Designer’s Diary: Uber Corp International

Making something completely new for an existing game is always an interesting challenge. I’ve been doing quite a bit of that lately for Monsterpocalypse, and last week saw the latest major chunk of it with the release of the Uber Corp International Faction.

I have an advantage when making the rules for Monsterpocalypse models compared to other games due to its much higher level of abstraction. For example, in WARMACHINE, a warrior model armed with a rifle dictates certain rules. When you look at a monster, though, there are a lot fewer definitive things that control where its rules can go.

That means when I sit down to draft the rules for a new Monsterpocalypse Faction, things are pretty wide open. When designing Uber Corp, I wanted to lean into their theme as the “evil corporation” of the setting and make them a flexible army.

The first thing I decided about the Faction was a choice made in late 2018 when finalizing the rules for the Shadow Sun Industries building. As I’ve said before, my goal with all the Faction-related building rules is to offer something new to every player, not just the players of one Faction. When I decided to tie one of the building’s rules to the Teleport action, I knew I would be giving Teleport to a Destroyer model in the future, and Uber Corp is the most natural place to put Teleport.

Knowing what one unit will do is a good start for a Faction, but the monsters are the stars of the show, so building their rules does a lot to inform the direction of their Faction. Cyber Khan was the first monster I drafted. When building a monster in this edition of Monsterpocalypse, I like to take inspiration from what it could do in the first edition of the game. And when checking out old Cyber Khan rules, the thing that stood out to me the most was his enhanced stomping ability. I didn’t want to duplicate it in this edition, but I definitely wanted to reflect it. It took quite a few iterations to get a rule that was powerful but still balanced, and in the end, Seismic Step ability gives it a really cool ability that makes its stomps really scary.

The other big inspiration for Cyber Khan’s rules was the bucket wheel excavator on the end of his tail. These massive contraptions can move a lot of dirt, and buildings are an appropriate resource to relate to mining in the game, so he got the Destabilizer rule. That didn’t feel like quite enough for a machine so seemingly purpose-built for strip mining, so I gave him a rule with that name and let him grant destabilizer to all of his Uber Corp units. The last alpha ability I gave him was Power Drain on his blast to reflect a bit of that corporate greed in the Faction theme.

For the Hyper form, it seemed natural to lean into his giant mouth beam and make him into a very shooty monster, so many of his abilities push him farther in that direction while still reflecting that he gains resources from knocking down buildings.

With Cyber Khan done, I looked at the other monster release early in the Faction, Gorghadratron. I love all things Gorghadra related, and who doesn’t love robots, so this is my favorite model in the Faction. Looking at the model, one of the things that jumps out is how many guns it has. That, plus Gorghadra’s role as a melee powerhouse, helped me decide that this monster should be about shooting.

 

Action: Flak Field was the first ability I added to the model. It represents the weight of small-arms fire the machine is capable of and the indiscriminate nature of that fire. Gorghadratron is capable of removing low Defense units that attempt to block its movement, but friendly units can be caught in the attack. When testing this ability, it became immediately apparent that it needed to return models to the reserves instead of destroying them or else Gorghadratron’s Power dice production would be too high. After locking that ability in, I added Motivator for some unit synergy and created the Power Sink ability to further represent UCI’s corporate greed.

Hyper Gorghadratron was a lot of fun to put together. I was struck first with the idea that when it goes hyper, all of its guns go into rapid-fire mode. This is accomplished by Multi-Fire and Weapon Master on the blast attack. This makes the monster very dangerous, so other things about it needed to be toned down. After a lot of testing, we ended up with a monster that had the lowest amount of health on any form. This means that Gorghadratron is very powerful but has a short window to capitalize on all that power. To help it out a little for positioning those big turns, I added High Mobility to the hyper.

The final idea was inspired by the concept that this monster is a giant nuclear power source, and it starts melting down. The rule Entropic Presence reflects this story element by preventing enemy monsters from healing, and also compensates a bit for the extremely low health stat.

Next, I needed to make some units.

I started this process by looking through the concept art of the last edition of the game. In first edition, Monsterpocalypse Uber Corp copied things from all the other Factions because it was a collaborator whose ultimate goals were unclear. When I shifted them to Destroyers, I decided to mostly copy Protectors models for the initial release, the only exception to that being Gorghadra because of his prominence as the spokes-monster for the game.

Digging through the old concepts turned up a lot of interesting stuff, some of which was never produced. The Shinobot blister is full of those models. These models were originally concepted as part of the UCI morpher. Since the morpher idea as it existed in the old game will never be a part of this edition, it felt like a shame not to use these cool concepts. This gave me some mobile melee units and an interesting ranged attacker. I decided the regular Shinobots would be capable of bursts of speed, so I gave them Action: Sprint. This is a powerful hit-and-run style ability and pairs well with the Statue of Liberty building. For the Shinobot Gunner, I looked at what the Destroyer Agenda was missing. Explosion seemed like a fitting rule for the rocket pods on his shoulder and gave the Agenda something new.

The last model in this blister is also an old concept that never got produced and was the most interesting option for a place to put the Teleport action. It contrasts in an interesting way with the Shadow Gate, which is a very powerful but slow defensive model. The Uber Jet can do a bit of offense and defense. It is mobile enough to get to the place you need it most on the board, and its Force Field makes it very resilient against attacks from individual units, meaning your opponent will have to commit substantial resources to dealing with it. The Shield Resonance ability allows it to share that shield with adjacent UCI units, protecting any important model that teleports through it.

The other blister was fairly easy to figure out from a model perspective.

Almost all of the UCI units produced in original Monsterpocalypse were based on what are now Destroyer units. The standout exeptions to this are a couple of Terrasaurs-themed units. Carnitrons and Robo Brontoxes were exactly what I wanted, but then I had to decide what they’d do in the game. We tried a few different versions of the Carnitron, and then I saw the final mastered model. For anyone who hasn’t been a part of making a model from concept art all the way to packaged product, things can fluctuate a bit. Just because a feature is prominent in the concept art doesn’t mean it will be the same on the final model. Often the restrictions on sculpting or producing the model will adjust small things. Fortunately, the little cannon on the Carnitron’s back stayed prominent and became the inspiration for the model’s final rules. Carnitrons are more flexible than the living units that inspired their design, but they sacrifice a bit of melee power. Where Carnitrons excel is in their Dual Attack ability. It lets them make two brawl attacks during an activation or a brawl and a blast attack. Before this model, only monsters were capable of making multiple independent attacks.

The Robo Brontox is the last UCI unit in this wave. I kept the high armor and low speed of its living twin but made it more of a support unit. Jam is a very powerful ability in the right position, shutting down things like Abduction and Summoning. Feedback is a fun thematic ability that will ruin the day of some monsters. Intensify is an interesting tactical tool that no other Faction has. A Robo Brontox sitting on any objective space grants the same bonus as an elite unit with the Commander ability, and it will stack. This can bring Carnitrons up to the same power level as real Carnidon and makes their blast attacks a real threat.

My final addition to the Faction was the UCI Industries building.

This building shares a lot with the other Faction-related buildings. It has good defense and the <Faction> Base ability to make spawning its related units cheaper. I wanted to give it a really interesting ability and really wanted to lean into the evil corporation angle of the Faction more than anywhere else. We had a few discussions around the office, and where we ended up was the ability to “steal” the actions on other buildings. This felt exactly right: allowing the player who controls this building to use things like the reroll granted by the G.U.A.R.D. Defense Base without securing that building. The ability was very powerful, though, so in testing, we decided to make it require a Power die in addition to the normal cost of the action being copied.

And there is it, a breakdown of my thoughts on this first wave of Uber Corp International models. I hope you have fun playing with them, either as part of your existing Destroyers force or as the beginnings of a new Destroyers force.

And, just because, here’s a little look at what is coming to the future of UCI…