Battletech: Alpha Strike

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Review: Alpha Strike is BattleTech played like Micro armor

September 9, 2019 by andyinindy

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Full Disclosure:  I love Miniature Giant Robots.  I love Stompy Giant Robot.  I love Transforming Giant Robots.  I love Flying Giant Robots.  If you don't at least like Giant Robots, you won't like a game about Giant Robots.

Alpha Strike is Catalyst Game Labs' attempt to bring classic BattleTech into a faster moving game that will appeal to a modern wargamer.  BattleTech is known for it's high level of detail and needing a full size sheet to represent each unit on the field.  This gives the game it's gritty, hyper focused feel that lends itself well to the small skirmishes and duels that are in line with the game's fictional background (3025).  However, the game background moves on to a series of escalating engagements and interstellar wars before returning to the Duel and Skirmish fight of it's Dark Ages.  Players wanted  a faster, easier to play game that kept the tactical level appeal of the original game but still handled playing as many units as an operational level game.  BattleForce (the BattleTech operational level game) played well, but saw little following, so through several iterations Catalyst Game Labs adapted the BattleForce system down to a tactical level.

Alpha Strike, as a game, is a very basic wargame that plays like most tactical level micro armor system.  Each unit has a miniature on the playing field, and a small card with the unit's capabilities on it.  The cards for units are available online at masterunitlist.info for canon units and miniatures are available through various sources like Iron Wind Metals, Catalyst Game Labs, and several other small manufacturers.  There are even people who share 3D models that can be printed and used for games.  Even better, the miniatures used are the same ones you use for playing classic BattleTech so you can switch back and forth between the game rules whenever you like.  The game plays well in a combined arms setting and lets you mix air support, artillery, vehicles, and infantry along with your Giant Robots.  Two six sided dice and a tape measure are the only things needed for most games, although there are a few templates for air strikes and artillery that are useful to copy and cut out.  Gameplay is as fast as any other tactical level micro armor game I have played, and an hour for a skirmish with 4-5 units per side is common.

The rules are reasonably well written, but as with any game you should check for the official game rulings and download the errata sheet.  This is especially important as there are three different iterations of the printed rules.  As of the time of this review Alpha Strike, Commanders Edition is the most recent version, but it does not cover the current rules for converting custom units from BattleTech into Alpha Strike (they are in a book called Alpha Strike Companion, but requires that you use the erata to calculate the unit costs correctly.)  If you are playing with other people familiar with BattleTech, only one book per group is needed.  If they are unfamiliar, I recommend downloading the Alpha Strike Quick Start Rules and playing with those for a few games first.

My only objection to the game is that the simplification of the rules hurts some of the special cases that you might see in BattleTech, such as using napalm rockets on smaller units (the special ammunition is not available to units with small launchers in the conversion rules) or targeting multiple units.  Also, bear in mind that this is about Giant (sort of post apocalyptic) Robots - check you physics books at the desk and bring your imagination online when it is is time to play!

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