Alpha Strike: Anatomy of a Battletech Datacard

Battletech Alpha StrikeHey Game Fans, we hope you’re having a happy, wonderful New Year.  We’re back to continue our coverage of Alpha Strike, the fast playing miniatures game.

 In the coming weeks we’ll be covering more aspects of this game, and it’s cousin, Battletech.  Every unit in the game has its own datacard.  This contains all the vital information a player needs to run that unit as part of his force.  Let’s take a closer look at the Datacard, and how it breaks down.

What does it all Mean?


That’s a lot of information for a markedly small package (These are designed to fit on a regular sized playing card), so let’s break down each of the bits of information and what they can tell us.  Bear in mind that there are thousands of units for this game in a variety of different types.  These cards will cover 99% of those units (Omitting the extremely heavy Aerospace units such as Warships and Dropships), and you can freely mix a force of different unit types.  So let’s break it down and explain each datapoint, for Alpha Strike.Battletech Alpha Strike

  • Model and Name:  Every Mechanical Unit in this game has a production model number, which is usually a combination of number and letters.  Following that is the unit’s actual name.  Pay close attention to model number, because Alpha Strike does recycle variants of the same model.  Two different model number Centurions can have very different performance profiles on the table
  • PV:  This is the point value cost you’ll have to expend in order to add this unit to your force.  Bear in mind that Skill can increase this number up or down.
  • TP: This is the Unit’s type, representing either a Battlemech in this case, or potentially infantry, or a tank or a host of other units.
  • SZ:  Size:  This is the unit’s size in comparison to other things.  In this specific usage for a Battlemech, it’s indicative of this unit being in the Heavy weight class.  Some units will have special rules that interact with Size, and physical combat is primarily based on the size of the unit attacking.
  • TMM:  Target Movement Modifier, or the unit’s speed and agility.  Smaller, faster units rely on speed to survive and their speed can make them difficult to target with attacks.  A jump jet equipped unit will have a TMM 1 point higher than a similarly fast unit without the Jets.
  • MV: Movement, expressed in inches, is how far a unit can move during a turn.  Some units will have a J after this, or occasionally you will see a unit with a second number followed by a J.  The J notes that a unit is equipped with jump jets, and in exchange for some shooting penalties, a jump equipped unit ignores a lot of difficult terrain when moving across the table.
  • Role: This is a unit’s typical job on the battlefield.  Some units hang back and provide fire support while other units wade into the thick of combat.  Role will give you a pretty good idea of what your unit is supposed to be doing during a game.  There are formations that require units of specific roles, so watch out for those.Battletech Alpha Strike
  • Skill:  This is the pilot’s skill rating, and represents the base number for all piloting and shooting checks that the unit will need to make.  Lower is better.  A lower Skill will increase a unit’s PV, conversely a higher Skill will reduce PV.
  • Damage Box:  Damage is divided into three range bands, S, M, and L.  Short range is anything within 6 inches, Medium Range is anywhere between 6 and 24 inches, and long range is anywhere between 24 and 42 inches.  Units often have guns that work at a specific range band, but some units have completely different weapon profiles between ranges.  Notice that there’s a +0, +2, or +4 next to each range band, these are modifiers to the unit’s Skill rating when shooting at that range.
    • Example:  The Wombat has targeted a Dropbear at medium range with its doomguns.  The Wombat is a skill of 4, and the medium range adds 2 to this.  Barring any other modifers, the Wombat will need to roll a 6 on 2D6 to hit the Dropbear with its medium range firepower.
  • OV: Overheat value let’s a unit trade heat for damage at short and medium range.  Before rolling an attack, a player can declare they’re using their OV value on a one to one basis.  For every point they use, they add 1 to their damage value at Short and Medium Range, but go up a point on the heat tracker bar (to the immediate right of the OV value).  Heat will slow a unit down and make it much harder to hit a target before it shuts a unit down completely.
  • A: Armor, represented as tiny circles.  For each point of damage a unit takes, mark off a circle.  When a unit is out of armor, it runs the risk of internal damage.
  • S: Structure, represented as tiny circles.  For each point of structure damage a unit takes, a check for critical hits is necessary.
  • Special Rules:  The large grey box at the bottom of the card will contain some short form codes for special abilities that a unit has.  This unit has none, but there are a wide variety of potential special abilities in Alpha Strike.
  • Critical Hits: As a unit takes Structure damage or get’s critically hit, specific systems can be damaged and their absence makes the unit harder to use.  This box let’s you track critical hits on your units easily.Battletech Alpha Strike

The large open space on the right side of the card will usually have a picture of the unit the rest of the card represents.

Pro-tip:  Deck protector sleeves (with appropriate cards) can make cards reusable, and something to consider for repeated gaming.  Expo dry erase markers are also key to this strategy, something old school Warmachine players will be used to.

Remember that you can get most of the datacards from the Master Unit List at

Take your time, get used to Alpha Strike, and give it a try.  You may have a boxload of fun.  Next week we’ll cover the basics of the Turn Sequence.

Game On, Game Fans


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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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