Expanding the Future of Combat: Enter the Tactician!

Hello, everyone! This is my first post on the Discourse so far. I hope you find the discussion interesting and entertaining.

With the recent posts and livestreams by the Stonehearth team, one thing has been particularly curious to me: how will combat work, and what direction will it be taken farther along in the developmental process? A key point that Tom and the others have made in their discussions is that they are attempting to avoid direct control of units, as they believe it would create too much micro-management in the game–case in point, the Trapper. While I still very much feel that some level of control is necessary (such as RimWorld’s drafting ability, that still lets workers operate on their own when not fighting), I can see an advantage to it; finding every solider in the battle for a game like Age of Empires or Warcraft 3 is oftentimes difficult, and has often frustrated me. So how should a combat system be created, both where the player is not in direct control of every person, yet the individuality of your units (not just a mass of expendable soldiers) is important?

The answer that keeps coming to me is strategies and tactics. By specifying certain behaviors in your soldiers, it allows for the player to lose the reins of the battle while still being in some sort of control of your forces. However, for the sake of gradual progression in the game and more overall depth in the “combat” branch of Stonehearth, I believe this would work best as a specified unit class–namely, the Tactician.

Combat will not always be part of the game. There are periods of peace and exploration, and during these, I feel that the player’s military units might seem only useful for the moments of war. Yet the Tactician would be able to keep active in and out of battle, researching new abilities or improvements for your forces. I would largely classify these either as “Commands” or “Upgrades”.

Commands would be exactly as they sound–orders to direct units. These can range from the classic “Defend” option for shield-using soldiers and “Retreat” to a safe point when damaged, to more situation-specific ideas such as igniting a forest with enemies in it or planting an explosive keg and detonating it from a distance (which would require the Engineer class). I personally would love to see the possibility of creating your own formations for your troops, each with their own behaviors.

Upgrades act as bonuses to your units’ effectiveness. They too can be very general, like faster movement for foot soldiers, or specific, like additional damage or resistance against goblin enemies. These could even be expanded to include more social or economic concepts, such as higher morale and faster construction (this could further prove their use out of combat, but might be too diverse for one type of unit. It is more of a passive class, so perhaps this could work?).

Obviously, such a unit would be more of a long-term commitment, as their abilities need to grow over time. To prevent them from being over-powered, perhaps only a limited number of Commands and Upgrades can be equipped at one time, while unequipped abilities could take the shape of books or scrolls in the world and be stored in a chest, library, etc… As the unit promotes, they can “memorize” more abilities at once, giving them more diversity. They could begin as a Tactician, then a Strategist or General, eventually reaching some awe-inspiring title of some sort, like “Grandmaster Combatologist” (although that sounds very silly and ridiculous).

Like the discussion on farming, the class could be explored as much or as little as the player wants, but it would certainly help them out in the long run. The resources and spoils you obtain could be used to research abilities, or found through trading and exploring. I can see them as a sort of “mini-leader” to your troops and people, acting as a way to herd them as groups and create a little more fun and creativity to the combat portion of Stonehearth. I’d love to hear both the Discourse’s and the team’s opinion of such a direction for gameplay. Combat is still very young in Stonehearth, and I can’t wait to see what it becomes.

Get ready for the Titans!


I believe the plan is that it will be based mainly around squads and zones, with a few emergency features. Eg, you have 10 soldiers. You draft them into two squads of 5 each. Squad A patrols Zone 1 during the day, and Squad B patrols Zone 1 during the night. If there’s a big raid, you can hit the alarm button to wake up the sleeping squad.

Beyond that… not too sure yet :slight_smile: .

That’s true of any professional military though.

Mind you… (decent) militia units might make an interesting alternative (or support) to full-time footmen etc. Hmm…

TBH, I’m not sold on this idea, because in my mind it’s adding another difficulty scale to the game:

Consider: you’ve just started the game, but unfortunately a larger-than-average goblin raid is coming. Each individual soldier you have is thus very important to the defence of your settlement: if you can’t tell them to fight smart because the tech isn’t researched yet, that could be game over.

Alternatively, you’re into the late(-ish) game, but slipped up in how you researched your military tech, and don’t have that cthulhu-counter formation ready for when the big guy comes knocking. Oh dear.

At the moment, you’re going to have to balance population & resources to build a thriving settlement - I think juggling that PLUS a tech tree would be a bit much.

I’d use the Dwarf Fortress model myself, and let soldiers train and equip superior weapons & armour. Functionally the same as clicking an upgrade button in Starcraft I guess, but it looks nicer, and IMHO would be more in-keeping with the style of gameplay etc.

That said, I DO think that we need two things, which you’ve mentioned/hinted at:

-Formations: These could also give bonuses - think wedge formations for cavalry, or Napoleonic squares making horses swerve away rather than charge a wall of 18" bayonets.
-Smart AI: Suppose you have a bunch of archers & swordsmen, and the enemy attacks them. The swordsmen should automatically move to shield the archers, so the latter can continue to fire away. Similarly, archers should remain on walls & towers to fight, instead of running down to the gatehouse to fight.

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You make some very good points. Here’s just a few clarifications on the concept:

When the games begins, I based this idea on the concept that your settlers are essentially starting from scratch, including their military prowess–they really wouldn’t know how to fight smart. As for an early goblin raid, it is likely that there will be alternatives for such problems besides pure military conquest–I believe there was a page in which we discussed dealing with goblins, particularly punishing a goblin thief, and one popular suggestion was the option to kill it or let it live for a ransom instead( @SteveAdamo, can you remember which one? I think it was a Development post). These sorts of interactions could save your settlers from an early Game Over, without relying completely on a military system.

Plus, with the proposed Defense Mode for normal settlers, your entire early population can be used to fight back in dire times. Because concepts such as Defense Mode or the Town Bell are so rudimentary and logical, I feel that they shouldn’t necessarily be tied to the Tactician and instead be available from the start. They could possibly be improved later on, such as increasing the settlers’ damage output or their ability to take a few hits.

That’s true. Some concepts might be more useful than others, but my hope is that such a system could be diverse enough that you wouldn’t have to rely on a “Titan-Buster”. It’d need some time to balance out–and of course, not be a critical component to enjoy the game. But for the players that want to have more combat or a higher difficulty, I’m sure Radiant will have those options at some point to really test out their tactics.

Like the Commands, I’m wondering if it would be better for the upgrades to also be limited by a certain amount at one time–the Tactician isn’t physically changing the units, but rather his/her “advice” is boosting the units’ effectiveness. That way, there’s more encouragement to mix and match abilities and decide on what’s most important for the situation. Think of it similar to the Bioshock series with Plasmids. On top of that, different armor and weapons can also then be applied for physical changes.

Thanks very much for all the good points so far. Part of my inspiration came from the Fire Emblem series, with the Tactician as the player’s personal class and my appreciation of its overall versatility–I’d like to see more units like that in games, since “tactics” in real-time strategies oftentimes seem to get pushed into static menus rather than be an integral part.

Plus, there’s something about the Awakening design that makes it one of my favorite RPG classes so far…

so i didnt read all of this so dont get mad at me. ill make a list that is very basic and what I know that point in time about stonehearth combat atm.
1.you will have squads like we have said already
2.your noncombat classes can be set to fight or run away
3.the game is supposed be about a “town sim” which is why your soldier is patroling any stockpiles until a goblin appears
4.combat right now is very rough engine
5. the team has maybe a very rough idea what classes and style to control the units with
the 5th one is my biggest when it does come to these kind of suggestions. i also agree with the fact that a tactician would harm you more if you dont like adding tactics to your game and would just like to build. not only that but that would then waste a worker