How fast is too fast? Speed mod rules for Battletech
31 May 2023
Reading Time: 4 minutes
I love Battletech for the same reason many do – giant walking mecha, shooting and punching one another. It’s silly, somewhat preposterous and ultimately that’s what makes it so good. It is pure science fiction. As game, it’s a hooting good time and the best part of it is you can go as deep or stay as shallow as you want. Catalyst Game Labs and all that went before them created a gaming system that, unlike most others, you can tailor to how you want to play it. Keep it light and nimble or go all in and cover every angle, it’s totally up to you… or your playing group.
Recently I read a great and well considered article – ‘How fast can a Battlemech walk?’ that pondered just how fast battlemechs can move. It’s an interesting question and if you took what is stated about various mechs in the game at face value, then some of them ‘walk‘ at close to 90 kph. That’s pretty fast. The article goes on to discuss the potential real speeds of mechs and how those speeds could be represented on the gaming table. In a follow up article – ‘Advanced Rules: Realistic Mech Movement‘, the nefarious Dr. proposes some well reasoned rules for speed conversion and appropriate penalties that could be used in game play.
As I see it, battlemechs walk, hence would be unstable weapons platforms (unlike, say, tanks). Make them walk fast, or worse still, run, and pure physics tells us that the ride is not going to be a smooth one, so speed will impact a mech’s ability to land a shot, or conversely, be hit; the depiction of the AT-AT or AT-ST in Starwars I think did a pretty decent job of representing potential ride quality (rubbish). Regardless, I like the idea. Applied speed and associated penalties are a nice addition to consider for your game play strategy – will you sprint up the line knowing that you won’t be able to take a shot? But being upfront, we play a fairly light Alpha Strike, only incorporating additional/house rules where they seem interesting or add to the fun, so our overall goal in play is to keep the game fast and simple. As such, complex rules can bog things down, which is a loss of game play momentum.. and less fun. So I got to thinking, what could I come up with based on the concepts of Dr. Evil Ganymede that would work for us?
Interested? Read on…
In and nutshell, the good Dr. takes into account a number of factors that are then used to work out speeds, from a walk to a sprint. So instead of a mech having a movement of ‘6’, it now has 3/5/6/-, meaning it would be Walking up to 3 MP, Running at 4 or 5, and Sprinting at 6. For classic Battletech I think this is fine, it’s a slower, more record keeping intensive gameplay. But for Alpha Strike I want something simple I can apply to everything… from a quick reference chart; yes, I am lazy.
Having had a bit of think about it, I came up with what I call the ‘Relative Movement Scale’ – RMS.
Think of it like this – when you walk down the street everyone is, more or less, walking at the same speed, regardless of their size. As a result, we can say that everyone’s walking speed is relative to one another, regardless of other factors such as leg length or what they had for lunch. In effect, everyone’s ‘averaged’ their walking speed and as a result we, by osmosis, consider the speed of walking to be *this*. It’s an average way of thinking, I know.
The RMS dumbs things down, flattening out various factors but having play tested it, it works pretty well. So rather than recalculating the MP for each mech, a speed point is measured as a set number of movement points. For example a ‘walk’ is defined as having moved up to two spaces (on a hex map, so 4″ on a table) and ‘run’ is having moved four (8″). Using the RMS, rather than having to calculate what a run is for individual units, we can say that if your mech has moved four hexes or 8″, then it has run. What if your mech can’t move four (I’m looking at you Ubanmench)? The simple answer is that the mech itself can not reach run speed, which of course has its ups and downs. RMS now also becomes as much an indicator of a mech’s design features/strengths/flaws as say armour values.
The additional game speed upside of the RMS is that we can then easily apply penalties to set speed points. So back to our mech…
Having moved a full four hexes, it’s classed as having run that distance. That means though on it’s attack, an additional +2 is added into the calculation… seems all that shak’n and mov’n is not great for big, heavy, direct fire weapons. On the plus side, that run has now made it +1 harder to hit!
Adding RMS to gameplay makes you think about how much you move, where speed has tactical advantages and disadvantages. That Locust might be able to shoot up the line and get behind the enemy but it sure as hell is not going to take a shot after doing so. Give RMS a go, you might find it adds a new level to your game play.
And for your playing pleasure, here is a bit of a table. I have not finalised these numbers and we are still play testing them, but on the surface they seem quite workable. I’ll also be creating some printable coloured counters that can be used to mark mechs that have moved at a trot or faster, making tracking speed simple. If you’d like to know when they are ready for download, hit up my newsletter.
Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.