Monday, November 25, 2013

Toys to Some, ‘Mechs to All

Back in the golden years of 1994, there was Battletech: The Animated Series, a short-lived, 13-episode television show covering factionalization, racism, xenophobia, the horrors of war, and military action…..all wrapped in a kid-friendly package and featuring then-amazing CGI sequences and absolutely zero blood, language, or sexuality. Good times….good times. Nevertheless, Tyco, a toy company perhaps better known for Matchbox cars and Power Rangers, brought Battletech to kids in the form of a line of action figures based on the show and horribly out of scale with…well…anything, really…until now. 

The toys were made out of hard plastic, had firing missiles and ejection seats and all those fun gimmicks, and came packaged with an action figure of their pilot who was several sizes larger than he should have been for a 'mech in that scale. Interestingly, if one were to replace said pilot with a 28mm miniature, these toys would for the most part be accurate. They're somewhat rare nowadays, but pop up fairly regularly on eBay for mostly reasonable prices. I'll go into detail on the individual toys here, and how you can use them for your 28mm games of Battletech. 
From Left to Right: Tyco Hunchback IIC, Armorcast Mad Cat, Tyco Axman, Armorcast Atlas. At their feet stand an Imperial Guard Cadian, an unknown 28mm soldier, and an Armorcast Elemental

Axman- based on Adam Steiner's personal 'mech in 3050, this was the flagship battlemech of the animated series and subsequent toy line. A 65-tonner, this particular version from the show is the AXM-2N variant, featuring the trademark hatchet/ axe, twin shoulder-mounted LRM-15 launchers, 3 medium lasers and a large pulse laser. The toy itself is fairly true to the actual art and show counterpart, with a slightly bigger head to accommodate the ejection seat gimmick and fitting the pilot action figure inside. It came in two color variants- one the standard black with yellow striped "camouflage" from the show, and the other a dark teal with black stripes, both variations with the 90's-standard fluorescent orange colored launching missiles and guns for safety. 

For 1/60 scale or 28mm Battletech gaming, the Axman stacks up decently, although not perfectly in scale. It stands about 9 inches tall, and as wide at the shoulders as the Armorcast Atlas….which means it's both taller and wider than the Armorcast Madcat, which represents a 'mech a full 10 tons heavier. The head being oversized and the legs a bit short means the Axman is somewhat awkward looking, but it's not a deal breaker. A skilled modeler can repose it or at least glue it in a good pose, and with a decent paint job it looks realistic enough to work. 

Mauler- An assault 'mech, one of the very few available in approximately 1/60 scale, the Mauler (this variant roughly the MAL-1R) piloted by Zack Hawkins in the tv series was also the largest 'mech of the Tyco line. Though not 100% matching the show version or even its own box art (the missile launchers aren't angled in the toy, for example), this mech is a very nice representation and a perfect choice for 28mm Battletech games. This particular model stands at about 10 inches tall, putting it on par with the Armorcast Atlas, fitting since they're both Assault class 'mechs. Take away the gimmicky firing missiles (of which there are 16), and repaint this thing a decent camouflage color scheme or appropriate house colors, and you've got one mean mech model for 1/60 scale games. 

Bushwacker- The big failure of the Battletech lineup, the BSW-X1 Bushwacker is scaled to…absolutely nothing. Its arms are hollow on the underside, and its legs are hollowed in back, it looks very little like the Battletech art or even any variant in the Mechwarrior games. A 50 ton 'mech, the thing generally looks terrible, can't be reposed, and is out of scale for 1/60 or 28mm. Not recommended, even though the flashy tiger-striped alternative paint scheme version is pretty flashy. 

Thor- The clan 'mechs got a bit better treatment for the Tyco toy line. Clan Jade Falcon was the main threat of the Battletech animated series, and therefore the villains got their own toys as well. The Thor got a very nice sculpt that even had proportional legs and head (a big issue during the 90's to be sure). Unfortunately due to the need for a missile launching gimmick, the right arm is….a bizarre box shaped appendage. Not the worst thing in the world, a player can easily modify that arm to represent an Ultra AC/20 from the C configuration or some such. The model doesn't have a very dynamic pose to it, but it stands, it's roughly in scale with 1/60 or 28mm, and it looks like the 'mech it represents. 

Hunchback IIC- An odd choice when you think about it, the Hunchback was never a popular design in the clans or even for the video games. However, the toy it got is quite possibly the most accurate representation of any in the Tyco toy line. With two massive AC/20s in the shoulders, this thing is a hard hitter, and can easily be repainted for 1/60 scale Battletech- for which it is perfectly scaled. At 50 tons, this surprisingly powerful little 'mech is about an inch shorter than the Armorcast Mad Cat, and considerably thinner, a perfect representation for a medium 'mech. As usual, get rid of the gimmick missiles, paint it  new, less plastic finish, and you're ready to set this beast upon the battlefield! 

The rest of Tyco: To go with the battlemechs, Tyco also produced Elemental, Infiltrator, and Sloth battle armor, as well as a Banshee Aerospace fighter, none of which are in a decent enough scale to use for Battletech in 28mm games. There was also a prototype produced of the Vulture battlemech, though there is only one picture of it to be found, and it looks to be very much out of scale anyway. 

From left to Right: Joyride Mad Cat, Joyride Jupiter, Armorcast Mad Cat, Armorcast Atlas

Now that takes care of Tyco, but back in the mid-2000's, when Wizkids held the Mechwarrior license, a small company called Joyride Studios produced a limited line of Mechwarrior Dark Age toys in 1/55th scale (why in the hell they decided on 1/55 i have no idea, but suffice to say some of them work for 1/60 and 28mm, and some do not). Due to a very limited production, these are actually harder to find than the Tyco toys, and usually sell for a lot more money. They were done in a hybrid of die cast metal and plastic, which resulted in…very heavy and very fragile models at the same time, all of which also came with micro-machine sized pilots that were way out of scale with the 'mechs. 

Mad Cat- officially called the Mad Cat II (because Wizkids never seemed to grasp that the Mad Cat MK II looked substantially different than the famous Mad Cat), this model is by far the most sought after in the Joyride collection. It is almost EXACTLY the same size and dimensions of the Armorcast Mad Cat, with a different arm assembly being the only modification. Throughout their run Joyride produced three color variants (two released as action figures, and a third as a model kit) of the Mad Cat. Available in White, Silver, and Brown. One variant (I think the model kit version) came with rotary autocannon arms instead of the standard PPC or Lasers). If you can get your hands on one of these, I highly recommend it! It is the quintessential Mad Cat for Battletech gaming in 1/60 scale, since the Armorcast design is infinitely more expensive and harder to find. 

Jupiter- a Dark Age assault 'mech that has no classic battletech counterpart (well…until TRO 3075). The Jupiter was released in red, red and grey, and a very nice blue and tan color scheme; however, as a 100-ton 'mech it is ridiculously out of scale, standing shorter than the Mad Cat and about the same width. The figure itself is also absurdly heavy, and the plastic joints are prone to loosening. If you for some reason love the Dark Age designs, I guess you could get one, but if you're planning on 1/60 scale gaming look elsewhere or maybe use it to scan a CAD design and 3D print your own in a bigger scale. 

Legionnaire- another Dark Age design, albeit a medium 'mech at 50 tons, the Legionnaire is in a far more accurate scale, standing about the same height and width as the Tyco Hunchback IIC. This design features a massive rotary autocannon above its cockpit, an appropriately fearsome weapon. This is a utilitarian, workhorse design that many collectors should consider using for 1/60 scale battletech, as a fast heavy hitter can make all the difference in an urban battleground. This design was available in military green, dark blue, and an interesting black design with red and yellow checkered arms and shoulders. 

Forestry Mech- The odd man out of the bunch, the Forestry Mech is an industrialmech that was retrofitted for militia use during the Dark Age, and therefore this figure is one of the few that comes with alternative parts. The chainsaw and claw arms are interchangeable, and a third arm option is a low calibre autocannon that can replace either of them. This is a very small 'mech at only 20 tons, and while its cockpit is quite cramped for a 28mm model (I used a Warhammer 40,000 sentinel pilot), it seems appropriately sized for 1/60 scale battletech. This is by far the easiest of the four designs to find on eBay or Amazon sales, and can be found in industrial yellow, brown and silver, or pure white. 

Well there you have it! If you're lucky, fast, and have cash, you can land these now out of production Battletech and Mechwarrior toys for reasonable prices, and use them in your games of Battletech: Combined Arms. 28mm battletech is a fun and rewarding miniature war-game, and these models (with some exceptions) fit right in. 

1 comment:

  1. *note- images provided by Cache of the Classic Battletech forums.