I am currently working on creating a board-game together with some friends of mine. The game is focussed on gathering resources around the map and buying stronger items with the money you can get by selling said resources.
To make the game a bit more interesting for multiple players, so that they don't just play their own game by themselves, we want to implement a combat system that can help players to get resources from other players by fighting them. This fight should be able to have 3 possible outcomes:
The player that challenged the other player wins:
In this case the winning player is able to select one resource from the losing player.
The player that challenged the other player loses:
Same as above.
Draw, both players 'lose':
As you can see this is not too complicated so far, but we are stuck at finding a way to make this combat system more than just "I have the better weapon, I can win against all of you".
Every player has 2 combat item slots, for weapon and armor, each posessing an ATK and a DEF value, representing the items attack and defence.
The way we are currently determining which player wins is by following this procedure:
We compare the total ATK value of the attacking player with the total DEF value of the player being attacked. If it is higher, the attacking player wins.
If that is not the case, the total ATK value of the player that was attacked beforehand is compared to the total DEF value of the player that attacked before. If it is higher, the player that was challenged to the fight wins.
If none of the upper cases are met, the battle results in a draw.
Our problem is that when we tested the game with a few people, fights were almost not used, because the players were still primarily focusing on gathering their resources.
In a game of 30 turns and 4 players we had a total of 5 battles, 3 of them by the player that got a strong weapon at the start of the game by luck and won every fight easily.
After the game, we asked the players why they were not using the fighting mechanic, since it is supposed to put you ahead and the other players behind. They answered that they couldn't keep track of whether the player they would have challenged would be stronger than them or not, which was too great of a risk for them.
Is this combat system basically designed badly, or is there a way to improve it slightly to make it more appealing for the players?