Bloody difficult actually
September 28, 2014 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Want a new timesink but clicker games are not your thing? Let Rock, Paper, Shotgun introduce you to Compact Conflict, a Riskesque strategy game programmed in only 13 kilobytes.
posted by MartinWisse (21 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I can't play. The colors don't work with my colorblindness.

Looks cool, though.
posted by etherist at 6:49 AM on September 28, 2014

It's neat! The economy feels unusual to me, very limited moves and the tradeoff between faith, soldiers, and upgrades.
posted by Nelson at 9:10 AM on September 28, 2014

"Programmed in only 13 kilobytes" seems rather disingenuous for anything built on top of Javascript. For me, I'd only use that phrase when referring to something compiled.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:09 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by LogicalDash at 10:47 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

For me, I'd only use that phrase when referring to something compiled.

Programmer: Checkout my code, I think it's super compact!

Pedant: You're using the STL? There's nothing compact about this code!

Programmer: What's your fucking problem?

Pedant: I fuck just fine, thanks.

Who's coming up and writing games using compiled languages these days, anyway?

As to the game itself, much like Risk, the combat swing feels way too high to me. The fact that you can go 4 to 1 on an attack and lose your entire stack a significant percentage of the time is exactly what makes games of Risk eventually stagnate. (The importance of 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 attacks in the early game make this especially problematic.) The artificial time constraint tries to penalize defensive maneuvering in order to force you to take that risk and keep the game moving at a particular pace, but it ends up feeling, you know, artificial and forced. The end result is that outcomes feel quite detached from inputs, and it ultimately feels more like a toy than a game. It's a shame, because while the economy is interesting and tight, it's dragged down by the rest of the game.
posted by WCWedin at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Played some of this the other day, it's rather nice. Took me a few games to start to get a handle on a good balance of economy; I feel a bit like I'm depending to much on encouraging the AI dudes to waste effort on each other, by building up solid enough chokepoints that I don't make an attractive target for an all-out assault.
posted by cortex at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Basically I suspect what works for me would stop working as soon as I used it for a couple games on a human capable of saying "oh, is that how it's gonna fuckin' be...".
posted by cortex at 11:24 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I took a quick shot at a colorblind-friendly fork if anyone needs it. There's a toggle on the setup menu.
posted by umrain at 11:27 AM on September 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

Fascinating little game. I do find the time limit somewhat unsatisfying. I'm not normally tempted to actually fork something and mess with it myself, but in this case I think I just might.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:14 PM on September 28, 2014

The latest version on the creator's site actually has turn limit options, including endless mode, and it looks like an extra difficulty level.
posted by umrain at 12:33 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

And now it's time for JHarris to tear down the work of a bright young designer! Heh.

Actually it's not bad, but it doesn't really seem to offer a great deal more than other region-based territory control games? Like Dice Wars. BTW, if you haven't, you should play Dice Wars, that's an awesome little game, very elegant rules with few special cases. Like "upgrades." But I digress.

The instructions are incomplete in that they don't explain how combat is resolved (a woeful omission, IMO), and also the effects of the abilities aren't explained there, which makes it difficult to do well your first games because the computer players know what they all are and will take advantage. The test game I played, one opponent used the opening period to fill half the map before I could do anything, and he also bought the increased Resource upgrades (I'm just going to call it Resource thanx), and so built up a huge pile of Resource. This is a strong-gets-stronger aspect beyond just controlling a lot of territory, and, based on my initial play, seems to contribute to a Monopoly effect, that is, where players not in the lead strive to survive a hopeless battle, because the strong player is only getting stronger, his advantages compounding on each other, while the struggling player is doing everything he can to stay in place. Dice luck can overcome that sometimes, but it's foolish to rely on it, since on the average the dice are going to favor the stronger player anyway.

I had a spiel written about the decision to go with calling bases and resources "temples" and "faith," which seems to me unnecessarily JRPGish, using airy-fairy generalized terms instead of concrete ones, but no, I already had a rant about that kind of thing in the Clicker Heroes thread. I'm just going to call the bases Plates, and the resource Beans, and leave it at that.

BTW, the reason it's short is because it was coded as part of a challenge.
posted by JHarris at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

The pernicious effect of JRPGs on game design and terminology I could probably write a paper on. Just the way the term "level up" has spread; before JRPGs became big with a certain prolific class of designer, the term was always "gain a level." Now, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything involving levels that doesn't talk about upping them.

(And should it be "Levelling up" or "Level upping?" Oh, the things a game designing English major concerns himself with.)
posted by JHarris at 2:19 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the best Risk-type strategy game, look no further than Warlight. Definitely not 13kb, though.
posted by zardoz at 2:50 PM on September 28, 2014

I should probably elaborate on this slightly --

The Monopoly Effect, the strong-gets-stronger thing, is bad not because one player gets in the lead and then uses that lead to win. It's that, once it's obvious that's going to happen, that he's going to win, your better class of game will actually end there. That's why I call it the Monopoly Effect, because just when it's obvious someone's going to win in Monopoly, usually that's in the first third of the game, time-wise. (Stuff has been said before in these parts about the right way to play Monopoly, and that good players will know this, and will band together against the leading player with trades to keep themselves in the game. That combined with the auction rule and the "street repair" cards can make Monopoly interesting. But it remains that I've almost never, myself, had an interesting game of Monopoly, that I can't rely on the other players to realize this.)

Ho! I gather, from people's comments, that Compact Conflict is actually not played to the bitter end? That there's a time limit? I don't recall seeing that in the instructions, but it'd actually be a good thing if that's true, because the designer may actually realize what I'm talking about. Good on him.
posted by JHarris at 4:19 PM on September 28, 2014

I just tried it without a turn limit. The game becomes unwinnable quickly against the AI who turtles. You get income for each soldier who ends a turn on a temple, and you can use this income to buy more soldiers, which in turn increases your income.

The defenders income grows faster than the attackers. It turns to stalemate pretty quickly.
posted by cotterpin at 6:34 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The defenders income grows faster than the attackers. It turns to stalemate pretty quickly."

Turtle tactics, in an of themselves, will likely not win this game, I find... especially if you use the designer's latest version of the game and turn off time limits.

The upgrades for the cities -- and the extra troops gained by taking them -- are pretty powerful, and can be used very effectively to break the turtle defenses of the computer player(s), especially since their AI doesn't really optimize their defensive strategy. Being able to concentrate forces into large stacks *and* kill the first two enemies one attacks is really quite powerful, especially when combined with mobility. You can keep most of your troops back from the front, move them in, whittle down a stack of enemies, and pull them back, if it would put you at risk of counter-attack.

The computer's AI really isn't well-suited to deal with such a threat, and those extra troops they get from praying don't scale well, with each one costing exponentially more. Having an effective offense is ultimately more valuable.
posted by markkraft at 3:26 PM on September 29, 2014

The 12 turn time is actually pretty good, as it stops you from completely running away with the game. I've been playing against the intermediate AI and in general, the games have been pretty close. Although there was one game where I was extremely close to eliminating all other players: I was just one tile short of capturing all towers (which is what I call them).

I also just tried the updated version and was able to conquer the world in 15 turns, so I'm not sure about the infinite play mode. The updated AI seems a lot more challenging, though, as it basically beelined for my home base rather than the nearest tower, which is what it does in the original version.
posted by daniel_charms at 4:04 AM on October 1, 2014

Can someone add the tags "game" and "javascript" to this post? I had a devil of a time finding this post here again, and was beginning to wonder if I'd even seen it on Metafilter.

Now, pardon me while I go squander 15 minutes ...
posted by intermod at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Added a few more tags.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2014

Yes, including "risk". Thanks!
posted by intermod at 2:39 PM on October 3, 2014

This is pretty fun, not as protracted as Risk. I've been playing enough now to beat any number of opponents at any level most of the time. I can usually tell if I won't win as soon as the map generates.

My strategy has evolved. At first I'd rush to get a temple, then I learned that if you sit back and let someone else fail at getting a temple you could save your resources. Now I don't go for the temples, but abut them, since they are a natural barrier, and go after split up competitors, who usually leave their original temple rather exposed.
posted by furtive at 9:47 PM on October 15, 2014

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