Battletech: The Mercenary's Handbook 1st Edition, a walk on the awesome side.
Ok, just for anyone who doesn’t know, I love the art of Jeff Laubenstein, so any review I do with his artwork is going to be skewed in the direction of the positive. Having established, of the pre-1990 FASA Battletech supplements, this has to be one of the finest out there.
I once ran a full mercenary company in the game and this book was an incredibly valuable resource, having information so detailed that there is even a contract that can be copied and signed for each mission your crew intends to take on. In fact, using this book, I actually made spread sheets for costs on each campaign, and it was my first real foray into the world of being a small business owner [and who says gaming doesn’t teach you anything?]
But having established this book’s inherent value to the RPG itself, let’s take a look at the artwork.
The book was art directed by Dana Knutson, and produced in 1987, the year I got my first real long-term girlfriend. I was sixteen, and life was just opening its doors to me on more levels than I could ever understand, so what a perfect time to not only fall in love with a girl, but also some fresh artwork coming out of a non-TSR based gaming company.
Covered by artist Jeff Laubenstein, this piece was late to press, and Jeff was forced to cease production before it was ever finished. The cover reflects this as although incredibly detailed in typical Laubenstein fashion from the middle down, the entire upper portion of the page is left blank. The effect, while seemingly giving the viewer an ‘open sky view’ still sells, but I have to wonder what could have been had Jeff been allowed to finish the piece. I guess this is something we will never know.
Inside, in typical ground-breaking FASA fashion we get color artwork which was unheard of in any other company at this time period. Nearly all of the work, however, is repurposed from other Battletech products, but considering how awesome that artwork is, and how this book is a compilation of all mercenary forces in the setting, I’ll give it a pass.
Interior work features artist Jim Holloway who provides that incredible image of ‘The Black Widow’ herself, as well as Cranston Snord and his daughter, both of which are ripped from the covers of their unit supplements.
Artist David Deitrick is of course found here, as Deitrick’s uniform and unit work is what made Battletech what it was in the eyes of gamers where non-mech units were concerned.
Dana also adds a bit of work on interior illustrations, as does Todd Marsh, who again I think detracts from the overall talent level involved in the project, but that is just me.
In all, this is a fine book, and reminiscent of Paizo’s current format in not wasting good art you’ve already commissioned while helping maintain the cost savings required of running a 2nd tier gaming company.
Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]