MechaStellar VER 8.7 Design Goals – Unit Profile Sheets

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

Unit Profile Sheet Readability Improvements

  • Large effort in reducing Mecha Unit Profile bloat and improving readability.
  • Removed the [Ground / Space Use Only] traits and instead included a [G] or [S] tag in the MS name.  Added information regarding [G] and [S] deployments to the Stellar Warfare section.
  • Removed the Heavy Payload trait from the bottom section and instead changed the “Low Cost” header to be “Heavy Payload” if the unit requires additional slots for missiles / rockets.
  • Removed the Level 1 / Level 2 from below the Basic / Skilled / Ace Pilot section and instead use that area for the name of the Pilot.  Added a note in the definitions section of the core rules for the equivalent of Skilled / Ace Pilots for Kaiju (Dreadful / Unstoppable).
  • Removed the Size traits and instead moved them to the top section where Pilot name formerly was.  Size now applies an under the hood Passive bonus (+1 Slots / HP / Melee) instead of an active bonus which means one less thing to remember when playing with several powerful and trait heavy units.
  • Renamed the Rapid Fire Column to “Close Range” to better suit it holding Rapid Fire ranged weapon stats as well as Melee DEF bonuses.  Rapid Fire effects will now show as RF+2 instead of just +2.

We have been working on a lot of Super Robot drafts the last six months.  Super Robots typically have a lot more unique or powerful abilities than your average real robot and thus end up with a lot more traits.  Typically when prototyping a unit we start off with 10-20 traits then try to trim those down to just the essentials.  A lot of the Super Robots so far haven’t been too excessive but when we released Toei Mazinger we had our first extremely large and unwieldly mecha profile pushing 20 line items of weapons and traits. 

Super Robots aren’t the only offender of course, both GP03 Dendrobium and the Neue Ziel from Gundam 0083 were also massive profiles to work on, but most of our Super Robots drafts for upcoming shows were starting to get very large.  GaoGaiGar, King J-Der, Gurren Lagann, Gunbuster were all quite large in their initial drafts then our combining robots for Combattler V and GoLion (Voltron) were even larger.  So we started looking for different ways we could slim down the profile, in other words to reduce Profile Bloat.

First off was to remove line items that aren’t really relevant to your battle.  Whether or not a Mech has +8 slots to add more missiles is irrelevant to you during a game, all that matters while playing is the weapon profile which lists how many times it can be used.  So we removed items like “Heavy Payload” and instead reversed the “Low Cost” area to be Heavy Payload instead.  Then we removed items like Ground or Space Use which only mattered for a few units who are unable to sortie either in Ground or Space; for those units they now simply have a [G] or [S] next to their name.

Next up was moving Pilot Names to beneath the Pilot Rank of Basic, Skilled or Ace.  The space below as previously used for Level but was mostly wasted space for a single number in a  wide column, historically the pilot column had been difficult to fit long names like Quatre Raberba Winner or including a pilots rank, this was a quick and simple change and really we should have thought of that one earlier.  One of the downside to looking at and updating profiles is you tend to lose sight of the finer details that might be obvious to others.

With the pilot name moved we now had a free spot available which was well needed.  We were looking at traits that were common in a lot of mecha profiles and Size was one of them.  We’ve gone through several variations of Size and what kind of effect it provides, we really liked the bonus it provided before and had some fun testing out truly massive kaiju like King Ghidora to see how far we could push it. 

That said, a lot of feedback we’ve gotten from people who include a Super Robot in their army is there is a lot to remember and Size is the perfect trait to turn into a passive benefit instead of yet another active ability to remember.  So we switched Size to became a passive bonus. 

We experimented with a few different ideas for size and after breaking the design space a few times (in particular with Evade) we settled on improvements to Slots, HP and Melee.  Very large units would get a bonus to those three but in exchange a penalty to Evasion.  Currently that penalty doesn’t kick in till the ~90-100m mark for Size 3 Colossal and larger units.  Which so far affects few units such as Daitarn 3 or Gunbuster. 

On a related note we also adjusted nomenclature on Size categories with Giant Robot being the default size (now 0), Massive being size 1 (~30m), and Gargantuan being size 2 (~60m).

For readability we decided to add a “Mecha & Pilot Traits” header to add a visual break to the profile making it easier to find things at a glance.  Since we started off as a Gundam wargame, there were only a few profiles who had Pilot Traits and even less that had Mecha Traits (Big Zam and an I-Field for instance was one of the few). 

When we expanded the rules to start including Super Robots shows our mecha unit profiles started to get very large.  Initially we split up Mecha and Pilot traits by two different shades of light purple, this was to make it easier to pick out which are the traits essential to the Mecha and which were the pilot traits that would be removed if you decided to use your own pilot for a campaign coop game. 

However, with some profiles hitting 10+ traits we realized we needed to do something so it wasn’t just a laundry list of weapons and abilities all in a row.  After a few layout redesigns we ended up going with the simplest option you see now.  A universal header with the mecha and pilot traits listed below it alternating with white and light purple to make more readable. Here’s an example below showing the new color scheme and how these two Mazinger profiles have shortened quite a bit from their earlier incarnation.

Lastly we renamed “Rapid Fire” to Close Range to better accommodate a column that house both a weapon’s rapid fire value but also melee defense bonuses from a weapon.  We’ve also cleaned up most of the profiles which have had some formatting issues on the borders pop up over time, although with a few hundred profiles we may have missed a few.

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