Or heal rather. Today I will be taking you through the creation of a set of the Skill cards. Namely, the ones dedicated to making sure your character remains alive long enough to escape from the horror of your enemies.
The skills originally started out as a response to player’s complaints about worthless characters. We wanted to give players the opportunity to essentially build their own character to match their play style. This eliminates the issue with players receiving a worthless character.
But the entire plan isn’t without its downsides. By giving players possibly 3 more effects to work with we open the door to longer games. Anytime there are multiple choices for a player, the time required per turn exponentially increases. This is part of the reason why each character only has 1 effect. We mitigated this a little more with the XP system, making it so you don’t have all 3 skills activated until near the end of the game.
Adding all this together, we get something that perfectly replicates the Mercenaries game itself. Each skill has always had 3 levels, since that was what the game offered, but we needed a limiter on the skills, which is where the XP engine comes in. At the end of every level in Mercenaries you are rewarded points depending on how well you did. These points are added into your skills to level them up. This is shown with the XP cost in the upper right hand corner of each Skill card.
As stated before, you get XP by exploring at a 1:1 ratio. In lay terms, that means each time you explore, you get 1 XP. You use your XP mainly to power your skills, but there are weapons and other abilities that XP can be used on to give yourself better effects, higher damage, and more.
Each skill set has its own playstyle focus and many are synergistic with the the other two levels of the same skill, or even with skills from other categories altogether.
The Medic skills functioned as our test group. Healing isn’t a particularly powerful ability, as it cannot win you the game on its own, but we wanted to slot healing as a support type role with the skill set, rewarding you for healing, or for having maximum health.
All skillsets initially started with XP costs of 1, 3, and 5, for levels 1, 2, and 3 respectively. This put a bit more pressure on our testing to pull everything together, but we were confident that this was the proper direction. Obviously Medic Lv. 2 strayed quickly away from that 3 XP cost, mostly because it has an additional cost in its effect, requiring you to either have the Lv. 3 version or a healing item. We begin to bleed into the support role with Medic Lv. 2, giving healing additional benefits besides just keeping you alive.
Lv. 2 goes fantastic with the “Herbgrade” strategy we have at the office, which is where you use the Outbreak action “Parting Ways” to turn your Ammo x10 into an herb, then use the herb to keep yourself alive. It has the overall effect of trashing a single card from your Inventory, as well as allowing you a few free explores while your compatriots are being saturated in infection stew.
Lv. 3 is where we start getting into game carry type effects. These skills are much wider in their use, and some (such as Medic Lv. 3) are entirely self sufficient, requiring little upkeep altogether. Again, the medic skillset was never created with the ability to carry the game on its own, but aids you immensely. It allows you continuously explore without fear of damage, and for those feeling saucier than usual, allows you an extra Explore every turn, which indirectly aids in your XP generation as well.
Lv. 3 obviously stuck with the 5 XP slot due to the above reasoning, but is powerful nonetheless, ensuring a steady stream of exploring and healing to go with your steady damage during the end game.
If you have the right character, this effect can be a goldmine for you as well, giving you additional effects due to the synergistic qualities presented. Character’s with effects like Josh Stone from Nightmare has stand to benefit the best from Medic Lv. 3, since their effects directly line up with everything present on this card.
At this point during the testing, we had players being given 5 random skills, choosing 3 to keep, and pitching the other 2. This left many with the feeling of boredom, as once you’ve seen all 5, the excitement quickly fades away. We decided to adopt a draft system due to this, giving each player 5 skill cards, having them choose 1, then passing the remaining to the player on their left. This also allows players to find the more synergistic effects more often, leading to more powerful combinations of abilities, and a better, more robust and fun game overall.