Friday, October 7, 2022

BattleTech: A Descent into Madness

 As fellow gamers, I know that you will understand how thin the line between "interest" and "obsession" can be.  I hope that you read the below as a cautionary tale, and take pity on the madness of your fellow gamer. 

Step 1 Buy a gift for a friend and his son.

My friend and his son have birthdays in the same week, and since he is an old school gamer, and his son is detail obsessed kid with a ton of time on his hands, I thought that they were well suited for a Battletech beginner boxed set.  This box comes with some basic rules, a couple of miniature robots (1-/250-1/300 scale), and other ephemera needed to play a few introduction games. Pretty good little box for $20. 

If you are not familiar with Battletech, it is a game of detailed robot combat, set about a thousand years in a dark age feudal future, where MechWarriors are the knights tromping about the galaxy.  Rules are little changed from the mid 80s, so hex based, very detailed, and with a number of additional books you can get to make them even more detailed.  Want to know the salary and healthcare benefits of the guy who fixes the left leg of the robot between battles?  You can!   And probably roleplay out the interaction when you cut his salary and threaten him with deportation if he does not keep up his job too. 

Step 2 Realize that I have some miniatures that could play with them

Long ago, I started on building a few 6mm armies for combat using Dirtside.  I bought a couple of metal Battletech figures from Ironwind, and then stuffed them in a box.  Recalling this, I dug out that box and looked at some pristine figures, still in blister after 16+ years.  Not unusual in this house, but in this case it paid off. 

Step 3 Remember that you have a 3D printer, and print some bases for the miniatures

The metal figures do not come with bases, and their integral bases are small and narrow, so not very useful for trying to stand up the figures.  I knocked out a basic 30mm hex base in Tinkercad, and printed a few of them. 

Step 4 Print some terrain for the gift

$20 seems sort of paltry for a gift for two people (even if it is the entry into a whole universe of fun!), so why not put that printer to work, and make a few trees and buildings to jazz up that starter set a bit?

Then my kid pointed out that more trees were needed to fill up the map, and I did not print any hills... so that part is still ongoing. 

Step 5 Print a few extra figures

Once I got a bit more into the lore, I realized that my metal mechs are out of period for the primary era of the game (3025).  Sort of like fighting a Great War Mark IV with an Abrams.  So I looked on thingiverse, and lo and behold there are Battletech figures on there.  Like a lot of figures.  So I selected a few likely sorts and printed them out.  At 3-6 hours each, printing is sort of a commitment, but not very much because what else is my printer doing, and they cost like $0.50 each. 

Shoddy primed picture of a Stinger, Whitworth, Hermes I, Assassin, Phoenix Hawk, and an Orion

Step 6 Start reading

Like Wikipedia, but for the Battletech universe.  Did you know that each mech, of which there are hundreds, has many variants each? Each with their own fictional history, manufacturers of parts, and canonical appearances?   Did you know that you can look at each planet of the galaxy and track its political affiliation and those of nearby systems with maps? Sarna is dangerous for obsessive nerds.  Many hours were lost. 

Step 7 Obsessively reread the Battle reports of 1000 Foot General    

Over at 1000 Foot General, John played a series of Battletech games in a campaign with his kid, and they are awesome.  He also has some house rules to smooth out the game play and campaign a bit, so that not every game devolves into last man standing bloodbaths.  Just some of them. 

Step 8 Print more figures

The danger of reading Sarna and learning about all of the cool mechs that exist, and reading 1000 Foot General, and seeing different mech types do cool stuff is that you then start to want more mechs...

Commando, Locust, Shadow Hawk, and a Jenner

Step 9 Make a few digital kitbash conversions

Remember how in step 6 I mentioned that there are a lot of variants?  Well some are more complicated, but others are basically weapon swaps, like this Javelin-10A above, which trades out two short range missile launchers for one large long range one.  I took two models of the Javelin, cut the arms off (digitally) and reposed them, re-sculpted the chest plate, and then dropped in the larger long range missile launcher.  I also made a ruined base for the robot to stand on, because why not?

Step 10 Obsessively collect all the STLs available to the point that you have to make a spreadsheet to track everything

Currently 64 variants deep, not counting pose variants for common 'mechs. Still looking for good models for ~17 more.

Step 11 Make the spreadsheet more complicated

Now with alternate era mechs, more variants, tonnage, battlefield role and more information...

Step 12 Consider digitally sculpting missing figures

Can not find a good Panther Mech?  Well, it sort of looks like a Wolfhound with more armor and a different gun...

...still not have played a game

I do have some painted figures though! 

At 30-60mm tall, they paint up fast. 

Metal Cerberus assault Mech

Printed Javelin-10 light Mech
More madness to come.