BattleTech map pack

Product review

gaming tools scifi

Last year, Catalyst Games ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund BattleTech: Mercenaries, an expansion set of miniatures for BattleTech: A game of armoured combat. I don't play BattleTech (yet?) but I like mechs, I'd like to paint some miniature mechs, and I do play some mech battle wargames, so I bought into the Kickstarter. It was with this in mind that I bought the BattleTech Map Pack: Alien Worlds when I saw it at my local game store. In this blog post, I'm reviewing the map pack as a product, trying to be as objective as possible.

The question is, do I start with the good stuff or the bad stuff?

Good stuff

There's a lot more good than bad, so I'll start with the good stuff.

  1. Each map is 91.44 by 55.9 centimeters. That's 36 by 22 inches, or basically 3 feet by 2 feet. That's big enough for most wargames. If it's too big, you can fold it in half.
  2. There are 4 maps in the pack, with 1 on each side of 2 different sheets. You get Fungal Crevasse, Lunar Base, Caustic Valley, and Crystalline Canyon. The names are pretty evocative, so picture what each one might be like and you're probably right.
  3. For BattleTech players using Total War or BattleMech Manual, there are special atmospheric and terrain rules. For players of other games, the rules are generic enough that you can probably adapt them for your rules. Some are a little confusing, like the rule that any model on a certain type of hex is immediately destroyed. For my games, I just wouldn't move my mech into a deadly hex (they're all clearly labeled, after all). But then again, maybe I could incorporate some shoving rules that cause a mech or a support tank to be blown back into a nearby hex, or maybe I could roll on the hexes around the deadly one to see whether they're also deadly at any given moment. Plenty of fun ideas here, whether you're playing BattleTech or just playing with BattleTech assets.
  4. Each map has numbered hexes on them. That might not matter to you, but I love reference markers. They theoretically enable remote play (as long as each player has the same map, play-by-post is easy), they make it easy to save and restore games, they make it easy to call out to a friend from across a table to move your mech to a specific hex because you can't be bothered to walk 0.91 metre to do it yourself.
  5. Beautiful maps. I'm happy to play with my toy soldiers on the wood grain of my hobby table, but it's that much more fun when you've got some suggestion of the game setting. I don't own that much terrain (yet?), and these maps come with nearly everything I need. The Lunar Base is perfect for my Space Station Zero games, Caustic Valley is perfect for my Reign in Hell games, and they're all good for my games. I play Kill Team and Warcry and Warhammer 40,000 and other wargames on them, too. Yes, they have hexes and none of these games require hexes, but I imagine the hexes as augmented reality data in my sci fi games, and I pretty much sublimate them for my fantasy games.

Bad stuff

I'm not entirely happy with the maps.

  1. They're just plain paper. They're not even particularly thick paper, and they have no finish on them. This isn't magazine glossy paper or photographic matte paper, it's just normal paper. The art is great, the size is right, but the material doesn't inspire confidence. Any droplet of moisture is sure to ruin a map, and too much folding is certain to wear the folds down.
  2. They come folded into 8ths. These are big maps, and in the package they're folded down to A4 size. So right out of the pack, they're creased and fail to lie flat.
  3. At least in New Zealand, I felt like these were more expensive than I'd have expected for the quality of product. Four pre-folded normal paper maps for $25 might not sound like much (25 divided by 4 is something like 6 bucks, right?) but I can't stress enough: these maps are made of normal everyday standard paper, and they come folded and very much creased.
  4. For some people not playing BattleTech, the hexes might be a problem. I don't need hexes, but I don't mind hexes and in fact I appreciate the reference points. But if you prefer your game table to look "authentic" (as authentic as a paper map and tiny plastic terrain can be, at least) then you probably won't like the hexes and other metadata that's written onto the maps.
Battletech map.

Buy or no buy

I'm not likely to buy another BattleTech Map Pack, but only because I want to shop around and try other options. Between the creases, the lack of finish, and the metadat a on the map, I feel like one map pack is enough for me. That's not to say I'm displeased with the map pack, though. It's a lot better than nothing, and the more I use the maps the more they lay flat despite their creases.

Are they the best battle maps available? No, probably not. I have Pathfinder dry-erase map packs that are sturdy and durable and evocative. I have Starfinder map packs that are beautifully drawn and printed on sturdy paper (which are great for little RPG skirmishes but too small for wargames, sadly). So there are better options out there, but these ones are nice to have and they're serving me well enough until I find the battle maps of my dreams. Despite my reservations, I'm actually quite happy with the purchase. The maps are doing exactly what I want them to do. They're adding immersion to my wargames, and I'd recommend them to anyone in need of something better than their kitchen table for their miniature battles.

The image in this article is a sample from a copyright image by Catalyst Game Labs.

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