Attack option seems too strong in conflicts

Just ran my first game of MG, and generally was very impressed with the system and setting. I have a few gripes, however, and the chief on is that the Attack option seems dominant in conflicts, especially with a ranged weapon such as a bow.

Unlike e other actions, attack is not “beaten” by any other action - it is on par with defend, since it is a simple versus roll with no bonus given to defense, and frequently the defender gains nothing even with a strong defense roll, as disposition cannot exceed the maximum.

Why should a powerful enemy (I.e. an animal with a high nature) do anything but attack attack attack? For any other repeating action, it is easy to think of a counter. With attack, not so much.

Am I missing something? Personally I am considering making defense gain +2d vs attack, and can exceed starting disposition by up to 5. That way defense is clearly the ‘counter’ to attack and is worth using on turn 1. Thoughts?

If you make Defend better than Attack, then conflicts become a stalemate.
Conflicts aren’t about not losing. Conflicts are about losing as little as possible in your victory.
Also, Mice are naturally good defenders (at least in Fights and Chases, which are the two most popular conflicts).

If your players are using A/A/A for every conflict, teach them the value of the system by doing the following:
Set very costly goals. Present goals that they simply cannot bear to suffer. Don’t be mean, but you can be a good GM and still make them sweat.
Then use A/A/A for your attack sequences.
If you lose, ask for painful compromises. Compromises that sting so bad the players feel like you’ve still won.
Once you start use the nuclear option, it’s possible the players will attempt Defend. And once they start to Defend, Feint is useful.

If they’re obsessed with the bow (which is a great weapon), use a knife-wielding mouse or weasel and a Maneuver action against them. You’ll have the bow disarmed in a single action.

I’ve added a “Lure action” as an experiment…

Lure reduces opponent’s Disposition.

Lure vs Attack: Lure independent, attack fails (it was expected)
Lure vs Defend: Defend unopposed, lure fails
Lure vs feint: vs
Lure vs maneuver: vs
Lure vs Lure: both fail

Works ok… but really wasn’t worth the hassle. Massively ups the head games.

Hi Luke,

I did notice that as defend is based on nature, it tends to be slightly better in fights, but the problem I am seeing does stand for other types of conflicts in all cases, and it still stands in fights from the point of view of an animal (who use their nature for all actions in conflicts)

Let me specify also that I am less concerned about attack being dominant for the players so much as it is for their strong enemies.

If the players are facing an animal whose nature is equal to or a bit higher than the best dice total the players can usually muster, I don’t see why the animal should not play constant attack. Defend doesn’t help the players at all as far as I can see: against a strong enemy who is spamming attack, the likely outcome with defend is to lose a few disposition rather than lose a bunch/inflict a few. It doesn’t make them more likely to win with more disposition on average (though it does make it less likely that both sides will reach 0 at the same time - but you could use maneuver for that just as easily, or even just a bow).

I am also not seeing the stalemate if defend “beats” attack. Defend is explicitly super dominated by feint. Any faction playing back to back defense is sure to be creamed if they do not adjust. If defend has a clear edge over attack, then players would only need to feint to inflict heavy damage.

I totally get that in conflicts, it’s not so much whether you win or lose as it is the MARGIN, but defend doesn’t help with that if the enemy sticks to full out attack. Nothing really does that I can see, if the enemy is equal or stronger.

Mice can be right bastards in this game, even against a strong enemy. Mice who’ve charged up their traits to Level 3 and who are ready and willing to spend Persona to tap their Nature can overpower even very strong animals.

Also, maybe your players are not writing goals that sting enough. When the mice have the right goal, the animal will want to fight like hell to ensure that it doesn’t give away too much of a compromise.

Divide the patrol into two teams. If the animal keeps attacking a single team, it becomes vulnerable to the other. And yes, mouse life can be hard, especially with all those big animals out there.

Just keep playing (by the rules). A-A-A is good, but it’s certainly not unbeatable.


I intend to stick to the rules, at least until I have a few more games under my belt. What would you play against a strong opponent’s A-A-A to “beat” it?

A/A/A is a good first step.
But you can also Maneuver, Maneuver, Attack. Or Maneuver, Defend, Attack.

Even mustering a good pool of dice doesn’t mean you can rely on successes. Lots of dice can be traitors and you’d never guess it just looking at them. Lying on the table, looking all powerful–those dice just might be traitors and cowards.

Okay, honestly, you can see that an animal will pull together a load of dice for attacking, but there are loads of reasons why AAA isn’t the default for animals. My first instinct is to clamor for, “that’s not realistic!” A better comment might be, “think about the fiction.” Despite that mice are our anthropomorphic PC race, that doesn’t at all mean the animals are dumb or clueless. They have the prowess of high nature and predatory instincts to make up for any lack of technology. The animals will simply use Defend, Maneuver, and Feint; because, it is part of their natural instinct to do so. They will use a full arsenal of actions. Oh, and they will use terrain and natural armor and natural weapons.

If your players see you doing it, they will pick up on that. Whether or not you think that seems meta is up to your perspective. I used al the actions in order to keep the fiction lively and show players how to use the actions. In fact, when interacting with mice, I’ll force the mice to use Beginner’s Luck sometimes. I figure the mice don’t know their NPC character sheet hasn’t got that skill; they simply use the right tool for their needs.

On one hand, getting a bit predictable in selecting actions gives a chance to set-up a vulnerable moment if the players are willing to take notice. Maybe you always end a set of actions with Defend, so players start to consider throwing Feint as the third action more often. Maybe a Maneuver always occurs before a Feint, so they start to set-up for that.

This is another point which you ought to illustrate for players. If they are unwilling to risk in pursuit of their goals, it will become a stagnant game and the conflicts will be stale. They’ll fail to reach goals and fail to earn rewards. The players need to take the risks using the resources available.

Thank you for your thoughts on this, everyone.

Actually, just did a decision matrix on the options in Conflict. If you work it up as a zero-sum game, and only look at if one side gains advantage over hte other or not, then there’s really very little reason to do anything except attack. An early maneuver is a possibility.

Reason: Attack is the only option that, dice being equal, results in every case in either you staying even with your opponent, or gaining an advantage on him (with the case of advantage being if the opponent chooses Feint). Maneuver is a possible long-term (not immediate) advantage, but that’s really only for the 3 success variant.

Of course, that’s only the case for two opponents squaring off with equal dice and disposition, so this may or may not work out in actual play.

Exactly. In particular, look at how nasty compromises can get.


What you haven’t made clear is
a) how do I make the compromise less nasty by doing something other than Attack?
b) how do I make the compromise less nasty if my opponent is doing Attack non-stop?
It seems like, dice being equal, the best course to achieve the best chance of winning, the least compromise offered to your enemy and the most compromise from your enemy should you lose is Attack, Attack, Attack.
Manuever also seems much too weak. Disarm sounds cool but can take a long time to add up to worthwhile. The other aspects are basically trading one success now for +1 die next action. +1s is worth about +2D though, so that’s a bad trade in general.

Attack v Defend - Basically a dice-off, but there are some structural factors favoring Attack: disposition can’t go over starting, so Defend can waste successes early on, and Defend can’t make progress so repeatedly Defending gets you nowhere. (And worse, it’ll just get you hit with a Feint if you’re predictable about it.)
Attack v Feint - Attack wins, 100%
Attack v Manuever - Basically a dice-off, but successes of Manuever are basically half the value of successes of Attack. Disarm is the exception, with disarming using a knife being the only way I see to actually come out ahead. Obviously repeated Manuevers doesn’t get you anywhere, but it seems like using Manuever to set up another action should be more effective than taking that other action twice, and it’s not clear it is (especially not dice being equal).
So Defend loses to attack by a small margin, manuever by about 1/2 the margin of success, and Feint outright. Nothing beats it.

Feint v Attack - 100% fail.
Feint v Defend - 100% success.
Feint v Manuever - Dice-off, but see Attack v Manuever.
Feint is clearly risky, but the rewards about match the benefits… if the enemy was equally likely to chose any given action. If the enemy does nothing but attack, however, Feint is a sucker’s game. And Defending is a sucker’s game, so Feint loses much of its value.

Defend v Attack - See attack v Defend. A dice-off, but favoring Attack structurally.
Defend v Feint - 100% lose.
Defend v Manuever - A dice-off, but each has drawbacks. If you are sufficiently low in disposition, Defend wins because each success clicks back a full point of dispo. Manuever again trades each success for 1 die next action, which is a bad trade. (But no cap, so there’s that.)
Defend basically loses all around, except that it kinda beats Manuever.

Manuever v Anything else - A dice-off, but you only get about half benefit of your margin of success.
All around a losing game.

It sure seems like Manuever needs to be greatly strengthened, Attack needs a weakness (Manuever?) and Defend needs a strength (v Manuever?). I mentioned in another thread that I’m thinking Manuever should have its dice benefit doubled (i.e. -2D or +4D next action), then v Attack the successes should both count toward manuevering and cancel Attack, while v Defend the Defend dice should both count toward regaining dispo and cancelling manuever dice. That gives every action a strong v and a weak v in a neat little circle, with an opposite action (Attack v Defend / Feint v Manuever) that is basically a dice-off. Attack is still sort-of dominant (other than Attack v Attack, you can’t reduce dispo on someone who is Attacking), but has an obvious counter. (Manuever, probably in the form of Manuever, Manuever, Attack as a counter to Attack, Attack, Attack).

Always Attack/Attack/Attack. Never choose anything else.

I sense sarcasm, luke.

I agree with your analysis, Istaran - it’s basically what I went through - if dice are equal for all actions. If Defend has greater dice, then mixing them up lowers the final compromise, which then throws feint into the action, etc.

On Maneuver as a set up - the only real case I see where that makes sense is Maneuver, going for an early Disarm, which can make a bit of difference.

No sarcasm intended. Best way to learn a game is to play it as written to the best of your ability. If A/A/A is the best strategy you see, play it.

Well, Defend lets you get your Dispo back up, negating compromise.

Have you found in practice that this works? Reliably?
Does it only work if you build toward it (i.e. high nature + shield or such) or throw Persona points at it?
For example, have you found animals able to actually regain dispo with a Defend, particularly when facing off against Attack?

(The one time I saw Defend used in combat, which I was using, my snake did indeed regain dispo. However, that looked to be sheer luck of the roll. My seven dice came up with a ton of successes. I forget how many dice I was facing off against, but I do remember the player only rolled a single success that time.)

As to Luke’s answer: I am almost literally incapable of playing Attack-Attack-Attack on either side of the GM screen, since I have a love of variety. I just wish I didn’t feel like chosing anything else was intentional self-sabotage. I definitely prefer to feel like I’m playing to the best of my ability, or if I intentionally chose suboptimally it should be due to a character flaw of the character I am playing.

Our first conflict went like this: only 3 of the 7 mice at our table joined the fight… 1 set out looking for trouble (during players’ turn), 2 came along to support/protect him, and a fourth (the healer) came along to stitch them back together afterward. That’s great though, since I definitely prefer teaching the conflict system with a single team first before diving into the complexity of a 2v1 combat or something.
They were looking for trouble, so I gave them something reasonable… a single Snake. Dangerous, certainly, but something I expected a squad of 3 to prevail against.
The first set of actions, the PCs all came up with Attack, independantly. I came in with Attack, Manuever, Feint. I figured the snake would try to be a bit crafty, but wouldn’t really be on the defensive at this point.
Attack v Attack: Independant rolls, both sides got hurt. Fair enough.
Attack v Manuever: The mouse in question was using a sling, so it was independant. The snake got wolloped, but absconded with the mouse’s sling. Cute and memorable, but deep down it was ineffectual, as the mouse just switched weapons between sets of actions.
Attack v Feint: The mouse gets in a free shot due to action-interaction. Wee. (I knew this was coming because the table-talk was going plenty loud before I finished picking my actions, but went along with it anyways.)

at this point, the snake is hurting kind of bad, and the party has been nicked a bit.

My memory of the second exchange is less clear. I believe it was:
Manuever v Defend - 1 success for the mouse v several for the snake. Dispo crept back up.
Attack v Manuever - versus test. The snake rolled an aweful lot of snakes on those mouseguard dice, which ironically weren’t helpful. Maybe in the future I should reverse the icons for GM rolls? :stuck_out_tongue: Snake loses most of his remaining dispo.
Attack v Attack - independant test. The snake was hoping to shift the odds with his manuever first, but it didn’t work. He got in a solid hit here but got taken out at the same time.
Final dispo:
mice: 5 of 11.
snake: 0 of 10.
The snake’s goal was to eat the mouse that was looking for trouble. His goal was to kill the snake. Given the final outcome, I made the trouble-seeker Tired. (Was that about right? I assume dispo should be a bit lower for Injured to come in.) The snake, of course, perished.

So in this case it’s the PCs that pretty much did Attack-Attack-Attack. The one time they strayed from that didn’t really matter (the dice just weren’t with him that time). From the GM side I got punished a bit severely for deviated from Attack-Attack-Attack. It probably would have been much closer to a draw, or possibly even a victory for the snake. There just isn’t a clear counter to attack.

Also: I recommend Sirlin’s article on Yomi ( for anyone interested in having a good basic idea of what I’m talking about. Every action needs a counter, and every counter needs a counter. There can be a default “best” move, and probably should be, as long as there is a counter that specifically beats it (even if that counter might be otherwise the worst move).

I’m definitely still interested in hearing more from more experienced GMs/players. Is the Attack-Attack-Attack thing just not a problem in play? Perhaps because the dice numbers are so different? (I think we have one mouse in our patrol that is decisively better at nature than fighter, but my impression is that she will sit out of every fight if possible. There’s a reason she’s got such high mousey nature after all.)

To me, here’s the idea. If I’m in a fistfight, and my goal is to do as much damage as possible, then yes, I’m only going to punch and kick and bite and headbutt and in all likelihood, I AM going to do a lot of damage. But the problem is that I’m also going to TAKE a lot of damage.

Attack v. Attack in MG is independent for this reason. You can kamikaze attack all you like, and the other person can do the same, and then the issue become who runs out of dispo first. But then the compromise system kicks in and you take a moderate or major compromise, which can be brutal. That’s what everyone’s talking about. If you spam Attack and nothing else, you’ll almost certainly “win,” but at great cost. You could end up with a terrible twist, or Tired and Injured, and therefore at a substantial disadvantage. Now imagine that you’re Tired and Injured and that was just the first obstacle of the GM turn? You still have another obstacle to complete and likely also you need to complete your original mission. And if the GM is really trying to break you of this bad habit, or it’s just a particularly brutal mission, maybe he’ll design the mission so you need to use checks to complete it–and then you get all your lovely conditions (not to mention any more you’ve incurred) for the next GM turn as well.

Aren’t you glad you won the conflict?