Palladium Books recently launched a project on Kickstarter, Robotech RPG Tactics. In Part 1 of our exclusive interview, Palladium's founder and Chief Game Designer Kevin Siembieda discussed how the project was initially launched and how they partnered with Ninja Division. In Part 2, Siembieda discusses the rules of the game and how playtesting help shaped it.
MTV Geek: From what I understand, the game was extensively playtested.
Kevin Siembieda: Robotech RPG Tactics has been playtested for months. Between Palladium Books' volunteer playtesters and Ninja Division's people, we've assembled a small army. I think Tom Roache's team has something like 40-50 gamers alone, and David Freeman is coordinating directly with another 40 or so. Then we have a dozen small, independent groups of 4-10 people each. When we do a final tally I suspect it could top out at more than 150.
We made a point to have playtesters of every stripe; those who are seasoned tabletop gamers, wargamers, and roleplayers as well as newbies to tactical games, like me. Some are familiar with Robotech, others not at all. Some have played Palladium's Robotech RPG extensively, and others not at all. This diversity provides us with unique and different perspectives on game play, the rules, ease of understanding the rules, and common areas of likes and dislikes. And most of all, what the various groups of gamers expect and want from a game like this.
Geek: Can you explain the design process and what kinds of modifications and tweaks were made after playtester input?
Siembieda: When designing any game, there are hundreds of questions you and your design team have to ask yourselves. Who is your audience? What is the goal of the game (besides fun, of course)? Even price point, because that will dictate what can be put into it, and many, many other things. And that's even before you get to the nitty-gritty of game mechanics.
In the case of a license like Robotech, things get more complicated by the fact that you are translating a known world and characters millions of people love. Fans who have pre-existing expectations of about what the product should encompass. It's always tricky extrapolating one medium to another.
From the very beginning, we all agreed that Robotech RPG Tactics should be fast-paced, simple and fun. Testing new rules, variant rules, and number crunching becomes crucial. That's where having an army of playtesters becomes important, because we can send them new rules and mechanics to try out even as we are developing and fine-tuning them. Playtesters are able to help us ferret out what works best and what doesn't, very quickly.
We'd take playtester feedback (including our own experiences), brainstorm, and make adjustments. Nothing was off the table. My role involved a lot of, "Why can't a mecha do this? Shouldn't a player be able to do that? In the anime the mecha does X, Y, and Z; we need to replicate that." While I'm not a wargamer, I understand game design and game theory, and I sure as heck know Robotech and what fans want to see.
We then brainstormed based on playtest results, created new rules or made adjustments, and resubmitted them for additional playtesting. David Freeman has been the mastermind behind coordinating the playtesters, collating playtest data, and implementing adjustments. Once the rules are hammered out to the point where everyone is mostly happy, it's a matter of fine tuning stats and numbers. It is definitely a process. And while fun, it is serious work and has led to many intense discussions.
Siembieda: As a stand-alone game, Robotech RPG Tactics is a fast-paced, tactical mecha wargame that can be played at skirmish level with as few as one or two mecha per side, to standard games with 20 to 60 mecha per side, or even epic level games with a few hundred or thousand mecha per side. The game uses 1/285th scale game pieces (most are 40-70mm tall), standard measured movement, and is based on standard six-sided dice to make it accessible to all players. You don't need to be familiar with the RPG at all to play.
The mechanics of the game are simple and quick, so that the rules don't get in the way of the tactics. It is squadron-based, where one player activates all the mecha in a single squadron, moving and attacking with them, before the opponent activates a squadron. There are attributes like Gunnery and Piloting that provide modifiers to your die roll. The game uses Command Points which can be spent to perform special actions during the game, like stealing the initiative from the opponent, boosting up a mecha's Speed, performing an extra attack with a weapon system, reducing the damage from an attack, etc.
Each mecha has a Mega-Damage Capacity (MDC) which determines how much damage the mecha can withstand before being destroyed. This is a low number to keep math simple and action fast-paced. There are no damage rolls. It the attack hits, damage is done.
The amount of MDC of a mecha is based on the MDC of the mecha in the Robotech RPG divided by 25, so a Valkyrie has 14 MDC in Robotech RPG Tactics because it has 350 MDC in the RPG. Likewise, the weapons generally do an amount of MD based on their maximum MD in the RPG divided by 20, so a GU-11 does 6 MD in Robotech RPG Tactics. This makes RPG Tactics a fast, deadly game that requires strategy and tactics as well the luck of the die roll.
The game includes a variety of scenarios with rules for battling in deep space, on Earth, the Moon or Mars, and classic military missions, including dogfights, pitched battles, convoy defense, etc. A variety of special rules are included to spice up any of the scenarios and provide endless replayability, including airborne assaults, hidden demolitions, orbital bombardment, poor visibility, etc.
As a supplement to the Robotech RPG, the game pieces can be used to represent the player characters in a campaign, and the Robotech RPG Tactics rules can be used to engage in skirmish combat and large scale battles. Robotech RPG Tactics also includes a set of conversion rules for converting RPG characters into 'special characters' for use in the tabletop game. While a converted character will never be exactly like its RPG cousin, these rules provide all the "flavor" of the original RPG character on the tabletop. Just be careful, since it's much easier to die in Robotech RPG Tactics!