Giant Robots Stomping About In My Head… Any Recommendations?

Hey there,

I’ve been thinking about options for what game to run after I finish the current Legend of the Five Rings Campaign that I’ve got going on (not that I’m looking to wrap it up just yet!) and for some reason I’ve got Sci-fi gaming on my mind.  I’ve already had a chance to evaluate Fading Suns, and it’s a strong contender for a campaign, right up there with an nWoD conversion using the Cyberpunk rules included in the WoD Mirrors: Bleeding Edge supplement set in the world of Posiedon of Blue Planet.

But the one possibility that won’t leave my mind is the idea of running a Mecha campaign.

Old readers of the blog are very well aware of my love-hate relationship with Mecha campaigns.  I want to run them, but they don’t seem to click when I’m trying to put it together.  If anything this is exactly why I want to give it a shot, I want to challenge myself, to see if I can pull it off or if I’ll end up crashing and burning in the merciless depths of space.

So, let’s take a look at possible candidates for games to run:

1.) Heavy Gear & Jovian Chronicles by Dream Pod 9

I have to admit that I’ve been charmed by these two games for the longest time, but I’ve held back on purchasing the PDFs for them because I’m worried that they might not be very clear images.  Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles neatly sidesteps the issue of having to build individual mechs, while presenting a concise, and interesting setting with conflicts that work from both a roleplaying and a tactical combat perspective.  Having rules for both scales are always a plus as well.

The latest edition of the books come in a D20 variant, as well as a version that uses their home Silhouette corebook, so cost-wise I’ll have to purchase two pdfs as well.  Hopefully you guys can tell me if they’re worth picking up.

2) Battletech by Catalyst Game Labs

The great grand-daddy of many a mecha game is a prime candidate as well, but I’ll have to admit that I haven’t the foggiest as to where to start with this.  The sheer number of books is intimidating, and the latest RPG, A Time of War, focuses on only personal-scale combat, and requires the Battletech game for the mechs.  I was hoping to avoid having to spend too much on this, but it’s hard to dispute the fact that this game has a LOT of followers… so it has to be doing something right.

3) Mekton Zeta by R. Talsorian Games

Here’s another oldie.  While definitely a mecha game, Mekton Zeta is also prone to showing its age.  Still, it works, and I don’t have any complaints over the ability to build mechs, but the setting of this particular game doesn’t grab me as much.  So this is a possibility but I’m considering it as a distant third.


And that’s it.  Not a lot of options sadly, and while there are some new games out there like the Aegis Project, or Remnants, I was hoping for something tactical along the lines of these three.  And so I turn to the readers… do you guys have any advice on what Mecha games there are that I haven’t seen?  Or if it’s any of these three, do you have any advice on how I can get around to finding a good copy?

12 thoughts on “Giant Robots Stomping About In My Head… Any Recommendations?

  1. Well if we’re limited to your selection presented here I’d go with Heavy Gear more than the other two. The setting and background are fun and has a lot of potential without the glut of setting info you need to brush up on like in Battletech. And the rules are easier to grasp from what I can tell compared to Battletech too which I hear still retains a lot of it’s old crunch heavy system which if you’re not already familiar with can be very daunting. You don’t really need the Jovian Chronicles to run a Heavy Gear game. But for completeness of the most relevant sourcebooks it wouldn’t hurt to get that either.

    I don’t know much about Mekton Zeta, so I will defer to your experience in this.

    Also on a note of personal taste, I concur with Hikkikomori on running Cthulhutech. I would very much like to see you run a campaign in it.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve downloaded the Quickstart and I have to admit that I’m intrigued by what I see so far. That said, I’m wondering how this actually works in play, especially when my players are used to the old GM structure, giving them the right to dictate the nature of the scene might be a big step. Still the game does have a lot of merit and I’ll see if I can earn enough store credits on DriveThruRPG to buy myself a copy.

  2. Battletech can look intimidating, and can easily “allow” you to spend a stellar amount of cash on it, but honestly – if you want to run the game as a pure RPG, you can do it with A Time of War and the appropriate Technical Read Out for the era you like, and a lot of elbow grease. All the basic tools are there. It will diverge from traditional table-top Battletech in certain ways, but it will be streamlined and if you know the universe at all, it will be Battletech.

    If you want to run the mech battles and include a wide variety of other vehicles then probably the easiest way to do that is to just add Total Warfare to the mix. The rules for using RPG characters with the table top system are clearly laid out. Miniatures can be avoided through the use of a jpg of your chosen maps and a basic image processing program to mark hexes, etc.

    Tactical Operations, Strategic Operations, and the coming Interstellar Operations, all add complexity and detail, a lot of which meshes very nicely with running the game as a pure RPG, but again are not even remotely necessary – especially if this will be an itch you are scratching and not a pursuit of years like what I have going on with my Time of War campaign, Hair of the Dog.

    For gorgeous hardcovers, the books are very reasonably priced, but all are available in pdf format for less.

    If you are interested in discussing it further, or even joining in my PBeM, let me know.

    1. Hi Runeslinger!

      Honestly, checking out your blog is what got me interested in Battletech again. I have to admit that I know very little beyond what I played back in the old Crescent Hawk’s Inception and Crescent Hawk’s Revenge games on the pc way, way back. I guess I also kind of miss tactical wargaming again too.

      I find it interesting that you mentioned that A Time of War and a Technical Read Out will be enough to run a game. I remember flipping through A Time of War a bit and remembering that it was mostly for human scale fights, but I suppose the Read Out fills in the gaps somehow.

      I distinctly remember that there was a Starter Box for Battletech in a local game store here, I might just swing by and pick it up to get a feel for the rules again.

      1. You can probably get by with the Introductory Box set and A TIME OF WAR if you’re trying to recapture the gritty Succession War era scavenger tech type game that was presented in the Crescent Hawks series.

        The basic Mechs in the Starter Box cover a wide variety of designs from that era and the basic rules will let you get by without the additional layer of complexity in Total Warfare. You really don’t need to worry about cluster ammunition, VTOLs and fighter attack runs for a RPG.

        Also, consider MECHA. I cannot state enough good things about MECHA.

  3. The Introductory Box Set is definitely worth the price and all the rules you need to handle mech combat are in it. In A Time of War, you have a detailed combat system for person to person conflicts, but there is also the Tactical Combat Addendum which addresses running the game either with a mixed scale running from soldiers on up to mechs, or somewhere in between. All the charts and sheets you need are provided free, so really, with the mech data and a mech record sheet, you can run combats all using the same mechanic with no real scaling difficulties.

    We just finished a battle in an urban environment (I will post it before mid-December I think) with a mix of mechs, tanks, infantry, and helicopters drawn from the 3039 TRO.

    If you do give it a try and you do pick up the box set, that is ideal as you can run a few battles to get into the feel of the game again, remember which charts are most commonly-needed, and so on, then get into the Campaign with some confidence.

  4. MEKTON ZETA. oh yeah. such a math intensive system; if you do use it – i reccoment Hot nuclear engines just to bypass the stupid liquid fuel system.

    Though i do like how simple and random the character generation is, as well as the choices between rookies and vets.

  5. We’ve done a few campaigns using Battletech. What we do is just use the Battletech rules for mech combat, and the RPG system of our choice for out of cockpit stuff and interactions. We’ve used HERO a couple of times and even Star Frontiers.

    1. Well, with Heavy Gear you will have the ability to use their (AWESOME) miniature range to actually show what your players are piloting. But then again I am a miniature nut so I am biased. Not sure how you stand on that. I do like the background material provided by Heavy Gear though.

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