June 28, 2023

Solo Battle, MAC Attack

Note: I forgot to take pictures while I played so the pictures here are a recounting of the fishing trip I went on last week. I did take a few pictures of the units today with their battle [index] cards as well as the small measuring sticks I made from zip ties at camp. I forgot my tape measure and a wargamer is nothing if not quick on our feet with ideas on how use what we have at our disposal.

BattleTech, some background information

BattleTech is a fancy game with a lot of minutia, currently 20 rule books can be found listed on their site, this shows the depth and breadth of work they have for the series of games. There is also a history of the game going back to my own birth year, so this game is as old as I am! The novelized lore books were first released 2 years after that, that is a lot of information to sift through. It is a fictional universe ripe with flavor storylines of war torn worlds and lots of cool hooks for creating battles in a fleshed out universe, playing battles that can be read about. There is a rich history ready for the pillaging to create simulations of those stories. There is also room to create fan fiction battles and campaigns based on story lines that are written about, rewriting the stories of heroes” from the books, or the villains”, no judgement here if you want to see them triumph over the good” guys.

I have not read extensively the history of the Federated Universe from BattleTech, in fact compared to some people I know only the barest essential knowledge of the universe.

This has turned into a love letter to BattleTech, but that was not my intention in setting out to write this article.

So what is my intention?

I want to talk to you about MAC Attack.

MAC Attack is a game in development by Chris McDowall. Chris is the creator of Into the Odd, Electric Bastionland, The Doomed, plus a plethora of other games in development. He is well know and regarded as one of the great RPG designers of the last couple decades. Hell, it seems at least half of the OSR/NSR/ASR games on the market currently (I do not know if that is an actual number please don’t fact check me on it) attribute Chris in their work either as inspiration or for allowing the hacking of their system. Seriously if you are reading this and do not know who he is please check out his blog (Bastionland) for links to just about everything that he has ever done. He is a wonderful human and I can only thank him for hours of great fun reading about and playing games.

McDowall has roots in wargaming from a small age and attributes a lot of his inspiration to the early years of hobby war gaming, reading about and playing with old Warhammer games as a child. One of the games that he recently got into was BattleTech (rereading that makes me realize how far I’ve come as a writer and gamer in the last few years especially as I think about my 4 year old now being a 6 year old!)

BattleTech has a long history and some might even argue that there is an even longer set of rules to play, though this is not without some caveat, not all of the rules are required to play and there are different versions to choose form that have different levels of complexity, again that is not what this article is about, many others have talked heavily on that front already, and you are free to search out that info but here is a pretty concise answer in case you just want me to show you here,

…GOAC [Game of Armored Combat] are the core rules for the full detail” version of the game; it’s the very granular simulation” style gameplay. The current publication has seen a bunch of expansions and errata, but is not fundamentally different from 1997’s 4th Edition. The biggest change is honestly thematic…the 3020s in the timeline were very low fantasy” (as far as galaxy-wide walking tank worlds are concerned], with a crumbling empire whose best days are long behind it. By the 3070s it’d moved rapidly towards high fantasy”, with fancy super-robots and fate of the galaxy” battles with religious nutcases.

Alpha Strike exists in the same universe, but is a different ruleset. It’s meant to sit in the same space that the Clix game did…as a much faster-playing, inches-and-terrain skirmish game…and uses much more streamlined rules to account for being designed around Company-and-larger battles [12-on-12] rather than Lance-and-smaller battles [4-on-4].

Both are considered Current” as far as editions go, it’s largely a matter of preference for which battle size and play style suits you.

Reddit User: foxden_racing (Post here)

McDowall has set out to combine both of these rule sets into a quick skirmish game that can be played like Alpha Strike that has a lot of flavor while maintaining some of the more granular aspects of GOAC, all while keeping the mechanics simple enough that you no longer need to reference tables with how many modifiers to add and then calling an engineer to inquire into how many dice you should be throwing and how to multiply the hit damage based on the other table that you reference… GOAC can be very daunting to learn and Alpha Strike adds in small ground units like tanks and infantry, allowing for larger battles to be fought without needing a 10 hour game day to resolve combat at larger scales.

McDowall even goes as far as to design a few factions that can be used in play all with some additional perks to their units, This mirrors the Faction play that can be found in the Alpha Strike rules which allow you to individualize your units and teams. This addition makes it very easy to imagine creating lovely story lines about the units as seen in the lore of BattleTech, it is a nice little way to ensure the ability to start running campaigns where the different factions are at odds with one another and all the intrigue that can come from that sort of stuff! These can be found at the end of the playtest material linked just below.

MAC Attack is that answer. Currently available for free as a Google Doc. Eloquently designed and (currently) free, due to being in essentially an ongoing beta test phase, MAC Attack lets me put out he miniatures I have acquired over the last couple years from BattleTech and put them on the table.

I have read the rules for a few iterations now and after a recent blogpost about a game McDowall played, I felt inspired to do so as well. I took a limited supply of miniatures and gear with my to my annual fishing trip this past week (hence no blog post last week, sorry not sorry). I set up the game and gave myself plenty of time to play in the camp we had rented. I did not even need as much time as I thought I would. When all was said and done, about 2 hours was spent prepping, creating MACs and playing the game in a small 55ish point battle that I played against myself.

The results were exciting and decided quickly. the setup of the game was intuitive and game me plenty of motivation for either side to play. now there are no solo oracles or tables to roll on for game AI. This is something I just did by myself.

But Halfling MAC Master how did you decide what each unit was going to do without affecting the choices of the other side?” Contrary to popular belief Solo play can be really easy, especially with wargames. Especially in MAC Attack. The initiative system really makes it hard to preplan too much. There is just the right amount of chaos in the system to keep everything up in the air. The motivations, granted from the objectives, gave me enough to focus what each MAC was going todo int he game or at least what they would try to do. There was a group of MACs who were deployed to defeat six buildings scattered across the terrain, Team Red”. All while the Blue” Team was trying to evacuate a key MAC in their group across the board at the extraction zone.

Red Team is on the Right and Blue Team is on the left. I need to paint up some other color forces as these are all part of my ComStar Units (faction from BattleTech)

This split each force up nicely as a team of aggressors for their goal while the other half of the units stayed to oppose the other’s objective. This sounds way more complicated in writing than it did, and this having been my first game played I forgot in my excitement to take pictures of everything along the way, sorry about that. Pictures would have made the game much easier to follow. So I will not give any play by plays but just a quick recounting of how I felt while playing, this really is the most important part anyway, right?

How It went!

Red” Team

I loved this game. Initiative was card based but it could just as easily be Troika based with coins drawn from a bag, or some other means of randomizing the game, though regular playing cards assigned to a MAC was easy! This kept me on my toes as movement happens all together in random order, then attacks happening in random order again after that. Best laid plans can easily change as the order that MACS move and fire in is not easily planned for. This meant that my fast unit who moved clear across the board to engage another unit may not actually be able to fire upon it before losing a weapon to a luck shot from another opposing force!

By the very nature of this game it is so tough to decide what will happen! This was exciting in Solo play and I assume this would also be exciting in play with another person running one force opposed to you. I hope to play this with a friend who I have played BattleTech with previously, our biggest complaint with BattleTech has always been that there is too much information to parse during play. The HEAT and SPEED mechanics are exactly what is needed to simplify everything. The use of a single die to attack also helps a lot, getting rid of the 2d6 dice curve that makes some battle last entirely too long with missed shots occurring all too often. MAC Attack feels fast and dangerous while playing. The opportunity to retreat a unit and live to fight another day is always on the table.

Blue Team

If you have any inkling of playing a game of Mobile Armored Colossi battling with one another to complete objectives (or just having a showdown to the last surviving MAC, this is always a valid goal in play), check out this game. It is free and with the use of some small tokens or printed cutouts that can be found around the internet, like here.

Those zip ties I mentioned at the beginning!, 6″ 9″ and 12″ are all you need for this game, and I guess 1″ as well but you can eyeball that as a wargamer!

The rules are quick and straight forward and feel great in play! I will be sure to include pictures from next time I play, and post any more information I have then too!

Thanks for reading and as always if you like what you’ve read here please feel free to share this with friends, maybe you can convince them to start playing with you too!

Derek Bizier, The Halfling MAC Master

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