Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Muddled impressions of Mech Capture

Mech Capture is a PnP not-quite-micro-game of trying to overwhelm enemy mechs and capture them. The game consists of two 18-Card decks and that’s it.

Here’s how I understand the game: The cards form a seven space grid that forms a hexagon with a center space. Enemy spaces are center, twelve o’clock, four o’clock, and seven o’clock. You get to use two o’clock, six and clock and ten o’clock spaces.

Short version, you play your cards to surround enemy cards. If you have the right number of  matching symbols, you capture it. If you have too many of the symbol, you destroy the card and don’t get to score it. If you manage to capture more points in enemy mech than they manage to hang onto, you win.

I’ll be honest. I’m pretty sure I’ve been playing the game right but that’s because I’ve gone through the informal Q&As on the BGG boards. The rules really need some expansion and clarification. The rules are two pages long and they could have used another page.

And I’m still not quite sure what I think about Mech Capture. When I first read the rules, I found myself hoping that I had found a solitaire Battle for Hill 218. And Mech Capture really isn’t. While board position does matter for the enemy mechs, it doesn’t for yours. By my third game, my reserve was just my hand and I just discarded cards to capture or destroy.

I’ve tried a decent number of solitaire PnP games at this point (and I’m planning on playing plenty more) and Mech Capture doesn’t quite fit into any niche for me. It’s not quite light enough for me to feel like I’m fidgeting but it doesn’t have the depth or agency to make me feel like I’m ‘gaming’.

(To put that in perspective, Elevenses for One and Palm Island do feel like gaming to me)

That said, I like how there is a real spacial element to the game, even if it is honestly limited to the enemy mech. And while the game play is really about hand management, there is a functional combat system. I don’t feel like I’m playing a war game but I do feel like I’m playing an abstract strategy game.

And I’ll be honest. The fact that the game is nothing but cards is a plus for me. It makes it much easier to sit down and play. A five-minute game that takes five minutes to set up has more to overcome than shuffling some cards.

I think further play leading me to know both decks will actually add a level of agency to the game. At the same time, luck might still overpower choices and the game feels like there should be more. Like the ideas could be recycled in a bigger and better game.

And I need to try the campaign play. I think that would really improve the game. As I’ve said, it doesn’t quite work for me as a fidget game so making it bigger might be better.

While further play might make me change my mind one way or the other, Mech Capture is a game that I’m glad that I made and is interesting to explore but not one I’d recommend.

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