I. Love. Battletech. And for the most part, I really appreciate the work that Catalyst has done with the line since they took over. The TROs are very good, the Jihad sourcebooks are wonderful, the new rulebooks — while a little clunky to use — are still great once you get used to them. I’m especially fond of the new Era Book concept they started with Era Report 3052.
I introduce everything this way to simply establish — I’m a fan.
The new 25th Anniversary Introductory Box Set, is — well — pretty poor.
First off — it took opening two boxed sets to make a complete one for me at the LGS.
The first box I opened was missing one of the ‘Mechs (the Assassin… but still). The second one had all the Battlemechs, but one of them was broken in a not-easy-to-fix way. Also, having purchased two of the last Battletech Introductory Boxed Set and having two sets of these base twenty-four ‘Mechs already, I can say that the quality of these ready-to-play plastics has dropped in the new set. That said, the two new “premium” plastic miniatures (Thor and Loki) were great additions to the set and look wonderful.
The Quick Start rulebook really isn’t all that important to me, but it seems like a handy enough document for a beginner set. The same for the little white book of ‘Mech Record sheets. It was nice to get the printed sheets for two versions of the Loki and the Thor each. Oddly, the book also has two blank leafs just kinda hanging out at the end of it too…
The 80 page rulebook appears to be the same on from the last boxed set, except, the last version was perfect bound — this one is saddle stapled. I’m not fond of saddle staple and I think the perfect bound book was higher quality, but I’m calling this one a wash, because the saddle-staple version may actually stay open on the table better, which may have been the intent with the new binding. The same goes for the Inner Sphere at a Glance book. It’s nice, but I’ll get to my main complaint about that later. Again, same for the Painting and Tactics Guide.
Every, single, one of the boxed sets opened at our store — currently six and counting — only had one of the compiled table cards instead of two. Also, again in comparison to the last release, the quality of these has dropped as well. The last set were very heavy cardboard with clear printing. The ones in the new box set are flimsier and the printing on all of those I’ve seen is slightly fuzzy. Not a huge problem, but again, a definite drop in quality.
I want to talk about the map-boards before I address the Inner Sphere Map and my problems with all that… I bought a Rivers and Lakes Terrain Pack a while back — and I was disappointed when I opened the map-board. First of all, the board was printed on one side. The other side was an old-style mapsheet glued down to the board. This wouldn’t have been so bad I suppose, but the mapsheet was slightly too small, so the hexes don’t actually match up. Both of the boards that come in the new boxed set… same problem. That’s… inexplicable.
On top of the glued-down mapsheet, I’ve also disliked the switch to the boards from the mapsheets because they’re difficult to get to lay flat. With the old mapsheets I used to just lay a sheet of clear plastic across them (from a cheap poster frame) and it not only kept them flat and together, but allowed me to draw on it, as needed. This will not work with the new boards as well, and I still am not sure how to best get them to lay flat…
Finally, the Map of the Inner Sphere. Of all the components that have just been recycled for this new set, this is the one I most disappointed in. The timeline has currently advanced to (at least) 3085. And the events of the Jihad and the Republic’s founding have changed the shape of the Inner Sphere in significant ways. Would it have been so difficult to produce a new map for a new generation Introductory Set? Heck, a map set to the IS circa 3050 would have been more useful to a new player than one set in 3067. But I suppose cheap recycled bits are better than a new, exciting map of the the Inner Sphere that fits the current timeline…
Overall, I’m a huge fan of Catalyst — and I’ve been a Battletech fan since before the Clans even entered into the story… but this Introductory Set… well, it’s kinda the fail.