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.
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.
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?
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:
1 Move and/or 1 Attack.
Squad Activation. Each Mech may perform either:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I feel ready for another playtest. And to be honest, I don't know where to go after this.