On Maneuvers

I’ve been thinking about what makes a combat maneuver unique on a fundamental level, and I think I’ve come down to six atomic maneuvers (or five, depending on how one classifies MOVE.)
Here they are:

Essential Purpose:  Achieve your victory condition (often by driving opponent’s resources to zero.)
Variants:  MIXED ATTACK, which sacrifices potency for aspects of other maneuvers, particularly DEFENSE, HEDGED ATTACK, which is more likely to succeed but less likely to achieve victory if it does, RISKY ATTACK, which is less likely to succeed, but more likely to result in victory if it does.  HEDGED/RISKY versions are possible of all maneuvers, and so are not listed below.

Essential Purpose:  Make it more difficult for your opponent to reduce your resources.  Typically a strictly bad strategy unless one has allies using ATTACK, one gains an advantage from defense (which bleeds into MANEUVER), or the rules restrict one from attacking (as-in Burning Wheel.)

Essential Purpose: Gain advantage over enemies in later turns.
VARIANTS:  Typically flavorful: disarms, grapples, aiming.  Anything that negates an opponent’s MANEUVER (such as recovering a weapon, escaping from a grapple) is also a MANEUVER.  Resource denial, if that is not directly related to one’s victory condition.

Essential Purpose:  Make attacks possible or impossible against certain foes.  Traditionally found in map-based play.
VARIANTS:  Typically those that bleed into MANEUVER.  In more abstract play, this can be wholly-absorbed into MANEUVER.

Essenital Purpose:  Change the fundamental nature of the conflict, possibly including the participants victory conditions.  In many ways, combines fundamental elements of MANEUVER and MOVE.
VARIANT:  ESCAPE, which ends the conflict without resolution (or transforms it into one of movement).

Essential Purpose: Regain resources, often by exchanging some other resource.
Traditionally modeled as healing.

5 thoughts on “On Maneuvers

  1. Tim says:

    When I saw this I immediately thought of the five animal forms of kung fu.

    Not an exact correspondence by any means, but something you might want to think about the next time you tinker with a combat system for martial arts.

  2. Rahvin says:

    Very rarely, some games have some sort of “declare victory” or “finishing move” action, distinct from standard attacks. I think Burning Wheel’s Duel of Wits had something like this, for example.

    Would you classify that into Escalate?

  3. josiah says:

    I like these broad archetypal things–though I wonder if they stunt creativity or aid it.

  4. Willow says:

    I’d classify finishing moves as a variant of Attack: they help you achieve your objectives, but have different risks and bonuses.

  5. Willow says:

    In working out some combat options for Shattered Vistas, I’m beginning to suspect that ESCAPE is a whole different animal than ESCALATE. (One changes the combat, the other aborts it. Unless of course, it just becomes a conflict of movement and getting away.)

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