Trying to keep turn length under 30 minutes per side would be great...
July 26, 2012 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Looking for ideas for determining if fired weapons hit a target in a turn-based tabletop tactical wargame using dice.

I'm developing a quick&dirty tabletop wargame for my friends to play while we wait for the main gaming event to get started on game nights. I'm trying to balance easy flowing gameplay with the need to factor in things like movement and terrain.

I'm borrowing a number of concepts from Battletech while trying to really streamline the gameflow. One thing I'm really looking to change or improve upon is the way to-hit rolls are handled, as I think this is where Battletech's system fails in actual implementation.

What are some alternatives to the sort of standard "2d6 vs a target number modified by range, terrain, and movement" that would be well-applied to a sort of tanks-and-hexes type of game?

The ideal solution, if one exists, would be fairly easy to resolve hit-rolls without consulting 5 different tables, but still take into account the tactical situations and not be "flip a coin, heads you hit, tails you miss" levels of abstraction.

My background in wargaming is mostly with Battletech, so I am not familiar with how other wargaming systems handle this aspect. I am more generally familiar with RPG combat systems than tactical wargaming.

Links to blogs, articles, and your personal experiences all welcome!
posted by laconic skeuomorph to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How important is versimilitude? I could think of a bunch of neat mechanics but none of them are particularly true to life, even compared with random number generation & table lookup.
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2012

I'm not an expert in this and I don't remember how to-hit works in Battletech.

One option I've seen in more than one game, though, is that attacking units roll a number of d6, each of which corresponds to an opportunity to hit. So for example my space marine squad might roll 3d6, each of which does one "hit" on a roll of 5 or 6. This simplifies damage tracking. You don't roll for damage, each die just represents a chance to do one generic "wound." And you can variously include or leave out further detail like range, movement, overwatch, or whatever.
posted by grobstein at 10:35 AM on July 26, 2012

Grobstein's method is simple and effective (it is, more or less, what Warhammer 40k used back when I still played). If you want to account for distance, terrain, etc., you can simply ad a -1 or +1 to hit as necessary. So, maybe you need to roll a 5 or 6 to earn a hit, but if the target is behind cover or is near the maximum firing range, you need a 6. If the target is at what amounts to point blank range, then perhaps you only need a 3 or better to earn a hit.
posted by asnider at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2012

Off the wall idea:

Create a physical target to lay on the table. The player must physically roll the die into the target in order to hit. Range can be accounted for by having the player begin their roll from further away from the target, terrain can be accounted for by placing obstacles in the way (defending player in forest can hold two pencils upright in front of the target, defending player on high elevation gets to put target on piece (or pieces) of thin cardboard.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:14 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

WH40K once had a system that while not super streamlined, was kinda fun in its own right. You had a targeting reticle grid of 12x12 printed on clear sheet or thin paper, and a diagram of the vehicle.
You overlay and position the reticle yourself, so its up to you where on the vehicle you're aiming - weak areas (usually of lesser importance), or high value target areas (usually smaller, or perhaps heavily armored). 2d6 for X and Y, with the spread of possible outcomes giving a bell curve towards to hitting near the center of the reticle.

As it was handled in WH40K it wasn't streamlined, but it could be, while keeping the nice mechanism that gives players real aiming choice and instantly shows if you hit legs or body or pilot or missed, etc. (the vehicle diagram is smaller than the reticle)

A range bonus +2 could simply mean the 2d6 total is adjusted towards 7 (the center) by up to 2.

Alternatively, instead of using the mech pic from the stat sheet as the targeting view, you could have a sheet dedicated to targeting diagrams, that shows either a range of distances (scales), or a range of angles (side-on, behind, etc).

Or, if you want to be super mega unbelievably cool, print the targeting reticle onto an overlay on the viewfinder of an old digitial camera, or a smartphone, rig up a little periscope on the lens (throw on a toy keyring telescope too), and then to target the mech, you put the periscope where the attacker is, take a pic on the working targeting computer, then the resulting display makes it crystal clear how much of the mech is behind a rock, whether you hit the rock or the mech, range automatically makes the target smaller, the angle of attack automatically hides and reveals the appropriate parts of the body.

Plus, you can dress the camera up to look like mech tech, and then you're playing with props. And props make everything better :)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

(Or you could write a smartphone app that puts the reticle on the photo, and automatically instantly crunches the numbers and puts a mark on where you hit. All the player would need to do would be input their accuracy bonus they had, then take the photo, and it instantly shows where they hit)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:24 AM on July 26, 2012

It's really all about Panzer-War. Turns can take a while, but that's not because the rules take forever to implement. Rather, it's because knowing that the cannons in my column of T-34s don't have the power to punch through the front armor on your pair of Tigers except at point-blank range means I really don't want to get out from behind this ridge, so I'm going to maneuver carefully such that I can cross most of the distance between us in one or two turns, hoping the tanks you'll inevitably kill won't foul up my approach and leave us all like fish in a barrel, so I flank you and shoot at the thinner armor on the sides and rear.

I tell you, it's stressful.

But yeah, once you've got the stats of your tanks easily accessible--and you make 3x5 cards for that--figuring out whether or not you hit is both simple and suitably realistic. It's mostly stats, with just enough chance involved to keep things interesting. Uses, IIRC, a d6 and a pair of d10s.

Or for a simpler version, consult PanzerBlitz. Add up your attack factor, compare it to his defense factor, calculate your odds, role 1d6. Done. PanzerLeader has better rules and a bit more going on, but it's basically the same in terms of combat. Charging into the mouths of a couple of 8.8cm Flak 36 guns is No Fun At All. And for the love of Pete, do not let a Hummel draw a bead on you. *shudder*
posted by valkyryn at 11:35 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

How important is versimilitude?

It is valued but not sacrosanct.

IMO, it should be harder to hit a target the farther it's moved in the previous turn. It should be harder to hit a target the farther away it is. And it should be harder if you're trying to shoot through trees. How the shooter has moved also would come into play.

-harlequin-, fantastic ideas. A bit beyond my intended scope, but inspiring nonetheless. :)

valkyryn, good info. I'll check it all out.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 11:43 AM on July 26, 2012

it should be harder to hit a target the farther it's moved in the previous turn.

Never minding the dice questions, I'm having a hard time figuring out how you could keep track of that without things getting really fiddly really quickly.
posted by aubilenon at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2012

Well, in Battletech there's a chart. Basically every 2 hexes a unit moves it gets an additional +1 to its difficulty to be hit. But yeah, it is kinda fiddly, but I've not yet seen a better way to handle it.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2012

It should be harder to hit a target the farther away it is. And it should be harder if you're trying to shoot through trees.

Most of the systems with which I'm familiar handle this by cutting the attacker's offense value. So you get power 100 up to half of your range, 50 out to three-quarter range, and 25 out to full range, etc. This reflects that it's just harder to hit someone without actually trying to take into account accuracy or cover as such.

How the shooter has moved also would come into play.

In most of the WWII games I've played, this is handled pretty easily: you either get to move or shoot, but not both. This is actually pretty close to how things were. Tanks couldn't shoot while moving with any serious accuracy until the 1960s. You had to stop, take a bearing, and fire. This, of course, makes the charge across the open field towards those Tigers all the more nerve-wracking: you can't shoot on the way there.

Really, I think you're trying to reinvent the wheel here. There are some pretty robust rule systems out there, and most of the ones I've played with had things moving along pretty quickly. You spend most of the time playing, i.e., moving pieces around, and just a fraction of the time calculating fire results.

Games can still take hours, but only if you're playing a relatively large-scale engagement. I played Micro Armor for about eight hours straight a few years back, but there were six guys on two teams and something upwards of 200 tanks in play. Loads of fun, but not something you can easily bang out in an evening if you have anything at all to do tomorrow. But there's nothing that says you can't play smaller engagements. Ten or twenty tanks a side, say. I've done PanzerBlitz scenarios from setup to tear-down in two hours.
posted by valkyryn at 1:13 PM on July 26, 2012

So if you wanted something a little unusual, how about using a deck of cards? The way this works is that you have a bunch of "hit" cards (based on the attack strength), and you mingle these with "not hit" cards (based on the distance, cover, etc). The "not hit" cards all have pictures on that indicate when they should be used. Then just shuffle and pick.

The fun thing about this is that if you wanted to, you could put in special hit cards that do special things too: extra damage, costing the enemy unit its next turn, etc.
posted by Zarkonnen at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2012

The fun thing about this is that if you wanted to, you could put in special hit cards that do special things too: extra damage, costing the enemy unit its next turn, etc.

Ooh, that's fun. I'm envisioning the value of the card being the determiner of hit or not ("At this range, behind cover, you need Jack or better to hit.") and the suit being the variable:
Hearts: Triumphant Variable (2x damage, disable limb, stun for 1 turn, etc)
Diamonds & Clubs: Base Variable (No special outcomes)
Spades: Unfortunate Variable (1/2x damage, gun jams 1 turn, extra ammo loss, etc)
posted by Rock Steady at 2:23 PM on July 26, 2012

What is the tech lvl? Consider in WWII everything armored vehicle had to stop to fire to even have a chance to hit. No gun stabilization. In the modern era gun stabilization IR or, even better laser targeting greatly increases the odds of a hit as long as the "tank" firing has it's target in optimum range. TOW type missiles almost guarantee a hit as long as the firer keeps his sights on the target, and again optimum range.

Determine min/max and optimum ranges, start with say a base 80% chance, add/subtract modifiers from there. For example some early TOW weapons had to reach a distance to "activate" or they'd just thunk against the side of the target.

Determine tech lvls, say WWII point and shoot, IR, then laser, for targeting purposes.

Movement mods, gah, it all gets complicated, we spent years trying to make systems that reflected what we thought the modern battlefield would be like.

Simple rolls? on a 6 sider everything hits, you add/subtract mods based on speed, conditions, troop morale, targeting system etc. So a "tank" starts off with a sure hit in perfect conditions, but it's smokey and the target is moving at "fast" speed, so like -1 for smoke, -2 for fast speed. The "tank" has laser targeting though, so +1 ( or whatever). Roll the die, 1-4 hits, 5, and 6 miss.

Then all ya have to do is determine if the "tank" actually damaged the target.
posted by Max Power at 2:59 PM on July 26, 2012

Wargames Research Group put out a really elegant set of rules for the modern era, you could use that and whittle out the extraneous details.
posted by Max Power at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2012

I like the GURPS system.

1) roll to hit
1a) did you take time to aim? add a modifier. Roll for random body part.
1b) did you shoot from the hip? subtract a modifier. Roll for random body part.
1c) did you take the time to aim for a position on the target's body? subtract a modifier, but depending on your dedication it could mean you don't get a chance to dodge a hit may have on you

The target then makes a dodge roll, which can be modified by any number of things (weight, injuries, attentiveness to the person taking a shot at them, ...)

then it's the damage, which you can figure out depending on DR
posted by zombieApoc at 8:26 PM on July 26, 2012

As regards move vs accuracy: one fairly simple way would be to create an initial dice pool, say for example equal to move points, which reduces by one die per hex/space moved.
posted by Errant at 12:41 AM on July 27, 2012

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