First off, I don't know if this is the ideal site for this question. I am thinking of creating a card game and am currently trying to remove balancing issues concerning creature battle system (looks like MTG's). After some intial failed draft ideas I started to employ a few mathematical functions to make sure everything is balanced. That is why I am unsure if this question is supposed to go here, since it looks rather much like a mathematical problem now. I will leave most of that away, but I could explain.

So what do I currently have and what is wrong: In the game, there are 7 types of creatures. Creatures have an Attack, Defense and Health stat. When health hits 0 a creature dies. Every type describe a sort of base stats for every creature of that type. So type 1 could describe 4/4/4 and type 2 6/2/4 (with attack/defense/health notation that I will be using from now on). So every type has sort of unique creature stats. When creatures attack the attacked player can decide to block with one of his/her creature (again, like MTG. Both creatures deal damage to each other). To check if the system is balanced I make a table that has all seven type base stats horizontally as 'attackers' and all seven type base stats vertically as 'defenders'. Then I check every outcome and look if a certain type has more wins (wins being that the attacker survived and the defender died) than the others.

However all things I tried until now did not turn out to be balanced, or really boring. The first system of attacking worked as follows: damage to health = attack - defense. When I could not

Then it occured that I needed another system so I came up with this: damage to health = highest_of_these_numbers(attack modulo defense, attack / defense) This produced really weird results because of the modulo.

After that I came up with some other unpromising systems, which I have yet to test some of these of. The testing takes quite a while and I thought that someone here might have a very good idea to make it balanced. Or maybe, some people tried it and found out it is impossible.

So the question is, what would make a balanced system of type base stats, seven of them and a good health damage calculation?

  • 2
    Define "balanced". Do you want some sort of rock, paper, scissors type arrangement where each creature type wins in roughly half the encounters? Is that based off the idea that both creatures come in at full health? Are there other considerations (for example, in MTG a 7/7 green fatty will wallop any white weanie creature in a one on one, but that doesn't mean one 7/7 will win a game against white weanies). Are there costs associated with using these creatures? Would having an abnormally strong creature with some sort of drawback / cost be considered balanced? Etc. etc.
    – Becuzz
    Jul 21, 2017 at 15:32
  • A good comment. Yes something like rock, paper scissors, but then defined by the number stats. This solely about the base stats that the types define. I think it is important to have a good base line to base the real creatures on. The game will resemble MTG in some way, so yeah effects come at the costs of stats or the other way around. Jul 21, 2017 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


Forget fixed stat blocks decided by the type. They're too deterministic! Nobody wants to remember all those different number triplets! What should you do instead?

Use non-transitive dice

Each creature has a colour for attack and one for defence. When a creature is attacking, it rolls a die of the same colour as its attack marker, and similarly for its defence. The higher result succeeds, whether to hit or to block. A five-year-old could learn this game in five minutes.

How do types fit into this?

You could set each type to a unique colour, and each colour to a unique type. Then you have guaranteed a balanced competition in which every type has advantages and disadvantages in the same measure, and in a way that is determined by simple rules, but provides some chance of winning despite the disadvantage or losing despite the advantage.

I'm sure finding or creating a seven-member set of non-transitive dice is easy with Google available. You're definitely not the first person to investigate these amazing quirks of probability. Problem solved!

Or you could make this game interesting...

Who says Type X has to use red dice for boh attack and defence? Why can't they roll a red attack and a green defence, or a yellow attack and red defence?

By mixing and matching different colour combinations, you can simultaneously make your game simpler in mechanic by reducing the number of colours (from seven to say, four) but deeper in strategy (because there are now sixteen possible combinations, and they will all interact differently with the others).

Now creatures may be perilously weak against some enemies, but immensely strong against others. They might be their own worst enemy or their own easiest target.

But wait, there's more. Include colours that are always weaker or always stronger (like a white one rolling five 2 and a single 7, or a black one rolling a single 1 and 10 otherwise). Now you can build the type that fails spectacularly but carries useful benefits, or the type that will always win after striking first but always lose if forced to wait, or the type that is expensive but virtually unbeatable once it gets involved.

So how do I count damage done, when both need to inflict it?

You roll both creatures making an attack, and both creatures making a block. Successful attacks knock off a health point, or even just knock off the opponent.

You should not be aiming to guarantee damage for or to either side - again, deterministic and boring. The result otherwise is a MTG-style arms race where only the players who spend hundreds on cards and the encyclopaedic knowledge to tailor decks specifically to an opponent can win effectively at a high level, or knowing the only rules technicality that the opponent has failed to protect against.

This game has a simple mechanic, that everybody knows. The rest is all down to what you can do with what you have, and that's the same for everybody. The best player isn't rich or connected or a lawyer-in-training; they're a thinker who can take efficient risks for effective rewards no matter what situation they find themselves in.

This mechanic can be easily modified for expansion or depth. Bonus dice for surviving a certain number of turns? Mirror effects that mean always using the same colour as the opponent? Rainbow marks that allow choosing the colour when you play it? Allowing weak creatures to band together and combine results?

  • Thanks for the reply! Although indeed an interesting system, it does not fit in my game. I should have added the game tries to prevent luck of the most kinds. The only luck is in the cards drawn from the deck. I do not quite understand the first part of your answer however. It seems to me that you misunderstand the idea of types in monsters. Types only describe base stats. A few creatures will use them, but most will defiate to some extend. If what you meant was about needing tables for damages, that is something I prefer above luck. But yeah this could be an alternative gamemode. Jul 21, 2017 at 13:11

So, one thought I had was that you could have combat be a series of steps.

Say there are 2 combat steps. Both you and your opponent would, for each creature, have to split up the attack/defense between each step.

So, the 6/2/4 could split the attack 3|3, and hope the opponent goes for a defense of 0|4 and get 3 damage through. Or could split 6|0 and hope for the same, or even a defense of 2|2.

Likewise, the 6/2/4 could split the defense 1|1 and be guaranteed to survive, or try to split 2|0 and keep the most life.

One consideration about this setup is that some battles would be unwinnable. A 4/4/4 vs a 4/8/4 would never be able to do damage, since the 4/8/4 could just split defense 4|4.

  • Thanks for the answer. So you propose a sort of gamble system where both players choose how many points go in a slot and then both slots are compared? I really like this idea. Unwinnable battles are no problem strong creatures may have that advantage. Obviously I would balance the seven type stats unwinnables most unwinnables. Jul 21, 2017 at 16:49

I have now also come up with something entirely different. What if I made a few (was thinking of three) different attack and defense stats? They would all represent another kind of damage (magic, slashing etc.). This way I might easily balance out the types and have a potential mechanic at the same time.

I have two ways to make the combat work with this:

-subract every defense from every attack point (negative not allowed) and then subtract the sum of the damage from the health.

-the attacker chooses what kind of damage will be used in the combat.

I will yet have to test this ofcourse.

  • Okay the way I wanted to test this using a brute-force algorithm... it would take an enormous amount of time. Unless I think of some ways to make it go fast, my own answer is not an option. Jul 24, 2017 at 7:13

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