Oct 9, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXIV: Support Upgrades.

Not all giant robots attack their enemies directly. Heck, some of them don't even attack enemies at all! Support Upgrades represent those rare mecha, as well as enabling a different style of gameplay for players who like having more decisions to make every Turn. Some Support Upgrades are buffs, some are debuffs, others do one-off weird things and a few even let the user do a moderate amount of damage to a single target with an indirect attack.

The problem with supports was balancing them. They had to be about as good as weapons, but slightly worse, so by default they cost an Action to use and needed resupplying for repeated use. The way they were first written, Support builds had half their current range and needed to use most of their actions resupplying themselves and spending energy to use one of them at the beginning of the turn. It was too expensive in terms of MP to be worth playing at low power levels and only seemed worth the trouble against bosses.

It was then that Commander Type got split into two separate Upgrades, one of which resupplied the cheaper Supports after use. This made support builds a lot more fun to play, and at 9 energy you could then engage in double-support Action every Turn. Full-support builds got a lot more fun then, but they still had some issues with being a little too frail and weak compared to weapon specialists. Doubled range for all Support Upgrades gave them a little bit more of tactical flexibility and fixed most of the problem.

Even after all this, they were still a little weak at times, so one of the first Upgrades written for BCZ was Power Conversion to help them make use of Tension as a resource. I believe BCZ made the various support builds some of the best in the game, so I'm quite content with how they turned out.

Assisted Targeting
Most Upgrades in BCG are self-contained and don't refer to other rules in the book, but Assisted Targeting outright tells you to go look up the Aiming rules rather than just spelling them out. This has three benefits: First, it reminds people to familiarize themselves with the different kinds of Actions available. Second: It serves as a balance mechanism to keep this and similar abilities from stacking Advantages. Third: It grants synergy with Long Range weapons, most obviously the Sniper Rifle. This is probably the strongest of the 5-cost Supports. This should not be a surprise, as it basically lets you grant someone eles (or yourself) an extra Action, and that's very powerful.

Most builds have the exact amount of energy they need to use their stuff, so giving them extra energy doesn't help that much. But sometimes energy is halved or you want to set up a sick Jury Rig or Boost Power. Overcharge helps you do those things. It's okay, definitely one of the least useful of the bunch, but it has a place.

Support Fire
It's like Assisted Targeting, but with the Suppress Action instead! The second strongest after Assisted Targeting, only because it is slightly harder to exploit. If there had been more Weapons designed around the use of Suppression/Crippling this could easily have been different though, because it's a really strong effect! Much like with Assisted Targeting, multiple suppression effects on the same attack do not stack, Suppressing with a Crippling Weapon is wasting Damage.

Supply Delivery
Supply Delivery is one of the best Supports from a design standpoint. Delivering extra ammo makes sense as the kind of thing you'd be able to do. Its only problem is that this is a game that generally doesn't care about ammo, but for the builds that do care about ammo this is a very strong effect. It also enables builds going all-in on single-shot weapons too, which is really cool.

Surprise Minefield
This is another one I'm fond of. The name, rules and flavor blend perfectly into something that is really cool and most games don't pull off. It is also very good, though it has an obvious weakness in flight-capable units or those with Absolute Barrier. Still really good for a support-oriented character though, just mind your melee-minded allies. Fun fact: You can use this to kite melee specialists. You can even Boost away while doing so thanks to Commander Type! How's that for a trapmaster character?

Saturation fire and other forms of calling for allied firepower are very flavorful and iconic, but Grunt swarms are supposed to be the weakness of Support builds. It took some juggling of the numbers but I think Airstrike ended up being juuust good enough without being better than, say, Blast Weapons. What makes it stick are the extreme range and the freedom to position yourself optimally when using it.

Electromagnetic Detonator
A good candidate for best debuff in the game available to PCs. This is brutal against anyone who relies on energy, particularly beamspam builds. This originally only halved Energy and there was a Genre Power that turned Energy spent into Damage. Neither the Upgrade nor the Power were all that good on their own, so they got combined into this devastating debuff. It can render bosses without a backup weapon obsolete and Grunts with it are a borderline unfair tactic vs PCs. Looking at it that way, perhaps it is a little too strong, but I'd rather have it be this way than not give PCs any silver bullets against high-energy builds.

Ensnaring Trap
The other candidate for best debuff in the game. I believe this originally created Difficult Terrain and halved Guard as a side effect, but got streamlined to halving two stats fairly quick. This is much more straightforward in making one Enemy easier to beat up than Electromagnetic Detonator and is a lifesaver against builds that rely on Maneuver bonuses to defense, most of which use Speed and bump up Systems at higher Power Levels. The part about making targets lose the ability to fly was added late in development for flavor reasons and to make it synergize better with Surprise Minefield.

Fire at Will
Before BCZ, Fire at Will was used to represent Remote Weapons - funnels, bits, incoms and all the others. Proper remote weapons that could be deployed, moved and targeted separately from your own unit were requested frequently enough that I ended up writing them anyway. As for the Upgrade itself, it is an okay way to hit a Boss or Rival with high Defenses or flight for a good amount (between 5 and 8, assuming an optimized high-systems build) of Damage.

Jamming Barrage
This Upgrade was always a Blast for flavor reasons, and that meant making the debuff effect weaker than if it was a single target debuff. While it works okay as is, and the large area of effect guarantees it will weaken a good number of enemies considerably, I now wonder if it should have been a single target debuff that also denied Tension for a Round or something along those lines.

Supports are in a good place right now but it took a lot of work to get them there. The problem was always the same: BCG is a very streamlined game where you have one Action per Turn. Supports would have worked better as some kind of secondary Action you can take in addition to an attack, rather than a replacement for the attack itself. They were buffed a whole bunch of times and received enough new toys in the expansion that their power level is no longer a concern, but in hindsight the whole thing looks to me like I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. If I were to rework them, I'd probably make them use your systems stat as ammo like Restorations do, instead of forcing a resupply effect after each use - rebalancing them as appropriate in the process.

Next: Extra Areas.

Gimmick Out.


  1. So, does Support Fire work with Superheavy Machinegun and Stun Rod?

    Electromagnetic Detonator is beyond nasty, for the simple reason that it is a hard counter to any build reliant on energy (most of them), and useless against anything not reliant on energy. Don't bother using your Absolute Barrier, self jury rig/regeneration, etc. ... actually, you've hit the nail on the head calling it a silver bullet. ... I haven't had this one pop up in our sessions so far (I'm PC not GM anyhow), but I can see that ED would go thru many fight being marginally useful/not useful, and then the team meets an energy reliant boss/combiner/etc, and then ED becomes the skill that more or less singlehandedly beats the encounter. ... the existance of this ability, plus Mid-Scene Upgrade, can lead to "cute" situations where your end of season boss gets ED'd every round by each member of the team. And where your 2nd season has every member of the team equipped with ED lolz.

    Ensnaring Trap is basically a single target Finger Net that doesn't do damage, but negates flying. ... I don't really feel that makes it equal to ED. ... grunts with Finger Net are pretty acceptable. Grunts with ED, as you said, are aaarghnohelp! territory.

  2. Crippling Weapons get the benefits of the Suppress Action so yes, they combo with Stun Rod & friends.

    ED will straight up disable the more expensive weapons and upgrades but you can still push through the energy burn effect with cheaper weapons. Beam Saber & Rifle don't get a lot of love but they're a good backup. A beam specialist under ED can still output great DPS with them.

    1. It's not the boosting of the weapon that's the issue... I often use many of my beam weapons unboosted. One advantage less isn't a big deal. ... going without my active defences, without my regeneration, that's a big problem! Support mecha are often energy gluttons too. And as I said, anything relying on Absolute Barrier is toast, cause even if you use a genre power to restore attribute your energy, spending 6 energy to 12 damage block Absolute Barrier, is negated automatically by 12 damage from ED.

    2. Yeah, it is definitely the part that hurts the most, I just wanted to point out that a beam specialist still has an out.

    3. most of the beam weapons are hardly worth boosting just for the +2 to might test. exceptions being those overheating weapons, where I hilariously end up throwing lots of dice and picking the lower number when it's even! ;) ... nice job on radiant fist, I love how that weapon's risk reward profile and how someone who uses it unboosted and gets an odd, will be filled with regret! :O

      Anyhow, yeah, most of the beam weapons, the boost benefits are pretty darn interesting! ... and significant. I love the balancing here, and I made a beam specialist not for the DPS, but cause beam has IMHO the most interesting secondary effects to play with. ;)
      Except for Ground Zero. That one is actually my main weapon, and I have never boosted it, and fear I never will... on a non crowded battlefield, it's usually not worth the 4 energy to gain that +2 to might. Burst is usually enough for me to hit any multiple targets, no need to extend to range 3. ... and on a crowded battlefield, boosting usually would result in more harm than good, as I would probably maim several allies. ... so, yeah, unboosted all the way so far.

      Conversely, I also use magneburst. Man that interference terrain is uber. 2 energy for +2 might and 2 disadvantages to most attacks against me? BARGAIN! ;)

    4. You might be the first person speaking in favor of unboosted beams over boosting them that I'm aware of.

      Things like that make me really glad it is a choice.

    5. nah I boost magneburst, and I usually boost almost all my beam weapons! ... just that Ground Zero... :(

      I probably misworded that... for a lot of the beams, the benefits of boosting are a lot more significant than a +2 to your might roll... Going from 1 range to 10 range. Ignoring active defences. Crippling. All pretty worth spending 3 energy on. ... mathwise, it seems that 1 energy usually translates to 2 defence/damage/damage prevention, so beam rifle and beam sabre being 1 energy to get +2 on might test sounds exactly right. ... I wouldn't really spend/allocate 3-4 energy just for +2 to my might test though.

      ... I certainly hope it's a choice! ... It's rather frightening, if someone INSISTS that he needs to boost his Reactor Overdrive to shoot down the boss... and you're in the middle of a duel with said boss! :O

      "dude, if you boost it, you'll hit me too! ... and it's a technique!"
      "But if I boost I get an extra advantage to my might roll! It's a technique, I don't want to "waste" it!"
      "... noooo!!! BLARGH I AM DEAD!!!"


      ... Seriously, isn't that one of the great strengths of the beam series of weapons? ... You mean, people mainly go beamspam just for the DPS??? ... Am I the only joker around who built a beambot for the VERSATILITY? ... hehehe... now I feel weird. ... but seriously, weapons that have an on/off switch for their secondaries are cool, especially when it's stuff like extreme terrain, line/blast, and Oblivion Buster's "does not regenerate energy next turn, at the cost of destroying current level of threshold". ;)

      ... now I think about it though, the anime setting and banes and typecasts make this a fun mechanic to play around with! ... I seem to recall TTGL and Patlabor fellas, who strongly believe in "there is no kill like overkill" "nuke em til they glow" and "collateral damage is acceptable damage!" ... pretty fun to have a character who can't HELP but to boost those beam weapons from single target to AOE friendly fire mode, simply because that's his character setting. ;)

    6. If genre themes had hard rules to them, "There is no kill like Overkill: gain a genre point when causing unnecessary collateral damage." would be one of them. It's preeeeetty much perfect.

    7. I seem to remember some version of DnD where Barbarian Rage would sometimes cause the PC to go into a real berserker rage, attacking friend and foe. Or was that Baldur's Gate? ... anyhow, yeah, that'd be an "interesting" character type for BCG, hahaha.

      Or a houseruled evolution to the Berserker Design Flaw... where under certain conditions, your unit goes REALLY berserker and starts trying to kill as many units as possible. +10MP if it maximizes carnage regardless of whether an ally is collateral damage. +20 CP instead if your unit actually WANTS to maximize collateral damage. ;)

      ... man, now I'm reminded of EVA Unit 01... where going berserk is actually a good thing (in the anime, in SRW, unit 01 going berserk is usually a bad thing) ... must be some way of simulating this with BCG mechanics! ;)

      Oh yeah, back to my other reason for not boosting Ground Zero: lack of energy! ... I took master technician, so that's 2 energy a round to keep using GZ, and add in active defences and such, and yeah, I just can't afford to boost GZ, so it's unboosted GZ for the next foreseeable power levels :( ... I'd probably have tried upping energy to boost it if boosting didn't turn it from a burst into a blast, I guess? ... Perhaps the fact that we have 4/5 PCs in our group, and within usually not very large maps, is a factor too! :)

      (speaking of which, waiting on you to do an article on melee vs shooting, and blast, burst, line! ... some of us been feeling that burst is too good!)

  3. Re: Eva 01. The Beast + Limit Engine does this very well. It's in the name of The Beast, really ;)

    Ground Zero is a lot like the Zeorymer's Meioh MAPW. Not so great in a closed space with your friends around you... But oooh boy is it good the rest of the time. I think it is the only weapon with a fixed range of 3, because it was ridiculous with a higher number.

    And yeah, I do have things to say about Bursts and some of the other weapon keywords.

  4. hmm... sort of. I suppose that you RP it as, the more 01 gets damaged, the angrier Shinji's mum gets? And when you heal 01, it calms down again? I suppose the going out of control part is just up to the player to roleplay, as he describes his mecha behaving more and more out of control and behaving erratically?

    Yeah, true, I can see Ground Zero as being the most powerful weapon around when it comes to taking out waves of grunts! ... or even when tag teamed by multiple rivals or such, come to think of it! :O

    One key difference between SRW and BCG is DUELLING... which tends to happen a lot in our games so far. Anyhow, MAP attacks in SRW are relatively easy to place strategically, especially Post Move MAP attacks, but in BCG, you find that most of your team frequently can't really control their position in the field reliably, so MAP attacks (blast, line, and boosted GZ) are really really tricky to pull off!

    1. Well, if you lose control in flavor but not in rules, then berserking is a good thing. If you lose control in flavor and in rules, it is a negative condition rather than a powerup.

      Berserking as a powerup is 100% roleplaying with some backing by rules.