Category Archives: Interviews

Community Outreach – Honoring The Purple Bird With Big Red-40Tech

Welcome back to Community Outreach, the Sarna series where we reach out to BattleTech creators and creatives to learn more about their work. This month we sat down with Big Red-40Tech, a YouTuber with a curious name who dives deep into the lore behind some of the most popular and not-so-popular ‘Mechs. I start us off by learning the interesting origins of his name before diving into the meat of the matter: how the only thing powerful enough to defeat the Free Worlds League is the Free Worlds League. Yes, Purple Bird is indeed strong (and I’m not just saying that because the Spirit Cats are currently refugees hiding out in the League).

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Your BattleTech News Round-Up For April, 2024

Did you know the Locust IIC is over 40 points in Alpha Strike? The Fire Moth Prime is close to 30, and there’s even a Kit Fox that’s 40 points. My point is, it’s hard to find a cheap Clan ‘Mech to round out a 200-point Star. Even Elementals are around the same point value as a Succession Wars Stinger. The good news is that most Clan factions have a few random Spheroid ‘Mechs thrown into the Master Unit List, so if you see a Star of Timber Wolves with one random Hunchback, just know that there’s no big story behind that Hunchie—they just couldn’t afford another OmniMech.

The good news is I kinda dig the weird mix of Inner Sphere and Clan ‘Mechs you get in the current era. And with that small rant out of the way, onto the BattleTech news for April 2024.

Clan Spaniel Leads A Packed April Fools

Clan Spaniel Sourcebook

We had a bumper crop of April Fools Day content earlier this month, starting with the BattleTech: Clan Spaniel Sourcebook. Yes, the Clan propaganda piece first mentioned over a quarter-century ago in Warriors of Kerensky has evolved into… well, still an in-universe fictional Clan comprised of anthropomorphic animals who teach young Clanners the virtues of proper Clan etiquette, morals, and behavior. The latest sourcebook reveals how the in-universe show The Adventures Of Clan Spaniel evolved before and during the ilClan era, how the Inner Sphere reacted to Clan Spaniel broadcasts, and how modern Clanners are having their worldview shaped by these honorable yet furry creatures.

I guess we could say that Clanners aren’t really closeted furries anymore.

Hungry like the Wolf

The Clan Spaniel Sourcebook is available through Catalyst’s website for a steal at $3. It includes tons of lore, a full episode script, and several episode scenarios for you to live out your Clan Spaniel fantasies. Dibs on Ferdinan. If anybody out there is thinking about creating a new BattleTech Animated Series, it should definitely be about Clan Spaniel.

But Catalyst didn’t stop there. We were also treated to a new harlequin romance novel called Hungry Like the Wolf by Mykaelya Stakepoole featuring a very shirtless Alaric Ward. The April issue of Shrapnel also featured the recently-announced Urbie LAM on the cover and contained non-existent stories of the UrbanMech LAM’s exploits

Shrapnel Urbie LAM

And of course, it’s not all official April Fools jokes. BattleTech podcasts from around the Inner Sphere all joined forces with writer Jason Hansa to announce a series of entirely contradictory plot points for the upcoming non-sequel Farther Country. This one was more of a slow-burn joke that I didn’t quite hit until I’d actually listened to several podcasts (and also had someone kindly explain it to me). Kudos to BungleTech, BigRed, Mercenary Star, Of ‘Mechs and Men, On the Origins of BattleMechs, The Periphery Podcast Corporation, The Valhalla Club, and WolfNet.

We also had a few great art pieces produced by RealMechIsLove, aka geergutz. Thanks to everyone for making this April Fools extra weird.

MekHQ & MegaMek Begins Story Arc Beta Test

MegaMek Story Arc Beta Test

Before there was Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH, there was MegaMek, a totally free adaptation of Classic BattleTech‘s turn-based rules. I don’t talk about MegaMek nearly as often as I should (partially because it’s been around almost longer than I have), but it’s been continually updated for years with new and better features. And soon, you’ll be able to add a branching story to your MegaMek campaigns.

For those who aren’t aware, MegaMek isn’t the only program you can download to play a digital version of tabletop BattleTech. MegaMek handles the battles you’d normally keep track of with pen and paper, while MekHQ handles unit-based logistics such as personnel, salvage, and repairs, while also allowing you to create missions and manage campaigns. There’s also MegaMekLab that lets you create custom ‘Mechs, and MekWars to help you matchmake games against other players. The team behind MegaMek has just announced Story Arcs, which allows you to create branching stories associated with your campaigns in MegaMek.

For now, Story Arcs is just a beta with a single campaign revolving around “a Trinary of young Wolf warriors eager to write their own line in the Remembrance through glory and sacrifice.”  You can try Story Arcs by downloading the beta here, which also has links to submit feedback. Hopefully, this will lead to a fully functioning custom story creator that allows players to make campaigns that could include multiple mission chains depending on their actions.

MRC To Host MegaMek Tournament In May

BATTLETECH Clan Invasion tourny & mech review! The best mechs of the clan invasion era reviewed!
Watch this video on YouTube.

Speaking of MegaMek, the MRC is hosting a “semi-narrative event” that showcases the Great Refusal between the Clans and the Second Star League. Participants will be split into either the Clans or Star League, use era-appropriate gear, and then fight four rounds in a Swiss Pairings tournament system. Scores are tabulated after each match, and whichever faction has the most points wins.

MRC Icon

The fun part of this tournament will be bonus points for the side that adheres to Zellbrigen the longest. You get an additional five victory points if you force your opponent to break Zellbrigen first. The rules for this are outlined in the overall tournament rules document, but those familiar with the Clan way of combat won’t find anything too surprising. Players are encouraged to verbally spar before issuing their challenges during the weapon attack phase. Note that challenges may be refused if the challenging ‘Mech is of a different weight class and a more appropriate target is available (so no challenging a Fireball if you’re a Dire Wolf and there’s an Atlas two hexes away). 

Players will need to submit their 9,000 BV lists to the MRC email address by midnight on May 3, 2024. The first round begins on May 6. Since this is supposed to be a battle of the best tech each faction had to offer, Clan factions can only take OmniMechs and battle armor, while the Star League is barred from taking introtech units. For more restrictions and the scoring system, check out the rules here or watch the video above.

Michael Ciaravella Becomes Catalyst Game Labs’ New Events Manager And Demo Team Coordinator

All hail the new Coordinator! Michael Ciaravella is now the commander-in-chief of the Catalyst Demo Team, which surely has accepted their new leader by signing an oath of fealty with a bloody thumbprint. Ciaravella is also the new Events Manager for Catalyst Game Labs, which probably comes as little surprise to anyone who’s seen a Catalyst livestream at a convention.

I can point you to Catalyst’s press release for proof that Ciaravella has the business knowledge to excel at the job. Still, the proof was already there in his incredible ability to be everywhere at once. Even if you’ve never met him during his nine years as a Special Agent on the Catalyst Demo Team, you’ve almost certainly read one of his books in either the BattleTech or Shadow Run universes.

Congrats to you, oh beneficent Coordinator! May the Dragon shine through your deeds. 

Bryan Young’s Without Question Gets Ad Ahead Of May Release

Without Question - Book Ad
Watch this video on YouTube.

I can’t remember the last time a BattleTech book got an ad, but I guess that’s just how important Without Question is! Or it will be when it releases on May 15. 

The sequel to A Question Of Survival (which you can get in the recent Humble Bundle—more on that later), Without Question tells the tale of poor Jiyi Chistu, Khan of a beleaguered Clan Jade Falcon beset on all sides. Clan Hell’s Horses have finally come to Sudeten to take the Jade Falcon capital, leaving Jiyi in a desperate situation. He not only has to fend off the Horses, but he also has to maintain a supply line with the rest of the Jade Falcons on Terra—or what’s left of them after their disastrous fight against the Wolves.

We know Jiyi will be doing some fighting since his Gyrfalcon is on the cover. Will he successfully defend Sudeten, or will the Falcons finally be crushed forever? Find out May 15.

Learn To Play BattleTech: Encounters With Battle Born’s Handy Video

Let's Play Battletech Encounters! Learn-to-Play | TUTORIAL | REVIEW #battletech
Watch this video on YouTube.

With all the hubbub last month surrounding BattleTech: Encounters, you may have asked yourself just what the heck is BattleTech: Encounters and how does one even play this new tabletop game? To answer these questions, Battle Bound has created this instructional video set to one of my favorite tunes from MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries.

The video is roughly 25 minutes long, so you’ll want to watch it for the full explanation. My quick summary: you play as one of the big-name mercenary units pulling contracts for the Great Houses. Your goal is to gain 10 Reputation Points by completing contracts, using salvaged and purchased equipment to improve your battlefield performance.  You’ll face opposing House forces, fellow mercenaries, and even Clanners during each contract, rolling dice to determine your success or failure.

It looks like the general idea is to take easy-to-complete contracts early on, gaining C-bills over Reputation to start. But once you’ve been able to purchase enough equipment to up your firepower, you can take on more difficult contracts that offer Reputation rewards in addition to C-bills.  

You can play alone or with up to seven other players. You don’t fight other players directly, but you can steal their contracts whenever they fail. The benefit to stealing contracts is knowing what you’ll be up against rather than having to deal with the random contests you’ll face when drawing new contracts yourself. For games that have more than one player, there’s also a fairness mechanic that provides the player with the fewest C-bills a guaranteed income for their turn, while the leading player is forced to accept the hardest contracts that could leave them destitute.

Once you get your groove, it doesn’t seem like BattleTech: Encounters is a particularly hard game to play, and the fact that it’s just cards and dice keeps this tabletop game’s footprint down to a minimum. You can get BattleTech: Encounters at Barnes & Noble, but some of the Mercenaries Kickstarter backers will already get the game as part of your tier’s rewards, so be sure to check before you run off to your local mall.

Mercenaries Kickstarter Shipping Errors Being Corrected

Tuesday Newsday Episode 8
Watch this video on YouTube.

Around the end of last month, some of you might have been more than a little shocked after logging into your Mercenaries Kickstarter order to view the shipping fees. For more than a few of you, the shipping charges came out to be more than the total value of the items you ordered. 

CGL had mentioned they were going with a new shipping company than the one used during the Clan Invasion Kickstarter to avoid some issues, but it seemed like the swap created an even larger issue. Thankfully, CGL was quick to get ahead of the problem and promised to talk to QML (the new shipping company) to correct these shipping invoices.

We’ve received regular updates since then and a promise earlier in the month that nearly everyone’s shipping invoice will be under $150 once the review has been completed, but it looks like this is a process that’ll take a bit of time. Seeing as how this will save us all money (and some of us a lot of money), I’m not going to suggest rushing things. Still waiting to hear the final verdict, and fingers crossed we’ll still receive the Mercs Kickstarter in June as planned.

MechWarrior 5: Clans Reveals Demo At GDC

MechWarrior 5: Clans GDC Demo Trailer
Watch this video on YouTube.

At the end of March, some lucky individuals got to see MechWarrior 5: Clans in action over at GDC. The rest of us didn’t get to see the demo right away, but after a few tense weeks, PGI gave us a peek at what they’ve been working on. And boy oh boy, we’ve got a lot to discuss.

The big deal here is seeing actual MechWarrior 5: Clans gameplay for the very first time. It’s confirmed that you’ll command a full Star of Clan ‘Mechs, with five characters from the same sibko taking part in Operation: REVIVAL. The trailer and demo reveal the opening stages of the operation with fights against pirate kingdoms in the deep periphery. Naturally, the player’s Clan Smoke Jaguar Star easily annihilates all opposition. 

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries only granted the most basic control over your Lancemates, but MechWarrior 5: Clans gives you a top-down overlay to command your Starmates, allowing you to issue more nuanced commands. You can even queue commands for friendlies and tell them to perform specific tasks in a specific order, like going to a specific location to destroy an enemy building before heading to a second location to defend it from enemy ‘Mechs.

The UI is updated to be cleaner and a little less cluttered, there’s a new scan mechanic that harkens back to the Enhanced Imaging system from the BattleTech Animated Series, and best of all, there are fully animated character portraits with great voice acting and mocap. This really looks like a game that’s going all out on the story.

I spotted the Koshi, Viper, Hankyu, Blackjack, Locust, Kit Fox, Spider, Flea, Shadow Hawk, Cicada, and Centurion in the demo, confirming that we’ll be fighting Inner Sphere ‘Mechs with Smoke Jaguar machines you’ll have seen in MechWarrior Online. There don’t appear to be rules for Zellbrigen, which is a shame, and it’s still unclear how the player will progress from piloting a Shadow Cat to something more substantial. My hope is that you’ll have to pass Trials of Possession to acquire new ‘Mechs, but I’m still waiting on answers along with everyone else.

For more, No Guts No Galaxy provides a great review of the demo and story trailer, and IGN has an article available to peruse. Still no release date yet, but PGI has promised we’ll see MechWarrior 5: Clans sometime later this year.

Trains Are Still A Highly Efficient Method Of Timber Wolf Transportation

My Timberwolf
byu/Due-Essay9897 inbattletech

I don’t normally care to showcase a Timber Wolf since I think it’s already a poster child for the franchise, but this was just too good to pass up. This hand-painted piece is based on a diorama that apparently confirms the existence of railroad tracks in the far future. Even a thousand years from now, trains are still the most efficient form of mass transportation. With kind regards to Due-Essay9897, a lover of Timber Wolves and trains.

I Just Like Assassins, Okay?

Long deployments in the lawless periphery are enough to keep any MechWarrior on edge
byu/Rabbit_Food_HCE inMechwarrior5

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I like Assassins. They just look cool, okay? They’re not actually good or effective, and they’re certainly no better at killing light ‘Mechs than other light ‘Mechs, but there’s a certain vibe to the Assassin that’s hard to overlook. I think Senerae captures that vibe perfectly.

Catalyst Gathers For First AMA Of 2024 On Official Subreddit

Hermit Crab

This month, fans got to ask nearly everyone at Catalyst Game Labs whatever questions they wanted. We had Line Developer Ray Arrastia and Assistant Line Developer Aaron Cahall, developers Joshua Perian, Joshua Franklin, and Eric Salzman, as well as authors Bryan Young, Craig Reed, Jason Hansa, and Stephen Toropov all in a single thread fielding hundreds of questions

Now, you could read the whole AMA to glean what information you could, or you could just read my quick summary of the event below:

  • Hermit Crab model requested, many ilClan-era ‘Mechs that are likely to come first. However, all things lead to Crab eventually.
  • Fox Patrol swag? Maybe
  • More audio books from ilClan and older eras coming
  • No Alpha Strike version of AeroTech, even though Joshua Franklin loves the idea
  • Working on an ” easy introductory Classic format or mission packet outside of the campaign books”, possible updates to Classic rules
  • Chance to see IndustrialMechs
  • Will see more “era” ForcePacks, but unlikely to see more era Kickstarters
  • Likely to see “a new edition of A Time of War/A new Battletech RPG”
  • No baseless minis on the horizon
  • House Arano/Aurigan Reach fell apart before the Fourth Succession War but might reappear somehow in the ilClan era.
  • Looking into more optional ‘Mech parts, possibly as separate products
  • New paint schemes for ilClan-era Jade Falcons and reformed Smoke Jaguars 

There’s of course more, but you’ll have to sift through a lot of comments yourself.

Bryan Young Fox Patrol AMA Confirms New Book Is On The way

The BattleTech: Lone Wolf and Fox serial novel is now complete, I’m the author – AMA
byu/swankmotron inbattletech

In addition to the larger Catalyst AMA, Bryan Young did his own AMA to celebrate the release of the Shrapnel #16 and the thrilling conclusion to the Lone Wolf and Fox serial novel. And as before, I have a summary of important responses:

  • Another Fox Patrol story is in the works! 
  • Creamy peanut butter, not chunky
  • Katie is ace, Evan inherited his Locust from his aunt who won it in a card game, and Arkee took catechism classes (which he didn’t enjoy) so he and Evan could get married at St. Michaels
  • Bryan can draw a dragon, but not well

We’re Here To Discuss Your BattleMech’s Extended Warranty

Critical Elements
byu/ThePBG48 inbattletech

 

You never really think about your ‘Mech’s extended warranty until an Elemental is shattering your cockpit glass and sticking a battle claw through your chest. Zoom in on the pistol for a surprise. Kudos to Zaku for this piece.

Humble Bundle Gives $900-worth of Fiction For Thirty Bucks

Or forty bucks if you’re Canadian. Anyway, doesn’t matter what currency you’re using, because this is by far the best deal you’ll ever get for a DropShip-load of fiction. I’m not even going to bother listing the novels because I’d be here all day. Let’s just say it’s everything published since 2003 or so. That’s 71 items, including a bundle of classic BattleTech books that you can eliminate if you’ve already read them a dozen times. That brings it down to about $25 CAD, which is under twenty bucks in USD (I think). 

This deal is only available until May 1, so don’t wait! Buy it now!

Bruce Jensen Shares Unreleased BattleTech Covers

Freebirth Cover Bruce Jensen

Threads of Ambition Bruce Jensen Cover

Emil and I recently spoke about his work preserving BattleTech art, and he pointed me to two recent posts from Bruce Jensen, the cover artist for both Threads of Ambition and Freebirth. And now that he’s completed scanning these incredible pieces, we’ll be able to enjoy these covers in perpetuity. Or at least for as long as the internet lasts. 

Virtual World Pods Hosting Open House Next Month In Kalamazoo

Come play VWE BattleTech VR Sim Pods for FREE in Kalamazoo, MI Apr 27 and May 18th at our Open Pod Nights compliments of our Patreon backers and Catalyst Game Labs. Will also have tabletop BattleTech on site as well. DM or post for more info.
byu/VWE_PropWash inbattletech

It’s been a minute since I discussed Virtual World Entertainment and they’re incredible BattleTech: Firestorm pods. I remember checking one of these pods out as a kid, and I’d love to give ’em a try again sometime. Sadly, I’m in Canada, but if you live anywhere near Kalamazoo, Michigan, you should check out the Virtual World open night to be hosted on May 18. Details are in the Facebook post here. Besides having free use of the pods, there will be tabletop BattleTech being played if you get motion sickness from such an immersive system.

Cockpit Guide Reveals Where The Glass Is On Your Favorite ‘Mechs

Canon Cockpit Guide Bishop Steiner

Us BattleTech veterans already know where the cockpit is on a Thunderbolt, Marauder, and Wraith, but there are a lot of newcomers to BattleTech these days who don’t necessarily know where to paint the glass on an Assassin. For those newcomers, Bishop Steiner has created the Canon Cockpit Compendium, now with Volume 2 covering the Essentials and Beginners Box Set, the Alpha Strike Box Set, and quite a few of the more popular ForcePacks.

If you know a Warhammer (the game, not the ‘Mech) convert who needs some help finding the ferroglass on their favorite ‘Mechs, send ‘em here for a free .pdf download

The Black Hawk-KU Arrives In MechWarrior Online’s Latest Patch

Black Hawk-KU MechWarrior Online

April brings a new patch for MechWarrior Online Legends, and this month we get yet another new ‘Mech! This time, it’s the Black Hawk-KU, the Kurita-built copy of the Clan Nova. This is the first Inner Sphere OmniMech to arrive in MechWarrior Online, giving the same pod-based bonuses as its Clan counterparts.

As expected, there’s a lot of visual similarity between the Nova and the Black Hawk-KU. In comparison, the Black Hawk-KU is a little taller, has slightly different cockpit geometry, and has more bits and pieces sticking out of the design. It’s also armed with Inner Sphere weapons and it’s 10 tons heavier than the Nova, which provides interesting new options for builds. 

Curiously, PGI didn’t release a full suite of variants for the Black Hawk-KU, but you do get two left-arm pods and one right-arm pod that will allow you to customize the standard BHKU-O to be more than just a medium laser boat. The Black Hawk-KU is available now for just $20 USD, with an expected release later for C-bills. 

There have also been a few adjustments made to weapons and ‘Mechs. Light Autocannons and ProtoMech Autocannons have been buffed, while Magshot and AP Gauss Rifles have been slightly nerfed to no longer have bonus critical hit chance over base values, but also buffed in that they’re now affected by the same quirks that benefit regular Gauss Rifles. Thunderbolt Missiles are now faster and more accurate but inflict less screen shake to the target. 

As for ‘Mechs, the Arctic Cheetah now has an additional 10 percent heat dissipation, the UrbanMech IIC now has 15 percent heat dissipation, and the Ice Ferret tree all have five percent more heat dissipation (except for the Prime, which has 10 percent). There are a few other ‘Mechs with slight tweaks and a huge list of ammo quirk adjustments, but you can read about them in the patch notes here.

And we also have a few tips for what’s to come! May will bring yet another new ‘Mech to MWO, while June will bring two more Legendary ‘Mechs. We don’t know what they are, but we’ll be sure to report back once we find out.

The Sentinel Stands Guard In MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Mod

My next mech mod is out: The Sentinel
byu/BoukObelisk inMechwarrior5

It’s not often I get to link back to two recent pieces here on Sarna, first my hit piece on the Sentinel, and second, my interview with Emil of The Art of BattleTech. Emil’s latest mod brings the Sentinel to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries courtesy of a model made by SirMortimer Bombito. I’d say it’s definitely a different take on the Sentinel with its far-chunkier build, but you still have the rounded cockpit, the Ultra Autocannon in the left arm, and a generally menacing attitude. 

You can grab the Sentinel over on Nexus Mods or MechWarrior 5‘s Steam Workshop. Emil has also given us the classic Warhammer mod, which makes the in-game Warhammer look more like Robotech‘s Tomahawk. If that’s an aesthetic you’d jive with, then grab the mod in the usual locations.

Boston Dynamics New Atlas III Robot Is Terrifying

Boston Dynamics, everyone’s favorite bot factory, has created its third iteration of the Atlas robot. Unlike previous robots, Atlas III isn’t just trying to mimic human movements, as you can see in the way it erects itself from a prone position. Nearly every joint now offers 360 degrees of movement, allowing it to perform actions that one might previously have associated with demons in a Japanese horror film.

Still, this is progress. Horrible, terrifying progress, but progress nonetheless. 

You Can Buy This Laser & Flamer-equipped Robot For Under $10,000

I originally saw this a few weeks ago and thought it was a gasoline-powered version of Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot. Turns out, it’s actually a much cheaper four-legged robot equipped with a flamethrower and a laser sight. Because you can’t be too accurate with a flamethrower.

Best of all, you can get this robot for just $9,420.00 anywhere in the continental US (where—for now—it’s still legal to own a robot with a flamethrower). I suspect this year’s wildfire season will be apocalyptic.

Lo-Fi Thors To Chill Out And Relax To

Lo-Fi Thor – This one even shoots!
byu/hzzzln inmechwarrior

For the past month, hzzzln on Reddit has been using Blockbench to create low-fi versions of their favorite ‘Mechs. It all started with the Hellspawn, then it escalated to the Thor, and most recently, the Fire Moth. I love them all and wonder if perhaps this is the first step to a MechWarrior 2 remake. Thank you, hzzzln.  

Battle Bound Reminds Us Of The Toons That Made BattleTech

The 'Toons That Made 'Tech - CRUSHER JOE | A Short #battletech #retrospective
Watch this video on YouTube.

In case you’re new to the BattleTech franchise, it wasn’t always the case that we had beautiful Shadow Hawks, Griffins, Warhammers, Riflemen, and Marauders running around. For a long time, these ‘Mechs were considered Unseen due to a lengthy court battle with the IP holding company that claimed ownership over these designs. That’s because those five ‘Mechs (and several more) were actually derived from designs taken from Japanese mecha animes from the 1980s. 

It’s a long story that’s better reviewed in Sarna’s wiki entry. The good news is that the bad guys lost (in no small part due to the legal battle waged by MechWarrior 5 developer PGI), and now we get to play with all these great ‘Mech designs that have since evolved well beyond their anime origins.

But just because the new ‘Mechs are better doesn’t mean the old ‘Mechs were bad, or that the shows they come from aren’t worth a watch. Battle Bound once again comes up in this news blast to give modern BattleTech fans a taste of what it was like to watch these ‘Mechs in the 1980s with a retrospective look at Fang of the Sun Dougram and Crusher Joe. If you’re looking for where BattleTech got not only its giant robots but also its star-spanning universe and its love of mercenaries, you need look no further than these two shows. 

Battle Bound plans for these retrospectives to be a series, so I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Robotech and Macross featured in the not-too-distant future.

Get To Know Sarna Senior Editor Deadfire In New Interview

Roll with Rem Alternis w/ Guest Shaun Cochrane || Shadowrun: Emerald Glitch "Where's the Rain?"
Watch this video on YouTube.

And to end things for the month, Catalyst Community Manager Rem Alternis interviewed Sarna’s very own Senior Editor, Deadfire! He does a lot of stuff here behind the scenes, including templates, automation, and other technical stuff that goes beyond my beginner-level understanding of HTML and C++. The interview was broadcast live on Twitch via GenConTV just before Rem continued her ongoing Shadowrun campaign, and can now be viewed in full on YouTube.

Turns out, Sarna has a diverse group of people helping to keep the greatest BattleTech resource on the internet running! And we’re not just all about BattleTech. Deadfire, for example, plays a lot of Magic: The Gathering, plays a bunch of shooters (Managed Democracy salutes you!), and also came into BattleTech through the MechWarrior: Dark Age clicks game! Okay, so I still circled back to BattleTech, but I don’t see a lot of folks who hold Dark Age in such high esteem, and I think that’s laudable.

Deadfire puts a lot of effort into the wiki and his journey to becoming a senior editor is full of hard work and good ideas. It’s a fascinating talk that once more pulls back the curtain to Sarna, and also how we’re always looking for folks to contribute towards Sarna’s improvement. I encourage you all to give the first 45 minutes of the above video a look-see

That does it for April! Join us next time as the BattleTech universe continues to expand.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – Preserving With Emil Of The Art Of BattleTech

Late last year, I spoke with Michael Todd about his efforts to preserve some of BattleTech‘s long-forgotten art. These classic pieces were produced before the digital age and, in some cases, had been forgotten in a basement for decades. But with BattleTech‘s ongoing renaissance, renewed interest brought these pieces out of the dark for fans to appreciate once again. Those pictures have been scanned in high-definition and posted online, while the originals are sold for thousands of dollars at auction.  

Like many fans, I’ve always appreciated BattleTech for the art it produces: dynamic images of massive fighting machines armed to the teeth and battling in brutal conditions. However, my appreciation doesn’t even begin to compare to the depth of emotion brought by Emil, curator of The Art of BattleTech archive. While Catalyst is doing the bulk of BattleTech‘s art preservation now, Emil has spent years preserving art from various BattleTech and MechWarrior video games, using modern technology to ensure these pieces can be appreciated for decades to come. 

That mission has since grown to include preserving even fan works in current games like MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, where Emil mods 3D ‘Mech designs that otherwise would never have been seen. I’ve been a fan of his work for years, and on this month’s Community Outreach, I got to speak to Emil and learn more about his tireless efforts. Enjoy.

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Crashing ‘Mechs With Jennifer Brozek, Author Of The Rogue Academy Trilogy

A lot of what keeps BattleTech going is the fiction. I may have been introduced to the BattleTech universe through the MechWarrior video games, but what truly hooked me as a wee lad was reading my first BattleTech novel. My first book was Freebirth. With its intricate look at the inner workings of Clan society and ProtoMechs of all things, it was a heck of a way to start. These days, I’d recommend a teenager start with something a little more accessible. Something like Iron Dawn, the first part of the Rogue Academy Trilogy by Jennifer Brozek.

It’s been a while since we checked in with this prolific author. I sat down with Jennifer to get the inside story on the Rogue Academy Trilogy, her life growing up as an army brat, and talk about her latest project; a cozy ghost story that’s told through physical mail. Based on true events from Jennifer’s childhood, Dear Pen Pal: Belgium 1980 is available now on Kickstarter.

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Getting The Word Out With Rem Alternis, Catalyst Community & Marketing Director

I’ve been writing for Sarna long enough to know that there’s a lot of stuff happening in the BattleTech world pretty much all the time. There’s also a lot of opinionated people that love to share their thoughts--sometimes more crassly than others. Trying to get the word out while also making sure everyone plays nice is a tough job, so I feel a certain kinship with Catalyst’s Community and Marketing Director Rem Alternis.

For Sarna’s next interview, I sat down with Rem to see how she’s settling into the role, some of the challenges she’s faced, and how to interpret Catalyst’s recently-released community guidelines. Enjoy.


Sean Murray (Sarna): Well, first of all, thank you for agreeing to chat with me. I’ve been chatting with a bunch of Catalyst folks to start the year, and we wanted to chat with you since you’re going to be one of the front-facing figures for Catalyst with the Discord and the YouTube channel getting a lot more focus as Catalyst builds its brands and its community outreach. So thank you very much. 

Rem Alternis (Catalyst): Of course. 

Rem Alternis

Sean: To start us off, what is your BattleTech journey? When did you hear about it, what BattleTech games have you played, and what’s your favorite product of the BattleTech brand?  And if you have any games that you’ve played, what have you played before? 

Rem: Yeah, so I’m fairly new to it. I first heard about it alongside Shadowrun when I was going to the cons, but I was always more of a role-playing person than a miniatures person so I didn’t really pay attention. But at a con in about 2021, I was talking to Rhett at the Catalyst booth, and he told me that I might like the fiction because it’s big stompy robots meets Game of Thrones, and I was like, “Ooh, that sounds fun.”

So I kind of started getting into it. I started reading En Garde from the Warrior Trilogy, and then, as I got hired for Catalyst, I was like, “Man, there’s so much in here,” so I stopped reading because I was like, “I’d love to put everything that I’m learning into a stream for others to learn with me.” That just hasn’t come to life yet because we’re so busy with everything. But yeah, that was the first start. 

Sean: Alright, cool. Have you played any of the games? RPG, tabletop, or video games?

“I started reading En Garde from the Warrior Trilogy, and then, as I got hired for Catalyst, I was like, ‘Man, there’s so much in here,'”

Rem: None of the video games. The RPG, not yet. But I have played Classic. I’ve done a grinder, which was a ton of fun, and I just got to play Alpha Strike with the Aces beta ruleset on Six Sides of Gaming. So that was my first Alpha Strike. I’m still not 100 percent clear on the rules for Alpha Strike, but I’ve got Classic down pretty well, I think.

Sean: Alpha Strike I find to be a lot easier, and faster paced, and with BattleTech Aces, it also lends itself to a lot of interesting cooperative scenarios. I’m very much looking forward to Aces coming out, along with many other people, I’m sure. 

So you’re fairly new to BattleTech, but I’m still going to ask this, do you have a favorite ‘Mech?

Rem: Well, the ones that I’ve learned, I got the Archer plushie, so I knew what that was. And I’ve painted the beginner box, so I have the Centurion and the Rifleman. And so when I did the grinder, I started with the Rifleman, and when he died I grabbed the Atlas, and all of a sudden people weren’t so nice to me anymore; everyone started trying to shoot me.

“When I did the grinder, I started with the Rifleman, and when he died I grabbed the Atlas, and all of a sudden people weren’t so nice to me anymore.”

And when that one died, I grabbed a random one, which happened to be the Daishi Widowmaker, and everyone still tried to murder me a whole bunch. But that one was the moment where I really started to be like, “Oh, this is fun,” you know? ‘Cause someone did a full alpha strike on me and, like, the damage could be called cute. Whereas I then unleashed my Ultra AC/20 and just demolished through armor and everything else. That was a ton of fun

Sean: Yep, that’s why people gravitate towards the big guns.

Rem: Yeah, yeah, it was a blast. 

Sean: Well, you mentioned earlier that you came into BattleTech through another FASA product. Are you a fan of any other FASA products under Catalyst’s umbrella today? 

Rem: Oh, I’m a big fan of Shadowrun. I was lucky enough that my first game was with one of the writers as the GM. He was in our D&D group and he was like, “I want to run this cyberpunk fantasy game for you.” And I was like, that sounds dumb, but here I am absolutely in love with the world. I love the setting. I love the characters. And it’s a dream to get to work for the company that creates it.

Sean: I love Shadowrun too. It’s a very cool merging of these two genres that, surprisingly, few others have really tried. People kind of stick with the cyber side of cyberpunk and ignore the punk.

Rem: Yep. From what I’ve noticed, they like sci-fi or fantasy but they don’t like to blend the two a whole lot. But I think it’s great. The option of having it in our world is very attractive to me. I’m actually GMing on a recorded episode on Six Sides of Gaming starting in March.

BattleTech Crescent Hawk Training Vid - Kell Hounds
Watch this video on YouTube.

Sean: So people have something to look forward to in March. I’m excited!

As you mentioned earlier, you wanted to kind of share things as you learn them. I’m guessing that was sort of what the Crescent Hawks video was like. What did you learn from that experience that you were then able to apply to make the Mercenaries Kickstarter even better? 

Rem: Well, I wasn’t around for the Clan Invasion Kickstarter,  but I have heard tales of trying to keep commitments small so that we don’t overburden ourselves with stuff. I started two weeks before the Mercenaries Kickstarter launched. And so, I knew the team was planning for just about as successful a Kickstarter as Clan Invasion. They had stretch goals planned up to two and a half million dollars, and that was it.

I was actually at GaryCon during the launch and I had to drive down to AdeptiCon and wrangle Loren and Randall to be like, “We need stretch goals! We need to hurry! The community’s waiting! We gotta go, we gotta go!” We were live streaming, so every time they were off camera, I had to kind of bustle them together for a quick ten minutes between shots and be like, “What are the ideas? Come on, let’s go!” So, it’s a lot of cat wrangling.

“I had to drive down to AdeptiCon and wrangle Loren and Randall to be like, “We need stretch goals! We need to hurry! … It’s a lot of cat wrangling.”

But in terms of the Crescent Hawks video, I was pretty excited about the opportunity to do that. It was not my start on the lore. I’m a producer; I make all the creatives look good, that’s what I do. So I actually got to work with an uber fan, some of the writers, some of the developers, and they created the script. Then it went through the whole line of fact-checkers and editors, the fiction director, the line developer, and an assistant line developer for BattleTech to make sure everything was accurate. And then it got sent to Trendane Sparks, who narrates a lot of the audiobooks—he did the recording for it. So I was kind of just moving the pieces. Like, we’re here, now it needs to go here, now it needs to go to editing, and so on. So I didn’t work a whole lot on that one, I just produced it and made sure it all happened.

We had plans to do more. We want to do more, but this is not a small job. Everything is always a priority, so it’s been hard to get the focus back on it. I’m just now getting a committee together to help me implement YouTube content and stuff like that, and then Crescent Hawks will be back on the table. So we’ll do more of that, but It’s gonna take a little time. 

Sean: I hear that everybody wants to get into video production but it’s just so much more work. 

Rem: Yeah, it’s a lot, but it’s a blast. Eventually, I could see this job becoming, like, there’s marketing, then there’s someone doing community, and then there’s someone doing content and I love content. It would be great to be able to do that full-time, but right now it’s like one day of my week.

Sean: Yeah, fair enough. Well, let’s see if maybe we can expand things so you can be the content manager, and someone else can deal with the community. I know you’ve only been in this job for a short time, but what do you think is the most challenging part of marketing for BattleTech?

Rem: I want to give a thoughtful answer here. I think probably one of the challenges is we’re all a bunch of creatives, you know? Everyone’s so excited to work on what they’re working on. Sometimes things get lost in the planning, and they’re still trying to integrate me into their plan. So, sometimes they forget to let me know what’s coming and when it’s coming. I think it actually happened just yesterday; there’s a new BattleTech book that just dropped, and I got the notification about it yesterday. So now it’s like, alright, we gotta put that together. 

I would love what I did for the Camo Specs Online painting guides. I got those several months in advance, so we were able to actually tease and talk about it before it launched. And the engagement from that was huge; we went from 30 reactions to 300 reactions. So, there’s value there that I’m still trying to convince everyone is there and to include me in the process so that I can get some of these dates early on and get them out and advertised. 

“I was able to announce so much at PAX Unplugged. That’s gonna be our con from here on out where we stream and say, ‘Here’s everything coming next year that we can talk about.'”

It has gotten better. I was able to announce so much at PAX Unplugged. That’s gonna be our con from here on out where we stream and say, “Here’s everything coming next year that we can talk about.” I’m excited that we get to kind of promo that stuff, but it’d be great to have more of this ahead of time.

Sean: It seems like that’s a bit of a process that is improving day by day. Alright, let’s talk about something that was a bit of a controversy recently. The Catalyst Community Guidelines came out last month, and if anybody’s wondering what those guidelines are, they’re available on the new Catalyst Discord.

A lot of it is pretty standard, I would say: be kind, stay on topic, no hate speech, no bullying, no spam, and respect privacy. But there was some blowback for one of the items being a discussion of real-world controversial topics, as well as protecting the IP. 

Let’s start with how the community guidelines developed, and who might have been consulted in their development.

Rem: Sure. It was a long process. So in June, there was the whole Reddit thing that happened. There was an issue with a fan Pride Anthology where someone had reached out to me and asked me to post about it, and I was like sure, so I did. And then they posted it to Reddit and it got deleted as being real-world politics. So there was a big uproar on the subreddit saying, “Well, why is Catalyst okay with this but not Reddit?”

2023 BattleTech Pride Anthology

It came to light that there was a lot of moderation against anything Pride-related. Any minis painted in rainbow colors or flag colors got taken down. Some people even spoke up and said, “I didn’t even know it was a flag color and mine got deleted for it.” So there was a pretty heavy hand in moderation in terms of anything LGBTQ+ related.

There was kind of an uproar that happened and I had a bunch of people reach out to me and tell me about it. And I was like, well, one of my initiatives Loren wanted was more communities for Catalyst to participate in and make into official spaces. So I decided; if the people want an official subreddit, we can do that.

Since I was away moving that weekend, I assigned someone to just go ahead and find mods and make it happen. Other than that one moderator, I didn’t know anybody. They set it up, there was a great migration, and by the end of the weekend, I got a message from the original Reddit owner that said, “Hey, I just caught up on everything that’s going on. Holy crap, sorry about that. I’d love to not see the community fractured, I’ve already removed all of my mods, what can we do to bring this back together?”

I don’t use Reddit. It was before I would have ever been ready to jump into managing a subreddit or anything like that, so I didn’t really want to fracture the community, and I know that’s ultimately not the goal of Reddit. So I was like, well, maybe if we can get some community guidelines in place and if you can follow those, it’ll be a little clearer where Catalyst’s lines are in terms of what to talk about or not talk about. He was like, “Cool, can I have your moderators?” And I was like, sure, you can reach out to them. So he did, and they all migrated over.

From there we closed the new Reddit, and everyone moved back to the old one, but we had the new moderators in place. But I don’t own the Reddit, I’m not involved in the Reddit. There’s one freelancer that is a moderator and the rest of them are fans. Some of them are demo agents, I think. I’ve heard about one or two, but that’s it in terms of Catalyst’s involvement. 

“You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to be politically on one side or the other. You just have to not be a jerk to other people in the community.”

The problem was the new Reddit moderators wanted community guidelines that didn’t exist. So, we kind of looked at a couple of online communities that were pretty positive places and cobbled together something quickly for the time being, but I realized that we needed something that’s gone through the process.

We took that as a kind of starting point, added them a little more, and then partnered with a bunch of different people. We had a lot of reviews. We brought in the BattleTech and Shadowrun forums and had them review our guidelines. They all had experience in this that we didn’t as a new community. Those moderators gave us feedback on what they’ve seen or not seen and how that could work. We also sent it to the demo team; they have a very robust operations guide to compare to that and see what the differences are. 

The thing is each of these communities is also different, so we wanted something all-encompassing that can be applied everywhere. But if we need more specific rules for the demo team, or more specific rules for the forums, or wherever else, then we can still do that. Then we had them reviewed by all of the directors, by Loren, we got some feedback, and finally, they were ready to post. We got that out in January.

So that was the process. We tried to do a lot of research on what was already existing out there and what we still needed. We were thoughtful about the language. And in terms of the controversy, it’s just honestly being respectful to each other. Like, you don’t have to agree, you don’t have to be politically on one side or the other. You just have to not be a jerk to other people in the community. That’s all it is. 

Sean: Some people might find that a little difficult, but It’s the internet. I’ve been here long enough to know how it goes. Well, let’s take one of the controversial topics head-on. What is okay, and what is not okay, in terms of discussing real-world topics? 

“Identity is not political. Anyone identifying themselves as transgender or any of the LGBTQ+ options that are out there: they exist.”

Rem: So real-world topics: if it’s politics within BattleTech, you’re welcome to talk about anything lore within the universe. 

What is also the defining factor for the team that built these community guidelines is that—and I think if it says this in the community guidelines—identity is not political. Anyone identifying themselves as transgender or any of the LGBTQ+ options that are out there: they exist. They exist, it is not political. They exist and deserve to be treated respectfully. Where it gets political is if you’re gonna talk about social movements, if you’re gonna talk about law or any of that stuff, that is politics. And that’s real-world politics, and it just doesn’t need to be talked about here. 

The example I’ve been using is, if you don’t believe in gay marriage, I’m not mad at you about that. That is your right to believe in what you want to believe, but we’re just not going to talk about it in the BattleTech spaces. Even if you don’t agree with that lifestyle, you should still be respectful of the people in the community who do live that lifestyle. 

Sean: I think that’s fair. Everybody should just get along. 

Rem: Yeah. Be nice.

Sean: That’s what we keep kind of circling back to: just be nice. Let people live their lives. Alright, and now let’s get into the other controversial topic that came from a bit more of the tech-focused people in BattleTech: protecting the IP.

There, the big topic is 3D printing and the sharing of 3D printing digital files (or STL files). Why would sharing STL files for BattleTech be a bannable offense, and what is okay and not okay for BattleTech fans to share in terms of 3D-printed materials?

Double Mech Bay

Terrain, like this Double ‘Mech Bay from Cross Electric Designs, is okay to share.

Rem: Well, we do want to give warnings. Like, someone might genuinely not know, and we don’t want to ban them immediately for making a mistake. But, in terms of protecting the IP, we are stewards of the IP. The IP, you know, belongs to Topps, which is in turn owned by Fanatics, and that whole relationship is messy too.

But as Catalyst, we have approached Topps previously about branching into 3D printing. We know that there’s profit to be made there. There’s a lot that you could do there, and they just have no interest. They don’t even want to have a conversation about it. And as stewards of the IP, we have to enforce that in our communities. So in our spaces, we just can’t talk about 3D prints, can’t talk about or promote STLs. 

Word of warning to the community out there: there has been stuff over the years that has been reported to us, and we do have to investigate that, and as kindly as possible do a cease-and-desist.

Not only does keeping it out of our community protect the commitments that we’ve made to Topps, but we also have deniability. We don’t go looking for people doing 3D printing or STLs, but if they find us and are loud about it, it’s something we have to investigate. It’s just better for everyone if we just leave that out of our communities.

“We don’t go looking for people doing 3D printing or STLs, but if they find us and are loud about it, it’s something we have to investigate. It’s just better for everyone if we just leave that out of our communities.”

Sean: Fair enough. It sounds like Topps is the one preventing Catalyst from adapting to this technology. One of the things that I would have liked to see is redesigned ‘Mechs that maybe aren’t popular enough to bother manufacturing into ForcePacks but could be sold as 3D-printable models. It’s relatively cheap to have an artist redesign the ‘Mech—the real expense is getting manufacturers set up to produce that design in plastic. Selling the 3D-printing files as something official and legal would be a nice new income stream, but it sounds like Topps is just digging their heels in and making sure the game remains in the 1990s.

Rem: I hope that changes in time, maybe with Fanatics getting involved.

Also, just because that is the rule for one IP does not mean it’s the rule for other IPs. So who knows, for Leviathans, maybe that’s something we look into in the future. I don’t know what the restrictions are on that IP, so I’m just making that up, but we have a lot of cool stuff coming for Catalyst with some different IPs. If we can have a good showing of it and try something to break into 3D-printing in another IP, and then be able to show those kinds of figures to Topps, maybe that’ll change their mind. But it’s not within the current horizon. 

Sean: Fair enough. So, don’t expect anything anytime soon. 

Rem: Right. 

Sean: Is managing BattleTech the most work of Catalyst’s brands, or are the Shadowrun or Leviathans folks even worse? 

"Operation Bulldog Ambush" by Florian Mellies

“Operation Bulldog Ambush” by Florian Mellies

Rem: I’m gonna make someone mad no matter what. So, when I started, my first event was GaryCon, and I was so excited. I was meeting people in the industry and saying, “Hi, I’m the new Catalyst Community and Marketing Director,” and I would get a very raised eyebrow look, and people would say to me, “Good luck with that community. They are opinionated, they are passionate,” is a very nice way to say it. There have been challenges, but in my experience, it’s been the vast majority of the community has been excited, supportive, and enthusiastic. 

I would say that it is the BattleTech community that’s the rowdiest. But when you look at the Kickstarters, that’s 25,000 people that back the Kickstarter and even one percent of 25,000 is going to be way louder than one percent of 2,000. So it could just be relative. 

Sean: Where do you see Sarna factoring into the larger Catalyst community that is currently being built? Would you consider Sarna as a partner?

Rem: Sarna is absolutely a partner. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with the developers or the freelancers where I asked a question and they’re like, “Oh, let’s check Sarna.” I think there is a close relationship there, and I am looking forward to ways that we can utilize the experience and the knowledge that’s within Sarna. 

There are a couple of ideas that are too preliminary for me to talk about publicly, but it would be an amazing platform to play within the lore and build on it with maps and campaigns and different things like that. Have it be a marketing tool as well as a community tool. There’s no way that we would be able to take on an undertaking like that without support from Sarna, in my opinion. So I think that there’s plenty of room for a partnership in the future.

“I want to make sure that all the social platforms have what they need and feel supported before I dive into a massive new project for the community.”

It’s one of the next agenda items for the community. Reddit has asked for more presence from Catalyst in terms of posts, perhaps a monthly post on announcements of what’s coming, or doing an AMA every quarter or something like that. So I want to implement that and get that moving. I want to make sure that all the social platforms have what they need and feel supported before I dive into a massive new project for the community. I need a break after Discord.

Sean: Fair enough. Well, whenever you’re ready, Sarna is waiting and ready to help. 

Rem: Awesome. I’m excited for that. 

Sean: Alright, now for the fun part. This comes from some of the Sarna staffers. If you had the opportunity to set up a BattleTech anime soap opera, featuring a Clan and a House, which Clan and which House would you choose, and which five BattleTech staff slash CGL staff would you enlist to be their voice actors?

Rem: Ooh. Alright, so I know enough that the drama would be great with Steiner versus Marik. That would lead to some good soap opera drama moments. And then, gosh, in terms of voice actors. Oh, I love my team, but they’re not faces. I think Randall would have to be a voice, because, I mean, he’s just legendary. Loren I would love to, but he talks so fast, so he’d have to be one of the fast-talking wheeler-dealer types. 

Sean: There’s always one of those. 

Tuesday Newsday: Episode 4
Watch this video on YouTube.

Rem: Yeah. Gosh. I would bring Jason Hardy in. He’s on the Shadowrun side, but I’d bring him in for the snark. Ooh, Ian would be a fun voice actor—Ian is the art director for Shadowrun and he sounds like Eeyore but way more sarcasm. So, I think that would be a fun one. Let’s see, I need one more, I think. You know what? I’ll say he’s a freelancer: Michael Ciaravella. He’s got a good voice, so I think he’d do it justice. 

Sean: Alright, next question. Henry Cavill’s interest in Warhammer has attracted much fan attention in recent years. If you could pick any media star to get hooked on BattleTech, who would you pick? 

Rem: So I know Sam Witwer is super into BattleTech, so there may or may not be some hopeful conversations in the future.

But gosh, you know what? I’d like to get the Game of Thrones actors in. Since it’s like big stompy robots meets Game of Thrones, I’ll go with Emilia Clarke. We’ll have the Mother of Dragons come and take over in BattleTech

Sean: Alright. Interesting. I don’t know who she’d play. 

Rem: Yeah, I’m not sure either. I’ve heard a couple of the female character names. Isn’t it Natasha  Kerensky?

Sean: Yes, although she’s typically portrayed as having big, fiery, ‘80s-style red hair. But maybe she’d be better at playing Anastasia Kerensky

Anyway, the last question we have here. What has been your favorite BattleTech-related experience so far? 

Rem: I did love that moment where I was like, “Oh, I get where the fun is.” Like, that was a cool moment when I bought in. But, I will say that my very first game was on Tabletop Simulator, I was learning, and we kind of were dancing around each other a whole lot, and I got bored with that, so I just charged in. He was up on a mountain, so he tried to Death from Above me and ended up missing, critting, and killing himself. So I won without ever touching him.

“I know I get flack because I came in on Shadowrun and people are like, ‘Oh, she doesn’t care about BattleTech.’ Trust me, I care about BattleTech.” 

Sean: Sometimes the dice giveth, and sometimes they taketh away.

Well, that’s everything I had. Was there anything else you wanted to shout out?

Rem: In terms of BattleTech, I’ll sneak this in. Can’t say too much about it because the project’s not approved yet, but Loren went around to all the directors and asked at the beginning of the year what is the one thing that we want to accomplish for this year. 

I have a massive BattleTech project that I want to see come to fruition. And I know I get flack because I came in on Shadowrun and people are like, “Oh, she doesn’t care about BattleTech.” Trust me, I care about BattleTech and I’m very excited for this to happen. It’s still early on, but I’m hoping that I at least get the approval this year and can move on it as soon as possible. 

Sean: I know that we don’t necessarily talk about these before approved projects, but it sounds interesting.

Rem: It’d be a big marketing spin, so that’d be cool.

Sean: It has been a while since we’ve seen a big marketing push from BattleTech outside of the Kickstarter, of course. 

Well, thank you so much for talking to me, sharing your thoughts, and clarifying a few things on the community guidelines. And even giving us some things to look forward to.

Rem: My pleasure, thank you.

Sean: Okay, thanks so much. Have a good day. 

Rem: You too! Bye! Bye!

Thanks to Rem for sitting down to chat, and looking forward to seeing what surprises she’ll have in store for us in the future!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Round-Up For February, 2024

Normally this is when Southern Ontario enters its deep freeze, with heaps of snow up to my shoulders where the removal services can’t get to fast enough. But this year, it’s been relatively snow-free. In fact, we’ve had more above-freezing days this month than any other February on record. Yesterday it was 16 degrees C (or about 61 degrees F). It then dropped to -6 over five hours, which was about as weird. It was almost like the weather remembered what month it was.

I won’t have to wait long for the warm weather to return. Spring has sprung early where I live, with positive temperatures expected for the next two weeks at least. Given how sick I’ve been this winter, it can’t come soon enough.

But you’re not here for the weather report. You’re here for BattleTech news, and this month we’ve got a whole lot of it. Here’s everything that happened in the Inner Sphere this February.

Wolves Wave 3 Announces Ragnarok Returns In MechAssault Fan Game

Wolves Wave 3 (MechAssault Fangame) - The Assault Continues
Watch this video on YouTube.

We start with a little love for MechAssault. Wolves, the MechAssault fan game, has been steadily working on its Wave 3 update. We already knew the Puma, Uziel, and Mad Cat would be coming in this update, but now we know the big bad of the game will also return. Prepare for Ragnarok.

Wolves Wave 3 Ragnarok

the Ragnarok (and its variant, the Ymir) aren’t specced out in official BattleTech terms, and that’s largely because they have an energy shield and a “Lava Gun.” Why the Word of Blake thought lava would somehow be more destructive than highly-excited ionic particles or a hypersonic slug I will never understand, but I do get why a forcefield might be difficult to write stats for using classic BattleTech rules.

Still, fans of the MechAssault games love the Ragnarok as much as BattleTech faithful love the Daishi or Atlas—it’s just a huge wrecking ball. And it’s coming in Woves Wave 3. It’s also coming to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, according to a follow-up teaser that arrived the day after the Wave 3 trailer.

You can expect to experience Wolves Wave 3 and the Ragnarok soon(TM).

BATTLETECH Director Mike McCain Returns To Hairbrained Schemes As Executive Producer

Good news for HBS after a ton of bad. Mike McCain, game director for Shadowrun: Dragonfall and BATTLETECH, is back and taking over Mitch Gitelman‘s old job as Executive Producer (while Mitch takes a break and moves into an advisory role for the studio). 

“I’m thrilled to be back in the virtual office with this amazing team,” said Mike. “There will be plenty of challenges, but the creative momentum we have around this new project right now is exhilarating. We’re a small crew making something we really believe in and I can’t wait to share it!”

Mike did an incredible job adapting the tabletop BattleTech game into a turn-based video game that any fan will would love while still attracting fans of turn-based strategy games. The game started with an incredible narrative-driven campaign and later received DLC that improved the game’s galaxy-spanning sandbox into one where the player could create their own story.

The only downside to the news is yet further confirmation from Mitch that HBS hasn’t been given the license to make BATTLETECH 2. HBS has something in store, but it doesn’t sound like we’re going to get the sequel we all desperately want. A wild thing, considering BATTLETECH‘s success, but what can you do? These are wild economic times for the video games industry. We wish Mike and HBS all the success in whatever they’re working on.

A Realistic Depiction Of Ballistic Arcs Courtesy Of A Dragon

Commandos on Styk
byu/agentlou44 inbattletech

You know what I like most about this piece? Wild-Cat 144 gave the Dragon‘s autocannon rounds a ballistic arc. You’d think that a cannon on a BattleMech would fire fast enough that it might as well be a laser, but the only explanation why BattleTech‘s cannons have such short ranges is that they have extremely low muzzle velocity, so they’d drop a significant distance between leaving the barrel and impact. Kudos to you, Wild-Cat 144. I love accurate physics.

CGL Community Manager Rem Alternis Answers Questions About Community Guidelines

Catalyst Game Labs - Rem Alternis interview
Watch this video on YouTube.

Catalyst announced its community guidelines last month, and there was quite a reaction. Rem Alternis, community manager for Catalyst, has been kindly answering questions regarding the community guidelines, starting with YouTuber Critical Rocket

And I say kindly because a few people had some curiously harsh reactions to being told they couldn’t play in official Catalyst spaces if they didn’t agree to be respectful of another human’s race, religion, culture, gender, or sexual orientation. 

Expect Rem to have more words to say about the community guidelines in an upcoming interview with Sarna. In the meantime, I think Critical Rocket covered the basics, clarified some of the new rules, and noted that some previous bans might be overturned with a new appeals process. Thanks to Critical Rocket for being first in line!

Opinion: You Can’t Put The 3D-Printing Genie Back In The Bottle

Sarna Complaints Department

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

I think the online reaction to Catalyst’s new community guidelines was overblown, but there’s one thing I did agree with. Simply barring 3D-printed stuff from being shared on official CGL channels isn’t going to stop its proliferation. There’s just no putting the technological genie back in the bottle.

Don’t get me wrong, I think CGL offers a superior product. I have both unofficial 3D-printed minis and official ones, and the CGL minis are consistently tougher, more detailed, and scaled correctly so you don’t have to worry about your Tempest accidentally being taller than an AtlasGiven a choice between a 3D-printed mini and an official one, you should always pick the official CGL mini.

But at the same time, some people just can’t get official minis. They’re either not sold everywhere, or shipping is impossible, or pewter is too expensive, and 3D printing provides a reasonable alternative to play the game. On top of that, CGL hasn’t redesigned every ‘Mech (although they’re working on it), and there are a lot of talented 3D modelers out there who are practicing their craft.

In keeping with Catalyst’s guidelines, Sarna won’t distribute mini models or tell you where to go to get them, but I do think trying to ignore them is short-sighted. 3D models could be an additional source of revenue for Catalyst. Perhaps not every ‘Mech is popular enough to deserve being manufactured in plastic and put into a ForcePack, but they’re popular enough to be redesigned in the same manner as the current generation of minis and then sold as a 3D-printable file. 

Hopefully, Catalyst’s stance (which is directed by the copyright holder, Topps, so it’s really Topps’ stance) will change in the future, especially as 3D printing technology continues to improve. If you’ve got a constructive opinion, leave it in the comments (and remember to be respectful). 

BattleTech Universe Book Reviewed By Guerilla Miniature Games

GMG Reviews - Battletech UNIVERSE by Catalyst Game Labs
Watch this video on YouTube.

For most of us, the BattleTech Universe isn’t going to be available until later this year, but a few people have received the upcoming book a little early. One of those people is Guerilla Miniature Games

We don’t get to see much of the Universe book besides the cover and the opening insert, but from what GMG describes, it sounds like this new Universe book is going to be required reading for any new BattleTech player. The rest of us might not find it quite as compelling as something like ilKhan’s Eyes Only, but Ray and Aaron have promised me that Universe will be a big deal and will have plenty for veterans too.

Catalyst Launches New Discord, Double-Sized Shrapnel Celebrates Mercs, and Previews Shared Online

Mercenaries Update
Watch this video on YouTube.

We got a load of Catalyst materials to get through, starting with the double-sized Shrapnel issue that was released earlier this month. Shrapnel Volume 15 is twice the Shrapnel you’re used to but only priced at a dollar more. Inside you’ll find tales from your favorite BattleTech authors, including Michael Stackpole, Bryan Young, and Chris Purnell, as well as newcomer Robin Briseño. On top of that value, it’s also focused on everyone’s favorite BattleTech faction: mercenaries. Grab it in digital or print-on-demand formats

Craig A Reed Blood Rage

On the book front, Herbert A. Beas’s Forgotten Worlds trilogy is now available with a new title: BattleTech: The Quest for Jardine. And for those who didn’t back the Mercenaries Kickstarter, Craig A. Lee’s Blood Rage is now available for individual purchase either on Catalyst’s store or Amazon. 

Those who were concerned with hearing about the pre-painted minis that’ll be coming in the Star League ForcePacks can (probably) rest easy. A post to the official BattleTech forums has revealed Aleksandr Kerensky‘s Orion looks pretty good. Sure, some of you folks might be able to do a better job painting an Orion, but I think this looks like a perfectly acceptable mini. I’m also told that it shouldn’t be hard to strip the paint off this thing if you don’t like it, although it’d probably be easier to just get a fresh Orion mini. 

Another surprise for Mercenaries Kickstarter backers is the Savannah Master hover tank. These speed bastards have been the bane of many a tabletop experience, and now we know what they’ll look like when they arrive later in June when Catalyst starts fulfilling orders. That’s thanks to Randall being unable to stop himself from sharing on YouTube.

Last, but not least: Catalyst has a Discord now! Wanna chat with like-minded individuals? Get the latest announcements as they happen? Share details on your preferred paint methods? You can do all this and more on the Catalyst Discord here.

Kelly Bonilla, Lead Designer For MechWarrior: Dark Age, Has Passed Away

Some sad news took place late last month but didn’t reach my ears until February. Kelly Bonilla, the lead designer for Wizkids’ MechWarrior: Dark Age, has died. 

Kelly Bonilla MechWarrior

MechWarrior: Dark Age was never the most popular BattleTech product, but I liked it. For a while in my first year of university, it was my collective obsession. The idea of getting smaller armies, pre-painted, that looked good and had simplified rules so you could fight little battles out using everything on your kitchen table held a lot of appeal. And just having play stats tracked using the circular base was genius. 

Of course, MechWarrior: Dark Age wasn’t perfect. While I liked the tanks, I didn’t like how the setting seemed to emphasize these lesser units over real ‘Mechs. And while the setting was interesting, it was a jarring mess from the Civil War and Jihad eras that didn’t get untangled until years later. 

But Kelly wasn’t involved in the story writing. She was the playtester and designer. She just cared if the game was fun, and in that, she succeeded admirably. We’re sorry to see you go, Kelly.

TheB33F Is Back!

The Longtom Artillery Incident
Watch this video on YouTube.

Holy shit, TheB33F is back! He actually announced his return in December and posted his first video last month, but I hadn’t been paying attention since his long hiatus. But he’s back and better than ever! 

For those unaware, TheB33F is the MechWarrior Online streamer who does things… differently. His builds and strategies are typically aimed more toward having fun than following the current meta. His latest videos are still that, but he’s also making more tutorial-style videos that try to teach some basic tactics and ‘Mech builds (like the Centurion video he recently posted).

While his old videos were wildly amusing, his latest videos add some footage taken from MechWarrior 5 as well as animations taken from Tabletop Simulator. It makes for a far more cohesive and elevated experience, which I very much appreciate, and maybe you will too. Check out the video above, and if you like his material, be sure to subscribe to TheB33F’s channel here

And I almost forgot! TheB33F is also contributing to the future of MechWarrior Online by designing events. Look for those in the event queue in the coming weeks.

Brawl In The Bluegrass Tournament Coming To Kentucky In April

MRC Icon

In the Lexington area for the April 12 weekend? The Rusy Scabbard will host a Classic BattleTech tournament called “Brawl in the Bluegrass.” Entry is 25$ for this MRC-compliant event, with each player required to submit an 8,000-point Battle Value list with a maximum of six units. All units must be from a single faction during the Clan Invasion era as per the Master Unit List, and only ‘Mechs, battle armor, and combat vehicles. No artillery, no unique or extinct units, and no C3 or specialized armor types (although missile and autocannon ammo types are allowed). 

Sign-ups are allowed until April 11, but you might want to ensure your place sooner rather than later as no store has infinite seating capacity. You can get the full details on sign-ups from this document here, as well as the full list of rules. Any other questions should be directed to the MechCommander Review Circuit in this Discord channel

Have an event you want to be advertised in Sarna? Reach out and we’ll get you included in the next news blast.

Big Red-40Tech’s Warhammer IIC Video Is Out, And It’s A Doozy

BATTLETECH: The Warhammer IIC
Watch this video on YouTube.

I kinda always thought that the Warhammer IIC was just this Clan-wide design that everyone made and everyone fielded. And indeed, you’ll find it in pretty much every Clan touman, according to the Master Unit List. Little did I know that the ‘Mech actually got started in Clan Star Adder. And I wouldn’t have known that had Big Red-40Tech not decided to create a four-hour YouTube video on the subject.

Yes, that’s a lot of lore for a single ‘Mech, and that’s largely because Big Red goes into the entire history of Clan Star Adder from Exodus to Reaving. Then we get into the Diamond Sharks/Sea Foxes as they distributed the ‘Mech so thoroughly amongst the other Clans that it became a common site in second-line forces everywhere. And then into the ilClan era where the Warhammer IIC can now be seen among Inner Sphere and mercenary forces too.

I can’t disparage the ‘Mech, that’s for sure. There’s nothing a Warhammer IIC can’t do aside from jump and run fast enough to keep pace with an Ice Ferret. It’s better than the original Warhammer in every way, and I know how beloved that old warhorse is. 

Check out the video above if you want the deepest dive into a single ‘Mech you’ll ever see, with special guests Tex, Frog, Sven, TheB33F, Paul, and Rem offering their voices too.  

Duncan Fisher Returns In MechWarrior 5’s Sixth DLC: Solaris Showdown

I am Duncan Fisher
Watch this video on YouTube.

Yes, he’s back. Duncan Fisher, the renowned Solaris announcer from MechWarrior 4, is returning in MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries – Solaris Showdown.

There’s still time for a Clan Invasion-themed DLC, but for now, we’re getting a story that revolves around Duncan Fisher and a mysterious plot centering around the game world of Solaris 7. According to PGI’s release, the DLC mini-campaign will start on the Mercenary Star of Galatea before moving to the planet Hardcore where Mason will bump into Duncan Fisher. The pair form an unlikely alliance as they fight to get into the FedCom Unification Tournament celebrating the recent alliance between the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth.

It’s not clear why or what happens, but there seems to be some political intrigue going on that only a good ‘Mech stomping can fix. Best of all, we’ll have George Ledoux’s sultry tones guiding us the whole way. 

In addition to saving Solaris, the upcoming DLC brings a new ‘Mech: the Loader King. Fans of the Roughneck from MechWarrior Online will recognize this design immediately, but even if you haven’t played the PvP game, you might’ve noticed the Loader King as the same stationary IndustrialMech that you’ll sometimes see on urban maps or standing in enemy installations.

The Loader King will come with one Hero variant and five standard variants. We’re also getting new “arena” variants of the Corsair, Vulcan, Hunchback, Crusader, Cataphract, Orion, Zeus, Firestarter, UrbanMech, and Highlander. Expect them to come with superchargers and melee-focused weaponry.

Speaking of weapons, we’re getting a bunch of those too. New Burst-Fire variants of the Rifle series, Rapid-Fire variants of Autocannons, the Binary Laser, PPC-X (whatever that is), Medium Lance, Heavy Hammer, and Assault Greatsword. We’re also getting the Arena Supercharger, Black Market Countermeasures, and Black Market Probe. Not sure if those will be worse or better than their Star League counterparts.

While the DLC will certainly bring arena-style combat, it’s not just going to take place on Solaris 7. Arenas will appear in industrial areas throughout the Inner Sphere, which the player will progress through by accruing fame with each successful match. The more matches you win, the more variants of Arenas unlock, ranging from 1v1 matches to free-for-alls limited by ‘Mech class. There will also be optional objectives, open categories where anything goes, and more. Rewards will start at C-bills but eventually progress to “prized equipment.”

And as is ever the case with these DLC releases, everyone can expect to receive a free update with new features. This time we’re getting the new “heavy turret” as a potential spawn which has more hitpoints and hits harder than standard turrets. Otomo ‘Mechs will soon show up on the market as rare spawns, a new “repair all” option makes repairing post-mission easier, and enemy ‘Mechs will occasionally spawn with slightly different weapons than their base loadout. 

Solaris Showdown arrives on March 14 for $14.99. You can wishlist the DLC now to be informed as soon as it becomes available.

MechWarrior Online Gets Two New Legendary ‘Mechs As Talk Begins On A New PvP Game

MechWarrior Online Reaper II

Another month brings another patch for MechWarrior Online Legends and two new Legendary ‘Mechs. The first is WarhawkKasai,” which brings the game’s first supercharged chassis. The Supercharger is a locked piece of equipment and won’t be made available for other ‘Mechs (yet). It’s also lighter than MASC (usually) but doesn’t provide the same explosive speed. It only increases the ‘Mech’s maximum potential velocity and provides no boost to acceleration or turning speed.

Other than the Supercharger, the Kasai comes with three ATM-6s, two Large Pulse Lasers, and two ER Mediums. Missile velocity quirks make those ATMs a bit more deadly, and improved structure quirks give the Kasai a bit more staying power.

The Black KnightRed Reaper II” continues MechWarrior Online‘s tradition of having swords just for show. The heavy shield the Red Reaper II comes with, though, is a MASSIVE boost to the ‘Mech’s right arm armor. Two Snub PPCs, four SRM-6s, and five Small Lasers make this ‘Mech a deadly brawler, especially when you consider the shield you’ll have to chew through to start damaging this monster. Additional armor quirks for the rest of the ‘Mech make it extremely durable.

Other than the new ‘Mechs, the Cauldron has reduced the heat produced by Rotary Autocannons and Hyper Gauss Rifles, reverted the firing arc changes to LRMs from January’s patch, and given the Executioner a full quirk pass. For the full list of changes, check out the patch notes here.

And before we move on, it seems there are rumblings about a new PvP game coming out of PGI. Community manager Daeron commented in Discord that “internal discussions and planning for the next PvP MechWarrior game” are underway. No details on what this might look like or whether it’d be a stand-alone product or attached to the upcoming MechWarrior 5: Clans, but I’d put money on this being an Unreal Engine-powered game.

Raw, Sexual Charger

Next verse same as the first now in color.
byu/meltdonw14 inbattletech

I admit, I may have been too harsh on the Charger. The CGR-1A1 can jump in a lake, but the new Charger C is 80 tons of raw sexual energy—the exact same energy I’m getting from meltdonw14‘s piece here. This could be the cover of a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure mecha manga.

MechWarrior Living Legends Update 0.16.2 Brings Fancy New Cockpits And Other QOL Improvements

MechWarrior Living Legends Timber Wolf Camos

Been a while since we talked about MechWarrior: Living Legends, the Battlefield-inspired MechWarrior game that’s entirely free-to-play because it is entirely community-supported. The latest patch arrived earlier this month and brought a slew of changes, including updated visuals for 28 ‘Mechs, AeroSpace fighters, and VTOLs, three new camo options, and the usual assortment of bug fixes. Thunderbolt missiles now have a slightly faster fire rate and the Warhawk model has been shrunken down ever so slightly. 

There’s more, but you can read about ’em over on MechWarrior: Living Legends ModDB page, which is coincidentally also where you can download this amazingly free standalone game.

Focht News Network Is Heading To Toronto Comicon

Focht Network Toronto Comicon 2024

If you’re in the Toronto area on the weekend of March 15, Comicon will be hosted at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, which is sure to be a good time. That’s because Focht News Network is putting on a BattleTech showcase, offering Alpha Strike previews to any passersby. I’m also told that Ronda Snord and a certain special Highlander might also make an appearance.

Of course, there’s going to be plenty of other stuff going on at Comicon, but BattleTech fans can certainly hang out and spread the good word of giant stompy robots. If you’re interested in local fans, head to the Focht Network Discord for more updates on local events.

A Halo Of Missiles

My brother surprised me with a commissioned Battletech x Halo crossover piece for my birthday
byu/odysseus91 inbattletech

Halo is cool and all, but I think we all know who’s going to win this battle of the brands. Not just because BattleTech is cooler, but Halo just isn’t quite as destructive as 75 tons of large lasers and way too many missiles. Unless Halo releases the Flood, but even then, I give us even odds. Kudos to tychorionDraws on Twitter for this piece.

Warframe, However, Has Too Much Space Magic

Since the Halo crossover pic was already posted here, thought I’d share the other Warframe x Battletech crossover I bought too. Credit to tychorionDraws, both pics were worth every penny!
byu/TrashCan_With_A_Gun inbattletech

I do love a good crossover, but as much as I love BattleTech, there’s not much you can do in a Crusader or Timber Wolf if you’re trying to fight cosmic forces beyond the knowledge of mere mortals. I’m not sure if there are enough LRMs in the entire Inner Sphere to bring down The Man In The Wall. More kudos to tychorionDraws, and to odysseus91 on Reddit for sharing. 

The Naga Hits MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Like An Arrow IV

I know the Longbow is still a recent addition, but you know what they say about artillery: when it rains, it pours. The Naga is the little-known Clan artillery ‘Mech specializing in delivering Arrow IV warheads to foreheads. I know Arrow IVs aren’t available in MechWarrior 5, so I assume those arms just contain large missile slots. Just throw an Artemis on your LRM-20 and it’s most of the way to an Arrow IV. 

You can get this mod on Nexus Mods or directly through the Steam Workshop.

And that’s it for February! Now I’m off to prepare my MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries company for Solaris Showdown. See you next month!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Keeping BattleTech Consistent – An Interview Eric Salzman, Fact-Check Director At CGL

The year of BattleTech‘s 40th anniversary continues with yet another interview with brand stewards Catalyst Game Labs. This time we managed to snag Eric Salzman, a longtime fan who broke into writing and then ascended to become BattleTech‘s Fact-Check Director. This guy knows more about the universe than I ever will, which is why he’s in charge of keeping everyone else consistent with BattleTech‘s established lore—something we here at Sarna can certainly appreciate.

If you think you’re the “well actually” guy at your gaming table, then this interview is for you. And at the end, you can find out how to maintain the lore of the entire BattleTech community by joining the Fact-Check team. Enjoy.

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BattleTech In 2024 – An Interview With Line Developer Ray Arrastia & Assistant Line Developer Aaron Cahall

We’re starting the year off with a bang here at Sarna. We’re asking the tough questions, getting the unexpected answers, and determining where BattleTech will go over the course of 2024. I recently sat down with BattleTech Line Developer Ray Arrastia and Assistant Line Developer Aaron Cahall for the lowdown on what’s coming to BattleTech this year as well as what’s been going on with BattleTech‘s recent history.

This is Sarna’s biggest interview yet, so I hope you brought some popcorn. Enjoy.

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Sarna’s 50,000 Article Celebration!

Sarna 50,000 Articles

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Sarna is ringing in the new year with a bang. We’ve been working hard all year long to bring you this extravaganza celebrating 50,000 articles. That’s 50,000 articles on the finer points of Clan mating behavior all the way to demonic possession of Marauders, and everything in between.

According to our own milestone tracker, Sarna actually surpassed 50,000 articles way back in November, but it takes a little while to set up a celebration of the kind Sarna deserves for such a momentous occasion. It also takes a while to get Nic to emerge from his techno-cave to discuss the finer points of operating a wiki, which involves many blood sacrifices to the Blesses Blake himself. 

In between the strangled yelps of goats being decapitated, I managed to ask him a few questions about where Sarna has been, where he sees Sarna going, and how he plans to get us all there. Spoiler alert: it’s technical. Enjoy.

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Art, AI, And MechWarrior Underwear – An Interview With Catalyst’s Brent Evans

As a bit of a treat for year’s end, we sat down with BattleTech Art Director Brent Evans to have a chat on a variety of subjects. We talk about redesigning classic ‘Mechs, where AI fits into your next BattleTech campaign, and why we haven’t seen more AeroSpace fighters get the redesign treatment (and why Ray is having nightmares about it).

As always, Brent had a lot to say, so I won’t waste any more time getting to the good stuff. Enjoy!

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