[MS] Design Goals VER 8 – Melee

The Melee system in MechaStellar got a serious overhaul in Version 8. While the Melee systerm was one of the most fun parts of Version 7 it effectiveness generally tapered off at higher levels when both the attacker and defender had 7 – 10 dice available to roll. For Version 8 we set out to make it more interactive both for the Attacker and the Defender.

To recap, VER 7 Melee involved both parties rolling their Melee dice pools, the winner would be considered the victor. The Defender had the option to choose between Counterattack or Guard, Guard let them use their Shield and similar blocking abilities and was generally safer, Counterattack meant they had to rely solely on their dice, a few pilot perks and luck but if they were victorious they would then slice into their opponent. Overall it was a lot of fun but at higher levels it became less of a life or death situation and more of just rolling lots of dice, which while a lot of fun could be improved.

We did some experimenting with different types of Melee systems and eventually tried out a few variations of splitting up Melee dice pools with options like Attack & Defense and then a few interesting pools like Speed or Feint. Eventually we settled on one that was straightforward and not too big of a change from Version 7. Instead of making it an all or nothing affair we allowed both sides to Attack and Defend. To do this the Attacker splits his dice pool between Attack & Defense and so does the Defender. If the Attacker puts all his dice into attack then he better hope he takes out the Defender because it means he’ll have zero dice left to Defend with and can only rely on their Momentum.

The system was fun but it needed some extra work to make it better. We had to ensure that the Attacker had a reason to enter Melee either a reward or good odds. We tweaked Momentum where now you get +1 Momentum for Attacking on your turn, previously you had to win the combat for that. As for good odds we had to reexamine the bonus Attacker’s normally get which was to reroll dice.

Our first crack at Melee bonus involved rerolls. The free reroll for the Attacker had become a staple in Version 6 & 7 but we noticed it wasn’t as much fun when it came to one on one fights when we were play testing the Pacific Rim co-op campaign. When it was one-on-one or two-on-two the reroll for attack made it such that it was very rare that the Defender could successfully counterattack. We disabled the reroll for the campaign for this reason, that way each melee combat between Jaeger and Kaiju could go either way and it made for some fun sessions.

While this worked out fine for powerful melee oriented units one-on-one we knew we could just remove that bonus from the standard war game, otherwise a lot of units just wouldn’t have a good incentive to even bother with melee. We started brainstorming ideas on how to handle and attacker bonus in Melee. One of our first ideas involved adjusting pilot (you can read more about pilot changes in Ver 8 in this post) where a pilot you could reroll dice equal to their level. So a Skilled Pilot could reroll one die per attack (Melee or Evade) and an Ace Pilot could reroll two dice. Pretty handy but it ran into a few problems.

The first was that it offered almost no benefit to Gunner & Sniper type pilots, which didn’t make it a great replacement as a universal Pilot benefit. The second was that this benefit helped out our Skilled/Ace pilots but had no effect on our grunts so we’d have to retain some type of benefit like perhaps the Attacker could reroll one die so in that case an Ace pilot could reroll up to three dice.

Not bad, but not exhilarating either. It worked out well in our Pacific Rim games while still keeping Melee up in the air but we found it wasn’t very helpful in our Gundam games. In fact we often found that if it wasn’t a full reroll on the dice pool, many units (Raid, Attacker & Intercept types) generally didn’t want to melee since statistically their odds were very poor when their dice pool was only 2, 3 or 4 dice.

Take for instance a GM Light Armor with Melee 3d10, if they wanted to attack a Zaku who had a dice pool of 4d10 they were already facing an uphill battle, especially with the inclusion of the Zaku’s shoulder shield. Even with a full reroll the GM could get 3 successes but the Zaku was likely to get 2 plus a Shield block meaning that most of the time that Melee combat had no payoff but considerable risk for the attacker. Not the greatest situation.

We came up with two solutions for this. The first added some variance, we dug up our Critical Hit rules from VER 3 and gave them a shot. In Melee an attack roll of 10 was a Critical Hit which would count as 2 successes, this way that GM Light armor if they were to roll a 10 was now very likely to score a hit on the Zaku II. Helpful, but we can’t rely on variance alone.

Next up we introduced a choice of benefits for the attacker. We kept the reroll all dice then added two additional options. The first was an all-out attack giving you 2 more dice to Attack with, which was very well received by player’s who were used to using Raid or Attacker type MS. The last choice was a balance between offense and defense giving +1d10 to Attack & Defense. These three options allow for several playstyle and offer benefits at different power levels, generally the +2d10 Attack bonus is better at low Performance (OYW era suits) while the reroll is better at higher Performances (CCA or G Gundam for instance).

Our final draft looks like this.

  1. Dice Pools (Dice pools may not exceed 10d10)
    • Each unit will list how many Melee dice it has i.e. Melee 4d10 
    • Starting with the Attacker both units split their dice pool into Attack & Defense
    • Regardless of modifiers dice pools may not exceed 10d10
  2. Counting Successes 
    • Attack count successes as Hits  |  Defense count them as Blocks
    • Each die succeeds on a 5+.  10s are Critical Hits on Attack giving 2 Hits
    • Melee or Berserk units HIT on a 4+ & CRIT on a 9+. They can stack to 3+ / 8+
  3. Fortune favors the bold! (Attacker chooses one benefit)
    • Reroll any of your Melee Attack Dice
    • Gain +1d10 Melee Attack & Defense
    • Gain +2d10 Melee Attack
  4. Weapons & Traits
    • Weapons or Traits that are +Xd10 ATK or +X HIT apply to Attack
    • Weapons, Shields & Traits that are +X Blocks apply to Defense
  5. Clash!
    • The Attacker rolls their Attack dice and counts their Hits and Critical Hits
    • The Defender rolls their Defense dice and counts their Blocks
    • Each player then decides if they will use any Pilot Skills or Commands
    • Each unblocked hit deals 500 DMG then the target makes a single Armor Save.
    • If they survive the Defender counterattacks while the Attacker defends.
  6. Conclusion
    • If both parties survive they stay in Melee until one of them is defeated in a future turn
    • They may also spend an Action or 1 Momentum on their turn to Disengage.

Now for an example:

A Zaku II (Melee 4d10) enters into Melee with a GM (Melee 4d10)

The Zaku splits their dice into ATK 4d10 and DEF 0d10. The GM Chooses ATK 2d10 & DEF 2d10

As the Attacker the Zaku is going all out and chooses the ATK+2d10 as their attacker benefit

The Zaku rolls 6d10 ATK and gets [3,4,5,7,9,9] = 4 HITs

The GM rolls 2d10 DEF and gets [5, 10] = 2 Blocks and their Shield brings it to 3 Blocks. The GM could lose 1 Momentum to block the last hit but instead takes the 500 DMG and makes an Armor Save which they pass. Now their turn to Counterattack.

The GM rolls 2d10 ATK and gets [2, 10] = 1 Critical Hit = 2 Hits

The Zaku has 0d10 DEF but their Melee Shield offers 1 Block. The Zaku player is out of Momentum and takes 500 DMG then makes an Armor Save vs the Beam Saber which unfortunately they do not pass.

The Melee finishes with Zaku scoring a rending tear in the GMs armor right before the GM’s Beam Saber impales the Zaku destroying it.

We hope you enjoy the new rules for Melee in Version 8. We’ve been having a blast with it so far. As always if you have any questions leave a comment here or you can contact us on our social media accounts here or here.

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