Thursday, July 14, 2011


BattleTech was the first miniatures game I ever played, although I didn't realize it at the time. BattleTech is one of those rare hybrids between miniatures and board games (and at times even RPGs), and I always thought of it as more of a board game, even when I was using miniatures to play it.

The thing about BattleTech is that while it's a decent game, it was never the game itself that really attracted me to it, it was the background. The background of the Succession Wars that pitfive houses in a free for all fight to claim control over humanity had a level of realism and detail that the actual game seemed to sometimes lack, at least for a young history and politics nut.

I was hooked on the universe from the time I first bought the game (I think probably around 1986) right up until the appearance of the Clans in 1990. The appearance of the Clans (which I was not a fan of at the time), combined with my eventual graduation from college, led me to abandon BattleTech for a period of over 15 years, but then Catalyst Games took over.

I was impressed by the production value they put into the new starter box in 2006, although not enough to actually buy it at the time. I was equally impressed by the introduction of the Sword and Dragon Starterbook that went back to the roots of the game by bringing McKinnon's Raiders and Sorenson's Sabres back into the lore of BattleTech. These were units covered in two of the original three sourcebooks for the game, and personal favorites of mine.

This is all a long-winded lead-in to how I've been totally diving into the current line of products being put out by Catalyst Games. Their take on the rules has been impressive. The core system is the same as it was back in the eighties, but with more polish. The first book, Total Warfare, was originally published by Fanpro and contains the core rules for 'mechs, aerospace, vehicles, and the various forms of infantry available in the BattleTech universe. This book is designed as a reference manual, not a tutorial. It says right on the back cover to get the starter box if you're new to the game. This let them put out a solid reference manual that contains just the core, 'tournament legal', rules.

The second volume in the series of rulebooks is the TechManual. This book is slightly larger than Total Warfare, and is all about constructing the units that have rules in Total Warfare. This book is a gearheads dream. Battletech has always had solid unit construction rules, and this tradition continues with the TechManual. Together with Total Warfare this book makes up the core rules of the system. Everything else is advanced/optional rules.

There are three volumes in the advanced rules series, two of which have been released. The first is Tactical Operations, which covers advanced optional rules for ground combat. There are a lot of good ideas here presented in a modular format so that you can just add in what you want to, without having to take the whole batch.

The second is Strategic Operations, which does for aerospace combat what Tactical Operations did for ground combat. It also does a few other things. It introduces repair and salvage rules for use in multi-battle campaigns. It also provides the BattleForce rules for fighting larger conflicts where each unit is roughly four to five times the size of a unit in standard BattleTech. Finally, it provides rules for playing BattleTech without the hex grid, turning it into a more typical miniatures game.

The third volume, yet to be released, is Interstellar Operations. This is proposed to include rules for all the other scales above Strategic Operations, up to complete interstellar wars.

There's one more hardcover volume: A Time of War. This is the BattleTech RPG. As an RPG its mechanics are rather dated, but it does expand the coverage of scale in the BattleTech universe down to man-to-man combat. It also provides additional options for players who want to play a BattleTech campaign that tracks the development of their MechWarriors.

I was pleased to see that some of the advanced abilities available to MechWarrior characters allow them to duplicate feats performed in the BattleTech fiction that otherwise aren't modeled in the rules. This was always a big issue for me back when we were playing in college.

Finally, since I first rediscovered the line, Catalyst has put out a new version of the starter box that is an improvement over the old one. It includes enough cheap plastic miniatures to get you playing out of the box, as well as a couple of better quality plastic kits. It also includes the core rules you need to play along with a couple of mounted maps to play on.

While I will probably never get back into this game in the way I once was, it's nice to see that it now exists in a form that more or less like what I always wanted. Now I just need to invent a time machine and send it back to my college self.


Jabbott said...

I have always loved Battletech, and it is totally my first miniatures game as well. Though we never actually owned any of miniatures. We had some cardboard figures and then we made most of our figures out of the Battletech CCG cards, cutting out the pictures of the mechs and taping them to stands. The fluff has always been great, and I personally LOVED the clans. Especially Wolf and Jade Falcon. But ya, I've spent hours in the past playing this game. And my friend Jeremy is a huge fan as well; even more than me. We should all three take an opportunity to play at some point.

Fulminata said...

I hate the clans less today than I did when they were introduced, to the point that "hate" is probably too strong a word at this point. I still prefer the Succession Wars era over any of the others... and I think Kerensky was a douche.

Scott said...

Does the new game license the Robotech models? Want some Phoenix Hawks and Marauders.

Fulminata said...

Some of the "unseen" were re-licensed for the 25th Anniversary. Unfortunately, someone is being a little bitch when it comes to the Macross designs, and refuses to license them.

Those include the ones you mentioned, and also includes the Warhammer, hence the "homage" box cover image above rather than the original (although I believe that is the re-imagined Warhammmer).

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