Tag Archives: actual play

Conpulsion 2013

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:

“Crash Site” Table, Day 1
Conpulsion 2013: Mobile Frame Zero Demo Tables

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Shut Up And Read Understand The Damn Rules

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.

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More Adventures in Space

This weekend saw Richard and I embark on another adventure into the world of Mechaton in space, or “Spaceaton” as I’ve rather unfortunately taken to calling it. 

Our chief change to the rules thus far has been the use of “vector movement” indicated by a couple of d8s at the base of each ship, and the use of different sizes of ship, from one-white-die “Corvettes” to giant three-white-dice “Dreadnoughts”.  You can read more about our first space-foray here.

This time around, we were trialing another departure from the core Mechaton rules – torpedoes.  Both Richard and I are fans of the old GW game “Battlefleet Gothic” (despite its failings), so when Malcolm suggested torpedoes that actually stay on the table and take several turns to reach their targets, we were right on board.  Torpedoes work like this: Instead of declaring a target, when you roll dice you can try to launch torpedoes instead.  Each Torpedo Tube attachment gives you a single red die for the purpose.  Once you’ve rolled, you can assign a five or a six either from white dice, or from your red dice, to launch a torpedo.  Only fives and sixes count – you either launch a torpedo or you don’t.  You place torpedoes at direct fire range away from your ship.  At the start of the next turn, the torpedo gets an initiative die.  On its initiative, the torpedo travels 2d6 towards the nearest enemy ship.  If it hits the ship, it counts as a “six” hit against that ship.

So how did it go?  First, let me outline the battle.

The Free Worlds Confederation – a plucky alliance of planets independant of the Whole Galaxy Empire was escorting a cargo freighter and a ship full of refugees to one of the more far-flung free worlds.

But they were ambushed by a patrol of Red Faction Corsairs!  The dastardly Red Faction is always doing the Empire’s dirty work, when they’re not themselves preying on the Empire’s shipping. 

My Confederation ships were pretty comprehensively beaten by Richard’s Corsairs.  I foolishly sent my corvette off in a mad plan to sneak behind the enemy and capture their long-range sensor platforms.  The plan failed when I foolishly engaged in a firefight with one of Richard’s cruisers, rather than drifting on past.

From there, his Dreadnought continued its slow drift towards the rest of my fleet, and obliteration was inevitable.  Still, it was a fun game.  Torpedoes added a fun and random element, where you were never sure if you’d get the initiative to speed away from the torpedo before it impacted with your ship.  I think some provision for shooting down torpedoes might be in order.  This would encourage teamwork more, and give another role to the otherwise puny corvettes.

Next time we’ll be trialling rules for fighters – allowing ships to act as carriers.  We’re still working on the rules, but I’m being drawn towards a modification on the current one-shot-rocket rules.

Campaign: Third Battle

To refresh the memory, you can check out the campaign backstory, campaign map, campaign goals, the account of the first battle and the account of the second battle before you get started.

This was the battle where I get the criteria and decided that it would take place at the spaceport held by Richard’s off-world mercenary forces. There would be a restriction in place that no artillery could be used because of the sensitive nature of the site. The special objective was a newly arrived senior mining engineer, sent by the corporate employers of the mercenaries. So, the objective multiplier would be Mining x1.

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The Sickness of Campaigning

The third game in our current campaign went down last night. But that story is for later.

Campaign games are both great and horrible at the same time. We’re currently enjoying seeing how the story progresses, the ebb and flow of fortune on the battlefield, the fiction that is being created around the forces and their achievements. That stuff is all good.

What isn’t good is what the campaign is doing to us. And by us, I obviously mean me. I’m not by nature a competitive person. One of the reasons I love Mechaton is that you can build some stuff, play a game and it’s all fun amongst friends. I just don’t care who wins or loses, it’s just good fun with some Lego, a table, friends and a few beers. Now things are getting different.

I find myself getting angry when I have a poor run of luck on the dice. I find myself getting really, really concerned about coming out of the game with a good result. Worst of all, I find myself turning into a rule nitpicker. Like last night, right at the end, Richard had rolled a good Spot but hadn’t declared it before he rolled. We had a bit of a discussion and, because it could have meant the difference between winning well and losing badly, I insisted on the letter of the law.

That is what is known in detailed Mechaton terms as a dick move.

Sure, Richard should have stated the spot before rolling. In the end, it’s a damn game, what does it matter? Why was I so insistent that he follow the rules? Because I have become, through the simple campaign guidelines, invested in this series of games. That’s a great thing for a games design, to get people involved. On one level, it’s also great for our campaign. On another level (the one that I actually worry about), I don’t like the way it changes me as a player when I am at the table. I want this game just to be fun, I don’t want to be the idiot who gets upset over dice, who is finicky about rules.

The campaign will continue until the bitter end, but I’d suggest that I need to become less invested in the outcomes, for the sake of all concerned and because I am making the game less fun for everyone else.

Cheers
Malcolm

Campaign: Second Battle

To refresh the memory, you can check out the campaign backstory, campaign map, campaign goals and the account of the first battle before you get started.

As you may recall from his post on using a moving table in Mechaton, Simon had the choice of battlefield, restrictions and special objective for this particular game. The moving table thing has been outlined in this entry, so I won’t labour the point by restating what was said there. The special objective was a truck full of special foods. The side that held on to that particular truck would gain a multiplier to Population. There were no restrictions on attachments for this game.

Simon seems to exhibit a fair degree of luck when it comes to choosing forces. Both he and I plumped for four mechs each, but I lost out on points by having 14 attachments as opposed to his 12. Richard was fielding a far bigger (and stronger) force than his last outing, with six units and 18 attachments.

The points per and starting points for this game were:

Combined Military Forces (Me): 6/36
Allied Defence Dynamics (Richard): 3/24
The Miner’s Union (Simon): 7/42

Simon set up his objectives far down the field, covering them with his strongest mechs. Richard pretty much dominated the left hand side of the table, looking like he wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes of the last game. I stuck to the right hand side. With the special objective so far away from my units, through both other forces, it wasn’t looking like I could grab hold of it. However, Simons second station was looking much more promising.

The first turn was a disaster for Simon, a disappointment for me and a crushing start for Richard. The Miners Union had a mech knocked out almost from the get go and I just couldn’t roll anything with the dice. Richard on the other hand had his forces rush down the table, pounding the Union forces and (luckily) mostly ignoring the Army.

I’ll say this: I had awful, awful luck with the dice for most of the game. It was either a case of rolling very poorly on the initial rolls or being totally unable to convert hits to damage. Across the course of the game I think i did about three attachments worth of damage. Terrible!

As the game progressed, a little artillery duel began between my sole artillery mech and the two unharrassed artillery units from ADD. Leaving those units free to bombard the table was pretty stupid, but in reality there was little to be done with the luck that Simon and I were having.

The moving table convoy idea actually worked pretty well. It added an extra tactical dimension to the game when you realised that on every turn, the objectives would move another three distance units away from you. Anticipating that and making use of it actually allowed my Army mechs to take a Union station (or truck, in this case). I’m not sure I would want to use this kind of setup in every game, but it was certainly a fun diversion.

At the end of the battle, though, it was Richard who stopped having the luck. The final couple of turns allowed the Union mech defending the special objective to show some incredible tenacity and resistance to damage, holding ths objective until the bitter end, despite being toe-to-toe with a couple of heavy tanks. That really change the complexion of the battle. If he had taken the special objective, Richard would have remained on 24 points (he was down to 21 having lost a unit) AND he would have gained the x1 population multiplier. If that Union mech had been destroyed, Simon would have been down to seven points for the battle, a disastrous result.

In the fiction of the campaign, this is a curious one to work out. It seems that despite superior force and minimal losses, the ADD division lost the battle. We rationalised it as they had drawn back after failing to gain the special objective, a bit of tactical withdrawal. The Union gained the population multiplier because they delivered the food to the mining town, then hightailed it before the Army arrived. The Army won a tactical victory: no losses, capturing some Union trucksand taking control of this particular area.

In the end, though, the points worked out like this:

Combined Military Forces (me): 42 (no mechs lost, one enemy station taken)
Allied Defence Dynamics (Richard): 21 (one unit lost)
The Miner’s Union (Simon): 21 (two mechs lost, one station lost, special objective held)

When all this is taken into account, the current campaign points are looking like this:

Combined Military Forces

Government (x2): 138
Mines (x2): 138
Population (x2): 138

Miners Union

Government (x1): 57
Mines (x3): 171
Population (x2): 114

Allied Defence Dynamics

Government (x1): 35
Mines (x3): 105
Population (x1): 35

So story-wise, the Union has made big gains amongst the population as a result of that battle while the CMF still holds tightly on to control of the government. The Union are very, very strong in the mines but the military are certainly creeping up behind them. ADD are, in the main, failing badly at their campaign to win over the planet. They have very little support and their initial gains in the mines have been overtaken by the CMF gains in that same area.

Next up we have yours truly setting the battlefield, restrictions and special objectives. Oh, the Doomsday Calendar ticked down to eight at the end of the battle, with no further changes made by any of the participants. Looks like we’re all in it for the long haul.

Cheers
Malcolm