Category Archives: Historical

Devlin Stone’s Origins Revealed

Deviln Stone's Atlas II

Courtesy of flyingdebris on DeviantArt

There’s a lot of mysteries in the BattleTech universe. Who was the Bounty Hunter? What caused the HPG Blackout of 3132? What did Victor Steiner Davion like to have with his coffee? These are questions we may never have the answers to.

But every so often a mystery gets solved when a BattleTech line developer descends from on high into the depths of a forum and drops a bombshell.

One of those mysteries is the origins of Devlin Stone. You might recall Devlin from the least-liked era of BattleTech history, the Dark Age. After leading a rebellion on the conquered world of Kittery against the Word of Blake, he eventually became the general of an army that defeated the entire Wobbie army and retook Terra. Then he got installed as Exarch of the newly formed Republic of the Sphere and he lived was happily ever after.

Devlin Stone

That is until he announced his retirement. Then he sort of disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared and never came back.

As weird as it is for this monumental hero to just show up out of nowhere, it’s almost just as weird for him to step back from the limelight with little fanfare. I mean, it would’ve made more sense for him to just die of a heart attack like Hanse did.

But narrative criticisms aside (which we could lob at the Dark Age all day long), Devlin did play an important role in BattleTech history, so we should have some idea of his origins. For the longest time, there were only rumors perpetuated by sourcebooks and novels. The biggest one was that Devlin Stone was actually Arthur Steiner Davion returned from the grave.

There’s little hard evidence to support this, but what little there is can seem compelling. First, Patriots and Tyrants strongly implies that Arthur did not, in fact, die in the bomb explosion that supposedly took his life. Second, the sourcebook Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents reveals that Arthur was in fact captured by Word of Blake and sent to Kittery, where Stone would eventually rise to prominence. Finally, the pair seem to share political views as revealed by Arthur’s speech just before he was assassinated and Devlin Stone’s actions in creating the Republic of the Sphere.

Arthur Steiner Davion

And that’s where Devlin’s story rested for many years until assistant BattleTech line developer Ray Arrastia dropped this news in the BattleTech forums a few weeks ago:

“Here’s the thing. Stone was a Rabid Foxes operative, and one of those four was Stone’s cover identity. While Stone was intended to be a ‘nobody,’ he wasn’t supposed to be ‘no one special.’

“But all that’s unofficial unless it ever gets published somehow, and any window for delving into Stone’s past likely closed years ago, IMO.”

When Ray refers to four cover identities he’s referring to documents revealed in Masters and Minions: The StarCorps Dossiers that link Stone’s physical characteristics with prisoners on Kittery.

And there you have it. Another BattleTech mystery solved by a benevolent line developer. Will this improve the Dark Age narrative in any way? Probably not, but it’s nice to know some of the details.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.  

stay syrupy

Blaine Lee Pardoe Provides Fascinating Look At “Twilight Of The Clans” Origins


courtesy of punakettu on DeviantArt

Blaine Lee Pardoe recently posted to his personal blog with a fascinating story of BattleTech’s most exciting era: Twilight of the Clans.

I think most of us can agree that Blaine is one of BattleTech’s greatest authors. For me, he’s right behind Mike Stackpole (sorry Blaine, I just like the political intrigue too much!), but Blaine’s ‘Mech battles were always the best of the best. And in a recent post on his blog, Blaine told the tale of what is perhaps the highest point of BattleTech lore, and that’s the lead up to Task Force Serpent and the Inner Sphere invasion of Huntress, the home planet of Clan Smoke Jaguar.

Exodus Road

Back in that era of BattleTech’s history, novels drove the universe forward and products were released in time with the novels so people could play out the battles they’d just recently read about. Lately it’s been sourcebooks that have been driving things, but hopefully that’ll change with the release of more fiction this year.

But I digress. As Mr. Pardoe tells it, the origins of the Smoke Jaguar’s demise came over meals at Gen Con with many of BattleTech’s greatest authors and creators sitting around a table and weirding out all the normies. Sam Lewis pitched the idea of the Inner Sphere turning things around and having the Inner Sphere invade the Clans, and Pardoe was given the task of setting that stage. Or as Blaine puts it, “kind of the sacrificial lamb role.”

But how could the Inner Sphere get the route back to the Clan Homeworlds? Rather than have a Smoke Jaguar work with a ComStar agent to betray the clans, things were originally going to be a lot different.

“The original plan I came up with was to hijack a Clan warship and take the information of the route to the homeworlds from their navcomputer,” writes Pardoe. “That was what I drafted at least. It was no more than three paragraphs at this stage. There was a ground battle at a spaceport (you had to have some ‘Mech combat after all) then the team would make their way to the ship in orbit, seize her in a furious shipboard battle against Elementals – and the route to the Clan homeworlds would belong to the Inner Sphere. I called it Exodus Road, the route back along Kerensky’s exodus route. More importantly, I got to play with a warship which was something I always wanted for Christmas but never got.”


While Blaine would eventually get to play with warships, the plot for the first book would change dramatically before the final draft got in. Instead of invading Strana Mechty and holding the main Clan genetic repository hostage, the attack was focused on the Jaguars and invading Huntress. The source of the exodus road was also changed to Trent, a disenfranchised Jaguar warrior, rather than the hijack of a Clan warship.

Eventually, things arrived at Exodus Road, the first book of the Twilight of the Clans saga.

There’s way more interesting behind the scenes stuff on Blaine’s blog post, so go check it out. He even drops a bombshell about the fate of Trent!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Polygon Does a Nifty Spread on BattleTech

Polygon Does a Nifty Spread on BattleTech

courtesy of Polygon

A couple weeks back the fine folks over at Polygon decided to run a huge spread on all things BattleTech, covering the latest from Harebrained Schemes and PGI (along with their latest teaser video for Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries), but also going way further than most mainstream publications ever go and actually interviewing the creators of BattleTech itself: Jordan Weisman, Randall Bills, and L. Ross Babcock.

Mech Minis

For BattleTech history buffs (of which I know there’s quite a few of you around) there’s not a whole lot new being told in the interview, but there are a few nice tidbits to be had in the interview such as how Babcock and Weisman decided to demo their first edition of the BattleTech box set. Apparently, rather than merely mark down the battle damage their ‘Mechs were taking, the two of them would take it a step further and actually take a power drill to the figurines after they took a PPC hit.

“Those were the demo games we ran. They’d get good crowds going because everyone was saying, ‘Those maniacs are pulling apart these beautiful figures with a pair of pliers!’ So that was our first marketing campaign, just going around, doing those demo games and burning up our products for fun.”

On top of that, there was one pretty awesome story about a marketing stunt FASA pulled in 1988 at GenCon 21. Back then, the marriage between House Steiner and House Davion in the year 3028 was big news, and to commemorate the occasion Weisman and company invited everyone to a fake wedding held at the convention.


The whole thing was done as a radio event, with the announcer describing how the fictional wedding went down millennia in the future. They also served cake, and just as everyone was finishing, the announce dropped the big twist: that the Federated Commonwealth was invading House Liao, and on everyone’s plates were planets that were being invaded.

Those people then took part in a massive tabletop game, the results of which were used to create the next series of sourcebooks and novels.

Polygon also put out a very nice timeline of events, which of course Sarna has had for eons, but you can’t fault them for trying. Their timeline only goes up to 3049, which stops a bit short of the known boundaries of BattleTech lore. Again, can’t fault them for trying.

The whole thing is totally worth a look if you haven’t seen it already, so head on over to Polygon and check out their BattleTech features.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Missile Boats


courtesy of Battletech Community user Dragonmack

One of the oldest military strategies ever created is to hurl rocks at your opponent until they quit. In the thousands of years of human evolution since then, the rocks may have gotten more technologically advanced, but the strategy has remained largely the same: keep chucking rocks and encourage your foe to go bother someone else.

To that end, BattleTech has seen a number of ‘Mech designs follow the same philosophy. Except instead of hurling rocks, they hurl long range missiles, and instead of throwing just a few, they toss dozens of missiles into the air at once. Gather a bunch of them together, and you’ve got yourself a firing line worthy of an 1812 Overture.

Although some may find the term derogatory, enthusiasts of the strategy have given these particular designs the descriptive name of Missile Boats. Their ethos is simple: load up on as many LRMs as you can carry and let the lesser ‘Mechs get their hands dirty while you send long-ranged destruction at the enemy from a very safe distance.

Some Mechwarriors call Missile Boat pilots cowards, but who do they call when their position is about to be overrun by a combined arms company? The forward artillery lance, comprised almost entirely of the tried, tested, and true Missile Boat.

Here’s a few of the more famous Missile Boat ‘Mechs throughout the ages of BattleTech.



We begin with one of the smaller designs to call itself a Missile Boat, the WTH-1 Whitworth. Although capable of carrying a respectable 20 LRMs at 40 tons, the Whitworth was never a particularly popular design as it was both slower than most ‘Mechs in its weight class and unable to outfight enemy ‘Mechs that got in close, being armed only with 3 Medium Lasers for close ranged combat. This lead many House militaries to give the Whitworth the unflattering nickname of “Worthless”.

That said, the Whitworth saw combat from its inception in 2610 right up until the Jihad era of the 3070s. But by then the factories which had been producing replacement components for the Whitworth had moved on to more capable and modern designs, and now the Whitworth can only be seen amongst pirates, some of the poorer mercenary groups, and Periphery nations.



The TBT-5N Trebuchet seems to correct many of the Whitworth’s shortcomings by being nearly 15 km/h faster, and by carrying a larger contingent of 30 Long Range Missiles. It is however armed with the same 3 Medium Lasers as the Whitworth, which make it vulnerable to enemy ‘Mechs that manage to sneak inside its missile umbrella.

For this reason, the Trebuchet was designed from the outset as a ‘Mech that was supposed to operate as part of a lance rather than a single machine. Often paired with the Centurion for greater flexibility in combat, lances comprised of both machines were highly effective, able to severely damage most opponents at long range before using their lasers and autocannons to finish off their foe.

Various factories around the Inner Sphere obtained the license to produce the Trebuchet, and it would remain a popular sight amongst all House forces for centuries.



One of the most distinctive designs ever created, the CPLT-1 Catapult is what most Mechwarriors think of when they hear the term Missile Boat. The Catapult is armed with 30 LRMs, just as with the Trebuchet, and mounts 4 Medium Lasers as well as 5 additional heat sinks to deal with close in threats, making it capable of defending itself when necessary. It does, however, sacrifice some mobility over the Trebuchet, having a top speed of only 64.8 km/h.

Notable for the Catapult is how its popularity led to several retrofits that often had nothing to do with its original role as a long range missile delivery platform. The CPLT-K2 variant fielded by House Kurita swapped out the twin LRM-15s for paired PPCs as well as enough heat sinks to fire them almost continuously. The CPLT-C3 swapped the missiles for a more dedicated artillery system, the Arrow IV, giving the Catapult a true over-the-horizon weapon. Taking a different tack, the CPLT-C2 swaps out the medium lasers for paired LB 2-X Autocannons, albeit with help from Endo Steel internals and an extralight engine.



The only Clan ‘Mech to appear on this list, the Crossbow is a highly unusual design amongst the Clans. Most Clan Mechwarriors find the sort of long range combat typical of Missile Boats to be dishonorable, preferring direct fire weapons. The entirely missile-based Crossbow, with a primary configuration of 40 LRMs, is thus a rare sight amongst any Clan Touman.

It should be noted that this doesn’t mean there aren’t Missile Boat variants of other OmniMechs (the Alt-D configuration of the Stormcrow and Alt-B configuration of the Summoner come to mind), only that the Crossbow is unique among OmniMechs for having most of its configurations feature LRMs.

That said, the lack of flexibility in the design has made it unpopular with the Steel Viper Touman, to the point where it is often relegated to second-line or garrison Clusters.



When you think of ‘Mechs capable of putting out a wall of long range missiles, no ‘Mech comes more immediately to mind than the Salamander. Armed with a whopping 60 LRMs, the 80 ton PPR-5S Salamander is capable of fulfilling the role of fire support all on its own without any additional Missile Boats to help it.

All that long range firepower comes at a steep price, however, as the Salamander is virtually defenseless against enemies that manage to slip into close range. Armed with a pair of Medium Lasers, and too slow to escape, the Salamander is easy prey to lighter ‘Mechs that go unnoticed by an unwary pilot.

This flaw hasn’t seemed to keep the Salamander down, as it saw service throughout most of House Davion’s conflicts, serving with distinction as the primary fire support ‘Mech in most of their regiments. The Salamander would remain a popular choice through the Jihad and into the Dark Age era of BattleTech.

Was there a Missile Boat ‘Mech that we missed that you really think should be mentioned? Let us know in the comments section below!

And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did you know? BattleTech Comics

Back in its early days, BattleTech was way more than just a board game. It was a Saturday morning cartoon, a tradable card game, paintable model kits, and for a brief moment, a comic book series.

Published by the now defunct Blackthorne Publishing Inc., the comics had quite a limited production run. The first comic books ran for a total of 6 regular issues, plus one “annual” issue and a single “BattleTech in 3D” issue. The series never really had an overarching plot and really told several smaller stories in the 3025 era, with the first/second and fifth/sixth issues being the only ones with any relation to the other.

I won’t go into the details and spoil it for you, but I will say the canonicity of these comics is questionable as the authors get quite a few things wrong. On the other hand, this was way back in the early days of BattleTech, so we can cut the authors some slack as they didn’t have a handy resource like Sarna to do all the fact checking with.

That said, the quality of these comics was also not high. There were many inconsistencies between the art in the comics and the art depicted in the wider range of BattleTech products. Worse still was the fact there were many misspellings across issues for named characters or even within the same issue. For example, Lieutenant Max from the first issue could have his full name spelled “Maximillan” or “Maximillian” depending on which page you’re on.

In conjunction with the larger run of BattleTech comics were the BattleForce comics. Intended as a three issue mini-series, Blackthorne Publishing managed to get out two issues but never finished the third. Blackthorne ran into financial problems in 1988, forcing them to discontinue their line of color comic books, of which BattleTech and BattleForce were a part of.

Blackthorne struggled to hold on long enough to print the black and white BattleTech Annual, which combined the first 2 issues into a single story and made a continuation on the third issue. They also made BattleTech 3D, a standalone story where the reader would put on those cliche red and blue glasses to have the images pop out in simulated 3D. But in 1990, Blackthorne closed their doors for good, ending the BattleTech comic strip.

This wouldn’t be the end of BattleTech and comic books though. With the release of the BattleTech animated series in the mid 90’s also came the rebirth of the BattleTech comics. Called BattleTech: Fallout, the 4 issue comic series chronicled a ragtag team of fugitives as they became an effective fighting force to defeat the Clans on the periphery planet of Star’s End.

Published by Malibu Comics Entertainment, the comics used the same computer generated art that was featured in the animated series. The rest of the comic is of notably higher quality than those published by Blackthorne, but there were again some canonicity issues. The series takes place in 3050, however the protagonist lance features a Rakshasa, Raven and Wolf Trap, ‘Mechs that would never be seen in the deep periphery, and the Rakshasa wouldn’t even be built until the year 3055.

Still, the Fallout comics are an entertaining read, and well worth looking for the next time you find yourself in an old comic book store with tons of 80’s and 90’s stuff.

It seems unlikely for there to ever be another print run of BattleTech comics, but that doesn’t stop BattleTech comics from being created. No Guts No Galaxy lovingly maintains an archive of two BattleTech webcomics – Critical Hits and Dustbowl Shindig – over on their forums. If you’ve ever wondered what talking ‘Mechs would be like, go check Critical Hits. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

image courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy

Do you know some weird or obscure BattleTech trivia? We’d love to hear it!  Leave a message in the comments, or email me!

Did You Know? Tale of the Unseen ‘Mechs

From the very beginning, BattleTech has been a game with a lot of controversy. Even the first edition name landed BattleTech in hot water. But another fateful decision would cast a long shadow over the fledgling universe, one that only recently has been put to rest. What I refer to is known colloquially as the Unseen ‘Mechs.

Cue spooky music.

Many of you older MechWarriors recall (or remember from our previous article) that the original ‘Mechs featured in BattleTech were actually all taken from Japanese anime, namely Macross, Fang of the Sun Dougram, and Crusher Joe. While these cartoons were middling at best, the mechas they featured were something the West had never seen before, and this novelty drew the owners of FASA to license the imagery from Twentieth Century Imports for use in their robot-inspired tabletop game.

That was 1984, the year the first edition of BattleTech (then called Battledroids) would be made. All seemed well at first; sales of the game were solid, and plans were already being made to expand the universe and release a second edition. Then, FASA got a letter in the mail from another company called Harmony Gold. The letter said they owned the rights to the mechas that FASA thought they licensed from Twentieth Century Imports, and they had to cease all use immediately.

Then, in 1985, a new show started appearing on TV called Robotech, which had robots that looked strikingly similar to the ones featured in BattleTech.

But it was the 1980’s, nobody had really ever heard of Macross, and FASA crumpled up that letter and threw it in the garbage. OK, we don’t know if they literally threw it in the garbage, but they essentially ignored it – at least, at first. Then, in 1985, a new show started appearing on TV called Robotech, which was essentially Macross recut and rebranded for the more refined American pallet, and wouldn’t you know, it had robots that looked strikingly similar to the ones featured in BattleTech.

Then, FASA got another letter from Harmony Gold, again saying they owned the rights to those ‘Mechs, and they had to pull them from their games. Now FASA was paying attention, and according to court documents, this “sparked an exchange of correspondence between the parties, including numerous cease and desist letters from Harmony Gold.” That exchange can be boiled down to a he-said, she-said where Harmony Gold argued they bought the rights to the Macross images, to which FASA countered by saying they owned them since they bought them a year earlier from Twentieth Century Imports. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In fact this went on for nearly a decade, and while there was a lot of animosity between the two companies, nobody was willing to sue. That is until 1994, when another company, Playmates, came out with a line of toys that looked suspiciously familiar.

Exosquad was a short-lived cartoon for which Playmates made little robot action figures. FASA had previously pitched the idea of a line of similar BattleTech-themed toys to Playmates, along with supporting sketches, but Playmates turned them down. Then, Playmates decided to throw a Timberwolf-esque design into their Exosquad line of toys.

That was enough for FASA, and they sued Playmates for copyright infringement, arguing the new toy line infringed on exclusive imagery owned and produced in-house. From the hindsight of 2017, it’s pretty easy to see that toy rather strongly resembles a Timberwolf. However, to a circa 1994 judge’s eyes, deciding a case between two long-feuding companies, the similarities weren’t enough, and the case was dismissed.

One good lawsuit deserves another though, and in a legal bait-and-switch, Playmates brought in Harmony Gold, who were all too eager to counter-sue FASA for copyright violations of their Macross-sourced imagery. “How’d they manage that?”, you ask. Well, Playmates also made a line of toys for Robotech, and they got their Macross image license from – you guessed it – Harmony Gold.

This case looked like it could go badly for FASA – having purchased the rights from Twentieth Century Imports meant that they were once removed from the original art production company, while Harmony Gold had gone straight to the Tatsunoko art studio to secure the rights for themselves.

However, part of that settlement meant that FASA could no longer use the ‘Mechs that were sourced from Macross.

Things were looking grim for our heroes, but lady luck was on FASA’s side. In a series of legal slip-ups, Harmony Gold provided FASA’s lawyers with quite a few letters during discovery that brought into question Harmony Gold’s sole ownership of the rights to Macross. The legal waters having been sufficiently muddied, Harmony Gold decided to settle rather than go to trial.

However, part of that settlement meant that FASA could no longer use the ‘Mechs that were sourced from Macross. This meant the end for the Wasp, Stinger, Phoenix Hawk, Crusader, Warhammer, Longbow, Rifleman, Marauder, and Archer.

The whole ordeal had left a foul taste in their mouths, so FASA didn’t stop at just Macross. They decided to end use of any art produced out-of-house for their ‘Mechs, which meant even the non-Marcoss ‘Mechs had to go. Thus, in 1996, the era of the Unseen ‘Mechs began.

For long-time BattleTech fans, it was a hard blow. Many had grown up with these ‘Mechs, and to have them yanked away was devastating.

Things stayed in that sad state for a long time. In 2001, FASA closed their doors and sold all their intellectual property, making the rebirth of these classics even more unlikely. But in 2003, a light shown from above on the poor Unseen. FanPro had purchased the license to the BattleTech tabletop game, and decided to bring back the Unseen ‘Mechs in a Technical Readout called Project: Phoenix.

Catalyst Game Labs would take up the mantle of BattleTech’s champions in 2007 and continue the fight for the Unseen.

Just because FASA wasn’t around didn’t mean that FanPro could start using the original Macross images though. To abide by the court settlement, they made brand new art based loosely on the original designs, but updated to match the technology used in 3067. While they weren’t quite the classics everybody remembered, the old boys were back, and better than ever.

Still, the pull of nostalgia is a strong one, and die-hard fans really wanted their old designs back. Catalyst Game Labs would take up the mantle of BattleTech’s champions in 2007 and continue the fight for the Unseen. In June 2009, for a brief, shining moment, it seemed like they’d secured the Unseen’s release, but those hopes were quickly dashed in August when they released a similar statement saying they may have spoken too soon.

For 6 more years the saga of the Unseen lingered on, until finally in 2015, Catalyst Games announced they would re-release the Unseen, this time with new art as true to the originals as they legally could make them. Considering the original art often seemed like it was drawn in pen on the back of a napkin (I kid, they have a delightful 80’s aesthetic), while the new art was clean, crisp, and often more closely corresponded with technical specifications, fans were pretty pleased with the new art, and the BattleTech community rejoiced. The Unseen had finally come home.

Now in 2017, it seems the tale of the Unseen ‘Mechs has finally come to a close. The Unseen have returned to the fold, and can be found in everything from the Alpha Strike table top game to MechWarrior Online, to yet to be released BattleTech and MechWarrior 5. We here at Sarna are certainly glad to have them back.

I should have the broad strokes right, but court documents from the 90’s can be hard to dig up. Got any juicy tidbits I missed?  Leave a reply in the comments!

The Art of BattleTech – A Retrospective

From its earliest days, the art of BattleTech has evoked a strong emotional connection from its audience.

Awe, fear, joy – the sight of these giant death machines has struck a chord with many a fan.

With such emotion, and with many companies paying for the privilege, the original board game has fueled the imagination of countless artists, each bringing a slightly different vision of our most cherished ‘Mechs.

Today we put in our fancy monocle, start sticking out our pinkie finger whilst holding a saucer of tea, and take a critical look at the art of BattleTech and how it has evolved over the years.


We begin our analysis with a classic design first seen in BattleTech’s second edition. I can think of no other ‘Mech that better exemplifies the evolution of design that has been a hallmark BattleTech.

First, on the left, we see the original work penned by Duane Loose, whose Crusher Joe inspiration can be clearly seen in this image from the 3025 TRO. Next we see a logical refinement, nearly identical but cleaner, more streamlined. Third we see the Phoenix design, a complete reimagining of the chassis due to a legal dispute preventing the ‘Mech’s original artwork from being published. Fourth we see the modern iteration of the Locust for the Alpha Strike miniatures game. Note the return of Unseen design elements, such as the chin turret, while retaining the somewhat bulkier legs and hips assembly of the “phoenix” design. Finally, the most modern incarnation by Alex “Flyingdebris” Iglesais, which takes consideration of MechWarrior Online’s mechanics for his version, removing the turret but retaining the squat legs and fuselage.


A ‘Mech that has seen perhaps less change but no less refinement is the Wolfhound. The earliest illustrations seem almost quaint when compared to the later works.

The first image is almost like a babe taking its first tentative steps, the artist’s perspective lines still showing around the shoulder cowls and large laser. The second has more bold movement, but still seems unsure and hesitant. Next we find the Wolfhound has finally found its stride, confidently surging forward while firing. The artist has clearly taken into account the design’s full-head ejection system by giving the cockpit the boxy appearance of a spacecraft. Finally we see the Wolfhound as a mature adult, striding with purpose and without the need for flashy fireworks. Game design considerations take the fore once again, as the rear-firing medium laser is moved to the front. The boxy cockpit also found a few additional angles while retaining its essential form. The Wolfhound’s evolution is subtle, and yet profound.


I have always found the Crab to be a delectably mysterious ‘Mech.

The earliest iteration’s right claw enclosed laser made perfect sense, but the closed fist of the left hand would always fly in the face of the technical readout’s insistence that the left arm actually possessed another large laser. Then we see what would appear to be a laser atop the left hand, but find the small laser mounted on the head to be absent. Our third refinement would not only find that small laser, but add a measure of symmetry to the design by giving it claws in both arms. And finally in our last work we find the elusive cockpit, conspicuously lacking from all previous imaginings of the chassis.


The Marauder is a delightful case study of law, game mechanics, and lore battling for supremacy in art.

The first presents the ‘Mech in all its imposing glory, 80’s stylized background providing a sense of scale. The second image gives us some insight as to the ‘Mech’s true personality, all carefree and whimsical. Dark days are ahead for our jolly death machine, as legal issues would force a drastic design change.

In our third picture we find the Marauder to be all business, having donned the serious attire of a BattleMech beset by lawyers. But as soon as the litigious atmosphere recedes we see our friendly Marauder has returned, perhaps somewhat chastened by his time as an Unseen ‘Mech. Finally, the MechWarrior Online version combines the earnestness of the Phoenix era design with the eccentric flare of the original; most notably one sees the autocannon slightly offset to the right, more in keeping with the technical design specifications of the chassis than an artist’s imaginings of the classic machine.


Few ‘Mechs are as timeless as the Atlas. Despite its years, we see that the overall look has hardly changed at all. If anything it has only gotten more brutal and monstrous – the eyes becoming sunken slits, the cockpit descending beneath and betwixt two shoulders more massive than its skull-like head. A truly fearsome sight.

Most interesting about the design is how long it took for the art to actually catch up with the armament. In the beginning we see clearly the arm-mounted laser, SRM-6 and Autocannon, but the LRM-20 is nary to be seen. In the next two works we see what appears to be two LRM-10s rather than the single LRM-20 the ‘Mech actually carries, and one of the rear-mounted medium lasers seems to have found it’s way to the fore. The most modern depiction of the Atlas retains the double LRM-10 as a nod to the artist’s which came before, while also bringing the other rear-mounted medium laser to the front so it can once again be with its sibling. Unfortunately, modern Atlas pilots will no longer have satellite television, as the dish antenna on the cockpit has been removed due to budget cuts.

All of these are fine examples of where BattleTech art has come from, as well as where it is going. We here at Sarna can’t wait to see what artists will imagine next.

We leave you with a question: what ‘Mech do you think has evolved the most drastically? Leave your reply in the comments!

Did You Know? BattleTech Was Originally Called BattleDroids

In an alternate reality where Star Wars doesn’t exist and BattleTech reigns as the penultimate science fiction franchise, it wouldn’t be called BattleTech – it would be called Battledroids.

For the tale of how Battledroids would eventually become BattleTech we must head back to the hazy days of 1984. FASA had just released their first successful table top RPG in Star Trek, and were eager to expand their product line. Then, at a hobby and trade show, Jordan and company came across a vendor importing miniature model kits of giant robots from out of production anime such as Macross and Crusher Joe. Having overestimated their appeal in Japan, the model kits were being dumped on the North American market, allowing FASA to pick them up for a steal. Thus, BattleTech can trace its artistic origins to old anime (which would eventually result in the “Unseen” ‘Mechs). FASA reached out to those Japanese companies for licensing of the imagery, and the original Battledroids boardgame was born.

The combination of striking and exotic art, war machine romanticism, and epic history would prove to be a winning formula

While the art was licensed from anime, the game’s design and story were all American. Jordan had the idea of removing the mystical element of the anime robots and replacing it with a more classic affection that a World War Two pilot would have for their fighter plane or tank. Patrick Larkin and Steve Peterson would come up with the back story of a Star League, Great Houses, Succession Wars and centuries of warfare. The combination of striking and exotic art, war machine romanticism, and epic history would prove to be a winning formula, eventually producing a much larger universe than the original board game intended.

But it wouldn’t be BattleTech without legal issues. After 5000 units in sales, Lucas Arts sent a letter to FASA explaining that the term “droid” was trademarked to the huge Star Wars franchise, and demanded that FASA stop using it in their games. Explaining in an interview, Weissman contended the word “droid” predates Star Wars, however would eventually back down and change Battledroids as not only could FASA simply not afford a legal battle with a much larger company, but FASA was also in negotiation with Lucas Arts to produce a line of Star Wars board games. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour in the face of a double financial whammy, Battledroids became BattleTech in its 2nd edition printing.

The contents of a Battledroids box would look mostly similar to earlier BattleTech printings, but have a few key differences. First, only 10 ‘Mechs were present (the Stinger, Shadow Hawk, Archer, Griffin, Warhammer, Phoenix Hawk, Marauder, Crusader, Wasp, and Rifleman). Next, there were actually three sets of rules depending on how into the game mechanics you wanted to get. Basic rules would greatly simplify the game, not even taking into account differing ‘Mech loadouts and armor, or even torso twisting. Advanced rules would add much of the board game’s rules back in, but leave out a few complications like critical hits and pilot skill rolls. Expert rules largely resemble the rules of today, with some differences in ‘Mech construction (Jump Jets only weighed a half a ton at any ‘Mech size, for example).

And of course, you got 2 little plastic models of a Griffin and Shadow Hawk – the very models that Weissman picked up from that anime vendor and inspired it all.

We really should thank Lucas Arts for forcing the game to become BattleTech. The term would eventually produce BattleMech, giving us the word ‘Mech we all know and love.

And by the way; ‘Mech is trademarked. Just incase Star Wars wanted to use it.

Where Are The Bouncers?

Green Birds and Ham

In my copy of the Jade Falcon Sourcebook, it talks about the various battles of the Falcon Corridor of the Clan Invasion.  Many of these vignettes are just quick little paragraphs about the fall of an entire world.

On Page 36 it discusses the fall of Alkalurops to the ongoing Clan Assault.  And the results are very simple.  The planet is going to fall.  In addition to the local militia, there is the Bouncers, a combined arms regiment there defending.  The major cities and trade of the area is taken very quickly, but much of the outer-lying areas, as well as the Dravinna Vale will remain in the hands of the defenders, including most of the Bouncers.

And then, that’s it.  The Sourcebook says:

Just days after the planet’s surrender, these forces formed organized and effective resistance, attacking the invaders near the ore-processing factories of Dravinna Vale, using the valley’s perpetual fog to cover their activities.

That’s it. We know the planet falls.  We know it’s under the command of Falcon, but I’ve always wondered what happened to The Bouncers.  Did they evacuate?  How successful was the campaign on the planet?  I don’t know.

We know that numerous mercenary units were destroyed in the Clan Invasion, such as the 12th Star Guard.  So The Bouncers could have been destroyed.  In my campaign I have them cut down to less than half their force, get off-world, and then begin to rebuild with other contracts out in the Chaos March.

But I’ve always been obsessed with The Bouncers. What happened to them?  Where are they now?  Who were they?  What’s their history?  A regiment, even a mixed one, is not a small force, so how did they become The Bouncers?

And that’s one of the great things about the BattleTech universe.  There’s always something out there to grab a hold of and make it yours.  The huge sprawling universe is such a large, extreme place.  And while there is a lot of definition here and there, there’s a lot more to consider and run with.  A lot more decisions.  And little passing phrases here and there to tantalize them.

So what is your little obsession out there?  Is there a unit, a planet, a group, or something else to tantalize you?  Something that’s always been out there, with just a hint of information to intrigue you?

Who are your Bouncers?

What If? – The Clans Won the Great Refusal

We’ve all done it. At some point in our lives as BattleTech fans, each one of us has taken a look at how something played out and asked, “What if….?” This series of articles will attempt to take a look at both pivotal and seemingly unimportant events in the BattleTech timeline and ask this very question. My take on how events might have happened may be different from yours. Please, feel free to share in the comments how you think an event might have played out.  See the previous What If? The War of 3039.

One of the most pivotal and, perhaps undervalued, plot points in BattleTech history is the Victor Steiner-Davion led Star League’s victory in the Great Refusal on Strana Mechty in 3060.

But what if the Clans had claimed victory in the Great Refusal, validating their legitimacy claims for the invasion of the Inner Sphere and calling into question the Truce of Tukayyid?

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