(MS) Design Goals – High Risk, High Reward

In previous posts we’ve talked a lot about melee systems and the various overhauls they’ve gone through. One concept we have always strived for is ensuring that Melee is a dangerous gamble. A High Risk, High Reward scenario. We did this because we wanted to emulate our favorite Mecha shows where often a melee clash is stylized like a Samuari showdown and only one fighter will survive.

A Core part of Melee we’ve always had is that whoever wins Melee does damage. This has been adjusted slightly in the last 3 versions where we introduced Blocking where if you opt for a full defense using your Shield if you win you deal 0 DMG. A useful change that made Shields more relevant.

In our original system we had d20s and large melee modifiers entirely dependent on one’s Combat Role and Performance. In an era bonuses hovered around +3, +5 and +7. So more often than not it was the d20 that decided who won melee. Fun, but very swingy. It was hard to gauge whether Melee was worth it.

From there we experimented with melee being a 2d6 system. Roll 2d6 and add your modifiers, much smaller variance on the dice made it easier to predict if you had a chance to win or not. On the downside it meant that a Melee focused Mech likely couldn’t be defeated on either Offense or Defense.

Definitions: Army Skill was later modified to be Army Momentum. They share similar mechanics.

We also tried out Skill Wagering in this system, this allowed Ace Pilots to wager skill before they roll to see who could get the largest bonus and claim victory. For instance if the attacker was 2d6+5 and bet 4 Skill then you’d roll 2d6+9. The Defender would see the roll and decide if they wanted to wager. If the attacker rolled a 10 and finished with a 19, the Defender would look at their 2d6+4 and wonder if it was worth betting Skill. A fun system but it turned Melee into a massive sink for Pilot Skill.

From there we tried out using multiple d6. So let’s say the attacker has 5d6 and the defender has 4d6. The attacker rolls their 5d6 and counts successes then the defender rolls their 4d6 and counts successes. The method for determining success or ‘melee accuracy’ has changed greatly between each Version. Whoever won got to deal damage.

In the most recent Versions we switched all dice to a d10 system but still follow the same general principle. As we mentioned in previous posts we had wound up in a spot where Counterattacks were exceedingly rare. So we went back to the drawing board, modified the formulas for combat stats and overhauled the melee system to roll d10s every 5+ is a success.

It worked! It’s been our best melee system so far, the results aren’t too random but still allows enough wiggle room to surprise your opponent and pull off a counterattack with a lucky roll. It also made Melee more fair, it became less of a toin coss to see who would suffer instant death. There are also enough tools in the Defenders kit to let them protect their favorite pilots.

So that’s melee now what about ranged combat?

A few versions ago we introduced Rapid Fire. A common concept from other tabletop wargames where when you get into 1/2 range you get more shots. For our system we added a stat for each weapon that showed how many additional shots you get. Machine Guns for example double their shots going from 5 Shots to a whopping 10 shots. Beam Rifles can go from 3 to 5 shots but if even one shot hits there’s a chance it will destroy the enemy MS. Weapons with a slow rate of fire like Cannons do not get Rapid Fire bonuses.

Rapid Fire was well received by playtesters, it gave a reason to move closer to the enemy and not play keep away. Of course being closer to the enemy meant it was easier for them to use Rapid Fire on you, or pull off a Melee Attack. High Risk, High Reward.

You have to be careful you don’t rely on Rapid Fire too much, in our very first playtest of a Co-op campaign I wrote down in my notes “don’t rush off on the first turn and get in rapid fire range of 4 Zakus”. Ouch!

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