Ok, I’ve finally gotten up to the 25+ Hearthlings, Hard Mode orc campaign and I have to say the combat is starting to really take off tactically, mostly because of archers (which take an inordinate amount of time to get to when playing Rayya’s, by the way). The fire arrows let you force particular enemies to stop what they’re doing and run away, which lets you use archers as “Crowd control”, and this in turn lets you defeat superior numbers of enemies if you’re willing to get a little fiddly.
It would still benefit from some more strategic depth – i.e., more weapon choice for footmen and knights, different weapon types with different abilities, etc.; potions need a better interface – but overall the framework is much more playable and fun than I had expected it to be, once you get to the midgame/late game.
There is one major remaining issue though: Because the combat is still pretty chaotic, it is largely an exercise in saving and reloading. Once enemy numbers and levels get high enough, they can drop even a Knight pretty quickly (especially when there are enemy archers so you can’t maneuver the knight to safety as easily). If your attention lapses for a moment, you’ll lose soldiers that represent a VERY significant investment of time. So you reload. Which is mildly annoying and breaks immersion.
Old school D&D had an optional “knockout/bleeding” rule; when a character hit 0 hit points, they were knocked out, and began to bleed, losing a hit point every round for ten rounds; when they reached -10, they were dead.
I think Stonehearth needs something similar for Hearthlings in combat. Players have too much invested in their dudes to lose them instantly and irrecoverably, and a character that’s just knocked out and recoverable won’t mean an instant reload and thus won’t wreck immersion.
What I’d propose as a suggestion:
- Characters that hit 0 health take a dirt nap and fall over unconscious for a period of time.
- They get the sleeping thought bubble and a long-lasting (say, three days) debuff to move speed, muscle, and morale.
- Cleric can heal knocked-out character’s health but cannot remove debuff or wake them up (this may require some AI tweaking so clerics don’t waste all their heals on unconscious dudes when the rest of the fight is still going on).
- high-tier herbalist bandages can remove debuff.
- Enemies will attack unconscious hearthlings but only if there are no other active threats or live hearthlings nearby.
- If knocked-out hearthlings go to -100% health (i.e., they’ve taken total double damage), they poof and turn into gravestones as current.
*Just to clarify, this is for hearthlings only, not enemies. For one thing it would be too much to track for each enemy; for another, enemies don’t have the hearthlings/rest mechanic so the debuff doesn’t make sense for them.