Product Review: Technical Readout 3039 (BattleTech)
When BattleTech was first published in ’86 (as BattleTech; 1984’s first edition was actually titled Battledroids) by FASA Corporation, among the very first books FASA published was a thin, long-page-style book titled Technical Readout: 3025. This book had dozens of new ‘Mechs in it and expanded vastly the background for those ‘Mechs included in the original box set; in addition, it had about twenty new Aerospace fighters, four DropShips, and a dozen or so representative vehicles. It was followed shortly by Technical Readout: 3026; but TRO 3025 holds pride of place as the gateway product that got a lot of people into not just BattleTech, but gaming in general. I personally am a part of that group, and still reference my aging TRO 3025 copy when writing scenarios.
Sadly, TROs 3025, 3026, and the updated versions of both are no longer in publication. In 2008, they were superseded by a new TRO, Technical Readout: 3039. As with all the previous TROs, 3039 is printed from an in-setting point of view, presented as a historical document from the 3070s, looking back and examining the common units of that time. It has all the units from 3025 and 3026, many of the designs from the short-production Technical Readout: 2750, and several standard-tech models of ‘Mechs (prototypes or recently entered production at that “historical” in-setting point) that didn’t exist until the 1991 publication of Technical Readout: 3050.
Unfortunately, there is something it lacks; and that something is necessary: the book, like all TROs, has absolutely zero record sheets included. It presents the stats of everything present, from weight to speed to armor distribution to weapons placement; but the player has to either purchase the record sheets (Record Sheets 3039 Unabridged is available online from Catalyst Games at classicbattletech.com), or copy off the blank record sheet in their introductory boxed set and painstakingly fill it (or them…) out. Most competitive players who don’t give a whit for fluff will take a pass on this; and that’s fine…TROs are after all not strictly necessary to play the game. The difference is the sort that exists between the Space Marine codex and the old Index Astartes collected volumes that GW published years ago; you don’t need the latter, it mainly exists to flesh out the various marine chapters.
There is another problem with the book; and it’s less with content and more with timing. At the time of this review, Technical Readout: 3039 is nearly three years old. Odds are, if you’re reading this and thinking “I could play this game!” or “I could get back into this game!”, then it’ll be a good fit for you; but if you’ve never stopped playing and haven’t been living under a rock since Y2K, you probably already have it on your shelf.