Battletech – A Time of War

Giant Robots Stomping About In My Head… Any Recommendations?

Hey there,

I’ve been thinking about options for what game to run after I finish the current Legend of the Five Rings Campaign that I’ve got going on (not that I’m looking to wrap it up just yet!) and for some reason I’ve got Sci-fi gaming on my mind.  I’ve already had a chance to evaluate Fading Suns, and it’s a strong contender for a campaign, right up there with an nWoD conversion using the Cyberpunk rules included in the WoD Mirrors: Bleeding Edge supplement set in the world of Posiedon of Blue Planet.

But the one possibility that won’t leave my mind is the idea of running a Mecha campaign.

Old readers of the blog are very well aware of my love-hate relationship with Mecha campaigns.  I want to run them, but they don’t seem to click when I’m trying to put it together.  If anything this is exactly why I want to give it a shot, I want to challenge myself, to see if I can pull it off or if I’ll end up crashing and burning in the merciless depths of space.

So, let’s take a look at possible candidates for games to run:

1.) Heavy Gear & Jovian Chronicles by Dream Pod 9

I have to admit that I’ve been charmed by these two games for the longest time, but I’ve held back on purchasing the PDFs for them because I’m worried that they might not be very clear images.  Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles neatly sidesteps the issue of having to build individual mechs, while presenting a concise, and interesting setting with conflicts that work from both a roleplaying and a tactical combat perspective.  Having rules for both scales are always a plus as well.

The latest edition of the books come in a D20 variant, as well as a version that uses their home Silhouette corebook, so cost-wise I’ll have to purchase two pdfs as well.  Hopefully you guys can tell me if they’re worth picking up.

2) Battletech by Catalyst Game Labs

The great grand-daddy of many a mecha game is a prime candidate as well, but I’ll have to admit that I haven’t the foggiest as to where to start with this.  The sheer number of books is intimidating, and the latest RPG, A Time of War, focuses on only personal-scale combat, and requires the Battletech game for the mechs.  I was hoping to avoid having to spend too much on this, but it’s hard to dispute the fact that this game has a LOT of followers… so it has to be doing something right.

3) Mekton Zeta by R. Talsorian Games

Here’s another oldie.  While definitely a mecha game, Mekton Zeta is also prone to showing its age.  Still, it works, and I don’t have any complaints over the ability to build mechs, but the setting of this particular game doesn’t grab me as much.  So this is a possibility but I’m considering it as a distant third.


And that’s it.  Not a lot of options sadly, and while there are some new games out there like the Aegis Project, or Remnants, I was hoping for something tactical along the lines of these three.  And so I turn to the readers… do you guys have any advice on what Mecha games there are that I haven’t seen?  Or if it’s any of these three, do you have any advice on how I can get around to finding a good copy?

[How do I Sci-Fi?] #1 Battletech – A Time of War

Welcome to the first installment of my attempt to gear my brain for running sci-fi games.  First on list of RPGs to take a crack at would be Catalyst Games’ Battletech – A Time of War.  While I don’t have a copy of my own (hence the lack of solid detail,) I am semi-familiar with the series through some old pc games such as Crescent Hawk’s Inception and Crescent Hawks’ Revenge, as  well as the esteemed Mechwarrior series.

It’s not really all that surprising then that I’d draw inspiration from these sources when formulating a campaign for Battletech.

Campaign Concept:

The players are members of a planetside military reservist force either as trainees or military personnel on standby.  The game begins with the usual introductory scenario, with the soldiers going through a standard training drill, while I run through some slice-of-life moments in a military base.

Then the Clans arrive for the first time.  Much like Pearl Harbor, the hit will be hard, fast and utterly unexpected.  In the midst of this chaos, the military base is thrown into a state of confusion.  Majority of their mechs will be damaged in the opening salvo, and other installations will be rendered useless.

Unable to determine just what the hell the Clans are, the commanding officers call for a strategic retreat, evacuating the planet even as the Clans continue their unstoppable onslaught.  Players participate in this process, helping evacuate people, while any Mechwarriors suit up to try and buy time.

After a successful evacuation, the survivors are requested to return to the core planets of their faction, to debrief their superiors on the capabilities of the mysterious new threat, and to plan a counterattack.

Themes: Heroism, Sacrifice and Hope in a time of War.
Character Concepts: Mechwarriors (limited to 1/3rd of the group), Military Personnel, Intelligence Officers, Tank Crew, Pilots, Scientists and Soldiers.

Moving forward, the campaign will deal less with the Strategic scale and maintain a close look on the human condition.  It won’t just be about fighting and blasting the enemy away.  The Clans represent a dangerous, and unknown enemy, but they are not invincible.  The players stand at the forefront, bringing knowledge they’ve gleaned to even the odds, learning the ways and tactics of the clans and finally discerning a means to fight back and defend their way of life from this threat.

Information, espionage, science and even diplomacy will play a vital role, and I’ll be staying away from dedicating too much spotlight time on explosions and war.  If anything I want to go back to the human condition, always back to the moments where human nobility, sacrifice and ingenuity turn the tides of battle… not just who has the bigger gun.


Well, that was interesting.  Not bad for a first try, but I wonder if I didn’t inadvertently just put mechs in a war movie.  What do you guys think?  Would you play this?

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