BattleTech is better as a video game.
This pains me somewhat to say, but it is an undeniable truth in my eyes. After dumping some 50 hours into Harebrained Schemes wonderfully done BattleTech game the system just works as a video game. There is a lot of fiddly little rules in the tabletop game that slow the play down. BattleTech Classic (BTC) is notorious for taking an entire weekend to play through anything larger than a lance on lance engagement.
Anyone who has spent time rolling hit locations for missile clusters can tell you the game takes a long time. But at the same time, this is where much of the charm of BTC comes from in the first place. It does it’s best to simulate all the varieties of ways a mech can take damage, the slow stripping of armor to the critical underlying components, the build up of heat from movement and firing weapons, the damage to the pilots themselves. It creates a wonderfully dynamic game system where it feels like anything can happen from a lucky AC/20 shot through the cockpit to a mech slipping in a river and falling on its ass. All of those little rules result in a game that tells a story by the time it’s over - and that is awesome.
But not everyone has 5 hours for a standard game. And it’s annoying when you forget that your mech should have had a -1 for that damaged leg servo or +2 for being in a river or -1 for this or that or the other thing. That is where the magic of the computer saves the day for this game system. Instead of rolling on the damage location chart half a dozen times and marking off armor on one of your many splayed out mech stat sheets, the video game lets you take aim and fire off a volley of missiles. Everything about the game is compressed into a smooth experience when all that chart rolling, pilot skill tests, overheating and cooling, is handled for you. It takes a lance engagement from an all day Saturday night game session to a 45 minute battle that lets you focus on the tactics and get to the fun faster.
There are downsides of course. The video game is currently limited to mech’s only, no vehicles. You are also limited to controlling 4 mechs at any given time. That’s a damn shame when the game goes so much faster, a massive 8 vs 8 multiplayer mode is a huge omission. The video game was originally developed more as a mercenary company simulator than as a platform for multiplayer and it does show in the final design. Another disappointing option missing is an objective mode for multiplayer, holding or assaulting a base, escorting transports, etc. are notably gone from multiplayer leaving you only with a standard death match. I hope in future iterations of the game that can be fleshed out more.
They already have an expansion slated for the game coming out later this month called BattleTech: Flashpoint which looks to expand the campaign with smaller branching story missions and a more re-playable end game for your merc company. Look for my run of that coming soon on Dice or Death’s new twitch channel. Look at that pivot to self promotion, flawless as an Atlas alpha strike.