From Alpha to Beta

There’s a lot of things that I thought I would be doing when I was a kid but writing and editing rules for a major game was not one of them. I thought I would do sculpting, casting maybe if I was lucky. Little did I know that learning to read tabletop game rules when I was twelve was one of the most relevant activities I could do for my future career.
This development blog has been quiet, too quiet. That is about to change. As of last Tuesday I have passed off the document for layout so that it will be ready in both PDF and printed forms for Gencon in August. I’ll be working on a series of videos to kick start players into the new rules allowing everyone to get caught up. The die hard survivors of the Alpha forum discussions can all give themselves a well deserved pat on the back, their comments and responses have helped to shape and define the rules to where they are today.

Some of the topics on the alpha forums that have had the most influence are topics like “Get rid of L/M/H weapon prefix’s” and “melee invincibility”. “a couple of mistakes found in the post” and many other smaller threads that have helped to shape the discussion. For the record the prefix’s will stay with the addition of two additional ones “I” for infantry weapons (a step down in size) and “N” for Naval that will describe weapons that go beyond the Heavy rating. Free strike are also now gone so people hiding the models in melee combat can be avoided plus a plethora of small but important mistakes have been found in the attributes of models. 
But largely it boiled down to this: We want Heavy Gear.
It’s a specific and precise want. but I’ll translate it somewhat like this: We want heavy gear to be fun and welcoming to our friends so that they will play in the Terra Nova sandbox with us. Keeping the game focused on the Gear itself as the primary play model has proven to be an end unto itself. Every decision from how much damage units should be capable of sustaining to how fast and how many turns are allowed for each model had to be put in terms of how does it allow the rules to play fast and intuitively. 
On of the hardest discussions was if the game should move to a D8 or D10. There are games on the market that use bigger value dice because that is required for the range of values for the game. The Heavy Gear mechanic of using a the high value of a roll and letting the other dice boost it up by matching or exceeding the skill rating is what does that for Heavy Gear. In the end after a lot of debate it was decided to keep the D6 because to move to a larger dice value would diminish the importance of the secondary dice that are compared to skill. Getting a dice modifier to a roll should be significant and the use of six sided dice push this fact..
The biggest changes from the Alpha to the Beta will be in the movement section. I have received significant feedback that the counting and tracking of movement rating was slowing the game down and hamstringing slow tank units, and that the movement rules needed to be significantly simplified. I’m pleased as to how that turned out with the removal of movement costs to turn and restrictions on the use of secondary movement systems removed too. A lot of movement ratings have been adjusted to account for these changes so expect to see some drops in those rating by a standard 1” for most walker models.
Now a player simply declares posture when activating a model and uses one of the movement modes available for each move. A Hunter could declare top speed, walk 5” with unlimited turns for the first move then switch to ground movement to move 6” across some open space. At any point the hunter could stop and use it’s action to attack with the top speed modifier to the action.
Some rules were outright dropped, such as the Flanked order (too complicated), Free strikes (created illogical situations), and the Grab and Toss special melee action among others. Tactical momentum is gone (everyone forgot to use it), and many weapons got their ranges readjusted in addition to the changes caused by isolating the split fire trait. Now Hunter with a medium autocannon gets a better single shot but has to compete with a Hunter with a LAC that can attack two targets when within optimum range and is only one penetration rating lower. Beam weapons have also received a significant look since it was clear it was a weapon system that players were heavily favoring over other choices. The choice to move to a skill modifier rather than a dice modifier again reinforces the idea that getting positive modifiers though position are significant (elevation, flank etc).Also being included in the rules are a section about VTOLs, Generic Veteran Upgrades, and Duelist rules. 
The sub-list section has also received a lot of work distilling between two and four characterful special rules for each sub-list that reinforce the character of a force built to match the background of its place of origin. The goal was to inspire players as to how to build the force without demanding a particular requirement. An example of this is the allies rules where a force can gain access to a selection of unit UAs from another force. It’s not required but then you can add capabilities to your army (or expand into a new army easily) without a lot of rules juggling. When the question was put to players of what factions they played the answer was universally all over the map with the core lists being the most popular. This has led to an approach of simpler is better in terms of being beta rules with the distinct possibility that future book releases can expand and enlarge the special rules for each sub-list.
Next week I’ll be previewing four of the sub-lists and the army construction rules with some examples as well as the first rules introduction videos.
Until then check out Arkrite press and their new publication of Rumble in the jungle and Stompy Bot, who are ramping up for the first release for the new online gladiatorial mecha combat game. This summer there will be a lot for fans to enjoy!
forum handle: dave
Currently painting: Caprice mounts and a Dragonfly!