Recently Jaden mentioned Battletech to me off hand and of course, I did what I usually do: I fire hosed myself with information and got hooked on the game before having put models on the table.
This seemed like a good opportunity to document a bit of the presentation and first looks of the game from someone who is brand new to the whole thing. I do have some experience with Battletech’s IP; some of my earliest gaming memories were playing Mechwarrior 2 on my Playstation with my brother, I played a bit of Mechwarrior Online closer to when that came out, and have more recently, as part of my new obsession, picked up the Battletech PC game and played some Mechwarrior 5 on Xbox Game Pass.
I am, however, a miniature gamer at heart, and I was sure excited when the Battletech: A Game of Armored Combat box I ordered arrived in the mail!
This is Battletech’s 8 mech starter, and from all my research seems to be a really incredible value, but let us take a look for ourselves.
The first thing I saw on opening the box was a Thanks For Playing! page that had a special, unique coupon code for the Catalyst Games Lab webstore. This is actually a pretty substantial coupon, giving 20 dollars off an order on their site. Given you can get 5 mechs for 29.99, having 2/3rds of that taken off on top of the already good value of this box itself feels pretty sweet.
The second thing I noticed I found especially interesting.
What you see on opening this box is a copy of Eyestorm by William H. Keith. This is a short story about some Mechwarriors on a mission. What was mostly interesting here is by putting this front and center, Catalyst is telling you something specific: narrative comes first. Battletech’s story is sprawling and intricate, and is the beating heart of so much of the game, and by giving you a story to potentially hook you in right from opening the box, they’re signaling that this is their priority. It’s little things like this that set the stage for any miniatures game.
But we know why we’re really here.
Funny thing, I only noticed the names of the mechs were on the plastic when I posted this picture; I think I took them out and put them back in before taking this so if they’re in the wrong place… sorry?
These minis are great! They’re also adorable, just little guys!
Given their size, the details on these is solid. They come pre-assembled and already on their base; I was admittedly kind of hoping for them to not be on the bases, as it will make basing a little bit easier, but it’s not the end of the world. All my research online tells me that this is a fantastic initial lineup of mechs that will see tons of use, so while that remains to be seen, I am inclined to trust the community that has said this repeatedly. This isn’t a ‘push some garbage out to new players and they can buy more models when they want to really play’ starter box; by every account I’ve heard, you can get this box and basically just use it forever if you really want.
On the same ‘tier’ of going through the box are a set of Mech and Pilot cards which I believe are for Alpha Strike, their simplified (but just as valid) ruleset for play, and two white 6 sided dice. The number of dice here likely isn’t nearly enough but… let’s be honest, most of my life is just things I do between wading through my absurd collection of dice, I think I’ll be ok.
The next thing down is… all the paper. This is the Rulebook, a really great world primer that breaks down a bit about what Battletech’s narrative universe is like in the current timeline, a heavy card stock sheet with all your charts necessary to reference during gameplay, a set of game mats, damage tracking sheets for your mechs, and a board of punch outs that include some extra terrain bits to modify your existing mats as well as some standees of mechs to act as your opposing forces, if you don’t have enough minis already.
The game mats are made of a heavier, kind of soft paper? Hard to describe but it’s a pleasant material to touch, odd a thing to note as that is. Feels sturdy while still being paper. What’s nice is this is already quite a bit of play variety; you have 2 separate sheets, which are placed together to make a mat, and each sheet has two separate sides, one Terra and one Mars (presumably.) These could then be flipped around to have different sides touching if you wanted to change the shape of the environment, and further you can use the punch out extra terrain bits to add even more variety. I expect I’ll get a fair few games out of just these mats before feeling like I need more to mix things up.
The rulebook is a paperback, parsed down version of their full sized hardcover rulebook, and while I haven’t had time to go through it yet (and it isn’t in the scope of this article), I did appreciate the paragraph in the early pages talking about the abstraction of scale in the game, where weapon ranges aren’t ‘realistic’ because… it’s just a game and they didn’t want you to have to own a tennis court to be able to play with realistic ranges. Just a fun touch of setting expectations for realism vs. game mechanics.
One small critique I maybe have here is that the mech record sheets are basically begging to be photocopied and/or put into laminate sheets of some kind for dry erase, but the initial set come in a little booklet which makes doing either of those things slightly awkward. This is a pretty minor gripe since frankly just looking up these sheets online and printing them is really easy to do and probably easier than photocopying anyway, but it is just something I noted.
The punch out sheet is double sided, with a front and back for your OpFor standees as well as options for terrain for both the Terra and Mars sides of your mats.
Overall, this is a very comprehensive starter box, and if the common consensus is true that these mechs are really solid and can consistently be used throughout your time playing, then this is probably the best starter box for the money I’ve ever purchased for a minis game. Eight mechs is around ~50 dollars MSRP on its own, and every other component in the box is of top quality as far as I’m concerned. Catalyst seems to value their new player experience with a box like this and it definitely goes a long way. Getting a 20 dollar coupon to their store frankly makes me feel like I *made* money buying this box, the components are so solid.
I’ve already got my first game of Battletech lined up for the week, which I’ll definitely be doing a write up on. In the meantime… I’ve got mechs to paint. See you next time!