Today we went down to the games store to play BattleTech. There's a small but loyal group of fans who play the original skirmish minis game there, in its modern incarnation which doesn't look out of place on the shelf even if its rules are still 80's-tastic.
For the uninitiated, BattleTech is basically what happened when North American military history enthusiasts got ahold of the first Macross Saga anime VHS cassette tapes, and officially licensed its mecha designs for a tabletop "wargame" of the kind that was state-of-the-art back then. Most people aren't into that kind of thing, so you're more likely to have heard of the MechWarrior series, which are PC and console games set in the BattleTech 'verse.
Over the decades, BattleTech has had tons of lore written for it, of a sort which is actually kind of refreshing coming from Warhammer 40,000. Because while "40k" fetishizes neo-feudalism, BattleTech deconstructs it, in much the same vein as Analogue: A Hate Story. The giant "mechs" shooting at each other are largely a backdrop for stories of political intrigue and interpersonal drama, each of which serves to underscore just how dysfunctional societies are in their time and have been throughout history.
Case in point: The recently released House Kurita Handbook, which we're dying to get our hands on, describes an interstellar realm which deliberately regressed to be an echo of feudal Japan ... or at least, of the parts of it that future space settlers idealized. Including state Shinto shrines devoted largely to warrior ancestors and the Coordinator, and not so much to nature or traditional gods.
Our personal BattleTech character -- we create one for every game -- is a shrine maiden at one of the few which enshrine Inari Ōkami, in our headcanon. Because this is a mecha anime, some of the miko are entrusted with the shrine's ancient BattleMechs, a "lance" of four with widely varying capabilities. They are some of the few women who were allowed to pilot these vehicles before Theodore Kurita's military reforms, and over the years they have been subordinated so much to the male-only DCMS that they are not even permitted to use live ordnance.
Let the games begin
The person who runs these games has been basically doing them as a training exercise. There's no narrative backdrop to them; everyone uses an app to get a random BattleMech, and just has at it until theirs blows up. Then they reroll, and the battle continues that way until the store closes.
The other two players who were there when we showed up got a Banshee and a Cyclops, two extremely large and powerful mechs. Meanwhile, we got a Jenner ... which I guess is thematically appropriate to our character but is also very much a Fragile Speedster in TVTropes language. Adding insult to injury, it had only a single large laser mounted on it, while the others (the Cyclops especially) were bristling with weaponry.
(The fourth player, who showed up after we'd gotten started, piloted a Quickdraw which had a loadout including two rear-mounted medium lasers. Having played some of the MechWarrior games, we are not sure how the hell his pilot was aiming those things.)
Fortunately, the faster you push your mech the harder it is to hit you. So we were darting around the hex map at 100+ kph, trying to score a hit whenever we could, and basically being an armoured mosquito. On these walking tanks, which could take like 20+ shots from our lazor before even noticing that we were there.
Eventually it got blown off, and since no one was in range for a Death From Above jump attack that turn we just decided to eject and try again next time. ^^;
We still had fun, though! It's not often that we get to play with these miniature robots and admire their paint schemes and things. The best parts, though, were as follows:
When we introduced ourself to a player who asked our name, we not only told him but also requested that he call us and our pilot "her." Everyone seemed okay with it, and no one acted weird around us after that as far as we could tell.
There were three other women there playing minis games! Usually I'm the only one. <_> This time one was playing D&D Dungeon Command in the back, one was playing Malifaux, and another was playing Hordes with her son, using the two-player box set.
We're going to come back next week, and bring our Retribution of Scyrah myrmidons and battle engine against their warbeasts. Wish us luck! Both with the game, and with painting our models between now and then.
Finally, a note
For our close friends and family members who've been watching our fragile mental state lately ... I think we really need to have more days like this. Because it helped.