Thursday, 5 January 2023

BATTLETECH reclaims its place as one of the biggest SFF wargames in the world

Venerable SF miniatures title BattleTech has reasserted its position as one of the most popular tabletop wargames around. Catalyst Game Studios have confirmed they have shipped over 9 million miniatures since relaunching the line back in 2015, most of that since they revamped the two core game box sets in 2018.

BattleTech started life in 1984 as a tabletop wargame created by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babock III for their company, FASA Corporation. The game was originally called BattleDroids and used mecha designs from various Japanese animated shows under licence, but legal brushes with George Lucas and the various American distributors of those shows (mainly Harmony Gold) saw them rename the game to BattleTech and redesign many of their mechs. The franchise was initially a cult success, but exploded in popularity at the end of the 1980s and through the 1990s thanks to a series of excellently-received video games, including MechWarrior 2 and MechCommander, and a millions-selling line of novels by authors including Michael Stackpole.

The franchise went through a lean period between 2001, when FASA effectively collapsed, and 2007 when Catalyst Games Labs picked up the licence. Since then, CGL has gradually guided the success to greater success. An influx of new fans came in with the superb 2018 turn-based strategy game BattleTech and its definitive Mercenary Collection repackaging. The 2019 real-time action game MechWarrior 5 was slower off the blocks due to bugs and a lack of early content, but has picked up steam tremendously thanks to a console release and no less than four major expansions, the latest of which is out this month, and increased rumours of a sequel. MechWarrior Online (2013), although showing its age, still has a healthy monthly player count.

BattleTech may also be benefitting from economics: the game revolves around the deployment of relatively small numbers of "lances," four-mech squads, which are far easier and far cheaper to collect and paint compared to, say, the equivalent Warhammer 40,000 armies. The BattleTech boxed sets are surprisingly cheap compared to competitors, and the sheer weight and backstory of the game's lore is impressive.

Catalyst confirm that they have sold over 160,000 copies of the BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat core set and the Beginner Box "quickie" set since 2018. They have further expanded the game via Kickstarter-led products, like the Clan Invasion and Alpha Strike boxed sets, and will launch a new Mercenaries boxed set later this year.

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