One of the comments from the demo of the BattleTech DMG at GenCon last year was about getting more of the tactical aspects of the BattleTech game into the DMG. The proof of concept game was really a slugfest: two ‘Mechs pounding it out on the battlefield with Take Cover or Dodge cards allowing ‘Mechs to avoid getting hit. It really wasn’t much more than playing an occasional card to adjust your opponent’s chances of hitting. Playing the miniatures game, a lot of the gameplay comes into maneuvering your ‘Mech around into a better position, hoping to get flanking or around to where the enemy cannot react to your attack.
I wound up coming up with an abstract battlefield/movement system for the card game. Rather than build out an actual playing field with cards—which would be too much like trying to create the miniature battle game with a modular board—the battlefield is created by the terrain around your ‘Mech. In your play area there are spaces for three terrain cards: left flank, current location, and right flank. When your ‘Mech moves, you choose which terrain type you want to move to from the Terrain deck (or tableau) and place that in the center “current location” section. This displaces the center card to the left or right and causes the card that was in that flank to be discarded.
Here is a quick example: Joe has these cards in his HUD1 from left to right: Open Terrain, Heavy Forest, Light Forest. Joe wants to move to a Canyon, so he places the Canyon in his center slot, moves the Heavy Forest to the left flank, and discards the Open Terrain card. His HUD now reads: Heavy Forest, Canyon, Light Forest.
The other way to move on the battlefield in this iteration of the BattleTech DMG is to sidestep into a flanking terrain. In this case, you would just slide the cards over and tack on an Open Terrain location2. With Joe again in that Canyon, say he wants to move into the Light Forest. He just removes the Heavy Forest card, slides the Canyon and Light Forest cards over, and adds an Open Terrain card to the now-vacant right flank. Joe’s HUD now reads: Canyon, Light Forest, Open Terrain.
So now that we can move around the battlefield, we can attempt to outflank each other. The basic rule is “If your current terrain card is the same as the card on your opponent’s flank, you are flanking them.” Joe is standing in Light Forest. If his opponent3 has a Light Forest card on either flank, Joe has a flanking bonus. Maybe Joe is behind his opponent. Perhaps he’s beside him.
But why even bother with moving around? Isn’t it safer to just stay in the same area? Does the movement system turn the DMG into a game of Follow the Leader? To answer that, we have to look at our next installment, where we examine missions.