Thursday, August 25, 2016

Combat Manual: Kurita Book Review

Combat Manual: Kurita

Howdy Game Fans, Zardoz back with another book review for Battletech.  This time we’re going to cover the next book in the Combat Manual series, Kurita.  CM: Kurita covers the state of the Draconic Combine Mustered Soldiery (DCMS) during the late succession wars/early clan invasion eras.  It shares the primary layout of the previous entry in the combat manual series and follows that game plan.  So, by the numbers, let’s break down each section of the book. 

The opening short fiction of the book, “Test of Honor”HoHH describes the outlook and personality that characterizes the typical DCMS soldier of the era, and gives the reader a starting point for how this military thinks and feels during this era.  This short fiction occupies pages 5 through 9 of the document, and the 10th page cuts to a wonderful piece of art depicting the new Hatamato-Chi battlemechs (this piece of art was the cover for the Field Manual: Draconis Combine from way back). 

Realm of the Dragon starts on page 11, and this section covers very briefly the history of the Draconic Combine up to the book’s current era, the early clan invasion.  This section goes very briefly over the culture and historic perspectives that shape the Combine’s military and social philosophies.  Readers interested in a much deeper investigation into this section can look up the Handbook: House Kurita, which is a much more in-depth description of the Combine, its history, and its politics.  Realm of the Dragon concludes on page 26 with an iconic picture of a House Kurita Dragon stomping the head off of an Enforcer battlemech.

The House Kurita combat commands section that starts on page 27 is what most Alpha Strike players are looking for.  It breaks down the organizational nomenclature used by House Kurita units and goes into detail on several of the flagship units of the DCMS.  Highlights include The Sword of Light brigade, the District regulars for Dieron, Galedon, Benjamin, Pesht, Rasalhague, Alshain, and the Genyosha.  It also includes other formations that serve as either auxiliaries or special purpose formations like the Night Stalkers and the Ghosts. 

Where this book differs from the Mercenaries book is that it gives an overall description of the regulars and highlights a few exemplary units within each formation.  It also gives regimental colors for all units within the larger organizational framework, and usually gives a special pilot/mech combination or an iconic mission.  Because the DCMS formations are usually much larger than most of the mercenary formations described in combat manual: Mercenaries, they don’t get as much individual screen time as the mercenary units.   They don’t seem slighted however, because the regulars get the feel of the large, sector wide military formations that are expected to guard the realm. 

Also as a treat for the Free Rasalhague Republic (FRR) fans out there, starting on page 66, the FRR Kungsarme is laid out with a complete force listing for the newly born realm.  Created by a combination of political pressure, some back room dealings, and a box load of shiny things for the Combine, The Free Rasalhague Republic was a newly created state sitting on the border between the Draconis Combine and the Federated Commonwealth.  I do hope that nothing bad happens to them during the 3050s.  The FRR component of the combat commands section ends on page 71.

Page 72 gets its own special mention, because it features the same art as the cover of the book.   It features a House Kurita Wolverine front and center in the middle of blowing the ever-living hell out of a downed enemy ‘mech.  I’m sure a more keen eyed observer than I am can identify the unit, but since it’s green, I’m betting it’s a house Davion ‘mech.  In the background we also have a shiny red Locust and a shiny red Phoenix Hawk.   I admit I am really jamming on the new battlemech designs and can’t wait to see what other new models are around. 

The Rules Addendum that starts on page 73 gets into the nuts and bolts of army construction, which is one thing anyone who is looking to play Alpha Strike wants to have.  It starts very simply and has a four step process for getting your army design on the road. 

First, pick a point value.  This is fairly straightforward, and players who have any experience with other miniature wargames should be familiar.  For the new folks, what this step means is that you are allocating a specific point value for the size of game you want to play.  This will shape a couple of things, primarily the number of units that are fielded on both sides and overall the length of the game.  A game with more units will take longer to play than a game with less, and it will take some time to dial in how big of a game you, as a player, are comfortable playing.  For a starting player, I recommend aiming for 500 or so points and building a company (12 units) to play around with. 

Second, pick an era from those listed (the book offers two, but the Master Unit List has more options covering different time periods).  This affects what units are available for force construction and shapes the overall technology level available to you as a player. For example, a late succession war era company of the Dieron Regulars will have very different equipment than a company of the Dieron Regulars from the Jihad era.  If you’re playing a historically accurate game, you and your opponent should probably choose units from the same era, but that’s between you and your opponent. 

Third, pick a faction.  This should be straightforward, pick the faction you like the most.  If you are holding Combat Manual: Kurita in your hands, I have a guess to what faction you are playing, but I have been wrong before. 

Fourth, pick a combat command.  Again, this is straightforward if you have the Combat Manual for the faction you want to play, but the only books out currently are Mercenaries and Kurita, so you may have to check out some other books to identify combat commands for your faction.  Specific combat commands have access to special rules of their own and in some cases modify the availability of resources and unit types.

From that point, you spend your points to construct your army and organize your units into their sub commands (if you took the advice to build a company, you’ll need to build 3 lances of 4 combat units, probably battlemechs). 

That seems like a lot of work for your first game of Alpha Strike doesn’t it?  I agree it can be a little daunting, but the writers of Combat Manual: Kurita have your back and provide several example lances that are both iconic of House Kurita formations for the era, and are grouped and ready to go for you.  Remember to grab units from the same era when quick starting. 

Also included in the force construction section are four special new lance types that are unique to House Kurita formations.  House Kurita adds the Berserker Lance (a dedicated melee unit), the anti-‘mech infantry lance, an Order Lance (a highly trained Lance of Battlemechs composed of identical units), and the Horde Lance. The Horde Lance runs between 5 and 10 units, all of whom must be size 1 (light battlemechs), and have a damage cap of 2 at any range (including special abilities and concerns).  For running this swarm of light units, the player gets a special ability called swarm, which allows the controlling player of one of the lights to switch targets between legal units. 

The Horde formation is a quirky, and probably needs some testing, but it’s a throwback to one of the original books for Battletech, where Captain Ravannion espoused his Horde theory to overwhelm larger battlemechs with superior numbers of smaller units.  The battle is described in the unit entry for the Blackjack battlemech in one of the original technical readouts.  The battle didn’t end well for the horde, as the Blackjack is a ‘mech designed for long range shooting and deals just enough damage to crack a light ‘mech at a distance. 

The section ends with a group of special mechwarriors that you can add to an existing formation (so long as it contains no other unique mechwarriors).  You can use these mechwarriors to spice up a formation you are building, or add a ‘mech that you normally wouldn’t think of adding to a group.

Page 93 starts the technical readout section of this book, and it’s got some fan favorites.  The battlemechs detailed are the Wasp, the Phoenix Hawk, the Wolverine, and the Battlemaster.  Each ‘mech has a two page spread, with a brief write up of the unit. Its typical deployment, possible variants, and notable pilots are described (including an Alpha strike brief for the pilot in his ‘mech).  The opposite page is a full page art shot of the battlemech in formation appropriate colors.  The Sword of Light Wasp is very cool, and I like the Night Stalkers Phoenix Hawk and the Legion of Vega Wolverine, but personally, the prettiest unit in the bunch is the Genyosha Battlemaster. 

Page 102 starts the parade of colors, and shows off the unit color schemes for dozens of DCMS formations (and Ronin pretenders).  Page 106 shows off something new, a painting guide for a Sword of Light regimental colors for a shiny little Marauder that I haven’t ever seen before.  I’m hoping its plastic, and it’s coming to a store near us soon. 

Pages 108 and 109 show off miniatures in action and showcase some excellent shots of units that have been converted by hobbyists and mid action battle sequences.   My particular favorite is the prototype gauss rifle on the Hunchback that keeps falling over. 

The book closes out with the availability list for the Late Succession Wars and the Early Clan Invasion, a plug for the Master Unit List (which I recommend highly for anybody who wants to look at alternate eras and see what neat things are hiding out there), and a regimental breakdown chart for mischief making generals.  Also included is the company level breakdown sheet which most players will be using as an army list for game play. 

My overall thoughts on this product are good.  I like the treatment that the DCMS receives in this book, and it shows the interesting dichotomy of forces available to the DCMS Commander.  You are spoilt for choices on whether you want to run the flagship sword of light brigade, the plucky Legion of Vega, the somber Night Stalkers, or the newly made FRR Kungsarme.  Each one of these forces is described in enough detail to play Alpha Strike, and each force should probably play differently.     The specifics that are detailed are appropriately detailed, and the things that are best covered by broad strokes are adequately covered.  The book gives you a first impression of what the Draconis Combine is like without overwhelming you with too much information. 

It’s currently available online at:

All right Game Fans, that's our review for Combat Manual:Kurita, we're going to find something a little different to review in the short term until another combat manual is released, we might actually do a break down of how to play Alpha Strike, and hopefully get some more eyes on the game.
Game On, Game Fans

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