When Hanse Davion married Melissa Stiener, he launched a series of attacks upon the Capellan Confederation that was so successful that it not only cut the Confederation in half, it became known as the Fourth Succession War. The rest of the Inner Sphere looked on in awe and fear as the newly formed Federated Commonweath (Fomerly the Federated Suns ruled by House Davion and the Lyran Commonweath ruled by House Stiener) captured planet after planet, showing no sign of weakness. Not even the interference of ComStar was able to slow the advances made, while boarders of the unified nation were held with strength enough to repel anyone foolish enough to attempt to take advantage of the war. The Draconis Empire couldn't have done a thing about it anyhow, as they had their hands full with an internal war against the Kell Hounds and the Free Worlds League was only just recovering from an attempted coup that left all but one of the ruling family dead, and that one, Thomas Marik, disfigured for life. All the other nations could do is watch and pray that the Federated Suns didn't turn on them next in a bid to re-crated the Star League by conquest of all.
Most of the details concerning this war can be found in the Warrior Trilogy by Stackpole, but most of the players of the BattleTech game looked to BattleTech: The Succession Wars Technical Readout: 3025 for the statistics about the various BattleMechs, vehicles and dropships that fought this series of battles. Although the book is listed as being written by the FASA staff, there are quite a few big names that came out of this. Blaine L Pardoe (currently the most prolific author of the BattleTech series of novels), Jim Long (who later went on to write two novels about the mercenary unit known as the Black Thorns), Bryan Nystul (Author of novels from both the BattleTech and MechWarrior series) and Randall Bills (who has only recently been added to the long list of authors for the series of novels) all worked on this one, making the novel fan realize how and why the books seem so real as the action and politics transpire.
About the only problem I have with this book, as well as any of the other Technical Readouts, is the fact that it is not enough to be able to play the entire game. But then again, it was never meant to be used in that manner, so my complaint it null and void. BattleTech is a game that is set in the far future, where huge three-story war machines (called BattleMechs) are used to fight battles for control of entire planets. In order to get the complete rules on how to play, you must first have the BattleTech Fourth Edition boxed set. Also, a player will need the BattleTech Master Rules book in order to use the vehicles in this book as well as the AeroTech 2 game for using the aircraft and spacecraft that are detailed here. I understand that is a lot of different things to buy, but most players of the game should already have them, since they are the core rules of the game itself.
As mentioned earlier, this particular volume focuses on the machines that were used during the Fourth Succession War, although this book also has many of the Star League era machines so that players can "step back in time" and play out the previous Succession Wars. In fact, that is one of the things that I like best about the entire BattleTech game. The players have the choice of which time period they wish to play in, although most stick to the "present" time line. This volume is one of the very few that has the complete stats on the Star League era 'Mechs, making it even more valuable that it appears to the game.
Included in this volume:
12 Light 'Mechs designs: These are the machines used by the scout units of the 31st century battlefields. They are fast and agile, but have very little in the way of protection or firepower. Their primary purpose is to locate and harass the enemy so that the larger 'Mechs can get there and take them out. Often Light 'Mechs are used to recon an area or act as escorts for supply trains and medical units. In most cases, a Light 'Mech has little or no chance in a one on one battle with the heavier machines, although the speed of these guys can sometimes allow them to get behind the monstrous opponent for a shot at the thin rear armor, spelling doom to the larger 'Mech in many cases.
18 Medium 'Mechs: This is the design that dominates most units in the game. They are easy to acquire and have a greater capacity to deal out, as well as receive, damage. Many of these designs will have the ability to jump out of the way (using the jump jets) but are quite a bit slower than their Light counterparts while still being fast enough to evade the heavies. They are generally used to protect the Lights on recon missions and often a Lance (4 'Mechs) will be a mix of Lights and Mediums or Mediums and Heavies.
13 Heavy 'Mechs: These are the big boys of the battlefield. They are the front line fighters and tend to be used for the main battles. If something really needs to be taken out, there is only one other class of 'Mech that might be used, although in most cases, this will do the trick.
12 Assault 'Mechs: This class is the King of the battlefield. Most often this type of 'Mech is used by the commanders of entire units because they have sophisticated communications and tactical computers. Many of these, light the Cyclops, even have space in the cockpit for the commander to coordinate his/her forces while another person controls the individual combat for the 'Mech (often the XO).
10 vehicles, 15 fighters and 4 dropships: These are the secondary assets that most players of the game pretty much ignore. They are seldom used in the actual game and even then only as bait to lure some hapless player into a trap. However, it is good to have the full specs on them because they are often used in major engagements when entire armies are battling each other.
As you can tell, this is little more than a reference book for the game itself. It merely allows a player to have near instant access to the specs of the hardware to confirm (or disprove) the possibility of something happening in the game. Granted, the game can be played without the Technical Readouts, but that would require having to keep several other books nearby to consult rather than just the one for the time period that is being played in.
As a player in this particular time period, the volume is important and a GM should have ready access to as many of the Technical Readouts as he can lay his hands on so that he can pull older designs out of his bag of tricks to use against the players.