A Quick and Dirty Look At: MechaForce by Stuart Robertson
A while back, Stuart Robertson put out a tiny role-playing game called Weird West. It was the first time I was exposed to any kind of gaming product that was designed around PocketMod formatting. For those unfamiliar, it was a minimalistic fantasy Western RPG that felt like a really stripped down, albeit flexible, version of old-school D&D rules.
Stuart has now released another piece of minimalist tabletop gaming, called MechaForce: Tactical Combat Game. This time around, as the name implies, Mr. Robertson has decided to tackle the genre of tabletop “mecha” wargaming. In particular, this game seems to cater to the “walking tanks” breed of mecha found in games akin to Battletech as opposed to anime style mecha.
Like Weird West, the game is sold in a bundle of both an 8-page “full size” game (mostly intended for mobile devices and Desktop-reading) as well as a “PocketMod” version that allows you to print off the whole booklet on a single sheet of paper.
What You Should Know Going In:
Aside from the cover art, the booklet contains no artwork and is pretty standard text, headings, and tables. The presentation here is more about delivering a complete game in a tiny booklet than wooing readers over with pretty artwork and layouts.
That said, each page is packed with information, so no space is wasted in delivering a fully playable wargame.
MechaForce can be played on either a hexagonal map -or- on a standard wargaming surface, replacing hexes with inches measured out. You can use either miniatures or counters for this game. The game is very cut and dry: it’s assumed you already know what a tabletop wargame entails, know what the Mecha genre is like, etc.
Opening pages kick off with Pilot Creation and Mecha Construction. A basic battle is between squads of 64 build points; based on their size, Mecha can be worth anywhere from 11 to 32 points. Spec’ing out your armies, each Mecha has the standard rundown: Armor points, weapons, heat sinks and even Engine Upgrades. The weapons listed are pretty basic: Ballistic, Energy, Missle and Flamers. Straight Forward, but really all that’s needed.
The game is broken up into 4 phases: Movement, Firing, Brawling and Heat. Players take their actions each phase, determining who goes first with a simple die roll. The rules for piloting and firing weapons feels pretty similar to BattleTech (at least as I remembered it, growing up with the 3rd edition box set.) Players roll 2d6 against a target number determined by weapon range, modified distances moved between the Attacker and Defender, and any forest terrain. There’s also a fun, streamlined little critical hit chart provided to add complications like hits to the engine, damaged limbs and weapons, and hits to the cockpit.
Brawling is a pretty simple affair, rolling short-ranged attack rolls and damage determined by mecha sizes. What makes it exciting and a tactical option is the recipient must make a successful piloting check or else having their mecha fall to the ground, taking more damage and having to spend their next movement on getting back up.
Nice Little Extras:
The next to last page offers quick stats on Conventional Forces: Infantry, Helicopters and Tanks. These weren’t given any point values, but were intended to be used in preset scenarios. Following the conventional forces, we have a quick run down of terrain effects.
Lastly, the back page contains six pre-made “Standard Mecha” allowing players to quickly hop in without having to crunch together their own units.
As someone who grew up in middle school playing the hell out of his Battletech box set with his friends, this brings back a twinkle of nostalgia in my eye. Sometimes, you can’t lure your friends into gaming with complicated histories, political dramas, faction details and superfluous fluff…sometimes you just have to say “It’s about big ass robots beating the shit out of each other.”
I would not recommend this game to a purely virgin wargamer, since it takes a lot of liberty of assuming the reader has already played games like it and cuts straight to the rules. But with the right person showing the ropes, it’s a great entry point for players who’ve previously been intimidated by high-cost games.
If you’re just looking for a decent Mecha fix that you can throw together real quick, with minimal paperwork, but still have a tactically satisfying experience…this game is worth the couple bucks.
MechaForce is available in PDF format on DriveThruRPG for a whopping $2.00