Sunday, February 16, 2020

Battletech Beginner Box Mini Review

So I picked up the Battletech Beginner box a few weeks ago.  I detailed the contents here.  My idea was to give it a go with the kids.  I am pretty sure I started playing it at about the age my youngest is now.  The first thing I noticed from the beginner box is that the game has changed very little in its 35 years in production.  The beginner box has simplified rules from the main starter box.  It has removed Heat, Internal Structure, Terrain Levels, and Pilot checks to name a few things removed in this simplified version.  Mechs just have armor for their sections so when that armor is destroyed that section is destroyed with affects on the mech depending on what section. 

Since the game was written 35 years ago it is very table and 2d6 heavy compared to any modern game.  Tables of weapon ranges, table of attack modifiers, table for hit locations, table for mission hit numbers.   This line is called Classic Battletech and it certainly has that feel.  The GATOR mechanic for determining attack target numbers sort of shows how old school the game is.

First you start with Gunnery Skill (G) and then you add a modifier for Attacker movement modifier (A) determined by movement type and then the Target movement modifier(T) determined by how many hexs the target moved.  Next you have the Other modifiers (O) which is general terrain like wooded hexes between the attacker and the target or that the target is standing in.  Finally you have a range modifier (R) to determine the final target number.

So for example if you have normal Gunnery skill of 4 and then ran it gets you a +2, and the target moved 5 squares yields another +2.  The there is one light woods in the line of site adding another +1, and the target is in a light woods for another +1.  They are 6 hexes away which is say medium range for another +2.  Added that all up and you need a 12 to hit on your 2d6. 

Now they suggest using different colored D6 to mark on mechs what they moved and how far to make tracking the modifiers easier from the movement phase but they do not provide the dice or tokens which could accomplish the same thing in either this set or the bigger starter box.

As is clear from example above it gets very hard to hit things in the game.  This makes for many missed shots.  It also puts a lot of luck in the game when you are needing 10+'s to hit many turns.

This seemed to be the problem we had in both our trial games.  In the first I had my 13 and 8 year old duel with the two plastic mechs on the grassy map with all the standard terrain in place.  The kids moved around terrain and sort of got the feeling for it but the 8 year old had the hot dice and got enough damage on the 13 year old that she was not feeling the game was fair.

In the second game, my 8 year old and I used the two plastic medium mechs to take on 2 Locust Standees.  I piloted the standees and did my best to make them hard to hit and I did a good job of that.  It really slowed down the game play and seem to take several turns before any real damage can be done and need say more explosions to really get him hook in.  My plan was to follow the locust up with the thunderbolt heavy mech but we were sort of done after the Locusts.

If you are used to skirmish games were you might run 8 or so models and take down models with a turn or two of attacks, Battletech will seem strange.  The models have lots of staying power usually and a few mechs on each side can keep a battle going for quite some time.

The most powerful weapon on a mech in the box does like 10 damage.  As you can see from the little dots on the armor diagram (these dry erase mech sheets are great, wish they came with the bigger set also), every spot on the medium mechs other than the head can absorb at least one of those hits.  When you added in the scatter of the hits onto the mech it takes a fair number of hits to take someone out.

Playing it reminded me a little bit of how I learned to teach players Xwing by giving them the Falcon.  The turret there means you can shoot every turn so there are no dead turns.  Seems like I needed to start the first mission by stripping out the terrain (there are double sided terrain modifier tiles which can be used for this in the beginner box).    This will increase the hit rate and increase the excitement.   It will also remove at least one layer of modifiers to the hit number.

I recently picked up the bigger box to add to the plastic mechs from this and to keep working on teaching the game.  They just finished late pledges on a kickstarter but I passed as I am not willing to invest that much at this point as I am still trying to determine if the youngest likes it enough to keep playing.

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