Friday, 1 April 2011

Battletech 25th Anniversary Edition - A Review

I have been and gone and done it and slapped my hard earned cash on the counter of the Orc's Nest over in the West End of London and have acquired a copy of the 25th anniversary edition of this great game. I must confess to being a long time fan of this game system and over the years have owned several versions of it – mainly in the original FASA format. I have been considering for some time a small scale sci-fi set up for ground combat – even going so far as to consider scratch building the vehicles etc for use with the OGE/GEV game system – and this game was one of the two options in contention. A new version of the OGRE game is currently under development so I shall now wait for this rather than attempting the build in the meantime. As an aside this of course now means that I have a construction slot in the timetable for the year (tentatively covering the third quarter) – more of which later.

My previous post on the subject detailed the contents of the box so I will not repeat it; rather I will concentrate on the interesting stuff – the models. With the exception of the two premium quality models made from hard plastic the other 24 are fashioned from a rigid polythene type material which takes both paint and glue pretty well. Some of these have a number of parts and the glue used by the manufacturer does not appear to be much good so I would suggest a little time is spent fixing these in a more permanent fashion. Detail-wise they are adequate, no more. The detail appears to be quite 'soft' which is common on models made from this material although I suspect that a reasonable finish could be achieved by even a modest painter. These models are not new and they previously appeared in the starter edition released a number of years ago (IIRC four or five) which may go some way towards explaining the various casting issues present – minor flash and mould lines – presumably due to the age and condition of the moulds. The metal versions of the 'mechs represented are of course available but obviously they are a lot more expensive. I am not hugely taken with the bases as not only are they too thick they are also not consistent across the models as some of them are quite thin and unobtrusive. I plan to tackle these so they are uniform in both size and thickness but it is a job that could have been avoided in my opinion.

Examples of the old (right and left) and the very nice new (centre). Note the thickness of the bases on the older models.

The two hard plastic models are a country mile better than the other twenty four – so much so that I would be reluctant to use both types on the same side! Interestingly one of the models is in kit form while the other is fully assembled. I wonder if this is a ploy to gauge which approach would be preferable assuming that plans are in place to make more of these in due course. In actual fact I prefer neither approach – a partially completed model with some degree of variety of pose and weapons fit would be my ideal although of the two styles on offer I would opt for the completed version rather than the kit.

Of the rules etc, little need be said – the game has been around for so long that most gamers of the genre are probably familiar with them in one shape or another. The background information for the established Battletech universe is nicely done but probably holds nothing new for the long term enthusiast. The map boards are the welcome card versions and not those horrible paper offerings that seemed to disintegrate after a couple of games. There is a useful painting guide and some tactical hints and tips – including what to do with each of the 'mechs in the game. There is also a nice guide explaining how the game fits into the rules covering the various facets of the Battletech world – I should point out that the rules included are the introductory version and that the full version is available in a, yes you've guessed it, hardback book a la Games Workshop.

Taking all this into account I would have no hesitation in recommending this edition to anyone - £30 to £40 for the 'mechs alone is pretty good value – that has a hankering for some mechanised sci-fi mayhem. The detrimental points are really only minor personal quibbles and I am sure that when the models are suitably painted and based all this will be forgotten.

Mention of painting these leads me into the next point – just what am I going to do with them? I am not a huge fan of the 'multi-coloured swap shop' school of sci-fi model painting as championed by, amongst others, GW with their Warhammer 40K universe. I like my vehicles and troops to look like, well, vehicles and troops – which in my opinion means military type camouflage. I realise that trying to disguise a walking machine three storeys tall may be described as an exercise in futility but that won't stop me from trying! I have a reasonable supply of decals that I can use to 'jazz up' the end result but that will be the only concession I make towards circus style paint jobs.

Initially I had planned to use my Heroscape terrain with the models (including the box full kindly donated by Bob Cordery) but am now leaning towards the Hexon collection as the ranges will look more realistic with the larger hexes and making the terrain will be more rewarding – especially built up areas and some epic style defence installations.

All in all then I am very pleased to be back in the Battletech groove and the change of pace and genre will make a nice change from my usual recent gaming activities. Best of all it will dovetail nicely with the final phase of the ACW construction so my painting skills can get some much needed practise in before I am immersed in ironclads and paddle steamers.


Paul O'G said...

Huzzah! A most worthy addition to your arsenal!

David Crook said...

Hi Man Cave,

Giant fighting machines with enough firepower to satisfy the most gung ho of gamers - what's not to like?

All the best,