Monthly Archives: April 2011

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Unboxing the Battletech 25th Anniversary Starter Box

I did the D&D Essentials “Red Box” unboxing, so I thought I would do another one for the new Battletech boxed set. It costs considerably more than the D&D starter box, but you also get a lot more. Considerably more. When I bought the Essentials box I got so mad at it I drove it to the Half Price Bookstore and dumped it. I won’t be doing that with this one. What we’ve got here is a real game, not a presentation about one.

But unboxings are about pictures of what’s in the box, so I won’t go on about how depressing 4th Edition D&D is anymore.

The box is hefty and large! Much bigger than the old 2cnd Edition boxed sets (I had all three!). There’s what I guess is a Warhammer on the front in a throwback to the original, but it’s hard to tell since FASA lost the lawsuit to Harmony Gold and all the coolest designs were “unseen”. If you’re curious, those neat designs were mainly from two anime shows: Fang of the Sun Dougram and the Macross series.

Here is a 40k model peeking around the corner of the box for a size comparison. Even with the daemonic bunny ears the box is well taller.

The moment of revelation! The actual opening of the box. The box is as big as it is to make room for the plastic miniatures that Catalyst Game Labs graciously provides. The old boxed sets included two dimensional cardstock battlemechs, with the fronts and backs of the battlemechs printed on and a little plastic tab that you stuck the folder over card into. So off to the side there you see the big bag of “cheap” minis, and the two boxes of “high quality” minis. I think it’s interesting, to me at least, that the two quality plastics they provide are Loki and Thor battlemechs…

Here’s the big bag o’ mechs…

And here’s all the “cheap” battlemechs arranged for your viewing pleasure. I will now list the names of all the mechs included in the box: SDR-5V Spider; ASN-21 Assassin; CDA-2A Cicada; CLNT-2-3T Clint; COM-2D Commando; JR7-D Jenner; HER-2S Hermes II; QKD-4G Quickdraw; GHR-5H Grasshopper; ENF-4R Enforcer; DRG-1N Dragon; WTH-1 Whitworth; TBT-5N Trebuchet; DV-6M Dervish; CPLT-C1 Catapult; PNT-9R Panther; VND-R1 Vindicator; JM6-S JagerMech; ZEU-6S Zeus; AWS-8Q Awesome; BNC-3E Banshee; HBK-4G Hunchback; CP-10-Z Cyclops; AS7-D Atlas. Oh, and the two Clan mechs already mentioned: Loki and Thor. The “Painting and Tactics Guide” is where I got the list, and it has them helpfully arranged according to battlefield roles of scouts, strikers, skirmishers, brawlers, missile boats, snipers and juggernauts. These names sound like fan designations, and older more official org types are included in parentheticals like “Juggernauts (Command, Assault, Fire)”.

The “cheap” plastics are really pretty cheap. The quality of the plastic is that of generic molded toy soldiers like you might buy at the drug store. It’s the sort of shiny, thin, bendy stuff with flash here and there, and when you buy the aforementioned drugstore toy soldiers you always get those guys who have the permanently bent rifles. You know what I’m talking about. But these models are sculpted better than that, so outside of the cheap shit plastic I don’t really see a problem with them. They are a load better than folded over printed cardstock, so there’s that. Above is the Atlas mech, which is the tallest provided “cheap” model, in the size comparison with the same 40k mini from before. If you’re here reading this, you’ve probably already read complaints about those dainty little ballerina legs on the Atlas on various web forums. Still, it’s not a bad model.

This one is, though. What the hell is this thing? I think it’s a Jenner, but I’m not sure. When I dumped out the bag the cockpit assembly wasn’t attached to it, so I had to fish around for parts. I was sure I was missing a piece until I realized that dinky little sliver of thing was the complete rest of this mech. If you check out the base of it you can sort of see what I mean about the cheap drug store plastic. Man, what an ugly model.

Some assembly required, apparently. Some of the “cheap” mechs were molded in more than one piece. Some of these were, I guess, glued at the factory. Some of them, as above, were not glued at the factory. I am sure there is some sound reason for this, but ultimately it is not any kind of a big deal. If you bought this box you probably have some glue, so whatever. Pressed together these two pictured pieces aren’t going to be falling apart in anything but the most “dynamic” of game play. EDIT: I talk about painting the “cheap” mechs in this post.

But what about the “high quality” mechs, you ask? Well, here they are, in all their boxed glory.

Here is the Loki strewn about my game table. The 40k player in me loves the idea of plastic battlemechs that require assembly. I love multi-part plastic kits. I love them as much as I hate metal kits, which is very much. So, so very much… I don’t really have much else to say about this little kit because I haven’t put it together yet. I will revisit this blog and link to a post where I put it together and all that. But later, because I have a bunch of stuff to do tonight after this that doesn’t involve fun or cool things at all.

How about some d6, why not? These are really kind of cruddy d6, but whatever, I’ll probably lose them soon anyway. I’ve got about a million d6, so I really don’t need any more, but if you’re a 12 year old kid buying his first table top war game (like I was back in the 1980s when I got the first Battletech boxed sets), then these will keep you from raiding your mother’s bridge and backgammon supplies for dice (like I did back in the 1980s).

Let’s take more stuff out of the box! Because there is an awful lot of stuff in this box!

You get two double sided fold out maps. These are made of heavy cardboard and printed rather nicely. They look pretty much like the 2cnd edition maps from the original box, except those were one sided and printed on slick paper. Which would be why this box is at least twice as deep as the original box. EDIT: It was the Mechwarrior game that had the slick paper maps; the Battletech game had cardboard maps too, they just weren’t this manly.

Seriously, check out how beefy the cardboard these things are printed on is! I don’t even know if I’ll use them or not, but I kind of wonder how many times it will take of unfolding and refolding them before they start to fall apart like an old board game map? But anyway, there are four maps (double sided, remember?) and they are of four different types of terrain. You get a map named “Battletech” with a map named “City Hills 2” printed on the reverse, and the other set is named “Lake Area” and “Open Terrain 2”. Seems like a good mix to me. I know that the old box had blank maps that were white with hexes, but I don’t remember if they were separate or printed on the reverse of the colored maps. EDIT: Remembered, see previous edit. As if that were important, but hey, I drew mazes on those things and had “arena of death” fights with them…

This is the empty box. Unlike the “D&D Redbox” mentioned at the top of this post, the Battletech box maximizes space. This box is not big just for increased shelf space and visibility (like the D&D Essentials Redbox), but it really needs to be this big to fit all of the wonderful, awsome content inside of it. Are you reading this, WotC? Because your Essentials Red Box was an ugly man-tramp in drag and this Battletech box is wholesome and manly. Take some notes, because Catalyst Game Labs is doing it right.

This is the Quick Start Rules. Or the cover of it, anyway. I won’t bore you with “xx pages of blah blah blah”. I talk a little more about this one below, but you can find that stuff on lots of other websites. In fact, you should take some time right now to open another window and check out It’s the official website for the game, and reading through the online store and its product descriptions will make you dizzy. This will lead into an appreciation and understanding for this little gem:

Look. FASA had a great game back in the 1980s. The year was 3025, the Fourth Succession War was just on the horizon and the Inner Sphere was a place that made sense. It was even grimdark while Games Workshop was still publishing funny 40k supplements. Then there was a book series that progressed the timeline, more supplements came out, then the Clans invaded the Inner Sphere and robbed all the cool mystery from the setting, and then FASA was sold or something and several businesses each added ridiculous crap to the game and its history in turn, completely shitting up the place. There is a lot involved in this mess of a timeline, and there are a lot of supplements that try to make sense of it all. That quick check of the official website’s online store should have thoroughly confused you. This booklet, along with another included booklet that attempts to pull all that mess into one coherent thing, should straighten you out and un-fuck the whole thing in your head. At the very least you should know what you need to buy next.

Just like the original box, you also get a map of the Inner Sphere. I have no idea which era this is set in, but it looks like it’s one of the stupid ones I hate. I guess it’s going on my game room wall anyway.

There’s lots of neat artwork in the books. This is from “The Inner Sphere At A Glance” in the section describing the glorious master race of House Kurita. Because nothing says “THE INNER SPHERE BELONGS TO ME!” like a dynamic entry!

You also get a book of data sheets for the game. As a bonus feature they have artwork from the original Technical Readout: 3025 book. One of the things that drew me into the Battletech universe originally was the neat-o drawings of the battlemechs. In that book the mechs were drawn at an oblique angle so they had depth and character. In the TRO books that came after that the drawings were flat and lifeless, and the original designs in them were atrocious for the most part. I haven’t read a TRO after the Invasion of the Clan edition, so maybe they are cooler these days?

You get a book of “quick start rules” sitting on the very top of the big pile of booklets when you first open the box. I read through these rules, and it was all coming back to me. The slick paper and the newer, color design aesthetic of this generation’s Battletech isn’t as appealing to me, but it’s not bad. I’m just as dated as the old version is, I guess is all that’s about. Then you get to the BRB, and I started having flashbacks of the original 2cnd edition Rules Compendium book. Battletech can either be a fairly simple game, or an incredibly complex one. The picture above is a nice nod to that, I think. It’s a cardstock double sided reference sheet, so you don’t have to go digging through a book to find basic tables or break the spine or dogear it.

That’s it, folks, those are all the pictures I took and pretty much all of my commentary on it right now. I’ve got other stuff I have to go do, but I wanted to take the time to share my happiness of having this game in my life again! Expect me to begin building a company of Draconis Combine or mercenaries and sharing here soon.



Filed under Hobby, Reviews & Reports, Right Living

Possibly Going To Hiratsuka & Thoughts on Wanderlust

I have been “provisionally accepted” into a study abroad program through the University of Kansas to study in Hiratsuka, Japan. This is something that I’ve wanted to do since I returned to the idea of being a college graduate. In fact, the wild notion to take Japanese is what moved me from the vo-tech building into the humanities department. Because I really don’t like working on cars after all, you know? This tangent that I hared after introduced me to many of the people and activities that helped me turn my life to a positive direction, so I will always have a special affection for it.

The problem is that there is currently a State Department travel advisory that might keep the trip from happening. I talked to my Japanese Literature professor from last semester the other day and she told me that KU students who were preparing for an entire school year to start just now have been recalled. How hard would that suck? I really feel for them. I sincerely hope that the advisory gets changed to allow us to go this July, because this will be my last chance to study abroad in Japan. Anything after this will just be a vacation, and that wouldn’t be the same I think.

Where is Hiratsuka, you say?

I lifted this image from Google Maps, as you can see by the copyright in the corner. Their terms of use looked like they just didn’t want me committing any kind of fraud with the picture or making people think that they endorse my use of it or this site, so I will say that they definitely do not have anything to do with RA outside of providing my email account which has nothing to do with this picture…

But anyway, the orange arrow points to Hiratsuka, and the yellow arrow points to downtown Tokyo. I guess it’s the same “super metro” area. I have no idea how close the two places really are. It could be just a localized train ride or it could be a big deal. I mean, as an American I don’t think about distance being a big deal, but I learned in England that when you don’t have a car, and can’t afford a bus or train ticket, a distance that I would drive without hesitation in the States to see a friend becomes pretty far away, actually.

But what about the nuclear disaster, you say? Where all that happened is pretty far up the coast. The latest I read was that radiation levels in Tokyo had returned to pre-earthquake levels. All I need is for the State Department to review the situation and then I will be good to go.

After filling out a ton of paperwork, anyway. All that starts tomorrow. I picked up the packet today, and I’m taking my deposit check in tomorrow.

Exciting stuff!

I have another website, a Live Journal if you can believe that, where about two out of every five posts in my private diary thing is about how much I want to get out of Kansas. I sometimes yearn for a home I never really had, and I sometimes yearn for the adventure of going a completely new place.

There’s something exciting about moving to a totally new place. Getting to know somewhere, finding the side streets, figuring out where the locals shop, getting comfortable. And then it fades away and I get the wanderlust. If I had the money or the guts to do it without the cash I would just kick around this whole planet, getting to know every place I could. I fell in love with Cambridge in the brief time I got to live there. Five weeks is longer than just a visit, but it’s not enough time to feel at home. The trip to Japan would be another five week summer program.

To inflict this thought on the public at large, I’ve never really felt comfortably at home anywhere. When I moved to Kansas it was to Fort Leavenworth. My father was in the Army and it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t PCS somewhere else, that he would retire here and Ma getting her Master’s degree at KU would mean that we would buy a house off post and just LIVE here. I told my old man the other day that after thinking about it all these years I finally came to the realization that I’ve been waiting to PCS my whole life.

Leavenworth is where I grew up, but I’ve always felt alien here. I have never really felt that this was my home. After a certain point, when I moved to Florida I think, I sort of grudgingly accepted it, but I reckon I’ve reneged on that.

I’ve got the old wanderlust, that feeling that caused men of old to throw belongings in a sack and head for parts unknown. The Germans have another word, “fernweh”, which is like wanderlust but means more, “gotta get out of HERE”. What keeps me in this place that I have never felt a part of? I’ve tried several times to leave, to be from somewhere else instead. My folks live here. My son Donovan lives here. I’ve got friends here.

So this is one way I’m living that out. I got to see some of the world last summer, and hopefully I’ll get to see the other side of it this summer. And maybe when I graduate something else will happen that will be a more permanent adventure. Who knows? I just may succeed in talking the entire family into moving back to Georgia after all these years away. Or maybe I will join the Peace Corps, another thing I’ve been kicking around.

Whatever happens,


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