I’ve written about most of the card by now, but I wanted to cover the other remaining bits and mention a few other things. Once again, here’s the card:
And here are the other articles on it: Warming Up and Keeping Track. There are other Zomblob articles, all tagged with the Zomblob label… I’ll make a comprehensive list when I post the beta ruleset and PDFs. (This has been pushed back a little bit thanks to two other big projects that demanded immediate attention, but I want to get them before the 20th or so if at all possible.)
The biggest thing I haven’t covered yet is the combat resolution. It works like HeroScape (which I still haven’t played, sadly, though I’ve researched it) or the WoW Miniatures game. Each attack uses either WILL or POW, and the number cited is the number of six-sided dice you roll. (So a POW 5 attack would have you rolling 5 dice.) This number may be modified by a few things, so you may be rolling a few more or less. The defending unit rolls dice as well, dictated by the attack. Ranged attacks will have the defender rolling as many dice as the RDEF value lists, defense against melee attacks use the MDEF value, and defense against WILL attacks use the WILL value. (If you’re using an Action on one of your own units, ignore the WILL values.) A die showing 3, 4, 5, or 6 is a “success”, either in attack or defense. A POW-based attack will deal damage equal to how many successes the attacker rolls, minus the number of successes the defender rolls. A WILL-based attack is binary; if the attacker rolls more successes than the defender, the attack succeeds.
It’s worth noting that the base values for these attributes will range from 1 to 6. They might be modified by game effects, but they shouldn’t wind up too big.
Example 1: A Banshee Feral Ranged unit uses a ranged attack with POW 4 against our hapless Murmurer up there. The Murmurer is a Support unit, generally hiding behind the front lines, so it has a decent RDEF of 4. Both players roll 4 dice. The attacking player rolls 3 successes, and the defending player unluckily rolls 1 success. The Murmurer takes 2 damage (loses 2 Health points) because it only defended against one of the 3 attack points.
Example 2: An Interceptor Aspirant Melee unit uses a WILL attack (WILL 6) to try to lock the Murmurer in place for a turn. The Murmurer is a stubborn unit, as its WILL value of 5 attests. The attacking player rolls 6 dice and gets 4 successes. The defending player rolls 5 dice and gets 4 successes. The Murmerer thus defends against the WILL attack and does not suffer the lockdown.
Example 3: The Murmerer then uses its own Action that prevents a unit from moving (the second one in the list up there), targeting a rapidly approaching Rhino Feral Melee unit to stall its charge. The Rhino has a WILL of 5, just as stubborn as the Murmurer, but it has melee attacks with POW of 5 and 6. The Murmurer doesn’t want to defend against that with its measly 2 MDEF, so keeping the Rhino away is a good idea at the moment. Both players roll 5 dice. The attacking player (the Murmerer’s controller) rolls 4 successes and the defending player rolls 2 successes. The lockdown attack succeeds, but there are no other effects due to the 2 successes that were not defended against.
I chose this method instead of the WarHammer/WarMachine method of only the attacker rolling dice for a couple of reasons. One is that I simply prefer it. Two, it’s more interactive. Klaus Teuber, the designer behind Settlers of Catan, suggested in an interview (that I can’t find at present, sorry for the lack of citation) that games that allow all players to act, no matter whose turn it is, tend to be more interesting and socially involving. This might be why I prefer the technique. It seems like the people I’ve played the WoW Minis game with have more fun, too, as they are actively participating in their defense, not just sitting back hoping their opponent doesn’t roll well.
It’s a subtle psychological trick, perhaps, but I think it’s important, especially when you’re dealing with a small group instead of big, impersonal armies. Rolling your own defense simply makes it more personal and tactile. It might also make it more annoying to keep track, to be sure, which is one reason why I’m trying to keep the numbers relatively low. Sure, it’s possible to make an attack have 11 POW or something even bigger, but that winds up to be a lot of dice. 6 feels like a good baseline top end to me, but this is one of those things that really needs a good playtesting shakedown.
Other than that, the card shows a few other things. One is the “unit specials” box under the unit type line. Each unit will have something here, some personal quirk, though some may have the same quirks. The Murmurer is a fairly strong support unit with decent defense (at range, anyway) and a pair of useful defensive abilities:
“may not be delayed” means the Murmurer cannot be given TP by any other unit. (Time Points that delay its next action, as described in the Keeping Track article.)
“may not be flanked” means the unit does not lose RDEF or MDEF when it’s attacked from its back arc, which is what Flanking usually does. (An defender loses 1 to MDEF and RDEF against attacks against its back arc.)
Other units might have “(unit) gains +1 POW against Feral units” or “(unit) can draw LOS through any units” or the like. I’m hoping to make all of these fairly simple and self-explanatory, but useful and/or powerful enough to make each unit valuable and interesting.
This does intersect a little bit with what I’m calling Auras (one of the elements that the Murmurer doesn’t display), which are static abilities that allow a unit to affect the battlefield at all times (the Special box is something that only affects the unit itself instead of a space on the battlefield). An Aura will take the place of one of a unit’s Actions, but it need not be activated, it’s simply always “on”. These will usually affect the stats of nearby units, either buffing allies or annoying enemies, though there will be some “utility” Auras with quirky effects, like the Interceptor’s movement-impairing aura that affects every nearby unit.
Then there’s the Value box in the lower right. This is the point value of the unit, relevant for army building and scoring. I’ll initially be offering a six-unit team for each breed, balanced by this number. There’s room for customization, though, and handicapping, which is where this Value will be useful.
There’s also the Absorption mechanic, which is why the last Action has a gold border. Any unit may absorb an Inert blob. (A blob that has lost all of its Health is rendered Inert, which means it stays on the battlefield, just a lump of goo that gets in the way.) If a unit absorbs another unit, it learns its last Action for the duration of the match. You’d place the absorbed unit’s card under the absorber’s unit card, showing that last Action. That Rhino Feral unit might wind up with the Murmurer’s ability to delay and heat up a target unit via absorption. This might also be a big deal in campaigns, where absorbed Actions carry over to the next fight.
…I’m playing with fire a little bit there, potentially giving units “off-breed” abilities (which is one other reason why that last Murmurer Action is a multipurpose tool instead of a stronger simpler one). I’m not sure that it will work out well, but it fits the flavor of blobs so well that I really want to make it work. We’ll see, I guess. There’s just something delightfully appealing about the ability to take the enemy’s resources and bend them to your ends. I love this about BattleTech and salvaging units, something that was really fun in MechCommander 2, so I’m hoping to capture a bit of that fun with the biological mutability of the ‘blobs. It might be a “win more” mechanic, but those have value too, in speeding up the endgame. Absorption is a universal Action, too, so you’d be trading the opportunity to do a native Action for your turn for the potential of a new tool in future turns. This will require playtesting and experimentation.
Does all of this make sense so far? I don’t have the rules completely written down yet, and I need to find the best way to explain them concisely, so I’m hoping that these concepts aren’t too crazy. I’m spending a lot of words here describing what I think are relatively simple mechanics… but sometimes something makes sense in my mind and then doesn’t translate all that well onto the page. I’d love to hear what you think of any of this.