Deconstructing Campaigns

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Welcome back. So, the question we left off at:

Would we make the GenCon print date?

Probably.

During the process of building this book, we had one big speedbump that altered the composition of the book. [Edited to add more information that I’d forgotten. Thanks for the reminder, Ray!]

The cover for the book obviously changed:

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As writing wound out and began the edit process, a BIG problem popped up.

We had no ready artists in the pool who could tackle the full-page illustrations that normally divide the chapters. These pieces of art are heavily tied with the fiction pieces. With time winding out and a “let’s see if we can make GenCon” mentality, there was no time to find or schedule quality artists for that task. (The pool is shallow, and our usual suspects were booked up with other work.)

With that in mind, and because upper-level people decided to pair the book with stuff being put out by the computer game license holder Harebrained Schemes (and their in-development BattleTech computer game), the decision was also made to feature two old-school things: the redesigned Marauder (a nod back to the game’s inception and ‘Mech art more than two decades ago), and a mercenary unit that was popular among fans many, many years ago. (Said merc unit has been deceased in the game’s timeline for the last 15 years.)

The intent was to capitalize on HBS’s perceived success of their current project among the older, long-time fans by offering a product that would tug on the nostalgia strings.

And, as you can probably guess, it’s not a decision I necessarily agree with. The reasons are vast and veer a lot into NDA-area topics, so I can’t nor won’t detail them here. But it’s also a decision made above my head, and thus irrefutable. (Normally, the project developer has a lot of say with regards to cover and interior art, as well as content.)

This decision, however, cascaded into the book itself. We now had a cover that did not jive with the story being told inside. Normally, it’s not a terrible issue because we do have rulebook covers that don’t quite mesh with interior fiction.

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But because the epic story being told within the book is set at a time that is more than 100 years in the future from HBS’s game content – and with the book being tangentially tied to that company’s game property – the fiction was ultimately deemed too jarring for the nostalgia crowd.

Combined with the fact we didn’t have interior art, the painful decision was made to completely cut the fiction from the book.

Thus, Campaign Operations will be the only core rulebook that lacks story fiction buffering the chapters.

Good news, though! Philip’s story will be told through different means, most likely as a soon-to-be-released novella. Julian Davion’s story is very compelling and deserves to be out there for fans to enjoy, so we’re working hard to make sure that still happens.

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Aside from that, we did some interior switching and tightening. The Advanced Linked Scenarios morphed in the writer’s hands to a more narrative ruleset. This is an easy-to-follow campaign structure for those players who don’t care to spend hours playing “AccounTech” but still love linked games that tell a story. We then obliquely altered the Map-Based rules to expand on that, followed by the more complete Custom Chaos rules.

I also made sure that the Chaos Campaign rules included were as up-to-date as possible, folding in errata that popped up after the Total Chaos debut in 2012. Additional tweaks were made as well, based on suggestions by various players around the world. While not all 3,000+ Options, Objectives, and Special Rules were included, a sizeable portion did make it in so that GMs could find inspiration for their own games and stories.

And, as a nice little extra, I built and included a track that covers an incident involving Clan Coyote in 3103. A hint for the future? Time will tell.

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Finally, we slammed the book through editing and layout, with some key playtesters checking over examples and functions. Because much of the book was cut material from other rulebooks and supplements, they had already suffered multiple rounds of review. (Mike Miller’s solar system rules, in particular, went through FIVE review processes over the course of the last five years, due to it being assigned and then dropped from various products.)

And so now? Yes, we will make the print deadline. Copies will, barring printing or shipping calamity, be available in limited amounts at GenCon. The digital release is slated for the July 4 weekend. And we’ll probably see this in local stores coming this fall.

Preview the Table of Contents and Intro.

What does that mean for me? Well, it means that I’ve pushed out the fastest core rulebook of the series; less than a year from idea proposal to print. It also heralds what may be the last of my BattleTech projects. (There is one other in the wings that may or may not see the light of day at this point; time, money, and other factors will determine its fate.)

My writing debut in the line started with the Chaos Campaign ruleset. If this proves the end, it’s fitting to cap my run with BattleTech by sharing my inner thought process on track creation with fans and players. Story creation is what I love most; putting together a rulebook that will impact players for years to come is a fitting milestone.

Enjoy.

Constructing Campaigns

A year or so ago, I received an email from Randall Bills, the de facto Line Developer for BattleTech (and my “boss” in as much as a freelancer can have one). “We’ve got a bunch of stuff we had to cut from Interstellar Operations,” he said. “We want to add one last rulebook to the core line, and it’s all about campaigns. Interested?”

Skipping-skipping-skipping…

Ten months ago, I accepted the request I manage this new rulebook concept called “Campaign Companion,” which was to be a softcover supplement much like the Alpha Strike and A Time of War RPG Companion books. Within a week, it was then turned into a hardcover book. And after another week, I was told the new name would be “Campaign Operations.”

At this point, I had only seen three sections of this new product idea.

If you’re familiar with the BattleTech core rules series, you’ll know that each section is separated by a short story that nominally addresses the in-game fictionalized aspect of the following rules section. So I had to immediately figure out what that was going to entail, as well as sort out the rest of the material. This was slated for a summer 2016 release (a la GenCon), and these core books are notorious for being sloooooooow to push through the pipe.

Fortunately, I had a few aces up my sleeve.

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First, I had three already-written sections: Mike Miller’s bounced-around Solar System construction rules (originally written in 2011); Formation Building, which covered a bunch of AS addendum rules; and a partially built Combat Effectiveness Rating formula (because that’s what it was) for Creating a Force. That last one, in raw form, was well over 20,000 words, highly mathematical, and contained enough granular detail to construct a seaside beach.

Second, I immediately decided to go the fiction route I’d built for A Time of War, where the stories were all interconnected. I figured this was a great spot to further the current plot of the 3145 era, and combed through the constructed timeline to see what was what. I needed a major invasion incident that had some major players involved, in order to make it interesting and worth having nearly 24,000 words written about.

The retaking (and subsequent loss again) of New Syrtis. Perfect. That was a Julian Davion story – a fan favorite character.

Rather than farm it out to a bunch of different writers (like we did for ATOW), this one needed a solid, consistent voice. As Jason Schmetzer was otherwise occupied, I knew Phillip Lee was the perfect choice. I jumped quickly and got him locked in.

But what else was needed?

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Ever since the debut of the Chaos Campaign ruleset and tracks back in 2004, fans of the game have been asking for rules on how to construct their own tracks. For various reasons, we’ve never had the opportunity (or desire) to put them out there – but now was the best window we had. So I slated that as a primary section for the book, and assigned it to myself.

Still wasn’t enough stuff to fill a core rulebook, though. Imagine that, we were actually lacking for material! (I had put my foot down earlier and restricted Randall’s mathematical and table-heavy treatise to 8,000 words (that’s 10 pages).) Since we had these beautiful isometric world maps in various digital products, why not consider something for those? And what about players who don’t like doing a lot of math and record keeping, but just want to blow stuff up in a story environment?

Thus, the last two sections came together: the Map-Based Campaign, and the Advanced Linked Scenarios.

I selected my writers, assigned the work, and off we went.

I’ll spare the details of various delays; they’re not all that interesting. The biggest question that evolved: would we still make the GenCon print date?

 

A Son’s Requiem (Part II)

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14 November 3078
130 km Southwest of Denver, Terra
Word of Blake Protectorate

The Legacy staggered into the ad hoc camp, a locked ankle joint giving it a stiff-legged gait that threatened to topple it with each lurch. Mercifully, it came to a stop near a dirty gray field tent and Alex clambered down from the cockpit, his hand rubbing along a laser burn marring the lower cockpit glass. As he reached the ground, an aide handed him a combat vest. Alex slipped it over his torso without second thought, jogging past the tent and towards a battered Skulker. Ever since Dodge City, he’d ordered all troops to remain armored even in camp. The sniper threat from Stone’s Coalition and local rebel cells was all too real.

The Skulker’s side door snapped open as Alex approached. “Precentor, good to see you back in one piece.” A dark-skinned woman, her raven-black hair pulled severely back served to highlight her prominent cheekbones and nose, called to him as Alex slipped inside the vehicle.

“Almost didn’t, that time,” he replied. Twisting around, he located his aide who had followed him. “Get the Legacy in the queue for rearming and then start packing up. I want us mobile in three hours.” The aide raced away as Alex closed the door on the chaotic noise outside.

“Rough hike?” Adept Twila Rogers didn’t bother looking up from her data screen, her fingers flying over the device. Alex knew she was already processing the data from his Legacy’s battleROMs. Her cybernetic links to the Skulker’s sensor suites­—and by extension, to all of the Seventeenth’s combat machines­—were yet another advantage over the invaders stalking the Word of Blake’s Seventeenth Division.

An advantage sorely needed ever since the disaster at Dodge City a few scant days ago.

Her grunt was Rogers’ only response. He knew from experience she was processing the data and let her concentrate. He exhaled slowly, releasing the tension he’d stored for the last thirty-six hours. They weren’t in the clear yet­—far from it, actually—but any moment of respite was one to cultivate. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

Devlin Stone. The Word’s own anathema, birthed within its own bosom. His so-called “Coalition” had invaded the Terran system a few months ago. Several task forces had landed around the globe, a multi-pronged assault that had taken advantage of the low state of defenses scattered around the world. Only a few Blakist Divisions were on-planet, augmented by TerraSec forces, the glorified reservists meant more for pacification and policing actions than active combat defense.

Nonetheless, the Word of Blake fought hard to resist Stone’s juggernaut. However Precentor ROM Kernoff spun it from Cairo, the Division commanders knew it was a losing battle. The Word’s elite forces were elsewhere, and it was up to those left behind to bleed the would-be conquerors dry.

Alex let out a sigh, squeezing his eyes closed at the flashes of memory from the Dodge City disaster. Misfortune had caught the bulk of the Seventeenth Division outside the city, where Alex watched more than half of his command die under Coalition guns. Barely two Level IIs had escaped the carnage, slipping west towards the last North American bastion not under Stone’s threatening gaze.

At least, not yet.

Precentor Martial Cameron St. Jamais’ original plan had been to withdraw from Stone along three separate axis in hopes that Stone would pursue one or two and allow the remaining Word forces turn and strike into the Coalition’s rear. Unfortunately, St. Jamais’ plan fell apart when a nuclear strike missed most of Stone’s forces; the enemy’s force had enough units to pursue each of the Word’s smaller groups.

With the Precentor Martial’s plan in tatters, and the man himself unavailable, it fell to Alex as the highest ranking commander to figure out what to do next. The burden of command weighed heavily on his shoulders, and Alex felt the yoke press him deeper into the Skulker’s bucket seat.

“A fine showing, sir,” said Rogers, her eyes never leaving the screen in front of her. Sometimes he wondered what exactly it was she saw through those green-gray eyes. “Blowing out a chunk of the highway was genius; they’ll need to go another two hundred kilometers around with their ‘Mechs. Assuming they don’t split their force; I’m seeing reports that they’ve got a sizeable VTOL contingent in play.”

“I think by now we know not to assume our own arrogance in this endeavor,” Alex groused. “Looking at it from their point of view, they’ve got enough forces to split pursuit.” He opened his eyes, shaking out the tension in his hands. “But I doubt they’d expect us to double-back and head into Denver.” Grabbing a mapsheet from a nearby seat pocket, he spread it out into his lap. The topographical map of the Rocky Mountain region was streaked with red and yellow arrows. A rust-colored stain covered the lower corner; Alex pointedly ignored it and the memory it threatened to provoke. Instead, he ran a finger along a black ribbon of road. “We’ll head northeast along Route 285 and move into Denver at nightfall. What’s the weather for today?”

Rogers tapped her pad. “Looks like the fog’s with us for the day; should give us coverage up until we pass Mount Logan.”

“Good. Notify any of our agents in Denver and arrange a rendezvous; drop the coordinates into my nav.”

“As you wish, Precentor.”

Alex leaned back, thoughtful. “Is Fort Collins still on lockdown?”

“Last we knew.”

“Find out. If we still hold it, connect me as soon as possible. I think I know how we can rid ourselves of our unwanted guests.”

“Yes, Precentor.”

Alex closed his eyes again, nodding off to the sound of tapping keys. A glimmer of hope remained. It wouldn’t be enough to stem the Coalition’s tide, but it could buy him and his people enough time to escape.

The Word had to live on. Even if it meant abandoning holy Terra.

It’s what his father would do.

Games Most Wanted (In More Ways Than One)

Game shelfThis past Monday, a dream finally saw fruition: I saw my first non-fiction book on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. Games’ Most Wanted has finally made it into the public eye.

Granted, it’s not the first time I’ve seen one of my books on a store shelf; I’ve seen, on several occasions, many of my BattleTech books on game store (and some mainstream bookseller) shelves. But this particular book marked something of a milestone for me.

My first “true” publication.

Okay, so how is it my first? I’ve contributed, written, and produced more than thirty books in the BattleTech line, so clearly it’s not a matter of my first. At least, not in the literal sense.

What GMW represents is more of a step out of my comfort zone. I’m very capable and comfortable of producing giant stompy robot universe material; I’ve been writing for the universe for eight years now.

No, GMW is what I consider my next step. As Obi-Wan would say, my “next step into a larger world.”

So what makes GMW a must-need book? Who are we targeting? What’s the point?

In GMW, we take a look at board, tabletop, war, and video games. We also look at the culture that has grown up around it – from the arcade junkies to online addicts, casual social gamers to hard-core professional leaguers. It’s a book aimed at anyone who is, was, will be, or knows a gamer.

I’ll let a little bit of my introduction in the book explain:

We wrote this book with a variety of readers in mind. If you’re a casual game player, we hope to broaden your experience to the enormous variety of games out there. If you’re a parent of gamers, we hope to explain some of the cultural idiosyncrasies that have arisen as gaming continues to grow. If you’re a hardcore gamer, we hope that as you read, you’ll relive some great gaming memories as we mention your favorite games. For those who are partnered with a gamer, we want you to better understand your significant other’s gaming personality—and give you some common points to discuss with them when you both have some “together” time.

Most important, though, is that we truly desire for our reader—no matter where they are on the gaming spectrum—to walk away an improved gamer. If you learn just one thing from these pages and apply it to your gaming experience, you’ll be a better gamer.

Table of Contents

Press kit/sheet

GMW came about from an out-of-the-blue phone call by Kathryn Owens, who would end up being my main point of contact and editor of the project. She’d called me in 2009, wanting to know if I’d be interested in putting together some sort of book on games or gaming for Potomac Books, Inc. Considering I’d just been laid off from a prior employer and in the middle of job hunting, I jumped at the chance. Of course, I had my main cheerleader pushing me forward as well; my wife is really good at inspiring me beyond my own criticism.

I ended up pulling in a co-author on the project in 2010, after faltering with various chapter ideas. I’d come to the realization I was woefully unprepared to handle the swath of games that faced me for this book. Chris had many years in the industry and also was (at the time) a prominent host of the Fear the Boot podcast. He had some clout and experience in some gaming areas I lacked. After convincing him to jump aboard (it wasn’t that hard), we set about redefining the chapters, the content, and the workload.

About 2011, the book stalled again for a few reasons. It was mostly complete, just lacking a few final chapters as we ran out of steam. Potomac had designated the book as the last of their “Most Wanted” line and interest seemed to wane. So it was shelved.

In mid-2012, Kathryn again called me. The book had received renewed interest in completion and she wondered if we could finish up within a month. We certainly did, though we fell short by four chapters of the original 42 we’d planned. The word count was more than enough, however, even after the shedding of another chapter on conventioneering that didn’t fit the book’s tone and content. We were set at 37 chapters of game goodness.

And the rest, they say, is publication history. Or at least, standard publication workflow. Copy editing, corrections, red line check, final proof, layout, print, and viola! There it is, on the bookshelf, waiting to be bought.

So. That’s Games’ Most Wanted. In the coming weeks/months, I’ll revisit the book and some of the topics therein. In the meantime, please follow the book’s Facebook page. Of course, we’d love it if you bought a copy and read it. Hey, buy two and give one to a friend! And reviews are always welcome, especially on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, and other prominent bookseller websites.

Go forth and read. And then get gaming!

BattleTech: A Strategic and Tactical Primer (Pt. 6)

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Part 6 of the Strategy and Tactics Guide from the cancelled Clan Box Set. Errors are my own, as this is straight from a first draft.

BATTLETECH FORCES

Not every ‘Mech is appropriate for every type of scenario, so match the machine to the mission when choosing BattleMechs. This section will help you do that by providing a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the various units available in BattleTech. This information is particularly helpful when you get to choose the ‘Mechs you will use for a scenario, but it also can help you make the best use of your forces when you are assigned a particular mix of ‘Mechs, all of which are not necessarily ideal for the task at hand. The best commanders make the most of what they have and expertly fit square pegs into round holes.

For the sake of discussion, we have divided the ‘Mechs available in the BattleTech into seven broad categories: duelists, scouts, strikers, skirmishers, brawlers, snipers, fire support and juggernauts.

The ‘Mechs assigned to each category are deployed in a similar fashion by virtue of their movement capabilities and weapons complements. Each category description provides a discussion of the characteristics of ‘Mechs included in that category and their use in game play, followed by brief comments on each specific ‘Mech. If players purchase any of the various technical readouts that include many other BattleMech designs, they only need to compare each design’s relative characteristics to those found here to find in which category they belong.

The Clan names that appear in parentheses after each ‘Mech description indicate both an Invader Clan and a Homeworld Clan that most commonly uses the ‘Mech.

Military Organization

Within the BattleTech universe, the smallest organization of a Clan force is the Star, which consists of five units – one for each point of a star. A Clan Star can be comprised solely of BattleMechs, battle armor, or a mix of both. One ‘point’ of battle armor is comprised of five troopers, so if you have a Star of battle armor, you have five points of five troopers, or twenty-five battle armor suits [5 x 5 = 25]. A mixed Star can contain any variation of ‘Mechs and battle armor, such as three ‘Mechs and two battle armor points (ten total troopers), or four ‘Mechs and one point of battle armor (five total troopers).

Generally speaking, Stars carry a name that is equal to their combat purpose, usually based off of what units comprise the Star. For example, a unit containing nothing but Strikers (see below) would usually be referred to as a “Striker Star,” while a Star of Scouts would be referred to as a “Scout Star.”

In parenthesis next to each of the eight category definitions in this section, one or more Star names are provided. Once again, note that these are not hard and fast rules but instead are general category names that players can use to help organize forces as they start building and fielding their own lances.

Battle Armor

Referred to by the Inner Sphere as “Toads” and called Elementals in Clanspace, battle armor troopers are the pinnacle of infantry-style combat. These power armor suits can be carried across battlefields by Clan OmniMechs and dropped off for close-quarters combat and additional support. (All the ‘Mechs in this box set are OmniMechs and can carry Toads.) These Toads move as a group, jumping up to 3 hexes a turn, which gives them great mobility across most terrain. Unlike ‘Mechs, they have no facing and can fire in any direction. In addition, they carry two shots of SRM 2 missiles apiece; a full salvo can severely damage a light ‘Mech and give much pause to medium and even heavy ‘Mechs.

Each Toad suit is also equipped with a small laser; while the range is small, they can be a welcome addition in a close-quarters battle. Additionally, because battle armor can conduct swarming and anti-‘Mech leg attacks, they can cripple an enemy unit unlucky enough to have them nearby.

DUELISTS

These ‘Mechs are normally not part of any strict Star formation – indeed, a Star made up primarily of duelists is more of a weakness than a strength, particularly because each ‘Mech is more geared towards the ritualized, individual combat between enemy warriors and not necessarily geared towards teamwork. Thus, you may find a duelist in nearly any type of Star, but not a Star comprised totally of duelists.

Designed and used primarily for personal combat, these ‘Mechs can compliment other Star members in a sniper, fire support or even a brawler role but excel mostly in single combat against an equal or greater foe. While challenging and beating a lesser opponent isn’t frowned upon, it does not confer as much honor to the warrior as defeating a greater opponent would.

Uller Prime

The Uller is not as fast as other light ‘Mechs, nor is it as heavily armored. It does mount an array of weapons across its frame, however – a missile rack, lasers, and an autocannon – and all are smaller-scale damage weapons. Ideal for taking on a similarly-sized opponent, it does not last long against most other ‘Mechs due to its light armor load. If using an Uller Prime, squeeze as much MP as possible during its move. (Jade Falcon, Blood Spirit)

Fenris A

Lightly armed but incredibly fast, the Fenris A is a favorite of many Clan warriors for dueling. The armor protection will survive most initial large weapon attacks, enough to allow the pilot a second chance. Its LB 2-X gives it incredible range to strike from, but the small autocannon will take a long time to penetrate most ‘Mechs outside the light weight classes. It is important to utilize the Fenris A’s incredible speed and outmaneuver your opponent, rather than rely on sniping from long and medium ranges. (Wolf, Coyote)

Thor A

The Thor A only mounts three weapon systems but can use all of them every turn without turning up the Heat scale. Highly maneuverable with jumping 5 MP, the Thor mounts excellent armor coverage. It is an all-around solid design, capable of defensive and offensive tactics. The only weakness is its limited ammunition; make sure each Gauss rifle shot has a good chance to hit, as 8 rounds go very quickly in a fast-paced duel. (Jade Falcon, Steel Viper)

Gladiator A

Heavily armored, the Gladiator A is a decent dueling ‘Mech but can also be used in a brawling mode if necessary. The MASC gives it a bit of an edge in speed, which can open up opportunities to sneak in rear arc shots or allow you to close quickly into a developing skirmish. The large number of lasers on the Gladiator A can quickly drive the heat up on those players not careful; poor heat management can find this ‘Mech exploding due to the ton of machine gun ammo being carted around in the torso. (Ghost Bear, Coyote)

BattleTech: A Strategic and Tactical Primer (Pt 1)

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Back in early 2008, I was asked to contribute to an upcoming BattleTech product. Designed to be an expansion to the at-the-time forthcoming Introductory Box Set, the Clan Box Set Expansion would elevate technology, rules, and units for both new and experienced players alike.

I was asked to write the Strategy and Tactics booklet. In addition to the obvious look at strategy and tactics in playing BattleTech, it would also present general tips in using the included miniatures. Many hardcore Clan fans will notice the choice to use the Inner Sphere naming conventions regarding Clan BattleMechs. That was a conscious choice on my part, to reduce confusion inherent to the dual-name convention we utilize in the universe at large. There’s only so much a new player can absorb, after all.

The Clan Box Set has since been cancelled and my work, which was done on spec, lies fallow. So rather than let it go to waste languishing in a folder on my storage drive, I thought I’d use the material to craft a short series here on my blog. I’m including most of the text intact, so ignore references to other booklets.

Because the work was never formally contracted or paid for by Catalyst, it is important to note that this work remains mine and mine alone. There’s no implied association or official status with this work as it pertains to CGL or the BattleTech game. This is simply my submitted and “rejected” work, presented to the game-playing public at large. It is not endorsed by CGL in any capacity.

Enjoy.

BattleTech Tactics

You can have plenty of fun playing BattleTech by the seat of your pants, moving each BattleMech in turn and giving little thought to your next move or your opponent’s strategy. As with most games, however, playing is fun – but winning even more so!

Learning how BattleTech works and how to use your forces to best effect will make you a better player and will ultimately make your game more enjoyable.

The best way to learn is by doing. In order to eventually become a better player, you begin by playing plenty of BattleTech. That’s how the author of this section learned what he is about to tell you, and playing BattleTech is certainly more fun than reading about playing BattleTech! The following hints and tips, however, should give you an edge over your opponent: think of it as a shortcut on the way to a more satisfying game. BattleTech Tactics describes the games in terms that take you beyond the rules and numbers, showing you how to really play the game. This section will help you learn how to use your ‘Mechs to your advantage and offer insight into what your opponent might do with his ‘Mechs.

Once a player starts to use the more advanced units (such as vehicles and conventional infantry), weapons, equipment and special case rules found in Total Warfare, it is important to note that all of these tactics are still applicable to game play and will insure that as your ‘Mech advances in technology, your skill and expertise at playing will advance along with it.

Note: As discussed in the introduction to the Clan Introductory Rulebook (see p. xx), the ‘Mech icons used in the diagrams in this section represent generic ‘Mechs and so players should not be confused by a specific unit’s images when its game stats do not mirror the example.

Knowing the basics of BattleTech tactics will help you avoid the mistakes most often made by new players. The following information answers questions you may not even know to ask, such as, “Why shouldn’t I leave my Dragonfly standing in the open?” and “What is the most effective distance from the enemy for me to position my Masakari?” This section suggests answers to these and other thorny questions.

Organized into sections that correspond to the phases of a BattleTech turn, this tactical advice will show you how to crush your foes in each stage of the game.

INITIATIVE

Unfortunately, you have to work with the Initiative you roll; nothing really changes that result. But knowing the potential effects of winning or losing the Initiative and how to take advantage of either situation is vital to playing and winning BattleTech.

Losing the Initiative

If you lose the Initiative, don’t despair! You may not be able to turn it to your advantage, but if you play your cards right, you don’t have to lose any ground.

Unless your forces outnumber or out-mass your opponent’s forces, the best tactic to use when you lose the Initiative is to “go on the defensive.” This tactic works especially well if you are fielding light, fast BattleMechs. Because you may more your ‘Mechs before you have the opportunity to learn what your opponent plans to do, you should move your ‘Mechs away from enemy ‘Mechs and seek cover in heavy woods or “dead zones” behind hills or other terrain features (such as buildings) whenever possible.

The order in which you move your ‘Mechs and battle armor provides another opportunity to exercise strategy. In general, delay moving your fastest ‘Mechs as long as possible so you can put them to their most effective use. At first, move those ‘Mechs or battle armor with the fewest movement options, including slow-moving ‘Mechs and those that have fallen down (they rarely do more than simply stand up). ‘Mechs positioned far from the enemy also represent a good choice for an early move, because your opponent is unlikely to try to outmaneuver such distant targets. In addition, declare the movement for any ‘Mechs you intend to have stand still at this time, because standing still counts as a “move” and forces your opponent to move again without learning much of anything about your strategy. Even ‘Mechs that are immobile due to pilot unconsciousness, the loss of both legs, and so on, can be declared stationary to expend a “move.”

When choosing where to move, take into account the movement capability of those ‘Mechs your opponent has yet to move. If his or her remaining units are faster than yours and can outflank you regardless of how far you move, find a nice wooded hex for your unit to occupy and try to keep a Clear terrain hex at your back. After all, if you’re going to let the enemy get behind you, at least deny him the luxury of tree cover.

For more movement tactics, see Movement (below).

Winning the Initiative

It is always better to win the Initiative than to lose it, but you must know how to take advantage of winning the Initiative.

Winning the initiative gives you the opportunity to “go on the offensive.” You move your ‘Mechs after your opponent and will always move at least one of your ‘Mechs last during the Initiative Phase. This gives you an edge, because you can watch your opponent’s movement and then respond, rather than being forced to guess at what he or she might do. This is your chance to strike.

You should always plan an overall strategy for your attack, but don’t hesitate to change your planned movement to respond effectively to your opponent’s moves. In general, move your fastest ‘Mech last, using your knowledge of the enemy’s position to attack his or her ‘Mechs’ most vulnerable sides.

Next: Movement, Target Movement, Terrain, Dropping to the Ground, and Facing.