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Video Game / M.A.X.: Mechanized Assault & Exploration

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"They were the unwanted. Cults. Religious factions. Even entire governments. Through the intercession of alien rulers called the Concord, they had been taken off a hostile Earth, and given a new chance to gain a new world on which to prosper. Inside each alien-supplied ship lies a faction's entire population. Their alien sponsors promised them a new world on which they can thrive. All they have to do, is fight for it." - Opening Narration

M.A.X.: Mechanized Assault & Exploration is a Turn-Based Strategy game developed and published by Interplay Productions, released for MS-DOS in 1996. Since 2008, it has been available bundled with its sequel from

It is The Future. A hundred small factions, exiled from earth, have been empowered by the Concord, a council of alien "Star Lords", to fight proxy wars for them, in exchange earning new worlds to colonize. The player assumes the role of a M.A.X. Commander, a human brain in a robotic shell designed to withstand the rigors of hyperspace and command mechanized shore parties to clear suitable areas for new settlements. Trouble is, other M.A.X. commanders have their eyes on these same areas, courtesy of alien meddling. A Robot War for control ensues.

The game itself was fairly complex. There were three different resources to manage, buildings had to be connected to one another to get power and resources, and units needed to be resupplied or be unable to build or shoot. Though predominantly turn-based, the game could be played in "simultaneous mode", which was not true Real-Time Strategy but rather every player taking their turns at once. As the various units and structures were still limited in what they could do in a turn, this made for rather different game flow then the regular system.


M.A.X. provides examples of:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Concord picked someone from a race that looked somewhat like us to be their ambassador to Earth.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Justfied here by the Concord selecting worlds that could be inhabited by humans with minimal terraforming effort.
  • All There in the Manual: Much more of the Back Story, including information about the forming of the Concord and about the eight clans, as well as in-depth descriptions of units and structures.
  • Amphibious Automobile: Certain vehicles, such as builders, Surveyors, APCs and Scout bikes can cross water. The former can build pontoon bridges for everything else to cross.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The APC is ripped right out of Aliens and can transport Infantry and Infiltrators.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The "Von Griffin" clan is made up of neo-fascists and other foreign-hating groups from old Earth, united in their hatred of everybody else and their skill at stealth and espionage.
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  • Blue Blood: The "Seven Knights" and the "Musashi" (more on them below under Samurai) clans. Unlike the latter, the former was more obsessed with the power and position of nobility then adhering to codes of honor, and this developed into a specialization in defense and fortification.
  • Brain in a Jar: The M.A.X. Commanders. The Opening Narration states that only the "hardiest and most selfless" of candidates could tolerate the procedure. These commanders often ended up being separated from their parent clans, and assigned to other forces. The Commanders formed their own group, The Circuit, for the purposes of disseminating information about each clan to each commander.
  • City in a Bottle: The Eco-Spheres, built by Constructors and filled with colonists from your Habitats. These are your ultimate goal- building a certain number of these is an Instant-Win Condition.
  • The Clan: Over the centuries the exiles fought for the Concord, old hatreds and creeds from Earth were forgotten, and new ones engendered by their battles against one other meant that the little factions merged into eight great clans, each with a battlefield specialty.
  • Combat by Champion: The Concord ruled that resources disputes would be settled via Trial by Combat. Trouble is, these trials would have to be fought for with ground forces, face-to-face. None of their lazy populace wanted to fight these wars, so they had to find someone else to do it. At first they used Mecha-Mooks, but they needed someone with strategic chops and willingness to fight to guide the machines. Enter humanity.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Justified here. Your force is an advance team with the threefold purpose of gathering resources, militarily evicting rival groups and building colony domes for your colonists to live in.
  • Deal with the Devil: Only after leaving Earth did the exiles discover the true extent of their arrangement with the Concord. All of them (not just soldiers) would have to fight for their sponsors against the other groups, and the winning faction would then pay a tax on resources and goods culled from the planet they had won. When one colony ship called foul on this, that ship blew up in full view of the others. There were no further objections.
  • Easy Logistics: Largely averted, to varying degrees of annoyance. All your buildings must be connected to one another (either by being adjacent to one other or by building connectors) to facilitate transfer of power and resources. Power Generators need to be connected to the "power-ee" and a supply of fuel. You need storage buildings to house the resources you mine, and you must move vehicles next to or into docks/hangars/depots to resupply and upgrade them. At the very least, you don't have to move them next to the exact building to resupply- as long as it's ultimately connected to one through other buildings, you can refill them. You can even build roads- and should, as units move faster over them.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Radar towers, ground-based Scanner units and AWAC aircraft enable this. Corvettes, Submarines and Ground Attack aircraft pack Sonar to spot and attack other submarines and ocean-going APCs.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Infiltrators can capture enemy vehicles