MechaStellar: Design Update – Evade

Gelgoog d

Aloha everyone!  We’ve spent the past few months playtesting a different type of attack and evade mechanic for Mechastellar and today we’ll talk about the results.

First up the mechanic.  We had the pleasant experience doing a several large scale playtest games over the holidays in Nov/Dec to try out the VER 2.0 ruleset and it was quite successful.  We had a chance to try high level suits vs army of grunts, prototype vs prototype match-ups, melee master faceoffs (Death Scythe Vs Master Gundam), team games with objectives and multiplayer free-for-alls.

Master Gundam Horse
Battle of Titans: Master Gundam Vs Death Scythe

Many things worked well, a few of these tests pointed to weaknesses in the current rules write up that needed to be addressed.  We also found a few new strategies we hadn’t considered, when in a 3 on 3 team game one player decided to start destroying the terrain we were standing on eliminating our high ground advantage.  Moments like that make playtesting an absolute blast!

Overall, playtesting helps identify strengths and weaknesses and gives you a chance to shore up those areas.  We’ve managed to correct most of that, but the alternating turns mechanics needs some more adjusting for free-for-all type games.  One thing that became clear was that there was a lot of rolling involved and a lot of math.  Here’s the how the procedure normally goes:

  1. Make an Attack roll, use a d20 and add the ATK bonus (usually between 1-15)
  2. Compare that to Defenders Evasion (Anywhere from 10-25)
  3. Defender decides if they want to use Skill to auto dodge
  4. Defender makes an Armor Save modifying it based on the Attacker’s weapons enetrating modifier
  5. Defender either passes their Armor Save or takes damage

While it still goes pretty fast, we were curious if we could eliminate one of these steps to speed up gameplay and cut down on the mental math people needed to do.  What we came up with was an overhaul to the attack and evasion system.


Proposed Design Change

Get rid of Attack bonuses.  The attacker simply declares their attacks on the defender and the defender uses their pool of Evades to negate the attacks.

So in the past you may have had 1d20 + 7 Attack Vs Target’s Evade of 15

Now there would be no d20 roll or attack modifier.  Instead all shots (while in range) are assumed to hit unless the defender spends evade.  It would like something like this.

You shoot 5 missiles and two beam rifle shots, the target has 3 evade, they auto-dodge the two beam rifle shots and 1 missile shot and make an armor save against the 4 missiles that hit.

From this example it’s quite faster, there’s no longer dice rolling and mental math.  Simply I shoot you with these weapons, how do you respond and what do you prioritize to evade.  It was a neat idea but overall very limiting.  Here were the problem areas for us.

  1.  What about attacking when outside of range?  We decided outside of weapon’s range you have a 50% miss chance.
  2. What happens when the target has more Evades then you have attacks?  i.e. Target has Evade 3 and I can only shoot twice.
    1. Solution #1 – Defender choose one attack to have a 50% chance to hit regardless.  If we let the attacker choose, then they’d pick the death ray every time.
    2. Solution #2 – Perhaps instead Evades are 50% miss chances.  So it takes 2 Evades to auto-dodge and attack, 1 Evade is only a 50% miss chance, but 1 Evade combined with an out of range shot becomes 100% miss chance

The problem we keep running into is that in this system you’re putting in a hard ceiling.  You can never have too many Evades without invalidating suits that can only make one or two attacks.  We modified the action point rules that every suit could reliably make 2 attacks and 80% of them could make 3 attacks but even so it made design very limited.

Additionally, we found that after a few months while it was a simpler game mechanic and required less math, overall it just wasn’t very fun.  Every dogfight turned into avoiding the most damaging shots and waiting till someone eventually succumbed to missile or machine gun fire.

Dendrobium Orchis

In an attempt to streamline the game we actually invalidated heavy weapon choices and if you’ve ever watched a giant robot show or played a game those are the most fun weapons.  So at the end of the day we decided to scrap the system.  Some neat ideas and all but the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.

It did however inspire a minor rules change that we’re very satisfied with.  If you recall in the VER 2.0 rules it is 1d20 + Attack Vs Target’s Evade which is a static number.  We decided to flip this around and instead Attack will be a static number and Evade is now 1d20 + Evade.  For example:

OLD  1d20 + 7 Vs Target’s Evade 15

NEW  Attack 17 Vs Evade of 1d20+5

Giving the defending player a bit more agency by letting them roll Evade has been quite fun, and when you get blasted by a deathray you have only yourself and your dice to blame.

That was an unfortunate evade roll

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