Thursday (Bonus) Review: BattleTech: Alpha Strike

I’m a long-time fan of BattleTech, in part because I grew up playing the MechWarrior video games and quickly fell in love with the wargame as soon as I discovered it. Alpha Strike is a bit of an oddity; on one hand, it attempts to include all the features and complications in BattleTech, but do so in a way that minimizes bookkeeping and allows for a faster form of play.

The game comes with Introductory, Standard, and Advanced rules, including another little section for aerospace, all of which are significantly faster than those of traditional BattleTech. It’s immediately clear that faster does not equal easier; the game isn’t dumbed down (though the Introductory ruleset is good for beginners), so if you were just hoping for a game to play with a couple buddies who hadn’t played before, you’ll be best off sticking to the Introductory rules. That said, you’ll have to do a lot less bookkeeping with Alpha Strike, so even if the rules are more or less as difficult as normal BattleTech, you’ll still be able to enjoy an interesting ruleset without having to track how much damage a ‘Mech’s arm has taken and each of the weapons individually, which does make the game a lot easier for novices to understand. In addition, the fact that you’re working on smaller scales than normal BattleTech (i.e. unit versus limb for ‘Mechs) means that you’ll have to worry a little less about certain rules and weapon functions, and the move to consolidate as much stuff as possible into a one-size-fits all category (for instance, how all ‘Mechs all use the same ranges, though some can’t attack at Long range) means that there is less worrying about checking record sheets and more play.

As far as the game goes, it’s more or less what can be expected-it’s not exactly revolutionizing wargaming because BattleTech’s already a huge influence in the market and taking this approach has been done before. Fortunately, since part of those expectations include high quality, it’s worth noting that you can have a ridiculous amount of complexity going on-Alpha Strike simplifies the record keeping more than the rules themselves, so you can still enjoy advanced features such as C3 or artillery without having to worry about what the new system does to them. Everything’s scaled down pretty much mathematically, so you can expect similar results in Alpha Strike as you would in normal BattleTech, with the slight loss of precision that comes from the fact that there are smaller numbers and the like doing little to the expected outcomes of conflicts-a Gunslinger can blow away a Jackal in one turn just as it could when you track all the guns and parts individually using traditional BattleTech rules.

From a production perspective, Alpha Strike is as you expect. There weren’t any major errors, but there were a couple typos in there-for the most part, however, the typesetting was spot on without any errors, and the art, which is the traditional “take pictures of a set up scenario on the table” is fine and accompanied by useful diagrams that help drive home the point of things. Toss in some examples, and the nice added touch of all the tables being compiled at the end of the PDF, and Alpha Strike shapes up to be a very well put-together book.

So, in short, Alpha Strike is exactly what it says on the tin, a “fast-playing form of BattleTech” that emphasizes quick results that perhaps lack some of the nuance of its more complex cousin but that still provides a plethora of tactical options.

You can get BattleTech: Alpha Strike on DriveThruRPG here.

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