Tragically Trad: Mecha

At GenCon this year I was fortunate to room with Chris Perrin and to get a chance to play in a session of his game: Mecha. Mecha is a rules-light RPG designed to simulate giant robot anime shows. It is not a mech combat game like Battletech or Iron Tyrants, it is an RPG with mech fighting in it. The difference is important. As Chris points out in the intro, Mecha anime is not really about the robots, it is about the characters piloting them. This is true for the game too.

The set up in Mecha strongly encourages, not only role-playing, but specifically role-playing in the style of anime movies. You get role-playing rewards that can aid you in combat for playing your character during the role-playing portions of the game. The game is divided into different types of scenes, social scenes, repair scenes, field op scenes, recovery scenes and combat. Role-playing and doing well in the non-combat scenes will reward you in ways that aid you in combat.

Combat itself is quick and easy to learn. It is fairly abstract. You do not move around a hex map, instead the whole thing takes place on a bulls eye like range grid. Each combat has an objective to control that the GM gives meaning to depending on the context of the fight. It uses a simple dice pool system and overdrive mechanic. The game also uses a cool mechanic where the pilot and the mech are bonded together in such a way that different characters can have different skills associated with different functions of their mech. For example one character could say that he is a seat of the pants pilot and Agility controls how accurate his weapons are; another can say that he has a sophisticated targeting computer so intelligence is the key stat for weapon accuracy. This really frees up the player to be able to make the character they want in an anime style. All told the rules only take up 66 pages out of 166.

The rest of the pages are used to give several example settings. These settings range from demi-gods piloting mechs, to a mech high school (including robo-cheerleaders), to the militaristic Robotech style setting. The artwork in this section is very well done and evocative. Each setting includes a sample campaign arc, mechs and character archetypes.

I was able to play Mecha at GenCon and I had a really good time. You can learn to play the game in minutes and it really does encourage you to role-play like you are in an anime series. I played the brooding teen who is trying to prove himself to his successful brother, and I was rewarded for being a whiny punk.

This is not like any other mech game I have played. It does not mostly wargame. There is no checking off damage boxes or two hour long combats. This mech action is like the mech action you see in a cartoon. Dramatic, fast paced, and with plenty of speedlines and taunts.

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  1. I’ve observed this until installment 21, at the end of the arc about the black kirin, Taiki. Based on these installments, I entirely agree about the details in your critique. The narrative started really slowly for me, and at first, Youko’s character was genuinely annoying but as the chronicle collected pace and she began to grow, it really turned up its brilliant level to the max. Unfortunately, I feel very afraid to end it due to the incomplete nature of the last arc, which is a continuance about Taiki, my favorite persona in the serial. I’m thinking of finding at least the novel about the last arc in the television serial, before I carry on watching, so I can at least study the novel to genuinely enjoy the last arc.

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