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Author Topic: A newcomer's honest general impressions  (Read 3288 times)

ykonoclast

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A newcomer's honest general impressions
« on: 25 February 2019, 21:22:31 »
Well, hello everyone, I'm a true newcomer so, please, don't bite and forgive the awkward syntax that might crop up here and there : I am not a native speaker and almost never get the occasion to write in English.

I found some reviews of the new box sets around the web, these were directed at fellow newcomers and, well, I figured it could be of interest to do the exact reverse : a review of BattleTech adressed to old-timers, from someone just joining. A sort of feedback from the new generation, if that makes any sense.

Before I wrote this I took time to familiarize myself with the game, as I wanted to present an informed opinion. This is what I did :

  • Bought beginner box, armored combat box, total warfare, BattleMech Manual, TRO : succession wars plus some pdf files. Played some games (Lance vs Lance).
  • Spent an inordinate amount of time on sarna and other places to get a sense the 'verse and the history of the game (unseens, complicated licence etc.).
  • Read a few sourcebooks, old ones (such as ComStar, the Star League, House Liao and The Periphery) and newer ones (eg Handbook : Liao).
  • Read a few novels (warrior trilogy, wolves on the border and lethal heritage).
  • Played the new video game through.

So, here we go :

The game itself
Well, TL;DR it's brilliant.
This system is trying to simulate huge robots fighting each other... and that's what it does. Meaning :

  • No ridiculous super-powered heroes capable of signe-handedly destroying half the opposing army.
  • No unrealistic special capabilities that you should use in combos and that are actually more important than unit stats.
  • No gamey card-based system effectively stealing your player agency.
  • No cheesy "rule of fun" units (e.g. big swords on a modern battlefield "cos' swords are kind of cool").

I've played many miniature wargames, most seemed rather childish to me : they had a clear willingness to emphasize cool mechanics over verisimilitude.
This game is different : it is trying to simulate its subject without compromising itself on the altar of fun, it might be less immediate, but in the end it is intensely more rewarding.

I instantly loved the level of detail given to each 'Mech : they are not anonymous "units". When I blasted off the arm of my opponent's Shadow Hawk with one of the medium lasers of my Catapult, these minis felt much more real : they were not simply "dead" or "in play", nor had they just a main attack stat ; they had multiple locations detailing onboard equipment (each piece destructible) and were bristling with several weapons that we had to manage (with regards to min range, heat etc.). This granularity is so satisfying : damage feels more concrete (my leg is blasted off, or my gun is unusable not "this mini has one HP less").
After the first round, we gave our 'Mechs names.

There might be some amount of clutter in the rules. Physical attacks are kind of... discouraging for a first-timer to be honest, and PSR triggers are hard to remember (you need to know by heart each of them : we kept on unintentionally cheating by forgetting them). The BattleMech Manual has some moments too : several pages to describe falling, a long and lovingly convoluted way to have 'Mechs skid if they dare to run on a street (which seems to defy the reason for building roads in the first place : which, to my knowledge, was to allow vehicles to go faster than off-road) with adorable details on how you can interrupt a skid with an accidental fall, fantastic. Skidding and falling have, combined, the same amount of pages than the entire "damage" chapter. Someone had their priorities straight.

But apart from these, admittedly easily ignored, pearls of physical wisdom (and having a rule allowing you to club your opponent to death with its own arm you just teared from its torso is always a good thing in my opinion), the system is very solid and, while sometimes expansive, quite easily picked-up as most of its elements feel logical.


I've read a certain number of posts here and there saying that BattleTech is irrelevant to the "current generation" for a number of would-be reasons such as being "too complicated" or not "not having  superfun features like powers and heroes". I feel that this kind of reasoning is a bit disparaging of the younger public : the fact that we weren't playing boardgames in the 80s does not mean we are  incapable of appreciating good rules without resorting to funny, colorful, artificial mechanics or other bells and whistles.
On the other hand, I have seen many veterans being criticized as "stuck in the past" and refusing changes. I actually think they are right : the backward compatibility of BattleTech up to the original editions is a great thing. Old players can come back with little effort, new players can share a community with experienced ones and the commercial pressure of needless new editions with divisive changes is removed. This stability is a godsend in that regard, especially since the game is already good.



The universe
Let's not dwell on this too much : yes Game of Thrones in space is absolutely great. While the universe is sometimes a bit generic, this is more than compensated by its maturity : no fantasy, no aliens, just a hard, realistic, military mood.

Now, as to the choice of eras, I think it was a great move by Catalyst to set these new box sets during the succession wars. This era has several advantages :

  • Tech is quite low, allowing introductory rules.
  • There is a lot of high quality background material (novels, sourcebooks...) with great characters.
  • The general "Game of Thrones meets Mad Max in space" mood is still very powerful.
  • This allows similar 'verse state to the video game, simplifying transition.

But, more importantly, it severely limits the quantity of fluff a newcomer has to acquire. Beginning in the dark age and having to learn all about the pre-invasion situation, then how the Clans invaded, then the Jihad is... well kind of overwhelming.


Moving away from these practical considerations I must confess I find the original setting (succession wars, clan invasion then FedCom Civil War) to be simply more appealing. In comparison to the very rich backdrop of political intrigue, great stories and characters of the succession wars or the brutal game changer that is the Clan invasion (with this incredible and seemingly unstoppable enemy that is at the same time so alien... but so human and, more importantly, deeply rooted in the previous lore, with the Star League Defense Forces exile) I have difficulties getting interested by what happens next. While the FedCom civil war has some very good moments (political intrigues, the split of ComStar...), the next eras fail to capture my thrill :

Jihad : I just can't understand how a splinter group of cultists can, out of the blue, declare war to just about everyone (including the powerful Clans and the vast military of the major successor states) and last ten years. How could these guys become a threat to the major powers in the first place? This feels just like "Clan invasion, but with less interesting and credible enemies".

Dark Age : it just feels like "the same as succession wars but with a longer and more complicated backstory and without the great characters and intrigues".

So, while some might find that Catalyst should have set the boxes designed for newcomers in a new era, well, I can tell you that, not only don't I want to have to learn twice as much backstory ("now you have to know everything up til then or be clueless!"), but I feel that the old setting is actually the most engaging. It is a good thing that the lore is progressing though, it gives new elements to the old-guard who knows the old era through and through. But as for us newcomers, let us live the grandeur of the succession wars and the awesomeness that is the Clan invasion. I have known Hanse Davion and Ulric Kerensky for only a month and their story is as powerful now as it must have been back then. Choosing the early storyline was the right choice, Harebrained Schemes made the same and the result was, in my opinion, brilliant.

Speaking of this, I sincerely hope that Catalyst will make another box set for the Clan invasion with Clan Omnimechs minis as a complement to the "Armored Combat" box in the same way that CityTech gave new rules for urban combat and furthered the storyline to include the clans. That would be awesome.



The products so far
Well, the boxes are quite satisfying especially in one regard : the miniatures are a huge improvement upon what was available up til then. This was the main reason why no one in my entourage nor I would touch BattleTech : the minis were quite repulsive. Such was the dreadful reputation of BattleTech in that regard that I had difficulties convincing friends to play with the new sets, I had to show them the new pieces for them to accept that this game was not just "the game with ugly minis" anymore.
The new miniatures, while not very high quality (soft details etc.), are quite acceptable (provided a competent paint job is applied) and nonetheless immensely superior to the old ones.

What is hard to understand though is why so few are available (nine unique designs) at this average standard of quality for a game that old. I understand that Catalyst is now a small operation but I have seen kickstarters by much smaller entities with more diverse and beautiful assortments. Anyway, I feel the game is on a very positive path in this regard given the recent improvements.


Now, an issue lies in the way the range is presented, the shop is quite difficult to understand : you can still buy the old 80s houses sourcebooks and field manuals (not that they would tell you what the difference is) but there are also "handbooks" and "combat manuals" (so... four books a house? Hard to understand which one you need.) and dozens of "historical", "digests" and other "reports". Most of these books look like they are definitely out of print and should have been reedited/compiled or whatever. It took me days to understand the differences between all of them and I am quite surprised that no serious work was undertaken to present the lore in a coherent form. The ComStar and Star League sourcebooks have no true modern equivalent for instance and are sorely lacking to the newcomer willing to understand the universe. This confusing range is the second reason that kept my friends and I out of the game initially, it took the video game to make me dare take the jump.

In my humble opinion there should be big (and I mean BIG) "era books" : one for the "up to the succession wars" (compiling the house sourcebooks plus ComStar and the Star League, many of these books actually have a lot in common and could be compiled and/or streamlined), one for the clan invasion and the FedCom Civil War (combining the Clan sourcebooks, the relevant parts of the Handbooks and of ComStar and the FedCom Civil War sourcebook) and one for what comes after. I currently have to swim through dozens of old titles to get a coherent vision of the lore.
This, of course, does not forbid the continued publication of "select" sourcebooks such as "liberation of Terra" or "Golden Century" which are very interesting and well written books for the already-acquainted.


Then, I think something should be said about some inadequacies in the TRO : succession wars and the associated record sheets. These seems not to be truly directed at newcomers and were quite confusing to me :

  • The TRO shows no indication of eras, giving the impression that all these 'Mechs are in current regular service during the succession wars while many of them actually disappeared during the first or second or were introduced during the fourth.
  • The sheets give many variants with no background... and these variants are not discussed in the TRO either! So you have these 'Mechs and have strictly no information about them, I had to go to sarna for that even though I bought a companion book dedicated to this purpose.
  • The eras indications on the sheets makes no sense, all the baseline variants (such as STK-3F) are indicated to be in "Star League" era even though they are in common usage during the succession wars. For my first unit roster, I only selected variants with the "succession wars" era indication (after all... that was the era I was playing in : so I only selected 'Mechs with this indicator) and was surprised that none of the iconic "standard" versions of the "Armored Combat" sheets were available in that regard (Catapult C1, Locust 1V... all of these are noted to be "Star League" era 'Mechs and the "succession wars" variants are often actually more powerful! To the beginner, who's not given any explanation, this is a severe challenge). It is effectively impossible to know, with these era indications, which 'Mechs variants are actually available during the succession wars (a bit unforeseen for a product called "the succession wars record sheets").
  • After all the effort taken to present a new face to the world with new miniatures, most of the illustrations were quite jarring... there actually was quite some laughter among my friends when I presented them the product. The older art is not at current games' level.

But I see a great potential, while there may be some bumps on the road, it seems the game is at least trying to present a coherent front to newcomers. Let us hope future material will be better edited.


Spirit and community
Let's finish on an unambiguously positive note : while I saw a lot of warning about the so-called "horrible neckbeards" composing the BattleTech commnity who reportedly "hated change and newcomers" I found the exact reverse : many posts genuinely trying to help the beginners navigating a complicated brand, much patience in answering the same old questions ("what is that story about harmony gold?") and much dedication to the game. Where reluctance to progress was decried, I saw attachment to a solid, proven, game system and resistance to fashion dictatorship, where aggressive towards the young generation was called out, I just saw an unwillingness to suffer the fool.

Going further, I think the game itself has the right attitude. In other games' fora I saw things like "1000 pts is a hard limit, a 1001 pts army is illegal" or "only official minis, they must be strictly WYSIWYG and thoroughly painted", in comparison, this game has a refreshingly relaxed attitude "BVs are an indication, just play the way you like", "you can play with cardboard counters if you want".


All in all, I'm very happy to have started playing and only regretting not to have done so earlier and am curious to see what you, veteran players, think of my take on your hobby.

Daryk

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #1 on: 25 February 2019, 21:45:20 »
Wow... that is a very thorough review!  Thank you for validating some of the opinions of some of us grognards (oddly enough, we don't all agree).  It's heartening to hear all of the new generation isn't quite what the doom and gloom crowd have been saying.  I hope CGL takes what you've put together to heart.  Great job!  :thumbsup:

Feenix74

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #2 on: 25 February 2019, 21:58:14 »

Welcome to Battletech, I am glad you are enjoying it so far. It usually starts as a hobby but once you follow the rabbit down the hole it becomes a bit of an obsession.

This system is trying to simulate huge robots fighting each other... and that's what it does. Meaning :

  • No ridiculous super-powered heroes capable of signe-handedly destroying half the opposing army.
  • No unrealistic special capabilities that you should use in combos and that are actually more important than unit stats.
  • No gamey card-based system effectively stealing your player agency.
  • No cheesy "rule of fun" units (e.g. big swords on a modern battlefield "cos' swords are kind of cool").


Well you are sort of correct . . .



There are rules for melee combat with mechs, including punching, kicking, charging and use of axes/club/swords (which are not overpowering) and the rules even allow you pick up a blown off limb and beat the enemy mech with your improvised club which can be a lot of fun  8)

And there is a special type of melee attack called "death from above" where a jump jet equipped mech will try to jump on an enemy mech.



Although none of these will allow you to singlehandedly destroy half the opposing army unless you happen to be a legendary mechwarrior such as:
Morgan Kell
Natasha Kerensky
Kai Allard-Liao
Aidan Pryde

 :D

For the rest of us mere mortals we have to hope the dice gods are smiling on us and that we can take one or two enemies with us in our last stand.
Incoming fire has the right of way.

The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.

Always remember that your weapon was built by the lowest bidder.


                                   - excepts from Murphy's Laws of Combat

Ryker

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #3 on: 25 February 2019, 22:06:38 »
Not a veteran player, but a newcomer like yourself. I find I agree with your thoughts, especially on wrapping several older books into one, and an overhaul to artwork and other small areas. If I took the two boxes at face value with the fluff that is easy to access via sarna and other sources, it would be amazing. To have things updated to this current standard would do a lot as you noted and I agree with. Battletech is an amazing game, and surely it would be amazing to wrap up a lot of the several books into one, and give some of the 35 year old artwork a face lift.

Fear Factory

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #4 on: 25 February 2019, 22:07:42 »
Wow, what a post. Welcome to BattleTech.
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ykonoclast

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #5 on: 25 February 2019, 22:10:31 »
Thanks guys for the welcoming answers!
Except for the guy who thought the captcha for new accounts was a good idea, it's my sixth attempt at posting this. Apparently I am not a human being.

Quote
Thank you for validating some of the opinions of some of us grognards (oddly enough, we don't all agree).  It's heartening to hear all of the new generation isn't quite what the doom and gloom crowd have been saying.

I must admit that my main motivation was to (potentially?) fight the "vocal minority" phenomenon.

You see, I bought the game, had fun with friends... end of story right? Well, that's right : but only for satisfied new customers. Meanwhile, the debate seems to rage on about the perceived lack of newcomers or their outrageous tastes. But who will come to the fora and talk about it? Well : mainly grognards and disatisfied new customers. Because, meanwhile, the happy ones are merrily playing with big stompy mechs' and won't bother to come on the internet to say that they actually like the game just as it is. So I figured it could be a good idea to come and expose my precise feelings about the game.

And as exposed, the only reasons I didn't get into it earlier were the minis and the complicated range of books. The apparent success of the new box sets with the revised minis might very well indicate I was not the only one.


Daryk

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #6 on: 25 February 2019, 22:14:33 »
The good news is the captchas go away after 10 posts... Hopefully that won't be too long for you!  :)

GermanSumo

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #7 on: 25 February 2019, 22:31:09 »

  • The general "Game of Thrones meets Mad Max in space" mood is still very powerful.


hehehe i like THIS sentence a lot :D i wonder, if you know what oldtimers like us connect with mad max in the battletech universe hehehe


that aside, welcome to the game. and yeah... the grognards and oldtimers fight more amongst themselves than the newbies :D and this forum in particular is an awesome source of deep and detailed knowledge. i have been at the game for roughly 25 years now. but even i am deeply awed by whats discussed here and how little i apperantly know.

well... and let me point you to 2 things: first there are some awesome and big groups of battletech fans on the another social media platform which i wont name here. :D it has to do with faces. second, get a grasp of megamek :D instead of playing hours with friends while wearing clothes... megamek allows you to play the game without pants as one forum members hilariously said several years ago.

with regards from germany

hendrik

dgorsman

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #8 on: 25 February 2019, 22:38:14 »
There's been some problems with the forum over the years, hence the captcha.  Annoying (try it on a tablet...), but understandable given past experiences.
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abou

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #9 on: 25 February 2019, 22:39:39 »
ykonoclast, you sound like one, cool dude. Welcome to the fora.

Sartris

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #10 on: 25 February 2019, 22:58:32 »
welcome! i do love a good wall of text. you bring up a lot of good points - and things that we talk about a lot as a community ourselves

Well, hello everyone, I'm a true newcomer so, please, don't bite and forgive the awkward syntax that might crop up here and there : I am not a native speaker and almost never get the occasion to write in English.

one of my favorite things is when someone say "pardon my english" and then it comes out like polished victorian prose. you wield it more adequately than most of us  ;D

Quote
Now, as to the choice of eras, I think it was a great move by Catalyst to set these new box sets during the succession wars. This era has several advantages :

this has pretty much always been true (or at least implied). the biggest change in the intro rules over the years is a slow expanding of the combat section to be more  descriptive and explanatory.

Quote
But, more importantly, it severely limits the quantity of fluff a newcomer has to acquire. Beginning in the dark age and having to learn all about the pre-invasion situation, then how the Clans invaded, then the Jihad is... well kind of overwhelming.

I've interpreted this as a sort of "soft reboot" of the universe. the core setting of Alpha Strike (the more abstracted version of the rules better-suited to larger engagements) is set in the early clan invasion of 3049-3054. we'll see what kind of products they come up with to support the box in the coming months, but I suspect products geared at new players will largely exist in a world before 3067 while we who have been waiting a decade for the plot to push forward will get a bone occasionally in the form of books like ilClan

Quote
Moving away from these practical considerations I must confess I find the original setting (succession wars, clan invasion then FedCom Civil War) to be simply more appealing. In comparison to the very rich backdrop of political intrigue, great stories and characters of the succession wars or the brutal game changer that is the Clan invasion (with this incredible and seemingly unstoppable enemy that is at the same time so alien... but so human and, more importantly, deeply rooted in the previous lore, with the Star League Defense Forces exile) I have difficulties getting interested by what happens next. While the FedCom civil war has some very good moments (political intrigues, the split of ComStar...),

amusingly enough, you group that range of 3025-3067 into one appealing era, where each of the plot arc splits within (3050. 3062, 3067) caused massive breaks in the player base. there are certain benefits to arriving late to the party ;)

Quote
the next eras fail to capture my thrill :
Jihad : I just can't understand how a splinter group of cultists can, out of the blue, declare war to just about everyone (including the powerful Clans and the vast military of the major successor states) and last ten years. How could these guys become a threat to the major powers in the first place? This feels just like "Clan invasion, but with less interesting and credible enemies".

The Jihad as presented was sort of a "make lemons out of lemonade" time. when FASA bit the dust in 2000-2001, we were left in a lurch. WizKids wanted to make the clix game and picked up the IP to do so while jumping the timeline forward into the 3130s. much like the first and second succession wars were originally used as a catastrophe to set up the original setting, the jihad was used in a similar way and paired with the HPG blackout to set the scene for the mid 32nd century.

the blakists raised their army from terra, where the ravages of the succession wars did not occur, and had access to among the most prolific weapons manufacturing sources found anywhere. paired with the hijacking of the Free Worlds League industrial complex (especially on Gibson and in basically stealing most of the FWL navy), and five hidden worlds that further enhanced production. depending on which development story you believe, the jihad was never supposed to be as destructive as it played out. but it was. think of the years 3067-3082 as sort of a radioactive playground full of dangerous toys.

What really hurt the Jihad and Dark Ages was the loss of novels in the case of the former, and fiction of very uneven quality until later in the case of the latter. In the 80s and 90s, the novels drove the plot and gave you all those rich, interesting characters. that lost a considerable amount of steam in recent times - it wasn't until a few years ago we started getting novels again. that's an explanation, not an excuse - many of us have noted with some concern how to ramp people into the game's "present" without severe trauma.

Quote
Speaking of this, I sincerely hope that Catalyst will make another box set for the Clan invasion with Clan Omnimechs minis as a complement to the "Armored Combat" box in the same way that CityTech gave new rules for urban combat and furthered the storyline to include the clans. That would be awesome.

i've been advocating the same for years

Quote
What is hard to understand though is why so few are available (nine unique designs) at this average standard of quality for a game that old. I understand that Catalyst is now a small operation but I have seen kickstarters by much smaller entities with more diverse and beautiful assortments. Anyway, I feel the game is on a very positive path in this regard given the recent improvements.

the main hangup is that due to business and licence agreements, CGL can't just make minis - they have to be included in box sets. will we see more? probably, but when and how many are up in the air.


Quote
Now, an issue lies in the way the range is presented, the shop is quite difficult to understand

*deep sigh*

yes.

Quote
Then, I think something should be said about some inadequacies in the TRO : succession wars and the associated record sheets. These seems not to be truly directed at newcomers and were quite confusing to me :
<snip>

all excellent observations. this particular volume was put together at minimum cost - there wasn't the budget for a major overhaul at the time. the result is what you see. i tried rearranging the pages placing the units by date of introduction, rather than weight with appropriate splits and explanations between sections. the results provided a more coherent narration (though the in-universe perspective of the 3070s in many cases  makes for a good deal of confusion)



ActionButler

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #11 on: 25 February 2019, 23:08:48 »
In my humble opinion there should be big (and I mean BIG) "era books" : one for the "up to the succession wars" (compiling the house sourcebooks plus ComStar and the Star League, many of these books actually have a lot in common and could be compiled and/or streamlined), one for the clan invasion and the FedCom Civil War (combining the Clan sourcebooks, the relevant parts of the Handbooks and of ComStar and the FedCom Civil War sourcebook) and one for what comes after. I currently have to swim through dozens of old titles to get a coherent vision of the lore.
This, of course, does not forbid the continued publication of "select" sourcebooks such as "liberation of Terra" or "Golden Century" which are very interesting and well written books for the already-acquainted.

This.

One thousand times this.
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http://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php?topic=56420.0

beachhead1985

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #12 on: 25 February 2019, 23:24:59 »
Posts like the OP are why I often with for some kind of Up-Vote Button.

Rock on Ykonoclast! Glad to have you aboard.



Jihad : I just can't understand how a splinter group of cultists can, out of the blue, declare war to just about everyone (including the powerful Clans and the vast military of the major successor states) and last ten years. How could these guys become a threat to the major powers in the first place? This feels just like "Clan invasion, but with less interesting and credible enemies".

Dark Age : it just feels like "the same as succession wars but with a longer and more complicated backstory and without the great characters and intrigues".

I may be able to help here.

Yes; the Jihad seems baffling at first, but if you can get your hands on other sourcebooks from just before the Jihad kicked off, particularly FM: Updates; it becomes clear that something very very BIG is coming and has been for a long time. As to what why and how the Word of Blake was really planning what they were really planning, originally? We may never know. But I assure you; it really is all there in black and white if you look in the right places; including A LOT of historical precedence in-game.

And if you're the kind of person who likes a good mystery/conpiracy theory and stringing together clues, my friend; you WILL NOT be disappointed.

The Dark Age....

Okay...The Dark Age was a well-intentioned attempt to bring everything you love about the Succession Wars back into the current and on-going continuity of the game, while also attracting new players and keeping the interest of old players by embracing a popular (turned out to be) fad system that was in use with a number of other game universes. This was supposed to make the game more attractive to a younger audience, faster to play, bring 'Mechs front and centre again (Somehow by having TONS of non-mech units in the game) and make TONS of money with a collectable miniatures line replacing highly detailed metal with soft, pre-painted plastic.

The current storyline was hurtling into an era of either stability or great change and certain developers looked at that and some dissatisfaction with various aspects of the game itself and the fluff and decided that The Dark Age was where they wanted to be. I'm not sure if they thought no-one would care about the time jump in a game built on pretty detailed history, but at the time; the Company making BattleTech, which had *created it*, in fact; FASA, had gone out of business. Since that was the case, I guess a "Fresh Start" felt justified; they went there, alientated a good hunk of the fanbase that hadn't walked away when FASA closed it's doors (kinda) and the thrown-together nature of the new setting showed through everywhere (not that a healthy portion of the fanbase hadn't been harping on certain aspects of the fluff and meta for a while before then...).

Lot's of people really like the Dark Age, as a setting and enjoyed the Mech Warrior Dark Age rules and miniatures. And some of us just hate it. As such it's something of a divisive subject.

Where the game universe is now (IMO) is about taking what was left of the Dark Age when it kinda folded in on itself and advancing the plot satisfactorily. This last means juggling a lot of competing interests, but mainly that the stories be *good*, make sense and manage the competing interests of an ongoing SF universe; mainly the struggle between the constant need for change and progression and the tantalizing allure of very specific aspects of the setting; simplicity, relatability, "Elbow room" and a very particular "Mad Max meets Game of Thrones" feel.
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These, in the day when heaven was falling,      Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
The hour when earth's foundations fled,         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
Followed their mercenary calling,               What God abandoned, these defended,
And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
A.E. Housman

ykonoclast

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #13 on: 25 February 2019, 23:39:14 »
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Wow, what a post. Welcome to BattleTech.
Thanks Fear Factory, reading the post about "BattleTech 2.0" that you are kindly linking in your signature, and re-reading my own OP, I realize I should maybe mellow a bit a hastily written part : my text is coming off as rigorously opposed to any and all change in the rules. Which would be a bit extreme.
Actually it is more out of fear that the game might lose its soul than due to a fanatic attachment to backward compatibility (which, I maintain, is still a desirable thing, with conservation of traditional figures such as weapon damage, 'Mechs stats etc. for instance). I just found in this game, at last, a cool system devoid of insane powers, heroes, card-driven decisions,combos or other "unrealistic but mechanically fun" feature but, instead, a thoroughly enjoyable experience where tactical reasoning is based upon the units' statistics. In that context, a full new edition, given the moods of the times, could be cause for worry.

Of course, this does not imply absolute rejection of revisions (as opposed to "revolution") : the initiative system of the video game could be interesting as a source of inspiration for instance. As long as the core of the game is still noticeably BattleTech.



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one of my favorite things is when someone say "pardon my english" and then it comes out like polished victorian prose. you wield it more adequately than most of us
Well, I do love English, it is more than a utilitarian "global lingua franca" to me, I would hate to sound boorish to a native speaker.

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I've interpreted this as a sort of "soft reboot" of the universe. the core setting of Alpha Strike (the more abstracted version of the rules better-suited to larger engagements) is set in the early clan invasion of 3049-3054. we'll see what kind of products they come up with to support the box in the coming months, but I suspect products geared at new players will largely exist in a world before 3067 while we who have been waiting a decade for the plot to push forward will get a bone occasionally in the form of books like ilClan
I agree with you. The problem with the soft reboot idea is that I don't think it would work in practive : as a newcomer, if I come to this universe, say in year 3145, and I see there is large range of books with very famous plots and characters concerning the years before, well, I will want to know about it. Most notably the Clan invasion, which is the single most important event. Hence, in my opinion, playing in the original era is still better than playing in "an era which is similar but later and with less of the iconic fluff stuff and with lots of interesting back before that you will have to learn anyway". But that is only a personal feeling.



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amusingly enough, you group that range of 3025-3067 into one appealing era, where each of the plot arc splits within (3050. 3062, 3067) caused massive breaks in the player base. there are certain benefits to arriving late to the party
Yes, I am aware of that, it seems there were huge gaming balance issues at the time and the arrival of the clans seems to have caused an upheaval in the game. I was speaking only from a fluff point of view, I find the clan invasion, as a plot device, to be fascinating : I see it as an exploration of human nature. What is it to be human? These invaders are treated as aliens from outer space would be and in more than one way, they are, for they have terrifying and truly alien customs and ways. They first appear to be a cruel, warlike society. But upon closer examination, they have ritualized conflict, so as to limit violence, exclude the civilians from most of the disasters of war and, while on the verge of victory, are men of their word and stop their invasion at Tukayyid.
What are the noble houses in that regard? They, who have plunged the inner sphere into centuries of destruction and would never let honor block them on the path to potential victory?
Are the clans truly that alien or are they not, in their values, eventually more human than the successors states?

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The Jihad as presented was sort of a "make lemons out of lemonade" time. when FASA bit the dust in 2000-2001, we were left in a lurch. WizKids wanted to make the clix game and picked up the IP to do so while jumping the timeline forward into the 3130s. much like the first and second succession wars were originally used as a catastrophe to set up the original setting, the jihad was used in a similar way and paired with the HPG blackout to set the scene for the mid 32nd century.
Indeed Catalyst seems to have been in a difficult position : inheriting the decision of WizKids to say "something bad happened during this period" and having to write their way out of it. It was a difficult task to reconcile the plot strands left by FASA with the later Dark Age. My intention was not to blame the writers, who probably did their best.
My position is just that, while these unfortunate eras happened for understandable reasons, "ye goode ole days" where FASA was at the creative helm fostered a more enjoyable timeline which, as a newcomer (therefore still not satiated by the old range of books!) I would prefer to focus on.

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the main hangup is that due to business and licence agreements, CGL can't just make minis - they have to be included in box sets. will we see more? probably, but when and how many are up in the air.
all excellent observations. this particular volume was put together at minimum cost - there wasn't the budget for a major overhaul at the time.
Yes, all this is fair enough, in the end I am already happy with what we got.





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i wonder, if you know what oldtimers like us connect with mad max in the battletech universe hehehe
Scantily clad MechWarriors mightily battling the enemy wearing only briefs? There seems to be a troubling obsession with descriptions of undressing in the 80s novels.
Grüße aus Frankreich.

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There's been some problems with the forum over the years, hence the captcha.  Annoying (try it on a tablet...), but understandable given past experiences.
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The good news is the captchas go away after 10 posts... Hopefully that won't be too long for you!
I mean, what's this obsession with only allowing humans? It's not my fault if can't wrap my sixth tentacle around the keyboard.

ykonoclast

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #14 on: 26 February 2019, 00:12:00 »
Sorry for the double post, but trying to address the large amount of quality answers made the preceding one already long enough, therefore I thought it more readable to create two posts.

I may be able to help here.

Yes; the Jihad seems baffling at first, but if you can get your hands on other sourcebooks from just before the Jihad kicked off, particularly FM: Updates; it becomes clear that something very very BIG is coming and has been for a long time. As to what why and how the Word of Blake was really planning what they were really planning, originally? We may never know. But I assure you; it really is all there in black and white if you look in the right places; including A LOT of historical precedence in-game.

And if you're the kind of person who likes a good mystery/conpiracy theory and stringing together clues, my friend; you WILL NOT be disappointed.
Well, I can't hold any firm position, having not read all that much outside of sarna on the matter. But, from a pure strength-ratio standpoint, the Jihad seems to stretch the suspension of disbelief.
But once again I think the writers did their best : they inherited a complicated situation from WizKids after all.
I think I would have preferred a general holy war between two "blocks" of powers, one agitated by the religious fervour of the Word of Blake. These blocks could have transcended the traditional alliances and could have seen strange bedfellows such as Clans helping Inner Sphere Houses against other Clans for instance. I steel have difficulties with the word of Blake militia being a major military power on its own and the Blake Protectorate as a strong player. I would have preferred them to have an influence role and the fighting being waged solely by traditional powers.
But once again, the writers may have had their hands tied, which does not downplay the good work done on the conspiracy side.

The Dark Age....

Okay...The Dark Age was a well-intentioned attempt to bring everything you love about the Succession Wars back into the current and on-going continuity of the game, while also attracting new players
That's where I don't think it is working as well as intended.
If you tell me "we are on the year 3145, these are the Dark Ages", well, I will want to know what happened before.
So what happened before, the Jihad eh? Alright what's the fluff of this?
OK so it happened because the second Star League was disolved so what was this about? Ha it was in the wake of the tail-end of Clan invasion? Okay what was that about?

And so on and so forth : pushing the timeline forward is a good thing for old players, it gives new fluff. But for beginners you're just increasing the amount of back to learn.
If, furthermore, the goal is to recreate a former era (succession wars), that thing becomes unsoldable to me : it does not really bring new content and necessitates more efforts to learn, I will just stick to the succession wars and have a look at the Clan Invasion (because it is the big reveal of the time).
« Last Edit: 26 February 2019, 00:18:18 by ykonoclast »

Valkerie

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #15 on: 26 February 2019, 00:22:34 »
That was one of the best BattleTech reviews I've ever read.  Well written, insightful, felt unbiased and honest.  Thanks for sharing it with us! :thumbsup:

Welcome to the BattleTech universe! 8)
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Fear Factory

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #16 on: 26 February 2019, 00:27:29 »
Thanks Fear Factory, reading the post about "BattleTech 2.0" that you are kindly linking in your signature, and re-reading my own OP, I realize I should maybe mellow a bit a hastily written part : my text is coming off as rigorously opposed to any and all change in the rules. Which would be a bit extreme.
Actually it is more out of fear that the game might lose its soul than due to a fanatic attachment to backward compatibility (which, I maintain, is still a desirable thing, with conservation of traditional figures such as weapon damage, 'Mechs stats etc. for instance). I just found in this game, at last, a cool system devoid of insane powers, heroes, card-driven decisions,combos or other "unrealistic but mechanically fun" feature but, instead, a thoroughly enjoyable experience where tactical reasoning is based upon the units' statistics. In that context, a full new edition, given the moods of the times, could be cause for worry.

Of course, this does not imply absolute rejection of revisions (as opposed to "revolution") : the initiative system of the video game could be interesting as a source of inspiration for instance. As long as the core of the game is still noticeably BattleTech.

I didn't take it the wrong way. I like your post.

BattleTech 2.0 is just an attempt to speed the game up and improve the meta without losing it's heart. It's tough to do, and frustrating.

We share the same passion for the game. Despite how slow and clunky it is, the game does a good job at depicting giant walking tanks blowing each other apart. And it's actually fair about it. My love for this game comes from that, no matter how good or bad a MechWarrior is, they all have a chance. Superior tactics, lucky shots, you name it.
The conflict is pure - The truth devised - The future secured - The enemy designed
Maj. Isaac "Litany" Van Houten, Lone Wolves, The Former 66th "Litany Against Fear" Company

Scotty

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #17 on: 26 February 2019, 00:27:42 »
The current Dark Age is significantly better than when it first launched in the early 2000s.  You can make the same arguments about wanting to know what happened first about any period of BattleTech - most certainly including the Succession Wars (and how the game started out on SW number four); ultimately the intent was to match the feeling of "A single company can decide the fate of an entire planet" that the late Succession Wars brought with it.  Whether it was successful is arguable, and has been argued for years.

The modern Dark Age explores the logical conclusions of BattleTech's various plot threads for the last few decades: what happens to the Clans when they are no longer isolated from the rest of human society; what happens when the Capellan ascendancy in the late 3050s and 60s reaches its peak; what happens in the former Federated Commonwealth when ancient enemies are strong and old allies are not; can Terra and the former Chaos March ever see lasting peace; what kind of legacy did the Smoke Jaguars really leave behind?

The threads are numerous and widespread.  For many factions, this is the first time they've been involved in all the moving and shaking on a reasonable scale in a long time, if ever!  It's also the age of combined arms in a way that's never been truly realized on the scale that it is now.  I'm as big a fan of big stompy robots as anyone, but it's easy to forget that these are monstrous beasts of war that know no betters when it's all 'Mechs all the time.  Sometimes, a little lesser opposition is helpful for that perspective.  Just be careful.  Some of the lesser opposition fancy themselves big game hunters, and the unwise or unwary will quickly learn why. ^-^

All in all, the Dark Age feels more like a turbulent, chaotic battlefield and a turbulent, messed-up world than BattleTech ever has.
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ykonoclast

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #18 on: 26 February 2019, 00:37:24 »
The current Dark Age is significantly better than when it first launched in the early 2000s.  You can make the same arguments about wanting to know what happened first about any period of BattleTech - most certainly including the Succession Wars (and how the game started out on SW number four); ultimately the intent was to match the feeling of "A single company can decide the fate of an entire planet" that the late Succession Wars brought with it.  Whether it was successful is arguable, and has been argued for years.

The modern Dark Age explores the logical conclusions of BattleTech's various plot threads for the last few decades: what happens to the Clans when they are no longer isolated from the rest of human society; what happens when the Capellan ascendancy in the late 3050s and 60s reaches its peak; what happens in the former Federated Commonwealth when ancient enemies are strong and old allies are not; can Terra and the former Chaos March ever see lasting peace; what kind of legacy did the Smoke Jaguars really leave behind?

The threads are numerous and widespread.  For many factions, this is the first time they've been involved in all the moving and shaking on a reasonable scale in a long time, if ever!  It's also the age of combined arms in a way that's never been truly realized on the scale that it is now.  I'm as big a fan of big stompy robots as anyone, but it's easy to forget that these are monstrous beasts of war that know no betters when it's all 'Mechs all the time.  Sometimes, a little lesser opposition is helpful for that perspective.  Just be careful.  Some of the lesser opposition fancy themselves big game hunters, and the unwise or unwary will quickly learn why. ^-^

All in all, the Dark Age feels more like a turbulent, chaotic battlefield and a turbulent, messed-up world than BattleTech ever has.
Fair enough, I was writing out of impression, once again my experience is limited.

Scotty

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #19 on: 26 February 2019, 00:48:29 »
But of course.  The purpose of my post was to explain, because your impression is not unique (or even particularly uncommon).
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roosterboy

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #20 on: 26 February 2019, 00:50:33 »
But once again I think the writers did their best : they inherited a complicated situation from WizKids after all.

Mmm, not really. The Jihad was always going to happen, WizKids or not. What WK brought to the party was a requirement to extend the length of the war and make it more destructive and to introduce Devlin Stone and the Republic at the end of it.

Now the Dark Age... yeah, there were some things there that we had to figure out how to get to, but even so, it wasn't that difficult. Most of it flowed quite well from what came before.

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If you tell me "we are on the year 3145, these are the Dark Ages", well, I will want to know what happened before.
So what happened before, the Jihad eh? Alright what's the fluff of this?
OK so it happened because the second Star League was disolved so what was this about? Ha it was in the wake of the tail-end of Clan invasion? Okay what was that about?

But that's just an extra page or so in the universe book. (Note: I haven't seen the new box sets, so I'm assuming they contain something like the Universe Book that the older box sets did, in which the history of the BT universe was laid out in a handful of pages.) For instance, the last such book that I've got a PDF of has 12 pages of backstory. The Jihad would add at most 2 more to that. (Probably not even that much, but let's allow room for a map.) I don't think having to read 14 pages versus 12 is such a terrible burden as you are making it out to be.

I mean, the same could be said, really, for any starting point you pick. "We are in the year 3028 and the Fourth Succession War is starting." What happened with the other three? Why were there even Succession Wars to begin with? What happened before them? The Star League? Well, what's that and how'd it come about? etc.

It's not like you need to read multiple sourcebooks to get the whole story; a quick primer that outlines the story and hits the high points then leaves the details for further products is more than sufficient.

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And so on and so forth : pushing the timeline forward is a good thing for old players, it gives new fluff. But for beginners you're just increasing the amount of back to learn.

True, but it's really not that much. Especially compared to the centuries of history prior to the Third and Fourth Succession Wars. I mean, we're talking a 80-something year period after the end of the FedCom Civil War, of which really only about 25 are important enough to go over.

And the backstory is just that: backstory. It's one of the strengths of the BattleTech universe but it's not necessary to know everything about it in order to start playing and have a good time.  The best way to introduce a new player to the backstory is a little at a time as they learn to play.

Your approach:

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  • Spent an inordinate amount of time on sarna and other places to get a sense the 'verse and the history of the game (unseens, complicated licence etc.).
  • Read a few sourcebooks, old ones (such as ComStar, the Star League, House Liao and The Periphery) and newer ones (eg Handbook : Liao).
  • Read a few novels (warrior trilogy, wolves on the border and lethal heritage).

while admirable, is more than most new players are going to want to do or even need to do until they've already been involved for a while. That's why there's the simple dozen or so pages of brief history included in the box sets. (Assuming, of course, that the new one still does.)

In my humble opinion there should be big (and I mean BIG) "era books" : one for the "up to the succession wars" (compiling the house sourcebooks plus ComStar and the Star League, many of these books actually have a lot in common and could be compiled and/or streamlined), one for the clan invasion and the FedCom Civil War (combining the Clan sourcebooks, the relevant parts of the Handbooks and of ComStar and the FedCom Civil War sourcebook) and one for what comes after. I currently have to swim through dozens of old titles to get a coherent vision of the lore.

I've often thought a good approach would be a box set for each of the six eras, with accompanying Technical Readouts, Field Manuals and Era Reports to expand on the fluff aspects. Support it with a series of Historicals and fill in the details with a robust PDF-only series of products (Turning Points, Field Reports, XTRs, Spotlights, Touring the Stars, Era Digests, etc).
« Last Edit: 26 February 2019, 00:52:15 by roosterboy »

Scotty

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #21 on: 26 February 2019, 00:57:15 »
If there were a book called "The Rise and Fall of the Star League" that was literally all of BattleTech from the Diaspora to the Exodus (heh) I would buy it so damn fast.
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Sartris

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #22 on: 26 February 2019, 01:03:43 »
If there were a book called "The Rise and Fall of the Star League" that was literally all of BattleTech from the Diaspora to the Exodus (heh) I would buy it so damn fast.

from personal experience, almost anything that starts with "the rise and fall of..." is required to be at least 700-1000 pages

Matti

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #23 on: 26 February 2019, 01:10:58 »
Welcome aboard! I have known BattleTech before mid-1990's when I played MechWarrior 2 demo on computer with 40 MHz processor (AMD 386SX). You might also be interested about computer game MegaMek.

But if you want SERIOUS war games, enter the rabbit hole

Meanwhile, the debate seems to rage on about the perceived lack of newcomers or their outrageous tastes. But who will come to the fora and talk about it? Well : mainly grognards and disatisfied new customers.
Do you know about the time when rock was outrageous because it was popular and corrupted youth? ;)
You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights errant, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.

glitterboy2098

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #24 on: 26 February 2019, 01:20:46 »
Jihad : I just can't understand how a splinter group of cultists can, out of the blue, declare war to just about everyone (including the powerful Clans and the vast military of the major successor states) and last ten years. How could these guys become a threat to the major powers in the first place? This feels just like "Clan invasion, but with less interesting and credible enemies".

the blakists raised their army from terra, where the ravages of the succession wars did not occur, and had access to among the most prolific weapons manufacturing sources found anywhere. paired with the hijacking of the Free Worlds League industrial complex (especially on Gibson and in basically stealing most of the FWL navy), and five hidden worlds that further enhanced production. depending on which development story you believe, the jihad was never supposed to be as destructive as it played out. but it was. think of the years 3067-3082 as sort of a radioactive playground full of dangerous toys.

it is also worth remembering that it wasn't the world of blake that was the radical splinter group, it was Focht's secular Comstar that was the radical splinter group. Comstar had always been a secretive technoreligious cult with access to huge resources and the collected knowledge of mankind. after the battle of Tukayyid when Focht and Sharilar Mori secularized Comstar, "classic" comstar is what became the Word of Blake. while Focht's secular version had Terra and control of much of the HPG network, the Word of Blake inherited all the secrets and hidden resources that Focht and mori had never been given knowledge of. (since comstar was one of those "secrets on top of secrets" type groups, with many layers of plots and plans. and both Focht and Mori were outsiders, not fully trusted.. Focht because he was a ex-lyran general gifted to comstar, and Mori because she was an O5P mole)

these secrets gave them access to huge resources. connections to leaders of industries and even an entire successor state which let them skim the best hardware to build up an army. hidden worlds that they'd arranged to vanish off the maps centuries before during times of war and turned into private realms in that time, the source of a private army for one of Comstar's/The WOB's more fanatical factions. technologies derived from centuries of copying or outright stealing the best R&D from across the inner sphere, combined to create powerful units and enhanced super-soldiers.

they'd manged to hide away all this for so long because it was comstar that made the maps. comstar that delivered the interstellar mail. comstar that compiled the 'unbiased' histories. comstar that was neutral and open for everyone to take advantage of its services.

it is also worth remembering that the word of blake had many factions within it. some more fanatical than others. one of these fanatical ones was fixated on removing the threat of the clans and recreating the star league. they were the ones that created the super soldiers and super weapons. when the 2nd star league dissolved, they threw a little tantrum, started a war. and some of the other fanatical factions got into the fray. and the less fanatical ones got caught in the middle.

« Last Edit: 26 February 2019, 01:24:19 by glitterboy2098 »

StoneRhino

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #25 on: 26 February 2019, 01:59:03 »
First off, welcome to the forum. Secondly, I am unsure if your post is written by someone who " almost never gets the occasion to write in English" because of how well it was written. I am glad to see a review of the game from new players and see exactly what they thought about the product.

I think one of the problems that you are finding is that when you went to the online shop is that you found all of the products that cover the entire 35 years of the game. You mentioned having a hard time figuring out which products you should purchase, and why there were so many books for each house. I think that problem could be fixed rather easily by organizing by real world eras, which could be done by associating books with the rules book that was current at the time.

 I remember having the same issue when I started in Battletech a long time ago after the clan invasion. I was trying to figure out if "Invading Clans" was a book that I should buy, or if i should buy the Warden and or Crusader Field Manuals. Back then we had to use a dial up connection to even try and look for information that answered the question. The shop owner wasn't that helpful beyond telling me which was not being printed anymore, based on what he remembered as he played a game of Magic with a customer. I had already been in the game for a few years at that point and it was frustrating. I can see how that is made worse by having books coming back from the dead by being sold as PDFs.

 There are a lot of books that have been printed in the past 10 years that cover the material of much older books, which makes some of it redundant. There are other books that are still relevant such as the Field Manuals that cover the forces of different factions at a specific point in time that has not been included in newer books. The Field Manuals date back to the late 1990s. The challenge for the developers is how to produce new products that both new and old players alike will want to purchase. How to bring 35 year old material into 2019 without it being a product that only new players will buy. There are some products that I simply will not buy because I have books that already cover the material. I hope that there are enough new players that the developers will not miss me purchasing certain products.

Regarding the artwork, although I started in the mid 1990s I find some of the artwork from earlier products to be extremely dated. Other players that started before me will likely look at those old pieces of art and appreciate them because that was current at the point in time that they got into the game. There are other IPs that are equally as old as Battletech, such as Starwars and Startrek, where the artwork can be considered questionable by today's standards. We are currently in the post Anime and Metal Gear Solid game era of Mecha artwork. Both have influenced how Mecha artwork has changed since 2000. A significant amount of the artwork dates before 2000,which should explain how one may see the artwork today. someone could compare what 1930-1950s robots looked like in sci-fi and suggest that they are ugly and without merit. However, without that artwork to build upon we simply would not have what is considered the modern versions of such.

However, there is a need for some modernization of the artwork. Games such as 40k put out nothing but high gloss, full color products. The artwork is rather detailed. I believe that they have recycled several images within a handful of products, which suggests that there is a limitation on highly detailed artwork, likely associated with cost. I believe that there is a mixed feeling about artwork that is based upon the age of the player base. There are going to be those that love pencil based artwork that reminds them of when they were teenagers and playing games because that was the standard. There are those that appreciate sketch work, but also high end graphics in an equal proportion because we have at least dabbled in both and understand the work and skill that goes into them. Then there are those that are purely new age consumers that are likely people that simply did not exist in the 1990s, meaning high school students and those that long for the days when they can purchase alcohol. Some will find older artwork interesting, much like those kids that used to listen to Led Zepplin in my days, or those that have a Nirvhana shirt now.

The artwork of the game varies. Hopefully people will be able to see the new minis if they are drawn towards MWO style artwork and try the game. Once they get into the game, hopefully they will start to see things differently. I know that there were some minis that I saw as being kinda goofy, but after somehow having to play those units in a game or two I have found that my view of it's artwork to be slightly changed.

What you said about the lack of "hero" units with special powers is what I like about the game. Also you don't need a book for every single faction. You don't have to worry about someone using a unit that is able to wipe everything out on your side of the table with a single attack. You don't have to worry about surprises that you cannot know about unless you buy X faction's "codex".

 Unfortunately, there is a lot of false information about the game that suggests that it is an RPG. I did a search for the recent boxed sets and found several pages suggesting that the game is mostly an RPG "unlike other games". There is an RPG, but the game itself is not an RPG and that is something that I have been trying to reverse for several years with those that I have met. Some people have had problems with that, but that's a personal problem of theirs. People can play it as an RPG, but someone needs to put in the effort to build their own group for that instead of trying to infect a group someone else has made the effort to put together. RPG players are not going to see Battletech and say "that's an RPG!", and wargamers are not going to read reviews suggesting that "Battletech is an RPG" and want to get into it if they are looking for a different wargame to play.

That leads to the differences between minatures games where units are, as you said, "dead" or "still alive", and Battletech. The difference between units in miniature games and Battletech units is significant. It helps a person see the difference between X game and Battletech. I do not believe in trying to erase that difference because all that is left is a few books, the Combat Manuals, and a game that looks very similar to games that people are heavily invested in. I have spent a few hundred dollars on warhammer 40k minis and rules, but I have yet to assemble 90% of those minis. I have yet to play a game of it. Why? Because I am already heavily invested in Battletech and have more minis then I'll ever use. If I want to play a minatures game I can play AlphaStrike. Any minis purchased can then be used in Battletech games and AS games. Books covering the storyline are the same. The story of 40k has not really grabbed my attention so I am unlikely to invest in such any time soon. Without the storyline to motivate me to play, and without the game's scale to offer up something different then what is available with Battletech, the only real motivation is that there are 40k tournaments.

 Competition is what really got me to purchase anything 40k. The group that I have run for several years, and getting started up again, is based upon competition. The core is based upon a game that is fair for all play styles. This builds upon the stable rules set. It is based upon a point value system that offers all players access to the same equipment. There are no sneaky codex powers that a player could be blindsided by because they simply do not have access to certain books.

One last thing, I have found the reasoning to stick with 3025 as the intro point of the game to be insulting and confused. Yes, it offers the least amount of weapons. Yes, that will be easier then a list extended by 10 items. However, I know that I got into the game with only the rules book, no internet access, no "Get started" PDFs, no Youtube, no forums, no Battletech players that I knew to help me get into the game. My friends had no problem getting into the game when I introduced them to the game. I think that the developers can easily push the intro point to at least the clan invasion era as only a handful of items are added, but it gives new people a point where if they can get into the game then they will be just as comfy playing 3025/Succession Wars era as they will be playing in the Clan Invasion, or Jihad era. I am sure that younger players will be able to handle it if they have far more resources available then my friends and I had back when we started. I think a handful of pages added to any included rules book could make that happen by adding a page on storyline progression, the list of equipment available in the invasion era, and a small scenario or two to have players test out that equipment after playing 3025 era tech.







Mecha-Anchovy

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #26 on: 26 February 2019, 02:07:09 »
Let's not dwell on this too much : yes Game of Thrones in space is absolutely great. While the universe is sometimes a bit generic, this is more than compensated by its maturity : no fantasy, no aliens, just a hard, realistic, military mood.

I have to admit this confuses me a lot.

I have no idea where you're getting the A Game of Thrones comparison. I wonder if it's just a matter of small reference pools? A Game of Thrones is the most popular current piece of media that features feudal politics, and so naturally everything else that features feudal politics gets compared to it? It feels rather silly to me: in terms of tone, theme, and politics I think BattleTech is very different to A Game of Thrones. I have not seen the television show (friends advised me against it), but reading the series I think A Song of Ice and Fire is at its heart... well, I can't decide whether it's a very dark work that's fundamentally about disillusionment, with a bunch of high fantasy motifs thrown on top to disguise it, or whether it's fundamentally a bog-standard high-fantasy magic-princess-saves-the-world story that just has a lot of murder and sex and child sex thrown on top to disguise it. But whichever way I interpret, I think it's rather different to BattleTech's zany space feudalism, with much more of an emphasis on patriotism, war, and frequently soap opera drama?

Which I think leads me to the second point: I also don't know where you're getting maturity, or a 'hard, realistic, military mood'? This is a setting where an entire space empire is dominated by people pretending to be samurai, where insane Fu Manchu Capellans scheme to replace people with clones and take over the universe, where the mysterious invaders from beyond the rim literally dress up in animal masks and growl about falcons and wolves and such. BattleTech is not on the whole a work of satire, but I think it does have a strong undercurrent of silliness. I think BattleTech, as a rule, knows that it's a bit silly and does not try particularly hard to be realistic. Look at Northwind: we have the scheming mandarins mentioned before fighting with SPACE PALADINS to take over a planet of over-the-top kilts-and-bagpipes Scottish stereotypes. Look at the Jihad: suddenly an army of cyborg ninja led by a mysterious cloaked Master invade everyone! I might be misrepresenting it a bit uncharitably, but you take my point. Even though there are plenty of details and context and so on, and you can zoom in a lot more, I think the immediate impression is quite zany, and deliberately so.

I feel like BattleTech would actually collapse in on itself if it tried too hard to be realistic. The stories and characters take themselves seriously, as they should, but at its heart this is a silly game about ethnic stereotypes in giant robots punching each other for, well, kind of absurd reasons. The game should not be played as straight satire - everyone in its world believes it's serious; they don't recognise the artifice that props up their ridiculous world - but I think it benefits from being slightly tongue-in-cheek. BattleTech fans should not take the world too seriously. Half a dozen guys per side in giant robots are fighting for the fate of a planet. That's a bit silly. But it's okay, because it's fun.  ; :thumbsup:
« Last Edit: 26 February 2019, 02:11:35 by Mecha-Anchovy »

Kartr_Kana

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #27 on: 26 February 2019, 02:20:22 »
Great post, though I disagree on a few points  ;)

I'd like to put out some counter points/thoughts as a relative newbie (only been playing BattleTech for about six years now). So, like you, here's a bit of background for me.

I played MechWarrior 3 in my early teens (14-16ish) and that was my first introduction to the setting. Then in my late teens and early twenties, when I was in the military, I picked up MechWarrior 4 and started collecting the MechWarrior Dark Ages books (around 2008). Those books were my first real introduction into the wider BattleTech universe and the Dark Ages setting remains one of my favorites. I didn't start playing BattleTech until 2012ish, I actually didn't know there was a BattleTech Game until then! Since then I have played off and on, but BattleTech got me into Warhammer 40k since I couldn't find BattleTech players, and from there I got sucked into Star Wars X-wing. BattleTech remains my true gaming love though.

Lets start with the easy one:
The Product So Far
Spot on! Everything in here is correct! It was a real shock for me to go from BattleTech as my first Miniature Wargame into Warhammer. The prices were so much higher, but the quality of the miniatures was so much greater and the plastic was incredibly easy to modify, pose, kitbash, etc. One of the most exciting things for me about the new boxes, is decent quality miniatures. Decent quality plastic miniatures! X-wing was another big shock, good quality miniatures that came pre-painted! I would love to see CGL start putting out Faction Lance Packs with four of the most common 'Mechs in that faction, pre-painted and in plastic as good or better than the new box sets. Then do individual unit blisters with a single 'Mech un-assembled and still on the sprue, with bits for all of the variants.

Otherwise I completely agree with you that CGL needs to start re-working and consolidating a lot of the older source books into large tomes with all of the accumulated lore. The lore books should be as large and numerous as the current rule books!

The Universe
From my experience, the way a person feels about a certain era in BattleTech really depends on where they started their journey. For me having started in the Dark Ages with the MWDA novels that period is hands down my favorite. Having read a larger portion of those novels I also feel it is much more politically nuanced, with far greater levels of intrigue, gamesmanship, shades of ambiguity, interesting personalities and (mostly) better story telling than the 4th Succession War material. The Warrior Trilogy especially seems prone to "fiat", overly simplistic themes/characters and lots of implausibility. I still enjoy it, just not as much as books like "Trial by Chaos" or "Pandora's Gambit."

Also, and I know this from experience, you can jump in at the Dark Ages without knowing much if anything about the stories that came before. Much like you can jump in at 3025 and not really know anything about the War of Cameron Aggression, the Amaris Civil War or Succession Wars 1, 2 and 3. In fact one of my favorite things about starting with the Dark Ages and getting to know that setting first, was exploring the "history" that the characters I'd grown attached to would have studied in school.

The Game Itself

I do think the game is a solid game, or the core of a solid game. However I don't think that it is a good thing it has remained essentially unchanged for 35 years. One thing that I've learned over the last 6 years is that every group has their own house rules, and play with different expanded rules. A lot of those are either similar, or deal with the same problems that the game has. At the very least I think that the BattleTech rules need a definitive "Edition Change" to take the expanded rules and house rules that have become fairly standard, and incorporate them straight into the basic rules. Things like "Floating Crits" and Active Probes reducing the bonus for hiding in trees.

Best case scenario BattleTech gets a comprehensive overhaul to refine an already good system. Make equipment and units that are mostly irrelevant (MGs, Active Probes, AeroTech, Vehicles, Infantry) relevant. Trim some of the unnecessary bits that slow the game down for no real benefit, incorporate some of the lessons learned from AlphaStrike, reformat the record sheets so that more of the rules relevant to the unit are right there. Add a number of core missions so players can easily set up games that aren't just "Team Deathmatch." Expand and revise the commander abilities, make them more integral to the game. Same with the unit quirks.

The fact that the BattleTech rules have lasted 35 years without change and there are still people playing shows that it's solid at its core. However there's been a lot of data created over the last 35 years, seems like a waste to not use it to improve the game.


============================================================================================================
Overall I agree, it's a great game, great community and great setting. It's one of, if not my absolute, favorite settings and constantly draws me back and sucks me in year after year.

Drewbacca

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #28 on: 26 February 2019, 03:40:17 »
Welcome to the family. Great post. Can't wait to see you rise in rank.

And I agree with almost everything you said.

Hellraiser

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #29 on: 26 February 2019, 04:16:13 »
  • Bought beginner box, armored combat box, total warfare, BattleMech Manual, TRO : succession wars plus some pdf files. Played some games (Lance vs Lance).

.........................

I instantly loved the level of detail given to each 'Mech : they are not anonymous "units". When I blasted off the arm of my opponent's Shadow Hawk with one of the medium lasers of my Catapult, these minis felt much more real : they were not simply "dead" or "in play", nor had they just a main attack stat ; they had multiple locations detailing onboard equipment (each piece destructible) and were bristling with several weapons that we had to manage (with regards to min range, heat etc.). This granularity is so satisfying : damage feels more concrete (my leg is blasted off, or my gun is unusable not "this mini has one HP less").
After the first round, we gave our 'Mechs names.


What is hard to understand though is why so few are available (nine unique designs) at this average standard of quality for a game that old. I understand that Catalyst is now a small operation but I have seen kickstarters by much smaller entities with more diverse and beautiful assortments. Anyway, I feel the game is on a very positive path in this regard given the recent improvements.




  • The TRO shows no indication of eras, giving the impression that all these 'Mechs are in current regular service during the succession wars while many of them actually disappeared during the first or second or were introduced during the fourth.
  • The sheets give many variants with no background... and these variants are not discussed in the TRO either! So you have these 'Mechs and have strictly no information about them, I had to go to sarna for that even though I bought a companion book dedicated to this purpose.
  • The eras indications on the sheets makes no sense, all the baseline variants (such as STK-3F) are indicated to be in "Star League" era even though they are in common usage during the succession wars. For my first unit roster, I only selected variants with the "succession wars" era indication (after all... that was the era I was playing in : so I only selected 'Mechs with this indicator) and was surprised that none of the iconic "standard" versions of the "Armored Combat" sheets were available in that regard (Catapult C1, Locust 1V... all of these are noted to be "Star League" era 'Mechs and the "succession wars" variants are often actually more powerful! To the beginner, who's not given any explanation, this is a severe challenge). It is effectively impossible to know, with these era indications, which 'Mechs variants are actually available during the succession wars (a bit unforeseen for a product called "the succession wars record sheets").
  • After all the effort taken to present a new face to the world with new miniatures, most of the illustrations were quite jarring... there actually was quite some laughter among my friends when I presented them the product. The older art is not at current games' level.

WELCOME!  And Great Review!

Excellent selection of initial purchases.
I don't think I could suggest a better 5 items to a new person.

Glad you love the detail, many of us do, its not the fastest playing that kind of detail but its so much more fulfilling that saying, "take 6 damage to your 8 total HP, your almost dead".

As far as 9 unique minis, its important to remember that there are hundreds/thousands of them at Iron Wind Metals to choose from that look better than the plastics from the intro boxes a few years ago.
These 9 are just brand new sculpts of older mechs that have been around since the 80's.  There are probably a few more coming in future products. 


TRO: Succession Wars is kind of an odd ball, I think the intent was great with it, but I can see the confusion.
I don't own it but its my understanding that they took Intro Tech & Standard Tech units from the Star League era & the Succession Wars to give you a TRO that has a combo of tech levels & is every possible mech that may have seen action in any of the 4 succession wars from 250 years between 2780-3030 range.
It basically combines some of the units from about 4 other TRO's into 1  (TRO3039 + 3058 + 3060 + 3075).
If you have some of the background knowledge about those units then I think it is a very large source of units.
3041: General Lance Hawkins: The Equalizers
3053: Star Colonel Rexor Kerensky: The Silver Wolves

"I don't shoot Urbanmechs, I walk up, stomp on their foot, wait for the head to pop open & drop in a hand grenade (or Elemental)" - Joel47
Against mechs, infantry have two options: Run screaming from Godzilla, or giggle under your breath as the arrogant fools blunder into your trap. - Weirdo