First, Technical Readout 3145. This is a PDF only product. It is basically a small TRO, but better (and appears far less bug ridden) and larger than XTRO's. It has all sorts of units in it, including new Mad Cats, Vultures, and various support vehicles. The layout graphics caught my eye as pretty good though I think they waste a bit too much space on the left side of the text page, and the cover art is superb. Skimming through the book here are my impressions of the units:
- Specter Scout Battle Armor - What is with the feet?!?!? Is it *trying* to get stuck in the mud and tear up sidewalks???
- Marauder Battle Armor - Kinda cool, but the anti-mech firepower doesn't seem to match up to the looks.
- Gun Trailers - Ooooo, first time seeing a weapon trailer. I'm not sure if you can just drive along, drop this off, and it'll function independently, but it should. Good art and great and long overdue idea.
- Gossamer VTOL - Stupid looking, inefficient, unbalanced, but on the tabletop a nice design.
- Garrot VTOL - Sikorsky Sky-crane, non-combat unit that can be very useful in campaigns
- Lamprey VTOL - So ugly I threw up in my mouth a little bit, but not a bad design.
- Kite Hovertank - Good scout, good art but not a hovercraft in the conventional sense
- Cardinal VTOL - Kinda ugly, but somewhat logical looking, and a great design
- Testudo Siege Tank - Meh, but I liked the art
- Bishop VTOL - Ugly as sin, in a campaign its use is limited by its range
- Savior Repair Vehicle - Awesome, needed for campaigns!
- Koshi Standard - Meh
- Cadaver - Ugly, stupid, and dumb design, but on the tabletop it beats a locust hands down
- Tiburon - Pretty, balanced, solid design, I'd field it
- Stalking Spider II - Uhhhh, I'd never use it, but nothing is really *wrong* with it
- Black Hawk Standard - Sniper mech, but +32 damage at point blank.
- Vulture Mk IV - *Excellent* art, great vulture chassis upgrade, not a big fan of the multi-purpose configurations though. Do 1 thing, and do it well, trying to do everything makes a design suck.
- Hound - Cool art, the twin LPPCs on the right arm look kinda like a robotech Cyclone. Decent design, good art, but not a defined role.
- Jade Hawk - Silly design without much of a role... maybe for solaris matches I guess as it'd be good in melee and if >3 hexes from the baddie its just rubbish
- Mad Cat Mk IV - In every way, see the Vulture above. I did like the primary config, but the SRMs to the rear is dumb for a unit with arm weapons.
- Hawkwolf - At first look kinda ugly, but it grows on you and makes sense. Too heavy for what it provides though, may as well use a cheaper and more durable 3025 Archer.
- Hippogriff - Looks stupid, worthless on the battlefield
- Condottiere - Nice artwork, good logical looking design. No real flaws, but at 150 tons it seems like it should have a little more bite.
- NL-45 Gunboat - The name is confusing, next we'll have the "PPC Mech". Art isn't bad, but I have no idea how to use this and probably never would.
- Nagasawa - The artwork is freaking great, and I wish whoever did it would redo pretty much every ship ever printed. The design is good too.
Ok, so, in short, its a TRO. It is more expensive than regular TROs, but you get more units, with better art, and the best part, you have over 50 pages of the units *AND* their variants, which is nice.
However, they still don't have good design software. Take the awesome new Vulture, the only way to know it has Lamellor armor, is by looking at crits. Nothing on the armor part. Oh well.
So, in short, I'd buy this if you like BT.
Era Report 3145. I have been very disappointed with the era reports and this one is no exception. There are 40 pages of intro, including a timeline of the era. You get 40 pages describing the various factions, and 1-4 selected units (I guess the rest just don't count). You then get 40 pages describing personalities. It seems with the jump in timelines that introducing characters that'll be dead or gone by the next book or two is silly, but maybe they are hanging around this era more than I think. You then get a brief text only introduction of some new technologies and stuff, to wet your appetite, then it jumps into the warchest system. You do get a 3135 and 3145 map, which is the only redeeming value of the book IMO. I guess if you like other era reports you'll like this one, but I'll probably never open it again. Where the hell are the 10 pages or so of all the unit/quality/homeworld listings?!?! Ugh.
And finally, something FREE. A new snippet for Interstellar Operations. IO is my most anticipated product, and when it comes out it may just suck me back into Battletech. This 165 page word file is basically a raw extremely preliminary version for "alternate eras". However, after reading it I saw a bunch of tables for equipment (years/ratings/availability/etc), and basically a bunch of rules that have been added throughout various books since SO came out. There are a few goodies in there, more on LAMs for example, but just about all of it you can find in some other book. This document scares me, as 165 pages of stuff we already have being tossed into IO isn't good IMO. On top of that, there was not a single note I could find on the new interstellar battles that IO is supposed to be all about.
Its my opinion, the whole Total Warfare series of books was really screwed up. They didn't think ahead very well, and seem to be working by the day on it, instead of planning ahead. Now granted, this could be a money thing, but it doesn't make it suck less.
IMO, Total Warfare should have been something like this:
- Total Warfare - Game rules for all levels of combat
- Arms & Equipment - A listing of every single item in the universe, all of its detailed data, any special rules, dates by faction, rule levels by year, etc. Each piece of equipment is completely encapsulated within its own entry. There are no tables in the back, and nowhere you would ever need to look anything else up. Any special rules from TW are referenced.
- Tech Manual - Design anything, much of what it is now, but with some SO stuff thrown in
- Tactical Operations - Pretty much as is, but minus all the new equipment
- Strategic Operations - Again, pretty much as is, but no equipment or construction rules. Also, no BF/QS
- Interstellar Operations - Rules for things like politics, factory construction, fuel consumption, planet/system generation, base building, espionage, spies, everything needed for huge battles.
- Grand Battles - This has Quick Strike, Battleforce, and rules to scale up to about a division/brigade per "unit".
- A Time of War - RPG rules
So each book is all inclusive. The RPG book would have no weapons in it, those fall in #2 which details out both RPG, BT, and even QS/BF style stats for the items within it. Then, every year or two, there is simply an update that adds/replaces pages as needed within these books. All of the books could be printed loose-leaf, so you can bind them, and those updates can just replace pages within it so you are always updated.
On top of that, I'd plan the following books (these may seem like a lot of work, but with computers, all of them could be knocked out in a few months by just me, and 95% of that time would just be to avoid breaking anything canon):
- Atlas - A single big book, with about 30 systems per page. Each system has various details like star type, bases, population, habitable world stats, etc. There could be 1 per data volume as well.
- Data Volume #1, Age of War - A dozen pages or so describing the battles of the time. 1 page with leaders and important folks for each faction, and their various ratings as required (morale, loyalty, leadership, etc), and the rest of the book is a listing of all units, their quality, which random charts to use, special rules, logos, etc.
- Data Volume #2, Star League - Same as #9, but for the time of Kerensky
- Data Volume #3, 1st Succession War - As #9
- Data Volume #4, 2nd Succession War - As #9
- Data Volume #5, 3rd Succession War - As #9
- Data Volume #6, 4th Succession War - As #9
- Data Volume #7, War of 3039 - As #9
- Data Volume #8, FedCom Civil War - As #9
- Data Volume #9, Jihad - As #9
- Data Volume #10, RIS - As #9
Anyway, my opinion is meaningless, but there it is anyway ;)