Friday, October 30, 2015

Classic Battletech, Part 3 (How do i get into this game, there's a lot of stuff)

It's time for another post on Battletech, a game have a great deal of affection for.  Battletech as a universe has a lot of potential ways to get involved, and it can be mind boggling to find a starting point.  If you've checked out my piece on the Introductory Box further down the page you've read my thoughts on that product and the upsides to getting it as a starting place.

However, that game has gotten a little stale and you've heard about some other things, like building your own units, or using tanks, and infantry in the game.  All of this sounds awesome, but what books are those in?  How do i build my own units?  Why are there so many books?  What should i buy next?

Well, there are lots of directions you can go with this, but i'm going to recommend a few suggestions for the next couple of steps you should take when getting into the battletech universe, as well as some supplemental material that might be of interest.

The first product you're going to want to consider investing is  Total Warfare

Total Warfare (you can read a more in depth review a little lower, look for the heading Battletech Part 2) contains the basic rules needed to play the game with all of the units you'll commonly encounter in the game.  It's a thick book, but you'll find it essential in building from the introductory rules you found in the intro box.

The next product on the things you should consider getting list is TechManual

Like Total Warfare, I've covered this book in greater detail in a different post, but this book contains all of the construction rules for the units that you will regularly encounter in battletech.  One of the things that i found very interesting about battletech when i picked it up in the winter of 1988 was that they included the construction rules for battlemechs in the core rules for the game.  Being able to build and customize units has been a core of this game from its inception, and i think this book capably covers most situations you will encounter in the construction process.

Between these two books you're looking at the foundation rules for playing the game with your friends.  TW has all of the combat rules, and the TechManual has all the construction rules you'd need for the forseeable future.

These two books retail for $39.99 apiece, and are also available in pdf format from

The next two products don't provide more rules for the game, but provide something even more important, more combat units!  The technical readout series of books span more than a hundred years of in game development, and in some books include units from previous historical eras.

The first book i'll talk about is Technical Readout 3039.

Technical Readout 3039 (TRO3039) contains the most commonly found combat units in battlemechs, combat vehicles, and aerospace fighters that are available in the in-game universe year 3039.  From a player's perspective, this book contains the introductory tech level versions of those commonly available units.  This will greatly expand the available units you have to play the game using your components from the introductory box set without including more advanced weapons and equipment featured in TW or the TechManual.

The second book in this group is the Technical Readout 3050 Upgrade.

The Technical Readout 3050 Upgrade (TRO 3050u) contains new combat units from a new faction, (the clans) and updates almost all of the original units found in in TRO 3039 with advanced technology.  The technology changes can vastly affect how different units interact on the tabletop, and this book holds a wealth of designs to give you even more options to play

Like their core rule cousins, they can be found at .  TRO 3039 retails for $29.99, while its slightly thicker companion TRO 3050u retails at $34.99.

These four books will greatly expand your available options for your battletech games.  Your game's complexity level will climb by increasing the depth of the rules set you're playing with, and in terms of the units available.  Between these four books, you're going to vastly increase the replay ability of your battletech games.

Accesories and other things that might help

There are three things that i'll add as things that will either improve your game experience, or increase your experience with the setting.

Record Sheets: 3039 Unabridged

While this product isn't absolutely necessary to play, it contains pre-filled record sheets for all of the units presented in TRO 3039.  This can speed up your game experience and give you the option to grab a sheet and go, rather than having to spend the time to fill out the sheet manually.

It's available from and is priced at $9.99

Record Sheets: 3050 Upgrade

Like the other Record Sheets product i mentioned above, this product isn't absolutely necessary to play, it can help you speed up your set up time for the game.  It's a handy product to have if you frequently play with units in this era.

It's available from and is priced at $9.99

The last product i'm going to talk about is a little different from the others.  It's not necessary to play the game at all, but you may find that it adds a great deal of information and provides several aids that will help you play games set in a specific time frame.

Era Report: 3052

This book contains a snapshot of the battletech universe leading up to the year 3052 and covers a lot of in-universe details on the major players, major battles and historical information relevant to Battletech at the time.  It contains famous units and personalities from the factions involved and contains resources for the setting from a reader's perspective and a wealth of charts and tables to benefit the player of the tabletop game.  It also serves as a bridge in the technology found in the technical readouts i've mentioned above.

It's available from and is priced at $24.99

So those are the products that i think make a very good starting point in expanding your battletech experience from the introductory box set.  I hope you take a look at them and if you like them, pick em up.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Getting Ready for your first role playing game (Things to keep in mind and stuff to prepare for)

So you've taken the tremendous step of finding a role-playing game group to join, and are ready for your first session.  What do you bring with you?  What do you leave at home?  How much is too much?

The venue you're playing at can affect your social and behavioral expectations (it's probably a little easier to show up in costume at a convention than at someone's home), but there are certain essentials that you should probably be packing.  The following are my best guesses of things that will help you be prepared for the game, and successfully engage with both the game master and your other players.

1.  Your Character

Unless you are making characters at the time of the game, you should have a completed character that is ready to play.  Little things that are setting specific can be figured out at the table (where is your character from, are they friends with other adventurers) but you should have the statistics and numbers filled in on your character sheet.  The Game master (GM) will probably ask to see your sheet, and be prepared for a quick question and answer session.  The GM isn't trying to trip you up, but they are doing quick fact checking to make sure your character is complete and ready to go. If you are making a new character at the session, it would not be an unreasonable expectation for you to have a blank character sheet.

2.  Writing Utensil

You are going to be doing a lot of writing through out the course of the game, and you should have something on hand to write with.  What you write with is entirely up to you, but i would encourage you to grab something that you can erase.  Hit points can change frequently over the course of a game, and you will probably want something that you can erase and replace rather than scratching something out.  Your choice of writing implement is up to you, but if you are bringing a pencil that has to be sharpened, either bring a sharpener, or lots of pencils.

3.  Dice

Chances are, your first role-playing game will require at least one die to serve as a random number generator, and its possible you will need a bunch of dice.  Most players won't mind you borrowing their dice for your first session, but there are exceptions to this rule.  Some people are very superstitious about dice ( I personally bought new dice every time i went to a warhammer 40,000 tournament) and a very simple misunderstanding involving you touching another player's dice may cause stress that you didn't want for your first game.  I would recommend you get a starter set of dice for whatever game you're playing (the normal 7 die polyhedral set for most games can be handy, since most games use the same dice). Pick a color you like, and go to the dice shop.

4.  Scratch Paper

Basically, you'll need something to write notes to yourself on.  This can be as easy going as a small post it note pad to as complicated as a leather bound journal.  Your mileage may vary, but the primary purpose of having something to write on is to help you keep track of the session.  Some characters thrive on notes,  others may find them less necessary, but having a resource to write things down on can help you keep your character sheet clear and easy to read.

5.  Game Manual

You should have a copy of the player's guide or handbook (alternatives that contain the rules you'll be using for your character are acceptable) for the game you are playing.  Having to borrow the book form another play can slow the pace of the game down, and reduce your overall enjoyment.  It would also be a very good idea to both make sure you know the rules that pertain specifically to your character, and to be able to find the rules that you use occasionally quickly.  You don't have to know every rule in the game, especially at the start of your gaming experience, but you should understand the basics of how characters interact with the world, and how your specific rules work (If you're a spell caster, you should know how to cast your spells, and what they do).

Yeah, i edited this because the number 6 i used to have left a funny taste in my mouth. 

Honorable mentions for things that could be helpful, depending on the game you're playing

a.)  A miniature

Some game masters find that playing with a map improves the game experience for all, and you're going to need to find a figure to represent your character on the tabletop.  There are myriad miniature companies in the world, and i am certain that you will be able to find a figure that truly represents your character on the tabletop map. 

If you aren't sure what kind of character you want to play, and aren't so certain about all this gaming stuff, you can find token collections or print and play options from a variety of retailers.  If all else fails, you should be able to find some little green army men in either your toy box, or at the store.

b.) A calculator

Some games have a lot of math involved, and if you aren't math friendly (or math tolerant) this can be a problem.  A calculator can simplify the math you're expected to calculate, and it keeps the game moving without everyone waiting for someone to do that calculations.  Calculation heavy games are a lot simpler if you have something to help you with the math. 

Now, i'm sure some of you are aware that your cell phone has a calculator on it, and it works most of the time for that purpose, but cell phones can be a distraction at a gaming table, and you may want to check with your group of players before whipping it out. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Battletech, part 2 (There are how many books for this game?)

Welcome back to another exciting edition of Battletech.  So far i've reviewed the introductory box, and that's a wonderful place to start learning the rules and setting for battletech, but where does one go from here? 

There are 8 current core books for the setting with at least one more coming in the near future. Let's talk about them, after all, that's why we're here.

Total Warfare: 

This is the primary rulebook that most players will need to continue learning battletech.  It contains movement and combat rules for all of the traditional units you'll find in the game, (Warships are not counted as traditional in this environment due to their limited interactivity with the ground game and their in universe scarcity).  It contains advanced weapon systems and options for playing randomly generated scenarios.


One of the key elements that has always drawn me back to battletech is the ability to construct your own units.  Each chapter of this book contains the construction rules for a different combat unit and at least three different step by step examples of those rules in action.  Battletech shares its technology tree fairly well, as the same weapons and equipment are designed for use on a wide array of vehicles, so you can see the same "medium laser" applied across combat vehicles, aerospace fighters, and battlemechs.  The in universe model of medium laser may vary, but the game statistics are the same. 

Tactical Operations: 

I like to think of this book as the advanced rules for battletech, and that's a fairly apt descriptor.  This book adds in rules for advanced movement options, buildings, terrain, and weather features to your game.  Did you ever wonder how you fight out a battle on an airless moon while a volcano is erupting?  This is your book.  It also contains a large assortment of advanced equipment that you can use to further customize and create your own units. 

Strategic Operations: 

Strategic Operations is the first book that really takes a look at campaign style play.  You can play a series of linked games that use the same units and can replay historic scenarios and devise new ones.  This provides the rules for repair and customization, as well as integrating warships into the game's system.  Did you want to calculate the time it would take for your forces to arrive on world after jumping in at a pirate point?  This book handles that level of detail.  It also contains the Battleforce rule set which allows for playing games with larger groupings of units at a manageable speed. 

Interstellar Operations (Not out yet, but there was a beta that was available)

This is the last scale of play for battletech and contains the rules systems to be able to control an entire interstellar empire (any of the five successor states, the periphery powers, or the clans) and lead them to war against other empires. The thing that i am curious to see about this game is its scaling.  Battletech has always intended for these rules to scale up or down, and that with a little bit of work you could scale your battleforce level game down to individual 'mech on 'mech combat using total warfare.  This book is also expected to contain advanced equipment and units from the all of the battle tech eras. 

Those comprise the core battletech game, but wait, there's more.

A Time of War:

This is the battletech role-playing game, (yes, they make a role-playing game).  It contains all of the rules needed to create your own character to interact with the battletech universe in just about any way you can imagine.  Character creation has two different approaches, and i have run several reasonably successful campaigns using the character module system.  The book has a lot of options, and contains options for converting back and forth between the RPG system and the board game system (There's a lot of overlap between them). 

A Time of War Companion:

Much like Tactical Operations is the advanced supplement for Total Warfare, the companion volume for A Time of War adds a host of options for advanced level game play.  It also incorporates a bunch of interesting plants and animals for the RPG to encounter along with a system for quickly making NPCs. 

Alpha Strike:

Alpha Strike is a quick playing miniature war game set in the battletech universe.  it uses Battletech miniatures and more traditional war game elements (terrain, measurement equipment) to weave together a quick playing game that uses company level engagements as the suggested starting point.  A company vs. company engagement that utilizes the total warfare rules is likely an all day affair and will eat a lot of table space.  Alpha Strike play uses a simplified record sheet for each unit and rapidly speeds up the game by simplifying actions. 

Alpha Strike Companion:

This book contains supplemental rules for the game that explain a lot of the advanced technology that can be utilized in the game and provides the basis of force construction rules.  The part that i truly like about the construction rules is that they give mechanical benefits for grouping appropriate units together, especially in setting approved sizes.  The basic unit grouping is a lance, and the system has benefits for the player who builds his force out of lances and further augments them with special rules.  The book also contains quirks and other 'mech specific traits and special pilot abilities.

These 9 books represent the core rules for the games that are available for the battletech universe, and for the most part, the three branches can work independently of each other to a point.  You can run an A Time of War game that doesn't focus on 'mechs, and the game does not punish you for it.  It does have all the rules should you decide to go the other way and make it a 'mech campaign.  The Alpha Strike rules don't require any knowledge of the total warfare rules to play, but i think the knowledge that there are other options available for a change of pace is very handy.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Heroclix (Because what's better than a game or a comic book? A game where comic books characters smash each other)

Now i'm going to make a declaration that most of you will be utterly shocked by, I'm a nerd.  I can tell by your audible gasps that some of you are shocked and amazed by this revelation but its true.  I've spent most of my life loving science fiction and fantasy, super heroes and video games.  I know that at least once in your life my fellow comic book fans that you have either been directly involved in or heard a conversation to the effect of

"Superman can beat batman."

"Nuh uh"

"Can too"

"No way, Bats takes Supes."

The more elderly of us will take this a step further,

"Which Supes, which bats?"

"Dark Knight Returns Bats vs. Red Son Supes."

"That's the stupidest fight ever."

(Note, i grabbed two specific iterations of characters effectively out of a hat, and i honestly have no idea how that fight would play out.  Please avoid lynch mobs and hate mail, thanks)

Imagine a game where you can take control of some of your favorite heroes, from the Justice League of America to the Avengers, and put them up against their arch villains (or more interestingly, each other).  A tactical game where position and action economy give you the strategic nuances of chess with a near limitless range of potential interactions and teams.  Oh, and its got SUPERHEROES.

That game exists, dear readers, it's called Heroclix.  Originally released in 2002 with the Marvel comics Set Infinity Challenge, Heroclix has gone forward to use Marvel, DC, and a variety of Indy comics as well as Horror sets, and a variety of licensed products.  The game requires two players, with each player controlling their own team of super powered miscreants (heroes or villains) and square off in head to head combat.  The game uses a standard 2D6 rolling system, with target numbers and bonuses printed on the base of each miniature.

This is where the game is a departure from other tactical minis games.  with a Powers and Abilities Card (PAC) you have all of the reference material you need to play the game, outside of the figures themselves.  Each figure has a combat dial that the mini itself is attached to, which contains the four primary statistics as well as color coding for any special powers that the figure may have.  The character takes damage in the form of clicking around the dial at a 1 for 1 pace (so 1 damage moves the figure one click around the dial) and as the dial moves, the statistics will change and new powers can emerge.

Each game has a set point value, either agreed upon by the players involved, or set by a tournament rules.  Each piece has a set point cost, either listed on the figure for older pieces, or included with a stat card for newer figures.  You can assemble any team of heroes/villains so long as you stay under your point limit.  However, there are a variety of shareable keywords and team abilities to consider when building your team.

Building a team along a theme (characters that are all in the same team, or all share the same keyword), gives you the usage of a limited number of re-rolls (called the theme team probability control).

Next time we'll go over a couple of more specific points, and you can catch up on some other information on the links below.  I would encourage you to visit Geek and Sundry, and their twitch TV channel on Fridays at 4 p.m. Pacific to catch Group Hug, a show where they play Heroclix with some of their friends. (Heroclix's homepage) (Heroclix Realms, an invaluable resource for the heroclix community)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Battletech: The Basic Rule of Shooting (By the numbers)

Battletech is a board game +.  What i mean by that is that it is played on a board like a traditional board game, but it has many extra components that you'll need to fully engage with the game.  The base mechanic is simple, as it takes a base skill value for the action attempted, applies modifiers based on a variety of factors, and then roll the dice and see what happens.

The Skill value of the unit is determined while you're setting up for the game.  If you're playing a one off or a pick up game, these are usually randomly determined.  However, a longer term campaign game gives you a variety of options for determining initial skill values, and as the campaign progresses, improving that base skill, or picking up special abilities that will modify specific actions.

There are four primary modifiers for the most common action, the "fire a weapon at the target" action.  These are, Range, Attacker Movement modifier, Target Movement Modifier, and Cover.  In addition, there are two other situational modifiers, Heat, and Damaged Components.  There are other modifiers, but they are extremely situational, and have special rules that cover them.

Range is the easiest modifier to calculate, but is the one with greatest variability.  Each weapon in the game (and there are a lot of potential ways to hurt or maim another unit) has its own specific range bands, expressed in hexes.  A standard medium laser has a range band of 3/6/9.  What that means, is that any target up to three hexes away is at the short range increment, and has no modifier to hit based on range.  Any target between 4 and 6 hexes away is in the medium rage band and  has a +2 modifier to hit, based on range to target.  Any target between 7 and 9 hexes away is in the long range band, and has a +4 modifier to hit, based on range to target.

Some weapons are built for close up work, like the aforementioned medium laser, whereas other weapons are designed for longer range combat, like the Autocannon 10 (AC/10), which has a standard range profile of 5/10/15.  Getting familiar with the differences in the weapon systems can give you a head start in figuring out what the expected role each unit is supposed to play.

The next modifier to keep track of is the attacker movement modifier (AMM).  In game, this is a representation of the difficulties in hitting a target while moving.  The more active you are as an attacker, the less stable the shot is, making it harder to hit the target.  A target that doesn't move, has no AMM.  A target that uses walking movement has a +1 AMM, while a target that uses running movement has a +2 AMM.  Some units have the ability to use jumping movement (rocket jumping from point A to point B and ignoring intervening terrain and the modifiers that slow movement).  A unit that uses jump movement has a +3 AMM.

The third modifier in the group is the Target Movement Modifier (TMM).  It's a lot harder to hit a moving target than a stationery one, and that's what this represents.  Based on the number of hexes moved, the target's Modifier to be hit increases.  Lighter units that move faster are harder to hit than heavier units that don't have the speed to necessarily keep up with the lighter cousins.  The Battletech Introductory box in that wonderful pack of charts has this table in an easy to find place so you don't have to flip back and forth.

The fourth modifier is Cover. Cover represents a variety of things (trees, hills, scrub, buildings, hydrogen storage tanks) that get in the way of lasers, missiles and bullets hitting a target.  These modifiers will vary from a +1 modifier to hit, up to the target can't be fired on (this is generally because the target is occluded by a building, lots of trees, or they are submerged underwater).

The two situational modifiers that I'll cover are heat, and damage.

Heat is one of the interesting mechanics of the Battletech game.  Based on movement, weapons fire, and other environmental effects, a battlemech keeps track of its heat buildup from turn to turn.  Some Battlemechs run cooler than others, and some weapons generate more heat than others.  Units that are running hot have several effects, ranging from reduced movement, to having the possibility of shutting down from the heat.  At certain heat thresholds, it applies a +1 to hit modifier (these are cumulative, so a unit that is running incredibly hot will have a +3 or a +4 to hit modifier).

As units start to take internal damage (Units have an armor value and an internal structure for each location) components can suffer critical hits that impair a units combat ability.  The one that comes to mind immediately would be a unit that has suffered a sensors critical hit has a +2 to hit modifier to all its ranged attacks.  Other critical hits can affect specific actions, but those are specific to that component.

So, those are the basics of shooting combat for Battletech, and I'll cover movement next time on By The Numbers.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Comics and other Marvelous things (Marvel Comics edition)

I will be the first to admit that i haven't exactly kept up on comics, but given the new changes I've decided to make for this blog, i started looking at comics again.  So let me start off with a couple of things.

No I haven't read secret wars, at all (the new one, i think i have the old one hanging around somewhere)

I like change, so Sam Wilson as Cap, Jane Foster as Thor are all kosher, i like to see things differently, and i am hoping that these new titles tell exciting new stories that we haven't seen before

I will probably focus on two or three issues each time i write this, so expect a weekly write up

This week I'll be looking at four Issue #1s

Guardians of The Galaxy #1

I like the Guardians of the Galaxy, and this issue #1 picks up with some new characters and some of the same old problems.

First, the team rundown

Drax the Destroyer
Groot (I am Groot!)
Rocket Raccoon
Agent Venom
Star Lord (Kitty Pride, which is kind of a fun change of pace)
The Ever-loving Blue-Eyed Thing

I like the Thing as an addition to this team of heroes, because he has a perspective that can get lost around the FF, and he has some excellent thinking out loud moments.  His quandry on the existence of the Infinity Armor does a pretty good job of stopping the conversation around him, and he continues to add some color to the group.

I kind of like Flash as Venom, in that he plays a role that's needed in a comic universe as wide as the Marvel one.  He asks the questions that we as outsiders would ask, "Who's that, what's that thing over they, why are they shooting at us?"  This does two things, one it fill dialogue that informs new readers on the universe, and secondly, it lets other people show off their expertise.

The story moves quickly from the initial fight sequence where Kitty blows up a Chitauri ship that was attempted to crunch the thing, and in a fairly traditional trope for the Guardians, they have a space gizmo.  None of them have any idea how the damn things works, and there's an argument about opening the device.  Eventually, the team decides to track down experts who they can trust  to identify the gizmo.

We shift scenes (i realize i skipped a scene, but i feel like telling these scenes this way makes a little more sense.)  to Spartax and are reunited with our dear friend Peter Quill, the new king of Spartax.  Rulership does not sit well with the young king, and he's attempting to shirk his duties as both a monarch and a host (which does have a cute scene with a bright pink, non humanoid alien creature that is attempting to woo him).  This does not sit well with the young king's fiance, (Good for Kitty Pride, by the way) who gives him a bit of cold shoulder grief.

This issue ends with a major uh oh moment.  The Guardians have come to Spartax to borrow some of Quill's technological experts, and they as a group witness what looks like a meteor strike.  The meteor in question is a badly beaten Gamora who's been throw into the planet by an awesome looking alien lady named Hala.

I hope that the next issue continues with the pace of this one, and that this comic takes a look at the relationship dynamic between all of these characters.  I would hope that this doesn't turn into a Peter Quill has to decide between being a responsible adult and a goofball, because i've seen goofball Peter Quill a lot, and i want to see what he looks like in a different light.

Captain America #1

I like Sam Wilson.  This book looked like it could have gone a couple of different crazy ways, but the story that they're trying to tell with Cap is a direction that we haven't seen in a while, but that is very much in the heart of Captain America.

Sam Wilson, as Captain America, sees something terribly wrong with the way that his country is running, and decides to speak up about it.  He takes a stand against the "intolerance and fear that are drowning the common sense out" and he suffers in the court of public opinion for it.  He's on very thin ice with SHIELD, the country doesn't like him, and he has a wonderful several pages where he flies coach to get back from a mission (which has a wonderful scene where he puts the Shield through an airport metal detector).

On the plus side, He's got Misty Knight (a character i am not very familiar with, but i do love the cut of her Afro), and a character from the way back machine, D-Man.  Sam and Misty have a wonderful interplay and a banter that has the right mix of good humor and sexual tension to keep the partnership functioning.  She's very capable of taking care of herself and keeping the situations around her under control.

I think my favorite thing about this book is this banter.  It's everywhere, from the multi-panel interaction between Crossbones and Cap, to the tiny bits of it between Cap and Maria Hill, to the flight home.   Nick Spencer keeps the dialogue hopping, and the wit of it is refreshing to me.

This still feels like Captain America to me, and i like that when i see something touted as "All New, All Different."  It may look different, but it feels right.  It looks fun, and i like the idea that Sam Wilson set up a hotline for people to report injustice in America.  I hope the writing keeps up this way, but it feels like this could turn into a blaxploitation story arc with a couple of steps the wrong way.

New Avengers #1

I'll review this book, because the other new Avengers title (Uncanny Avengers #1) is basically a running Deadpool riff.  I like deadpool in short doses, but in that comic he manages to aggravate spider man to the point where he quits Steve Rogers superhuman hug box.

New Avengers team roster

White Tiger
Power Man
Songbird (Who's operating as a team leader)
Squirrel Girl (and Tippy-Toe)

The team is also supported by Robert De Costa (the mutant Sunspot) financially, and by a variety of support staff to maintain their equipment and allow them to operate as super heroes.

First, i like that this team looks and feels very young.  I think youthful enthusiasm is a necessary part of story telling, and these kids have it in spades.  The team is responding to a crisis in Paris, where something is killing people off and replacing their heads/bodies/souls with shiny looking crystals.
The team quickly comes to the realization that these people are suffering from an unknown affliction that has turned them into the "life minus" that they have become, and try to disable these affected people without serious harm.

The Mastermind behind this nefarious caper is a Reed Richards from a parallel universe that has some sort of nefariosity in mind and is playing very tradtional villain tropes (lives in big scary dark labs, threatens underlings, monologues).

The subplot going on at Avengers home base is that SHIELD, (being the universal fun police) have decided that the New Avengers are going to have to prove themselves to SHIELD before SHIELD will let them be heroic types without intervention or hostility.

There's a reasonably funny joke about Hawkeye (Clint Barton) being assigned to the team by SHIELD, and the response from De Costa is basically that they want the other Hawkeye a lot more (Kate Bishop).

Overall its a fun read, and i am curious to see what it looks like.

Those are my three for this week, so i'll probably put something up on Friday about our friends from DC

Happy Reading, enjoy your comic stories, and Excelsior, I guess?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Your Quest Begins Here.... (Intro Reviews)

These are three products that serve as introductions to larger game universes.  Today we'll be covering the Pathfinder Beginner's Box, The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set (5th Edition), and the Classic Battletech Introductory Box Set.  These three products serve as introductions to two things for each product.  Each  gives the players the introduction to the game system (the rules and the mechanics for how actions are performed, determining success or failure of those actions, and what consequences result from those actions), and the larger shared universe that the game takes place in.  These are brief snippets of the larger gaming world designed to draw your interest and persuade you to take a look at a bigger investment of time and money.

For Each product, I look at four key factors.

Appearance:  This refers to both internal and external art work, as well as layout and ease of access.  I am a sucker for a product that looks as good on the shelf as it does on the tabletop.

Completeness:  Does this box have everything that i need in order to play the game? Aside from pencils and scratch paper, which few boxed games rarely contain, are there any other things that i will need to fully interact with the game and enjoy it?  (I really like a game that includes dice, especially as a beginner product)

Immersion:  Does this product engage me on a level where i want to find out more about this setting?  What are the hooks of this setting that make me want to dig in deeper. For me, this is a critical point in determining how involved i want to be with a product.  The Pathfinder line is immense, and the Battletech universe has 30 years of books and setting material to work with.  Does this introductory product sell me on investing the time, energy, and money into getting more involved with this product line?

Playability: (Not a real word, but i like it)  Does this product provide me with a game i can play right out of the box?  Are there pre-generated characters and adventures that i can play within five minutes of finding enough people to play the game? Do i have to sit down and make a character or fill in a sheet before i can get started?  (I do like products that give me the option of doing both, giving me a pre-gen character along with the basic rules of character construction so i can make my own). 

So let's start with the Pathfinder's Beginner's Box.

The Pathfinder Beginner's Box is the introductory product for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game.  It is fantasy world, with brave warriors, nimble rogues, pious clerics and powerful wizards fighting against orcs, goblins, giants, and a plethora  (five Bestiaries) of monsters to encounter.

This Package contains:

64 Page Hero's Guide  (short form Player's Handbook) Which contains the basic rules that a player needs to create a character and play the game.

96 Page Game Master's Guide (short form version of the Gamer Master's Guide and Bestiary) which contains the basic rules for running the game and a variety of monsters.

A Basic Set of seven polyhedral dice (useful for starting out, but eventually, all players will need their own dice, as it speeds up game play)

An assortment of Monster Tokens.  Monster Tokens (and the four character tokens provided) allow players and game masters to track locations and movement from round to round during the game.

Four pre-generated characters (Ready to go out of the box with a full explanation on the sheet of how their abilities work, and a breakdown of how the numbers are utilized during the game).

Four Blank Character Sheets to make your own hero

Double sided playmat (For use with the tokens, each side represents a different area of the provided adventures so you can fully utilize the tokens to track combat from round to round).

By The Numbers

Appearance:  The Box itself is covered with artwork, and it helps to sell the feel that this is a fantastic adventure in a world of monsters.  The tokens are easy to identify and the dice are easy to read.  The character sheets for this specific product are not the standard issue ones that other pathfinder products use.  This is not a serious distraction, but more of a distraction when moving on to build your own character

Rating:  4 Gigawatts out of 5

Completeness:  For a group of people completely new to gaming, this product provides everything you would need to learn the mechanics of how the pathfinder system works. It includes both textual information and visual representations for the game, and trust me, the tokens can be very helpful for learning how to interact with the game.

Rating : 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Immersion:  The adventures provided with the box are quick enough to play in an evening if you're determined to, but the story components attached to it were interesting enough for me to go looking deeper into the setting.  Their are hooks suggested for further reading and overall, the source material gives me a direction to start looking for deeper reading.

Rating 4 Gigawatts out of 5

Playability:  As soon as you have your play group together, it will take you long enough to pass out the dice and for the GM to read through the introductory adventure section before you can start playing.  That can take anywhere as short as five minutes, to as long as a half an hour, but the game itself is ready to be played from the moment you have your friends.

Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Overall, I think that this product is an excellent introduction to the Pathfinder setting and the system to play in it. It has as an MSRP of 34.99 for the print edition with the tokens and maps (and actual physical box) or 9.99 for a pdf format copy. 

Next on the tour of things most introductory is the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set is a gateway to the newest edition of the world's oldest role-playing game.  Set along the Sword Coast of the continent of Faerun in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the introductory starter set contains everything needed to learn the most recent edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

This Package contains:

64-page adventure book with a complete adventure for characters up to 5th level.  (This booklet also contains the basic rules for running adventures with this system)

32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1-5 (This is a short form player's handbook for learning how to play this game)

5 pre-generated characters, with character sheet (ready to play out of the box without any modifications other than adding names)

1 blank character sheet (for making your own heroes, once your comfortable with the system)

6 dice

By The Numbers

Appearance:  The Box itself has one of the most iconic monsters in the game setting.  It drew my eye immediately to the box, and i was not disappointed with the internal layout of the booklets.  Again, these layouts were well done, with art used appropriately to draw the eye and augment the text.  The character sheets used in this product, unlike the ones in the Pathfinder Box are similar enough to the ones used with other products that a new player will not have a difficulty identifying different sheets.

Rating:  5 Gigawatts out of 5

Completeness:  This box provides all of the mechanical rules needed to learn how to play four of the most basic character concepts up to 5th level.  The adventure enclosed The Lost Mines of Phandelver feels like a fully enclosed story for those characters.  This product does not come with tokens or a map, however, and for people who are unfamiliar with a game like this, those additional visual components can be very useful in figuring out interactions. 
Rating : 4 Gigawatts out of 5

Immersion:  The introductory adventure in this box has a lot more details and encounters than the counterpoint from the Pathfinder box.  It is firmly rooted into the setting material and pulls you into the Sword Coast.  This box set does a better job of pulling the reader into the setting, which is i think the key to an immersive product. 
Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Playability:  This product has the same things going for it that the Pathfinder Box has.  Once you have your group of people together, you're ready to play.  This system is different from the pathfinder one, and i encourage you to try both and see which one you find to be more appealing. This box is ready to play as soon as you find some friends to play with.
Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

I think this product does a great job of introducing the mechanical changes to the most recent edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and with an MSRP of 19.99 it will provide many hours of fun for a group of new gamers.

The final item up for viewing today is the Classic Battletech Introductory Box Set.

The Battletech Introductory Box Set contains everything that two players need in order to dive into the world of Battletech.  Battletech is a futuristic game of tactical combat between opposing groups of giant robots called Battlemechs.  Unlike the other two products, This is a board game, not a role-playing game.

This Package contains:

24 unpainted, ready-to-play plastic BattleMech minis (These represent a wide range of battlemech units and can be used in myriad combinations against each other)

2 unpainted, premium-quality plastic BattleMech minis (These require some assmebly, and as of the most recent printing are a Mad Cat Omnimech and a Battlemaster). 

One 12-page full-color quick-start rulebook will have players into the action in minutes (This booklet has quick start sheets for learning the game and playing your first few games)

36-page book of pre-generated BattleMech Record Sheets (These are specific sheets for each Battlemech, and record damage, heat, and ammunition expenditure as the game progresses).

One 80-page full-color rulebook (This is an abbreviated version of the Total Warfare rules of battletech and has rules written explained for battlemechs).

Inner Sphere at a Glance, a 56-page full-color book of universe background and BattleMech technical data (This book explains the in universe details and explanations for the history and technology of the Battletech Universe)

One 16-page full-color Painting and Tactics Guide (The entirety of the units provided are supplied unpainted, giving the players opportunities to express themselves in a variety of artistic expressions)

Two heavy-duty cards of compiled tables (For quick reference of the necessary modifiers and costs associated with movement and combat)

Two 18” x 24” game-board quality maps. (These are high quality double sided cardboard maps)

Two six-sided dice

One full-color, poster-sized map of the Inner Sphere circa 3067 (This poster sized map folds out and shows the area of space controlled by the human race as of 3067)

By The Numbers

Appearance:  Battletech has stepped up its artistic game, and the cover of this box features an iconic unit (the Atlas, one of which is included in the box).   The miniatures in this printing of the game are of a much better quality than the one immediately preceding it.  The layout of the books inside are well done, and then art supports the surrounding material.  The charts and the sheets are well laid out, and with practice are easy to read.
Rating:  5 Gigawatts out of 5

Completeness:  There are two minor issues from keeping this from being a fully complete box.  Units have a modifier to hit based off of how far they move, and the box lacks a mechanism to ease new players into this.  Most players will need replacement sheets after their first few games, and without supplementary support, they're going to burn through a lot of erasers cleaning their sheets up.  Other than these minor issues, the box is a fully ready to play game for a minimum of two players.
Rating : 4 Gigawatts out of 5

Immersion:  This is the first product that actually has a setting book included in it.  The Inner Sphere at a glance has a rundown of the important people, places and factions that are available to use in 3067.  This is a well constructed primer which gives historical information and the basics of the science behind the game.  There are dozens of jumping off points in this book to further dig into the battletech universe.

Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Playability:  With two exceptions, the models provided are ready to play right out of the box, and the quick start rules are designed to get you playing as soon as you find your first opponent.  The game scales up to larger groupings of units in the box set without needing to reach beyond this boxed set, and you can have hours upon hours of fun using just it.

Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

For a world as rich and complex as battletech, this box hits the right spots to introduce players to the thing that i always felt was the draw to the universe, the giant robots.  There are other units that exist ranging from unarmored infantry all the way up to interstellar transport craft designed to move large units from system (and the rules set exists to support that level of play, if you want to), but this box focuses on giant stompy robots that smash each other.  The MSRP of $59.99 on this product is higher than the other two, but the box has more components and includes miniatures.

So those are my three introductory boxes for the Month of October, If you have a product you'd like to hear about, or have any questions, feel free to leave comments below.

And because I love this in a way that's hard to describe with words

                                                    Photo Credit :Geek & Sundry

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Battletech: A Game of Armored Combat

First Post, for the first non traditional Board Game i ever picked up.  I blame my brother for this one, as he started playing right before he went off to college.  I fell in love with the game, and though we have parted ways several different times, we always seem to wind up back together again.  If i were to pick the two games that i always work my way back to, they would be Battletech, and Dungeons and Dragons (Pick an edition). 

Battletech is the story of our future as humankind spreading across the stars.  The original time frame for the game was the early part of the 31st century, with the game's backdrop being the end of the Third Succession War.  Five vast interstellar nations fight for control over dwindling resources in an effort to claim supremacy and unite human space under their banner. 

For reference, this is the box i started with

(Btw, is the battletech wiki, and is full of information about the vast history of the Battletech Universe)

Originally Published as Battledroids in 1984, Battletech has a thirty year history that stretches across novels, computer games, several different editions of the board game, a collectible card game, and a miniatures rules set for quick play games.

Battletech is also responsible for me meeting one of the best friends i have in the universe.  For the sake of his wife not killing the both of us, We will refer to him as "Drewbacca."

This is the most recent picture of Drewbacca
and for safety reasons, we will only be adding photos in this format.

Drewbaca and i were attending university at the same time, and met at a gaming club meeting.  I wasn't really paying attention until i heard a young wookie roar "Does anyone here play the game Battletech?"  (Translated by magic).  This sparked a friendship that has lasted for several years and seen us move through many different game systems, but we still discuss battletech a lot.    

Battletech has undergone some changes over the years, but the current publishers, Catalyst Game Labs continue to produce setting information and other materials for several games. 

Harebrained Schemes (operated by Jordan Weisman, creator of the battletech universe), as of this publication, have kickstarted a computer game version of Battletech.  As of publication, they have raised 1.7 million dollars to produce this new game and are rapidly closing in on a stretch goal for an open ended campaign for their computer game. 

I'll add some more information in my next post about this game universe, but here are some links that i find helpful for getting your feet wet in the universe.