Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mekton Empire - Review

 [Mekton II is an Anime RPG about giant fighty robots, written in the 1990's. This review is for an expansion to the original game.]

What we have here is a campaign type book, expanding the default universe from just the single world of Algol to a complete universe. At least that's what the blurb says. I'm not so sure.

The basic: Softback, A4'ish in size. Thin card cover in colour with black and white interior. 132 including index.

Starting with the cover itself. Yuk. It features a multi-coloured Mek that looks like something from Go-Bots, which is not something I like in my Meks. I prefer military colouring, or at least sensible colours. The back cover is black and white image of a battleship, I prefer that to the front cover.


This short section is exactly what it should be, it tells us what the book is about. Nice.

A History of the Bendar Spiral Galaxy:

This made up of a few things. It starts over a descriptive overview of the galactic empire. Very nice and interesting. Then comes a 5 page timeline... but about half the entries are blank. Let me confirm that for you, 5 pages, mostly blank. This is supposedly so that you can fill in the blanks and make the universe your own.  That's an odd concept for such a campaign book. Why did I but it, if I have to make stuff up and write it into the book?

Next is a biographical section, listing lots of NPCs and giving many a head shot. the entries are short, descriptive and good summaries. But again the "this book is a tool box" idea comes into play once again. There are no stats, and no place in the presented universe to place these NPCs, that's for you to decide. It even has space where you can write in the birth and death years of these characters. I ask you, why would you create a dead NPC?

Guide to the Bendar Spiral Galaxy:

This section starts with a list of tables of planetary stats, such as tech level, atmosphere, port facilities etc. Each level is given a number and a code.  Quite Travelleresque, but no system for generating planets.

Next comes a list of planets, each entry has the planet stats and short good description of notable points, such as predominant life form or resources or government. However there is no place for these planets, no galactic coordinates. You have to assign them to the map yourself, more on the map later.

Races of the Bendar Spiral Galaxy:

Nine races, all but two humanoid. One is human, one is manga-people (big eyes) and one is pixies. All in, rather unimaginative.

Next up are organisations, military, political and commercial which span multiple planets and races. Some good stuff here, great ideas and starting points for adventures.

Creatures of the Bendar Spiral Galaxy:

Four pages, four entries each...not many creatures in this galaxy! However they do look good, handy to pull out at short notice.

Technical Guides:

Guns, armour, space suits, kit and some nice looking mecha. Stats for everything. Nice.

Next up space ships. They state here how spaceships in anime are only bases from which to launch plot, and their intention was to creat such plot-ships in these rules. To that end the stats for ships are pretty simple and ships come in just a few basic classes.

I think they've got the rules down here, just enough no build the plot and run through some battles without is becoming a big heavy wargame. bonus points for some wonderful ship art.

Mysteries of the Galaxy:

This section is a great idea, badly presented. These are cool plot hooks for adventures or entire campaigns. They are good ideas! Yet , once again the section has "blanks" for you to fill in. Wasted, white, empty space.

New Rules for Mekton Empire:

The main segment here, and really the best part of the book, it the rules section on Psionics. Based around a new statistic, characters may have trained or wild Psionic talents. Lots of great powers are listed and explained. This section is very well thought out and fun to read. It sparked off no end of ideas for me.

Space Combat is explained next, and how it different from the usual planet side combat. Meks in space, spaceships line of sight etc, are all laid out here

Building the Better Beast:

Two pages of rules for creating new animals to populate your planets.

Next, four pages of Life Path alterations to the basic rules life path. It has the same boxed tables layout, but only shows the new tables, rather than re-presenting the entire life path system. For the new races, you'll need to reference both books.

Then comes the detailed index. But this not the end!

Last but one, comes sheet of starship silouhettes for you to cut out. (Eek! Cut up your book! No!)

The final thing is a colour star map that folds out to double page spread size. Alas, it is again a good idea badly implemented. It was good in its day, I guess. It was printed in 1990, so they didn't have access to the great free public domain art of NASA. A grid is overlaid on a spiral galaxy that looks like it was simply and quickly done with an air brush. Various places on the map are marked with round coloured (and ugly) spots. These are planets. But which planet is which? Well that's easily solved. You have to go through the section that listed a bunch of planets and assign them to the map. They've even left spaces for you to do that at the side of the map.

There you have it. But what do I think?

The designers/writers of this book produced a thing that is not quite sure what it is. A tool box, and/or a campaign book.

I have no interest in the sections where I have to fill them in myself, that's not the point of source book. If it's a tool box, why have they written so much detail in of actual places , people and events?  This leaves me with a galaxy where only half of it is mine. I don't like that feeling.

I've created sectors in Traveller, clusters in Diaspora, I'm not afraid of making my own universe. But this approach left me cold.

I'm really happy with the starship design, the Psionic rules, space combat, guns, armour and kit sections. I will drop these into an existing Mekton game at the drop of a hat.  I may even lift some of the ideas, planets and people, for a game here and there, but those sections will not be automatic reference points.

I am glad I've added this to my collection.