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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The immediate problematic areas I see are:
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 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.
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.
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