This is a review of the Meka Tac game, published in 1999. As this review was written in 2015, it may be considered to be a retro review, if desired.
Meka Tac is a set of free, web published rules. Billed as "Quick & Dirty Tactical Giant Robot Combat Rules," Meka Tac is a short (7 page) rules light miniatures wargame which can be played on either hex grid mapsheets or a tabletop with terrain.
Meka Tac uses a unit activation system, with an Initiative Phase each turn to determine the order in which models are moved. Initiative is determined by a d10 roll with modifiers for Mecha size. Models may fire at any time in the turn, even interrupting the target's movement.
Attacks are resolved by d10 rolls with modifiers for range, movement, and cover, with hits inflicting random amounts of damage ranging from 1-4 to 4-40 points, depending on weapon type and size. (The most powerful weapons are greatly limited by range or ammo available, however, so it's more typical to see weapons inflicting 1-12 damage at most.) Mecha can sustain from 20 to 120 points of damage, again depending on size, before being destroyed.
Hits that do 10 or more damage also inflict critical damage on the target, with effects that generally degrade the target Mecha's abilities, though there is a slight chance (1 in 12) of a Reactor Core crit that destroys the target outright.
Different decks of cards are used during the game, adding further variety, suspense, and entertainment to play. Upgrade cards are dealt before the game begins, and improve the statistics of the Mecha they are assigned to, adding additional armor, weaponry, movement, or the like.
Strategy cards are also dealt before play starts, and allow a variety of effects such as a single support fire shot or the ability to change a Mecha's deployment slightly to represent an ambush.
Action cards are used during the game, with a hand that replentishes at the start of each turn. Action cards generally either give friendly Mecha an extra action or are played to prevent hostile Mecha from taking an action.
It must also be mentioned that besides the original Meka Tac rules, there is an expanded version, the Giant Stompy Robots Edition, available online, also for free. The GSRE adds such things as scenarios, stats for infantry and conventional vehicles, and campaign play.
I'm always on the lookout for good rules light sci-fi and fantasy miniatures games, so the premise behind the Meka Tac rules definitely appeals to me. Thus, it's somewhat embarrassing to admit that we floundered a bit at first once my son and I finally got to sit down and play a game. This isn't due to any lack in the design. It's just that we're accustomed to playing commercial products where the rules are clearly described with accompanying examples and diagrams. The Meka Tac rules aren't complex, but they're laid out as something of a bare bones system in which you're expected to use common sense to apply them during play.
Some examples would probably illustrate what I'm talking about better: At one point, Curtis and I both wanted to play multiple Action Cards at the same time. How is that resolved? (We rolled off to see who got to play a card first, then alternated playing additional cards one at a time, resolving each before moving on to the next.) Later, one of his mechas engaged a target in hand-to-hand while the target was standing on top of a small building. Common sense said that the attacker was too low to kick the target, limiting it to punching, and the defender was too high to punch back, limiting it to kicking. So that's how we played it.
Also, one of the reasons I was most excited about Meka Tac is that I assumed that because it's rules light, games could be finished very quickly. However, Meka Tac mecha have quite a large number of hits relative to the amount of damage they can inflict. Now, this isn't a bad thing. Like the concept of hit points in a Dungeons and Dragons game, this adds a strong element of resource management to the game. I enjoy the fact that I always know how much more damage my mecha can withstand, thus helping me to decide how to use them. But it does mean that games seem to take about as long as those played with other similar rules for mecha combat (BattleTech, etc.)
The above is just nitpicking, however, and both my son and I enjoy Meka Tac very much. We're in agreement that the Action and Strategy Cards are the best part of the game, adding an element of suspense and entertainment. (For instance, in our first game, Curtis drew the Terrain Strategy Card. Knowing what our terrain collection contains, he took great glee in dropping a large pool of lava in the center of my deployment zone!)
Meka Tac is one of my favorite games of mecha combat, along with BattleTech and CAV. I can't say that I really prefer any of the three over the others, as they all have good points and I will cheerfully play any of them. (Though it must be admitted that nostalgia plays a strong part in my attachment to the BattleTech rules.) Curtis, however, prefers Meka Tac.