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Battletech to the rescue

At some point last year our weekly Friday night gaming ended. After what was pretty much a year and a half of near-weekly Dungeons & Dragons, I think we were all D&Ded out. Of course, personal schedules and interests impacted game time, as it should, but the combination of that with what I think was burn out resulted in a somewhat unceremonious end to our group of would-be adventurers. But thankfully, I think we found a new way back in.

Battletech - Giant robot deathmatch
Battletech - Giant robot deathmatch

From dungeons to battlefields

Only this time instead of fighting off orcs, goblins and ogres we’re piloting giant robots in Battletech. Honestly, going from D&D to Battletech is quite a shift. Where D&D focuses around getting into the role of your character, Battletech is pretty much a standard war game. Playing Battletech is less about deciding whether to go through the left door or right door, or to help that NPC in need, and more about playing field strategy…and I like that.

Playing war games is not entirely new to me. Like you, I’ve played my share war games on the PC and console. From turned-based ones like Military Madness to RTS games like good old Starcraft. Battletech isn’t unlike either of these really so getting into playing was pretty easy. Of course Battletech has some fancy rulebooks and reference manuals, just like any good tabletop game should, but managing the game actually pretty easy and straight forward. Instead of just taking straight damage in a fight, you have to keep track of where on your giant robots have been hit. And as your robot parts fall off and take damage, your time is limited.

The fun of sci-fi tactical warfare
The fun of sci-fi tactical warfare

Paper and pencil fun

The one thing Battletech needs is a slide ruler. As simple as it is, there’s a lot of calculating in the game to determine success rates and destruction. And speaking of probability, lets not forget that Battletech still requires a little bit of chance – and that means dice. But this time instead of 12-sided dies and 20-sided dies, all you need are a couple good old fastioned 6-sided dies. A few tumbles of the bones determines if you hit your target and how much you hit them.

We all know that throwing dice is fun. And we all know that being on offense is better than being on defense. But somehow Battletech even makes getting the crap beaten out of you a little fun. The character sheets in Battletech are all unique to the robots you’re using and each robot has a different number of hits it takes to be destroyed. You obviously need to keep track of your hits and damage, and to do so you fill out dots on your character sheet, not unlike the bubble tests you took in high school requiring that No. 2 pencil. It’s simple and a little silly, but filling out the bubbles is quite rewarding, making even losing in Battletech fun.

In the end I think playing Battletech proved that even in tabletop gaming, I’m not a traditional RPG fan. Tactical play is just more my speed. The thing that made D&Ding the most fun was hanging out with friends and socializing. Battletech also requires friends and socializing, but the game itself is just a lot more fun to me (and lets not forget that giant robots are a lot cooler than elves and swords). I think Battletech just fits my tolerance for tabletop gaming more than Dungeons & Dragons. Now, I just need to get a few mech minis and I’ll be all set.


  1. Shawn Shawn February 4, 2011

    I think the whole tactical thing is definitely more your speed. I worry however that some of our more story-centric players might get bored.

    I can actually run a more story-centric BTech game if that becomes an issue – persistence between missions, a little plot to go with the hot plasma death.. but we’ll see how to group responds over time.

  2. Brian Brian February 4, 2011

    I’m not opposed to stories in our games, far from it. I just think the depth at which D&D required me pay attention to story while keeping character traits in mind was tough. I admit, my brain power for that type of thing is low compared to others.

    It’s all about balance…and you’re right, straight up BT might be too much tactical, the other extreme from too much story.

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