I think most of us have contemplated playing Mechaton with spaceships instead of Mecha at some point or another. Seeing all the amazing microspace stuff out there (such as the delightfully boxy fighter above)certainly got me thinking about it.
Now, it’s perfectly possible to play Mechaton straight up, just using space ships instead of mecha in your battle. That’d be a fun game, and certainly get the job done. But to me, it just doesn’t quite feel spacey enough. I recognise the irony of tut-tutting someone in comments about introducing complexity without a corresponding increase in fun while simultaneously planning a substantial set of rules changes for playing in space, but my mind would not let the project drop.
Last night Richard and I had a quick bash at trying out some preliminary ideas.
First off, I wanted to represent vastly different sizes of ship, beyond the differences in Mechaton from one to four-attachment Mechs. A variable number of white dice achieves this, and we have three resulting classes of ship:
Corvette: One white die, up to two attachments.
Cruiser: Two white dice, up to four attachments.
Dreadnought: Three white dice, up to six attachments.
My main concept, and the bulk of the changes to the rules, concerns movement. Regular Mechaton movement doesn’t feel natural for spaceships, and I wanted something that gave the feel of vector movement without too much complexity. What I came up with was a simple system that utilises the natural “point” of a d8 to act as a vector.
At the start of the game, each ship gets a d8 that sits at the base of the ship, indicating a number, and with the top of the die “pointing” towards a table edge or corner. That’s the ship’s original velocity. Each turn, when the player assigns a movement die to the ship, they can tick this number up or down. They can also add a second d8, pointing in a different direction to the first. The cost for increasing or decreasing velocity is equal to the original number of white dice of the ship. Thus, Corvettes can increase or decrease their velocity by one point for every pip on their movement die, Cruisers take two pips to change velocity by one, and Dreadnoughts take three pips to change velocity by one. Thus Corvettes are able to flit across the field at will, while Dreadnoughts lumber about, and once committed to a destination, can not easily change course.
The result was a game that felt very different from Mechaton in a lot of ways. Ships are simultaneously more and less mobile than Mechs – they can travel very quickly, but can’t change direction easily. The game became very focused on predicting where we’d need our ships to be several turns ahead, and changing their velocity ahead of time.
We played just a quick game with only a couple of ships on each side, but the result was interesting enough for me to keep thinking about it. I have all kinds of ideas for torpedoes, fighters, and so on, but I’m acutely aware of the problem of adding complexity. Already it was slightly cumbersome having a d8 or two following the ships around the table, and I’m wary of any further complex changes.
Feel free to post ideas and questions in comments.