Sunday, 1 May 2011

BattleTech 3.0: Epiphany


This is not a review of the 25th Anniversary box set, as quite frankly it doesn't need a review from me to add to what has already been said by others. 

However, if you are thinking of getting into BattleTech then this is the current entry level product. In short it has everything you need to play BattleTech in one big box, which is full of goodies to get you going. I can't recommend it more highly than that. Everything else the CGL do is just icing on the cake, and can be dipped into if you are so inclined.

After that plug I'm bringing this blog back down to playing BattleTech. So going back, or round-and-round like a gerbil in a hamster wheel (depending on how you look at what I write here in my blog?), are some of the ideas on how to play quicker games of BattleTech, as I've talked about in previous blog posts that have evolved out of playing the game for more years than I care to remember. 

The manifesto for any House rules for speeding up the playing speed of BattleTech were:

1. Must not conflict with BattleTech's construction rules.

2. Must use BattleTech record sheets.

3. Must feel like a simpler version of BattleTech.

4. Must be compatible with all pre-generated unit designs that exist now.

5. Must allow two or more players control six units each, and play four turns an hour.

6. Must cater for combined armed games that play quickly.


1. For board games keep movement as cost per hex, but double the firing range. For miniature gaming make each hex equal to four inches, but movement points only equal to two inches.   

Reason: to balance the emphasis on manoeuvre from simplified facing changes with firing range while speeding up play.

2. For movement now all units just count the number of hexes (board-game), or inches moved (tabletop), and add a free facing change at the end of the turn only. Quad mechs can move sideways down the line of the hex, or just step side-ways in tabletop miniature games, effectively retaining their side-slip advantage.  

Reason: taking a leaf out of MechWarrior: Age of Darkness quick play.

Addendum: this effectively adds three movement points to all mechs and vehicle, which compensates for doubling the range of the weapons.

3. Roll one pair of 2D6 (change to 4D6 and discard two results) for combat to calculate whether or not all the weapons that the unit has hit or miss.  

Reason: reduce number of die rolls, which means quicker fire resolution. 

Addendum: modified in light of discussion below.

4. Roll one pair of 2D6 (change to 4D6 and discard two results) for all the missile weapons fired to get an average of number of missiles hit e.g: you fire five LRM launchers of say three fives, and two 10s, you would then roll on the 35 missile to hit table, rather than for each launcher in turn.  

Reason: replaces boxes of dice with one table and remove design artifacts that can affect game balance from game play and resolve damage quicker.

Addendum: modified in light of discussion below. 

5. Ammo explosions are calculated as the value of one round of the ammo cooking off when they explode. However,  after applying the internal damage, roll again on 2D6 (the usual roll of plus eight) to see if more critical damage is done to the mech (if the ammo bay is hit again, this too will explode one round and so on).   

Reason: reduce number of times dice need to be rolled and therefore speed up the game, but still allows for catastrophic explosions.

6. Ferro-fibrous armour, endo-steel count and empty slots count as valid locations for an internal hit and need not be re-rolled.

Reason: to again reduce number of times dice need to be rolled and therefore speed up the game.

7. Head hits do not automatically kill the pilot, instead the auto-pilot is assumed to eject the pilot, unless of course there is no ejection system or auto-eject is turned off for some reason. Pilots only die from wounds received.  

Reason: emphasis on heroic RPG, rather than pure wargame play.

8. Initiative to be governed by using cards, which will randomise what moves when during a turn.

Reason: stop gamesmanship and calculating the best unit to move last, which slows down the game.

Addendum: further discussion on principles to be dealt with in a future blog entry.

9. Introductory Rules to be used as the jump off point with the minimum amount or rules from other books as necessary.

Reason: when in doubt, less is more.

Let the discussion begin...


  1. I like your streamlining. While the rules as written are fine for one-on-one mech combat, If I ever get a large-scale Battletech game goingI would want to use these rules.

    One suggestion/option regarding #3 (one to-hit roll for all weapons fired): one roll for each type of weapon fired (laser/autocannon/missile etc.) instead of a single all-or-nothing toss of the dice.

  2. Battletech is getting better & better, and I've been a fan/player since 1989. Even if many have said much about the boxed set, its always nice to read about it over here.

    And oh yeah, number 7 was an old house rule w/ our RPG that's been running since we were kids. And ejection is no simple thing! :-)

    Great stuff!

  3. Desert Scribe: We are still evaluating how we do this and there is a feeling that the idea of just rolling one pair of dice is too cut and dried, hit or miss, but I quite like the idea of it being that way. We shall see, as I said these are guidelines, not rules as such.

    Thanks for the feedback Zombie Hunter. What I found out recently is that there are a lot of people who are put off the idea of getting into BattleTech because of the perception of the amount of stuff they will need to buy. At the end of the day the box set has everything to play basic BattleTech, and IMNSHO a lot of the additions actually add very little to the game experience, other than bog the game down in unnecessary detail. YMMV.

  4. Some loose thoughts:

    1) Doubling weapon ranges is HUGE. Our group tried this once, along with some other weird rules (Calvinball Battletech), and mechs with LRM's and a decent movement were especially deadly and hard to catch (we did not double minimum ranges).

    4) I like the idea to roll on the 35 chart, but try rolling 4 dice and discard the highest and lowest. This will give you more average results, more like what you get with multiple rolls.

    8) Cards are good. Also consider moving more than one units at a time so the are fewer "rounds" of player movement. Moving 2 or 3 at a time really speeds things up. If there are only 2-3 mechs left to move, go back to 1-to-1 moves and it keeps the same flavor as regular initiative.
    You can also use "move half" of the remaining units lefts to be moved (generally round down, but be careful the initiative winner still has units to move last). This is efficient even for very large battles.

    Also, assuming you use dice to mark movement modifiers on the map: put the dice out where both sides can see them, one per mech, and draw them from those piles as players move. If you need to figure out how many mechs are left to move, count the dice in the piles instead of miniatures on the map (helps in big scenarios).

    1. Eastwood DC thanks for the idea about the dice, I'm so going to steal that and not credit you either ;-)

      Ranges are only relatively doubles as movement will be increased by not having to pay for facing changes.

      Also, I think what I will also do is allow the players to roll three D6 for their to hit number and throw one die result away.

    2. On reflection, I think I will actually use the 4D6 and discard two dice for all the rolls that need to be made, just to be consistent. So good call Eastwood DC.

  5. I especially like Rules 8 and 9. I have been using playing cards for initiative for some time. Each card represents a lance or some other formation, so of that unit will move at the same time. As for rule 9, we generally only allow more advanced rules on a case by case basis which are spelled out in advance to the game so there is little arguing. The one exception is LOS which I always use the advanced (realistic) rules.

  6. In regards to rule 6, this is hazardous. This provides mechs with ES or FF some CONSIDERABLE extra protection internally. Picture a side torso location with 2 weapon slots and an ammo bin and the rest is FF or ES boxes. Assume a roll of two critical hits. Under current rules this means that there is a 2/3 chance of the ammo being hit, and even if the ammo is OK, the two weapon slots in the section are going to be hit. With the ES and FF being valid hit locations however there is a 2/3 chance (66%) that NOTHING will be hit and only a 1/12+1/11 chance (17%) that the ammo will be hit.

    Something I did for years that REALLY sped up play was to convert the game so that any time the game called for a 2d6 roll I used a single 1d20 roll instead. I had to sort out the values for various charts but the overall net effect was pretty close.

    See my articles at and for how this works.

    1. The rationale for number 6 is that mechs are large and full of not a lot. So shots can hit, but miss hitting anything important when they go internal. We are still play testing this to see how it works when playing, rather than what the stats say.

  7. Since your preference is for fewer ammunition explosions then it ought to work out just fine. Just do keep in mind that the result is that in addition to the benefits of greater armor factors and lighter internal structures, FF and ES will provide mech's with a considerable amount of protection. If speed is your only concern though another option would be to have a full set of polyhedral dice on hand and roll the die that most closely corresponds to the number of damageable critical locations left un-hit in a location and count downward the number rolled on the die. So, a full CT you would roll a d12, an otherwise empty arm a d4, a 2/3 full RT a single d8. This method should not change the odds of a given slot being hit on a given hit.

  8. Another way you could do crits is to make every crit location count (even Roll Again). In addition, get rid of the "possible crit" roll and have every IS hit (or "2" location) get one crit. If you really want to make it interesting, have the # of crits based on weapon size, 1 crit per 5 pts (round up). If a previously hit location gets a crit again, no re-roll. In a way, this also gets rid of some gaminess in Mech design, like burying ammo in a sea of heat sinks or sticking it in the feet.

    1. Great idea for adding more detail to the game. At this point though the aim is to see how much detail we can strip out while still keeping the feel of BattleTech, but if I were role-playing mech combat duels I would want more of the feel of the novels. So having more critical hits and then perhaps saving rolls to represent bypass circuits cutting in would be a great way to go.

  9. What do you do about the movement modifiers for the target since you have changed the rules regarding facing changes?

    1. We play it as walk, run modifier based on distance moved; so faster moving units get more of an advantage for running than slower one's, which keeps the feel of the game right.

  10. Dear Paint it pink,
    I posted this on another blog entry but don't know if it's new enough for you to be reading.

    I'm interested in the card based initiative idea. Just some quick questions; Is it only those machines that had a card drawn that can fire,as on one of your blogs you said that the second vent card 'ends' the turn? If you don't move a mech is it considered 'stationary', if so would it be worth considering have two cards for some of the faster mechs (give them a chance to keep there movement protection) but have only the first one drawn provide the right to move? Have you come up with any other 'special' cards?

  11. I have read and replied there, link: