Design Blog: Mech Card Game

This blog will capture the work I'm putting into a Mech combat card game I've been working on. I plan on posting thoughts, designs, play test results, etc.

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Mech Player Boards

Brian Vogle
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The player's draw from a common deck of cards, but each Mech is different. Different internal layouts, different weapons, different movement, heat sinks, and abilities go to making each Mech unique.

Below are a couple sample Mech player boards. Both are medium Mechs with different internal layouts and different weapons.



Along the top are the hit locations which connect to the internal location boxes via solid lines. Each internal location is connected to another internal location via dotted lines, which all converge on the Mech's core. If damage would be inflicted on a location that is destroyed, it flows along the dotted lines until it reaches an undestroyed location. If the core is destroyed, the Mech is destroyed.

The track along the left side is used to keep track of the Mech's movement points. Along the right are the heat sinks (described in a prior post).

Both of these Mech's have a special ability, described in the gray box at the bottom.

SiddGames and I playtested yesterday using these two Mechs. The lines from the hit location at the top to the internal locations were not super easy to follow on the right Mech. I need to either space these out more, or unclutter it somehow (smaller boxes?).
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Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:29 am
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Targeting Cards: The Meat of the Game

Brian Vogle
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We've covered most of the core concepts, so now it's time to introduce the complete targeting card. Interaction with and use of targeting cards makes up most of the game.



Above is a typical targeting card. This is by no means the final card design/art. I'm just going for function over form right now.

The title of this card is "Resourcefulness." Multiple targeting cards share the same title, but each is slightly different. The "Resourcefulness" cards share a common theme and level of power.

The top of the card contains the targeting section. This area of the card, and its use in combat, is described in the The Basics - Combat post. This is the section that shows the number of hit locations possible and the modifier to damage.

The left side of the card shows the heat locations, which was described in my last blog post. This section is used to determine heat generated by the attack.

The remaining section at the bottom of the card is the event section. Events will probably be discussed in more detail later, but here is an overview.

Events come in two flavors: Combat Events and Non-Combat Events. Combat Events are normally modifiers to an already played targeting card. Examples include increasing the damage of the attack, shifting the attack a number of locations, refiring a previously fired weapon, etc.

Non-Combat Events are played by themselves, as the player's entire turn. The card is played, the costs are paid, the effects are resolved, and the player's turn ends. A player cannot play a Non-Combat Event and attack in the same turn, nor can a Non-Combat Event be used by the defender in response to an attack by his opponent.

Regardless of how the event is played, the cost of the card must be paid. If the attacker plays a Combat Event, he must add a number of heat tokens to his Mech's core equal to the "Heat" value. If the Combat Event is played by the defender, he must subtract a number of movement points from his Mech equal to the "Move" value.

The player who plays a Non-Combat Event has the choice to pay either the Heat or Move cost. It's up to him.

There are two other boxes in the event section of the card: the AP and the ECM. The AP value listed on the card is used by some events, as well as for reducing heat or increasing movement (more on that later). For example, the card above has an event of "Draw X cards." The X in the event refers to the AP value printed on the card, which is four on this card. Playing the event, the player would draw four cards.

The last area is the ECM (electronic counter measure) box. Some Mech's have an ECM location on their Mech card. As long as the ECM location on the Mech isn't destroyed, the player can play events that require ECM (marked with an X). Cards without an X in the event box can be played regardless of the state of the Mech's ECM location.

In the upper right hand corner is the number 32. This is the card number. Since every card is different but kind of the same, I'm tracking specific cards with the number.
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Fri Apr 6, 2012 8:32 pm
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How Heat Works

Brian Vogle
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Gah, over a month since my last post. I don't know where the time has gone...

In this post, I'm going to discuss how heat works in my Mech game. Heat is one of the two resources that the player must manage. Heat is placed on a Mech's core, and is converted to damage at the end of the round.

Heat is accumulated either by attacking an opponent or by paying the cost of an event card.

Heat generated by attacks
Each targeting card in the game has a heat section, which consists of five half-ovals. Each oval can be either red or gray.



Each Mech card also has a heat sink section. The example below is from a medium Mech.



To round out the elements that generate heat during an attack, we have to look at the weapon systems in a Mech. Each weapon system includes the amount of heat generated when the weapon is fired.



In the above example, firing the PPC will generate three heat (the number in red). For those curious, the black number before the heat is the amount of damage the weapon causes. The black number in the lower left hand corner is the amount of damage the weapon system can withstand before being destroyed.

When it's time to generate the amount of heat for an attack, the heat section of the targeting card is placed next to the heat sink section of the Mech card. Any red half-ovals on the targeting card are areas where heat is located. These red half-ovals are compared to the heat sink half-ovals.



The half-ovals on the Mech card are purely for lining up with the targeting card. The red boxes are the actual heat sinks, and each red box absorbs one point of heat. In the above example, if you compare the red heat locations on the targeting card to the heat sink diagram on the Mech card, you come up with four points of heat absorbed (the top row has one heat sink, the middle row has two heat sinks, and the bottom row has one heat sink). Since the PPC generated three points of heat, the heat sinks absorb all heat and none is placed on the Mech's core.

Every targeting card has different heat location diagrams. As a player, if I see that my Mech has more heat sinks in the middle of the diagram, I might lean towards using targeting cards that take advantage of that.

Balancing heat from attacks can be difficult, especially when your hand of targeting cards isn't optimal for your type of Mech. Sometimes you have to overheat your Mech to push an attack through.

Heat generated by events
Each targeting cards also has an event section, which can be played during the battle. Most events have both a heat and movement cost. If the event is played by the attacker, he pays the heat cost. If the event is played by the defender, he pays the movement cost.

Heat generated by events goes directly to the Mech's core, bypassing heat sinks. Events represent the Mech pilot pushing his Mech beyond its normal capabilities.

Dissipating heat
Heat can quickly build up on a Mech's core during combat (especially when multiple weapon systems are fired at once). As his action, a player can dissipate heat by discarding a targeting card from his hand. Each targeting card has an AP (currently action point value, but this might change). The player removes a number of heat equal to the AP value from his Mech's core.

At the end of the round, all heat remaining on a Mech's core is converted directly to damage. If the amount of damage on the core exceeds the maximum amount of damage possible (hit points of the core), the Mech is destroyed.

That's heat in a nutshell. The system lines up nicely with the overall concept of lining cards up with each other to determine effect (like combat and terrain). Let me know what you think!
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Thu Apr 5, 2012 10:48 pm
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Current Design Status

Brian Vogle
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Oklahoma
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I should have put a "here is where I am" paragraph in my initial overview. Since I didn't, I'll do it here.

The game is in early mechanics testing. I've done about half-a-dozen playtests, trying out different things. If i were to assign a design complete percentage, i'd probalby put it at about 55%. The core is there, the game is playable, but there is a lot of work to do.

Here is what I've done so far:

Mechs
* First pass at designing six mechs (two light, two medium, and two heavy). Right now, most of the mechs are pretty similar within each weight class. I'm just testing the actual flow of hits, damage, heat, movement, etc. Once I have the main mechanics cemented, I'll turn my attention to designing the mechs.
* Need to finish designing the weapons, and balance the heat and damage value.
* I'm considering whether the mech player boards should be horizontal or vertical. I've only tested vertical, and in the near future I need to do a horizontal set and see how it goes. I'll probably post more on this later.

Cards
* The cards need a lot of tweaking/balancing, especially heat and movement. I have a core set of cards now that I'm testing with, and they work, but there are a lot of combinations I need to try out.
* I need to add a lot more variation to the events.
* Terrain cards are currently using a different template. I need to weigh if that is OK or not.
* Need to add events to terrain cards. I have encountered times in playtesting where i have a hand of terrain cards, causing me to pretty much write the turn off. Events will allow those to be played for more than the generic actions any card can be used for.

Mechanics
* The combat mechanic is mostly done, as described in my combat post.
* Heat is mostly done, as I'll describe in a future post.
* I don't like the current movement system. I'll describe this in a future post, but the gist of it is that the core of the game revolves around flow charts/lining up parts of cards with other cards and player boards. Movement right now is purely a point system (spend X movement to do something). I don't like how this fits in, so I'm going over a few ideas to implement the lining up idea.
* Scenarios are non-existent. I haven't done much on these, as I've been working on the core game first. Ultimately I want more than just a slug-it-out game.

That's it for now. Let me know if you have any questions!
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Thu Mar 1, 2012 12:53 am
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Terrain

Brian Vogle
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Jenks
Oklahoma
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Following up on my last blog entry on combat, I'll discuss how terrain works. Terrain cards are drawn from the common deck, and are played as actions during a player's turn. To play the card, the mech must spend the number of movement points indicated on the card. I'll talk more about costs in a later post, but for now, you just need to know that smaller mechs have a greater capacity for move points, and are able to spend them more freely.



Terrain cards are placed in front of the player's mech after the movement cost has been paid. This simulates a mech moving into cover, behind an object, etc.

The terrain card sits in between the attack and the target mech. One side of the terrain card is placed against the hit locations on the target, and the attack card is placed against the other. If the attack is shifted by either player, the terrain card is shifted also. Terrain affects attacks by both players, regardless of who played the terrain card.

Any attack cards played by either player must be compared to the terrain card first. To do this, compare the targeting locations on the attack to the terrain card. Any black targeting location on the attack card that lines up with a black "B" (block) location on the terrain card is blocked by the terrain and is ignored for the attack. Any black targeting location on the attack card that lines up with a gray box on the terrain passes through the terrain and can hit the opponent's mech.

Denser terrain blocks more targeting locations than less dense terrain. A light forest may only block one or two targeting locations, while a building or large hill might block four locations.

Either player may move around the terrain by spending the movement cost. If my opponent moves behind a hill, I can pay movement to move to a position where the terrain is no longer a factor. Or, if I were to play the terrain, I could later pay the movement cost again to move out of terrain.

Terrain is one of the saviors of the light mech, with their higher number of movement points. Being able to move in and out of cover allows the lighter mech to avoid attacks by heavier mechs.
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:43 am
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The Basics - Combat

Brian Vogle
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Combat is what everyone wants. Everything else is secondary to two giant Mechs blasting each other. The combat mechanics of Mech are pretty straightforward. Everything is resolved by lining the cards up with each other or the player Mech boards, and following the lines.

There are two main parts to resolving combat: targeting icons on the cards, and hit location icons on the Mechs.

The top of each card in the game has a targeting section. This section contains five boxes, which show where the attack will hit. Targeting boxes that are black indicate a hit, and gray boxes indicate a miss. Each hit box may also contain a damage modifier.



The above example has three black targeting boxes. Two provide a +1 damage bonus to the attack, and one a -1. The two gray boxes are misses.



The above image is the hit location area of a medium sized Mech. The brown boxes are areas that can be hit, and the gray are misses. Each brown box is connected to an internal structure within the Mech.

To resolve combat, the attacking player places his card's targeting section adjacent to the hit location section on his opponent's board (Note: the scales are off on the two images). It's up to the attacking player to initially place the attack card. There are then opportunities for the defender to shift the card left or right a number of spaces. The defender might be able to push some or all of the attacker's hit boxes off to miss locations on his Mech. He might also move the card so that the big damage hits go to armor, while the lower damage hit goes to a weaker internal structure.

Once hits are finalized, damage is dealt by following the lines on the Mech to the internal structure of his Mech.

There are many other opportunities for both players during combat that I didn't touch here. I'll get to those in a future post.

Let me know what you think!
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Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:46 pm
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Overview

Brian Vogle
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Jenks
Oklahoma
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I've always loved Mechs. I was a Robotech fanatic in the 80s, and played a ton of Battletech in high school and college. So Mechs have always had a soft spot in my heart.

Last year, my design group had a design challenge. We were each to design a card game with a Mech theme. Each of us came up with different designs and we had a lot of fun play testing the different ideas. Of the designs, a couple have persisted since the original days, and are still actively being worked on. While I've taken a bit of time off from the design, I've decided to revisit it, and thought it would be fun to do it publicly, hopefully receiving feedback as I go.

The working title of the game is "Mech" but it's by no means the final name. Being a Battletech fan, my game is very much influenced by it. There is heat to deal with and the classic weapons. Internal locations that take damage and, once destroyed, funnel it to other locations. Speed is the friend of the light Mech, and bulk is the defense of the heavy Mech.

Mech is a two player card game, with a playtime of 30-45 minutes. Players draw from a common deck of cards to make their hands, and almost everything that is done is represented by the cards played. Mechs are represented by player boards showing the weapons, stats, and their internal structure. The goal is to either destroy your opponent's Mech, or to meet the scenario's goal.

In my next post, I'll being laying out the current design, including what is unique/different about Mech.
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Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:26 pm
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