Wednesday 13 February 2019

Battletech: Shattered Fortress

I am finally caught up on the Battletech universe! Which isn’t to imply that I’ve read all, or even nearly all, of its history. Only that I have read the most recent sourcebook that covers the furthest point that the Battletech history has reached (The year 3150).

Battletech:Shattered Fortress is another great addition to Battletech’s historical sourcebook line. Like the previous volumes I’ve read, this one gives you loads of information and really makes you feel like you are reading about a complex galaxy, made up of numerous sovereign states, locked in a continual political and military conflict. It is a goldmine of scenario ideas.

That said, there are a couple of things I found odd about this book compared to the previous volumes I have read. First, I felt there was a common pattern to how battles were discussed in the book. It seemed that a vast majority started with an overwhelming attack, then an unexpected gain by the defender, only for the attacker to win out in the end. Okay, there are only so many ways a battle can play out, and this certainly wasn't universal, but it almost started to feel like a rhythm to the book.

The other strange thing about this book is that the decision of the central protagonist, the move that kicks off most of the battles, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Essentially, ‘The Repulic of the Sphere’ which includes Earth and the nearest stars, has spent the last couple of decades hiding behind a ‘wall’ which prevented outside ships from jumping into any of their systems. Thus, The Republic was essentially untouchable. The story begins with the leader of the Republic turning off the wall and launching an attack in defence of one of the galaxy’s major states. But no reason is given for this move – in fact, the reason is intentionally obscured. That would be fine, except that in every other case in the book, the motivations of the leaders are expressly spelled out by an omniscient narrator. It was a little frustrating to have everything clearly presented except for the motivation of the main protagonist. Especially as the decision looks like a terrible one, as the Republic is immediately assaulted from several sides, and loses almost every battle...

Also, the book ends on a cliff-hanger. Basically, someone is attacking Earth, but the book doesn’t say who. This struck me as a little bit gimmicky, and again didn’t fit with the feel of the rest of the book.

On the whole though, those criticisms are minor. Overall, the book is extremely well-written (in fact the standard of writing in Battletech is noticeably higher than most gaming books on average). The artwork quality varies throughout the book, but is never terrible, and some of the pieces are excellent. The book contains very little game material (one new mech and some campaigns), but this isn’t what I wanted the book for anyway.

In the final analysis, it’s a nice volume that I’m glad to add to add to my collection. I’m glad to see the Battletech universe moving forward again as its ongoing history is what really sets it apart from most other games. If you are new to the setting, there is going to be a lot that is hard to follow, but if you want to get into it, I think the best approach is just to dive right in.


  1. Hopefully you are planning a big robot game to be released eventually...

  2. Someday, but that's the best I can say for now.

  3. The next big thing in Battletech will be the IlClan story/event/book and that is what Shattered Fortress is gearing up towards.

    The Republic only walled off 10% of its systems, so there is incentive to avoid walling off permanently. Stone also knows that he will need allies to deal with the threats to the Republic and hiding behind the wall would've left his allies to die one by one.

    Also, the narrator's for the source books are not omniscient, these are written as in universe publications with a sometimes limited perspective. This gives future authors some freedom to write novels and plan future events.

    I'm excited to see what happens next, possibly at GenCon...

  4. To be honest, I only play the game up to 3025, occasionally some of the original Clan invasions but I think it's at it's best with the 'early tech' rules. Some of the timeline after the Fourth Succession war makes absolutely no sense at all :(