08 May 2011

Secrets of the Third Reich - Guide to mechas

Maybe one of the coolest and most liked parts of Secrets of the Third Reich are the Vehicle Design Rules. A list of weapons, chassis sizes, armor thickness and additional equipment makes up the last few pages of the Secrets of the Third Reich Rulebook . This final part of my guide to Secret of the Third Reich support options is a “bonus” part suggested to me on The Miniature Page by one of its members.  Building a mecha can be tricky for newcomers and veteran players might try to squeeze out as much punch of a mecha as they can for the smallest amount of points to make it both worth including but not too expensive as it should cripple the platoon should it be lost in battle.

First of all, you need to read page 152, first line says that mechas should follow the rule of “What you see is what you get”.  As simple as that. Considering that custom mechas can look very unique in appearance and style – this is needed to easily keep track of the main weapons (that are not for show) during a game.

The vehicle design rules are quite cleverly written to allow you to customize  almost every aspect of your mecha , and each choice brings more options and limitations at the same time. Each mech build contains a fair amount of information.  I will write the mech building in the proper order to make it as easy as possible to follow. The pictures attached to this post should help understanding all that is being described.

Either you already have a model for a mech or you are going to build one yourself from scratch or do a conversion. The first step is all about the size and appearance of the mecha – you have to decide how to categorize the “Chassis size” first. To help you out a little page 152 in the SoTR rulebook hints at what the original SoTR range mechas are classed as. A Comanche mecha is classed as small chassis. As such if you have a mecha that is around that same size you simply have a “small chassis mecha” in your possession.

The chassis size is the most important part of the mech as you will soon learn. The rule of thumb in my opinion should be how many crewmen would be able to squeeze into the mecha, each chassis size has its crew limits. Small mechas can only contain 1 crewman. Medium mecha can have 2, Large 3 and Titanic size 4.

Seing as this is a Vehicle Design Rule guide, I will use a mecha from of different origin than SoTR and use the SoTR Comanche mecha for reference. This mecha I intend to use, an Urban Mammoth model,  is taller than the Comanche no doubt. But the hull size above the legs would hardly support more than 1 crewmember. So “Small chassis” would be fair enough.

Now looking at the chart on page 152, the first column shows chassis size, the second the amount of crewmen. Small = 1 crew. Next we see the default speed class of each chassis size. Small Chassis is speed class II making the mecha able to move 4” Slow/ 8” Medium / 12” Fast speed.

Next we see that the basic cost of a small chassis is 1RP, after this we are informed that you can increase the Speed class by one step for a set number of RP.
Small chassis mecha with speed class II can be upgraded to Speed Class III for 2RP.

Now that we know the size, amount of crew and speed of our mecha we are informed about the limitations of the chassis size of our choice. Small Chassis mechas comes with 3 Weapon hard points. A weapon hardpoint is a place where you attach a weapon, some weapons take up more weapon hardpoints we’ll learn soon enough. The small chassis mecha can also have a maximum of 1 Medium Weapon, no Heavy Weapon and the armor class may ranged from no armor at all to medium armor at the most.

The information inside the chart on page 152 have given us the bare bones of the mech building, making it know what we may and may not pick from the wargear on page 153.
Page 153 contain Armor class, Weapons and Vehicle equipment.

Looking again at my custom mecha, it has some sort of dual gatling gun weapon and a claw. The armor itself does not look all that bulky, and it has some sort of engines at the back. This should be taken into account in accordance with the “What you see is what you get” rule.
First thing you buy from page 153 is Armor for your mecha. Small mechas could have a maximum thickness of “Medium armor class”. Might as well pick that to be on the safe side, medium armor will add 4RP to the total cost of the mecha. Write it down and proceed to the Weapons.
The text below the Weapons headline informs you on a few important notes. Weapons that range from Light AT + are considered “Main guns”.
This is important since the SoTR rules only allow “Slow movement” if you want to fire any vehicle main gun that turn.

Weapons of Light infantry – Very Light AT are considered “Secondary weapons”, this include Flamethrowers even though they are considered Light AT value against vehicles. 
You may twin link weapons, paying 1RP more on top of the basic cost of the weapon intended for twin linking – BUT – you may only twin link machineguns (LMG/HMG). A twin linked weapon takes up 2 weapon hard points instead of one. Twin linked weapons receive +1 to hit, making machine guns extra deadly as they already come with +1 to hit within 24” range.

Fair enough, my model receives a twin linked HMG – and the claw would pass for a “Vehicle close combat weapon”. The HMG is 2RP + 1 for twin linking, the Vehicle close combat weapon is 1RP. Total cost of my weapons is 4RP.

The jet enginges on the back will serve to make the model a “Drop mecha”, depending on the chassis size this ability varies in cost. But small chassis mechas pay 2RP to receive the Drop Trooper rule. One should be aware that you can only have a maximum armor class of Medium armor on a Drop Mech.

With chassis, armor, weapons and my drop ability bought – we now take a look on the Vehicle equipment section. All vehicles come with a radio and may as such be used as spotters for friendly mortar teams or for vehicles firing AT rounds through buildings.

The vehicle equipment contains all kinds of gear, most of it situational, some of it always useful. Radiation shielding, vehicle camouflage, infrared sights, anti-zombie apparatus, sealed hull etc. Each comes with a description on the useful effects of the gear. Optical Range finders should be a given on any mecha with a main gun as it would receive +1 to hit with the AT gun. Machineguns do not benefit from that however. As my mecha does not have any need for any of the gear listed I sum up the total of the points and see what I got.

Small Chassis 1RP
Medium Armor 4RP
Twin Linked HMG 2+1 RP
Vehicle close combat weapon 1RP
Drop ability 2RP

A total of 11RP. And that’s how the mech building works.
So what is the point of including mechas and what are the perks of such a unit in the game?
Well, beside looking cool (even though I admit I love tanks as much as anyone) they first and foremost have 2 unique abilities. One being the vehicle close combat weapon and the other the drop ability. 

The vehicle close combat weapon is used as part of the vehicle movement – not during actual shooting phase. As long as you can move your mecha about it need only be base to base to punch  enemy vehicles with its weapon. 1 attack for each weapon, the strength is determined by the mech chassis size. Small chassis = Light AT class strength hit. You cannot hit infantry with these weapons though.

The Drop ability allows you to deploy an armored vehicle behind, or amidst enemy lines to spread havoc. Just remember that the Drop Trooper rule makes the mecha count as having moved when it enters, so you cannot fire any main guns, and secondary weapons receive -1 to hit.
Mechas are also unique in their armor penetration zones. Whilst vehicles have front/flank/rear armor  mechas only have “Front/Back” and have a 180 degrees Line of Sight. The fron/back arch is also determined by the 180 degrees that make up the fron and back of the mecha base. This makes the mecha somewhat harder to hit in the softer rear armor than it would be to hit a vehicle in the side armor.

Once hit, the opponent must also first roll on a chart to see what part of the mecha was hit, leg/arms/body. And if leg/arm – which leg/arm was hit? Admittedly the mechas are harder to take out of action as there is only a chance to hit a mecha body on the roll of 6-8 with 2D6. If hit your main fear would be the crew panicking and bailing out more often than the actual damage result. Crippling to results to arms and legs make up the majority of damage rolls on a mecha. Weapon arms may be blown off, legs shot away from beneath you or maybe just a scratch that make the weapon for on a roll of 4+ whenever you intend to use it and your leg propulsion systems would be reduced by 1 speed class.

While historical vehicles are locked to what weapons and armor they can have and the mecha can be custom built to suit your platoon and be tailored to fit your needs making for a more flexible unit than a historical vehicle. Mechas also come off slightly cheaper and more powerful compared to most historical vehicles of equal class.

One thing that is being debated at this point is the introduction of Soviet “Spider mechas”, mechas with multiple legs. The rules are described in doomsday , and in short they say that any penetration results resulting in arm damage should be counted towards the legs instead as the spider mechas have no arms but lots of legs. With each leg blown of the speed class is reduced by 1 and when only 3 legs remain the mecha topples over. And you don’t have to roll on the armor penetration results until you have 4 legs left.

The problem at this point is that the spider mecha rule has no cost attached to it, and the soviet mechas do seem to get it for free. While the legs may seem vulnerable enough a few weapons such as explosive charges are less useful against a mecha with 8 legs than against a mecha with 2 legs.
At least against 2 legs you have the chance of knocking it down with 1 attack, while a spider mecha may lose 1 leg and move away using the 7 that are left. The other thing is that flamethrowers attached on such a mecha could prove to be overly powerful and cheesy. Mechas as they are built now are dangerous foes when sporting a flamethrower – be it when they charge up front or drop behind you. But imagining a spider mecha that is almost unstoppable – will with very high certainty always reach your lines and BBQ your infantry – to have that special rule at no particular cost would be quite unthinkable.

This is discussed with the new smaller West Wind made spider mecha about to be released. If you are a kind enough player (and want to avoid long discussions) you will just keep to the Spider mech used along with the KS-1 Nayk Spider mecha profile until proper clarification around the spider mech rule has been released.

More pictures on the Titanic mecha conversion show to the right is made up of both Tiger Mecha parts and a Kryo mech. You can see more WIP and painted up pictures of it here: http://anatolisgameroom.blogspot.com/2010/08/konigstiger-mecha.html


  1. Nicely written, just check the fact about Vehicle Ccw strenght (see Ylvas forum).


  2. Good catch- and a very important one!
    It has been corrected.

  3. Great article and good analysis - thanks!


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