I wanted to chronicle my design process and journey for my solitaire game, Super Fighting Robot. I'm entering this game into the BGG 2016 Solitaire Game Contest and you can check out my work in progress thread on the forums.
Super Fighting Robot is heavily influenced and inspired by the Robot Masters in the classic NES MegaMan series. I wanted to re-create a simple, yet challenging and engaging way to have 1 on 1 fights against a foe, then being able to absorb their special attack to take on the next challenge.
Armed with this goal in mind, I set off!
This is not intended to teach you how to play, but I will try to include some rules as reference points.
A basic version hashing out rudimentary mechanics. I started with a 2x3 grid as the play area "The Ring" and a deck of 12 Move cards, consisting of Punch, Block, and Repair Damage. The Bot challengers were tied to fighting moves- Punch Bot punched for more damage, Block Bot was better at blocking, etc...Fights were resolved by matching up the cards in the 2x3 grid 1-4, 2-5, 3-6. When you defeated a Bot, you added 3 more cards to the deck of Move cards and kept going. The deck-building and game play was simple and worked, but it wasn't very engaging.
(Dominion is a very popular example of a deck building game)
A few major changes were needed right off the bat, which is to be expected! I changed The Ring to a 2x4 area, changed the Bots to correspond to elements instead of moves, and changed the names of the Move cards to better reflect the updates. Punch Bot became Thunder Bot and so forth. This change also allowed me to expand to 6 Bots and introduce new concepts and attacks. With a bigger play area, I added more cards to the game; the starting deck was now 16 cards and each Bot you defeated added 4 to it. A new card type to dodge and counterattack an attack. Another main change to make game play more challenging was introducing the concept of Ally Bots and Enemy Bots. Ally Bot moves gave you a small bonus if you were allied and Enemy Bot moves couldn't be played on your side of the ring and gave a bonus to the challenger. I also added combos that would deal damage either before or after the fight finished. These were designed to add a puzzle feel to placing Move cards. (3 Attacks in a row did an extra damage, having 2 blocks and 1 repair in your set of 4 did a damage...)The game was starting to take shape but I was running into some issues of not being able to play Move cards at certain times.
The introduction of a Reserve Area solved my problem of getting stuck with an unplayable Ally or Enemy Bot card. The Reserve Area also served as a way to completely remove cards from the game, thinning the deck. This is a popular design concept in most deck-building games. I also tweaked the Bots and their powers slightly by retying certain Bots to certain moves (Lightning Bot had a bonus tied to Counterattack Moves). This is the first version that was tested by friends. I was very encouraged with the results and continued to think of improvements.
The next big change was the addition of a Boss Bot card to fight at the end of the tournament. I also added specific abilities to individual Move cards in addition to the Bot cards. (The Lightning Bot Attack card couldn't be counterattacked, for instance). Some of the powers, ally/enemy considerations and fighting combinations were getting unwieldy and I was beginning to lose some of the simplicity I was striving for as the game ballooned.
Version 5.0- Current
Another big change was the addition of Energy cards. Energy cards were designed to address the fighting combos by adding a resource management aspect to the game. You could not use a combo attack or a Bot's special ability unless you had an Energy card. Early testing of the Energy cards are not helping as intended though. A few of the Bot Move cards were changed to grant you a way to get more Energy cards, but I seldom ran low enough to need them.
I think a revamp of the Ally/Enemy design system is needed. Ally bonuses were designed to give you a small bonus if you played the correct cards. Enemy cards were unplayable on your side of The Ring and added bonuses against you. I'm going to try taking the Ally bonuses out completely and changing the Enemy cards to Weaknesses. You should be able to play Weakness cards on your side of The Ring but they won't be as powerful as a normal card.
Energy cards need to be further explored. There's potential to make the game more challenging, but if they don't, they just take up component space.
I also need to revisit having abilities on specific cards in addition to the Bots. It can be easy to forget to apply a bonus. I must find the elusive balance between challenging and simple.
I'm glad I entered this contest, it's really jump started my motivation and has given me a clear deadline to finish a design.
One of the exciting things about Super Fighting Robot is that it can translate well to a 1-4 player game with just a few tweaks, but for now I'm focusing on just the solo version.
I'll be blogging more changes as they come and keep an eye out on my contest page for more game information.