Saturday, July 2, 2016

Battletech: Roll to determine face plant direction

I've been meaning to get this game for ages. I first encountered the universe in its 1980s heyday, when I was not very old, via an in-Universe novel about the Grey Death Legion. The setting seemed to have it all. Big Robots, obviously. But also back-stabbing, grounded military fiction, discoveries of ancient relics and a kind of Sharpe's Rifles atmosphere to it all. It didn't hurt either that one of the all time best PC games made is Mechwarrior 2, set around the time of the ongoing Clan Invasion and featuring a great into FMV piece with the my favourite mech in a starring role. For all that, I Got into proper wargaming after FASA imploded, so the miniatures game itself was off my radar until Catalyst came out with a new Box set.

It arrived via Amazon last week. It says 'Introductory.'

But only in the sense that it is the introduction to its ridiculously detailed Universe and set of game systems. The Box itself includes both quick start and full rules. Two double sided hex boards on thick cardboard, two copies of the quick ref (Heh) tables,  a book of mech sheets and then 26 plastic Mech's. Twenty six of them. And they have an online mech database for variants. I think a standard game uses four a side.

Nathan actually also has quite the collection of metals and rocked by to show me the ropes. We did 240 tons. I managed to get four Mech's painted earlier that day: A Vindicator, Hunchback, Catapult and an Awesome. So two mediums, a heavy and an Assault. Nathan had a Mongoose, Assassin, Awesome and a King Crab. So two lights and two Assaults. My aim had been to keep my distance with the three ranged Mech's and use my Hunchback as the surprise close-ranged sucker punch.

It sort of did go that way on the right, where our respective Awesomes faced off over a lake. When I saw his lights on the right, I aimed to refuse the left and hope he couldn't resist the opportunity to set up a ranged mech in the water for better heat management in the expected gun fight. Yep, that's a key battletech feature, managing your heat buildup. My other mech, I hid behind a hill and had it fire across the board at the enemy lights. Largely futilely, you are harder to hit the faster you go, and every models should me marked to indicate if it was stationary, walked, ran or jumped (as this makes you less and less accurate) then also how many hexes you moved as this makes it harder to hit you.

What I learned quickly was that light Mech's can be incredibly fast. He was inside missile range and next to my Mech's on the right by turn two. Largely unscathed as well due to the speed mods on my shooting. Surely though I can knock these two out quickly, and then turn my two Mech's to flank that Lumbering King Crab?

I don't think he had entirely though this through either. Sure he racked up an impressive five straight hits on the Catapults left torso (another feature, random hit locations with separate damage tracking) but that Hunchback packs an AC20 on its shoulder. It can take out any location on a light mech in a single hit. Since hit locations are randomised, you can potentially end up hitting a mech several times but spreading the damage over multiple areas of ablative armour, doing little real damage. 20 points (yes the stats are all in the names) of damage in a single hit gets around this nicely. It's enough to blow through to the underlying structure on even some heavy Mech's in one short. However, one of my Mech's had taken laser hits to the left torso, so what do I know? 

The ensuing gun fight went how you would expect. Mech's with legs shot off tumbling down, other Mech's getting their legs kicked out from underneath them. Yep turns out that Mech's engage in robot boxing. It also turns out this game really has a chart for everything, including exactly how your mech falls down and what it's orientation is when it does so. It also has specific rules for how you can only use torso weapons as you need arms to prop yourself up to fire...

While I was living it up beating up Mech's half my weight, my Assault mech was under performing. A couple of good hits to its right arm and one of its three Particle Pulse Cannons was gone. Somewhere out of shot, a 100 ton Assault mech sporting two AC20s was slowly lumbering to close range in the centre. I wonder how my lightest mech, the Vindicator in the centre, was going to go vs a mech with a pair of guns that can crit its torso locations in a single shot?

Just look at it, three hexes from my lightest mech. Sadly, Ahem, we ran out of time. All of this simulation comes at the cost of a slow paced game. I've done some checking online and probably should have tried half the number of Mech's for my first game. I know the old simulationist games get a lot of stick vs so call 'modern' game design but I loved all the details. Right down the the precision of hex based movement. Lots of rules and details to learn, even in the base game. One key one is Ammo explodes! You randomise hit locations but everything else is precisely recorded, right down to what is there to be damaged on a particular location once the ablative armour is blown off. Turns out that that Catapult that took five left torso hits, got it's LRM ammo hit. It had five or six salvos of the Long Range  Missiles left. Everyone of those would have actually exploded and hit it in the torso. You once a location is gone, damage works inward to the next location.

I think it probably took a critical hit to its core. So not only did I get two Mech's baited away by lighter opponents while his Assaults closed mine down, Looks like I actually lost a heavy class mech to a Light scout mech!

Great fun. Can't wait to play again. Just need to get 22 more Mech's painted. And resist the urge to go out and buy a Marauder. The plastic Mech's you get in the set are already pretty sweet though. My favourite is the Timberwolf/Madcat on the left. Josh prefers that Battlemaster in the centre. On the right is the Granddaddy 100 ton Atlas. Most of my guys are in arid climate theme but that one is getting painted dark with its skull head picked out in bleached bone. 

Thanks for reading.


  1. Wow, this really looks enjoyable! The mechs looks pretty sweet - not extremely "modern" nor do they look cheesy and 50's, just perfect, in my not so humble opinion...

    1. Yeah I can see why it's fan base kept the game going strong. We tried 150 tons and no heavy or assault Mech's last night. Done in 2.5 hours still with four Mech's each so a game does not have to take forever.