Not sure about player loss conditions

From what I currently know, you lose when all the settlements are blighted.
I’m wondering if you lose if all settlements are blighted OR depopulated.
Also, should the game be designed this way?
Isn’t fleeing into the mountain and picking off the undead using artillery and crystal miners a valid tactic?

I mean, after all the undead are vanquished, cant the soldiers put down their arms and resume peaceful family life?

You do have a point I think, but with the game designed currently it’s impossible I think. Right now the Blight only seek out settlements and don’t seek out players. I could be wrong but there have been many times I’ve predicted where the zombies were headed so I would put weak hero cards in safe locations and just use their power. So if it were to change to your system I think the zombies would also need to be reprogrammed to hunt out living units at least after all settlements were gone.

Some reasons why I think that might be a bad idea is the fact at how easy it is to kite zombies around in circles while you chip away at them. I’ve used Bridge Witches a lot in games and I’ve gotten used to making the zombies just keep walking while I power up the defense in settlements or weaken them with spells. If the end game consisted of this, it would be the same thing I guess and it would be kind of boring and could drag games on for weeks.

Also protecting all settlements is a nice goal to keep in mind. You know where all settlements are, you know which direction/s the zombies will be coming from and you can react accordingly.

Also once a settlement is destroyed by the blight, I feel it’s kind of a long lasting effect on the area so it kind of is a loss if the whole map has been completely wiped out and needs to be rebuilt.

And just to add one technical problem to the mix: Jay mentioned in another thread that flying units present a problem to the “every player unit must die” victory condition because you could put them in flight mode and never take them out (or not be able to, if you have no valour left) and so the game would/could never end.

Theoretically your point is valid; although you currently have to make a last stand at a settlement. Literally, you can be outnumbered 1,000 to 1 and still win. For normal and easy I think this is fine.

Right now I think Hard and Nightmare probably need some work. Right now the main difference in game modes is the amount of time the zombies are free to wander the world before you start to fight them.

Personally I don’t think this type of outnumbered 1,000 to 1 win should be allowed in the harder mode. I’d really like to see other objectives added to the harder modes of game play to add strategy depth and skill.

What do you have in mind?

Going back to an older discussion on building tension…

Waiting out the hoards works for easy and normal mode. It’s probably the simplest of strategy and it emphasizes the basics of kite and hit; I expect easy and normal to require the least depth of strategy.

Personally my favorite map has been Iron Crown, just because it puts each player on two fronts, and forces an early very important strategic decision; do I focus on one front to close out that battle early and then turn my attention to the other, or do I try to fight both at once. At one point when I was playing as humans, I came to a very critical point where I was trying to keep both fronts, but both were being pressed hard, and I had to decide what to do… I could save one front, or the other, but not both. Having to retreat from the position and let one front slip built a lot of suspense for me.

I’ve peaked at many of the Hard/Nightmare maps and by letting the zombies roam freely for a longer period of time doesn’t necessarily add to the strategy depth. For example in the Wildriver Run game we’re in now, Dex had commented to me that the position we’re in now was a lot like several of the early games he had played in on the same map. Those normal maps turned into a ‘hard’ position because of a lack of experience (not pushing the front), on normal mode its possible to save several of those human towns. We’re in a similar position now, defending the range which defines the front line, except its a situation forced by the added time the zombies have had to run free.

Game design topics like this always seem to turn into essay posts for me, so I’ll try to finish up here in a few sentences…

Basically, the more situations you can create with interesting strategic decisions, like my first example, the more enjoyable I think it’s going to be. The challenge I would make is to find a way to make the game more challenging without just increasing the number of zombies on the map. Challenge the player to find new ways to defend the same positions, give additional considerations and objectives, and then have the players find a way to balance it all on the head of a pin.

I would like the zombie bosses to do this.

I want them to throw spanners into the works, and force you to re examine your strategy.

Right now there are some weak bosses.

The human guy the draws zombies to him is broken right now because he gets locked in place. I’m going to try and fix him this we. I think he should also put a speed buff on those moving to him so that they can catch up to him.

The troll boss that speeds units up will instead be like a tangle mage and teleport to a random mana well. I hope that this will really mess with players because he will jump behind enemy lines and blight mana wells.

The three bosses tha just strp you of resources are cool and all, but it would be nice if they had some power that affected the board as well.

I think the bosses could be tougher too. They are a little easy to take out with range attacks.

I agree, the zombie bosses are a nice thought, but experienced players know to avoid creating them. The problem I see with the Tangle Mage one is him teleporting to another well and making another one… this creates a run away problem that isn’t much fun.

Something I kinda though about this morning is, instead of putting more zombies out there at the start of the game for hard/nightmare. What about giving the basic zombies a variety of simple powers, kind of like the zombie ents which slowly grow stronger the longer they are left alone.

Maybe some zombies have a saving throw resistance, maybe some have an ability gaining them a level every time the enter combat or take a town, maybe some will apply a debuff to units they enter combat with to draw in other nearby zombies… These types of powers add difficulty without just dialing up the power by increasing the number of zombies on the map to start.

Also, I’ll add that some of the zombie bosses have powers that are just plain annoying more than anything else. Specifically those bosses which just ‘steal’ all mana/gold/valor… For example replacing those powers with something like - Moral throughout the lands is low, training units requires 50% more gold - or Magics have become corrupt, all unit powers with a mana activation cost deal 20% damage back to their caster. These are just a couple of examples I could think of. The don’t take away anything, but they do add an additional consideration to making strategy decisions.

I wonder if it would be beneficial adding time pressure to the game in some way as well - causing increasing tension as the game goes on as an example
If a graveyard isn’t cleared after 5 days there is a 10% chance each day of a zombie boss being spawned in it, with the days and numbers being altered for different difficulties

it feels kind of odd (especially in single player) when you can get the game to a point of locking down the spawning point and just shooting all of the zombies that rise but not have the strength to waltz in to take out the spawning location

That’s the kind of thing I would like see, it adds a dimension of consideration.

EDIT: Same for the suggestion below.

the way I can lock down a hoard with 2 tree wisperers and finish it with archers also seems odd, maybe all zombies should have a low % of mutating into a better version of a zombie with something like adds % magic resistance or a variaty of things over time, once again would add time pressure into the game

I’m OK with most of these suggestions. I have had conversations with Eshal on this topic and we tend to strongly disagree on it. I think more complex strategies can evolve out of simpler ones that are amped up, like what happens in hard and nightmare. New abilities tend to completely change gameplay (or change it to a large degree). Instead of making me advance my strategy or find a creative solution to an existing problem, I have to have completely different strategies that may or may not actually be more advanced, just different because the rules are different. I feel this becomes more of a memorization of what units are out now and what to do in that situation instead of a development or emergence of advanced strategy. And often times those abilities don’t scale to make things harder, so once you figure out what to do and memorize it, the only way to make it more difficult is to add new enemy abilities.

Going to the hard game I am playing now. Normal on Wildriver Run for me is now to the point where my strategy has advanced enough I can be offense and use a smaller set of units and abilities. I rarely have to use any melee units or be defensive. I did have to do that a lot when I first started playing, but now I have advanced my strategy. On hard, I am back to having to actually defend instead of being offensive. My Knights, Artillery and resource production are all much more important now, even with my advanced strategy. I will have to tweak it and advance it more if I want to get higher scores, without needing new enemies that makes me adapt simply because the rules are different instead of the situation being more advanced for me. Seeing a few simple rules grow and scale into hard, think-on-your-toes situations is more elegant to me as well.

Going back to my earlier comment, most of these suggested abilities I can deal with. The ones that progressively let zombies get out of what you do is both realistic and good for a boss situation (not so for mindless hordes though) and bad for an out of control situation. If things start to fall apart and zombies slowly become immune to abilities, there is no way to recover with tactics in those situations, you almost always end up needing brute force, which you don’t have. I liked a statement Jay made before in that a large part of the game (though not all of it), is using your heroes to manage and/or take out the stronger zombies because the heroes have abilities/strategy whereas the zombies have mindless force; in a fair fight the zombies would win, but you don’t have to fight fair, you can use tricks. Zombies building up an immunity to your tricks is a problem.

I don’t like the boss tangle mage teleporting to clean wells and blighting them unless we can teleport to unclean wells and clean them, or unless we can fortify a well (I mean to buff it and/or shield it some way, not just dump a lot of guys there and leave them there, although that will need to happen in addition to buffing/shielding, but maybe with fewer units now). I think allowing him to teleport to already blighted wells is a great idea though. It would let him go to areas that have had all of the graves cleared that you probably have moved your troops away from. If there are still some un-blighted towns in the area, then the boss could re-open that front that you thought was done and weren’t defending. I don’t know how often that situation actually comes up though.

I do think that the longer a graveyard lingers, the more that should come from it. I don’t know if it would be a boss though, but it could be that the zombies that spawn have more strength, or the spawn rate increases (either the number of zombies that spawn each time, or how often they spawn) for every spawn roll that passes (meaning the spawn rolls could become increasingly frequent; starting at 12 hours, but then that spawn roll shortens the timer for next time to 10 hours, then that spawn roll shortens the timer for next time to 6 hours, etc.). I’m thinking that a lot of the strategies that help make the game easier involve crowd controlling the strong groups of enemies to stall them until you can deal with them. Maybe if instead of one strong group, they were a dozen weaker groups, your Knight and Tree Whisperers wouldn’t be able to crowd control all of them and enough total strength (in separate groups) would get through to capture those towns you were trying to strengthen. This is definitely not a perfect solution, but it might contribute and it gets the idea across of what I am trying to counter.

I really need to get round to trying the game on harder difficulties before I can comment properly.

The main problem I can see is at the moment its too easy to get into a solved situation where a bunch of units lock down the zombies entirely with no way for the zombies to put more pressure out, i’m unsure of the best way round that, I’m not sure that making it so that zombies don’t clump as much would work at the moment - they automatically combine stacks so you use tree wisperers at choke points and you can deal with the whole army from one race, if they don’t clump up I fear things like dark forest witches I think will just become the stopping force instead of tree wisperers.

I really need to get round to trying a harder game before so I can comment better on it all

Those are good points. The Witches won’t stop the zombies, they will still march on to your settlements, but I agree that it could shrink their numbers enough to make it so that what does make it through just splats on the towns walls instead of being a threat to taking the town (unless you were CC’ing the zombies to buy time to get a unit to an unprotected town; I have seen that a lot and this would still allow that town to fall).

I agree that games with simple rules can have amazing strategy depth. The problem with games that have simple rules is that the depth of strategy often relies on the number of permutations of game play. For example, it’s easy to program a computer to play checkers - the game has simple rules, but very limited permutations of play. Games like Chess and Go (also relatively simple rules) on the other hand computers have a super difficult time trying to be competitive because programming an AI to actually think strategically takes an enormous amount of time and resources - rather than being able to map the universe of all possible games.

In this game the maps are fixed; not randomly generated. Starting locations of the zombies are fixed; not variable. The rules defining how the zombies behave is fixed. The only variable currently is increasing the size/strength/speed of zombies.

This is the main problem I’ve been trying to point out. It’s very difficult to build a game with strategy depth unless you can also increase the number of permutations; but then programming an AI that can handle those permutations becomes difficult.

This is why adding mechanics is generally more common in game design where the main opponent is an AI. It doesn’t require any extra effort on the AI’s part to understand the mechanics; in fact usually the AI can completely ignore the mechanics. But it forces the players to come up with new strategies and adapt strategies based on what’s going on around them.

Adding a spell resistance to some zombies on harder modes would help with this (it’s a new mechanic), but if I plan to Tangle a zombie group and it fails, now I have to adapt my strategy to work around the new development.

Someone on the internet did an excellent study of the AI used in CIV 5. This is a game that has deep strategy, and many different simultaneous mechanics which work together well, and the AI is relatively challenging. Someone created an 8-player game on a barren map with one human player and 7 computer players. All the AI’s completely fell apart because they weren’t programmed to know how to deal with a completely barren map. What it revealed about the AI was that it was programmed to have a set of its own rules which told it when it should have what units built, how many towns it should have etc… I.E. the AI was only as good as the programmer who programmed it, but in most cases it was acceptable to build a solid game.

Blight is going to have the same problem, the simpler the mechanics the harder it is to build depth and an AI that can handle it. The more/complex mechanics are, the simpler the AI can be while remaining challenging and at much greater strategic depth.

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You should be able to do this now with the dwarf and troll guy that add fortifications. This boss will probably give a 12 -24 hour warning so you can scramble to get into position. But I do want it to be a problem you have to solve. I want it to be something that will force you to re-evaluate. A consequence for letting the mana well fall in the first place.

I do currently count how many spawn events have occurred at a grave, and the percentage chance of each body getting up is greater with each event.

I’ve had a lot of feedback this week that taking out the graves is too easy. Some have suggested that you should always fight something. Some have suggested you should pay resources.

One thing I planned to do this week was make the zombies get up right away, sooner, but stand around on top of the graves for a while before moving off. That way it’s far more likely you will have to fight something.

About 6 months ago the spawn events happened much more often, but the zombies would not consider moving off the spawn until they were a certain size. I might go back to something like that.

I agree that when those guys spawn you don’t think “OMG were are in trouble” you just sigh because now you have a chore to do which is kill that guy.

I like your suggestions. Here are a few more.

  • All locations produce half gold.
  • All spells cost twice mana
  • All spells have twice as long recharge time.
  • Training units takes twice as long.
  • Deploying heroes cost twice as much.
  • Can’t use the Bazaar to exchange valour for Gold or Mana.

THANK YOU! All of these are great ideas for making the game more difficult without just increasing the number of zombies on the map at the start of the game. I probably wouldn’t use all those tricks at the same time however, You might make some of these global and select a couple at random at the start of the game.

What about if we put them on some new zombie bosses, and and spawn bosses at the start of hard or nightmare games. That way I can keep them as a function of a zombie rather than as a special rule.