Home Forums General Game Design Do your rules allow for double elimination in melee or assaul?

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    Had this situation come up in a solo game I played recently.

    WW1 British Bombing squad assaults entrenched Germans and in the ensuing melee both are eliminated. It got me thinking, how many rules allow this outcome where both the attacker and defender are eliminated?

    (Kind of like the old Ex result in the Avalon Hill CRT)

    Of course a lot depends on the scale of game and the period, but how do people feel about this as a possible outcome?

    I am ok with it in the above example, as I assume while the Germans were routed, the British squad in question was too exhausted or depleted to continue and was combat ineffective for the rest of the game. Fortunately, there was a rifle squad nearby to hold the position. I rather like this as it shows the importance of following up an assault with fresh troops to hold the position.




    So my initial thought was arrrrrgh no, that is not good, then I got to this part:

    as I assume while the Germans were routed, the British squad in question was too exhausted or depleted to continue and was combat ineffective for the rest of the game.

    and thought oh yeah fair enough that makes sense to me.

    Phil Dutré

    Double elimination should definitely be a possibility, but it depends on the time scale of the rules. Suppose the turn is supposed to represent 1 hour, then it would be very strange not to have double elimination as the outcome of a melee combat. If the turn is supposed to represent 1 second, it might be different.

    But anyhow, it has less to do with finding a justification of what “really” happens, but has more to do with the framework of rules design.

    In many games (not only wargames, but also classic boardgames etc), there is an inherent structure that allows you to do something with a playing piece, then do some action with that playing piece (e.g. move your pawn in Monopoly, then act on the space you land on. The Game of Goose has the same structure). This is a very old gaming mechanic, predating wargames. But you can still see that same pattern in many modern games.

    If you look at wargames rules from the 60’s, you see the same structure: I move a unit of toy soldiers, then they do something (shoot, melee). If you follow the mode of thought in which only your pieces do something, and the opponent’s pieces are “passive”, then it is also logical to think that only your pieces are capable of inflicting damage. This is the most obvious in the shooting phase. I shoot, you take damage, but you cannot shoot back.

    But melee is a bit different, since when I fight you hand-to-hand, you should be able to kill me as well (after all, you are also stabbing me with a sword, right?). Thus, you have/had mechanisms such as an opposed die roll (both soldiers roll a D6, highest wins). This also explains why in many rules you have different mechanisms for shooting (only I can inflict damage), and melee (we both should be able to inflict damage). If you implement melee combat using opposed die rolls (as is very common), immediately there’s the question of what to do with a tie. A tie feels “unnatural” in this framework, and what you often see is that ties remain unresolved and you continue fighting next turn, OR both parties are killed OR you reroll the dice. But a tie remains a special situation for a mechanic in which a “winner” is supposed to emerge. Even if you do not use opposed die rolls, many games still have mechanisms that allows the opponent to strike back. The original Warhammer engine was designed that way (I am not familiar with the latest incarnations). If only the initiator of the melee would be able to inflict damage, that shifts emphasis in the game very much to being able to make contact first, something that does not always produce a balanced game.

    Mutual damage is also linked to the concept of accumulating damage before a figure is killed. If a figure has 1 hit (as in most classic wargames), mutual damage is more common. If figures have multiple hit points (roleplaying games are at the extreme end of this), then it doesn’t matter that much. I inflict some damage (not killing you), then you inflict some damage (not killing me) and so on. Mutual damage within a single resolution mechanic is therefore not necessary to keep the game flowing. Of course, since single blows happen fast, a turn is supposed to represent a few seconds, and thus, alternating damage makes more sense if you want to find a rationale for it.

    So, I wouldn’t worry too much about how to “explain” it – it should fit in the framework of the rules and the balance of the game. Invent your own favourite explanation later if you need one.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/


    I think it also depends on the scale. Final scene of Hamlet style bloodbaths are rare. But when a platoon destroys an enemy platoon, it will sometimes be stronger, sometimes the same, mainly weaker, and occasionally spent.

    Chris Pringle

    My 19th-century big battle rules allow it (BBB). In the event of a tie, both sides lose a base and fight again. Theoretically two 6-base divisions of 9,000+ men could fight to mutual annihilation, but that never happens; in practice, over 100s of games I think I have only ever seen two successive ties a couple of times ever.

    However, it is not unknown for small cavalry brigades to wipe each other out. These are typically 2 bases strong, two such will quite often clash on a flank, and since a unit reduced to a single base is removed from the table, a tie results in both being destroyed. This seems entirely reasonable (blown horses, pursuers and pursued both being scattered and combat-irrelevant, etc).

    Your rationalization of your WWI example works for me. I think such an outcome is fine.


    Bloody Big BATTLES!




    It is relatively common in ESR for two cavalry Formations of about the same side to end up with nominally the same fate after combat. One is the “winner” and one is the “loser” but often both end either just as beat up and ineffective (even to the point of removal) as the other. Last fresh squadron wins.



    The Bandit


    Sometimes it is a result of game mechanisms, particularly where both sides ‘shoot’ at each other simultaneously. The results for each side are independent, so it is possible for both sides to eliminate each other. This may or may not be a desired game outcome. In other rules, it is explicit allowed combat result (e..g the ‘blown’ result for cavalry in Horse, Foot & Guns).

    It largely depends what to you mean by ‘eliminated’, as e.g. winning an assault but having used up so much ammo or taken so many losses that a unit needs to pause to reorg isn’t really eliminated in any conventional sense, but it might be rendered combat ineffective for a period of time.

    I’ve written quite a few rules where such results are possible, if it is appropriate to the period. There is a reason immediate counterattacks in twentieth century warfare are so effective,  but only for a limited period of time.

    In more morale based periods, like Ancient warfare, it is less relevant as you either win or lose, and the loser is butchered in the pursuit. ie casualties are a function of the combat outcome, they don’t primarily determine the outcome.




    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke


    Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. The mechanic in play in this specific example is not the traditional opposed die roll but each squad rolls to hit the other, and then for damage and the results applied simultaneously. If both sides survive, the one with more hits retreats.  I rather like the result, but as pointed out may not make sense for all time periods and scales.


    One hour Wargames does use the novel, to me, mechanic that only the attacker inflicts damage in melee. So, I attack you, inflict damage on you. If you are not destroyed, in your turn you strike back and inflict damage on me.

    All interesting comments, I love the discussion here.



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