When we began work on War for Cybertron: Siege II, we were all enthused by the prospect of continuing where Siege I left off. Our Transformers TCG sets up until then were all standalone entities. Getting to iterate on our mechanics and themes was an exciting opportunity.
There are a bunch of Battle Masters in the Siege toy line and it was my goal to include all of them in our sets. (At least all of the Battle Master toys I knew would be coming.) Battle Masters had a very tight costing band, they needed to be at least 5 stars for balance purposes and under 8 stars to differentiate from the full size Weaponizers. Mechanically, Battle Masters further ask for smaller costs so that they can more easily be paired with other bots to wield them.
In order to differentiate the first Battle Masters, and to keep them from competing too strongly with one another I suggested to Ken that we associate (most of them) with a Battle Icon color. Aimless plays with Blue, Pteraxadon with White, Nightstick Black, and while Lionizer doesn’t call out Orange specifically, Bold combined with 0 base attack leaves you with little options otherwise. If you end up using Lionizer just to dig for Green icon cards, I’m all for it. Likewise, Blowpipe doesn’t ask for Green explicitly. Green is the most frequent Dual Icon pairing which support’s Blowpipe’s weapon side.
I knew there would be more Battle Masters in Siege II, but we couldn’t use these same tactics to differentiate them. In applying the concepts of iteration to Battle Masters, I discovered immediately that I wanted to introduce Amor and Utility types. There was just one problem: there were no Battle Master characters like that!
I took my idea to the Transformers creative team at Hasbro and they were very keen in supporting my vision, providing me clear guidelines about what I could and couldn’t do. Armed with the direction and support of Hasbro, I went digging through figures of old. I was drawn to G1 Action Master partners as there were some neat characters and I felt like nothing in that line could be considered “sacred.” Anything we did with those characters would breath new life into long forgotten and unappreciated concepts.
Sights originally converted to a blaster, the same as many current Battle Masters, but that was a profound waste of wings. The concept of attachable wings would work perfectly as a Utility and I couldn’t shake the image of Flamewar shooting into the air via these wings from my mind. This was a pretty easy one!
A skateboard is another one that makes a real easy Utility. Turbo Board is silly, but the image of Mirage sliding quickly along the side of a cliff was radical. In order to use Turbo Board however we needed to do something about his robot mode, specifically his lack of one. I had in my mind the idea of a flat leach like drone hovering above the ground patrolling the halls of the Autobot base. I sent the art description over to Drew who knew immediately what extinct marine creature he wanted to give the artist for reference.
That is Chromia upgraded with Vanguard btw.
Once I was reminded of Vanguard, the Armors went very easily. Vanguard already had a cute drone like bot mode and converted to headgear which qualifies as Armor. The same was true for Needler. All I really needed to do was remind people they existed and get approval to classify them as Battle Masters this time around.
Speaking of which, here is your preview for today; the last Battle Master appearing in Siege II.
That is Starscream with the Needler mask chomping on anything he can get his mandibles on.
Needler is rather straight forward. In bot mode Needler is a definitive prohibition on opposing repair effects. As an Armor he provides an above curve +2 defense with a bonus Pierce 2 modifier to help you get through defensive decks.
I’ve got to admit something: I’ve known about Mercenaries for a while. I’ve been extremely excited for them for just as long. As a Transformers fan, getting to know the stuff I do is awesome but, frankly, if they understood how big of a fan I am, they’d probably stop telling me.
We thought that Mercenaries would be the perfect escalation for Siege II. We were super excited to bring them aboard, but once again there was a challenge ahead of us.
You might have noticed there aren’t any Mercenary characters in War for Cybertron: Siege I! We wanted Mercenaries in Siege I, but as far as the rest of the campaign was concerned, it was too early for their debut. Once again, the fine folks managing Transformers creative were very accommodating and willing to hear me out regarding what would be best for our project. They even went as far as letting us debut the faction in the TCG!
I put my head down and got to work on a roster of characters I thought could best represent Mercenaries at this point in the timeline. I took care to advocate for characters that could fit into the Siege story and had a meta-history of ambiguous allegiances. After a little back and forth and feedback from Transformers creative we eventually came to the roster of six you were introduced to recently. As you consider this team, keep in mind that these characters are Mercenaries at the time of Siege II. That does not mean they weren’t Autobots or Decepticons prior to Siege II, or that they can’t join one of these teams later on.
Mercenaries in Siege II would be the perfect representation of progression for the War on Cybertron thematically, but in order to represent those themes in game play there were a few goals we wanted to meet.
- Mercenaries are loners. There aren’t a lot of them, and they act as independents rather than a team. Due to this we wanted to encourage you to play one, maybe two Mercenaries on your team.
- Mercenaries are contracted, they work with either side. We didn’t want to make any of them prefer one side over the other, and again we wanted you to play one of these alongside Autobots or Decepticons to reinforce those themes.
- Mercenaries are paid for their work. They aren’t fighting for freedom; they’re fighting for a reward.
In order to meet these thematic gameplay goals, I came up with the Bounty ability. Whenever a Mercenary would do their job and successfully KO an enemy, they would receive a reward. Keying their main abilities off KO’ing an enemy put them in competition with one another, naturally enforcing their place as one on a team. If you have 3 Mercenaries triggering each of their Bounty abilities is going to be very difficult. If you have one, it can be much easier to position the “last hit” on an enemy and trigger their Bounty without your other characters missing out. Giving each Mercenary a Bounty ability tied the themes together and let them stand out as a new class of character in story and game play. Keywording the Bounty ability also let us do some cool things like with Contract Contingency and Coup.
There are a few more gameplay nuances you may experience with Mercenaries, but I can’t give it all away!
The release of Siege II is less than a month away and we can’t wait to see what kind of effects it has on your battlefields.