2006-05-18 : Mechaton: done playtesting

Meanwhile, we played a fantastic game of Mechaton last night. That there's a done game, left only to be written.

Me, J, Emily. Emily had the fewest mechs and fewest dice, J had the most and most. Emily was the opening defender.

Setup worked okay. Emily wished she'd known a little better what she was getting into - she'd've set up differently if she had played the game before or even had a clearer picture of what playing it was going to be like. However, hold your sympathy.

J, the opening aggressor, hits Em hard and hard. Emily rolls the single worst Mechaton roll in history. By the end of the first turn J's knocked one of her mechs down to its white dice. By the end of the second turn - maaaaaybe the third, I think it was the second - Em's lost that mech and J's seized one of her vaporators. Meanwhile over at THIS end of the table, she and I have traded hard blows: she's destroyed one of my close-in mechs, but at the cost of crippling her sole artillery mech. Still, hold your sympathy.

The doomsday clock's ticked down from 11 to 7, now. Emily's reeling: doubly screwed, I think she figures she's not going to make it to the end of the game. Harsh. She's like, I can see it, she's like "why did I agree to play this game? Why did you tell me this game is fun? Vincent you liar."

Except that now, on schedule, the game's victory point rules kick in. Emily's not winning anymore - J is! If I keep pounding on Emily, J can hang back, avoid engagement, and win the game. I do the only thing that makes sense: abruptly break off, proclaim a truce (she can take it or leave it - I can't afford to fight with her anymore. If she stabs me in the back, I'm screwed, but I don't have enough resources to guard myself and fight J), and book it across the table toward J.

I have five observations about the game in play:

1) Putting your mechs in a wedge and smashing them through my perimeter works great - but it's the very devil to keep them in a wedge under fire. J's mastery of the battlefield varied in direct proportion to the tightness of his mechs.

2) Running a lone diversionary mech up the open center works great - if you have a mech with good weapons (so your opponent can't just ignore it) and you feel like throwing it away. I was able to get my main force (what was left of it) up the flank to J's unguarded rear, while his massed mechs chewed my sacrificial lamb to pieces.

3) You have to be a psychic to manipulate the doomsday clock well. Or at least, you have to be able to think a turn ahead. You want to start double-counting it down as soon as you think you might be winning soon, and you want to stop double-counting it down as soon as you think there's a possibility that you'll stop winning. It's nerve wracking fun!

4) As the game goes on, the turns get shorter, both because everyone's losing options and because everyone's getting the rhythm. By the end, the turns rapid clip along and the tension is wicked high.

5) It's all about the vaporators. Smashing your mechs is fun, helpful, satisfying and good, but seizing your vaporators is how I win the game. As we'll see.

And so then what happens? I reach J's rear, seize one of his vaporators, and he - awesomely - shoots the living crap out of my favorite mech as it swoops in on his artillery. Meanwhile he's split one of his massed mechs off from tearing up my sacrificial lamb - my very soon to be deceased sacrificial lamb - and full-tilted it into MY rear, to seize one of MY vaporators. Emily's been making a fighting retreat all this time from the small force J's still bringing against her, holding her remaining vaporator and -

On the last turn, she stabs me in the unguarded back. I TOLD you to hold your sympathy. She seizes my remaining vaporator. Nothing I could've done about it anyway - I needed to beat on J or he'd just win. And now she's nabbed it on doomsday minus one and in the whole rest of the game, there are only two mechs of J's left to move.

Neither of which can reach her.

Final score at doomsday: Me 15, J 24, Emily 28.

1. On 2006-05-18, colin roald said:

Elegantly, Domesday is when Heads are Counted.

How big are your mechs?  In inches or whatever.  Are you playing on a ping-pong table?  My mental image is fuzzy.


2. On 2006-05-18, Vincent said:

We're playing on a dining room table with no leaves, maybe 2.5' by 4'. J, help me out.

My mechs are chunky things maybe 2" tall and 1.5" across the shoulders. J's tend to be wider at the feet and quite narrow in the bod, with chicken legs and long horizontal torsos. Emily was playing with a mix of our designs. J's force last night was mostly these great little fuchikoma, they're probably 1.5" wide by 1.5" long, under 1" tall.

My designs have developed since these, but they're on the same principle.


3. On 2006-05-18, SDL said:

Sounds like the game has reached "truly awesome" level! Congrats.

Do you all still rip chunks off of your mechies when you play, or was that discarded since the original?


4. On 2006-05-18, Vincent said:

Oh MAN. You should SEE the bits and pieces scattered over the table by the end of the game. It looks like a Lego bomb went off.


5. On 2006-05-18, anon. said:

Mmm.  I was just recently revisiting my first published game (Junk), which was also a mech wargame, and I was remembering exactly how much I enjoy mech wargames.  And then you go and post this.


Now I want to play it.


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This makes...
SAB go "Oops, that was me, Seth Ben-Ezra"*

*click in for more

6. On 2006-05-18, Remi said:

Man, this looks super-hot. I had only scanned the earlier Mechaton posts, and I had missed/forgotten the constructable LegoMech element. That and the gameplay description have me drooling and chomping at the bit. I cannot wait until you have this written up.


7. On 2006-05-18, ScottM said:

Do you have a timeline/goal for the write-up part, or is it just going to sqoosh around the stuff that's already on your plate?


8. On 2006-05-18, Emily Care said:

This game is a thing of beauty—and I thought that while I was busy being pulled to pieces by J's swarming, spider-like mini-mechs and splatted between the two opposing armies.  (I'm like "oh duh, I just threw my self between the hammer & the anvil" sigh)

The game has rules that determine how you set up based on the resource balance of the different forces that—just as a side effect—get you to set up in an always different,  dynamic situation. (Reiner Knizia eat your heart out.) Not to mention the tremendous amount of interesting strategic decisions you get to make from creating the mechs, to assigning what their components do(my favorite mech was Joshua's super-sneaky scout mech that had no weapons, and just ran all over the battle field making other mechs an easy target for the rest of his army using spotlight/tags he gave it), to moving around and utilizing buildings and rubble as cover.

And! You can use any mech you make.  Crikey. If I had a score in lego I'd be sooo happy now. : ) I am _so_ not the target audience of this game and I can see how much it rocks in every way.  I can't wait to see a table strewn with lego mechs at GenCon.


9. On 2006-05-18, ffilz said:

Sounds cool. I've posted a link to this thread to Gamelug. It's too late to get this into the official schedule, but perhaps we can host some Mechaton at our tables anyway.



10. On 2006-05-19, colin roald said:

You just sold $20 worth of Lego kits, I hope you're happy. (Creator Model 4416 has got really quite a high ratio of weapon-like bits to invested capital.  And Model 4418 is short on guns, but, man: velociraptor parts!  $3.50 ea, maybe less online.)


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This makes...
VB go "those are awesome sets."*
NinJ go "Yeah, the little sets are where it's at."*

*click in for more

11. On 2006-05-18, NinJ said:


Man, the Legocarnage. I loved losing that way, too. It was, without a doubt, a strategic loss: luck was not involved (particularly demonstrated by Emily's run of awful luck at the beginning). Emily won by making good decisions at the end.

In retrospect, I could have made a couple of decisions that would have changed the ending, and they're all good grist for the mill:

1: I should have counted down the Doomsday Clock on the turn where I knew I was going to get one of Emily's vaporators on the next turn.

2: If I hadn't gotten nervous about your Sacrificial Asskicker, I could have chased down her Shiva and eaten it. That would have given you more points (I don't think I could have gotten to your last vaporator and fought), but neither of you would have had the points to win.

3: If I'd had my fuchikoma clumped up like they were supposed to be, they could have probably eaten your sacrificial dude a turn earlier.

The fact that these were choices, and not luck, that made a tremendous difference, is what makes the game so much fun.

Also, I got dice for having creepy mecha. That makes me very happy. Face jump!


12. On 2006-05-19, Remi said:

Set recommendations, perhaps in an unofficial capacity, would be appreciated. Some of us live in a Legoless Void at the moment. Is there a good way to get the general parts you need? The specific robot set seems a little limiting on their own.


13. On 2006-05-19, Ben Lehman said:

Joshua or Vincent should be selling Lego-Sets for Mechaton usage.



14. On 2006-05-19, colin roald said:

If I'm reading correctly, you can put together your own custom package, and put it in a gallery for other people to buy.


15. On 2006-05-19, Ben Lehman said:

You know what my reaction was on reading this post?

"Oh, dude!  Why don't I come over this weekend and we can totally do some lego mech battles."

And then I was like "Oh, wait, 8000 miles, that's why not."  Curse the internet for making us closer than we are.



16. On 2006-05-19, Adam B said:

The legofactory online thing is a disappointment, 'cause it turns out that the kits you can buy are made up of combinations of about five small packages of bricks, and none of them has a very high concentration of mech-bits. But the dino-pod looks pretty excellent, 'cause it's got a big bunch of those little hinge bits that you use for mech legs that are what I'm short on at the moment.


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This makes...
fsf go "The new Lego Factory is packaged by the brick"*
VB go "yeah, I'm going to give Lego Factory another look."*
misuba go "no it isn't"*

*click in for more

17. On 2006-05-19, Guy Shalev said:

Erm, I need to ask and I don't see where else...

Where can I view archives of anyway? Where are the AG&G posts?

You should put it up on the "My Games" :P


18. On 2006-05-19, Vincent said:

I'll be selling the game - including the mechs! - at GenCon. But I need the work of selling Legos from my website like I need a hole in the head.

Later today I'll publish my Lego-buying process here. We can share notes or you can try it out or whatever. The short summary preview is: I buy parts through BrickLink.


19. On 2006-05-19, Sydney Freedberg said:

To pounce excitedly on two comments:

Emily: "my favorite mech was Joshua's super-sneaky scout mech that had no weapons, and just ran all over the battle field making other mechs an easy target for the rest of his army using spotlight/tags he gave it..."

Joshua: "If I'd had my fuchikoma clumped up like they were supposed to be..."

So the game does in fact reward not only different possible designs, but at least

degree of "combined arms" (i.e. synergistic cooperation among unlike designs). This is very cool. Could Vincent, Joshua, and Emily talk about their respective assessments of different kinds of mechs and how they work together?


20. On 2006-05-19, Emily said:

Joshua's strategy of lots of little mechs seemed to work great. Which was satisfying since so often little guys can get stomped all over.  They all got initiative bonuses for having shorter range weapons & the sheer number of them just made us shudder. : )

I had three tastee larger mechs but they got wasted in the cross fire. I should have placed myself better & taken advantage of the long range fire capabilities I had. Two of my mechs had great defensive capabilities, and those were the ones that stuck around the longest.  My smallest mech had extra speedy goodness and it was due to that that I was able to nail that vaporator at the last minute.  *squeak*

I'm looking forward to playing again to get to see other combos in action.

(And Vincent says he "doesn't get gamism". pshaw)


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This makes...
NinJ go "They were supposed to get stomped all over."*
ecb go "Where was my can of Raid?"*

*click in for more

21. On 2006-05-19, Ninja Monkey J said:

Yeah. Here's my current favorite strategy:

Have at least one Defender. This guy's all fight and no defense (ironically). He's got two dice at Long range and two at Medium (formerly "Short"). He's unlikely to get into it mano a mano, so while he's got arms and legs, only white dice will work for fighting up close. If the bad guys are that close, he's more like an active wall than an actual fighter. He gets a green die because he's got the bird legs that make the other guys so fast, but it's a bit of a waste.

There's one Scout. The Scout has three Big Missiles (it's stupid to get out among the bad guys and not be able to make them back off, plus, as you'll soon see, there's not a lot of ranged firepower in my army). He's got one Blue die for ECM (no point in running to the front just to get blasted), one yellow die for scouting, two green d6s (plus a green d8!) for getting out there fast because he gallops on hands and feet.

Then there are four fuchikoma. Their primary power is being disgusting and insecty. They've got two arms that slide in between joints and pull out parts, and their four legs have claws that rip and rend. (2 reds for close combat). They each have a sensor so they can support each others' die rolls. And a free green d8 for not having any ranged weapons. A blue die for being small and hoppy. The crawly legs mean they can crawl over stuff, including each other, a fact I used frequently.

Here's how the strategy works:

Park the artillery near the vaporators. For act one, he's on attrition duty.

Get the scout out flanking. If there's an opportunity to spot someone well, take it. If there's an opportunity to damage someone early, take it. But that guy should be a defender at a vaporator. If it's undefended or underdefended (as in this game, where Emily's first roll was just terrible: I believe it was 11122, leaving her with a defend of zero), then awesome. Otherwise, just head for a vaporator.

Sic the fuchikoma en masse on one mecha. It's hard to ignore them. If you shoot one, there are three more exactly like it, so running away might be the best option. But they're fast, so you'd better be, too. Honestly, they don't have that many dice and smashing one early might be a good idea. But they run up and spot the shit out of that guy, so out of the sixteen attack dice (including the whites and yellows) there are going to be a couple of sixes, and if the defense isn't stellar, that mecha's gonna be hurting. In this case, she fell back with only two Whites remaining and one of my fuchis jumped a wall onto her face and ate it while the pilot inside the cockpit looked in horror at the rending claws.

I decided to take the left flank, which was a mistake; had I been able to delay Vincent on my right, he might not have gotten my vaporator and I still might have gotten the Scout or a fuchi out to take another one.

So, here's my assessment of the different designs, and combined arms:
??? The spotting works great. It means that having guys clustered up spotting for each other gives a huge boost.
??? The artillery in combination with spotters, well, duh.
??? The differences in design is tremendous. First off, HtH is usually neglected (for obvious reasons), so the fuchis were coming in with not only confusion (Which one should I shoot? Will it make any difference?) but because of their stripped down design, they had extra initiative, so they were usually moving before anyone else could. Dealing damage before anyone else can is a big deal because you're taking out offensive capabilities, for the most part.

The weaknesses, of course, are that my right flank was open because I couldn't be everywhere; the dudes were so tightly integrated that breaking them up made them substantially weaker. I effectively had three mecha for the price of six. Now, at the end, I broke a fuchi off and had it make a break for an open vaporator. Vincent's sacrificial mecha kept me distracted (which was foolish of me, but at that point, everyone was tense and adrenaline was flowing. That made for good tactics and bad strategy... uh, well, for me. Vincent and Emily were both making good decisions. I was anxious about my rapidly diminishing lead.)

I still want some sort of campaign rules where consequences carry over in some way. Like, maybe you can spend victory points to further alter the Doomsday Clock. But the primary reason I want that, I guess, is so I can make little mobile headquarter trucks and supply vehicles. Maybe I'll make some of those instead of vaporators and that will satisfy.


22. On 2006-05-19, Vincent said:

I do have some thoughts for campaign rules. Let's play again.


23. On 2006-05-19, Guy Shalev said:

So I clicked on the Mechaton link, purviewed the PDF and found no mention of Doomsday Clock and Vaporator, huh?


24. On 2006-05-19, Vincent said:

Guy: Yeah, that's what I meant by "that there's a done game, left only to be written."

I haven't written it yet.

Hang in there.


direct link

This reminds...
colin of mechaton first rules draft
colin of adding objectives to mechaton
colin of board setup in mechaton
colin of doomsday clock edit
sdm of Yellow dice rule

This makes...
Guy S go "Do I get Cookies?"*
VB go "cookies for you!"
Guy S go "Yay!"
VB go "thanks for the links, Colin!"

*click in for more

25. On 2006-05-19, Avram said:


Twenty-odd years ago I gave all my Lego sets away to a younger cousin.

There's a big Toys-backwards-R-Us just a few blocks from my office. It's got a whole Lego section, including a bulk section where you can pick individual pieces out of bins and (I think) pay for them by the pound. I am so going there after work.

It might be too late to get together enough stuff for a game at tonight's boardgame club, but next week, yeah.

Damnit, Vincent, twenty years on the wagon and now you've got me going to a bar.


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This reminds...
Isk of NerdNYC Recess VIII

This makes...
JC go "Boardgame club?"*
AG go "Sorry, I'm in NYC"
JC go "Damn."
JN go "NYC is the Best!"*
AG go "Times Square..."*

*click in for more

26. On 2006-05-19, Valamir said:

So after our Find, Fix, Flank discussion awhile ago, what did you settle on as the final set up rules?

Sounds like you've got the fourth F, "FINISH" all taken care of...


27. On 2006-05-19, Valamir said:

So after our Find, Fix, Flank discussion awhile ago, what did you settle on as the final set up rules?

Sounds like you've got the fourth F, "FINISH" all taken care of...


28. On 2006-05-19, Sydney Freedberg said:

Emily, Joshua, thanks for the design discussions.

To get all the way to true "combined arms," you'd probably need to have mech size interact with terrain in a way that gave advantages (e.g. better cover) to the smallest, slowest designs (i.e. the infantry)—but I doubt that the added fun is worth the extra complexity, at least given how nicely Mechaton's shaped up as is.

What really pleases me is that Vincent appears to have made a "design cool things and make 'em fight!" game that—thanks to a bunch of careful balancing mechanisms, among other things—does not boil down to everyone making as much as they can of a single optimal design.


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This makes...
NinJ go "Blue die for being little!"*
SF go "Are "blue dice" in the rules?"*
AG go "Blue are for shields/evasion"*
BL go "Maybe you can only get one bonus dice"*
SF go "Being slow can be good..."*

*click in for more

29. On 2006-05-19, Avram said:

Any chance we could get the current state of the rules all wrapped up in a single document? It took my like ten minutes of hunting to figure out what the "yellow dice" referred to, and I'm still in the dark about flying.


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This reminds...
colin of aha - yellow dice!

This makes...
AG go "Oops..."*
colin go "what *are* yellows?"*
MM go "Man."*

*click in for more

30. On 2006-05-19, Vincent said:

As soon as it's ready, Avram. It sure doesn't exist yet.


31. On 2006-05-19, Avram said:

How about a role-playing expansion? Mechs in the Brickyard! Big, excellent chainsaw: 2d8!


32. On 2006-05-20, Avram said:

I've done some poking around in the Peeron Lego inventory and a copy of Bricksmith, and I think I've identified the official names and model numbers of the pieces used in the base mech skeleton in the original rules PDF:

2555 Tile 1 x 1 with Clip (white in illo)
2540 Plate 1 x 2 with Handle (red in illo)
3021 Plate 2 x 3 (blue in illo)
3040b Slope Brick 45 2 x 1 (blue in illo)
30364 Hinge Brick 1 x 2 Locking with Single Finger on End Vertical (light gray in illo)
30365 Hinge Plate 1 x 2 with Dual Finger on End Vertical (dark gray in illo)


33. On 2006-05-23, Sydney Freedberg said:

Oh, yeah, another thing I really wanted to ask about:

"Putting your mechs in a wedge and smashing them through my perimeter works great - but it's the very devil to keep them in a wedge under fire. J's mastery of the battlefield varied in direct proportion to the tightness of his mechs."

This is a very cool emergent effect (emergent since I don't recall Vincent writing any "formation bonus" rules or crap like that).

Vincent, Emily, Joshua, is this simply a "concentration of force" effect? I.e., do tight formations work because the more mechs are packed into a small area, the more easily they can concentrate their fire on one target at a time, thereby wiping out more dispersed enemies before any of those enemies gets to do much damage in return? (A classic case of the best defense being a good offense, by the way). Or is something less obvious at work?


34. On 2006-05-23, Vincent said:

Sydney, I expect J has a smarter analysis than I do, but here's mine.

1) Exactly what you said.

1a) Furthermore, even when "wiping out" isn't really what's going on, there's a tradeoff in the dice between attacking and defending. Facing a concentrated attack, you're more likely to use your best dice to protect yourself and to fall back to a better position than to fight back, when possible.

2) I think that the ability to rotate your units up to the front and back to the rear - making your least damaged mechs the biggest threats - is significant. Even if I want to concentrate fire on just one of your mechs, you can pretty actively, if not 100%, distribute it across your whole squad.

3) With J's little swarm in particular, each mech was rolling a yellow die. They were very concretely helping each other out, effectively rolling at I'd estimate 133%.

They were also hand-to-hand only. That means that J was counting on them moving fast; it also means that they were prone to spreading out into a line instead of staying clumped together.


Oh, and I still owe you an answer re: Find Fix Flank, Ralph.


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This makes...
SF go "Transferability of dice"*

*click in for more

35. On 2006-05-23, Ninja Monkey J said:

Well, it was totally concentration of force. They could leap on a guy and take it down in two turns if they got lucky. They were also slimmed down designs, so they not only moved fast (green d8) but they got early initiative, and all together at that (at least some of the time).

The "spreading out into a line" thing was a bad tactical decision on my part. It wasn't a mecha design flaw, it was seeing an opportunity and not thinking clearly how to take it, and losing my formation in the process. Had they been bookin' it across the city or something, I'd have slowed down the front guys to keep them together.

My decision was, concentrate on bashing the crap out of one mecha at a time. Leave them be only when they're down to few enough dice that they're just gonna use them to run away (1 or 2 whites). Then turn the whole group (the 4 fuchis) on a new target. The Scout was supposed to be out grabbing territory, but I got all excited and misused it. With a force like that, any time you say "I think I'll leave this guy here this turn," you're probably making a mistake.


36. On 2006-05-29, Uriel said:

Question: Instead of using a hex-map can you use a standard Warhammer table? I got no hex-map, but several large tables with terrain and bridges and stuff of appropriate scale. So instead of 1 move being 1 hex it would be maybe 1 inch or something. Can the rules accomodate this?

nice link of mechas check it out:


direct link

This reminds...
VB of fixed link

37. On 2006-05-30, Vincent said:

Here's that same guy's website: - soren.


38. On 2006-05-30, Ninja Monkey J said:

That scale could be a lot of fun for Mechaton, I think.

I think I say that because I've got a bunch like that around. Anyway, I love Soren's mecha.


39. On 2006-06-21, Ninja Monkey J said:

New camera means pics of mecha!

Also, new blog means new motivation!


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