How I Got Into Battletech

My first encounter with Battletech was listening to the excellent podcast Fear the Boot a few years ago. They described some of the encounters they had played through in this feudal sci-fi universe dominated by corrupt nobles and 100 ton walking tanks. Despite having spent a fair amount of time playing tabletop games and hanging around game stores I'd never heard of it before then. Maybe you've never heard of it either.

That is because Battletech as an Intellectual Property has a long strange history involving copyright disputes and changing hands between companies nearly half a dozen times over the course of more than 30 years. It hasn't been incredibly popular since it boomed in the late 80s, being overshadowed by other games and eventually all but disappearing from local game stores. I was able to find one store in my area that carried the books, but no store I have been to carries miniatures.

Even if you've never heard of Battletech, you may be more familiar with things like Gundam, Pacific Rim, Voltron, Evangelion, or any one of a million movies or TV shows that feature pilots flying humanoid robots with awesome fire power into battle against the backdrop of a corrupt political system. So when I heard about this tabletop RPG called MechWarrior that had a fully fleshed out tactical mech combat game to go with it I knew it was love. If any of what I described sounds right up your alley, I suggest listening to Fear the Boot #374 for a great primer on the game and setting.

Once I knew about the game I started diving in headfirst, picking up the starter box of miniatures and basic rules. While waiting for that and getting my miniatures painted I started pouring over the truly breathtaking Sarna.net wiki. The timeline of the game's lore is vast. We're talking from the 2500 A.D. up through the 32nd century and it is jam packed with war and technological development, alliances and betrayal, terrible deeds and great heroism. It is the perfect setting for both RPG campaigns and detailed wargaming campaigns.

The only "warning" I give, perhaps less of a warning and more to set your expectations appropriately, is that Battletech is a human focused science-fiction. It is not a space opera. There are no aliens, nanotechnology, nothing akin to the force. The technology they have is gritty and mechanical. This isn't Star Trek where you can zip from star to star at Warp 9, it is a setting where making a jump to another star takes a great deal of time, calculation, and fuel. Think more like Battlestar Galactica's style of ship and you are on the right track. Then imagine that the Galactica could deploy two dozen mechs from low orbit.

If you like sci-fi but you're not keen to play in a Star Wars, Warhammer, or a more Cyberpunky game like Shadowrun I would implore you to check out Battletech. It's an old game, but there is a reason it still has die hard fans and still puts out products. It fills a niche not a single other game I have heard of can fill in.