The ‘To Hit’ Quandary – 5 plus or 2 minus

It is very common for game systems to give different units different to hit scores. The big question for me is, is it better to (1) give good units a higher to hit score or (2) reward higher dice rolls?

Wizard Kings: High combat rating is better

I’ll use the block board game Wizard Kings as an example. Wizard Kings gives units a “Combat Strength”, the number of dice to roll, and a “Combat Rating”, the score needed to hit on each dice. A good unit has a high combat strength combined with a high combat rating. Combat rating is the interesting bit for this discussion. Examples are: Feudal Hero 4; Feudal Crossbow 3; Feudal Knights 2; Feudal Bowmen or Spear 1. That means a hero hits on 4 or less, a crossbow unit on 3 or less, knights on 2 or less, and both bows and spears hit on a 1.

Pro: Better troops have higher combat rating number
Con: Roll low to hit

Wizard Kings Style Combat Rating
Wizard Kings Style Combat Rating

Tilly’s very bad day: Rolling high is better

Tilly’s Very Bad Day uses Resolve for the number of dice (the equivalent of Wizard King’s combat strength) then gives different unit types different to hit score (combat rating), either 4+, 5+, or 6 on 1d6, depending on the unit and the context. For example, all shot units, using decidedly dodgy gunpowder weapons in the Thirty Years War, only hit on a 6. Which is 1/6th chance of success. Pike+Shot hit on 5+ in melee, which is 2/6th chance of success. Charging horse hit on 4+, i.e. 3/6th chance of success. Put another way, a shot unit has Combat Rating of 6, a pike+shot unit has Combat Rating 5, and a Horse unit has Combat Rating 4.

Pro: Roll high to hit
Con: Better troops have a lower to hit score; so to hit score looks very odd as the combat rating.

Tillys Very Bad Day Style Combat Rating
Tillys Very Bad Day Style Combat Rating

Note: For consistency with Wizard Kings I’ve used the same feudal troop types in the example in the image. You’ll have to accept that Tilly’s Very Bad Day doesn’t actually have these troop types. Just concentrate on the maths.

By the way, Crossfire also uses this system i.e. a number of dice with hits on either a 5+ or 6 depending on the situation.

Observations and conclusions

The probabilities are the same using either mechanism. Units have a 1/6th, 2/6th, 3/6th or 4/6th chance of a hit.

Chance of success (hit) Wizard Kings Tilly’s Very Bad Day
1/6 (16%) 1 6
2/6 (33%) 2- 5+
3/6 (50%) 3- 4+
4/6 (66%) 4- 3+

So the Wizard Kings system is intuitive because a better unit has a higher rating.
But the Tilly’s Very Bad Day system is intuitive because a better dice roll has better chance of success.

The To Hit Quandary - 5 plus or 2 minus
The To Hit Quandary – 5 plus or 2 minus

Clearly I’m torn because I’ve posted about it. And I’m thinking what to use for Deep Battle.

Which system do you think is better?

7 thoughts on “The ‘To Hit’ Quandary – 5 plus or 2 minus”

  1. Tilly’s very bad day seems the most intuitive or the two. I seem to convert the 3+ or 3-6 to being better much easier than the other way.

  2. Mathematics is not an opinion: the result is the same, only the human satisfaction in the act changes. For example, I like trying to get a high number with a dice roll: “Roll high to hit”.

  3. I think “better” is perhaps not the best determinant factor as it’s clear subjective.
    Personally, I prefer systems where a higher score is success, so 5 or 6 to hit / penetrate armour etc.
    That’s due to my instinctual preference that on a die “6” is ” better” than “1” no doubt culturally determined ( “snake eyes” for example).
    Those who claim to to be unable to roll high on dice would no doubt see it otherwise; I’ve seen systems mix and match, where you roll high for combat for success but low for morale.
    I think this has the risk of confusion and I’d prefer consistency throughout. Mathematically, the percentage chance of success is identical whether it is 6 or 1 to hit so in theory are transferable.
    Intuitively, the better a unit rating, the higher the score should be IMHO.

  4. You can have your cake and eat it with a different method.

    Consider that a unit needs to roll a success. The target number for a success is usually static eg 5+. A tough action (eg the defender is in cover) gives you a penalty to your dice roll eg -1, effectively making your target number higher, eg 6. So rolling high is always good. Each unit has a Combat Value, which is the number of dice they roll in order to try and get a success. A poor unit has CV1, a regular unit CV2 and an elite unit CV3. So better units have a higher Combat Value.

    Obviously the odds will be different and may not suit your purpose, but it’s an example of how both high rolls = good and high CV = good.

  5. Alternatively a unit’s Combat Value could be a bonus to their roll. So if a standard hit is 6: a poor unit could have a CV of 0, adding +0 to their roll (so a 1in6 chance), a regular unit could have CV 1 adding +1 to their roll (so a 2in6 chance as they can hit on a 5 or 6), and an Elite unit could have a CV of 2 adding +2 to their roll (a 3in6 chance as they can hit on a 4, 5 or 6).

    In this example, both rolling high is good and high CVs are good.

    It’s just a different way of viewing your Tilly’s Bad Day example.

  6. My take: lower combat value or Quality rating for better units, hit on a high number. Rating 1? A first class unit.

  7. I find the numeric aspects of combat most games personally unfurling and they break immersion. It adds stages out of tbe action into the mechanics and back again and leads to statements like I roled badly.. I need 6s. Which takes me down the game side not the war side.


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