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Make a Wargame Ep 5 – Hero Powers – MM 46

It’s Mini Monday, where we share miniature projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re rounding off our tabletop skirmish wargame with hero powers. We’ll also touch on playtesting one last time, because it’s important. Mini Monday Logo Dagger Lords won’t feel like a complete skirmish game without some hero powers, so let’s look at building some today.

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

We’re updating the public Dagger Lords game document as we go, so be sure to check in and see what we have so far. Don’t forget to leave a comment too, because it gets lonely here in the lockdown.

Dagger Lords Minis Game Logo

Final Thoughts on Playtesting

Before we jump into the mechanics we’ll be developing, let’s look at playtesting one more time, to get the bigger picture.

Throughout our project, we’ve created mini prototypes, which we’ve tested and iterated on. These small games help to pick out the fun and broken mechanics, which we can then keep or fix. It’s like getting to hold and feel your ideas, which does a lot for knowing if you’re on the right track.

One of the hardest aspects of game design, for a small studio or a hobbyist, is getting enough playtesting in. Now especially, with lockdowns and Covid still impacting the number of face-to-face games, it can be hard to get players in front of your work, especially when it’s new, buggy, and not connected to a well-known IP.

This is one reason why we made the game’s work file publically accessible, to allow players to check out the game and provide feedback as this series continued. Online virtual tables, like Tabletop Simulator and Roll20, provide another way to reach fans across borders and time zones. Still, people only have so much time, and you can’t expect people, even good friends, to set aside a few hours to play.

Ultimately, you often need to try the game for yourself, as often as you can.

For Three Stone Stories, which is currently nearing its final draft, we set a rigorous in-house playtesting schedule to check every one of the campaign threads that’ll be included in the book, testing each multiple times. GunStars, also in development, has had multiple playtests focusing on various core mechanics, even though it’s still only in its early days of development. Finally, my home RPG sessions are usually focused around whatever content I’m creating at the time, like our undersea campaign that tested a lot of the content for the Undersea Sourcebook series. Apart from that, we try to keep the lines of communication open between ourselves and the players that buy our books, so we can keep improving.

Why is any of this important?

Because making a good game matters, and the only way to ensure that a game is fun is to play it.

By the Power of…!

A game just doesn’t feel complete without some showy powers to deploy against your opponent. Powers also give us an opportunity as designers to showcase the core mechanics and the theme of the game.

Here are a few examples:

Dagger Lords is about fantasy street gangs. Think Gangs of New York, but with goblins and dwarves. Powers that showcase the gang element might have names like Backstab, Cut Throat, For the Brotherhood, Betrayal, Brawl, Club to the Noggin, and so on.

We can tie these to the Reflex Point mechanic easily by making powers cost a number of Reflex Points, but we can also have powers that influence Reflex Points. Ambush, for example, might let you roll a die to steal Reflex Points at the beginning of the game.

Powers give us a good way to prototype racial/heritage abilities and class abilities, which we can later bake into the stat blocks for the various units that populate our game. We can also test weapons as powers, which gives us a lot of modularity.

Let’s jump into the prototype, where we’ll see some initial ideas for powers.

Dagger Lords — Prototype: Street War

The objective of this game is to destroy all of your opponent’s units.

Setup and Rounds

Each player controls 4 gangster miniatures, with the player representing the gang boss. A game has two players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points, 2 Reflex, +2 Brawl, and 3 Hit Points.

Before the start of the game, each model can purchase a power from those listed below. A model must meet all requirements of the power to be able to use it:

Dagger Lords Powers 1

The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:

  1. Initiative
  2. Activation (Combat and Movement)
  3. Top-Up

1. Initiative

Each player rolls 1d10 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the player with the highest total to the player with the lowest total.
Dice off for ties.

2. Activation

Each player then acts in initiative order and can activate their miniatures in any order they wish. At the start of the player’s activation, their models gain a number of Reflex Points equal to the following equation:

Activation Reflex Points = (Remaining Reflex Points x 2) – 1

The minimum number of Activation Reflex Points a model gains is always 1.

To activate a miniature, you must spend a Reflex Point to make an attack, use a power, or move 6 inches.

To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you roll 1D10 and add your Brawl modifier. The target rolls 1D10 and adds their Reflex modifier. You can each spend a Reflex Point before you roll to add +2 to your total roll. If you equal or beat the target’s score, you have scored a hit. The target loses 2 HP.

Any model can interrupt another model’s attack to attack instead by spending 1 Reflex Point. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting it, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does, and spend the required Reflex Points to do so.

3. Top Up

After all the models on both sides have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and Reflex Points equal to their Reflex ability score. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.

Winning and Losing

A gang member is destroyed if they lose all their Hit Points. The winner is the first player to destroy all their enemy’s units, or who has destroyed the most enemy units when the time is up.

That’s it for today. Next time we’ll be polishing off the game, so give Dagger Lords a shot and, if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know.


40 for 40 Sale

I turned the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a bunch of sales all month long.

40 for 40 promotional imageOn our store, you can use the coupon code “40for40” to get 40% off your cart’s total value at checkout. You can use the coupon as many times as you like, until the end of the month.

Many of our products are 40%-off on Drive Thru RPG. This includes many titles for fifth edition fantasy, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and stand-alone titles. We also have a few Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder Roleplaying Game titles.

On the DMs Guild we’ve got a massive bundle worth over $60 going for less than $16. This bundle includes many of our best-selling titles, so if you’ve bought them already you’ll pay even less to fill out your collection.