Game development has taken a bit of a back seat here due to mandatory social distancing from COVID-19. It’s hard (read impossible) to play a game with anyone when you are not allowed to meet with anyone.
That said, I (Joe) have been playing a quite a few solo games to continue to test the combat mechanics. Though I find it difficult to play-test a game effectively playing by myself.
But, all is not lost. We’re continuing to test the regiment combat system and over the next week or so I’ll be solo testing a few new rules here:
Heavily based on a tabletop wargame, Helorian Battles relies heavily on combat to determine who wins the game.
Throughout the combat system development, while not set in stone, several key features we want to include have driven our decision making:
Dynamic lane based combat. The game starts with one combat lane, and can expand and contract throughout the game.
Ability to play strong units on turn one. With points based deckbuilding, a player shouldn’t have to save up manna or money to be able to play some of their best cards at the start of the game.
No board/mat required. Summoner Wars is a great LGC that is very wargame like, but requires a mat to play on.
We have evolved through several iterations of combat while developing the game, some turned out to be horrible. Some were fun, but had balance issues.
The most notable failure was players would end up spending every turn counting up their attack and defensive power, the opponents attack and defense power, and then determining if they should attack or not. There was a lot of counting, not much attacking, and even less fun being had.
And that brings us to our current combat iteration we are testing. It’s sure to change as we continue to playtest, and may be completely different by the time the game is complete.
The regiment system.
In the regiment system, units can be stacked with other units to increase their power and/or provide cannon fodder for the more powerful units. Players can also create groups of low power units to overpower stronger units.
Based off of this new system, there are a lot of different iterations and adjustments we want to test. Max units per regiment, combat between different sized regiments, ranged units in regiments, and more.
We’ll explore more of these combat mechanic systems and tweaks to the regiment system in future posts.
While we had a notion of what the challenges of a point based deck building card game would entail, this article provided a lot of insight from a professional game designer. One key quote from the article:
“So why don’t card battlers use point-based deckbuilding? There’s actually a pretty good reason. When both players start with all their units on the field, both players are guaranteed access to all of their squad points. In a card battler like hearthstone where you draw only a portion of your deck each game, investing most of your points in a few stronger cards would produce massively swingy games. Asking players to pay a cost upon playing the card, as most card battlers do, solves this issue. You only pay for what you play.”
Dan Felder – https://danfelder.net/2017/03/09/untapped-potential-in-card-games-deck-building-point-costs/
This makes a lot of sense – in Warhammer Fantasy one can field at the start of the game 5 units of goblins, or 1 unit of Black Orcs (generalization). You get access to all your units, all at once. However in a card game, not only do you have to churn through your deck to try and get units, you also have a set number of actions to play your cards.
So, a deck of 10 high-powered units @ 100 points each, vs. a deck of 20 low powered units @ 50 points each – all else being equal, odds are the deck of 10 high powered units will win every time.
There are a few game mechanics we’ll explore to counteract this in-balance.
Supply limit. A player can have more weak units on the board than strong units. (Edit: Though as pointed out in the comments below, this likely defeats the purpose of a points based deck builder)
Bonuses for weak units. Example: 2 weak units together become stronger. (Like two goblin units in Warhammer working together)
Like Warhammer, constraints forcing mins and maxes for your deck to contain set percentages of unit/card types.
Set min-deck size depending on deck points.
Point values of cards and units
Max number of same card in deck
Unit abilities – cheap units have unique abilities (draw card when played, no action cost to play, etc.)
Deck churn – players can churn through their deck during a game.
In future posts we’ll go over testing these game mechanics (and more) to see what works, what doesn’t, and what is fun!
The action economy, a set number of actions a player may take each turn, is often referred to in RPG games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. It’s also used in living card games like Android Netrunner & Arkham Horror: The Card Game.
Generally speaking, most of these games have a set number of actions you can take each turn. Then there are gameplay mechanics that can modify the number of actions you can take, or the power of an action, each turn. For example, in Arkham Horror: The Card Game, there is an ally you can play to grant you one extra action each turn.
A limited action economy creates depth to a game by forcing players to wisely use their limited number of actions. Players must optimize the limited number of actions they have across endless opportunities to determine which course of action they want to take during a turn.
This makes for some very fun strategic decisions. Do I move and attack a creature this turn, or do I spend the turn buffing knowing the creature will attack me next turn. Do I cast a healing spell on my allies, or do I cast a damage spell on my enemies?
In Helorian Battles, after initial playtesting with a mostly fixed action economy, we decided to use a dynamic action economy. An action economy that ebbs and flows throughout the entire game as players try to get more actions.
Players have the opportunity to “expand their territory” by placing a new location. This new location grants the player an extra action each round. However, your opponent is trying to attack your locations, and the more you have, the harder it is to defend.
This creates an engaging dynamic to the game where players are trying to get more actions by playing locations and defending them, all while trying to destroy the opponents defended locations.
Our first step in designing a new game was to make a game that was fun and engaging to play. It all started with a rules brainstorming session on paper, that we then translated into hand-drawn note cards to quickly play through. It didn’t look pretty, but it got the job done.
The game played surprisingly well the first time through, but unfortunately lacked any sort of strategic decision making, and wound up in a tit-for-tat combat until the game ended. Player 1 played a card, attacked. Player 2 played a card, attacked – and so on.