Battletech is about war. “In the future there’s only war” paraphrases a quote about the Warhammer 40K universe, but it is equally applicable to the Battletech universe. Here’s an overview of the most important conflicts and how they lend themselves to gaming.
4th Succession War, 3028-3030
This is the most famous of the Succession Wars and essentially the start of the Battletech timeline. The associated Warrior trilogy books by Michael Stackpole are essential reading for Battletech fans. It’s the conflict to play if you want to use only the iconic Technical Readout 3025 ‘Mechs. Practically all Inner Sphere factions were involved. The two main fronts are the Federated Suns invasion of the Capellan Confederation, and the Lyran Commonwealth fighting against the Draconis Combine. Battles in this tech era are slower due to the relatively low damage potential, but this is also the tech level that Battletech was initially designed for. Still my favorite period.
War of 3039
This conflict wasn’t fleshed out in the beginning as FASA jumped forward from 3030 to 3050, and only received more detail later. It’s Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth vs. the Draconis Combine. On the DC side, some new ‘Mech designs provided by ComStar are available, as well as new tech that became available after the discovery of the Helm Memory Core by the Gray Death Legion.
Clan Invasion, 3049-3052
In the real world, FASA skipped ahead from 3030 to 3050. The Clan Invasion is still the most pivotal moment in Battletech history. Once again Michael Stackpole got to write three books, the Blood of Kerensky trilogy, about it. From a game perspective the Clans are on a whole other level than the Inner Sphere, with ‘Mechs that can dish out much more damage. This can make it somewhat difficult to balance Clan vs. Inner Sphere battles.
The Clan Invasion entered Lyran Commonwealth, Free Rasalhague Republic, and Draconis Combine space. The Federated Commonwealth did of course fight, too, in support of the Lyran allies. The final battle on Tukkayyid was fought by ComStar on the Inner Sphere side, which is I think the only opportunity to play with ComStar ‘Mechs.
Refusal War, 3057
A Clan Wolf vs. Clan Jade Falcon conflict fought in the Occupation Zone (i.e. the Inner Sphere), iconic for providing the background for the Mechwarrior II video game. This is a great conflict for using Clan invasion tech in a Clan vs. Clan fight that does not have the balance issues of Clan vs. IS fights.
Operation BULLDOG & SERPENT, 3058-3061
The Inner Sphere takes the fight to the Clans with the goal of ending the threat of renewed invasion. By this time the Inner Sphere had several new ‘Mech designs available, which makes balancing things a bit easier.
FedCom Civil War, 3062-3067
Federated Suns vs. Lyran Alliance (previously Commonwealth). New ‘Mechs on both sides for a more high-tech feel than earlier Inner Sphere conflicts. This is the final conflict in the original timeline by FASA.
When FASA suddenly stopped, Battletech was taken over by FanPro, Wizkids (Mechwarrior Dark Age), and eventually Catalyst Games Labs. While the timeline has since continued through the Word of Blake Jihad, the Republic of the Sphere, and the Dark Age to the ilClan era, I’m not sure how these align with the initial vision FASA had for the Battletech universe. I also find them less interesting. There’s plenty of information and new designs if you want to game these, but for me, the core of Battletech will always be the 3028 to 3067 time span, especially the 4th Succession War and the Clan Invasion.