Friday, 13 July 2018

Titanomachina: Features and Benefits

I heard once that games are essentially bundles of features. I'll add that games are bundles of features intended to be interesting and absorbing. The intention is more for the designer/developer/writer, as when our intentions fail or get subverted, we can use that goal to work backwards and figure out what went wrong. Which is what I've been doing for the past 7 years now. One of the nice things about such a long incubation period is that I built a library of stuff that didn't work, and why, and stuff that did and why. It might be useful to think of that 'why' as the benefit of doing so, minus the work and hassle involved. After all, if some game element is too much work players aren't going to enjoy it no matter how clever it is, or how much variety it can represent. Conversely, if a game element empowers or enables a player to do something that strikes their fancy, it'll help sell the game.

So what are the features of Titanomachina?

(1) Customisation. Players can customise their Titans with a choice of Capacitor or Jump Jets, and 3 of 12 Weapon systems. They can also customise their battlefield, choosing what sort of Terrain to bring, and since demolishing enemy buildings and having your own survive until the end of the game scores victory points, players are customising the amount of risk they want to play in the game.

Ideally this is the minimum customisation available to players; where the Kickstarter works well to kickstart production on a line of Titanomachina products, I'm hoping to ramp it up so that Titans can have fully customisable models, replacing limbs, heads, and body-systems. Likewise the plan is to introduce different kinds of buildings, so that players can further diversify their terrain pools. Then there's more crew, more personalities, more kinds of systems (Digitigrade Legs! Repair Systems! Transformation Systems!).

(2) Positional Combat. The relative position and facing of Titans is an important element of combat, as it defines what the Titans can attack, and how they are attacked. This means Titans can ambush, break-away, and re-engage. They can track targets with limb-mounted weapons, and target enemy systems, and move to punch and kick their enemies.

This positional combat is accomplished by the System Diagram, defining where a Titan's systems are located in relation to the squares on the board. Arranging system tokens on the System Diagram is one of the ways in which players can customise their Titans, and crew tokens move around in the blank, unoccupied slots enhancing systems. The positional combat connects what's happening on the board to what's happening inside the Titan, giving players hard choices about where to move and what side to expose to their opponent(s).

(3) Asymmetrical Turn Structure. Typically in games players take turns, first one, and then another. But part of Titanomachina is momentum, and one way of playing momentum is enabling one player to take turn after turn after turn. In Titanomachina the Titan with the highest Initiative score gets the next turn, but Initiative tops out at 6 on the 1D6 used to track it, and when players tie, they roll their 1D6 until they're no longer tied. Where players pass on their turn, their Initiative drops one point. And once a Titan has the highest Initiative and starts taking turns, it's not long before its opponent(s) will catch up, because...

(4) Counter-Play. Each action played can have a reaction played to it, and both Sensors and Extra Armour can be played to increase the Initiative of the reacting Titan (Extra Armour needs to take damage though). While the Titan with the highest Initiative can take consecutive turns, it only takes two other Titans having the same initiative to have to roll their Initiative 1D6 and possibly leap ahead to start a series of turns. In the meantime reacting Titans can come about, rotate their shields, take evasive manoeuvres, brace for impact, and return fire. The notion is that cards can be played optimally as actions, maximally as combos, and sub-optimally as reactions. So players can not only work to interrupt their opponent's plan, but actively interfere with it.

(5) Multiple Paths to Victory. At the heart of Titanomachina is the notion that you both bring your own terrain, and score based on how much of it survives till the end of the game, and how much of your opponent(s) you destroy. While simply beating on your opponent's Titan until the game ends might work to secure victory, as you score points for each enemy System destroyed, it's unlikely to net you as many points as destroying enemy buildings. Likewise the likelihood of destroying enemy buildings fast enough is less than the likelihood of simply placing your own buildings that survive until the end of the game. With the Gracious Personality a Titan can double the victory points of each Small Building placed on the board, at 2 victory points for each Cost 1 investment. Conversely a Sagacious Titan can run and hide, running out the clock so that it scores a point for each System that survives the game. The Pugnacious and Rapacious Personalities, by contrast, get bonus points for attacking Titans and Terrain, respectively. So from strategic cold wars to brutal brawls players are better suited attempting to outwit their opponent rather than chance a frontal assault.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Titanomachina: Rulebook DRAFT 4

I've been working on the rulebook to go in the Titanomachina box, and while it still needs work I figured it would be useful to put it out there.

There's two notable changes, rather interlinked, thanks to an issue I mooted on Dakka. The issue was that the Armour Piercing weapon system trait involved subtraction. Everything else involved addition, and to the result of the operation figuring how many damage dice were rolled.

And you know what, that operation was too complicated. It involved a non-regular comparison of values (less than, equal to or greater than, equal to or greater than twice, etc).

So JohnHwangDD of's forums suggested that Armour Piercing adds D6s to the damage dice against systems just like High Explosive adds D6s to the damage dice against terrain. Which makes a lot of sense, and I'm glad it was spotted!

Note that Hard Rounds adds D6s to the target dice. Shock adds to the charge value of played systems. Shield Breaker cancels shield tokens before damage dice are rolled.

But now that Armour Piercing complements High Explosive, what about the Effect vs Armour operation? It's still a bit of a kludge. But once I edited the Armour Piercing rule in my DRAFT 2 copy of the rulebook, the parallelism* between the Armour Piercing, High Explosive, and Hard Rounds made me think about how the damage dice operation lacked similar regularity.

So it occurred to me: Where Effect is up to x times Armour roll xD6. Which means, for example, that a Macro Gun will roll 1D6 vs Extra Armour, 2D6 vs Shields, and 3D6 vs Sensors. A combo with Sensors vs Extra Armour will 2D6 against Extra Armour, but 3D6 vs a Medium Building due to the bonus from Sensors to its Effect and its High Explosive trait. Conversely a Macro Laser will roll 3D6 vs Extra Armour by itself and 2D6 vs a Medium Building. Against a Shields system the Macro Laser will be 3D6 and 4D6 with Sensor combo.

With those changes implemented, and a few others, I was able to squeeze the rulebook down to 18 pages, covers included. It's not complete for publication yet, missing various diagrams and such, but I think it gives a good idea of what the game's about.

Titanomachina DRAFT 4 

*A technical writing term of art meaning actions performed in the same way should be written in the same way. Jargon!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Titanomachina: Game Set-Up

Setting up a game of Titanomachina does not include setting terrain up on the board, but that doesn't mean that there isn't any preparation involved. 

Firstly, players need to make sure they have their Titan-specific system cards for their Titan deck. Here's an earlier prototype of the cards each Titan has in their Titan deck. These cards should be in colours specific to the Titan in question: These should be blue. Aside from distinguishing them from your opponent's cards when laid out to declare actions and reactions it means sorting the Titan decks is much easier. Each Titan also has the option of a Plasma Capacitor or Plasma Jets. That's 14 cards in total. Two of those cards are Shields systems, so they bring along two earlier prototype shield tokens, marked "Shield Observe" in a fit of miscommunication regarding the English meaning of "obverse." 

To match these cards, Titan-specific system tokens are placed on the Titan-specific Titan Dashboard. Here's some newer prototype-tokens, although there's an error in that the Plasma Capacitor is coloured in the neutral grey and red rather than the Titan-specific blue. Something to fix before production.  

In addition to Titan-specific systems, players select Crew. Crew have a token for the Titan Dashboard to keep track of where they are in the Titan, and a card for the Titan deck. Crew act like a System and have an Effect, Charge time, and Cost. Notably the tokens are part of the newer prototype and have the Crew numbered for the purpose of identifying specific cards with tokens, much like how the cards like Arms are lettered R & L to distinguish which is which on the System Diagram. For my purposes here I've set it up so that the odd numbers are women, and the even numbers are men, for certain values of 'women' and 'men.' The prototype cards with matching numbering to the tokens are in the mail, and the crew will have grey uniforms rather than green, as they can be used in either Titan. 

Finally there's Weapon systems. Weapons have a card for the Titan deck, a token for the Titan Dashboard, and a model to go on the Titan! Again, these are the latest prototype models and tokens, and an older version of the cards. The Weapon system cards will be generic grey, as players choose from the same pool of Weapon systems, but these are in the previous (and slightly problematic) green scheme. Notably the cards in the third column (Claw, Plasma Shotgun, Plasma Howitzer) are slightly out of order. For the blue Titan we'll select the Claw, the Laser Battery, and the Plasma Howitzer. 

Here's what the Titan Dashboard looks like with the Weapon systems mounted, and Crew added where-ever might be useful. I've put the Initiates in the front corners, with the Arms and Weapons, so they can be combined with the Arms to punch, and place shots with those Weapons. Likewise the Master is in the centre of the Titan making sure that the Turret and Laser Battery are ready, and the Adherent is minding the Plasma Capacitor. Crew needs to be in the same System Diagram square as the system they're being combined with, so I'm hoping this configuration gives me the right opportunities to maximise my crew-combos.

Now that the Titan Dashboard is ready, the Titan has its Weapons mounted, the Titan deck is compiled, and Terrain pool chosen, I've selected Rapacious as the Titan's Personality. This will affect scoring at the end of the game, essentially declaring my intention to smash my opponents' buildings to rubble, and maybe cackle a bit. Notably I've placed the shield tokens in the corner squares of my Titan's System Diagram, because the front and sides are protected by Extra Armour and those are handy spots from which to rotate shields into the front, rear, and sides depending on my opponent's initial angle of attack. I've also placed the Titan deck, shuffled rather than sorted, on the Charge 1 pile of my Titan Dashboard. There's an optional rule by which players can carefully order their Titan decks for an additional layer of strategy, but that's a whole article in itself! Note that my Titan's Initiative is 1, given that this is a duel I figured that I can just turtle up on deployment if I deploy first, and ambush my opponent's rear if I deploy second so I spent the minimum (2pts) on my Initiative.

There, all ready to rumble! The Yellow Titan has undergone similar set-up, choosing the Macro Laser, Rocket Pod, and Macro Gun as its Weapons, and Sagacious as its Personality. Yellow also has two Medium Buildings, and three Small Buildings, and likewise has an Initiative of 1. Time to draw cards, and roll off for deployment on the board!

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Titanomachina: Game Report

Pink vs Green! My opponent took a Rocket Pod, a Mega Gun, a Laser Blade ('giant Jedi' so says my opponent), and the Plasma Jets. His Titan's Personality was Pugnacious, scoring an extra victory point for each enemy system destroyed. His Titan was Green. Occasionally I call her Styx.

Mine was Pink, who I'm calling Eos after the Titan of the rosy dawn. I gave Her the Laser battery on the Turret, a Buzzsaw for clearing buildings, and a Plasma Howitzer as my main gun. I also took the Plasma Capacitor, which super-charged my Plasma Howitzer twice, reloading it to match the Laser Battery salvos. I'd need to concentrate fire, preferably with Crew and Sensors if I could get lucky. I took Gracious as the Eos' Personality, that of Her Adherent crew member.

The first pass saw a head to head slugging match favour the Styx, so having cordially punched and stabbed each other's front-center Extra Armour and Sensors, the Eos ducked under a sluggish, reactive attempt to chew on Her with a Mega Gun and shaved a Medium Building down to size with her Buzzsaw.

The combatants circled once before the Eos returned to that building, this time with a side-kick from Her Plantigrade Leg R. The Styx had decided discretion was the better part valour, and used Her Plasma Jets to jump away and smash the Eos's Medium buildings (we each had two Medium and three Small buildings).

Having gotten the critical +3 victory points destroying a Medium building, albeit in two tries, the Eos turned to re-engage before the Styx could return tit-for-tat treatment of my Medium Buildings. Did I mention that I had plenty of time and opportunity to combo my Crew and Shields systems to overcharge my shields? It mean his rapid-firing Rocket Pod and Mega Gun couldn't just keep rolling 6s... Should have done that on my first pass, as my opponent had used up his Shields rotating his shield markers on his system diagram while he eviscerated my Titan on the first pass. The Eos hung on despite the loss of Her Sensors C, or head, Extra Armour C, or chest, and Turret, that thing behind her head. She'd lose Her Arm L before the Styx was through with Her. The overpowered shield markers soak three hits that could have potentially destroyed systems.

When the 'enforced peace' deadline hit, after the Eos had laid down all Her terrain and had 1 Medium Building and 4 Small Buildings left on the board. She was Gracious so the Eos scored +1 victory point per building, giving Her 12 victory points for her own terrain, up from 7 if not Gracious. The Styx's Personality of Pugnacious scored +1 victory point for each enemy system destroyed. Sensors, 2x Extra Armour, and Arm would have been 6 victory points otherwise, but instead scored 10 victory points. Conversely the Styx had one Medium and three Small buildings for 6 victory points, and the Eos had destroyed one Medium building for +3 victory points, and destroyed Sensors and Extra Armour for +4 victory points. The Styx scored no points for making my Medium Building into a Small Building. At which point I forgot to score that building of his and declared the game a tie. Maybe the Eos needs to step up Her patrols through the area, and perhaps suggest a more Sagacious member of the crew act as Captain!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Titanomachia: Working on Stuff

I'm currently working on the Kickstarter, and the rulebook, as both are graphic design challenges. But part of working on those is using the prototype parts that I have to make diagrams. I like making diagrams, and so it's a rather enjoyable part of making this bun (should it be 'sausage'?). In the meantime I have an excuse to post some pictures!