Getting Started With Battletech: Alpha Strike & Beyond!

battletech-coverI look fondly on a number of games and game systems.  One of my oldest favorites is Battletech: The Tactical Game of Armored Combat. 

Battletech AdBattletech was launched in 1984 by FASA Corporation (Publisher of other gaming franchises like Shadowrun, Earthdawn, one of the earliest Star Trek RPGS).  Battletech is a political drama set in the distant future that features warring houses fighting over the remains of humanity’s last best hope for peace.  The primary method that war is waged in this future is the Battlemech, a 10 to 12 meter tall bipedal robot bristling with weapons and armor.

So to recap:

  • Political Drama……Check
  • Science Fiction……Check
  • Giant Robots……….Check

As a friend of mine, Tyler Carpenter, said when I asked him how he would introduce Battletech to new players, ” I dunno. Probably the question, “Do you like giant robots that blow the hell out of each other? And do you like game of thrones?” It depends on the person, mostly.”

battletechMitch Gitelman (The studio head of Harebrained Schemes, the company making a brand new Battletech Computer Game in 2017) said “I did that just last night as I was helping out the cast of the new DEATH FROM ABOVE miniseries, RENEGADES! I start with the high level concept of GAME OF THRONES in space. A throne without a First Lord, the Houses, the idea that MechWarriors are knights with BattleMechs as their combination of armor, horse, and weapons. From there, I talk about technology being in decline – similar to the fall of the Roman Empire – and the idea that older tech is better than newer stuff. That part usually gets people’s attention.”  (Death from Above is a Battletech game streamed weekly on Twitch TV as part of the Hyper RPG family of programming)

Both Mitch and Tyler work at Harebrained Schemes, and are developing a brand new Battletech Game for the PC in 2017.

What is Battletech as a game then?

Battletech, as a tabletop board game, is wonderful interaction of tactical decision making.  Decisions ranging from terrain, the weather, ranges, and the units a player has available all directly affect the outcome of the game, and ensure that every game plays differently.  Mechanically, the game uses a standard 2D6 dice rolling mechanic to determine success or failure.  A unit (and there are nearly a dozen different types of units) has a skill rating, which is the base number needed to roll on 2D6 to determine success or failure.  Other factors modify this up or down (Usually Up), and once the Target Number has been determined, it’s time to roll dice.

Battletech is a game full of number crunching.  It can take several hours to play a relatively small game of four battlemechs (a lance) vs. four battlemechs.  Every unit has its own Record sheet to keep track of weapons, armor, and heat. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, and it’s a game with a fairly steep learning curve.

Blank Record Sheet example

Battletech as a Universe

 

Battletech has been featured in several different media including but not limited to:

  • Saturday Morning Cartoon
  • A novel series
  • A Collectible Card Game
  • Computer Games
  • Virtual World Simulator Pods
  • Comic Books
  • Computer and Video Games
  • A Clix game

The Battletech Universe as its depicted in gaming sourcebooks and other materials has a rich history that starts in the 26th century and stretches forward into the 32nd century.  Political strife and military conflict are universal constants in throughout these eras, and humanity is always struggling with a war of some type.  It’s a rich, vibrant universe that’s always moving towards a destination, even if we as observers can’t see what that destination is.  The game has lived a long, healthy life for the last 30 some odd years, and with hundreds of sourcebooks, scenario books and other written works to pore over, you will certainly find something interesting to take a swipe at.

Getting Started as a player

Battletech has two primary game play styles, and i’ll give you the best advice I have for getting started with both play styles, and the stuff you’ll need to pick up.

Classic Battletech

Classic Battletech is the name for the original Battletech rules set.  It’s a complex game that takes a while to develop system mastery. It can bog down with all of the options available. You’re going to need to decide what level of the game you’re comfortable with.  It scales up from Battlemech and Battlemech on violence all the way up to Stellar empires at war, so find the depth you’re comfortable with and dive in.

battletech-intro-kit

Must haves

  • Introductory Box Set:  This is the best purchase you can make to get a jumping off point for the Classic Battletech Board Game.  It has two large maps, dice, record sheets, and 26 quality plastic battlemech miniatures.  It’s the best singular purchase you can make right now for diving into Battletech.  Retail Price: $59.99
  • Total Warfare:  Total Warfare contains all the basic rules for playing Classic Battletech.  Covering the rules for most combat units, Total Warfare will expand your options out of the introductory box.  Retail Price: $39.99
  • TechManual:  Battletech has one very cool option that most games don’t have.  It gives you as the player the option to design your own combat units from Battlemechs to infantry.  Techmanual covers all of the construction rules for the units in Total Warfare.  Retail Price: 39.99
  • Technical Readout: 3039:  This is a book that features the primary units most players will encounter in games of Battletech.  With rules for tanks, aerospace fighters and battlemechs that are extremely common in the battletech universe, this is one of the essential books for expanding the world of Battletech. Retail Price: 29.99

From these four products, you can dig into the world of Battletech.  However, you might also give Alpha Strike a consideration.

Alpha Strikealphastrikecover

Alpha Strike takes everything that I love about Battletech and streamlines it down.  Alpha Strike is a faster playing version of the game that feels like a wargame.  It sheds complexities in the transition, but it’s a lot easier to play a larger game in less time.  It’s a wonderful interpretation of the rules for introducing people from the miniature war gaming side of the hobby to the richly complex history of Battletech.

Must haves

  • Introductory Box Set:  For Alpha Strike, this is a starting point for building your own miniature armies.  26 figures for the retail price is an amazing deal for most games.  Alpha Strike is no exception.  Most of these figures are mono-pose, but they give a new player an assortment of units to get started. Retail Price: $59.99
  • Alpha Strike:  The core rulebook for Alpha Strike contains all of the rules needed to play the game.  You can not play Alpha Strike without this book.  Retail Price: 39.99
  • Alpha Strike Companion: This rules expansion offers suggestions for force building and army construction as well as special abilities available to units that are constructed in setting appropriate groupings.  Retail Price: 39.99

Battletech-ArtGearing up for the future

These are just suggestions for getting started. Here are some additional helpful links.

  1. http://Bg.battletech.com/ The home of Battletech on the internet and full of more useful links
  2. http://www.masterunitlist.info/ The Master Unit List describes every unit that’s available for play in Battletech.  Of more importance to Alpha Strike players, the MUL allows you to print out the game stat cards.
  3. http://www.ironwindmetals.com/ Ironwind Metals produces the vast majority of the miniatures for all unit types in the Battletech Universe.  if you’re looking for something specific, chances are IWM has one.
  4. http://camospecs.com/  Now that you’ve got your minis, you can check out hundreds of potential paint schemes by some of the artists featured in the rule and source books.
  5. http://www.catalystgamelabs.com/  Home of the company that releases Battletech (and some other fun games). Catalyst Game Labs is an excellent place to keep up on the new hotness coming out for Battletech.
  6. http://harebrained-schemes.com/  Home of the publishers of the upcoming Battletech PC game. Harebrained Schemes has a long history with the Battletech universe.

This is our brief introduction to Battletech.  In 2017 we will be featuring it a lot, so if you’re interested in giant robots, stay tuned

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About Zardoz the Magnificent

Trained as a school psychologist, i look at the overlap between education, psychology and games with the direction to utilize the latter two components to improve the first

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