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Subject: Introducing new players: what Mechs to use? rss

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Tim Mirkes
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I'm planning a BT game for 4 people:

1 non-gamer who loves sci-fi and is willing to play games
1 light gamer who has RPG and board game experience
1 light gamer who has played a single game of BT
1 experienced gamer who has played lots of BT

The first two have never played BT before, and the 4th one is me.

So my question is this: when choosing which era of Mechs to choose for this introductory skirmish, what do you think is the easiest era to teach?

I'm thinking my best options are going to be 3025 (most basic, easiest to teach concepts as opposed to Mech min/maxing), 3050 (more power creep, can make 3025 seem slow/boring by comparison), or make it a Mackie fight (not sure if I'm really serious about this one)

Thoughts?
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Christopher Bartlett
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3025, with a mix of medium 'mechs is what I would choose.
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Ron D
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I would definitely go for 3025/3039 tech, using medium 'Mechs. There are 7 standard medium 'Mechs from this era with a BV2 between 982 and 1041, so they should all be pretty evenly matched.

All of these appear in TRO: 3039. If you're using old TROs, the Wyvern isn't in the original TRO: 3025 while the Scorpion and Phoenix Hawk aren't in TRO: 3025 Revised. If you have one of the intro box sets from the last five years or so, you'll even have record sheets and models for the Whitworth, the Vindicator, the Enforcer, and the Hunchback.

- Whitworth WTH-1 (BV2 = 982)
- Wyvern WVE-6N (BV2 = 1005)
- Scorpion SCP-1N (BV2 = 1019)
- Vindicator VND-1R (BV2 = 1024)
- Enforcer ENF-4R (BV2 = 1032)
- Hunchback HBK-4G (BV2 = 1041) (The BV2 for this is misprinted in TRO: 3039)
- Phoenix Hawk PXH-1 (BV2 = 1041)

Any of these would be good choices, though for starters, you might avoid the Scorpion. Quads use some extra rules that could complicate things.
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Jim Patterson
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All of this is good advice. You might also consider the scenarios and force makeups used in the Quick Start rules:
http://bg.battletech.com/?page_id=27
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I agree with what the people above me stated. Mediums and perhaps Heavies after a game or two are ideal. Most Small mechs just move too fast for standard Inner Sphere pilots to consistently hit. Assaults and some beefier Heavies are easy to hit, but tough to punch through to Internal Structure. All you usually end up doing is sloughing armor off.

3025 era tech is generally the traditional starting tech point for beginners. No Star League era, Clan or Blakist tech to deal with. Learn the basics, THEN take the training wheels off. Make sure they remember to track ammo and heat accordingly. I have no problem with the box set's approach of leaving those things out of the Quick Start game, but it's easy to get the wrong impression of the game based on those neutered rules, so I throw them in as soon as the new players feel comfortable with the basics. It's going to take a few games before everyone starts to remember the common modifiers, so make sure you run off copies of the tables for everyone to refer to.

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Tim Mirkes
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Thanks for all the advice

One further question, if you don't mind:

What sort of scenario would be best to start with?

My thoughts drift toward having 6 Mechs on the table, 3 for me and 1 for each of them. That way they get the psychological support of having one person who's done this before, plus they get to cooperate against the experienced guy without worrying about the other newbies backstabbing in an opportunistic moment.

On the other hand, I can see the value in my taking perhaps a light Mech, partner up with one of the new guys, and try to downplay the effect of my experience by handicapping myself. It'd still give me the chance to teach and play at the same time without giving my team a huge advantage because of my experience, I think.

I mean, being the experienced guy, they're probably always going to gang up on me anyway, as I'm always going to be "the biggest threat", but at least if I'm provably handicapped, maybe they'll engage each other as much as they would me.

Thoughts? Do I go for a team battle in some fashion? Or just throw everyone into a free-for-all, "last man standing" duking match (again, likely handicapping myself somehow to keep things fair) and let them shoot whoever they want? Is there a good option I'm missing?
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Scott M.
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Use 1 Mech each,
Let the new players get the mechanics down.
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Ron D
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tlmirkes wrote:
Thanks for all the advice :)

One further question, if you don't mind:

What sort of scenario would be best to start with?

My thoughts drift toward having 6 Mechs on the table, 3 for me and 1 for each of them. That way they get the psychological support of having one person who's done this before, plus they get to cooperate against the experienced guy without worrying about the other newbies backstabbing in an opportunistic moment.

On the other hand, I can see the value in my taking perhaps a light Mech, partner up with one of the new guys, and try to downplay the effect of my experience by handicapping myself. It'd still give me the chance to teach and play at the same time without giving my team a huge advantage because of my experience, I think.

I mean, being the experienced guy, they're probably always going to gang up on me anyway, as I'm always going to be "the biggest threat", but at least if I'm provably handicapped, maybe they'll engage each other as much as they would me.

Thoughts? Do I go for a team battle in some fashion? Or just throw everyone into a free-for-all, "last man standing" duking match (again, likely handicapping myself somehow to keep things fair) and let them shoot whoever they want? Is there a good option I'm missing?


Forcing them to team up against you probably won't work well - they won't know how to coordinate very effectively and initiative for games like that is always funny. An every man for himself melee should work great in these circumstances and allow everyone to have fun. For the first game, as long as everyone enjoys the game and gets some understanding of the basics, you are on the right track.
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Personally, I'd kinda-sorta spoon feed them a victory by giving them guard duty as a small garrison with you as the invading force. Give them one medium mech apiece and run one heavy into the arbitrarily assigned hexes they're protecting. With a clear-cut group goal established ahead of time, you'd be surprised how well they might work together as a group. They'll start working out amongst themselves whether and who, will stay back to guard the hexes and who will be advancing to try to tangle with you to keep you at a distance.

There are many scenario options and you can find inspiration for custom scenarios everywhere, including first person shooter video games. You might also consider a "capture the flag" game where it's a 4(?) person free for all. Roll off for the right to pick which corner of a map you start on and place a "Flag" marker as close to the center of the map as you can. Pick from 3025 era mechs and have at it.

Objective options for capture the flag include racing to the center flag just to acquire it, or making it so you score a certain amount of points for every turn you hold the flag with a successful hit on a flag holder causing the flag to be dropped.

Perhaps instead of flags, each player starts with a bomb on their corner base and each player is trying to advance them to an opponent's base where they have to survive on said hex long enough to arm the bomb. You could make it so that ANY successful shot causes the bomb to be hit and ruined before activation, requiring said player to have to return to their own corner to get a new bomb. Obviously fast, light mechs would be able to dart back and forth a lot quicker than their heavier counterparts, but don't forget that each mech still can get fired on by their opponents, so maybe that little bit extra armor a medium mech would have will be the difference between an explosive death and survival.

Really, the sky's the limit. Slugfests and brawls are fun, but to me, the game really begins to shine in objective-based scenarios. Many use the existing ones published by FASA and Catalyst, but it's not too difficult to make up some objectives. If you think the players need the objectives to be thematic, flags become critical salvage or bombs. Just have fun! If the players don't like the scenario, ask them why and implement their feedback into future scenarios. Just feeling like their opinion carries weight is enough for most to give things second, third, and even fourth chances. For some people the subtle nuances of the game become apparent right away, for others, it may take a game or two, so your goal shouldn't be to get everyone to like the game after one play. Help them learn basic mechanics and hopefully everyone takes to the game. There's nothing worse than being in a game group where one person absolutely loves a game and everyone else hates it.

Best of luck and happy shooting!
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Bryan
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Don't forget to use different colored d6's to mark for movement. I usually used white for walking, red for running, and black for jumping. Then you can flip to the number on the dice for the modifier of the distance moved.
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I learned Battletech in a Phoenix Hawk and I will readily recommend them as the perfect test bed for a first game. It's maneuverable and well armed for its size, yet sturdy enough to take some damage. You also may want to consider putting your newbies through the paces against some light vehicles, which tend to be much easier to take out than other Mechs. Throw down a few Vedettes, Scorpions, or Galleon Light Tanks and they'll get a great feel for the game without a whole pile of the risk that comes with it. Sometimes I throw in a fixed turret too since they have firepower but are also much easier for your Mechs to target since they can't move.
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A friend and I just ran 4 new players (our sons) through an intro. We used six mechs per side and each had a mix of medium to heavy mechs. We stuck to 3025 with no variants. This is my personal favourite period, althuogh I like the variants and some home brew based on this time. I found that Clan Tech and Lost Tech changed the feel of the game. I still prefer to avoid those.

We let each person play two mechs a piece to get the feel for different weapons, movement, and coordinating units. On my side, I made sure each would have a jumper and a walker so they could learn the difference. Worked well, but initially slow as expected since they were totally starting from scratch.
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Tim Mirkes
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Overall, are the BV calculations better with WK/Catalyst era sources? I seem to remember that there are some rather glaring inconsistencies between the construction values and the published BVs that FASA released. To the extent that I at one time found a web site whose only reason for existing was to post the "corrected" BV information.

Should I rely on BV's from WK instead of FASA? Does it matter?
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Ron D
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tlmirkes wrote:
Overall, are the BV calculations better with WK/Catalyst era sources? I seem to remember that there are some rather glaring inconsistencies between the construction values and the published BVs that FASA released. To the extent that I at one time found a web site whose only reason for existing was to post the "corrected" BV information.

Should I rely on BV's from WK instead of FASA? Does it matter?


Yes, the BV2 values are substantially better than the old Battle Values, at least for standard units. BV2 was intended to be "universal" which means it applies to all unit types, including AeroTech warships and stuff, and it starts to get pretty odd there. As long as you just want to use 'Mechs/Vehicles/Infantry, BV2 should serve you pretty well.

Obviously, it is still an imperfect measure depending on the type of game you want to play. An Atlas is obviously way more expensive than an Ostscout, but the Ostscout is still better in some situations (like scout and scan missions). The BV2 works well enough to measure combat effectiveness for a stand up fight in relatively normal terrain.
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It depends on how precisely balanced you want the game to be. Several mechs only had a BV change because something rounded down in the new calculations whereas the FASA calculations rounded up, or some inane detail like that.

Also, CGL is supposedly working on a BV3 system. You might be better off just winging it with BV1 or BV2 with the intent on moving on to 3 should it get released anytime soon.

Personally, and especially if 3025 era mechs are being used, I'd ignore BV altogether and just balance by tonnage.
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Ron D
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Dr Lucky wrote:
tlmirkes wrote:
Overall, are the BV calculations better with WK/Catalyst era sources? I seem to remember that there are some rather glaring inconsistencies between the construction values and the published BVs that FASA released. To the extent that I at one time found a web site whose only reason for existing was to post the "corrected" BV information.

Should I rely on BV's from WK instead of FASA? Does it matter?


Yes, the BV2 values are substantially better than the old Battle Values, at least for standard units. BV2 was intended to be "universal" which means it applies to all unit types, including AeroTech warships and stuff, and it starts to get pretty odd there. As long as you just want to use 'Mechs/Vehicles/Infantry, BV2 should serve you pretty well.

Obviously, it is still an imperfect measure depending on the type of game you want to play. An Atlas is obviously way more expensive than an Ostscout, but the Ostscout is still better in some situations (like scout and scan missions). The BV2 works well enough to measure combat effectiveness for a stand up fight in relatively normal terrain.


Just FYI - they are talking about re-doing BV again some time soon, but I doubt they will modify the values for most of the standard ground troops much, if at all. BV2 is having some break-downs at the extreme ends but unless you are using a lot of large craft or dropships, or multiple layers of experimental tech on a 'Mech, you shouldn't notice any calculation problems with the current system.
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hskrfn822 wrote:
Personally, and especially if 3025 era mechs are being used, I'd ignore BV altogether and just balance by tonnage.


That has always been the easiest way and the way I've always played.
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tylex wrote:
hskrfn822 wrote:
Personally, and especially if 3025 era mechs are being used, I'd ignore BV altogether and just balance by tonnage.


That has always been the easiest way and the way I've always played.


It's certainly easier - it just doesn't always do a good job of recognizing 'Mechs that punch above their weight. For example, of the standard 40 ton 'Mechs in TRO 3039 (Assassin, Cicada, Clint, Hermes II, Sentinel, Vulcan, Whitworth), only the Whitworth has much of a chance in a stand-up fight with the 35 ton Wolfhound. The BV2 reflects this. Most of those 'Mechs have their uses, but because weight is not a great indication of effectiveness, you don't necessarily see many of these 40 ton 'Mechs get played frequently in weight-balanced games. I find that by using BV2 to balance forces, I see a much greater variety of 'Mechs on the table. When I've played weight balanced games, I've usually only seen one or two 'Mechs get used at any particular weight.

BV2 is far from perfect, and it is certainly a bit more work for the players than just adding up total tonnage, but I find the BV-based games to be more interesting with a greater diversity of 'Mechs than I see in weight-based games. Of course, I usually favor campaign play with lots of mission types over one-off, fight to the death games, so I don't have to worry about this as often as some.
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Dr Lucky wrote:
tylex wrote:
hskrfn822 wrote:
Personally, and especially if 3025 era mechs are being used, I'd ignore BV altogether and just balance by tonnage.


That has always been the easiest way and the way I've always played.


It's certainly easier - it just doesn't always do a good job of recognizing 'Mechs that punch above their weight. For example, of the standard 40 ton 'Mechs in TRO 3039 (Assassin, Cicada, Clint, Hermes II, Sentinel, Vulcan, Whitworth), only the Whitworth has much of a chance in a stand-up fight with the 35 ton Wolfhound. The BV2 reflects this. Most of those 'Mechs have their uses, but because weight is not a great indication of effectiveness, you don't necessarily see many of these 40 ton 'Mechs get played frequently in weight-balanced games. I find that by using BV2 to balance forces, I see a much greater variety of 'Mechs on the table. When I've played weight balanced games, I've usually only seen one or two 'Mechs get used at any particular weight.

BV2 is far from perfect, and it is certainly a bit more work for the players than just adding up total tonnage, but I find the BV-based games to be more interesting with a greater diversity of 'Mechs than I see in weight-based games. Of course, I usually favor campaign play with lots of mission types over one-off, fight to the death games, so I don't have to worry about this as often as some.


Agreed that there are some Mechs that are totally useless unless it for a very specific role - Firestarter anyone? Or just totally useless - Charger? Honestly, I stopped playing before they started with any BV ratings so I cannot really comment or express my feelings on how it plays out. Most of our group liked to try out different combinations so a lot of Mechs got at least one play. That is also why I really enjoyed the variants that they would write into the history of the Mechs. You could have two warhammers with different weapon sets. In the early days (boy, I'm dating myself), I had verified the math for these for our group based on the written descriptions to ensure they followed the building guidelines. I seem to remember in the early technical readouts, they didn't always add up.

But in the end, everyone always has their favourites, no matter how you value the units.
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tylex wrote:
Dr Lucky wrote:
tylex wrote:
hskrfn822 wrote:
Personally, and especially if 3025 era mechs are being used, I'd ignore BV altogether and just balance by tonnage.


That has always been the easiest way and the way I've always played.


It's certainly easier - it just doesn't always do a good job of recognizing 'Mechs that punch above their weight. For example, of the standard 40 ton 'Mechs in TRO 3039 (Assassin, Cicada, Clint, Hermes II, Sentinel, Vulcan, Whitworth), only the Whitworth has much of a chance in a stand-up fight with the 35 ton Wolfhound. The BV2 reflects this. Most of those 'Mechs have their uses, but because weight is not a great indication of effectiveness, you don't necessarily see many of these 40 ton 'Mechs get played frequently in weight-balanced games. I find that by using BV2 to balance forces, I see a much greater variety of 'Mechs on the table. When I've played weight balanced games, I've usually only seen one or two 'Mechs get used at any particular weight.

BV2 is far from perfect, and it is certainly a bit more work for the players than just adding up total tonnage, but I find the BV-based games to be more interesting with a greater diversity of 'Mechs than I see in weight-based games. Of course, I usually favor campaign play with lots of mission types over one-off, fight to the death games, so I don't have to worry about this as often as some.


Agreed that there are some Mechs that are totally useless unless it for a very specific role - Firestarter anyone? Or just totally useless - Charger? Honestly, I stopped playing before they started with any BV ratings so I cannot really comment or express my feelings on how it plays out. Most of our group liked to try out different combinations so a lot of Mechs got at least one play. That is also why I really enjoyed the variants that they would write into the history of the Mechs. You could have two warhammers with different weapon sets. In the early days (boy, I'm dating myself), I had verified the math for these for our group based on the written descriptions to ensure they followed the building guidelines. I seem to remember in the early technical readouts, they didn't always add up.

But in the end, everyone always has their favourites, no matter how you value the units.


The basic Charger (the CGR-1A1) is a perfect example of why BV2 is pretty handy. It is armed with only 5 small lasers, so the only way it really damages anything is by using physical attacks (which are not to be laughed at, given it is a 80 ton 'Mech with a 5/8/0 movement profile). Its BV2 is 981.

If we use a weight based system (but still keeping to intro-tech 'Mechs from TRO 3025/3039), it tells us that the Charger is on par with the Awesome, the Goliath, the Hatamoto-Chi, the Thug, the Victor, and the Zeus. The worst of the other 'Mechs (the Zeus ZEU-6S) has a BV2 of 1348 while the best is the Awesome AWS-8Q at 1605. We all know the Charger isn't a match for any of those 'Mechs.

If we use BV2, we see that the Charger is almost spot on to the Whitworth WTH-1 (BV2 of 982), a 'Mech that weighs exactly half as much as the Charger. That's probably a more fair comparison - the Whitworth isn't fast for its size but it has jump jets and an array of weapons that make it effective in any range bracket. If the Whitworth can keep its distance, it can probably score enough hits to eventually disable the Charger. If it can't, the Charger will knock its block off when the Charger manages to close. A reasonably fair fight between two very different 'Mechs.

In a weight based system, I'm going to pick an Awesome over the Charger every time to fill up 80 tons (unless I pick 2 Whitworths!). However, if I'm using BV2, I can find uses for that Charger. For instance, it makes a great bodyguard for slow missile boats like Longbows or LRM Carriers (if you are using vehicles). If I take a few quick, cheap 'Mechs like Locusts (for spotters), a bunch of LRM Carriers, and a Charger, I can park the tanks behind a hill and hit you with indirect fire all day, and the Charger can probably handle any little skirmishers you send over to take out my missile boats. In a pinch, the Charger isn't even a bad spotter itself, if you kill my Locusts.

Of course, your point about variants is well taken - the modern compilations of recordsheets available in PDF form have official sheets for all the variants. The CGR-1A5 and CGR-1A9 both drop the 400 rated engine to a 320, which brings the speed down to 4/6 but allows the Charger to mount reasonable offensive weaponry (and jump jets, in the case of the CGR-1A9). These variants are much more interesting - The CGR-1A5 has a great array of short range weaponry, so it comes out like a Victor with more firepower but no jump jets - The CGR-1A9 has jump jets, LRMs, and reasonable short range weaponry, so it performs like a beefed-up Crusader.

I like sitting down at a game and not knowing what to expect. The Awesome is so damn good for its weight that there is almost no reason not to use it in a weight balanced game. In a BV2 game, I might actually see someone use a Charger. For what its worth, the last time I played, my opponent used a Thorn THE-S (the intro-tech version of the Thorn). I have never seen this variant on the table before, so that was really cool. The fact that I can still sit down and play this game, even with intro/Level 1 tech, and still see new things is amazing, and I just don't feel like that will happen any more when balancing by weight. (Oddly though, the Thorn S has a very favorable BV2 to weight ratio, meaning it should be unusually effective for its weight, so I feel like I should have seen it before. Of course, it is very slow for its weight, and most people looking at 20 ton 'Mechs are looking for scouts. This makes me think I should make a BV2:Weight chart so I can drop the absolute most effective set of 'Mechs on someone next time they insist on playing a weight game whistle)

At the end of the day, I want to see people play the 'Mechs that are bad on a ton for ton level, like the Charger, the Vulcan, and the JagerMech. For that matter, the Firestarter, which is a bit weak against 'Mechs, is a holy terror when it faces infantry and vehicles. Everything has a place.
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Man, I feel like such a noob. I've been playing the game off and on since its creation, and I just never got around to studying the mech stats that much. In general, I know what mechs I think are good and which ones require special scenarios and tactics to be effective, but I just don't have the memory to be able to toss out specific named variants, their tonnage, engines, armor, armament and Battle Value. I'm not saying that info isn't helpful, but I've just always been kind of a shoot from the hip kinda player. I still apply tactics, but of the heat of the moment sort.
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I think everyone goes through "phases" if they play BTech (or any similar game, for that matter) long enough. For a while, my group was into creating units using the Random Mech Assignment tables which you could find in sourcebooks, or online. Those could give some very House-flavoured forces to fight against each other, with a bit more RPG feel ("I know I should be grateful to even *have* a Mech in 3025, and that by owning one I am a Knight of the Inner Sphere...but a Blackjack?!", etc).

Combine that with scenario-style play rather than straight Mech-bashes, and you get a very different feel to min-max'ed play. You learn why it's right to fear Awesome's...but you can also learn to love a Charger :-)

Regards,

David.
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hskrfn822 wrote:
Man, I feel like such a noob. I've been playing the game off and on since its creation, and I just never got around to studying the mech stats that much. In general, I know what mechs I think are good and which ones require special scenarios and tactics to be effective, but I just don't have the memory to be able to toss out specific named variants, their tonnage, engines, armor, armament and Battle Value. I'm not saying that info isn't helpful, but I've just always been kind of a shoot from the hip kinda player. I still apply tactics, but of the heat of the moment sort.


I learn all this not because I do a lot of min-maxing but because most of how I play is by game-mastering campaigns. I find it very helpful to know exactly how much power I am giving the OpFor in any given mission in order to make sure the mission balances out the way I want. It isn't very fun if I wipe out a player's entire lance in the first or second mission of a campaign because I gave them opposition they could never hope to beat. At the end of the day, I can basically field anything I want, so I make sure not to abuse that.

I also learn all these variants and stuff so I can field forces that are very thematic. If you are raiding a Draconis Combine Depot, you probably won't expect to see many Catapults, but the DCMS does field K2 Catapults with PPCs instead of missiles... and the Phoenix Hawk 1K with no jump jets... and the Trebuchet 7K with no missiles... etc. In much the same way that I like to see unexpected stuff in pickup games, I like to hit my players with unexpected variants (in appropriate situations).
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Evan Schwartzberg
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Dr Lucky wrote:
Everything has a place.

Ron,
Great analysis. As I said, I haven't really played in 15+ years. Some perspective, my original copy is still called BattleDroids - if only FASA had held onto that name and trademarked it, they could have sued Geogre Lucas' ass off. I just dusted it off recently. So I stopped way before any BV systems were generated but I do 'get it'. I heavily played Starfleet Battles. I just don't have the experience with BT.

Original tech is still my favourite over LostTech or Clans.
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Ron D
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tylex wrote:
Dr Lucky wrote:
Everything has a place.

Ron,
Great analysis. As I said, I haven't really played in 15+ years. Some perspective, my original copy is still called BattleDroids - if only FASA had held onto that name and trademarked it, they could have sued Geogre Lucas' ass off.:p I just dusted it off recently. So I stopped way before any BV systems were generated but I do 'get it'. I heavily played Starfleet Battles. I just don't have the experience with BT.

Original tech is still my favourite over LostTech or Clans.


Unfortunately, George Lucas already had the copyright when BattleDroids came out. That's why they changed the name.
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