For a while now I've been working on alternative concepts for combat systems, anything that is not either roll a target number to hit or a opposed dice roll where each player rolls a dice and compares the result, which in effect is the same as the first option but with a variable target number.
When I started to put pen to paper for the rules of Aegeus I initially tried a system with attack and defense dice, no numbers just symbols representing hits, defends, critical hits etc, the idea was that a player had a choice to make as how many of each dice they could roll from a combat pool. Each player could choose how good or bad their character was in attack and defense to a certain extent, allowing for a couple of different types dice with more or less favorable results on the faces. Combat was resolved simultaneously and each side could be killed within a melee.
In practice this made for an awful system, each character had to have at least half a dozen dice to make the combat and decision interesting and so with units of 3-4 models you were rolling huge handfuls of dice. We also discovered that carrying out move actions and then doing all melee simultaneously made group combats hard work and generally left miniatures bunched up. Clearly this needed a rethink.
Back at the drawing board my brother and I had a discussion about what we wanted the combat system to feel like, out went the idea of simultaneous combat as we felt that all too often you would just get a big central brawl. We wanted something a little more fluid, an ebb and flow to the combat as well as a little risk. The original attack and defense dice idea morphed into something else, now the attacking player would roll the dice and the faces would have results such as Strike, Forced Back, Misses, Attrition and some combinations of these results. We also started discussing how abilities would work and that these could affect the dice, quite quickly the system came together.
Que several weeks of manic scribbling as I turned all the notes from the initial session into a workable set of rules and sketched out the starter 4 factions along with some base stat lines and a first stab at a points system.
Alpha play test weekend came along and it was time to test out the theory, with about a dozen miniatures aside we thrashed through 6 games with this new system and noted that it seemed to work on the tabletop, the pace was good, the mixture of tactical planning and fast paced combat system really seemed to work well.
With a couple of tweaks and the addition of a lower powered dice for poorer troops we seemed to have a working system.
Below is a picture from one of these first play test games with the all new combat dice system. I'll take a few moments to walk through whats going on:
The Minotaur on the left has charged the unit of centaurs utilizing a double move order and an attack order. He rolls 3 combat dice and the results are a Hit, a Forced Back Result and a Combined Hit and Forced Back result. So 2 Hits and 2 Forced Back results, the defending unit always gets forced back 1" from combat and due to the roll they are pushed back a further 2" directly away from combat (so 3" in total). The Player controlling the Minotaur then makes 2 armour rolls against the Centaur, in which he causes 1 wound.
Although the centaurs took a wound and were pushed back neither result is sufficient for them to have to take a cowardice check and so the Minotaur's activation finishes.
The combination of actual hits and results that just force the opponent away makes for a fluid simple system, certain units have skills which affect these dice, the Minotaur for example has the "Stubborn" skill, this allows him to ignore any Forced Back results when he is the defender. This makes the Minotaur a powerful foe and great for blocking enemy movement towards other units.