Battletech Eras

Games with timelines — with established settings that change significantly over time — are not as common as it might seem at first. Especially when the game is primarily a miniatures battle game. As I started writing this I realized that I couldn’t actually think of that many…

And specifically, games that have an established timeline that changes and also has an impact on game-play, are even rarer. I mean, time passes in the universe of 40K — and new models come out — but they aren’t really tied to specific eras and don’t really impact game play in connection with the universe.

But Battletech does change, and as it changes the game is effected by those changes to the universe. It’s an interesting universe to be a fan of, and one that is always growing in new ways.

My friend Griff — he likes playing the game during the early Clan Wars time frame — like, 3050’ish. I know some people who think the Clans ruined the game and prefer the Succession Wars over everything. Some people think the Word of Blake Jihad ruined the game. Era wars might as well be Battletech’s version of Edition Wars. I’ve seen some who won’t play if you play the “wrong” time period.

Myself — I’m actually a fan of the late 3060s. I like the resurgence of House Liao, the FedCom Civil War and the beginning rumblings of the Jihad. And I’d never say that the game is “going in the wrong direction” or that they’ve ruined the game but I finally think I’ve hit my own limit for how far I want to advance the timeline. Don’t get me wrong — if others enjoy the game going forward — good for them — and Catalyst produces plenty of material for “historical” periods so I don’t feel even a little slighted as a fan. And it amazes me and makes me happy to be a fan of a company that does that.

But I’ve reached my limit in the Republic of the Sphere era. It’s not my cup of tea. And the only thing I ask of Catalyst going forward — please be very, very clear about what rules are “standard” and which aren’t. It’s a weird thing to say because as eras change, rules that were once “advanced” become standard. And that’s fine — but I guess what I want to see is an emphasis on putting useful dates on machines in the TROs along with the Tech Level.

I want to know if something was available in 3067 or if it only exists in 3093 at a glance, not having to do a lot of research. It’s a small thing, but significant as things move forward.

Sorry for the light post today — I’ll get back to gazing at the navel of gaming tomorrow! Thanks for reading.

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5 responses

  1. The Tech Manual makes it easy to find out which elements are available in which eras, but unless you have access to the massive logs of fan collected material, it is a bit challenging to know at a glance which mechs and vehicles you can fieldin a given era.

    Love the game, though

    I am most comfortable with the 4th Succession War, like the Clans as an NPC device, handle ComStar somewhat differently, and am only now researching the Jihad era. I think I will like it, but it is somewhat hard to adjust to mechs which can carry so much and use it.

  2. The MUL can come in quite handy sometimes. http://www.masterunitlist.info

    As for me, I started playing a short while before the Clans were introduced, so I feel at home both in the Succession Wars and in the early Clan Invasion. Also, most players in the german tournament scene at the time preferred the LosTech era, so…

    Everything post 3055 I don’t actively hate, but I realised a while ago that I started to strongly disagree with a lot of stuff that happened both in-universe and IRL after that date. I still follow the forums, I still buy products if they sound interesting, but I stopped caring about the official eras.

    Enough people DO still care, though, and that’s why the Era Wars ARE the Battletech version of D&D’s Edition Wars. 😉

  3. It’s not so much the Era of play that is the problem, but the Equipment Options that start to give headaches. Battletech has long evolved out of it’s more simpler roots, and things like MRM-40’s, Thunderhead Launchers, and other crazy things that are buried in the rules, tend to change the distinct feel that the game has.

    While I prefer my rules to be at where they used to be called “Level 2”, I don’t think the new stuff is all that bad. I’m just not convinced that even with the point system, things can be balanced all that well. I mean, just look at what 20 Savannah Masters can do to a game.

  4. Kensan_Oni :
    It’s not so much the Era of play that is the problem, but the Equipment Options that start to give headaches. Battletech has long evolved out of it’s more simpler roots, and things like MRM-40′s, Thunderhead Launchers, and other crazy things that are buried in the rules, tend to change the distinct feel that the game has.

    I kinda agree with you here. If you play with the full set of equipment? Yep, definitely. If you keep the game era specific or use era specific unit variants? Then the overlap is not that bad.

    But yes, the equipment and rules bloat has gotten ridiculous and the conscious decision of TPTB to keep legacy content (be it equipment or rules) to keep the game ‘backwards compatible’ with material printed 20 years ago doesn’t help.

    Kensan_Oni :While I prefer my rules to be at where they used to be called “Level 2″, I don’t think the new stuff is all that bad. I’m just not convinced that even with the point system, things can be balanced all that well. I mean, just look at what 20 Savannah Masters can do to a game.

    What you can do tactically with a swarm of Savannah Masters under T1 is honestly worse than under T2. Cluster ammo? Pulse lasers? Force Size modificator?

    Balancing is required for official games and can facilitate friendly games too, given all the variables you can encounter in a game. BV is simply able to boil them down into a single number. Its not perfect – not by a long shot -, but its still better than the tonnage/crit/heat system of the old days.

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