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.
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.
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:
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
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.
It’s my turn to decide on objectives and limitations for the campaign game, and I’m using the opportunity to try something a little different to the regular Mechaton scenario.
Back in the day, I played a bit of the (now defunct) GW game “Gorka Morka”. The game itself was average, but there was one scenario that really grabbed my attention – “The Chase”. In this scenario, one side was racing to get a haul of scrap to the trading post, while another side ambushed them. To represent this running battle, at the end of every turn you moved everything on the table six inches towards one table edge.
I really want to try this same concept in Mechaton. Clearly, this is going to be a bit of a challenge. Here’s my concept:
Every month a convoy of computer-controlled trucks races across the barren plateau to bring much-needed supplies to the outlying mining settlement of Hardscrabble. Without the supplies, the settlement will wither, and the lives of many citizens will be endangered. In the civil war, all three sides have an interest in “securing” the supplies for their own use, claiming credit for their safe delivery, or holding the supplies for ransom. One truck is especially important – it holds urgent medical supplies.
At the end of each turn, everything one the table except the stations (which represent the trucks) move three units towards one table edge. Players take turns placing new cover on the leading table edge. If a mech drops off the table edge, it is counted as destroyed.
So that’s the plan, or most of it. We might have to jigger around with the setup so that it’s not too unfair. There’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong though, so I’d appreciate any thoughts or warnings.
As per the campaign rules, Richard chose the site of the battle, the special objective and any restrictions that would apply to our forces. He choose to have the battle take place at the Scattershot MIne, where the special objective would be to gain and hold the giant magnetic accelerator system that fires blocks of ore into orbit. The restriction was that there would be no artillery attachments allowed. Nobody wated the valuable mining equipment to be blown up by random shelling.
I’ll say now that due to excitement and forgetfulness, we didn’t take any photos. Which is a bit silly really. That will be resolved next time.
The table was set up with the mine control buildings in the centre, surrounded by workers accomodation, powerplants, slag heaps, rubble fields and the detritus of mining. Playing down the long axis of the table, the all-important accelerator was down in the bottom right hand corner.
The forces panned out like this:
CMF (Me): 6 mechs, 21 attachments (points per: 3, total points: 24)
Miners Union (Simon): 6 mechs, 19 attachments (points per: 4, total points: 32)
ADD (Richard): 4 mechs, 14 attachments (points per: 7, total points: 49)
Now, the Army isn’t that interested in the mines. So my plan was too have pretty intimidating force, but sit back and let the others duke it out for control of the special objective. Hopefully the strength of the battlegroup would deter the two other forces from attacking me, knocking my mechs out and reducing my points. But, when things got set up, I noticed that I was within striking distance of the special objective. Huh.
The battle started quietly for the army: not taking offensive action, establishing a perimeter and watching what the others were doing. ADD were pretty much hunkering down with their heavy units and using two light scout units to probe from the front line. The Union forces were tightly grouped, mostly in cover, but preparing to fan out towards the ADD lines.
Let’s put it this way: ADD got smashed in this battle.
Much of this was due to tactical choices: keeping the two heaviest (four attachments each) units behind cover and not moving them at all during the battle was a bad choice. They should have been up front and the lighter units scurrying around the back holding on to stations or darting out to take the stations of the enemy. As it was, the two ADD light units got crushed into dust and both ADD stations (including the special objective).
The Army spent most of the time not fighting the Miners. Until the very last turn, when it was clear that there was no way I was losing the special objective and could afford to start a confrontation with them.
Things might have turned out even better for the Army had it not been for some stunningly mediocre dice rolling throughout the game, which was a point of no little frustration. However, the end result vindicated the ‘make a plan and stick to it’ tactic. When the battlefield was set up, I’d changed my plan and resolved to get the special objective. Despite bad rolling, I stuck with it, avoiding combat as much as possible and succeeded in the end.
The points at the end were like this:
Miners (Simon): 36
Army (me): 27 (plus special objective gained)
ADD (Richard): 14
The Miners had the points victory, but took a bit of a battering (but no units lost) from ADD and then the Army. My Army guys took zero damage. Yes, not a single lost attachment throughout the entire game. Crazy. ADD lost two mechs and two stations. Harsh.
The campaign points totals now look like this:
Combined Military Forces
Government (x2): 54
Mines (x2): 54
Population (x2): 54
Government (x1): 36
Mines (x3): 108
Population (x1): 36
Allied Defence Dynamics
Government (x1): 14
Mines (x3): 42
Population (x1): 14
ADD are now seriously on the back foot in all areas, even in Mines, where the Army have overtaken them. The Miners have a huge lead in Mines, which is going to take some effort to reel in. But suddenly, the Army has an interest in the mines.
In the fiction of the game, we decided that the Army had taken the mine while the Union had won a serious propaganda victory amongst its own people, showing that it could defeat ADD and stand up against the Army.
Next time round, Simon gets to set the battlefield and special objective.
We had the first game of the campaign last night. But, before we getting to the thrilling details of that epic contest, it would be best to outline what we are all fighting for.
In the Mechaton campaign rules you set three different areas of influence/interest. Each side says what will happen if they win in this area of influence and assigns a multiplier to each area. You have five point of multipliers to assign.
Our three areas are: government, population and mines.
Combined Military Forces (Me): Mostly the Army, because the Aerospace Forces are not wholly on-board with the coup.
Government (x2): Will take a tougher stance on interplanetary relations and exercise greater independence.
Mines (x1): The will become nationalised and therefore even more corrupt and inefficient.
Population (x2): They will become more wealthy and will put up with vastly increased military spending.
The Miners Union (Simon): The majority of the mineworkers on the planet, who have now risen in armed revolt against the coup and off-world interests.
Government (x1): Will be replaced by a Union organised workers party.
Mines (x3): They will become worker owned.
Population (x1): Miners become an elite, non-miners will become a political underclass.
Allied Defence Dynamics (Richard): An off-world mercenary company brought in by outside interests to secure the flow of product from the mines.
Government (x1): A weak puppet government is installed. It is liberal and open to foreign ownership and investment.
Mines (x3): With the mines secure, new capital can be invested in increasing profit margins and decreasing waste.
Population (x1): A healthy level of unemployment will be encouraged to lower wages.
So Simon and Richard are really, really invested in the mines. I’m less concerned about the mines and more concerned about establishing a stable government and getting the population to support the coup.
Here’s the map for the upcoming Mechaton Campaign, showing the crater and some of the important locations around it.
Triangles are Allied Defence Dynamic strongholds, squares are Miners’ Union bastions, and circles are the Army’s bases. The red dashed line is the high-speed rail line that circles the crater and runs out to the main space port.