M.A. Devlogs: Game Components pt.2

Welcome back to the weekly Minibots Arena devlog!

Today we’re looking at another game component: the map.

Thinking up the game, I wanted to stay away from two things:

  1. Massive Wargaming-style play area where you need to check everything with measuring tape.
  2. Annoying diagonal rules of Pathfinder and D&D combat that comes from having straight squares.

A few months ago, after I designed a few cards for the game, I started thinking about the map. The classic sentence “You had me at hex grid” came to mind. I quickly headed to my local ultra-cheap print store (they are literally on each and every street of Ho Chi Minh city) and googled “Printable hex grid”, and went with the two best things I could find (so, a huge THANK YOU to whomever uploaded these).

Here’s what I ended up with:

This was the original 1-on-1 map. I had the empty map, a load of crayons, and a need to implement a loot box drops mechanic. I wanted to make the map more colorful and to have something close to biomes, so I found where I could divide up the map and divided each part in colors, adding letters as well.

Only then did I have the idea of my drop mechanic (which I love) which works like this: every turn, the 1st player draws a card from the Events deck. Most of the time, it’ll be a “Drops” card. On that card will be certain letters and colors. You simply drop a loot box on the corresponding hex. Other events being tested include zone control, neutral units spawn points, and hazardous environment. Here’s an example of the cards, which were pretty fun to make:

20181011_095932.jpg

These cards date from the very first print and will eventually evolve but for now still work great and do the job just fine. Colored letters are very straight-forward but colored hexes means you can choose which letter to drop the loot on – giving the 1st player more importance.

The map is very small and claustrophobic and kept matches very tight and fast, however I soon found that it cuts down on available strategies and maneuvering.

Back when I was at the print shop, I hadn’t realized that the second map was going to print on larger paper. A great surprise that had a huge impact on the game! Enter: the multiplayer map.

20181011_093951.jpg

This map already had biomes so I set off coloring it up. Notice there’s no set HQ spot here, à la Neuroshima Hex (which I’ve never played, only watched Let’s Plays of) to let the players choose where they set up. Of course there are some rules to guide you: your HQ should be on the edge of the map, and should be a minimum of X hexes away from your enemy base.

The drop cards are essentially the same but since there are two of each color, the 1st player has even more control as to where to drop the loot.

20181011_100826.jpg

This map is more fun to roll out (as big as two regular paper sheets) but after we played a 3-people skirmish on it, it again felt really, really claustrophobic (I ended up not deploying any Minibots for 2 turns straight since my neighbor could simply walk up and shoot down anything I spawned from his HQ) and I found myself wondering what to do about it.

There’s two big changes that spawned from that kill match (which ended with a score of 7-6-2): the turn order, and the map itself.

For Minibot turns, it used to be that players all took turns moving a single Minibot each, until all the Minibots on the map had been moved. The reasoning behind that was to keep downtime to a minimum. However after watching tons of Warhammer 40K Battle Reports I realized that my rules didn’t give players a lot of room for strategy.

The last duel game I played was on the multiplayer map. The game ended up lasting close to 3 hours (mainly due to a different scenario and new cards with more strategy) but having a larger map really opened up strategic possibilities.

Ultimately, I want players to have the option to play a simple quick match, a few quick ones or a long, epic game.

So, here’s what I came up with next. I went back to the print shop and googled “hex ring”, and printed a ton of those, which I’ve slowly been coloring and gluing to pieces of cardboard I’ve been cutting up from boxes. My illustrator Thach has been tasked with making them actually enjoyable to look at.

Anyways, here’s the yet-untested hex rings, which should give players a changing, more customizable experience (and make things easier to carry):

I still need to cut up way more

Just to stress how awesome it is to work on your game components, seeing everything colored up has infused new creative energy into my routine and I’m now constantly thinking of color schemes and synergy. What should colors represent, ultimately? I hadn’t really thought about it yet since I’ve been printing everything in black and white to save money.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to keep the element of deck-building and balance in the game.

However, everyone who plays ends up asking for factions. Who am I to deny them this wish?

As we speak I’m – yet again – editing the cards, this time adding colors. I’m unfortunately limited to MtG colors at the moment since I don’t have my own cards, but it’s adding more depth to the game.

Having options is really important to me, so I’m aiming at keeping the basic game as neutral as possible, but give players the option to choose a player mat of a certain color, which would give a small bonus? For example: Green represents batteries. If you pick the green player mat, all your Minibots deployed come in play with an extra battery token.

The more I progress, the more I add play-testing time. With the possibility of play-testing once every other week at the moment, I’ve seen a dip in my productivity, which I’ve used to dig into the ultimate wargaming experience (and my guide as to where I want to take my game): Warhammer 40K.

Hope you enjoyed this short devlog.

Some people have contacted me, saying that they don’t completely understand how to play the game so the next post will be a proper battle report to give you all more insight on the game.

The rules have been written but since the game is constantly evolving I’ll not be sharing the booklet just yet.

As always, if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments or email me, and if you are interested in the project, you can like this post, follow this blog or my Twitter and Instagram (I like IG more) and the ultimate think you can do to help is share this website.

Thanks for your interest, see you next week!

Étienne

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