This last weekend Joe Murphy and myself did some Mobile Frame Zero facilitation at the Conpulsion games convention in Edinburgh. Chastened by our lacklustre scenery last year, we planned well in advance and created tables that – while maybe not the acme of fancy Dan LEGO design – were functional, attractive, and playable.
Both of us chose to style our tables quite differently. I opted for a spaceship that had crashe din the jungle and was in the proces sof being hacked apart by Free Colonial salvors:
One of the great things about a simple, elegant rules system like Mobile Frame Zero is that it lends itself so well to other applications. I’ve seen people talking about using it for fantasy battles a la Lord of the Rings; spaceship combat; modern military combat. One thing I haven’t seen, however, it using it for naval warfare.
This line of thinking has been inspired by a number of wonderful microscale Lego ships such as those scattered about this article. Most of these aren’t much bigger – or more brick intensive – than your average MFZ frame. Ships also lend themselves to the attachment based system of MFZ: close in defence systems (melee weapons), gun turrets (direct fire weapons), missile launchers (artillery weapons), radar systems (spotting), hydrofoils (movement), and so on.
There can’t be many (if any) people in the MFZ community who aren’t familiar with the work of Soren Roberts. He’s designed the iconic frames for the game, the inspiration for hundreds of other builds. In the wider Lego community, Soren is well known for the outstanding aesthetic – often minimalist – quality of his builds, a range encompassing spacecraft, landscapes, mecha, robots, and much more. Drawing on a range of influences including real world machinery, industrial design, and science fiction art, he’s built an enviable reputation.
Now living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Soren took the time to have a bit of back and forth on subjects related to Lego, MFZ, and SF fandom. The results are thoughtful, thought provoking, and at times provocative. Enjoy.
Sometimes, as people who enjoy games, one of our first reactions is to go “Hey! That rule doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s remove or change it!” In many cases, this will be a considered opinion based on actual play and a thorough understanding of the interplay of different components. In many other cases, it will be a kneejerk reaction based on no play at all and a complete failure to understand how different rules elements interlock.
It’s especially irritating when people demand (I use the word advisedly) rule changes based on not having played the game. What? Mechaton/Mobile Frame Zero has been around for a long time. The rules have been rigorously tested, gone through thousands of hours of play in the hands of a wide spectrum of different people. I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and suggest that your reaction on skim reading the rules is probably so cockeyed as to be looking in two different directions at once. I should make clear at this point that I’m not talking about the back and forth feedback on the draft rules to clarify certain points. That’s all good. But I just know someone will have a failure of reading comprehension, take umbridge, and think that’s what I’m talking about.
Last night Malcolm and I met up to fight the first battle in a mini-campaign we’ve been planning for a little while, inspired by Maschinenkrieger mechs. We’d both built sets of WWI/WWII styled mecha and hover tanks, and I was very eager to pit my little guys against Malcolm’s forces. My dudes were styled as a WWI Japanese force, with red and white stripes on a grey background, and slightly steampunky mechanical looks. Malcolm’s guys reminded me more of WWII Germans, with sleek dark grey turrets and a “Walking Tank” look.
For this battle, we tried something a little different from the usual game. Instead of choosing forces and then determining points, we just decided on a set number of assets for each of us – four mechs and 12 attachments. This meant that the forces would be dead even, which was an unusual feeling. Usually in a two-player game your role is very clear: You’re either attacking, in which case you’re trying to pummel the opponent as fast as possible, and take stations, or you’re defending, in which case you’re ticking down the clock as fast as you can, and trying to hold on. In this game there was much more of a feeling of attack and defence.
The result was a win for me, after a worrying first turn I managed to turn it into a pretty convincing win, but it was a fun game, and I’m looking forward to playing some more games in the same format.