Getting started with BATTLETECH

Getting started with BATTLETECH seems daunting. But, trust me, it isn’t. It’s actually quite easy, and you can gradually add more complexity as you progress as a BATTLETECH player. You won’t need much to get started with this awesome game, which has become my favorite miniature-war-board-game. I love its rules, its concept, the miniatures, the deep strategies, and, of course, the fluff.

BATTLETECH in a nut shell.

In BATTLETECH, you play the role(s) of ‘Mechwarriors piloting their giant war machines called BattleMechs or ‘Mech on distant planets, each ruled by a specific warring faction in the 31st century. You play the BATTLETECH with game pieces, typically miniatures, on a Map Sheet, a gridded playing mat. Next, you track all relevant data of a ‘Mech, including the pilot, is tracked on a Record Sheet, similar to a character sheet in your typical role-playing game. There’s even an RPG set in the BATTLETECH universe. Speaking of which, the game is rooted in a very rich narrative, developed and expanded upon over nearly 40 years now, mostly in the form of a Technical Readouts, a kind of source books and lots of novels.


There are plenty of rule books out there that cover the main rules of ‘Mech to ‘Mech combat. Some add buildings and other terrain, as well as vehicles, infantry, and even aerospace units. Above that, you’ll find plenty of more specific and often times optional rules.

Quick Start Rules

If you’ve never played the game before, I recommend getting the very short, Quick Start Rules to get you started right away with BATTLETECH. They cover the absolute basics of movement and shooting. The rules are free to download and are included in the current Beginner Box, which I quite like to be fair due to its minimalist approach. There’s everything included to get some games going. Some features I would have liked to see, though, are heat and close combat rules.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Quickstart Rules and Beginner Box
The current free Quick-Start Rules

A Game of Armored Combat

If you’ve decided that you want to invest in the game, I recommend upgrading to the Game of Armored Combat Box, which includes enough ‘Mechs for two players, as well as more complete rules of ‘Mech to ‘Mech combat.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: A Game of Armoured Combat

Introductory Box Set

Similar to A Game of Armored Combat, and in my opinion, the best option, is the, unfortunately, out-of-print Introductory Box Set. I bought mine years ago at a gaming store in Germany for 40 €. If you’re lucky to get your hands on these on the second-hand market, just go for it. It contains far more material, rules for vehicles and infantry, sturdier map sheets, more literature, and, above all, way more ‘Mechs than the current Game of Armored Combat box.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Introductory Box Set
I started BATTLETECH with this box.

Let’s say you’ll want to get all the components separately. Which can be a cheaper and more rewarding way of getting started with BATTLETECH.

Introductory Rulebook

A year ago, or so, there was a free download to a PDF on the official BATTLETECH website. I saw, that, it had recently been removed. That file pointed to the Classic BATTLETECH Introductory Rulebook, which cover ‘Mech to ‘Mech combat in the same manner as the Introductory Box Set and the Game of Armored Combat box. But free! You might still find it online.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Introductory Rulebook
Introductory Rulebook


In that case, I can’t recommend the BATTLETECH Compendium enough. If you can find one of the versions online for a decent price, grab it. It’s worth it. I found mine on eBay. Not only for the cool retro black and white ink art from the 1990s.

The Mackie. What a funny looking ‘Mech.

OK, I know what you’re thinking right now: Why should I use an older rule set? My answer, and having read both old and new rule books: The rules are, albeit phrased and laid out differently, 99% identical! Which is one of the things I really like about the game.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Battletech Compendium

In my opinion, the BATTLETECH Compendium is the best rule-book beyond the Quick Start Rules and helps you to get started with BATTLETECH.


Apparently, the BATTLETECH Manual is an excellent rulebook for beginners, as it only focuses on ‘Mech on ‘Mech combat and leaves out infantry,vehicles, and spaceships. I haven’t read it, though, and thus can’t rate it for you. But, it might just be what you’re looking for.


Don’t bother getting the TOTAL WARFARE rule book yet. That book is not very well suited to read from cover to cover but rather serves as a complete rules reference. In that regard, it’s excellent, though. You might get it later, though, once you’ll master the rules. That said, it’s a very nice hard cover book with plenty of photographs, illustrations, useful tables and diagrams. It even has some short stories on every other page.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Total Warfare rule book


Official miniatures

As I said, the best option to get loads of plastic ‘Mechs is the out-of-print Introductory Box Set. The plastic ‘Mechs aren’t that dynamically posed as the newer ones. In fact, they look quite stiff. But, it’s very easy to repose them, using a sharp utility knife. I did this to some of my miniatures, and it’s a fun and creative process, as you can see in the pictures below.

Other than the ones from the boxes sets, there are official ready-made packs available for purchase.

Paper miniatures

If you don’t have minis, paper standees are an option that is even accepted in official tournaments. All the current boxes come with these alongside the plastic miniatures. You’ll probably find used ones on the second-hand market.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: paper standees
Standees from the Beginner Box

Alternatively, you could simply download the Alpha Strike Quick Start Rules from the BATTLETECH website, print them, cut out the paper minis at the back, and you’re ready to play. If you want them to be more durable: laminate and stick them on a plastic hex base.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: paper miniatures to print
Free paper cut-outs


Apart from owning the Introductory Box Set and all of its ‘Mechs, my method of choice, however, is 3D printing. I’m lucky to own a well paid-off, albeit older, resin printer. Cults 3D and My Mini Factory offer STL files for nearly every ‘Mech and vehicle type our there. Often for free, or very cheap. I personally really like Matt Mason’s sculpts on MMF. Comparing the prices of separately sold miniatures and the price of a basic 3D-printing setup, you’ll have a return on invest after about 20 to 30 miniatures. Give it a go, if you own or plan to own a 3D-printer. It’s not at all complicated once you get your settings calibrated. Read our in-depth 3D-printing guide.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: 3D Print
3D-printed ‘Mechs

Painting your ‘Mechs’ is straightforward and very beginner friendly. Read our easy to follow BATTLETECH painting guide.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Speedpainting 3D printed Mechs
Drybrushing and Speed Paints are your friends.


The Recordsheet is where you manage and track all the data of your war machines, such as damage, ammunition, and heat. Think of it as a character sheet in an RPG. There’s something very special and satisfying in ticking off damage points and marking heat.

You can download a bunch of record sheets directly from the official BATTLETECH website.

Or, you’ll install the excellent MECH FACTORY app on your phone or tablet instead. Not only is the app a complete reference for everything BATTLETECH related, but it allows you to generate some very handy PDF record sheets with quick reference tables on the same page.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Record Sheet from Mech Factory App
PDF record sheet from the MECH FACTORY app


The Mapsheets are basically the playing surface or the board to move your miniatures on. They’re covered in hexagonal fields for tracking movement, defining line of sight, and measuring distance. Some hexes have printed terrain features on them, defined in the rules.

All the box sets come with at least one map sheets. There are also great looking neoprene available for purchase.

Alternatively, you could use a blank hex map or download official and fan-made, free, or at a small cost.



2D6 dice

That’s all you’ll need to play the game.

But, as recommended in newer editions of the rules, small 6-sided dice in white, black, and red color come in hand to track movement and modifiers directly on the hex map.

Fluff (Optional)

You’ll find plenty of literature and narrative source material out there: printed or digital, new or used.

Being fluent in German, I found a very good used book on amazon: BATTLETECH – Die Welt des 31. Jahrhunderts, translating to “The World of the 31st century”. There are plenty of source books and so-called “Technical Readouts” or TROs out there to immerse yourself in the game’s fictional background.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Die Welt des 31. Jahrhunderts Heyne Verlag

The BATTLETECH universe is also quite famously known for the multitude of novels it brought about. If you want to go down that route, start with the Gray Death trilogy and branch out from there.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Gray Death trilogy, Entscheidung am Thunder Rift Heyne Verlag
My old and used Gray Death trilogy

Shrapnel magazine is another source of fluff if you’re into short stories. Personally, I’m not a fan of these, though. But these publications seem to be popular.

Getting started with BATTLETECH: Shrapnel

Terrain (Optional)

I planned to focus my main hobby project on BATTLETECH this year, more specifically on 3D BATTLETECH terrain. It’s completely optional and might even take away some of the practical aspects of the game, but me being me, I need to visually enhance the games I play. But, more on this, very soon, on this blog!

Opponent (Mandatory)

Now, the only , and perhaps most essential component left, is a fellow ‘Mechwarrior to play against!

Old School Mech Warriors
Old-school ‘Mechwarriors in action!

Ultimately, you don’t need much getting started with BATTLETECH. You can start playing and have fun with as little or as much as you want. There’s something for every budget and every complexity level.

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