Pentaton!

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This isn’t exactly news, but I didn’t have a blog when it was news. So, here I go:

The last time I sat down to build Mechaton mechs, I decided that I needed some sort of challenge—something to fire up my creative juices. For reasons that I have since forgotten, I decided to figure out how many different ways I could make pentagonally-symmetrical mechs. Pentagonal- or five-fold symmetry (they’re two different things in my mind, at least) are hard to do with Legos. Legos really like their rectilinear structure. But they’re much harder to do (1) at an appropriately-small scale for Mechaton and (2) if you want actual symmetry, not merely some funky 5-sided thing. Nonetheless, I managed to come up with several actually-pentagonal basic structures, as well as a couple merely 5-sided structures, all in roughly the right scale. Oh, and the regular shots of the mechs are roughly to scale, though the pictures of their structures are mostly zoomed way in.

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This is the beast that started it all. It’s way oversized for a Mechaton mech, but I got an idea, and went with it. The basic pentagonal structure was a piece of cake. The hard part was finding its center. As you can see here, the middle of a 2×2 attached to one of the edges is a reasonable approximation—the turntable that the cockpit and gatling cannon are mounted on is also centered on that point, and it’s close enough that it’s not obvious.

Plus, after coming up with that ridiculously-huge gatling cannon, i had to do something with it. So why not a mech so big it can stand over most others? And then I gave it some claws, but I wouldn’t recommend this configuration for actual play—artillery + movement + melee doesn’t work nearly as well as either ranged + artillery or ranged + melee.

A while later, I needed to come up with some mech designs of my own—I was tired of copying others’. So, inspired by the one above, i set myself the challenge of of seeing how many ways I could manage tiny pentagonal structures for my mechs. In no particular order:


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This structure is a good size, but kinda awkward to build off of. It relies on the little bits the feet are attached to to provide some resistance and maintain the shape. And they do this by being a little bit cattywumpus. Still, I like the cute little stubby feet it ends up with—obviously slow but stable. Despite the pentagonal basic structure, this one isn’t really pentagonally symmetrical at all—it has a very definite front. And isn’t symmetrical in any other direction. But it has a huge arm.


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I discovered that by enlarging the above structure, I could fit something in it to stabilize it. So now it’s stable, but too big. Still, the coincidence of that piece fitting pretty much exactly was very cool. And it makes a nice hole in the middle for an axle, too. Plus lots of hardpoints for attachments. I gave this one fancier legs, a cockpit on a turret, and a mix of weapons.


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This one basically takes the above two structures and inverts them, turning a pentagon into a pentagonal star. It also turns out that the 2×3 wedges are within a few degrees of the central angle of a pentagon (71.5° instead of 72°), so, with a little creativity, I was able to deck the star, and then build on top of that. This is also another fully pentagonally-symmetrical mech. I basically took the “standard” Mechaton mech and expanded it, using as close as I could get to the same arms, legs, and cockpits.


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Then I did to the very first one, at the top of the page, what I just did, above: turned the pentagon into a pentagonal star. With the swivel plates it’s not quite as rigid as the old-style hinge plates—there’s a little bit of give, so it doesn’t necessarily remain a symmetrical star if I accidentally squeeze it. Not that you can tell under all that camouflage. This was my base-grabber, and it worked pretty well: lots of legs, lots of claws, lots of jump jets, and the no-ranged-weapon speed bonus.


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This is probably the one I’m the proudest of. I couldn’t get anything but a funky lopsided structure with the new clickhinges, but decided to go with it. And ended up with this lovely little beetle, with all sorts of interesting angles yielding its armored shell. And plenty of places to mount stuff—at the moment dual double-barrelled mortors, dual lasers, forward communications relay, and floodlights.


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And now for something completely different: you take 5 martian arms, arrange them in a pentagram, and pin the points with antennas, and you have this very tall, stick-bug-like structure. To which i attached long spindly legs, and then a cockpit, sniper laser, artillery canon, shield generator, and a few rockets.


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Finally, the non-pentagon. This one isn’t even close to a true pentagon—if i were to add a fifth edge, the two vertices would end up so far apart that they fit next to each other, and I’d have a hexagon with one short side. On the other hand, by simply leaving the 5th side out entirely, it’s not like you can tell. And I suppose it’s not really any less pentagonal than the lopsided click-hinge beetle. This one is a flyer, with its guns aimed down and a big ol’ tentacle for grabbing other mechs.


There are more pics of all of these on my Brickshelf pages, and at much higher resolutions.

Edit: I meant to include a little something about size, and my “success” on that front: In actuality, most of these are really too big for the standard Mechaton scale (where 4L is 1 unit of distance). The “standard” mech design is about 5×3, and stands about 6 high. Most of the alternatives that Vincent has proposed, or have been used in his games, are also no bigger than 5 studs in width or depth, and generally narrower in the other dimension. Some are shorter, some taller—up to about 8 high for the ptimanya mechs. Nonetheless, height is basically irrelevant for Mechaton, since it is a strictly 2-D game, unless you add houserules. So, given these baselines, how did my pentagonal designs shape up? The little guy with one big arm, and maybe the beetle, are pretty much the right size. So’s the walking stick—his height is purely style, with no mechanical significance. The rest are too big. From the camo base-grabber and flying tentacle monster (who’re just a little too big), through the larger pentagon and the 5-faced guy (who’re around 7 or 8 wide–they start to make distances and movement a little wonky), to the giant spider with the gatling cannon, which is bloody huge: it can step over standard-sized mechs, and has a leg span of around 20 studs without trying. Meaning that it has to move more than 5 just to get out of the space it was formerly occupying, which really messes up distances. So, they’re cool, but most of them aren’t a good bet for an actual game.

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