Mechastellar: Gundam – Designing Grunts

Char vs GM

For today’s post I’d like to talk about some of the design principles and rationale in how I build suits to populate the battlefield.  Mainly the grunt suits.  In this post we’ll tackle suits from the Gundam Universe.

As a reminder, in Mechastellar there are three variable main categories that you can tweak when designing your Giant Fighting Robot:  Frame, Performance, and Pilot.

Frame level determines Hull Points (HP), Armor (ARM Sv), and Output (Action Points) to name a few.  Performance affects your Shooting, Melee, Evade, and Movement.   Pilot gives Pilot Skill which can be used as a trump card when it comes to hitting, evading, and melee victory.

On top of that, suits can be further defined by assigning a combat role: Gunner, Battler, Versatile or Hi-Mobility.  Today we’ll just look at basics with Frame, Performance and Pilot.


Gundam OYW Suits

From a Gundam perspective, we of course start with the one year war.  That’ll be our foundation and we’ll build suits from other shows and eras based off of that.  We’ll cover grunts from successor series (i.e. Zeta and CCA) in a follow on post.

Now from the One Year War (OYW) perspective of the original Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) we know a few things.  Zeon was the first to develop a true mobile suit and the AMBAC system.  The Federation had Project V to even the odds after the brilliant success of Mobile Suits displayed at the Battle of Loum.  Project V in the original MSG gave us the clunky Guntank, the slightly more mobile Guncannon, and the eponymous Gundam.

((If you’re familiar with the Origin there have been minor retcons introduced, for instance Guntanks on Munzo (Zeon), but Guntanks aren’t really mobile or a suit so much as they are double-decker tanks.  Likewise, the Federation creates some pre-Guncannons that are thrashed by the Zaku I.  Either way we know that Zeon got to the 1st generation mobile suit first and they were sufficiently more advanced than the Federation))



After watching the animation and reading the Origin graphic novels (as well as a slew of manga sidestories and background material like the entertainment bible), one idea keeps popping up.  It is even referenced in the Zeta timeline regarding why Anaheim was so eager to scoop up Zeon mobile suit engineers.  Zeon was 10 years ahead of its time with Mobile Suits.

While they eventually lost the war due to an onslaught of Federation GMs, much akin to the wave after wave of US Sherman tanks fighting the German panzer corps, we can acknowledge that Zeon had the best MS Engineers on their side.  Zeon engineers had more experience and more time but unfortunately had less materials (operating in space) and less manufacturing capability compared to the entire earth sphere.  With that we strive for this design principle:

OYW Suit Design Principles

  • When comparing suits that are peers, Zeon typically has the higher performance.
  • Zeon has inferior materials making their suits heavier, so we typically give them extra equipment to add to their Weight (WT) factor.
  • The Federation (having lots of manufacturing) has access to lots of cheap units.
  • The Federation are also able to create high frame level units (Gundams).
  • The Federation lags behind Zeon when we look at Performance.

On the Federation side we know that the Gundam is a beast, earning the nickname “White Devil” from Zeon opponents.  It was nearly indestructible and its pilot brought out the best in it.  The GMs (Gundam Mass-produced), while having similar specs on paper, never quite matched up to the combat capability of the Gundam.

Asshimar and RD

What You See Is What You Get

Above all else please remember that Mechastellar designs all suits based off the animation they aired in instead of using their published specifications.  This is done specifically because the specs are all over the place from each series, and they don’t match what you see in the show.

I bring this up because if you are a specs buff the GM tends to match or exceed the Gundam performance specs wise, but looking at the original animation and various OVA sidestories, that is simply not the case in the animation.  Part of it is the ‘Hero’ effect, but ultimately we decide on who has the higher performance based on how well that suit operates in the show against its peers.

The same can be said for Frame Level.  Frame level is chosen based off of “Could a suit survive a direct hit from X”.  We also use Frame Level for suits with very dense armor that can ward off powerful attacks, like the Asshimar featured above.  If the suit blows up easily, it will be given a lower Frame level.



One tangent I’d like to bring up is Armor.  Zeon typically has far inferior armor materials (super high tensile steel currently used on our modern submarines) compared to the Federation (Luna Titanium and Titanium composite).  You might assume that Federation suits on a whole should have a higher frame level since the average GM has a better material for Armor than its Zaku counterpart.

From experience as a mechanical engineer I can tell you that while the type of material matters the toughness of the material is often more important than the hardness.  Toughness is directly correlated with thickness.  When it comes to absorbing kinetic energy there is a very large difference between a 1/4″ of steel and a full 1″ of steel, likewise for a concrete barrier that is 1′ thick vs a 10′ column.

While the GM may have better armor material, it doesn’t matter if the thickness and resilience isn’t there.  Investing in thicker durable armor is expensive, and the Federation was interested in pumping out a wide swath of suits to compete with better-prepared Zeon.  They didn’t have the time to make sure each one had the same invincible armor as the Gundam.

If you’ve ever wondered why Scirocco’s The O can shrug off beam fire while the same beam goes right through a Rick Dias, even though both are made of Gundarium Gamma, this is why.  The armor on The O is much thicker, whereas the Rick Dias is built for mobility so it’s armor is thinner and thus easier to defeat.

Since Mechastellar relies on what we see in the animation: we see GMs (early types) getting blown up left and right, and the same for Zakus.  So we would assign both of them Frame Level 1, the common frame level for the most common suit in the war.  Taking a look at the GM Ground Type we see them being more resilient so we can keep them Frame Level 1 but choose to up their armor, increase their HP or both using Equipment (EQ) slots.  But we’ll cover that later.  This ends the armor tangent.

GM Ground Type

Frame and Performance Examples

For now just remember that Frame and Performance are based off animation.  If it’s fragile in the animation it will be low frame, if it’s resilient in the animation it will be high frame.  Likewise, for performance, a Rick Dias can run circles around a GM II so it’s performance will be considerably higher.  Now let’s look at some suit comparisons.

Reminder:  Frame goes from 1-5.  Performance goes from 0-15, for the OYW it’s 0-5.

Let’s look at the front line soldier for Federation and Zeon, the GM and the Zaku II.  Using the above rationale that Zeon is 10 years ahead in MS Development, we know the Zaku II will be ahead of the GM.  So let’s start with this framework.

We start the GM off with Performance 0: it is the Federation’s first mass produced suit.  We give the Zaku I a Performance of 1: while you can argue it should also be a 0, we’re giving Zeon the technology edge here for performance.

  • GM (Early) – Frame 1, Performance 0
  • Zaku I – Frame 1, Performance 1
  • Zaku II – Frame 1, Performance 2

Zaku maintenance

Now for the Gundam, we’ll assign him a Performance of 2, easily on par with the Zaku II.  When he gets the Magnetic Coating later, that will correspond to a bump to a higher performance level.

For the Gouf (which is no Zaku) and Dom we’ll put them at Performance 3 as 2nd generation suits.  We also give them Frame 2 because we know both suits had intentionally thicker armor and could withstand a bit more punishment from small arms fire but the Dom was still vulnerable to getting holes blasted through it from a beam spray gun.

These suits as depicted on screen typically had the edge over the Gundam, but a combination of the Gundam’s incredible armor and Amuro’s piloting ability allowed him to overcome those suits.

  • GM (Early) – Frame 1, Performance 0
  • Gundam (Early) – Frame 4, Performance 2
  • Zaku I – Frame 1, Performance 1
  • Zaku II – Frame 1, Performance 2
  • Gouf – Frame 2, Performance 3
  • Dom – Frame 2, Performance 3

Gundam and TriStars

While the Zeon suits have the same foundational stats, they are all differentiated by their roles and equipment.  The Gouf is a Battler and the Dom is a Hi-Mobility type, giving them very different stat profiles once all the bonuses are factored in.  From there we go to the 3rd generation which is the Gelgoog, the first mass-produced suit to use beam weapons on Zeon’s side.  Gelgoogs are sturdy but not quite as invincible as the Gundam.  We’ll go with Frame 3, Performance 4, with custom suits having higher performance.

Now let’s talk Federation.  With a high manufacturing capability their suits should be numerous but cheaper, cheaper suits means more affordable performance levels.  So with the GM line of descendants, we tick up their Performance 1 for each great leap we see on screen.

  • GM (Early) – Frame 1, Performance 0
  • GM Kai – Frame 1, Performance 1
  • GM Cold Climate Type – Frame 1, Performance 1
  • GM Command (Space) – Frame 1, Performance 2
  • GM Sniper Custom – Frame 1, Performance 3
  • Gundam (Early) – Frame 4, Performance 2
  • Gundam (Magnetic Coating) – Frame 4, Performance 4
  • Zaku II – Frame 1, Performance 2
  • Zaku I – Frame 1, Performance 1
  • Gouf – Frame 2, Performance 3
  • Dom – Frame 2, Performance 3
  • Gelgoog – Frame 3, Performance 4

There we have it.  A rating of suits with Performance 1 – 4 for each faction.  When designing other suits, we typically adhere to this concept.  First we ask, is he on par with this suit, if the answer is yes then that’s the performance.

Gelgoog cannon

If we think that suit is performing better than another we can give it a higher performance, as long as there is not an ace pilot behind the controls like Hughes Courand in a GM Command (Space) nimbly evading and destroying a Gelgoog Cannon.

Since Pilot is it’s own foundation stat, we do allow it to swing battles for pilots with inferior suits.  We’ll talk more about pilot skill when it comes to shooting and evasion another time next time.



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