Worked out combat mechanic: Formations

So we were talking in a different thread, when I got this idea:


1 The gap between playstyles:
One major point about finer mechanics for combat is that some people don’t want to spend much time thinking about combat in stonehearth. To accommodate for both styles, this idea is inspired from the building system: You can design your own formations, but if you don’t want to spend time thinking about combat, you can use the premade formation templates that come with the game, just like with buildings.

2 The process of design.
You place a training ground banner, or some other item/zone/whatever to designate the training ground. Then, in the design menu, you can summon one/multiple/all parties to the training grounds. They will come and stand in front of the training ground banner. Then you design a formation by moving around individual troops using the currently existing move buttons (move, attack, defend etc.) to put the troops in the right position and indicate their job at that spot. The Ui has a button to save the current positions and jobs as a formation and, you are done.

3 Support items
But this is not good enough yet, you need to be able to say things like: “Archers, seek higher ground!”. For that, we have support items. These are items which you place on the training grounds, along with your troops, that tell your troops to behave in a certain way. For example:

  • Training dummy: a stand-in for the position of an/(the attacked) enemy, it makes troops ignore the position the’ve been assigned to in the formation, so they can run up to an enemy and attack.
  • Party banners: allow the player to move entire parties. You can assign a different formation to these banners.
  • a slab item: a troop placed on top of one of these will seek higher ground where possible.
  • a shield on a stand: A troop placed behind this one will seek shelter whenever possible, only leaving it to quickly attack an enemy, before hiding again. (Very useful in combination with the slab and an archer.)
  • a banner with a medical cross: is the place where wounded troops retreat to. You can specify at what health this happens.
  • a golden banner (or somnething else): respresents a guarded item/person. Think escorts. If you want to make a formation that protects a certain item or person, like a merchant caravan or something, you place this one in the formation, and the troops have a sense of where they need to be relative to the guarded item, even it that itemn moves, like a caravan for instance.

Of course modders could add these items.

4 In practice (technical stuff)
When you place down a party with a formation, the formation is made with respect to the party banner. In design, the formations are made with respect to the training ground banner. When you order a certain party with a certain formation at a certain location, you can imagine the troops going into formation with respect to an invisible “training ground banner”, which then moves (along with the troops) until it i atop the placed party banner.


Formations are tricky because unless the game is designed for it, they don’t actually add anything to combat; they just keep some of your dudes disengaged and foofing around on your flanks. There are a few ways to make them worthwhile:

  1. First is mathematical stuff like what Total War does, where you get an attack bonus if “charging” and a defensive penalty if your formation is hit “in the rear”, or like Battle Brothers does giving each soldier a mathematical defense boost if standing next to another soldier. This approach generally requires a fairly high degree of micromanagement and probably wouldn’t fit well with the Stonehearth mechanics.

  2. 2nd way is gameplay mechanics that make it advantageous to form a formation. Battle Brothers does this by giving all the weapons special abilities that work well with each other; things like giving spears “instant knockback” if anyone enters a square adjacent to a spearman, so that a row of spearmen can constantly knock back melee attackers, etc. This could work well in Stonehearth but would require revising the weapons – for example, as per my suggestion in the prior thread, if Pikes had Reach and Hammers had Knockback, a row of pikes and hammers could be a really effective formation (but one that could be countered by pikes or archers).

  3. You can also make formations useful with terrain; Pillars of Eternity is a good example of that, with small-party formations. Have choke points and corridors and suchlike and put a few tanks in the front, then your archers and ranged attacker “glass cannons” sit in the back. This is something that could transition well to Stonehearth and in a sense is already in game, but the functionality could use some tweaking. One big question is whether or not they ever plan on instituting combat destructibility for structures.