(Learning about Vrahode for the first time? Check out What Happens During a Turn first!)
We get this question a lot: “how does combat work during Vrahode?” Now it’s time to do a deep dive!
Turns & Rounds in Vrahode
Similar to many RPG and adventure/dungeon crawl board games, the Vrahode Game System uses turns and rounds to describe the measurable time periods of a battle. I thought it would be helpful to break each down so players can begin to see the similarities and differences between the Vrahode Game System and other systems.
A round simply describes the chance of each combatant in a battle to take their turn. Turn order during a round is determined by drawing an initiative token for each combatant from a bag and placing it by either that combatant’s Hero Dashboard or, if it is an enemy, by their Enemy Dashboard or Boss Enemy Card. The combatant with the lowest number drawn goes first, the next lowest number drawn goes next, and so on until all combatants have had a chance to act.
The only time a combatant should not draw an initiative token from the bag is if they are affected by a condition that renders them incapacitated (such as sleep or paralysis). In the case of sleeping combatants, if a sleeping combatant is attacked while sleeping, they go directly after the combatant that attacked (and awakened) them. In the case of a paralyzed combatant, they sit out for the rounds the effect is in place, and then rejoin the initiative the round after their last paralysis token is removed.
Combatants & Their Choices
In each combatant’s turn, they have the ability to do one of the following:
- Use a Racial Ability
- Perform a Physical Attack (two if both are ranged or you are wielding two applicable weapons)
- Perform a Skill (heroes) or Action (enemies)
As well as one of the following:
- Move up to your maximum movement range (movement may not be split by attacks)
- Use an item or perform a non-combat action
- Get up from a prone position (from being knocked down, sleep, paralysis)
The Vrahode Game System uses a square grid system (1” = 5’) for both indoor and outdoor spaces. We use a hybrid movement variant in our system which means movement, other than the first or last space, must be orthogonal (up, down, left, right). The first or last space may be in any direction (orthogonal or diagonal).
The ten crafted races possess two racial abilities that allow them subtle advantages and effects. These abilities cost no ruhl to cast as they are well known to the race that possesses them. If a combatant is one of the ten crafted races and chooses to use a racial ability, then that is the only attack type that they may use during their turn.
Skills are the most powerful attacks that heroes possess. They cost a bit of time and a bit of ruhl. Skills are also scalable, which means many of them can be strengthened by spending additional ruhl to fuel them. Be careful not to spend your allotment of ruhl too quickly or you will quickly need rest to recover it!
Actions are the enemies’ version of skills and are typically their most powerful attacks. Actions don’t cost enemies ruhl. Some require a roll to hit a target. Some do not.
Most actions and skills do damage that may or may not be able to be mitigated by the target. Enemies will try and use their Actions on every applicable attack but may only do so on a + roll on a modifier die.
Using an Item
Items may be used during battle at the cost of time. For example, poison can be applied to a blade to increase damage (adding a poison effect). Things can be consumed to provide healing. Bandages can be applied to stop bleeding. There are other instances where item use is helpful and those will be clear when you see them.
These come in melee and ranged versions. As long as the combatant using a method of physical attack is within the range of the weapon, then it is a good basic way to do damage. Physical attacks are, however, able to be partially (never completely) mitigated by a target’s mitigation value (natural or gear defenses). As long as you have two applicable melee weapons or are attacking from range, you may do two attacks during your turn if that is all you are doing.
An Example of Combat: Basic Enemy Encounter
Below, we’ve put together a blow-by-blow of combat by creating a basic encounter with an enemy. This will help you see how combat works within the Vrahode Game System.
Our goal is to create a combat engine that is fast, fun, and consequential, even if that comes at the cost of realism, tactical depth, and detailed maneuvers. This is an intentional choice to prioritize speed and fun over gritty realism! This will help keep Vrahode accessible for more gamers, and maybe even keep Vrahode in your regular rotation of adventure and dungeon-crawling games.
For this encounter we have a party of three traveling across the Overlands. The party includes Alrabion, the Cautuuk Blade, Harna, the Toreln Oracle, and Grendlem, the Athak-uul Shadow. For simplicity’s sake, we are going to assume that their journey has just begun and they are setting off with starting gear and the preselected skills for pre-generated heroes.
Here is what they possess:
Gear: Short sword, simple studded armor, food
Body Skills: Frenzied Blood, Unsettling Growl, Blade of the Warlord
Gear: Stone dagger, cloth armor, bandages
Mind Skills: Incorporeal, Shocking Bolt
Spirit Skills: Sanctified Ground
Gear: Stone dagger, leather armor, lockpicks
Focus Skills: Inner Workings, Gloomcloak, Bloodlust
Part 1: Rolling For Travel
The intrepid band sets out on a quest originating in region #98 of the Upper Harnwood on Renduur. Their quest takes them Leafward into another forested region of the Upper Harnwood – #97. As they prepare to enter that region, all heroes must draw a card from the Overland Exploration Deck.
Each hero draws a card and places it face down next to their Hero Dashboard. Now they must roll a single threat die (D6 modifier die). Because there are three of them, they are producing elevated threats through the noise and smells they are emitting as they travel. If they roll anything from -3 to -1 (a 50% chance), they will elevate the threat of the region they are about to enter.
Alrabion decides to roll the die. It ends up being a -1. Because they have increased the threat, they must place the threat die on either one of the three face down cards they drew, or on the tabletop (not on a specific card). If they place the die on a card and it turns out to be an enemy, that enemy’s threat will be doubled. If they place the die on the tabletop, any and all enemies that are revealed when the cards are turned over will exhibit a behavior. These behaviors increase the difficulty of fighting each enemy.
If the die is placed on a card that is not an enemy OR if the die is placed on the tabletop and no enemies are revealed, then when the cards are all revealed, the increased threat will have been avoided and the threat die will have had no effect.
The group decides that it is better to risk that an enemy is doubled than that any/all enemies revealed have a dangerous behavior so Grendlem decides to place the threat die onto the back of his own Overland Exploration card. Anyone can roll the die and anyone can place the activated threat die…it is a group decision.
Part 2: Turning Over Cards
The first hero to turn their card over is Grendlem. He placed the activated threat die on his own card. He turns the card over and it is fortunately not an enemy. Rather, it is a Basic Item card which instructs Grendlem to draw a card from the Basic Items Deck.
He draws a Short Sword card and decides to equip that with his Stone Dagger. So now he is dual-wielding weapons!
Since the item was discovered before any enemies were encountered, he was able to equip the new Short Sword. If an enemy card had been revealed first, he would have had to wait until after the battle to equip the item.
Grendlem discards his Overland Exploration card.
Alrabion draws a card, but isn’t as lucky.
The next hero to turn their card over is Alrabion. He reveals an enemy!
It is a very dangerous forest creature: the Greater Angler Plant.
Now that an enemy is revealed, it is time to place an encounter map on the table. Because region #97 is a forest region, we will place the Forest Flat (1A) onto the tabletop where it won’t interfere with any miniatures on the Overland map. The mini for the Greater Angler Plant is placed in the enemy spawn region, and the hero minis are placed around the hero rally point as per the rules.
Because Alrabion turned over an enemy, any remaining cards in the group, regardless of how many there are, are turned over at that time. This reveals the true scope of the unfolding battle.
Harna draws a card, and also draws an enemy!
This time it is Noctursa – another dangerous foe – and one that flies too!
Its miniature is also placed in the enemy spawn region of the encounter map. Both enemy cards are drawn from the enemy deck and placed into two separate Enemy Dashboards, with one Wound tray each since there is only one of each enemy type. Once the first enemy was drawn, any revealed item cards could only be put in those hero’s inventories after the battle as loot.
Any revealed safe travel or flavor cards would be immediately discarded because battle is at hand! You can see that the order in which cards are revealed is important and has an impact on how things unfold within a given region. Safe travel or flavor cards drawn before an enemy is revealed would be resolved and assume that the hero or heroes had traveled further into a given region before encountering an enemy. Vrahode is a big world, and this card reveal mechanism helps enhance that sense nicely!
Now that the enemy cards are in the Enemy Dashboards and the minis are placed on the encounter map, the two Overland Exploration cards showing enemies can be discarded and battle can commence! The battlefield looks like this with enemies placed in the Enemy Spawn Region and the heroes placed around the Hero Rally Point according to the rules. You will note that there are several squares with yellow dots and several with red dots. Each square costs 1 movement point to move into. If it has a yellow dot, it costs 2 movement points. Red squares are impassable.
An Example of Blow-by-Blow Combat
For this example, we will not be using terrain miniatures that may also modify movement in a flat.
From this point forward I will be doing a very concise blow-by-blow script of the battle so this blog post doesn’t become a novella!
See below how the battle between our brave party of heroes vs. two of the deadly creatures of the forests of Vrahode plays out!
Initiative is drawn from the black velvet bag. Grendlem draws a 17, Alrabion draws a 16, Harna draws a 9. Our Greater Angler Plant (GAP) Enemy draws a 4, and our Noctursa enemy draws an 18.
Before any combatants can take their turn, however, our heroes all get the opportunity to pay the cost of 1 fatigue in order to change their position in the initiative order to one that is unclaimed. None of the heroes want to waste a fatigue on this option.
4: GAP moves its max movement toward the heroes. Not in range yet.
9: Harna moves 5 of her 7 and uses her Shocking Bolt skill and spends her 1 ruhl. Since it is not a straight-line attack, but a forking bolt of energy she doesn’t need to roll for success. The bolt does 3 damage to the GAP that may not be mitigated! A nice hit! It is now at 22 life.
16: Alrabion draws his short sword and uses his Blade of the Warlord skill to add a Bleed Effect to it this battle and spends 1 ruhl doing that. He then moves 7 of his 8 moves to close on the GAP and now stands before the massive carnivorous plant!
17: Grendlem moves his 7 movement to be adjacent to the GAP as well, and uses his Bloodlust skill, spending 1 ruhl. This gives him a 2X Bleed Effect on his melee attacks the turn after he is successfully hit by an enemy.
18: The Noctursa takes flight, and moves 3 of its 5 to be adjacent to Grendlem. It then lands and attempts to use its Stunning Strike action. It rolls a -2 and is unable to so. So it snaps at Grendlem with its sharp beak, but rolls a 14 (a miss) and a +3 on the D6 modifier die (which means nothing since it was a miss).
Initiative is drawn again. GAP gets a 6, Noctursa gets a 16, Alrabion gets a 14, Grendlem gets a 19, and Harna gets a 15.
6: GAP attacks Alrabion twice. It hits once with a modified 1 damage and misses once. It attacks Grendlem once and hits with a modified 1. It ends its turn.
14: Alrabion attacks the GAP and hits with a modified 1, but also adds three Bleed Tokens which will start damaging the GAP next round. He ends his turn.
15: Harna moves 3 of her 7 movement and spends another ruhl to use her Shocking Bolt skill again. This time, it will hit both enemies for 3 points of shock damage each. GAP down to 18 and Noctursa down to 19 life. She ends her turn.
16: The Noctursa lands and attempts to use its Stunning Strike on Grendlem again. He rolls a 9 (a hit) and the D6 modifier of +3 means it does 7 damage prior to Grendlem’s mitigation of 1, so the adjusted damage to Grendlem is 6. This takes Grendlem down to only 5 life remaining. He is knocked down by the action and catches a case of Ghostvale Pox, reducing his Presence to 5 as he starts to itch and scratch!
19: Grendlem spends an action to stand up and decides to attack the Noctursa with two melee attacks. The first, with the dagger, is a 5 (a hit) with a modified 1, but also a 2X Bleed Effect from his Bloodlust skill. The second, with the Short Sword, is a 2 (also a hit) with a modified 1, and another 2X Bleed Effect hits the Noctursa as it screams in pain and returns to the air.
Initiative is drawn again. GAP gets a 14, Noctursa gets a 16, Grendlem gets a 6, Alrabion gets an 11 and Harna gets a 7.
6: Grendlem decides to launch a single attack on the GAP with his short sword. He rolls an 8 (a hit) and does a modified 7 damage on the GAP. The GAP, in turn, mitigates the damage down to 3. It is down to 15 life. Because he only did a single attack, Grendlem decides to use his max movement to get away from the battle for a bit. There are no “attacks of opportunity” in our combat system, as we assume you are going to simply turn your back and walk away from an enemy. He ends his turn.
7: Harna spends another ruhl to use her Shocking Bolt skill to hit the enemies both with 3 shock damage. GAP is now at 12 life and Noctursa is at 16. She ends her turn.
11: Alrabion attacks the GAP with his Short Sword with a 5 (a hit). He does modified 6 damage which the GAP mitigates to 2 damage. However, due to Alrabion’s Blade of the Warlord skill, there is now a 2X Bleed Effect! GAP is down to 10 life. He ends his turn.
14: GAP takes 2 damage from 2X Bleed Effect and is down to 8 life. It attacks Alrabion with three melee attacks. The first one hits on a 5 with a modified 5 damage which Alrabion mitigates down to 3 damage. The second attack misses with a 17. Then the third attack misses with a 20. Alrabion is down to 10 life. GAP ends its turn.
16: Noctursa takes 4 damage from 4X Bleed Effect and is down to 12 life. It moves 3 of its 5 movement so it is adjacent to Harna, dives, and attempts to attack her with its beak. It gets a 10 (a hit) and does a modified 7 damage, which Harna mitigates to 6 damage due to her cloth armor. She is down to 9 life.
Initiative is drawn again. GAP gets a 17, Noctursa gets a 9, Grendlem gets a 3, Alrabion gets an 11, Harna gets a 2.
2: Harna decides to move 1 diagonal space and use her Sanctified Ground skill, spending another ruhl, which creates a 2X2 space area which provides +1 mitigation to all friendly characters within it. It protects Alrabion, herself and there are two open spaces left to occupy if others choose to move into the area. She ends her turn.
3: Grendlem decides to move 4 of his 7 to position himself behind the Blade Alrabion, within the Sanctified Ground area of effect. He ends his turn.
9: Noctursa takes 4 damage from 4X Bleed Effect and is down to 8 life. It decides to attack Harna, which it is adjacent to and misses with a 13. It returns to the air then ends its turn.
11: Alrabion attacks the GAP with his Short Sword and rolls a 4 (a hit) doing a modified 3 damage which the GAP mitigates to 1 damage and is down to 7 life. He ends his turn.
17: GAP takes 2 damage from 2X Bleed Effect and is down to 4 life.
Initiative is drawn again. GAP gets a 15. Noctursa gets a 12. Grendlem gets a 2. Alrabion gets a 19. Harna gets a 5.
2: Grendlem decides to throw his dagger at the flying Noctursa, rolling a 2 (a hit) for a modified 5 damage. The Noctursa mitigates this to 1 damage but now has a dagger sticking out of it! It is down to 11 life.
5: Harna decides to spend another ruhl and hit both creatures with another Shocking Bolt for 3 damage each. The GAP has 1 life and Noctursa has 8 life.
12: Noctursa takes 4 damage from 4X Bleed Effect and has 4 life left. It decides to dive and attack Harna with its beak. It rolls a 20 (a miss).
15: GAP takes 2 damage from 2X Bleed Effect and bleeds out.
19: Alrabion moves two to be adjacent to the remaining Noctursa and attacks with his Short Sword. He rolls a 4 (a hit) with a modified 5 which is mitigated down to 1 by the Noctursa, but it now has another Bleed Effect on it! Noctursa now has 3 life. He ends his turn.
Initiative is drawn again. Noctursa gets a 19. Grendlem gets a 5. Alrabion gets a 4. Harna gets an 8.
4: Alrabion attacks the Noctursa with his Short Sword. He rolls a 3 (a hit) doing a modified 1. The Noctursa takes another damage and is down to just 2 life. He ends his turn.
5: Grendlem decides to play it safe and stay put, ending his turn.
8: Harna attacks the Noctursa with her Stone Dagger. She rolls a 9 (a hit) and does a modified 4, which the Noctursa mitigates to 1. It now has 1 life remaining. Harna ends her turn.
19: Noctursa takes a damage from Bleed Effect and bleeds out!
The Battle Concludes
The enemies are dispatched and the battle is over for our heroes! Since there were no item cards turned over after the GAP was revealed, the only loot will be from the two enemies (not shown on the playtesting version of their cards). Both enemies offer a roll from loot table A – one for Alrabion which revealed the GAP, and one for Harna who revealed the Noctursa. They both roll on loot table A and both rolls allow them to draw from the Basic Items Deck. Alrabion draws a Fire Starter Kit for building fires and lighting torches. Harna draws a Travel Bed Roll for better rest on the road.
The heroes all gain a fatigue from the battle and decide that it is in their best interest to remain in the region and make camp to recover a bit. The adventure now moves from encounter mode to rest mode as our party makes camp, decides on setting a watch, and shares stories of the epic victory they just enjoyed together.
This was a VERY basic encounter. We didn’t get into racial abilities or enemy behaviors. But even as the battles increase in complexity, the Dashboards are our secret weapons to keep the play organized, fast and fun! Our amazing token set is also an amazing tool for battles.
I hope you enjoyed this first taste of combat in the Vrahode Game System!
– Thanks, Jeff