BattleTech Game of the Month

Game of the Month: BattleTech

Total WarfareMy gaming group played BattleTech for November’s game-of-the-month. BattleTech is a game of armored combat in the 31st century that is currently published by Catalyst Game Labs. Unlike the previous two games-of-the-month, this wasn’t the first time that I’d played BattleTech.

I’ve owned various versions of the game since getting the box for the 3rd edition when I was a kid. While I was in boy scouts, I often brought BattleTech along on cabin camping trips and played against the other kids in my troop. Since then, I’ve only managed to play in maybe one or two games a year, so when I got a craving for giant, stompy robots I decided to use the game-of-the-month slot in my schedule.

BattleTech is a wargame where players control forces of mechs, vehicles, and infantry against one another. It is generally played on hex-grid mapsheets, but there are also optional miniatures rules. One thing that makes it different from many other wargames is that it is focused on battles with smaller forces (about 4 mechs per side is my favorite) but has a level of detail for each unit closer to what you’d expect in an role-playing game.

For the game-of-the-month session, I decided to run BattleTech similarly to a role-playing game with each player controlling a single mech and myself taking the role of the enemy forces. Because the players were mostly new to BattleTech, I opted for mostly intoductory-level technology and set the game between the Fourth Succession War and the clan invasion.

The players took the role of pilots in a mercenary unit hired by the Free Worlds League to raid a Capellan Confederation world and rescue prisoners of war. I let each player pick their pilot’s nationality and then roll on a table of random light and medium mechs based on the successor state they chose. The group ended up with a Stinger, a Valkyrie, and a Shadow Hawk. This random assignment worked pretty well since the group was unfamiliar with the game.

During the session, the players easily took out the light tank and infantry platoons guarding the prison. Then as the POWs loaded into an armored personnel carrier for extraction, three Capellan mechs counter-attacked. The fight was pretty brutal with one of the player’s mechs nearly taken out, but in the end they held off the mechs long enough for the POWs to escape and then made a fighting withdrawl from the area.

During any game of BattleTech, some of the most memorable moments are critical hits. Whenever an attack penetrates a mech’s armor plating, there is a chance of one or more critical hits occuring. For each critical hit, the attacker rolls on the target’s critical table for that location and determines the effect. This can be anything from a heat sink being destroyed to an ammo explosion likely to blow apart the target from the inside. These critical hits can really shift the dynamic of a fight and are one of my favorite parts of the game, so I decided to come up with a way to make critical hits in D&D a little more exciting and memorable.

Critical Hit Tables

In D&D 4E, a critical hit deals maximum damage and generally adds several extra dice of damage based on the magical weapon or implement the attacker is using. Some items also add special effects on critical hits, but these are less common than items that only add damage.

If you’d like to make critical hits a little more interesting like they are in BattleTech, you should consider using a critical hit table that offers a variety of effects. When a critical hit is rolled, the player rolls on the table to determine which special effect the hit has in addition to the extra damage.

  1. The target is knocked prone.
  2. The target is weakened (save ends).
  3. The target takes 5 ongoing damage per tier (save ends).
  4. The target is blinded (save ends).
  5. The target is slowed (save ends).
  6. The target is dazed (save ends).

A quick search turns up a lot of alternative critical hit tables. Personally, I would favor one that has an extra effect on most critical hits because a crit is already a relatively rare occurance (only 5% of attacks). If you make the critical hit effects rare even when there is a crit, then you end up with them being too rare of an occurence.

For next month’s post, I was planning to run a game of Dungeon World, but I ended up as a player instead.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

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