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The Tech Deck

How about BattleTech?

Good morning everyone, welcome to this week’s “What to Play Tonight?” on the “Tech Deck” blog! This week we look into the politically chaotic war driven galaxy of Battletech. Battlemechs are the primary fighting components of the board game. Most stand around 30 feet tall, though they vary incredibly in shape, size and armaments.

The majority of BattleTech’s back story takes place over 1000 years, as humanity expands out in the galaxy realizing they are the only ones there and eventually falling to political infighting. Eventually there is so much death, destruction and confusion that humanity starts back peddling technologically speaking. This thus locks the technology down to a relatively extensive, but stable selection. Least to say, I can’t cover everything that happens, the game has been out since 1984 and has a very extensive book series that for the most part is all considered cannon.

The game itself comprises of selecting premade Battlemechs (‘mechs) or vehicles or customizing your own. BattleTech is set in a very hard science sort of universe, where things like AI, transhumanism, etc… does not exist or is rarely present. ‘Mechs are thus built/customized in an intuitive but extensive manor. You have to deal with tonnage, space capacity, heat build up, ammunition, etc…these all play vital rolls in the game.

Once each player has a selection of ‘mechs, they each roll 2d6 (2 six sided dice). The person who rolls the lowest goes first. They then take turns moving 1+ mechs until they have moved everything. Following the same pattern they then take turns shooting at each other. All fire is to be considered to happen simultaneously, so you will get to shoot at least once before your ‘mech goes down.

Now attacking is very…complicated. Melee fighting works the same way with a little different rules, but it’s pretty much the same. To attack you do the following:

  1. Determine the number you have to roll to hit (skill + your speed + target’s speed + range + misc)
  2. Roll 2d6 and see if you rolled higher than that number, if you did you hit! Congrats continue on. If not, you missed move onto the next weapon.
  3. Check if your weapon fires a cluster (ie LRM’s fire clusters of Long-Range Missiles)
    1. If the weapon is a cluster there’s a few more steps, but I’m going to skip them for pacing.
    2. If the weapon is not, continue on.
  4. Look at the map to see which side of the target mech was hit, front, left, right or rear.
  5. Roll 2d6 on the hit location table corresponding with the side of the target mech that was hit.
  6. Once you figure out the location of the target mech that was hit, mark off the damage from the armor in that location, determined by the weapon/attack.
  7. If there was not enough armor to absorb the damage, put the remaining damage onto the internal structure of that location and roll 2d6 on the critical hit chart.
    1. If the critical hit was 8+ then you scored one or more critical hits on that location, destroying some of the equipment in that location.

i.Roll 1d6 to determine which half of the location was hit.

ii.Roll 1d6 to determine the specific slot that was hit. If it was a location already destroyed or can’t be destroyed roll again until something is destroyed.

  1. If a slot containing ammunition is hit, then the ammo explodes dealing a butt load of additional damage to everything around it. I’m going to skip the specifics.
  1. If there was not enough internal structure move one step towards the center torso and repeat steps 6 & 7, until all the damage has been dealt.
  2. If damaged mech’s head or center torso is completely destroyed, the mech is taken out of commission for the rest of the battle, at the end of the current phase.
  3. Move onto the attacking mech's next firing weapon and repeat the process until the mech is done firing this turn.
damaged Atlas
My Damaged Atlas

While this does seem complicated (and it is [I didn’t even mention heat and ammunition maintenance or falling, piloting, etc…]) the whole system runs relatively smoothly once you start playing. As you can see, BattleTech is less about tight fast paced action. It’s more of a simulator for giant robots to realistically blow the snot out of each other and watch the craziness that can happen.

I do NOT recommend this game for most people. Even some of my gaming buddies think it’s a bit too much and needs brought down a bit. I can agree with them to an extent, cluster attacks take a while for example. It’s not for everyone.

But for the exact same reasons I don’t recommend it, I also DO recommend it. If you are like me that enjoys an interesting in depth system, giant robots and political intrigue, I highly suggest BattleTech. When you get a solid dedicated group to play, it can be really fun watching large battles unfold and really geek out about how realistic it all seems.


Quote of the week:

“I got to go! My MAC Address is expiring!” – Overheard from the IT department to end a telemarketing call.

Andrew Smith is one of The Spokesman-Review's IT gurus and resident dungeon master.