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Your spaceship is pretty barebones, even after it's been upgraded. It contains the necessary departments so you can manage your mechs and prepare for missions, and that's it. There isn't anything interesting or surprising about it, and while you can talk to your department heads, this is mainly for basic tutorial information. Hearing their dreams and life stories is dull and unrewarding.
BattleTech works better (but still not great) on the missions themselves. The mission maps are small -- not so small as to compare them to the King's Bounty or Heroes of Might and Magic arenas -- but small enough that Harebrained Schemes didn't see any reason to include a map screen or a mini-map in the interface. Wherever your lance (group of four mechs) sets down on the map, enemies are usually just a turn or two away, unless you're trying to skirt around them, which is tough because, well, the maps are so small.
Missions use turn-based mode for everything -- exploring and combat. The turn order is decided by the size of the mech, with the smallest mechs going in tier 1 (first) and the heaviest mechs going in tier 4 (last). If you want, you can "reserve" your mechs so they wait until the next tier. This is a good idea if you want enemies to come to you, or if you're waiting for an enemy to move before attacking it.
Most missions involve you attacking an enemy lance plus other stuff. Sometimes a convoy or a base (attacking or defending) is involved, and sometimes reinforcements arrive (usually for the enemies). Besides mechs, there can also be armored vehicles or turrets on the battlefield. They're not as powerful as mechs, but they still dish out enough damage that you can't just ignore them, either. In total, missions always have a maximum of about a dozen enemies, which means they don't take too long to complete -- unless you're having a rough time and have to do a lot of saving and loading. The loading times in particular are horrendous.
When mechs take their turn, they get to move and then attack. The movement distance is restricted by the size of the mech, with lighter mechs able to travel (relatively) far, and heavier mechs not so much. Mechs can also use jumpjets to hop onto things like mountains and buildings. Being on higher ground gives you an accuracy bonus, and makes it easier to hit a mech's more vulnerable head.
BattleTech also includes a "moving target" mechanic. The farther a mech moves (or jumps) during its turn, the more evasion points it generates, and the more difficult it is to hit. This is a rule to keep lighter mechs viable in the campaign, at least theoretically, than it is to be realistic (since all mechs are huge and tend to run hot, and should therefore be easy for targeting systems to hit). However, from my experience lighter mechs get destroyed too quickly, with evasion or not, and I ended up avoiding them in favor of the heaviest mechs possible.
When mechs attack, you can choose which of their weapons to fire. This can prevent you from wasting ammunition on a low-percentage shot, or reduce the amount of heat generated by the attack. All weapons generate heat, but lasers are especially bad in this regard (but make up for it by not requiring ammunition). If your heat starts getting too high, then instead of shooting, you can perform a melee attack, which is heat free. Or you can skip a round, or find some water to sit in. If your mech overheats, then it has to shut down for a round.
Mechs also have some abilities (from their pilots) that they can use. This includes Multishot, which allows you to attack multiple enemies, Coolant Vent, which allows you to dissipate heat, and Sensor Lock, which allows you to "see" a mech not currently in your line-of-sight and remove two of its evasion points.