Building a table top game – phase two. Upgrade Wars gets the crap beat out of it

Upgrade Wars! Three player game.

Most of you know me as an RPG guy (if you know me at all). With the one exception of Mi Gato se Incendia! (My Cat is on Fire!) I’ve pretty much stuck within the arena of the written word, inserted table and rolled die. I have always wanted to get into board game design, but have never really felt like I had a board game design worth doing much with.

That changed a few months ago when Upgrade Wars sprang into my mind as an idea fairly well formed. It came at me so quickly, and so out of left field, that it was truly a moment of the muse. I had to scramble to write everything down before I forgot it all.

Once that was done, I spent a good 4-5 hours really developing the rules and mechanics. Then it was a few hours designing some prototype cards, which I ordered from The Game Crafter. Then began the hard part.

Play Testing

Oh my god the play tests. I spent hours fighting myself in pitched battles as I tweaked this deck builder. But it’s really not a deck builder, it’s more of an engine built of cards to craft a robotic army. your deck starts off as 12 cards and rarely exceeds 20.  Here is the premise:

Large 3D printing structures are dropped onto remote asteroids and other small, celestial bodies. These come with a small compliment of devices which begin to process the raw materials of these asteroids into Goo, which these massive printers can use to create War Bots. Printers use a series of programs called .War Files, which give them the specifics of War Bots which they can then use Goo to print.

Governed by a strict set of rules, and limited by the programs made available to them, contestants manufacture and then fight with these giant machines, for the delight of audiences throughout the Solar System.

War Bots are printed out of Goo, which is programmed to take a specific form with specific functions. Because they are made of self organizing nanomaterials, War Bots can be modified by simple programs called .UPGrade Files – or upgrades. These upgrades can be applied to War Bots while they are in the field.

Upgrade Wars is a deck building, tactical combat game. Players begin the game with a starter deck of 10 resources and two War Bots (the giant robots that do the actual fighting).

Through the course of the game, they may purchase new programs to deploy as War Bots or to Upgrade existing War Bots that have already been deployed.

The battle field is divided into three zones for each player – the Printer zone (where the magic happens), the Defensive Ring and the Front Line.

Your bots traverse the battlefield under your command in an attempt to reach other player’s printers and destroy them.

A sample beta card – Short Range Missiles.

Originally, the only victory condition was that you eliminate all of your opponents printers. This proved problematic on my first play test with a human being other than myself. Thanks to Jen, we determined that the game wouldn’t end until someone ran out of cards! Ack! So a tweaking I did go. I increased the damage output of a number of the .WAR cards and tweaked a few other numbers.

Then on a second play test with my buddy Dan, he threw out a great suggestion that I should have thought of myself, but I was too close to the game. Victory can be achieved by collecting points. Suddenly, every giant, fighting robot you destroy becomes a victory point in your favor. Take out a printer, get 5 victory points. Then, when three piles of cards are depleted – whoever has the most victory points has won a Strategic Victory. Take out every printer but your own and you’ve won a Total Victory.

Our next play test involved three folks, bringing in Dan’s fiance, who wasn’t an experienced gamer. I took away four things from this game.

  1. Dan’s fiance is capable of kicking ass in this game.
  2. This game is pretty easy to pick up, but very deep strategically.
  3. It works, down to it’s core. As a random set-up, with a draft system or picked cards, the game just works.
  4. It’s damned fun to play! I found myself worrying less about numbers and draws, and really getting into the strategy of the game. I enjoyed the hell out of it!

I’ve got some tweaking of the rules to do, and a bit of prettying up for them to reach the beta phase. When it does though, I’m planning on hosting a public beta. You’ll have to print out 220-some-odd cards to participate, but you’ll also get direct feedback into a game that I then hope to shop around among a few board game publishers. I really do believe I’m on to a good thing here, and hopefully they’ll think so too!

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