This article originally appeared in Pyramid #5
BATTLESPACEPublished by FASA Corp.
Designed by Chris Hartford
BattleTech is almost exclusively a game of ground combat, of giant 'mechs lumbering across great open landscapes, blasting into rubble anything that opposes them. Infantry plays its part, as does supporting armor, and there's even a place for air support. But the 'mechs are the kings of this game.
But how do those BattleMechs get to the planets they take such great delight in wrecking? "That's easy," a BattleTech player will explain. "You've got these jumpships, see, and they sneak in through hyperspace to within a few hundred thousand kilometers of the planet, and then the dropships detach and deliver them to the surface." And if you were defending a planet from potential 'mech invasion, wouldn't it be easier to simply blast those ships to atoms before they ever drop their deadly passengers on your precious surface? "Well, um, I guess -- but that wouldn't be a very neat game."
Wrong. It's definitely not BattleTech, but FASA's new BattleSpace boardgame is, indeed, a very neat game. In the box you get a 152-page rulebook, a mess of record sheets (for everything from squads of fighters up to the huge warships), hundreds of counters, counter stands and dice, and the inevitable starfield combat map. (Every space combat game ever published has these same stupid maps -- white spots on black paper with a hex grid. But you have to play the game on something, and if there were a better-looking map out there, somebody would have published it by now.) Anyway, it's a lot of stuff for the price, and a good value.
BattleSpace is primarily designed for BattleTech players who want to add a little space combat to their games, but don't want it take over (in fact, it's not even a stand-alone game -- the rules state that you need the BattleTech Compendium and MechWarrior, 2nd Ed. to play). It's for players who want a change of pace, a little pleasant diversion before the serious 'mech bashing commences. And this game delivers. After determining initiative, the two sides take turns moving small portions of their fleet until all ships have moved, then firing intentions are announced in those same small portions. Because the action alternates between the two sides in small increments, initiative is not as important as it is in other games of this type. Damage is resolved, and the whole thing starts again.
Damage resolution is fairly straightforward, but with one nice angle. After all the armor on a ship's facing has been destroyed, internal components begin to take damage based on a chart on each ship's record sheet. Each chart has 12 columns, and it takes two die rolls to determine which column is hit. These die rolls are modified depending on where the attack came from, so attacks from the front tend to harm front components, and so on. Damage boxes are then crossed out down the columns in groups of four; any component area that is partially crossed out is damaged, and any area that is completely crossed out is destroyed. This system reminds me of the version used in Renegade Legion, only simpler, and it works very well.
The basic game only takes up the first 30 or so pages of the rule book. Following it are optional rules, rules for campaign games (how long it takes to deploy energy collectors to recharge for the next hyperspace jump, and that sort of thing), ship construction rules and rules for integrating the fighter-to-fighter detail of AeroTech with the more general rules of BattleSpace.
The last 64 pages of the rulebook are really a separate book, the BattleSpace Sourcebook. The first half is done in the same "you are there" verisimilitude as so much else of FASA's fine work; this time it's a textbook for students of the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, giving the history of naval combat from 3500 B.C. to the present (3056 A.D.), including the famous battles of the recent past, and a rundown on the basic types of ships and the technologies they use. This is a wonderful primer on space travel and combat in the Battletech universe, and is essential reading for anybody new to the game. The rest of the book is devoted to scenarios and BattleSpace statistics for various ships that already exist in the continuing storyline.
So, if you wanted to expand your BattleTech horizons to include great naval battles in space, but didn't want to get bogged down in the intricate detail of AeroTech, then BattleSpace is for you. It's got all the epic action you want, but won't take you all night to play.
- Scott Haring
Article publication date: February 1, 1994
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