Mecha Gaming

Last article I talked about Space Games. I promised to drop a note about Mecha. Mecha is really a shortened version of the word, “Mechanized,” and it can really mean anything mechanical in nature such as cars, tanks, helicopters, submarines, or my favorite- Giant Robots!

You can ask anyone who knows me. I like fantasy. Supers and modern horror are cool. I like steampunk. I like cyberpunk even more. And if you’ve ever been around me- Giant Robots are one of my most beloved! I mean, who wouldn’t want to get strapped into the cockpit of a robot the size of an M1 Abrams tank and go slug it out with something.

I started out on Robotech and BattleTech. Both games are similar, but don’t mention that around anyone at Palladium games. Then came Rifts, also from Palladium. From there, we could talk about anime/manga games, which are hand-in-hand with mecha. There are dozens of games where mecha are stars, too many to go into in one article. Thus, my love of Mecha and their smaller cousins, powered armor, were born.

I wanted to touch briefly on a couple of things within the genre that have always stuck out to me. First is design and build. I can design giant robots and cool starships all day long. I never get tired of it. I’ll even sit down and crunch numbers for BattleTech and optimize custom mechs for friends. While I love wargaming and have played several hours of miniatures games with giant robot combat, I still prefer tabletop rpgs.

Which brings me to my second point. One lesson I’ve learned about Mecha games over the years is that man vs mech most often leads to a fatality in most games. It doesn’t matter how much armor you have on, one hit from a beamsword, howitzer round or particle beam cannon and uh, well… you’re character is paste at any level. Unless of course we’re talking about some game where you can be a superhero or magical girl martial artist.

A lot of players seem to be intimidated by their characters dying, but it’s really no different than D&D characters getting squished by Comet Fall or Fireball spells. Some Game Masters prefer to edit out the mecha stats and combat all together and just focus on the pilots and story that goes with them.

A recent resurgence of the Mecha vs Kaiju has occurred due to the wildly successful Pacific Rim franchise. Godzilla is also back and the Power Rangers movie has inspired some of us. Personally, I think it’s a good way to get the kids to put the phone down and play a TTRPG if you can get them interested in a Power Rangers style game.

The last thing I’ll touch on is that I’ve always wanted to create and run a game where mecha show up in a fantasy style game. It’s a little inspired by the Escafloune anime and a little of my own warped idea. More on that to come. Steampunk mecha are pretty cool and I’ve always wanted to see someone go bonkers with it. There are a couple of really nice 5E sourcebooks and I’m somewhat anxious to put together a campaign. Mecha can really mix and match with any other genre with or without the anime angle. Giant Robots in WW2 (Dust.) Giant Robot horror (CthulhuTech.) Cyberpunk. (*Off topic- I once had a CP2020 player threaten to rage quit if I introduced powered armor into the game.) Lastly, there’s futuristic military games like Starship Troopers and Armored Trooper Votoms.

Next article, I plan to get a little meatier and talk about game design and mechanics. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into designing a game and there are so many pros and cons that I think it warrants discussion before proceeding.

Happy gaming!

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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