Battletech! The Future of the 80s Forever!

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TristramEvans

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There's one aspect of 1984 Orwell coudn't have predicted...giant fighting robots!

Battletech. Its one of those iconic composite names from my childhood like Star Wars or He-man, that's taken on an identity and resonance all it's own. Battletech was actually the first miniatures game I ever played. I still remember the hours as a young kid pouring over the technical read outs for various future dates, which not only listed the specification for various mechs and other combat vehicles, but also delved into their fictional histories in wartime, and gave tantalizing glimpses into the bredth of the Battletech fluff with bios of famous pilots and encounters. But as my family moved from state to state, and other hobbies and life experiences (read: girls) took over my attention, Battletech slowly faded into the past, little more than fond memories.

That is until this year, with the announcement of the upcoming Aedeptus Titanicus reboot from GW. Aedeptus Titanicus was WH40K at the same scale as Battletech (6mm), featuring the giant robots ("knights") of that universe. It directly led into Epic, essentially 40K's equivalent of Warmaster. As I've been impressed by a lot of the self-contained games released by GW in the last few years since the company's revitalization under a new CEO, I was at first excited for A.T. Part of that, admittedly, was the hope that a new Epic might follow in turn. But as details began to emerge, that excitement waned. Warhammer isn't a cheap hobby at the best of times. But the boxed sets tend to be good deals, relatively speaking. A few dozen minis, usually some exclusives.

For example, he's the Soul Wars start set for AoS 2nd edition:
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A full HC rulebook, some supplementary pamphlets and cards, dice, and two playable forces. Retails for $160, meaning you can find it for $140 in most places.

Aedeptus Titanicus, on the other hand, comes with a whopping 8 miniatures, some cardboard buildings, gun turret tokens, dice, and a short softcover rulebook.
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Keep in mind these are 6mm, meaning the regular Titans are about the size of Space Marines. The retail price? $300. Yeah, you read that right. Twice the cost of Soul Wars. Want to buy some more titans for your game? $110 a piece.

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So, despite being thoroughly turned off by this latest money grab, the basic concept of huge piloted robots duking it out on a future landscape did ping a nostalgia nerve somewhere in the back of my subconscious, and one day I randomly googled up Battletech to see what was going on with the game these days.

Long story short, I fell back into the pool headfirst.

My timing was impeccable. The minute I started looking into this I found that at Gencon Catalyst Labs (the current home of Battletech) had just unveiled a new starter set for the game. 8 Battletech minis (coincidence?) - which unlike a GW starter is exactly the right amount for two players ( a 'Lance' or the basic army of Mechs for a Battletech game is 4 mechs - along with 2 double sided playmatts, rulebook, record sheets, a universe primer, fiction novella, dice, reference sheets, and even cardboard standees of additional mechs for those who dont want to bother with the miniatures, for retail price $59.99!

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Want to test the waters at an even better price point? Well the beginner's boxed set has everything you need to start playing for only $19.99


Both of these are slated for a late September/early October release in stores. 200 copies of the game were brought to Gencon, and sold out within hours. The reviews have been unanimously positive and enthusiastic.

In the meantime, I've been amassing older materials on ebay, starting with the classic Technical Readout 3025

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And for the past few weeks I've been knee-deep not only in the fictional history of the Battletech universe, but also the equally interesting real life history of the game. And in these posts I am going to cover both, letting my newfound enthusiasm for my rediscovered childhood passion spill out on the page.
 

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I too would like to shoot at and be shot at by Giant impractical fighting robots bristling with weapons. I even tried my best last night only to find I forgot my time machine.
How can we blow each other up from a distance at disparit times?
 

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I remember when it had a different name...I think a friend had this as we played it a couple of times, but it used little square counters, not miniatures. Didn't it?
 

TristramEvans

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Preludes Part I

The Giant Robot genre is to Japan what Superheroes is to North America. The precursor the "Mecha" genre was Mitsuteru Yokoyama's 1956 manga Tetsujin 28-go . Tetsujin recieved an animated series adaption in 1963, and a translated (and heavily bowdlerized version) was introduced into the Western world as Gigantor.

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Though never achieving the fame it did in it's home country, Gigantor was well-recieved by Western audiences and paved the way for other anime "translations". What is regarded as the first official Mecha anime is Mazinger Z, serialized in Shonen Jump from 1972 to 72, and animated starting in '74. An attempt was also made to introduce the series overseas, under the title "Tranzor Z", but it failed to capture a Western audience. In Japan though, the concept exploded in popularity, and hundreds of original anime series based on the what-was-then-called "Super Robot" (sūpā robotto) genre were produced by 1977. A few more of these trickled over to American television, though there were no breakout successes in that decade. Concurrently a market for diecast robot toys grew, the first of these to make a foothold in America being the re-named "Shogun Warriors", a line that combined figures from various anime licensed and rebranded through Mattel. Like any fad, the Super Robot cartoons were largely churned out for a profit, riddled with cliches and simplistic rehashes of the same concepts. This would come to a head in 1979 with the release of Mobile Suit Gundam, a deconstruction of the genre to that point that elevated the concept to tell a complex war saga, with mature storylines and developed characters. Gundam is often referred to as the "Star Wars' of Japan, not because of any similarities in plot, but rather in it's analogous popularity and affect on young men and women of the era. Just like Neon Genesis Evangelion 20 years later, there's a clear line as far as Mecha anime before and after Gundam (in fact, I believe this is when the term "Mecha" replaced "Super Robot" as the standard term).

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A few such post-Gundam series were Fang of the Sun Dougram (1981), Crusher Joe (1983), Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982). In the West, a toy boom kicked off the 80s, and the robot designs in these shows were unlike anything seen in America up to that point, and a company by the name of Twentieth Century Imports began showcasing these and other anime at trade shows in the US.

These striking visuals immediately captured the interest of the newly founded game company FASA, who licensed a number of the Mecha designs from Twentieth Century Imports.
 

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Preludes Part II

FASA corporation was founded in 1980 by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock, each with a starting capital of $350 ($175 each). At the time, the two were fellow gamers at the Merchant Marine Academy. The name, an acronym for Freedonia Air and Space Administration came from the classic Marx Bros film Duck Soup, and originally started as a Traveler RPG licensee, producing supplements for that game, then went on to establish itself as major gaming company with the publication of the first licensed Star Trek RPG.

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FASA was looking to develop their own properties, and after licensing several Mecha designs from Twentieth Century Imports, conceived of a brand new game that involved tabletop battles between giant robots. In 1984, the Battledroids board game was released, and was an instant success.

bt2nd-ed.jpg


From the back cover:
"A Dark Age has befallen mankind. Where once reigned the United Star League, five successor states now battle for control. Wars' destruction ravaged the once-flourishing worlds and left them in ruins. The advancement of technology has not only ceased, but the machines and equipment of the past cannot be produced by present-day worlds. Now, the Succession Wars are fought over water, ancient machines and spare-parts factories, for control of these elements will lead to the final victory and domination of all known worlds.

The battlefields of the Succession Wars are dominated by the most awesome war-machines in man's history, the BATTLEDROIDS. These huge man-shaped vehicles are faster, more mobile, better armored, and more destructive than a battalion of 20th Century tanks. Now, you can control the BATTLEDROIDS, infantry, and tanks in this exciting game of warfare in the 30th century Successor States
"

FASA's most popular product to date, Battledroids also kicked off the series of unfortunate events that would come to haunt FASA throughout the company's existence. George Lucas claimed copyright ownership of the term "Droids" (short for Androids), and the Battledroids game was successful enough to capture Lucasfilm's attention and lead them to pursuing Legal Action. I can find next to no information online as to whether this actually went to court or consisted solely of a Cease and Desist, but whatever the case, the game was immediately discontinued, a second edition appearing the next year under the new title Battletech.
 
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TristramEvans

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Preludes Part III

Also in 1985, Harmony Gold released the cartoon series Robotech. This is where things start to get convoluted.

BIG EDIT: I apparently confused Harmony Gold with Sandy Frank, the ones actually responsible for bringing Gatchaman AKA Battle of the Planets AKa G-Force AKA Eagle Riders to North American television. I direct interested readers to my website at Pariedolia.weebly.com/NIMH for the full, expanded, and corrected story.

In other words, Harmony Gold wasn't so much about translating anime, as it was reforging it into something they saw as commercially viable and culturally appropriate for Western audiences. Additionally, Harmony Gold had a pre-established relationship with Anime studios in Japan, who they licensed shows from directly, rather than going through an international licencor middleman such as Twentieth Century Imports.

Such was the case when Harmony Gold licensed three anime Mecha series, Super Dimension Fortress Macross , Super Dimension Century Orguss, and Fang of the Sun Dougram, and then cut and combined them to form Robotech. Harmony Gold actually didn't even come up with the name Robotech, instead licensing that from Revell, which had used it for a series of mecha-based model kits.

If two of those names sound familiar, that's because they were the aforementioned sources of several of the Mecha designs that FASA had licensed for Battledroids. And that's where even more troubles began for poor Battletech...
 
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The Real-Life History of Battletech Preludes Part II

FASA corporation was founded in 1980 by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock, each with a starting capital of $350 ($175 each). At the time, the two were fellow gamers at the Merchant Marine Academy. The name, an acronym for Freedonia Air and Space Administration came from the classic Marx Bros film Animal Crackers, and originally started as a Traveller licensee, producing supplements for that game, then went on to establish itself as major gaming company with the publication of the first licensed Star Trek RPG.

startrek1stboxlid.jpg


FASA was looking to develop their own properties, and after licensing several Mecha designs from Twentieth Century Imports, conceived of a brand new game that involved tabletop battles between giant robots. In 1984, the Battledroids board game was released, and was an instant success.

bt2nd-ed.jpg


From the back cover:
"A Dark Age has befallen mankind. Where once reigned the United Star League, five successor states now battle for control. Wars' destruction ravaged the once-flourishing worlds and left them in ruins. The advancement of technology has not only ceased, but the machines and equipment of the past cannot be produced by present-day worlds. Now, the Succession Wars are fought over water, ancient machines and spare-parts factories, for control of these elements will lead to the final victory and domination of all known worlds.

The battlefields of the Succession Wars are dominated by the most awesome war-machines in man's history, the BATTLEDROIDS. These huge man-shaped vehicles are faster, more mobile, better armored, and more destructive than a battalion of 20th Century tanks. Now, you can control the BATTLEDROIDS, infantry, and tanks in this exciting game of warfare in the 30th century Successor States
"

FASA's most popular product to date, Battledroids also kicked off the series of unfortunate events that would come to haunt FASA throughout the company's existence. George Lucas claimed copyright ownership of the term "Droids" (short for Androids), and the Battledroids game was successful enough to capture Lucasfilm's attention and lead them to pursuing Legal Action. I can find next to no information online as to whether this actually went to court or consisted solely of a Cease and Desist, but whatever the case, the game was immediately discontinued, a second edition appearing the next year under the new title Battletech.

Great stuff, this is fascinating. One small correction the Marx Brothers film with Freedonia is Duck Soup not Animal Crackers.

2gkxhk.jpg
 

TristramEvans

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Part One

Battletech was not simply a re-titled Battledroids. After a year of real-market playtesting, the system was re-designed from the ground up and heavily expanded upon. But even more than that, the fictional history of the Battletech universe was first established here (existing only as some flavourful ad-copy in Battledroids). And this history is ultimately what would set Battletech apart as a unique product, more than the sum of it's parts. While the majority of the initial mech designs were licensed fro Japanese anime, the fluff established an individual identity for Battletech that was clearly American in conception. Moreover, it paralleled the cultural and political paradigms of the eighties. This is how Battletech was able to survive the loss of those licensed designs years later, and still thrive as the first North American entry into the Mecha genre.

In 1985 Mort Weisman, Jordan's father, sold his book publishing business (Swallow Press) was put in charge of FASA's operational management.

It wasn't long before FASA got a letter in the mail from Harmony Gold claiming they owned the rights to the mechas that FASA licensed from Twentieth Century Imports, and they had to immediately cease all use. FASA probably used the letter for toilet paper or something. But then Robotech appeared on TV, and FASA got a second C&D from Harmony Gold, and at this point FASA took it a bit more seriously.

This “sparked an exchange of correspondence between the parties, including numerous cease and desist letters from Harmony Gold,” according to later court documents*. Both maintained, with justification, their rights to the images. But there was enough doubt on either side to lead to a sort of legal stalemate, with neither company willing to sue.

Meanwhile, Battletech was expanding rapidly, with various supplements fleshing out the fictional universe (this will be covered in more depth in the Fictional History of Battletech series of posts) .

One early supplement that gained some notoriety was Tales of the Black Widow Company, the first scenario book released for Battletech in 1987. Interestingly, it appears to have been in development since the time that the Battledroids rules were extant, as the new mechs featured in the book comply with Battledroids construction rules instead of those of Battletech. The cover art was considered too risque for the 80s, and drew consumer outrage (or, more likely non-consumer and parental outrage), so that it was swiftly edited.

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Early versions of the book may have been recalled, and the original cover is a high-priced collector's item these days.
 

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Part II

Battletech was an unprecedented success for FASA, and the gameline was swiftly expanded in 1986 with CityTech (dealing with urban battles) and AeroTech (dealing with air fighter combat)
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...Battleforce (which focused on large scale combats, whose simplified rules system would later form the groundwork for Alpha Strike) ...
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...and the first edition of the Mechwarrior Role Playing Game

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Besides the wealth of sourcebooks, map packs, and technical readouts being steadily released by FASA, a variety of supplementary products began making their way to the market, specifically due to Mort's capital injection when joining the company.

Miniatures
The original Battledroids boxed set came with two over-sized plastic minis (The Griffin and Shadowhawk) along with a wealth of standees
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Consultation with Chart Hobby Distributors (Battletech's UK distributors) led to FASA licensing the manufacture of its BattleTech figurines to Minifigs, and later acquiring the US figures manufacturer Ral Partha, which was the US manufacturer of Minifigs. After FASA' s dissolution, Ral Partha continues to this day to sell and produce Battletech miniatures under the company title Iron Wind Metals, essentially the manufacturing portion of what was previously Ral Partha, Inc., without the trademark, which now belongs to the unassociated Ral Partha Europe)

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TristramEvans

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Vivian James
Battletech is today arguably better known for it's series of video games than even the original tabletop games, and translations of the game into video game format came swiftly, with BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception premiering in 1988. Developed by Westwood Studios (later Virgin Games), TCHI was formatted for DOS, Amiga, C64, Apple II, and the Atari ST.

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According to Wikipedia, the storyline of the game was...
"The player takes the role of Jason Youngblood, a young cadet MechWarrior stationed on Pacifica (also known as Chara III) in the Lyran Commonwealth. Stationed at the Citadel, Jason is learning how to pilot a Battlemech and also to fight with small arms, all the while having to live up to the reputation of his hero father, Jeremiah. During a training session in his 'Mech, the Citadel comes under attack from neighbouring star-empire the Draconis Combine, slaying the Palace guard, Jeremiah apparently among them. Barely escaping, Jason is rescued from arrest by Draconis Police by Rex Pearce, a friend and colleague of Jeremiah's and a member of the Crescent Hawks. Together they must find and join up with fellow members of the Crescent Hawks, a special forces company established by Jeremiah and the Archon Katrina working in conjunction with the mercenary unit, the Kell Hounds."

This set a precedence for the video games being steeped in the lore of the game's setting.

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"The game is divided into three sections, each with different objectives and gameplay style, but a similar interface. The first section is set at the Citadel, and as a way to get a feel for the engine and the interface the player must complete successively harder training missions in a BattleMech, and may also enroll in lessons in a selection of small arms. As well as giving the player an idea of the theme of the game, this section allows the player to "level up" and earn some C-bills, the staple currency in the BattleTech universe. Unusually, all of the game's plot events occur in-play, having the game start before the story. During one of the training missions, the citadel comes under attack and the game changes.

The second section of the game is much more staple RPG: finding people to join the player's party, finding better weapons, items to advance the plot, and of course, engaging in or avoiding battles. The game here sees the growing party search Pacifica's towns and cities for the means to open an old Star League era cache of Battle Mechs and other equipment Jeremiah seems to have concealed. Navigation around the map is timed to the computer's internal clock, when random encounters with enemy 'Mechs and infantry can occur. The player can choose to manually target his weapons (which introduces the turn based battle system) or can opt for computer-controlled combat. One of the towns is walled (the star port) and requires the 'Mechs to be parked in a Garage, meaning that a Mech is not always able to count as protection. Random attacks occur often and cannot always be fled from, and so during this section keeping the player's Mech fully functional and protected becomes both challenging and important. The attackers become stronger if the player gains more Mechs, and less strong again if the player loses a Mech. C-Bill shortages can become a real problem, especially if the player is using weapons with ammunition like missile racks, or if no party member can perform Mech repairs. The final section, which is reached once the means of entry to the cave is discovered, consists of a series of puzzles, requiring a combination of luck and logic
."

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The first Mechwarrior followed swiftly in 1989, developed by Dynamic and distributed by Activision.

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This was the first videogame to offer a first-person view from the cockpit of a mech, and while the graphics were crude by today's standards, the iconic designs of the mechs were still clearly identifiable.

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Mechwarrior was an instant success, with sales of nearly 100,000 copies (that was a lot back then). It was reviewed in Dragon magazine #161 (1990) by Patricia Hartley and Kirk Lesser, who gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Rik Haynes of ACE wrote, "Mechwarrior had me hooked right from the start, it's a near perfect fusion of flight- (tank!) simulation and role-playing game."

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In the following years 20 more Battletech games would be released, with antecedent improvements in technology, including Mechwarrior 2 - 4 and Mechwarrior online, Mechcommander 1 & 2, Mechassault 1 -3, and in 2018, Harebrained Schemes released a new game simply called "BattleTech".


Early on, FASA's founders, Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock , began focusing the majority of their attention on the development of computer-based games, leaving the paper and metal based sides of the business almost entirely in Mort's hands.

It's also worth noting that Jordan and Babcok were particularly interested in virtual reality, and in 1987 created the FASA subsidiary Virtual World Entertainment Group (VWEG).

The most ambitious endeavour by VWEG was the creation of the BattleTech Centers.


Premiering in 1990 in Chicago, the BattleTech Centres were "virtual entertainment venues" where players took on the role of Mechwarriors, the games taking place entirely in fully enclosed cockpits featuring multiple screens and up to 100 controls, including joysticks, armament buttons, and rudder pedals. Eventually 23 such BattleTech Centres were opened, including ones in Tokyo and London.


Unfortunately, rapid advances in arcade games and home consoles meant the glory days were short-lived. By 1995 most locations worldwide began closing, with most of the "pods" going to private collections.

However, a few such centres remain in operation, and a few refurbished collections have been opened to the public. At the time of this writing, there are still five BattleTech Centres around the world where one can pay to play:

Big Kidz Games in Grand Rapids, Michigan (12 pods); The Fallout Shelter Arcade in Twin Cities, Minnesota (12 pods); Hanger 51 in Montreal, Canada (10 pods); Hinkle Family Fun Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico (6 pods); and MechCorps Entertainment LLC in Houston, Texas (16 pods).

The up to date official list can be reviewed at http://podtracker.battletech.com


 

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Novels

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The first official Battletech novel was published by FASA in 1986; Decision at Thunder Rift by William H. Keith. FASA continued to publish Battletech novels until 2002, and later ROC took over publishing novels for the Dark Age setting. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Battletech novels are so inextricably linked to the setting fiction that there's not really much I can say here, other than over 100 Baattletech novels have been published in 15 different languages and for game fiction they are surprisingly well regarded (at least the FASA ones).

Gamebooks

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In 1987 Nova Game Designs published a series of 6 books making up the BattleTech Science Fiction Combat Book Game. Each book represents a specific mech, including
SHD-2H Shadow Hawk; GRF-1N Griffin; WSP-1A Wasp; WHM-6R Warhammer; LCT-1S Locust; and RFL-3N Rifleman (sadly, no SRD-7 Atlas).

NGBShadowHawk.JPG


For those unfamiliar with these types of gamebooks, each contains a removable stat card (in this case corresponding to a mech and pilot), and then 64 numbered sections. Players keep their card and then trade books. Gameplay is a tree structure based on player choices, with no randomizor. Each player picks a maneuver from their list of options, and tell the other player a page number. Each player then turns to the specified page, and see what the other person is doing.

NGBWarhammer.JPG


The Battletech Combat books were more extensive than most examples of these sorts of games, incorporating signature concepts such as heat and ammunition levels are factored into the rules. Campaign rules are even provided, with an experience-based improvement system for pilots and mech maintenance and upkeep.

NGBRifleman.JPG


Two Terrain expansion sets were published for the game, the Basic Terrain cards in 1988, followed by 1991's Urban Terrain cards. Whenever a player changes combat range or attempts a maneuver, they draw a random Terrain card which may affect the results.

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Comics

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Also in '87, Blackthorne comics began publishing issues of a Battletech comicbook. The first issue was printed in colour, with subsequent issues in black & white. There were 6 issues published in total, along with an annual and a 3D comic.

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Blackthorne also published a Battleforce comic series, meant to run for 3 issues, but only 2 were published. The Blackthorne comics are considered non-cannon, and featured really substandard art and writing.
 
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...Battleforce (which focused on large scale combats, whose simplified rules system would later form the groundwork for Alpha Strike) ...
420px-lhaw0g35gjop6b3kfj0fjdpmo7g9yr7.jpg



...and the first edition of the Mechwarrior Role Playing Game

61Yg%2BCxXZML.jpg
I assume you meant "small-scale combats" for Battleforce? The box cover seems to say that...these ones interest me the most. Are they complete games unto themselves? I could see getting a group willing to to play a small unit of mech pilots going on various missions.
 

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Gamebooks

NGBWasp.JPG


In 1987 Nova Game Designs published a series of 6 books making up the BattleTech Science Fiction Combat Book Game. Each book represents a specific mech, including
SHD-2H Shadow Hawk; GRF-1N Griffin; WSP-1A Wasp; WHM-6R Warhammer; LCT-1S Locust; and RFL-3N Rifleman (sadly, no SRD-7 Atlas).

NGBShadowHawk.JPG


For those unfamiliar with these types of gamebooks, each contains a removable stat card (in this case corresponding to a mech and pilot), and then 64 numbered sections. Players keep their card and then trade books. Gameplay is a tree structure based on player choices, with no randomizor. Each player picks a maneuver from their list of options, and tell the other player a page number. Each player then turns to the specified page, and see what the other person is doing.

NGBWarhammer.JPG


The Battletech Combat books were more extensive than most examples of these sorts of games, incorporating signature concepts such as heat and ammunition levels are factored into the rules. Campaign rules are even provided, with an experience-based improvement system for pilots and mech maintenance and upkeep.

NGBRifleman.JPG


Two Terrain expansion sets were published for the game, the Basic Terrain cards in 1988, followed by 1991's Urban Terrain cards. Whenever a player changes combat range or attempts a maneuver, they draw a random Terrain card which may affect the results.

NGBLocust.JPG
Now those sound like a lot of fun! How complicated are they? That is, how old would a kid need to be to actually play it?
 

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By the way, I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. I have vague memories of playing Battledroids maybe a couple of times (never got that into it as I prefer playing a character to running a whole force) and now that I have seen Aerotech that seems familiar as well. Don't believe I ever owned either. Mechwarrior and Battleforce seem like games could probably get into but I'm not clear on whether you have to own the main Battletech game as well to make them usable.

I'd like to know more about the setting. I wonder if it's well done and something I'd use or if I'd scrap most of it and make up my own as I tend to do. I kind of want to read a couple of those FASA novels to get a better idea. Are they standalone stories or do you need to read them in sequence?

(That Black Widow original art is well drawn but rather obviously attempting to pander to prurient interests...it's a rare occasion when I think the "censored" version is better. I can see female gamers I've known rolling their eyes at the original, and I wouldn't show it to my kids, whereas the latter revision, while still a hot chick, looks badass and take-no-prisoners rather than "hey, nerds, here's some beat-off material!"). I know my wife would not be able to refrain from smirking or be able to suspend her disbelief re: "It's hot inside a mech so girls dress like so!"
 

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I assume you meant "small-scale combats" for Battleforce? The box cover seems to say that...these ones interest me the most. Are they complete games unto themselves? I could see getting a group willing to to play a small unit of mech pilots going on various missions.
Battleforce is a complete game. It's for company, batallion etc sized combat instead of Lance level.
So the units are small scale but the unit number is large.
 

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I assume you meant "small-scale combats" for Battleforce? The box cover seems to say that...these ones interest me the most. Are they complete games unto themselves? I could see getting a group willing to to play a small unit of mech pilots going on various missions.

Battleforce was simplified rules so combats could be on a bigger scale. So, whereas a "standard" game of Battletech would be around 4 mechs a side, for around 3-4 hours, with Battleforce you could theoretically take entire armies and complete the game in the same time frame. But if you wanted to do smaller conflicts, they would be much faster. Alpha Strike is essentially the same concept, from what I hear a game between two Lances of Mechs in Alpha Strike can be done in like 45 minutes, so you have the option of really large-scale games. Sort of like Warmaster to Warhammer Fantasy. I've been reading the Alpha Strike rulebook recently, and I'll definitely be covering that more in-depth later on. While you lose a little bit of flavour and player choice (so far as I know so far there arent rules for building your own mechs in AS, which is one of my favourite parts of the game), but overall so far I'm impressed in how it streamlines play while still maintaining the elements that make it "feel" like Battletech.

Now those sound like a lot of fun! How complicated are they? That is, how old would a kid need to be to actually play it?

Not complex at all, really, it's essentially handled almost like a self-contained card game battle. I don't know about age. I'd say old enough to read probably has it covered, because it's essentially like a choose your own adventure.

This concept has been applied to a bunch of properties over the years, I had some Marvel superhero ones in the mid-90s (called Battlebooks - https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=battlebooks+marvel&_sacat=0). Flying Buffalo apparently still sells some of the "Lost Worlds" fantasy ones...http://www.flyingbuffalo.com/lostw.shtml

By the way, I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. I have vague memories of playing Battledroids maybe a couple of times (never got that into it as I prefer playing a character to running a whole force) and now that I have seen Aerotech that seems familiar as well. Don't believe I ever owned either. Mechwarrior and Battleforce seem like games could probably get into but I'm not clear on whether you have to own the main Battletech game as well to make them usable.

The first edition of Mechwarrior was meant to be an expansion for the Battletech game, mainly defining pilots, (which doesnt mean it's necessary to also have any Battletech games, but it puts it in context) whereas from 2nd edition onwards I'd say they are completely self-contained RPGs set in the Battletech universe.The Battleforce boxed set was completely self-contained, as is Alpha Strike.

I'd like to know more about the setting. I wonder if it's well done and something I'd use or if I'd scrap most of it and make up my own as I tend to do. I kind of want to read a couple of those FASA novels to get a better idea. Are they standalone stories or do you need to read them in sequence?

I'll be doing the Fictional History of Battletech once I'm finished covering the real-world history of FASA and the gameline, and going over the setting in detail. The novels tend to be a good introduction, though. There's a few trliogies, and on-going narratives, but many single self-contained stories. The earlier novels and trilogies tend to be easy to get into, but as the books went on they got deeper and deeper into the history. My recommendation to get a really good introduction to the universe in a well-written stand alone novel is Wolves on the Border, by Robert N. Charrette, from 1989 (https://www.amazon.com/Battletech-25-Robert-N-Charrette/dp/0451453883) .

from the back cover of the original paperback:
"LIFE, DEATH, HONOR, FEALTY
Bushido is the code that governs all these concepts. As a MechWarrior of the Draconis Combine, Minobu Tetsuhara is bound by Bushido, a code that demands loyal service to the devious Warlord Grieg Samsonov.

When Minobu came upon a strange blue and gold Archer, the field littered with its vanquished opponents, and its weapons now empty, Bushido dictated that he not destroy an honorable but helpless warrior.

For that he became one of the Dispossessed, stripped of his BattleMech, and without honor.

Minobu was then assigned as liaison to one of the Combine's most elite mercenary units, who treated him with the respect due a fellow warrior, and gave him use of a BattleMech once more. The skill and power of the mercenaries is unparalleled, and when they refuse to renew their contract, Minobu is instructed to use all means to destroy them.

Now Bushido dictates that Minobu oppose his honorable foe in the blue and gold Archer, a man with whom he has served and who deserves far better than betrayal..."

It's basically the highly personal story of a single Mechwarrior, and introduces the setting elements around them really well for the reader, and it's early enough that not a lot of backstory has "built up".
 

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Regarding the novels, right now they're mainly only available as eBooks on Amazon Kindle and DriveThruRPG, (although there are about ten books on Amazon Kindle that DriveThruRPG doesn't have). There's been talk about making them available as PoD, but that's been talk for a few years now. So I wouldn't hold your breath for it.
 

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Part III

Peripheral products aside, by the end of the 80s over 35 supplements had been published for the Battletech tabletop game, including BattleTroops, a boxed set focusing on infantry combat in the Battletech universe.

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The amount of rules expansions by this point had gotten excessive, necessitating a general consolidation and clean-up. Thus in 1990 the first Battletech Compendium was published, essentially the first core rulebook for the gameline.

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This was, incidentally, the last Battletech product I bought as a kid. I still remember pouring through the low-res pictures of painted miniatures and tabletop terrain, dreaming of one day having my own game room.

1990 was also the year that the official setting was pushed forward to 3050, with the infamous Return of the Clans.

The Battletech 3rd edition boxed set was introduced 2 years later.

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Widely regarded as the best starter set for the game, it came with 14 plastic minis of some of the most iconic early mechs (for many of these it would be the last time they recieved official miniatures)

Battletech was reaching the height of it's popularity, and everything would come to a head in 1994...
 

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In 1994 the Battletech animated series premiered. Produced by Saban entertainment, the cartoon was noteworthy as being the first syndicated series to blend traditional animation techniques with cgi. The main character was Adam Steiner, and the 13 episode run focused on the liberation of his home planet of Somerset from invading Clans. It played very fast and loose with Battletech lore, as one might expect.

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Frankly, the cartoon was pretty awful. One can find all the episodes on Youtube if so inclined, but I don't recommend it.

In 1995 FASA published a tie in gaming product, 1st Somerset Strikers, that was meant to be a gateway product for hypothetical "fans" of the series (I guess theoretically they could exist...).

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Besides game stats, scenarios, and an episode guide, the book took on the ambitious attempt to address the contradictions of the series with established Battletech canon.

Additionally, a 5 issue (including issue #0, because 90s) comicbook series inspired by the cartoon was published by Mailibu comics from '94-95, the first Battletech comics since the Blackthorne series.

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However, as far as merchandising tie-ins, by far the most important was the Battletech toy line. Little did anyone know that this would indirectly change the course of history for the Battletech gameline and universe forever...
 

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FASA originally approached Playmates with the idea for a Battletech-themed gameline, along with supporting design sketches, but Playmates eventually turned them down.

Tyco Toys instead picked up the license and the first wave of Battletech action figures was introduced in '94.


Tyco, though not one of the bigger toy companies in the U.S., had been around since 1926, and primarily focused on toy trains and R/C vehicles. In the '80s their first major license was for Sesame Street toys, aimed at a much younger audience. Battletech was Tyco's most ambitious attempt to penetrate the action figure market.

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Series I included five mechs, one Aerospace fighter and three combat armors.

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The mechs featured "battle-damage" panels, so children could aim and fire their spring-loaded projectiles at the panels (and their eyes), having the mech toy react with ejecting the pilot or limbs. Each Mech and vehicle came with a 2 3/4" pilot from the animated series.

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Due to the limits on photos per post here I'll only post the one example above compared to it's original Battletech design, but when I transfer this story to my miniatures blog (pariedolia.weebly.com/NIMH) I'll expand it with much more pictures for those interested.

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They Tyco toys weren't fantastic - for as big as they were, they lacked a lot of detail. But the action feature was fun (and surprising that they managed to get it past the toy safety commission, as "firing" weapons on toys had been a No-Go in the states since a young child choked to death on a Battlestar Galactica missile in the early '80's).

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A second series was released in '95, though it mostly consisted of repaints of the original releases.

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So what do we know about this?

The beginner box being released in the next two months, like a quick start version of the Introductory boxed set.

It contains a simplified rules book, one double-sided hex map (instead of two), and only two mech miniatures (instead of 8), for an msrp of only $19.99. The clever part is the two miniatures included and the maps are different than those in the Introductory Boxed set, soone can start with this and then move onto the Introductory Boxed set without getting any doubles of products they don't need.

( there's also a video unboxing discussing the product in the very first post in this thread ;) )
 

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Unfortunately, a toyline's health is directly tied to the success of the animated series providing half hour advertising to it's audience, and the Battletech cartoon failed to capture an audience (mostly because it sucked). The toys were cancelled after the series II releases, with several prototypes never making it to market, such as these previewed in Toyfare magazine...

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That's right, including a goddamn ATLAS! We could have had an Atlas toy! It's a cruel world we live in...

However, the failure of Battletech's cartoon and toyline was also largely blamed on some direct competition in the form of Exo-Squad from (drumroll....)

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...Playmates! The fellows who had turned down the Battletech toyline a few years earlier.

Oh ho, and what's that you say? Some of those designs look a wee bit familiar?

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pictured above, Exo-Squad's "Heavy Attack E-Frame"; below, Battletech's "MadCat"
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FASA sued. Rightly so. Unfortunately...

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Playmates had partnered with FASA's old nemesis, Harmony Gold, to produce a new line of Robotech toys. And when the judge in the lawsuit FASA brought against Playmates over their Exo-Squad line decided the similarities between the properties weren't enough and dismissed the case, Harmony Gold saw a weakness and pounced. Harmony Gold finally thought it had the leverage it needed and broke the long-standing stalemate by initiating a counter-suit against FASA.

Things were looking bad for FASA. While they'd purchased the rights to the Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Fang of the Sun Dougram mecha designs from Twentieth Century Imports a year earlier than Harmony Gold, HG had gone straight to the original creators, the Tatsunoko art studio, to secure their rights for Robotech. Losing the lawsuit could have devastated FASA financially.

However, through a stroke of luck (i.e. a series of legal slip-ups) FASA’s lawyers got a hold of a number of letters during discovery that brought into question Harmony Gold’s sole ownership of the rights to Macross (https://www.eyrie.org/~robotech/hg-fasa/legal-3.txt). With the legal waters sufficiently muddied, Harmony Gold once again got cold feet, and offered to settle out of court.

FASA settled with Harmony Gold in 1996. Unfortunately, by the terms of the settlement FASA could no longer use the mech designs originally based on Macross and Dougram. In one fell swoop, 32 classic mechs became "The Unseen".
 

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I'm going to take a brief detour here before returning to our narrative to talk about ExoSquad. It's very easy, from the story as laid out from FASA's perspective, to see it as a notorious rip-off money grab. But I have mixed feelings about that. Because while Playmates may have taken advantage of FASA, it's also just as likely that they'd already been in talks with Harmony Gold regarding Robotech and that was the reason they turned down the initial offer to do a Battletech toy line. But even more than that, the thing is, ExoSquad is a good cartoon. Really good. In fact, I'm not exaggerating when I say that it is one of the best American animated series of all times.

ExoSquad is to Saturday Morning Cartoons in the U.S. what Gundam was to the Super Robot genre in Japan. Together with Batman: The Animated Series , X-Men, and Mighty Max (I'll do a thread on that one at some point), ExoSquad (henceforth "XOS") showed that cartoons ostensibly aimed at children could present mature themes, sophisticated continuing storylines, and deep characterization, potentially capturing an older audience.

Set at the beginning of the 22nd century, after mankind had colonized the solar system, "terraforming" Mars and Venus to become inhabitable, XOS followed an elite group of mecha pilots defending humanity from the Neo-Sapiens. But things were much more complex than that. The Neo-Sapiens weren't alien invaders, rather a genetically engineered slave race that humanity created to assist with planet terraforming. Their attacks were basically a slave revolt. And the show didn't shy away from showing the morally grey area the protagonists inhabited. Over 2 seasons XOS depicted a war opera from beginning to end, with dozens of subplots and several smaller stories interwined in the narrative showing the effects on the war on individuals, and the ethical struggles of all of those involved. To make matters even more complex, the war eventually has a third participant, the "Pirate Clans", descendants of human criminals exiled from their homeworlds a generation ago.

ExoSquad is everything the Battletech animated series wasn't. And in a strange way, it's actually the closest thing to a good Battletech cartoon we've ever seen. If FASA had won their initial lawsuit against Playmates, would that have killed the cartoon early? Who then would be painted the villains in retrospect I wonder? Extend this further to Robotech. Does the success of one need to mean the other can't exist simultaneously. The creative landscape of the '80's would have been a poorer thing for the loss of either Robotech or Battletech. Did the presence of classic Battletech hurt Robotech or vice versa? I really don't think so.
 

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The Real-Life History of Battletech Part IV

The classification of mechs as "Unseen" meant that , while they continued to be represented in the fiction and game stats, all images of them were removed from Battletech publications, and the associated miniatures were taken out of production. Among these, of course, was the iconic "Warhammer" that had graced the cover of the Battletech boxed sets since Battledroids.

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Other mechs deemed Unseen include The Battlemaster, The Crusader, The Griffin...

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...The Marauder, Phoenix Hawk, Rifleman...

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... and The Thunderbolt, Valkyrie and Wolverine

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The loss of these mechs were devastating for many fans who grew up with them as a huge part of the game or in some cases, the reason they were attracted to Battletech in the first place. Yet, I think nothing says more for the unique identity that Battletech carved for itself that it continued to move forward and thrive even with this incredible blow. Sure, it meant that many classic sourcebooks and gaming materials were discontinued and could no longer be reprinted, but FASA continued on without skipping a beat...
 

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FASA licensed Battletech to WoTC in 1996 to capitalize on the CCG craze that swept through the 90s . The Battletech CCG featured mechs, characters, and technology from the FASA gameline, with all new artwork and rules similar in play to Magic: The Gathering.

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It was decently popular, lasting until 2001, with one expansion per year: Mechwarrior, Counterstrike, Mercenaries, Arsenal, Commanders and Crusade. A small but devoted fanbase remains to this day.

A 4th Edition of the game was also released in '96. The first not to feature any of the Unseen, the Atlas replaced the Warhammer as the iconic cover model.

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This was followed swiftly by First Strike (an introductory product for new players that discussed game tactics and scenario and campaign creation), the Field Manual series (covering everything from Comstar to Mercenaries, to all the major factions of the Inner Sphere, remaining the essential splatbooks for the setting to this day), Maximum Tech (the combined and updated rules for designing and building mechs), AeroTech 2 and BattleForce 2.

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In 1996 FASA Interactive Technologies (aka FASA Studio); formed the prior year in partnership with Dennis Thorley and Spectrum Holobyte to handle video game development; became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Virtual World Entertainment Group. Partnering with Hasbro's MicroPose studios in 1998, released Mechwarror 3. Shortly thereafter Microsoft acquired Virtual World and FASA Interactive including proprietary ownership of the Mechwarrior series of games (and FASA founders Weisman and Babcock went with them). This is interesting in that it led to the current situation wherein Microsoft owns Battletech as a videogame property (including specifically the use of the title Mechwarrior) separate from ownership of the tabletop game, which is why the Mechwarrior RPG (which had three editions in total up to that point) was later reprinted as "The BattleTech Role Playing Game", and the 4th and current edition was entitled A Time of War. In 2000 Jordan Weisman left Microsoft and founded WizKids to promote his new idea of "clix"-based miniature games.

Despite the legal hiccups, the 1990s was a very successful decade for FASA overall, but it would unfortunately be their last. On April 30th 2001, FASA suddenly and without warning ceased all active operations.
 

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One early supplement that gained some notoriety was Tales of the Black Widow Company, the first scenario book released for Battletech in 1987. Interestingly, it appears to have been in development since the time that the Battledroids rules were extant, as the new mechs featured in the book comply with Battledroids construction rules instead of those of Battletech. The cover art was considered too risque for the 80s, and drew consumer outrage (or, more likely non-consumer and parental outrage), so that it was swiftly edited.

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Early versions of the book may have been recalled, and the original cover is a high-priced collector's item these days.

I do prefer the second illustration, not because I am so quite a puritan or stuff like that, but I really like the mid riff spider shirt.
 
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The Real-Life History of Battletech Part V

The closing of active operations at FASA was sudden and unanticipated, leading many to believe they'd gone out of business. According to the owners, however, they jointly decided to quit while still financially sound in what they perceived as a dying market, and Mort Weisman was ready for retirement. FASA still exists as an IP holding corporation, but the rights to the Battletech tabletop game were sold to WizKids.

In 2002, WizKids released Mechwarrior: Dark Age, a "Clix-style" collectible miniatures game based on the Battletech universe.

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Featuring pre-painted miniatures in a new scale (N-guage or 15mm) incompatible with previous Battletech minis, at first Wizkids tried to make Dark Ages a simplified version of BattleTech, with many of the 'Mechs capable of being easily converted to their Battletech tabletop game equivalents.

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Dark Ages quickly found an audience and proved quite popular, however, the game didn't end up having a lot of crossover appeal with classic tabletop players, largely due to 60 year time jump in the associated game fiction, when the current Jyhad storyline was not even close to being resolved (more on this in the Fictional History of Battletech series). Perhaps in recognition of this, by 2005 the game was re-subtitled "Age of Destruction" and aa whole host of new rules were introduced, widening the gap between it and classic Battletech. New mechs introduced after this point no longer conformed to the building rules of the original game.

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The backstory and continuing narrative of Dark Age/Age of Destruction played out over a series of 30 tie-in novels. There were also some tie-in merchandise with K-Nex building kits, the first time Battletech showed up on toy shelves since the Tyco line of the early 90s.

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In cooperation with Gale Force 9, several "Battlefield in a Box" supplements were also produced for the game

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All in all, the Mechwarrior collectible miniatures game lasted until 2007, spanning 27 expansions. Perhaps the most impressive piece released during this time was a scale model of a dropship, large enough to carry several lances.

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Meanwhile, the original tabletop game rules were licensed out by WizKids to FanPro...
 

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FanPro was a German RPG publishing company best known for the fantasy tabletop game Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye)

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FanPro produced BattleTech in Germany from 1988 onwards under license from FASA. More than simply translations, FanPro often added content and combined multiple products into omnibus editions.

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When FASA closed operations, FanPRo created a sister company in the U.S. (FanPro LLC) to license the BattleTech IP from WizKids.
FanPro began publishing books for the tabletop game under the new moniker "Classic BattleTech". Their output was significant and highly regarded to this day. Their first sourcebook was Fedcom Civil War in '02, advancing the timeline of the game towards the events that would eventually lead to the Dark Age setting of the Maechwarrior clix game. In '03 this was followed up by Field Manual: Updates (providing a comprehensive look at the military of all factions), Combat Operations (providing background material on how war is conducted in the BattleTech universe, including an advanced campaign system and other rules expansions), and The Classicc BattleTech boxed set (technically the 5th edition of the main rules).

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Also in 2003, Classic BattleTech Miniatures Rules was the first rulebook to separately detail playing the BattleTech rules specifically using painted miniatures and 3D terrain, without hexmaps.

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FanPro's output during the next few years was incredibly impressive, and of a quality easily comparable to the best of FASA. From 2002 to 2007 FanPro released 46 products, including the lauded House Handbooks, 10 Technical Readouts, and 17 sourcebooks. But when their initial license expired, and was not renewed.

Rob Boyle, a former editor for FASA, expounded on the reasons for this in an RPGnet forum post in 2010...

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https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?504914-FASA-Curse&p=11857231#post11857231
 
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Circa 1987, running Battletech tournaments was my college's gaming club bread and butter for fundraising. We would get the local game store (Patty's Paperback) to donate some small BT related prizes as sponsorship mostly miniatures. I still have all my 2nd edition stuff battered and much used.
 

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The Real Life History of Battletech Part VI


When I began this series, I glossed over the BattleTech novels. But these were a significant part of the fandom, and BattleTech's success. More than a hundred published, several of which hitting the New York Times Best Sellers list, and translations into 15 languages. The BattleTech novels defined the BattleTech universe, as much as any game or sourcebook. The BattleTech novels were originally published by FASA until 1991, when ROC Books took over the line, reprinting many of the earlier novels.

Of the many writers who contributed to this corpus, Michael A. Stackpole's books are held in especially high regard. His Warrior and Blood of Kerensky trilogies are considered the backbone of the BattleTech universe's lore.

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I first knew of Stackpole, not from his novels, but from The Pulling Report, an incredibly in-depth exploration of Patricia Pulling's campaign against Dungeons & Dragons during the height of the Satanic Panic (http://limsk.tripod.com/pulling.htm).

From 1988 (Warrior: En Garde) to 1998 (Prince of Havoc), Stackpole wrote 12 novels and various short fictions for the BattleTech series. In 2007 he posted to his personal website (Stormwolf.com) an essay entitled "Last Call II" ("Last Call I apparently regarded his Star Wars EU novels). It seems that this essay was actually written substantially before '07, but I don't have access to any information as to where and when it was originally put online.

Last Call II was subtitled "Why Prince of Havoc was my last BattleTech® novel" (yes, he included the "registered" sign). It involves his perception of FASA's business practices, in regards to freelance fiction writers.

Several excerpts are quoted below. I highly recommend reading the essay in it's entirety @ http://www.michaelastackpole.com/?p=15

"I first started working with FASA on Btech novels in the summer of 1987, writing on the Warrior trilogy. FASA is a game company, and “game company” is pretty much synonymous with a company that is chronically underfunded and always in a tight cashflow situation. FASA has always been slow to pay and throughout my history with them has owed me money. When I needed money, I’d call and see what they could send. Back in the early days, when I had no health insurance, no house, no car payments, no IRA; getting $300 or $500 here and there was what I needed to get by.

This is not to say that FASA did not, at other times, get me some money and, for a long time, were diligent in getting me the advance money for books (without which they would not have gotten the books). In 1994, however, this situation changed because my circumstances changed. In 1994 I got my first Star Wars® contract and that provided enough of a cushion that I wasn’t having the cash shortages that made money from FASA a necessity for survival.

To FASA’s credit, it must be noted, they did offer to pay me advances for the reprints of the Kerensky books, and the new novels I’d done for them, despite their having cash flow problems. I happened to know, however, that there were other writers in their stable to whom they owed money, and that these guys had families and kids. Since I didn’t need the money, I repeatedly directed FASA to pay it to these other folks.

In 1996, when I needed money for the down-payment on a house, FASA did come up with $6300 very quickly for me, but aside from that payment, I got nothing from them between 1994 and 1999. By January of 1999, FASA’s own incomplete accounting of what they owed me totaled just shy $90,000.00. In fact, this total did not take into account foreign royalty payments that would have put the total over $100,000.00. With the sale of FASA Interactive to Microsoft, FASA did get a huge influx of cash and did wipe out the $90,000.00 debt they owed me.

By the summer of 1999, no royalties had been paid for book sales in the latter half of 1998. At that time I asked and was sent an accounting that showed FASA owed me about $6,000.00. I was told a check request had been sent in to accounting for payment. None was forthcoming; nor was there any word of explanation. Since FASA and Decypher were negotiating a buy-out I assumed payment was waiting for the deal to go through.

That deal collapsed. Still no payment, and no new royalty statements to reflect sales in the first half of 1999.

In early 2000 I got royalty statements from FASA that, because of a computer glitch, indicated that none of my books had sold a single copy in the whole of 2000. I pointed out to FASA that I refused to believe this. At the same time I pointed out that the royalty statements also did not cover foreign editions of books – copies of which I had sitting on my shelves.

FASA did an internal audit of accounts and uncovered a lot of foreign payments that had never been accounted to me, and presented a statement sheet showing that they now owed me $18,200.00; though that accounting omitted royalties for three books. Subsequent discussions with FASA about the royalty accounting program they use revealed that I’d actually been being underpaid on novels because of a change in the deal between FASA and ROC concerning how much FASA was being paid.

To my best estimate, FASA currently owes me in excess of $20,000.00. Not only is this a significant amount of money, but it’s my money. I appreciate the fact that it’s being used to cover payroll of folks I consider friends, but my payroll needs to be covered, too.

The Contract for Tide of Tyrants

Tide of Tyrants was the working title for the next book I was supposed to write for FASA. The Prince of Havoc contract offered me a 4% royalty and a $7500.00 advance. The Tide contract offered me a 3% royalty and an advance of $5500.00. This disturbed me for two reasons. First, I was very directly being told that despite having had five novels hit the New York Times Bestseller list, my work was some how worth less to FASA now than it had been before.

Second, the pay rate on the contract has to be looked at in context of what I get for work set in my own worlds. In my last original contract I had an 8% royalty, with a $30,000.00 advance for each of three books. Even at 4% and $7500.00 FASA was getting me at a bargain rate. The reduction of rates and payments was insulting and really rather silly, in light of the fact that they weren’t paying me anyway.

FASA’s editor and I did discuss and negotiate some alternative contract adjustments that would allow me to continue working on Btech, but these had to be taken to her bosses. Despite email sent to FASA subsequent to these negotiations to get a response, I heard nothing. Without a contract I wasn’t going do the work.

The lack of payment and an unsatisfactory contract, neither of these things was insurmountable. I’d worked that way with FASA for years. It did worry me that the slow-pay cycle had started again, while I saw no white-knight Microsoft deal looming to bring my accounts to balance. Even so, this too could have been worked around, but in combination with other factors, just made it apparent to me that it was time to cut my losses."


This story is, sadly, not at all uncommon in the gaming industry. If anything, it is unusual that FASA did...belatedly...pay their debts. Many game writers have not been so fortunate.

Despite this story (and the reason it was most certainly written long before the current date of posting), Stackpole did eventually return to write several BattleTech novels after FASA sold the IP.
 

TristramEvans

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Loren L. Coleman was another prolific BattleTech novelist starting in 1997 with Double-Blind. Coleman, along with his wife Heather, and former FASA staffers Randall Bills, Tara Bills, and Philip DeLuca, formed InMediaRes Productions (IMR) in 2003 specifically for the purpose of publishing new "Classic BattleTech fiction" (as opposed to the Mechwarrior Dark Age novels taking place in the setting of the Clix game). WizKids initially granted this license to IMR with a limitation set in place of short fiction up to 40,000 words.

This led IMR to create BattleCorps in '04, a subsciption-based service similar to an online magazine, offering new BattleTech fiction, scenarios, and in-universe news coverage. BattleCorps also offered a forum for subscribers to interact with the authors, along with the "BattleShop", an online store for purchasing pdfs of scanned OOP BattleTech books (with pictures of any "Unseen" removed).

In 2007, with FanPro's license set to expire, InMediaRes was approached by WizKids to take over production of the Classic BattleTech line. To this end, Catalyst Lab Games was created as a subsidiary imprint. This new license also lifted the restriction on only producing short stories, and in 2008 IMR began printing collections of short fiction that had appeared on BattleCorps, and announced the intention of printing new BattleTech novels, though as of yet none have appeared.

In 2008, Catalyst hit the ground running with a new series of BattleTech rulebooks, expansions, and sourcebooks, starting with the Classic BattleTech Introductory Box Set

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Despite the rather gaudy cover (those colours really hurt my poor tender eyes), The Introductory Boxed Set remains one of the most impressive releases for new players, including:

A 12-page full-color quick-start rulebook
A 32-page book of pre-generated BattleMech Record Sheets
An 80-page full-color rulebook
Inner Sphere at a Glance, a 48-pg full-color book containing universe background and BattleMech technical data
A 16-page full-color Painting and Tactics Guide
Two heavy-duty cards of compiled tables
Two 22" x 27" full-color double-sided mapsheets
Two six-sided dice
and a full-color, poster-sized map of the Inner Sphere circa 3067

As well as a whopping 24 new plastic miniatures

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This was followed up by Total Warfare (the new iteration of the BattleTech Compendium as a complete rules reference), and the TechManual (complete rules for mech and vehicle construction)

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