Mechaton… …in SPACE!


Originally uploaded by onosendai2600 (Also check out Onosendai’s awesome interpretation of Malcolm’s MgN 302)

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.

Cheers,

Simon

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10 thoughts on “Mechaton… …in SPACE!

  1. Ianator

    Fleet battles are <3. *Space* fleet battles triply so, as my online albums will testify. I’m also waiting on Uriel’s Gun Fleet, though I know my Carriers will have no place there.

    Reply
  2. uriel_johan@hotmail.com

    Hey, that’s really cool! I really hope you’ll be able to produce a full game soon. I’ve gone through at least 4 different version of Gun Fleet and even though I think I have a playable game now it’s still not quite ready. Unfortunately I’ve developed a slight allergy towards games that uses simplified rules that violates physics too much (I blame the Atomic Rockets site). I used a dice system once for movement, but once you add your third vector die at an angle to the others my brain just explode.

    I have a vector movement system that works and is reasonably accurate, using poker chips and written move orders so it doesn’t matter if someone rocks the table so that all everything on it falls over, but it’s quite complex. But it uses the same mass penalty for velocity change that you do, so we’re at least somewhat on the same wavelength.

    Have you considered any changes to weapons? (that’s my second hangup btw)

    Reply
  3. Vincent

    When we’ve played with vector movement we’ve done it by throwing a vector marker out on the table in front of each mech. We were too generous with thrust, though – 1:1 – so no mechs ever got going faster than they could easily maneuver. 2:1 or 3:1 movement point:delta V would’ve been more fun.

    I love vector movement games. Love!

    Reply
  4. mechachronic Post author

    That’s cool, Vincent.

    I’m really excited by the possibilities for vector movement, and space combat. Certainly the 2:1 and 3:1 ratios made for some pretty tough choices in game, which was what I was after.

    I think that’s something I look for when making a rule – does this introduce a meaningful choice? If not, it’s just window dressing.

    Reply
  5. LastSpacePirate

    You’re sitting on a pile of lego and you’re using dice for vector indication?
    Use a (black) plate to stand your model on and 1×1 rounds to indicate direction/value of thrust. Easy, attached to model and it’s clear which belongs to which ship.

    Reply
  6. LastSpacePirate

    I like the idea of vector movement too, but I’m not sure the difference between ship classes should be a multiplier rather than a simple +/-. Let me see if I can explain.

    I want to consider cruiser vector movement as standard, and corvertte&dreadnought movement derived from it.

    Under your system (please correct if wrong!)
    Any ship class can change their vector point total by one each turn. I.e. A dreadnought accelerates/brakes as quickly as a corvette.
    A Cruiser can change the direction of up to 3 points depending on their movement dice roll. so vector movement = movement dice/2
    dice roll of 1= no change permitted
    2-3= 1 vector point change
    4-5= 2 vector points change
    6= 3 vector points change

    What if a ship’s class was a +/-modifier to the movement result that determined how many vector points could change, where a change is add/subtract or change direction
    e.g for a cruiser. vector movement = dice -3
    so a movement dice roll of 1-3 = no change permitted
    4 = 1 vector point change
    5= 2 vector points change
    6= 3 vector points change

    Then a for a frigate, vector movement = dice -2
    so a movement dice roll of 1-2 = no change permitted
    3 = 1 vector point change
    4 = 2 vector points change
    5 = 3 vector points change
    6 = 4 vector points change

    and for a dreadnought, vector movement = dice -4
    so a movement dice roll of 1-4 = no change permitted
    5 = 1 vector point change
    6 = 2 vector points change

    It seems to achieve the same end, but may be easier to impliment.
    And it opens up two more ship classes, one smaller than corvette and one larger than dreadnought, though I’m not sure how attachments would work for those…

    Reply
  7. LastSpacePirate

    My final comment is about the white dice.
    I understand why you want different class/size ships. But I like the white dice mechanic.
    It’s about the choice of 3 functions (move/shoot/defend) in to 2 dice. Having more dice makes it about the numbers rolled rather than the function forgone.

    My suggestion is
    Each ship has 2 white dice.
    corvettes are fragile, when they would lose one white dice, they lose both. For this penalty it gains the benefit to movement you described above.

    A cruiser is standard. it loses white dice as normal

    A dreadnought is big and hard to damage. whenever it would lose it’s first white dice, it doesn’t, put a marker on it to show this abilty has been used, it loses white dice as normal from then. becasue of this benefit it recieves the penalty to movement above.

    A ship’s class can then be independent of how many attachments it begins with, ie, you can have a cruiser that starts with 2 attachments and a corvette with 2, but they lose white dice differently.

    Reply
  8. mechachronic Post author

    To some extent this is a matter of taste, but to my mind the changes you’re suggesting are more complicated, not less. I find it easier to spend one, two or three points per change of velocity, rather than subtracting numbers from the dice.

    I take your point about the white dice, but in actual play I found that an extra white die doesn’t negate the need for hard choices in allocation, and one fewer dice makes those choices even more pointed.

    Using lego as a marker is an interesting idea though, and definitely worth exploring. My main concern would be about its fiddlyness, and how time consuming it is during a game. It is worth experimenting with though.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: More Adventures in Space « Mechatonic

  10. James

    I know this is like two years behind the curve, but meh.

    Perhaps here is another way to go about space movement.

    Each class of ship can modify it’s movement based on it’s number of attachments for movement, no need to roll.

    You’ll still need some sort of d8 or something as a marker on it’s current velocity and so on, but that’s the idea.

    Each different class would get a different number they can change per attachment. Say your corvette, they get up to 3 inches change per movement attachment, cruisers two changes, and capitol ships only one change per attachment. So in theory you could still have a super fast dreadnaught, but it’s sacrificing a lot of attachments to do so.

    Not sure if you wish to include turn radii, but you could in theory add that in as well. It’s better on a hex map though, with a 3,2,1 hex facing change, but you could manage it well enough if desired. You could just allow the smallest 180 per attachment, and the larger 90 degrees per attachment. Turning wouldn’t affect how much they can accelerate each round though, it’s included.

    I’m thinking this isn’t necessarily any less complicated, but it takes a roll out of the equation anyhow. And as long as you have a movement attachment left, you can put white dice into it to get extra movement along the same lines. So it’s somewhat viable as an idea.

    But that’s just my 2 cents. I like the idea of a fleet engagement 🙂

    Reply

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