Wednesday 17 July 2024

July of 5, 10, and 15 years ago

15 Years Ago I wrote the first half of 100 Interesting Magic Items. Perhaps I'll finish it for the 20th Anniversary. This is by far my most viewed blogpost of all time, perhaps because it feels like it could be D&D content. Guess I really fucked up by making my own games!

It's cool to look at this as a list of proto-Oddities/Arcana before Into the Odd was even an idea for me. A few favourites that I think hold up:

  • Digging Spoon: This tiny spoon can dig through any substance with a forceful push.
  • Eternal Chessboard: Anyone playing chess with this set cannot win or lose a match. It simply goes on and on no matter how many moves the players take.
  • Karma Vase: Filling this Vase with expensive drink will cause it to drain away, but cure any ailments or damage affecting the pourer. Breaking the vase will kill the breaker.

10 Years Ago I showed what a https://www.bastionland.com/2014/07/a-great-fighter-in-into-odd.html looks like in Into the Odd, focusing on mostly non-mechanical factors. I guess I'm saying "get good" to the players, but I think it's still relevant even with Mythic Bastionland introducing more mechanically powerful characters.

5 Years Ago I did a Monster Flashback looking at... a ten year old blogpost... oh shit, this blog is just recursive swill, isn't it?

Seems as good a time as any to look at the generated art in this old post, back when GANBreeder was this weird thing you could use to make incoherent alien visions. Different times, for sure, even after just five years.

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Wednesday 10 July 2024

Hired MACs

Each of the MAC Attack Factions will have a distinct visual identity, but I wanted to include an option for players to either stray from their faction's aesthetic for a few miniatures, or field a slightly less coherent force altogether.

Mercenaries, or at least privately manufactured MACs, seems like the obvious solution here.

You can't drive them quite as recklessly as the MAC pilots who are committed to your cause, but they come with a little added flexibility in their variants, a nod to Battletech's many variants of each Battlemech.

Dying for a cause or living in shame.
There’s no freedom out here, but at least you can pick your poison.

- AcesHigh, MAC Pilot for Hire

Any Force can take as many Hired MACs as they like, sometimes even making up the entire Force. Hired MACs do not benefit from the Faction’s special rule or special module. Use the rules below instead.

They've paid the deposit. Thaw him out. 

SELF-PRESERVATION
When a Hired MAC has 3 or more destroyed modules it cannot intentionally cause a collision.

VARIANTS
Prepare two versions of each hired MAC. Three of the modules must be identical. The remaining three must be of the same module type (Weapon or Hardware) but may otherwise be entirely different.

When the MAC deploys to the board, decide which variant you are using and discard the other.

Hired MACS are otherwise built as normal. The entries below are some notable MACs for hire.

The Freelance [12pts]
Class 1 MAC

Guard Variant
1 - SB2 StormCannon
2 - Booster
3 - Booster
4 - Coolant
5 - Vent
6 - Plate

Hunter Variant
1 - SP2-V RadGun
2 - Booster
3 - Booster
4 - Coolant
5 - Servo
6 - Gyro

The Purge [16pts]
Class 2 MAC

Fire Variant
1 - SB2-T Burner
2 - SB2-T Burner
3 - Conductor
4 - Radiator
5 - Radiator
6 - Exofield

Acid Variant
1 - SB2-C ToxiGun
2 - SB2-C ToxiGun
3 - Gyro
4 - Radiator
5 - Radiator
6 - Exofield

The Red Ocelot [17pts]
Class 2 MAC

Brawler Variant
1 - LG3-X SeekerRockets
2 - Double P2 Piston
3 - Servo
4 - Gyro
5 - Radiator
6 - Radiator

Sniper Variant
1 - LG3-X SeekerRockets
2 - Double LP2-N IonCannon
3 - Cloak
4 - Optics
5 - Radiator
6 - Radiator

The Goliath II [20pts]
Class 3 MAC

Cruiser Variant
1 - LB2 Autocannon
2 - LB2 Autocannon
3 - LB2 Autocannon
4 - Coolant
5 - Casing
6 - Guardian

Destroyer Variant
1 - LD3-X PhotonRockets
2 - LD3-X PhotonRockets
3 - LD3-X PhotonRockets
4 - Coolant
5 - Casing
6 - Guardian

The War Queen [22pts]
Class 3 MAC

Ironclad Variant
1 - SF3 FlakCannon
2 - Double SP2 Pulsebeam
3 - Double Radiator
4 - Plate
5 - Plate
6 - Plate

Jump Variant
1 - SF3 FlakCannon
2 - Double SP2 Pulsebeam
3 - Double Radiator
4 - Jet
5 - Intake
6 - Intake

When negotiations fail we can make success.

- Apex Solutions, Private MAC Manufacturer

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Wednesday 3 July 2024

Pilots & Commanders

With the core rules alone, MAC Attack focused entirely on the MAC, not the pilot.

Now I'm testing out a few options to make the pilot feel like more of a presence on the field.

Compared to Perks and Flaws, which generally represent the quirks of the MAC's engineering, I wanted these to feel like little tricks a pilot would pick up through experience, so they're more focused on the movement phase.

https://www.artstation.com/artwork/PyObB

PILOT TRICKS

Set a number of notable Pilots for each Force, assign them to MACs, and give each a Trick.

Bullrush: You may move an extra 3” as long as you collide with an enemy.

Cruise: If you end your Move Turn on 1 Heat, lose that Heat.

Decoy: At the end of your move you may turn the nearest visible enemy MAC to face you.

Hunker: When you Hold you may set your Motion to any number.

Hustle: You may move an extra 3” as long as you start and end the move in Cover.

Jink: You may move through enemy units without causing a Collision.

Outmanoeuvre: At the end of your move you may adjust the Motion score of any one MAC by one. The target must be visible to you and within 6”.

Stalk: If you end your Move Turn out of line of sight of all enemies you may move an extra 3” in any direction and set facing.

COMMAND DRILLS

In addition to a Pilot Trick a Commander selects one Drill. Each of these can only be used once per battle. It must be declared on the Commander’s turn and applies to all of your MACs for the entire of the next round even if the Commander dies.

BlitzFire: Rolls of 5 always hit.

DeathCharge: Double your Class for Collisions and Brawling.

LockOn: If TN would be 4 or less then -1TN.

NoScope: Long weapons have no minimum range.

OutFlank: All Move types allow an extra 3” of movement.

ROOKIE PILOTS

Inexperienced pilots can be noted as Rookies.

Rookie: Any time you roll a 6 that would benefit you, reroll it. Each die can only be rerolled once in this way.

If you score another 6 on a die rerolled this way then remove Rookie status from this pilot.

PILOT EJECTION

When a MAC is destroyed in the Meltdown Phase it may attempt a System Check to have the pilot safely eject. If they succeed, place their Pilot as an unarmed Infantry AU d6” in a random direction of their MAC. They cannot Brawl.

If they touch a friendly AU they may join with them, but they die if that unit is destroyed unless they roll a 4+ on one die.

If a MAC is destroyed outside of the Meltdown Phase or its Heat is 6 when it is destroyed then the pilot cannot eject safely and dies in the cockpit.

In Profit Mode a dead pilot represents a loss of 2pts but grants no profit to the enemy.

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Tuesday 25 June 2024

What's the Point of a Campaign?

One-off battles are fun in MAC Attack, but what if you want a campaign?

Before writing anything resembling a campaign system I wanted to think about campaigns. I mean, what's the point in them?

For me I look for a few things out of a campaign:

  • Battle 6 should feel significantly different to Battle 1
  • There should be opportunities for fun between the battles
  • Losing the first few games shouldn't kill my fun for the rest of the campaign

So here's what I have for MAC Attack as it stands.

ESCALATION CAMPAIGNS

A series of battles can be linked together to form a campaign. The most straightforward way of doing this is to agree to play an increasingly large series of battles (say starting with 40pts and adding 12pts each battle) and agree that the first player to win a number of battles (i.e. 3) wins the Campaign.

The individual battles can be planned out ahead of time or generated using the Scenario Generator, with the winner of the previous battle playing as the Red Force. Randomise this for the first battle.

SCENARIOS

Bespoke battles can be designed with specific forces, battlefields, deployment rules and objectives.

They can use combinations of the variant rules provided and new rules created by the scenario designer.

As a guideline, the player who designed the scenario should explain their creation to the other player and then allow them to choose which side to play as, or agree to play the scenario twice, swapping sides between games.

TECH TREE MODE

Oh yeah, and there's this.


Much like I did with The Doomed I wanted to reward the winner with more options, while keeping the overall power levels of each force equal.

Of course, there's also a much more old-fashioned option.

THE GAMEMASTER

Another way to play the game is to have one player act as the Gamemaster, essentially a neutral referee or host.

The Gamemaster is free to concentrate on managing the rules of the game, the specific scenario, and the ongoing campaign. They can create bespoke scenarios and make immediate judgements to modify things as events unfold.

For some battles the Gamemaster may take control of neutral units that exist outside of the players’ forces. They have a responsibly to use these units in the manner that feels most realistic to their type and current situation.

When there is doubt the Referee can roll a die to decide between different courses of action that a unit might take.

In running the game the Gamemaster should ensure they are acting impartially. They want the players to have fun, but owe them no favours.

THE MESSY TOOLBOX

Yeah so this is a bit of a toolbox approach, especially when combined with the various "other ways to play" in MAC Attack. You've got Profit Mode, Scrapheap Mode, Blip Mode, Hazardous Worlds, Battle Events... It's definitely a toolkit.

I talked about wanting the campaign to have fun that happens between battles. Of course part of that is tweaking your Force, building new MACs, but why not enjoy the experience of planning the next battle with your opponent? Of course there's a random scenario creator, but I want players to use the "you cut I choose" system to make more bespoke matchups.

And yeah... I'd love to see more people play this with a GM. If you haven't played a wargame with a GM before then I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try. You might be surprised how much fun it is for both player and GM.

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Wednesday 19 June 2024

Conflicted on Hard Counters

New MAC Tech just dropped!


(in my version of the doc, that is. I won't be adding them to the Google Doc till I've done some tests)

Let's see what we've got.

ADVANCED HARDWARE

ECM: This module ignores hits from G and M weapon types.

Mesh: This module ignores hits from B and R weapon types.

Reflector: This module ignores hits from P and D weapon types.

ADVANCED WEAPON TYPES

Frag (F): Calculate TN using the target’s Class in place of their Motion.

Demolition (D): Each Hit causes Hits equal to the target’s Class.

Rapid (R): You may make a second attack with this weapon, for 0 Heat, against a different valid target within 6" of the first target. 

ADVANCED WEAPON SUBTYPES
These weapons require dice to track Chem (yellow die). Like Heat, this starts at 0 and cannot go higher than 6. All Chem is removed at the end of the Move Phase.

Chem (-C): x2 AD. For each Hit, instead of resolving normally, the target gains 1 Chem.
In their next Move phase they either let the attacker move the unit using a Hold or Advance Move or take 1 Hit for every Chem. The unit’s owner still sets facing at the end of the move.

Kinetic (-K): Each Hit increases the target’s Motion by 1.

Nano (-N): Hits cannot be nullified, reassigned, or ignored by any means. Cannot attack targets in Cover or Buildings.

SAMPLE WEAPONS
SF3-K QuakeWave
AR3-C AcidRain
LD2-N SingularityBeam

THOUGHTS
With MAC Attack I don't want to just create new weapon types and hardware for the sake of it. The core weapon types/subtypes are pretty solid right now and give you plenty of options for how to equip your units.

So what's the point of these new types?

More opportunities for MAC/AU customisation of course!

With the original options you've got 144 possible weapons. With these new additions that goes up to 504 and I think they're all viable.

Well, that sounds very much like "creating new weapons for the sake of it" but yeah... I guess MAC Attack does indulge in a little of that. Let's not fight it.

Then, as I wrote them, I realised I was creating some relatively hard counters. Some more than others.

Frag counters small, fast moving targets and wrecks AUs of all types.
Demolition counters buildings and big MACs.
Rapid counters swarms of infantry and vehicles.

Chem counters units that want to hide away in cover or buildings.
Kinetic throws off the accuracy of artillery and sniper MACs.
Nano is terrible news for heavily Armoured AUs.

I've typically been averse to hard counters in wargames. I dream of a world where you can throw any two armies against each other and have a fun game, with every unit being able to shine in their own way.

I wake up at night sweating about wargames that have shields only offer protection against missile attacks... then discovering your opponent has brought exclusively melee units...

If your all-pikemen army hard counters charging cavalry and I show up with an all-Knight force I want us to still be able to have a good time, even if we acknowledge that we're diverging from a historical simulation.

Of course MAC Attack isn't burdened with history, but I still shudder thinking about loading up on Nano weapons just to discover that none of the opposing force is carrying any form of damage protection.

Yet, if both sides are bringing a bit of everything to the fight then these counters can provide a fun tactical challenge at the table.

I don't want to be too prescriptive with the force composition rules, like limiting how many Class 3 MACs you can bring, or ensuring that every Force has some sort of armour in place, so instead I'm taking a different approach.

These new modules are deliberately tucked away in the "Advanced Modules" section with the other variant rules, because then I don't need to worry about them ruining somebody's first ever game.

If you've already played MAC Attack a few times then you already love it, right?

At that point what do I care if your AU Swarm force gets wrecked by an opponent loaded up with LR1 GatlingArrays?

If your all-Class-3-MAC force gets destroyed by a bunch of buggies with SD2-X ImploderCharges then I guess your gamble didn't pay off. Tweak your list, rack them up, and let's go again.

But if that's your first ever game? I wouldn't blame you for not coming back.

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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 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.

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