I think that if you do something like this you have to know what you are
getting into. The more odd rules you start adding, especially with
arbitrary breakpoints built into them, the more opportunities you create
for manipulation. In particular, two forces which appear very similar
might behave quite differently in certain situations. And
counterintuitive situations can arise, like adding men to your stack
might weaken it. The upshot is that if you aren't very careful you can
end up giving a big advantage to players who carefully optimize their
combat forces. Right now, it's pretty easy (once you get the idea) to
estimate how things will come out.
In some sense this is inevitable. There are only three kinds of combat
systems. First of all, there are "totally balanced" systems in which it
doesn't matter what you do. For example, if the combat system works by
adding up the "combat strength" of your stack and comparing it to your
opponent's, and if two peasants have the same combat strength as one
soldier, then it doesn't matter at all whether you spend two days
recruiting two peasants, or recruiting one peasant and training it into
a soldier. Secondly, there are "intuitive" systems which are guided by
certain fundamental principles: "Recruit lots of cannon fodder." In
such a system it may make a big difference which you do, but it's fairly
obvious which to do, so everyone does it. Thirdly, there are "complex"
systems in which it makes a big difference how you build your stack, but
figuring out exactly what is the best choice is difficult and possibly
counterintuitive. In this third case you give a big advantage to those
who spend a lot of time analyzing it.
> From: email@example.com (Steve Chapin)
> Date: Tue, 20 Sep 1994 16:24:08 -0400
> The result was a combat system that I poured tremendous energy into.
> It was balanced, so that there was no "one true way" to fight combat,
> just like the players reqeusted. (Oleg's horde of beggars and a few
> highly trained nobles would battle to a standstill, whereas in Oly II
> you're a fool if you don't have tons of cannon fodder). It had a
> simple interface, but oodles of hidden complexity, just like the
> players requested.
> The players hated it.
> I learned that there is one thing players DEMAND of a combat system:
> that it be predictable.
I can't tell what you mean by "predictable." I think that all of the
details of the combat system should be known to the players, rather than
being hidden. This is necessary for many reasons. That's not
necessarily the same as "predictable," in that if you make the system
complicated enough, the average person might not be able to predict the
results of an average battle without running a simulation.