Let’s Talk About MechWarrior: Dark Age

 

Hi everyone. Pull up a chair, take a sit, grab a cup of hot cocoa. I want us to have a frank, honest discussion about MechWarrior: Dark Age.

Now, I know that Dark Age wasn’t particularly well received by the BattleTech faithful. There are plenty of good reasons for that–the complete sidelining of all the major houses, the inability for anybody to communicate due to the HPG blackout, and ‘Mech stats that didn’t even bother to follow the classic ‘Mech construction rules are all valid complaints. Even for me, as someone who arrived at BattleTech a little later on, thought that Dark Age represented a franchise reboot that pissed all over the original game’s charms.

I mean, who wants to field an army of modified AgroMechs and unarmored infantry? Nobody, that’s who. A glorified farmer in a chainsaw-wielding tractor with legs is nobody’s idea of a sound military strategy.

Dark Age Panther

courtesy of Troll and Toad

But I don’t want us to just spend an hour bashing Dark Age and blaming them for BattleTech’s relative obscurity in this era of increasing tabletop gaming interest (I think that has more to do with the complicated web of licenses and ownership of the original IP). There were real, genuine merits to MechWarrior: Dark Age.

First, there were the models themselves. I know plenty of people love painstakingly painting their own figures and even customizing them into miniature pieces of art, but man, I don’t have that kind of time! Being able to get a fully-painted and even slightly opposable figure straight out of the box was actually pretty cool, if I do say so myself, and they weren’t half bad! Sure, sometimes the arms fell off at the slightest provocation, but they were intricate, fully-painted models that look good for zero effort. I call that a win.

And the Clix system wasn’t half bad either. Let’s be real: BattleTech’s rules are a wee bit on the complicated side, as my 300-plus page tome of Total Warfare can attest (I had university textbooks that were smaller–just sayin’). Simplifying everything down to “damage equals clicks”, and having your ‘Mech’s or tank’s (or whatever) stats modified to represent battle damage with every click was actually a really clever way of making combat easier to keep track of.

Admittedly, using a tape-measure for movement a la Warhammer 40K made the rules slightly more complicated, but it also meant that Dark Age could be played anywhere and even household objects could be repurposed as ad hoc terrain. Empty bottle cans became buildings, moldy pizza boxes became swamps, and that bit of carpet where your dog threw-up became a toxic waste zone.

For some reason, my miniature battles were usually fought in some pretty rank areas.

Dark Age Swordsworn

via Twitter

I even appreciate the random “loot box” nature of buying most MechWarrior: Dark Age boxes. It was a lot like buying Magic: The Gathering cards, which was another pastime that I genuinely enjoyed. And even if you don’t like that aspect, the age of the internet has made purchasing specific figures in Dark Age or any other collectible game easier than ever–just go on eBay and you’ll probably find what you’re after.

Tundrawolf

via eBay

Anyways, my point is that Dark Age gets a lot of flack, and while a lot of is deserved, it’s important to understand that it wasn’t all bad. There were some truly innovative of fun aspects of Dark Age, and I kinda wish that some of those aspects could be incorporated into the original tabletop game. But no AgroMechs, please. Those were stupid.

Also, I’m selling my old Dark Age collection. It’s spring, I haven’t touched the things in years, and I suspect wherever I wind up next won’t have the storage space for me to keep these plastic bins as monuments to my childhood. So they gotta go.

Details are on the eBay listing. Yes, this is a shameless use of a pulpit for my personal benefit, but someone else should be able to get some joy from these toys so they don’t just languish in my basement. That and it’s tax season and Canadian taxes are no freakin’ joke!

And if that ultimately means my old collection gets chopped up to be used as props in someone else’s custom miniature scene because Dark Age is stupid and everybody hates it, that’s fine with me.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

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About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About MechWarrior: Dark Age

  1. Mendrugo

    When the Dark Age setting first came out, there was a lot of fevered anticipation among the BattleTech community due to the lack of information about what was going on with the universe. FASA had shut down and, as far as anyone knew, “Endgame” was it for the original timeline. Nobody had heard about FanPro continuing things under the “Classic” label, and the WizKids site just had some “coming soon” banners.

    Then, one day, someone nosing around the site found a plethora of content that hadn’t gone live yet and posted it to the main forums. (It soon disappeared, and I think he got banned.) The early material was shocking – a short story featuring a panicked young man working to soup up his AgroMech because “they” were coming, and his grandmother revealing her long-hidden Assault ‘Mech in a grain silo. Offhand references to “all the Great Houses being destroyed” caused widespread fanic (fandom panic). Then, a couple days later, Wizkids rolled out their million dollar website – interactive starmap, news articles, audio clips, setting details. It honestly looked gorgeous.

    Then word came that FanPro would be continuing “Classic BattleTech” and supporting the original timeline with new content. We suddenly had a whole Jihad to look forward to. With Bertram Habeas’ “Touring the Stars” articles, we were shown that the main factions were all still there, and that the supposed “new factions” were just loosely aligned gangs within the Republic of the Sphere. While the early novels supporting the new line ranged from average to Ruins of Paper, I didn’t get the sense that the universe had been “ruined.” It was more akin to the 20 Year Update, when the universe timejumped over numerous wars to get to the Clan Invasion.

    As far as the pieces went, I found the infantry and support weapons well suited for integration into standard BattleTech play, with a bit of rebasing on hexes. I actually liked the WorkMechs, which had been a core part of the Mercenary’s Star storyline. Sure, they weren’t much if you wanted to have front-line action, but you just had to scale your scenarios to a given tech level limit – as long as the OpFor isn’t a Star of Daishi Widowmakers, you can fit such units into a scenario. I’ve found low-intensity combat scenarios to be just as challenging, especially when you’re trying to hold the line with an assortment of square pegs that would run from an UrbanMech.

    Reply
  2. Ian

    You don’t have to sell your miniatures. Just put them on a hex base and use them in your classic and Alpha Strike games. And the industrial mechs are great for rebel or militia armies.

    Reply
  3. Mendrugo

    Not to mention, you can fix the bent barrels easily with two pots of water – one hot enough to soften the plastic, the other of ice water to plunge it into and reharden it once you get the barrel straightened out. Worked wonders on my droopy artillery pieces.

    Reply
  4. wolfbane2004

    Ah yes, Dark Age…where players complained from the original release up to Age of Destruction about “Pogwarrior,” Rambulances, Agility plus Heavy Armor (you know what I’m taking about…Arnis Drummond’s Dasher II) and then Kurita and the kitties (pre-3142) became a power couple with the greatest depth of miniatures for a while, and a whole “regiment” of Arkham Asylum rejects within the Bannson’s Raiders (I even made a fanon lance that had an Hannibal Lector ripoff in a Hitotsune Kozo leading it all).

    It was one of those hobbies my mom didn’t care for me to collect and to be honest I really wish Topps would have resurrected MechWarrior over HeroClix considering the royalties they have to pay to DC, Disney and Dark Horse since MechWarrior and MageKnight were the two IPs they wholly own.

    Sad thing, outside of the uber-rare Sgt. Major Rusty Cooper and a few other LE pieces from really early on I had every Davion and Steiner mini (plus Swordsworn and Stormhammer units since they had friendly mergers) and every Gunslinger except perhaps “Mirlargo” Jade Hawk and her pilot…and close to the entire range for House Liao (I have their broken artillery, which led to artillery going away, especially when you have a Long Tom that is immune to counter batteries save armor piercing ones).

    I also say it’s sad the Clix Game was the only way to play Spirit Cats since now in the Shattered Fortress scenario for 3150, they are the only part of Clan Nova Cat that survives (though I never liked playing them anyway). Sea Fox needed more representation (maybe some actual Mad Cat Mk IIs, Ha Otokos, even their Mad Cat IIIs) and Wolf-in-Exile plus the Dragoons and Kell Hounds should have become one faction. But on the flip side, we have the Clix game to blame for Malvina Hazen and her Mongol battle philosophy. :P

    Long post, but lots of interesting memories (like a Steiner minigun bike going one-on-one with a Gyrfalcon and actually taking it out).

    Reply
  5. Lanzman

    No, there were no redeeming features to the Dreck Age. Clickytech almost killed the game completely and the storyline, what there was of one, was just a rehash of the fall of the Star League. It was indeed a dark time for BattleTech.

    Reply
  6. Jeremy Caswell

    The dark times with no redeeming features.

    Endgame was the last action of Battletech.

    Before “other people” bought the license and wrote bad fan fiction.

    Reply
  7. CF

    Not only was _Dork Age_ garbage, it was a Blatant Cash Grab. Let’s face some Unpleasant Realities here: Until _Magic: The Indecent Obsession_ came along, there was an Absolute Hard Limit on the amount of product a gaming company could sell. One product per [n] gamers — and with the advent of Computer Games, that [n] value was unscrolling like a _Dauntless_ dive-bomber’s altitude indicator at Midway. Then We’re Out To Conquer figured out the answer to the age-old question “how can we sell the same product to the same gamer multiple times?”. Anyone who was at GenCon, and watched the Running Of The Gamers (and in many cases, that was the *only* time those humanatees *ever* moved that fast) toward the WOTC Party booth to snarf up as many packs of cards as they could get away with, knows whatof I speak — and also remembers how we never lacked for toilet paper, as the bathroom garbage bins overflowed with Commons discarded by fanatics fanboys. (I won’t even get into the FLGS-order crowd; I knew a fellow who was pulling down $90K/yr. at his work, and nearly every penny of disposable income went to ordering *CASES* of _M:TG_ cards.) It was only a matter of time before someone on the Minis end of the gaming hall twigged to the fact “Hey — *we* can do this too!”. The failure was: Clickytech was too dumbed-down for the Traditional Crowd [cough], while the Collector Crowd was already overstretched; plus, Clickytech required too much space to actually play in, and (as noted above) was badly broken in several gameplay aspects. It’s only taken TWENTY ODD YEARS to unscrew the worst of the problems.

    Reply

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