Hey, y’all, Voices here with a new item for everyone out there: the 25th Anniversary BattleTech boxed set. As most people who know me can attest, I’m an absolute sucker for certain things; and close to the top of that list is BattleTech, the property that made the late, great FASA Corporation famous. And with an apparent rebound and the marking of the game’s 25th anniversary this year, the time was ripe for Catalyst Game Labs–the current producer of the BT (and Shadowrun) game to release a new set.
When Bigred found out I was a BT fan, he told me to work on a review. I shrugged and agreed sullenly on the outside; but my inner kid went “YIPPEE!”
So, first, what’s in the set… Like most miniatures games (even though CGL claims BT is in reality a board game), the box has miniatures in it. Also, a pair of dice for the new player or the veteran gamer who lost everything; though be warned, these are the standard “they’re in the box but we know you already have dice” dice that every game comes with. Next come the maps, which is what makes BT a board game and not a miniatures game; and which I’ll cover later. Finally, a slew of pamphlets, booklets, and other assorted material explaining everything you need to know to play the basic game as well as get a basic understanding of the game setting, the Inner Sphere… these get covered first.
Among the already-mentioned leaflets is a folded map of the Inner Sphere, circa 3067 at the conclusion of the FedCom Civil War (give yourself a star if you can spot the giveaway); a sturdy card cheat sheet with all the necessary tables printed on it – a very very welcome addition to the leaflets. The gatefolded leaflet entitled “How the Rulebooks Work” is a quick guide on not getting lost between the volumes this set includes and the (currently, five) hardcover rulebooks, assorted tech readouts, and all the additional material that’s been printed that you can (and, hopefully, will) buy later.
Of the pamphlets, the one of record sheets looks formidable; but a trip to Kinkos will fix that. I was pleased to notice that the record sheets have been reformatted slightly, and now include a picture of the ‘Mech design in question for recognition purposes. There are also several half-size infantry and vehicle record sheets for expanding your play.
The next pamphlet is the Painting and Tactics Guide, which is a very nice “how to use these minis” piece that’s also good to see, though more or less superfluous for experienced players.
Finally, the Quick Start Rules, Introductory Rulebook, and Inner Sphere at a Glance booklets give all the crunch and fluff you bought this set for in the first place. The QSR and IR are laid out like BT books are always laid out: beginning with a “core concepts” section before moving on to movement, weapons fire, melee combat, and then heat. Additional sections in the IR give the basics for scenario construction, unit construction, combat vehicles, and infantry… but let’s face it, you didn’t get this set for them: you got this set for the big stompy robots.
The Inner Sphere at a Glance booklet is a good introduction to the setting, giving a very basic history of the Inner Sphere and a description of most of the major powers. It also describes how BattleMechs — the previously mentioned Big Stompy Robots — work, what a MechWarrior (a BattleMech pilot) is and does, how interplanetary and interstellar travel are accomplished, the various general classifications of mission a soldier might be assigned in the 31st century, and a very brief technical readout of the ‘Mechs included in the box.
Now, the maps. Gorgeous, non-corrugated cardboard that folds to fit neatly inside the box. Each map is double-sided, and the first is printed with the old BattleTech Basic Mapsheet on the face and a road grid map on the reverse. The other map — in a first for BT — has a small lake on the front instead of the basic map, with a light forest map on the reverse. The maps are fantastic and hard-wearing, the kind I think FASA (and FanPro–and now finally Catalyst) should have produced years ago; and I can’t be happier with them or stop talking about ’em.
Unfortunately, here’s the “but” of the set; and it’s in the miniatures. These ‘Mechs stand about an inch and a half to two inches tall, and are mounted onto an integrally-molded six-sided “partial hex” base; and, sadly, they’re molded from the same old gray-striated blah plastic that’s been used since the game first started putting three-dimensional miniatures in the box back in the nineties. If you’ve ever had a BT box, then you know what I’m talking about: satiny-gray plastic that you can see veins of material and mold folds in, hollow on the inside and with a bad tendency to warp under normal storage circumstances or — worse — break at the joins, but not all the way through. And sadly, the minis in my set have gone that way: the Panther’s normally-heroic chestplate is sunken so badly that I joke about someone yanking out its ribcage… not that a Panther has a ribcage, per se.
There is a silver lining to the miniatures, however, that — while nice — makes me rage. Included in a pair of small boxes marked “Thor” and “Loki” are a pair of Clan OmniMechs of the chassis listed, both in their primary weapons configurations and all the nastiness that Clan ‘Mechs possess in spades. And here’s the catch: they’re excellent…
These miniatures are molded of high-quality plastic in multiple parts on multiple small sprues that you can easily clip away, clean the parts, and glue them together with exceptional ease; and they look AWESOME when assembled. “But Voices, what makes you rage about them so? This reads like nothing but fanboyish accolades!” I can already hear… what makes me rage is that the two Omnis are the ONLY ONES of that quality; head and shoulders above the standard designs the set includes. It makes me so mad that these two designs were included and the standard ones weren’t upgraded to similar quality and processes.
But, honestly, that’s really just a little thing, what with the two or three battalions of miniatures I owned (until recently). My assessment of the set is that it’s very good, a worthy purchase for anyone interested in starting BT and hardly a problem purchase for anyone who already plays.
Now, before the hoary old vets all start screaming “Is THAT what they’ve done to my precious Warhammer?!” about the box art, NO, that is NOT a Warhammer; it’s a Hammerhands, the direct predecessor to the Warhammer in Davion service and a ‘Mech not even featured in this set…but it does make a good ‘Mech for following in the footsteps of the original orange-sunset Warhammer painting of years past. This concludes the review of the BattleTech Introductory Boxed Set; and I’m All Voices Anonymous. See ya on the table!