Articulate!

A few months ago there was a very worthwhile discussion at the Mobile Frame Hangar on the subject of articulation in mobile frame builds. I don’t just say that because I started the thread. The responses and discussion were very useful. A recent design by a very accomplished builder got me thinking about this subject again.

Kinetic Acceleration Combat Armor

K-Frame by Brian Kescenovitz

Now, this design by Brian Kescenovitz is a minifig scale hardsuit, rather than a mobile frame. However, take off the head and replace it with something more mecha-y and, et voila, you have a mobile frame. I think this is a wonderful bit of building: immensely poseable and full of character. The range of movement built into such a compact design is quite remarkable (look at the image at bottom left for a great example of dynamic posing.) There’s little that’s wrong with it. Or is there?

 

Yes, there is. From a Mobile Frame Zero point of view. This is where the discussion on articulation comes in. This wonderful little design by Brian might look like the ideal MFZ playing piece. In fact, as soon as I saw it pop up in my Flickr stream, I ran to my building table and constructed one. All the qualities I’ve mentioned before are right there. The one thing that counts against it as a playing piece? Fragility. If you’re using this in a fast paced MFZ game, bits would fall off with alarming frequency. Those minifig neck bracket joints are great to look at, but relatively fragile. They lack the inherent sturdiness required for a playing piece that is going to be handled every turn. If every time you try to pop off an attachment the legs or arms detach as well, that’s problematic.

MgN-333 MARMOSET: plasma gunner

MgN-333 MARMOSET by Malcolm Craig

It’s not my intention to revisit the discussion we had in the linked thread above. I do think that it is worth re-emphasising that MFZ frames are fundamentally playing pieces and should be thought of as such. There’s a fine line between sturdiness, poseability, and aesthetics. It’s something I’ve struggled with as I’ve gradually developed the venerable MgN series frames. I think that I’m now at a stage (see picture to the left) where they look good and have exactly the right balance for my tastes. Sure the legs don’t allow a huge range of stances, but the head moves, the arms allow for a wide range of weapons to be grasped and pointed, they look relatively good, and they (mostly) hold together during games. This isn’t blowing my own trumpet, you understand. It’s just easier to talk about the design process behind something I actually designed.

Design what you like, it’s your Lego after all! But we should always bear in mind that we are constructing dynamic playing pieces that will be handled, used, and abused. At the very least, you don’t want your legs to fall off all the time! You’d lose a green die for that.

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3 thoughts on “Articulate!

  1. LowestFormOfWit

    At this point I throw articulation in there if it’s do-able without harming my aesthetic for the frame. My old Gernsback frame was my first shot at a highly articulate frame, and although they didn’t exactly blow anyone’s mind (they remain one of my less popular builds) I’m still very happy with them as they don’t suffer from being fragile at all. My most articulate frame (intentionnaly) is the TD-01 Dummy, which can practically fold itself into a ball and still not come apart too easily. That being said, I enjoy the challenge of building frames that are as articulate as possible while still maintaining a nice aesthetic and sturdiness, while simultaneously thinking about other features like modular weapons or limbs for easy system removal or variant creation. (Sorry if this was too TMOH-ish).

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  2. Mantisking

    I can understand the desire to have well built playing pieces. I have a squad of mechs — my Butterfly Knights — that I’d love to use in a game but something falls off of them when you pick one up. Going in the other direction, Pasukaru has a mech called the Cog that you could throw against a wall, pick up, return it to the table, and finish the game. Yet they still look stylish.

    Reply

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