Playing the Game
Learning the Rules
MegaMek uses the rules from the Total Warfare series of books from Catalyst Game Labs. Although we provide a variety of instructions within the programs of how things work, we do assume that players are familiar with the rules.
If you are not familiar with the Battletech rules but would like to try MegaMek, you can download the free quickstart rules to get started.
- To learn more about the core rules, you should get the Total Warfare core rulebook.
- To learn the rules of unit construction used by MegaMekLab, you should get the Tech Manual. Additional rules for advanced and experimental technology and a few advanced unit types are in the Tactical Operations: Advanced Units & Equipment rulebook and the Strategic Operations rulebook.
- To learn about many of the optional settings available in MegaMek, you should get the Tactical Operations: Advanced Rules rulebook.
- To learn about using warships in large scale space-battles, you should get the Strategic Operations rulebook.
- More information about campaign options used in MekHQ is available in and the Strategic Operations rulebook and the Campaign Operations rulebook.
- Lastly check out YouTube. A good starting point is StrategosLevel3 videos found here
A First Game of MegaMek
You can follow these instructions to quickly get a small game of MegaMek up and running against the built-in AI.
A First Campaign in MekHQ
MekHQ is designed to be customizable to a variety of different campaign styles (e.g. mercenary, house command, pirates, clan warriors, small units, large units, highly narrative, etc.) and play styles. Its impossible to summarize all of the ways in which you could make use of MekHQ here. Many players enjoy using the community built Against the Bot rules which will automate many of the processes such as selection of missions, scenarios, and OpFor.
This step-by-step tutorial outlines how to start up a very simple campaign, assign units and pilots and run a first scenario.
Options, Options, and More Options
You can customize your MegaMek experience considerably by experimenting with the various options that are available in the game interface. Those options are extensive, so we won’t review them all here, but the list below will direct you to areas for further exploration.
Game Optionsbutton in the upper left of the game lobby contains a wide variety of options that you can use in your game. Many of these options are based on official game rules, but many are also unofficial rules based on commonly requested feature enhancements. Mouse over an option to learn more about it.
- On the “Select Map” tab, you can select different
planetary conditionsthat will change game play. These conditions include weather and lighting, as well as other conditions such as electro-magnetic interference. More information about these planetary conditions and how they affect gameplay is available in the Tactical Operations: Advanced Rules rulebook.
- Double-clicking on a unit in the unit list in the lobby will bring up a unit dialog with a variety of
unit and pilot options. You can change the pilot’s name, skill levels, and even add a portrait. If you enable special abilities or quirks in the game options, you can add them here. You can also change ammo loadouts, and set options for how the unit deploys.
- You can use the
Random Skillsdialog in the lobby to assign skills to pilots using randomization, based on an overall skill level for your force.
- You can use the
Random Namedialog in the lobby to randomize names based on a Battletech faction.
- You can use the
Create Random Armydialog to generate a selection of units for yourself or for the bot. You can base this on matching a certain level of battle value, pull from official random assignment tables (RAT), or use the force generator to generate an entire force, complete with a TO&E.
- Under the
Viewmenu, you will find several options you can toggle that will affect the visual display of the map in-game. You can also visit the
Client Settingsand make changes there that affect the visual display of the game.
Playing Other Humans
Playing against the bot can be fun, but playing against other human beings will allow you to experience the best MegaMek has to offer. The community page has more information on how to find other people to play against. Here we detail how you connect to games over the internet or a local network.
When you start up a game of MegaMek, you also start up a server that other players can join. In order for other players to join, they will select
Connect to a Game from the splash screen. They will then need to enter the IP address of your machine and the port number (the default port number is 2346). If you are playing over a LAN, then this will be your local IP address. If playing over the internet, you will need to figure out two things:
- You will need to know your external IP address. You can get this from your router, from websites like What is My IP, or by simply googling “what is my IP address?”
- In most situations, you will need to configure your router to forward requests to port 2346 (or a different port if you changed the default) to the computer you are actually playing on in order for other players to connect over the internet. This will vary by router, but typically involves using the router’s web-based software to add port forwarding.
You can also run the game “hotseat” on the same computer. In this case, you want to open up two instances of MegaMek. Start the game with one instance and connect to
localhost from the second instance.
You can register your game when you start it up. This will list your game on our list of servers and make it easier for other players to find. It will also list your external IP address. You will still need to ensure that port forwarding is working properly in order for other players to connect.
If you have problems connecting to your machine, you can also try running your game on a dedicated server. We do not run any official dedicated servers, but several members of the community run dedicated servers that you can connect to in order to play a game. In this case, both players will use the “Connect to a Game” option to connect to the dedicated server. If you would like to run your own dedicated server, you can follow our instructions for setting one up.
Once connected, you can chat with other players using the pop-up chat system from within MegaMek. You can also join MegaMek Discord for chat.
Many players love to create their own custom units. The Tech Manual contains base rules for creating your own units for most unit types and Tactical Operations: Advanced Units & Equipment and Strategic Operations contain advanced equipment and construction rules for some advanced units.
MegaMekLab can currently build the following unit types:
- Meks (Including Industrial, Super Heavy, Tripod, LAMs)
- Aerospace Fighters
- Conventional Fighters
- Combat Vehicles
- Small Craft
- Space Stations
- Primitive versions of the units listed above
- Support Vee’s (from the TechManual - Partially supported)
The best way to manage custom units in MegaMek is to create a directory
called “Customs” in the
data/mechfiles directory. Simply build the unit
in MegaMekLab and save it to this directory. Files should saves with an MTF
extension for Meks and a BLK extension for other units. Once you start MegaMek,
the unit will be added to your list of available units.
If you can’t find your newly created unit in MegaMek or MekHQ, check the game’s
date and the available tech level in the game options. As a last option go into
data/mechfiles folder and delete the file called
units.cache. On restart
MegaMek will rebuild this file and your custom unit should show up.
When you upgrade to a new version of MegaMek, you can copy your custom folder over to the new version.
We can’t guarantee that builders other than MegaMekLab (e.g. Heavy Metal Pro, Solaris Skunkwerks) will work with MegaMek. MegaMek is a program in constant development, and while we do our best to ensure backwards compatibility it’s not always possible. Other building programs might not keep current with our name systems or file formats. As such this files might not load, or in extreme cases crash MegaMek.