I've been a Battletech fan for years, ever since it first came out in fact. I remember getting together with my friends and the rest of the weekend gaming crew and playing Battletech into the wee hours of the morning. We very quickly made up our own units and set about wrecking the scenery. Then we tried a full on, large scale campaign with whole regiments of 'mechs.
We never got past the first turn.
We had a big strategic map and all, but what we didn't do was scale things up. We were trying to play out the movement and combat of battalion sized units, at Battletech scale. Anyone who's played a BT game with more than a company on each side knows how this will turn into an almost interminable (and dare I say, boring..) game.
Enter Battleforce 2. Battleforce 2 lets you play those big unit fights and even takes things up to a planetwide, operational scale (including space combat and drops!) This is what I was looking for!
In the box, you get a nice fat rulebook, which actually has the rules for two games, Battleforce (battalion level), and Planetary Assault (regimental level and higher), two terrain maps, two planetary maps, a great big map of the Inner Sphere, a battle board (just a piece of cardstock really, don't get too excited), and a whole pile of counters.
How does it play? Well, I'll say it like this, I like the pace of this game even better than Battletech. In the Battleforce game, one counter represents a unit of 'mechs, often of varying sizes. Each mech in the units is indiviually rated for speed, weapons, armor, structure and special equipment. The simplification really speeds up play and gives the game more of a 'real time' feeling. What I mean is, when you open fire on an enemy mech, very often you can destroy them with just one or two hits. Non-mechs; armor, aircraft, dropships, infantry, and Elementals are all represented as well and die very fast. Once you get the rules down, play proceeds quickly.
When you bump things up to the planetary scale, things get more abstract; once counter represents a whole battalion all by itself. These are rated for attack, defense, and movement. There is an interesting battleboard system for combat in which position is as important as the make up of the unit itself.
The cool thing about these two systems, Battleforce and Planetary Assault, is that they are fully integrated and can be played together with Battletech. So you could play the drop of a huge army onto a planet, fight a battle between two parts of the army at the batalion level, and then for an important duel, switch to Battletech rules.
Most of my 'weekend gaming crew' nowadays are all ex-Battletech players. When I brought Battleforce 2 out most of them groaned, "Battalions?! It'll take forever!" But then they tried it and within a few hours, dozens of mechs were smashed and burning and everyone wanted more! We all liked the fact that even the toughest 'mechs could be pounded into flaming wrecks without spending hours ticking off boxes and figuring out where each PPC shot impacted.
The inclusion of the Inner Sphere map, as well as some suggestions for a DYI interstellar campaign really gave me some great ideas for a huge campaign with giant armadas of jumpships, fleets of dropships, and armies of mechs. I'll never have time to play somehting like that but it sure is fun to think about.
On the downside, some of the rules are not quite clear and require close reading. I'm pretty familiar with wargames rules concepts but the wording in the sections on spotting and concealment, and ECM detection would probably confuse some first timers. This game would also benefit greatly from an index, but alas, there isn't one. So many games that are good would be great if they just had an index! Why game companies leave these out most so often is beyond me.
For me, Battleforce 2 has a grand, epic feel much more in line with the epic nature of the Battletech universe. I like big battles and Battleforce 2 delivers!
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)