Tag Archives: one off games

2 Stations, 1 Winner

We played another one-on-one game of Mechaton the other night, once again opting to mix up the rules for a more even fight. Four mechs aside, 11 attachments. We put two stations in the middle of the battlefield, worth five points each.

Playing this way made for a far more bloody fight than we’d had previously. There was much less positioning and racing for objectives, and much more standing up and fighting. That said, there was still a good degree of tactical complexity in the game. The doomsday clock became a much more tense decision. Malcolm won the game based on smart timing on ticking it down, and appropriate concentration of force. It was very close though. One white die left on one of his mechs, and if I’d knocked it off, it would have been a draw.

It’s interesting that a lot of Mechaton games come down to a plucky little mech holding on despite all the odds. It’s hard not to identify with the little guys when all your hopes are riding on them lasting through just one more round of withering fire.

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Spaceaton: Troublesome

Very nice space fleet by Soren

Malcolm and I played Spaceaton the other night, and I have to say this was the first time I’ve had serious doubts about the viability of the rules changes.  On the one hand, this is good because it means we’re getting useful information for refining the rules.  On the other hand, it’s kind of discouraging and makes for some difficult play.

Malcolm is fond of the heavy Battleships, and he built a couple of very nice ones that he was very keen to see in play.  I had a slightly lighter force, but still with a couple of cruisers.  This meant that with the “one pip per white die” movement rule, we both had very slow ships, with little ability to turn to stay in the fight.

The result was inevitable: “Spaceship jousting”.  Our fleets approached, engaged, and then rolled on past each other, with no possibility to stay and fight.  We captured each others’ stations, resulting in a win for the defender, but it was a very unsatisfying game.

The problem was the inability of the bigger ships to change facing or speed at all, meaning the direction you commit them to at the start of the game is how they’re going to stay for the whole battle.  I like the idea of that, and I was really pleased with the concept of choosing your battleships’ speed and direction as a major strategic decision.  In practice though, it makes for boring play.  Malcolm and I spent a long time deliberating over the best fix for the problem, creating all kinds of complicated rules, before coming to the conclusion that simple is best.  There’s no reason for battleships to be less mobile than a smaller ship.  All ships should be able to move their vector marker the number shown on their movement die.

With that modification in place, we’re keen to play again.  There are a few specific rules we’re interested in reviewing.

Stations don’t quite feel right in a space game, but they’re essential to the strategic play of the game.  You need some element that forces you to divide your fleet, to spread out over the battlefield.  Without that, it’s just a straight-up brawl with the win going to the biggest fleet or the luckiest player.  I’ll be thinking about the problem a lot.

Spaceaton

I’m embracing the name unabashedly now, possibly just from some kind of linguistic Stockholm syndrome.

Whatever you call it, I played again last night, showing my cousing the ropes of the game, as well as trying out Vincent’s vector movement rules, and rules for fighter-bays.  Briefly, it went pretty well.  The Free Worlds Confederation raided a deep-space mining operation held by the Human Improvement League, and won a handy victory.

Fighters work like this: Draw three boxes next to the attachment on your note sheet for your fleet.  When the ship activates, you can choose to launch fighters instead of shooting.  You can scratch off one to three of the boxes, and roll that many d8s for your shooting, out to half direct fire range. 

Essentially they’re like a whole bunch of one-shot rockets.  In play, they lead to some cool choices – launch them all, and possibly waste some of them (since the best you can get is an eight, no matter how high you roll) or launch fewer, risking a low roll, and also risking losing the attachment before you fire them all.  There’s also the choice between using them to crack open a tough target, or holding them for use when a ship makes itself vulnerable.

They worked pretty well.  I can’t tell if they’re under or over-powered.  They were very effective in the game, but generally only saw a single use.

The vector movement rules were elegant and effective, as expected.  It did get a bit messy having vector markers cluttering up the table, but it was no worse than using a bunch of dice.  Taking stations is a bit of a hassle, especially if they’re near the table edge.  I think I will rule that stations have to be a minimum distance from the edge, to avoid ships having to slow right down to capture them. 

It may sound odd for someone who writes a blog about a giant-robot game, but I find spaceships much more compelling, fiction wise, than I do robots.  There’s something about the engagement of ships in space that I find really exciting, and I end up imagining and describing the details of each action as they happen in a way I don’t with regular Mechaton.  Possibly I haven’t watched enough shows with mecha, but I find mecha combats quite hard to imagine, even as I enjoy the game.

Cheers,

Simon

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.

Four Player Brawl

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.

Why?

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.

Cheers

Malc