While it’s not my intent to rant here at flechs, it’s been a long (and wonderful) Thanksgiving week and I’m a little low on more…useful…content…

The direction of the Battletech line is currently being dedicated towards (among other things) providing players with ways of simulating conflict in the Inner sphere through scale tactical to interstellar. In this vein, there’s currently three books planned, three o which have been published, one of which I actually own. In a previous entry I mentioned how the current developer motto of “Yea, we’ve got a rule for that” has led to an expansive case of featuritus, and also a codification of house rules that allow for customizing sessions while still providing some common umbrella for players to gather under.

Those long term players of us have a certain curse of knowledge when it comes to the language of war gaming. In a previous post I mentioned how people unfamiliar with the basics of the genera inevitably roll their die when setting out to make their first move. While Battletech mechanics are stock for wargames, those with no wargaming experience have a lot to assimilate. If the current rule writing is aimed at consolidating the player community (see my past post), it seems focuses primarily on serious players, while abandoning any kind of ramp building for those new to Battletech.

There’s definitely a product path for new players, and even the inclusion of a prebuilt figure in the new plastic sets caters to the casual or new player, but these products, I feel, for those outside of wargaming, are intermediate at best, and follow the same ‘(dis)include rules as you feel like it’ mentality that exists in the more advanced products. There exists no continuity from your basic quick start rules to what is the definitive tournament set. For players interested in moving into different contexts it’s a question of translating stats from their current game to a new ruleset.

Furthermore, however organized the latest series of books are, the rules they contain have been subject to moderate to major changes in every revision. Each revision attempting to balance integration, reflection, and stand alone quality of the the core Battlemech combat which is treated almost as an atomic unit, a structure which can not be dissected (though I have seen some thinking about it in line developer discussion of Tac ops rules [citation needed]). If Battletech is going to function successfully as a multi-context system, it’ll need to address the core system as an expression of, opposed to a building block of, said multi-context system. Among other things, this will give structure and accessibility to entry level play….

I know this is all really abstract. It’s also intended to be food for though not so much a call for some kind of overhaul. As I’m most interested in the path from monopoly players to battletech there’s far more practical things to look into. For example, what if the equipment proliferation avalanche could be ridden to a place where items negated rules (opposed to generating new ones) in exchange for reduced battlefield efficacy. How much tonnage would you give up for a mech that never fell over? How much damage potential would you sacrifice for a weapon that was always at short range? Would having to remember only four locations be worth the vulnerabilities of a fixed-forward and unsegmented torso with no arms?

Battletech Basics.
The direction of the Battletech line is currently being dedicated towards (among other things) providing players with ways of simulating conflict in the Inner sphere through scale tactical to interstellar. In this vein, there’s currently three books planned, three o which have been published, one of which I actually own. In a previous entry I mentioned how the current developer motto of “Yea, we’ve got a rule for that” has led to an expansive case of featuritus, and also a codification of house rules that allow for customizing sessions while still providing some common umbrella for players to gather under.
Those long term players of us have a certain curse of knowledge when it comes to the language of war gaming. In a previous post I mentioned how people unfamiliar with the basics of the genera inevitably roll their die when setting out to make their first move. While Battletech mechanics are stock for wargames, those with no wargaming experience have a lot to assimilate. If the current rule writing is aimed at consolidating the player community (see my past post), it seems focuses primarily on serious players, while abandoning any kind of ramp building for those new to Battletech.
There’s definitely a product path for new players, and even the inclusion of a prebuilt figure in the new plastic sets caters to the casual or new player, but these products, I feel, for those outside of wargaming, are intermediate at best, and follow the same ‘(dis)include rules as you feel like it’ mentality that exists in the more advanced products. There exists no continuity from your basic quick start rules to what is the definitive tournament set. For players interested in moving into different contexts it’s a question of translating stats from their current game to a new ruleset.

Furthermore, however organized the latest series of books are, the rules they contain have been subject to moderate to major changes in every revision. Each revision attempting to balance integration, reflection, and stand alone quality of the the core Battlemech combat which is treated almost as an atomic unit, a structure which can not be dissected (though I have seen some thinking about it in line developer discussion of Tac ops rules [citation needed]). If Battletech is going to function successfully as a multi-context system, it’ll need to address the core system as an expression of, opposed to a building block of, said multi-context system. Among other things, this will give structure and accessibility to entry level play..

5 Responses to “Basic Battletech”

  1. Kevin S says:

    Monopoly to Battletech? I want the Shoe-mech! But man, everyone’s gonna want the Roadster-mech and you just know that no one’s going to ever take the Iron-mech by choice.

    You have also now challenged me to make scrap mechs from monopoly figures.

    On the serious side though, don’t forget about learning curves. We all started out taking our first steps on the battlefield, so to speak. But i believe you’re talking about “casual vs. dedicated” players rather than new&old?

  2. pacrae says:

    The original 1985 Battletech rule book is 40 pages long.

    Total Warfare, FanPro’s current starter book, is over 300. It’s Movement section, starts on page 48.

    While the game has obviously expanded and developed over the past 20+ years, it has not gotten 7.5 times more complicated.

    FanPro seems to have made a conscious decision to write for the existent fan base: people who already know how to play and just want a large, solid, pretty tome for use in arguing with each other at tournaments or using as a reference in design as Friday afternoon home campaign session. The change would seem to indicate that they have abandoned the idea of marketing to either a new or a casual audience.

  3. Ian says:

    “The change would seem to indicate that they have abandoned the idea of marketing to either a new or a casual audience.” (pacrae)

    It’s impossible to deny the sheer volume of fiction and mechanics in the Battletech universe. It’s growth has been continuous since inception, hardly a new direction. The brand finds itself in a situation similar to a long-running RPG campaings. Rich and deep, but relatively inaccessible for new players. Similarily I’d hardly peg it as an explicit choice. While there is an element of Battletech for Battletech players (more more more), it seems to be a quite natural evolution.

    There’s definitely a plan and organizational structure for their product releases. I think it’s a little funny though that the stated market for the introductory boxed set starts at “current” and “lapsed” Battletech players.

  4. Ian says:

    “But i believe you’re talking about “casual vs. dedicated” players rather than new&old?” (Kevin S)

    Actually I am thinking more about new vs old players, particularly new players. On the whole I think it’s odd all the content/rules that cover increases in scope but when it comes to an introductory or simplified rule set there’s nothing more than “for starters we’re not going to use rules x through z”. At least in the 3rd edition boxed set scenarios had the disclaimer of being ‘simulation’ runs with limited detail.

  5. pacrae says:

    “There’s definitely a plan and organizational structure for their product releases. I think it’s a little funny though that the stated market for the introductory boxed set starts at “current” and “lapsed” Battletech players.” (Ian)

    At least with their starter box, they got it down to an 80 page book. Well, and a 56, and a 36, and a 12, and 3 reference cards. Really quite slim when you think about it.

    I think your link clarifies my original point. The designers have made a clear decision not to market to “new” or “introductory” level players. The are designing a table top war game for an experienced war gaming audience. Much like Star Fleet Battles, they don’t care about attracting, let’s toss “new” and “casual” aside for the moment in favor of “novice” players. They are leaving the novices to Clixs or D&D or Magic. If once the new gamers get comfortable with the gaming genre and is ready to try something more complex, then Battletech will welcome them in, but they definitely aren’t courting, designing or marketing to them.

    It’s not a new strategy, and I don’t think it’s a bad one. The gaming industry has always been volatile. The games that last tend to be ones supported by big money (D&D, Warhammer) or a deep rooted fan base (Star Fleet Battles). Fan Pro would seem not to have big money but they do have a product, Battletech, with a deep rooted fan base. Marketing to it, trying to keep it happy and maximizing the profit they can get from it, by putting out a lot of content seems a sound strategy.

    Look at how badly FASA leveraged itself by trying to find the new market and the new customer: Anyone else remember Shadowrun’s four video games? Action figures? TCG?

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