On Saturday past, we (myself, Simon, Richard and Michael) had a four player game of Mechaton as a bit of a diversion from the stresses and strain of life in oh-so-hectic Wellington. Not having played a game with this many people before, it was always going to be interesting.
I’ll talk about things from my point of view here and see what, how and why things happened the way they did during the battle.
Straight off the bat, things looked odd when Simon chose two mechs with four attachments each. The rest of us all took three mechs and nine attachments. For reference, in a four player game, you can have up to four mechs per side (and one station per side). This ticked the points per for Simon up to seven (21 total), while the rest of us got ticked down to three points per each (12 in total per person). The disadvanatage for Simon was in losing mechs. A single mech destroyed would cut his fighting capability in half and bring him to almost level on points. On the other hand, if he could hang on to his station and there wasn’t much station taking on the part of the other players, then he could hold on if the Doomsday Clock ticked down fast enough.
From the start I resolved to take Simon’s station. Other stations were way too far away to make them anything other than a chancy proposition. Disadvantage for me: the station (and the defenders) were in thick forest. Things perhaps didn’t start too well. The initiative dice went a bit awry for me and at the outset my prime attacking mech (twin direct fire weapons and movement) got hosed by the opposition. On the left hand side, my ‘standard’ mech (direct fire, armour, movement) started getting knocked about by Michael and his mechs. Richard was kind of hanging back, lobbing artillery about the place. Simon attempt a bold move with his station taking mech (twin hand to hand weapons and double armour) in running from cover to try and take Richard’s station. Which he did. Then the mech got blown to smithereens.
For a couple of turns it looked like Richard, through luck (mainly with his scout tank, a lightweight piece of kit with only two attachments) and hanging back for the first turn, would win on points. Two of my mechs were badly hammered and could be taken out pretty easily.
I won, with 15 points.
I put it down to a couple of things:
1) I had a plan and I stuck to it. My aim was to take the station belonging to Simon. Even if I sacrificed a mech to do this (which was what nearly happened to my left flank mech), I could still stay on 12 points. This plan, did, however, rely on the other forces having some of their mechs/vehicles wiped out as well. But, regardless of these variables, there was a plan and I was determined to stick to it. Station taking is the key to winning at mechaton. Destroying mechs is all well and good, but it doesn’t conclusively win you battles. Going for stations and holding on to them gives you the points needed to win.
2) There were some bad tactical choices, leading to bad strategic choices, on the part of the other players. When Michael started gettig heavily attacked by Richard, he switched his attention enough that it allowed by badly damaged left flank mech to survive until the end of the game. It was notable that Richard and Michael were the two players who had chosen artillery attachments. At times it seemed like there was a bit of an artillery duel going on here. Not having that temptation to lob shells at the far side of the playing area proved to be an advantage for me. I wasn’t splitting my firepower and it forced me to concentrate on The Plan. Richard’s big artillery mech (twin artillery) was pretty static and only really moved a short distance to re-take his station. It seems that this is a regular role for artillery mechs: acting as station defenders. It somehow seems a bit of a waste of precious mechs and attachments. Maybe there is food for thought in that, with a view to looking at some experimental choices in future games.
The four player setup made the game tactically and strategically complex. In the final turn, there was a lot of head scratching regarding who to shoot, who could be deprived of victory. Being in a position where victory was likely (but not guaranteed), it was, in many ways, lucky. But in Mechaton, luck helps.