#MiniaturesMonday -or- my Origins 2019 #Boardgame #Wargame Challenge in the #Battletech Introductory Set (2007 Miniatures Rules of the Year) from @catalystgamelab

ALTHOUGH THE BATTLETECH INTRODUCTORY BOX SET WON the 2007 Origins Award for Miniatures Rules of the Year, I did not formally get my first BattleTech set until the Third Edition Introductory Box Set published by Catalyst Games in 2011. As I wrote before, I was VERY disappointed. However, very recently RockyMountainNavy Junior purchased with his own money the “new” Fifth Edition Beginner Box (Catalyst Game Labs, 2018). So rather than just revisit the rules, I decided to compare the two sets and see what, if any, improvements occurred between the 2011 Introductory Box Set and the 2018 Beginner Box. I am happy to say the new 2018 Beginner Box has much improved sculpts and rules but is in some ways more limiting than the 2011 Introductory Box Set.


Quick-Start Rules – New and Old

Both the Battletech 2018 Beginner Box and 2011 Introductory Box Set contain Quick-Start Rules. I fully realize that the Quick-Start Rules are NOT what won the 2007 Origins Award but it’s what I can directly compare between these two sets. The 2011 and 2018 Quick-Start Rules are near-identical with the exception of Combat. Specifically, the new 2018 Quick-Start Rules use an attack process named G.A.T.O.R. This simple pneumonic makes combat fast and easy. Everything in G.A.T.O.R. was in the 2011 version but it was not called out as such. The new version is much simpler to teach and learn.


Another major improvement in the 2018 BattleTech Beginner Box is the ‘Mech sculpts. The 2011 ‘Mech sculpts were, to put it kindly, crap.

Poor quality with too much lost detail & flash. Reminds me of cheap plastic soldiers from a discount store

The 2018 Beginner Box has only two BattleTech ‘Mech sculpts but they are of much higher quality. RockyMountainNavy Junior wasted no time in painting them up.

Work in progress – but at least they feel like miniatures not toy soldiers

Limited Options

The Fifth Edition Beginner Box is really bare-bones. Two miniatures, a paper double-sided map, and Quick-Start Rules. Background material is a 24-page fiction booklet and a short source booklet. The BattleTech 2011 Introductory Box Set included the full 80-page Introductory Rulebook and mounted maps as well as 24 miniatures. Actually 26 the Introductory Box Set has 26 minis as it included two “premium” miniatures that had to be assembled. Sadly, the “premium” should of been the standard!

As much as I am tempted to give RMN Jr. the older complete rule book, if he wants to pursue the BattleTech Universe a better option is to purchase the pdf of BattleTech: Total Warfare which touts itself as the complete up-to-date rules. It’s only $14.99 on WargameVault.com.

The Battles Ahead

RockyMountainNavy Jr. seems to be happy with the BattleTech Universe. I think we will be playing more (and he will be investing more) in this game universe. After my disastrous experience with the 2011 Introductory Box Set I was hesitant to support him but now I see the BattleTech Beginner Box as a good investment and starting point. So BattleTech is welcomed back into the RockyMountainNavy household…as long as they avoid the pitfalls of the past.

#ModelMonday – Tanks Camouflaged

Tiger I, Tanks Card, and Osprey 

Little I got Tanks: Panther vs Sherman (Gale Force 9) for Christmas. For his birthday, Brother T got him the Tiger I expansion. In a wonderful show of brotherly love, T not only gave him the model, but then built it and painted it up!

Little I is very excited as his collection is getting much more personalized. T also has shown a natural ability to paint miniatures. I have several old Mongoose Publishing Starship Troopers Miniatures Game sets that I know I won’t get around too…maybe it’s time to turn them over to T and see what he can do!

Miniatures Monday – Minicraft Scale Space

Courtesy Airfix

I am working on two models on the weekends that both are space-related. The first is an Airfix Vostok rocket in 1:144 scale. The model commemorates the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight in 1961. The final assembled Vostok 1 measures just under 10 inches high and a little less than 3 inches across at the base. The kit also comes with extra parts to make three different launch configurations (Yuri Gagarin’s Vostok I, the Luna, and the modern Soyuz launch version). In addition to a display base, the model includes a cosmonaut (about 1/2 inch tall) to give the display a sense of scale.

My second space-related kit is the Dragon Models X-15 twin-pack.

Courtesy DragonUSA

This model  allows you to build TWO of the famous X-15 craft. You have our choice of flight or pre/post flight configurations. It is nice to get a small-yet-detailed look at this famous spacecraft. Be sure to also check out NASA ebooks online, to include their one on the X-15.

I have recently switched over to 1:144 scale because I simply don’t have the space for larger models.  The price point is actually real nice too (usually under $20).

Miniatures Monday – Star Wars Miniatures Battles Companion & Imperial Entanglements

Courtesy BGG

IN AUGUST 2011 (wow, that long ago?) I got the West End Games Star Wars Miniature Battles rulebook. At that time I mentioned needing the Star Wars Miniatures Battles Companion for vehicle rules. Last week, I was once again in Gamer’s Haven in Colorado Springs and searching the used game book section I happened across a boxed Star Wars Vehicles Starter Set  as well as the scenario book Imperial Entanglements.

First off, I was amazed to even find the Vehicles Starter Set at all. Secondly, to find it COMPLETE is a real bonus to me. By complete I mean not only does it have the box (with expected wear) but the Companion Rulebook (mint condition – probably opened only a few times),  five die, and unopened/unbuilt/unpainted Snowspeeder and Scoutbike miniatures!  All for the cost of $6.99!

Courtesy BGG

Like the original Miniatures Battles Rulebook, Companion is compatible with West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game Second Edition rules. Like the basic miniatures rules, Companion continues to be a stand-alone game; i.e. one doesn’t need the RPG to play Miniatures Battles.

The heart of this game are the vehicles. Vehicles rules are in Chapters One and Two (total of 24 pages). Additionally, there are six pages of Reference Sheets for vehicles, including two pages of actual vehicles. I am a bit disappointed here; actual vehicle descriptions are missing. Instead, the authors direct the player to other WEG Star Wars RPG products. Good if you are a Star Wars RPG collector; bad if you aren’t (or can’t anymore). On page 27 there are rules for “Converting Other Star Wars Vehicles” – as described in Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. The end result of all this for a player of today means that in order to expand the vehicle list one must either acquire the older materials or try to reverse-engineer the vehicles given to divine the design assumptions.

Vehicles cover only about 36 pages of this 96-page book. The balance covers new combat rules, equipment, and unit insignia and organization. Chapter Six, “Scenarios and Campaigns,” has one stand-alone scenario and one campaign. Interestingly, for a supplement focused on vehicles the stand-alone scenario specifically states the NO VEHICLES are allowed whereas the campaign limits the Rebel player to one landspeeder and two speeder bikes while the Imperial player is limited to a single speederbike.

When I first wrote about the basic Miniatures Battles I stated that the game was more of a wargame and less an RPG. Companion doesn’t change that. I am also disappointed that even though vehicle rules are here, they are not showcased in any scenario or campaign here.

Courtesy BGG

Imperial Entanglements is a scenario book for Star Wars Miniatures Battles. Interestingly, the  section titles “Rules Updates and Clarifications” starts out with the following quote:

“All rules-intensive battle games, including Star Wars Miniatures Battles, have a few oversights and ambiguities.”

After “clarifying” the rules, Imperial Entanglements has nine scenarios. Each scenario is a bit unique:

  1. Big Game is a solitaire safari hunt
  2. Terror in the Trees takes place in an Ewok tree village; beware the Ewok traps and falls!
  3. Hammer of Destiny uses a single vehicle as a terrain/objective piece
  4. A Bazaar Encounter is a swoop gang brawl
  5. To Hunt the Hutt is a bounty hunter ambush
  6. Who Goes There introduces a “fog of war” mechanic where the table as laid out is not a true reflection of the ground
  7. Scavenger Hunt is a take-the-booty-and-run scenario
  8. Rescue Run showcases the prisoner rules and variable night visibility.
  9. Surprise Visit is an ambushed ambush.

Taken as a whole, the scenarios bring home the point that Miniatures Battles really is a skirmish game.

For $6.99 (Vehicles Starter Set) and $3.99 (Imperial Entanglements) I can’t say I’m disappointed. Miniatures Battles is a decent set of rules, though I must say that other skirmish games do a better job of streamlining rules and creating a faster playing experience.

Miniatures Monday – Balancing the Force(s) in Star Wars X-Wing

Courtesy BGG

A Problem? Take a look at this thread over at BoardGameGeek. It will take you a while to get through the several pages (7 at the time of this post) of comments but give it a shot.

My Take: I don’t’ see the game as broken. Never forget that Star Wars X-Wing is a squad building game. The game by its very nature is not balanced 1-on-1. I think this is why you get two TIE fighters and one X-Wing in the Core Set. This is also in keeping with the source material where the outnumbered Rebels make up for their quantitative disadvantage through quality. Building a proper squad is the real key to victory. As designed, the Rebel player gains many complementary advantages if the squad is assembled the right way.

In my games, the younger RMN has always wanted to be the “good guys” and taken the rebels. I can now see that playing the rebels is harder than the Imperials because of the qualitative advantage. Unfortunately, the younger, inexperienced RMN pilot is often not able to take advantage of the inherent Rebel abilities and therefore loses to the numerically superior Imperials. I think this happens because the younger player wants to “turn and burn”  in a dogfight rather than “slash and run.”  Does this make the game unbalanced? I think not, but it definitely makes it more difficult to play for younger players.

Even the Star Wars Universe recognizes the threat of TIE swarms. In Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels (Ballantine/Del Rey, 2003) the entry for the Alliance RZ-1 A-Wing Starfighter includes the following:

“…the compact A-wing was a Rebel Alliance response to the Empire’s growing number of TIE fighters and TIE variants. Realizing the Rebels needed a craft capable of outrunning these enemy fighters….Because of its speed, the A-wing excels in hit-and-run missions, long-range patrols and reconnaissance, and surgical strikes against large starships.” (p. 17)

Looking over other Star Wars genre games, like Star Wars: Star Warriors or Star Wars: Silent Death Starfighter Game one can see the same “balance” issues. In every case the X-Wing is qualitatively superior to the TIE fighter when compared head-to-head. But the balance is restored though point valuation where a single X-Wing will often face several TIE fighters in a “balanced” battle.

Miniatures Monday – Star Wars X-Wing: A Matter of Scale

Courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

The new Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game claims that their ships are all in scale to each other. So what do you see in the above photo? Looks like a single X-Wing against two TIE/In fighters, right? But those TIE fighters are way too big!  Everybody knows that the TIE fighter is a small ship and NO WAY can it be that big compared to the vaunted X-Wing!

According to Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels (Del Rey/Random House/Lucasfilms Ltd., 2003) the Incom Corporation T-65 X-Wing Space Superiority Fighter is 7.25m long (p. 168). The Seinar Fleet Systems TIE/IN Space Superiority Starfighter is 6.3m long (p.156).  By this material (canon?) the TIE should be about 1/3 shorter than the X-Wing. Looking atthe photo above that does not appear to be the case.

So did Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) screw up the scale? In an interesting twist, FFG claims that all the source materials over the years has been dead wrong:

During the production process, we were surprised to discover that the official dimensions for some of the ships did not match our pre-existing expectations of their relative sizes. Nowhere is our devotion to scale more evident than in our TIE fighter. Through intensive research and close correspondence with Lucasfilm Ltd., we confirmed with no degree of uncertainty the true scales of this iconic Imperial fighter as it appears in the films, even going so far as to study the proportions of the original film models. (“The Making of X-Wing)

The main source FFG appears to have used is this production photo of various models:

Courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

The TIE fighter certainly looks big compared to the Y-Wings (front) or X-Wings (back row). Did George Lucas retcon another change into the Star Wars Universe? Do I really care?

I don’t really care because the X-Wing game is a guilty pleasure that I enjoy with my youngsters. It’s Star Wars…not reality. Once the Millennium Falcon comes out the scale will be totally ruined anyway.

Courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

Miniatures Monday – Star Wars X-Wing

Courtesy BGG

OK, I will admit it; I love the Star Wars Original Trilogy. So when Fantasy Flight Games announced they were making an adaptation of their Wings of War system for starfighter combat in the Star Wars Universe, I was both happy and hesitant. Happy for Star Wars; hesitant because see the Wings of War system as pricy and not quite “crunchy” enough for my grognards tastes.

What I failed to initially factor in was Little RMN. He is a true Star Wars fanatic (see what I created?). When I brought home the Core Set and first four expansions he badgered me endlessly to play it. I was a bit concerned because the game is rated for ages 14+; Little RMN is only 8.

I needn’t have worried.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is an easy to learn, easy to play system. The miniatures are well detailed and a joy to move through space. The game mechanics are fairly straightforward and simple enough that even Litle RMN (with a bit of coaching) was able to make sense of it.

Most importantly, we had fun. We first played an introductory game of two Academy TIE fighters versus Luke Skywalker. We didn’t use many of the advanced rules, starting first with a focus on game flow and basic mechanics. Little RMN as Luke scored a few hits but never concentrated on one TIE fighter long enough to knock it out. He eventually lost as he ran for a board edge (safe exit) after losing all his shields and a bit of hull.

But he wants to play again. He wants to add the full rules. The grognard in me hasn’t changed my opinion  that the Wings of War system is a bit of a simplification, but I will freely admit that X-Wing captures the cinematic feel of Star Wars space combat rather well.

Most importantly, it brings me closer to my kids. That’s the real win for me.