Historical: Reunification War, released in the summer of 2011, continued the Historical Series, an attempt by Catalyst to flesh out earlier time periods in the BattleTech canon that have traditionally not seen as much coverage. With the pending release of the next Historical, Historical: Liberation of Terra Volume 1, a look back at the Reunification War can give players a look at the early Star League Era and its ramifications not only on the later Star League Era that will be covered in Liberation of Terra but also the current BattleTech timeline.
One of the more interesting features of Historical: Reunification War is that it gives us a look not only at the war itself but the political maneuvering that led up to the formation of the Star League itself and then to the eventual buildup to and beginning of the conflict. This is also expanded upon in Catalyst’s companion release of Era Digest: Age of War which details the period of time before the formation of the Star League and is a nice little “supplemental” to this book that fans of the Era should really consider getting as well.
Historical: Reunification War was written largely by two individuals, Chris Hartford and Christoffer Trossen, whose list of books reads like a list of just about everything in the BattleTech universe stretching back to the early 90’s in the case of Hartford and the later 90’s for Trossen. Hartford was also a writer for Historical: War of 3039 and Historical: Brush Wars while this is Trossen’s first major inclusion in a Historical project, but both can list numerous Field Manuals, Technical Readouts, and Jihad Sourcebooks among many other Sourcebooks on their rolls of achievements. Additionally the normal cast of supporting players is in place from Herbert A. Beas II as Line Developer to Øystein Tvedten and his awesome maps, 13 other individuals are listed in the credits as contributors along with 20 play testers and fact-checkers, all-in-all a pretty impressive lineup for this book.
Covering an era in BattleTech’s history that has been touched on by numerous other products, Historical: Reunification War on the surface simply had to fill in the blank areas, put them in chronological order and regurgitate what we already know, but they also faced the task of fixing several continuity errors and plot holes and coming up with 20+ years of material without contradicting material already in place. It had to be a momentous task and despite the rumblings of a few I believe they pulled it off pretty well.
Historical: Reunification War follows the standard layout of most BattleTech products and if you’ve read another Historical you should feel right at home. Starting out with the standard fiction section they move right into the Introduction and explanation about the formation of the Star League, followed by a run-down on the various forces and personalities in the Inner Sphere at the time, with a surprising focus on the House and periphery nations beyond the SLDF, before delving into the various campaigns of the Reunification War itself. Following the main portion of the book are Deployment Tables listing the location of the various involved forces, both SLDF/House Units along with Periphery forces, and then a section detailing the Aftermath of the War itself. Then a Rules Annex including several new vehicles, mechs, and spacefaring units is included that also has all the various goodies many people look for in these sections (RATs, RPG info, etc.). No Index at the end to Blacknova’s dismay I’m sure but this has become the norm, I never used them but could see how they might be useful for those that did.
Historical: Reunification War is listed at 232 pages, making it the largest of the Historical series. Eclipsing both War of 3039 (168 pages) and Brush Wars (144 pages) that did include several pages of Indexes along with the more recent Operation Klondike (186 pages including Record Sheets). Reunification War is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction in terms of length for the Historical Series, as I feel both 3039 and Brush Wars could have benefited from longer length. The printing of a companion Era Digest (Era Digest: Age of War for Historical: Reunification War) continues a tradition set by Operation Klondike (with Era Digest: Golden Century) that I support as it gives even further reading into a related Era for those interested that could potentially bloat the actual Historical itself.
Beginning with a suitably awesome shot of PPC destruction on the cover and followed by several grizzly shots throughout the book (the throat stabbing on page 22 and the corpse impaled on spear on page 156 stand out) the art of Historical: Reunification War continues the status quo that is awesome art in BattleTech canon. Add to this some very nice logos for a plethora of military units, including several brand new ones (the Rim Worlds in particular gets some goodies here) some nice illustrations of new game units in the Rules Annex and initial deployment maps for each periphery nation along with a full map of the Inner Sphere circa. 2596 and the art in Historical: Reunification War is quite impressive. One thing I thought was a little lacking, that was included in earlier Historicals, was maps detailing the progression of forces (Wave Maps kind of). Historical: Operation Klondike didn’t have these maps, and the nature of the Historical didn’t really lend itself to them, however they were included in both Historical: Brush Wars and Historical: War of 3039 and were something I very much enjoyed and thought could have benefited this book. One can take the deployment table and text and extrapolate these types of maps (and my hope is that Blacknova eventually gets the itch to do these ) but their inclusion would have been an added bonus.
Layout and Editing
Historical: Reunification War followed the standard layout of most modern BattleTech Sourcebooks even being presented as a report to the Republic of the Sphere leadership, similar to most newer Catalyst works (the Field Reports and Objectives series are reports by David Lear, Field Manual: 3085 is even presented as a report by Victor Steiner-Davion just like Historical: Reunification War). The Rules Annex added a bunch of new stuff for people to poke around with in their own games and continues the tradition Catalyst has set of using each release to expand the universe as a whole.
While on the whole Historical: Reunification War is an awesome product its main fault lies in the editing. I’m not sure if the release was rushed or if they missed a whole editing step for another reason but Historical: Reunification War is rife with typos, grammatical and justification errors. The errata thread on the BattleTech forums has stretched into 4 pages while other similar products have only a page or two of errata. This was an odd slipup for Catalyst but I’m sure they’ll rectify this with a reprint eventually (after a re-release of the PDF I would assume).
Beginning with a short fiction entitled BattleFields then both in character and out of character Introductions, Historical: Reunification War devotes the first 50-60 pages to the formation of the Star League, the current political situation in the Inner Sphere and Periphery circa. 2570. The makeup of the SLDF, the House forces and the Periphery forces along with listings of personalities gives one a very broad base to get acclimated to the setting before the real crux of the Sourcebook – the Reunification War itself. Historical: Reunification War details the Reunification War split up into its four campaigns beginning with the Taurian, continuing into the Magistracy and Outworlds then ending with the Rim Worlds Campaign.
The League’s Might
Besides giving rundowns of every Corps, Division, Regiment, etc. in the SLDF, Houses and Periphery nations this section lists pre and postwar strengths of the involved parties of both Regiments and Warships, giving great insight into the BattleTech universe as it was before and after the Reunification War.
The Taurian Campaign
The longest, and arguably most important, section of the book, the Taurian Campaign details the SLDF’s campaign to subdue the Taurian Concordat from 2577-2596 following the TDF’s CASE AMBER. This section begins with the Taurian victory in CASE AMBER but then quickly goes downhill for the Taurians, obviously this was necessary but it could get a little depressing for hardcore Taurian fans. The layout of the book works against itself a little in this chapter when General Forlough is introduced into the Taurian Campaign, the writers even address this by noting that reading the Personality write-up for Forlough and perhaps even the early Outworlds Campaign would help the reader grasp just how despicable of a character General Forlough in fact was. I judge this as a slight failing as a book should not require several read-throughs or skipping around for the passive reader to grasp the storyline (as a more hardcore BattleTech fan who was going to read the Sourcebook several times anyways this doesn’t hurt me but I still see it as a slight failing), this is a very small hit against an otherwise awesome story however.
The Taurian Campaign section has some pacing issues in that it feels quite slow in the beginning but approaches breakneck speed up until the final throws of the Concordat. The Piercing the Hyades section, and its sidebar – Order of the Shooting Star, is quite interesting as it details the massive expansion of the SLDF’s space marine force in preparation for the invasion of the Hyades Cluster, one of the many details of the campaign that I had not thought of and enjoyed reading. Overall the Taurian Campaign does quite well grasping the incredible scope of the SLDF’s campaign against the Taurian Concordat in the Reunification War, lasting 20 years it is one of the longest and most important single Military Operation detailed in any Sourcebook and you can feel that when reading this section.
The Magistracy Campaign
Just beating out the Rim Worlds Campaign as the shortest section in the book, the Magistracy Campaign describes the SLDF’s campaign to take the Magistracy of Canopus by force from 2577-2588. The military campaign detailed in the Magistracy Campaign section is a nice contrast to the horrors of the Taurian Campaign (and to a certain extent those that will follow in the Outworlds Campaign).
The Magistracy Campaign section actually made me feel quite good about how the SLDF, Free Worlds League and Magistracy of Canopus handled themselves throughout this portion of the conflict. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the SLDF only took about 10 systems from the Magistracy while they took nearly half of the Concordat’s worlds, and that later the Magistracy didn’t develop a hatred of the Free Worlds League as the Concordat did the Federated Suns. I developed a new respect for the Free Worlds League and the Magistracy reading this section.
The Outworlds Campaign
The Outworlds Campaign details the conflict between the SLDF and the Outworlds Alliance from 2581 to 2585 as well as the buildup to and police actions in the Outworlds starting in 2572. Despite being the shortest campaign chronologically, the Outworlds Campaign is arguably the second most important campaign in the Reunification War and the Outworlds Campaign section reflects this as it is the second longest section behind the Taurian Campaign.
Delving into the politics of the war, how the Federated Suns was actually supporting the Outworlds Alliance while on the other side of the sphere helping to subdue the Taurian Concordat, how the pressures of a League-wide war kept stalling and taking the wind out of the SLDF’s push into the Outworlds and the tit-for-tat between the Draconis Combine and Federated Suns all made this section quite a fun one to read. It was a triumph for any periphery fan to see the Outworlds Alliance actually negotiate a settlement to the war after actually achieving some victories (albeit with a whole bunch of Pitcairn Legion help).
The Rim Worlds Campaign
The Rim Worlds Campaign details the civil conflict and SLDF campaign in the Rim Worlds Republic from 2571 to 2596 and actually eclipses the Taurian Campaign as the longest chronologically in the book. Coming in as the second shortest in terms of pages however, the Rim Worlds Campaign got right to work largely skipping the period before 2582 when not much was going on in the Rim Worlds as the SLDF concentrated elsewhere.
The Rim Worlds Campaign section gives a great insight into the Rim Worlds Republic, notably the first since some mentioning in the old Star League Sourcebook and it was quite enjoyable to read. I’ll not give anything away but it was fun to see the seeds of the Star League’s destruction laid in this section arguably even more than the other three.
Deployment Tables and Aftermath
The Deployment Tables offer a fairly inclusive listing of where every military unit involved in the Reunification War was in each year of the conflict. Interestingly the order of the deployment tables does not reflect the same order that they came earlier in the book (i.e. the Taurian Campaign comes first in the book but the Outworlds Alliance Front Deployment Table comes first in the deployment tables), I am not sure if this was an error or intentional but doesn’t take away from the tables themselves.
The Aftermath section, including the Map of the Inner Sphere in 2596, helps to give the book closure and starts to set the stage for the Star League’s “Golden Era” then its eventual fall. It only scratches the surface but does get the reader thinking about how the Star League Era wasn’t quite as great as it is nostalgically seen during the Succession War, reading it again for this review I found myself eagerly anticipating Historical: Liberation of Terra Volume 1 and this section was a large part of the reason.
The Reunification War Rules Annex gives ample material for game masters and players to create Reunification War battles and scenarios for the BattleTech Board Game and A Time of War RPG. There’s Random Unit Assignment Tables (the almighty RATS!), prototype technologies, unit abilities, personality effects, new units and even a section on WMDs and their use, the Rules Annex for Historical: Reunification War is quite extensive and in keeping with other sourcebooks, this was a great addition to the book.
Historical: Reunification war provides a great insight into a formally murky time in BattleTech’s history and helps to create a backdrop for the “Year of the Star League” that Catalyst has coined 2012 as. People reading Historical: Liberation of Terra Volume 1 (and Volume 2 when that comes) will probably want to grab this Historical as well to lay the foundation so to speak.
If you can get over a few typos and stomach the slaughter of your favorite factions (for periphery fans at least and even they knew it was happening and I’m betting are happy to finally have it fleshed out) Historical: Reunification War is a great book. Basically for Periphery fans, Star League fans or generally any BattleTech fans Historical: Reunification War is a great little book and an awesome continuation of the Historical series.