Dienstag, 22. Mai 2018

Classic BattleTech + Alpha Strike = BattleStrike!

When it comes to Classic vs. Alpha Strike, I have to admit: I love both ways of gameplay. But unfortunately, both ways have weaknesses:

1. Flaws & Strenghts of Classic BattleTech
The combat system of CBT is very detailed. Much more detailed than any other tabletop system I ever played. The damage model goes down to up to four (!!!) activators per limb. Bot to mention all the weapons, internal components like engine, gyro, sensors, life support and of course the cockpit. So piloting just a single mech is a very challenging task for a newcomer.

On the other hand the terrain is gigantic. Even though the weapon systems have a max range of about 720 meters, in terms of the battlefield … it’s huge! 9 or 12 maps of ca. 600 meters’ length, gives you a battlefield of several km². Compare this to Warhammer 40.000 or Flames of War!

2. Flaws & Strenghts of Alpha Strike
On the other hand, the terrain of a typical Alpha Strike match is pretty small. Usually you play on a field of 1 kilometer length and maybe 500 meters’ width. 

In contrast the combat system and damage model are so simplistic, you can field and play much more units at the same time as in Classic – while you have a much smaller terrain in the same time. This leads typically to a big stomp.

For both systems the following applies: One weakness is traded for another.

While Alpha Strike is letting you play huge armies, from a tactical point of view it doesn’t make sense – if you don’t live in a place with much open space to set up a gigantic map.
Classic BattleTech provides and enormous terrain, but every single unit is so detailed, you can only play with comparably small forces in a sane amount of time.

So … why not switching?

I had a look at the Alpha Strike rules for hex field maps. I found those rules okayisch, but not perfect. Half rate of movement (compared to AS) and the AS firing arcs … This would slow the gameplay down in terms of movement and let strafe armies over the battlefield. Or it would open up the rear firing arcs of many heavy and assault units, rendering them vulnerable to light mech and hover tank attacks.

This led me to the decision, to combine the following rules instead:
  1. Movement, firing arcs and terrain / LOS of Classic BattleTech
  2. Combat system, heat management and damage model of Alpha Strike
You would have a Marauder-3R with 4 / 6 / 0 movement points, which you spend like in Classic. I add those numbers manually written on the AS record sheets for those players, who do not know all the MPs of all the mechs and vehicles.

Modifiers for movement and terrain are applied as in Classic – with only ONE exception:
Partial cover is accounted as +2 on the attacker’s dice role.

If your mech ends its turn in a water hex of depth -1, it could fire its overheat attack without penalty. To enter a water hex, role the regular pilot skill applying the Classic Rules. If a mech falls while entering or being in a water hex, role automatically on the Alpha Strike table for critical hits – a mech could be crippled or destroyed this way.

Cover like trees or houses are used like in Classic BattleTech, f.e. adding a +1 (light woods) or +2 (heavy wood) on the attacker’s role. If an attacker gets into the rear arc of a unit and hits, it adds a +1 on its damage output. But for that, the attacking unit has to be in the rear arc, defined by the Classic BattleTech rules.

The only major change from Classic BattleTech are the ranges, as described in the AS manual for hex fields:
  • Short = 0-3 hexes = base role +4
  • Medium = 4-12 hexes = base role +6
  • Long = 13-21 hexes = base role +8
This may sound strange for fans of Classic BattleTech, but it works fine for BattleStrike. A lots of units like tanks or mechs as Hunchback or Atlas do have a brutal short range firepower. Limiting this to 3 hexes does balance this, because a lot of beloved units as Marauder or Arches are good on medium range. If you would apply 0-6 hexes for short range, units like Rommel, von Luckner, Hunchback or Atlas would be overpowered. Try it yourself in a test match!

And what about distances of more than 21 hexes?

Be honest to yourself, how often do you fight on these ranges? Even clanners get a bit closer than that. ClanTech is balanced due to the units speed, the superior pilots and the higher damage output on medium and long ranges. So you don’t really need +21 hexes of range.

Of course you can always add your own house rules, like changing the ranges for clan units to 0-4, 5-14, 15-24 if you wish. But be advised: Even minor changes can have a great effect on the outcome of the game balance.

Movement: lances vs. single units

Because I usually play big BattleStrike fights, I move in lances. Having 3 to 5 mechs, tanks or infantry platoons combined to one single initiative unit. If I loose a mech or tank, I just proceed to move those units until the lance is totally wiped out. I don’t merge reduced lances, because this tends to confuse you and your opponent if, when and which units you have to merge.

Additionally, I tell the players to stick together their lances and don’t spread them out on he whole map for exploiting the initiative rules to the max. I always tell my fellow players, that a military unit is trained to stay together to support its team members. There can be tactical reasons to split up. For example, if you have to take several points at the same time. But this should be a credible reason.

And on top: I limit the time the players are allowed to move their lances. For example:
  • Choosing the lance to move = 2 minutes
  • Moving the complete lance = 5 minutes
Saved time from the “choosing phase” can be added on the “movement phase”. So every team has max. 7 minutes to move up one tactical unit of usually 4 mechs or vehicles.

My advice: Don’t fear to make a wrong or not optimal move. Usually you have lots of units and you never can calculate all aspects. And rest assured, your opponent will make mistakes, too. ;-)

Did I forget anything? I hope not. And if I did, I will add things later on.

Enjoy BattleStrike!