MechaStellar: Quick Update

Hi folks, before we start talking about the updated version of the rules I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the things we had a chance to test over the last year.

VER 3

We had a great chance to test Version 2 with a lot of our friends before COVID sent us into a very long lock down. One thing we noticed was that our Version 2 rules had a lot of math. A lot!

In our old ruleset you had Action Points and each weapon costed a different amount of action points. For instance a Machine Gun might be one while a Beam Cannon might be 4 action points. Now let’s say you have 8 AP and fired your Machine gun 8 times, that means you would roll 8d20 then add your Shooting modifier to each die. Then your opponent would roll 8d20 and add their Evade bonus to each die. Then you’d start comparing hits and evades and the whole thing was rather slow.

We later sped it up a bit by having Evade be a static number and Attack being the die you roll and add a bonus to and check to see if you hit or not. For instance the opponent had an Evade of 17, you had Shooting +8 so you’d need to roll 9 or better to hit.

In Version 3 we wanted to test out a ruleset that was very math light. We tried an Auto-Hit and Auto-Dodge concept. Weapons would automatically hit and the defender would have a set amount of dodges they could use. This concept rewarded high shot weapons like a machine gun or a rocket barrage since the number of attacks would be quite high and auto-dodges had to be kept low, otherwise you’d never be hit!

While it was fun and fast, the real rub came with balancing this type of system. Let’s say your Beam rifle only makes 2 shots and you can fire it 2 times if you’re a Nemo or 3 times if you’re a Gundam. That means auto-dodges could never exceed 3 otherwise units could be invincible to common troops like a Nemo. This severely limited the design space and caused a whole host of issues when we had unkillable Hamurabi’s thrashing Nemos.

We also found that while the system was very fast, there was a very limited amount of user interaction and randomness since there were almost no dice involved. We eventually got away from this system.

VER 4

Version 4 was a refinement of Version 2 using what we learned in Version 3. We got rid of “Reload” for weapons, where if you fired it too many times it could run out of ammo. Fun for an RPG game or controlling a small fire team but it got cumbersome at the Squad or Battalion level. We instituted limits on the number of shots you could make instead of a reload concept, representing how certain weapons had significant delay between shots such as Bazookas or Cannons. We got this inspiration from the limits shots and evades in VER 3.

VER 4 also had a significant Melee restructuring which we hinted at in previous posts on here.

VER 5

Version 4 was a giant leap forward since we got rid of Action Points. What we found was that Action Points were really cool, but incredibly cumbersome when you were controlling more than one Mech. Great for a tabletop RPG but not so much for a wargame where you might field anywhere from 3 to 30 units.

As noted above Weapon types had various Action Point (AP) costs, this led to a whole lot of choice paralysis where you wondered what would be the best weapon to use for the situation at hand and whether it would be best to mix weapon types or not. It also led to a few traps since in older version you could spend Action Points to Aim improving your shooting bonus which required even more math to figure out the optimal way to spend your AP to improve your accuracy but also maximize your number of shots. A robust system with a lot of depth but ultimately added a lot of unnecessary complexity.

In this version we moved from AP into just Actions. Your grunt units, Frame Level 1 and 2 got one action a round. Very simple and straightforward for your standard enemies like the humble Leo, mass produced GM, or sturdy Zaku. Each time you activated one of these units you could move them then use its sole action to Shoot or Boost (move further and over terrain pieces). Simple and to the point, it was well loved by everyone who tried it compared to the old model.

Since we got rid of Action Points all our weapons moved to a set number of shots. So in the past you might have a Machine Gun that costs 1AP to fire and 6 AP to use, now you’re Machine Gun fires 5 times every times its fired.

Frame Level 3+ suits got 2 Actions to play with opening up new possibilities. They could attack with two different types of weapons. They could shoot a rifle then rockets, or a rifle then melee combat. They could Boost to the high ground then fire. We also added an Aim action which gave a small but significant boost to hit when dealing with high-Evade enemies.

Other major changes including moving to a d10 system instead of a d20 system. Both for Shooting/Evade and for the Melee Clash, although Melee didn’t switch from a d6 system until a few months later since it was working well. d10s gave a significant advantage over d20 when it came to reliability. It was far easier for a player to predict if they had good odds of dodging, in the d20 system it was so swingy sometimes a poor roll meant your suit would be untouched or completely destroyed.

With a d10 system the constrained variability actually helped quite a bit. We took modifiers from Mech roles and lowered them significantly, going from Shooting +8 to shooting +2 for instance, and it gave Mech’s a chance to dodge a good amount of shots. As a result we could increase the number of shots for many weapons, and who doesn’t enjoy rolling a bunch of dice.

Melee under the d10 concept also got a revised version of rules that went from comparing Sums to comparing Successes. It made it easier to take damage without instantly dying in melee and also gave a better chance to clash without dealing damage, something we see in shows a lot. Overall we’re really happy with it and we’ll discuss it more in our next post.

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