Back on November 5th, a friend and I went to out LFGS (Little Wars of Houston) to try out War of the Mecha, a one page set of rules by JB at B/X Blackrazor for having giant mecha combat each other, providing a feel that is similar to FASA’s BattleTech. They read fairly straight forward and seemed much more streamlined than BattleTech of old that I wanted to give them a spin.
So we packed a bunch of minis of different types (on 4 of which were actual battle tech minis) and what we thought was a pile of old BattleTech maps and went over to Little Wars. I brought extra stuff as I wasn’t certain how long this would take to play, so I also brought a copy of By This Axe I Rule, some fantasy minis rules by Chris over at Hill Cantons that I’m play-testing for him, Counterterrorist by Privateer Press (way out of print), and Wings of War – a WWI airplane combat game (by Fantasy Flight games) that I have minis for.
The first thing we realized was that that was not a stack of maps, it was a stack of mech sheets with two maps that happened to be on top. Then we worked out that most of the actual BT minis we had were too big for these maps. So both maps and minis went to the side and we looked through what we had. I ended up using three Ork gargants from my Epic 40K minis and a mech I didn’t recognize for my lance. He used two ostmechs, a blue plastic mech of some sort, and a Necron trooper mini for his lance.
We used three medium mechs and an assault mech for each lance and then equipped them. We used the basic weapons load out option (2 large weapons and 1 small weapon for the mediums and 4 larges and 1 small for the assault mechs), but selected what weapon systems we wanted. My mediums were armed with a ballistic weapon, an energy weapon, and jump jets (I took the option to swap the small weapons for jump jets). My assault mech had three missile weapons, a ballistic weapon, and a small ballistic weapon. My friend ended up using missiles instead of energy weapons for his mediums and took two energy weapons instead of two of the missile weapons on the assault.
Next we needed a map with terrain. As we were at Little Wars, I looked through their extensive amount of store terrain that is free to use. It is impressive in scope and quality, but we needed hexes and all of the store terrain is for games that don’t use hexes. So I made a quick trip home for my set of Heroscape and brought it back with me. We used that to create a good-sized map with a few hills and LOTS of trees.
Then we started playing.
I missed the addendum in the War of the Mecha 2 page of rules, so instead of alternating mechs, we alternated sides, which caused a few peculiarities, but we were still satisfied with the game we had played when we found those rules. I did a lot of jumping and shooting, which caused me heat problems with the energy weapons, but put me in good shooting positions often enough for it to be tolerable. My friend’s missile weapons kept his heat low enough that he rarely suffered heat issues, but his damage rolls tended to be poor. By the end of the game I had destroyed his assault mech, knocked one of his medium mechs down to 3 armor points, and put 18-20 points of damage on the other two mediums. One of my mediums was down to 7 armor points, but the other two still had better than 50% of their armor and my assault mech was untouched. I offered his side the cessation of hostilities and a retreat option and they took it. We had both been lucky/unlucky in the fight and were pleased with the game and the way things worked out.
Rules-wise, there are several things I like about this ruleset. I like that armor is just one pool of armor points. I like the simplified movement rules (no backwards movement and no torso twists). I like that the three weapons systems use different damage dice (missiles use 1d20, energy use 3d8, and ballistic use 4d6/3d6/2d6 based on the targets range – longer means less damage). With the heat differences (missile 7, energy 10, ballistic 3) the player got to balance damage done versus heat accrued and select weapons that matched what they wanted to do. My use of energy weapons meant I ran hot a lot of the battle, but my damage was fairly consistent. My friend’s use of missile weapons on his mediums meant heat was rarely an issue, but the damage range on a d20 meant he couldn’t count on what he’d get from shot to shot.
There are rules for swapping out weapon systems for more heat sinks or more speed or more (but smaller) weapons and we will probably give those a tryout in our next game. I need to put together a simple checklist for the options and print out half-page sheets for each mech. We used 6x9 index cards I had handy and had plenty of space, even with two mechs per card.
By this point, dinner time was approaching, so we packed up and headed out. We'll have to try By this Axe I Rule another time. When I do, I'll write up how that goes.
Now you may be asking why I tried this instead of using BattleTech. Two reasons: I have a desire to run a BattleTech RPG campaign and want relatively quick battles as the RPG is the point, not the battles, and the reason I stopped playing BattleTech was the 1001 fiddly rules that made a simple lance on lance fight go on forever. I think these rules will allow for quick battles and let the roleplay aspect become the primary part of the campaign.
An in case you were wondering, there are rules for using the Clans. No, I will not be using the Clans – they suck conceptual-wise and are poorly executed in the backstory. The rules by JB are probably just as functional as the regular rules, but I’ll never know.