Somewhere on my workbench hides a small band of Black Templar Space Marines, standing silent vigil over my projects to protect from xenos threats. In my storage case, rests an Imperial Guard Commissar, awaiting the Emperor's call to sally forth once more into the breach. If you look carefully in my long lost Photobucket, you may even find a proud, battle-hardened Tallarn commander.
I'm probably not suppossed to admit this.
I probably shouldn't be typing this.
But what I'm about to say will label me as a heretic and a traitor.
And I'm not the only one.
As much as we line up on opposite sides of the game room and leer at each other across tables while checking line of sight, Battletech Alpha Strike and Warhammer 40K players have a lot more in common than we may admit. Both groups share a passion for science fiction wargaming, an interest in painting and modeling armies of miniatures as a cash-vacuum hobby, and the gratification of playing these games with a community. What's more, even though we may not admit it, we share players, too. Many of the most reknowned painters and artists in the Battletech community have painted or still do modify, paint, and play Warhammer 40K. With the development of Alpha Strike, even more players can begin to reach out across multi-universe battlefields and join hands for what we all really enjoy--making "PEW! PEW!" noises as "little, plastic army men" fight each other with dice!
Ways of War
Battletech Alpha Strike and Warhammer 40K seem to be far seperate systems with little in common-it's like comparing Orks and Atlases. Page after page of tables and book after book of recordsheets make Battletech seem more like math than a game. Book after book, codex after codex, edition after edition of rules always seeming in flux for Warhammer 40K give the impression its a lawyer's game.
Instead, its a game of tactics and strategy, movement, attack, and defense. Careful thought and research goes into the construction of a force, designed to meet a certain play style, mission objective, or artistic aesthetic. Players take turns creating and adapting to ever-changing battlefield situations seeking to dominate the opposition. Dice rolls represent resolutions of actions with modifiers to factor in the increased or decreased likelihood these actions will succeed. Ultimately, one player will earn the greater victory points and control the field!
This description, however, applies to both games. The general structure and play of Alpha Strike and Warhammer 40K are very similar.
EVEN THE NAMES OF THE TURN PHASES ARE NEARLY IDENTICAL!
The major differences are that in Alpha Strike are the roll of initiative and damage resolution. At the beginning of each turn, players roll for initiative instead of establishing a turn order at the start of the game. This does add a bit of time to play, but also allows for interesting and creative adaptions to the dynamics of play. To make up for this a bit, when units resolve damage, they only roll to hit. If a to hit roll is successful, then the targeted unit takes all of the appropriate damage. No to hit and to wound rolls.
Rules and Supplements
Similar to Warhammer 40K, Alpha Strike as a core rule book, Alpha Strike, a book of optional rules, Alpha Strike Companion, and a series of army-specific guides known as Combat Manuals that serve a purpose similar to the Codexes. In addition to this, Alpha Strike players can use the Battletech Master Unit List (MUL) to access record sheets for nearly all published units available for free--you don't need to purchase a Combat Manual to build a force for play!
In addition to these, there is a wealth of Scenario Books and fiction to suplmement your play. If you'd like to build your own pilots and play them both inside and outside of a 'Mech, then check out the Battletech RPG.
The core Alpha Strike rule book is available in a simplified version for free!
Battletech has a reputation of requiring many volumes of data, databases of spreadsheets, and advanced degrees in calculus to complete. Fortunately, many of the rules related to these matters are optional. In the case of Alpha Strike, this is even more so. Overall, the sequence of play and rules for Alpha Strike lend it to short-to-moderate length games of 20 minutes to 2 hours or so. It is a quick to learn game that won't require exceptional investments of time or expanses of libraries to become a competitive player.
Comparing Orks to Atlases
If you're a player who prefers a particular flavor to their faction, there are many similarities between the forces of Alpha Strike and Warhammer 40K.
Space Marines = Clans (Warden Clans: Wolf, Ghost Bear, etc.) and Wolf's Dragoons
These are the no-nonsense, genetically modified, warrior societies. Bent on redeeming manking through superior breeding and firepower, the Warden Clans seek to restore the human race to a long lost golden era. The heroes of Mechwarrior 2 and Ghost Bear's Legacy, many recieved their firt introduction to Battletech through their initial experiences piloting Clan Wolf and Clan Ghost Bear 'Mechs.
Imperial Guard = Inner Sphere and Mercenary
Not as advanced, without the beefy men and machines of the Clans, the Great Houses of the Innersphere can hold their own against the onslaught of the Clans, Pirates, Word of Blake, and rival houses through their grit and tenacity. If you're familiar with Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries, Mechwarrior 3, Mechwarrior 4, or Mechwarrior Online, then you've tested your mettle with, and against, the armies of the Inner Sphere.
Eldar and Tau = Comstar
If you like to play a faction with a mysterious past and endless supply of advanced technology, the Comstar is the faction for you. Highly secretive masters of LosTech, Comstar is a quasi-religious faction responsible for preserving what remains of man's advancements made before and lost in the fires of the Succession Wars.
Orks = Periphery and Pirates
On the outskirts of civilization, in the pleasure circuses of Circinus or lurking in the shadows of uncharted asteriod fields, Periphery and Pirate factions offer players a chance to create unique forces with scapped and cobbled-together aesthetics.
Chaos = Word of Blake and Clans (Crusader Clans: Jade Falcon, Smoke Jaguar, etc.)
Both the Word of Blake and the Crusader Clans represent the default "bad guys" of Alpha Strike. In the names of their leaders and long-deceassed heroes, these groups have attempted to force their views upon the rest of the Inner Sphere through violence. If you're looking for the facton that does whatever it takes to win, doesn't mind installing cybernetic implants to improve combat performance at a loss of self, and generally want to be "that guy," then you will fit right in with the Word of Blake and Crusader Clans.
The range of possibilities for Alpha Strike armies is endless--from Succession Wars salvage look to new, pristine, and clean killing machines. Collecting, modifying, and painting a force for Alpha Strike is relatively easy. The Alpha Strike Lance Packs provide players with four plastic miniatures designed to work in conjunction as a unit. These Lance Packs also contain the stat cards for two varaints of each model to add some variety to your play experience! In addition to Lance Packs, Alpha Strike has a wide range of metal miniatures produced by Iron Wind Metals for both the Alpha Strike and Battletech lines.
One of the most important differences between Alpha Strike and Warhammer 40K is Alpha Strike does not use WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get"). In Alpha Strike, you are welcome to substitute miniatures and variants with other pieces--just exercise good sportsmanship and make sure your opponent is aware of the substitution from the start. Some of us have become accustomed to WYSIWYG, and have made great strides to create new, interesting, and dynamic Alpha Strike models.
Games of Alpha Strike normally pit players forces of one lance of 4 models to a company of 12 models against another with a PV between 100 and 450 points. The PV system, much like similar force-balancing systes in Warhammer 40K, is used to ensure some level of parity between forces, thereby making victory based on force design and tactics more than a question of "who has the best model?" Like in Warhammer 40K, you may come across an exceptional character or iconic machine; while these are definetly attention-getting pieces, they are not the single determining factor in the outcome of a battle.
Because of this design, it is possible to collect and paint a competitive and pleasing force for standard games in a relatively short period of time. What's more, using the Lance Packs and metal models from Iron Wind Metals, this means a player can purchase and field an average size force for less than $50.00!
Weapons On-Line//All Systems nominal
The best places to start for all things Alpha Strike is the Battletech website. This has primers on the universe, factions and armies, and a forum to meet other players.
When you're ready to build your force, use the tools available on the Battletech MUL to research, compare, and build and print unit cards for free!
The Catalyst Game Labs Shop has all your Alpha Strike rules, compendiums, and Lance Pack needs!
If you're looking to add some heavy metal to your force, check out Iron Wind Metals for a full line of Alpha Strike miniatures.
Camospecs Online is full of great modifications and fantastic paint schemes of miniatures from all factions and periods of the game. It is under construction at this time, so some features may not be active.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE HPG UPLINK (LINKS) PAGE FOR MORE GREAT RESOURCES!
ARE YOU A TRAITOR TO THE ARCHON? A HERETIC OF THE EMPIRE? POST YOUR EXPERIENCES CROSSING THROUGH THE WARP AND INTO THE CHAOS MARCH AND BACK IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!
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