Have you thought about transportation and game aids?

This article is on how tips and tricks to substiantially improve your gaming experience. The current terminology is "life hacks." I am using this article to present to you all of the things I so (and some I don't), so you can make an informed decision on what to use or not, possibly inspiring you to create your own solution. If you use most or all of these ideas for your gaming day, it should make it a stress-free day, outside of facing down your opponents’ assault lance that you didn't expect.

It's the big day! You have your forces assembled and painted. After months of painstaking work, you are ready to take the field at your FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) and kick some butt!

I have a couple of questions for you, before you head out the door.

1. How are you going to get your army there, and

2. Do you have the appropriate tools and implements to use once you get there?

Transportation

Let's talk about transport. You want to be able to transport your miniatures and supplies in a minimum amount of bags and have them arrive safely and undamaged. There are several ways to do that.

I suppose the cheapest way of doing that is used egg cartons that your spouse isn't already using. A pistol/rifle case works very well, as well as a camera case. All can be used relatively inexpensively and give a moderate level of protection. The problem is a lack of pockets for record sheets, rule books, tape measures, writing instruments, dice and the 15 other items you will need.

There are two bag makers out there that I would recommend. They are Battlefoam, and Sabol Designs. Games Workshop is also a player (#sorrynotsorry for the pun), however I do not consider them flexible enough for what you will be packing, plus they are very proud of their products. GW prices are significantly higher than a comparable product from one of the other mentioned vendors. I will tell you what I did, but you are free to choose your own path. I have purchased from all of these companies but GW. I encourage you to fully explore all of those websites.

Battlefoam: This is a company that makes a quality product. They have semi-hard sided cases that will withstand a lot of abuse and not let your miniatures get hurt. They sell trays with hex-shaped cutouts specifically for Battletech. I have a P.A.C.K. 432 to use for my transport and storage and I couldn't be happier. These are the Large trays, designed to have the P.A.C.K. 432 open with the front facing upwards and the handle towards you.  I use two of the large model trays (2.5") and a small model tray (2"). This allows me to carry 122 models, three IS Battalions, each with a command Lance. The medium trays would stack like an Army Transport, carrying slightly less models. Battlefoam makes pre-made trays for many game systems, plus trays for Games Workshop and Army Transport cases.

pack432

Another great feature of the Battlefoam cases is they use the molle system, so you can add a whole bunch of blister packs to hold things not able to be held by the pockets already on the case.

Sabol Designs: Sabol are the guys who make the ubiquitous Army Transport. I have a total of 5 Army Transports of various models. I have a Platoon that holds my Epic:Armageddon armies, an original Army Transport, an Army Transport Mark II, and a Army Transport Battalion case that wheels around, that I used to carry my 7,000 points of Ultramarines. My son also uses a Platoon for his Battletech forces. I like the Mark II the best out of all of them because it unzips from the back, making easy access to the trays. It also piggybacks with the Platoon, so one hand can carry multiple bags. While I use the Platoon for my E:A stuff, I don't like it that much, because they made the Platoons just a hair smaller in width and breadth than the other models. Trays are harder to get in and out of that one.When I carried my Battletech models in my Army Transport, I used a third-party vendor (now out of business) that made pre-cut hex trays, but the trays weren't very high quality and I had to glue 1/4" plywood underneith them because the base could not hadle the weight of metal miniatures.

Sabol's trays are not compatible with Battlefoam cases. Sabol also offers pre-cut trays, and can do custom orders, but their bread and butter are the pluck foam trays My experience with pluckfoam is that they fall apart after a while, requiring purchasing new trays every 12-14 months because the pluck foram tears away from use.

army transport

Games Workshop: They build their cases for their products. GW has zero interest in Battletech. I have never bought any of their cases, I thought they were too overpriced. Your choice.

Record keeping

The absolute minimum you need to play Battletech is a marker or chip representing a unit, a sheet to record damage to it, a writing instrument to record the damage on said sheet, and a pair of 6 sided dice. Everything else beyond that enhances your experience.

We have already talked about miniatures, especially when they are painted. My son's unpainted miniatures were referred to by a friend and opponent as "Clan Chrome Pigeon" because they are unpainted and seemed to die very quickly in the last battle. A 3D miniature beats a cardstock cut out (check out the 1st edition BT box set) or a poker chip.

If you play a lot, and if you play big battles, you will go through record sheets like there is no tomorrow. If you have a set unit, a good idea is to use document protectors and wet-erase markers. You can laminate your sheets, but that can become very expensive and if you change models, you have to laminate new sheets. With document protectors you just swap sheets. Wet-erase markers won't smudge on the record sheets like a dry-erase marker will. And all it takes is a damp paper towel and a touch of elbow grease to clean a sheet off. If you notice in the picture on the right, there is a large paperclip over the heat scale. This is an easy way to know what your heat is. It is very easy to slide up or down. By the way, this only works for sheets printed by Solaris Skunk Werks, because the Heavy Metal Pro has the heat scale too far away from the edge of the sheet.

recordsheet

Taking turns

In the Battletech rules, the player who wins initiative gets to move first or second. The rules say, "If at any time the unmoved units of one player/team are double the unmoved units of the opposing player/team, two units must be moved." This leads to counting, mathing and several other boring adulting things that slows down game play. The gaming group I belong to uses this simple method: playing cards.

cards

If there are two players/teams, you use the red and black cards. A card does not have to correspond to a particular unit, all you are doing is using the suit color to determine which team has the movement initiative. You put one card in the stack for each active unit for each team (Battle Armor riding on a Mech do not rate a card until the turn after they detach) and shuffle the stack at the start of every turn. If you have three or four teams, then you use the suits. As units are destroyed/leave the game, you take a card for that team out of the stack.

We like this for a couple of simple reasons: 1) it speeds up game play, 2) it frustrates everyone's timing and tactics. If the shuffle goes "bad" (i.e. not the way you want) the bulk of your units might move very early in the turn, or very late.

Rolling the hard six

Now I ask you, up until now, what have you done to remember how fast and far have you moved your units? It's no big deal if you're running two Mechs each, but if you are running a company sized battle, you can easily forget what each Mech did over the course of the turn.

The solution? Buy four bricks of 12mm dice. You can get a brick of 36 dice for about $5.00. I use red, white and blue dice for movement, the green I will explain momentarily. You can use any colors you want, as long as you can remember which color means what. I use white for walking, red for running, and blue for jumping (as in "blue for flew"). The color of the dice tells the owner how much to add to their to-hit number. The number on the die denotes the targeting modifier for the person shooting at it. So a 4/6/0 Mech that expends 5 movement points and moves 4 hexes total will get a red die showing the number 2. If he jumps those 4 hexes, you would put a blue die showing "3" as it is automatically +1 whenever a target unit jumps.

dice bricks

But what if you don't move, or if you moves 2 hexes or less? Very simple. If it walks two hexes or less, you use a white die showing '6', with the dots turned as if the Mech is leaving tracks, as in the picture on the left. If a Mech uses zero MP, a white die showing '6' is placed with it, with the dots going side to side, as shown in the photo on the right:

slow nomo mech

The left Mech will have to add +1 to their to-hit number for shooting, and whomever shoots at it will not incur a targeting penalty. The right Mech gets no movement penalty and anyone can shoot at it without a targeting penalty as well.

The green dice are for Piloting Skill Roll (PSR) reminders. In my group, we use the TacOps rule where you get a +1 for every 20 points of damage you take in a phase, modified by the weight class of your 'Mech. Assaults get -2 to the number, Lights get +2 A 4/5 pilot in an Assault Mech that takes 60 points of damage in a phase will get a Green 1 (+3 for the damage, -2 for the weight) while a Light that takes 40 points in a phase (assuming it survives) gets a Green 4 (+2 for the damage, + 2 for the weight).

I highly suggest you make sure your rolling dice are different in both size and color from your status dice. This way your rolling dice won't get confused with your status dice, and the wrong die gets accidently picked up.

Shooting Aids

This is the section of the rules that get the most slack as far as playing. The rules say "all units firing must declare its target and weapons shooting before anybody starts rolling dice." But most everyone I know lets that rule slide by the wayside. They pick a unit, declare who they are firing at, and roll the dice for that unit. Now, if you have say three units all meant to be concentrating their fire on one unit, and the first unit headcaps the target, the other two units shots should be wasted. The slack comes in when we allow these two other units to switch targets because they were firing after the first one killed the target unit.

The way to adhere to the rules uses a very simple device: Popsicle sticks. You can buy them by the hundred from any craft store. Very simply, you cut each popsicle stick in half the short way and write on it for example "AWS-9 Pri" and "AWS-9 Sec." This lets that Awesome have a primary target, and a secondary target, if the Awesome pilot wants to split fire. You won't use the secondary stick a lot, but it's nice to have when you do want to split fire. At the start of the fire phase, you place your Primary (and/or Secondary) targeting sticks in front of whomever you wish that unit to fire at. When all of the sticks are laid down, you grab all of the sticks in front of a unit and pick one at random to have that unit fire at that target. Rinse, wash and repeat until everyone has fired. If there are three or four shooters on one target, and the first one destroys the target, the unfired units mark off their ammo and calculate their heat for the weapons they were going to fire and you move on to the next target unit.

In the below example, the Rifleman has both of his sticks out, targeting the Warhammer as the primary target and the Locust as his secondary.

firing chits

Dice, dice, dice

There are two methods you can use when doing the actual rolling of the dice in the to-hit and location rolls. First is the "Box of Death." This is a clear multi-compartment container, usually used for storing fishing lures and supplies, or even beading or crafting supplies. You can pick them up from Wal-Mart very inexpensively. Here is a picture of my "BoD."

bod 1bod 2

You put two dice in each location and if you need to make a large number of rolls, you shake the whole box and drop it on the table. You declare which pair is rolling for what before you shake it. For example, if you have a 3x5 box, you can roll three LRM's all at the same time. The first column is the to-hit, the next column is the cluster size and the last three rolls are the locations. There is a downside to this. It is as noisy as a 747 taking off. If you are the only one using a "BoD," you will annoy the other players very quickly.

A compromise is to have 4-5 different colored pairs of dice, and roll all of those at once on the table, not in a "BoD." You match the pairs together after the rolls and go from there. If you are firing three Medium Lasers, two Large Lasers and a Gauss Rifle, you would roll three pairs, then two pair, than the last pair for the Gauss Rifle.

Pointing true

A metal tape measure or laser pointer is always a handy device to have, even if you will be running on a hex map. I use tape measures as a straight edge to draw a line from center to center, shooter to target. You can look straight down on it and see if it goes through any wooded hexes, or any elevated hexes that might block or impair LOS.

I have now imparted to you all of the tools, tricks and implements I have learned to speed up and simplify gameplay. Go forth and be victorious!

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