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Classic BattleTech Campaign System

 Post subject: Classic BattleTech Campaign System
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 2:30 am 
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Rogue-Psyker
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Classic BattleTech is undergoing something of a revival in this area and there are multiple weekly games at stores around town. I was interested enough in the new campaign system to get the book. Since finding a decent campaign system is an endless quest for many wargamers, I thought I would say a few words about this one.

This is the "Sword and Dragon Campaign" from Starterbook: Sword & Dragon. It's a campaign for two players (or at least two sides). One plays McKinnon's Company of the Seventh Crucis Lancers and the other plays Sorenson's Company of the Fifth Sword of Light. For anyone who remembers the original FASA scenario packs, many of the same features are continued here. All 24 mechwarriors and their mechs are described in detail, including their unusual skills, quirks and malfunctions.

Strangely enough, most of the battles in the campaign do not involve actual combat between the two units. Each player chooses a mission and then fights it out with a randomly generated force of opponents. So, you will be playing as your own forces half of the time, and the other half of the time you will be controlling a different force from your house.

The campaign has an economic system called the Warchest. Warchest points represent the time, money, supplies and manpower of your unit. When you undertake a mission, there is a cost associated with it. Each mission has two objectives which award points if they are successfully completed. You can also choose to add complications to the mission which make it harder but grant you more points if you succeed. Any damage you suffer does carry over, so after the mission there are repair and re-arming costs which need to be paid.

If all is going well, you complete enough objectives that the mission makes you a profit in Warchest points. In some cases, the risks and potential repair costs of completing an objective will be just too high and you'll have to settle for a monetary loss that keeps your units intact. If you have an unsuccessful run of missions, you may have to skip some of those repairs and reloads, or even sell off some of your company's assets. If a time comes when you cannot pay for a new mission to go on, your campaign is over.

There are 9 generic, repeatable missions and 7 unique missions which vary widely in cost and difficulty. There are some very modest "milk run" missions that don't cost much to initiate but also provide similarly modest rewards. A starting Company, or one that has fallen on hard times, will play these to make ends meet. A successful company can take greater risks for bigger rewards. (You start with 100 points. A small mission like Recon or Supply Run costs 75 and involves only one lance (4) of you 'mechs. A big mission like Beachead costs 500, so you have to work your way up to it.)

Whereas some campaigns follow a chart or diagram to show which mission is next, this campaign uses a system of "tracks". When you complete your current mission, it presents you with a list of options for which missions you can undertake next. So just being able to pay for a particular mission doesn't mean you can automatically play that one when you want it. Your performance in your previous mission can also have an impact on the current mission, so you may want to approach those big missions carefully. For example, if you successfully complete a Recon mission before you undertake an Assault mission you can strike where the enemy is weak and face fewer enemy forces.

One of the unique missions is the final showdown between the two companies. Whichever player initiates this mission forces an end to the campaign. There are some balancing factors to insure that it's a fair fight even if one players is doing better in the campaign than the other.


I have not actually played this campaign myself but reports from people playing it have been favorable and I think it has some good features that could be used in any war game. The lack of direct contact between the two main forces is unusual but I think it makes the games more interesting and varied than clashing with the same opponent/list repeatedly. Depending on how rapidly one player can build up to calling for the showdown, this could be quite a long campaign too.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:05 pm 
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I am *VERY* sorry I stopped checking posts in this forum. That's awesome, and as long as it's 3025-6 tech, there won't be many significant balance issues.

6 months later... How has all this turned out?

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:56 pm 
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The campaign takes place in 3049, so lostech is rare but it exists. Most of the 'Mechs are completely normal Level-1 technology. A few units do have Level-2 equipment, but usually no more than 1 item. For example, there is a Jenner with a NARC beacon, a Grand Dragon with an ER large laser (but a normal 300 engine) and an Enforcer that has a gauss rifle, which replaces both the autocannon and large laser. The highest-tech unit is probably Sorenson's Hatamoto-Chi, which has endo steel, CASE and two LB-10X autocannons. In general, I would say there is enough Level-2 technology to make things interesting but not enough to unbalance it.

Only one of the local groups I was following was using this campaign system. Their forum reports (and presumably the campaign?) dried up shortly after I posted this thread. I also went to a gaming convention earlier this year where I had a chance to talk to the Catalyst Game Labs folks and to some die hard BattleTech players.

The forum players generally had good things to say about the campaign system up to the point when their posts died. However, battle reports indicated that the same mission can turn out wildly differently depending on what forces you bring and what random opponents you roll.

For example, there is a mission called "Fighting Withdrawl" which is just what it sounds like. You (the active player) choose upto 6 of your 'mechs and deploy them on one of the short table edges. Your main objective is to get all the way across the map and exit with at least half your forces intact. On Turn 2, your NPC opponents deploy on the same table edge where you just set up. So you have a 1 turn lead on them at the start of the game. Do you choose fast 'mechs that can make an effective getaway? Or tough 'Mechs that can survive a bit of pounding? Do you choose a small number of units that have a good chance to escape? Or use all six slots and fight your way out? Well, any of these tactics could work, but you do not know what kind of opponents you are facing until after you choose your own forces. Then you roll 1d6 and determine what is chasing you. On a roll of 1, you are chased by 8 Light 'Mechs. On a roll of 6 you get 2 Mediums, 4 Heavies and 2 Assault 'Mechs. Depending on what you chose, and what you roll, the mission might be a cakewalk or a deathtrap.

I don't know if this is a bad feature or not. It encourages you to build diverse forces that can handle a variety of situations. And since not every mission is a fair fight, you must know when and how to run away and cut your losses. The whims of chance may not favor each player equally, but since you are not actually facing each other's forces until the very end, you don't directly suffer from any imbalances that may exist.

The Catalyst people I talked to were not directly involved in the writing or testing of the campaign system (only one of them was a developer and he was running demos most of the time). They didn't have much input and hadn't played it, though we discussed it.

The die-hard BattleTech players I met and played a few games with were universally oblivious to the whole thing. Only one or two of them had even bought the new rulebook (Total Warfare) or the boxed set, and none of them had tried the campaign.

So, I do not have a very good cross-section of player opinion to go on for this critique. I would love to play it myself and see how it works, though I don't have any immediate prospects for doing that. Just based on reading it and watching a few posted battle reports, I would say that it's a good and detailed campaign system as long as you don't mind two features:
1) Playing and fighting NPC opponents. This doesn't bother me, but it might bother some people.
2) Variable game difficulties. As noted above, not every battle is going to be a fair fight.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 7:27 am 
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Venator wrote:
The campaign takes place in 3049, so lostech is rare but it exists. Most of the 'Mechs are completely normal Level-1 technology. A few units do have Level-2 equipment, but usually no more than 1 item. For example, there is a Jenner with a NARC beacon, a Grand Dragon with an ER large laser (but a normal 300 engine) and an Enforcer that has a gauss rifle, which replaces both the autocannon and large laser. The highest-tech unit is probably Sorenson's Hatamoto-Chi, which has endo steel, CASE and two LB-10X autocannons. In general, I would say there is enough Level-2 technology to make things interesting but not enough to unbalance it.
Well, that's actually interesting. If there's 1-2 lostTech items per Company or something like that, it actually keeps things in the realm of sanity... Full ClanTech-designs, though, *completely* screw up the numbers that FASA originally balanced for 2d6...

Venator wrote:
The die-hard BattleTech players I met and played a few games with were universally oblivious to the whole thing. Only one or two of them had even bought the new rulebook (Total Warfare) or the boxed set, and none of them had tried the campaign.
I, similarly, have never heard of it...
http://www.classicbattletech.com/index.php?action=products&mode=full&id=197 wrote:
Total Warfare presents the rules of the Classic BattleTech® game system as never before. For the first time, all the rules for various units that have a direct impact on the deadly battlefields of the thirty-first century appear in a unified rules set


Uh? I have a black book with an Atlas on the cover that has all the construction rules and combat rules in one place. The page does say something about "protomechs" but I'm guessing that's just the early(2750) mechs? ...Anyhow, just quibbling with the "never before" hyperbole.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:24 am 
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Protomechs are a type of improved battlesuit that kind of fills the gap between battlesuits and light mechs. They are mainly a Clan technology from what I remember.

I have never used them myself, as I have only played maybe 5 games of Battletech in total, and never really saw the point of taking anything smaller than a Medium Mech.

I can however, see how they could be fit into a campaign system that had limited resources for each player.

Edit:Damn, just noticed the date stamp on the last post here. Sorry gents.

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