Monday, 25 April 2016
A bit of Nostalgia #2
Monday, and it seems to me a good time to look back at an old game once again. This time I'm going to look at Battletech.
Oh boy, where to start with a game like this. It is fair to say that Battletech is a beast of a game, one of those grand old monoliths where seeing the beginning is like an archaeological dig, and seeing the end involves some sort of time machine, If you are as old as I am, then you already know that Battletech really is an ancient artifact, something which is now whispered in dark alcoves as, possibly, being the start of many peoples love of wargaming, may be even the beginning of skirmish gaming. It was innovative and at the same time tactically complex. It has, unfortunately in my opinion, been bashed around and in some cases altered beyond reproach by companies that bought up the IP when Fasa fell down, but it does deserve a lot of credit for what it once was (and you can play the Battletech:Classic system now which does maintain the old version of the game).
Battletech, at its heart, was a combat game pitting giant walking tanks against each other. It's scope was expanded over time to include power armoured soldiers, tanks, aircraft and orbital dropships, but the Battlemechs were always the bread and butter of the game. Using Hexagonal maps to allow players to work out movement and firing arcs, there was also no need for masses of scenary, and games could easily be played on a small table space. More map sheets allowed for bigger games, but in general most of the time players would have 3-4 mechs (and may be a few other things on the map).
As mentioned above, damage was location based, so you could blow bits of the Mech off, and to make that even better, the loadouts where recorded as being in certain locations, so weapons or heat sinks could fall off. In addition firing some of the better weapons would generate heat, and if you let that get to high the Mech could overload and even explode. There was so much to balance and think of, can you cool down fast enough? Should you just Alpha Strike and then try and ditch heat over time, or take things easy, chip away at the enemy with weapon fire you can cope with in terms of heat.
I don't know how I would feel approaching this game now, if I didn't have the background of growing up with it. Sure I could get hooked on the newer computer games, and I would probably be quite interested in the record sheet system, but it has become difficult to get the models (Ironwind now make them, but you could find them in most gaming shops at one point), the Heroclix version would probably put me off (though I might cope with the extended timeline story they have for it then), and the fact that its an old hex map "boardgame" might well not quite be as exciting as things like Malifaux and GuildBall.. but for me, if Man O'War got me to realise that large open scale war games could have much more tactical content, it was Battletech that made me realise just how good a War Game could be. It forms a major bench mark that all other games I play now have to surpass for me to want to play it long term, a bench mark that Warhammer 40k has never even got close to.