This is the year of BattleTech. A brand-new strategy video game just came out (and is excellent), another video game is due at the end of the year and both the miniatures wargame and the roleplaying game are getting refreshed this year. There’s more interest in the franchise than there has been in maybe a decade, but what to do if you’re intrigued but have no idea what it’s all about? Time for a Franchise Familiariser course!
The second edition of BattleTech and the first to use that name, released in 1985.
BattleTech (and its related brand, MechWarrior) – not be confused with Robotech – is a franchise that merges elements of space opera, military science fiction, fantasy and Japanese manga and anime. It was originally created as a tabletop wargame, followed by a pen-and-paper RPG, but gained its greatest exposure through video games, a lengthy series of novels and a short-run animated series which ran for half a season in 1994.
BattleTech was created by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babock III for FASA Corporation in 1984 as a tabletop wargame. The original idea had been to create a wargame using large, human-piloted robots known as BattleMechs or ‘mechs. Originally called BattleDroids, the game had to change its name after a few months due to a copyright claim by Lucasfilm (who claimed that they had copyrighted “droids” as part of their Star Wars franchise). A companion tabletop roleplaying game, MechWarrior, was published in 1986. The first BattleTech video games, The Crescent Hawk’s Inception and The Crescent Hawk’s Revenge, were released in 1988 and 1990 respectively.
The franchise received a significant boost in popularity, however, through the MechWarrior video game series. The original MechWarrior (1989) was well-received but it was MechWarrior 2 (1995) that took the series to new heights. Released at exactly the right moment to capitalise on 3D graphics cards and more powerful PCs, the game was a huge success. It was followed by MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries (1996), MechWarrior 3 (1999), MechWarrior 4: Vengeance (2000) and MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries (2002).
In 2001 FASA almost went bust and sold the BattleTech and MechWarrior properties to WizKids. In 2003 WizKids was bought by Topps but continued to release new material under the WizKids name. They have also provided companies such as FanPro and Catalyst Games with licences. Since 2007, Catalyst Game Labs has been releasing new versions of the classic wargame and the roleplaying game, whilst Piranha Studios and Harebrained Schemes have released new video games.
2018 has been dubbed the “year of BattleTech”, with two new video games (BattleTech from Harebrained and MechWarrior 5 from Piranha) and a refreshed version of the wargame and roleplaying game on the way from Catalyst.
MUCH MORE AFTER THE JUMP