Thursday 21 February 2019

Failure is an Option

Back in Issue 2 of Spellcaster Magazine, I included an article called ‘Frostgrave Mech War’, which used the basic Frostgrave mechanics, but converted them for use with big stompy robots. I even included a scenario. Since then, I have dabbled with the rules off-and-on. I created new weapons systems and a bunch of new mechs. Last night, with my wife out, and the kids in bed, I decided to break everything out and have a play.

I devised a quick scenario which had four mechs and two tanks from my Firehawks Legion attacking a small base guarded by a pair of mechs. Those mechs would soon be reinforced by a motorized infantry company.

The game started well enough. In the initial clash three mechs were destroyed, and the scenario seemed to be playing fine. But… the longer I played, the more I rolled the dice, the more I realized that I didn’t have a good handle on my own rules. I had introduced so many new variables that I no longer intuitively understood the mathematics behind what was happening. Without this understanding, my actions became increasingly random.

I ended the game halfway through and paused for thought. I realized that the original scenario I had written was very limited. It only includes two types of mechs with very specific objectives. I had thus been able to balance that scenario through simple trial-and-error. With all the new weapons and mechs I had created, trial-and-error wasn’t going to cut it. As a game designer, I should really understand the probability behind any action I take, if not exactly, then at least generally. Also, I realized that the rules didn’t have the correct feel to me. What makes sense for Frostgrave, what felt right in rolling dice in that game, just no longer felt right for a mech game.

Thankfully, I was really just working on this game for my own amusement, not for work. So, for the moment, I have decided to just give up on it. I think, if I want to do a mech game, I need to discard most of the Frostgrave mechanics and start from the ground up. That is more time and commitment than I want to give it right now.

Oh well, I guess it is back to Battletech.

By-the-by, that super awesome hexed game mat is by Cigar Box Battles and is highly recommended. 


  1. Nice writeup - it's good to read about your process.
    I've had a similar scenario, also with a mech-based game (more Transformers than Battletech). It feels good to look at something like Frostgrave, where (Wizards notwithstanding) everything is the same for all factions, as a great starting point. But like you say, the more you put in, the less it fits, until it feels like you may as well have started from scratch.

  2. I play a game from time to time, it uses lego for model, its called Mobile Frame Zero. Maybe you know it, but if not take a look at it, it a free wargame. Even though it has copy right, you might find some inspiration in it.

  3. This is a shame. I was looking forward to more for this. I even bought the two latest Battletech box sets just so I would have mechs to play it. I know many people like Battletech, but it is too crunchy for me. I would love a simpler alternative rule set to Battletech.

    1. You should check battletech Alphastrike. It is not nearly as crunchy, you use inches (tough hexes can be used as well), And you can actually use your aerospace units in same games as mechs.
      You can also download and print mech cards for free

  4. Can I recommend "Horizon Wars"?
    A hidden Osprey gem.

  5. Funny thing is, I'm trying to adapt the awesome Rangers of Shadowdeep rules to other setting such as Post apocalyptic and modern. I'm having a blast.

  6. I would love a good and easy to learn mech game. Play alphastrike and classic Battle tech but a good mix would be perfect. A little bit frostgrave or better , Ranger "Character creaton rule" for making own mechs.

  7. Samurai Robots Battle Royale is always fun. Super easy to learn and fast to play.

    "Build your mecha from the ground up with a point system, choosing Quality/Combat scores, armor, weapons and special rules for each part of its body."

  8. An interesting idea and plan but I can see why it's not that easy to just convert the rules as they are.

  9. It is a shame to hear that this didn't work out; but it raises some interesting possibilities for players to pursue themselves.

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