|Wargame published by
Catalyst Game Labs
|No. of Players||Trillions|
|Essential Books||Total Warfare or The BattleMech Manual|
"It is the 31st century, a time of endless wars that rage across human-occupied space. As star empires clash, these epic wars are won and lost by BattleMechs, 23-56 foot tall humanoid metal titans bristling with lasers, autocannons and dozens of other lethal weapons; enough firepower to level entire city blocks. Your elite force of MechWarriors drives these juggernauts into battle, proudly holding your faction's flag high, intent on expanding the power and glory of your realm. At their beck and call are the support units of armored vehicles, power armored infantry, aerospace fighters and more, wielded by a MechWarrior's skillful command to aid him in ultimate victory. Will they become legends, or forgotten casualties? Only your skill and luck will determine their fate!"
- – Product promotional tagline
Battletech, or MechWarrior as most of the non-neckbearded populace know it, is a tabletop wargame about armies of giant robots fighting one another for honor, money, and territory in a far-distant feudal future. Think Star Wars AT-STs, or Warhammer 40,000's Imperial Knights (Games Workshop decided they liked Battlemechs too). It’s also perhaps the most realistic example of walker warfare. Using their size to mount sufficient energy generation and armor that they are fast enough, maneuverable enough, and armored enough that being a bullet magnet does not matter. Using their vertical build to mount numerous huge weapons that each would take up all the space on most tanks modern militaries would consider super-heavy. Usually operating in combined arms warfare and supported by tanks, hovercraft, aircraft, and infantry. Not sinking into the ground like its quicksand because dirt reaches maximum compression very quickly (and thus all anti-mech arguments are rendered invalid by combined arms, armor, power-plant, firepower, and actual science), and so on. The realism of the technology (if not the moronic House Lords and nonsensical events) is so great it could be a glimpse into the future. Y’know, before Bolos come along and replace everything.
- 1 Holy Crap, Giant Robots Are Awesome
- 2 Warfare in the Thirty-first Century
- 3 Fluff
- 4 Factions
- 5 The Appeal of Battletech
- 6 Mechanics
- 7 Spinoff Games
- 8 Video Games
- 9 Current State
- 10 External links
- 11 Gallery
- 12 /tg/ Battletech Creations
Holy Crap, Giant Robots Are Awesome
In the early 1980s, Jordan Weisman was fascinated by several Japanese anime involving giant robots, or "mecha." He was quoted as saying that he liked the designs and idea of giant robots fighting on the battlefield, but did not have a taste for the storylines that the Japanese wrote about them. In 1984, Weisman founded FASA and acquired the licenses to designs from several series, the most famous being Super Dimension Fortress Macross, though the largest portion came from Fang of the Sun Dougram and combined them to make Battletech.
The first edition of this game, called Battledroids, was a hex-based boardgame played on a battlefield illustrated with various types of terrain. It came with two large plastic minis of featured mechs, imported from Japan. Initially, sales were mediocre as the sheer size of the mechs made them awkward in gameplay. Soon after the launch of Battledroids Lucasfilm filed a lawsuit against FASA for using the name "droids," which they had trademarked in 1978. Discretion being the better part of valor, FASA changed the name of the game to Battlemech in time for the second edition printing in 1986. This time, cardboard stand-ins replaced the plastic miniatures, and a tradition was born. To this day, Battletech can be played without purchasing any physical models and with any proxy you please.
Following the release of the second edition, fans of the game clamored for new miniatures. FASA obliged, rescaling their mechs for more convenient play and designing a host of in-house mechs to broaden variety and bridge the gap between the sleek Macross and crude Dougram designs. New models notwithstanding, the third edition, dubbed Battletech, was shipped with solely Macross- and Dougram-based minis. However, in 1995 Harmony Gold, an American localization company which had licensed the international distribution and toy rights to SDF Macross, issued a C&D against FASA for the use of all mecha designs from the Macross franchise. FASA ceased production of these miniatures, which were among the most popular designs in the franchise, and published a fourth edition of the game in 1996 again featuring cardboard tokens, which were all based on their own original mechs.
Before Battletech, the mecha genre was seen as something that belonged mostly to the Japanese. With few exceptions (Power Rangers and Star Wars, and even then the Mechs from the former were reused footage from Japanese shows), the genre was almost entirely made up of anime productions imported from Japan. Battletech pioneered a new approach to mecha within the Western fandom, featuring mostly stories of pseudo-realistic wars fought by real soldiers rather than teenagers taking on forces of evil or single-handedly winning interplanetary wars, plots that dominated the few mecha series that were subbed by the dedicated VHS fansubbers of the day. More importantly, the physical limitations of the Battlemechs, unlike the limitations of tanks in, say, Warhammer 40,000, are critical to the planning and strategy of outfitting mechs and using them on the tabletop.
- – Sergeant Robert "Deadeye" Unther (Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries - Training Tutorial)
BattleTech mechs function and are utilized more like tanks with legs than the super-agile flying mecha common in Japanese depictions. Mechs are deployed in formations of four or five, called lances in the Inner Sphere and stars in the Clans. They are able to operate in space, on planets with caustic atmospheres, underwater, and in a wide range of temperatures that would be lethal to humans, from instant-death cold to burn-me-up hot. One of the biggest upsides of mechs as combat vehicles is their extreme efficiency-of-arms; an effectively limitless amount of time without requiring fuel due to their fusion reactors alongside hyper-efficient Myomer 'muscles' inside the Battlemech’s limbs that can carry more weapons and armor per-ton than any other combat platform in existence. The only things stopping a mech from being able to fight forever are ammunition, repairs, and allowing the pilot to rest. Even when a mech is destroyed, losing the pilot is a relatively rare occurrence thanks to very effective ejection systems. A destroyed mech chassis can also be salvaged and rebuilt to fight another day, good as new. This means many mechs are often decades or even hundreds of years old, Ship of Theseus-style, at least in the early 3000s. Some mechs even have unique identities and/or affiliations with certain royal Houses or mercenary families. Also, as stated in the quote above, it's not uncommon for cash-strapped mercenaries, pirates, or even planetary militia to prioritize aiming for the cockpit and/or forcing Mechwarriors to eject from overheating/battle damage in order to claim the surviving Battlemech wreckage for salvage or as a spoil of war.
As far as locomotion styles, bipedal mechs are the most common, with the weapon systems mounted either in the torso compartments or on the arms. Quadrupedal mechs do exist but are relatively rare, they are slower than bipedal mechs and don't offer the same amount of weapon space for a given weight class. Even rarer are tripod mechs (which can support more weight but are even harder to build). Bipedal mechs can also grasp things in their hands (if they have them) like melee weapons or pesky tanks. A mech swinging a giant katana to chop off another mech's arm is about the most metal image possible. Early versions of BattleTech feature mechs that could transform into fighter planes, but these were dropped relatively quickly in its life cycle due to copyright problems.
The main downside of mechs is their inability to efficiently manage heat buildup. Heat is generated by the fusion reactor, the environment, movement, and mostly as a result of firing weapons. Mechs mount multiple gigantic one-ton heatsink units to deal with this buildup, but it is a constant problem for pilots to manage. Mechs that feature a lot of energy-based weapons will generate especially high levels of heat, and therefore manage very poorly in extremely hot environments. Firing all the weapons of certain mech variants at once (the Nova mech is most infamous) can cause it to overheat to such an extent that the reactor core melts down before the heatsinks can shunt the heat out of the chassis, which is bad. Safety measures that shut down the entire mech when it reaches a certain temperature threshold are always installed, but since this usually happens in a combat situation, and thus leaves the mech defenseless, some pilots will intentionally disable the safeguards to take their chances. Depending on the technology level of a given game, more efficient heatsinks can be assigned to mechs that remove heat more quickly and allow hotter builds. The fluff also mentions some experimental heatsinks that changed the heat energy to light (
???Actually plausible, we have been experimenting with this concept irl) but had the downside of making the mech look like a walking rave, as well as heatsinks that utilized caustic liquids to move heat faster but with a limited lifespan.
Weapons consist of three general categories: ballistic, energy, and missile. Each has their own strengths and weakness: ballistic weapons weigh more, require ammo, but do not generate much heat, energy weapons are the opposite, and missiles can be indirectly fired with targeting data from scouts but can be jammed. Outfitting a mech for the proper engagement is key to obtaining victory: mechs outfitted for mech-to-mech combat will generally mount only high-damage weapons with lower ammo counts and slower rates of fire, while mechs set for vehicle and infantry combat will mount weapons that fire quickly but do lower damage per shot. Likewise, mechs that do not expect steady resupply will mount more energy weapons so they are not beholden to ammo counts.
Mechs range between 20 to 100 tons in four weight classes, though a few experimental units lie outside these ranges. The weight classes are light (20-35), medium (40-55), heavy (60-75), and assault (80-100). Considering their size (23-56 feet), that's pretty light; the Maus (33 feet long and 11 feet high) mega-tank that Adolf Hitler demanded weighed 188 tons. Rarer still are super heavy mechs (with weights between 110 to 200 tons). While they tend to be walking fortresses that put even Assault Mechs to shame, they tend to be ridiculously expensive, extremely slow, vulnerable to having their legs imploding from excessive strain, and have difficulty with installing reactors with sufficient power. Most mechs are also only a little slower than the M1A1 Abrams with a top speed of 72 km/h (45 mp/h) on road, while some scout variants can reach speeds of 120 kph and faster. Mechs can also be mounted with jump jets that give them the ability to hop across the battlefield or up/down terrain. According to varying fluff depictions, mechs are even able to climb up/down cliff walls and perform flying dropkicks to enemy cockpits, which is awesome.
Depending on where in the timeline the specific game takes place (this is a player choice), there will be two possible classes of mechs: Battlemechs and Omnimechs. Battlemechs are the older style, with a set number of variants that cannot be changed in the field. This style was universal in the Inner Sphere before the arrival of the Clans. Omnimechs, a Clan invention, feature a modular construction style and are able to have their loadout quickly changed in the field as the situation demands. For example, a Dragon Battlemech comes in a default configuration consisting of one LRM-10, one Autocannon/5, and two medium lasers. The 1C variant replaces the Autocannon/5 with an Autocannon/2 and more armor, while the 5N upgrades the Autocannon/5 to an Ultra Autocannon/5. A pilot must use one of these variants, and is incapable of changing the loadout without serious reworking of the mech's internals. Conversely, a Mad Dog Omnimech comes with a default configuration of two LRM-20s, two medium pulse lasers, and two large pulse lasers. A pilot is freely able to modify this loadout as they see fit, say dropping the two medium pulse lasers for more missile ammo/armor or changing the LRMs to SRMs for short-range engagements.
Like most Western sci-fi series, Battlemechs are somewhat inspired by real theoretical technologies; their weapons range from machine guns (albeit very big ones) and missiles, to coilguns and particle accelerators. The biggest leaps from reality (aside from FTL travel and communications) are the fusion reactor, (a technology still only theoretically possible,) the neurohelmet, (which interfaces with the pilot's brain and keeps the mech upright based on the pilot's own sense of balance,) and the massive muscle-like Myomer fibers that actually allow the mech to move upon being exposed to electrical current like nerve cells.
While Battlemechs dominate the battlefields of Battletech, armored vehicles still have a place. Most of the time, tanks, hovercraft, and APCs are used where mechs would be too expensive (or too advanced) to maintain, or in roles where a mech would be ineffective. This means that, in addition to Battlemechs, one can find infantry, vehicles, aerial vehicles, naval vehicles, and spaceships. It is worth noting that vehicles can be a real threat to Battlemechs in great enough numbers, since they mount the same weapons as mechs. Some tanks can also push the 100-ton limit and sport the gigantic weaponry usually mounted on an Assault mech chassis. In other words, where mechs are Space Marines, the vehicles are more akin to Eldar Aspects.
Mechs in BattleTech fiction also have a curious tendency to go up in a mini nuclear explosion when their reactor core is breached by weapon fire. We're talking mushroom cloud, explosion, heat, radiation, the whole bit. This has been nicknamed "stackpoling" after BattleTech novel author Michael Stackpole, who includes at least one of these events in each novel he writes. If the reactor was actually breached, what should happen is a meltdown of the reactor (and probably some chunks of the surrounding mech) that quickly burns out because the reactor can't maintain the fusion reaction without proper containment. Reactors are generally incapable of generating an actual nuclear explosion: real-world reactor "explosions" are usually a result of the coolant flash-overheating and generating a pressure-based steam explosion that destroys the reactor building. Lingering radiation would still be a problem of course, but that is usually handwaved away in BattleTech fluff or not mentioned at all.
To get into the actual science of this, a hypothetical fusion reactor wouldn't produce that many radioactive substances. And what few they do would be relatively short lived and would be weak beta emitters. The most likely substance would be Tritium, which is where the stereotypical glow in the dark green radiation comes from. The Mech would glow in the dark but a decent decontamination process would render it mostly harmless. In other words, the stories are right for the wrong reasons.
Warfare in the Thirty-first Century
When somebody decides to attack another world, they load up their 'Mechs (and tanks, and infantry, etc...) onto massive shuttles called DropShips. These boost off into space and link up with Jumpships, semi-mobile Space-Fold drives sitting a ways out into the star's system (due to the limits of BattleTech FTL, Jumpships can't get any closer to a system's star than a radius roughly around the orbit of Saturn in the Sol System. For simplicity's sake, most Jumpships move to the zenith or nadir points directly "above" or "below" the star's orbital plane). The Dropships latch onto the Jumpships, which make a series of jumps from star to star until they reach the target system.
Once they reach the target, the Dropships detach from the Jumpships and burn deeper into the system towards the planet. Now Jumpships aren't stealthy, so anyone on the target planet likely detected their entrance into the system, and it typically takes Dropships seven days (varies dramatically for each star system) to reach the planet. Surprise attacks are nearly impossible, and defenders will have up to a week to get ready (some clever or smart people try to shave time by trying to match the target world's orbit with a nonstandard point closer to the planet, or even rare "Pirate" points caused by gravity interactions between celestial bodies, but even this usually gives defenders at least a day to prepare). Of course, these aren’t actually rare and we have quite a number of them around Earth, the moon, and every other celestial body including the sun. So close that by BattleTech standards it would take probably just a few minutes to reach the Earth from one of its own null gravity points. Seeing as their dropships can reach Sol's top or bottom null-G in just a few days. But everyone knows artists (writers especially) rarely bother doing any research.
As the invading force reaches planetary orbit, the defenders will usually try to intercept them with their own defensive ships, usually Dropships, Shuttles, and Aerospace Fighters, and the Attackers will launch fighters of their own. Space battle will begin in earnest as the defenders try to keep the enemy from landing on world at all (FASA originally had two separate games, Aerotech and Battlespace, that dealt with this stage of combat, but current BattleTech rules incorporate Aerospace combat for those who prefer it or want the full Theater of War experience).
If the Attackers can break through orbit, they can choose their landing site (usually near the target of course). The enemy will deploy to stop them and battle begins in earnest.
"A thousand horrid Prodigies foretold it. A feeble government, eluded Laws, A factious Populace, luxurious Nobles, And all the maladies of stinking states."
- – Dr. Samuel "What The Fuck Am I Reading" Johnson
Much like Warhammer, the Battletech franchise has an extensive expanded universe. Dozens of books, numerous spinoff games, video games in multiple genres, and even an animated cartoon have delved into the setting and created an entertaining, if convoluted, history that has real influences on how the game is played. Unlike Warhammer, there are no Xenos (outside of some cavemen-like species), so humans get all the glory (and blame).
History of the Inner Sphere
After a period of typical Cold War-era speculative history, mankind was mostly united under the Terran Alliance and discovered how to travel faster-than-light by opening up artificial wormholes. By 2235, most of mankind's interstellar colonies threw off the yoke of the Alliance and formed their own stellar nation-states. What followed was a period of war and chaos which led to the rise of the "Great Houses," feudal dynasties of powerful families adhering to various pseudo-historical ideals (like Kurita's Japan fetishism) competing for total dominance of mankind. However Terra, as Earth became known, remained the most technologically-advanced star nation, and remained unconquered by the competing Great Houses who turned their focus on one another instead. This is one of the reasons for the severe technological stagnation that is a hallmark of the Battletech universe. After all, any idiot knows that destroying a factory or all of a certain factory production and all such factories means the knowledge of how to build their products magically disappears and the knowledge of how to build those factories poofed away the moment they were built anyway as that is the only explanation conceivable for why destroyed factories were not simply replaced and why the knowledge disappeared from every paper, computer, and mind. Obviously space magic is to blame...or exceptionally short-sighted writers.
In 2349, the Terran Hegemony introduced the first Battlemech, the 100-ton Mackie, and the face of war changed forever.
Mechs Just Got Real
The introduction of the Mackie shifted the focus of military development away from interstellar Warships back to ground forces. The Terran Hegemony was able to prove that the 100-ton Battlemech was far superior to conventional ground vehicles (interestingly, the Terran Hegemony's main battle tank was
the Israeli Merkava named Merkava but utterly unrelated to the Israeli tank of the same name), allowing a single man to destroy formations of opposing non-Mechs. Of course, the rest of the Inner Sphere wanted the same capability, and in 2355 the plans for the Battlemech were stolen (as usual, the writers don’t realize that stealing a design is pointless if you don’t know how to build all the parts...like myomer). The Age of the Battlemech had begun.
During the next hundred years, as the Great Houses vied for supremacy and founded the nucleus of the future Successor States, the Terran Hegemony was able to exert great influence as the most technologically-advanced and neutral of the great powers. This would lead to the creation of the Star League in 2571, a grand union of all of humanity's interstellar nations. While ostensibly created for the purpose of uniting mankind and keeping the peace between the stars, it was also a massive power play by Terra to secure the raw materials it needed to maintain its technological edge and once more bring mankind under Terra's dominion. In keeping with the feudal society that now dominated mankind's worlds, the position of First Lord of the Star League was invested in Terra's ruling House, the Cameron dynasty.
While Hidden Wars would plague the Star League throughout its reign, no conflicts were fought between its members as long as the Star League Defense Force kept the peace between factions. Terra's hoard of advanced technologies were shared freely among the worlds of man, and a new Golden Age descended. It all came to an end in 2766. The last of the Camerons was assassinated by Stefan Amaris, a power-hungry politician from the Periphery, the ring of interstellar nations that had refused to join the Star League and had been conquered for their trouble. Claiming the mantle of Emperor of the Star League and Director-General of the Terran Hegemony, Amaris was immediately denounced by the commander of the SLDF, Aleksandr Kerensky.
A New Dark Age
The Amaris Civil War destroyed the League, and led to a new Dark Age. The Great Houses, throwing off their loyalty to Terra, refused to aid either Amaris or Kerensky, and waited for the war to pass. Kerensky emerged the victor, but with the Cameron dynasty ended the other Great Houses began to vie for position of First Lord of the Star League. Disgusted by the politicking and betrayal, in 2784 Kerensky took the greater portion of the SLDF into exile beyond the Periphery. Those who remained pledged their loyalty to the Star League's last civil authority, the Ministry of Communication, which would later become Comstar, the sole provider of internet connections between worlds. Thus the Star League lost its last measure of power, and the Great Houses began the First Succession War.
Four Succession Wars, over the course of two centuries, would follow. Never would a Great House gain enough strength to declare itself master of mankind, especially since none would ever conquer Terra. Technology would stagnate and regress, creating the Lostech phenomenon, technology which mankind could no longer reproduce, maintain, or even understand. Where before feudalism had been a political phenomenon, hundreds of worlds across the Inner Sphere regressed to or below the technological level of the 20th Century, and hundreds more in the Periphery failed entirely. The sole bright spot was Comstar, the corporate religious entity which maintained the Hyper Pulse Generator network that enabled FTL communications between inhabited worlds. Comstar became the rulers of Terra in the wake of the Star League's collapse, and leveraged their control of the HPG network to ensure their inviolability in exchange for maintaining the incomprehensible HPG networks and neutral treatment of all communications between worlds. In order to maintain their power, they would actively sabotage, headhunt, or kill all promising technological advancements and promising scientists to maintain their monopoly and techno-religious authority. To be fair, unlike a certain cargo cult, ComStar intervened because they realized the Great Houses were psychopaths and couldn’t be allowed to advance. Also, they were actually loyal-ish to the Star League and hated the Great Houses.
Eventually the Inner Sphere would stabilize around the Great Houses and their associated stellar empires. However, technological progress remained stagnant, and the rare factories capable of producing such advanced technologies as Battlemechs became critical components in the shattered military-industrial complexes of the so-called Successor States. Millions would die so that an LED monitor factory could be taken by one side, or so that a hundred precision-machined laser lenses could be plundered from a forgotten SLDF armory. Real progress towards recovery could only be made after large caches of information which survived the fall of the Star League were recovered; the most significant were the recovery of a long-lost Star League university's library in 3013, and the recovery and free dissemination of the contents of the Helm Memory Core in 3028. In 3028, the two largest and most powerful Successor States, the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth, were united by dynastic marriage, and it seemed that a new Golden Age might be only decades away.
But the Inner Sphere had forgotten all about Kerensky's exodus, and nobody wants Peace to break out in a wargame setting, soooo...
Kerensky and his followers first settled on the Pentagon Worlds, where they tried to start a new society and a new Star League. They failed though, and the wars erupted between the worlds, showing the bitter irony of life. Kerensky tried to move on, but suffered a heart attack, and the leadership was overtaken by his son, Nicholas Kerensky (who unlike his father had hair and was probably a closet furry). Nicholas took the remaining followers with him to a planet he called "Dream Land" and established the twenty original Clans.
The Clans are a tribal society that is divided into five castes - Warriors (religious and political leaders and soldiers), Scientists (less respected but are considered highly important), Merchants (detested and only kept as a necessity), Technicians (engineers and warriors' servants), and Laborers (serfs, repressed as needed). Although during the birth each child is tested for their relevance to a certain caste, but more often than not are the same as their parents. Speaking of which, Clanners strongly believe in eugenics, and most of the Warrior Caste members are genetically enhanced clones/mashups. Other castes are selectively bred by the instructions from Science Caste. On a positive side it would mean that even neckbeards would end up breeding (though given the Clan's brutal meritocracy/kratocracy, they'd end up as outcasts in the Bandit Caste). On the other hand, the society has only a few acceptable non-technical forms of information, meaning that there really is no reason for there to be neckbeards. Paradoxes aside, Clans were created towards efficiency, and even their language differs from the one used in the Inner Sphere. Clans constantly compete in everything, from combat to technological prowess, as they foresaw their return to the Inner Sphere and its liberation. (By their hands, of course. And logically resulting in their control.)
And that day was not far off. Unfortunately for the Inner Sphere, Comstar never forgot about Kerensky's Exodus and sent exploration vessels out to sniff out their trail and reclaim lost Star League outposts on the side. When the Clans captured one of the expeditions, they believed that the Inner Sphere would invade the Pentagon worlds. Ironically, the Clans used that as an excuse to return and invade before being forced back by the very invasion they were trying to prevent.
A prophecy of days far off, the ilClan is a religious myth that states that someday a Clan will take control of Terra, the Cradle of Humanity. The Khan (leader) of the Clan of Clans which captures Terra will become the new, true ilKhan (Khan of Khans) and re-establish the Star League, over which their blood shall reign in perpetuity. All will be Clan, Clan will be all.
ilClan is also an abortive Battletech rulebook that has been in the works since 2002, ever since the Dark Age Era was published. Ostensibly intended to be the next historical Era, featuring all new rules to reflect the dominance of Clan society and technology, the bankruptcies and sales that Battletech went through stalled all development. In addition, most fans are vehemently opposed to the destruction of most of the factions in the game, and have spoken up at every opportunity to denounce the plans behind ilClan. A prank release of a provisional ilClan historical outline drew tremendous outcry and Catalyst Game Labs has subsequently decided to focus on rereleasing and updating older Era rulesets.
In 2019 Catalyst released Shattered Fortress, the first half of a two-sourcebook set intended to finally advance the franchise into a post-Dark Age era. It ended with a cliffhanger: on New Year's Day 3150 a Clan fleet lands on Terra, but we don't know which Clan. Continuing the recurring theme of Battletech players not caring one bit about advancing the storyline, the release of the second book was then delayed indefinitely by the massive success of a Kickstarter offering more new miniatures and rules set 100 years back on the timeline.
Meanwhile, In The Inner Sphere
...Of course, when the Clans returned to the Inner Sphere with the intent of liberating it from the feuding Great Houses, those same great houses
said "okay" and handed over the reins put aside their differences and fought the Clans to a stand-still. This was an incredible show of camaraderie, and the most cooperative the houses had been since the Star League fell. It was all quite touching, really.
And then once the Clans were wrapped up behind a truce line it was time to get back to good-old inter-house wars. In an ultra-brief summary: There was the FedCom Civil War, kicking off the
Fifth Succession War Word of Blake Jihad, the religious fanatic (well, moreso than usual) faction of Comstar went crazy over the entire Inner Sphere with cyborgs and nukes, until some dude named Devlin Stone got everyone to work together and kick them off Terra, then went on to form the Republic of the Sphere, essentially a re-establishment of the Terran Hegemony. In the meantime, the Clans got a bug up their asses over ideological purity after their Scientist Castes tried to take over, and all the Clans who invaded the Inner Sphere got kicked out of Clan Space to live there instead. Eventually someone forgot to pay the phone bill and the interstellar faster-than-light communication network went down. This ushered in the last era in the fluff known as the "Dark Age."
This is also considered the second ruination of the franchise by some. Many long-time fans think highly of the Succession Wars era of Battletech, right after the fall of the Star League. Marching around the field with walking tanks so expensive and rare that it's better to lose a pilot than a weapon is a powerful fantasy. It's often described as being "Mad Max with mechs." Of course, the blasted hellscape of the post-apocalypse is hard to maintain when the Clans invaded with their own brand-new shiny toys. The shift from "squabbling tribes with rusty guns" to "courageous defenders with shiny factories" is often considered the first ruination of the property. When the squabbling of the Inner Sphere was broken up again by quasi-religious zealots and Battletech was forced to stitch in apocrypha from its bastard child, the miniature game MechWarrior: Dark Age, people considered it the second collapse of the franchise.
While each faction has a certain flavor and preferred equipment/tactics, factions do not limit your gameplay choices to particular sets of mechs/units/components, as in many other games (Warhammer 40,000 is a good example, amongst many other skirmish-level wargames). So if something you want to use is in specific era of Battletech History (FEDCOM Civil War, Clan Invasion, et cetera), anything goes. Although it's common for players to roleplay as being employed by some major power, and limiting themselves to their styles. Either that or they play as mercenaries and do as they please. Seriously, the amount of in-fighting is in effect galactic level (in Warhammer 40k -- aside from humanity itself -- only the Necrontyr, the flesh incarnations of the Necrons, ever fought each other to such a long and drawn out extent).
The Inner Sphere
While other time periods might have better or more interesting rules, the most popular ruleset remains the eras between the Fourth Succession War (3028) to just before the Word of Blake Jihad (3067). This list of Inner Sphere factions covers those periods.
Ruled by House Davion, the Federated Suns is feudal Space America or nepotistic Space UK. Lawful Good, ruled by a Great House as inbred as any other is, and with all positions of power occupied by the same set of mostly blood-related elites. Without the blue blood, you're just a clever commoner. However, the Federated Suns isn't as stratified as the other Successor States, and it's easier for a common citizen to climb the ladders of wealth and power, which fuels an entrepreneurial society that is among the wealthiest in the Inner Sphere. They’re heroic defenders of freedom and democracy, provided you define “freedom and democracy” as “being ruled by the Federated Suns”.
Similar to a certain faction in a certain other wargame, the Federated Suns usually win most of their battles, and are usually presented as the good guys, drawing a lot of accusations of Mary Suehood. Unfairly, though, as the FedSuns win so much due to wealth-fueled research and production. In other words, they work hard, do a good job, encourage businesses, and they get rewarded with victory. Unlike the Smurfs, however, the Federated Suns has actual flaws - their “democracy” is a rubber stamp, their rhetoric about freedom is mostly just an excuse to justify warmongering and imperialism, and they have such a staggering degree of wealth inequality that there are cases where the populations of multiple planets only have a single school to go between them. This means that the FedSuns attract two kinds of fans: twelve-year-olds who buy all the propaganda, and people who can appreciate playing a bunch of self-righteous, hypocritical jackasses.
Thanks to their great wealth, the Federated Suns can afford to fund actual scientific research in the form of the New Avalon Institute of Science, or Space MIT, and the Davions supported most of the tech development and recovery in the Inner Sphere prior to the Clan Invasion. They also got lucky when they found an ancient Star League library filled with various editions of tabletop wargame splatbooks. They are known to be the house that first heavily employed or utilized a lot of Clan personnel and technologies after the conclusion of the invasion.
The Federated Suns also kind of have a thing for autocannons. Think Space Wolves with wolves, or Orks with Dakka, and you have an idea. If it does not have an autocannon on it the Suns will find a way to give it one, and if it does have an autocannon they find a way to upgrade it to a rotary autocannon. So if you like autocannons this is the faction for you.
Prior to the Fourth Succession War, the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth were united through marriage, forming the Federated Commonwealth, the largest and most powerful empire in the galaxy since the Star League. In order to bridge the distance between the two nations, however, the Federated Commonwealth had to conquer large swathes of the Capellan Confederation, which they did easily. However, only a few decades later the Commonwealth was broken up by the FedCom Civil War, when Katherine Steiner-Davion schemed to either take over the Commonwealth or secede the Lyran half of it because she was a royal bitch. The FedSuns are currently getting kicked around by pretty much everybody during the Dark Age, primarily because the current head of the house, Caleb, is extremely paranoid and rather psychotic. Thankfully he got killed by the Kuritans with some insider help from Clan Snow Raven (in exchange for some buffer territory). Not so thankfully, his death also brought the destruction of virtually most of the Davions' regular armed forces concentrated on one planet while enabling the Kuritans to take over the capital.
Save us, Julian!
Space Germany with some Space Scotland and Space Scandinavia kicking around, the Lyran Commonwealth is the largest successor state and owns the most resource-rich planets in the Inner Sphere, making them an industrial and economic powerhouse. Their government was supposed to be modeled on ancient Athens, led by a council of nine Archons, but this did not work out at all, and eventually Archon Robert Marsden decided he'd had enough of this shit and overthrew the other Archons in a military coup. The Marsdens were eventually replaced by the Steiners via marriage, who have ruled the Commonwealth to this day.
The Lyrans are rich. Really, really absurdly rich. The only reason they haven't conquered the Inner Sphere yet is that they prefer to put the relatives of rich businessmen in charge of their army rather than, y'know, actual soldiers, meaning basically every Lyran military officer is terrible at their job. There is at least one recorded case of the Lyran military starting a major interstellar war by accident. Fortunately, since they're so rich, they're able to make up for their ludicrous incompetence with the biggest and heaviest weapons in the Inner Sphere. The joke goes that a typical Steiner scout lance consists of four 100-ton Atlas mechs (imagine a scout-recon team composed entirely of Warlord Titans and you'll get the idea). Steiner forces tend to be big and slow, barely able to outmaneuver enemy fortresses. Of course, once they (eventually) get into range, you can kiss that fortress goodbye.
Late in the Third Succession War, Archon Katrina Steiner shocks the entire Inner Sphere by actually calling for a peace treaty. Only Hanse Davion is at all interested, and he winds up marrying Katrina's daughter Melissa and uniting the two countries into one massive empire, the Federated Commonwealth (see above). Predictably, this Beauty-and-the-Geek romance starts out exceedingly awesome then epically fails and it's back to single life for the too-pretty Steiners. Recently tried to have Clan Wolf migrate through their coreward territory to keep the Free Worlds League from reforming during the Dark Age while holding the transported civilian castes as insurance. The plan backfired with the Free Worlds League still reforming and Clan Wolf taking much of the coreward and middle territory in the Lyran Commonwealth to form the Wolf Empire. This, on top of a massive amount of civil unrest means the Lyrans are too busy with damage control from Wolf and Jade Falcon invasions along with internal rebellions to be a threat to anyone. The moral of the story is: don’t try to manipulate badasses who nearly conquered everyone without trying. They will fuck you up for it.
Free Worlds League
Taking elements from America, Yugoslavia, and Austria-Hungary, the Free Worlds League is a federal democratic republic. No, really! They have a parliament and everything. Of course, the commander-in-chief of the Free Worlds League Military is always a member of House Marik because parliament doesn’t think anyone else can do the job, and the entire country has been operating under martial law “for the duration of the emergency” since the Star League broke up. But in principle, both democracy and federalism are alive and well in Marik space, making it impossible to get anything done.
Everyone in the Free Worlds League hates everyone else in the Free Worlds League. After finding out that Captain-General Thomas Marik had been in hiding running the Word of Blake for decades and the guy they’d been taking their orders from all that time was actually just some hobo picked up off the street, they gave up on trying to make the thing work at all and collapsed. Which is a shame because fake Marik was one of the best Captain-Generals they ever had. After the Dark Age, said hobo’s daughter managed to put it back together again, which kind of makes you start to wonder about that whole “only the Mariks can handle the Captaincy-General” thing. Doesn't help that she had to make a deal with the Spirit Cat and Sea Fox clanners to cement the whole thing together as well as marrying the official Marik family's head.
The Free Worlds League Military is built around combined arms warfare, treating infantry, vehicles, and aerospace fighters as if they were just as useful as mechs. They also used to have the most LAMs back before LAMs ceased to be a thing. They don’t get a lot of attention, since they’re far away from the FedSuns and the Clans and therefore don’t get involved in stories about factions the writers actually care about.
Ruled by House Kurita, the Draconis Combine is the obligatory Space Japan, in the sense that it is obligatory to be Japanese. It has large Arab and Scandinavian minorities who are legally required to be weeaboos, with the country as a whole drawing on both the age of samurai and the militaristic Imperial Japan of the 1920s to 40s. The twelve-year-olds listed above, if they leave the FedSuns, will likely move to this weeaboo paradise with its delusional "fierce solo samurai warrior takes on all opponents Kurosawa Style" appeal, not realizing that lone mechs get gang-banged by enemies who are teamed up like a pack of mechanical hyenas. Defended by weeaboos despite being responsible for the single most horrific massacre in human history during the First Succession War. For an alternate look into this supposed massacre, please read Did 52 million really die? In fact, they have a habit of doing this. “We defeated the mercenaries on this planet who have nothing to do with the general populace. Nuke everyone before we leave. Why? Uhhhh...do we really need a reason?
they’re not our enemies or anything, but murder is fun SCORCHED EARTH TACTICS! Preventing enemies from using the planet’s populace or resources against us is a valid strategy!”
Like everyone else in the Inner Sphere, the Draconis Combine is a warmongering, autocratic empire ruled with an iron fist that wants to take over the galaxy. Unlike everyone else in the Inner Sphere, they actually admit it. They're the only successor state that makes absolutely no pretenses of being a democracy, with the Coordinator of Worlds being treated as a divinely anointed absolute monarch who is the sole legitimate ruler of all humanity. They were the first to start shit after the Star League collapsed, with the Coordinator declaring himself the new First Lord and launching an invasion of the Federated Suns that eventually wound up getting him killed on Kentares IV, prompting his son to launch the aforementioned massacre. They've been the mortal enemies of the Federated Suns ever since.
Similar to the Davions and their love of autocannons and the Steiners and their love of everything heavy and assault, Kuritans are really, really into PPCs (Particle Projector Cannons), mainly because they're dirt poor and Lasguns are cheaper than bullets. If there is a mech that can possibly mount a PPC, the Dracs will put one on it. For instance, see the Catapult: a 65-ton long-range fire support mech intended for indirect fire using the Long Range Missle (LRM) racks in its "ears". Almost every variant of the Catapult is centered around these LRM racks with a few minor backup weapons. They are a reliable, battle-tested design that no commander in their right mind would attempt to 'fix', because isn't broken... except in the eyes of House Kurita. Once the Combine got their hands on it those ears were replaced with two PPCs for direct fire support and two machine guns for
civilian massacres INFANTRY DETERRENTS.
Kuritans were also involved in the worst Battletech novel ever written, wherein a ship of theirs was lost in time and space, and found giant, alien, sentient chickens. Far Country is a Shamefur Dispray! and pretty much serves as the only time aliens are actually mentioned in the BattleTech universe.
Culturally, Space China or Space Russia. Politically, Space North Korea. The Confederation was originally founded when several minor states in the Capellan Zone who were sick of the Federated Suns trying to "liberate" them joined together, bombed their own capital to make a point, and fought the Davions off. Secure in this victory, they then proceeded to never win a war ever again.
Citizens of the Capellan Confederation enjoy probably the highest standard of living of any commoner in the Inner Sphere, with an extensive, cradle-to-grave welfare system and the best education and health care the state can provide. *Non*-citizens of the Capellan Confederation, known as "Servitors", are basically slaves. Becoming a citizen requires you to provide a certain amount of service to the state by the age of seventeen, and citizenship can be removed as punishment for disloyalty. Even those who aren't unfortunate enough to be Servitors basically have their lives decided for them by the Capellan caste system and the government's ability to tell them that they have to move to a new planet and take up a new career at any given moment.
The Confederation is run by a Chancellor, who's supposed to be elected by the nobility but in reality is pretty much always the head of House Liao. This is rather unfortunate, since the Liaos have a noticeable tendency towards being batshit fucking insane even by Inner Sphere nobility standards. They claim descent from Elias Liao, who was either a persecuted revolutionary philosopher (if you ask a Capellan) or a psychopathic nuclear terrorist (if you ask anyone else). At one point, they decided that having a regular military just wasn't cool enough for them and created the Warrior Houses, a bunch of weird pseudo-religious warrior cults that only answer to the Chancellor.
Since the Capellans have lost basically every war they've ever fought and live right next to the Federated Suns, they've become the designated "sneaky" faction, focusing on guerrilla warfare and covert operations. They go for stealth and electronic warfare the way the Davions go for autocannons, best exemplified by their iconic Raven electronic warfare 'Mech (which, depending on the model, actually looks like a bird; weird but cool). After the Clan Invasion and FedCom Civil War, they acquired a taste for the newly-developed Plasma weapons. Got the absolute shit beat out of them by the Federated Commonwealth during the Fourth Succession War, got revenge when the Commonwealth tore itself apart a few decades later.
Imagine a cross between the medieval Catholic Church and Comcast, and you have ComStar. During the Star League Civil War, the network of Hyperpulse Generators that the Star League had built for faster-than-light communications was in ruins, and the one thing that the Great Houses could agree on was that somebody had to fix all their space phones right fucking now. They named Jerome Blake, the highest-ranking HPG network official still alive, as Minister of Communications, which, since they didn't name any other ministers, basically put him in charge of Terra. As the Star League collapsed, Blake bummed some soldiers off of Kerensky, got the Successor States to agree that the space phones were important and they should therefore respect ComStar's neutrality, and then seized complete control of Terra in a lightning-fast coup, revealing that that neutrality had some teeth.
After Blake died, ComStar quickly turned into a quasi-mystical and religious organization, whose stated purpose was to preserve human knowledge in the dark ages of the Succession Wars, a goal they attempted to fulfill by assassinating every scientist who wouldn't work for them and starting the Second Succession War practically the moment the first one ended. Things started to spiral out of control for them after the Helm Memory Core was leaked and suddenly everyone was able to figure out how Lostech worked again, and then things got even worse when the Clans showed up.
ComStar is also famous for introducing the ComStar Bill (C-bill) as a standard galactic currency. Rather than being backed by material goods, each C-bill is backed by ComStar's faster than light message delivery service: One C-bill will guarantee one millisecond of data transmission, enough for a few pages of bare text or a small image, with larger transmissions costing more, and with additional fees for higher priority and the like. The value of the various Great House currencies can be weighed against their worth in C-bills which allows for currency exchange on a galactic scale. The C-bill is the primary way that mercenaries are paid and in turn pay for goods and services, and thus the most common currency encountered by players.
- Free Rasalhague Republic:Space Norse/Vikings. They were a part of the Draconis Combine along the Lyran border, until the formation of the Federated Commonwealth meant that Kurita was about to have two borders for Hanse Davion to attack them from, so he granted them their independence as a buffer state. May have been awesome. For the reason for past tense refer to: Clan Invasion, Why Not Get in the Way of One (Third Publishing of Liao, COMSTAR ISBN 474-Alpha-467-Upsilon-345). They later join up with the Ghost Bears and become the Rasalhague Dominion. They are awesome because now we have Viking clanners.
- Word of Blake: An ultra-reactionary splinter faction of ComStar that got butthurt after ComStar ditched all the pseudo-religious bullshit. Broke away and launched an all-out jihad(yes, they actually used that word) on literally everyone shortly after the Federated Commonwealth Civil War came to an end. Made liberal use of weapons of mass destruction and rendered several entire planets uninhabitable. Fond of genocide, re-education camps, unstable technology, and mass murder. As a result, they were eventually crushed as a result of pissing off the entire fucking universe, but not before undoing a lot of the technological progress that had been made after the Clan Invasion (apparently by magic, as not only was that knowledge now universally available, but so were copies of the Helm Memory Core...and destroying some factories doesn’t make technology go away). Basically used by the publishers to reset the average technology level of the game due to a lot of players feeling it was advancing too far and getting away from the quasi-feudal feel of earlier editions (forgetting that quasi-feudalism is a governing method, the technology level has nothing to do with it). Ironically enough, their mechs were more streamlined and featured a lot more experimental technologies for people who would eventually blow the entire game setting back to the quasi-iron age.
- The Republic of The Sphere: Established by an individual calling himself Devlin Stone, who mysteriously surfaced at some point during the Blakefag Jihad, and helped pull the galaxy out that colossal clusterfuck through a series of successful military campaigns. Upon the Jihad's defeat, Stone met with ComStar Precentor Martial Victor Ian Steiner-Davion and laid out a philosophy which Victor would privately describe as militant socialism keyed to altruism; Officials and authorities would have their assets placed in a blind trust. Public service would be rewarded. Greed and corruption would be punished. All weapons would be placed under government control. Surprisingly, it worked, at least for a time, ushering in a new era of peace for the core worlds. However, after ruling as Exarch of the Republic for a while, Devlin Stone stepped down and shortly there after disappeared, vowing to return when he was needed most. It didn't take long before everything went to shit again and was plunged into chaos when the interstellar communication network was sabotaged. Was gangbanged by a combination of separatist factions, the Capellans, and Clan Jade Falcon before finally saying FUCK IT and retreating back to Terra. All while somehow using Word of Blake HPG disruption tech to prevent hyperspace jumps into their core territory. They also recently developed a taste for Tripod Mechs (which are the only modern Mech that can exceed Assault Mechs in terms of tonnage, firepower, and armor but at the cost of requiring an additional gunner and engineer onboard to shoot and monitor the machine's vitals) while also hybridizing Clan & IS technology (culminating with extremely powerful but unstable weapons).
You guys realize Stone is the Emperor, right? Right?None of this makes sense, of course, as the HPG network is not only extremely well and fanatically protected by actual fanatics, but also is so large it can’t really be sabotaged. Except by magically competent Deus ex Machina mooks, apparently. Friendly clans could also build their own for the Republic’s use. Except newly built HPGs also failed somehow. Black Boxes became advanced enough that HPGs were nearly pointless, though, making the whole “Dark Age” thing really...dumb. And if someone had the sense to build building-sized Black Boxes instead of briefcase-sized, the HPGs would have a perfect backup. But common sense in Battletech is heresy just like in any good universe. Besides that, the eyes on anyone with power to prevent corruption would stop factions from selling out the Republic and the senators would not have been able to sponsor military officers into becoming Paladins because that is extremely corrupt and would not have been allowed or tolerated. Even if such a plot succeeded, there would be no leverage for the senators to get those paladins to do what they wanted. And the Capellans are target practice, sudden separatism makes no sense when they were fine until this point under numerous oppressive regimes, and Clan Jade Falcon by itself would have been crushed and a team up of clans would have sent the whole Inner Sphere into a clan-killing frenzy panic mode.
- The Periphery: The collection of non-successor states on the edges of the Inner Sphere. They were brought into the Star League by force and are still kinda sore about it, mostly because they nearly got blasted back to the Stone Age and never quite got their technology back up.
- Taurian Concordat: A Periphery nation bordering the Federated Suns and Cappellan Confederation. Has an axe to grind against the Federated Suns and claims they’re much more dedicated to freedom and liberty than the Davions.
- Marian Hegemony: A bandit kingdom bordering the Lyrans and Free Worlds League that decided to become the Roman Empire IN SPACE.
- Magistracy of Canopus: A hedonistic matriarchy bordering the Free Worlds League. A nation of cybernetic catgirls, whose largest export is pornography.
- Outworlds Alliance: A backwater state near the Federated Suns and Draconis Combine. Was the Periphery-est of the Periphery states until Clan Snow Raven moved in.
- Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission: An independent group that certifies and provides force rankings for various mercenary groups. At least three Mech Warrior games are focused on the mercs as it allows writers more leeway and less chance to screw up the canon.
- Kell Hounds: A merc company headed by Morgan Kell. His son Phelan was captured by Clan Wolf when the Clan Invasion first began, and by the end was running the Clan until it split. Took in Phelan and the Exiled Wolves afterwards. Generally, are tough but cool guys all around. Like the Exiled Wolves, they got a massive "kill on sight" target painted on their back after the omnicidal Jade Falcon Khan got annoyed with their feisty resistance against her campaign into Lyran Territory.
- Grey Death Legion: Mercenary group who were famous for finding and distributing the Helm Core, which allowed the Inner Sphere to regain technology formerly lost during the Succession Wars. Generally an author's favorite in the books. Got destroyed during the Blake Jihad.
- Wolf's Dragoons: A bunch of Clan Wolf advance scouts disguised as a mercenary group. Came to the Inner Sphere with a ton of mechs that the Clans considered outdated but hadn't been seen in the Successor States in centuries and were considered Lostech... Which should have tipped the Great Houses off that these guys might be bad juju. Instead of providing intel to the Clans for their invasion, Wolf's Dragoons pulled a fast one and tried to prepare the Inner Sphere for war with the Clans. They are generally pretty awesome guys, even if part of that awesomeness is because they get a ton of attention in the fluff due to the writers' obsession with anything related to Clan Wolf. They got screwed pretty badly during the Blake Jihad when the nutjobs assaulted Outreach. By Dark Age they are slowly recovering with help from the Kell Hounds. Recent novellas have the Wolves convince them to join them on Terra once it's conquered to prevent the genocidal Jade Falcons from becoming the IlClan.
Each clan is named after an animal, and yes those are the animal's full names.
- Clan Blood Spirit: The smallest clan. Noted for having the toughest training, favored Battle Armor, and had no official allies after starting off idealistic but then becoming jaded grudge-holders. :(
- Clan Burrock: The only clan to support the Dark Caste. Liked picking on the Blood Spirits before they were absorbed by Clan Star Adder.
- Clan Cloud Cobra: The Religious types. Loved aerospace fighters and jump jets. Obsessed with collecting genetic bloodlines other clans don't want.
- Clan Coyote: Native Americans in Space. Also like to scheme too much for their own good. Known for creating a shit ton of tech (unlike some people on Mars...)
- Clan Diamond Shark: Used to be called Sea Fox until Snow Raven killed their namesake (with their current one) the only clan that views the merchant caste as equal to their warrior one. Later brought back the Sea Fox and changed their name back. The only clan to allow all castes to vote, making them arguably a genuinely democratic republic.
- Clan Fire Mandrill: The clan whose gimmick was to always have a few subfactions to foster internal competition. At first it was manageable and it improved the clan, but then the factionalism snowballed into more than 10 mini-subfactions which made the whole clan a laughing stock among the clans.
- Clan Ghost Bear: The only clan to be founded by a married couple, as a result they're the only clan to still have normal family units. Much more protective of its civilian caste than the others. Nearly devoured the Free Rashalague Republic in the Clan Invasion, then merged with what was left after the Jihad.
- Clan Goliath Scorpion: Stoners with rose-colored nostalgia glasses. Also noted for elite marksmanship and ambush tactics.
- Clan Hell's Horses: The only clan to think tanks are useful often uses combined arms tactics rather than just spamming mechs. They have a hot rod flames color scheme.
Temper TantrumIce Hellion: Speed freaks with a big ego. Their Khan seems to bitch every time their forces lose, which is often.
- Clan Jade Falcon: The spotlight stealing clan second only to the Wolves, with whom they have a fierce rivalry. Slightly less evil than the Jaguars.
- Clan Mongoose: Basically a footnote in clan history. Extremely aggressive, tend to attack everyone near them. Got their asses kicked by everyone else before being absorbed.
- Clan Nova Cat: The spiritual types, they decide their policy with visions, which 9 times out of 10 ends badly for them. Some of the best marksmen in the clans, often competed with Clan Goliath Scorpion. Joined Smoke Jaguar in attacking the Draconis Combine, then sided with the Combine right after everyone decided the Jags had to go. Eventually got destroyed during the Dark Ages for backing the wrong Kuritan royal in a civil war.
Chimney KittenSmoke Jaguar: Essentially super aggressive World Eaters trained to pilot mechs. Known to fuck shit up until their smaller numbers (due to infighting) fucked them over in long campaigns. Were eventually wiped out by the Inner Sphere counter-attack after they murdered an entire city from orbit. What goes around comes around.
- Clan Snow Raven: The sinister & cunning space jockeys of the clans. Specialized in space combat and became BBFs with the Outworlds Alliance.
- Clan Spirit Cats: Offshoots of the Nova Cats after they were annihilated by the Combine.
- Clan Star Adder: Boring, but very, very practical, which benefited them a lot. They favor using assault mechs, and like to upgrade their lasers to heavy lasers.
- Clan Steel Viper: Self righteous xenophobes who wanted to cooperate with the Inner Sphere but also treated freeborns like dirt, and then wondered why nobody liked them. Responsible for Clan genocide known as "The Wars of Reaving". Got genocided in return.
- Clan Widowmaker: The hyper-aggressive types. Their first Khan held a grudge against the Wolverines and framed them before being killed with support from Nicholas. Widowmaker later got annihilated for accidentally killing Nicky. What was left of it, however,
gave birth(lies Clanners aren't born, they're grown) to the most dangerous MechWarrior ever, Natasha Kerensky.
- Clan Wolf: The spotlight stealing Clan, courtesy of it being Kerensky's personal clan. Split up into two factions following the Refusal War.
- Crusader Wolves: The guys who want to continue the invasion of Inner Sphere. Wound up migrating from their original invasion corridor to Lyran/Marik space & formed a new & dangerous upstart state called the Wolf Empire.
- Warden Wolf-in-Exile: The guys who want to defend Inner Sphere against the rest of the clans, who they think are a mockery of Kerensky's teachings. Like the Kell Hounds, they got a massive "kill on sight" target painted on their back after the omnicidal Jade Falcon Khan got annoyed with their feisty resistance against her campaign into Lyran Territory.
Clan WolverineNot-Named Clan: Aggressive and independent minded, these guys pissed off Nicky to such extent that they were annihilated after the vengeful Widowmaker Khan framed them of detonating a nuke on civilians after the Wolverines seceded from the Clans. Some survivors were able to flee as the Minnesota Tribe but they've been never heard from publicly since (though there are hints that they're around in the Deep Periphery in some recent novels and short stories). There are many theories about them returning to Inner Sphere and taking over it as shadow masterminds in order to destroy the clans.
Wars of Reaving
Fed up with having to write more stuff about clans nobody cares about, a bunch of clans were wiped out after the Jihad, or driven out of clan territory. While the in-story explanation is that a butthurt ilKhan decided it was time to make a powerplay after not having won anything out of the Inner Sphere Invasion, everyone knows that there were several clans that had no discernable effect on the game.
- Annihilated or Absorbed:
- Blood Spirit: Got wiped out for using civilian militias which "isn't clan-like" and marked for annihilation for letting people fight for their homes. As well as using en-mass civilian militias to attack their enemies.
- Burrock: Tried to re-establish themselves after being absorbed, got defeated.
- Fire Mandrill: Too fractured to fight back effectively.
- Ice Hellion: Killed themselves by trying to steal Jade Falcon and Hell's Horses territory. What few survivors remained joined Goliath Scorpion.
- Steel Viper: Took over the Clan Homeworlds and gave everyone free reign to remove the “taint” of the Invader Clans by any means necessary. Forgot that they themselves were an Invader Clan.
- Nova Cat: Destroyed by the Draconis Combine for being on the losing side of a civil war.
- Exiled or Abjured: These clans were forced out of the Clan Homeworlds on the pretense of being "corrupted" by Inner Sphere influences. Some later formed the Council of Six Clans, representing the clans that now exist in the Inner Sphere.
- Ghost Bears: Banished to the Inner Sphere and eventually founded the Rasalhague Dominion. Joined the Council.
- Goliath Scorpion: Ran away and conquered Nueva Castile(Spaniards vs. Arabs IN SPACE) in the Deep Periphery, forming Escorpion Imperio.
- Hell's Horses: Stole some of Clan Wolf's territory in the Inner Sphere, and end up getting banished from the Clan Homeworlds. Developed a taste for experimenting with QuadVee Mechs (which can convert from a ground combat vehicle into a Quad Mech while also requiring a dedicated gunner). Joined the Council.
- Jade Falcon: Banished to the Inner Sphere and tried to conquer Terra but failed. Still rules the parts of the Inner Sphere they conquered during the Clan Invasion. Replaced the Smoke Jaguars as the most vicious clan under their latest Khan (who's willing to do anything to kill her enemies). Joined the Council.
- Sea Fox/Diamond Shark: Ended up in what's left of the Free Worlds League. Split up into semi-independent merchant fleets and are now a collection of nomadic "Khanates" that sail the starlanes of the Inner Sphere. Joined the Council, but also joined the FWL as a member state. In the meantime, managed to bring the Sea Fox back from extinction, and changed back to their old name.
- Smoke Jaguar: Some of them showed up as super-secret Clanner loyalists called Fidelis to the Republic of the Sphere. More practical minded than their grandparents but just as likely to go berserk when fighting any clan warriors for their perceived betrayal. Still in the Fortress Republic. A scant few are found hiding in the Deep Periphery with the few warships that they still had.
- Snow Raven: Ran away and merged with the Outworlds Alliance in the Periphery, forming the Raven Alliance. Joined the Council.
- Spirit Cat: What's left of Nova Cats, allied with the Free Worlds League and formed an enclave in their territory.
- Wolf: Splintered into several factions. Basically conquered the central and coreward territories of Lyran Alliance under the Wolf Empire. Making the Steiners have a bigger headache, their Khan, Katrina Steiner's descendant, claimed the mantle of Archon through her bloodline. Wolves-in-Exile refuse to join and are doing their own thing. Clan Wolf-Alliance joined the Council. “Katrina Steiner’s descendant” is in fact a Trueborn Clanner that Katherine Steiner-Davion had made using both her own genetic material and Victor Steiner-Davion’s, because regular incest just wasn’t crazy enough for her.
- Home Clans: Theses clans still hold territory in the Clan Homeworlds and consider themselves "True Clans."
- Cloud Cobra: Still around.
- Coyote: Sneaky bastards. Got their hands on the genetic material of the last known descendant of House Cameron.
- Star Adder: TOP DOG. Their Khan was the one who stopped the psycho Steel Viper ilKhan by dint of beating his head inside out with the nearest handy blunt object.
- Stone Lions: Made from the Hell's Horses who were left in the Clan Homeworlds and didn't get exiled.
So basically there are now ten Clans: The six Spheroid Clans, and the four Home Clans. The rest are either dead, formed hybrid societies, or are even more minor than before and thus save the writers from some hard work in upcoming TROs.
The Appeal of Battletech
First and most obvious, giant stompy Battlemechs bristling with guns duking it out is cool. But despite that, Battletech is in general a more grounded and human setting. You don't have warp daemons, God Emperors, energy forces or psionic powers in Battletech or giant Space Cathedrals and machines that work better when people pray to them. Nor does it have artificial gravity, shields, sapient aliens, serious transhumanism, dyson spheres, general AI and other more wild science fiction ideas. While it does go into some suspense of belief in technology such as KF FTL drive, EM-actuated synthetic Myomer “muscle,” compact nuclear fusion (which modern society is still trying to invent), and HPG FTL communications, most of the technology is still grounded within the realm of plausible belief. Society-wise, it doesn't go into the speculation on how civilization may come into conflict with divergent ideals or extraterrestrial life, instead you have human people like you and me struggling in a hostile universe where the most dangerous thing is often another human being under another flag. Not that the setting lacks for variety. The main factions are very well developed with their own distinct motivations, even if they do sometimes tend to lean into stereotypes too much. Battletech is for people who read Dune and find the idea of the Atreides, Harkonnens, Corinos and the other Great Houses of the Landsraad with their conflicts and their power plays to be far more interesting than what happened after Paul took over. Some others also consider it similar to a teen rated version of Game of Thrones in space (but with mechs and sci fi tactics in place of mythical creatures and gore).
Battletech is one of the more morally grey settings out there. Moreso than many Grimdark settings where it's a matter of evil bastards vs literal demons. While there are a few factions which are better or worse than others on the whole (Magistracy of Canopus vs Clan Smoke Jaguar) all of the factions have their share of virtue and vice, heroes and villains. Good people can come up from the Nobility of the Federated Suns, Citizens of the Capellan Confederation or the Iron Wombs of The Clans, as can a lot real nasty bastards.
As far as Mecha design goes, Battletech designs run the gamut from box-on-legs (Awesome, Dragon, etc), to egg-on-legs (Catapult, Marauder, etc), through to very polished designs (which were mostly stolen from Japanese anime shows). Some of the later work, post-FASA, could be quite smooth, to the point of organic looking. As such, BattleTech is a pastiche of various art styles and design philosophies, covering the range of reactions from "cool-but-impractical", to "eh, practical-and-possible", and well out into the area that will make your engineering professor have a mental fit.
The basic mechanic is simple. Two six-sided dice are used, with a to-hit (Equal or greater to) system. Initiative is interlaced, with the loser moving first and the winner able to react. All weapons damage is technically done at the same time, and therefore who shoots first is insignificant, although the order in which weapons fire from any given unit resolves is important. Larger weapons can scrub off large quantities of ablative armor, while smaller multi-hit weapons stand a better chance of forcing critical hits once a location is damaged. If you get hit, you mark off the weapons damage rating from your armor. If the shot penetrates your armor, you roll potential criticals. Firing weapons and moving about generates heat, which you must keep down to keep your 'Mech working properly.
Unlike games such as Warhammer, where many units are either killed on the first shot or left unscathed, and little information is recorded, BattleTech uses record sheets to mark off each 'Mech's cumulative damage, ammunition, pilot status, and heat. Also, there are hit locations, so limbs can be blown off. The record sheets allow for effects that are more detailed, but this also increases the overall playtime. Although expert players can get through matches just as fast as players of other games of more or less equal size, new players often find that the game plays slowly. This is usually due to the time spent referencing hit-location tables, critical effects, etc. For new players, 2V2 matches are best, with 4V4 matches being the "cap", in order to have games that do not take excessively long. More experienced players can run games of 12v12 or larger in an afternoon, though these will often be multi-player games in which each player controls only a handful of 'Mechs.
One of the biggest appeals of BattleTech is that all of its units are made with a predefined set of rules. Custom designs are fully possible, though they are not likely to be welcome in tournament matches or pick-up games.
BattleTech uses a build system based on 'Mech tonnage. You start with a Chassis limit, from 20-100 tons. You then determine engine size based on how fast you want your 'Mech to be (how many hexes you want it to be able to move per turn) you then allocate the remaining tonnage to control systems, weapons, ammo and armor. This method varies slightly depending on the technology of the chassis, but not overmuch. Though the system has recently been removed, there were previously three levels of technology.
Level 1 (Now called "Introductory Tech") referred to early-era gameplay. Only the more rudimentary weapons and technologies are available, though the critical rules remain the same. This is the preferred level at which to learn, and is synonymous with the equipment available during the Succession Wars era. It is also the level of play made possible with starter boxes.
Level 2 was Tournament-level gameplay. This introduced new equipment and electronics, as well as Clan technology (A more technologically advanced, but militant people). Though the rules are generally the same as those in level 1 gameplay, more-complicated equipment such as ECM, anti-missile systems, cluster munitions, etc. were better suited to more experienced players. It is the level of play made possible with separately-purchased rulebooks. Note that as the in-universe timeline advances, some more-advanced technology is designated "tournament-level", and several items that were Level 3 before the switch are also now "Tournament-Level".
Level 3 referred to all advanced gameplay and equipment, including specialized gear from Historical manuals and the Solaris VII boxed sets/adventures. This has since been split out into "advanced", "experimental", and "era-specific" technology. This also included all equipment that was not listed in the core rulebooks. More complex rules were inserted in order to increase the realism and flexibility of the game. These include new weapons, new or altered terrain rules, artillery, alternate rules for major mechanics such as line-of-sight, etc. Though Level 3 rules included "prototype" equipment not printed in the core rulebooks, the standard rulebook in regards to Level 3 play was called Maxtech. This has now been replaced by the Catalyst Games release of Tactical Operations and its sequels.
Advanced technology (not to be confused with "advanced rules" is covered largely in Tactical Operations, and may be common but incorporates additional rules or restrictions that make it difficult to use without preparation.
Experimental tech is not mass-produced in-universe. The items are used in one-offs, prototype designs, and other weirdness. The Experimental Technical Readout series showcases this tech level, and most of the rules are in Tactical Operations or Strategic Operations.
Era-specific technology incorporates advancements that were later abandoned in-verse. Usually these items were displaced by a superior version of the same technology, although there are some like the Listen-Kill missiles (which exploited a weakness in standard ECM protocols, later patched out) which are simply active for a few years and then abandoned once changing circumstances make them ineffective. Era-specific tech is the province of Historical sourcebooks, the Interstellar Operations rulebook, and a few campaign books.
Due to its popularity through the late 80s and early 90s, BattleTech spawned a multitude of spinoffs and expansion games.
Lost Worlds dueling books. NOVA adapted their melee dueling system to make four books for Battletech mecha. Each book has the opponent's view of the mech on each page, and a character sheet listing possible maneuvers. Since it used the same system as the rest of their books, you could have "20-ton Locust vs. skeleton with scimitar" duels.
Mechwarrior was a traditional pen-and-paper RPG set in the Battletech universe, using a ruleset similar to FASA's other hit RPG Shadowrun. It got second(1991) and third(1999) editions, then was later rebooted by Fanpro and Catalyst Games under the respective titles Classic Battletech RPG and Battletech: A Time of War, likely to avoid conflation with WhizKids' Mechwarrior: Dark Age. Also because by then the "Mechwarrior" title was fully associated with the video games.
AeroTech and BattleSpace were both games featuring Aerospace Fighters and DropShips/WarShips respectively, fighting in orbit before any of the action in the BattleTech game itself could begin. Both games eventually got absorbed into BattleTech's rules in the Total Warfare edition.
Battletroops was an infantry-scale game about the PBI who fight it out it in the shadow of Battlemechs. It later gained Clantroops, an expansion pack that incorporated clan equipment as well as Battle Armor on both sides, but the game did not sell as well and the rules have since been abandoned.
Battleforce was a revision of BattleTech, made in recognition of the fact that large-scale combat could not be effectively played out using the current system. Battleforce simplified each 'mech into a simple set of numbers, so that they could be clustered into units and fight over a much larger area. Battleforce 2, released about a decade later, also introduced planetary invasion maps and rules to go along with them. Although the maps are available in Map Compilation 2, the rules will be reprinted in the Strategic Operations and Interstellar Operations sourcebooks.
The Solaris VII Boxed set was made to simulate the fast-paced gladiatorial combat on the game's world of Solaris VII. It included new rules, new maps with special rules, new mechs, and supplements for roleplaying. Little known fact: some of the designs used in the original Solaris VII set were redesigns of the BattleTech 'mechs which were themselves copies of Japanese mechs! When the product tried to sell in Japan, half of the designs were already copyrighted by other well known anime companies, and the in-house designs were simply not "Japanese" enough for their tastes. Though the product itself flopped, its maps were reprinted and rereleased in 2004, as well as a complimentary up-to-date rulebook. Rules have since been standardized to match those of Classic Battletech, but "Special Map rules" have been included.
The BattleTech Collectible Cardgame was produced by Wizards of the Coast in 1996, and ran until 1998. Though its popularity had begun to wane after the first core set, the release of the Pokemon card game was the nail in the coffin. The Battletech CCG hosted some very impressive artwork, though the game favored swarm-decks filled with plenty of weak, cheap 'mechs, and it's non-"Creature" cards were too weak to have an effective deck based around them. After five editions (Battletech Limited/Unlimited, Counterstrike, Mercenaries, Mechwarrior, Arsenal) Battletech CCG came out with Commander's Edition, which picked some of the best cards of the last few editions (though it abandoned or revised some cards for inaccuracies or "brokenness") It had one final expansion, Crusade, which introduced the Steel Viper clan, though there were some prior cards that did reference the clan.
In July, 2013, Catalyst Game Labs released Alpha Strike, a miniatures combat ruleset designed specifically to appeal to fans of Warhammer and Flames of War. It combined BattleForce statistics with improved miniatures rules. It's generally scoffed at by grognards but the only feasible way to play a regiment-sized battle in less than one lifetime.
- Crescent Hawk's Inception (Infocom, 1988)
- MechWarrior (Activision, 1989)
- Crescent Hawks' Revenge (Infocom, 1990)
- MechWarrior II (Activision, 1995)
- MechWarrior II: Mercernaries (Activision 1995)
- MechCommander (FASA, 1998)
- MechWarrior III (Microprose, 1999)
- MechWarrior IV: Vengeance (FASA/Microsoft, 2000), Black Knight (Microsoft, 2001), Mercenaries (Microsoft, 2002)
- These games had two expansions that gave more mechs, the Inner Sphere Mech Pack and Clan Mech Pack.
- MekTek released a legal port of Mercenaries, with both Mech Packs, new mechs, and battlesuits all inside, plus multiplayer support. Grab it from ModDB, abandonware sites, or your tracker of choice.
- Mechassault 1 (Day 1/Microsoft, 2002 for Xbox)
- Mechassault 2: Lone Wolf (Day 1/Microsoft, 2004 for Xbox)
- MechCommander II (FASA/Microsoft, 2001. The full game is offered by Microsoft for free here.)
- MechWarrior Online MMO (Smith & Tinker/Piranha Games, A F2P game first released on 2012 and currently out as a full product on Steam.)
- MechWarrior Tactical Command (Personae Studios, 2012?, for iPhone/iPad. After some uncertainty, MTC was fully released in the iTunes store. Too bad it sucks.)
- BattleTech (Harebrained Schemes, 2018) - funded through Kickstarter and headed up by Jordan Weisman)
- Turn-based strategy game, similar to the original tabletop game. Takes place during the Succession Wars, in a formerly empty area of the Periphery.
- MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries: (Piranha Games, 2019). Also takes place during the Succession Wars. Because nobody wants to take the time to portray the cluster fuck that is the Blake Jihad properly.
- Mechwarrior Living Legends (Wandering Samurai/Clan Jade Wolf, 2011)
The following are free, homemade versions of Battletech:
- MechWar v1.12 (MS-DOS)
- MegaMek (Java)
- BTMUX - ASCII-only MMO (anyone old enough to remember what a MUD is?) (any OS)
You could play it in pure ASCII, or get a graphical helper
Most of the existing ones are gone, but FrontierMUX seems to still be alive.
Neveron (web-based mmo)[Taken offline on July 31st 2014]
- Titans of Steel (MS-Windows)
In 1998, the U.S. release of Pokemon for the Gameboy, and the subsequent cartoon and cardgame, had a damaging effect on the tabletop games market. Comic book stores which had previously stocked tabletop RPGs, wargames, and collectible card games found that they could turn a better profit by stocking more Pokemon goods and cutting out the weaker-selling products. Only a handful of better-selling tabletop games, such as products by Games Workshop and the Dungeons & Dragons games, were able to remain. In 2001, FASA ceased operations, and many fans of the BattleTech series began to look for other games. BattleTech was purchased by Wizkids, who tried to soft-reboot the game as a Clix-style game with the tile Mechwarrior: Dark Age, jumping the timeline to nearly a hundred years after the Clan Invasion, focusing the story to a much smaller area around Earth, and using almost entirely all-new factions. The fans were less than amused, so FanPro got the rights to continue releasing content for the original game under the moniker Classic Battletech. Despite still having products released for it, Classic was often put on the back burner, as Wizkids showed preference to their clix-games. As WhizKids; game floundered, Battletech was later taken over by Catalyst Game Labs, who dropped the "Classic" and released a new boxed set (6th edition) based on the newly revised core rules(also rewinding back to the original time period and working their way back up to the Dark Age era, but keeping the entire Inner Sphere in the picture). This boxed set, once again, contains plastic miniatures. Though the plastic miniatures (When compared to plastic miniatures produced by other companies) are decidedly low-quality, they are more than sufficient as playing-pieces for new players who are experimenting with the product. In making low-grade miniatures for the box set, the overall price tag remained low, while giving players something more tangible than a cardboard cutout. The game is beginning to gain popularity once again, despite the dropping popularity of tabletop games in general. In 2014 Catalyst Games released an updated box set with higher quality miniatures for the same price.
As of 2017, Catalyst have announced two new starter boxed sets. One is significantly lower-priced and features two 'Mechs with a new map (the first since FASA shut its doors). The second has two new maps, die-cut terrain (to drop onto the maps), and a reduced mini selection with all-new sculpts - designed by an ascended fa/tg/uy. These boxed sets were made available for purchase in 2019.
In July 2019, Catalyst decided to get off their asses and actually did something: They started a Clan Invasion Kickstarter that would hopefully bring the franchise back to life, promising over 100+ new designs for classic mechs, a box set and a boatload of new maps and merch. It surpassed their funding goal in 7 MINUTES and is currently running off of $2.8 MILLION in funding and is expecting to start shipping
March of 2020 delayed till July 2020. Also UrbanMech PLUSHIE!
Mechwarrior Online has already been officially launched. Even though the launch itself was fairly lackluster, with no new features compared to the past few months of open beta, the game is in a somewhat average state of balance and gameplay, and the feel of piloting a BattleMech was translated faithfully - mixed in with rage about hundred-to-thousand dollar preorder packs for Clan mechs (not fucking kidding) and rage over various mechanics, such as knockdown, heat buildup, and LRM spam. Back in October 2014 PGI, after ousting their publisher and striking out on their own a few months back, has been making notable progress in advancing the game and interacting with the player base, albeit not without handling neckbeard rage poorly. Despite garnering some good will from the community after ridding themselves of their publisher, PGI has been doing their best to waste the Mechwarrior license and drive off good chunks of the player base with fairly unchanged gameplay, constant sales, and the fact it’s run for about seven years, now.
Harebrained Schemes announced their return to Kickstarter in fall 2015 in order to fund Battletech, a turn based tactics game featuring RPG mechanics for Mechs and MechWarriors. As of this writing the game has been fully funded and reached several stretch goals. In fact, the game's been released in April 2018. Battletech is a turn-based strategy game, more faithful to the board game than the mech-sims the series is known for on the vidya circuit. Think the new XCOM games, but with mechs.
The game started out with a boatload of bugs (which isn't really surprising for an indie kickstarter), but the devs handled the problem quickly. Soon after it was announced that HBS was bought out by their release partner Paradox Interactive, the current big dog for quality strategy games. As expected of a Paradox game, this was followed up by a number of overpriced DLCs to the point that the season pass costs more than the actual game! That said, the second to last free update (1.8) added 2 new excellent mechs, maps, missions, modding support and quality of life changes, while the last free update (1.9) added several SLDF Royal Mech Variants with more polish to the built in mod launcher, so not all money grabbing and bad. Update 1.9 is the last major content drop, with no further patches or updates planned as Harebrained Schemes is moving on to new projects. If you really want it wait for a Steam sale when the Mercenary Collection drops to around $30 USD for the base game and all DLC.
Several fan-made mod packs (notably RogueTech and BattleTech Advanced 3062) have been produced which significantly extend the life of the vanilla game. These mods introduce many new factions, dozens of new 'Mechs and tanks, hundreds of new pieces of 'Mech equipment, a far larger star-map sandbox to play in, and far more depth to the 'Mech customization system as well as many quality of life changes. RogueTech in particular attempts to bring the game more in line with the tabletop experience and offers a much higher degree of gameplay complexity compared to vanilla Battletech.
After almost two decades since the last proper Mechwarrior game in the franchise (MechAssault doesn't count), we're finally getting an honest-to-gods story-based mechpilot sim game like the days of yore. Piranha Games, the company responsible for MWO, is also creating Mercenaries 5, and is so far looking like a faithful re-creation of the classic Mechwarrior pilot sim games of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Game's out, and it's shit! Well, mediocre. Graphics snobs say the game looks horrid, suspecting they ripped assets full sale from MWO. But the main issue is repeating the same missions over and over again including in story missions themselves. There is no hand crafted missions like previous games even in its narrative missions and has a very weak plot, along with a well known issue where enemies spawn right on top of your team. Friendly AI at least got the artificial part right and there's no PVP. The devs have stated that they are working on the issues but little progress has been made at the time of writing.
[Update 01/22/2020] Mod support has been added and some of the previously stated problems have been addressed (sort of). Either way, it's a fun giant-stompy-robots-with-lasers game. Campaign missions are still lackluster and repeating the same missions over and over is bound to get a little stale. But hopefully modders will take over (like they always do).
- Play through the tubes with MegaMek
- Battletech Wiki that holds much information about the universe
- Blue Gunner Booru, a /btg/-maintained taggable gallery of BT and related art. Perpetually in-progress.