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Author Topic: A newcomer's honest general impressions  (Read 3306 times)

Frabby

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #30 on: 26 February 2019, 05:40:07 »
Welcome to the BT community ykonoclast!

For someone who's only been into BattleTech for a month or so, your review is extremely insightful. And I'll echo what many others have said, that I feel the same about almost everything you touch upon.

It's kind of a funny question what BattleTech actually is.
It's not originally a RPG, although that's certainly one facet of the whole.
Historically, BattleTech was irrelevant background fluff for a boardgame that however added such a compelling meta-roleplaying context level to gameplay that the background took on a life of its own. I recall that back when I started boardgame BT, chosing your faction counter was treated as just as important as your actual unit selection by all players even if it had zero actual gameplay impact.

Personally, I'm not a miniatures guy so the entire miniature quality thing is a non-issue to me. I regard the boardgame as "chess with dice" and am thus perfectly happy to play with paper standups and proxy figures. I've also grown attached to the evolving scifi soap opera (warts and all).
I drifted out of BT during the Civil War era, not originally out of a dislike for the era but rather because other things in life surpassed Civil War era BattleTech in relevance. I then totally missed the MWDA time, came back during the early Jihad era, when the MWDA clix game was already pretty much dead, and immensely enjoyed the shakeup that was the Jihad era. To me, it was much more vibrant than the Civil War era where I had left off, for reasons of storytelling. (But that's a topic for other threads.)

A final note, it's worth mentioning that the creative team at late FASA, then FanPro, WizKids/MWDA and Catalyst Game Labs were always essentially the same people.
Yes there was a timeline hiccup when they skipped the planned Jihad and had to jump right into a blank slate Dark Age era for the new game, then when that died had to go back and backfill the Jihad era without damaging the timeline up ahead in the Dark Age. This massively railroaded the evolution of the Jihad era and it turned out much different than originally planned back in FASA days.
But it was always the same creative team. I believe that's why they could pull it off at all. I'm a huge fan of the work Herb Beas and Ben Rome in particular (and their hechmen - Paul and all the others) have done here.
As a professing fan of the Jihad era I seem to be in the minority camp but I maintain that the sourcebook writing was good, sometimes outright great. Even in sourcebook format it did surpass the Civil War novel morass for me.
« Last Edit: 26 February 2019, 05:43:32 by Frabby »
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marauder648

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #31 on: 26 February 2019, 09:35:39 »
welcome aboard and thank you for this wonderful review and breakdown, its great to have you here :)
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ykonoclast

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #32 on: 26 February 2019, 12:12:30 »
Damn time zones : how dare people be awake and active while I'm at work on the other side of the world!

In all seriousness, that was quite enlightening, especially from the jihad/dark age defenders, I can't say I'm thoroughly convinced (but personal tastes can only be discussed up to a point) but I got to see opinions from the other side and would probably be less negative about these eras if I had to rewrite the original post.

There is just one point I would like to clarify about the starting era thing. I don't want to start a debate, after all I'm not sure to be particularly representative of every newcomer nor to even be right (and I'm not sure there is a right opinion on this), I'd just like to show you how I, personally, as a beginner, feel about this.

I have seen several posts arguing that the starting era could absolutely be an ulterior one, based upon two main classes of arguments :

1) Even if there is a bit more fluff to learn, it is only some pages more on the universe primer. Perfectly manageable
2) Even if you want to know "what happened before" there will always be things that "happened before" for every era.

Well, these are probably fine arguments for the persons you are, no problem with that.

But that's absolutely not the way I saw things when I wanted to start playing BattleTech.

=> the "it is only a few pages more" part
Well, there was this game, famous for its expansive 'verse and engaging fluff. So... well... I wanted to enjoy it! I was absolutely not about to content myself with the few pages of the universe primer : I was going to play BattleTech, I was certainly not going to ignore one of its main appeal, which is its rich background.

So, I explored the store and sarna to understand the deliciously convoluted range of books (where it is somehow completely acceptable for something last printed when the Berlin Wall fell to be the most current source about a major faction) and I understood they could be classified by "eras". With only the main sourcebooks and the most significant novels of the succession wars, I was already looking at hundreds of pages (maybe more). Add the Clan invasion : about the same quantity.
And then the Jihad and the Dark Age : dozens of novels, sourcebooks etc.

I hope you can see my point : no, starting in the Jihad is not going to only add a few pages. If you actually want to enjoy the fluff (and I'm not talking about every obscure sourcebook, "touring the stars" or novel : the main documents will be enough) you are actually adding hundreds of pages. And to me this really is an addition : I don't think you can seriously start learning the lore only with Jihad or Dark Age era stuff : the Star League and ComStar sourcebooks  and the houses sourcebooks/handbooks are the real heart of the setting.

I don't think that every newbie should be expected to read a lot of stuff but neither should they be expected to just be happy with the primer when they've been sold a game with a rich universe. This is an integral part of the BattleTech experience. I can tell you that one of the first things my friends told me when I talked to them about the game was about "yes we know 40K is not the best ruleset in the world, but the lore is gigantic and awesome!" (yes they also said "is it not the game with ugly minis?" but we know things got better), one of my main selling point was that BattleTech was not subpar in terms of fluff and I myself was attracted to it because I like that kind of 'verse (I learned to love feudal space opera with Dune then Fading Suns).

=> the "there is always something before" part
That is absolutely not the impression I was under while reading the succession wars sourcebooks. Each of the houses sourcebooks and Star League and ComStar actually are the starting point as they contain the absolute beginning of the storyline : their lore start with the Soviet Union (by the way I love these delicious "alternate universe" snippets, indeed this is not "the future", it is the future of the 80s) and constitute an excellent basis to the BattleTech universe by telling you how Terra colonized the Star, started Brexit on a galactic scale, created the Star League, had to use giant stomping robots to convince people that it was a peaceful endeavour and, in the end, learned why you should always watch Star Wars Episode III before crowning a loner boy with a weirdo friend.

Granted, you have all these supplementary books allowing you to play during the Star League but these are clearly optional (though quite welcome for the already knowledgeable player)  and their lore is already quite adequately shown in the main sourcebooks : these are good starting points, they give you a solid grounding in the Battletech universe and can be read without prerequisites, while Jihad books for instance are really more enjoyable if you already know the Houses, the Clans and the history of the rise and fall of the Star League.



And that is why, beyond personnal tastes, I favour a succession wars (and maybe clan invasion) starting point : you really have a lot less material to digest before knowing the lore adequately.

Now of course, furthering the timeline is great for people who've been playing for decades. If I had been playing BattleTech when Melissa Steiner and Hanse Davion got married, I too would like some changes! But as a matter of fact I was quite busy getting potty-trained at the time and had no time for interstellar politics.

ArchonDan

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #33 on: 26 February 2019, 12:58:19 »
Welcome and great detailed review. It is wonderful to know that even new players find the system solid as the old timers.

I've been through so many games, rule changes and editions that seemed more for profit then to actually improve the game play. I always come back to Battletech because it encapsulates the need to use tactics, speed verse armor, use of terrain, and managing the effectiveness of each Mech/unit.

Plus I find it is one of the best systems for campaigns. There is a wealth of information on generating star systems, planet details, force maintenance costs, operational cost, transportation needs and other related stuff that one can be as detailed as wanted or needed in creating settings and games.

Glad you enjoy it!

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #34 on: 26 February 2019, 14:00:58 »
First, ykonoclast, welcome to the forum!

The universe enhances the game but isn't a hard requirement to play the game. The background is a rich and complex one, described as Game of Thrones in Space, because of its complexity. The best way to get into the universe is through the fiction. I would start with the Battlecorps anthologies, either the novels Decision at Thunder Rift, or Wolves on the Border. There are free downloads that have background on the different factions and sarna.net has all the details in small digestible chunks.

If you have any questions about the universe that I can answer (Some things I cannot), let me know!!

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Matti

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #35 on: 26 February 2019, 16:02:55 »
Hey Turtle, he has already read those, and Warrior trilogy too.
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Syzyx

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #36 on: 26 February 2019, 16:25:52 »
But as a matter of fact I was quite busy getting potty-trained at the time and had no time for interstellar politics.

Yup. Definitely stealing that one. ;)
But as a matter of fact I was quite busy getting potty-trained at the time and had no time for interstellar politics.- ykonoclast

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #37 on: 26 February 2019, 16:57:34 »
Well, these are probably fine arguments for the persons you are, no problem with that.

But that's absolutely not the way I saw things when I wanted to start playing BattleTech.

Noted, and that's perfectly fine. But your comments were phrased more as what a general newcomer would think, so that's the way the subsequent comments were addressed.

Quote
I don't think that every newbie should be expected to read a lot of stuff but neither should they be expected to just be happy with the primer when they've been sold a game with a rich universe.

I feel this is a bit of a strawman argument, though. Nobody is saying that new players should be satisfied with only a universe primer. It's a starting point, an entry into the deeper universe, specifically designed to give a quick and dirty intro that doesn't require "hundreds of pages (maybe more)".

You should understand, too, that your method of getting into BattleTech via a deep dive into Sarna and multiple sourcebooks and novels is hardly the way most new players are going to do it. Nor is it really a desirable way for them to jump in. It worked for you (and, to be honest, is probably similar to how I would do it were I just starting out today, but then I'm one of those oddballs who care more about the universe than the game itself) but most new players would probably run the other way and find something else to play if that was the default method of getting them up to speed on the universe. Thirty-five years of material is intimidating! As you yourself admit, newbies shouldn't be expected to dive into the deep end from the get-go.

No, for most new players their introduction to the universe behind the game is going to be through that universe book in the box set. And an extra page or two is far less of a hurdle to get over.

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #38 on: 26 February 2019, 17:02:44 »
Yes there was a timeline hiccup when they skipped the planned Jihad and had to jump right into a blank slate Dark Age era for the new game, then when that died had to go back and backfill the Jihad era without damaging the timeline up ahead in the Dark Age.

MWDA: 2002-2008

Jihad storyline from FanPro and CGL: 2005-2011

The Jihad storyline was about halfway over when MWDA died so there was no going back to backfill the Jihad era.

Takiro

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #39 on: 26 February 2019, 17:21:08 »
Wow, that was a very well thought lucid opening post...your objections are overruled of course (to paraphrase my Cousin Vinny) but welcome to BattleTech!

I would agree with you on the mechanics and the community here is a pretty good lot.

As to backstory you can always craft your own version of events perhaps an alternate thread or two you'd like to pull on to create a new tapestry for a campaign.

While the Jihad and Dark Ages aren't my cup of tea either there are still some nice ideas which can be utilized for a fun experience.

Regardless the rich and vibrant universe that is BattleTech keeps me coming back for more and that is about three decades in.

Daryk

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #40 on: 26 February 2019, 19:22:42 »
*snip*
...in the end, learned why you should always watch Star Wars Episode III before crowning a loner boy with a weirdo friend.
That is the single most hilarious description of the Amaris Coup I've ever heard... Bravo!  :D

Sartris

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #41 on: 26 February 2019, 21:15:32 »
The only movie from before the second soviet civil war to make it onto trivid was Die Hard. ComStar faithfully broadcasts it every Christmas

Maybe the terran hegemony should have relied on strange women lying in ponds distributing swords...

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #42 on: 26 February 2019, 23:37:41 »
That is the single most hilarious description of the Amaris Coup I've ever heard... Bravo!  :D

I have to admit I loved that one too.

Could be worse though; The entire history of Warhammer 40K since Unity is about teaching you what not to do as a parent.
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #43 on: 27 February 2019, 10:09:57 »
The only movie from before the second soviet civil war to make it onto trivid was Die Hard. ComStar faithfully broadcasts it every Christmas

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GermanSumo

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #44 on: 27 February 2019, 13:53:29 »
about mad max. its about the first villain of the battletech universe. he was really really mad and got kicked SO hard by the early protagonists :D he was depicted as hillariously incompetent compared to the protagonists.

check him out here: http://www.sarna.net/wiki/Maximilian_Liao
« Last Edit: 27 February 2019, 13:56:10 by GermanSumo »

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #45 on: 27 February 2019, 15:27:29 »
To the OP and thier questions As far as the word of blake and thier capability. The Period wasn’t everyone against the Word of Blake. That was really only the last three or four years. The Word got everyone to fight each other, and when the did fight, they fought dirty.

The possesed the largest fleet outside of Comstar.
They fudged thier numbers and bosted a regular army 10 times as big as they claimed
They built alliances with periphy groups often ignored or victimized by larger powers
They built thier own de facto state in the middle of the inner sphere giving them access to Billions of people to recruit
The suborned the entire Free Worlds League as allies and expendable shock troops


So the Word had the Resources and talent to wage a sphere wide war. They only lasted as long thanks to the disruptive force they weilded, and the political and military exhaustion the rest of the Sphere was when they struck

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #46 on: 27 February 2019, 15:57:12 »
To the OP and thier questions As far as the word of blake and thier capability. The Period wasn’t everyone against the Word of Blake. That was really only the last three or four years. The Word got everyone to fight each other, and when the did fight, they fought dirty.

The possesed the largest fleet outside of Comstar.
They fudged thier numbers and bosted a regular army 10 times as big as they claimed
They built alliances with periphy groups often ignored or victimized by larger powers
They built thier own de facto state in the middle of the inner sphere giving them access to Billions of people to recruit
The suborned the entire Free Worlds League as allies and expendable shock troops


So the Word had the Resources and talent to wage a sphere wide war. They only lasted as long thanks to the disruptive force they weilded, and the political and military exhaustion the rest of the Sphere was when they struck

Also the Comstar sourcebook established hooks for all of this well ahead of the dissolution of FASA. I remember reading it (pretty late as I bought it from Half Price Books) and going "ah, so the movement was there all the time".
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Matti

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #47 on: 27 February 2019, 16:13:56 »
The suborned the entire Free Worlds League as allies and expendable shock troops
25 years of art and fiction has a story about it. Local Blakists got thrashed by militia.
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #48 on: 27 February 2019, 16:33:20 »
To the OP and thier questions As far as the word of blake and thier capability. The Period wasn’t everyone against the Word of Blake. That was really only the last three or four years. The Word got everyone to fight each other, and when the did fight, they fought dirty.

The possesed the largest fleet outside of Comstar.
They fudged thier numbers and bosted a regular army 10 times as big as they claimed
They built alliances with periphy groups often ignored or victimized by larger powers
They built thier own de facto state in the middle of the inner sphere giving them access to Billions of people to recruit
The suborned the entire Free Worlds League as allies and expendable shock troops


So the Word had the Resources and talent to wage a sphere wide war. They only lasted as long thanks to the disruptive force they weilded, and the political and military exhaustion the rest of the Sphere was when they struck

Point of order: the Blakist divisions were only five times their reported number, not ten. They basically did the same thing ComStar did right before Tukayyid and pulled an army out of their butts using the POWAH OF TERRA! so if it's implausible it's only as implausible as one of the most central events in the history of the game to that point.

Also, they didn't suborn the whole Free Worlds League, just significant chunks of it.
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GermanSumo

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #49 on: 27 February 2019, 16:38:15 »
Point of order: the Blakist divisions were only five times their reported number, not ten. They basically did the same thing ComStar did right before Tukayyid and pulled an army out of their butts using the POWAH OF TERRA! so if it's implausible it's only as implausible as one of the most central events in the history of the game to that point.

Also, they didn't suborn the whole Free Worlds League, just significant chunks of it.

POWAH OF TERRA ... yes. but dont forget all the funds syphoned from the FWL´s budget!

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #50 on: 27 February 2019, 17:29:54 »
and they did it the same way comstar did the comguards too.. through a lengthy process of secret build up. it only looks liek they pulled an army from thin air from the outside, because they waited till their secret build up had a full army to unveil. prior to that there were only hints about them building up armies in secret, and that only glimpse of a small part of the whole.

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #51 on: 27 February 2019, 17:59:43 »
Point of order: the Blakist divisions were only five times their reported number, not ten. They basically did the same thing ComStar did right before Tukayyid and pulled an army out of their butts using the POWAH OF TERRA! so if it's implausible it's only as implausible as one of the most central events in the history of the game to that point.


You forget the planetary milita in the protectorate each a level IV or more in size.

And subbourning the FWL also means Paralyzing it as well as turning it into allies
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #52 on: 27 February 2019, 18:06:16 »
This is where you need to read Forever Faithful.  The WoB showed how they got cooperation and potential allies.  It didn't go well for the WoB
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #53 on: 28 February 2019, 10:56:05 »
Also, they didn't suborn the whole Free Worlds League, just significant chunks of it.
Can you provide a brief summary how they convinced state with greatest phobia against cybernetics to get along with them and their manei domini?
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #54 on: 28 February 2019, 11:08:20 »
Can you provide a brief summary how they convinced state with greatest phobia against cybernetics to get along with them and their manei domini?

The Manei Domini were a secret until the war started and by then it was too late.

Brief enough?

Or how about: It wasn’t the Manei Domini who suborned the FWLM.

That’s even briefer.  ;)

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #55 on: 28 February 2019, 11:30:26 »
cleanup
« Last Edit: 29 May 2019, 17:14:56 by Easy »

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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #56 on: 28 February 2019, 12:39:59 »
Can you provide a brief summary how they convinced state with greatest phobia against cybernetics to get along with them and their manei domini?

By the time they found out, there was no state.  Everyone was too busy guarding their own front door against neighbors to do anything substantial.  A couple of rather violent examples of what happens to those who try reinforced the point.
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #57 on: 28 February 2019, 19:26:22 »
Point of order: the Blakist divisions were only five times their reported number, not ten.

Which, after reading enough fluff is well above board for the general history of secret armies in the BTU.
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And took their wages, and are dead.             And saved the sum of things for pay.
     
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #58 on: 28 February 2019, 20:09:37 »
WELCOME! Very well said sir.
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Re: A newcomer's honest general impressions
« Reply #59 on: 28 February 2019, 20:40:03 »
Which, after reading enough fluff is well above board for the general history of secret armies in the BTU.

How many of them never took part in fighting the clan invasion and controlled the means of commutation to even being to suspect of such things? Krupp, Martinson, and Skobel alone constitute a massive industrial base - before you even start counting Gibson Federated, StarCorps, New Earth Trading Conpany and others - add to that the core of factories had zero interruptions since the end of the Amaris Coup.

Is it totally believable? No. Is it significantly more preposterous than anything else in the universe at face value? Also no.

 Without the real world events that led to the jihad as written the IP would have died on the table in 2001. Then instead you could be one of like two dozen holdovers from the Usenet days on some mostly abandoned forum still complaining about the fedcom civil war instead. The fact of the matter is you owe the jihad for the game’s continued existence.  For that reason I’m willing to give the whole thing a pass.

It’s a 14 year section of the universe that’s pretty nearly fenced off and I doubt we’ll ever visit it much again in terms of new product going forward. Hell its been over in real time for a the better part of a decade. It’s probably time to finally let the Master and his hidden armies  lie.

 

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