Monday, April 15, 2024

Wargame Design- Hostile Space- Anime Inspired Space Mecha Combat


Well, this is a bit of an unexpected surprise.  I have been working on this title for a long time.  Those that have been following the blog for a while probably recall my efforts to build the Mecha, and play some test games over the years.  Looks like the first battle was from May, 2021, with the big follow-up later that month.  I finally got my first Mecha done in October.  Now, three years later I finally decided to complete the rules for distribution.  Of course, I made a name change from Glittering Void to Hostile Space along the way too. 

I was very close on giving up on these rules in post-production.  Why?  Instead of making a miniature game, I started work developing it into an RPG.  There is more to come in that space, but I figured I might as well get this out into the world too.  

Those of you who are my Patrons on Patreon have had access to these rules for a year or so.  With their help I have been able to make some adjustments to altitude, modify some cards, and clarify some wording.  There help focused on finish off these rules.  As thanks, they got access to the finished product months prior to everyone else.  In addition, the Patrons have also had access to the RPG rules of Space Mecha Theatre, In Strife and Conflict Beta rules, a G.I. Joe RPG module, as well as various other work in progress games.  They also get access to my first forays into Mecha combat; JUGS: A Game of Big Stompy Robots.    

Hostile Space game came about thanks to my pet bearded dragon.  Of course, my games come from a lot of different places.  They come to me in dreams, they come to me playing other games, and they come to me when I am working on business projects.  Even by those standards, this is a weird place to start.  My lizard likes to watch genre fiction, especially Kaiji movies.  As a result, auto-play eventually brought up various samurai flicks, yakuza movies, and then eventually Mecha shows and clips.  As I went about my business, these clips started to sink into my psyche.  I wondered how to translate the action I was seeing on screen to the tabletop?  

That led me to the following design goals: 

  1. Maneuver was going to be an important element to the game
  2. More military based and not Super Robot, Kaiju, or Over-the-Top Super Mecha
  3. Piloting was going to be a critical skill from the player
  4. Feels like space mecha combat with death coming from everywhere
  5. Campaign system to build ace pilots and differentiate them from the rest
  6. Generic and scale agnostic
So, let's talk about how I tried to do this in the game.  

A pair of New Olympian Ares Combat Suits

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
One thing I love about aircraft games, is the idea that placement and maneuver are more important than shooting.  Position is critical, because without the correct position you can not get a clean shot, and leave yourself vulnerable to be targeted yourself.  If you watch a lot of Anime mecha, movement is a key component of any battle featured on screen.  Therefore, they are more aircraft games than any other wargame type.  It made sense that I would lean into the conventions of this genre more than any other.  

As you know, I am no stranger to airplane games.  I tried to re-invent them with White Star/Red Star.  However, for this game I wanted to be a bit more "traditional" in my approach.  There were a number of games to build-off of, and I was looking at games like Aeronautica Imperialis, X-wing, Bag the Hun, and Blue Max.  These have traditional mechanics such as altitude and secret maneuver choices.  However, I also was really interested in the Battlestar Galactica mechanics where ships could face one-way and move a different way.  

I wanted to incorporate these types of mechanics into the game.  In any given Mecha's turn it can change its direction of movement, do a maneuver, change height in the battlespace, speed-up, slow down, and even change its forward facing separately from the direction of movement.   This means that flying and positioning your mecha is more important than any other aspect of the game.  Plus, weapons have limited fire arcs and can only fire up or down one level.  Therefore, you can maneuver to avoid or engage and knowing when to do which is vital.    

These are skills that a player will need to bring to the game.  The actual piloting of the Mecha in your force are a thing for the player.  Is it the right scale for the conflict where each Mecha is being piloted by the player?  Probably not, but I do enjoy the "skill" aspect of these types of aircraft games.  Some of the most thought provoking and tactical games I have ever played are Airplane games.  Hopefully, I have captured that here too.  

Earth Alliance Suits close in on a New Olympian Ares

Model and Scale Agnostic
I made the game scale and model agnostic, so you can bring any sized mecha you want to the game.  I actually designed the game with Dream Pod 9's With The Lightnings range in mind.  However, I ended up using some cheap plastic robots that I modified for the game.  Therefore, when I wrote the game I wanted a model and scale agnostic system.  

That said, I did not include a "Build your own Mecha" system into the game.  Instead, I created a background and factions.  These are there so you can quickly get a fun, thematic game to the table quickly but the game works fine if you eject the background in the book.  Instead, there are some fairly straightforward unit designs from each faction that can fit into a variety of archetypes.  

Why did I avoid a "Build your own Mecha" system in the game?  The main reason is that they are too hard to build, too hard to articulate, scale arbitrarily, and are impossible to balance.  Once they leave my hands, they are way to easy to cheese, and there is no system I can design that a player could not simply break.  Of course, players are always free to design their own Mecha and homebrew what they wish!  The Mecha designs I have in the book should be easy to break up and use as a baseline for your own creations.         

An Earth Alliance Lander is escorted by a pair of Combat Suits

The rules have a campaign system that can be used to link games together.  Your squadron can also gain experience and become Aces.  Their is skill progressions and special maneuvers that Aces have that other pilots do not.  Plus, the campaign has a definitive end point with a "Final Battle" scenario. 

There is a variety of units besides just Mecha in the game.  There are interceptors, long-range launchers, ground defenses, mines, defensive weaponry, and more.  These different units allow a squadron and player to deal with a variety of tactical challenges.  

There are 10 different missions that your squadron can fly, so you never have to play the same mission twice.  I also spent some time adding in a variety of "terrain" beyond simply asteroids!  This includes dust clouds, gravity convergences, radiation fields and more.  These features give the game a lot of tactical elements to be exploited and adds to replayability. 

A Mastiff tries to dismember a New Olympian Ares

Final Thoughts
It's amazing that this took me about 5 years to get this game to where it is today.  I am so happy that it is finally ready to join my stable of games on my Wargame Vault page.  Post-production really is a bear!   
My playtest games were very tactical with a lot of decision making every time I touched a model.  The rules were easy to grasp, understand, and put into practice.  However, put it all together on the table and to counter your opponent was a lot harder to do.  I played several times, and did not find that I had "solved" the game.  The hardest part was trying to "guess" what my opponents were going to do, and to be there to intercept them, or to try and avoid them.  There was a lot of thinking and considering as we moved.  This slowed the game down somewhat, but in a delightful way. 

I look forward to seeing how you all use the game, and what you think of it.  

Become a Patron and get access to all the cool stuff, a peak behind the curtain of Blood and Spectacles, and early-access to playtest games!  

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page or Instagram for more fun! 

Check out the latest publications and contact me at our Blood and Spectacles website

Or purchase all out games at the Blood and Spectacles Publishing Wargames Vault Page!   



1 comment:

  1. Enhorabuena por su nuevo juego, tiene buena pinta, aunque no es mi género predilecto.

    Gracias por compartirlo. Un saludo.