Once upon a time, there were viable alternatives to a “Grimdark” future in wargaming. Long before Warmachine and Hordes, before AT-43 and Flames of War, two games ruled the market; Warhammer and BattleTech.
We all know the heights that GW has reached with their flagship systems, Fantasy and 40K. They have ridden the wave of eight and five editions, respectively, thanks to a constantly growing line of miniatures, video game and now movie tie-ins, and an absolutely rabid fan base. Love it or hate it, Warhammer is here to stay. But whatever happened to BattleTech? Here is the story told in simple steps:
1. FASA launched Battletech (originally named Battle Droids) in 1984.
2. FASA unexpectedly closes and sells BattleTech to WizKids, co founder Jordan Weisman’s new company, in 2001
3. WizKids licenses “Classic BattleTech” to FanPro iin 2001.
4. WizKids creates “Mechwarrior: Dark Age”, a Clix based product in 2002.
5. WizKids sells BattleTech to Topps in 2003.
6. Topps in turn bought by Michael Eisner’s (of Disney fame) Tornante Company in 2007.
7. FASA officialy shuts down in 2007.
8. Topps shuts down WizKids in 2008, citing the economic downturn.
9. Catalyst Games Lab obtains the license for “Classic BattleTech” from Topps in 2007
Throughout it all, the intellectual rights for BattleTech were used to create a slew of excellent video games and even a Saturday morning cartoon. There are even several BattleTech centers throughout the United States, both public and private, where one can have the experience piloting a Virtual Mech in an actual cockpit against other players (Where is my Powered Armor, GW!).
With all this additional support for the game, you would think there would be a much larger fan base for this product. The thing is, you’d be right! Even through all the turmoil of changing hands so many times in less than a decade, BettleTech has managed to maintain a rather large following. It even won the 2007 Origins Award for Miniature Rules of the Year, as well as two more in 2010 (Best Game Related Book and Best Miniature Game Rules). It never went away, it just doesn’t have the same kind of support in the Blogosphere as other games.
BattleTech is a very exciting and well made game that is perfect for beginners and veterans alike. It has an aspect of customization that 40K ignores, a level of strategy and tactics Warmachine and Hordes lacks, and a logical and easy to follow rules system that anyone can pick up after only a few short games. A full range of models is available from Iron Wind Metals, allowing a player to collect a very respectable force at a fraction the cost of other game systems. When you add in the significant amount of “Fluff” in both the game’s sourcebooks and novels (over 100 in English alone, nearly as many as the vaunted Black Library), you have a game that may just be able to take its place at the top of the heap again.
This year marks BattleTech’s 25th anniversary. To commemorate it, Catalyst Games lab is releasing the BattleTech 25tth Anniversary boxed set on March 30th. I would call upon you as gamers to look up your local Catalyst Demo Team Agent (such as yours truly), easily found through their website, and try the game out. In the next series of articles I’m writing for BoLS, I’ll be diving into the game itself, the “fluff”, strategy and tactics, painting, and the ins and outs of Mech construction. The Inner Sphere is headed your way readers!
~So who else out there has Battletech tales from the wargaming days of High Adventure!