Table Talk: MFZ Isn’t a Wargame…

I’ve seen a lot of people get interested in Mobile Frame Zero because its a “tabletop wargame” with Lego. Technically, I suppose it is, but I don’t think we should be introducing it as such. The term “tabletop wargame” conjures up images of games like Warhammer, Warmachine, and the like. MFZ is only similar to those games in the broadest sense and actually shares more in common with games like X-Wing, Heroclix, or Mage Knight.

When new players are learning how to play MFZ and have the preconceived notions of traditional tabletop games in their heads, things generally don’t go so smoothly. “What do you mean there’s no line of fire?” “Facing doesn’t matter either?” “Why doesn’t my artillery do splash damage?” These players still are thinking with their previous wargaming experience instead of approaching MFZ with an open mind. I try to tell players that are learning the game that they can’t play MFZ like other games.

One of the things that tends to throw people off is playing with three players. This is extremely unusual for the tabletop genre and can be off putting for the traditional tabletopper. The potential (and downright assuredness) that someone will be getting ganged up on is usually seen as a negative in most games. But MFZ is meant to be asymmetrical, and in fact is balanced in a way that almost requires it.

I’ve seen many people try to add unnecessary complexity to the MFZ ruleset before even getting familiar with it. The tactics and depth in MFZ are not in the combat mechanics themselves, which is where most of the depth in traditional tabletop games comes from. In MFZ its in the decision making and the scoring system that bring the complexity and depth to the experience. Making tough choices like “do I give myself a defense of 2 to be able to move 6 to grab that objective and probably not survive? Or do I give myself the 6 defense and fall short of capturing the station but probably not take any damage?” are at the core of the MFZ experience. These are things that the traditional tabletop gamer isn’t used to doing, and it can be difficult to wrap ones head around a new concept like this while clinging to old gaming habits. Once people do learn to approach MFZ with a fresh set of eyes though, things start clicking.

Another thing to keep in mind is that contrary to many wargames, it is generally more beneficial to play the objectives in MFZ than to just shoot things. Destroying your opponent’s frames doesn’t get you points, it only reduces theirs. The only way to increase your score is to capture stations. Couple that with the comparably low level of lethality in MFZ compared to other games and playing the objective really becomes the most effective way to win.

With that, I think we should all stop introducing this wonderful game as a wargame, and start introducing it as a tactical board game, a strategy game of tough decisions and taking risks. When you get down to it, that’s the part that makes the game what it is. That’s the part that makes the game great.

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One thought on “Table Talk: MFZ Isn’t a Wargame…

  1. I disagree. Just because people associate the word “wargame” with Warhammer and other game of their ilk doesn’t mean it won’t apply to MFZ. Does it not apply to Advanced Squad Leader and other chit based wargames? Does it not apply to Napoleonics and other historical mini games? Neither of those categories matches Warhammer and yet they’re both wargames. Just because MFZ is asymetrical and has a heavy reliance on decision space is it any less of a wargame.

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