There’s an old hoary chestnut that comes up amongst BattleTech fans about new technology. Time marches on though. Technical Readout 3067 is twenty years old. The now defunct MechWarrior: Dark Age collectable miniatures game launched that year as well. Catalyst Game Labs has stewarded the BattleTech liscence for longer than FASA at this point.
It’s been some thirty-real world years since the original Clan Invasion storyline, and there’s been some big movers and shakers in the Inner Sphere since. With the ongoing timeline now trundling forward into uncharted waters, it’s a great time to get up to speed.
Here’s a penny tour of the BattleTech universe. Expect Spoilers, if decades old plot reveals can actually be considered spoilers.
The Universe of Warfare that many of us have grown to love and/or tolerate effectively departs from our own in 2018 when two scientists – Thomas Kearny and Takayoshi Fuchida theorize that space-time can be folded and transposed, allowing for near-instantaneous faster-than-light travel across distance of around twenty to thirty lightyears. The resultant colonization rush by the Terran Alliance sees large swarths of space colonized by humanity, before the inevitable strains of central management of a Human space cause the political body to collapse in on itself.
The resultant Neo-Feudal resurgence see’s the establishment of six dynastic Houses, specifically Cameron, Davion, Kurita, Liao, Marik and Steiner. During this period, the Ares Convention is instituted in 2412, regulating the conduct of combatants and the regulation of warfare and the transfer of civilian and civilian assets. While limiting destruction on a massive-scale, these generally accepted rules of warfare all but ensures that limited conflict is now the most efficient means of resolving political disputes.
Meanwhile, the first BattleMech, the Mackie, strides into combat in 2439 and BattleMech technology is rapidly adopted by all the Great Houses.
The Star League Era
Seeking to usher in an Era of Peace, the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere unite to form the Star League in 2571, nominating House Cameron as first-amongst equals and seeking to end all wars. To celebrate this, they promptly launch the Reunification War to quash any all dissent in what becomes derogatively known as the Periphery and forcibly bring all Human space under a single government. Peace is forcibly enforced until the Periphery revolts break out in 2765 and the bulk of the Star League Defense Force (SLDF) is deployed to smash the uprising. This momentary lapse allows Stefan Amaris, himself from the Periphery to assassinate the First Lord of the Star League, Richard Cameron and liquidate the Cameron dynasty. SLDF reprisal, led by General Aleksandr Kerensky defeats Amaris, but the Star League shatters as each of the remaining Houses promptly declares themselves First Lord, rushing to fill the vacuum cause by the end of the Cameron lineage.
It a fit of optimism, in 2784, General Kerensky leads the bulk of the SLDF into exile, believing that by putting the means to make war out of the hands of the House Lords, he can stave off the inevitable collapse of the Star League.
The Succession Wars
General Kerensky is mistaken. Fighting promptly breaks out in 2786.
In four massively bloody total wars, the Houses turn their borders day-glow through use of WMD, orbital bombardment and biological weapons leading to the loss of billions of lives, the depopulation of hundreds of worlds and the loss of countless scientific progress. In 2788, the last functioning Star League ministry, the Ministry of Communication reinvents itself as the quasi-religious order Comstar, seeing it’s holy duty to save humanity from itself, by depriving it of the capacity to make war in an ironic echo of Kerensky’s exodus. Seeking a monopoly on technology, Comstar pitted all sides against each other from behind a pacifistic facade while maintaining a near monopoly on interstellar communications.
This grinding interregnum is finally upended with the marriage of the Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner, the union of two Houses through political marriage creating a super state that upends the status quo, crippling House Kurita and all but swallowing House Liao in 3028 while House Marik was destabilized by it’s own wars of dynastic succession secretly fomented by House Liao and karmically unable to come to it’s neighbor’s defense.
Through secret dealings with Comstar, House Kurita launches dramatic reforms granting freedom to the Free Rasalhague Republic under House Magnusson and with Comstar assistance is able to check Steiner-Davion’s Federated Commonwealth expansionism in the War of 3039.
The Clan Homeworlds
While the Inner Sphere butchered itself, the SLDF in Exile attempt to establish a new society apart from the Inner Sphere Houses in line with General Kerensky’s desire to maintain peace. Fighting promptly breaks out in 2801 and the aged general finally succumbs to the strain and passes away from a heart attack.
Seeking to rebuild society in his own image, Aleksander’s son Nicholas reforms the SLDF into a society he dubs the Clans. Divided into Warrior Lodges founded around Totem-Animals, the Clans operate under a strict caste system created to serve the eugenically engineered Warrior caste in a state of permanent war-economy. Originally founded with 20 Clans, Nicholas promptly engineered the downfall of Clan Wolverine, seeing the need for a uniting external enemy and turning them into both an object example of the outcome of disobedience and a societal boogieman to keep the remaining Clans in line.
The Clan Invasion
Ostensibly BattleTech’s most popular era from a marketing standpoint, the Clans launch an invasion of the Inner Sphere in 3049. Fielding advanced weaponry and striking with complete shock-and-awe, under the banner of Operation REVIVAL, the Clans launch a massive all-or-nothing invasion into the Inner Sphere, determined to carve a path to Terra. During this period, both Houses Kurita and Steiner reel under the assault while the newly established Free Rasalhague Republic is all but devoured wholesale.
Realizing the threat the Clans pose to their hold on Terra, Comstar is forced to act and at the bloody Battle of Tukayyid in 3052, the Com Guards (Comstar’s secret military arm) bleed themselves white to win a truce that halts the Clan Invasion for fifteen years. Comstar itself fractures in the aftermath, with reformists aiming to secularize the organisation, leading to many of the disillusioned veterans of the Battle of Tukayyid exiling themselves and forming the fanatical splinter group Word of Blake. Word of Blake subsequently seizes Terra for themselves from Comstar forces in 3058.
House Marik, as one of the Houses not on the frontline, had until 3057 been backing the Inner Sphere defence against the Clans, supplying frontline troops with weaponry. House Davion ruins this arrangement by attempting to replace the son of the Captain General with a decoy, leading to Operation GUERRERO where Steiner-Davion holdings are assaulted by Liao and Marik forces, leading to Katherine Steiner-Davion splitting the alliance and orchestrating the secession of the Steiner half of the House.
Seeking to end the threat of the Clans in 3058, the Houses of the Inner Sphere reestablish a Second Star League and, like their predecessors of yore, promptly turn their guns on Clan Smoke Jaguar, annihilating the Clan to send a signal that they are in-fact serious about war. A Clan-style honor duel on the Clan Homeworld of Strana-Mechty in 3060 officially ends the Inner Sphere’s state of war with the Clans, closing curtains on the Clan Invasion.
With the Clan threat ended, the Houses of the Inner Sphere return to business as usual with the various powers-that-be squabbling over their various shared borders.
Riding high on the momentum gained during Operation GUERRERO, House Liao devours the neighboring St. Ives Compact during the Cappellan-St. Ives War, reabsorbing a rogue province into the state in 3061. House Kurita, meanwhile is forced to deal with previously loyal regiments going Ronin and seeking to drive off Clan Ghost Bear, which starts the Dominion War in 3063. The Steiners are themselves also forced to deal with Jade Falcon adventurism in 3064.
The centerpiece of this era however is the Federated Commonwealth Civil War which is fought between Davion and Steiner loyalists who successfully tear the shared realm of the Federated Commonwealth apart in the name of the siblings Victor Steiner-Davion and his Sister Katherine Steiner-Davion in 3062.
Disillusioned by the near non-stop fighting, the worlds surrounding Terra, turn to the new Word of Blake government, seeking protection from the House Lords and their armies, something which is overlooked and dismissed by the various states of the Inner Sphere.
During the Civil War years, the Word of Blake had been preparing for the culmination of a prophecy to reunite the Star League and take the fight to the Clans which they saw as the greatest threat to the Inner Sphere. To this end, they had worked to form the Word of Blake Protectorate, seeking peaceful entry into the Star League in 3067.
They were needless to say, slightly put out when the Star League was promptly disbanded through a vote of no-confidence initiated by withdrawal of Houses Davion, Steiner and Liao. The resulting temper tantrum, saw assaults on the capital planets of Tharkad and New Avalon in misguided show of force intended to coerce the return of the Davions and Steiners. Deprived of Command and Control elements due to the Word of Blake’s disruption of Interstellar communications, fighting breaks out almost all borders as unsupervised military commanders launch unsanctioned offensives in the absence of instructions from the capital including heavy fighting on the Davion-Kurita and Marik-Steiner borders.
During this period, the Word of Blake unveils hidden armies constructed on secret worlds (which Comstar had previously surreptitiously removed from star charts) and originally slated to fight the Clans. Through the deployment of augmented shock troops known as the Manei Domini, the rampant use of WMD and the jamming of interstellar communications, the Word of Blake attempts to seize it’s own nation but is dragged into Kuritan civil wars in 3067 and the Mariks are destabilized when their current Captain General Thomas Marik is exposed as an imposter in 3068 leading to it’s eventual balkanization in 3079.
Not wanting to be left out of the tomfoolery, the Clans would themselves engage in a spate of unpleasantry amongst themselves known as the War of Reaving. Initiated in 3071, the conflict was ostensibly directed against those Clans tainted by contact with the Inner Sphere, ejecting the Inner Sphere Clans ultimately severed from the Clan Homeworlds and leaving the remaining Homeworld Clans entirely isolated from greater Humanity.
The Word of Blake is eventually defeated by a coalition of forces gathered from across the Inner Sphere and marched to Terra under the banner of a charismatic war-leader Devlin Stone, who seizes the Word of Blake Prefecture and retakes Terra.
The Dark Age
Following the Jihad, Devlin Stone demands the creation of The Republic of the Sphere over the ruins of the Word of Blake Protectorate in 3081, adopting a carrot and stick approach to persuade the powers that be to hand over worlds. Kurita, Davion and Steiner were bought off with carrots. Liao and the fragmented Mariks got the stick.
Citing a desire to bring about peace across the Inner Sphere, the new Republic of the Sphere spearheads a disarmament program across the Inner Sphere designed to draw down military buildups to match their neighbors in return for preferential economic and trade terms. Obviously, this clearly worked as intended and none of the major Inner Sphere powers would ever lie about their production drawdowns and decommissioning projects.
Communications go down again in 3131 as interstellar communications collapse again. State-sponsored militia begin popping up within the Republic of the Sphere almost immediately, bearing names like The Dragon’s Fury and Swordsworn and equipped with militarized technicals, stolen gear and as time progressed, actual military hardware like BattleMechs, tanks and fighters. These ‘homegrown militia’ fought to suit their own agenda, often linking up with actual House military forces to seize worlds from the Republic of the Sphere in the chaos.
In stark contrast to what was promised, many powers of the Inner Sphere unceremoniously reveal that the peacetime military drawdowns had been for show. House Liao, surges into Republic Space, while together with House Kurita, they tear House Davion apart, leaving it tetering on the brink of collapse. House Steiner and Clan Wolf ally to conquer the fractured House Marik, whose disparate states reform in 3139 to face the imminent invasion, barely holding off the Wolves before Clan Wolf turns on House Steiner which ends up sandwiched between them and Clan Jade Falcon.
Into this chaos, Devlin Stone returns, a hero ready to face threats to his Republic, determined to stop the Clan Wolf and Falcon as they drive for Terra and believing his return will galvanize the Republic of the Sphere into seeing off an all new Clan Invasion.
He was mistaken. And here we are.
It is 3151. The Republic of the Sphere is dead. It is the era of the ilClan.
There’s plenty of battles to fight. There’s loads of plot to catch up on. This snarky summary hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of what has transpired.
Whether you like a good Space Opera or just want to bash giant robots together, unlike some others there’s not only just war. In a galaxy of Space Samurai and Angry Test Tube Babies, Humanity remains it’s own biggest enemy and that simplicity is admirable. Whether we see you across the table or nose in a book, remember that it’s a big universe out there.
As the plot rides forward in uncharted territory and we start to see the repercussions of the Republic’s last stand, we hope to see you aboard when the next war breaks out.
Until then, stay cool, ‘MechWarrior.