I’ve been a Battletech fan for more than sixteen years. This is not intended as a boast or a declaration of ownership over some piece of the franchise, though. Rather, it is important to note how much of an influence the game has had on me for roughly half of my life. I was introduced to the game when I was twelve years old. My older brother had just recently lost his Dungeons and Dragons books and materials to an overzealous mother who believed they would make him want to fling himself off of a tall building. Ravenous for something to fill the void, Ty found Battletech. Content that the game’s lack of magic and demonic imagery would result in passive acceptance by our parents, we both spent most of our money for the next few years on books, dice, and legions of pewter mechs.
I grew up playing Battletech. At the same time that I was obsessed with finding my first girlfriend in middle school, I was also consuming the Battletech novels as quickly as they were released. When Mechwarrior 2’s opening CGI was released on a CD months before the actual game, I watched it dozens of times in anticipation. When kids in my class were spending money on cigarettes and alcohol, my friends and I spent long afternoons planning out what mechs we were going to order from Ral Partha. I credit the game with saving me from a variety of personal calamities. While my mother would continually chide us for spending too much time indoors playing that silly mech game, she didn’t understand that while we were doing that, peers were out knocking over mailboxes and building homemade fireworks. But I digress.
Battletech taught us a lot of lessons. Many of which the creators of the game likely had no intention of teaching. In the coming columns, I hope to share many of the stories that I’ve carried with me over the years that involve the game and those who played it with me. Some will bring a smile to your face, while others will make you cringe. But hopefully they will also connect with some of the things that helped you fall in love with Battletech.
Dangerous Chemicals 101: A Love Story
The little pewter mechs that would dominate the pool table we turned into battlefield offered many unique experiences that my father routinely described as “character builders”. From the moment we tore open a shipment of mechs to the moment you finally saw a final product ready for battle, there was much to learn. One of the best life lessons we learned from piecing together mechs - some of which still sit on my shelf today - is the wonderful power of chemistry.
Let’s take a moment to talk about paint. My friends and I looked at the task of painting our mechs in the same way as a house painter looks at your average cedar siding. It needs paint, and frequently. Some of the earliest mechs we purchased ended up with five or six coats of paint as we tried out one camouflage and then another. It became so absurd that, on many of them, the mech showed little to no detail beyond their basic shape. Eventually, the problem couldn’t be ignored any longer, and the days of reckoning were upon us. My best friend, who was also one of the worst offenders in the great painting job that never ended, had a solution. It came in a large can of paint thinner procured from his parents’ garage.
Now I know you’re thinking. What could possibly go wrong with a group of teenagers using a can of paint thinner? I promise you we thought that our plan was brilliant. We would merely soak the paint-drenched mechs in this paint thinner, and then in a few short hours simply take out the now clean mechs. Then, after drying, we could prime and paint away like the mechs were fresh out of their packages. In execution, however, we quickly discovered some flaws in the strategy.