Three years after Catalyst Game Labs relaunched BattleTech in 2019, the publisher has returned to crowdfund BattleTech: Mercenaries. The first major expansion since 2000’s Clan Invasion will introduce tanks and other ground vehicles alongside rules for solo and cooperative play against AI opponents, promising another huge, armoured step forward for the miniature wargame franchise.
If you’re only familiar with BattleTech through either the recent video game series or the nearly 40-year-old tabletop original - developed by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock III at FASA - you might be surprised to see its Kickstarter campaign surpassing $4.5 million in crowdfunding, as of writing. There’s a dedicated audience who love the fantasy of giant piloted mechs stomping around and blasting each other to shrapnel, and the Mercenaries expansion seems keen on deepening several core aspects of the modern incarnation.
Mercenaries won’t reinvent how BattleTech is played - groups of mechs, called lances, are still deployed on a hex grid map and take turns executing bulky manoeuvres and unloading on each other until a victor emerges from the smoke and rubble. What it will attempt is introducing a version of smaller vehicles and support weaponry that add a satisfying amount of complexity to the wargame without stealing any thunder from the building-sized stars. In fiction, the eponymous mercenary groups comprise paramilitary factions, ragtag bounty hunters and everything in between. There’s an insightful interview with managing developer Randall Bills over on Polygon that discusses the historical challenge of mixing mechs and relatively miniscule support units.
The campaign page commits every unfortunate crowdfunding sin imaginable, which makes it fairly difficult to glean what actually comes in the box at a glance. It is a genuine supplement, for starters, meaning that players will need the BattleTech core box to make full use of Mercenaries. Inside are 12 unpainted plastic miniatures, both mechs and two different kinds of ground vehicles, along with a pair of double-sided paper maps to play on. The box also contains tokens, two six-sided dice, a rulebook, booklet of record sheets (for recording mech damage), and an assortment of cards used during play.
Established BattleTech players will be excited to learn that fourteen new ForcePacks will accompany the release of the Mercenaries expansion. These collections of minis neatly package one player’s army or a small strike force to be split between a pair of opponents. Several focus entirely on non-Mech vehicles: tanks, artillery, air units and even squads of mercenaries in battle armour (think individual Space Marines compared to hulking Imperial Knights).
Catalyst Game Labs mentions way down near the bottom of the campaign - essentially buried under stretch goals, price banners and swag collages - that the publisher is actively working on a solo/cooperative variant of the gridless Alpha Strike mode, called BattleTech: Alpha, that will pit players against an AI opponent whose actions are decided by a role-specific deck of cards. It’s currently in the playtesting phase, and backers will gain access to the documents and feedback forms to help shape whatever eventually ships out of the cargo bay.
The Kickstarter campaign for BattleTech: Mercenaries will run through April 20th, and the publisher currently estimates fulfilment of physical rewards will begin in June 2024. If you’re keen on whetting that miniature-based tactical whistle, why not check out Dicebreaker’s other entries on the best skirmish wargames currently available.