Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wizard vulnerability

One awkward problem with Classic Chaos is that wizards are initially very vulnerable, and it is possible to lose the game in the first turn with 6 or more players. I have a few proposed solutions:

  • The arenas are designed for the appropriate number of players, so instead of a single fixed arena there will be different designs of arena depending on the number of players. This means that wizards will always start a reasonable distance from each other.
  • The limited move-and-attack range will prevent newly summoned creatures launching a deadly strike in the first turn. I mentioned this before, but it would particularly apply to creatures like dragons which can fly and have a ranged attack. In this case their move-and-attack range might be 1, but their full movement range could be 4.
  • The final idea is somewhat more more radical. Basically, wizards can use the stored energy of their unused spells to dissipate the force of a deadly attack. This means that if a wizard is successfully attacked, instead of dying he loses some of his spells from his spell list. If he doesn't have enough spells to fend off the blow he is killed. The number of spells used for saving death depends on the force of the blow, ranging from 2 for a weak creature to 5 for a powerful creature. Spells used for this are determined at random in the multiplayer game, but could be taken of the bottom of the list for the kingdom mode, where you can configure your spell list from your spell library. This system would mean that wizards do become increasingly vulnerable as they cast spells, but players may also opt for the legitimate tactic of preserving spells for an element of safety.


  1. Magic Bolting your opponent on the first turn is a humorous aspect to Chaos, but its maybe too much. Certainly the last player(s) have a huge advantage where they can cast an illusion gold dragon, and the previous player(s) can't disbelieve it before it attacks. The move or attack idea listed sounds like a winner.

  2. Great suggestions, this games gonna rock.

  3. I think the stored energy idea sounds really good, although my first thought is that it might ultimately end up with some extremely prolonged encounters.

    1. A couple more ideas: maybe instead of destroying spells, absorb an already cast creature instead? This would encourage wizards to use their creature spells first instead of reaching straight for the magical attacks. Or destroy the attacking creature and the wizard's spell, to reduce the chance of prolonging engagement on the defending wizard?

  4. I actually very much like the more radical solution. The idea of using spells as a health meter of sorts raises lots of interesting tactical questions.

    Say you get hit for '2 spells' worth of damage - with every spell being equal, do you discard that Golden Dragon and Giant you only had a 10% chance of casting anyway, or do you cling onto them and dump your Rat and Bat because they were weak anyway?

    It raises even more interesting questions if more powerful spells can negate greater amounts of damage. Say the Golden Dragon negates 4 points of damage and a Bat only one - do you keep the Dragon in your hand as a purely defensive spell or do you field him and effectively reduce your 'health meter'?

    This adds greater granularity to the system, too. Some spells could be set up with zero damage negation - the Magic Shield or Castle, for instance - making them tactically useful only when cast.

    And while I'm here, I'm thinking of these spells almost like cards in a card battle game. As a method for presentation, that would make Chaos very recognisable to a great many CCG players without losing anything of Chaos' original shape and structure.

    That said, Julian, did you ever consider letting players build their own 'hands' of cards in some variant of Chaos? Maybe even selling decks with microtransactions? Chaos fans would hate it, of course, but a man's gotta eat.

    1. The very original Chaos was in fact a hybrid card / board game with a spell on each card. I wouldn't want to make the game into a CCG though, because it would take forever to make.

  5. And before I get eaten alive - I'm not saying Chaos Reborn should work like a CCG. But I can see some card game using the basic Chaos combat mechanics being a nice money maker.

  6. I think having to worry about being attacked by a creature in the first turn added to the unpredictable nature of the game. For instance, you wouldn't probably select Law-1 as your first spell, since that would mean you would have no creature to defend you in case of an attack. The only thing I found unfair was the possibility of being killed by Lightning or Magic Bolt before you even had the chance to play, but that could perhaps be solved by only enabling attack spells after the second turn. That would mean you could still be killed in the first turn, but you would always have a chance to try preventing it.

    Also, I believe having a small arena is great to keep the action exciting. If all wizards are relatively close to each other, that means you're never 100% safe from a blitzkrieg attack. Making arenas larger for 8-player games would mean that when the game was down to 2 or 3 wizards they could all be very far from each other and consequently far from danger.

    I feel the same about your third suggestion. I always thought it was great that wizards were vulnerable and that even if you were on your way to winning the game you could still lose it at any time by having bad luck against a Bat. And if your wizard was a bit stronger, say with Magic Sword and/or Magic Armour, you had to decide whether you would risk him in combat or sit back and let your creatures handle the fight. The thing is that having your wizard involved could turn the fight in your favour, however you risked losing the game immediately. On the other hand, not getting involved might mean watching your creatures be defeated in a battle they could possibly have won if your wizard had been fighting alongside them. I think that being able to save your wizard by sacrificing spells from his spell list it's a bit like having an extra life or two. You can afford to be bolder since you're not really in danger yet.

  7. While mildly controversial I think the decision to make the game more strategic should outweigh the desire to keep all the original's simplicity. I love that Wizards can use spells as damage mitigation; it's one of the things I do in D&D games (I am a Storyteller/DM) to make wizards more survivable in early levels :)

  8. Thank you!

    This is the first time I’m writing to someone’s blog. It’s also the first time I write to you so I just like to start by saying thanks. You’re my all-time favourite game designer. I've been a fan of your games since the Commodore 64 version of Laser Squad came to the shops in Finland. Still it was Lords of Chaos that has given me the best gaming experiences of my life with its interestingly different C64 and Amiga versions... It was a fantastic blend of adventure and RPG elements with tactical turn-based strategy. I love the single-player scenarios in Lords of Chaos and I also have many fond memories of playing 4-player sessions at Christmas usually including my brother and my sister.

    I've played most of the games you’ve made including the original Chaos and Rebelstar. The Gameboy Advance's Rebelstar is very good too and I really enjoy the first X-Com game. I also like Laser Squad Nemesis very much with its excellent single-player missions included. You have a true vision for creating games and I hope nothing prevents you from achieving your goals again.

    I really appreciate the fact that you are creating a new Chaos game and writing a blog about it too! I like all these new ideas. The most exciting thing for me was to read about the single player 'Kingdoms of Chaos' campaign mode. I'm always looking forward to hear and see what wonders you come up with. Give my thanks to your brother Nick as well for the excellent C64 versions when you see him and congratulations for the twins! This has all been such great news!

  9. I was thinking maybe the first turn, no one could attack.

    Another suggest, have a new spell called counter attack (like in Magic the blue decks). This way a player could counter a spell but he had to have one at the start. Maybe only have this spell if theres more than a 6 player game.

    Another suggestion, the wizards have a energy bar? So a bolt would not kill it at first hit. But this sounds like the last suggestion Julian mentioned.

    Of course all theses features be tweaked before a arena battle. Players may not like them.

    Just throwing out ideas

  10. AWESOME idea re: wizard losing spells instead of dying!!!! Loving it mate. End of the day, you want to play old Chaos, fire up an emulator. This is going to be some next ting! ;)

  11. Spells as an energy buffer would help wizards stuck with a difficult mix of spells while their counterparts are flinging vampires and dragons all over the shop. Perhaps have some stock re-usable spells: Meditate (create new spell), Drain (attack another wizards spell pool direct), Cauldron (combine two old spells to generate one new one) etc - if you are going to use spells as an energy resource, you may have to expand the element of 'power-management'. But obviously not too much, just enough to give guys with terrible setups some chance of getting back into a game.

  12. I have another possible solution that is a take on option 1 of variable arena size where it gets larger with more wizards. The difference, however this area should slowly reduce in size, either over time or as wizards die. As the game goes on the outside of the battle arena could slowly be vaporized (or disappear in whatever fashion you like) forcing the wizards towards the centre. You could even combine this with option 3 for even more fun.

  13. I think that the rule "You cannot target wizards with attack spells on the first turn" is the most succinct solution to the unfair early wizard killing problem. I think that would catch almost all cases straight away. On a busy map (probably any 8 player FFA map) you could encounter many kinds of attack on round 2 (fast creatures and all sorts of ranged attacks) so attack spells from then on seem fair to me.

    Given the new terrain system, I get the impression that flying creatures would be incredibly dominant if they aren't tweaked in the way they can attack. It will be very easy to get one impassible hex away from your non-flying victim and take a free attack each turn. I've got a few suggestions on this.

    Perhaps just a subset of the flying creatures should be capable of the "diving attack" (the attacking directly from the air rather than landing next to the victim). Probably just the avian creatures would have this - the bat, the eagle and perhaps the harpy at a stretch. The flying humanoids and beasts would still have the fast movement and terrain clearance but would have to land to attack.

    I'd suggest that flyers always successfully disengage from combat with non-flying creatures when their next turn comes around if the owner wishes to move them elsewhere.

    Perhaps there should be a separate attack value for dive attacks? Even an eagle with 3 attack swooping on a giant with the maximum defence of 9 has a 25% chance to kill it each turn! A dive attack value of 1 for everything might even work, or perhaps have a separate value for it on all creatures if all the strongest fliers will be able to attack this way.

    Perhaps as an alternative to restricting dive attacks, how about when a flyer dive attacks a creature, the defending creature takes a manoeuvre check against the attacker? Use the two creatures' manoeuvre ratings the same way attack versus defence will work (i.e. 2 versus 3 equals a 40% chance to succeed) and if the check is passed, the defending creature makes the attack instead of the attacking creature. That way there will be no swoop attacking over impassible land with impunity, also the clumsiest creatures (low manoeuvre rating) will be the best targets for flying creatures hoping to avoid counterattacks. Perhaps that's a little radical but I quite like it.


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