Monday, May 14, 2012

[Design Journal: Terra Machina] Androids Do Battle in the Distant Future

It is the year 25XX, and the Earth has been abandoned by humans. Nuclear and biological warfare, coupled with rampant industrial exploitation and waste, made the planet uninhabitable for humans. As homo sapiens went into decline, the last leaders of science began developing a race of artificial humanoids to replace them – a more hardy species that could survive the rigors of the barren Earth. These mechanical men and women, dubbed the Progeny, now walk Terra Machina, a land of machines, in place of their ancient forebears. Will they be doomed to repeat the same joys and tragedies of their creators?

For a short while, I’ve been developing this new board game with the working title of Terra Machina, Latin for “Machine Earth” or “Land of Machines”. Thematically, the game takes inspiration from the Mega Man Zero video game series. Mechanically, the game mixes concepts of tabletop miniatures games and card games.

Unique Heroes, Two Ways to Play

In Terra Machina, each player controls one hero, an android Progeny equipped for battle in a harsh, barren world. A pawn or miniature will represent your character on the board, a map representing a battlefield, while a deck of cards represent the actions your hero can perform. Each hero has a unique deck of thirty cards, giving them a style and feel in play that is distinctly different from any other hero.

The game will feature two modes of play: Skirmish Mode and Adventure Mode. In Skirmish Mode, four or six players form two teams of two or three players each. These teams battle it out, scoring points by knocking out their opponents or controlling a special area in the center of the battlefield called the victory zone. Heroes that are reduced to zero hit points return to the fray in their team’s deployment zone, allowing all players to stay involved in the battle until one team scores the requisite number of points to win.

In Adventure Mode, one to six players team up to play cooperatively against opponents that are controlled by the game itself. Adventure Mode will provide different challenges through a variety of missions, from exploring ancient ruins, defending a new settlement from invasion, or undertaking a rescue mission.

The Initial Progress

The basic rules of the game are pretty simple. Play takes place on a battle map featuring a 1-inch grid used to measure distances. On your turn, you can discard any card from your hand to move 1-5 squares on the battle map. You can also play as many cards from your hand as you want in order to perform the abilities on those cards. Most of these abilities will be attacks that deal damage to your opponents. Damage reduces hit points. Each Progeny begins with 50 hit points, and when your hit points have been reduced to 0 you return to your team’s deployment zone with 50 hit points again. When you have played or discarded as many cards as you want or can, you draw cards to bring the number of cards in your hand up to 3, and then the next player takes their turn. Some of the cards in your hand might have abilities on them that are reactions, allowing you to play them outside of your own turn in response to the actions of your opponents or allies. There are a few specific rules about different types of terrain on the battle maps, but for the most part it’s all pretty intuitive.

So far, other than fleshing out the basic rules, I’ve created six unique heroes for players to choose from. Each player has a distinct feel and style. Some are more mobile, some are tougher, some attack at range, while others like to get up-close and personal. Some heroes are relatively easy to play, while others require careful planning and strategy.

Right now, the game is ready for play testing in the Skirmish Mode. After I’ve tested the out the basics in that mode, I’ll move on to developing the Adventure Mode, which will require a good bit more work. Here is a quick preview of the data cards (brief introductory information) for each of the six Progeny I’ve already developed.
Click on the image to view at full size, making the text a little bit clearer.
My first extensive playtest for this game should be taking place this evening. If you're involved in this playtest, please feel free to comment about the experience and what you thought of the game. You can expect further updates on this project in the future.


  1. Sorry dude, I am not sure if I can really join in for this play test. I do not have a vehicle. The concept did sound interesting though.

    For the future though, would it be possible to play via long distance? I know what would be needed is audio/visual communication in real time. The concept would be based on how two people may play Chess over the phone. As said let me know if that is feasible for the future, especially since that may allow me to participate in play testings for Mercenaries.

    1. I'm not sure about remote participation for playtests. It would be cool to have you involved. I'll have to see what I can figure out.

  2. Replies
    1. It went well. The game went a little bit longer than I expected, but I've got a couple ideas to improve that. I also found about a couple dozen cards that needed to be fixed or clarified. Overall, it was very successful.