“This is the Inner Sphere – thousands of planets colonized by humankind. Once it was united under the Star League, but for the last three hundred years, it has been consumed by savage wars…”
It is the year 3039 and man is once again at war. The battlefield of the 21st century is dominated by BattleMechs, plodding multi-ton walkers carrying the firepower of an entire platoon. At the helms of these devastating war machines are ‘MechWarriors; neo-feudal heirs to the Knights of old, and the very earth trembles at their passage.
BattleTech is at its core, a full-blown tactical combat wargame with each miniature representing an individual BattleMech. Each BattleMech possesses has differing levels of armor, speed, weapons and heat dissipation and most have differing roles on the table ranging from lumbering Assault platforms to speedy Strikers (which encourage certain unique play styles). It’s unabashedly ‘crunchy’ tactical mechanics might turn some off but others may find this to be a good thing – different strokes for different folks.
Compared to previous iterations, Catalyst has pulled out all the stops with the new box set. Crammed into the box is a full-colour Quick-Start rule set designed to ease players into the game. Next comes a glossy full-colour Introductory Rulebook containing the meat and potatoes of the box set. Following that out of the box is another full-colour Universe primer, serving as a gateway into the rich fiction of the BattleTech universe. They’ve even included a quick painting and tactics guide leaflet which walks a player through the value of long-ranged units, utilising terrain as cover, flanking, heat management and more. Crammed in there are two double sided maps – printed on sturdy board-game style cardstock and twenty-six plastic BattleMechs.
Each turn of BattleTech is built around a “I Go, You Go” turn sequence of alternating activation in contrast to other wargames where one player can complete a full uninterrupted turn. Both sides alternate moving their ‘Mechs, then firing with their ‘Mechs and then record damage. Unlike many similar wargames, there are no fixed to-hit numbers in BattleTech – a stationary 100 ton Atlas Assault ‘Mech is as easy to hit as a stationary 25 ton Commando Recon ‘Mech. Instead, the difficulty of hitting a target is based on range, terrain and also how fast the target is moving when the shot is fired. This aspect makes the movement phase hugely important, since clever maneuvering can maximize a BattleMech’s field of fire while simultaneously disadvantaging an opponent.
BattleTech’s possesses an extremely detailed damage record system which tracks the functionality of individual components within a ‘Mech. While BattleMechs might endure extreme punishment, there is a layer of verisimilitude, as heavy auto-cannon rounds and PPCs impacts sheer of limbs and shotgun style spreads of missiles chewing through internal systems. In turn, everything a ‘Mech does (including moving) produces ‘heat”, and if it overloads a BattleMech’s heat dissipation, it builds up. Waste heat degraded BattleMech performance, and can trigger incredibly destructive effects. Since a BattleMech often generates far more heat than it can safely dissipate via heat sinks, players are forced into a Catch-22 situation and forced to balance their options rather than running forward at full speed firing all weapons.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it; like or lump it, for better or worse, BattleTech hasn’t changed much. Some might argue that when compared to an era of abstract fast-rolling, high casualty war games, BattleTech is showing its age. More power to them.
BattleTech was unapologetically never meant to be that kind of game.
Like an endless rabbit hole, the draw in BattleTech is in finding your comfort zone in the setting itself. A player may embrace strategic level operations replete with combined arms operations, air-support and orbital bombardment. Another may cling to single ‘Mech duels. Some players gleefully embrace the space opera setting of the Clan War. Others take comfort in the neo-chivalry of the Succession Wars era. A player may embrace the nihilism of the Word of Blake Jihad or seek comfort in the glory of the Star League. It all lies in the hands of the player.
Since its inception in 1984, the BattleTech universe has seen its ups and downs. From highs like the ‘MechWarrior and ‘MechCommander PC games to absolute lows like the legal scuffle over artwork and company closures, BattleTech has endured much.
And 30 years late, it’s still here.
That has to count for something.
- Combat system rewards tactical thinking and manoeuvring
- Unit construction system allows customization or even designing new BattleMechs
- Rich BattleTech fictional universe
- Box set can be used as a standalone or as a jump off point for advanced rules
- 26 High-Quality Plastic BattleMechs and Board Game Quality Components
- Rules require time to learn with a number of specific exceptions
- Record keeping and mechanics may be a turn off
- Number of combat modifiers may be problematic for those used to rules-light systems
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