RogerBW's Blog

What's Wrong with BattleTech? 22 January 2014

I've written a set of rules that replace BattleTech. Why would I do such a foolhardy thing? Here I'm planning to write a bit about what's wrong with BattleTech. In the next part, I'll describe how I tried to fix it.

One of BattleTech's core problems is the speed of play. The detail is great, but it leaves you spending ages over each turn, and this problem increases the more forces you have on the board: it's fair enough to have an O(N) effect, but it feels more like O(N²). (If each of us has four units, I have to think about your four units each time I'm choosing which of mine to use.)

Combine with that the order of turns, which feels terribly old-fashioned and clunky to me: we each take turns to move, then we each take turns to fire.

While I admire the simplicity of the base game, I think it suffers by being too slender a reed to carry the weight of all the additions that have been made since. There's nowhere to wedge in morale, or leadership qualities. 'Mech combat should feel like something special: the power of armoured vehicles, combined with the immediacy and adrenalin of infantry actions.

The next problem is that I feel sometimes like a dice-rolling engine. It was playing MegaMek that really brought it home to me: once you've chosen weapons and targets, you have no further input until the record sheets are filled in and it's time to fire the next unit. But there's all that complexity and die-rolling! Multiple weapons with multiple to-hit numbers have to roll to hit, then there's the cluster hit table, hit locations, ticking off armour, rolling for possible criticals, rolling for critical locations... yeah, the detail is nice, but when it's all random what does that detail really serve?

I'm not enamoured of the attritional approach to damage, where you're gradually scraping off armour until you expose something vital. Real tank combat is rather more like OGRE, in that the target ends up in one of three states: unaffected, temporarily disrupted, or a burning wreck.

So what's good about BattleTech? What do I want to keep, rather than going and playing Heavy Gear?

First, it's the unit designs. I have a lot of nostalgia for those original, improperly-licenced, 'Mechs, like the Shadow Hawk and the Rifleman. Second, it's the setting, the complexity of the Succession Wars, with no clear good guys in a gradually decaying society. I've ranted elsewhere about the way I felt that was betrayed by the coming of the Clans.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1