In 2019, Catalyst Games rebooted the nearly 40-year-old BattleTech tabletop franchise with two stellar boxed sets. Later, in 2020, it launched the BattleTech: Clan Invasion boxed set at retail — alongside nearly 100 new plastic BattleMech miniatures. Now Catalyst’s legion of big stompy robots is gearing up for all-out war with BattleTech: Mercenaries, a new boxed product and an expanded ruleset that hits Kickstarter today. Get ready to fight alongside ground vehicles, flying machines, infantry, and more in the game’s next incarnation. Polygon sat down with managing developer Randall Bills to learn more.
BattleTech began as an elaborate miniatures wargame in 1984, created by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock. Only later did it morph into a tabletop role-playing game, a long and beloved series of video games, and a destination pre-VR arcade experience. Bills’ Catalyst took the reins of the tabletop game some years later, relaunching the entire line in 2015. Since 2019, the publisher has sold nearly nine million miniatures — a huge number for anyone other than a company like Games Workshop.
BattleTech: Mercenaries will expand Catalyst’s line of plastic miniatures even further, but it will do so with a new unified ruleset that emphasizes combined arms warfare — that is, BattleMechs, ground vehicles, air assets, and infantry all working together. In so doing, Bills said that his team has solved two fairly intractable problems that have plagued BattleTech for years now.
“One is that there are ways in which vehicles can start to overshadow BattleMechs,” Bills said. “So we have now taken the non-stars — the secondary guys in the wings — and allowed them to eclipse our stars. And that’s a potential problem [that this new ruleset solves].”
Another problem has been that in past implementations of similar combined arms rulesets the complexity has gotten out of hand. As a result, older versions of BattleTech that have included non-mech units have taken hours, sometimes entire days to play. This new approach, Bills says, speeds things up considerably compared to previous efforts.
“When you read the fiction, the combined arms is awesome,” Bills said. “If you ever watch the video games, when the ‘mech is running along and just stomps down onto a vehicle as it’s running through, you’re just like Yeah! Those are the cool moments. So you want the vehicles to be there, and you don’t want them to be completely wimpy, but at the same time you want them to almost accentuate that the BattleMechs are the stars. So it brings a little bit of flavor, almost a buff into your game, but does it in a way that’s quick and it’s easy.”
BattleTech: Mercenaries will cost $75 when it arrives at retail, and include eight new ‘mechs — including fan favorites like the Flea, Firefly, Quickdraw, and the Starslayer. It will also come with two Galleon light tanks and two Maxim hover transports, plus rules for fielding them quickly and easily at the table. Additional ground-based and flying miniatures will be released over time. Together with the Mercenaries ruleset, players will be able to create vivid campaigns, including fully asymmetrical engagements pitting ‘mechs against non-mech formations. With luck, Bills hopes it will expand the BattleTech hobby even further.
“There’s a whole new slew of people discovering this and loving it,” Bills said, “But they don’t necessarily want to go further [with micromanaging those smaller units]. That’s already enough for them. So then you do in fact, take all the rest of BattleTech and bring it in, in a modern style.”
Along with this new release, Bills said that his team is also working with its overseas manufacturers to improve the quality and durability of its miniatures. The goal is fewer mold lines, fewer warped arms and weapons, and easier painting right out of the box.
“We have simply worked with the manufacturer to get better at that,” Bills said. “The Clan Invasion had to move at such lightning speed, and we had 100 means to produce. And so I think we’ve just — all of us, including the manufacturer — have just gotten better at making the lines cleaner, the material a little better.”
The Kickstarter campaign for BattleTech: Mercenaries will run now through mid-April, before shifting to Backerkit for late pledges and fulfillment. You can join the launch party on Twitch at 11 a.m. EST.