What beats Attack?

I just started GMing my first game of mouseguard, and altogether it ran very well. However, I have several people in my game that are at least as analytical as I am, and so I am a little concerned about something. Namely, that I can’t figure out what beats Attack in the conflict system.

Attack clearly beats Feint and Feint clearly beats Defend. That much is blatant.
Defend v Manuever (aside from Feint coming into play) generally favors Defend because each excess success is +1 disposition, as compared to a 50% chance of either removing one more disposition or retaining one more disposition next action. Attack beats out Manuever for much the same reason. Disarm can be potent, but takes time to make a difference (roughly -1D to your opponent, at the cost of 3 successes. It takes 3 relevant actions to catch up with what the other Manuever options give, 6 to catch up to what your successes would have earned with Attack or Defend).
Attack v Defend is just a straight dice-off, but ultimately Attack has the advantage because Defend cannot ever win as such, and Defend gets clipped off (can’t have more than starting disposition).

I understand that for a particular mouse/conflict, the difference in skills might make a different choice stronger situationally, but then in terms of picking skills and such if Attack really is strictly the best action, it’s obvious that you should invest most in bonuses for Attack.

If you know your opponent will Defend, you should Feint. If you know your opponent will Feint, you should Attack. If you know your opponent will Manuever it seems like any of the others comes out to your advantage. If you know your opponent will Attack, it seems like there is no way to beat that (aside from more dice or rolling better).

Can those of you with more experience with the game help me understand why I should pick something other than Attack/Attack/Attack? (Assuming equal dice as is roughly true of all animals, and ignoring the obvious question of playing in-character. I want to know why the character would see it as better to do something else.)

I would currently be tempted to houserule something like assymetric rolls:
In Defense v Manuever, Defense is independant, but Manuever is versus (the Manuever only counts successes above the Defender). In Attack v Manuever the Manuever is Independant but the Attack is versus (the Attack only counts successes above the Manueverer). Then you have a clearly favored action against each action, and a clearly disfavored action against each action. (As well as having roughly even matchups and of course identical.)

While I’ve got your ear, is there actually an advantage to ranged weapons? It seems like a very lateral move. Attack v Attack at different ranges is simply lower damage in both directions (v instead of i) and Attack v Manuever being i instead of v means more damage up front, but disarming is almost guaranteed and can probably add some more dice shifting to the next roll. Is it really just a change of flavor in effect, or is there something about the range rules that actually makes long range better than not having it? (I.e. what do you gain when throwing a thrown weapon that makes up for losing it?)

Winning with a compromise can be nearly as bad as losing.

There’s a lot of threads about this in the Mouse Guard forum. You can read up on the various arguments.

Each weapon has its own list of bonuses, some of which are only in effect against shorter ranged weapons. The spear gets +1D against normal weapons, as an example.

That’s a good argument.
I have my first play on Saturday. Maybe I (GM) will restrict the attack option by 2. In our group not every mouse is an excellent fighter. One mouse don’t even have the fighting-skill, but instead, the hunter-skill.

Here is a helpful forum link: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?12610-Attack-option-seems-too-strong-in-conflicts

What does this mean? I don’t get it.

If I were the patrol leader, I would teach him to be a good fighter in game.

Make them have a chase conflict instead. You don’t have to have a fight…

If the fight’s important enough, they can use their Nature. If not, it sounds like a great learning opportunity.

I understand those parts clearly. I was more wondering about the part where Attack v Attack becomes versus and Attack v Manuever becomes independant. Have people found that to be a noticeably advantage, or more of a lateral move?

Has the tactic of Attack-Attack-Attack proven to be an issue in actual play for many people?

Most of the discussion I have seen about this has been hypothetical, “if equal dice”, “when I analyze the system for greatest advantage”, “when my players had a conflict with X”.

I have not had it come up as a problem in the games I have run.

If the attack option will be a problem, I limit the attack option. e.g. A/A/another option.

One little side note, conflicts earn one test per ability or skill used.

I think you are underestimating how good defend is re: avoiding bad compromises. Attack is always great for winning at all costs but Jasper, my Patrol Leader, had the belief “The best offence starts with staying alive” and he always fought hard to minimize harm to his Patrol.

If there is a character with no Fighter, they can maneuver or something non-fighter-based or they can earn a check towards the skill. Restricting attack just hurts the player who is actually the Patrol Fighting specialist. (Ask yourself: would you similarly restrict Survivalist in a Weather conflict?)

I think the argument is that, statistically, AAA has the best chance of minimizing compromises by ending the conflict early. So if you’re trying to avoid harm, you should choose to attack, rather than what effectively is only a delaying tactic like defend. What that logic doesn’t fully consider is the choice you face scripting the second exchange, maybe staring at a major compromise already, and one you really can’t afford. Do you really script attack? Or tap nature on defend and maybe save everyone? What are you willing to pay for that attack?

There is a very powerful effect recognized in decision theory called Loss Aversion. The killer technique of AAA is just not a big problem.

Yeah, the objective isn’t to get the other guy to 0. The objective is to get the other guy to 0 AND retain as much of your disposition as possible. Mixing a defend in is a good way to ensure your victory isn’t pyrrhic. If the players aren’t concerned about the consequences of compromising… maybe the stakes aren’t high enough, or the compromises not nasty enough. AAA is a good way to lead, but often ADA is a good way to minimise losses.

I script:

Atack, Attack, Attack

You script:

Defend, Maneuver, Attack

My teammates are Cale, Brand and Tander, and we have an axe, a sword and a staff.

You, the Game Master, play a Milk Snake.

  1. Attack Vs Defend = Vs

Cale has two dice from Fighter, and receives one Help die from Brand and one Help die from Tander. Throws four dice and rolled two success.

The snake throws seven dice and rolled three success, nullifying the attack. (You would have recovered one die of Disposition of not having your Disposition intact.)

  1. Attack Vs. Maneuver = Vs

Brand has 3D from Fighter, +1D from his sword. Throws four dice and rolled two success.

The snake throws eight dice (+1D to Maneuver from its Bite) and rolled five success. You choose Impede and Gain Position, so your snake has +2D for the next action and my team have -1D.

  1. Attack Vs Attack = I

Tander has four dice from Fighter. Throws three dice and has one success. You lose one dice of Disposition.

The snake throws nine dice and has four succes, +1 s from its Coils bonus. I lose five dice from my Disposition.

Round 1:

My team: -5
The snake: -1

And the snake only attacked once. Sure, the snake could have attacked three times, but could have lost six dice of Disposition, not just one. (The axe give + 1s to a successful Attack, so in the first action we both could have lost three dice of dispo.) In the next series of actions, you could recover that point of Disposition and beat my team without Compromise.

Note: I used the Fighter skills from Dain, Quentin and Baron, from the book.

Hey, you know what I just thought of? Are you all familiar with the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction from the Cold War? AAA isn’t just a great way to win with a huge compromise—it’s actually a great way to get a 0-0 result!


you shorted Brand and Tander 2D on their actions, from help by other team members, too.

Because Help dice are not automatic. I don’t think you always have helping dice in every action. But of course, you have Fate and Persona points. The monsters may have help (a sinister snakes trainer perhaps?), but no Fate or Persona, so the Patrol has some benefit to begin with.

Thanks. This is a nice example. Though it seems to me to mostly just show the value of overwhelming die counts. If the snake did attack, attack, attack then it looks like the final dispo would be
mice: -12
snake: -7 (assuming the die lost manuever would have been a success, and also adding in the axe).
The margin is larger for the snake here, but he is definitely facing some hefty compromise. On the other hand, he may well have already won the fight at this point.
As another alt universe consideration, consider if the mice had had perfect yomi v the snake’s D,M,A script. I’ll say F,F,A as my call for “perfect” in this case.
Mice: -5, and disarmed from a sword.
Snake: -5 (The mice roll one less die on the initial feint, but one more on the final attack.)
Even results is pretty bad for someone with about a 3 die lead!
Worse, if we go F,F,D, and the mice have a couple more dice on defense we could be looking at about
Mice: -2 and disarmed from a sword.
Snake: -4 (or thereabouts).
I think the mice could even do better by switching up the order the mice act in, but I don’t know enough about the mice stats so I’ll leave it off.
Going D,M,A is decidedly risky. It could even cause the snake to lose. Going A,A,A means the snake cannot possibly lose, outside of extremely bad luck with rolls, or possibly the mice burning a lot of persona/fate.

As a finally addition to the discussion: suppose the mice are 6 dice on defend/manuever, and -they- went D, M, A against the snake’s A,A,A:
D v A: tie, snake wins tie for -1 dispo to mice.
M v A: 3 successes v 4+1 successes, -2 dispo to mice.
A v A: 2 successes v 3+1 successes. -2 dispo to snake, -4 to mice.
Mice: -6 dispo
Snake: -2 dispo
Hey, woah, this is basically the same as when the choices were reversed!
So it isn’t even clear that DMA beats AAA even if the defensive side has notably more dice in defense/manuever than they do on attack. It really only works out if the defensive side has more dice in defense/manuever than the opposing side has on Attack, and then it’s nice and risky (since the opposing side can crush you if they know what you’re doing).

Anyways, I’m glad to see people aren’t finding AAA showing up all the time in play. For my group, I’m going to houserule some tweaks so that the system is more satisfying to me.