Ch-ch-changes: Episode 2
Greetings Mutantlings, and welcome back to our trilogy of updates covering changes to Posthuman Saga on this last day of 2018!
Throughout the development process, the combat system has consistently been one of the most debated aspects of the game. I (Gordon) wanted to have a system that gives players tough choices to make, that would affect not just the combat but other aspects of future turns. Decisions had to be tactical, but there also had to be a degree of unknowability in the outcomes. This was the foundational motivation for a system that gives players a card deck to manage and develop, while enemies use dice to determine the effectiveness of their attacks. We also wanted the system to create a sense of what was going on in the combat in the player’s mind. All of that had to be balanced against the complexity of the system and how long each combat took to execute.
We liked the melee system we had during the Kickstarter campaign, but when we started testing the game with new players, especially ones that played more lightweight games, we saw that they were having a hard time wrapping their heads around the combat as a whole. Some players got it straight away, while others were still asking questions on their second game. That was a bit of a red flag. Another problem was the time it was taking some groups to get through a round of combat. Again, while some groups internalized the steps and were soon able to go through combat quickly, others were still going through the tracker, step by step, making decisions as they went. This extended downtime considerably. Another issue we noticed was that more melee-oriented characters would ignore the shooting phase of combat, resulting in their using up less Combat cards. As a result, these characters were able to rush forward much more than characters like the Scout and Scavenger that are more dependent on shooting, since the latter would run out of Combat cards (and hence need to perform a Camp action) much sooner. This resulted in some games being too easy to rush for melee-oriented characters.
For all these reasons, it was clear that the combat system needed a re-design. The first change I implemented was to have players select one card for both Shooting and Melee phases. They could opt not to shoot, but the one card would be used for both, making the choice an interesting and tough one as the best Shooting cards will not have great Melee results, and vice-versa.
The next change I made was to make Melee more similar to shooting. It’s still important that the player’s attack prowess is compared to the enemy’s, since the relative skill of two combatants in hand-to-hand combat is crucial. The solution to this was to have the enemy’s total number of attacks (rolled on their complement of dice + any bonus icons on the card) become equivalent to the difficulty to cause damage in the shooting phase, with the weapon or the Encounter card indicating how much damage.
How this works now: the player draws a card at random and adds the results to the chosen Primary card. The enemy rolls their complement of dice. The enemy’s number of attacks is subtracted from the player’s total number of attacks. The result is called the Attack Value. This can either be a positive or negative number. If the Attack Value is negative, the enemy has hit the player (in which case you consult the Encounter card to see how much damage the enemy has caused). If the Attack value is positive, you consult the melee weapon card to determine how much damage you have dealt the enemy. Damage results (blood drops) on the enemy’s dice and player’s cards are added to the total amount of damage caused, with blocks negating one damage each. The rest of the damage is suffered by both parties.
This system makes the combat phase as a whole easier to learn and quicker to resolve. In a nutshell, it involves a random draw of a card (to be added to the card already chosen by the player) and a decision to use any abilities on weapons or skills. It’s worth noting that most weapons, including starting weapons, now feature an ability that can be activated by a boost (and, as we mentioned in the previous update, the boosts are no longer stat-specific, and are thus used a lot more).
Another thing we added was combat loot. When a player kills an enemy, they still gain XP in the same way they did before, but, in most cases, they will also gain an item or resource indicated on the combat encounter card. Also, if a player survives a combat encounter but does not kill an enemy, they will now still gain an XP point just for surviving. Our thinking with these rule changes was to make it an even more interesting choice for the player to decide whether to go all out for killing an enemy – weighing the necessity of exhausting their best combat cards and other resources against the promise of a reward – or to just focus on trying to survive, with both being viable and rewarding strategies. We also appreciate that some characters and character builds will be less combat-oriented than others, and wanted to make sure players get some sort of reward when they just make it out of combat alive. Surviving is, after all, the most important thing in the Wilds!
This system has become even more exciting with the inclusion of the stat challenges used in Stories and Bonus Loot challenges during Forage actions. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s the subject of the next update!
Till then – may you all have a great New Year, and keep the seeds of mutation alive!