Had a go with my copy of the Mechatron preview pdf two weekends ago and it's really got me excited to play. Especially the clever twists to an otherwise familiar ruleset that really make the robot PCs feel different to the living, breathing, all-too-often-bleeding characters in the preceding settings of Mutant.
To start with, you create your character by literally assembling them from chassis parts; head, torso and undercarriage. These parts in combination determine your attribute levels (servo strength/resilience, physical stability, processor power and networking aptitude), extent of armour plating and how many Modules (the robotic special powers) you can mount. More module capacity corresponds with lower attribute scores, as a nice balancing act that mirrors Mutant: Year Zero while coming at it from another direction. The modules are also quite similar to the mutation powers, in that most have multiple uses whereas the animal powers of Genlab Alpha usually had just a single effect. Unlike previous types of character powers though, Modules can be bought, swapped out and sold. As indeed can your chassis choices - changing all those derived statistics as you rebuild, both in and out of character
The 'origins' campaign starts you in a major fortified manufacturing facility called Mechatron-7. This place has seen better days but is still technologically advanced enough to provide plenty of bonuses to skill rolls for various purposes and ready access to Energy - which acts as food, 'power' points for modules, currency and ammunition all. Then every game session, the place falls apart a little bit more, dropping four ratings by d6 each from their starting scores. The only way to combat this degradation is to perform Work Orders, missions that will increase one of those four ratings by d6 or possibly more (the alpha contains only a single example). And as the ratings drop through thresholds, the corresponding bonuses or the energy supply drop so preserving Mechatron-7 gets that bit harder and players have to decide which ratings to prioritise.
All of which means that the robots begin as significantly more effective than the mutant breeds out in the dawnworld but by the end of this background campaign, they'll likely be much reduced and of a comparable level to the other player character options. It also plays beautifully into the theme of decay that features in M:Y0.
Thank you, Fria Ligan for sending out this preview with the limited GM section - it was an inspired move. Having GM'd our Genlab campaign, it's my turn to play a character next but as the one with some time free, I've run the alpha's sample Work Order for my gaming group. But by including only the essentials to run the Work Order in the alpha, you've ensured that I can go on to play spoiler-free when the full game arrives, or take up the mantle of GM again.
Two of my group's players also relate their opinions in the latest Critical Twits podcast (guaranteed spoiler-free) but does anyone else have experience of the alpha that they'd be willing to share? I'll bet few groups had a child's toy unicorn-bot causing trouble in the ranks!