Thursday 27 October 2022

Factions Louder than Words

I’ve been thinking about how Battletech handles factions.

I was speaking in a Discord about how there’s a lot I love about the larger setting, but it took me a long time to really grasp what most of the factions were about, and even then I still don’t feel especially drawn to any of them.

I contrasted this, obviously, to Warhammer/40k where I think I knew which team I was supporting after flipping through my very first White Dwarf. But I've praised the Battletech setting for its groundedness, so I don't think you need to go wacky with this.

A stronger example is one that always lingers in the back of my head - the factions of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.

I liked the PC game and played it a fair bit, but I really loved the seven factions (and most of the seven expansion factions). Each was helmed by a charismatic leader, centred on an ideology, and upon starting the game you were faced with each of their portraits and a quote read out in their voice. It's pretty easy to look at these and immediately get what each faction is about. It's not exactly subtle.

As you played through the game you'd still hear from the other faction leaders. Not just through diplomacy, but each new tech advance came with another quote, usually from one of the faction leaders. It's like they were always tempting you with which faction you wanted to try out on your next game.

So I'm shamelessly taking this idea for factions in Titanic Bastionmechs. Does this game need factions if I'm generally just using it to play with Battletech minis? No, but it's been a fun experiment so far.

Slap down a portrait, quote, special rule, and some signature modules and mechs onto a page and see what sticks.


Any familiarity to factions from existing games is surely just convergent evolution.

So the skeletons for 10 factions are in the doc now. Lots of gaps to fill in these factions, but aside from anything else they're helping me focus in on a tone for this game.


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Into the Odd Adventure Site - The Droner House

You can now venture into The Droner House, perfect if you're looking for a spooky Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland adventure site this Halloween. 

And it's FREE!

You might recognise this from the actual play I did with TKG a couple of years ago, now just barely fit for public consumption. 

Basically a big creepy house where horrible things happened and continue to happen. 


Thursday 20 October 2022

Super Carrot World

One of my current notes for Mythic Bastionland is "more reasons to travel around the realm".

I mean there are already some in there.

Travel brings Omens, which lead toward the "Seek out the Myths" part of your oath.

Seers are scattered around the Realm, and are a prime source of information, so you're inclined to visit as many of them as you can. They'll often send you on an errand in return for this into.

And, of course, if the Realm is an interesting place then players will naturally want to explore it. Right?


That's what I've told myself, based on my own experiences playing videogames. I remember first playing Link to the Past and looking at the printed map. There's a place called "The Swamp Ruins", which I thought sounded pretty cool, so I decided to go and see what was there as soon as I was released into the open world. The journey took me past archers in the long grass and some annoying crows. The ruin itself isn't even a dungeon, just a room with a sliding block puzzle, then a lever room that lets you drain the surrounding lake, revealing a heart piece. All in all it's one of the least interesting parts of the world in that game.

But I remember the experience clearly 30 years later because I chose to go there and I found some interesting stuff on the way.

So maybe I don't want to add in too many artificial mechanisms to encourage the players to explore. Perhaps that attention should be going toward helping the GM make a world interesting enough that the players want to go and see what's on the other side of the map, rather than going there because a Seer told them to.

Don't put the carrot on the stick. Make your world out of carrots.

No, scrap that. Make the world the carrot.


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Thursday 13 October 2022


What am I looking for in a Mech game?

My wishlist was something like:

1. Field every type of unit from infantry squads up to huge mechs

2. Have unit and weapon types feel different without extra subsystems to learn

3. Have enough Mech detail that they feel like real multi-part machines to be built and destroyed piece by piece

4. Make heat and movement important factors to manage for your own Mechs and exploit in your opponent's Mechs

5. Have a simple, fast turn procedure and straightforward mechanics for each phase, with minimal rules reference needed

6. Allow for fast, intuitive calculation of your chances of success on a particular attack

Having tried a number of Mech games recently I've found a lot to like, but nothing that quite scratched every itch.

By my assessment Classic Battletech succeeds at 1, 3 and 4 but not the others. Of course there's the argument that it all becomes very simple when you're experienced with the system, but I can only speak to my own experiences and the viewpoint of somebody just entering into the game.

Meanwhile the streamlined Alpha Strike succeeds at 1 and partially some of the others. In parts it's way simpler than Classic Battletech but almost does the opposite of what I want. Units feel simple but some of the subsystems feel complex in an out-of-place way.

In short, for a Mech game I think I'd rather have somewhat complex mechs in a very clean system than simple mechs in a somewhat messy system.

So in the spirit of giving these things stupid names, I present TITANIC BASTIONMECHS.

(The name is really a test to see whether GW or Catalyst Game Labs will send me a cease and desist first).

As with any of my projects in this early stage I'm messing with this constantly, but the core seems to work well for now. Probably some explosive bugs in there I haven't found yet and naturally lots of gaps to be filled in later.


Mechs have a list of Modules including Weapons, Hardware, and Reactors. Hits are assigned randomly to modules. The first hit is cosmetic but the second destroys the module. If you end up without a working Reactor then you'll blow up in the Meltdown phase.

Bigger Mechs get more modules, and their higher numbered modules are protected at first, so you need to chip away at them to get to their juicy reactor.

When you move you place a Speed Die next to your Mech, showing 1 pip for each 4" travelled, rounding up. Moving faster means you'll be harder to hit, but also makes your attacks less accurate.

Rushing, jumping, and firing fancy weapons all generate Heat, tracked on a second d6, the Heat Die. If Heat would ever go above 6 you take a Hit instead, so make sure you manage your heat passively through packing enough Reactors or Heatsinks, or actively by Venting in place of moving or attacking.

When you attack you roll a number of dice based on your weapon, each excelling at a particular range category. The target number is your Speed Die plus the target's Speed Die, with a +1 if they're in cover. Each die meeting or beating the target number causes a hit. That's it!

There are 15 weapons across 5 types. Each type has a special rule so Basic weapons like cannons don't generate heat, Lasers can cut through modules in a single hit, and Explosives cause chain reactions with each module they destroy. The classic tactic of "open them up with lasers then blast them with missiles" carries over here.

Mechs are the focus here, so non-Mech units (Auxiliary Units/AUs) ignore a good chunk of their rules like heat and modules. They aren't quite relegated to tokens, but they're intended to operate in little squads. So for each Mech you can have a handful of tanks or a platoon of infantry. There's even a Protomech knockoff in there.

Things like Scenario Generation and Points Values are in there, but awaiting some proper attention from me at a later date.

Go and check out the full thing as it stands if this sounds interesting to you.



This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Thursday 6 October 2022

Good Crunch, Bad Crunch

You'd be forgivenfor thinking that I want every game to be rules lite. While I love that style of game I can't deny the draw of crunchier systems, at least on paper.

The reality is often a let down. When I'm craving a system that offers depth to explore, variety of options, and surprise moments of delight and despair, I'm often met with a ruleset that demands all of my attention just to keep it running, unable to enjoy the fruits of the mechanical labour.

The context here is that I've been making my first ventures into Battletech, with all its sprawling record sheets, encyclopedic setting, and piles upon piles of modular rules. Why would such a proponent of streamlining games be drawn to this a mountain of crunch?

Because I like it.

See, for me there's Good Crunch and Bad Crunch, but that's really just the clickbait version. A better phrase might be Generous Crunch and Parasitic Crunch.

Generous Crunch gives more than it takes. Even if it demands a lot from the players the overall output is positive. For Battletech look at those famous Record Sheets. They look daunting but they're actually quite simple. Armour dots are filled in as you take damage. Weapons and other components are crossed off as they get hit by Criticals. The Heat tracker looks terrifying but there's not really anything complex to it. Together these make your Mech feel real and generate exciting moments when you push too hard and overheat, or when your leg gets blown clean off. Whatever house rules I'd be tempted to make to Battletech, I don't think I'd mess with this part at all.

Parasitic Crunch takes more than it gives. It can take the form of entire subsystems or even just a writhing colony of tiny little rules that have wormed their way into the system, taking up cognitive load while offering little to nothing positive in return. In isolation it's easy to say "actually this rule really isn't complicated" but that's just a distraction. Always ask "what is this piece of crunch offering in return?" when you're considering whether it should be cut loose. Of course, this is a matter of taste and experience. If you make the push to internalise every part of the Battletech Introductory, Standard, Advanced, and Experimental rules across a dozen books then you've probably managed to wrangle those parasites into action, finally seeing them pull their weight. The balance between accessibility for newcomers and depth for enthusiasts is one that every game has to choose a position on. The multiple tiers of rule in Battletech (not to mention the entirely different system, Alpha Stike) could be a great compromise here.

And so I climb the mountain.

The Quick Start rules lie behind me. A great stripped-back intro but missing some of the juice that comes with Heat and Critical Hits.

The Introductory Rules from the box set are in my grasp, and seem to include a pretty comprehensive core of the game. Some of the little rules challenge me, but I think I can do this.

I picked up Total Warfare in a moment of weakness. The full Standard Rules in an unforgiving 300+ pages, covering the familiar mechs alongside buildings, protomechs, vehicles, infantry, and aerospace units. No, I'm not exaggerating by including buildings in there, as they get 14 pages devoted to rules for entering, exiting, attacking into out of, and fighting within, all dependent on unit type and building type. Also rules for when the building collapses and a special basements table to randomly determine how far down a Mech falls when they accidentally break through the floor. Whether the idea of this delights or terrifies you will determine how you'd get on with this book.

I'm trapped somewhere in the middle. Like a Mech who rolled 10-11 on the Basement Table.


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.