MechaStellar VER 8.7 Design Goals – Core Rules Updates

Here’s an indepth look at some of the design decisions that went into the VER 8.7 Core Rules Update for MechaStellar.. For your convenience I have included the relevant summary line item list for each of those categories from the previous post as well.


  • Put a cap on bonuses for Shooting Accuracy, Evade and Melee at +3.  Melee Attack can now go to a 2+.
  • Capped Momentum gain for destroying a unit at 1 per turn, since previously this heavily favored units with AOE weapons or units with multiple actions and could easily make a match lopsided against horde units.  This change also allows lets us lower the Momentum cost for AOE weapons.
  • Updated engagement range to 3″ and 6″
  • Added a note under engagement that you can maneuver while in melee as long as you remain within engagement range to better allow units to make use of Knockback rules in Super Robot Scramble.
  • Added new Commander Trait: Decimator to allow for players who want to run a very powerful model to deal with horde armies.

With some of the modifications on Pilot Traits we wanted to avoid some balance issues we’ve had in the past with regards to Shooting and Evade.  Since MechaStellar tries its best to emulate the lethality present in the Mobile Suit Gundam universe, HP is relatively low and DMG relatively high for Grunt Mobile Suits. 

The paradigm of the grunt balance is centered around the GM and Zaku making sure they are a threat to one another, under ideal circumstances in rapid fire range either unit will have a high change to destroy the other.  The lethality for grunt units is a major sticking point in allowing players who want to field large armies (20-30+ models) and don’t want to track HP on every single model, so if an attack typically results in a casualty (without outside intervention such as Momentum) that is a benefit for minimizing book keeping. 

With those factors in mind we have to keep a close eye on Evade for Grunt units such that the Evade isn’t so low they are destroyed from any attack, but not so high that a rapid fire attack has a low chance of killing them. We also want to make sure that super prototypes like Gundam type units don’t have too high an evasion that a grunt army won’t be ale to threaten them.   Establishing a simple +3 Cap on Shooting and Evasion helps prevent things from getting out of hand when you start stacking on Pilot Traits & Skills.

The Momentum cap was discussed last year but tabled for a bit, but has come back again while running playtest games featuring AOE units.  A large number of test games that featured a unit with an AOE attack against a horde army went awry very quickly as the solo unit was able to hit the Momentum cap in the early rounds and essentially be unstoppable from that point. 

For the player of the horde army this led to some very unfun games where essentially their entire army became a liability and could not threaten a single powerful model.  On the flipside, the Decimator Commander trait was added for people who enjoy One vs Many games.  While it seems very powerful, we’ve found in playtest games at the 500-1500pt level that typically the Commander trait will disappear around Round 3 when the enemy force drops below 10.

On a related note, previously AOE weapons had their Momentum costs rather high in order to counterbalance the fact they were expected to wipe out 2+ grunt units when they attacked.  One flaw with this approach is that it encourages running that unit against large amounts of grunts, but less so in an elite match against 1-5 units.  For the Gundam Wing fans this was a bit of a letdown since Wing generally didn’t get to fire the Buster rifle all that often in small games of 2vs2. 

Limiting Momentum gain to 1 per turn per destroyed unit also solves this problem.  It also takes away the advantage from units with multiple actions (typically firepower units) who could out earn Momentum compared to other units.  The Gelgoog Cannon, Full Armor Gundam and Mudrock became notorious for this. 

Engagement range was bumped up to 3″ & 6″ in order to accommodate players who prefer to use larger scale figures.  2″ is perfect for 1/400, but 3″ is also fine, while the 2″ engagement range ended up being a little too small for players who like to use the MSiA (Mobile Suits in Action) range which is around 4-5″ in height. 

Likewise, bumping up engagement to 6″ for large models was helpful for very large model kits such as the King J-Der SMP or the forthcoming Big O good smile kit.  Some of our 40k veterans asked about moving in engagement range so we added a note that you may move while in melee so long as you stay in engagement range, this way you can better make use of the Knockback rules in the SRW module plus it can help with facing regarding Blindside attacks. 


  • Added in Glory to the Melee Clash as an option for units with very high Melee Dice pools. 
  • Glory allows Kaiju / Super Robots (Titans) to regain HP after Melee and allows for agile Mobile Suits to disengage and move after melee.
  • Based on feedback from how our experienced players rolled in Melee we reordered the Melee Clash section to make the process more streamlined where you start filling the ATK & DEF pool by using your weapon stats (i.e. ATK+2d10 and DEF+1d10) then add your Melee stat. 
  • Removed the reroll ability from Fortune Favors the Bold to avoid making Heat weapons redundant.
  • Rewrote rotation during the Melee clash to add some more strategy for horde armies dealing with one or two powerful units.

Glory came about while prototyping the changes to Unit Size which would provide a passive instead of an active bonus.  We noticed with one unit in particular (Zeus from Shin Mazinger Z) had their Melee pool grow to an enormous size due its size and weapon choice.  This was the first time a unit broke past 20 Melee dice and in VER 8.6 there was nothing to do with those bonus dice.  So we started brainstorming on what to do with excess dice and referred to some of our previous ideas for Melee from VER 5, 6 & 7 to test out. 

We decided to avoid changing melee too thoroughly, since the last time necessitated a change from VER 7 to VER 8.  Instead we opted on a third area to allocate dice called “Glory”.  We really enjoyed the Rally rules for Super Robots in the SRW module and decided a minor version of that could be perfect for excess dice, however, it wouldn’t make a good fit with Real Robots. 

Thankfully, we got a great suggestion from one a MechaStellar player who favors Gyan units.  The Gyan has Fluid Pulse Accelerators which allow it to have its signature fencing footwork, our Gyan player suggested allowing the Gyan to freely disengage from Melee.  So we setup Glory to allow Super Robots to regain small amounts of HP and Real Robots (Mobile Suits) to disengage and move after melee. 

This would only apply to units very large melee dice pools (10+) and as a result we had to modify the Melee & Attacker role to +1d10 melee so units like the Gyan and Efreet Custom could perform their signature melee and disengage.

Lastly, for Melee we removed the “Reroll” option for Melee.  We found in test games for units further along the power curve that the Reroll was often the most used option over the Melee+2d10 option.  Problems arose with units using Heat / Vibration weapon profiles (GoLion / Voltron and Gundam Exia for instance) whose Reroll 1 ability was swiftly made redundant.  In order to avoid stomping on the toes of those weapons we to remove that option for the Melee clash.  On the plus side, Melee+2d10 is generally the better way to go for almost all OYW units, so primarily this change effects Melee Specialist and high power Super Robots.

Armor Saves

  • Backported 3 Armor Saves per weapon to core rules and removed from the SRW module. 
  • Unified Armor Saves to be 1000 DMG on a failed save which still kills the average grunt in Gundam but allows for more cinematic recreations such as the Gundam losing its arm and head from a failed save against the Zeong.
  • With Armor Saves being potentially 3x as dangerous in the base game we reevaluated the Shots and Damage for Beam weapon profiles and reduced several to bring the lethality down.
  • Lastly, using Momentum to pass a failed save has been reduced to [M-1] to account for more potential Armor Saves.

One thing we’ve noticed new players tend to struggle with is the different between MS & Titans, or Real Robots and Super Robots with Armor Saves being a key divergence between the two.  The SRW module demonstrated that having them using the unified “1000 DMG per failed Save” could work very well when combined with “1 Armor Save per Hit (but no more than 3 per Weapon)”. 

This way MS are still able to be destroyed very easily from a beam weapon, (if anything it’s easier now since all it took was one armor save to pass previously), and those with higher HP pools are better able to simulate battle damage.  Whether it be Amuro’s Gundam losing its head and arm due to the Zeong’s beam attacks or Eva Unit 01 having it’s blasted off by Zeruel.

We were happy to find another area of the rules to unify, to make it one thing for player’s to remember, but in doing so we’d have to adjust a few other systems to compensate since we didn’t want the game to get super lethal.  The most important being changing the “Pass a failed Armor Save” rule to be [M-1] instead of [M-3].

Pilot Traits & Skills

  • Moved Pilot Traits to Core Combat Rules from Wargame rules doc such that both Pilot & Captain traits are in the same document.
  • Changed Fighting Spirit and Unfaltering Courage bonuses to be OR vice AND
  • Updated the Immortal / Invincible Traits which were proving to be very unbalanced in Round 1 for Ace Pilots, even more so for Combining Robots like GoLion and Combattler V who may cycle through pilot traits.
  • Upgraded the following pilot traits Immortal / Daredevil,  Untouchable, Elusive, Lone Wolf, Hunting for a Rival, Mechanics Expert, Defiant / Hot Blooded, Berserker / Killer Instinct, Genuis Pilot.
  • Mecha Traits with a cost modifier which mirror Pilot traits have been truncated to only use a single ability from the main pilot trait they are emulating.  i.e. a Trait that emulates Berserker (Exam, Berserk Eva, SEED, etc.) will only use one bonus from the Berserker pilot trait rather than both.  This has no effect on many units since many Level I Traits were previously single ability until the above upgrade.  Units affected:  Kikaiju, Blue Destiny Units, Strike & Aegis.
  • Updated Pilot Traits to remove the “X Skill costs 1 Less” ability and instead provide a similar effect without having to rely on the pilot skills optional module.  Traits affected: Deadeye, Furious Fusillade, Merciless Melee, Close Combat Master, Legendary Pilot / Infamous Ace.
  • Updated “All-Out Attack” pilot skill to give bonus actions instead of a separate mechanic for firing multiple weapons on a single action.  This gives more flexibility for Titan units who may use some actions for bonus Power instead of firing more weapons.
  • Removed the “Fire pointblank into Melee” effect from the “Take the Shot” skill and instead moved it to an option for the Focus action.  Removed Point Blank from Tactical Advantage since it’s very easy to activate now, instead it gives PEN+1
  • Renamed Return Shot to Ranged Counterattack.  Based on player feedback we revised it to be more similar to SRW gameplay so it no longer requires you to completely evade/block all shots in order to work.
  • Replace Moment of Clarity with the Bullseye Pilot Skill. 
  • Revised the Expert Evasion Ace Skill in the SRW Module to instead be +3 Evade bonus.

Pilot Traits received some significant changes.  To avoid stepping on the toes of Pilot Traits, Mecha Traits that simulated a pilot trait would only take 50% of the Pilot Trait’s abilities, for instance Berserk Evangelion only takes one of the effects from the Berserker trait.  Several of the Tier I Pilot Traits were upgraded to give two effects instead of 1.

Immortal and Invincible were first to be changed since they proved to be unbalanced and unfun in some games, since the Momentum cost to avoid a shooting attack for an Ace Pilot is [M-1] in Round 1, which essentially made that unit impervious to shooting in the first round.  This is fine for a game where both side had several units, but in the One vs Many type game, for example one super robot vs an entire armada of ships and MS, it was distinctly unfun for the armada player who essentially could do nothing in Round 1. 

This trait was updated to provide a similar effect where you gain Momentum for being above 50% HP, and additionally receive an Evade bonus towards units close to you.  The Elusive, Untouchable, and Headhunter traits also received an Evade bonus, with Elusive giving one vs far reaching attacks and Untouchable giving +1 Evade vs Level 0 Basic pilots, and Headhunter giving +1 Evade vs Skilled & Ace Pilots.  As a reminder though Evade bonuses are capped at +3 regardless of source.

Lone Wolf lost the immune to Tactical Advantage ability which was duplicating an effect from the Pilot Upgrades section of the Wargame rules, and instead gives a Focus action.  Mechanics Expert was upgraded since it’s secondary ability was only relevant in Campaign mode or Confrontation mode, and instead gives a Focus action. 

On a related note all the Tier II pilot traits which gave “X Skill Costs -1 Momentum” were revised to provide a similar effect, since not all players choose to play with the Pilot Skills module.  Related to that, the fire into melee portion of the Take the Shot skill was moved to the focus action, this way you can recreate the iconic scene of Guncannon grabbing a Rick Dom and blasting it without having to rely on an optional Skill.

Lastly we have the SRW Optional Module.  We ended up updating Expert Evasion, although we were really happy with how the skill had turned out as a Flawless Evasion replacement.  In the end it was overall a bit slower on gameplay so we wanted this module to be quicker and straight to the point.  Instead it now gives +30% Evasion boost.  To think of this in SRW terms Ace Evasion in standard mode is 直感/Intuition while Expert Evasion is closer to 集中/Focus. 

We’ll cover some of the other updates in-depth in tomorrow’s post.

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