Greetings! I’m Ken Nagle, design lead for TransformersTCG. Today I want to talk about the Mercenaries, a new faction introduced in War for Cyberton: Siege II, which is Wave 4 of our releases.
Mercenary for Hire
Design is an iterative process, but we knew many of these things early:
- Mercenaries are a new faction.
- Their color tint is black for their frames.
- They fight for either Autobots or Decepticons, they aren’t an equally strong or numerous 3rd
- They are quick to sieze opportunity.
Afterwards, Matt designed a mechanic for them that fit them both flavorfully and for the team building we wanted:
- Bounty rewards the Mercenary for making the knock out attack on an enemy.
- Bounty specifically doesn’t work globally across your Mercenaries. You’re not getting stacking bonuses.
- Because of its template, it’s possible to trigger bounties in other ways.
I had already playtested the Bounty mechanic in a small capacity with Dirge’s ability to precisely KO enemies for profit, so I knew it would be a good one. This is a healthy way to generate more fun in a game – take something that’s already fun that the game does once, add lots of it to the game, and see what happens. Bounty was going to be on around six or so cards and we knew this early thanks to Matt’s initial work.
That got me thinking - since Mercenaries got their own mechanic, it felt like it was (way past) time that Autobots also got their own mechanic and likewise Decepticons got their own mechanic. We could aim for the same six-ish number as Bounty on Mercenaries, but we’ll see.
There’s always cards, characters, mechanics, and themes that end up getting cut as we get close to the end of building an expansion. However, there’s another source of inspiration for making new cards – you the players! It should be quite obvious that Wave 4 had plenty of time to see how the real world played with and against certain characters and teams.
Once players got hold of the game, a very impactful ability turned out to be Force Field, which caps incoming damage to 4, or its more powerful form on Wave 1 Insecticon Skrapnel which caps damage to 3. That’s because we slanted the game heavier toward attacking than defending and while taking 4 damage from an attack isn’t enjoyable, it’s certainly better than taking 10+ like many teams are built for.
What’s not obvious is we didn’t quite know that would be the case. We played plenty of Force Fields, but we also played more than our fair share of “Repair 3 from my Wave 1 Skrapnel each turn” epic long battles (which is why we’ve designed the game to be difficult to repair 3 damage from one character each turn). If every team was designed to do just 4 damage each attack then Force Field-like effects would be useless.
If instead upon release, every deck was reducing all incoming damage with blue flips then I imagine Piercing Blaster becomes the talk of Cybertron.
With War for Cybertron: Siege II, we had player feedback and metagame data now. We knew that black icons could do the Piercing Blaster impression if called upon but we didn’t have a good way to saturate the game with more Force Field effects. So we invented Safeguard and gave it to the Autobots since it felt like a Heroic kind of mechanic.
Capping damage all the time at just 4 damage didn’t feel right since we want large characters like Trypticon to be capable. Since one of the most frustrating parts of the game is losing a character on the first turn (it happens!), we wanted Safeguard to work very well on the first turn but then not so much. “First turn only” did the job but didn’t feel all that great the other 90% when someone wasn’t crashing in with a turn 1 13+ star character. We ended up with an “undamaged” requirement so the opponent could figure out how to bypass it with a single point of damage, but that also means if you can fully repair your character then Safeguard is back up and running. The fun can be debatable, but we like that the gameplay is plausibly interactive.
Revenge came about because we needed a mechanic for 6 or so Decepticons to contend with Autobot Safeguard and Mercenary Bounty. We’ve already done characters with KO triggers like Elita-1, and to some extent all the Battle Masters in War for Cybertron: Siege I & II have a KO trigger to become an overpowered upgrade. Nonetheless, having playtested with and against Elita-1, her KO trigger did give me an occasional pause to not attack her, and we were looking for ways to slow the game down even more.
The tipping point came when we playtested prototypes for Trypticon.
In the end, my prototype where he “eats” his minions won. Since we wanted reasons for Trypticon to actively “eat” his minions, we could put KO triggers on them. This ultimately led to making more KO triggers for Decepticons and calling them Revenge.
Today we saw how the 3 factions in War for Cybertron: Siege II each got their own mechanic. This kind of structure helps the game’s theme and the repetition helps simplification.
Thanks for reading this design article. I hope you enjoy War for Cybertron: Siege II, on sale now.
Until next time, may you find what works and expand on it.