Dear Readers, after I first purchased my Battletech sets, I had literally nobody to play with. Like, nobody.
Granted, I only played Battletech Classic at the time. It is, for those of you who don’t know, a slightly more complicated version of playing Battletech. And by slightly, I mean tons more complicated. Here’s a record sheet so you can see for yourself:
As you can see, there’s a lot to keep track of on this. There is heat, individual weapons, ammunition, armor, internal structure, and the list goes on and on. Then you have specific hit locations, armor for each location, etc… The bigger the mech, the more complicated it gets. The one pictured above is actually a simple light mech with primarily, if not all, energy weapons. The thing could run and shoot everything it has and still not overheat.
Additionally, you play on a hex grid that is not to scale for the mechs (it’s supposed to be some sort of abstract distance, not regular distance, so to speak). In fact, this play is referred to as “map scale.”
And I am guessing that many of you, Dear Readers, have zero clue as to what much of that means.
So there I was, wanting to play, and nobody to play with. Except myself. Yes, I played both sides against myself. Sad, I know.
Until I dragged my toddler into it. Yeah, yeah, I know he didn’t get all what was going on, but counting pips on the dice (it uses a couple of d6’s) was good practice for him.
Then I convinced my older son to play, my 18-year old. He said it was okay, but he wasn’t really into it, I could tell. For me, it was fun to just have something to do to spend time with my boys. I got my eldest daughter into it as well, but that was a similarly same song and dance.
Then I figured out what these other cards that the mechs all came with were all about. I’m talking about Alpha Strike.
You cannot imagine how excited I was when I figured out how to play that!!
Here’s a card from Alpha Strike:
This, my Dear Readers, is what I am talking about! If I played this mech in Battletech Classic, this would end up being one of the more complicated mechs to play.
But here’s what’s cool about Alpha Strike: everything is so simplified.
Heat isn’t even tracked unless your mech is targeted by something that would heat it up, like inferno missiles. The damage is based on range, short, medium, and long (although some aerospace fighters have extreme range? Maybe?), the movement is based in inches, not hexes, skill is a set number that determines how easily you can hit another target, and armor and internal structure is simplified to be all-encompassing, a generalized stay for the mech.
Literally, everything is easier.
Add to that, and now everything is mech scale! This means that, while somewhat abstract, it’s supposed to be more on scale if the mechs were standing in a battlefield together. This means that, instead of a hex grid, you can use terrain, just like you would for most other tabletop wargame. Terrain that you can maneuver around, jump onto or over, use for cover, etc…
Then I taught it to my toddler (he’s 4 1/2 now, almost 5), who has figured out basic tactics, simple strategy, has a basic grasp of the rules, and someone who loves playing “giant robots” with his dad.
Then there is my oldest son. After I introduced him to this ruleset, he enjoyed it much more, and we play some Thursdays down at the local game shop, where it is Battletech: Alpha Strike night.
I say all that to say this: gamers shouldn’t be gatekeepers, no matter what they play. Teaching others to play is a gamer’s way of welcoming more players, giving you more people to play with! Add to that, teaching younger people how to play, with patience and support, raises up the next generation of gamers to also have patience and support when they teach others out favorite games.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
Until next time, Dear Readers…