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In the Defence of Armour


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From what I gather, there's been a lot of talk about how armour should be handled in the game. Whether it should be ablative (HP), whether it should work like a spring (% damage reduction), or whether it should work like armour.

A scifi setting can justify ablative armour, or DUNE like armour that increases defence according to the level of the threat. But when you're talking about human armour, you're talking about level III kevlar vests using level IV ceramic inserts. It makes sense for human armour to be well within our understanding and seem plausible. Otherwise, what makes the alien scifi armour special, if you start with inertial dampeners or pseudo-magical armour?

% Based Armour

The issue with % based armours is they feel downright magical, and that any improvement in armour has massive effect, and yet is pretty darn pointless and useless at lower levels.

If you have 100 HP and a 5% reduction to damage (we'll ignore types for now), there is very little it can do for you. Any hit above 105 damage will incapacitate you. If damage averages high relative to your health, those 5 points don't make a difference. And if damage averaged even as low as 1 HP of damage, it just means it will take 105 hits to kill you, instead of 100 hits.

Meanwhile, if you make it 80%, boy does it look weird. A pistol that inflicts a maximum of 60 damage now only does 12, shaving off 38 points, but still taking off more than a tenth of your health. A .50 cal rifle of 500 max damage is reduced to 100, shaving off 400 points. So, with any damage variance, you can quite easily survive a shot from an anti material rifle, yet can be killed by 9 pistol shots.

Balancing % based armour is also really annoying, and it's the same work as balancing straight-damage armour.

Ablative Armour

Chris covered one of the points against this in the past, HP-based armour. Skilled players make good use of cover, so rarely get shot. Ablative armour is also basically a free hit, which allows you to perform suicidal tactics. If you know you can take three hits before dying, then you might as well act like a maniac until you get hit at least once. You can then rotate other troops in with full armour, until everyone has had a turn playing Rambo. This might be interesting for an action game, but for a tactics game it's just a droll sort of meta game strategy which makes you feel totally secure while fighting 'horrifying' aliens. It also has the issue of turning everyone into MMORPG style bullet sponges, as the game progresses.

If you have an armour upgrade, of course it will give you more HP. Whereas before gunfire might've been dangerous and intimidating, it becomes laughable. The suicidal tactics I mentioned become the obvious strategy, as there's no reason to fear Reaction Fire as you rush through the open. To get things back on track, you add in guns with massively more damage, fixing the armour and undoing what it did. Soon, you all wear increasingly bigger pauldrons and use sillier looking axes, until you look like this. The weapons at the start of the game become toys, and you enter an epic league beyond human interest.

Balancing ablative armour isn't really hard, it is just pointless.  It's great for padding out recent games by turning them into mind-numbingly boring RPGs, that sell XP boosters so you can get them over with faster.


Real Armour

Real armour has some of the qualities of the above. Like the Ablative, you can try to tank some hits, and play things more riskily. And it is risky, Since like % armour it is possible to be killed by enough pistol shots, so long as one of them goes through your visor. You can't ignore tactics, you still want to use cover and avoid fire, in case your armour fails you. Yet you still get that feeling of power, from wearing armour that lets you shrug off attacks that would surely kill your unarmoured allies. Still, you never shake the feeling of dread, of when an enemy sends a plasma bolt your way.

There's not a lot to say about genuine armour... because there isn't anything wrong with it. Straight-damage armour serves its purpose, and it does it well; even if it does it without the fanfare and flashy numbers of modern games.

Balancing this isn't as easy as Ablative armour, where you can just pick whatever numbers you feel like, but it is straight forward. Armour is built to withstand certain levels of gunfire, and weapons are designed to pierce that armour, each piece of equipment has its class and its uses in the tactical meta.


Additional details:

Below are some additional ideas and details for the handling of armour.

Armour Stress

Often in games, they like to have armour be reduced when it's hit. This doesn't make a lot of sense, as even if you crack open a hole in one part of the armour, the rest of it is largely intact. However, with plasma weapons, it becomes plausible that you could melt and stress-fracture armours, making them weaker.

You can handle armour damage in two ways.

1) Reduce the defence value of the armour, making it absorb less damage. This is a simple way of doing it, to represent the overall loss of integrity and addition of weak points. Not ideal, though.

2) Increase the chance of hitting an unarmoured spot. Armour coverage probably starts at like 40% for a modular tactical vest, while standing (it'd be something like 60% while crouching, IRL). You could have plasma reduce armour coverage per hit, making it more likely future hits find a weak-spot.

It is also possible to do a mixture of the two, if desired.

Stun through Armour

One possible means of balance is to allow guns, specifically kinetic weapons, to inflict some stun damage through armour even if they can't penetrate it. Getting shot hurts, even through armour, and can

Suppression Resistance

Since armour renders you less vulnerable to fire, it of course should reduce your ability to be suppressed. Ideally, the damage potential of the weapons involved will affect their suppressive value.



I expect there have been a few combat models for X2 made by the community, tweaking the combat stats and making mods? I would be interested in making such a mod, as an example of armour and weapon balance.

Edited by Mask
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We get Armor in the Game, which can be upgraded. That was a missing Feature in the First Game. I think there will be a rework for the Modular-Things we get in. But like in all Games of that Gerne we will have a %-Chance of Armor-Safety, etc.

We have to test the Modular-Systems and the Armor themself after the implementations get in in Beta / Early Access. Only in these Tests we can say that or that is good / bad. With the existing Model we can´t do an statement, because it´s still a WIP-Filler from the first game.

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The modular system should work well with this. In games with %s, the worst issue is when players work out how to stack % bonuses, and sometimes end up with a 100% value. With real armour, stacking a lot of bonuses can help, but not armour is immune to failure. XCOM inspired games seem to work very well with realistic armour, the original XCOM had front and side armour values, which made being flanked tremendously worrying, and gave the feeling of being a human tank.

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Well, the way I'd figure the formulas would be something like:

Damage = Attack - Defence

ArmourDegradation = Attack * DegMod

Stun = ( Damage * StunMod + (Attack - Damage) * 0.3 * StunMod ) * Rand(x,x)


The 0.3 is a placeholder.  I'd have to do some thinking to work out how much stun is inflicted through armour.

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  • 3 weeks later...

What about adding some sort of flat damage reduction. For example, it is said that the wolf armor can tank a 50cal at point blank range. For the wolf, we would simply add ignore certain amount of ballistic damage as a flat value. This system is easy to balance and it makes single shot damage weapons more viable, as 1 big damage only gets reduced once, unlike multiple strike weapons like a machine gun. This system would make getting new armor much more rewarding, as previous alien weapons May not even scratch your new suit.

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4 hours ago, Sheepy said:

I don't see an explanation of how to translate this ideal "Real Armour" into game.  How is this "Straignt-damage Armour" different from "Ablative Armour"?
From the description given, the real armour actually feels like D&D's Armour Class system to me.

I'm not sure why this is a thing. XDiv figured out a good mix of the existing game mechanics, and it feels great. 

Essentially it's:

Everyone has Andron esque hard armor against Ballistic and Energy. If a shot doesn't pierce, it does 1/3 of it's damage to the armor value. If it doesn't, the damage is reduced by what's left. 

Fire and Chemical armor doesn't change.

Gives this awesome feeling where units are getting battered down in these huge battles, but you generally don't get cheap deaths. Instead of "dude guy was sniped from across the map, took a glancing hit to his anti tank armor and died instantly,", to that unit getting suppressed and having their armor weakened, giving you a chance to figure something out. Opens up more options for charging and being offensive in the early game, lets you match units with the right defenses vs a unit. It looks like some of this will be coming to X2 soon.

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IIRC the damage to armor ratio is 1/6th and any damage whether it pierces or not reduces it. It's a very popular system even outside of this genre. Ablative HP and % dmg reduction are less counterable but make more sense to noobs.There are minor problems with X-division's style:

  1. Shotguns had the highest shred since it's directly based off of damage. Shred should be a separate stat.
  2. Different armor types tends to encourage spamming the same type of one weapon on an enemy. This is nice for tactics, but it meant that researching only one type of weapon often made sense. Weaknesses of that weapon type could be shored off with grenades. I never got past phase 2 though.
  3. It's completely invisible, even on the player's units. You can die to smallarms fire just because you didn't know you were shredded.
  4. Very binary. To prevent this (if it's something that should be prevented), either damage reduction should often be lower than damage, or there should be "hardiness" from ToME: armour can only reduce at most 75% of the damage. Or maybe as in TGGW, if reduction = dmg then it deals 20% damage, reduction=1.5xdmg it deals 10% damage, reduction = 2.0xdmg it deals 0% damage. This way armour still does  something past dmg. Or just make shred bigger, but then I think there ought to be a way to repair armor.
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I think people generally just want a system that's easy to understand. Reduction is easiest. If doing the whole Shred system, I agree that it'd be nice to have a Banner Saga-esque armor display. That being said, because of the wide range of damages, the above tends to be a bit random, which I personally love from a risk/reward perspective. You know your shotgun just broke their ballistic threshold, but then realize their energy defense is perfectly in tact when your shock charge goes off in their face as nothing more than an inconvenience. So a couple of guys are sitting there, trying to keep this guy locked down while someone tries to find a working plasma rifle lying around. 

I personally just find the game much more engrossing when you are almost forced to spend multiple turns actually fighting your enemies. They've conquered planets before, they should have countermeasures. In the mod, for example, all Ceseans bring portable laser Shields, all lizards pack extra armor to supplement their healing, and the robots use their thick shells to justify bigger weapons. 

I will say that the base game does pull some new tricks after phase 2, so don't take that as par for the course. In the mod's case, the enemies in phase 2 could be overwhelmed by rockets, so phase 3 introduces multi layered defenses, as well as a much bigger suppression effort. I had one recently with 4 tanks and a friggin immortal robot dinosaur guarding some 60 Androns, and that armor system just made it all work. 

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If there's no display I would prefer the "armour can only cause 90% damage reduction" idea and armor never goes down.

I want X-Division to work for me but it's pretty hard. Not dying with soldiers is so important in Phase 1-2. You're completely immortal except to flame sebilians once you get decent armor, then there's a few crucial missions at the start of phase 2 where you die in one hit to everything but still have to research somehow. The "return to skyranger with loot or to resupply" gameplay looks absurdly grindy too.

Edited by Bobit
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1 hour ago, Coffee Potato said:

You know your shotgun just broke their ballistic threshold, but then realize their energy defense is perfectly in tact

All shredding damage types shred all shreddable armour types. Now quickly say that ten times in a row.


The armour system in Xenonauts is split into two categories. One which contains damage and armour which can shred and be shredded: Kinetic, Energy,
and the other contains damage and armour  which cant shred or be shredded: Chemical, Incendiary.

Here are a few facts to think about:

  • All shredding damage types shred all shreddable armour types equally for each prevented damage point. That means kinetic damage reduces kinetic and energy armour, and visus verca. This simulates armour getting more worn out over time.
  • Chemical and Incendiary damage not reducing armour makes them types which are only good against enemies they are good against. Spamming doesnt help.
  • Chemical and Incendiary armour not getting reduced means that if some armour has a good protection against those damage types it stays for the whole mission. No need to worry about battlefield effects.
  • Kinetic and Energy damage shredding both armour types means that a mixed setup is more viable than a single damage setup, as both damage types help each other out. Spamming weapon fire is encouraged.
  • Because of point number 1 you can have a unit with different shreddable armour values. Both shreddable armour types will get shredded, but the absolute difference in armour value stays the same.


This is not explained properly anywhere, but thats how Xenonauts works, an underused and underexplained mechanic.

Edited by Charon
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I like how armor works in jagged alliance 2 1.13. Of course it’s not directly convertible into Xenonauts setting but core features are following:

1) coverage - just a percentage of the body cover by armor, on each hit the test is done if shot just passes through or not. afaik front/back and sides can have different coverage + you can install plates in some armor

2) condition - the physical state of armor, in a sense of it being worn out or damaged, there is some proportional reduction of its resistance as it gets worn out by elements or damage

3) resistance against specific type of ammunition, like for example glacier rounds deal pretty much no damage if they hit any type of even basic Kevlar vest, so even a simplest vest/helmet/leggings you can get, can save your merc’s life. To my understanding, resistance is just a percentage modifier that changes basic damage, but before damage is applied it passes through a number of other calculations resulting in a system where you don’t get much damage at lower bounds, like you won’t get -5hp Hit for a 100hp base stats if you wear some armor, but if shot passes through it will be significant, just not as significant as without armor. And some shots won’t have any effect on hp, they will hit stamina, armor condition, add to suppression. But this needs to be considered with how projectile work too, as for example AP, generally deals less damage regardless of the armor and HP/Glacier deals about 2x base damage but can be completely negated by armor.

overall it creates a nice diversity where you can keep a couple of ied/assault suits for missions where you need breachers and have lighter but more agile armor for your support troops or general operations.

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I very much agree with OP.

Armor is so often done poorly. The one thing I'd like that should be brought in from original X-Com is armor coverage - with armor covering different body parts and each part having it's own integrity. Naturally, armor wouldn't be equally as thick everywhere (front torso is usually thickest, arms and legs usually thinnest), nor would every armor cover as much, so there's always risks involved.

Front torso, back torso, left/right arm, left/right leg, head


My ideal armor system would also work in the following fashion:

- each armor body part has a %coverage and protection value. Depending on what weapon hits, %coverage can degrade, maybe every protection value, depending on weapon (some scy-fi weapons or compounds could weaken the armor). If a body part is hit, roll coverage to see if armor protects. If success, then apply full armor protection calcs. If fail, either full damage is done or perhaps with some minor reduction (your undersuit should provide SOME protection)

- armor has a maximum damage value that it can absorb harmlessly (your high-tech power armor will shrug off pistol bullets completely, as long as no weak spot is hit). Heavy armor can render you virtually invulnerable to weak weapons, but there's always a risk of lucky shots (and shots in the back).

- hits above a certain damage treshold will penetrate, but will be reduced (percentage reduction).

- Weapons can have have an armor penetration multiplier that doesn't multiply final damage, only damage for armor penetration calcs. For example, a railgun would do 25 damage with a 3x armor penetration modifier, thus armor will treat it like it does 75 damage, but will still do 25 damage to the soldier, simulating overpenetration with a tiny, ultra-fast round. Thus you can simulate different kinds of weapons. The coverage degradation modifier could also be part of a weapon, which specifies how good the weapon is at stripping away armor. In the above example, a railgun round would make a very tiny wound/hole, resulting in little armor coverage degradation, while something like a plasma gun or explosive could melt/shred entire pieces off.

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Simplest answer I've seen would be the New Vegas system. Every armor has a value. The weapon either goes through or doesn't. If it doesn't, the damage is piddly. If it does, it's full. Armor deteriorates with every shot. Super amazingly perfect? No. Better than XDivision? No. Conveys the feeling or armor without layers of systems that all need calibrating? Yes. They got around the energy weapons difference by just having them get a crit modifier on their ammo depending on type, which basically have them random armor piercing. Felt pretty good. 

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You could always throw in the Silent Storm system on top of a more basic system. All the benefits of a locational system without the technical fudgery. (There's an option in SA that turns on critical debuffs, which give all manner of different injuries, from busted limbs, to bleeding, blindness, unconsciousness, etc. You could have a unit in a mech suit suddenly get knocked out by a sniper shot getting through their armor. Felt really cool)

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Armor system on its own doesn't really function, the rest of the things such a character damage need to follow. Armor system used in JA2 1.13 works well with their new damage mechanics where damage can be artificially split into 4 categories:

- light injury, bellow 5% of hp, can be treated by the merc himself most of the time and is more a grazing wound. Can be a result of low caliber penetrating armor, some odd pellet hit or low velocity grenade fragment

- medium injury, in a range of about 20-30% hitpoints, typically doesn't incapacitate merc but does debilitating damage to stats and can cause serious bleeding. When you tag enemy with such damage you can de-preoritise them for current turn as most likely they won't have enough TU to do anything serious in response

- heavy injury, this can go all the way to 80% of the mercs health, typically incapacitates them for at least few rounds, leads to the bleeding that can kill merc in few turns and you have to use someone else to at least stabilize them. Even if consciousness is regained, without something like regen booster, they won't be able to contribute much to the ongoing fight

- instant death, damage higher than characters total HP, headshots or multiple consecutive hits are typical reason for this

What armor does is moves damage from one category into another. In heavy suit, you can tank low caliber shots and suffer only loss of TU due to hits/suppression, assuming every shot is absorbed. In case of other weapons you are basically exchanging loss of the character to opportunity of being able to save him or necessity to drag someone from under the fire to them being able to find safety on their own.


I liked general approach in X-Division on this, but part where armor can just eat up all damage without any other side effect is a bit weird. I understand that it's a bit sci-fi but regardless of the tech level, if armor makes you invincible towards some type of ammunition, the armor itself probably won't take any damage either. I mean, the 9mm parabellum won't do anything against an armored APC regardless how many shots you can practically take. Something like titanium plates, might not have as high protection as ceramics but they won't degrade after few hits either. It's just felt that in X-Division the whole armor protection side of things becomes a bit linear. I prefer JA2 1.13 feeling to it where damage spread and resulting injuries are more drastic, this way a focused fire on an enemy or using long burst fire becomes effective tactics against group of enemies. Assuming a lizard in a heavy plates of armor, there still will be some parts that are more lightly armored than others, so sustainable fire can lead to their demise.

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It doesn't tend to eat it for long, though. In the early game, if you get far ahead enough, you can tank the early enemy shots. Ballistic is easy to resist, but lasers tend to get through. By the end of phase 2, you should still be ok for ballistic, but energy can still get through. By 3, you can take grazing shots, but there's a lot more danger flying your way, and you usually wind up suppressed. By phase 4, many of the weapons can just pierce right through. Lasers have a really good chance of that, most ballistic will shred your overall armor, and things like blood cannons can just be considered to ignore armor, seeing as even if they survive the first hit, the tile damage tick can hit for 50+. The armor is just there to save your units from the chaos that is shredding apart the entire map. In phase 4 you can walk into a hallway, and suddenly have the entire room bleeding out just from scratch damage. 

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