on the right is about to clash with the Red unit. Blue also has a supporting unit on the left. Arrows indicate movement.

If combat resolves in one round, where will the units on the right be?

Combat in SAC! poses a unique question to the loser of the combat - do you want to stay or do you want to withdraw?

Looking at our example. Assuming Red won the charge. Does the Blue unit in combat want to stay?
They could. Though they are losing currently, they know next turn they will get the assist from the friendly unit hitting Red in the flank.

If the loser stands, then the winner must also. 
Sticking with Red having won the last round, they better press home their advantage, and soon!

In the reverse situation - Red loses - do they stay under threat of being flanked, or do they break, turn tail and run? SAC! throws in a nasty mechanic for those that run from combat.... more on that in a bit! For now lets look at how to resolve winner/loser.

Predictable outcomes?

There is no avoiding the fact that when you use numbers, you can predict an outcome. The less variables and the more results, the closer to an 'average' you will get.

When you deal with opposing numbers (to determine winners and losers) another factor has to be taken into account. Where the variables are high enough, one side not only has to roll 'above average', but they require their opponent to simultaneously roll 'below average', in order for them to win.

To illustrate the fact, lets compare 2d6 with 3d6
The Red 2d6 are capable of beating the Blue 3d6, but to do so Red needs to roll well above average, while hoping Blue rolls well below.

SAC! to stick with the mmo/campaign feel, uses 'levels' to determine troops abilities. In this example 2d6 is equivalent to level 3, while 3d6 is equivalent to level 6. It is possible for the level 3 to beat the level 6, but the sound bet would be on the level 6 to win!

So, why would the level 3 unit clash with the level 6 unit?

Loser chooses

Losing a round of combat in SAC! is not the end of the unit or model. Remember the idea of pinning and continuing combat to allow the grand maneuvers? SAC! gives the loosing unit the option to stay in combat, effectively pinning the winning unit in place. 

But how can a losing unit stay?

Well, Two reasons. Firstly they may not be convinced (yet) that they are actually loosing. SAC! has a morale system, but before that is has a damage/armour system. As long as the units armour is holding - they are blocking with their shields, turning the odd blow with their chain mail -  in the heat of battle do they care if they are not making much headway at the moment?

That soon changes when bodies start hitting the deck.

Secondly, if you are loosing because your opponent has a bigger shield, a longer sword, is clearly a better fighter than you, then the thought of turning your back on such a fellow is dangerous. 

Serious damage - in the clash or in the route?

It is said that the majority of casualties are not inflicted in the actual combat, but when one side breaks. SAC! uses such an approach. Giving the loser the option to stand is giving them the chance to get lucky in a round of combat, or, as in the majority of cases - the option to get injured!

Giving them the option to turn and run, gives them a chance to save their hides, but risk getting stabbed, quite literally - in the back!

Hail the Campaign!

SAC! is 'Skirmish and Campaign', and there are no truer words for battle than 'He who fights and runs away... lives to fight another day'. It is in many cases cheaper and easier to patch up a few injured fighters than to replace and rehire an entire new lot.

The idea of combat in SAC! is - get in there, do some damage, if you find yourself outclassed, get out sooner than later.

In this way SAC! also overcomes the 'my precious' feel associated with extended campaign games - you never want to use your expensive units because if they die you will be very sad. 

What about damage in the combat? The Rule of the '6'!

Combat uses the sum of Xd6 to determine winner/loser. Whoever rolls the highest is technically the winner, and inflicts damage based on weaponry vs armour. There is another little rule of note, something of a Golden Rule in SAC! that adds a further encouragement to both sides to fight, and importantly adds the needed 'Random Element' to the game.

The Rule of 6.

Anytime when rolling for combat, a die or dice score a '6' this does an automatic point of damage, regardless of winner/loser.

The benefit here is that while one side may win combat, the other side may score '6's and do damage.

This bonus damage also favours more skilled warriors - the more dice a unit rolls, the more chances at rolling '6's. As all damage is primarily inflicted on armour (shields being a great example), all this means is a lot more hits landing on target!

Elites vs the Mob - who fairs better?

The answer here is... lots of men with pointy sticks!

While elite fighters - those who roll more d6 - have a better chance of winning the combat through a high roll, and inflicting more damage through the chance to roll more '6's, you cannot underestimate the other mechanic in SAC! that helps with combat - the assist from friends.

SAC! being a skirmish game, means it deals with combat on a more personal scale. The facing of a model is important. When  models manage to surround a single model, they pick up couple of nice bonuses - automatic damage, and extra points added to the d6 used to determine winner/loser.

The most able of fighters can hold their own, and even win rounds of combat against multiple opponents, but they better come up with a plan, and fast - as they cant block/parry/avoid EVERY blow, and remember... looser chooses if they want to withdraw! (And risk being stabbed in the back as they run away...), likewise, with the more skilled combatant favoured to win combat, inflicting damage from that, and having more chances to roll a 6, it often becomes a bitter race to see who can kill the other first. But isn't that what combat is really all about?

Our friend in the middle better be the worlds best swordsmen, else he is about to be cleaved in half by those 3 big axes.....

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