Friday, July 10, 2009

Unrequited love

I'm going to take a break from OED&D for a minute and wax fondly about another old school love of mine, a love that has never quite been fulfilled - Battletech and Mechwarrior. With the recent announcement (and video) from IGN about the Mechwarrior video game reboot, I found myself in complete glee over how amazingly cool it all looked. It brought back a lot of memories for me.

Battletech and I go back to the mid80s, when I was deployed to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. There was a comic/game store just outside the base gates and I stumbled onto these really neat plastic models and boxed game. At the time, I was still deep in AD&D gaming, and this game about 30 ton human-driven warmachines was quite a tonic. I managed to persuade (with beer) a few fellow airmen to play the game, and we had a blast. Battletech quickly replaced AD&D as the game of choice, but I missed role-playing. I was completely overjoyed when I found that FASA (then the publishers of Battletech) had released a Mechwarrior RPG supplement.

The sad part is that I never got a chance to combine the two! The guys I played with didn't want to roleplay in the Battletech universe, they wanted to smash 'Mechs or go explore dungeons in AD&D. I had scoped out a little "sandbox" for a mercenary company, almost in Traveller-like fashion. Nobody wanted to do it. I never got to do the campaign I wanted - roleplay in the Inner Sphere and then have Battletech "map" combat when we had to get down to business. To me, that just seemed like the Reeses Cup of gaming!

As things go, my interest in Battletech waxed and waned. As I moved about, got married, had kids, I found myself playing it less and less. I did make it to the Battletech Center VR simulators in Chicago in the early 1990s. I played the "Crescent Hawks Inception" video game with much enjoyment, but I never got into the sequel, nor did I play any of the Mechwarrior games so much. When the Battletech world was shocked with the introduction of the Clans, I found myself buying the novels and sourcebooks, but I never played. Eventually, I sold all of my Battletech stuff, with the possible exception of the

At Winterwar this year, I picked up a fairly good copy of the first edition Mechwarrior rules. And just at lunch today, I found myself playing the "Green" scenario from the ClassicBattletech Quick Start rules. The defending Hunchback ravaged the attacking Enforcer with a hard, long range Autocannon hit, and the ENF 'Mech never really recovered and withdrew, rather than be destroyed. That was 30 minutes that passed by way too quickly.

I also find myself looking at both the Classic Battletech RPG book, and the Classic Battletech Introduction Box set and thinking: what if... some people would be tempted to play RPGs and wargaming like games like a BT/MW combo...

For your enjoyment, if you'd like to see what has reignited my long unrequited love for Battletech and Mechwarrior, watch the video below...


Anonymous said...

That's cool! I live in Jackson, about four hours from the coast. The Gulf Coast area has always had a vibrant gaming scene, and I always suspected it had something to do with all of the bored military guys stuck in what was at the time a one-horse (one plane?) little flyspeck of a town. I'm guessing you probably knew Lou Zocchi? I have a buddy from that area. He told me that the guy's a Christian clown and does kid's birthday parties. Ironic for a guy who apparently loathed all of his young customers back when he was running that game shop.

Chad Thorson said...

I love Battletech! I've played it on and off since 1986! I've always been a Federated Suns loyalist but have also played mercenaries as well. I wasn't a big fan of the clans, and I preferred the classic battlemechs (even though they ripped off Macross and Dougram). But they have made some improvements over the years.

JB said...

Mmmm…I was a kid in the 80s, but we got our BattleTech ON…we even had CityTech and AeroTech, and of course MechWarrior.

Unfortunately, by the time MW came out, we’d moved on to other games (ShadowRun and Advanced MSH). Like you, there was never enough interest all around in a MW/BT game.

My buddy, gifted me with all his BattleTech stuff (the first four rule sets including MW), sometime in the past, and I’ve never sold it…I’ve always felt it would come in handy someday for a rainy day shoot ‘em up. By the way…the MW cover is one of the best front pieces for an RPG ever. Perfectly conveys what the game is about (down to the tattoo and pin-up photo…hey, that’s military role-playing!).

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@enter - I remember Jackson - I spent a few brain cells there. I may or may not have met Lou at that time. I was not really active in the community outside of base, but I did visit a few game stores in the day.

@AtomKid - did you hear that they're bringing back the Japanese "rip offs" to the books again? I love my Locust, Phoenix Hawk and Shadowhawk.

@JB - I agree about the MW cover. That cover influenced me a great deal on how I see Mech drivers and Mech cockpits. The fact that the video shows a cockpit view down to the hand pressing buttons to fire off the UAV drone - that just filled me with more nostalgic glee than I can describe. I am extremely excited for this game and hope it doesn't get killed in the publishing search.

I also had Aeromech because I have another unrequited love of aerial combat WWI style. I just never got to use it too much. I'm hopeful these new BT rules include Aeromechs in a neat seamless way.

rologutwein said...

I first played this in high-school, but didn't really delve into it until college. And like a lot of folks, it DID begin as just a war-game. Luckily for me, I was able to run an actual campaign for one summer. It was just as the 'Clan' books were coming out. My players were part of the randomly chosen 'Black Omen' mercenary group. I wanted a unit that'd be 'officially' destroyed in the initial wave so those characters who did survive could start their own unit afterwards. Unfortunately, my plan didn't work. This plucky little group survived not only the pirates and renegade Kuritans I through at them initially, but then managed to TROUNCE the Clans in a series of cleverly fought battles—all played out in detail. Great stuff. And hell yes. Long live the 'stolen' mechs! Warhammers!

Alan said...

I thought the original Battletech boxed set (and the one I played and still have at home) used cardboard figures with plastic bases? And it had the Robotech rip-offs in it (a Rifleman was on the cover, I believe).

Then, there were additional boxed sets for Citytech and Aerotech...

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Alan - yes indeed, they did. The store I bought the boxed set from also had some miniature/models. I remember painting the Warhammer and Rifleman according to the box. These were the plastic model kits that had the included scenario - I think those were the repackaged TCI kits from Japan. I sure wish I had those things - they'd be worth something now. :)

Pat Payne said...

Oh. My. God. I think I just had a nerdgasm. That was so amazing. How do I love it? Let me count the ways

1) They've got the unseens (or at least mechs close enough to them to keep Harmony Gold off their backs)
2) It's the Succession Wars. Here I was afraid that anything that had happened before the Clans arrived were going to be permanently swept under the rug with the "Dark Ages" clicky-game
3) It's Battletech of any stripe. Last I heard, the franchise was in trouble due to afore-mentioned clicky-game cratering with WizKids' bankruptcy.
I may have to bring my beat up copy to the game tomorrow and try to persuade the guys to run through a quicky while waiting for everyone to show up. I feel the need to defend Hanse Davion's honor!

Blotz said...

I was always a Steiner Partisan. In fact I was at the Gencon/Origins in Milwaukee when they had the live Steiner/Davion marriage! I doubt I could convince anyone I know to play, we were more of a Mekton crowd.

Unknown said...

@ Pat Payne - Catalyst has signed a deal that has allowed them to use all the original mechs, the Unseen, that were drawn from Robotech and Macross. So what was old is new again.
Also - the Dark Ages clix game will be part of the canon (unfortunately) but Catalyst has been doing work to keep the Succession Wars era alive.

Ive been playing the boardgame on and off for something like 12 years. In fact my first miniature of any sort was a Battlemech. Im still trying to play an RPG in the Battletech universe, as I really like the 3rd edition of Mechwarrior as it has Life Paths for character creation.

All in all if you enjoyed Battletech before I would suggest taking a look at the current rules and the boxset. Its the same game as before, just with some streamlining and simplification of the rules. Nothing is gone but some stuff has been tweaked so that several different situations that used the similar rules have been smoothed into one core rules and usually one or two sentences that cover the specifics.

JB said...

@ Blotz: Steiner?! My Kurita Battlemaster will SOOOO kick your ass!

Ekimus said...

I know that store! I was at Keesler AFB in 1987. I went to that place all the time.

BattleTech was hot at the base at the time and you could always find a big game going on in the evening.

But you're right about it being difficult to get a BattleTech/MechWarrior campaign going. Most guys just wanted to bash the heck out of each other's 'Mechs. I didn't and still don't understand, because I think that the 1st Ed MechWarrior RPG added incrediblely to the game.

I played BT until shortly after the Clans were introduced, but lost interest in the game when the whole original premise of neo-feudalism in a declining technology setting was tossed out for epic space opera.

A couple of years ago I picked it up again, but strictly as a grognard, never leaving the 3rd Succession War era. The return of the Unseen and news of the reboot computer game have really gotten my hopes up that BT's focus may return to it's original concept.

I've even started working on a BT/MW RPG campaign that my gaming group has actually agreed to play!

If your looking to do the same Chgowiz, here's some MW 1st Ed. additional Inborn Abilities I'm using:

Addiction (-15 CP)
The character is addicted to a substance and must have it at least daily or add 1 to all Roll Targets.

Poor Vision (-20 CP)
Character has poor eyesight and must take corrective measures to see normally or add 2 to all Skill Roll Targets.

Permanent Injury (-25 CP)
The Character has a permanent injury aquired earlier in life. Roll 1D6. On a roll 1-2 Hearing Loss; 3-4 Burns/Scarring; 5-6 Eye Blinded. See Page 85 for the permanent effects of these injuries.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Evernevermore - I think I'm about persuaded to check out the boxed intro set. My hope is to find people who would game at that level and not the full "Total War" level - ah me. I was just going to get into DBA/HOTT and now BattleTech has bitten me.

@Ekimus - that is exactly when I was at Keesler as well. What was your training squadron? What were you training in?

I wish I had saved a lot more from those days. :/

AndreasDavour said...

I fairly recently met a guy who's crazy about Battletech as a RPG setting, and I really haven't ever heard of someone using that. BT is fairly popular in these parts, Kingston, ON.

I bought the 2nd ed box ages past. I never understood what the clans was, the succession wars or who or what a Kurita was. The amount of fluff in the 2nd ed box was almost non-existent.

Now I'm actually beginning to think it could be cool to play BT again. I have the BT compendium, and I think it has everything the newer hardcover contains.

Ekimus said...

@Chgowiz - I can't remember which Squadron I was in, but I was there for Radio Operator tech school from October to December 1987. I feel the same way about wishing I had taken more care preserving things from that time.

That place is where I first saw Heavy Metal (Whoa!), took a awesome weekend trip to New Orleans, first tried my hand at gambling (what a disaster), and saw a wounded Marine pilot land a Harrier after a bird strike shattered his canopy.

Pukako said...

Wow - my normal teenage afternoon hobby dredged up again! We had all the 1st Ed books and sets, and (more importantly) a guy with understanding parents and a spare room with a huge table, where we could leave battles set up until the next weekend.

I've still got the 3025 tech readout somewhere in the closet, and picked up the boxed set cheap online about 6-7 years ago, but got annoyed having to throw out 3/4 of the rules to play it 3025 level.

Tried the Mechwarrior rpg as a kid, but as it was usually a choice between having an interesting character with a personality, or having a guy who could pilot a mech well, it wasn't a hard choice, and the game is all about blowing the crap out of huge anthropogenic war machines.

I loved the original idea of machines in bad repair, and salvage worth more than money. Tried that in a campaign, but ended up with a few less functional mechs each game, which sucked.

Jack Badelaire said...

That video was 100 tons of awesome. Back in college I played Mechwarrior: Mercenaries to death, and I always loved the intro video from that game - set it all up so perfectly.

I've got dozens of BT minis kicking around in a shoebox somewhere in my storage room. This might just be the thing to get me fired up and playing with them again. Fun game, fun video games, and even the books were entertaining in a schlocky kinda way.

Awesome find, dude.