Sunday, 15 November 2020

BattleTech Alternate Universe


I read a fun thread on Twitter a little while back asking what opinion would get your BT fan card revoked.

I wrote Kerensky's Exodus was dumb, dumber than a bag of hammers; and later added, The Republic of the Sphere was the best thing ever introduced into BT canon. Obviously, these are just throwaway comments, made in jest, but with elements that stand some further reflection.

It's hard now for those fans who weren't there back in 1984 to understand the appeal of the original 3025 setting.

What you have to remember is that the game was tapping into the whole Mad Max vibe that swept the West, click here for a wiki article. Not forgetting the timing of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome released in 1985.

So when FASA's BattleDroids arrived, the whole 'previous technology was 'made better in the past' resonated with me and countless other wargamers. Yes, it was obvious that this would have to change, because the Inner Sphere would have had to have been knee deep in Battlemechs to keep them on the battlefields of the future.

Hence my love for the William Keith Grayson Carylisle Gray Death stories, which is all about finding lost tech.

The recent successful KickStarter, with the new plastic mechs from Catalyst have revived people's interest in BattleTech. I haven't played a game in quite a long while, but have fond memories of fun times. Okay, I'm totally obsessed with stompy robots!

However, later on, I got into a bit of a tiff with a guy on FaceBook about combined arms games, which was resolved after some comments.

My assertion remains that there's a sweet spot for playing games of classic BattleTech, and furthermore hover tanks used aggressively can unbalance the game. I was told that using fusion powered hover tanks was cheesy. I kind of agree, but only because I think that cheesy is just shorthand for edge cases breaking the rules.

On further reflection, I think that BattleTech would be better focused on gladiatorial arena games, because the super crunchy game mechanics are already borderline rpg character focused. Furthermore, one could tinker with the time and groundscale for more in the cockpit verisimilitude. Yes, this would turn BattleTech into a Solaris game, but that's not a bad thing.

I think the original Solaris game was a road BattleTech should have taken. Obviously, opinions will differ. Then focus the desire for combined arms battles using Alpha Strike. But that's just my opinion.

But, here we are entering a revival of the classic game, and that I think all would agree is a good thing.


  1. Read the books when they first came out. I was a Jade Falcon fanboy back then. Never went on to play the game though

    1. A Clanner... Oh well, never mind, I'm sure you got better. ;-)

      Shame you never played though. Nowadays though, there are more accessible games.

  2. What did the dark age clix era bring to the table:

    I too enjoyed the mad max rediscovery of lostech vibe. My buddies and I were mecha anime fans already and the setting reminded us of Gamma World with semi-realistic rules.

    Speaking of rules, it was immersive enough to make us picture what it might have been like to pilot these war machines. Tactics such as exposing an undamaged side to prevent a hit to your 'mechs magazine or pushing the envelope of your heat scale were unforgettable moments that no other gaming system had back then save for an actual simulation on a computer that 1989 kids could only dream about.

    Taking away from this core aspect is dangerous and always elicited violent reactions from the old guard.

    I was there when the clix game arrived and I was a venue "battle master" or referee for nearly a decade. Our 30+ strong player community of all ages embraced the faster paced battles even if some of us were old school tabletop battletech guys.

    The clix game did manage to capture a lot of the action of mech combat. Early expansions were derided for allowing conventional units to be far too dominant but this was corrected in about 2 years in later rules sets. By this time, mechs were the centerpiece of competitive play and the battles were meaty as hell.

    The downfall of clix was power creep and set retirement. That MTG-wannabee business model forced previous expansions out of the competitive rotation. The fans were quite insulted by this much more than the issues we had with the rules and gameplay mechanics.

    People scoff at the clix years but we had tens of thousands of players across nearly every continent playing with mechs, trading, reading novels about Battletech. Our forums had a dozen multi lingual pages, many of which were in-character! Strategy threads, RPG threads, trading, rules suggestions and help. All of them were abuzz on a daily basis.

    That era was an enormous missed opportunity. By 2012 clix was pretty much dead after a decade of toying with battletech rules.

    Alpha strike was born in that time and was a welcome mat to the new blood who had all these plastic figures.

    If there would be a change to the rules I hope designers would look back at the whole story and not pretend that clix never happened. Think of the worldwide fanbase it had. We outnumbered 40k players at the game stores for crying out loud! Hahaha

    My suggestion? Keep mechs as the centerpiece of battles. Maintain the tactical combat aspect.

    I'm also a fan of combined arms. Totally love calling in artillery with cloaked battle armor!

    And finally, somehow keep the rules streamlined enough to allow a decent sized BV skirmish be finished in less than two hours.

    Clix did company sized battles in 60 minutes with a respectable amount of tactical complexity snd mayhem all with painted minis. It was beautiful.

    It can be done.

    Anyway thanks for reading. Hope you're good Ashley!

    1. No, thank you for commenting. I was late to MW:DA, only buying into it when it was on sale, but I liked the game. For instance, I introduced my Godson to the game. So yeah I agree, Clix gets a lot of grief from the old guard, but not from me.

    2. For some reason your comment was duplicated, so I removed it.

      It's all good, and thank you again for commenting.

  3. Haha! I remember Clix. When our carrier was anchored out from Fremantle, getting its flight deck resurfaced in preparation for our second go-around with Iraq, my buddy and I would go out to Perth and check out the shops.

    We bought MW:DA, and later on, I purchased more clickTech minis from other fellows on the ship who'd bought into it but didn't care for it.

    While we were out to sea, I repainted all the miniatures so they would fit into four armies -red, blue, yellow and green. When I got home, the yellow army became my son's (I put the most work into the custom paint jobs for that one) and we spend many hours battling each other, using the kludged rules that introduced my son to actual BT rules.

    Good times.

    1. Absolutely a great intro game. I gave a bunch of MWDA to my Godson who loved them. He's all grown up now, and when not playing SW X-wing, big into computer games.