Aggressors Dev Diary #6 - Combat (part 1)

A mix of deep gameplay and rich historical flavor, Aggressors: Ancient Rome lets you relive history as the ruler of one of the mighty civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. Choose one of twenty available factions and conquer the world.
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Aggressors Dev Diary #6 - Combat (part 1)

Post by Daniele »

One thing I have never liked about 4X strategy games is the missing tactics. I never really understood why. Why cannot a game combine both – strategy and tactics? After all, quite a few generals became emperors!

Since the beginning, I planned to create a game that would be a mix of these two worlds. I didn’t want to go into low level tactics like the battles in Rome Total War but rather combine all the important aspects of battle tactics without the need to leave the strategic game map. No matter how grand and thought-out strategy you have, it is the actual battle that gets the adrenaline rushing through your body.

So, how did we go about it? First of all, you should get to know your army and those of your opponents. Find their strengths and weakness and use them to your best advantage.

There are 5 army types in the game: Roman, Greek, Persian, Carthaginian and Barbarian. Their basic characteristics have been already shown in the previous Infographics but to summarize, each army type has 3 infantry and 3 cavalry units. Naval, mechanical and non-military units are the same for players.
Each army type and every unit has a set of unique properties such as attack and defense strength, mobility, terrain adaptability, improvements, maintenance requirements, withdrawal probability, tenacity of fortification, and many others.

Let’s start with the terrain adaptability. Every unit type has a default attack and defense strength but its actual strength can be considerably increased or decreased depending on the terrain where they are forced to fight. Every unit type is suited for certain terrains where they can fully use their training, formations, battle style or arms. The terrain adaptability therefore can give a unit a great (dis)advantage considering that the terrain bonus/penalty span from +60% to -60%. And quite similarly the terrain affects the unit’s movement range.


To demonstrate the differences, we can use the example of Roman and Barbarian units. Barbarians are less disciplined and organized; their training forms strong individuals who excel in a man-to-man close combat in difficult terrains such as forests and hills. This environment is natural for them and they know how to behave and move around there.
On the other hand, the Romans are well trained, disciplined and loyal. The rigorous drill prepares them for perfectly coordinated maneuvers in close formations that are extremely difficult to break. But they need wide open plains to use such formations.

If the two armies meet on flat plains, the Barbarians will most likely be massacred as their wild even if strong attacks cannot break the solid wall of the Roman shields. Yet, if the two groups should meet in dense forests, the hit-and-run tactics of the Barbarians will have a clear advantage.

You should carefully choose the location for your battles. Sometimes it is better to take few more steps around to gain a decisive advantage than jumping at first opportunity to attack. And sometimes it is even better to build a line of defense in a suitable place and wait for the attackers. Set the conditions right and you can pick them one by one when they charge. Even seemingly weak unit can put up very effective defense and inflict serious damage if it can use the knowledge of the terrain.

Saying this, you should never fall in the trap of feeling safe! You can use some natural features of the terrain or the terrain itself to keep strong fall back positions. Rivers, hills, mountains, swamps and jungles are extremely difficult terrains that restrict mobility of units, compromise their fighting abilities and limit the chances of swift and surprising action. Positioning a fortified unit on such a tile means that the approaching enemy has to use extra force to break through which will cost him time and men and give you time to set the next trap.

As you can see, terrain can have a major impact on the outcome of the military engagements if not planned well. You have to build your success on the strengths of your units that create the core of your armies.


Every nation starts with unit(s) of one army type based on the military style they used. Romans start with Milites units and progress to Centurias and Legionaries. Barbarians start with Warriors and progress to Axemen and Elite Axemen. But you are not restricted to use units of your own army type only. If you conquer a city of another nation that uses different unit type, you will be able to incorporate these new units into your army as well. This way you can challenge your enemies on their own ground without losing advantage in unknown territories.

Yet, it is not all as easy as it might sound. Conquering a city rarely makes the people there happy, not mentioning their eagerness to join the ranks of your soldiers. I already mentioned how loyalty works in one of the previous Dev diaries but to give you a quick summary – units recruited in cities with low loyalty are also less loyal, their general morale is low and all this has a great negative impact on their fighting abilities. So, you need to think twice when and how to use these units.

This brings me to another game feature that I haven’t mentioned yet – improvements. There are currently more than 20 different military improvements that vary from the obligatory attack and defense strength improvements or those reducing terrain movement penalties, to some very special ones. Some of them can be gained only in a battle, others can be trained in cities which costs resources and time. It wouldn’t make sense to list all of them here but let’s just whet your appetite a bit.

For example, unit with “Petrifying” improvement scares all enemy units stationed nearby which reduces their strength. You cannot give a unit such a reputation that intimidates the opponent before the battle even starts, the unit has to prove its worth in a war to earn its name.

Another such improvement that you can gain only in a battle is “Homeland defender" which increases the defense abilities of a unit guarding a city or other populated places like blacksmith or temple.
One of those that can be trained in advance is “Discipline” that increases the unit’s resistance to starving or irregular pay which would otherwise cause decrease in morale. Or “Mountain movement” that allows the unit to cross mountains that are otherwise impassable. Although crossing mountain ranges leaves the unit weak and takes very long even with this improvement but it is not impossible!

You should always consider which improvements are needed for your military strategy and use specialized units in situations where you can maximize the benefit of their improvements.

There is still much more that I want to include in this topic but it would be a long reading and I would have to skip over some minor yet very interesting features which would be a pity. That’s why it would be better to split it to two parts and I will continue in the next Dev diary!

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Re: Aggressors Dev Diary #6 - Combat (part 1)

Post by Searry »

Oh my god. This sounds so good! Too bad I didn't get in the beta!
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Re: Aggressors Dev Diary #6 - Combat (part 1)

Post by DonCzirr »

Sounds good.

I would like to see something like what the Empires in Arms board game used for their combat system in the future.

In addition to the things you mentioned, have the player select chits or options for general strategies such as Outflank, Defend (standing ground), fighting withdrawal, Probe, Assault etc ...

Those options would be influenced by the nature of the troops and the abilities of the Leaders.

Just some thoughts for the future ....

It made non-tactical warfare in Empires in Arms varied and fun.
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