This Design Diary is a log of my thoughts, efforts, and decisions that went into board game designing.
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.
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.
Reduced from 20 Max HP to 10.
Reduced to 5
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:
3 Spaces when moving
2 Spaces when moving
1 Space when moving
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.
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!
Takeaways from Terrain were:
2 rules each for 6 Terrain Biomes were too many to remember.
Blocking LoS completely made Mechs invincible as long as they hid in a Terrain.
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.
All attacks into or out of this Biome -1 Hit Dice (min 1).
Armaments require 2 Actions to be used.
All movement starting in this Biome -1 (min 1).
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.
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.
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.
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.
It allows space for Revival Mechanics to come into play with the other cards.
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.
4086 Game Icons - https://game-icons.net/