"In all endeavors, you should start at the beginning, proceed until you reach the end, then stop."

Okay. You just jumped into Battletech with both feet and you want to do everything at the same time, but you don't know what to do first. Hence the quote above.

Start at the beginning. Take inventory of what you have. Figure out a budget of what you need/want and how you are going to afford it without getting your spouse upset at you and making you sleep on the couch.

The first thing to get in just about every instance I can think of is the latest Box Set. The one currently on the market as I write this (2013) is the 25th Anniversary. It has the basic rules of the game and history of the Inner Sphere, two map boards, 24 Inner Sphere Mechs, 2 Clan Mechs, their record sheets and even a pair of dice!

Take that, and play a few simple small games. One or two Mechs a side. Get used to the mechanics and how things work in the game, and why they do so. Once you have that under your belt, move to the next level.

Next, buy the book Total Warfare. It has all of the rules related to the game itself. Continue playing with your same Mechs, moving up to some lance vs. lance battles.

Now that you have some experience under your belt, you want to expand. You find your stable of Mechs to be limiting and you're eyeing all those blisters on the wall of your FLGS. Don't go buying those quite yet. The nice thing about Battletech is you can proxy Mechs. You can take that Jenner, call it a Firefly and keep on moving. As long as you have the sheet to the Mech you are playing, it doesn't really matter what it is represented by, as long as everybody knows what it really is.

Your next step is to start looking through the fiction of Battletech and discover what era do you want to be in and who your Mechs are fighting for. Do you wish to fight for one of the Great Houses, a Clan, a faction such as Comstar, or do wish to be a mercenary? If you fight for a Great House or Clan, you will be limited as to what Mechs you can use. It is acceptable that the 1st Davion Guards in the post-Fed Suns breakup might have a couple of Steiner Mechs, but not a lance or two of Kurita units. That wouldn't "fit" right. If you were a mercenary however, unless you spent your entire history with one House, it would not be uncommon for you to have Mechs from all over the Inner Sphere acquired through purchasing from your employers or capturing/salvaging from the battlefield.

Go through the archives and see what House, Clan, faction or Merc unit tickles your fancy. Pick one by its history, or just because the unit has a cool looking paint job. If you don't see anything you like, do not despair! Make your own unit! Pick an era, and write the history down. No one is stopping you but yourself. Sarna and Camo Specs Online are where you want to start. Sarna is a fan wiki, compiling most of the Battletech Universe into one spot. CamoSpecs Online has examples of Mechs with various units paint schemes.

Once you have determined what your pool of available units are, you will need those record sheets. There are three ways you can obtain record sheets. You can purchase the appropriate collections of record sheets you need, or one of the Mech building computer programs Heavymetal Pro, or Solaris Skunk Werks.

You can buy compilations of Mech sheets directly from DriveThruRPG, but you have to buy them in their packages. Each collection offers to all of the factions a little bit. So, you will have to get several volumes to obtain all of your Mechs record sheets. DriveThruRPG sells PDF's, so you can print out the Mechs you need directly without lugging the book to the copy machine every time.

Heavymetal Pro is a commercial program. The full set of programs will run you about $55. They have the data files for almost every published Mech and unit out there. They have not updated for some time however. This program runs only in the Windows environment.

Solaris Skunk Werks runs under Java, and can run under Windows, Macintosh and even the Ubuntu distribution of Linux. This program is free, but they always appreciate donations. SSW has a vast library of Mechs, but the last update was September 2014. The good news is if it doesn't have a weapon or system, you can add it. The nice thing about HMP and SSW is if you want to make your own version of a particular Mech, you can modify a design with just a few clicks. All three choices allow you to print out copies of whatever Mech you want or have.

Now you can start to expand your horizons. Use the record sheets to find out what Mechs you like and fit your play style. Once you can write down 36-40 Inner Sphere Mechs, or about the same number of Clan Mechs (depending on your ultimate unit configuration), NOW you can start buying those shiny Mechs on the wall.

In all of the miniatures games I play, my primary advice to a beginner is "build your list, and then buy those units ONLY." If you do the "Ooh, shiny!" and buy units that look cool (like my son) you will end up with a lot of units you will never use. My son is currently expanding his forces the correct way, after realizing the "Ooh, shiny!" method got him a very unbalanced force of about 75% Clan assault Mechs and very little light or medium Mechs, when it should be the other way around.

I recommend a battalion sized pool of Mechs for the simple reason that you will have a wide variety of Mechs to draw from when putting together a force for a scenario. Light, medium, heavy and assault Mechs all have different advantages and disadvantages. Each Mech will do something well and other things poorly. What you use may also depend on the style of scenario you will play. At this point, the sky is the limit. 

You now have a battalion of Mechs (at least on paper), a history to go with them and a paint scheme. By the way, painted Mechs fight better and look cooler. I cover assembly and painting your Mechs in the following articles.

Good luck!

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