YQ101 – Classic Battletech
Sunday, July 17th Noon - 6pm
In essence Battletech is a game simulating an armour battle (that’s tanks, kiddos!) but with a sci-fi twist: instead of tracked metal behemoths lumbering around a battlefield and blasting away at each other with cannons, you drive a giant armoured robot around a battlefield and blast away at each other with lasers, missiles, and well… cannons of course. The core of the game is as simple as moving into a superior firing position and landing that kill shot. However, the mechanics of the game make that a much simpler thing to say than to do… especially when your opponent is maneuvering for his own kill shot. Just like in the famous tank battles of the 20th century, moving becomes very strategic, as your speed makes you more difficult to hit, however, it also reduces your chances of landing a hit on your target. Plus, like any game of this style, there are terrain features to take into consideration. Woods, hills, lakes, and buildings, can all play a part in getting your target squarely in your sights. Battletech adds one more layer to this mix: heat. The heat generated from your engine and from firing your massive weaponry can build up and cause all sorts of problems from slowing your drive mechanisms down slightly, to interfering with your targeting ability, to full out ammunition explosions and reactor shutdowns. *Phew* sounds complicated, eh? Well, it’s really not as tough as it sounds. Lets break it down:
Each player chooses one or more Battlemechs (or ‘Mechs for short) to play for the game. These range in four ‘weight classes’ called Light, Medium, Heavy, and Assault based on total tonnage. And they get a reference sheet for the ‘mechs they are piloting. On this reference sheet it shows all the weapon systems and equipment on the mech, and where it is mounted, as well as the total amount of armour and internal structure points of the mech. The reference sheet also has information on the pilot, the movement ability of that particular ‘mech, and a heat scale to keep track of heat during battle. Then you get either a cardboard printed marker for your mech, or you can use a fully detailed miniature to place on the mapsheet.
Each turn, players roll for initiative, and since the winner of initative gets to move last, they can watch their opponent and then position themselves for the best shot. Then in order of ‘worst to best’ players take turns moving their ‘mechs on the mapsheet. Movement is based on a number of movement points that are ‘expended’ during your turn, and since it costs movement points to do things like turn, or move through dense terrain, you are effectively ‘slowed down’ by these actions (making you easier to hit!) You can use your ‘walking’ movement point allowance, or you can speed up and gain extra movement points by ‘running’, but running make it more difficult for you to hit your target when you shoot, and also generates a little bit more heat. Some ‘mechs are also equipped with special thrusters called Jump Jets and can make a special Jump move instead of running or walking.
After movement, players can then rotate the top half of their ‘mech up to one hex-facing (or 60 degrees) like a tank rotates its turret, and then its time to unleash all that firepower! Pick a target in your firing arc and then find your ‘to hit’ target number by using a little chart that takes into account movement of yourself and your target, intervening terrain, the skill of your gunner, and any miscellaneous effects (like heat, or special weapon modifiers) All rolls are done on a 2d6 based system, which means as the target numbers go up above 7, they get dramatically harder. After you hit your opponent (assuming that you did!) you find out where the weapon struck their ‘mech and they mark off a number of armour points equal to the damage of your weapon. If you breach their armour, there is a chance that you cause critical damage to some of the systems in the location that you damaged, in addition any damage that remains after armour is gone is dealt to internal structure. Once the internal structure is gone… so is that portion of the ‘mech! There are two ways to put a mech out of the fight for good: 1. Destroy a vital system. Namely the Engine or Gyros (and in some cases the Sensors) or 2. Kill the pilot. If you destroy the head/cockpit, then the pilot goes squish and the ‘mech is done for.
That’s really all there is to it. At first you’ll spend lots of time looking at charts checking damage, hit modifiers, and locations, but after only a few turns, you’ll find it’s pretty easy to remember and you’ll be speeding through it.
That’s Battletech at its core, but there’s MUCH more to it than just that. It has a very rich and developed story that accompanies the game, that has evolved in the decades that the game has existed. As well as dozens if not hundreds of novels that delve deeper in the major characters and actions that shaped the Battletech universe. There are also alternate rules for people who want to use true miniatures rules instead of hex-sheet maps, running extended campaigns, and even rules for designing and building your own custom battlemechs. The universe has a little something for everybody, from religious zealots of comstar/word of blake, to the Shogun-like culture of the Draconis Combine, to the Gladiator battles of Solaris VII, to the genetic super-human invaders of the Clans, to the clandestine politics of the House Lords, to the pirates of the perphiary…. And then some! If you are just a weekend wargammer just looking for a fun armoured combat system, or if you are a sci-fi lore fanatic looking to become immersed in the depths of the universe,
I encourage you to experience Battletech, where “life is cheap, but battlemechs aren’t”