BattleTech: a thirty-year-old who wouldn’t grow up
Original post by Atomic Moo contributor Neko_Bijin.
The view and opinions expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect those of Atomic Moo’s, but then, hey! who the hell are we?
If you wanted a Big Robot board game in 1992, BattleTech was it. The 3rd edition box had two maps, a 48-page rule book, a pair of dice, and 14 plastic ‘Mech figures based on Japanese cartoons Robotech, Macross and Crusher Joe. The price was $25, enough to fill the tank of your family sedan.
Today there’s a new BattleTech basic set. It has two (reversible) maps, several booklets with rules, tips for painting figures, setting information, etc., a pair of dice, and two dozen plastic ‘Mech figures based upon sketch drawings that first appeared in the Technical Readout: 3025 (1986). The price is $60, enough to fill the tank of your SUV (unless you live in California).
There aren’t any real time machines, but if opening the new BattleTech box transports you to another time and place, it’s less likely to the far future than back in time and to your parent’s basement, assuming you don’t live there already.
BattleTech is a living fossil. Unchanged for aeons and refusing to adapt to cataclysms in the gaming ecosystem. Damage is recorded by filling pips on a full-page record sheet—with a pencil! Movement must be kept track of, as well as waste heat from jump jet exhaust and weapon fire. The deleterious effects of damage and heat sap away your strength as your ‘Mech becomes slower and less accurate turn after turn. It’s awesome.
The box contains a well-thought-out Quickstart Rules that sweeps away all the game’s inefficiencies and gives you a neat, slick, modern mecha game. Just chuck those in the trash and get started on the 80-page Introductory Rules instead. Or scrounge for a loose copy of the 2nd edition rules (1985) instead.
Your ‘Mech figures are better-quality plastic than you remember from prior editions. The painting guide is written in simple step-by-step directions that even a thumbless Cro-Magnon like myself can get good results out of. Once you’re through practicing on your plastic figures you should think about getting some of the more expensive (but much more forgiving) metal ones.
The maps are much sturdier than in prior editions and are reversible, with different (hexed) terrain printed on either side.
This box is a fine product for people like me, who already have maps and figures. But for new players it seems barely enough to get off the ground. There are four map varieties, but you can only use two at a time, which is the bare minimum for a decent lance-sized (4 vs. 4) game. They also could have thrown in a sheet of hex tiles for altering terrain (They’ll sell you those separately as a Map Pack, but a single sheet of tiles would have given a lot more variety for very little additional cost).
If you’re going to play with a friend you probably should each have a copy of the game. That way you can play on a 4×4 map and field larger armies.
Here’s a strange complaint: the box itself is square. Every other edition of the game came in a rectangular box, and they all make a perfectly straight stack on my bookshelf. This one doesn’t fit with the rest. I can’t store it with my other copies of the game!
It’s BattleTech, man. Just the way you remember it. Best enjoyed between the hours of 8 P.M. and 4 A.M. with a liberal dose of Shasta cola.
For more information on Battletech please visit the Catalyst Game Labs website!