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BattleTech - Board Game Box Shot


, | Published: 1985
72 3 12

It is the 31st century, a time of endless wars in which star empires clash across human-occupied space. These epic wars are won and lost by BattleMechs, 30-foot-tall humanoid metal titans bristling with lasers, autocannons and many other lethal weapons; enough firepower to level entire city blocks.

Your elite force of MechWarriors drives these juggernauts into battle, proudly holding your faction’s flag high, intent on expanding the power and glory of your realm. Supported by units of armored vehicles and power-armored infantry, will they become legends, or forgotten casualties?

Only your skill and luck will determine their fate!

The BattleTech board game simulates combat between various military vehicles in the thirty-first century. The king of the battlefield is the BattleMech, but a myriad of other military units bring additional fun to any game, from combat vehicles to infantry to aerospace units and more.

User Reviews (3)

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I play blue
El Dorado
Guardian Angel
39 of 45 gamers found this helpful
“Hellacious Warfare with Giants”

Battletech is a wargame set in the 31st century. This game is heavy on theme and has a rich living history which is continuously evolving. The following is a brief description of the theme. In the 31st Century civilization teeters on the brink of collapse. Previously, in a distant time of unity and peace mankind prospered, traveling and settling countless worlds and achieving technical wonders. However, centuries of perpetual war reduced mankind’s technical ability and left economies in ruins. Mankind’s hold on the star systems and civilization is tenuous at best in the 31st century. A more in-depth description of the Battletech Universe is given in the next section of the review. Please skip this section if not interested in the details of the theme. Each player controls a number of units and must achieve a scenario victory condition(s) to win. Battletech is for 2 to 8 players ages 13 and up. Playtime ranges from 60 to 330 minutes depending on the scenario type and size.

The star systems surrounding earth, known as the Inner Sphere, were settled by many peoples. These peoples made trade and/or military alliances, which were all unified under the Star League, led by the First Lord. The era of the Star League was relatively peaceful and marked by flourishing economies and the development of advanced technologies in many areas, including warfare.

One such technology developed during the Star League era was the Battlemech (‘Mech). ‘Mechs were conceived for the sole purpose of warfare. They are heavily armored, two-story tall machines weighing up to 100 tons, which bristle with missile, laser and balistic weapons. There are four classes of ‘Mechs, light (20–35 tons), medium (40-55 tons), heavy (60-75 tons) and assault (80-100 tons), each with their role on the battlefield. These mighty warmachines have enough firepower to raze an entire city! ‘Mechs are piloted by a special kind of soldier called MechWarriors. MechWarriors and their ‘Mechs soon ruled the battlefields across known space.

Eventually the alliances that gave rise to man’s prosperity fell into dispute and broke apart, perpetuating the demise of the mighty Star League. Several of the remaining stronger alliances rose from the chaos that ensued to form the five great Houses, known as the Federated Suns, Capellan Confederation, Draconis Combine, Lyran Commonwealth and Free Worlds League. The five Houses expanded their control of ever more worlds and came to dominate the Inner Sphere. Minor powers such as the Taurian Concordat and Magistracy of Canopus also formed on the edge of known space or Periphery. Together these entities plunged mankind into a series of wars, known as the Succession Wars.

The Succession Wars brought near continuous total war for centuries with destruction on a scale man had never seen. The liberal use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons along with exceptionally large conventional armies, including ‘Mechs, destroyed population centers and rendered numerous worlds or large parts of worlds inhabitable. Much knowledge and technology were lost to history. The mass destruction wrought by these Succession Wars led to the birth of ComStar, a quasi-religious organization, whose purpose is to maintain interstellar communications, preserve what little technology remained and moderate warfare between the Houses. In the 31st century, the leaders of each House continue to wage war in the hope of once again reuniting mankind under one banner and claiming the coveted title of First Lord.

The quality of Battletech products ranges from poor to good. Over the years, the Battletech franchise has suffered many changes in the companies which developed and produced the Battletech product line. Many of these companies including FASA, the original producer, were on shaky financial ground and cut corners a bit on product quality. However, recently the current producer, Catalyst Games, has made a considerable effort to produce good quality products for the Battletech line. The Battletech product line currently features an introductory box set, four full color hard cover rule/source books and several map sets which include mounted mapsheets. The introductory box set contains plastic playing pieces, record sheets, dice, two cardstock mapsheets and background information, which is everything a new player needs to learn and play the game.

Set-up for Battletech depends completely on the type of gaming experience the players are interested in. Players can choose to play a premade ‘one-shot’ mission out of one of the many scenario books or design their own one-shot scenario. Players can also choose from several premade campaigns, which are a series of interconnected missions, out of a scenario book or even develop their own campaign. One-shot scenarios generally do not take much time to prepare and set-up for play. Campaigns can take a substantial amount of time to develop and depending on the size of the battle can take 20 minutes or more to set-up.

Players can design missions to be as simple or complex as desired. Generally, more preparation time is required the more complex the mission. A complex mission may include a large number of units and mapsheets, multiple mission objectives for each side and the use of special rules for play. Preparation for play is carried out before game day and usually includes determining the mission type, mission objectives for each combatant, the force sizes and units, printing record sheets, choosing mapsheets consisting of the desired terrain, and determining the position of units at the start of the scenario. The set-up on game day includes laying out the mapsheets, placing units in their starting position and passing out record sheets.

Battletech is played in a series of turns which consist of the following six basic phases:
1. Initiative
2. Movement
3. Weapons Fire
4. Physical Combat
5. Heat
6. End

Each side rolls 2D6. The side which rolled the highest has initiative for the turn.

Each side takes turns moving a unit or a group of units, depending on the unit type, according to the unit’s movement rate as indicated on its record sheet. The side that lost initiative moves a unit first.

‘Mechs have four modes of movement – stand still, walk, run, or jump. Ground vehicles have three modes of movement which are still, cruising and flanking. Units spend movement points to move from hex to hex, turn and pass through certain types of terrain on the mapsheets. Generally, the faster the unit moves, the more difficult it is to hit when targeted. On the flip side, moving faster also makes it more difficult to hit your target. Hiding behind terrain features also makes it more difficult to target the unit.

Weapons Fire
The Weapons Fire Phase begins once the movement of all units is complete. The first step of the Weapons Fire Phase is to declare any torso twist and declare weapons fire. ‘Mechs can turn at the waist to bring weapons to bear on a target. Players receive a free hexside move or torso twist. Vehicles perform a similar action called a turret twist. Each side alternates taking turns declaring any torso twist and which weapons will fire and at what target for each unit.

The next step is to resolve weapons fire for each weapon. A to-hit number is calculated for each firing weapon by adding the pilot’s gunnery skill to modifiers for range, target movement, attacking unit movement, unit damage, heat and intervening terrain. Hits are scored by a 2D6 roll equal to or greater than the to-hit number. The location of the hit on the target is determined by rolling 2D6 on the Damage Location Table. The hit could strike an arm, leg, side torso, center torso or head on a ‘Mech. A hit to the head also inflicts a wound on the pilot. The damage is marked on the record sheet for the unit. As units take more and more damage, armor is stripped away and internal components are destroyed causing the unit to suffer movement and/or weapons fire penalty modifiers. If a unit’s target is destroyed before it resolves weapons fire then it may not change targets.

The last step of the Weapons Fire Phase is to check whether ‘Mechs are still standing. Consciousness checks are made for all pilots whose ‘Mech took a head hit. A failed roll results in the pilot becoming unconscious and temporarily out of the fight. A ‘Mech with an unconscious pilot automatically falls and takes damage if it requires a piloting check for any reason.

A piloting check is made for all units which suffered 20 or more points of damage or damage to internal components which affect movement. The ‘Mech stays on its feet on a 2D6 roll equal to or greater than the pilot’s piloting skill plus any modifiers for unit damage. On a failed roll, the ‘Mech falls and takes damage due to hitting the ground. As with weapons fire, the location of the damage is determined by the Damage Location Table and marked on the unit’s record sheet. Another piloting check is made to determine if the pilot suffered a wound due to the fall. The more wounds a pilot suffers, the more likely the pilot falls unconscious. A pilot is killed if he takes six or more wounds.

Physical Combat
After weapons fire is resolved units may perform a physical attack. A unit may perform a physical attack such as a punch or kick on a unit in an adjacent hex. A to-hit number is calculated by adding the pilot’s piloting skill to modifiers for target movement, attacking unit movement, unit damage and intervening terrain. A successful physical attack is made on a 2D6 roll equal to or greater than the to-hit number. Physical attacks inflict damage to one location on the target unit as determined by the corresponding Damage Location Table for the type of physical attack. As with weapons fire, damage is marked on the record sheet for the unit. Certain types of physical attacks and/or the damage inflicted by a physical attack cause the targeted unit to perform another piloting check to determine if the ‘Mech is still standing.

Units adjust their Heat Scale after all combat is completed. Movement and weapons fire causes the units to generate waste heat. Units are equipped with heat sinks to dissipate waste heat; however, units can generate more heat than their capacity to dissipate it. The heat generated by the unit for the turn is calculated by adding the heat from movement and weapons fire minus the number of heat sinks. If the heat generated is more than zero, than the amount is added to any excess heat from the previous turn and recorded on the Heat Scale. As a ‘Mech gets hotter, the unit suffers penalties to movement and weapons fire, may automatically shut down or even suffer an ammo explosion!

Miscellaneous items are resolved in the End Phase. A consciousness roll is made for any unconscious ‘Mech pilots to determine if they become conscious and able to rejoin the fight. If in a campaign scenario, a ‘Mech which suffered tremendous damage may have its pilot eject to live to fight another day. Effects such as the movement of smoke and fire are also resolved.

Additional aspects of the game such as artillery and aerospace combat add some other phases to the turn. The game continues until a side meets its mission objectives or is destroyed.

Battletech is a classic older game which enjoys an almost cult-like following among its fans. There are numerous websites devoted to the game or certain factions within the Battletech Universe. Each faction has its own unique characteristics and common type of units. Choose your favorite from around 35 different factions and talk it up with fellow faction fans!

Battletech was born near the end of the heyday of the Grodard hex and counter wargames and derives its roots from these systems. However, Battletech play is a streamlined version of these old time wargames, but even so, by today’s standards would be considered fiddly with a long play time. The beauty of the Battletech system is that players can choose to make play as straight forward or complex as they wish. The core set of rules is fairly straight forward but still has a bit of a learning curve. There are several rulebooks filled with optional rules to provide more complexity, replayability and variation in game play. This complexity could come at a price as game time and learning curve could be increased. Even using only the core rules, I would not recommend Battletech for casual gamers.

As I mentioned before, the Battletech system is very flexible, and can be easily adapted to miniature rules. There are a couple of companies that produce very detailed sculpted metal miniatures. Many fans paint their miniatures in the camo schemes of their favorite faction. There are also several companies which make 3-D terrain which works well for the game. It is a lot of fun playing on the 3-D terrain!

At its heart Battletech is all about tactical play. And it will take several plays to determine strategies for using the different classes of ‘Mechs and other units, as well as terrain features. Players must skillfully maneuver their units into position to take advantage of terrain or the strengths of their units. In addition, players must use sound tactics to exploit a weakness in the enemy force and find a way to deny the enemy his mission objective while simultaneously working to achieve their mission objective.

As with many games with die rolling, luck can rear its ugly head in Battletech due to the sheer volume of dice rolled. However, using good maneuvering and sound tactics can minimize the luck factor. Even so, with such volume of dice rolling, each player should see his share of good and bad luck, so it will most likely even out in the long run.

Battletech is a great game but it is not for everyone. During the course of the game the ‘damage curve’ catches up with the combatants and it is a lot of fun determining who will remain standing and achieve their mission objective among the units dropping like flies! However, the old classic feel of this game is not for many of today’s gamers. Battletech is a classic game that all gamers should endeavor to play at least once. I highly recommend Battletech for avid and power gamers.

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Tide of Iron fan
11 of 19 gamers found this helpful
“A great old game that has plenty of replay value”

This game came out a long time ago, the seventies, I think. I remember seeing it in the store when I used to go buy expansions and miniatures for my Star Trek game. I used to stare at all the mech miniatures and want this game. But I was putting my money into Star Trek. Then in the eighties I met a man, who became my best friend. He had Battletech and we played. That was all it took, I was hooked. So I bought all of the RPG expansions after that, and every time I went to a convention, I bought another miniature. The game involves your Mech, a thirty foot robot controlled by your pilot. These robots have many weapons like lasers, autocannons, Charged Particle Cannons (PPC), rockets, missiles, and other weapons. It is a lot of fun and pretty easy to learn. It does have a lot of modifiers and record keeping during the game. I still love it, even though I don’t get to play as often as I used to like. They have brought out a new boxed game lately, I want it, but don’t have it yet. My old 80’s citytech boxed set still serves me well.

The game mechanics are pretty straightforward. First all sides roll for initiative. The winner will move last after all other sides have moved one mech, vehicle, or infantry. After all other sides have moved one unit, the side with initiative moves a second unit and play continues. At any time, if one side has twice as many unmoved units as the other side, they move two units until they have less than twice as many units to move. Move continues back and forth until all units have moved.

The side with initiative fires last, (since all fire in a firing phase is considered simultaneous, this doesn’t matter as much). If you have more heat generated by your weapons than you have heat sinks to absorb that heat, you have to decide if it’s worth “heating up” your unit. Vehicles have to have as many heat sinks as what their weapons generate. Infantry doesn’t deal with heat.

You roll to hit, adding modifiers for firing unit movement, target movement, intervening terrain, terrain of target hex, and conditional modifiers such as damage, or whether the weapon fired is a pulse laser or not. If the roll to hit is over the target “to hit” number or equal, you hit. You then roll on the hit location chart to see where the weapon hit, and mark off circles for damage that weapon inflicted.

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Advanced Grader
Gamer - Level 4
4 of 8 gamers found this helpful
“Brutal, fun but complex.”

There’s something incredibly satisfying about designing your own massive combat Mech, then squaring up to your friend(s) and having these hulking machines beat the crap out of each other. Build something long range and fast, to keep sniping from a distance while moving to not get hit, or something with heavy armour and short range weapons (AC20 anybody?) that will move in and blow them away at close quarters.

The level of customization and optional rules give this game incredible replay value. But it also makes it complex to learn and teach It’s hard to pick up and introduce a group of friends to this game for an afternoon of casual gaming. And when using the pre-made Mechs, it is difficult to get the balance right. When I played it was usually a matter of “pick 150 tons of Mechs and see who can be last standing”. Brutal but fun.


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