I am diving right into some of the changes to the system we’ll be making for the new game. Please ignore that the game still hasn’t been properly announced, that there are no screenshots yet, and that this is the first time I’m writing a dev diary. Just bear with me, okay…
The combat system in Unity of Command was actually alright (I’m speaking in scientific terms here, you see). I wanted to take the focus away from individual, unit-on-unit combat results, and distribute some of that attention to movement, supply etc. Turns out, it was possible to simulate quite a few salient features of mechanized warfare with surprisingly lightweight mechanics.
The downside of the simple mechanics was, well… something had to give. As time went by and scenarios accumulated, some outstanding problems with the system became obvious.
One particular issue is what we term “excessive bloodiness”. To explain, combat losses in UoC come in two flavors: KIA and suppressed. Since we’re talking operational-level units (German divisions and Soviet corps), the term KIA is actually misleading: an attack that kills two enemy steps does not represent 4000 or so dead. Instead what it means is that two steps worth of enemy unit strength just stopped being a coherent military force. The sub-units in question might be disorganized, in retreat, or you could have just plain chaos. Either way, the enemy commander is not going to wring anything out of them anytime soon.
When I was designing Unity of Command, this seemed like an ideal thing to abstract out of the game. Instead of dealing with the chaos, I just made these steps KIA. Sure, historically commanders were able to reconstitute a lot of this strength over time, but in a typical scenario where the issue gets decided in 5-6 turns, it didn’t seem to play a big role. Only much later, when we attempted really long scenarios such as “Taifun”, did we run into real limitations coming from this.
We did, however, run into a problem that I hadn’t anticipated: in quite a few scenarios, it is possible to wipe the enemy off the map completely. You may, for example, get the wrong impression that Barbarossa was a series of complete wipeouts, and that Germans from time to time just stopped, for no particular reason other than to let the Soviets put up yet another defensive line in front of them.
So what’s to be done about this? The obvious change is to make it possible to reconstitute a good portion of these steps that would otherwise be KIA. I’m not going to give a lot of mechanical detail on this right now, as it plays into some other new stuff that would need to be explained. But the general idea is that, if you lose steps in combat, roughly half of them will become available again after a few turns, provided that:
- you remain in control of the battlefield hexes
- your staff is not otherwise busy with reorganizations etc.
- your units are in supply
Combat Result Table will be tweaked for high odds, to give more retreats and less defender losses. On the other side, strong armored units will suffer more attacker suppression – this plays into our overall agenda but also I think is more representative of how any sort of combat quickly affected armor strength, through mechanical failures if nothing else.
The repulsed attack hack from rules version 1.1 will go away. This was mostly intended to lower attacker losses for low odds situations, e.g. Soviet infantry going against a strong German unit entrenched in a city. There will be a new deliberate attack mechanic which simulates an attacker commited to longer term assault on an entrenched position. This type of attack can produce results even at low odds, though limited (e.g. reduce entrenchment, or 1 sup to defender). On the flipside, attacker suffers very high suppression, leaving the unit vulnerable to enemy counterattacks.
There are a few other ideas on the table, which I’m just going to leave out there as teasers:
- limit the number of attacker steps used based on terrain: 3 in ruins, 4 in city, 6 in hills etc.
- further smooth the CRT regarding that e.g. 2 sup is often a better result than 1 kia
- experienced armored units counterattack immediately after retreat (during enemy turn!)
The Loose Ends
I feel that between reconstituting steps and the CRT being tuned more toward unit survival, we’ll be able to achieve a realistically messy endgame situation on the battlefield (as opposed to frequent wipeouts).
A possible problem with retreats being more likely is that, sometimes, you really really want a unit to hold its ground. To make that possible, there will be a no retreat mechanic, which is conceptually similar to what the NKVD specialists currently do, except there’s a limited number of uses.
One final comment: in a real battle, defender will normally retreat and preserve their forces even when facing a defeat. In a Unity of Command scenario, there is no incentive to do so: once all objectives are captured there is nothing to play for. At the very least, we need changes in victory conditions that would motivate the defender to preserve their forces in the endgame (for example by falling back on supply sources). But that’s a topic for another post, eh?