Alpha Strike!

Last week I preordered one thing when the infamous Laurentius reminded of this. BattleTech 25th Anniversary Introductory Boxset, the starter set you need to play some awesome BattleTech. The guy who I talked with in the phone said "sold out, maybe we get more next week". On Thursday I finally got the email I had been swearingly and eagely waiting for, ran to the center of Helsinki to get some more stuff to further fill my TODO list.

This is what I got:

I chatted with the guy in Fantasiapelit and he said that they had sold the box out twice alread. And of course I had to wonder how the hell does that happen? I mean, you never hear anyone playing BT in here and the shop itself hasn't got any BT related stuff, either. His thought was "Everybody plays in their small group of friends, there's nothing like these 100 player open tournaments like with Warhammers or anything, it's just not as social". Based on my little experience, I have to agree, at least that's how it goes with me. Though I'd be happy to play with more people and share the fun.
But I didn't start this to tell what I chatted about with random people, to the point!

It's a nice compact set. The box art is mostly a good collection of painted miniature 'Mechs, all done by the awesomely skilled people of Camospecs. Most of the box contents are illustrated by the same people. Beautiful.
The right side of the box contains the playbuttons, both the 24 plastic 'Mechs from the previous iteration of BTIBS and two new plastic OmniMechs. I really hope that the Omnis are a sign of a Clan Expansion Set in the near future. The rest of the box is occupied by a nice bunch of printed material:
  • Introductory rulebook: an 80-paged rulebook that also tells what else you can find about the subject, such as the IWM & Ral Partha miniatures, FPG transfers for said miniatures, an ultra-awesome Camospecs (I at least use Cspecs as a source for painting my minis). The rules are obviously quite thoroughly explained compared to the quickstart rules, there are background stories and other such interesting things.
  • Quick Start Rules: what you need to start playing very quickly.
  • Inner Sphere at a Glance: a 55-page booklet that briefly tells the history of the Inner Sphere, a faction at a time, describing stuff about MechWarriors and 'Mechs and it also includes a TRO (Technical Readout) of the 'Mechs that come with the box.
  • A cardboard cheatsheet: all the necessary tables you need for a round of the game, so that you don't need to search around the rulebooks. You can't live without one, bonus points for sturdiness.
  • How the Core Rulebooks Work: tells how the different additional rulebooks and all that work together. If you go and get more rulebooks, that is.
  • Painting and Tactics Guide: a nice guide of what you need and how you use them, from paintbrushes to paints, a step-by-step guide that tells how to set up a mini from cleaning the mini to flocking the base. All that with tricks and tips, for example: how to paint a red or a white 'Mech as they're somewhat more challenging colours. Himmel... After that there's a really neat part with tactics that tells you with pictures and tables how to play the damn game in certain situations! This is really a wonderful booklet.
  • 24 Inner Spheren BattleMechs
  • 2 glorious Clan OmniMechs
  • Record Sheets for
    • BattleMechs
    • Tanks
    • Battle Armor units
    • Traditional infantry
    • empty 'Mech sheets for DIY 'Mechs
    • Summoner Prime
    • Summoner A
    • Hellbringer Prime
    • Hellbringer A
    Not a bad selection, though I believe in my gaming group we'll keep doing as we've done before. We print the things from HMPro based on what we use.
  • Inner Sphere map in poster size, from around 3060 based on a quick google search.
  • A couple of foldable cardboard two-sided maps. I opened one of them, it has the classic map on the other side with mostly flat terrain, a Depth 1 puddle in the middle, some light and heavy woods scattered here and there and a couple of max Level 2 hills on the top and bottom side of one of the map sides. The other side had a map I don't think I've played on with a hill, a river going through it and plenty of pavement and roads.
    The second map thingy is still in its plastic wrappings, I didn't get to open it yet.
  • 2d6: can't live without them :)
All of this with 50Eur. I've made worse deals in my time.

Obviously I attacked the miniatures first, they're what I've been collecting and painting for years and they interested me the most anyway. Some sick monkey had decided to call the OmniMechs with their freebirth names and each and every one of us knows that this is not how it goes. Inner Sphere names are for barbarians. Swearing I opened the Hellbringer's box (Omnis come in small cardboard boxes and the BattleMechs in a minigrip bag). Sturdy looking pieces, a couple of them still in the sprues (hex base, searchlight, knee pads, upper arms and two of those button-like things that go to the rear legs), Confusingly enough the CT, RT and LT are all separate pieces unlike in the IWM metal minis. To my eyes the details look good and so does the fitting of the pieces. All the bits are connected with rectangular pieces / slots to each other so you can't really pose them specially straight out of the box, but I wasn't going to dremelify these things anyway so the default pose is good enough in this case. Some cleaning is to be done, of course, but that's all.

Summoner Prime jumped out of the box completely assembled, which surprised me a bit. Maybe the idea was to show the new users how to assemble that HellB? Oh well, this one needs a bit of cleaning before it can be painted but looks pretty nice as it is.

Then we get to the tin cans of the freebirth scum. I was pretty curious of how these are because I've read quite a lot of complaints about the quality over the years in CBT forums. The first thing that struck my eyes (and my fingers) was the strange material. I guess this is the infamous "bucket plastic" that at least the IPMSFinland people are always complaining about. Feels a bit floppy and soft in general. It'll take quite a while to clean this ones up, but that's how it always goes so I'm not going to complain much :)
I can't really comment yet on the scale of the miniatures, but the vast majority of these are confusingly small compared to my IWM metal minis. Though I guess a large part of that is because I've been building an Assault Cluster so I haven't got that many light/medium 'Mechs to begin with. My two Novas excluded (Elemental Star + Light/Medium OmniMech Star, fast 'Mechs (a couple of Fire Moths, Stormcrows and such) to carry the Elementals to the battle), of course. Perhaps I get to compare my metal Atlas that I painted as a part of my Model Expo 2008 diorama "Nuisance" (a Point of Jade Falcon Elementals swarming a ComGuards Atlas during the battle of Tukayyid). I somehow suspect that they aren't from the same mould...

I guess I recognize a bunch of those, more or less correctly, even. Many of them are somehow faimiliar but I just can't get the name off of the tip of my tongue. There's a Commando, a Jenner, Hunchback, Atlas and a surprisingly small Catapult, a Cyclops, Dragon and maybe a Panther and a Spider as its friend... and a huge lot of things I can't name. Of course I'll find out with the booklets when I get to it.
I'm not sure if one of them is a Rifleman or not, but I guess it isn't. Maybe it's a Jägermech instead. They'll require some work and there's no way around it. In any case the important thing is that in a distant future my Clan Jade Falcon - Gamma Galaxy - 3rd Falcon Talon Cluster has a proper amount of targets available :)

Aforementioned Laurentius and I have pondered a bit on how to paint these IS 'Mechs. The clowns at Inner Sphere organize their BattleMechs in lances or four 'Mechs and there are two, three per company and three companies per battalion and so forth. I really can't remember those things well, I'm much more familiar with the Clan structure. In any case, there are six lances and they could all be from a different faction. For example the Dragon is clearly a DCMS thing and maybe the Catapult would go nicely with it in the same lance, with two more yet unidentified 'Mechs. It's a pity that the box didn't have a Hatamoto-Chi at all, it'd been another clearly Kuritan 'Mech that fits like a PPC bolt in a cockpit. Now I have to consult my Sources to choose what goes where. That Kurita Lance is going to be red, for example in the pattern of 2nd Sword of Light.

One of the lances is obviously going to be a Capellan one, maybe a Death Commandos scheme would be recognizable? Some of the heavier stuff goes to a Steiner lance, maybe in a Lyran Guards pattern and following that one goes to FedSuns, but preferrably not a disgustingly french-flag like Davion Guards unit, even though that's more than recognizable... Free Worlds League maybe needs one as well and the last one for ComStar because it's quite an important faction (Tukayyid).

On the other hand, FWL is such a boring bunch that maybe I should ignore them and paint one of the lances in a bit more important (story-wise) colours, maybe even a Free Rasalhague Republic or a more useful Mercenary unit. There are so many Mercs aroudn that it's not too easy to decide, but perhaps the Wolf's Dragoons are important enough, even though they're traitors. Kell Hounds are also important but maybe a bit overused, so something like the Gray Death Legion has such a cool name that I'm considering that one very seriously.

Oh and the posterified IS map:

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