2006-02-21 : Adding Objectives to Mechaton

Mechaton lives here, if you haven't seen it. It's my miniatures battle game.

But adding objectives to it, to replace "the object is to smash. SMASHY SMASHY." Here's my thought, all numbers to be adjusted after playtesting:

1. The Doomsday Clock
There's this thing called the Doomsday Clock that counts down to the end of the game. When it strikes, the game ends and everybody scores points. Most points = winner.

The Doomsday Clock starts at 10+5 per player. 3 players = 25, for instance.

Every turn, the Doomsday Clock ticks down 1. Also, every turn, every player has the option to tick it down an additional 1.

When the Doomsday Clock hits 5 and every turn thereafter, somebody rolls a d6. If it comes up greater than the Doomsday Clock, the Doomsday Clock strikes and the game ends.

Maybe the double-uncertain where everybody can choose or not, and then you roll also, is unnecessary. Maybe one uncertainizer will do.

3. Building your Army
Build your army. I'm thinking that my hex map will hold at most 15 or 16 mechs, so divvy that many up among the players as maximum army sizes. Minimum army sizes: 4 for 2 players, 3 for 3 or 4, 2 for 5+.

Fill out character sheets for all your mechs, without sharing and kibitzing. Decider of dice is you.

Compare armies. Make note: whose army has the most units, whose the least? Whose army has the most dice, whose the least?

4. Objective Hexes
At setup, after the board's layed out with cover, every player names hexes they're defending. Name as many as the minimum army size -1: 3 for 2 players, 2 for 3 or 4, 1 for 5+.

Start out with your mechs in and near those hexes. They should all be in your corner of the world.

5. Scoring
At the end of the game, every mech you have still alive is worth 1 victory. Every objective hex - yours or someone else's - you control is worth 1 victory too.

But how many points a victory gives you depends.

To start, every victory gives you 4 points.

If you started out with the fewest mechs in your army, you get +1 points per victory.

If you started out with the most mechs in your army, you get -1 points per victory.

If you started out with the fewest dice in your army, you get +1 points per victory.

If you started out with the most dice in your army, you get -1 points per victory.

6. Examples
So say I started out with 6 mechs and you started out with 4, and I had more dice than you too. At the end of the game, I have 3 mechs standing on 3 objective hexes, and you have 2 mechs standing on 1 objective hex. I score 2 points per victory x 6 victories = 12 points. You score 6 points per victory x 3 victories = 18 points. You win!

Say instead that I started out with 6 crappy mechs and you started out with 4 hot mechs, to the tune of we have the same number of dice. At the end of the game, I have 3 mechs standing on 3 objective hexes and you have 2 mechs standing on 1 objective hex. I score 3 points per victory x 6 victories = 18 points. You score 5 points per victory x 3 victories = 15 points. I win!

More complicated: three players, you me and Mitch. I start with 6 mechs, you and Mitch both start with 4, so I get -1 points per victory, while you and Mitch get no mod. I have the most dice, then you, then Mitch, so I get another -1 per victory, you get no mod, and Mitch gets +1. In sum: I score 2 points per victory, you score 4 points per victory, and Mitch scores 5 points per victory.

At the end of the game, I've got 4 mechs left standing on 3 objective hexes, so I score 2x7=14. You've got 2 mechs left standing on 2 objective hexes, so you score 4x4=16. And Mitch has got 3 mechs left standing on the last objective hex, so he scores 5x4=20. Frickin' Mitch.

7. A cool effect
At setup, we can calculate our scores if nobody moves. In that last example, for instance, if we all just stare at each other across the battlefield until Doomsday, I'll score 2x8=16 points, you'll score 4x6=24 points, and Mitch'll score 5x6=30 points for the win.

Bam! We have an offense and a defense. It works out right too: fielding the biggest, best army means that you have to capture a lot of space and/or do a lot of smashy smashy to win.

1. On 2006-02-21, SDL said:


That there is a pretty cool "open points system", for a death-match or meeting engagement type game (one that doesn't have scenario-imposed conditions).

You can bid whatever you want into the fight, but the scale of your victory can be judged by the forces actually committed for and against.

This doesn't yet solve the problem of getting completely wiped out, though! You'd have to judge Victories by kills rather than by survivors, for a start.

It doesn't apply so much to mechaton, but you also have the old "pulling the rabbit out of the hat" problem of forces that look harmless, but actually kick ass when used properly.

i'm going to have to try this game sometime...


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This makes...
VB go "yeah, there are no hats in Mechaton!"*
NinJ go "That's not to say that there aren't great combos."*

*click in for more

2. On 2006-02-21, Matt Snyder said:

Oh man! I love this. I'm going to have to try my hand at fiddling together some mini-mechs like this, and share 'em with you. My kids will love it (they're too young to play the game, really), and we just splurged on a bunch of new legos. I'll send some pics your way if I can.


3. On 2006-02-21, Vincent said:

Instead of having to have a mech standing on an objective hex, you could have your mechs plant flags in 'em when they're there - like in Star Wars Battlefront. You'd count victories for objective hexes by flags, wherever your mechs happen to be standing. So I might end the game with 2 mechs and 4 flags, for instance.

That'd solve the wiped out problem - if I lose all my mechs I score only my flags. If I have no flags and no mechs at the end of the game, I TOTALLY LOSE and I deserve to.

In fact, yes, let's go with that.


4. On 2006-02-21, Vincent said:

Oh man, check this action out. In the existing rules, when I roll damage dice, I hurt you on a 6 and nothing on a 1-5. Here's a new rule: when I roll damage dice, I hurt you on a 6, on a 3-5 I get to move you 1 hex, and on a 1 or 2 nothing. The moving would be cumulative across damage dice, so if I roll 3 dice and they all come up 3-5, I get to move you 3 hexes.

I can drive you away from objective hexes and away from cover.

(In the existing rules it doesn't specify, but I've been playing cover by line of sight, which has been stupidy. It occured to me today that you could play cover by proximity instead - basically the question is, can your target reach cover when you open fire? Unplayed, this seems hot to me.)


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This makes...
SDL go "Yeah!"*
VB go "I think it's pretty cool..."*
SDL go "We can't all be cool..."
VB go "oh no, I'm serious."*
MSW go "3-5?"*
VB go "maybe so."*
Matt S go "WRONG! Next issue!"*
SDL go "i misread!"*
VB go "SDL: ha!"*
SDL go "It's not *that* informed"

*click in for more

5. On 2006-02-21, Vincent said:

By the way...

See what you did, J?


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This makes...
NinJ go "Fuck yeah!"*

*click in for more

6. On 2006-02-21, James said:


Do you want me to tap Larry P. or some of the other Lego folks who have run Mechaton and get their thoughts on the changes?



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This makes...
VB go "YES!"*
lp go "Pieniazek"*
VB go "good to see you!"

*click in for more

7. On 2006-02-21, Sydney Freedberg said:

Loud cheering!

I have long thought, "gee, if you really wanted to make a points-based army-building wargame work, and were sick of 'wow! two completely equal armies attack each other head-on in a battle to the death!,' you'd need a handicapping system where you could build as big an army as you liked, but the bigger you build it, the harder your victory conditions."

I suspect the +1/-1 to victory points per objective may prove too screwable in practice, though: If I get the same penalty for making an army 1000% larger than yours as I do for making an army 1% larger, there's a huge temptation to game the system. You may need to get a little more complex and make the objective values scale up and down as percentages—i.e. my army is 50% larger than yours, I get 50% fewer VPs per objective hex—so you don't have a breakpoint in your currency.

The alternative, rather more complex way to do this that was vaguely in my head for years was:

1) Every unit costs Victory Points: Each time I bring a unit onto the field, I spend VPs.

2) Every unit costs VPs every turn: The units I bring into the field on Turn 1 and keep until the game ends on Turn 10 cost me base value x10; the reinforcements I suddenly decide I need, introduce on Turn 9, and get to use just for those last two turns cost me base value x2. Conversely, if I withdraw units I don't need, I stop paying their VP cost (or get a rebate): I withdraw half my force at the end of turn 5 in a 10-turn game, I only pay base value x 5 for that part of the force.

3) If a unit's destroyed, I lose its base VP value times some ugly number (x100?), because my side can never, ever use that again in an infinite number of hypothetical future turns.

4) Conversely, if I move units off your edge of the map—i.e. I break through your lines—I don't merely stop paying VPs every turn for those units, I get a hefty bonus x base value to represent the joy of them rampaging around in your rear areas.

This is designed to introduce strategic (or at least operational/grand tactical) concerns for preserving forces, economy of force, and exploiting higher-order objectives into old-skool tactical slugfests.


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This reminds...
SF of Fighting by Minutes

This makes...
SDL go "#2 is wierd..."*
VB go "about the +1/-1 for army size..."*
SDL go "So i wrote it..."*
SF go "Whoot!"*
SF go "#2 is weird, but..."*
SDL go "I'll give you that..."*

*click in for more

8. On 2006-02-22, Ben Lehman said:


On the one hand, I think that this is cool.

On the other hand, I really liked MechaTon before because the only constraint against throwing down a giant army of super-mechs was your own personal honor.  We need more wargames that focus on that.

It's sort of like the thing I was just saying to you about Bliss Stage—if you can respect yourself as a human after winning with the army that you just did, then it was the right size.  If you feel like a bully, it was too big.



9. On 2006-02-22, Ninja Monkey J said:

Oh, man, awesome!

OK, some notes from Roroga, my mech fighting game that is currently unplayable, but was once playable and terrible (except for the following):

??? You get resources for having hard objectives. No objectives, no army.
??? Not all objectives must be completed to win, but you lose victory points for not completing your objectives.
??? Destroying other mecha, in and of itself, doesn't get you anything.

Sydney's version of this is great! ... er, except for #3. You've already paid to have them on the field. You pay because you're risking them. If you lose the unit, you can't regain those VPs.

If anyone cares, here are some of my mecha from Roroga. Obviously, the game takes place at a different scale.

OK, V., the only question remaining in my mind is how to make Lego character sheets. I think you have a plate with ranges of weapons marked in dots of each of the colors.

Man, oh, man. I might be able to get my friend Christophe over tomorrow eve. We should totally play.


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This makes...
SF go "#3 may well be overkill, but..."*
NinJ go "Yeah, you've already paid that cost though."
VB go "um, you two realize, right?"*
VB go "...or wait."*
NinJ go "... yeeaahhh. I was trying to figure out what you meant."*

*click in for more

10. On 2006-02-22, James Nostack said:

I have not played with Legos for almost 20 years but now I want to.  Badly.  I read, by the way, that the Lego Website is going to be doing "print on demand" for self-designed Lego kits.  You go to the site, CAD something up, and then pay for them to slap the pieces in a box with instructions.  How cool is that??  "Let me check the mail, my army of Giant Robots may have arrived!"

Also, there ought to be a fan site where people post their most kick-ass Mech designs, to create a sort of Open Source community to improve on them.


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This reminds...
FSF of BrickShelf has loads of pictures
FSF of Lugnet mecha forum
FSF of Lugnet gaming forum
NinJ of MOCPages' Mecha section is full of great stuff.

This makes...
FSF go "I've added links to Mechaton"*
JNS go "I'm Scared but Fascinated"*
VB go "I wish..."*
NinJ go "The ones I was making wound up the scale they did because that's literally the smallest I could get them before they did"
NinJ go "Whoops, cut off."
NinJ go "DAMMIT. I'm obviously excited about this."*

*click in for more

11. On 2006-02-22, Roger said:

A campaign idea:  When you win a battle, you get to steal a (random?) piece from a damaged enemy mech.


12. On 2006-02-22, Sydney Freedberg said:

Or maybe the pay-off for holding the field at the end of the day (and reason not to retreat) is that you get to scavenge and salvage both sides' damaged mechs.

The Germans did this a fair bit in WWII (along with simply conquering other people's industrial base), and they ended up with a gazillion specialized vehicles all built out of captured and refitted Czech tanks.


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This makes...
SDL go "French too!"

13. On 2006-02-22, Valamir said:

Instead of having the option to tick the Doomsday clock down one, why not have it tick down whenever you destroy something.

That way if you want to tick it down, you spend some time blowing up buildings or trees or whatever..senseless smashy smash destruction.


14. On 2006-02-23, Ninja Monkey J said:

Oo! Sensors (antennae, radar dishes, and the like) give you white dice that you can give to other models!



15. On 2006-02-23, Vincent said:

J, are you proposing a purpose for those little lego parts, or are you proposing a tactical development to the game? That is, is it important to you that there be some reason to put antennae and radar dishes on your mechs, or is it important to you that you get to shuffle some dice from one mech to another?


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This makes...
SF go "Shuffling allows support tactics"*
NinJ go "Sydney knows what's what."
VB go "cool."*
NinJ go "Oh, also, I like those parts. But that's not really why, just the inspiration."
NinJ go "Yellow's fine, but..."*
VB go "oh no, yeah, you can't mess with the 2 white dice."*
NinJ go "Oh, they should totally become Red."*
VB go "the spotter can spend its white dice..."*
SF go "Yes, I rock"*
NinJ go "OK, smartypants..."*
SDL go "Being cheap! ;)"
NinJ go "It's efficiency, not cheapness, I'm sure..."*
SF go "Infantry hold ground best because..."*
NinJ go "Is that the reasoning behind the buried Iraqi tanks?"*
SF go "Tanks = mobility"*
NinJ go "Oh, no, this is the perfect medium for discussing this!"*

*click in for more

16. On 2006-02-23, James Nostack said:

If you want to add another level to this, I'd suggest creating a "parts quarry", and then people rush to mine it and ferry pieces back to an assembly point, so you can build more mechs.

But that might be making this thing too complicated.


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This reminds...
JM of Rivets

17. On 2006-02-23, Ninja Monkey J said:

Re: Victory points for Mechaton: Advancer Phalanx

There are two reasons to gain a piece of ground: benefit now (Tactical) or benefit later (Strategic).

Tactical: high ground, cover, current resources (ammo, weapons).
-These are represented by a finite number of colored dice at that point. They can only be used while within, I dunno, one hex of the goal (which can be any size, I suppose, so you can have "inside this building" be a goal) and on the same side of a wall.

Strategic: VPs used to gain points for future games.
- These represent the total number of points you have to spend on future battles.

Victory is not won with a single battle. It's won by whoever has the most VPs either when the losing side surrenders or is out of points.

You start with the same number of VPs, as Sydney suggests. When you're completely out of VPs and mecha, you're done. You can also surrender when the outcome is inevitable.

So, let's say we each start with 20 dice. These are our preparations. You decide to build 15 dice of mecha with them. I decide to build 10 dice of mecha with them. (So far, I'm "winning" without even fighting because I have more unspent dice than you, but you've invested in getting more, hedging your bets a little for the next battle by leaving 5 dice behind, in case this battle totally sucks for you and you won't have anything to fight with next time)

So we fight it out. I lose a bunch of dice because you're kickin' my butt with your larger numbers, but I manage to capture some Strategic territory for later, thanks to getting lucky with some Tactical goals early on.

At the end, your mecha have, I dunno, let's say 8 dice left. You capture let's say 12 dice of Strategic goals. I capture 15 points of Strategic goals but am down to 3 dice of mecha.

Between this game and the next, I can put those dice back on my mecha, fixin' em up, or make new ones. Or, most importantly, I can save them for later: it's only the unspent dice that count toward victory.


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This makes...
NinJ go "On Capturing Strategic Territory"*
VB go "I was just gonna..."*
NinJ go "They attack a goal?"*
VB go "imaginary dudes..."*
NinJ go "Oh, yeah. Same thing."*
VB go "dudes DEFINITELY don't get dice."*
NinJ go "Golf flags are where this idea started."*
VB go "time to playtest."*
NinJ go "That's my feeling."
NinJ go "That's my feeling."*
BL go "Seems to me"*
NinJ go "I don't quite follow, Ben."*
SDL go "Most games..."*
NinJ go "It depends what you want..."*
BL go "Was talking about Mechaton"*
NinJ go "I'm talking about Mechaton, too."*
BL go "And I have been vindicated"*
NinJ go "Well, kinda."*

*click in for more

18. On 2006-02-23, Vincent said:

Okay, NOW we're talking about different games. Which is fine, carry on, but in the game I'm designing:

1) You don't get x-many points to build your army; instead, how you build your army tells you how many points you get per victory condition you achieve.

2) You don't give your own army objectives on your enemy's side of the board; instead, you give your enemy objectives on your side of the board.

Like I say, carry on, but do be aware that you're designing a different game than I am, and if we arm wrestle to see which one we'll play, I'll lose, so let's come up with some other way of deciding.

I really super duper like the idea of a finite number of colored dice at an objective hex, though. I'm figuring mechanical implications of that now, too.


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This makes...
SDL go "I always did P/R/S..."
NinJ go "What's P/R/S?"
SDL go "Paper-Rock-Scissors ;)"
NinJ go "Ah, well..."*
SDL go "RPS!"*

*click in for more

19. On 2006-02-23, Ninja Monkey J said:

Yeah, I think this is Roroga actually coming together. With, you know, Mechaton used for resolution.

I think you probably want the Tactical goals from this, but not the Strategic ones.


20. On 2006-02-27, Vincent said:

J and I played this, with the inevitable couple of tweaks, and it ROCKED HARD. Wednesday night we play with a third player and see if it ROCKS HARD under those circumstances too.

Rule notes:

We set the doomsday clock at 5+2per=11, and it was just right.  That is, 11 was just right; 5+2per might be totally wrong for players>2. We didn't roll against the doomsday clock, just ticked it down.

A result of 4 or 5 on a damage die is a move. 3 moves can be either 3 moves or a knockdown. If you're knocked down, a) it takes 3 moves or your whole move, whichever's smaller, to stand up; b) a result of 5 or 6 on a damage die damages you, not just a 6. Involuntarily hitting a wall knocks you down too.

It might be called for to scale the penalty for fielding the more heinous army - but it might not. J's army doubled mine, but going into doomsday minus one the game was still undecided. J won but I made at least one dumb mistake - it was a close game even with me shooting at half his mechs and him shooting twice at each of mine.

If you're the only one standing within arm's reach of a flag, it's yours. Rolling, dropping off marines, messing about - uncalled for.

We reversed initiative from the nonsense it says in the existing rules. High die goes first and always should have.

It took us two hours to play 6 turns with a total of 9 mechs on the field. We'll trim that down even further once we're quick with the rules. Not bad a'tall.


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This makes...
VB go "'a result of 4 or 5 on a damage die is a move...'"*
NinJ go "Infantry..."*
misuba go "So 5 of a damage die damages _and_ moves you?"
misuba go "of = on"
VB go "no moving when you're down."*
misuba go "Missed that context. Thanks"
NinJ go "I'm of two minds about that 4."*
VB go "about that 4, my mind is clear and my resolve is pure."*
NinJ go "Take that, mind 2!"*

*click in for more

21. On 2006-02-27, Vincent said:

Oh, and: the yellow dice were fun.


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This makes...
NinJ go "Yeah, they totally matter."*
SF go "Combined arms are fun!"*
AB go "What's the yellow dice rule?"*
AB go "man"*

*click in for more

22. On 2006-03-01, Vincent said:

About cover.

Instead of cover giving you a blue die, let's have it give you purple dice, one or two depending on its hardness. Take the higher, then minus one same as armor.

Then, whoever shooting you has to deal with your cover uses the higher of your regular defense or your cover, while whoever has their gun in your ear only has to deal with your regular defense.

To sum up: roll your purple cover dice when you roll all your other dice, leave it by your mech, use it when you need it.

If it comes out lower than your defense, you don't even leave it by your mech, since everyone will be shooting at your regular defense then.

Bingo bango, problem solved.


23. On 2006-03-01, Ninja Monkey J said:

Sounds good.


24. On 2006-03-03, Vincent said:

I'm not happy with how cover worked last time we played. Not happy.

New rules.

Everything on the board is one of a) nothing, b) a wall, c) cover.

Whenever you're within one hex of something...

If it's nothing: ignore it. This is, like, your mech's arm that got busted off, single bricks lying around, that kind of thing.

If it's a wall: if you're up against a wall, people on the other side can't attack you at all. People on the same side can attack you freely.

Exception: people on the other side of the wall can attack you at long range - that's either indirect fire or sniping through the chinks - and then the wall counts as cover.

Nuance: if you're at the end of the wall, a doorway, or a corner of the wall, it doesn't count as "up against" the wall. Instead, the wall counts as cover - imagine your mech ducking around to whichever side of the wall offers protection from whoever's attacking.

If it's cover: you're not exposed.

What does it mean, "not exposed"?

When your aren't within a hex of cover, you're exposed. When you're exposed, damage dice damage you on a roll of 5 or 6, move you on a roll of 3 or 4. It sucks to be exposed.

If it helps you to think of it this way, the default damage rule - damaged on a 6, moved on a 4 or 5 - assumes that you're in cover.

I notice that the "exposed" rules match the "knocked down" rules.

Yeah, but they shouldn't. New knocked down rule: when you're knocked down, you bump your defense die down by one. Same as when you're flying. Now the knocked down rule matches the flying rule instead.

This is good because you can't be both knocked down and flying.

Worst of all possible is knocked down + exposed: you lose 1 from your defense plus you take damage on a 5 or 6.


25. On 2006-03-03, Ninja Monkey J said:

That's good. I need to think about it, but it seems good and intuitive. I think.


26. On 2006-03-04, Ninja Monkey J said:

Yeah, this makes sense: it's harder to defend yourself face down, more likely you'll get hit out in the open.

The only other possibility here is being prone: hard to hit, slow to move. I'm inclined to say, if you want this (and I'm considering it as probably lame and game-slowing), then you can trade a green or white die (whichever's highest) for blue.


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