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The purpose of this guide is to show you how combat is calculated in Shadow Empires, which will help make you a better commander. It does not cover tactics, this guide is about mechanics.
Section 1: Definitions
A “unit” is a full counter of troops, eg 10 Rifle Militia. A “subunit” is a single element in that counter, eg 1 Rifle Militia. Combat is resolved subunit vs subunit, decided by comparing random numbers generated from the subunit’s combat statistics.
Soft Attack, Hard Defense, etc are crucial combat statistics, but often confusing.
“Attack” is a ToHit check made by the subunits in the strategic map counters that start combat. “Defense” is a ToHit check made by the subunits in the strategic map counters that did NOT start combat. Both Attack and Defense are offensive checks used to determine if subunits hit their targets during tactical combat.
“Soft” is a subunit that a) is often infantry and b) often has its move listed as “foot” and
c) often represents 100x or more elements per subunit on the strategic map.
“Hard” is a subunit that a) is often a vehicle and b) often has its move listed as “wheel” or “tracked” or “walker” and c) often represents 10x or fewer elements per subunit on the strategic map . There are exceptions to this such as “chitinous” aliens, which are Hard but move on foot.
Soft Attack is a ToHit check used to target infantry by the side that started combat.
Soft Defense is a ToHit check used to target infantry by the side that did not start combat.
Hard Attack is a ToHit check used to target vehicles by the side that started combat.
Hard Defense is a ToHit check used to target vehicles by the side that did not start combat.
Attack or Defense does not change during tactical combat, it is based on which side started combat from the strategic map. Soft or Hard varies per target in tactical combat.
Hitpoints is a range of random numbers that is compared to the Attack or Defense check. Hitpoints are not the same as traditional role-playing game hitpoints, they are not a pool that gets depleted over time. Note that some Hard vehicles with armor have Hitpoints vs infantry attacks (aka Soft) and also have different Hitpoints vs “non-infantry” attacks (aka Hard).
To determine the combat result, the computer generates a random number from [0 to ToHit] and compares that to a random number from [0 to Hitpoints]. In dice notation this is 1d(ToHit+1)-1 vs 1d(Hitpoints+1)-1.
As the manual states: “If the attacker rolls higher a hit is scored.” When a hit is scored, there is a random chance the target is pinned, retreats or is killed. This random chance is hidden and varies by weapon, but for example many weapons have a kill chance of 12%.
Section 2: Examples
Soft vs Soft: Rifle Militia have 26/55 Soft Attack/Defense and 122 Hitpoints. When Rifle Militia A attacks Rifle Militia B it rolls [0 to 26] vs [0 to 122] (21% chance). When Rifle Militia B attacks on its turn it rolls [0 to 55] vs [0 to 122] (45% chance).
Soft vs Hard: Rifle Militia have 5/26 Hard Attack/Defense and 122 Hitpoints. Recon Buggy has 108/216 Soft Attack/Defense and 90 Soft Hitpoints. When Rifle Militia A attacks Recon Buggy B it rolls [0 to 5] vs [0 to 90] (6% chance). When Recon Buggy B attacks on its turn it rolls [0 to 216] vs [0 to 122] (177% chance).
Hard vs Soft: When Recon Buggy A attacks Rifle Militia B they roll [0 to 108] vs [0 to 122] (84% chance). When Rifle Militia B attacks on its turn it rolls [0 to 26] vs [0 to 90] (29% chance).
Hard vs Hard: Recon Buggy has 54/54 Hard Attack/Defense and 150 Hard Hitpoints. Light Tank has 141/94 Hard Attack/Defense and 304 Hard Hitpoints. When Recon Buggy A attacks Light Tank B it rolls [0 to 54] vs [0 to 304] (18% chance). When Light Tank B attacks on its turn it rolls [0 to 94] vs [0 to 150] (63% chance).
Hard vs Hard: When Light Tank A attacks Recon Buggy B it rolls [0 to 141] vs [0 to 150] (94% chance). When Recon Buggy B attacks on its turn it rolls [0 to 54] vs [0 to 304] (18% chance).
(Note in these examples the Recon Buggy has an Advanced Machinegun and 5mm Steel Plating. The Light Tank has a 40mm Howitzer and 25mm Steel Plating.)
A view of those same combat statistics in a table
Section 3: Static Modifiers
There are a number of “static modifiers” in the Attack Scores section on pg 328. For example:
“Conventional weapons and Howitzer Guns have -50% Hard Attack and Hard Defense”
“Any vehicles (track/wheel) with Guns get their Hard Defense value diminished by one third.“
These static modifiers have already been taken into account for the subunit Soft / Hard Attack / Defense scores. For example, the Howitzer guns on the Tank have Hard Attack initial scores of 282 which have been modified by -50% for the final listed score of 141.
Section 4: Variable Modifiers
In addition to these static modifiers, there are a number of variable modifiers that change depending on the situation, many of them listed on pg 298 of the manual, including:
- Item stocks
- Attack startup
- Max Attacked
- Supply Consumption
- Surprise Combat / Ambush
- “Rebel Attack”
- Orderly retreating target
- Panicking target
- Hidden Defenders
- Close Combat
- Vulnerability of Shield Generators
- Concentric Attack Bonus (pg 294)
- Commander Skill Rolls (pg 302)
- Caliber of Weapons vs target Armor Thickness (pg 325)
- Weapon Types vs Armor Types (pg 326)
These variable modifiers are too complex for this simple guide, but let’s look at one example.
Section 5: Counter-attacks
In a normal exchange, (1) the attacking subunit fires on the defender and then (2) the defender counter-attacks. Next, (3) the defending subunit fires on the attacker and then (4) the attacker counter-attacks. All subunits need sufficient action points to make these attacks. Pg 299 states: “If this attack is a counter-attack then a -50% penalty is applied to the Attack Score.”
Here is the full exchange of four attacks, using these combat statistics
Rifle Militia counter starts combat vs Recon Buggy counter:
- Rifle Militia vs Recon Buggy attack: [0 to 5] vs [0 to 90] (6% chance)
- Recon Buggy counter-attack: [0 to 54] (108 -50%) vs [0 to 122] (44% chance)
- Recon Buggy vs Rifle Militia attack: [0 to 216] vs [0 to 122] (177% chance)
- Rifle Militia counter-attack: [0 to 2.5] (5 -50%) vs [0 to 90] (3% chance)
Each attack happens in sequence, so if a subunit is hit then the attacks do not continue.
Remember, these attacks would be modified by any other applicable static or variable modifiers.
Section 6: Detail view
Click the Detail button in the combat results window for the most specific info per fight. For example, when a Light Tank (Abraham) with a Soft Attack of 282 starts combat against Rifle Militia with 122 Hitpoints, we expect to see a roll of [0 to 282] vs [0 to 122] (231% chance). In the combat details we can verify this:
The text is small, but the red highlights show “Abraham(3) attacks ==> Rifle Militia(21)” and “attack = 282 VS defense = 122”. That is the expected combat check. Note many variable modifiers are applied during tactical combat, for example the final statistics are 258.4 vs 155.
Section 7: Credits
milspec – author
cranky corvid – review and feedback
Voker57 – review and feedback
And big thanks to Vic for making the game!