- While the two stranded 'mechs managed to escape their pursuers and make for the designated LZ, Aralakh's desperate bit to clear the zone for the battered dropship takes a turn for the worse. As damage mounts, Steiner attempted to intimidate the opposing units into surrunder, but they knew they have the upper hand. Riley's Trebuchet sustained critical damage to the reactor core - which exploded catastrophically - and Jyun's Panther took some unfortunate leg hits which all but remove it from the field. Fortunately, the forced-retreat of one of the Clints and the massive damage the enemy Archer had taken were enough for the opposing force to reconsider the assault and withdraw.
- Aftermath: Riley's Trebuchet was a total loss, though Riley herself was able to survive the incident (albiet in poor spirits). Steiner is having some growing doubts about the viability of the merc company long-term. That said, the beneficiaries of their rescue have brought a Union dropship to Aralakh, as well as a Crusader and an Assassin with their pilots and techs. In light of this, the company has decided to release the Leopard from their service on good terms. They are now going to spend some time resting and repairing before taking on a new contract.
- Having successfully captured assets for NAR, Aralakh was finally released on so-so terms. Their most pressing concern was treating Drevan's injuries, so they took their chances staying in-system and going to the hospital. The company repaired what they could, but were short on supplies.
- A few months later, they jumped back into Free Worlds space to a more populous planet where they were hoping to repair and resupply. On their way in-system, however, they picked up a distress call from a merc dropship in orbit around one of the system's planet's moons.
- In exchange for the distressed company's remaining liquid assets, Aralakh agreed to get the company's surviving units out of trouble on the planet. They made a few low-passes in the target area before directing the survivors to a promising LZ northwest of their position.
- While the survivors continued to fight off the pursuit mechs that had been hunting them for the past few days, Aralakh attempted to clear the landing site - which, unfortunately, contained a hostile presence formidable in the face of Aralakh's severely-damaged condition...
Adam is joining our game, and we spent this evening making two PCs for him to add to Tim's company: an experienced former House Regular who pilots a 45-ton Assassin, and a newbie Noble who has a 65-ton Crusader.
These characters will a fragment of a decimated merc unit looking to join up with someone else - and Aralakh will be the convenient choice. They will be bringing their 'mechs as well as a beat-up Union dropship into the company's assets.
- Drevan's strike team invaded the dropship. They sustained some casualties, but were ultimately successful in capturing the ship, as well as the damaged Hatchetman in contained, and the two incapacitated Jenners outside - making for a pretty respectable salvage haul.
Continued playtesting on personal scale combat this session. How I ran the session aside, the system behaved well and played out the way I would want. That said, it's a little bit too clunky and I think I'm going to make a few more tweaks to it.
- NAR continued the defense of their compound, eventually destroying 3 out of 4 of the attacking units - unfortunately causing two of them to catastrophically explode, leaving no usable salvage for the Resistance. Hopefully Aralakh's attempts to capture the attackers' drop ship produces a more tangible gain...
Adam continued this encounter with us, and will likely be joining this game on an ongoing basis.
- Using assets "borrowed" from Aralakh, NAR attempts to fight off the mercenary lance sent to destroy them while Aralakh furthers its efforts to capture the merc's Union. The Resistance managed to take out the crippled mercenary Clint and the enemy Whitworth has virtually no armor remaining, but Aralakh's Warhammer is severely battered and the Trebuchet is now out of missles...
Adam joined us for this session, so we decided to play out the latter half of the previously "off-camera" engagement of mercs vs. NAR in order to introduce him to the defining mech combat aspect of our Battletech campaign. After this encounter resolves, we will return to Aralakh's attempts to capture the dropship, which have now moved into the personal-scale boarding of the vessel.
- Aralakh neutralized the mech defenses of the merc dropship and blew open one of the loading doors. The lance then called in their strike team, led by the temporarily dispossessed Drevan, who proceeded to board the vessel for capture.
- As NAR began engaging the mercenary force sent to take them out, Aralakh's partial lance emerged from their concealed location, making their way to the merc's LZ in an attempt to capture their Union-class dropship...
Some barriers to break down.
Battletech has a pretty significant "barrier to entry". This fact is pretty well-known amongst gamers. The rules of the tabletop game - even if you don't get into some of the advanced/optional stuff - are crunchy and fairly complicated at first blush. There's like 3 different steps to do anything. Also, the fiction and history of the setting (which is awesome) is pretty vast and somewhat convoluted. And there's just so much stuff out there pertaining to Battletech, that it can be intimidating to anyone wanting to pick it up (I know, I was there a couple years ago) - I mean, where do you start? But there is another aspect to this barrier that I hadn't previously considered.
First time in the cockpit.
Tim and I introduced Rucht & Tony to this wonderful world of giant robots last night. It was our usual night to play Rucht's D&D 5e game (which is fantastic, by the way - we're a party of halflings!), but a few people had to cancel and we didn't reach critical mass for the game to occur, so I brought my Battletech stuff and we decided to blow up some stuff.
I set up a map with my spiffy hex terrain, some of my best painted units (color coded by teams), and got out the sheets, dice, etc. I have a pretty solid setup, I think. We played 2-on-2: Tony and I against Tim and Rucht. A Catapult, Enforcer, Rifleman, and Dervish, respectively. I think our side had a slight edge in battlefield value, but I've found balancing lances in Battletech to be really, really difficult, so I don't usually agonize over getting it perfect, and I didn't choose the sides.
Rucht likes minis games and, I think, enjoyed this one about as well as any other. He would probably play it again on occasion, but didn't seem super enthusiastic. Tony tends to like games that are a bit more straight-forward. He really liked kicking Tim's Rifleman in the shins of course, but I think he would have prefered a bit less computation in order to do so. He said he had a good time with it, but wasn't something he'd be interested in as an ongoing thing. We only got through about half of the engagement, but we all had fun and I think it was a decent intro.
After the game, Tim and I were talking about how it went. Tim is, so far, the one person I've introduced to this game who is really into. He and I have been doing a kind of single-player strategic-level merc campaign - Aralakh Company - using some companion rules I made to handle non-mech-combat stuff. We're about 15 sessions in, and we've been absolutely LOVING it. We got to talking about why the game didn't seem quite as fun to our friends as we think it is.
And then, we remembered.
Before you walk, you have to crawl. Really, really slowly. Over gravel.
It could simply be that the game is just not their thing, but I think there's a little more to it than that.
Here's the thing we decided about Battletech: You have to like some crunch in a combat system for sure, and you have to have some guidance as to where to start (thanks to Dan, Chris, and Fear the Boot, by the way), but you ALSO have to have a fair degree of patience. You just have to really like the idea of Battletech in order to get far enough into the game to fall in love with it.
Many games become increasingly fun to play as you get to know the rules, but Battletech takes this to a certain extreme. Not only does the game not reach "peak fun" until you know it well enough that the phases and calculations come somewhat naturally and chart-referencing is an "only some of the time" event, but learning it that well takes a while, and the game can be almost oppressive before you get to that point. I totally get how many people would feel that the slog just isn't worth it when there are so many other games out there that are a bit easier and more fun up front.
Tim and I both agreed that when we first started playing, the games were slow and clunky and not nearly as much fun (even if we were playing with people who knew the rules pretty well), but we both loved the concepts around the game so much that we put up with the less-than-smooth gameplay long enough to get to the point where we knew it well enough to enjoy it as much as we do now.
Unfortunately, if you're not truly enamoured with the ideas from the start, you're probably not going to stick with this game long enough to really enjoy it. If the game has a flaw, this is surely it.
- NAR prompted Aralakh to go raid a Capellan noble's compound for much needed hardware and supplies. The group was only able to send a few mostly-repaired light mechs as the others were still in bad shape, but their target was not believed to possess mech forces. They engaged a trio of tanks, a pair of helicopers, and some turrets. As they finished loading up their plunder, however, they were pressed by a pair of aerotech fighters and a pair of approaching mechs. In the end, Aralalkh took significant damage but managed to escape with most of the desired equipment.
This session was the first to use my simplified Battletech vehicle rules mods. Tim and I both thought it went very well.
- Then things turned ugly. An LRM volley from Riley's Trebuchet destroyed the Hunchback completely, but Steiner's Blackjack was too close to avoid damage from the reactor explosion it triggered and it fell when it lost its gyro. Aralakh then attempted to negotiate a mutual withdraw, but were unable to convince their attackers. The Banshee's continued press on the damaged Trebuchet took down the smaller mech with a kick that obliterated one of its legs and then charged over to finally incapacitate the fallen Warhammer - which was still firing PPC blasts - with a kick to the head.
- Seeing little alternative, Aralakh surrendered. It turns out that their attackers were self-described freedom-fighters attempting to liberate the planet and remove the nobles' predation on the world's resources at the expense of its atmosphere.
- The New Andrin Resistance press-ganged Aralakh into their service - promising that if they helped the rebels kick the Capellan nobles off-world, they would return them their mechs and the two could part ways.
- As the exchange continues, it becomes clear that neither side can keep this up for long - but neither side has a clear advantage either. The battle has moved away from the Warhammer such that it has some difficulty engaging, and the Blackjack is greviously wounded. On the other side, the Banshee is pretty beat up, but its toughness is keeping it at the top of the threat list. The Hunchback now has only a small laser, but the relatively-untouched Wolfhound has started to have an impact on the fight.
- The company continued to trade blows with their assailants. The Banshee's luck improved only briefly, and Aralakh's opponents may have been considering retreat before the Hunchback, its AC/20 now destroyed, got a lucky laser shot against the Warhammer's already badly-injured leg, taking it down. The Cicada has already met a similar fate, and the Hunchback and Banshee both have significant injuries that have greatly reduced their damage output. Unfortunately, Steiner's Blackjack isn't looking much better, Riley is only just starting to land some hits with her LRMs, and Jyun's injuries have made him less effective.
- Aralakh engaged in combat with their assailants. Steiner in particular has been extremely fortunate that the Banshee's pilot is having a run of bad luck. He was less fortunate with regards to the Hunchback's AC/20. Riley has yet to prove herself, and Jyun is hurting enough from his near-death experience that it is severely hampering his performance. Still, the group has given at least as good as they've gotten thus far...
- A few weeks after the processing plant sabotage, a group calling itself the "New Andrid Resistance" attempted to assassinate a couple of the members of Aralakh company. While the overall attempt failed, it was a miracle that Jyun survived.
- About two months later, the company gets an alert while on patrol: a lance of 'mechs is approaching the compound. They load up and head out, facing a Wolfhound, a Cicada, a Hunchback, and a Banshee...
This was the first session to feature my Mechwarrior Basic rules for personal-scale combat. It is very lethal (as I wanted it to), but it played very well.
- Aralakh arrived on the mining planet and took up their garrison duty.
- One night about 5 months into the job, a few of the small security team Aralakh had subcontracted witnessed an odd exchange between one of the compound locals and some outsiders. Following them, one of the men saw the outsiders give the local a large backpack. The man then proceeded to his job in a refinery. About 20 minutes later, alarms sounded and the place was evacuated. While authorities were attempting to determine what had caused the alarm, there was a tremendous explosion and the building collapsed.
- The Baron who'd hired Aralakh was furious at the sabotage, but the company was able to maneuver around his accusations.
- With the help of the subcontracted team, Aralakh was able to track down and capture the saboteur, who had apparently been paid to place the explosives but knew little of his benefactors.
- Aralakh stepped up internal security in response to the incident.
- Aralakh took their payment and left world, deciding to jump into Capellan space to avoid potential political issues selling "acquired" Free Worlds' military hardware.
- A baron met with them under false pretenses - not interested in buying their mechandise, but wanted to hire them on retainer for guard duty on a secondary planet in-system.
- The group negotiated up to 500k for the year, plus the baron will cover all repairs and normal expenses. Additionally, the baron agreed to hire a broker to aid them in the sale of their unneeded merchandise. The group also has 50% salvage rights, but as there are no other mechs on their world, it seems unlikely they'll get much.
- Aralakh took the opportunity of having a benefactor to bring on a new mechwarrior: a woman called Riley who pilots a Trebuchet.
- Overall, while not especially lucrative (or exciting), it seems like a nice, easy contract...
- Both sides continued to pound each other for several rounds, severely damaging multiple units.
- Ultimately, the pirate leader proposed a deal: they would leave the system and not return - and would leave the merc a prize of valuable military equipment - in exchange for an end to hostilities.
- After considering the situation carefully, Aralakh agreed to their terms. The pirates proved true enough to their word.
- The company's employer was not completely satisfied with their results, though they had technically fulfilled the contract and the pirate threat was gone (at least for the time being). Compensation was renegotiated for half.
- After taking the contract, Aralakh headed out to the mine abandoned moon where the pirates were said to be hiding out. Not liking the hemmed-in approach from the main road to the south, they decided to put their dropship down on the plain to the north even though it meant more rugged terrain between them and their target.
- As they approached the mine from above, first contact was made with the Jagermech perched atop a hill. The Commando entered as the mercs engaged, with the Dervish and Stinger arriving after a couple of exchanges.
- Aralakh took some hard hits early in the confrontation, but have so far managed to avoid being crippled. The destruction of the Commando has evened the playing field somewhat, but they still have an uphill battle. If they don't get a break soon, they may need to pull out or risk more than their contract...
- Though their new recruit gave them an in-system raid target with a decent opportunity to steal a solid battlemech, the company commander decided the timing was wrong and instead ordered repairs to begin on their damaged mechs as they made their way back to the jump point to head out of system.
- Upon returning to their employer, they collected the rest of their pay, finished their repairs, and received two offers for new contracts from others: one involving eliminating a pirate lance in a nearby system, and another recruiting merc units for a larger campaign offensive assaulting an undisclosed Capellan world.
- After some discussion and weighing options, the company decided to go pirate hunting...
- After a few intense exchanges and significant damage to both sides, Aralakh succeeded in bringing down the Awesome. The pilot of the mech survived and turned out to be an exiled noble of some sort. He offered them information that would aid them in exchange for a place among their company. Aralakh agreed to this on a "trial basis".
- The company bribed and called in the strike team that had been sent with them to round of the remaining personnel at the base. The noble had warned them of fanaticism, but the team still took some losses while performing the task. The group stripped some supplies and equipment from the base and then returned to the primary objective at the R&D facility.
- The strike team recovered 3 experimental/prototype "pulse lasers" from the facility. The leader of the strike team, having been bribed already, offered to sell Aralakh up to two of the lasers recovered for the Duke.
- The company used its Warhammer to carefully (if inelegantly) salvage the fallen Panther for rebuild & refit.
- As they were preparing to leave the system, their new "recruit" informed them that there was another ripe target in-system...
- Aralakh pursued the fleeing light mechs back to the mostly-decommissioned military base. After a few brief exchanges, they managed to take out the Locust and the Hermes - but about that time, they detected an engine power-up in one of the hangers. After a few moments, sensors were able to determine it was an assault mech - an 80-ton Awesome. Despite - or maybe because of - the fact that they couldn't get much salvage from the Hermes after its ammo explosion, they decided to stay and see what they could do against this new foe, particularly when they noticed it didn't seem to be operating at peak performance...
- Tim's company was hired by a Free Worlds League duke to hit a small Capellan military R&D facility on an otherwise-insignificant border world. Intelligence indicated the nearby military base was all but decommissioned and they expect no more than a few light mechs and a pair of turrets as in terms of resistance. Aralakh is to neutralize defenses and allow a strike team (they're transporting) to enter the facility and extract technology.
- Tim rolled rather poorly during contract negotiations and is only being compensated with a forward of 45,000 for operating costs, 25,000 for mission success, a potential 50,000 bounty on significant tech recovered - BUT, they do have full rights to any salvage they have time to pull out, which could pay off nicely.
- The jumpship transporting them says they will remain in-system for 17 days. At the standard jump points, the target world is about 8 days travel at 1G. Aralakh pays the captain an extra 5,000 to jump just a little closer to the ecliptic, shaving a day off the interplanetary travel. They should have up to 3 days on-world. Extra time comes at 10,000/day.
- Upon reaching the site, they found it defended by a Locust, a Panther, and a Hermes II - which is actually a medium mech. After a brief skirmish, they took the Panther down and the two remaining units retreated. Seeing no evidence of additional resistance, the unit held off on calling in the strike team and instead decided to pursue the fleeing units for more potential salvage.
|Tuesday October 18, 2016 at 8:00pm||new campaign, battletech, aralakh company, game session notes||Comments (0) »|
Aralakh Company will be a strategic-level Battletech RPG/playtest that Tim is helping me with. I loves me some Battletech and I haven't been able to get a full group together to start a game (not for lack of trying) - so, instead, Tim and I are playtesting a "Mechwarrior Basic" RPG companion ruleset I've developed as well as feeling out the logistics of a Succession Wars era mercenaries campaign. Since it's just me and Tim, it will be light on the RP and mostly focused on game mechanics, battletech map combat, and strategic level decision-making.
My version of the Battletech universe is about .5-1 steps removed from canon. I leave most things as-is, but there are a few minor alterations to "the way things are" that improve the setting in my view. In addition to using my own Mechwarrior ruleset, I've made a few minor mods to the tabletop wargame and have come up with my own simplified versions of some other game-relevant areas.
"Aralakh" was the name Tim gave his merc company, having stolen it from a video game.
- "Steiner", a guy born into a merc family who inherited and/or split off to form his own company; Pilots a Blackjack.
- "Drevan", a friend of Steiner's who comes from the family of a house regular; Pilots a Warhammer.
In addition to the two "PCs" and their mechs, Aralakh also has a leopard-class dropship owned by the hired captain, a few techs for upkeep on the mechs & vehicles, and some light support equipment. They're also starting with a small supply stockpile for repairs and reloading, but it won't last them forever.
Character creation rules seemed to work reasonably well, especially the random aspects. The "average" starting character might be *bit* too skilled out of the box, but we'll see how this develops.
When I got home this evening, I noted that the temperature was still above 70 degrees - and that meant it was time to clear-coat some miniatures! I got a couple of coats on all but two of the minis - one because I wanted to do some additional highlights, and another because I somehow got brown paint on it. The others should be ready to go, though. Looking forward to playing!
So, I haven't painted minis in a long time but, due to a series of extremely fortunate events (and a guy I don't really know being generally awesome), I ended up with a copy of the Battletech introductory box set and the 26 mech figures that come with it. And a painting guide for painting them.
I'm not really very good at this, but I think I'm getting a little better. It's one thing to read the guide, it's another thing to be able to actually paint well. I've painted about six of these now, and I've learned a bit.
The Battletech tabletop wargame is a lot of fun - not that I'm good at it, mind you. I've even taught the quick-start rules to a kid I mentor at a local elementary school (...and he's beating me). The tabletop wargame is only part of my nefarious goal, however.
As I have mentioned before, I have wanted to run a Battletech tabletop RPG campaign for for ever. Now that I have minis, the actual tabletop game rules, and several sources of setting info, I'm a few steps closer. I even actually have a copy of Mechwarrior 2nd ed (the published rpg component), but it strikes me as a bit clunky and dated at this point, so I'm working on my own companion rpg system to run in tandem with the wargame for an RPG campaign. It needs to feel like an extension of the wargame, but encompass the plushier parts of character and role.
My one last reservation, however, is that I might not have the right group for this game. It is a pretty heavy military sci-fi setting, and doesn't exactly fit with the "plucky adventurers" feel my group tends to have. What I want to run is a mercenaries campaign wherein the PCs will comprise a mercenary outfit which will have to balance allegiances and personal goals with the bottom line - and all that that entails. There are times that I think my group could have a lot of fun with this, and there are times that I think maybe I should pitch it to someone else. The jury is still out, but there is a better-than-not chance I attempt to get them to at least give it a try at some point in the future. Remember people, if your GM is into it, it's going to be a good game.