Tag Archives: terrain

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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They’re Here!

Recently, there have been some exciting things happening with Mobile Frame Zero. For one thing, the book is now off to print. For another thing, two excellent builders have started posting images of their frames again. Greg Strom (Mitten Ninja on Flickr) and Afny (funnily enough Af/ny on Flickr) have re-joined the community with some cracking photos.

Sunset showdown outside New Thebes
Sunset Showdown outside New Thebes is a lovely little diorama showcasing the Ermine Company and the Dogs of Tharsis.

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Dynamic Destruction

Back in the days of my youth (which recede ever farther with each passing day), I used to play a fair number of SF wargames: Battletech, Dirtside and Warhammer 40,000 to name three. They provided differing levels of fun and different experiences. The 1/300th scale SF armour of Dirtside was always a favourite. One thing they lacked, however, that Mechaton has in spades is a dynamic and changing battlefield appearance.

By ‘dynamic’, I mean that both the terrain and your units change, physically, as the game progresses. Shooting at cover knocks bricks off and scatters them around the battlefield. Hits on mechs blow of weapons, armour, arms and legs. You can see the progression of the battle in the very models you have created to play the game.

Now, this isn’t a very profound or deep statement, but it is something that many wargames, with their carefully crafted terrain and intricately painted models, lack. Not many games allow you to deal a crushing blow to an enemy unit and, at the same time, crush the model ‘neath your victorious palm. This dynamism, the ability to make changes each passing minute and see those changes affect the game in progress is immensely engaging.

I don’t really have much more to say on the subject, really. But, blowing apart Lego mechs is great fun, I think we can all agree.


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.


Building Buildings

Village Ruins set

Originally uploaded by nnenn

One thing we’ve paid a lot of attention to here on Mechatonic is the building of mechs. Obviously they are one of the really cool parts of Mechaton. The joy in building your own little army out of bits and seeing them victorious in the battlefield is palpable.

However, we have paid scant attention to the terrain of that battlefield.

A lot of the time, you want to create buildings quickly and easily, just to provide cover and character on the playing table. As a rogue hit is going to blow holes in the concrete, a lot of the time you might not want to spend time creating anything too fancy or good looking. But, really nicely designed building can add a lot of feel and character to the landscape.

Let’s look at the buildings shown above, created by Nnenn. Nnenn is mostly known for building an amazing range of startfighters. But his skills don’t just stop there. These buildings are for a game of hovertank combat, but they are ideal for mechaton. The detail is incredible and the unified colour scheme adds a lot of character.

What size your buildings are will also depend on thef scale you play at. Our games tend to feature mechs about three to four bricks tall, with a normal sized person being one and one third bricks tall (a single cylindrical brick topped with a round 1×1 plate). The Nnenn buildings would be a little small for that scale. For the scale we use, the good old fashioned 2×2, 2×3 and 2×4 bricks see a lot of use in creating structures that are in keeping with the size of the mechs and the people around them.

Using colours that reflect the nature of the building also helps to add to the overall look and feel. Our last battle took plave at a spaceport. The hangar buildings were built in a predominantly white colour scheme, with blue and lime highlights. Subsidiary buildings such as the control tower, radar building and munitions store were built in sand. Finally, staff housing was built in blue. Most of the buildings were clustered, so they looked unified and purpose built. Adding people and vehicles can also make things look really dynamic and exciting. Microscale trucks, aircraft and spacecraft make the battlefield less blank, less of just a place where a fight is happening and more of a place where there is something to fight over.

So where is all this going? Well, I’d like to think that we can spend some time looking at aesthetics of our playing areas as well as just the appeal of the mechs we use to destroy them. I’ll certainly be making an effort to hunt down interesting and cool microscale buildings on flickr, MOCPages and Brickshelf, as well as posting some photos of our own designs.

And if you want to see possibly the most amazing microscale city ever, check out Shannonia