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 my first board game: Mech Battle (title work in progress).

Living Mech Battle Rulebook Living Prod Guide/Card List


Another playtest was done on the 8th and was more successful than the first. There was actually headway, and it felt like a legitimate game was starting to shape up from the playtest. This feeling of improvement should be noted. I need to trust my gut and observe the excitement against the disappointment of the previous playtest. It should mean that I'm on the right track. Maybe?


Anyway, here's a screenshot of the end game:


Red Team won by quite a margin. It should be noted that Red Team was also the team that claimed the 4th Action token, which may be only a slight advantage at the start of the game, but the longer the game, the wider the advantage becomes.


Changelog after this playtest:

  • Add text to dodge die ability: "keeping the new result"

  • To mitigate first player advantage, the first player should only have 2 actions

  • State that Overwatch ability is an immediate interrupt

  • Stats require a 0 value as well

  • Update all terrain effects

  • Remove all LoS rules. Replace with the word "Range" where necessary

  • Include salvaging rules

  • Remove 4th Action Disc on middle tile

  • Work on upgrading weapon mechanic

  • Revise Load

  • Implement ordinances at the start of the game

  • First player advantage, 2nd player decides on spawn zones


Terrain Biomes

After playing some more, we realized that Mountains are the most advantageous terrain by a Mile. Also, the other 3 terrains were disadvantageous to be in. Slowly fixing that, the new updated Terrain effects are:


Rainforest

Mechs targeted by any Attack in this biome +1 Defense Die.


Desert

Ordnances require 2 Actions to be used.


Ocean

Movement originating in this Biome -1 space (min 1).


Mountains

Ranged Attacks originating from this biome +1 Range.


Also, I've decided that I will not call it Biomes because those are slightly different things. Though, I have taken note of Earth's 7 biome types to include in a more complex map. I'll save that for another day.


Load Level

In general, combat mechanics needed to be streamlined. Adding and reducing dice was difficult to count from the Mech board, including multiple Terrain abilities, and then factoring the Load penalty for 5+. It was to be omitted completely, resulting in:


0-1 Load

3 Spaces when moving


2-4 Load

2 Spaces when moving


5+ Load

1 Space when moving


Mech Board (Squad Board)

I've decided to also change the name of the Mech Board to Squad Board, as I would like to move more into the philosophy of squad movement rather than single bot movement.


With a few changes in design and structure, the new Squad Board with updated Load was built.



Action Economy

The biggest challenge I'm facing now is how Actions work in the game. I have 2 contenders for how action works in the game.


  1. Pool of Action Discs, activating individual actions. Each player gets 3 Action Discs a turn. These discs can be placed on any Mech part to activate it. Legs to move up to its movement speed, arms to attack with the main weapon, etc. This action economy method allows me to try cool things like "Action Discs stack on a Charging weapon, which fires upon recovery of Action Discs".

  2. Single Action Disc, a small list of varied operations. This is what would be similar to Scythe or Spirit Island, where the player is given a list of things they can do, and they choose the best operation that fits their need. An example Operation would be "Move 2 mechs, Attack with 1 Mech." or "Move 3 Mechs. Move 1 Mech again." This would make the game feel more squad-like.

It's a conundrum, and I cannot decide. I'm going to take a short break and get back to the drawing board!

Updated: Jan 9

This Design Diary is a log of my thoughts, efforts, and decisions that went into board game designing.


Living Mech Battle Rulebook

Living Prod Guide/Card List


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.

We playtested the prototype on New Year's day, 2021.


It was crap. The upside was, we know exactly what is wrong with the design and how to fix it. The prototype played out much worse than I had imagined in my mind, and I have learned a valuable lesson:

You learn nothing of your design if you don't test it.

Seems obvious, but it cannot be understated that putting something into practice and experiencing it is as valuable as, if not more than, weeks of planning around your design.


For example, I did not expect 20HP per Mech to be such a slog in battle. With weapons averaging at 6DMG, consider 3 Mechs of 10-20HP each (45HP total) and 7 Armor each (21 Armor total), it takes at least 11 attacks with the strongest weapon available to defeat all bots on the opponent's team.


After a complete breakdown of the core mechanics, we're going back to the drawing board for this.


THE BIGGEST CHANGE - REMOVING CUSTOMIZED MECHS

So, after 1 playtest, we decided to scrap the USP of the game. What I thought would be the glorious, amazing thing that everyone would look and be, "ooh!" was thrown out.


The stacking art and cards with minis don't seem feasible from a production standpoint, considering there will be around 100~ cards, hence 100~ plastic pieces. Ridiculous to look through all that plastic to find the one you need to build a robot.


So, I decided to take a page out of Into the Breach's design.



The Mechs will still be custom. But instead of individual art on each part card, the Mech Dashboard will have already drawn art, in the color scheme of the player's chosen color. Similar to below.


e.g.. the Player takes the red Dashboard. It has 3 cool red-scheme Mech art, and their Mechs in the box will be in Red. Simple solution without the need for color bases or fiddly parts.


This allows for cooler designs and shrinks the plastic to 3 X no. of players.


STAT RANGES

Because the battle started becoming such a slog, I decided that the best way forward was to cut all stats by half. If needed, weapon DMG adjustments can be made for faster/slower games.


HP Range

Reduced from 20 Max HP to 10.


Armor Range

Reduced to 5


LOAD

Load did not work as intended as it didn't make sense that no Mech could achieve minimum Load. The way around it was to ensure that the majority of cards carried NO Load, and Load meant that the card was slightly more powerful than average. The adjusted load values became:


1 Load

3 Spaces when moving


2-3 Load

2 Spaces when moving


4 Load

1 Space when moving


5+ Load

1 Space when moving, -1 Defense Die (min 1).


It made sense to also lower the values, and increase the penalty for anything higher than the heaviest possible load.


MECH BOARD ADJUSTMENTS

With the part/art, load rules, and stat range changes, the Mech Board ended up looking a little like this.

The larger value ranges will not be missed. Also, considering now that boards will have artwork on them, I quickly searched up ArtStation and found some awesome-looking Mech designs by Hue Teo to use as placeholders.


Red Team


Blue Team


BOARD

When playing with the board, I understood immediately when I started my first turn on the game why testing was so important. While it felt great to have a spacious board and variable mech parts, when I took my first turn to move my heavy Mech, It didn't dent the surface of the board. There was absolutely no way I'd even reach the other side if I tried moving every turn.


Very obviously, the board needed to shrink. With that all said and done, the size of the board changed, and the Biome rules were updated. Board V2 was ready to go!



TERRAIN

Takeaways from Terrain were:

  1. 2 rules each for 6 Terrain Biomes were too many to remember.

  2. Blocking LoS completely made Mechs invincible as long as they hid in a Terrain.

  3. No one touches the Lava tile after picking up the 4th Action.

Blocked LoS was a major concern, and turned everything into a game of chicken. Our reflection of the system was that it needed to be simplified and that LoS needed to exist for things to shoot each other.


Rainforest

All attacks into or out of this Biome -1 Hit Dice (min 1).


Desert

Armaments require 2 Actions to be used.


Ocean

All movement starting in this Biome -1 (min 1).


Mountains

Blocks LoS of attacks from non-Mountain Biomes.


Which resulted in a restructure of tiles.



Which then was plonked into TTS. There was also better color separation once I tinted the biomes each with a different shade.





ATTACKING

To be honest, the attacking system worked fine. However, I felt that flat weapon damage lacked flair and randomness. To make the damage a little more random meant that shooting and getting shot became a little more exciting.


Also, with the adjusted HP and Armor ranges, each hit means more as Mechs take half damage.


DODGING AND DEFENDING

The change in Attack also meant that the HIT/MISS chance was built into the system by way of DMG reduction. However, I wanted to include an absolute HIT/MISS chance, which I split the Dodge/Defense Dice.


A player rolls both these dice when defending. The Dodge die has a 1/6 chance of fully dodging the attack, and the Defense die (based on part value) gives 1/2 chance of damage reduction.

Which was imported into TTS.




PART AND WEAPON CARDS

With the update of Defense die and the new board shape, the part cards and weapon cards need to be updated. They are changed to Poker (62 x 88 mm) from of Dixit (120 x 80 mm), and the values have been updated to reflect how I felt was lacking in the previous playtest.


You'll also notice that Torsos exclusively gives Armor, Arms exclusively give defense die, and Legs exclusively give Dodge die. They all share a common stat, HP.


PART CARDS

WEAPON CARDS


3 each were created as a bare minimum for testing purposes. And here's how it looks implemented onto TTS.




DESTROYED MECH RULE

We wanted some sort of reward system for the Mechs on the Battlefield when they get destroyed. It was also important that it doesn't over-reward a player, which will lead to a cascading victory (like Monopoly). We decided on:


When a Mech is destroyed, lay its figure on its side. Whenever any Mech on the Battlefield interacts with the destroyed Mech, it may replace any 1 part card with the destroyed Mech's. If no cards are taken, all part cards are discarded and the destroyed Mech is removed from the Battlefield.


This allows for 2 important things to happen.

  1. Not necessarily is the person who destroys the Mech able to get its parts. The player whose Mech got destroyed has the chance to salvage parts if it helps their team.

  2. It allows space for Revival Mechanics to come into play with the other cards.

ENDING THOUGHTS

The Action Economy still needs testing. We played with alternating, stackable actions and it did not end very well.


The next test is to do non-alternating, non-stacking actions.


Currently considering group mechanics, if plausible.


RESOURCES

4086 Game Icons - https://game-icons.net/

Updated: Jan 5

This is the first Design Diary entry for Mech Battle. This Design Diary is a log of my thoughts, efforts, and decisions that went into board game designing. Mech Battle is my first ever design.


Living Mech Battle Rulebook

Living Prod Guide/Card List


ELEVATOR PITCH Mech Battle is a competitive Mech 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.

The desire for the game stems from the desire to quickly draft completely customizable characters, and implement them immediately to effect. Why the theme of Mechs/robots was chosen was because mechanical constructions are easier to break into parts and more believable with spontaneous creation.


The inspiration came from Gloom cards, where stats would stack onto a single Mech frame, adding stats and abilities to the Mech.



The GameCrafter also provides clear plastic Euro cards which samples looked very much like the final intent for Mech construction.



This week, the focus was very much getting the assets created for Tabletop Simulator. After establishing the main stats, we put our heads down to work on the various assets.


WHERE TO START

The biggest and most complicated decision is where to start. The theme is decent, and the "build-a-mech" aspect was inspired to be as it was. How to start on the rest of the game?


With my buddy, we came to a consensus to start with the end of the game, to work backward. We needed to answer questions like,


"How are the Mechs used?"

"How do they move?"

"Which stats are important?"

"How do they interact with each other and the battlefield?"


These need to be answered before questions like,


"How are the Mechs drafted?"

"How many cards to draw?"

"What are the decisions that go into building a Mech?"

"What do players look out for when drafting a Mech?"


And so, we begun.


BOARD

It should all begin with a Game Board.


"Square Grid? Hex Grid? Free-form with rulers and measurements?"

"How big? How small? How many spaces?"


We went with a 15 x 15 hex grid board, with spawning tiles outside the main feature. We also wanted Biomes, which we made a shortlist of:

  • Rainforest

  • Desert

  • Ocean

  • Volcanic

  • Snow

  • Mountains


We also wanted neutral terrain, which wrapped around the outside of the board. This next picture is the accumulation of those decisions.



We then wanted to map out what Biome went on what terrain piece. Behold our amazing drawing skills!



Knowing how the terrain is mapped out allowed us to see how the map was formed. While we originally intended the board to be 1 piece, knowing that the terrains could be flipped and moved around allowed for a much more varied experience.


Then, I pulled out random stock image sites with top-down views of terrain, randomizing them the best I could.



And painstakingly placing each tile on a rotating pin on top of the main board in TTS.


With this orientation, the forest, mountains, deserts, and oceans are linked to become a larger terrain. The forest, in this case, spanned across 3 tiles.


DICE

The main combat mechanic was simplified to a Hit/Damage system similar to D&D.


Hit Rate vs Dodge Rate.

If, Hit success ≥ Dodge success

Then, Flat Damage is Dealt.


Weapon categories were tricky, but in the end, we broke them down into 2.


Physical Weapons: Lower Hit Rate, Higher Crit Successes

Energy Weapons: Higher Hit Rate, Medium Successes


Dodging was dependant on the Dodge Dice.


Dodge Rate: 50% chance success per dice.


With some back and forth, the pips were decided. We didn't want dodge and hit to have equal chances. Working on the assumption that million-dollar mechs will have the capability to more accurately shoot over a realistically dodging.


Which was implemented into TTS.



MECH PART CARD

Then was the design of the Mech part card. In general, the Mechs were decided to have to be broken down into:

  1. Core

  2. Torso

  3. Arms

  4. Legs

  5. Armaments


We decided to remove Core so the Mech be made of the 4 components. Each part will come with the following stats:

  • Load - The weight/energy consumption of the part. The higher the load, the more impacted movement becomes.

  • Health - Hitpoints that are cumulative, adding to the main HP of the Mech.

  • Armor - Serves as a buffer for damage before taking any HP damage. Armor can be regenerated.

  • Abilities - Any additional abilities that may come along with the part (overwatch skill, terrain boost, etc.)


MOVEMENT/LOAD

It should be noted that movement is not mentioned. The movement system is dependant on the load, which means the more load cumulated from the parts, the slower the Mech becomes in general.



After a long discussion about card sizes and orientation, a satisfactory prototype was worked out (for testing). The cards are Dixit (120 x 80 mm) sized, landscape to allow for the mech parts to show on the left.



As they are to be in teams of 3, I made 3 for testing. This is literally the MVP (Minimum Viable Product).



Light, Middle Weight, and Heavy variations. Pictures are just placeholders. We also made the decision to not test Armaments in the meantime.


WEAPON CARD

After mucking about with weapons, we decided to test 3 weapons, along with the 3 Mechs. A melee weapon, a mid-ranged weapon, and a long-ranged weapon. A simple prototype was mocked up.



And 3 weapons were made.



MECH DASHBOARD

Lastly, we needed a place to put all the components on, a player dashboard. Some tweaks here and there, and we came up with a simple design with sliders.


The dashboard accommodates the Mech card and the weapon mini card (63 x 41 mm), along with sliders for HP, Armor, and Load.


ACTION ECONOMY

While we haven't talked about Action Economy or resources yet, we have a basic structure that still needs to be ironed out. More on that next time!


TTS IMPLEMENTATION

With tokens, dice, weapon cards, mech cards, and the dashboard, thrown into TTS. This is the Mech Dashboard with all its elements in place.



This. Is a milestone. Yes, it looks a little crap, but it's the FIRST EVER working model of these ideas that were floating around my brain for so many years.


ENDING THOUGHTS

The immediate problematic areas I see are:


3 SLIDERS

I would imagine it is difficult to keep track of 9 cubes on the board carefully, especially if all the numbers are close to one another. Without an indented dashboard, or lesser values per slider, it may not be a good tracking experience.


STATS

Stats are largely used only in the beginning of the game to determine Mech stats. While it's the central focus of the card now, it will not be referenced through the rest of the game. Consider placing it away similar to where Load is, currently.


PHYSICAL/ENERGY WEAPONS

All weapons now deal physical damage. Energy weapons need to be tested for balance. Maybe higher flat damage at a lower range. Makes sense, considering energy dissipates over distance.


RESOURCES

4086 Game Icons - https://game-icons.net/