GTM #292 - BattleTech 40th Anniversary
by Catalyst Game Labs


 BattleTech Alpha Strike by Catalyst Game Labs

For experienced wargamers looking for a faster way to play, or for new gamers wanting an exciting, rules-light system to introduce them to the world of wargaming, BattleTech: Alpha Strike is the box set to stock.

With Alpha Strike marking its 10th anniversary, this refreshed game box contains everything for two players to start rolling dice immediately. In addition to two evenly matched forces across 13 miniatures, the Alpha Strike box set contains foldable cardstock buildings and trees, tokens, and cards. Played on a standard six-foot by four-foot table, Alpha Strike’s fast-moving, pick-up-and-play nature has endeared itself to players worldwide.

Designed for the modern tabletop wargamer, Alpha Strike uses unit cards and streamlined damage rules to emphasize ease of play. The quick-start ruleset and cheat sheet included in the box covers standardized rules. Cards are included with each of Catalyst’s BattleTech ForcePacks that are translatable to Alpha Strike, and allow the packs to be easily slotted into any force using the attached points cost.

BattleTech Alpha Strike by Catalyst Game Labs

The two forces in the box prominently feature some of the most iconic and well-loved designs from BattleTech’s history, like the Timber Wolf, Fire Moth, Atlas, Phoenix Hawk and Archer. In addition, new miniatures of the Clan Pouncer and the Inner Sphere Wraith—currently available only in this box—lend their firepower to their respective factions. The durable plastic miniatures come assembled out of the box without the need for glue and are supplied unpainted. In addition, the box comes with a short story by rising star Bryan Young, and a primer of the BattleTech setting to further entice players into its incredible 40-year history.

Inside the rulebook, gameplay is organized into simple turn structures that modern war gamers will find familiar. After determining who has initiative with a dice roll, the player who loses the initiative moves their first unit. The opponent then moves their first unit, and movement activations pass back and forth to simulate the delicate tactical balance of movement and counter movement. Using a standardized range band system to determine damage, the player who loses initiative makes whatever attacks they can with their entire force first. The opponent then returns fire with every eligible unit, even if that unit took enough damage to destroy it during their opponent’s attack phase. All damage effects come into play during the end phase, and the round resets. Initiative is rolled, and the game continues until the scenario has been completed, or one side is utterly destroyed.

BattleTech Alpha Strike by Catalyst Game Labs

The two forces in the box are vastly different from each other, though they share similar themes. The Inner Sphere counts more miniatures on its side, and features an array of classic ’Mechs to delight the old-school player. Striding high is the imposing Atlas. Loping along behind enemy lines is the swift Locust. Delivering long range fire support is the Archer and rapid threat elimination is the forte of the Phoenix Hawk. The four other ’Mechs, all fully redesigned, include the unyielding Warhammer, the winsome Wasp, the reliable Blackjack and the box-exclusive Wraith. This swift ’Mech hunter uses its superior mobility and close-range punch to take down more durable enemies.

Comparatively, the Clan forces feature the deadliest battlefield predators their technological ingenuity can muster. Whether shrugging off enemy fire in the Warhawk, barging through enemy blockades with the Timber Wolf, harassing opposing lines in the Fire Moth, or burning through all comers in the Nova, the Clans practice a brutal and direct form of warfare, perfect for the more aggressive player. With the exclusive Pouncer adding its long-range fire support, the Clan forces stand firm against their Inner Sphere counterparts, outnumbered but never outgunned.

BattleTech Alpha Strike by Catalyst Game Labs

The Alpha Strike card system is exceptionally simple to use. With the main statistics of movement, damage and armor prominently displayed on the centerline of the card, referencing them in the heat of battle is easy, with no need for extra rulebooks. Used alongside the quick reference sheet, printed on durable cardstock, players will find the amount of stat checking is low compared to many other games, and much easier. The cards fit within a standard card sleeve and can be marked on with a dry erase marker without risking permanent damage. Alongside the unit cards, the included pilot cards bring life and character to the battlefield, offering a unique opportunity for players to change up their game. While a nameless pilot may make their own glory in a pick-up game, these wizened warriors add new layers of tactical play with their unique abilities, enhancing replay value and aiding in campaign play.

BattleTech Alpha Strike by Catalyst Game Labs

The Alpha Strike box retails at 79.99USD, competitively priced compared to other major game systems. It is compatible out of the box with all other Catalyst Game Labs BattleTech miniature products, which also feature the necessary Alpha Strike cards. While this box is a starter set, the cautious buyer would be well served to know that this is a complete system without any need for expansion packs. To further enhance the experience, additional counters with building stands are available (Alpha Strike Counters Pack), as well as an expanded rulebook with scenarios and further in-depth rules (Alpha Strike: Commander’s Edition). Sourcebooks from the Catalyst era of BattleTech are also written with Alpha Strike in mind, with stats and scenarios reflecting AS rulesets.

If your war gamers are tired of getting nickel-and-dimed by constantly shifting rulesets, sick of spindly models or just looking for a new sci-fi universe to conquer, BattleTech Alpha Strike is their next stop. Affordable, durable, and fully realized, Alpha Strike is the answer to mass BattleMech combat that gamers have been hungry for since the first days of BattleTech four decades ago.