BattleTech Boxed Set

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The BattleTech boxed set is the core product of the BattleTech board game that spawned the BattleTech universe. It has gone through numerous editions and revisions, and remains the entry product to guide new players into the boardgaming aspect of BattleTech.

1984: Battledroids (FASA 1604)[edit]

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There is no proper "First Edition" of BattleTech. Instead, the inaugural game was called Battledroids, released by FASA in 1984. BattleTech Line Developer Herbert A. Beas II would later describe Battledroids as "BattleTech's predecessor", and its contents and scenarios were ruled to be not necessarily canonical for the BattleTech universe.

The Battledroids game rules were different from the later (second edition) BattleTech rules. Weapon firing and damage were a simplified system that combined all weapons into a single attack roll against the equally singular armor rating of the target, forgoing hit locations in a fashion similar to the simplified combat in the later Alpha Strike ruleset. It was only the optional Advanced Battledroids Rules that resembled what would become the classic BattleTech boardgame rules. Battledroids also featured rules for tanks and armed jeeps that differed significantly from all later iterations of the BattleTech rules regarding their movement, firing, and damage rules. Finally, it offered rules for Battledroid construction (but not for vehicles) that were similar, but not quite identical, to the later BattleMech construction rules which would remain an integral part of all BattleTech boxed set rulebooks.

The Battledroids included with this first set as cutout playing pieces were the Stinger, Wasp, Phoenix Hawk, Shadow Hawk, Griffin, Rifleman, Crusader, Archer, Warhammer, and Marauder. All of these would later become Unseen. Rubber stands were included for the cutouts. In addition, the Merlin featured in the rulebook as a practical example for the construction rules, but it had no associated picture or cutout.

The rulebook was just a stapled 26-page booklet without cover; its last six pages were reversible and contained information about the universe. Like all subsequent boxed sets, the Battledroids box contained a pair of dice and two folding paper mapsheets with a hex grid. The map layout of this basic playing map would remain unchanged until the 2011 Anniversary Edition.

The box also contained two small model kits that were identified as Shadow Hawk and Griffin Battledroids; the models were in fact imported "Dougram Combat Armor" and "Soltic H8 Roundfacer" models from Fang of the Sun Dougram (see also: TCI Model Kits). These models were out of scale and too large to fit on the gameboard's hex fields, and were not included with later editions of the boxed sets.

1985: BattleTech, 2nd Edition (FASA 1604)[edit]

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The first product to be named "BattleTech", the BattleTech, Second Edition boxed set is generally regarded as the quintessential BattleTech product. It kept the same FASA product number as Battledroids (1604).

BattleTech, 2nd Edition, came with a rulebook (with a proper cover) with gaming and 'Mech construction rules. These were based off the Advanced Battledroids Rules, and form the core of the BattleTech boardgame rules to this day with minimal changes. The vehicle and infantry rules from Battledroids were dropped, but the construction rules were kept with some adjustments.

Expanded background information for the setting, namely the Inner Sphere during the Succession Wars era around the year 3025, was found throughout the rulebook, mostly through sidebars. Crests for the five Great Houses plus three Bandit Kingdoms and five mercenary units made their first appearance, including colored faction counters to go with the 'Mech cutout playing pieces. Notably, there were no scenarios included in the rulebook.

The game stats for all but three Battledroids–now called BattleMechs–were changed to some degree to account for errors or changes in the construction rules (and one had its alphanumerical code altered), and four additional designs were introduced: Locust, Wolverine, Thunderbolt, and BattleMaster. All of these, too, would later become Unseen. A fifth new addition was the Chameleon TrainingMech. (In addition, the blank record sheet in the rulebook featured the outline of a BattleMech that did not match any of the other 'Mechs and was retroactively identified as a 'Mech called the Viper 38 years later in 2023.)

1986: CityTech (FASA 1608)[edit]

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Although often mistaken for a mere BattleTech supplement or expansion, the CityTech boxed set was in fact a complete stand-alone game unto itself. Its rulebook reiterated the BattleTech rules and expanded them by adding playing and construction rules for different kinds of vehicles (substantially different from the earlier Battledroids vehicle rules), as well as infantry, buildings, and paved ground. It did not contain the 'Mech construction rules, nor did it provide universe background beyond two connected short fiction pieces, A Tale of Two Cities and Life in the Big City.

Stats were provided for six 'Mechs previously featured in BattleTech (Archer, Rifleman, Shadow Hawk, Crusader, Marauder, Warhammer), six new 'Mechs (Stalker, Ostsol, Hunchback, Ostroc, Spider, Ostscout) and six combat vehicles (Condor, J. Edgar, Hunter, Vedette, Demolisher, Wheeled Scout).

The CityTech box contained a slew of cutout counters for various tanks, infantry units and buildings, and two (identical) mapsheets that were different from the previous BattleTech mapsheets.

1992: BattleTech, 3rd Edition (FASA 1604)[edit]

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The third edition of the boxed set, released by FASA in 1992, replaced the paper cutout playing pieces with plastic miniatures. One was provided for each of the fourteen standard 'Mechs from the second edition. The new edition also contained a booklet with prefilled record sheets for these fourteen 'Mechs. The Merlin and Chameleon made no appearance.

Although the rules as such remained largely unchanged (notably only reiterating the construction rule previously introduced in the BattleTech Manual that a number of heat sinks were integral to the engine and didn't have to be allocated critical hit slots), the rulebook was reorganized and partiallly rewritten. It notes that BattleTech sourcebooks, scenarios and novels have brought the "present" year to 3055, but the associated technological advancements are "beyond the scope of basic BattleTech" and the rules remain at the 3025-era technology level. Four generic training scenarios were included (named "First Run", "Final Exam", "Trial by Fire", and "Divide and Conquer"). The description of the BattleTech universe was moved to its own eight-page section at the end of the book.

In 1994 a revised version of this edition was released, in a thicker box that could better fit the miniatures. The outer appearance of the box cover (and back cover) underwent minor changes while the box content apparently remained unchanged.

1994: CityTech, 2nd Edition (FASA 1608)[edit]

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In the same fashion as the new (third) edition of the BattleTech boxed set, CityTech received a makeover for its second edition while retaining the product number. FASA went a bit further here, calling the game "The Advanced BattleTech Game of 3050 Combat" in the tagline and explicitly expanding the rules to "Level 2" (Clan Invasion era) technology. The set came with a record sheets booklet, sixteen plastic miniatures on two identical sprues of eight units each (Javelin, Centurion, Orion, Victor, Uller, Black Hawk, Mad Cat, Daishi), and two double-sided sheets of color counters with black-and-white backside for buildings, vehicles, infantry, and effects. The mapsheets remained the same as in the first edition of CityTech. Like in the first CityTech edition, no scenarios were included.

1996: BattleTech, 4th Edition (FASA 1604)[edit]

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In the wake of the Unseen lawsuits FASA redesigned the basic BattleTech boxed set for a new edition in 1996, with a new lineup of 24 classic 'Mechs that were not Unseen: Commando, Spider, Jenner, Panther, Assassin, Cicada, Clint, Hermes II, Whitworth, Vindicator, Enforcer, Hunchback, Trebuchet, Dervish, Dragon, Quickdraw, Catapult, JagerMech, Grasshopper, Awesome, Zeus, Cyclops, Banshee, and Atlas. This lineup would be used for all subsequent editions of the boxed set until 2019 when "A Game of Armored Combat" came with a new selection of 'Mechs. Because no plastic miniatures were readily available, FASA reverted to cardboard cutouts for this edition.

The fourth edition redesigned the rulebook again. Calling itself 'BT4', it states that the "current" year of the BattleTech universe is 3058, while BT4 is set in 3049. It also makes reference to the Rules Levels previously seen in CityTech, Second Edition, and states that the technology described in the BT4 game is Level 1, whereas Level 2 includes the technology available in 3058. Three of the previous edition's four scenarios ("Final Exam", "Trial by Fire", and "Divide and Conquer") were included in the rulebook, with small changes; most importantly, the original (now Unseen) 'Mechs in these scenarios were exchanged for different 'Mechs from BT4's new lineup.

The box included a separate second booklet, Introduction to BattleTech, which contained simplified Quick Start Rules and a dedicated sourcebook-style description of the BattleTech universe background and its history up until 3049, including the role of BattleMechs therein and a Technical Readout-style section briefly covering the 'Mechs contained in the boxed set. The fourth scenario from the previous edition ("First Run") was used to showcase the quick start rules, and was moved to the second booklet accordingly.

2003: Classic BattleTech (FanPro 10980)[edit]

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In 2001, Fantasy Productions (FanPro) acquired the license to what was now "Classic BattleTech", CBT for short. They created a new CBT boxed set, but aside from the rebranding and new cover image the changes from the 4th edition were minor. The featured 'Mechs and scenarios remained the same as in the previous (fourth) edition, though the 48 cutout playing pieces (two for each of the 24 'Mech designs) had new artwork for them. In the preface, the current year of the BattleTech universe is given as 3067 while the basic (Level 1) rules remain at the 3025 level.

The arguably biggest change was splitting the previous set's Introduction to BattleTech universe background booklet into two, a dedicated Quick Start Rules booklet and one titled Classic BattleTech Universe, and adding a poster map of the Inner Sphere. A Record Sheets booklet was also included, for a total of four booklets in the box.

2007: Classic BattleTech Introductory Box Set (CGL 35000)[edit]

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After FanPro's license expired in 2007, the Classic BattleTech license went to Catalyst Game Labs who created yet another new edition of the boxed set. Most importantly, the cardboard counters were once again replaced by twenty-four plastic miniatures that required no cutting or assembly. The 'Mech lineup remained unchanged since the 4th edition, and the three game scenarios remained the same except for changes to the map layout.

The rulebook was expanded to 80 pages, and abandoned the Rules Levels approach of previous rulebooks; instead, it now referred to Introductory, Standard (Tournament), and Advanced (Non-Tournament) rulesets. The rules by and large remain at the technology level of the year 3049, with some individual advanced rules provided, while the "current" year of the BattleTech universe was now given as 3085. Basic rules for vehicles and infantry were added back in with two additional training scenarios for these unit types, titled "Veteran Training Scenario" and "Elite Training Scenario", respectively.

The universe book was retitled to Inner Sphere at a Glance, but its content remained largely unchanged and it notably still only covers the universe history through the year 3067 and not to 3085. The Record Sheets and Quick Start Rules booklets remained, and a "Painting and Tactics Guide" booklet was added that taught miniatures painting and some boardgame tactics.

2011: 25th Anniversary Introductory Box Set (CGL 3500A)[edit]

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Delayed in production so that it actually came out 26 years after the BattleTech, 2nd Edition boxed set, by the time this anniversary edition came out the "Classic" part had been dropped from the name again and the game had reverted to simply "BattleTech".

This is edition saw considerable change over the previous editions: The box format was changed from the bookshelf format used by all previous boxed sets to a square 16" x 16" format. Instead of a pair of paper foldout maps, now there were two double-sided mapsheets with different terrain on heavy cardstock paper, one of them the classic "standard" BattleTech mapsheet (the others being City Hills/Residential #2, Lake Area, and Open Terrain #2). A new booklet titled How the Core Rulebooks Work was added that sought to explain how different BattleTech rulesets interact and complement each other.

In addition to the usual 24 playing piece miniatures there were two high-quality extra miniatures of a Hellbringer (Loki) and a Summoner (Thor), though unlike the other miniatures these two had to be assembled from parts that came on sprues.

2014: BattleTech Introductory Box Set (CGL 3500B)[edit]

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Essentially a re-release of the Anniversary Edition boxed set with largely identical content, the most important changes in this box over the previous one were the new cover, and better quality plastic miniatures using improved sculpts. The two high-quality extra miniatures were changed to a BattleMaster and a Timber Wolf (Mad Cat).

2017: BattleTech Starterbox (Ulisses Spiele GmbH US40012)[edit]

Apocryphal Content Starts

The information after this notice comes from apocryphal sources; the canonicity of such information is uncertain.
Please view the reference page for information regarding their canonicity.

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Having sold out the German edition of the Introductory Box Set, German licensee Ulisses Spiele GmbH found that they could not get new miniatures for the box, preventing a reprint. However, they had taken over surplus stock of CityTech, 2nd Edition plastic miniatures from FanPro and decided to create an entirely new starter box set around these.

The resulting German-only boxed set, named the BattleTech Starterbox and released in 2017, contained one CityTech 2nd Ed. miniatures sprue with 8 'Mechs on it, 58 paper standees, record sheets, two all-new exclusive mapsheets ("Countryside" and "Mine") and an 80-page rulebook including rules for Clan technology and a mini-campaign of five scenarios about the Clan Jade Falcon invasion of Barcelona.

As an original German publication that was never translated into English, the BattleTech Starterset as such does not meet the criteria for canon. Its content, namely the Barcelona campaign, must therefore be considered apocryphal.

Apocryphal Content Ends

2019: BattleTech Beginner Box (CGL 35020)[edit]

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In 2019 CGL released a pair of new box sets in tandem, "A Game of Armored Combat" which was the full introductory box set and a "Beginner Box" with downscaled content which was sold more or less at cost, to lower the price barrier for new players to enter the BattleTech hobby.

The Beginner Box includes two fully assembled unpainted miniatures (a Griffin and a Wolverine), nine cardboard standees to act as additional BattleMechs, one double-sided mapsheet, cardboard hex terrain meant to be used with the maps, the "Quick-Start Rules" for the game, color record sheets for several variants of the included BattleMechs, a set of MechWarrior cards, a short novella titled Golden Rule, a foldout map with bullet points explaining the BattleTech universe during the Succession Wars era, and two six-sided dice. The included Quick-Start Rules describe the fundamentals of standard BattleTech gameplay including turn structure, simplified movement and attack rules for BattleMechs and tables for movement and attacks on the back cover for easy reference by players.

2019: BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat (CGL 3500D)[edit]

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Released in 2019 together with the BattleTech: Beginner Box, this revised basic box set was redesigned from the ground up. The set includes eight unpainted plastic miniatures of the Awesome, BattleMaster, Catapult, Commando, Locust, Shadow Hawk, Thunderbolt, and Wolverine, a 56-page rulebook, a 16-page booklet containing record sheets for several variations of the included BattleMechs (meant to be photocopied), a 16-page universe primer describing the factions during the Succession Wars, a 24-page novella titled Eyestorm (continuing the story from Golden Rule), 8 MechWarrior cards describing the unique abilities of MechWarriors, a heavy-stock reference sheet containing all tables needed to play under the included ruleset, two full-color double-sided mapsheets for a total of four maps, a punchboard containing additional BattleMechs and terrain, one Alpha Strike card for each miniature and two six-sided dice. The set also includes an advertisement for Iron Wind Metals.

2020: BattleTech: Clan Invasion (CGL 35030, CGL 35030K)[edit]

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Released in 2020 after a successful crowdfunding campaign, this box set served as an expansion to BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat. The box provides lore, rules, and components for introducing Clan warfare into BattleTech gameplay.

The set includes unpainted plastic miniatures of the Adder, Executioner, Mongrel, Nova, Timber Wolf, plastic miniatures for two points of Elemental battle armor, a 32-page rulebook, a 24-page booklet containing record sheets, a 24-page Clan Invasion primer describing the universe and factions in the early years of the Clan Invasion, a 20-page novella titled The Bonds of Battle, 10 MechWarrior cards, a heavy-stock reference sheet, two full-color double-sided mapsheets for a total of four maps, a punchboard containing additional BattleMechs and terrain, one Alpha Strike card for each 'Mech miniature, and two six-sided dice.

There was an exclusive version of the boxed set for campaign backers, CGL 35030K. It came with a different front cover than the standard retail version CGL 35030. However, due to an error during shipping, some backers received the standard retail box instead of this exclusive version.

2022: BattleTech Beginner Box, Second Edition (CGL 35020M)[edit]

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In 2022 CGL released a second edition of its BattleTech Beginner Box in connection with a variety of mercenary themed products. This edition replaced the Wolverine plastic miniature with a Vindicator plastic miniature. (The Wolverine plastic miniature was also included in BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat, so this change removed that overlap.) This product has also been marketed as BattleTech Beginner Box (Vindicator Edition).

Like the first edition of the Beginner Box, this includes two fully assembled unpainted miniatures, cardboard standees to act as additional BattleMechs, one double-sided mapsheet, cardboard hex terrain meant to be used with the maps, the Quick-Start Rules for the game, color record sheets for several variants of the included BattleMechs, a set of MechWarrior cards, a short novella titled Golden Rule written by William H. Keith, a foldout map with bullet points explaining the BattleTech universe during the Succession Wars era, and two six-sided dice. The included Quick-Start Rules describe the fundamentals of standard BattleTech gameplay including turn structure, simplified movement and attack rules for BattleMechs and tables for movement and attacks on the back cover for easy reference by players.