This week we’re going to have an in-depth look into the Age of Wonders III tactical combat mechanics. Tactical combat is one of the most important parts of the game, and we’ve worked very hard to refine the rules to make it more exciting and tactical. Our main goal was to make combat faster, and more lethal, while maintaining and improving the depth and tactical options that people expect from the series.
Each unit has 3 action points that determine how many times it can attack in a round.
You can see here that our Goblin Wolf Rider currently has all 3 left over.
As a unit moves, it loses action points. When a unit is selected, the colored markers on the ground indicate how many action points the unit will have left when it stands in a hex.
Green indicates the unit will have full action points, so it will attack 3 times:
Yellow indicates 2 action points:
Orange indicates 1. Notice that no matter how far a unit moves, it will always keep it’s last action point:
Retaliation, Flanking and Guarding
When one unit attacks another with a melee attack, the defending unit will retaliate and strike back. Each time the defender does this, they use up an action point, so once they’ve retaliated 3 times, they won’t be able to retaliate any more. Even worse for the defender, a unit gets it’s action points refilled at the end of its turn. So, after retaliating 3 times, the defender won’t be able to use the unit themselves next turn!
To demonstrate, lets watch what happens when this filthy human cavalry viciously attacks our poor, innocent goblin wolf rider:
He’ll be attacking from a yellow hex, so he’ll hit twice. Our heroic goblin has full action points still, so he retaliates twice as well.
Afterwards, it’s the goblin’s turn, and he still only has 1 action point left. The human just ended his turn, so his action points have already been refilled:
The human has a problem though, he’s alone, and exposed. If you can attack a unit from one of the hexes behind it, that attack is a Flanking Attack. Flanking attacks are special for two reasons:
1) The attack gets +2 damage on every type (so +2 physical damage, if a unit also does fire damage it would also get +2 fire damage)
2) A flanked defender cannot retaliate against something behind him, so he loses one chance to retaliate as he turns around.
The goblin marauders are in position to flank now:
Since the attack is flanking, the cavalry will only be able to retaliate once instead of twice. After the flanking attack, the cavalry is facing the marauder, so the next attack does normal damage, and the cavalry can retaliate. The cavalry is now facing the marauder, meaning he can now be flanked again:
As you can see, ranged attacks can flank as well. Even though the target cannot retaliate against them, he will still turn to face the unit shooting him in the back, so only the first shot will receive the flanking bonus. Through clever use of flanking, groups of weak units can take out powerful foes while taking minimal damage themselves.
There is one defense against this, however: A unit can sacrifice its actions for a turn and enter Guard Mode. A unit in Guard Mode cannot be flanked, and gets a 20% bonus to defense and resistance. Guarding units are better at locking down ranged units and performing attacks of opportunity as well, but we’ll get to that later.
The clever goblin is in guard mode, so the cavalry cannot flank him, even though he’s striking from behind.
Engagement and Attacks Of Opportunity
If a unit is next to an enemy, and facing them, then that enemy is Engaged. Most ranged units cannot use their abilities if they’ve been engaged by an enemy.
To make matters worse, if a unit tries to move out of a hex where he’s engaged by an enemy, that enemy will hit them with an attack of opportunity.
The red triangles tell the human player that moving the archers along the white path would get him hit by two opportunity attacks from goblin skewers.
If the human player flanks the goblins, they will turn away, and the archers could escape in safety. This would not work if the Goblins were guarding however, units on guard can engage in every direction at once, not just in front of them!
Like melee attacks, most ranged attacks get one shot per action point the attacker has. Some slower weapons, such as crossbows, can only fire once per turn. These weapons tend to do more damage, however, and allow a unit to be move more freely without reducing damage output.
If a target is too far away, then a ranged penalty is applied, halving the attacks damage.
Sometimes it will be in an attackers best interest to move closer to do more damage, even though it will fire fewer shots. This can leave the unit vulnerable to attack however. Most ranged units are fragile and need to be protected carefully from melee attackers.
Obstacles and other units on the battlefield will block line of sight, and this can reduce damage even further.
However, a unit can shoot through friendly units and many low obstacles as long as they’re right next to them.
Some ranged attackers negate these penalties entirely. Elven longbow men suffer no ranged penalties, regardless of how far they fire, while Goblin Swarm Darters shoot living darts made of poisonous mosquitoes. The mosquitoes home in on their targets, ignoring all ranged penalties and line of sight checks.
Special Unit Abilities
There are many special abilities that units can have which affect the flow of combat, there are far too many to list, but I’ve included a brief description of some of the most important ones.
Flying units can fly over obstacles and units, and only need to worry about attacks of opportunity when they take off. This allows them to penetrate enemy lines to strike at vulnerable units at the back.
This screen shot also demonstrates the Swarm Darter’s Inflict Noxious Vulnerability ability. Every attack from the unit has a chance of putting a minor status effect on the target which reduces its resistance, making it more vulnerable to non-physical damage.
Defending units with first strike will attack their attackers before their attackers manage to hit them. In this case, this allows the defenders strike their attackers more times than the attackers strike them. Attackers can bypass first strike by flanking the defender, or by having first strike themselves.
Here we can also see that the Halberdiers have the polearm ability (+4 damage versus cavalry) while the cavalry have the Overwhelm ability (+3 damage versus units with shields and polearms).
Wisps have the Static Shield ability, which has a chance to stun any unit that attacks them in melee. Stunned units cannot move, guard or engage other units, and every attack on a stunned unit is automatically flanking.
This is one of the many touch attacks in the game, if the goblins resist the stun effect then they lose a few move points instead, so the player’s turn isn’t completely wasted.
That’s it! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates!