Table Talk: Playing Efficiently as the Defender

Earlier I had talked about building your frames and using them efficiently. But how do you utilize that knowledge on the table? Here are a few tips for playing efficiently as the defender.

1. Denial, denial, denial.
When you’re deploying your stations on the table before anyone else, you may be tempted to put them in a corner somewhere so that there is only one angle of attack. Don’t give in to that temptation. One of the biggest advantages you have as the defender is area denial. You opponents are not allowed to deploy within direct fire range of your stations, make sure to use that to your advantage. Try to place your stations so that your entire defensive perimeter is actually on the table, if your stations are too close to a table edge you are wasting a valuable asset. Also, find the most advantageous place on the table and make sure your opponents can’t deploy there. Force them to deploy either in a large open killzone, or force them to move through one to get to you.

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These are weapons in your arsenal, make sure you learn to use them.

2. Sometimes the best defense…
…Is to not defend at all. Remember that station you used to deny a huge chunk of the table to your opponents? That one right next to, or better yet, in the middle of that big open killzone? Don’t try to defend it, let the other guys fight over it. As your opponents move towards that juicy station you’re dangling in front of them, fall back and let them take it. Chances are if you lose that station you won’t be in the lead anymore, and then you won’t have two people gunning for you anymore. This is called the fade maneuver and it is pretty much essential to win as the defender on the regular.

3. Premature Activation
Having the highest score at the beginning of the game, and thus the initiative can be a bit tricky. You have the capability to activate your frames first, but most likely it isn’t in your best interest to do so. As tempting as it is to start unloading into that point frame right at your front door I wouldn’t usually advise it. Instead of looking at having initiative as being able to go first, think of it as having control over when you get to go. If you pass, you force one of your opponents to go and play their hand before you give up your precious few activations. This let’s you play more reactively and take advantage of beneficial situations as they present themselves. It takes a little practice to figure out when to jump the gun and activate your frames and when to hold off, but with a few games under your belt it should become easier.

Hopefully these will help you out on the table! If you have any other tips you’ve picked up be sure to let us know!

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.