I have had two playtests since I last posted. Both were successful for different reasons.
Playtest #1: My 9-year-old son and I squared off for my first playtest against another human.
My son’s team: TDR-5S, GRF Sparky, COM-7X, and WVR-6R
My team: BLR-1G, WVR-6R, LCT-1E, and SHD-2H
No upgrades on either side.
Total playtime/rounds: 4 rounds in just under 1 hour. Includes multitasking to monitor two younger children, set-up and tear-down, and some daddy-coaching.
Game Result: My son hunkered down in some woods where he started. I tried to flank with the Locust, but it got destroyed before the rest of my unit could catch up. All other mechs (his and mine) received minimal damage.
1) Cover was overpowered. In Xwing, there may be one or two (if really unlucky) asteroids between you and your prey. In battletech, trees and mountains are everywhere and only a foolish player eschews using them regularly. Possible solution: Instead of making multiple forest hexes provide cumulative bonuses, I will change them to a binary mechanic. If there are light woods of any amount, you get +1 green die. If there are any heavy woods, you get +2 dice (and that supercedes any bonus from light woods)
2) Move pre-planning was difficult when accounting for MP spent turning your mech. It’s not terrible for a 4/6 mech like a Battlemaster, but it’s a headache for an 8/12 Locust. Possible Solution: Eliminate turning as an MP expenditure, but put limits on the available destination hexes for running, based on the unit’s facing at the start of the turn. This is somewhat similar to the hex-based option for Alpha Strike.
3) Heat cards are awesome. I love the heat phase.
4) The attack/defense dice mechanic is great, and much simpler than the base-to-hit mechanic of CBT or AS. More importantly, it allows for active participation for the defender, reducing downtime, and increasing player engagement. That’s a huge bonus for what can sometimes be a long game.
5) Most of the time, players used Mixed TICs for attacks, which makes sense. But for heat-management or to strip tokens, individual TICs were used to good effect.
6) Minor and Major crits didn’t play much effect in a short game with minimal damage.
Playtest #2: After updating the rules as previous stated, I convinced my wife to play a game with me on a date night (yes, my wife is awesome).
My Team (95pts): Liao, TDR-5S w/ Rapid Fire and Clare Sarton, LCT-1E
K’s Team (95pts): Steiner, GRF-1S, WVR-6
Total playtime/rounds: All 12 rounds in about 2 hours. Note: Includes teaching new player, setup, teardown, and eating dinner.
Game Result: My Thunderbolt attempted to get into the middle of the board to allow the Locust to flank his attackers. This was a bad strategy on my part. The Griffin kept my Locust occupied while the dodgy Wolverine plinked away at my TBolt. Eventually the Griffin teamed up against my heavy to defeat it. My Locust pushed his luck and ran straight up to the very-damaged Wolvie, destroying it in an alpha strike, and because its damage was resolved first, this high-risk move resulted in a high-reward since it couldn’t return fire. The remaining 4 turns were the Locust and Griffin trying to outmaneuver each other. The Locust’s Hull Down ability was a huge benefit. At the end of turn 12, the Griffin and Locust only had armor damage, so no points were awarded for those. The destruction of the TBolt netted my wife more points than my kill on the WVR-6R, so she won. But man, was it ever intense.
1) The new cover mechanic was much more streamlined and balanced. We weren’t chucking more than 5 green dice at any time, and usually only throwing 2-4, which is good.
2) Move planning was much, much easier without accounting for hex-facing changes. I made running limited so that your Destination Hex had to be in your forward firing arc, but walking could be in all directions. This was super easy, but didn’t feel too dumbed down. Our mechs were all over the map, but tactical considerations of facing were still crucial. Torso twisting (“pivoting?”) was also used well.
3) I still love the way heat works. The Thunderbolt was able to balance its heat and discard to get cards that were the least inhibiting. It really felt like a minigame with my pilot managing least-bad outcomes. In many respects, it feels like an advanced version of Xwing’s stress.
4) Minor crits may have too many “no effects.” Hard to tell, but I will try to playtest more as-is. A handful of them were played, but only one resulted in anything, and even then the Wolverine never fixed it since he didn’t need to Torso Twist. The Major crits were fun. At one point my Locust was hunting the battle-damaged Wolverine and gave it a damaged arm actuator crit. Then my wife realized the Wolvie has protected actuators. Darn. But still fun.
5) In the end, my wife said she definitely wants to play it again, which is the highest praise I can get. She thought it felt like the D&D Miniatures Game (which we used to play a lot), but on one hand simpler since there were fewer unit-to-unit interactive effects, but the pre-planning and actions and such added extra sophistication. The fact that it had a definitive endpoint (12 rounds) she thought was also good, since it prevents the game from stretching on forever (some of our pre-children DDMG games were long). We also both agreed that playing a 4v4 match would be longer, but probably not much longer than our 2v2 learning game that we played while eating dinner. Maybe 2.5 hours.