Monday, 10 May 2010

Republic of the Sphere


As I said, when I first started buying MechWarrior: Dark Age/Age of Destruction miniatures, my only interest was in gaining enough infantry and battle-armour figures to fill my needs for BattleTech. In the process I acquired a small Republic of the Sphere force, which you can see below. After reading some of the tie in novels I've come to appreciate the RotS and after playing a game of MechWarrior clix I've come to really appreciate the game mechanisms, which make for a quick fun filled game.

The big thing about BattleTech and the MechWarrior universe is the richness of the background. Up until quite recently I was very much an Old School Retread, having started with the game back in dawn of time. Measured as 25 years of my life having passed by. A long time indeed. Back then it was the end of the 3rd Succession War and the beginning of the 4th, which of itself was quite a big shake up from a post apocalypse Mad Max universe, to one where new battlemechs were being produced and large wars became a possibility. However, the invasion of the Clans was for me a step too far. Twenty years later the Clans are integrated much better into the universe and the game.

After the Clans came other stuff, like the FedCom Civil war. I like civil wars as a background for generating conflicts, because it allows for factionalism and politics. I missed most of the fun though, since I had fallen by the wayside and only came back for the Jihad. A name to strike fear into one, and certainly an apt description for a game of conflict. I love the way that the über weapons that the Word of Blake have such appalling consequences, which seems to me to make for a balance of sorts, but the promise to return to the roots of BattleTech in a future Dark Age really intrigued me.

At the beginning of the Dark Age we have a universe which has been Balkanised by the previous century of warfare. I especially liked the setting for the game in the impending breakup of the Republic of the Sphere. The premise being that after a number of years of peace and prosperity the interstellar communication network goes down, which reduces everyone to only being able to communicate at the speed of the jumpships. Law and order breaks down as a result of fear and opportunism.

The RotS is split into 10 districts called Prefectures, which were formed of planets that had been seceded at the end of the Jihad by the major powers of the Inner Sphere. This means that each prefecture has a mix of their former factions citizens who do not necessarily think that being ruled by the RotS is a good thing. These groups form factions that are effectively in revolt as they take advantage of the loss of centralised control. A very clever way of setting up conflicts in the game universe.

So we get to see the introduction of proxy forces like the Dragon's Fury, the Storm Hammers, and the Swordsworn, which represent House Kurita, Steiner & Davion interests in the RotS. In addition, we have Bannson's Raiders, a mercenary unit funded by a wealthy RotS magnate, and some Clans too (Steel Wolves & Spirit Cats). Finally, we have the Highlanders who are a RotS faction in their own right, but loyal to the RotS. Really, what more can you ask for when setting out to fight games in a time of war? You have reasons for fighting, opportunities to fight, factions to fight with and for me this really works.

I understand that a lot of the old time BattleTech fans rather disliked the abandonment of the classical House politics they were use to, but for me this future was fresh, and allowed new players to get in on the action without feeling that they needed to know 20 years of in universe history. Of course now, with the closure of WhizKids, MechWarrior has been left high and dry, but I'm a firm believer that it is the players who make the games live, not the the publishers. So long live MechWarrior: Age of Destruction.


  1. I was a huge fan of Battletech back in the day. In retrospect there was far more of a challenge with 3025 tech than was to come with extended range weapons and double heat sinks. I think it just got too big, people wanted more and more mechs, more clans, more everything!

    Mechwarrior Dark Age seemed an attempt to go back to the roots of Battletech, but I never got into it as upheavals in my own life put wargaming onto the back burner.

    As you say though, as long as people have the stuff and carry on playing, Mechwarrior DA will survive and will perhaps be the better for not seeing the same snowball effect that ruined BT in the first place.

  2. While I agree with Jim Hale that BT had become something of a victim of the arms race, the fact is that nothing in the IS ever came very close to the advantage the Clans had in technology.

    And yet the Clan's superior technology lost in the face of superior numbers, stubbornness and their own corruption.

    Their story is told. Now it is time to ratchet things *down* a bit. I am still looking forward to the concept of the weaponized industrialMech. Pink, I thought you were going to do a piece on why these machines have a place in the Dark Age? It would certainly help the rest of us get our heads around the concept and open up entertaining scenarios for both tabletop and roleplayer alike.