Tag Archives: rules

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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Life Here Is Better, Down Where It’s Wetter…

You know, I can’t think of a time when I’ve actually used water in a Mechaton game. Which is odd, because it is such a useful environmental feature. Maybe it’s because of a lack of blue bricks to make streams, lakes and seas. Maybe it’s because of a lack of thought about how to utilise it. Then again, what about a game of Mechaton that doesn’t just use water as an environmental feature, but one that uses water as the environment itself. Mechaton meets The Abyss?

Rules for water-based mechs (or adapting mechs for use underwater) have been discussed before and what I’m about to talk about probably has an immense amount of crossover with not only them, but also with discussions on using mechs in a space environment.

First off, there’s the simple use of water as an environmental feature. I generally take it as read that, like modern tanks, mechs can wade across streams of reasonable depth. In order to do anything more than that (i.e.: to create an amphibious mech), you’ll need to buy a specialised water movement attachment.

The water movement attachment allows you to roll a green die for your mech while in the water. Think of the difference between an armoured personnel carrier that can wade across the stream and an armoured personnel carrier that be launched from a ship five miles out to see and move under its own power to the shore. That’s exactly the difference we’re looking at.

In anything beyond wading depth, a mech without the water movement attachment suffers several disadvantages:

It temporarily loses a white die and loses the use of any movement attachments.
It’s going to start flooding (a water movement attachment also fully waterproofs your mech, for obvious reasons).
If your mech spends longer than one turn in water deeper than wading depth, it is, for the purposes of the game, gone. Sunk, flooded, immobile, good bye, you should have bought that water attachment.

Therefore, it goes without saying that for games that actually take place under water, everyone is going to want the water movement attachment and they effectively take the place of standard movement attachments. Unlike standard movement attachments, however, they are an absolute necessity for everyone.

Now, weapons underwater.

Standard weapons are unlikely to work very well under water. Projectiles will have their range cut drastically. Energy weapons will just act like a big kettle, artillery round will simply land at your feet. Not so good.

For fully underwater games, assume that the weapons used are specialised. I you are mixing it up and combining surface/underwater games, then I’d suggest that both ranged and artillery weapons are limited to a range of three. Likewise, if you use specialised underwater weapon attachments on the surface, then they are also limited to a range of three and underwater artillery can not be used at all.

Note how the different types of artillery become just like normal ranged weapons in the wrong environment. I’d also propose something special for underwater artillery. I imagine underwater artillery to be something like torpedo (whether traditional of the supercavitating, high-speed type) launchers. Here’s a thing: underwater artillery hits the turn after you fire it, regardless of where the target has moved to.

Now, all of this is all very rough and ready and has never actually been tested in play. There is also a complete lack of any thought on the three dimensional aspects of underwater play. Something to return to in future postings. What would be really interesting is a Mechaton game that combines both types of mech and both types of environment. Half the playing area land, half the playing area water, underwater buildings, docks, maybe even some kind of large sea vessel? Interesting.


Vector Thrust

Vincent’s just posted the setup for their next campaign game, and included rules for vector movement.  Check it out here.

On brief examination, I’m a big fan.  It’s a very, very clever idea.  My only concern is getting mixed up with vector markers floating around the table.  That seems like it could get a bit confusing, but I’d have to try it.  Of course my next Spaceaton game will be a great test-bed.


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.



Mechaton Strategy

This is the first part of a two-part post on strategy for mechaton. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to winning the game. Such a thing isn’t really possible, I think. I’m just gonna post my thoughts on what works, and what doesn’t. Some of it might be a bit controversial (or as controversial as you can get when discussing a game about lego robots), so feel free to disagree in comments. It’d be neat to start a discussion about this stuff.

1: Choosing your army.
My belief is that your first priority in choosing your army should be maximizing your starting points. This is doubly true in campaign play. Army choosing is a classic “rock, paper, scissors” scenario: Your best choice is dependent on what your opponent chooses. There’s no real way to game this process. Try looking at your opponent’s mechs, and which ones they’re particularly proud of. Those ones are more likely to show up on the battlefield.
1.1: How many mechs do I want?
Ideally, I think, you want one fewer than your opponent. That way you get the benefit of a big jump in points per, with only a small drop in the effectiveness of your force. There are other situations that lead to a similar points advantage (many more mechs than your opponent) but these are harder to engineer. The worst situation you can be in is to have one mech more than your opponent.
It’s tempting to take the maximum number of mechs on the assumption that, at worst you’ll be fighting an evenly matched force, and at best you’ll be facing a vastly weaker force. That’s not bad reasoning, but I’d recommend not getting a reputation for it. You’ll end up with your opponent taking one fewer mechs, and whupping you on points.
1.2: What attachments do I want?
There are two parts to this question: How many attachments, and of what type?
1.2.1: How many attachments?
Once again, I think the ideal situation is having one fewer attachments than your opponent. The same arguments apply to attachments as to mechs. I think it’s possible to assume that most people will take an average of three attachments per mech, so you can figure your number of attachments based on that. If you think your opponent is taking five mechs, you want fewer than fifteen attachments on your own force. On the whole I think it’s best to evenly distribute attachments throughout your force. Doing otherwise creates obvious targets, which you could use to your advantage, but is more likely to work against you. Heavily damaged mechs are more of a liability than an asset in most situations, since you will want to keep them from harm. Given the points loss from a destroyed mech, I don’t think any mech should ever be considered disposable.
1.2.2: What kind of attachments?
Here I’ll discuss each attachment in turn:
Direct Fire: This is by far the most valuable attachment, and should be present on almost every mech in your force. The only exceptions should be dedicated artillery or close combat mechs, and even those do not suffer from an extra gun. Direct fire is the most useful attachment for focusing fire onto a single target, which (as I will argue later) is the key to destroying mechs. There seems to be little reason not to take double direct fire for any mech you intend to keep in the thick of battle (that should be most of your force).
Close Combat: Close combat serves two roles: Defending stations, and claiming stations. Close combat mechs can force an enemy off a station, and keep them away, making them ideal for claiming defended stations. Large forces can afford to have dedicated station defending mechs with close combat and direct fire, designed to stop close combat station claiming mechs, but I think they’re probably a waste of resources. If you’re taking close combat attachments, I think it makes sense to take only close combat attachments. The free green die is very attractive, and helps you fulfill your role – charging down stations and taking them.
Artillery: Possibly the most overestimated attachment. Artillery is more difficult to bring to bear than Direct Fire. Its one advantage lies in being able to pick off mechs left with low armour at the end of the turn. However, I believe it’s more important to be able to focus fire onto a single target. The biggest weakness of artillery is the inability to defend stations. They are actually more useful in a forward role, capturing undefended stations while shelling the battlefield. I would take no more than a single artillery mech in all but the largest forces.
Spotting: The weakest attachment. I base this assessment on the fact that this, along with movement, is always the first to go when a mech takes damage. The problem with spotting is that for best results, it relies on too many factors working in your favor: A low initiative, a good die roll on your spotting die, a target with an armor of 3-4, and an accompanying mech with a higher initiative who can target and hit the spotted enemy. Not that it doesn’t have its uses. A spot that works well is the only way of taking down a well armored enemy. The trouble is making this happen. That spotting attachment could have been spent on an extra direct fire which works every time and also has the potential to bust through tough armor.
Movement: Mobility, especially when attacking, is very useful. I would consider a movement attachment a very good investment for almost any mech, but most of all artillery and close combat. Don’t let the attachment go to waste, though. Any mech with a movement attachment should be actively taking stations. For this reason, they’re more useful if you’re in an attacking role. Smaller forces, for this reason, should take more movement attachments.
Armour: The best (non weapon) attachment. It keeps your mech in the fight, protects those vital guns, and in the end is ablated in lieu of something that actually keeps your mech dealing damage. There is no mech that doesn’t benefit from an armor attachment or two. This is one of the few non-weapon attachments I think is worth doubling up on.
Some Interesting mech designs:
The Brawler:

Two Close Combat attachments, one or two armour attachments. This mech has the speed to get to enemy stations, the power to force defenders off them, and the toughness to stay on them until the job is done. For my money, this is the best station-grabbing mech in the game.
The Stalker:
One or two Artillery, Movement. This mech stays on the outskirts of the battlefield, shelling vulnerable targets or ganging up with everyone else. Meanwhile, you’re using that movement die to threaten undefended stations, and to keep out of range of enemy units. In the end stages of the game, don’t be afraid to let them under your guns if it means grabbing a station.
The Spotter:
Two spotting attachments. A risky design, and possibly not very good. It’s got speed to stay out of too much trouble, and two spot dice makes a good result much more likely. It’s got great initiative too, to make sure you get the best chance to use its spotting. Whether it’s worth a whole mech worth of not shooting, I’m not sure.