MEDIC! MEDIC! Medic?

The ability to heal or even revive units in a tactical game has a very profound effect on how it plays.  In a game like Hero Academy if  your healers die you are more than likely going to lose the game, as losing the ability to keep your troops standing (and fighting at full capacity!) unless they have been totally annihilated is often too big a loss to make up.

This mechanic in Hero Academy (amongst others) leads to a system where moves are plotted based on whether a unit can simply survive a return attack.  Damage short of death is relatively irrelevant given how easily it is removed and how it does not affect the fighting ability of the unit itself.  It’s like Dungeons & Dragons where your character can be shot up with arrows and hacked apart by swords, but they are completely fine until the moment that they drop to negative hit points and suddenly they are incapacitated and dying.

Obviously this level of abstraction has its purposes, the primary one being simplicity.  Any gamer can tell you that the more complex a system, the more things can get bogged down.  So the question always becomes: what’s more important, realism or playability?  Striking a balance between those two can make or break a game, and (unfortunately for designers) players have different opinions on what the correct balance should be.

Diesel Tactics abstracts squads out to units of generally 3 members.  While this adds a bit to the complexity of the game (as opposed to having 1 character to represent 1 unit), it adds a lot to the depth of the game.  When a squad takes damage its members die.  This means that the unit has lost combat effectiveness as its ability to return fire has dropped, as well as its overall survivability.  You could think of this as a simple way of abstracting that single character from Hero Academy or D&D into 3 levels: when you take a bit of damage you are now operating at 2/3 capacity.  Visually, one member of the squad is gone, but again it can just be thought of as a single entity that has lost effectiveness as it lost hit points.

Getting back to healing (I think that was the original topic, it was so long ago now…), Diesel Tactics will not have any of that.  Any damage that you inflict will remain, and any casualties that you take are permanent.  Using cover and smart maneuvering is key to victory, and players will have to think of the actual relative danger of moves that they make.  Rather than being able to ask a simple binary question of, “Can they survive if I move them there?” they will need to ask, “How intact will they be if I move them there?’

3 Comments

  1. Rui Castro March 31, 2013 1:31 pm  Reply

    I used to play this game, which there was no repair or healing abilities. The game played like a chess game, we both had the same units, it was deterministic. There was 2 things that was different, the player and the deployment. One false play, you could lose a important unit and lose the game. Many times this happened to me and I was fighting for my first place in the ladder or for a tournament, I could not lose. I would have to change my strategy, play a more defensive game and very careful not to do mistakes. Somehow my concentration got more focused and in the end I would win the game. Very good battles and memories. This was just to point out the medic is not always needed but it is a fun unit. Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars etc… would not be the same without healers. FFT without them would be almost impossible. About your question, I would say playability is the most important and beta testing will help you achieve that balance but you do need good beta testers and something that will drive them, perhaps in house competition (Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes deveopers said that was want drive them). About a unit that has damage, if it can’t do damage to the opponent, I would use him a canon fodder if the game uses that mechanic. If the unit is damaged but still can DO damage to the opponent, than he will be valuable, perhaps in the front line, so if he dies, it was part of the plan, but I will try to maximize that unit at its fullest. In the same game I was talking above, both players would be top of there game, it was very hard to damage each other, but one small hit, many times during a battle, in the end could start to damage the opponent, that was always my main strategy, small but many hits. Every hit counts. Oh by the way, this game since a unit could be 100 units and being hit could go down to 70 units, this would mean the damage this unit could do was less, less 30 units. The Banner Saga does something similar.

  2. T-Go Co Games
    Jon March 31, 2013 1:47 pm  Reply

    I definitely want Diesel Tactics to be one of those games where two players of equal skill at the top of their games need to balance out every move perfectly to gain the upper hand.

    Competitive in house and beta testing will definitely be something that I think will lead to this desire becoming a reality.

    As for your cannon fodder remark, there definitely are systems in play for units blocking lines of sight and creating cover for other units, so you can use cheaper units as defensive squads for your more powerful units.

  3. Rui Castro March 31, 2013 1:59 pm  Reply

    In the game I described, we had light, medium and heavy units. The light units were almost only used for cannon fodder, they were weak but very fast to move. The game had a split feature, the light units were also the cheapest to split, so this would make them very good for cannon fodders, split, split, split. The other units, medium and heavy were just too expensive or impossible (most heavy units) to split because of the action points required. But there was two medium units, that had high defense and low attack which were good for defense, they were like tank units. I would use theses units in some of my strategies (there couldn’t be paralyze units on the board) to go beserk on my opponent, go straight in and do the most damage I could, special go after thier light units to cripple them, they lose there fast cannon fodder strategy. The game was almost won by than. Some would just quit and the game was over and won.

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