On the April 24, 2018, Harebrained Schemes and Paradox Interactive will release BattleTech on Windows, Linux, and OS X. What some of you may not know is that the BattleTech series has a 34-year history on the tabletop and a 30-year history in video games.
We're currently running a series of articles on the transition from video games to the tabletop; our first part on the upcoming Fallout tabletop release, Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, covered this unique transition of a video game franchise' first foray to the tabletop genre. The reverse happens far more, and the video game industry not only has some direct tabletop ports available, but the inspiration that tabletop games have had on video games is unparalleled.
In this article, we're going to briefly cover the history of BattleTech on the tabletop and take a look at the setting that has influenced gamers and designers the world over.
Where It All Began
BattleTech was released in 1984 by the FASA Corporation, who at the time had some huge IPs under their banner, like Star Trek and Dr Who. They also later on released the Shadowrun roleplaying game, which is still seeing video game releases and adaptations.
BattleTech was originally called BattleDroids, but after some legal issues with the Droid term being owned by Lucasfilm, changed its name to BattleTech.
It first started as a board/war game played on a hex marked map with miniatures, which was re-released as a 25 Anniversary Boxed Edition and can still be purchased. This boxed set is a perfect example of what BattleTech is, and if you're interested in the BattleTech universe, this is where you should start.
Catalyst Game Labs are planning a huge update to the tabletop series later this year, so if you can't get your hands on the 25th Anniversary Edition, that will be worth waiting for. They plan to offer a beginners taster box as well as a full boxed set release.
A wave of products followed the initial release, including a roleplaying game, a wargame (measuring distances and using 3D terrain rather than a printed hex-marked map), a collectible card game (CCG), and when WizKids got hold of the licence in 2001, a collectible miniatures game under their clix franchise, with bases that included the stats for the Mechs.
The Bluffers Guide to the BattleTech Universe
The BattleTech universe has a rich history, with many groups of interest and several years that games can be based in. I've heard BattleTech being described by the developers, press, and streamers as Game of Thrones meets Pacific Rim in space, but as BattleTech pre-dates Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones is in fact BattleTech without the mechs.
The main point to take away from that is that no matter what Great House, Clan, or Mercenary outfit your characters are from, everyone can be your enemy. Loyalty means little, and power means everything, and nearly everyone in the BattleTech universe will kill, betray, and steal to get it.
Paradox Interactive and Harebrained Schemes have created an amazing introduction cinematic that begins their game; you can watch it below.
BattleTech Eras in Brief
Further delving into that, the BattleTech lore is divided into six main eras:
- Star League (2005-2780)
- Succession Wars (2781-3049)
- Clan Invasion (3050-3061)
- Civil War (3062-3067)
- Jihad (3068-3080)
- Dark Age (3081-onwards)
Star League (2005-2780)
The start of Harebrained Schemes/Paradox Interactive's BattleTech video above covers this period in short form with the introduction of the Jump Drive and the colonizing of the planet of the Inner Sphere. It also shows Ian Cameron, the ruler of the Terran Hegemony creating the Star League, a military and political organization, linking the five Great Houses with the Hegemony. A reunification war ensues with territories around the edges of the Star League's territories, and then follows two centuries of peace across the human-occupied space, the Inner Sphere.
Succession Wars (2781-3049)
A man named Stefan Amaris kills the first lord of the Star League in a coup and takes power, starting a thirteen-year war to defeat him, after which the Star League disbands. Aleksandr Kerensky, who helped defeat Stefan Amaris, departs with eighty percent of the Star League Defense Force, and the Inner Sphere begins centuries of warfare known as the Succession Wars. Harebrained Schemes'/Paradox Interactive's BattleTech begins near the end of this era in 3025.
Clan Invasion (3050-3061)
A force known as the Clans, the descendants of Kerensky's Defense Force troops, invades the Inner Sphere, conquering worlds and eventually forming a new Star League.
Civil War (3062-3067)
The Clan threat eases off and internal conflicts explode between the Great Houses again.
Following the end of the Civil War, the leaders of the Great Houses disband the new Star League. Shortly after, the protectors and controllers of interstellar communication, known as the Word of Blake start an interstellar war known as the Jihad, which pits every fraction and group against each other.
Dark Age (3081- onwards)
Devlin Stone forms the group, the Republic of the Sphere after the defeat of the Word of Blake and a period of peace settled across the Inner Sphere. Then in 3132, eighty percent of interstellar communications collapse and the Inner Sphere once again descends into war.
The BattleTech Houses
Draconis Combine (House Kurita) - Based on the ideals of feudal Japan, and the Way of the Warrior, to the Draconis Combine, honor and loyalty are all.
Federated Suns (House Davion) - The Federated Suns have the most capable military forces and have a nobility system based on feudal France and England. Personal freedom and the rule of law are key to their ideals.
Capellan Confederation (House Liao) - The smallest of the five Great Houses, they run their lands with ruthless control under police states based on Chinese and Russian culture of old.
Free Worlds League (House Marik) - The League is a democracy of many smaller states and planets that have joined together as allies under House Marik.
Lyran Alliance (House Steiner) - The Alliance are commonly known as merchants and producers first, warriors second and are descended from mainly Germanic and Scottish heritage. They remain at the forefront due to powerful economic wealth.
The Clans are groups of warriors and soldiers, originally the Star League Defense Force led by Aleksandr Kerensky. Kerensky took them away to avoid the forces being used by the Houses in their fight for power. After their return and the end of the Clan Invasion, having driven the Great Houses together to fight them, many clans were reduced in numbers suffering losses in the final battles. There are considered to be twenty-one clans, but Clan Wolf is split in two, making twenty-two in total. Some of the most powerful are Clan Ghost Bear, Clan Smoke Jaguar, and Clan Jade Falcon.
Mercenaries are groups of warriors, without loyalty to any Great House or Clan, and operate solely for their own benefit, usually for the highest bidder. Most Great Houses hire mercenaries to fight the battles they don't want to sacrifice their own troops for, or to boost their own troops with elite warriors. Some Mercenary outfits like Wolf's Dragoons are legendary.
BattleMechs are divided into weight categories, regardless of their battlefield role. The different categories are:
- Ultralight (Less than 20 tonnes)
- Light (20 - 35 tonnes)
- Medium (40 - 55 tonnes)
- Heavy (60 - 75 tonnes)
- Assault (80 - 100 tonnes)
- Superheavy (100 tonnes plus)
BattleMech's are equipped with a large variety of weapons that have different characteristics and uses. Some examples are:
- Autocannons - An extremely high calibre fast firing rifle
- Lasers - There are different varieties of lasers that do varying degrees of damage across different ranges
- Gauss Rifles - A powerful rifle that doesn't generate heat to use
- Missile Launchers - Offer a variety of guided and unguided options with different payloads for damage
- Particle Projector Cannons (PPC) - Fires proton or ion rounds to inflict huge damage
If you're interested in playing BattleTech, as mentioned above there are several different options for you.
Original adaptation of the boardgame - 25th Anniversary Edition
The new upcoming edition of the boardgame - BattleTech
Roleplaying Game - Time of War
BattleTech - Turn based adaptation from Harebrained Schemes and Paradox
MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries - Upcoming FPS from Piranha Games
MechWarrior Online - A free to play tactical shooter from Piranha Games
Are you excited for the upcoming BattleTech game? Are you a previous BattleTech tabletop player? If so, what was the first product you picked up? Did you discover BattleTech through video games? If so, which game first got you hooked? Let us know in the comments below.