MechaStellar VER 6

Hi folks, with COVID restrictions easing up we got a lot of playtesting done the last few months. The game was updated to Version 6 and most recently Version 7. Below you’ll find the significant changes.

Version 6

Version 6 was a test edition just like Version 3 before it. The primary driver of this update was the limits of the Pilot Skill / Army Skill system. At the start of the game we used Pilot Skill as a pool of points that would be a get out of Jail free card, essentially negating a shot from a ranged weapons or a hit from a melee weapon. The Skill Cost to Dodge could vary but most of the time it was 1.

A fun system but it became cumbersome tracking both HP and Skill on a per unit basis so we switched to an Army system, where Pilot Skill was totalled across the army and could be used by any Pilot. This method meant you only had to track this pool per army instead of per unit, the mechanic was envisioned as a combination of Pilot Skill and Morale, having outstanding or renowned pilots meant the army as a whole would be more confident in their success thus raising morale. When you spent lots of Army Skill to avoid attacks this represented the Aces being on a losing side and losing momentum, thus affecting Army Morale.

It was a good system but it had it’s limits. During playtesting of some Coop missions we soon discovered it could get out of hand, for instance late in the Coop campaign 6 units were fielded each adding 5 skill giving a total army value of 30. With 30 Skill there was simply Skill so much to go around that the units were almost never threatened, they had 30 get out of jail free cards.

At this point we started brainstorming on ways to update the Pilot Skill system. We went back to a concept in Version 3. Version 3 was an attempt at a zero rolling system, where you had a set number of shots and the enemy had a set number of evades. It was an interesting experiment but overall had some significant balance issues, while it was a very rapid way to start and finish large scale battles (20+ units on each side) it also took away the fun of having small battles of 3 on 3.

For Version 6 we wanted to try a version of Pilot Skill where it was on a per unit basis, but to avoid tracking skill on each model it would be an effect that would activate on every units turn. Here’s what we mean by this. Previously your Army may have 10 Skill, you could spend 1 skill to instantly dodge an attack, so if you’re attacked by 5 shots from a beam rifle and you fail to evade 3 of them you could spend 3 skill to avoid them completely, lowering your Army Skill pool to 7. What we were proposing is let’s say an Ace Pilot automatically dodged a certain number of shots per turn, so if he were shot by those 5 beam rifle shots he might automatically dodge 2 of them. No need to track skill on a per unit basis or on an army basis.

Of course there are problems with this method, it requires a careful balance where you can’t have too many auto-dodges otherwise a unit can become so strong that it is never in danger. For instance if an Ace Pilot dodged 2 shots per turn, then essentially any weapons system that is 2 or less shots would have no effect. That wouldn’t be very fun for the attacker would it?

We had to redo all the weapon systems and adjust their number of shots, for instance a Beam Cannon went from 1 Shot to 3 Shots, it’s damage also went down as well. When it comes to immersion we reasoned that a “shot” didn’t necessarily mean an actual shot. It could be if the Beam cannon made 3 shots, 1 Hit would mean a glancing hit that wings the enemy, while 2 hits might be a direct hit and 3 hits could be a bullseye. Once we moved forward with that it became a lot easier to balance a system where an Ace Pilot could dodge X shots per turn.

Previously pilot skill could range from 1-15, representing how much skill it would contribute to the army pool. We necked this down to just 1 and 2. Pilot Level 1 being a skilled Pilot and Pilot Level 2 being an Ace Pilot. We experimented with different models such as +1 Shots / -1 Shots, or +1 Hit / +1 Block.

We continued to run into issues though when it came to Ace Pilots whose Evade was so great coupled with unique pilot traits like reroll all Evade dice that they essentially became invincible. We could keep pumping up the base shots of a weapon but then they become super lethal to non Ace Pilots.

So we faced an issue with a significant balance issue, we went back to the drawing board on Version 7 and had to make some significant adjustments to the design math and compress the Shooting / Evade growth such that one model couldn’t become invincible. We’ll tackle that in the next post. In addition here are some other major changes in Version 6 as well as couple playtest photos.

A team of Gelgoogs, Gelgoog Cannons and Zaku IIs led by Johnny Ridden

Summary of Changes

  1. Switch from Army Pilot Skill to a Skill per Turn model
  2. Increase the number of shots for all weapon system. Shots does not necessarily mean the number of times a beam cannon is fired, but instead represents whether you struck a glancing hit or direct hit.
  3. Lower the damage on Beam weapons but increase the Penetration characteristic to further differentiate them from kinetic weapons like machine guns and bazookas.
  4. Get rid of the “Antiship” quality on weapons. This quality used to be able to bypass most Shields. This way a Beam Cannon with 1 Shot couldn’t be invalidated by a Shield which blocks 1 shot per turn. Now that weapons fire multiple shots by default there was no need for the Antiship quality.
  5. Adjusted Equipment slots that way Higher frame units would have more equipment slots. Previous formula 5 + Frame Level, new Formula 4 + 2x Frame Level.
  6. Formalize Low Cost as a Stat to make it easier to track number of Equipment slots. Utilize the Low Cost stat to represent units who will occasionally deploy with additional weapons. For instance a Dom will sometimes have a Machine Gun sidearm thus it must have Low Cost 1 normally to keep an EQ slot free for that weapon. Likewise if the Gundam were to deploy with a Beam Rifle and two Hyper Bazookas then we’d need to keep at least 2 EQ Slots free on the beam rifle version in order to have room to add the Bazookas in later.
  7. Rename Titan Class to Gigas Class Mech. While we love the name Titan it got a little confusing since we did a ton of testing with Zeta Gundam units and the enemy faction is the “Titans”. Titan Mechs, now named Gigas Mechs are meant to represent very large Mechs that often have tons of armor or equipment. In the Gundam Universe this represents Mobile Armors like the Big Zam or smaller more agile ones like the Bigro. In other universes Gigas class would be an excellent way to represent a Pacific Rim Jaeger or a Guymelef from Escaflowne.
  8. Unify Skill Defense for MS and Gigas Class Mechs. Previously the large Gigas class Mechs had an inferior Skill Defense where they’d take 1/2 DMG while agile MS took 0 damage. With the change of thinking that a Shot can represent glancing or direct hits it became no issue to give both units the same ability thus cutting down the number of special abilities you need to remember for a mixed class Army.
The Thoroughbred Team with G04 and G05, Three Guncannons and some RB-79 Balls for good measure

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