Some of you are joining me from the old Mechwarrior: Dark Age game. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about Alpha Strike. I've been playing classic BattleTech off and on since middle school in the 1980s. I've always enjoyed the setting. Game play was great back when I had lots of free time in my life. Unfortunately, I don't have much in the way of free time any more. I miss MW:DA for its shorter game play.
Alpha Strike helps with that. I've seen two approaches to playing it. One approach is to run super large games that you can't run under Total Warfare rules without some serious amounts of time. Personally I do not find these enjoyable as I don't have the time to play such long games. I end up leaving after only five or six rounds of game play. It is certainly doable but it just doesn't fit into my schedule anymore.
The second approach is to play with typical force sizes for Total Warfare rules and finish in an hour or two. For the MW:DA players out there, this is about the same number of pieces you would have with a 600 to 750 point army. This should remind you a lot of our game back in the day when you got together for an evening or weekend afternoon and could play three games in rapid succession and hang with your friends.
So what is this game like? It is pretty simple to learn and can have depth to the tactics needed to win. Catalyst Game Labs (CGL) recently released a Quick Start version of the rules. Hopefully they will get them posted to their download page soon. The Quick Start rules include a short story, the introductory rules, four scenarios, some terrain templates, paper cutouts of 12 mechs, and 32 Alpha Strike cards.
The game is typically played with miniatures from either CGL or Ironwind Metals. CGL has been releasing lance packs over the last year with four plastic miniatures per pack. As of the writing of this article, there are eight packs. The IWM minis are all metal with a much wider variety of minis available. Unlike MW:DA, you buy what you want. Instead of the clix system, cards are used to denote the abilities of your units.
The system is pretty simple, each unit as a speed (MV), armor (A), internal structure (S), size (SZ), overheat value (OV), and short, medium, and long range damage (S/M/L). There are also specials not unlike our SEs and gear cards. The more advanced rules introduce pilot abilities too. Unlike MW:DA, the ranges are fixed although some units do not have damage values at one or more range brackets.
Three major differences exist between the two systems. MW:DA had alternating turns. In Alpha Strike, all damage is applied at the same time. The second difference is how you track damage. In the clix system, you simply turned the dial. In Alpha Strike, you mark off the bubbles for armor and structure until the unit is destroyed. The last difference is that every unit gets to move and attack every turn unlike MW:DA's limited command system.
CGL has created the Master Unit List to help you play. It includes every (or almost every) unit that has ever been mentioned in BattleTech books. For each entry, it will include some information on the unit itself along with some faction data based upon various eras of play. It also includes the Alpha Strike card so you can print it out and play. Personally I prefer to save the image to my computer and then print them out but there is also a nice little force building feature on the MUL.
So what do you need to play? You would need to find your dice (a pair is all you need), your trusty old tape measure, the Quick Start rules, a playing surface, and either miniatures or the paper cutouts. I'm assuming you still have your old MW:DA minis. They will more or less work for this so you can at least get a feel for the game.
Where do you go from here? If you find you like it, I would suggest the base rule book. They also released the Alpha Strike Companion which added additional rules including lance bonuses. If you have been following my A Call To War: Clan Coyote Epsilon series, you should recognize the lance construction rules.
I hope you enjoy the game. It is worth trying it out. It may just scratch that MW:DA itch.