It's been a while since I last wrote one of these. To be more consistent, I think I need to break down the process to be a little simpler and put less effort into these. They should be word dumps with simple screenshots. The whole point is for reflection and self-assessment, not thought-provoking journalistic insights on the board game industry, eh?

So, things have changed since the last iteration. After playing both Snap Ship Tactics and War Chest on TTS, I think the biggest realization was that I was compromising on the initial image of the board game that I had. This needed to be fixed, even though we've gone down a deep hole of edits and compromises in terms of the board design. In a sweep, we're back to the drawing board, and this quick re-prototype feels like an entirely different game. Half worried that it's the wrong direction. But any direction is better than no direction.


The biggest change was going back to customizable parts. However, instead of drafting or starting with nothing, each Mech would start with basic parts and 1 simple unique ability.

There was also the decision to halve movement and halve HP. What I originally thought was flexibility and a large spatially complex map ended up just being meaningless hexes and steps. By decreasing the hex space and decreasing movement speeds, single spaces end up having more weight, which is important. In chess, the pawn moves a single step, and that makes or breaks your position and formation. Each hex space is not as important as that, but it's closer.



Another reversion was the action system. Now, each item has an action slot. However, action discs are moved around. This creates a small puzzle where you cannot use the same action twice. I am considering if there should be more restrictions, like:


"Action Discs must be taken from a Mech you are not activating."


This would simulate overheating and prevent simply moving and attacking.



The map is another thing, too. War Chest brought up the consideration of area control. Infinite spawning mechs with an objective to control 3 of 4 outposts (blue). The red are supply drops.


In general, I feel a little more lost and confused. But somehow happier with this decision. I worry that I'm mucking around without simply finishing. Somehow, I worry that I'm psychologically preventing myself to finish, that I'm uncomfortable with this space.


To be continued.

ELEVATOR PITCH A mining site of rare precious metals was discovered and is now under contest by every nation that has enough money to fight for it. Each nation has built a team of giant mechanized robots to claim this site for themselves. Mech Battle is a competitive robot building game where 2-6 players each build teams of 3 custom Mechs and duke it out on a hex grid terrain with varied biomes. The last Mech standing wins.

This is a design diary of my thoughts, efforts, and decisions that went into designing board games I want to make.


Mech Battle Living Rulebook

Mech Battle Living Prod Guide/Assets

29th February was the first day this felt like an actual game. We playtested the new iteration with multiple changes that we had made prior. It held up decently, and we managed to get 2 good games in.


Here's an end screen of the second game. In a pinch, the game ended up being won by mining the VP.


Granted, there are still many unsolved issues, but these will get fixed with more playtests. The wins during this playtest.


Consolidated stats in the Graphic Design

With the new Squadboard design, the Mech data is on the right of the Mech. Any part cards placed there overlay the existing stats and build up Mech's general stats, represented by the bars on the left, with cubes to mark each stat.

This means a Mech can be deployed onto the field with 3 HP, 0 Armor, and 0 Load. Considering the new placement of information, discerning the cumulated stats of the Mech was much simpler.

Simple Player Action Choices

Since the last playtest, I created a simple action board with a single action token.

This allows players to keep track of and visualize the actions they can make on the board easily.


This is intuitive-ish but still needs some fine-tuning in the way of icons and graphic design. While the actions make sense in the rulebook, there has to be a way to quickly reference this during the game.


The tension of spawning vs building bots

It was a good decision to scrap having 2 parts to the game and simply start by drafting a single Mech and going full steam ahead. The issue is that drafting now took a back seat to the rest of the game. The plan is to make drafting a little more viable and less intrusive.


The immediate solution was to implement 1 free part card at the end of every turn, ensuring that players will have fully kit out Mechs in 6 turns without drafting.


Weapons and Ordnances

Getting weapons is also tricky. Ordnances don't do much now and SHOULD be playing a larger part of the game. Need to figure this one out.


Changes

The things I decided to change, moving forward.


The Spawn Tile felt too excessive with 5 spaces. Dropped it down to 3 spaces. Technically based on the setup, it should only be 2, but 3 gives a little more wiggle room if I wanted to change up the setup or spawning.


The Console needed some graphical updates. The terrain was updated, the quick guide to each action was added, and the Mech starts without the dodge die.

And the part deck needed to be separated. I've started getting a little more effective with Datamerge. Yay me!


Conclusions

Since then, my next tasks are to continue to balance the card powers. I also need to take a look at Ordnances, because they're pretty hit/miss right now.


There is also the question of drafting, and how the Mechs obtain their parts in the first place. Should the player choose if the parts are drafted? Should it be given to the player slowly over time. Then, are they allowed to skip their turn to gain more parts?


Also, the major question that I've been trying to ask myself is, "Is this even fun?"

Updated: Jan 22

ELEVATOR PITCH Mech Battle is a competitive robot building game where 2-6 players each build teams of 3 custom Mechs and duke it out on a hex grid terrain with varied biomes. The last Mech standing wins.

This is a design diary of my thoughts, efforts, and decisions that went into designing board games I want to make.


Mech Battle Living Rulebook Mech Battle Living Prod Guide/Assets


There wasn't a playtest today. We had worked out the rough kinks in the prototype, and it was just time to go back to the workshop to hammer out content and cards. That's just what we ended up doing. There were some strong ideas in play, and we needed to really think about the decisions when trying to make a good game. Here's what we ended up improving/fixing.


THEME

While Mechs fighting in an arena is a compelling setting, it's not really a theme, per se. To be honest, I don't fully grasp what a theme is yet, but I'm pretty sure we don't have it, compared to something like GKR, for example.


So I attempted at a theme, or at least I think what a theme is.

Earth is running out of natural resources. A final mining site containing precious metals is now under contest by every nation that has enough money to fight for it. Now, each nation has built a team of giant mechanized robots to claim the mining site for themselves.

Can someone tell me if the theme is right?


ACTION ECONOMY

We finally came to a conclusion for what would be a good action economy for the game. Primarily, I was inspired by Spirit Island, with its varied multi-part growth actions.


Along with Scythe's inherently intuitive and simple YET deep action selection mechanic.


These actions allowed the player to choose 1 action, and that action cascades to multiple affected mechanics, allowing for deep decisions that award the player that plans their actions properly.


I also desperately wanted something that impacted all 3 Mechs, not just 1. I feel that it is important for the Mechs to work together as a squad instead of 1 by 1. We ended up calling these actions "Operation", and related to the section of the board as the "Operation Board".


I'm not that smart, to be honest, so we simply came up with operations we thought were reasonable within possibility of the game.


ACTIVATE MECH Mech Activation. Choose 1 Mech. It may perform either:

  • 2 Moves.

  • 1 Move and/or 1 Attack.


ACTIVATE SQUAD

Squad Activation. Each Mech may perform either:

  • 1 Move

  • 1 Attack

  • Do Nothing

DRAFT Drafting Parts/Weapons. Active player chooses to either:

  • Draft 3 Parts and equip up to 2 Parts

  • Draft 2 Weapons and equip 1 Weapon


DEPLOY Deploy any number of Mechs onto the Battlefield. Each Mech performs a free move.


MINE/GIRD

For each Mech adjacent to the Mining Site, gain 1 VP. VP can only be gained when no opposing Mechs are adjacent to the Mining Site.

Every other Mech gains +1 Def die when Attacked during this turn.


This eventually lead to the new version of the Mechboard, below. The stats are generally self-explanatory, but it was high time for the cards to actually start being transparent now, which is why the right space is blank.




The contradiction of wanting team actions on the Operation Board comes with the next part, drafting.


DRAFTING

A problem we foresaw was the drafting phase of the game. While it was originally intended to be a 2-part game, similar to Betrayal at the House on the Hill, it felt like the drafting part of the game was solely isolated to its own segment, and players didn't have a choice on how or when they wanted to draft.


This meant attempting to combine both the drafting phase and battle phase together. It was important that drafting did not hinder battle, and would need to be, in a sense, optional, for players.


We then intended drafting to be quick, made for 1 Mech, and to include it in setup. That's what we did for setup rules.


SETUP

Instead of setting up 3 Mechs during the drafting phase and deploying them for the battle phase, we decided on this:


1 Mech is quick-drafted for each team at the start of the game. It is deployed on the field immediately, and the game begins.

This means players need to strategize choosing between moving the mechs they have on the field, or drafting more cards to deploy their team. A full team of Mechs benefits greatly from the Squad Operation, as it is essentially 3 actions, but getting a team of Mechs that are kitted out requires at least 5 turns.


CARDS

This is also the first time we hammered down properly the basic decks in the game.

There was a lot of excel, in general. Ideation is the grunt work of the whole process, and maybe it shouldn't be.


Maybe I should be making ONLY cards I think are interesting, rather than cards that feel like they just work normally. Now I'm just self-doubting.


After a slightly arduous brainstorming session, we laid out a basic bunch of cards.


31 part cards


14 Weapon cards with their Upgraded versions



And 14 Ordnances


CONCLUSION

I feel ready for another playtest. And to be honest, I don't know where to go after this.