Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Giant Robots Breaking Things

A Battletech tide has been swelling at the FLGS.  Sporadic talk and pick-up games morphed into BattleTech Night last Saturday in which 11 robot jox showed up to best each other in mechanized combat.

It was fun.

The Boy was introduced to the game through a marathon 16 hour Battletech king of the hill scenario at NTRPGCon near the beginning of summer.  It was hard to drag him from the table to go play the other games I had scheduled us for.  Literally.  His fingers dug into the table like claws as I tugged at this legs.

So, when my son saw the Battletech Introductory Box Set at our FLGS, Roll2Play, his eyes got really big. The price tag was a little costly for him, but his birthday was coming up and I suggested that we try the free Battletech Quick-Start Rules before he made a final decision.

He loved it.  Mopping the floor with me and my mechs probably didn't hurt, either.  So, for his birthday, along with a multitude of Lord of the Rings Legos and an bonafide actual real archery set, The Boy became the proud owner of the 31st century.

Hunchback: The Boy's Favorite Mech
After reading (okay, skimming) through the rules, we went back to the game shop to sit down and play.  People surrounded us with big eyes and some joined in our game of mechanical destruction.  It's funny that people had the same reaction and interest down at the comic book shop back in 1987 when I opened my first Battletech game box.

All in all, the rules haven't changed much in 25 years.  A few tweaks here and there, but nothing major, despite the game changing ownership and having various distributors over it's lifetime. What has changed drastically is the organization and presentation.  Where before you had separate, and sometimes disjointed, rulesets for theaters of operation (air, land, space, etc,) now you have things organized along rules complexity that build on one another.

The levels are:

  • Quick-Start
  • Introductory
  • Standard
  • Advanced

Quick-Start is the simplified version - free and easy to learn given an afternoon.  The Introductory Rules come in a $60 box that also contains the Quick-Start rules, a background book on the setting, a book of mech sheets, 26 plastic models (no chit,) and two thick, double-sided maps that are much, much nicer than the originals.  There are probably more things in that box that I am forgetting.

Really, the Intro Box has everything you need to bust giant robot heads for a long time.  There are extra books you can get that go with the intro box - scenarios and whatnot - extra maps - minis - all that jazz.

Eventually I did grab the core standard rules rulebook, Total Warfare.  It really just adds more complex maneuvers and things, as well as adding aerial and space combat.  It's what they use for the 'official' competitions and such.  Pretty nifty, but it may be a year before The Boy ever gets up to that level of complexity.

The advanced stuff gets into waging wars across star systems.  Again, nifty, but very far removed from the Boy's current interests in having giant robots explode in a shower of shrapnel.

There is, however, a piece that I'm interested in beyond the battle bot bash jamboree.  Remember MechWarrior?  Battletech's RPG?  Well, back in the day it really never took off with me and my friends.  But today, I have a different mindset and attitude.  I think i could pull off running a BattleTech RPG.  They call the RPG these days A Time of War.  There is even a quick-start set for it here.  I've got some interest players already.  So who knows?

The guy who is running the Battletech Nights games has some ideas for organizing competitions, having people be from different houses, etc.  Good for robot battles, but not so good for an organized group of PCs.  But the RPG and the wargame don't have to match in continuity.

So, whatever the case - The Boy is now a die-hard Battletech fan and will be spending an inordinate amount of time at eh FLGS blowing stuff up.  And me?  I'll be right there next to him - most likely getting blown up by him and his unstoppable HBK-4G Hunchback.

- Ark

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