Thursday, September 8, 2016
Unseen Battletech Miniatures II
The RFL-3N "Rifleman" exemplifies everything that I love and hate about the game of Battletech. It's a great looking Mech, and it boasts four deadly guns. The problem? If you fire all four guns at the same time, the Rifleman will overheat, causing its reactor to shut down and perhaps detonating its own highly explosive ammunition. A better name for the Rifleman would be the Murder/Suicide.
The idea that super-powered death machines are constantly fighting their own thermal output is a big part of the fun of Battletech. Heat management adds a whole new dimension to the "maneuver-and-fire" that's at the heart of most wargames. And it's not so far from reality. From the earliest siege cannons to modern machine guns, the buildup of heat bedevils all gunners; a red hot weapon loses accuracy, becomes too hot to hold and ultimately will melt or explode.
Battletech is by no means a perfect game. It is slow, requires a lot of book-keeping and has an infuriating approach to weapon ranges (in the game, even "long range" missiles can only fire a few hundred meters. In real life, such missiles would fire for 10, 100 or 1000 kilometers).
Nevertheless, I stand in awe of Battletech as a game. That's because -- like a shark or the recipe for KFC -- it is remarkable for how little it has changed since it's inception.
A basic game of Battletech is fought today with essentially the same rules as a game from 1986. The most important alteration of nuts-and-bolts rules that I can detect is a tweak in calculating how to determine hit location when only the top half of a mech is visible to the attacker. In other words, small beer. Contrast this with Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which has rebooted its rules system 9 times in the same period of time, with each revision changing core elements in the game.
Of course, that's not to say that Battletech hasn't changed. But FASA (and its heirs) found a way of adding to the richness of the game without replacing what had come before. They created a need for new Battletech products by developing the history of the Battletech universe as time passed in the real world. And as events progressed in the Battletech universe, the level of technology changed. So, although you can still play with the humble RFL-3N Rifleman, there are now rules for technologically superior upgrades, including the Clan's Mad Dog or Rifleman IIC. It's a smart approach, that can please both nostalgia fiends (like myself) and normal people.
What do you think? Does Battletech still hold up? While you mull over that question, here are some more from my collection of Unseen Battletech miniatures.
The TDR-5D "Thunderbolt":
The SHD-2H "Shadowhawk":
The GRF-1N "Griffin":
And my favourite, the SCP-1N "Scorpion". I've painted this one to look like a WWII Panzer. House Kurita Uber Alles!
Thanks for stopping by!