Battletech – A Game of Armoured Combat

Battletech – A Game of Armoured Combat

Battletech is a hex based board game, which came out in 1984, where the players control giant fusion powered robots fighting for feudal lords in the future. The game is based in 31st century after the collapse of the central human government. There are no aliens in Battletech; it’s humans all the way. We have faster-than-light travel, although the trips only take seconds the ships require many hours to recharge before then can jump again. Due to the large number of varied inhabited worlds, wars are fought with ‘mechs, which range from around 20 to 60 feet tall, and and are armed with lasers, missiles, cannons and rail-guns.

Each ‘mech has a single pilot called a MechWarrior that is linked via a neural helmet to his machine. In the game this is represented by your Piloting Skill and is used, in conjunction with a single D6 roll, for many actions such as standing up, running fast, wadding through water and staying upright after taking 20 points of damage. Your pilot also has a Gunnery Skill which, you guessed it, is used for any actions when firing weapons. The game is turn based with each player controlling one or more ‘mechs. The order of play is based on a die roll, something I think can have a massive impact on the game, with the winning player being allowed to move and target call after the losing player. This can produce interesting results where the large, and slower ‘mechs, can out manoeuvre the smaller and lighter ones.

Once all the ‘mechs have moved the players then calculate how much heat each ‘mech now has. Heat is a major factor in what you can do. As you move and fire weapons your ‘mech generates heat, but it has heat-sinks equipped that dissipate this heat into the environment around it. As your ‘mechs get hotter they become harder for the pilot to control (penalties to die rolls) and can also cause the ‘mechs to perform poorly, shut down the ‘mechs or even cook the ammo they carry.

Once all the heat values have been worked out the loser of the initiative roll now declares his attacks followed by the winner. All combat is deemed to occur simultaneously and no damage is classed as being dealt until after all combat is finished. After this it’s a new turn and time to roll for initiative again.

As the game is played on a hex board the ‘mechs do have facing and firing arcs, although they are allowed once per turn to twist their torsos, thus changing their firing arc for the combat phase of the turn. Each ‘mech also has several components that can be hit, although all hit locations are determined via rolling 2D6 on the hit location table.

A blank 'mech sheet

A blank ‘mech sheet

These components are two legs, two arms, front left torso, rear left torso, central torso, rear torso, front right torso, rear right torso and head. Each part of the ‘mech contains the various parts required to move it and the various weapons and ammo it carries. Thus if your main weapon is in your right arm and that gets blown off, you’re in trouble. The MechWarrior is located in the head and can and will be killed by hits to the head. The ‘mech does have ablative armour to protect itself, which can range from as little as 4 on the Locust’s stock arm to 40 points on the Battlemaster’s centre torso. This sounds all good, but how hard do weapons hit? The small laser has a range of 3 hexes and hits for 3 damage, whilst the Particle Projection Cannon has a range of 10 hexes and does 10 points of damage. Additional rule books introduce weapons such as the Auto-cannon 20, which does 20 damage!

There are spin-off computer games based in the Battletech world such as Mechwarrior Online and the newly announced Battetech from Harebrained Schemes, who brought us the excellent Shadow Run Returns. Let’s hope it fairs better than Mechwarrior Tactics, a game I backed in development only for the now defunct IGP to pull the plug on the project. There are several older MechWarrior games and MechCommander, although they are hard to find now.

Additionally, the very rich Battletech universe has many novels, a cartoon series and lots of fan fiction written about it.

An old game, but like Starfleet Battles that I wrote about last week a game well-worth looking into; prepare to get lost in the lore!

Paul Thompson has been an avid computer gamer since his father brought home an ZX81. He was also indoctrinated into PnP role playing with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness RPG by Erick Wujcik. Paul is thankful that you read his article and would like to invite you to follow him on twitter @BosieWylde as well as the NerdGoblin facebook and twitter @thenerdgoblin .


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