Battletech: Specifically Mechs we love despite all the math that tells us we shouldn't (but anything really)

I don’t know how many of you folks play battletech (table top, more than computer versions) but I guess I just want to talk about mechs and things and particularly the Jagermech, which I love, aesthetically, but which is just so awful in it’s stock loadouts.

We know the problem: it’s the 4 autocannons. They take up so much tonnage, especially for such little hits (12 points total). The range is nice but everything else is kinda lame.

I’ve been thinking about layouts to make the Jager good.

what I’ve come up with is

2 x LB-5X with one ton of cluster and slug
2 light PPC
3 small lasers
12 tons of FF armour, equally spread around.

So it’s still a long-range mech, if not quite so long as the stock one, but the Light PPCs provide a better punch (5 points) at long range.

And you can take an engine hit and remain pretty cool, as it generates only 17 heat vs 20 sink (using double heat sinks)

I think it’s a pretty elegant solution that stays pretty true to the original point of the Mech


So, I haven’t played it since… um… ::cough::1989::cough::
I always had a fondness for small mechs and digitigrade mechs. Yes, I did once try to take on an Atlas with 10 Locusts.


Scorpion! (Aka F35C Blizzard Gunner from Dougram.)

We may have talked about this before: I think the Scorpion suffers from a late-game rule change (in original Battledroids, every heat sink needs a critical slot, but in BattleTech that’s no longer the case), which leave it as written as a bomb waiting to happen. (The only item in one location is the ammunition for its missile laiuncher, so if the armour gets penetrated there, boom.) Apart from that it’s a great beast: reasonably mobile, without the jump that tempts you to get into trouble you can’t get out of, and a decent combination of long- and short-range weapons.

(“My era” is 3025 before all the shiny complicated advanced tech came in.)


Soooo… despite having about 100 (not an exaggeration) Battlemechs painted, I have never played a tabletop version of the game. So my commentary is based on watching a lot of Alpha Strike gameplay, one or two classic games, and countless thousands of hours of playing the Battletech video games (the newest HBS is my favourite, but I played the every-living snot out of Mechwarrior and the two Cresent Hawk games).

Right. Jagermechs are heavier Riflemans (Riflemen?), and that’s a favourite loadout for me. The idea of 4 sniper-range ACs in the Jager appeals, since accurate firepower at that range is usually only accomplished through LRMs (and that uses the term “accurate” very loosely).

But my favourite mech is always going to be the Madcat (yes, yes, “Timberwolf”, whatever) followed by the Marauder, Warhammer, and Atlas.

I mean, who doesn’t love an Atlas.

For less common mechs, I love the Highlander (an Assault mech with Jumpjets? Yes please!), I love the look of the Dragon and Longbow, and a Jenner loaded up with SRMs is a thing of beauty.

“One of every sort of gun”? Not for me. But as I know @denisbloodnok will agree, the Awesome is the easy winner in 3025: does one thing, and does it well.

Most of my appreciation for particular models is based on their boardgame play – I never played the computer games – so while the Rifleman and JagerMech may be playable elsewhere, in the boardgame they had pitiful armour, and insufficient punch (JM) or minimal heat-sinkage (Rifleman).

(Yes, having a bracket-8 weapon is great, but the number of hexes where that makes a difference over bracket-7 is 6, and you don’t have the speed to hold the range where you want it. A faster 'Mech with an AC/2 might have worked, but it’s still only two points of damage so this could be a long and frustrating game.)

But FASA did love their “high damage guns don’t throw as far, it’s balanced” :slight_smile:

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An excellent counterpoint! A colleague of mine introduced me to the Piranha… tiny mech with 10 Machineguns (torso and chest mounted). Sure, one hit and the ammo is going up, but gosh isn’t it adorable running straight at heavies and mulching their armour from behind!

I kinda like the concept of the Firestarter mech, but again I can’t say how it would work on the table. I also liked making Hatchetmen with flamers for about the same reason (hey, if you’re going to be up that close anyway…).

Ooh, the Awesome. 3 PPCs, yeah? That’s a solid build. I also like Marauders for much the same reason, but I think the typical loadout I prefer is 2 PPCs and one AC-something (5? 10? Probably a 10) for heat management. Plus lighter weapons for when things get up close. Archers are a lot of fun as well… I do love a good LRM boat (hence my love for the Longbow), but the Archer has the advantage of being well-rounded to boot.

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Yeah, I think the only way to use machine guns is to have lots of them, because 100 shots for your half-ton of ammo vs 6-10 turns of a typical fight is just not good value. (Though in Battletroops, the next higher resolution step, they changed the rules to make machine guns useful.)

I’m not 100% certain there were fire rules in the early editions. If there were, they were definitely advanced optional stuff not the core game.

Yeah, classic Awesome is 3 PPCs moving at 3/5 with assault 'mech armour protecting them. Fire two most of the time, three when you have a good shot. ACs introduce ammo, and ammo kills you.

(But then I noticed things. Like: a 75-ton 4/6 has the same available space for weapons and armour as an 85-ton 4/6 because of the way the engine sizes work, but many pickup games in the early days gave you a tonnage limit. You can shrink a Battlemaster to 75 and all you have to change is the location of one point of armour.)

I think a lot of unit selection depends on the battles you play. I also love massed LRM fire, but an LRM specialist shouldn’t really be on the table without enough support to keep the small fry off it.

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That’s weird (about flamer ammo). The original “Crescent Hawk” video game which may be older than time itself at this point had napalm ammo. I don’t think anyone really knew how it worked, but it was in there. Man-portable, too… there were two weapons you could haul around as infantry that worked against mechs (considering the largest mech in the game was a 45 tonne Phoenix Hawk, it wasn’t totally impossible to defeat mechs with a full squad of infantry… suicidal most of the time, but not impossible): Flamer missiles and SRMs. Worked great against enemy infantry too…

Anyway. I have the same issue with LRMs, but that was always a restriction of the technology. None of the Battletech games I’ve played allow you to run more than a single lance with any degree of control, and LRMs never want to be in line of sight if you can avoid it, which means you really need a recon lance to spot for them and then a lance full of Longbows, Trebuchets, and Archers to just pound them for at least a few turns before they’re in your face. Which is tragic, because your enemies always got to run multiple lances and so LRMs in their hands were deadly. Even those little… what do you call them… LRM Carriers? Like tanks, but just with missiles? Those things were brutal. SRM Carriers were deadlier if they got close, but a couple PPCs cleaned them up (even a few Large Lasers in a pinch) before they could hurt ya.

Anyway. Sorry, I’ve painted so many mechs (I’m working on another 18 that will be finished up by Saturday or Sunday) but never actually played so talking shop is really fun! For example, I didn’t know that an Atlas was considered a broad loadout… I always thought that was the Battlemaster’s bag. A few of everything plus a bunch of Small Lasers for when you finally close the distance.

Are Stalkers as bad as they are in the video game? Just lots of armour backed up by a smattering of Medium Lasers? They’re ugly, but ugly doesn’t always mean bad

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For calibration, I played a lot of classic Battletech in the 1980s, but started drifting away around the end of the decade when they did first the 20 Year Update and then the Clan Invasion. I was never enthused by the Clans.

Baseline Stalker isn’t great but it’s not terrible: 2×LRM-10, 2×LL, 2×SRM-6, 4×ML. Maybe a bit diverse but if you’re going to do one-with-everything it’s not the worst option.

The worst option, always, is the Charger, 80 tons to move 5 small lasers at 5/8. I mean, they’re well-protected small lasers, but.

Flamers were in the weapon list but I think originally they just did a bit of damage, and I believe an optional rule was to add to target heat. (I don’t remember all the older rule sets I played.) They were explicitly an energy weapon, not ammo-based.

In CityTech, which was the boxed game that introduced non-'Mech units, you could have infantry platoons armed with an SRM-2, which was pretty much the only sort that stood a chance against 'Mechs and even then they were unlikely to last long. That also introduced the non-'Mech vehicle rules, and because this is after all mostly a game about 'Mechs they nerfed them so that they were much easier to kill than the same amount of 'Mech.

In spite of that, Sam Lewis came up with the Savannah Master, a tiny hovercraft with a medium laser (damage for weight one of the better weapons in the game, and the best outside bracket-1). If you hit it at all, you’d kill it, but (a) it went really fast so it was hard to hit and (b) the force fielding them could bring lots of them to the table for each 'Mech you had. Which is where I learned about Lanchester’s square law.

(Here’s a bit of trivia I found out recently; the idea of OmniMechs was invented to reduce the 3d modelling burden for the Battletech simulator pods. One frame plus four loadout packs is less work for the 3d artist than four separate frames plus loadouts.)


Huh, I didn’t know that about the OmniMechs. I’ll be honest, the whole “thing” about Omnis never made much sense to me as a video game player: it was just a fancy term for something I couldn’t see a distinct difference in. The first “true” 3D Mechwarrior was based on the pre-Clan invasions (a war of… something… between Jade Falcon and Wolf about whether the invasion would happen at all), and it was one of the first that I played which allowed you to really mess with the loadouts of the mechs. Both of the Battletech games (Crescent Hawk and Crescent Hawk’s Revenge) had default loadouts that you just used… CHR in particular was a very ambitious proto-realtime game that was… hard. Really really hard. Also the first time I was introduced to an Urban Mech, but at the time they were terrifying: waves of them would pound your “heavy” mechs (again, the heaviest mechs in the game were on the order of 40-50 tonners) into rubble. Apparently the game had heavier mechs for the later campaigns, but I never made it past the assault on the Kell Hound’s base, so I can’t really say… but gosh it was difficult.

Anyway! Moral of the story is that by the time you could modify your loadouts in the video games, there was a lot of flexibility that may or may not have been intentional. The original “Mechwarrior Mercenaries” game (the one with the Blazing Aces) had only… 7 or 8 total mechs available (Locust, Jenner, Phoenix Hawk, Shadowhawk, Rifleman, Marauder, Battlemaster… that might have been it?) and no flexibility in their payload. Mercs 2 did, but there was no restrictions (ie: you could fit as many machineguns into your mech as you had remaining tonnage for), so there were a lot of very silly builds. My favourite was probably a Locust just weighed down by MGs… take off all the armour because 1 hit would kill you anyway, and just run around behind enemies, ramming them (lightly) and shooting since there was a very limited ability to aim up or down. It wasn’t until I played the HBS “Battletech” (I think now the 2nd newest, since Mercs 5 released recently) that I was introduced to the concept of hardpoints… sure, you could fit any AC into the arms of the JagerMechs, but it only had 4 hardpoints, so you couldn’t fit in 6 AC2s, even if you wanted to (and yes, I definitely wanted to).

ANYway. I read a bunch of the Tech Spec books when I was younger (mid-80s), but never played any tabletop version of the game, which is still true. Loved looking at the pictures, though. Played some “Robotech RPG” (by Palladium Games), so I kinda played with Battlemechs. The original “Robotech” was very much into the stompy mechs being better than the Veritechs (transformable Phoenix Hawks) so the player group consisted of almost all mechs… Gladiators (Archers), Excalibers (Warhammers), and Spartans (Longbows) in particular were popular with my players, which is good because I could never figure out a way to have the transformable Veritechs “work” with the slower, basically stationary mechs. They were just too fast…

ANYWAY! Gosh I can ramble when I’m not paying attention. Sorry.

In the HBS Battletech, vehicles aren’t usually a threat (“Schreks” are… I don’t remember their specific loadout, but I recall it has like… 3 PPCs? I think? And there’s one that has a big honkin’ AC20… I want to say “Demolisher”? I think that’s right…). LRM Carriers are incredibly annoying if you can’t close to them fast or dust their spotters quickly, and as mentioned SRM Carriers pack a punch in close, but most of the tanks/apcs/vehicles are nuisances rather than threats. In Mechwarrior Mercenaries 5 there are also helicopters (barely count as target practice… the worst thing about them is having to use the heat on a medium laser to cut them down) and hovercraft, but again, just buzzing flies unless you ignore them too long (which is sometimes necessary due to the volume of enemies you have to deal with, and some incredibly stupid spawning rules).

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iIRC there’s a challenge like that, I can’t remember what it is exactly.

Did you manage to win?

The only problem with that is that you can only stack so many locusts in the Atlas’s back before they lose range for their small lasers.

i love the Locust, such a great design.


Scorpion is so basic it, I love it, but it and the Clint are classic one-crit kills. Like the Scorpion, it’s only crit is ammo, but in that case… AC-5 ammo? AC-10? I forget.

I have no recollection. It’s possible we ran out of time before a final victor was decided.


Shreks are 3xPPC. Alacorn is 3xGauss. lots of tanks have a single autocannon- the Po is the classic Cappie tank that has an AC-10. But the Patton/Rommel aren’t all that different.

I remember reading the original Wolf’s Dragoon books, where one of the Dragoon has a Pheonix Hawk LAM. But I mean, they’ve basically been written out of the game for a reason- I’ve never used a LAM myself, or seen one used.

There are some good helicopters (in game, referred to as VTOLs), like the Yellow Jacket has a gauss rifle I think? And there are some that are sufficiently fast, they’re like Locusts but they don’t have to deal with terrain. of course, if you have something that has good gunnery and an LB-NX cannon… you can get lucky. Same with tank plinking, hitting a tank with 10 cluster pellets in the side causes them a lot of grief

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I didn’t know that about the Omnis- but that’s really fascinating. I played the Pods at Gencon the first year I was there- second year I played Grinder (a basic battletech intro game they run at Cons now) and went to see minor league baseball instead.

I was introduced to Savannah Masters not through the game, but by Michael Stackpole.

I much prefer the Hatamoto- varietys of the Charger than the Charger itself (Dracs, circa 3039, given a bunch of Chargers by ComStar.

A lot of the 3025 era stuff and earlier never made sense to me. AC-5 on assault mechs (I’m looking at you, Zeus). Lots of tonnage for very little punch.

The problem with the Stalker is they’re trying to make them good at all ranges, and that’s just not practical. It’s like an 1890s Predreadnought. It makes sense when you only have one or two mechs per planet, but when you’re going up against WHMR or Marauders or things like that, they’re going to be easy pickings at whatever range that mech is best at.

The best example of “trying to be too many things” is the Black Watch… which I think was a combo effort between the Dracs and the Northwind Highlanders Black Watch - BattleTechWiki

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Did you know that you can take the Battlemaster, reduce it by 5 tons and still fit the exact same equipment and ammo load on the smaller chassis? with same armour amount?

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Yeah, somebody above mentioned that. I wasn’t aware (I don’t think I’ve played a Battlemaster in any capacity outside of that first Mechwarrior Mercenaries game, when it was “the” only Assault mech in the game). It was terrifying at that point (sure, a couple of Warhammers or Marauders could take it down, but only if they both got in range more-or-less at the same time). I think the next time I saw them was the HBS Battletech, but by the time I built one out of salvage I was running 3 King Crabs and an Atlas (or something equally ridiculous). The Battlemaster just isn’t an efficient tonnage-to-death ratio against other Assault mechs in the game. One Marauder, possibly, because they have some chassis-specific equipment that gives your entire Lance an accuracy bonus, but other than that you’re taking 95-to-100 tonners and not looking back.

I’m assuming this is a tabletop thing you can do? Is it still a Battlemaster at that point? It has something to do with the engine, yeah? I still think it’s a neat chassis, but I haven’t tried one on the table (as mentioned above).

I’ll have to play around with “building” a mech in Classic Battletech, see how it goes. I suspect my first few actual games will all be Alpha Strike (which uses default loadouts again, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of loadouts available).

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I don’t think they’ve ever actually given a name to the mini-Battlemaster. But I imagine you could call it a modification of one of the existing 75 ton mechs.

You should try out Solaris Skunk Werks, allows you to print sheets for either Alpha strike (which I think may have been renamed something else now) or for regular tabletop battletech. It’s also known as SSW. It requires java, but is pretty easy to run from the command line.

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I’ve actually just gone into SSW- took the Battlemaster 1D and I got it down to 70 tons, and all I had to do was redistribute the heat sinks.

It wasn’t until I got down to 65 tons that it was overweight. (and even then, it was only 1.5 tons over)

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I missed this- Demolisher has two AC/20. (Blam)

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