Wednesday 12 June 2024

Dangerous Worlds

MAC Attack takes place on distant worlds, with HumanityFleet splintered into factions.

Some of those worlds are less welcoming than others.

HAZARDOUS TERRAIN
Strange crystals, plants, and fungus can prove a hazard to those passing through. At the start of the battle note which areas of terrain are hazardous and assign them a type.

Pyroform
At the start of the Meltdown phase MACS within gain d6 Heat.

Toxicid
In the Meltdown phase Infantry within are destroyed unless they can roll 4+ on 1d6.

Strangloid
At the start of the Meltdown phase all within take d6-3 Hits.

HOSTILE LIFEFORMS
These are treated as AUs and assigned a single initiative card.

In their Move Phase all Hostile Lifeforms move toward the nearest enemy unit at their listed speed.

In the Attack Phase they brawl with the number of dice listed, using the weapon type and weapon mod rules listed.

They can be assigned Hardware.

Shard Hornets
12” B1 (i.e. 1AD, Burst)

Brain Lashers
9” P2-V (2AD, Piercing, Volatile)

Technopanthers
9” G3, Armour, Cloak

TOWERING MONSTROSITIES
Significantly large lifeforms can be given their own initiative card and require up to 6 hits before they are destroyed.

They count as Class 3 for collision purposes.

Scaled King
6” B6, 6 Hits

Claw Behemoth
6” P4, 4 Hits, Armour

Black Phoenix
12” P7-T, 4 Hits


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Wednesday 5 June 2024

DIRTY MACS the Grand Forge Doesn't Want You to See

Tired of getting crushed by your enemies' finely balanced MACs? Tired of living by the book? Want to bring something special for your next clash?

We hacked Foreman Postello's personal design terminal at the Grand Forge and stole a folder named "DIRTY DESIGNS DO NOT LOOK IN HERE."


These schematics are so filthy, so sordid, that even the Arch-Rector's circuits would blush. 

Use them without shame.
Without mercy.
Because your enemy would do the same to you. 

The Funfhander (12pts)
Class 1 MAC
1: LP4-V GaussCannon
2: Lock (-1TN when firing main gun)
3: Lock (-1TN when firing main gun)
4: Insulant (-1 Heat when firing main gun)
5: Insulant (-1 Heat when firing main gun)
6: Insulant (-1 Heat when firing main gun)

The "five-hander", named because modules 2-6 are all in service of that main gun.
This thing moves into position, lines up the shot, and then fires the biggest MAC-portable cannon in the galaxy with -2 to the target number, cascading hits from its Piercing type, bonus hits on 6s from the Volatile mod, and all snugly insulated to generate just a single point of Heat. 

On a perfect shot this little MAC can land 16 hits on a target. Now probabilities aren't my strong point, but I think that means even a Class 3 MAC is mathematically annihilated. 

Right, that 16 hit shot is kind of unlikely, but you can easily get up to 7 or 8 hits if you manage to roll a few 6s. Just make sure you do that. 

Sure the Heat starts to pile up after a few shots, but at that point are there any enemy left to worry about?

Is this design broken? As in "unfair"? Big threats attract big attention, and if the enemy can disable the main cannon then this MAC isn't doing much of anything for the rest of the battle. 

The Triceratops (20pts)
Class 3 MAC
1: LB3 MacCannon
2: LB3 MacCannon
3: LB3 MacCannon
4: Plas-Cell (weapons generate 1 less Heat. Take 1 Internal Damage when this module is destroyed)
5: Plas-Cell (weapons generate 1 less Heat. Take 1 Internal Damage when this module is destroyed)
6: Plas-Cell (weapons generate 1 less Heat. Take 1 Internal Damage when this module is destroyed)

Okay, so what if instead of putting a huge gun on a tiny MAC we put three huge guns on a huge MAC and loaded it up with Plas-Cells to let it fire them at 0 Heat?

Without needing to worry about weapon heat this big guy can even Rush around the battlefield without running hot. 

It's not as wild as the Funfhander but as a gun platform it's about as efficient as you can get.

Just don't let  any of those Plas-Cells get hit... which can be an issue when they make up 50% of your modules. Good luck!

The Weatherman (20pts)
Class 3 MAC
1: AG4-X MissileRack
2: AG3-X MissilePod
3: AG3-X MissilePod
4: AG3-X MissilePod
5: AG3-X MissilePod
6: AG3-X MissilePod

We put as many missiles as we can onto a big MAC designed to stand back and blast them off at whoever your spotter points at. Just stand still and let these the guidance technology do the aiming for you. 

It's more expensive than just having a formation of mobile batteries or howitzer teams, but you get so much more total firepower compared to those piddly little pods that vehicles and infantry are restricted to. Fire off a single battery each turn and when you're down to your last two just hold down the trigger and pray. 

Yeah you could take off a pod or two and install some actual heat-management modules but that would result in fewer total missiles, which seems to miss the entire point. 

The Junglegym (7pts)
Class 1 MAC
1: LB2-V Autocannon
2: Frame (reduce cost by 1pt)
3: Frame (reduce cost by 1pt)
4: Frame (reduce cost by 1pt)
5: Frame (reduce cost by 1pt)
6: Frame (reduce cost by 1pt)

Behold, the cheapest MAC design that's still technically legal. 

What does it do? It's a MAC! It has a gun and everything. Don't fire it too often, though, it can get hot. 

Wait, are you suggesting you could use this very cheap MAC to exploit the 3 MAC Minimum for building a Force? Then use all those points you saved to surprise your opponent with a horde of over-equipped Auxiliary Units and Remote Assets?

Interesting. 

The Rhino (20pts)
Class 3 MAC
1: P2 Club
2: P2 Club
3: Plate (Roll 4+ to ignore each hit to this module)
4: Plate (Roll 4+ to ignore each hit to this module)
5: Plate (Roll 4+ to ignore each hit to this module)
6: Plate (Roll 4+ to ignore each hit to this module)

No guns? All the less Heat to worry about! You can run around all day, crashing into your enemies and pummelling them with your club-fists, all in relative comfort. 

A beautifully elegant statement on the balance of offence-defence wrapped in a big, dumb shell. 

I call it the first masterpiece of MAC design. 

The Cockroach (12pts)
Class 1 MAC
1: G2 Spike
2: Jet (Allows 9” of Jumping)
3: Jet (Allows 9” of Jumping)
4: Jet (Allows 9” of Jumping)
5: Jet (Allows 9” of Jumping)
6: Coolant (Cool 2 Heat, gain 2 Heat if destroyed)

Yeah, running into your target and punching them is fine, but what if they try to stay away from you? Jump 36" across the board and slash them to pieces, cooling down enough for another jump next turn.

You might think this isn't all that effective, as jumping makes it difficult to actually land a hit on your target, but sometimes you just really need to put a MAC in the right place, and that 36" move really comes into its own. 

Seizing an objective? Landing directly on that artillery vehicle? Hiding like a coward to sneak a technical victory?

Now you're thinking like a Cockroach. 

Check out MAC Attack here and make your own broken designs.

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Remote Assets

I wanted a simple system for "Offboard Bullshit" in MAC Attack, covering long range artillery, nearby computer operators, and orbital support.

The points values are very shaky right now, so use with caution.

REMOTE ASSETS (RAs)

Forces can call in additional support from off the board, safely positioned safely beyond the battlefield. For each MAC in their Force a player can purchase one Remote Asset, paying the points cost listed. The RAs are not tied to a specific MAC, this limit is just for force creation. 

RAs are assigned a card in the initiative deck just like any other unit. When their card is drawn in the Move phase they are ignored, but when drawn in the Attack Phase the player chooses whether to use them or not. When an RA is used its initiative card is removed from the game. 

Unless noted, RAs can target any Allied unit or any Enemy unit that at least one Ally has line of sight to. 

Precision Strike (2pts): Target unit suffers d6 hits. 

Carpet Bombing (2pts): Target a point on the battlefield. All units within 6” suffer a single hit. 

Interface Hack (1pts): Target MAC must make a System Check or be Hacked. When Hacked, gain 1 Heat and adjust TD by 1 if the attacker wishes. 

Target Painting (1pts): Mark the target. All attacks against them this Round are at -1TN. 

Ammunition Drone (1pts): Restore one depleted X-type weapon to being fully loaded. 

Shield Drop (1pts): Mark the target. All attacks against them this Round are at +1TN. 

Redeployment Lifter (2pts): Move an allied unit up to 6” in any direction, ignoring terrain. Set facing at the end of the move. 

Disruption Burst (2pts): Select a point on the battlefield. All units within 6” are affected. Move each unit 3” directly away from the centre of the effect in an order of your choosing. Do not change facing. 

Tactical Overlord (2pts): Look through the remaining cards in the initiative deck and set one aside. Shuffle the rest of the cards and place your chosen card on top of the deck. 

Gravity Well (2pts): Select a point on the battlefield. All units within 6” are affected. Move each unit 3” directly toward the centre of the effect in an order of your choosing. Do not change facing. 

Emergency Coolant (2pts): Target loses d6 Heat. 

Total Bombardment (3pts): All units that are not in cover suffer a single hit. 

Smoke Column (1pt): Increase target’s TD to 6.

Temporal Disruptor (2pts): Take one initiative card already drawn this turn and shuffle it back into the initiative deck.

Nanite Swarm (1pt): Target unit rolls 3d6. Each die repairs the module number rolled, turning destroyed to damaged and damaged to undamaged.

Quake Wave (1pt): Target MAC must pass a System Check or Fall Over.

Thermal Tick (1pt): Target MAC must pass a System Check or immediately set themselves to Heat 6.

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

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Wednesday 22 May 2024

Drama from Inelegance

In Rock, Paper, Scissors, players simultaneously throw out one of three hand symbols. Rock beats scissors beats paper beats rock etc. If the thrown symbols match then the result is a draw and players typically throw again.

In Odds & Evens each player is assigned as either Odd or Even. They simultaneously throw out either 1 or 2 fingers and check the total number of fingers shown. If the total is even the even player wins, if it is odd the odd player wins.

By having fewer hand-types to choose from and removing the draw it could be argued that Odds & Evens is a more elegantly designed game than Rock, Paper, Scissors. Certainly if you're using the game to quickly find a winner, such as "who gets first turn in the real game we're about to play" then Odds & Evens is going to get you there quicker.

I grew up with RPS and I remember having thoughts similar to the above when I learned about O&E as an adult. RPS is obsolete, spread the word!

But something is missing from O&E and all its elegance, and when the game is this small you really notice when something is lost.

There's power in that moment when you draw a round of RPS. Let's say you both throw down scissors. You pause, look at each other, and throw again, but now there's context. Do you stick to your guns and throw scissors again? Maybe they'll do that, in which case you should throw rock?

The idea of "gambits" for RPS is probably meant as a joke, but it ruffles my feathers that it fails to account for draws and how to respond to them. It's a real gap in competitive book play.

Of course it mostly comes down to chance, barely different to flipping a coin, but the experience of playing RPS is entirely different to flipping a coin, and O&E with its ruthless efficiency fails to capture that.

While I might seem evangelical for elegance and minimalist design, there's sometimes power in those moments of inelegance.

Something to consider for RPGs and wargames, but how about we introduce even more inelegance to RPS?

(much like Chess there's a long history of messing with the rules of RPS, so I'm not claiming origin of any of these)

All the below assume a game of playing to 3 points.

Symbol Values

If you win then you earn points based on the symbol you threw.
Rock (3pts), Scissors (2pts), Paper (1pt)
I've seen this variant with Paper as 2pts and Scissors as 1pt but I prefer it if the weakest symbol beats the strongest.

Tie Breaks

If you tie then an Event occurs depending on the symbol thrown.
Rock: Bump rocks. Both players lose 1 point to a minimum of 0 points.
Paper: Stack papers. If a player wins the next throw they earn an extra point.
Scissors: Sharpen scissors. If the next throw is won by scissors then that player immediately wins the game.

Power Creep

A new symbol is added: Dynamite, represented by a "thumbs up" gesture. It beats any other symbol, and ties with itself.

Dynamite can only be thrown by each player once per game.

If playing with Symbol Values then Dynamite is worth 1pt.

If playing with Tie Breaks then tied Dynamite returns both players to 0pts.

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Week Off

Last week I took a bit of time off around my Birthday, so there's no Patreon post to share. 

However, if you haven't already been following the podcast then there are four episodes to catch up on, with another two left to come.

So far I've been joined by Quintin Smith, Laurie O'Connel, Mike Hutchinson, and Kelsey Dionne. You can listen here or on your podcast service of choice.

Expect the fifth podcast episode and a new blogpost next week.

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

MAC Attack x Epic 40k

MAC Attack is back on the menu!

Well, it was never really off for me. I've been tinkering away at it behind the scenes since I last wrote about it. Since my brain has latched back onto wargames for a little while I thought I'd try an experiment with the game.

Can MAC Attack do Epic 40k?

It started out with wanting to test an all-AU (Auxiliary Units, basically anything not a big robot) force against an all-MAC force. This isn't strictly legal in the rules-as-written but who cares?

This reminded me of the very first scenario presented to players of Epic 40k 3rd Edition.

Yeah, in there. 

The opening scenario in the book pitches a small Space Marine force against a lone Ork Gargant. Hearsay tells me that this battle was pretty unfair on the Marines, but I think it's a commendable choice as it brings a big scary war engine to the table right away, rather than holding it back as an option for advanced play down the line. It gets the players engaging with one of the key selling points of this scale (BIG unit) from the off, instead of putting them in the shallow end with some infantry vs infantry tutorial. 

So I set about recreating the two forces using MAC Attack rules.


Space Marines (55pts)

4x Land Raiders (16pts)
LP2 Lascannons
Armour

5x Devastators (15pts)
LP1 Heavy Weapons
Armour

6x Tactical Marines (24pts)
SB1 Boltguns
Armour
Transport (can Rush)



Next I built the Gargant as a Class 3 MAC, and with points left to spare I added a handful of Stompas to fill out the force.

Orkz

Gargant (20pts)
Class 3 MAC
1: LB3 MegaCannon
2: LB2 BigGun
3: LB2 BigGun
4: Assault Weapon
5: Plate
6: Plate

3x Stompas (12pts each)
Class 1 MAC
1: LB2 BigGun
2: SB1 DakkaGuns
3: Assault Weapon
4: Radiator
5: Radiator
6: Plate



As per the scenario I deploy one Marine formation in the central ruins (this battlefield is all ruins, as the Epic 40k starter box intended). The remaining Marines will enter from their board edge on Turn 1. 

The Gargant and Stompas start over on their edge. 


The Orks home in on the devastators. Cover is extra-beneficial to Infantry in MAC Attack, so the initial Ork salvo is underwhelming, knocking out a single base of Marines. 

Meanwhile, the Tactical Marines and Land Raiders race onto the board, the former skirting up the flank to try to find a good piece of cover. 


The Stompas break formation and put pressure on the other Marine formations. The Tactical formation hold firm while one of the Land Raiders ends up crushed beneath the green Stompa. 


The full weight of fire from the Tactical formation is too much for the blue Stompa, who gets blown apart, suffering critical internal damage. 


With supporting fire from the Gargant, the Stompa blasts away two more of the Land Raiders.

The remaining Land Radier flees into the open field and blasts the Stompa with it's Lascannons, causing it to meltdown and explode. The last remaining Stompa charges into the ruins and crushes the remnants of the devastator formation. 


As the dust clears, the Tactical Formation race into cover amongst the ruins, facing off against the Gargant. The isolated Land Raider does its best to line up a long ranged shot at the Gargant. 


The forces trade fire, the Marines holding up against the big guns, chipping away at the terrible war machines. The Land Raider's lascannon sears into the Gargant's back, rupturing the engine, but it still stands. 


The Gargant and Stompa lurch into the ruins, crushing marines beneath their feet, forcing the infantry to abandon the cover to avoid being wiped out in close combat. 

Meanwhile the Land Raider lines up another shot and lands it with perfect precision, triggering an explosion in the Gargant's grinding core. The giant collapses to the ground, its reactor in meltdown, as the Ork crew flee into the open ground. 


The final Stompa is disarmed, its guns silenced under mass fire, its reactor exposed, and with the Land Raider swooping in to support I call this as a somewhat pyrrhic Marine victory. 

Does MAC Attack work as a quick-running alternative to a more typical Epic system? 

I think it does alright! Of course you can't simulate every unit in exactly the same way as in the original game, but it gave me an excuse to crack out those lovely 6mm armies again. 

In terms of AUs vs MACs it felt about right. The MACs felt powerful, able to cut through the formations when things lined up well, but the mass fire of the infantry and powerful anti-tank gun of the tanks never felt futile, taking a steady toll and eventually breaking through. 

All of the Marine AUs had Armour, essentially a 4+ Save, so it would be interesting to try a similar battle with some unarmoured units as a contrast.  

Maybe next time I'll try a full-on Epic clash... big formations of tanks and infantry on each side... maybe bring in the aircraft too. 

Perhaps even put a forest on the table. 

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday 1 May 2024

The Power of Bluntness

I was reading through the rules for Blood Red Skies. I picked up the starter set for reasons that will become clear in a few weeks.

The game appeals to me because it feels so focused, and so many areas that are often covered by deep subsystems get treated with outright... blunt rules.

The planes each have a special base that can be tilted to advantage, neutral, or disadvantaged position. You can only attack planes in a lower state of advantage to you. No, you can't take a pot shot if you're both in neutral, you've got to find a way to improve your position or worsen theirs.

Get on their tail and you'll knock them down to disadvantage, or use the outmanoeuvre action against a lower-skilled pilot and you'll automatically disadvantage them by one step, or use the climb action to improve your own position.

Fly into the clouds to return your state to neutral, and then it's like you aren't there. No harsh modifiers to attacks against you, you're just... essentially non-existent until you come out.

Clever positioning might result in you spending a few turns hardly needing to touch the dice, finding ways to line up your targets in vulnerable positions.

This all brings a sort of clarity to things, where it's quite easy to assess large parts of the state of the game, and the dice only come out for those exciting moments of chaos when you squeeze the trigger. All the while you're still thinking like a fighter pilot, being acutely aware of your position relative to your enemies, and always planning the next manoeuvre.

Of course, it still has a few of those fiddly rules so commonly found in wargames. Turret gunners don't quite work like your standard machineguns, and there's a hand-management subsystem for applying your plane's traits. Still nothing outright complicated, but they stand out slightly against such a streamlined core.

It got me thinking about the appeal of these blunt rules.

The way I see it, individual rules or subsystems can sit along two axes.

Blunt/Deep - How much processing is involved in applying this rule?
Blunt: Simple, obvious, or outright binary.
Deep: Made up of multiple pieces to remember, requiring notable maths or reference, or involving a sort of game-outside-the-game.

Wide/Niche - How many different situations is this rule applied to?
Wide: You'll use this frequently, or at least once in every game you play.
Niche: This only comes up in specific situations, and could reasonably be unused for multiple sessions.

Of course, it's all relative. A rule might feel blunt if it's surrounded by more complex mechanics, or might feel deep if it's a somewhat crunchy part of an ultra-lite game.

These can be combined into four quadrants. Wide-Blunt, Wide-Deep, Niche-Blunt, and Niche-Deep.

Brace yourselves for some graphic design. Here's where I'd put some of the moving parts of Mythic Bastionland.

I certainly have preferences here. I think Deep-Niche rules can be kind of tricky, as you sometimes don't use them often enough to properly learn their complexities. Overall I definitely lean toward the blunt side, especially in wargames, but I think a game can succeed with all different types of rule if they're implemented with purpose.  

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.