Mehr sein als scheinen.
— Moltke the Elder, referring to combat system tweaks in Unity of Command
Unity of Command is a game that emphasizes maneuver, supply, and logistics over brutal grinding, but even the most daring dash and encirclement will still involve a fair amount of fighting. In the new game, we are not changing the combat system in a big way, more like ironing a few wrinkles, plus some changes to bring it into line with the rest of the new systems.
From a designer’s point of view, combat in the game actually unfolds on two distinct levels. The first level, which is the main topic of this post, is the immediate combat between two units on the map. We try to make this “single combat” as realistic as possible, but there are limits. The most obvious ones are the one-unit-per-hex representation (no stacking) and the IGOUGO system (each player gets to move all his units during a turn).
The other level happens over a full turn for both players, or even 2-3 turns. When all the individual battles are put together and the scenario flows together nicely, we try to achieve a higher level of realism. Single, division level combats come together to form larger offensives – and the maneuvers come back around and make individual battles easier to win. Executed correctly, a good plan is a virtuous cycle.
In our very first developer diary, we explained how combat will be less bloody, with fewer steps destroyed outright. Overmatched units will be more likely to retreat than stand and die to the last man (though there is an option to issue a “no retreat” order through the HQ – see below).
Importantly, a unit taking losses in multiple combats within the same turn will receive additional retreat shifts, making it more inclined to “advance to the rear.” Basically, if one division is being used as a punching bag by multiple enemy units, it will become likelier and likelier to give ground during that turn. Retreating units will also leave behind stragglers, but this is a new feature that will be covered in a future dev diary, once it’s more locked down.
When attacking by a superior force – think unleashing your panzers against hapless Soviet ’41 divisions in Black Turn – what happens to the attacker now changes a little bit. In the new game, strong units are more likely to suffer at least some losses on the attack, no matter the superiority. Elite armored units will continue to be important and powerful, but we wanted to make combat between them and infantry less of a one-sided massacre.
We’ve also beefed up the penalties for armored units attacking into rough terrain and, especially, cities. While this wasn’t a good way to use your armor in the original Unity of Command already, it probably wasn’t penalized enough, which is why a lot of times we saw players using armor to bulldoze their way through cities. This unrealistic and foolish strategy will simply not work anymore (-4 shift!).
Some of the infantry units now get defensive armor (marked with *), which was previously only available to AT specialists. This represents things like anti-tank guns, bazookas, and the organic armor and assault guns that some well-equipped divisions had. Additionally, these units (well, any units with armor on the defense) will get a 50% boost to their armor values when entrenched. This way, these infantry units will be able to negate some of the attacking armor in defense, while still having no armor shift when attacking.
The final big change is we’re giving players even more control over how their units fight. We already talked about how HQs can expend command points on each turn to give a few of their subordinate units special orders, like executing a set piece attack against entrenchments, or a no retreat order, to hold at all costs. We are adding a few more of those, this time specifically tied to certain factions or unit types.
As an example, some armored units will be able to retreat when attacked and then immediately counterattack during enemy turn (making full use of its armor). Another one we’re thinking about is elastic defense, where a unit is allowed to retreat on purpose, taking a slightly lower loss and keeping its zone of control intact.
It’s important to keep in mind that the player can only give a handful of these special orders on each turn. This way, we let you take more control of the combat results into your own hands, and away from the RNG. At the same time, most fights will still play out in the standard way – the flow of the game should remain quite similar to the original.
As usual, I hope the post was worth your time reading it. You can let me know what you think in the comments below. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.