M.A. Devlog #3: How-To-Play basics

Hi fellow humans, for this log I’d like to (finally) share information about how to play the game. I’m trying to keep these texts bite-size so today we’ll only be scratching the surface. I’ll not be sharing the rules just yet because honestly, they’re a mess right now. Just when I thought I was getting settled on an idea, the most recent playtests uncovered a mine of ideas (which is a good thing) that require clarification and fine-tuning.

However, if there’s a concept you’d like me to elaborate on, I’ll be happy to do so in the comments or in a future log.

But what do you do in the game anyways?

Short answer: in Minibots Arena, players aim at building and fine-tuning their deck, juggle attacking, looting and gaining currency, and try to complete a mission or score victory points, depending on the scenario.

Basic Turn Flow:

  1. Draw cards from your own deck.
  2. Buy cards from the “Printer” deck to add to your deck.
  3. Reveal an Event card (Drops loot crates or creates zone control goals).
  4. Play cards from your hand to deploy units (Minibots) and equip them, or place walls for cover.
  5. Move said units around the battlefield (Arena), fight the other players, loot the Drop crates or put the units to work to gain currency.

The mindset behind the curtains

In order to keep the downtime short and the gameplay fluid, at the moment most of the cards are simple and straight-forward and the mechanics intuitive. However, the balance is fragile: will people find the game too basic? Will more serious players accept longer waiting periods between turns for a deeper strategic approach?

From what I understand, traditional wargames (or Tactics video games) seem to have players going through all the phases on their own (deploy – move – combat), with the adversary patiently waiting, brooding and plotting – even Magic: the Gathering follows that concept.

Warhammer 40k does a good job of keeping the off-player busy by offering plenty of saving rolls and a thick booklet of rules to peruse or having you re-thinking your army color schemes.

Other more traditional games like Chess combine moving and attacking in one short, single phase and players can only choose one unit to use at a time, which generally keeps things moving at a comfortable pace.

At the moment I’ve decided to combine wargaming with card games, sprinkling a bit of tactics on top. The board is covered in hexes, color-coded and numbered for the Drop system I’m rather proud of.

So then, let’s take a look at the current turn order:

Turn Order

I don’t know where that art is from, if someone could enlighten me.

Keep in mind that we are at a very early stage of development and all playtesting has been aimed at testing the core mechanics – an advanced ruleset is in the works.

Let’s go deeper in the steps/phases as they stand now, build 4.0

  1. Move the 1st player token clockwise – A proven mechanic that levels the playing field.
  2. Players simultaneously draw cards until they reach maximum hand size (5 at the moment) – a bit more complex than the standard draw X cards each turn.
    It offers a small amount of strategy when linked with Step 8.
  3. Reveal X cards from the Printer deck, and buy said cards. X equals the number of players in play. Here’s where the deck-building mechanic comes into play. For this game, I don’t think that simply having all players draw from a common deck is appropriate. You’ll have to manage income and make decisions on how to build your deck.
  4. Reveal a card from the Events deck and follow the instructions. Dropping loot crates full of funky stuff is the most common event and I’m rather fond of the mechanic I’ve created to that effect. Crates act as cover as well, offering a bit more strategy. Other possible events include creating difficult terrain or offering boosts and advantages to a player in the right zone.
  5. Players simultaneously play cards from their hands to deploy units on the battlefield. Now’s also the time to equip any units standing next to the HQ or to create fortifications and cover using Wall cards. Yes, this idea came to me while playing Fortnite. At the moment, a player cannot have more than 3 Minibots in the Arena at the same time – to keep turns short and avoid clutter on the map or power imbalance.
  6. The 1st player will declare which unit they will be using, then choosing which action they will perform – Move, Attack, Work, Loot, or Use an Item. A unit cannot perform the same action twice in a turn (except moving). This mechanic is directly inspired by the combat of Dungeons and Dragons but at the moment there’s no dice-rolling for attacks or damage – the numbers are all straight-forward.
    Steps 6 and 7 are linked together.
  7. The player who just finished step 6 will then choose their Minibot’s second, different action (unless it’s to move or if a card can break that rule). Then the next player will perform steps 6-7. These 2 steps are repeated until all units on the map have been used.
  8. Players simultaneously manage their hand. If they are holding a number of cards over their maximum hand size (from looting or otherwise), they must discard down to the maximum. They can also choose to discard more cards in order to be able to draw cards at the next turn’s Step 2.
    While discarding, they have two options: simple discard (or downsize), where they move a card from their hand to the top of their discard pile – or – sell the card to permanently remove it from their deck and gain some income. That will offer a bit more strategy in terms of deck-building and income management.

 

That’s all I have for today, hope it gave you a bit of information and made you more curious about the whole project. I’ll try to make an actual, White-Dwarf-Magazine-style Battle Report next time I’m playtesting!

May your rolls be critical.

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