Friday, September 9, 2016

Campaign Operations (Book Review)

Morning Battletech Fans, we hope you had a grand old time at PAXwest, or DragonCon, or the NOVA open last weekend.  Today we’re going to dive into the latest book in the Operations series for Battletech, Campaign Operations.  Originally intended for inclusion in the Interstellar  Operations book that came out a couple of years ago (and yes, we’ll cover that one as well in time), it turned into just too big of a book to manage, so it was split off into its volume.  Let’s not waste any time and dive right in.  

The Grey Death Legion are here

Campaign Operations has 11 key sections, each one contributes something new and different to the game system (like the solar system generation system) or expands and clarifies existing rules (the formation building rules, the unit creation system and the force operations rules).  This book is smaller than the other Operations system books, clocking in at 194 pages in the .pdf version,  

The introduction is useful for two key points. First it clarifies what you can do with these rules and it reminds you that these are completely optional rules that you don’t need to utilize in order to enjoy Battletech and its giant stompy robot fun.  This book is an expansion for Battletech, but not an essential one unless you want to create your own units, run campaigns, or do a whole bunch of other neat things.  We around the office think it’s a pretty essential rules expansion for the campaign rules alone.  The last section of the introduction we’re sure is going to cause some headaches for folks.

Basically, Battletech is an incredibly complex series of systems that try to cover a lot of different situations and styles, but there will be a situation that comes up that aren’t covered by the rules.  In that instance, the book suggests (and suggests is the best term for this) that you behave like civilized adults, discuss the situation and come to an amicable agreement within your playgroup.  Some folks probably would like the rule book to cover every potential situation and outcome, and it’s highly unlikely that the book will cover EVERY POSSIBLE OUTCOME of a system as complex as the Battletech rules set.  They do a great job of covering potential situations that arise, but it’s probably not feasible without creating additional books of errata and supplemental information.  We encourage you to discuss what you’re doing with this expansion of the rules with your play group at all the steps you’re tinkering with, after all, you are a play group of people enjoying the shared gaming experience of Battletech together, right?

The next major section of the rules is a doozy of a section.  (We know, we’ve been running a series of articles on using them and we’re still only about halfway done).  Force Creation rules are front and center in this book, and we are pretty happy about it.  Building off of several different rule sets for creating mercenary units, the Force Creation chapter starts with making a few key decisions about what your force is and moves into greater details as dice are rolled and the system adjudicates availability of resources and guides a player from step to step through acquiring combat units, hiring pilots and support personnel, to finally figuring out how much everything costs in a given month.  

It’s not a system that you’ll sit down with on a rainy Friday and say “Hey, i want to build a unit for the laughs of it.”  It’s a complex rules set that you’ll want to study.  In places it can be counter-intuitive (the costs for buying generic slots for combat units instead of the actual ones you’re looking for) and some things are missing for other modules (like hiring replacement pilots for destroyed 'mechs or vice-versa).  Take your time with this system and make sure you have the Master Unit List for your faction and era at hand when you start figuring out what units you want to pick up.  We also suggest copious amounts of scratch paper, you’ll want to take notes before you break out the worksheets.

We’ve been tinkering with the system for a couple of months now, and it works fairly well for building a Successor State military unit or a mercenary unit, but i can see people complain about how the system works for Clan forces, especially at the start of the Clan Invasion.  In October we’re going to try and put one together for a Clan Invasion era force, but i suspect we’ll be utilizing Nova style formations to counter balance the extremely high prices of our Clan Omnimechs with extremely cost effective Clan Elementals.  

The next section, Force Operations builds off the Force Creation rules.  Once you’ve completed your Force Creation project, you can plug them right into the Force Operation system.  The Force Operation system starts with calculating your force’s reputation score.  Reputation encompasses many different factors (if you worked with the old Dragoon Rating system from Field Manual: Mercenaries, you’ll see a lot of similarities) that cover the total quality of your unit.  

Once you have a reputation score, you can start to generate missions and move into an organized (almost campaign) play style.  Like most of the other subsystems of this book, The hiring and campaigns system has a lot of steps to it, and feels like it was tailor made for mercenary operations.  To be fair, it probably was, but with some imagination you can fit other military units into the system.  Low reputation forces (that aren’t pirates) tend to get stuck with the less interesting jobs, while forces with higher reputations tend to get their choice of assignments.  Take your time, get used to the system and play with it.  

Formation Building is the next section, and i think it’s probably the most readily usable section for most players.  Other books in the Operations series have listed special pilot quirks and abilities for units, and we’ve seen formation abilities in supplements and sourcebooks.  For the first time we can remember, we actually have rules that define how those traits are handed out, and mechanical benefits for grouping units into lances and companies.  

This section also has a lot of overlap with the Alpha Strike, and the shared definitions across systems is something we can totally get behind.  Personally, I like the benefits that you can utilize for grouping your units together in thematically appropriate unit combinations.  It’s also the first broad application of the Special Pilot Abilities we’ve seen since they showed up in Tactical Operations.  There are also several faction specific units for the House units, but nothing noticeable for the Clans, although there are rules for using base 5 and base 6 unit groupings to represent Clan forces and Comstar/Word of Blake formations.  
The Inner Sphere at War (ISW) conversions section is next.  Battletech has about six different systems for playing the game, and one of the hallmarks of the way Battletech has been written is that you can scale up or down to play at whatever level you want.  Whether it’s Lance on Lance, or the entire March Militia screaming across the border into Capellan space, you can scale the game up or down to meet your play needs.  This conversion system is the last piece in this system and allows you to scale the units used for ISW into any of the other systems.  

We haven’t played ISW, mostly because it feels a little big for us.  It’s got a lot of moving parts to keep track of, but we know there is a segment of the Battletech fan base that will go crazy for something like this.  Being able to convert back and forth is advantageous to players wanting to explore this interesting rules set (We’ll discuss it in greater detail when we cover Interstellar Operations).  

The next chapter seems like an odd inclusion for this book, but we dig the Solar System Generation rules set.This is a set of guidelines for creating new and interesting places for your robots to blow each other up on  We like it because it does give you a reason to break out the advanced battlefield conditions from Tactical Operations.  We like it a lot, but we haven’t gotten too deep into building our own systems yet.  

We are pretty happy that they use as much real science terminology as they do.  They also keep the idea in mind that we’re creating battlefields to fight over and give you options to include livable planets to fight on.  With a colony generator tacked onto the back end, you can create an array of interesting locales to fight over.  

The next two sections we’re going to cover together because they go hand in hand.  The Narrative Campaigns and Map-Based Campaigns sections cover the rules for organizing your Battletech games into linked scenarios to form a campaign (the book is named after these, after all).  You’ll rely heavily on earlier sections of this book to put combat units together to play through the scenarios that will come up.

We like these sections because they’ve given us new ways to play battletech.  The Chaos Campaign rules get an update and are bulked up to account for a a lot of different situations and battlefields to fight over.  With a dealer’s choice on whether you’re playing a narrative campaign or a map-based one, (and really it’s up to your player base to decide which one they would rather do this week) you can play a million different battles.  

The back of the book is full of worksheets and reference charts to get you into rules systems that define this book.  Check them out, you’ll probably be using them when you build units, and we’d love to see some folks who come up with new planets and systems.  That’s the breakdown of the book, give us a sec and we’ll give you our final thoughts.


We have been waiting for the Campaign Operations rules for a long time.  We participated in the beta test for the force construction rules when they were supposed to be included in Interstellar Operations, and overall we’re happy with the product.  We’ve got a couple of questions that weren’t answered, but those are manageable.  We like the art, and we like the layout of the book.  We might have put Solar System Generation and the Inner Sphere at War Conversions after the Campaign sections, because they represent a break in the book’s flow.

Even with those minor issues, we still like Campaign Operations a lot.  It gives players rules that aren’t era specific and significantly upgrades the way players can construct lances and companies.  For those reasons alone we’d pick up this book.  It also dovetails nicely into the direction Alpha Strike is going.  For these reasons, we highly recommend you consider this rules expansion for battletech and take a look at it.  

If you’re looking for it, you can find Campaign Operations at

Hopefully you can find it at your FLGS.

At any of those locales it should retail for $39.99 .

If you’re interested in our series using the Force Creation rules, you can check out the first article in that series at

You can also search through the blog with the tag Tombstones for the other entries in that series.  

That’s it for us today Game Fans, Game On.  

1 comment:

  1. Great write up for CampOps.

    You need update your link, the Catalyst Game Labs finally movd to a new store format.