Mechaton Strategy

This is the first part of a two-part post on strategy for mechaton. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to winning the game. Such a thing isn’t really possible, I think. I’m just gonna post my thoughts on what works, and what doesn’t. Some of it might be a bit controversial (or as controversial as you can get when discussing a game about lego robots), so feel free to disagree in comments. It’d be neat to start a discussion about this stuff.

1: Choosing your army.
My belief is that your first priority in choosing your army should be maximizing your starting points. This is doubly true in campaign play. Army choosing is a classic “rock, paper, scissors” scenario: Your best choice is dependent on what your opponent chooses. There’s no real way to game this process. Try looking at your opponent’s mechs, and which ones they’re particularly proud of. Those ones are more likely to show up on the battlefield.
1.1: How many mechs do I want?
Ideally, I think, you want one fewer than your opponent. That way you get the benefit of a big jump in points per, with only a small drop in the effectiveness of your force. There are other situations that lead to a similar points advantage (many more mechs than your opponent) but these are harder to engineer. The worst situation you can be in is to have one mech more than your opponent.
It’s tempting to take the maximum number of mechs on the assumption that, at worst you’ll be fighting an evenly matched force, and at best you’ll be facing a vastly weaker force. That’s not bad reasoning, but I’d recommend not getting a reputation for it. You’ll end up with your opponent taking one fewer mechs, and whupping you on points.
1.2: What attachments do I want?
There are two parts to this question: How many attachments, and of what type?
1.2.1: How many attachments?
Once again, I think the ideal situation is having one fewer attachments than your opponent. The same arguments apply to attachments as to mechs. I think it’s possible to assume that most people will take an average of three attachments per mech, so you can figure your number of attachments based on that. If you think your opponent is taking five mechs, you want fewer than fifteen attachments on your own force. On the whole I think it’s best to evenly distribute attachments throughout your force. Doing otherwise creates obvious targets, which you could use to your advantage, but is more likely to work against you. Heavily damaged mechs are more of a liability than an asset in most situations, since you will want to keep them from harm. Given the points loss from a destroyed mech, I don’t think any mech should ever be considered disposable.
1.2.2: What kind of attachments?
Here I’ll discuss each attachment in turn:
Direct Fire: This is by far the most valuable attachment, and should be present on almost every mech in your force. The only exceptions should be dedicated artillery or close combat mechs, and even those do not suffer from an extra gun. Direct fire is the most useful attachment for focusing fire onto a single target, which (as I will argue later) is the key to destroying mechs. There seems to be little reason not to take double direct fire for any mech you intend to keep in the thick of battle (that should be most of your force).
Close Combat: Close combat serves two roles: Defending stations, and claiming stations. Close combat mechs can force an enemy off a station, and keep them away, making them ideal for claiming defended stations. Large forces can afford to have dedicated station defending mechs with close combat and direct fire, designed to stop close combat station claiming mechs, but I think they’re probably a waste of resources. If you’re taking close combat attachments, I think it makes sense to take only close combat attachments. The free green die is very attractive, and helps you fulfill your role – charging down stations and taking them.
Artillery: Possibly the most overestimated attachment. Artillery is more difficult to bring to bear than Direct Fire. Its one advantage lies in being able to pick off mechs left with low armour at the end of the turn. However, I believe it’s more important to be able to focus fire onto a single target. The biggest weakness of artillery is the inability to defend stations. They are actually more useful in a forward role, capturing undefended stations while shelling the battlefield. I would take no more than a single artillery mech in all but the largest forces.
Spotting: The weakest attachment. I base this assessment on the fact that this, along with movement, is always the first to go when a mech takes damage. The problem with spotting is that for best results, it relies on too many factors working in your favor: A low initiative, a good die roll on your spotting die, a target with an armor of 3-4, and an accompanying mech with a higher initiative who can target and hit the spotted enemy. Not that it doesn’t have its uses. A spot that works well is the only way of taking down a well armored enemy. The trouble is making this happen. That spotting attachment could have been spent on an extra direct fire which works every time and also has the potential to bust through tough armor.
Movement: Mobility, especially when attacking, is very useful. I would consider a movement attachment a very good investment for almost any mech, but most of all artillery and close combat. Don’t let the attachment go to waste, though. Any mech with a movement attachment should be actively taking stations. For this reason, they’re more useful if you’re in an attacking role. Smaller forces, for this reason, should take more movement attachments.
Armour: The best (non weapon) attachment. It keeps your mech in the fight, protects those vital guns, and in the end is ablated in lieu of something that actually keeps your mech dealing damage. There is no mech that doesn’t benefit from an armor attachment or two. This is one of the few non-weapon attachments I think is worth doubling up on.
Some Interesting mech designs:
The Brawler:

Two Close Combat attachments, one or two armour attachments. This mech has the speed to get to enemy stations, the power to force defenders off them, and the toughness to stay on them until the job is done. For my money, this is the best station-grabbing mech in the game.
The Stalker:
One or two Artillery, Movement. This mech stays on the outskirts of the battlefield, shelling vulnerable targets or ganging up with everyone else. Meanwhile, you’re using that movement die to threaten undefended stations, and to keep out of range of enemy units. In the end stages of the game, don’t be afraid to let them under your guns if it means grabbing a station.
The Spotter:
Two spotting attachments. A risky design, and possibly not very good. It’s got speed to stay out of too much trouble, and two spot dice makes a good result much more likely. It’s got great initiative too, to make sure you get the best chance to use its spotting. Whether it’s worth a whole mech worth of not shooting, I’m not sure.

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9 thoughts on “Mechaton Strategy

  1. Greg

    I assume these assessments are based on the standard rules. How does your assessment of spotting dice change for the variant where defense and spotting dice don’t subtract one, and an attack that matches the defender’s defense counts as a 0-point success, but can use a spotting die for damage?

    Reply
  2. mechachronic Post author

    Yes, these assumptions are based on a two player game, optional rules included, but only using rules that are actually, y’know, in the actual book.

    Reply
  3. uriel_johan@hotmail.com

    Great strategy guide! I’ve been meaning to write one like this for several years but never got the energy to do it. I think your observations are spot on, especially concerning the army building.

    My standard minimum army consists of 2 Brawlers; with 2 Hth, 1 shield, 1 sensor and all my missiles, 1 “Buster”; with 2 direct, 1 artillery and 1 shield and 1 “Defender” at the base; with 1 direct, 1 artillery and 1 or 2 shields.
    Depending on how many players I’m up against and their experience I either trim the army down or add Busters with greater moveability.

    The real fun comes when you play with four players or more who all tries to do the “one less mech/one less attachment” strategy for building an army.

    I’ll link to this and print it out as an aid to the next game.

    But I still withhold that the game as written is broken for 2 players.

    Reply
  4. mechachronic Post author

    “But I still withhold that the game as written is broken for 2 players.”

    That’s a bold claim. What’s your reasoning for this? I’d certainly say the game is more fun with more players, but “broken with two” doesn’t match my experience.

    Reply
  5. uriel_johan@hotmail.com

    Well, maybe not broken, but it doesn’t work very well. It’s very easy for 2 players to create a situation were either there is such a huge difference in starting victory points or army size that there is really no point in playing the game; you can see from the start who is going to win. I’ve played many of those when demoing the game at Cons and gaming nights. No fun, that’s one of the reasons I play with Hijacked, a point based system, nowadays.

    In a 3+ player game a huge advantage from the start is no problem since 2 or more players will always gang up on the leader until the field is leveled. Then the game works fine.

    Reply
  6. mechachronic Post author

    That’s interesting. It is possible to end up at an overwhelming disadvantage force-wise, with only a moderate advantage of points. I’ve played a few of these games, (usually on the weaker side), and in most cases it was a pretty close-run thing. You have to adapt your tactics when you’re fighting a superior foe, but I’ve played a game with five three-attachment mechs against eight four-attachment mechs, and nearly won. Smarter play or a bit of luck could have won me the game.

    I see your point though, and that can be a problem. I wouldn’t go so far as to adopt any kind of points system though (there’s not a single points system I’ve ever used in a wargame that didn’t suck).

    If I found it to be a recurring problem, I think a general agreement to limit the number of mechs taken to 5 -7 would fix the most egregious imbalances.

    Reply
  7. Mantisking

    Uriel Johan wrote “Well, maybe not broken, but it doesn’t work very well. It’s very easy for 2 players to create a situation were either there is such a huge difference in starting victory points or army size that there is really no point in playing the game; you can see from the start who is going to win. I’ve played many of those when demoing the game at Cons and gaming nights.”

    The last game I demoed, I used premade teams for each side. They all — I brought three teams — had the same number of mechs, but differing amounts of attachments. They were also set up to use different tactics. This made things easier for me, I only had bring a limited amount of material, and easier for the other player, he had a simpler choice to make.

    Reply
  8. uriel_johan@hotmail.com

    Yeah, a 5-7 limit on mechas for 2 player games would probably work. I played a game a long long time ago with some similar restriction, but I don’t remember what it was.

    The main reason I started experimenting with a point system was not because of this though; it was because I wanted a way to include mechas of different sizes: 1, 2 or 3 white dice with 2, 4 or 6 attachment. This adds a lot to the game I think: Do I want a swarm of fragile and cheap light mechas with many attacks, a bunch of medium dependable mechas or a few heavy mechas with fistfuls of dice but fewer attacks?

    It’s probably possible to re-do the victory-points-per system for different sized mechas but a point system also creates balanced teams as a nice extra bonus.

    Reply
  9. mechachronic Post author

    When adding extra stuff to a game, I always think about the fun/complexity tradeoff – is the extra fun worth the extra complexity? I think having 1 and 3 white die mechs is a fun idea, but the extra complexity of a points system isn’t really worth it for me. It makes sense in the context of what you’re doing though.

    Reply

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