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Hostile Borders – BattleForce

The following objective based battle was played out using the BattleForce rules in Strategic Operations.  Opposing forces from Steiner and Kurita face off to control vital objectives on the battlefield.

Each force consisted of a full Mech Battalion with an additional Assault Command Lance (40 ‘Mechs for each player!).


Download the Hostile_Borders_TOandE record sheets as a PDF.


Victory points are scored during the game by eliminating opposing lances (3 points) and controlling the three objectives on the board each turn.  The center objective is worth 3 VP each turn while the other two are worth 2 VP.

Objectives are controlled by having the majority of units adjacent to the objective marker.  Control is checked and scored at the end of each turn.

Objectives block movement but do not block line of sight.


Steiner lines up their forces evenly across their map edge.  To the North, a company of lights and mediums look to speed their way towards the closest objective while to the South a heavier force looks to navigate the wooded terrain to contest the far objective.

Kurita meanwhile sets up heavy in the middle, to make use of the bridge to get the majority of their non-jump capable lances across the river.  Light lances stretch out to the North and South flanks looking to gain ground and make advances on the objectives.

Turn 1Kurita wins Initiative

The first turn sees both forces move at top speed towards the objectives.  Kurita remains clumped towards the middle of the battle while Steiner remains spread out.  Light lances are making top speed to nearest objectives.

Victory Points: Steiner 0, Kurita 0

Turn 2Kurita wins Initiative

Both forces continue their march towards each other with both sides using Light lances to secure one objective.

Opposing forces remain out of range for the time being.

Victory Points: Steiner 2, Kurita 2

Turn 3Steiner wins Initiative

Steiner manages to race a heavy lance into position to secure the center objective while the main component of Kurita forces struggle with the terrain.  At the same time, most of the Kurita Heavies are nearing prime positions on the hill overlooking the center of the battle.  Defensive positions are setup around the North and South objectives while opposing forces both probe at long range.

Weapons are finally finding their range as missiles, lasers, and autocannons erupt along the divide between the two forces.

At the top of the map a Kurita Jenner crumbles under combined fire from a Steiner medium lance.  A Kurita Trebuchet has its head shot off by long range fire.  Return fire scatters damage to armor.

A Kurita Heavy lance of Archers uses their height advantage to line up shots against the Steiner lances securing the center.  Missile rain down inflicting heavy damage to a Steiner Heavy lance.  However, damage is done mostly to armor as Kurita selected to spread out shots instead of concentrating fire.

Victory Points: Steiner 7, Kurita 4

Turn 4Kurita wins Initiative

Steiner establishes a defensive stance and secures cover where possible.  The Steiner Heavies to the South are slowly working their way through terrain to support a Light Lance which retreats slightly into cover.

Near the North a probing Steiner Medium Lance is engaged by a Kurita Light and Medium Lance while in the center, Kurita lines up all three Heavies to prey on the lone Steiner Heavy Lance securing the center objective.

To the North the combined Kurita fire kills off a Phoenix Hawk while return fire scours armor but little else.

In the center, the Kurita Heavies rain death upon the Steiner Heavy near the objective and decimate three of four Mechs, reducing them to slag.  Return fire concentrates on the Kurita Archers but can only peel away armor.

Victory Points: Steiner 12, Kurita 6

Turn 5Steiner wins Initiative

Reeling from the withering firepower of the Kurita Heavies, Steiner forces retreat from the center objective.  The nearly destroyed Steiner Heavy Lance sulks backwards for cover.  Kurita seizes the momentum and secures the center while striking at the Steiner controlled objective in the North.  Steiner consolidates its forces to counter the assault on the North objective while continuing to spar with forces in the South. Steiner Heavies continue their painfully slow march to join the fray.

Concentrated fire from both sides tears armor and structure apart.  A Steiner Sentinel blows up in an ammo explosion.  To the North the Steiners begin making up casualties as they tear apart one of the Kurita Medium lances, securing a first complete lance kill.

Steiner Light lances lose two Commandos and the Command Lance takes heavy damage and critical hits to a Zeus’s weapons.  Luckily several volleys from the Kurita Archer lance fail to find their targets.

Victory Points: Steiner 17, Kurita 11

Turn 6Kurita wins Initiative

Steiner pushes into the South objective, finally supported by their Heavy lances.  Steiner Mediums run flanking maneuvers using available cover.  The Steiner Command lance reinforces the North objective against the sustained Kurita assault.

Kurita presses the Northern attack with Heavies from the center, leaving the Archer lance to control the center objective.  Kurita forces in the South make best use of available cover to attempt to counter the fresh Steiner lances now engaged.

The Steiner Heavies in the South expertly divide their fire to fully obliterate the defending Kurita Medium lance.  The final return fire scratches some armor but can do little more before crumbling.  The defending Kurita Lights manage to combine fire to destroy a Hatchetman and cripple a Sentinel.

In a surprising long range attack, the Kurita Command lance almost completely destroys a Steiner Medium lance.

To the North, both forces trade volleys shedding armor and trading critical hits.  As a whole the Steiner forces, using the woods to their advantage, seem to come out better.  A second Kurita lance, a Medium, meets its doom while several Steiner lances are hanging on by a tread.

Victory Points: Steiner 22, Kurita 14

Turn 7Kurita wins Initiative

Steiner fades from the Northern objective, still fighting to contest the objective but forcing the Kurita forces to fight for every inch.  Steiner Medium lances in the center of the battle turn into harassers behind the Kurita lines.  Kurita does not choose to pursue the harassers and reinforces the fight for the North and South objectives with it’s Heavies while the Command Lance holds the center.

Kurita loses the last of a Light Lance while its other two lances hold the line while defending the Southern objective.  One Archer goes down while the rest of the Kurita Heavy lance suffers minor damage.

Steiner loses another Commando while multiple lances shed armor to Kurita attacks.  A surprise long range attack on the Steiner Command Lance scores multiple Weapon criticals.

Victory Points: Steiner 27, Kurita 19

Turn 8Steiner wins Initiative

Kurita forces shrink back from attacking the Southern objective to secure the center.  The battle over the North continues with Kurita pushing with its heavy lances.

Weapons fires pours across the battle.  The Steiner forces decimate one of the Kurita Heavy lances, downing two Mechs.  The Steiner Heavies take major damage but manage to only lose a Thunderbolt.  The Steiner Command lance also takes heavy damage.  Armor slags off in droves but critical hit rolls come up empty.

Victory Points: Steiner 29, Kurita 24

Turn 9Steiner wins Initiative

Kurita concentrates the attack on the North while conceding the Southern objective.  The last Kurita Light lance, sensing the end is near, moves to contest the Southern objective to draw at least one if not two Steiner lances away.

Steiner makes a surprise move and mostly abandons the Southern objective, leaving it only contested with a single lance.  All other Steiner units collapse towards the center to face off against the Kurita Command lance and the Heavy Archer lance.

To the South, the Kurita Light lance is destroyed by SRM volleys but not before touching off an ammo explosion in a Commando.

Kurita kills off two Steiner Command Mechs while stripping another of armor.  Return fire from the Steiner’s cracks two Kurita Command Mechs, weapon critting an Awesome.  Both Command lances pay a heavy price this turn but somehow remain intact.

Victory Points: Steiner 32, Kurita 29

Turn 10Kurita wins Initiative

Steiner forces continue to collapse on the center objective.  Kurita escapes the center while securing their hold on the Northern objective.  The Southern objective is left to Steiner who guards it with the remnants of a Light lance.

Weapons fire is sporadic and many previously damaged Mechs are felled by opportunistic shots. One more Kurita lance meets its end while several Steiner lances are left limping but still alive.

Victory Points: Steiner 40, Kurita 31

After the Dust Settles….

The final score does not tell the full story of this battle.  It was a lot closer than it may initially appear.  Kurita’s Heavy lances decimated Steiner forces for the first half of the game.  Many Steiner lances were left hanging on with a single unit remaining.  A quirk of the scoring system meant that Steiner held onto the lead throughout most of the game but it was a lot closer than that.

The second half of the game saw Steiner gain superior position against the pressing Kurita attack and begin to lose some individual battles while winning the war.  A great game in the end.

Posted under After Action Report

Turning Points: Epsilon Eridani Review

Citadel of Devotion

The opening short fiction of Turning Points: Epsilon Eridani takes place over two time periods.  We are first presented with an enthusiastic vision of promise and new beginnings as Comstar unearths the location of a sought after cache.  Euphoria fades away to despair within a few short years.  As the Republic closes the noose on the Comstar’s position, fighting becomes man to man in cluttered hallways filled with the battered and broken remnants of those loyal to Jerome Blake’s misguided visions.

A bit more macabre than usual (and Battletech is full of macabre scenes) the opening fiction thrusts us into the world of Epsilon Eridani and is a well written introduction to the birth and destruction we are soon to learn about in the pages to come.

Epsilon Eridani

The opening section of the PDF covers a brief overview of the planet, its major geological features as well as a bit of history.  Epsilon Eridani seems to have a gifted life.  A majority water world, it “suffers” from frequent rain storms and is replete with numerous stockpiles of natural resources as well as a few Star League caches.

Quite the bounty if you ask me.  I don’t think I’ve seen a BattleTech world featured in a Turning Points PDF with this much going for it outside of a major capital.

Map tables are provided for those wanting representative battlefields.  An interesting note is the presence of two tables for other planets mentioned in the tracks.  Not all of the action takes place on the battlefields of Eridani.

Random Assignment Tables

Tables are provided for four distinct forces that will make up the conflict on this world.  Only ‘Mechs are represented, which is a shame.  I always look forward to combined arms games when encouraged.

The Republic Militia/Spirit Cats table has some odd balls thrown into the mix with some Industrial ‘Mechs making the list.  Other than that, considering the year (3141) we are greeted with an assortment of “newer” designs that are prevalent in the Dark Age era.

Avenging Angels

The battle depicted in this PDF primarily focuses on the Republic and the waning military elements of Comstar.  Conflict, originating on other planets, spills onto Epsilon Eridani and turns into a back and forth melee.  I was a bit surprised to see the use of orbital bombardments near the end of the battle.  I would think such operations would be relegated to the past but it appears no objective is sacred enough to be excluded from the brutal machinations of war.

The battle for Epsilon Eridani is more focused than some other Turning Points I’ve read before.  The list of competing interests is shorter than a lot of others.

A fine introduction to the conflict, however brief, and a good intro for what is to come.


Indeed the combatants section is only a single page.  Comstar, led by their First Division, goes up against a trio of forces from the Republic of the Sphere.  Each combatant is provided with a Commanding Officer, experience level, unit ability, and some historical notes.

Unit abilities are rather mundane and revolve around standard Tactical Operations abilities, RAT manipulations, and otherwise lack the spice I would expect from truly original abilities.

The Comstar force also features some AToW stat modifiers.  I am not sure if that would play a role in this PDF other than as source material for an enterprising AToW GM.


Finally, on to the best part of the document;  The tracks.  Epsilon Eridani features 11 tracks, which puts it at an above average count for the series.

Overall the tracks leaned heavily on uninspired objectives and optional bonuses.  Motivation through objectives never strayed far from the expected Kill the Other Guy type.  Optional bonuses consisted of a mix of terrain and weather effects with a sprinkling of added pre-battle damage and others.

There are some bright spots though with the inclusion of the occasional dropship, artillery, and combat drops.

Pursuit of Glory features a full aerospace battle with jumpship capture objectives.  A refreshing addition to the book for sure.  There are not enough space battles to be had in the Turning Points series.

The most interesting track of the PDF is Active Probes which features a smash and grab supply stealing objective.  The Attacker is tasked with using a swarm of hover trucks to pilfer as much cargo as they can before the battle ends.

I saw many references to Era Report 3145, an obvious product tie in.  Perhaps this is where additional RAT tables for infantry and conventional vehicles were to be found?  Many tracks called for a mix of infantry, battle armor, and conventional combat vehicles while the PDF only provided BattleMech RATs.

Alpha and Omega

This section catches the reader up on the happenings of Comstar in the fading light of the Dark Age.  This short section provided the most concrete historical information on what led up to the events in this PDF.  Some of it was very surprising.  I’ve not tread very far into Dark Age era lore, so some of the events that the tracks were leading to were quite shocking to say the least.

Obviously I found many gaps in the lore.  There is only so much that can be crammed into a PDF only product.  Era Report 3145 promises to further enlighten readers on the full story behind that battle.

Record Sheets

We get three record sheets to complement our battles.  The first is a Pollux II ADA Tank featuring an Arrow IV system with some impressively high tech secondary weapons systems.  The only sour point I can see is that the tank is a bit under armored considering it’s 75 ton frame.

Up next is a mixed tech Lament.  A 65 ton monster with duel ER PPCs and heavy medium lasers.  A radical heat sink system attempts to cool this laser heavy monster.  Quite the ‘Mech for anyone wanting a hard hitting heavy ‘Mech with staying power.

Finally we have a 70 ton Dragoon.  At first blush the ‘Mech seems a bit under-armed with a Plasma Rifle taking top billing as its main offensive weapon.  It is however, decked out in some of the latest electronics including a C3 system as well as Guardian ECM.  Ferro-Lammellor armor provides protection to complete this tech heavy brawler.

And All the Rest

Blasting into the Dark Age era, Epsilon Eridani is a stark and foreboding tale of the twilight of Comstar.  While all the usual Turning Point PDF goodies are included, overall I found the tracks to be a bit too mundane and comfortable to rank this highly among its peers.

The inclusion of an aerospace battle and the few other gems in the rough do their best, but fail to elevate Eridani above par for the series.

Posted under Review

Misc IWM Buildings


It has been a while since I last visited GenCon, but the last time I went, I picked up a handful of these small buildings from Iron Wind Metals.

Roughly hex-sized, these buildings could be warehouses, parts depot, or something simpler.  They work great on hex maps and are in good scale for a 2 level building.


For painting, I kept it simple with a base of Slaanesh Grey followed by my usual magic wash to set the shadows.

After waiting overnight for the wash to set, I gave it a quick coat of sealer (Dullcote) and then gave it a quick dry brush of a mix of the base color and a little bit of white.

Boom.  All done and ready for the table top.

I wish I could find these little guys on the IWM website.  As I recall, they were very affordable.  Something around 50 or so cents each.

Hopefully I can get back to the convention scene sometime in the near future.  Until then, I do have quite the backlog of minis and terrain to paint up.  Here’s to busy schedules and engaging hobbies!

Posted under Terrain

Strategic Hex Chits

Over the years I’ve played a few games of BattleForce and have also taken a distinct liking to the new Abstract Combat System.  One thing that unites these two rule sets is the use of Strategic Symbols to represent combat units.  While you could always proxy in miniatures I feel that the use of iconography showcased in Strategic Operations (itself a modification of familiar Military Symbology) really adds to the gaming experience.

Catalyst Game Labs has made available some modestly priced PDF products for those who wanted make their own tokens at home.

I’ve downloaded the whole bunch and have played around with them in the past.  I really think they hit the mark.  They are gorgeous tokens but they do require a bit of work to make them tabletop ready.  Not a huge detriment considering we are all war gamers who are perfectly comfortable cutting, filing, priming, painting, and sealing minis and terrain for fun.

However, I’ve always wanted something with a bit more heft.  Something a bit more substantial than some card stock glued back to back.  Over the last year I’ve been using Print on Demand services from The Game Crafter (TGC) to procure board and card game prototypes.  Just recently I’ve prototyped some hex chits for my Battle for Altais scenario.  After some tweaks as well as some process improvements at TGC I wanted to make these chits available to anyone to purchase.

A Closer Look

Take a look at the following action shots to see how they look.  The chits will come attached to a punch board so you have the fun of punching out the chits when you first receive them.  The hexes are just a bit smaller than a standard BattleTech map hex so they fit nicely next to each other even when things get crowded.  My only complaint with TGC is the front to back registration can be a bit off, so the radar blips sometimes are skewed to one side.

stratopstokens - 2stratopstokens - 3stratopstokens - 5stratopstokens - 8

stratopstokens - 9stratopstokens - 10stratopstokens - 16stratopstokens - 28

One of the best features is a UV coating which makes every hex dry erase marker compatible.  You can mark units, keep tabs on radar blips, and do any kind of tracking you can fit on the hex.  After the battle, just wipe it away and be ready for the next campaign.

stratopstokensdryerase - 1

I have more than a few sets available for sale depending on what assortment of colors and units you are most interested in. (Click through to see details on TGC) Each item will have a full inventory in the description.

The multi-color packs feature a reduced variety of units but cover all five major colors BattleTech players will want to see (red, blue, green, yellow, purple).  The single color Reinforcements have a much wider variety of units including things like Aerospace, Artillery, Mechanized Infantry, and even an HQ unit.

Future Plans

I have a few more ideas in mind for future expansions to the lineup.  A Grey Reinforcement set is a given.  A set of space hexes is also in the works.  We could all use some Warships, Space Stations, Jumpships, and Dropships in our lives.

Looking For Something Completely Custom?

Not seeing anything you like?  Perhaps you need a different color?  A unique unit type?  A different mix of units to capture your favorite battle?

I can work with you to do something completely custom.  I generate the images for each hex using a script so just about anything is possible.  With a little bit of work I can generate a custom TGC order for you to purchase.  If interested, shoot me an email at and we can discuss the details of your project.

Posted under Misc

Interstellar Operations Beta Recap

Summer of 2015 was an unexpectedly busy one for BattleTech.  After many many years of waiting we got a look at the upcoming Interstellar Operations core rule book.  The open beta period featured a sequence of smaller online releases followed by a limited edition softcover print run of the full book at GenCon 2015.iops - 1

Fortuitously, I was able to make it to Indy and snagged my very own copy.  It was something to behold.  This, among all the other books in the series was the one I’ve waited the most for.  In it, the Grand Strategic game rules were waiting to be poked and prodded.

Catalyst gave us a month for play-testing and feedback, and what a month it was.  Below is a recap of my experiences and the work I did to explore the deepest crevasses of Interstellar Operations.

Kicking the Tires in Style

I can’t say enough about the value of the print copy of the Beta rules.  I know they sold out at GenCon and for good reason.  Not only does it provide a unique collectors item but also provides a way to get the best playtesting out to the fans.  I know I can’t be the only one that stares at a computer screen most of the day.  I prefer my BattleTech and other leisure reading to be of the dead tree variety.  That reduced eye strain and the ability to quickly flip between sections of the book was vital to getting any testing done on these rule systems.

Pick and Choose

Interestingly enough I only had any use for about half of the rule book.  I don’t have a lot of use for the alternate eras sections.  My focus is the game rules, including Strategic BattleForce (SBF), the Abstract Combat System (ACS), and the Inner Sphere at War (ISW) rules.  You can keep your LAMs if you like.  Makes no difference to me.  I’m here for the grand level strategic gaming and always have been.

The Inner Sphere at War

The Inner Sphere at War is the latest incarnation of a Grand Strategy game for the BattleTech universe.  It allows dedicated players to take the reigns of entire factions to wage war across the Inner Sphere.

That is quite a lot to try to cram into even 1/2 of the 367 page rule book we have today.  Interstellar Operations takes its lead from the old (and much derided) Inner Sphere in Flames rules found in the poorly edited Combat Operations rule book from the FanPro days.

The Inner Sphere in Flames rules had several issues.  First and foremost, it was an incomplete set of guidelines around which players could build a complete set of game rules from.  My heart sank a little bit when I then read this line at the start of the ISW rules in Interstellar Operations;

While these rules attempt to capture the basics needed to run a campaign, the scale of ISW is too great to cover all possible variations in game play.  These rules are a framework around which players can construct a campaign spanning just a few worlds, or all 2,000-plus worlds in the BattleTech universe.

Despite this potential cop-out, I was pleasantly surprised by the rules and their level of polish.  There are areas to improve and I hope that Catalyst takes the communities’ ideas to heart.  You can read all about the beta and the community feedback below.

So what is in the ISW rules?  Let’s take a quick tour of what’s included and major differences from previous Grand Strategic Games.

At first blush ISW begins like most other Grand Strategic Game iterations we have seen in the past.  Game turns are divided into familiar phases; Order Writing, Economics and Logistics, Military Development, Commerce and Diplomacy, Military, and End phases.

In a new twist, player controlled factions are given faction abilities that provide special abilities involving different phases of the game.  They are meant to be advantages and hindrances that combine to give a more nuanced picture of a particular faction.  For example, the Lyrans are Merchant Kings with Superior Black Ops, but suffer from Flawed Doctrine owing to their social general based military hierarchy.

The bulk of the game will have players plotting invasions, forming alliances, and developing Combat Commands to wage war.  Once war does inevitably break out we turn to a brand new way to play BattleTech; the Abstract Combat System.

The ACS is a battalion to regiment level combat system that covers planetary scale battles.  We are talking 700km hexes using turns of 2.5 days in length.  Individual Combat Units hold entire battalions inside formations of one or more regiments.  And all of this scaled up complexity is the distilled product of the Alpha Strike stats of the individual units.  This is quite the departure from combat systems of the past which abstracted commands into a tiny handful of strength numbers.  Instead of combat being resolved by a single die roll (where invariably the bigger stack shall win) we have a much more detailed system of positioning, recon, and die throwing.

Unfortunately and perhaps not surprisingly, there are more than a few things missing in ISW at the current moment.  Rules for War Ships, Espionage, and alternate eras are suspiciously absent.  The book had unfortunately outgrown the confines of its simple binding.  We have been promised additional product releases which will expand the game system to include these rules.  I have it on good authority that these rule developments are underway.  Hopefully we will not have to wait too long for them to materialize.

Playtests and Automation

I wanted to get as much play testing in as possible within the short month we were allotted.  Not a lot of time.  There was no chance for me to meet fellow BattleTech players in person.  I was limited to time available in my evenings.  So naturally I started to think about ways to automate the system to be easier to test and be accessible online so I could receive help from willing guinea pigs online.

For those of you who follow the blog, you know I run a companion site where players from around the world can play games of the the old FASA era board game Succession Wars.  My goal was to build a similar site minus a good bit of the automation capabilities.  What I ended up with was a website that would help to track and generate units, move combat commands, and most importantly facilitate ACS combat between players who move tokens on a common play surface while rolling dice by themselves in real life.


One day I hope to be able to create something fully automated that will live up to my grand ambitions.  For now though, the web code served its purpose and allowed us to play a test game involving a single planetary battle, namely, Altais in 3039.

These test games would later be the inspiration for my entry into the IO scenario contest which I was able to win after there were no other entries besides my own.  Look for The Battle for Altais in a future ISW based product.

For those of you wanting to take a peak at the code, it is available online on Github.

Thoughts and Questions

While the bulk of ISW and ACS seem perfectly serviceable there are a few rough edges that myself and more than a few forum dwellers have focused on as potential problems.

For instance there does not seem to be an incentive to invest in the advancement of planets beyond a certain point.  After upgrading to minor industrial there is little to push you to upgrade any further as the investment would simply produce more money for you by sitting around and collecting interest.

One of the more confusing rules is that newly minted Combat Commands (regiment level forces) may be placed anywhere when purchased and there is no limit to how many forces may be bought so long as you have the funds to pay for them (production capacity is divorced from factory quantity/quality).  This presents a few problems.  Number one, there is no need to build forces for an invasion or defense because you could easily conjure required forces at will with sufficient funds.  There is no weak spot to invade an enemy when they can instantly counter your attacks with perfect placement under this system.

So there are still a few things I would expect will see house rules to make the system as a whole palpable.  As many know, I’ve never been shy to change a rule or two to fit my particular needs.  I think the BattleTech community is well know for innovating when called upon.

Looking Ahead

After a long long road, we are almost home.  Interstellar Operations finally has it’s street date; April 27th, 2016.  I will be first in line to grab a copy to add to my gaming shelf.  With final rules in hand, there is only one last thing to do…  We need to grab our dice and start conquering the Inner Sphere.

Posted under Articles

TotalCon 2016

TotalCon 2016 is in the books.  I was able to make the short trip out to Mansfield Ma for a weekend of gaming.  Unfortunately I was not able to partake in my usual assortment of BattleTech games.  I got caught up running a few games (for free entry) and then playing in more than a few board games.  Special Thanks go to Wrangler for providing some of the pictures featured from the Con.

BattleTech Games and Minis

Battletech - Touchpoint Wei - Republic forces charging the Liao defendersBattletech - Touchpoint Wei - Liao Assault Lance facing off with Republic heavy lanceBattletech - Ti Ts'ang 1Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario- Draconis Combine Company (Close up)

Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hounds Command Lance (Shadow Hawk, Catapult, Archer (Morgan Kells), and Longbow)Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hounds battlefront from DC's advancing front linesBattletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hounds - Phoenix Hawk cornered by DC WolverineBattletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hounds - Phoenix Hawk and Stinger - Taking cover 1

Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hounds - Assault Lance advancing, with Scorpion taking coverBattletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hound's Light Lance (Phoenix Hawk, Locust, Wasp, and Stinger)Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hound's battlefront by turn 4Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Draconis Company Company 2

Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - DC Yorinaga's Warhammer and Command lance mates taking coverBattletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - DC Thunderbolt (From the Assault Lance)Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - DC Light Lance (Wolverine, Locust, Wasp, and Stinger) 2Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - DC Fire Lance (2 Warhammer 6K, Rifleman, and Shadow Hawk 2K)

Battletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - DC and KH lances clash on the eastern frontBattletech - Phantom Mech Scenario - Kell Hounds Locust 1 Battletech - Phantom Mech - DC Assault Lance (Side view)Battletech - Great Turtle (Love Turtle)

Battletech - Easy Mission - Breeching the Fortress Wall 2Battletech - Easy Mission - Breeching the Fortress Wall 1totalcon2016 - 13totalcon2016 - 1

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All the Rest

Here is a few snapshots of the non-battletech related action at the con.

Attack Vector - Ships passing a PlanetAttack Vector - Green and Red fleets clash - Green trying escape through the gatetotalcon2016_2 - 6totalcon2016_2 - 5

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Posted under Uncategorized

Designing Altais, Part One

Alongside the Interstellar Operations (IO) Beta held last year was a scenario contest aimed at highlighting the new game modes created for the book.  The Abstract Combat System (ACS), pages 304-325 in IO, is a large scale strategic game meant to compliment the new Inner Sphere at War (ISW) rules, pages 344-368 in IO.  ACS covers regimental engagements over entire planets.

My scenario, The Battle for Altais, is set in the War of 3039 and features a combined force of the Mercenaries and the 8th Donegal Guards fighting it out against the mysterious Ghost Regiments.

In the end my scenario was the only entry.  Hurray for small victories!  I guess they could have not picked anyone at all.

With only a month allocated to the Beta period, I spent a lot of time trying to get a handle on the rules, providing feedback, and corralling individuals across the internet to help me test the ACS rules using some hastily created software utilities.  With the very little experience I had using the system, I made my best attempt at a balanced and interesting scenario for the contest.  Sadly, I was not able to playtest the entire thing prior to the entry deadline.  Now that IO is off to the printers and we have the final rules PDF there is no time like the present to get cracking and properly kick the tires on the ACS rules system.


The War of 3039 is familiar territory for me which worked well with the Succession Wars era focus of ISW.  The scenario is based on the planetary invasion of Altais, which takes place in the first wave of attacks on the Draconis Combine.  I used reference material from my well worn copy of Historical War of 3039 and tried my best to capture the essence of the battle while providing interesting strategic choices for both sides.

The scenario is a Victory Point race between Attacker and Defender.  There are three objectives worth points every turn, however the Defender gains points late in the game just for surviving.  The Attacker has the advantage in terms of force size and experience but they cannot bring all of their strength to bear at once.  Tough choices must be made by Attacker and Defender alike if they want to claim victory.


Bringing Altais to Life

In order to properly play Altais in person and in style, we are going to need a few things.

  • Formation Tokens
  • Maps
  • Record Sheets

Formation Tokens

The Battle for Altais, and any other ACS game uses regiment sized formations.  The previous release of Strategic Operations gave us a view of what strategic level tokens should look like.  The good people at Catalyst even released a set of free print your own tokens which Custom BattleForce Tokens.

But for Altais, I wanted to step things up a notch.  Enter The Game Crafter (TGC). TGC is a print on demand board game component company.  Most importantly, you can design and print your own board game quality chits. These are thick, punch board type tokens that would work great for Altais.  Their “mini hex tile” is a nearly perfect 1.25×1.08″ which is slightly smaller than a standard BattleTech map hex.

Unfortunately I’ve never been great at artwork or design and I couldn’t just copy paste what CGL provided.  I had to find a way to make my own.  The answer I found was in a Ruby Design Specific Language (DSL) called Squib.  Squib allowed me to programmatically layout a design and use my own data to fill in the details.

Here is what I came up with.  Note that these will be cut at the printer to a hex size.  The art is designed to “bleed” to the edges to compensate for any possible drift between the print and the cut.  I’m looking forward to seeing these in person when the order comes in.



ACS uses two maps, the Star System Radar Map (SSRM) and the Planetary Combat Map (PCM).

The SSRM covers the space around the target planet including the Zenith and Nadir jump points.  IO includes a copy of the SSRM but it is a one page black and white bare bones version.  I wanted something I could custom print in a larger format.

Luckily the geometry that makes up a SSRM is fairly basic and easy to duplicate.  I leveraged Squib again along with some freely available NASA images to produce some nice looking images suitable for large format printing.


The PCM is an abstract view of the planet surface.  Rather than an accurate model of the planet, the PCM represents the usable area for movement and conflict.  There are no features of note on the PCM.  Each hex is 700km wide so terrain is abstracted to nothing. Yes, even oceans.

IO recommends using the back of a standard BattleTech map for the PCM.  That will work for most since the PCM is really only an abstraction.  I wanted to do something a bit more interesting.

I browsed a lot of gimp tutorials and freely available art for assets to make a PCM worth playing on.  Here is a short list of the possible solutions.  Once again, I am planning on having these printed in large format so the final files will be high resolution.  I am not completely thrilled with the final results so far.  I intend to do some tweaking before I make the final selection.

pcm00_3 pcm00_5 pcm00_4

Record Sheets

IO comes with two record sheets for ACS.  The first is a Formation Tracking Sheet which lists the details of up to 14 Formations and the bare minimum stats of each of their constituent Combat Units.

The second sheet pertains to those Combat Units with details on the Combat Teams that make up that unit.

I find the format of these sheets to be severely lacking when it comes to actually playing the game. There are a number of charts and additional details left off the record sheet which will require frequent cross referencing of the tables within IO.

Also, why list Combat Teams?  Perhaps this is done to aid construction, but for actual game play, there is no point since all combat takes place at the Combat Unit level.

So I went about making my own set of record sheets with a focus on gameplay and making it easier to get ACS to the table.

My goals were to simplify gameplay with aids baked into the record sheet.  One sheet would hold information on a Formation and its Combat Units.  I brought back bubbles, because why break with tradition?

I’m not totally sold on the layout just yet and I am still contemplating doing full page record sheets for Formations and Combat Units alike to support more tables and game play information.  There is certainly a trade-off between complexity and playability.

For what its worth here is my first cut, subject to change based on my own testing and game play feedback.  I hope they are an upgrade to the current offerings in IO. Please leave a comment below with any suggestions.

Formation Record Sheet

More to Come

Stay tuned for more as material comes in and we finally get to some serious play testing.  I am very excited about the new ACS rules and can’t wait to get them to the table in style.

Posted under Articles

Operational Turning Point Widowmaker Absorption Review

We are back with another addition to the expanded Operational Turning Points series.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Operational Turning Points PDFs are bigger and larger cousins of the normal Turning Points series and features a larger campaign centered around a group of planets.280px-Operational_Turning_Points_Widowmaker_Absorption

We are treated to a Succession Wars era Clan Homeworlds campaign.  If that combination does not get you excited I don’t know what else will.  The familiar Philip A. Lee is at the helm for this Widowmaker Absorption adventure.  Lets see how he does.

The Day that Greatness and Vision Died…

A great piece of fiction opens up the PDF in the hours following the death of the ilKhan.  We follow Khan Jerome Winson as he runs his ‘Mech hard to kill as many Widowmaker warriors as he can before good judgement can finally turn him away for repairs.

I found this bit of fiction very entertaining and among the most engaging I’ve read in the OTP or TP series.  Very well put together and a worthy introduction to the chaos that hopefully awaits in later pages.


The atlas section covers three worlds, each with their own set of map tables, as well as common terrain features and optional weather conditions.  Each planet has a brief description covering basic system stats and history.

Very nice section with the added bits of information connecting each planet with the Trial of Absorption.


RAT tables are provided for three Clans, Wolf, Widowmaker, and Other.  ‘Mechs and Aerospace fighters are provided for each as well as a common Vehicle table.

I am very glad to see combined arms as an option.  Always makes things better.

The BattleMech list is a very interesting one.  It can seem a bit unorthodox at first to see so much old technology in a Clan RAT table (Marauders, Catapults, Locusts, etc).  Don’t fear because mixed in are a few Star League designs (Hussar, Wyvern, Lancelot, etc.).  Further examination will reveal a few scary options like the Thunder Hawk, Pillager, and Wakazashi.

Untangling the Web

This two page section details the nitty gritty of the events leading up to the Trial of Absorption and subsequent near annihilation of the Widowmaker Clan.  Treachery and sacrifice permeate the story which ultimately leads to the rise of Clan Wolf as the strongest of the Clans.

A very good write up with a lot of action across relatively few worlds.  I am excited to see how these events are translated into the campaign missions later on in the book.  There appears to be ample stock for conflict.


The personality section gives a brief overview of the major players within Clan Wolf, Widowmaker, and Goliath Scorpion.  Each leader is also given a set of A Time of War attributes and skills for use in an RPG campaign for those wishing to tread that particular path.

Tragedy seems to follow most leaders in the Clans.  If you are not killed horribly on the battlefield then you live to be a disfigured and mentally damaged warrior until you are shot out of your cockpit while stuck in a swamp.  What a way to go.  The BattleTech universe can be a cruel place to live.


The combatants section features the notable combat units involved in the Widowmaker Absorption which includes those from Clan Wolf, Clan Widowmaker, Clan Jade Falcon, Clan Burrock, and Clan Goliath Scorpion.  Obviously Wolf and Widowmaker are the main contenders but the other three Clans are presented for their bit roles in the conflict.

Each unit is described with a Commanding Officer, experience level, unit abilities, and notes.  The notes section gives additional fluff about the unit and tidbits of information on the conflict with the Widowmakers.  The Widowmaker unit insignia are very cool… first time I think I’ve ever come across them before.

Unit abilities were varied and provided a good mix.  While the usual suspects form Tactical Operations and Initiative bonuses were present, some new pilot abilities were thrown in in interesting combinations to mix things up.  Certain forces abhor ammunition based weapons.  Others are (gasp) geared for physical combat.  There are some very interesting forces in this campaign.

Most Interesting Force has to go to the elite 1st Spinners.  They suffer Communication Disruption but take advantage of the Brawler special ability as well as a sprinkling of Melee Specialist and Demoralizer.  Quite the combination. I would hate to see them across the battle field.

The Campaign

A quick campaign primer is provided to outline how the campaign is supposed to work and also give some guidelines for creating a force.

I may have missed it, but I did not see where it states how many Warchest Points to start with.  I assume it is the standard 1,000, but it is curious that such a note is absent.


Three generic missions are provided for the campaign.  They include Trial of Possession, Trial of Grievance, and Pursuit.  All of them follow a basic formula and provide the bare minimum of variety while staying open enough for interpretation.

For generic missions they do the job.


Seven Touchpoint tracks provide the main course of OTP: Widowmaker Absorption.  Only seven Touchpoints is in line with previous offerings while falling short of the immense and well received OTP: Falcon Incursion.

I found the bulk of the Touchpoint missions to be very good.  Individually I think I may have fallen back on my familiar criticism of being too predictable and formulaic variations on the theme of “Go Kill the Other Team”.  However, taken as a whole, there is a lot to like.  From dense urban landscapes to magma field laden cliff faces there is a good variety of locations.  Objectives will most always have you shooting up the other ‘Mechs as best you can, but sprinkled in are alternative motivations like supply depots, HPG stations, and massive wall fortifications.

A little more thought could have been put into the choice of Optional Bonuses, which tend to always be weather related.  It is a common pet peeve of mine.

The Touchpoints really shined in the highly thematic and almost scripted elements found in Ironhold (Trial of Refusal) and Roche (Spiderholm).  The circle of equals in Ironhold followed by the inevitable chaos resulting from the end of zellbrigen is something I am really dying to try out.  It sounds like a great scenario to play out even outside the confines of the greater campaign.

Roche (Spiderholm) showcases the last defense of the Widowmaker homeworld.  A triple layer of hardened walls topped with defensive turrets greet the attackers who must find a way to assault the last vestige of Widowmaker power on the planet.

Great stuff.  The more I go over the missions I see a lot to look forward to.

Record Sheets

Only two record sheets are provided but they are good ones!

The first is none other than Kerensky’s Atlas II.  This behemoth assault ‘Mech is modest at first glance.  Dual ERLLs, an LB10-X, and an LRM20 make up the long range threat.  Once closer in, a pair of Medium Pulse Lasers and SRM6s add additional firepower.  Curiously, we see an ECM and Active Probe.  This Altas seems a bit more geared for a leadership or defensive position than a close in Brawler type of ‘Mech.

The second ‘Mech is the Highlander used by Khan Jorgensson.  This ‘Mech does all of its damage at distance with 2 ERLL, Gauss Rifle, and LRM20.  Once again, a bit under armed at first glance compared to more modern units.  Still with standard engines, both these ‘Mechs could stick around for a while on the battlefield.  Better be ready for a long slog to beat these ‘Mechs into submission.

Final Thoughts

OTP:WA is a very good read and provides an excellent campaign suitable for an epic string of gaming sessions or a simpler one-off event.  While some tracks play it safe with regards to objective and bonus selections, players should find enough variety to keep them interested, especially the centerpiece missions on Ironhold and Roche.

This PDF is well worth the price of admission.  Fans of the Clans should be doubly delighted.  Even if you are not a fan of the Wolves or Widowmakers in the current timeline, seeing them in this earlier time, prior to the Clan Invasion, is worth a second look.

Posted under Review

A Grinder a Day

Grinder- - 6

I have not had much time to game these days so when I do get a chance I savor every minute.

My last venture to the battlefields was with two local gamers.  We broke out my Grinder terrain, took control of two units each, and proceeded to blast away at each other until dinner time.

While none of us managed to climb into our heavies in the time we had, we had a lot of fun and rolled a lot of dice.  There was lots of jumping and maneuvering to keep us on our toes.  I started with a RAC5 on one of my ‘Mechs which I managed to jam three times.

I hope my guests had fun and look forward to more games in the future.  Keep those dice rolling.

Grinder- - 2Grinder- - 1Grinder- - 4Grinder- - 3

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Posted under Misc

BattleTech Kickstarter by Harebrained Schemes

For those of you living under a rock, you may not have heard about a little Kickstarter being run right now.  Harebrained Schemes, a company led by one of the founders of BattleTech Jordan Weisman, is collecting funding for a turn based tactical game set in the 3025

Given the previous success of the Shadowrun video games I am looking forward to seeing what this ultimately turns into.  Mr. Weisman’s company has a good track record for success and delivering well polished and well received games.  I also think that the previous work on Shadowrun has helped this Battletech game by showing the way and giving confidence to potential backers.

A Slow Burn

The first thing that pops up when I looked at the campaign was the expected delivery.  May 2017.  Thats right, we are looking at a year and a half development cycle for this game.  That is a long time to wait.

Granted there is expected to be a Beta period (available at the $50 pledge level and up) that may get players into the game earlier but be forewarned that this campaign is going to require patience as the Harebrained Schemes crew cooks up the full game.

And perhaps this is only being honest.  Software takes time.  Most kickstarters are late to deliver by some degree due to aggressive schedules.  Perhaps this is about as honest a schedule as we have ever seen on a Kickstarter this size.

Not Much to Show, Yet…

From what I am able to discern it looks like nothing is currently completed for the game except for concept art and general planning.  Nothing wrong with that but it gives us an appreciation for the amount of work yet to be completed.  I recall Shadowrun Returns had some basic movement, action, and combat demos working at the time of the Kickstarter.

Swag Galore

I’m going to admit that some of the swag levels look really cool.  Totally useless but cool none the less.  Kinda like dice at GenCon.  You don’t need it but it feels great to hold in your hand.

I’m going to be a late backer as I try to scrounge what I can to possibly afford the $125 level.

Looking Forward

I am going to guess that we will end up in the $4.5 Million range when all is said and done.  Right now we are in the bottom of the bathtub curve but if history is any guide we should see a large upswing as we come to the last few days.

Games like Shadowrun Returns have helped pave the way for this Battletech game to be a success.  I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the final product.

Posted under News