(NOTE: Like most of my posts with pictures, you can usually click on em for larger ones.)
Battletech is a game taking place primarily in the 31st century. Mankind has gone to the stars and the aristocracy has gone back in control of things. 5 primary powers plot against each other to control the known galaxy, their main weapon being Battlemechs, 20-100 ton robots full of lasers, guns, and missiles. There has been so much war that much of their technology has been lost and things such as scavenging parts to repair machines whose factories got blown to smithereens decades or more ago is the order of the day. Its a hard science fiction universe with its own internal logic for why people would fight in silly giant robots packing tons of guns.
The game itself is what I call a "Machine Sheet Game" in which you have a highly detailed sheet of paper covering each combat machine in great detail. In this genre the details of where your unit is hit, for how much, from what angle, and what it does to multiple systems matter. Its more about the DETAILS of what happened than the big picture result.
It all began here for me in 1988. My Junior High School Graduation and 14th birthday. The old long gone store "Eric Fuch's Hobbies" in the Crystal Mall. I was looking for hobby games stuff and I had known of Battletech thanks to a Dragon Magazine review. While I really wanted the Robotech RPG they did not have it. However they had Battletech. So I got it. And my friend got me Aerotech for my birthday to go alongside it. Note how that is a Macross Destroid on the cover? (Aerotech had fightercraft from Crusher Joe.) See that 21st Century Imports made a deal with FASA to sublet the mechanical designs from various shows so they could sell model kits that they had imported. The first edition of Battletech came with plastic model kits.
One good look at the back cover and any doubts I had went away. All the mecha on the back was from Robotech! (Well Macross but it was 88. I didn't know that yet.)
It even had a little sell sheet for miniatures. The most expensive mech was an Atlas at 5 bucks. Most were 3-4. Wished I had bought up a bunch. Lovely ad art too.
Like Aerotech which was Battletech in SPAACE, Battleforce was the mass scale BT game. As I foolishly gave away my original BT rulesbook with its excellent tutorials and all I am showing the BForce and Aerotech manuals so you can see what they looked like. The BT manual had the same Dougram (Now known as the Shadow Hawk) on the cover though sans the aerospace fighter and starfield.
And this is what the manuals inside looked like. Decent artwork that was probably all lightboxed off actual Macross and Dougram art. But Aerotech even made Battletech MORE like Robotech as you could now even have transforming mecha!
Later on they kept the same box front as 2nd edition but revised it a tad and threw in 14 plastic minis. Not GOOD plastic but.. beggars cannot be choosers.
Once Harmony Gold got into a row with Fasa all the Dougram, Crusher Joe, and Macross designs went bye bye and there was a lame boxed set that went with standee figures. FASA would die, German company Fanpro would take over, then Catalyst Game Labs would. This is the first of 2 excellent starter sets Catalyst did, packing them with much higher quality plastic miniatures. The revised version of this set through in a couple Clan mechs of higher quality. (I will get into them.)
See the Battletech universe evolved over time with technology being recovered and a dangling plot thread brought back. THE CLANS. A millitary force had left the BT region of space a few hundred years previous and came back with new technology and a desire to take over with their genetic warrior culture. So many Battletech games and subgames needed a new edition to both keep up with the new game technology and to look more modern. Battleforce 2 is virtually an entirely seperate game than the original, while Aerotech 2 became a supplemental book.
I never owned the original Citytech which was the Battletech expansion set that added in new mechs, urban combat, infantry, and tanks. I was however able to get this puppy off ebay a few years back at a fair price. (I did a review of it in more depth. Feel free to take a look: http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/03/citytech-2nd-edition-unboxing.html )
And three of the FIVE core rulesbooks I have owned for the game. The Compendium was actually the second one released, covering all that Clan tech era stuff. I found it on board my ship in the Navy and could never find out who it belonged to. (But given how antisocial and autistic the Battletech community seems to be this is no surprise. BT people seem to have very little interest in anything outside their tiny goggles.) The Master Rules Revised was a mildly tweaked version of the Master Rules, collating all the new tech they kept adding to the game. Total Warfare is under Catalyst. It is how they do the game now, breaking it up into a pile of attractive (and expensive of course) hardback books. Total Warfare actually has LESS rules in it than those other two books. Mech design? Gone. Aerospace rules? Gone. They expanded the game into a massive pile of books. If you have them all you can pretty much do EVERYTHING you could possibly want to do in the Battletech universe. Except.. you probably don't want to.
Here are the second and third editions of the BT RPG, known as Mechwarrior. The second ed isn't too shabby but the third is terrible with an amazingly convoluted lifepath system as befits a company that got its start making stuff for Traveller. Fourth edition is even more complicated in making characters. Honestly? I will just use Basic Roleplaying or X-Plorers and house rule it. Faster character generation, better rules for RPGing.
Some supplemental rules books that Catalyst's new book concept have mostly made irrelevant (except as I am cheap and have most of my fun playing Battletech with people who don't play Battletech and are thus generally good and fun people I can get away with using the old books as most of the rules are the same. Battletech has done little more than tweak its rules since the mid 80s.). The Miniatures Rules cover playing on tabletop without hex maps, Mercenary's Handbook is full of stuff to run mercenary units (in BT's Aspie Details style), and Maximum Tech is full of even MORE complicated rules for people who didn't think Battletech had enough bloody rules for every little thing.
Scenario and background books! They give you info on a Merc unit in the latter two's case, and all 3 give you scenarios and the like to play. They still make books like First Strike now as a way of easing people into Battletech without having to buy multiple 40-50 dollar hardbacks and mech books.
These are mostly fluff books that detail the metaplot as of whenever they happen. 20 Year Update covers the status of 25 years after the timeframe listed in the 2nd and 3rd edition box sets. Shattered Sphere is about the status quo a good 13 years after that. Fedcom Civil War covers what happens immediately after Shattered Sphere. Blake Ascending I got super cheap because its the only way I would buy a book covering the current metaplot. Which involves some crazy religious fanatics who somehow manage to screw up the entire Battletech universe to lead into the collectible Mechwarrior game by Wizkids. ( I will cover that in another post.)
And some faction specific rules and fluff books. Some of the new tech introduced here appeared in the Master Rules Revised book.
Record sheet books! Back before we all had the Internet, scanner/copiers in the home, and glorious programs like Solaris Skunk Werks we had to either laboriously fill in a blank mech sheet, or buy record sheet collections. I have 3 of them.
This is an example of a mech sheet printed out with said Skunk Werks. It has options for a picture of your fly hooptie, some of the piles of charts one uses in the game, and so on. Note all that detail. I told you Battletech had a lot of detail. I WARNED YOU BRO.
There were even magazines covering the game it was so popular. Battletechnology was a mostly "In universe" magazine and semi official no less. I keep meaning to buy more back issues as it covers the early timeframe in between the 2nd ed boxed set and 20 Year Update.
Not official at all but quite charming was this little long running fanzine called Future Wars. I got this in game stores. Not online as nobody really had it. They carried this in shops!
And my personal favorite, Mecha Press! It was an offshoot of the anime magazine that started as the official Robotech magazine Protoculture Addicts. It covered nothing but mecha anime and mecha games. The people behind it would later go on to make the "Heavy Gear" mecha game. Which is basically "Armored Trooper Votoms". What was the third issue covering? Votoms! HMMM...
They had a few cool ideas for Battletech in it, with a Gundam like mech including shield rules many years before Battletech would ever have any official ones. (Another issue had a Sazabi inspired mech.)
But the star of the Battletech supplement mill were the "Technical Readouts". Covering gobs and gobs of robot and tank goodness with all the designs of the timeframe on the cover. My copies are all the ones with the Macross, Dougram, and Crusher Joe stuff still there. Many have been revised since to remove that art if not the mechs entirely.
They have gone beyond 3067 with new Tech Readouts but that reaches the Word of Blake thing and I really don't like or care for that timeframe. Why waste my money?
I did buy this one which could be the prelude to the Word of Blake. Project Phoenix took all the old designs Harmony Gold was being their usual douchy selves about and redid them, making them both modern refits of the old designs to bring them up to the in universe modern tech levels, and as new minis to sell and pictures they could show.
As the Soltic Roundfacer from Dougram is a personal favorite design of mine AND I like the Griffin as a mech in Battletech, I am showing the original 3025 TR with its original design art, and the Project Phoenix one. You can see the basic look of the books didn't change in 20 or so years but they did a fair job of taking the old design and making it original without removing what people liked from it. (And many of the Dougram mecha were originally designed by Gundam's mecha designer. And the main Macross designer? He did designs for the Japanese version of Battletech! Its Six Degrees of Mecha in here!)
Of course you need hex maps to play on. I have a couple packs of them. These days I mostly just use Heroscape 3d plastic hex terrain. But if you don't want to deal with setup time, or carrying it all around, hex maps are your pal.
I even have the Solaris 7 Map Pack which also came with a supplement book a friend of mine still has. Why fight in wars when you can fight for entertainment and fat cash broadcast throughout the known galaxy?
And these were the original standees you used on said maps that came in the 2nd edition box set.
But next time? Let's get three dimensional. Miniatures! Toys! Model kits I actually built! MERCHANDISING, MERCHANDISING, MERCHANDISING!
(It's where the real money is made.)