patrick mullen
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This wip is more for my use than yours but come along for the ride if you like. Chances are this will fizzle out like most of my projects do!

Continuing with my 9-card submission Mechanical Hearts, I am still very interested in mech combat with cards. While the 9-card contest edition used dice I'm moving away from it.

Premise: In a post-apocalyptic future where mech technology is available to those who remain alive, the lower classes are forced to compete in robo-combat in the arena. In the game players customize their mechs by choosing components, such as a missile launcher, treads, spider legs, a buzz-saw, mashine guns, etc. These components each come with a set of cards that are then incorporated in the deck building. You pit your mech against another, and may win better components to enable further customization.

Game Modes: For solo play, assemble a mech and compete in the arena against a series of opponents with different ai and mech builds. With each win, you gain points as well as the option to take some of the cards from the ai build to incorporate into your own deck. If you lose, you may lose some points, and your opponent gets some of your cards instead. After a campaign of ~10 games, you will see if you won the tournament or not.

For competitive play players can assemble their own mech decks and set up their own tournament as they please. You might all start with level 1 components, and then won games enable you to upgrade one of your level 1 to a level 2.

For co-op play is similar to solo-play, where players face off against ai decks in team matches of 2v2, 3v3, or a 3v3 where one player controls the ai characters.

So the game could scale from 1-4 players in co-op or competition.

I have not settled on a set of mechanics as of yet. I've gone through a few iterations, and some elements have changed wildly, while others have remained. One of the big decisions has been whether to have simultaneous play (each player chooses a card, and then you flip them and see how the interact, a la battlecon) or to have more traditional turn-taking. I'm leaning toward turn-taking with a heavy reactionary component.

Another decision is how much of a tactical component to include. Traditional ccg's with many summons can survive without dudes on a map because the order of combat interactions provides those tactical choices. In a situation where you (in the most standard set-up) have one mech vs another, with no summons, it seems that some tactical element is required. In the earliest versions this was as simple as "movement" points being a resource you can generate and then spend, where the player who wins the movement point battle can avoid a shot. I've also experimented with a full grid-based map players move their mechs around.

I am probably going to lean more toward abstract for the tactical elements, but may do a bit more than just "who has the highest movement". I'm liking an idea I had of having a few locations in the arena that you can be, and letting you at times move between them. There would be a few areas "in cover" and a few areas "out of cover". If both players are in the same spot there is no bonus. If you are defending from cover you may get a bonus. And some close-range attacks may only work if you are in the same location. This would provide some simple mechanics to turn the tide in a fight without moving the focus of the game away from how players are using the components of their mech builds. But, I haven't playtested this yet. So we'll see.

The third interesting element (and probably most important) is how the mech components themselves function. I am pretty happy with each component providing it's own action cards that players then put in their deck. Your "sword" component may provide, for instance, 4 action cards tailored to the sword, with perhaps some copies. You would either shuffle all of your action cards together and draw from there, or keep component decks separate and have to make a choice of which component decks to draw from.

Damage will be dealt to the components themselves. In the default, the last component that was activated will be the one to take the damage. So firing your machine gun will put your machine gun at risk. However, there may be opportunities to block, which will let you take the damage with a different component. When a component gets some damage, it may restrict your ability to play those actions. If your laser gets hit a few times, you might not be able to play your really strong laser blast card. But maybe you have a weak blast you can still play to shoot an incoming missile out of the sky?

I want you to feel like your options are very open at the beginning, and by the end your mech is dripping oil all over the arena and barely able to function. Even the winner of the match will be in such disrepair that it might be cheaper to build a new mech than to fix him up. The potential downside to this approach is that things may slow down too much late into the game. The win conditions may have to be to have the least amount of damage by a certain round, or to earn the most points after a number of rounds (where you get points from doing damage or special combos).

My next task is to try and find the minimum viable product that I can try to design before expanding things to some of the grand vision outlined above.
 
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Simon Cole
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Neat idea and best of luck to you.

You're element of tactics on an imaginary map is something worth looking into. I think you should explore that further and see where that takes you.

A quick idea that just came to mind is maybe the mechs are always moving (which is typically true in video games), and maybe there are a set of 8 (arbitrary number) location cards, face down, on the side. You shuffle those and deal one to each mech. This denotes its position for that round. Other abilities may allow you to choose 2 locations and pick one. Or even still, equipment may allow you to shift locations on your turn.

Like I said, just random thoughts. In fact, I should work on that.

Btw, don't brand your game as a collectible card game (which you haven't). The fact you are "CCG" can be misleading.
 
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patrick mullen
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adkot wrote:
Neat idea and best of luck to you.

You're element of tactics on an imaginary map is something worth looking into. I think you should explore that further and see where that takes you.

A quick idea that just came to mind is maybe the mechs are always moving (which is typically true in video games), and maybe there are a set of 8 (arbitrary number) location cards, face down, on the side. You shuffle those and deal one to each mech. This denotes its position for that round. Other abilities may allow you to choose 2 locations and pick one. Or even still, equipment may allow you to shift locations on your turn.

Like I said, just random thoughts. In fact, I should work on that.

Btw, don't brand your game as a collectible card game (which you haven't). The fact you are "CCG" can be misleading.


I definitely have considered some of your cards allowing movement (probably your leg component). Hmm, mechs always moving... I'd prefer to have you choose where to move at least, but that's an interesting idea. Force things to be more fluid.

Maybe instead of representing locations, they represent "stances". One could be "jumping". Another could be "dashing". Another could be "Standing behind cover". And then of course, "sitting duck".

Random thoughts are fun!

Yep, thanks for the warning about collectible card games. I'm well aware of the issue with that (or even LCG). Just to clarify, my vision is one box with all of the cards. There will be some deck building, but it's more about mech building than deck building (though decks are involved in that) Perhaps "customizable" isn't quite the right term...
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patrick mullen
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I've come up with a quick and dirty weapon brainstorm. I'm going to be taking just a few of these and seeing if I can build an interesting enough set of action cards. I think the gameplay will not be interesting with just the weapons, so the shape of the mvp is a bit larger. I think the core gameplay will revolve around how you form combos out of several of your mech's components rather than just firing your main weapon repeatedly. So the MVP is probably at least two weapons and a something else. Two weapons so that I can set up the asynchronicity of two opponents. That may not even be enough and I will need 3 weapons (1 unique and 1 common between the two opponents).

Weapon ideas:

buzzsaw: Melee weapon, when it does damage somewhere it can "cut through" and do damage elsewhere
sword: Ignores armor on the component you block with
rapid-fire: allows you to chain several attack cards
gatling (even more rapid fire!): takes several turns to ready, but attacks for several turns in a row
sniper: very powerful but only in the right circumstances
grenades: potential for damage even in poor tactical positions
missiles: create a looming threat that an opponent must consider for a few turns
traps, like flaming oil: add danger to the battlefield; triggered by situation
pistol: useful in most situations, but not the best
freeze-ray: delay opponents use of targeted component
tractor-beam: force opponent to move or prevent them from moving

Some of these are very situational and may be better as a side component than a main weapon. Open to other ideas as well. Leaning towards pistol, sword, and rapid-fire for the first set as they require the least other game mechanics to be implemented. Then again, being the more boring they may not bring out the core gameplay that strongly, so perhaps I should start with the more complicated ones?
 
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patrick mullen
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Working on the base "maneuver" card format. It looks like I will be leaning heavily on multi-use cards. Every card may have some or all of the following types of content, with slightly different effects depending on what phase they are used on.

Use 1:
Power generation - during a power assignment phase, a number of cards may be played to generate the amount of power each is worth. Will probably have the power icon on a sidebar so you can stack the cards and just count the power icons. Ignore the other text on the card.

Use 2:
Action - during a player's action phase, you can spend power to play the card for it's action. The action will usually require you or your target to be in a specific location. It usually is an attack with a damage value.
Exposure - Most actions, after they take effect, will have an effect on which of your mech components will be exposed. Typically, firing the gun on your left arm will then expose your left arm. Attacks typically will only damage exposed components. In fact, I may leave off the exposure section unless the maneuver exposes a different component than the action is tied to.
Movement - Following the action and the exposure, the card will define what location you will move to. Sometimes this movement may be conditional on some factor. In the default case, this movement will be required. If you are in a matching location, and there is another locations that also matches a cards movement, you must move to the other matching location.

Use 3:

If the movement is indicated as an evasion, either by the color of the box or a special icon, then the card MAY be played as a reaction to an opponents attack, in which case the defender will perform the move before checking whether the attack can be successful. An evasion may also trigger the cards exposure, but does not trigger the attack.

Use 4:
Block value - Components have a stress amount as well as 1 or more operating levels. When an attack hits, the attack value adds to the stress of the exposed component. When the stress reaches a limit, the component will drop by one operating level, which may affect it's usefulness. (Power generation from that components cards are 1 less, you draw less cards from that component, or something to that effect).

A card may have a block value that increases (or decreases) the stress limit of a component. After performing the action, movement, and exposure during a player's action phase, if the card has a block value, it is added to an exposed component, replacing any blocking cards there that may already be attached. If, after being replaced, the component now has more stress than it can handle, it will become damaged in the same way as a normal hit. So these blocks are not always good.

Use 5:
The block value may usually also be played as a reaction to respond to an attack.

Other:
Charge time - some cards will have a clock icon along it's side indicating the amount of time before they actually take effect. These are usually powerful, but will have ways to counter them. Playing the card counts as an action, but the triggering of that card is not.

Component association - each component that goes into the mech (a specific head, the back-mounted missile launcher, a left arm laser pistol, etc) has it's own unique cards. The action card will indicate via an icon or text which component it belongs to. This will be used for the exposure rules, and help sorting the cards later.

Yeah so that's a first pass. MVP is looking like: a few locations, at least one weapon, and at least one other component so that I can play with exposure a bit. I'm feeling pretty good about the direction it's heading! I know the first few trials are going to be dull and overly compl4ex though.
 
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Simon Cole
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Gloomhaven has multi-use combat cards and it's general reception is positive. It has only 4 options though. 2 are specialized (generally a special move or attack), and the other 2 are the most basic move and attack options available (e.g. if your mech's weapons are down, then at least punch for the weakest affect).

I'm not against many options, but you might want to consider categorizing certain action types to certain cards, and not having them all on one card. You're probably already thinking that.

I'm having to do the same thing with my idea. Multi-use without become "universal" use. Which I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing.
 
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patrick mullen
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Yeah, I take my inspiration from many games with multi-use, it's one of my favorite mechanics. Gloomhaven is interesting, in that you are usually choosing which attack and which move you want to perform, where some go better together than others. Each card is unique as well, so your decision is do I do this now, or possibly never?

A key difference here is that you generally do all of the things. You perform your attack, which targets a position, then moves you to a position, and exposes one of your components for a counter attack. You may have done that because you are holding onto a stronger card which needs you to be in that new position, even though that first attack wasn't going to be very effective. And then you hope that your opponent doesn't play something that forces you to evade to a position that prevents you from using the strong attack you were trying to build up to.

The experience I am going for is less about which cards go well together (a combo you play on your turn), and more about which sequencing of your attacks produces the best combo spread across your turns. In that sense, I'm not that worried about the cards being universal, as they still will be highly situational.

And when you are defending, evading, or powering up, you are giving up performing the whole card to do just that one part you need right now. I think that will be an interesting choice, but we'll see

I do consider having "missing" areas on some of the cards - maybe there is an attack that doesn't move, a move that doesn't let you evade, or a card that doesn't provide any power. More as a way to provide some flavor.

I've gone down this path because I've found in all previous versions that attacking is fun, and not attacking is not fun. If your turn is about playing a card, that card needs to attack. You could play multiple cards a-la gloomhaven, which is something I'm also considering. But I like the idea of your attack also dictating your movement, so that you have to consider a strong attack putting you in a weak position.

One challenge I have had in all versions are making the body, leg, or head abilities interesting. One time I had legs that had different speeds, and I had a tough time thinking of ways to make anyone want to choose the legs that had the lower speed within the framework that existed. One slight change I'm considering is having you choose the weapons only, with the other aspects of each robot more generic. Unless I can really make choosing which head or legs to bring an interesting one, I think it's probably a good reduction. With abstract positioning, it's harder to come up with unique movement abilities.

So you just choose two main weapons and a super, smoosh the decks together a la smash up, and go.

However, rather than exposing your weapons directly when you attack, you still expose the different flanks of your mech. A spinning sword attack might expose your backside, a leaping laser blast exposes your legs, etc. Weapons would still be attached to a specific flank and be weakened if their base is. I don't know, not entirely sure on this part of the game yet. I might start with just movement and attacking to see how that feels and leave out the components altogether.
 
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