Had another playtest last night. Once again forgot to snap a photo (I swear I’ll remember one of these days!). Had a new player out, which was fantastic, as it lead to a pretty productive discussion afterwards. He liked it very much (yes!) and had some thoughts regarding streamlining some aspects of the timing. Good stuff, and they look to work really well in conjunction with some ideas I was already messing around with.
At this point I think most of the changes are going to be related to streamlining the gameplay. The game works well, but takes a while. Which isn’t a problem in itself. What I don’t want is for it to take longer than it *needs* to. If 2 hours is what it takes to get the best experience possible then I’m fine with 2 hours. But if 1 hour can accomplish the same experience, then that’s how long it should be.
Right now, simultaneous turn resolution can combine with highly individualised mechs to create a syncopated turn effect that slows gameplay, especially over the available number of phases in a given turn. I had already been looking at methods to eliminate most of the syncopation, but hadn’t wanted to decrease the phases because it would limit customisation options, and I think that the on the fly customisation is a huge strength of the game. Last night’s discussion resulted in a method of decreasing phases that would work with my de-syncopation ideas while maintaining high customisability.
The other thought that my new playtester really liked was the idea of using maps and miniatures/tokens in addition to the cards. Not a new idea – I have it in the ruleset as a potential variant – but his intensity really demonstrated how nice it would be to do that, and I don’t disagree with him. Early iterations of hel’s BELLEs used all of those ideas. I made them an optional variant (or future deluxe version) because they aren’t totally necessary, and they drive the potential cost way up. Right now, hel’s BELLEs fits in a small box (think onirim or chronicle) and requires you to use some dice or scratch paper to keep track of some details. Adding tokens, counters, miniatures, dice, maps, playmats and so on would look fantastic, but would also mean a game that cost much more and took up a lot more space. I really like the idea, I’ve even thought about what those parts would look like and how they’d enhance gameplay, but when it comes down to it I just don’t think it’s feasible at this point. I’d certainly be up for the enhancements if I was in discussions with a publisher, but as I’m more likely to be self-releasing the first edition through gamecrafter, keeping costs down is pretty important to me.
Plus, I love the essential portability of the game in it’s current form.
So, what’s hel’s BELLEs about? What have I been trying to do?
Well, first off, I don’t think I’m the only one that enjoys giant robot fights. I also like board games. A lot. Especially board games that put it all in my own hands. I don’t mind losing, but it sucks to lose because you keep rolling 1’s (or 6’s, or whatever), or can’t draw the random card you need (need, not want; I’m talking about manascrew, not just failing to draw your ultimate combo). I also like tactical games with limited actions, like 40k, or jagged alliance, or even fallout 1 and 2.
Hel’s BELLEs is the game I want to play that doesn’t exist. Or didn’t, anyway, until I made it. The battlefield is built on the table in front of you. Minis, terrain and complex maps could all be used if you want to, but are completely unnecessary.
The cards you play define the battlefield, and you move about within that battlefield. Weapons, ammunition, armour, equipment, mecha, all upgraded and tweaked as you play, mid combat. Your movement improves over time as well, and every upgrade (equipment/maneuverability/supplies/terrain) is purchased by you, which means you get to decide whether you’d rather be agile or sturdy, whether you want the biggest guns or prefer a subtle game of modifications.
Commands are revealed and executed simultaneously, meaning you need to read through your opponent’s strategy and react while he’s still acting. Your tactics either work or they don’t; there are no dice rolls to determine results. Mecha, battlefield, action, equipment, market, terrain, all in a thick deck of cards.
As I said, I’m currently in the process of putting together a beta deck, making some adjustments that came up during early playtesting. I have a full ruleset written up at this point (putting it all into words was probably one of the hardest aspects of this whole process), and look forward to getting my beta prototype assembled so I can start doing some blind playtesting.
Hopefully I can find some time this weekend to tweak some card design details.
And maybe squeeze in a game…