Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mechanical Men Revisited

Last weekend I ran a couple of test games using the rules from my last post. The basic scenario used a company in line against a single medium mechanical man - mech from here on in. The mech was armed with a gatling ranged 24"/48" and the riflemen were armed with breech loaders later magazine rifles.  the games started with the mech just moving into maximum Gatling range (48") The mechs orders were:

If you fired last turn, move forward 9" otherwise, if you are over half range fire with 3 dice or if you are at half range or less fire with 5 dice. 
 Using the standard Soldier's Companion initiative and turn sequence, this created some unusual situations.  In the most basic case, the mech would slowly move forward firing most often in the defensive phase 3. The defensive fire phase ensured that the Gatling could fire every turn there was no movement. Even at 3 dice the sheer number of shots had an effect on the company and in one or two trials it broke before it got a shot off. When the mech did get within rifle range, the sheer number of shots put out by the company ensured there was at least one golden BB to assure its destruction. Changing to magazine rifles only sped up the process a bit.  Oddly the best tactic for the defending company was to advance as quickly as possible into range and overwhelm the mech with fire power - not really the result I was looking for.

Simple probability means that two volleys from breech loaders will pretty much guarantee a kill even with 6+ to hit and a natural 6 to fail the save.

Next up, I am going to try a standard defensive bonus of +4 for mechanical men but use hitpoints for the four types of mech:

Small: 1
Flying: 2
Medium: 3
Large: 5

We'll see if this feels any better. We'll also put the company behind some cover.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Mechanical Men for Space 1889 Soldier's Companion

A friend recently gave me a number of spare Heroscape miniatures, most of which will get re-purposed in one way or another.  The RPG side of Space 1889 features mechanical men as an item of technology that can be developed using the science rules. Sadly, they do not appear in the Soldier's Companion, so I  developed some draft rules to use them on the battlefield.

Mechanical Men

Mechanical Men - Flyers

Mechanical Men for Space 1889 Soldier's Companion

Mechanical Men are un-piloted autonomous mechanical devices of varying sizes and configurations - including some decidedly un-manlike. They come in three sizes small, medium and large plus flyers. This isn't canon, but allows a range of after market figures to be used. I thought about going larger to represent  mecha style big stompy robots but I think a variation on the tripod rules would better suit that concept.


Small mechanical men are roughly the size of an average dog and weight several hundred pounds.
They receive a defensive +3 modifier to hit in fire combat to represent their light armour.
They move 12" per turn.
They are equipped with small arms or a machine gun and  an effective close combat weapon.


Medium mechanical men are roughly human sized and weigh around 1000 pounds.
They receive a defensive +4 modifier to hit to reflect their moderate armour.
They move 9" per turn.
They are armed with any small arms, a machine gun or any artillery piece with a weight of less than 5 tons on the conveyance table. They are also equipped with a close combat weapon.


Flying mechanical men are winged devices of small or medium size only.
They receive the +1 flying bonus when airborne but have no armour.
They move 6" on the ground and 12" when airborne.
They are equipped with a carbine or smaller ranged weapon and a close combat weapon.

For my thoughts on flying in Soldier's Companion see: Space 1889 Soldier's Companion High Martian draft house rules


Large mechanical men are gorilla sized and weigh around 2200 pounds.
They receive a defensive modifier of +5 modifier to hit to reflect their heavy armour.
They move  6" per turn.
They are armed with any small arms, a machine gun or any artillery piece with a weight of less than 10 tons on the conveyance table. They are also equipped with a close combat weapon.


These rules are a direct crib from the old Striker rules for Traveller. Mechanical men must be given orders - preferably written down and interpreted by the referee.
There are three parts to any order all of which are optional:


The movement order must specify a location or a direction and speed. "Move at full speed toward the Top of hill one and stop." It can also be a distance or position relative to another unit. "Stay in line with the Second Fusiliers 6" from their left flank."


Fire orders must specify an enemy or range. "Fire at any enemy cavalry unit within 12 inches" or supporting fire "Fire at any enemy charging the Second Fusiliers" 


Rally orders specify a fall back location and may contain a simple conditional statement. "If unit casualties are over 50%, fall back behind the farmhouse."

Ad Hoc Orders

Ad hoc orders are issued by an authorized sentient being - typically a human commander. Because they are not fully programmed before the battle, these ad hoc orders can only have one of the three components. "Move to hill two." To fire on the way, the unit must be given an order to stop in one turn, then an order to fire on the next and finally a new order to continue to move toward hill two.

Fire Combat

Fire combat is conducted as normal though using the modifiers above. It may be desirable for mechanical men armed with more than small arms to have a limited number of shots per game to reflect that they are not conveyances with normal ammunition stowage capacity. This is at the discretion of the players or referee.

Melee Combat

Ground based mechanical men are slow but very strong. Opponents receive +1 in Melee Combat when facing mechanical men to reflect this slowness. However, on a higher score that is not double, mechanical men kill opponents rather than force them back. If mentioned in their orders or specifically ordered to, mechanical will fight to wound. Casualties are then assessed at the fire combat rate of 2/3 wounded, 1/3 killed. This behaviour is often used in crowd control situations.

Flyers kill or drive back opponents as normal in close combat. They are also considered weak opponents.


Mechanical men do not suffer from or benefit from morale effects and no morale checks need be made. They will carry out their orders until destroyed or told to stand down.