I hope you guys are ready for some mother****ing Banshees.
I'm going to keep the preamble short today. This article is going to be hell, and that's partially why I'm doing it. I've had the Banshee reserved for a loooooong time on the regular 'Mech of the Week schedule, and it came up this week on the Alpha Strike schedule, so here we are. A double whammy (with a bit of Alpha Strike mechanics explained on the side, as always) including 17 different variants ranging from one of the oldest designs ever built to one of the newer designs to roll out of a factory. Format for this one is going to go Alpha Strike unit card, standard rules overview, Alpha Strike overview, and then a much, much more in depth look at the unit conversions than we usually see, so people can get a good idea of what those values mean at a glance for the unit 'underneath'. Strap yourselves in, because this is going to suck really good. [Author's note: as of the time I write this, the article is 6400 words long and stretches across 10 pages of word. I have just breached the halfway point. I fully expect this to be the longest article ever posted on any iteration of the BT forums. God help me.]
Alright, deep breath, here we go. The original Banshee, the BNC-1E, first rolled off the lines in 2445, produced by the Terran Hegemony. In an odd occurrence for BattleTech, we're actually given hard numbers for this one. Five thousand Banshee -1Es were produced in a ten year period. That's a lot. It's even more when you realize that of the five thousand initially produced, the vast majority went to second line and militia postings, where they would remain relatively unscathed by the vicious Succession Wars. We'll get to more of that later. For now, the part you all wanted: what makes this beast tick.
With an entry date that early, the fact that the -1E is a primitive 'Mech should surprise no one. At 95 tons, it takes a 345 rated primitive engine to move the 'Mech to a pedestrian 54 kph at a run, at the cost of a mere 28.5 tons. At least it matches the venerable Mackie, and outpaces infantry. The cockpit is similarly primitive, massing five full tons, rather than the normal three. Just about every component on this 'Mech that can be primitive is primitive.
That extends to the armor, too. The coverage is an even 240 points, 22.5 tons to get there, and if my display on SSW is to be believed wasting a point of armor in order to get that even number. Even if it is inefficient in the extreme, that much armor is pretty significant, and laid out in an intelligent manner. The center torso can take a pair of AC/20 hits, which is more than can be said for some entire Light 'Mechs. Each side torso can take three AC/10s or PPCs. The arms can take two of the same hits, with the barest sliver of armor left. The legs can take two plus a Medium Laser and have the same tiny sliver left. In an oddity among older designs the head mounts the full complement of 9 points. Rear torsos are hefty but not extraordinarily so. The sides can take a single PPC or AC/10 hit and maintain integrity but little else, while the center can take the same blast plus a Medium Laser and keep a little bit. All around some pretty good coverage, even if it's only a bit more than 80% of what an frame this size can carry. Primitives had some limitations that made that maximum a magnificent bonus rather than a standard design practice.. Clearly, the Banshee didn't skimp on the armor portion of the armor/firepower/speed triangle.
The guns tell us exactly where skimping happened. Encompassing the entire extent of the Banshee -1E's weaponry is an AC/5 in the left torso, a Prototype PPC in the right, two Medium Lasers in the center, and a Small Laser in the head. That wouldn't be out of place on a Medium. On a high-end Assault, it's anemic in the extreme. For those not familiar, the Prototype PPC has the same range and damage as a standard PPC, but generates 15 heat rather than 10. Considering that the -1E has exactly 16 single heat sinks, this is problematic. It generates exactly zero net heat when walking and firing only the PPC which... is not good. Anything else, and the heat scale feels it. A running alpha bumps the -1E up to +10 on the heat scale. Not cool. Two tons of ammunition feed the AC/5, arguably significantly over-ammoing it, especially since at the time of its introduction specialty ammunition wasn't exactly en vogue. With a maximum engagement range of 540 meters and very little chance of doing significant damage at just about any range without crippling itself, the -1E leaves a whole lot to be desired offensively. A full set of arm actuators does mean that physicals are an option if you ever get in range. With how slow the Banshee is, that's not particularly likely, but at least it's something.
That's where Alpha Strike comes in. That unit card up there looks a damn sight better than the 'Mech I just described, doesn't it? Movement isn't particularly excellent, but it's enough for a +1 TMM. Size 4 means good physicals. The armor, much like in standard scale, is pretty sweet. Eight points for armor and eight points for structure, a total of 16 points. That's enough to take the ASMOTW's trademark Thud for no fewer than five solid hits. That's setting a high bar.
Weapons are much, much better than the basic -1E in standard, but they're still not really great. A damage block of 3/3/2 with no OV is serviceable clear up into the Clan Invasion, particularly the two points of long range damage. Being able to shoot back at long range makes the -1E's hideous lack of heavy firepower vanish entirely. There are no Specials, but given how efficient the -1E is at grinding away at your opponents, that's easily forgiven. For once. This is the kind of 'Mech that goes and goes and goes and doesn't die until you put it down, and the whole time it's boring a hole in your armor.
And it does it cheap, too. Forty PV for this kind of well balanced grinding assault 'Mech is a steal. You get average damage up close, good damage at long range, and enough armor and structure to make sure that keeps happening for a good long while. Not dangerous enough to focus down, not vulnerable enough to take out in a stray hit or two. The Sniper role is a good fit, too. Snipers are one of the viable options for making Assault Lances and Fire Lances, two of the better lance types in the game for their abilities, even after the recent errata that disallows the use of Sniper on indirect fire attacks.
And now for what's probably the primary attraction for this article. How does this 'Mech go from dud of colossal proportions (literally) to hidden gem of Alpha Strike? That's what I'm here to help you find out. Let's start at the same place as the normal construction process, and we'll keep that trend for the rest of the article, where it's not being needlessly redundant.
Structure points in Alpha Strike are determined by the type of internal structure, the mass of the 'Mech, and the type of engine it uses. In the case of a 95 tonner with primitive (or standard) structure and a standard engine, we get 8 points. It's a table, simple as that. Something 20 tons gets 2 points for that combination of characteristics. Something 50 tons gets 4. Pretty simple. Using Composite Structure cuts that in half, rounded up. Reinforced Structure doubles it. You can get some pretty damn tough 'Mechs like that, and you can get some pretty damn flimsy ones. The Banshee ends up as pretty damn tough. There's nothing tougher with introductory tech, at least in the structure category.
Armor seems like a pretty logical place to go next. In Alpha Strike, 30 points of armor translates to one bubble, but it should be noted that fractions round normally. In such a fashion, it really only takes 15 points of armor to hit the very first point in Alpha Strike, making it so that literally anything with a single ton of standard armor gets a point. A 95 ton bipedal 'Mech has a maximum armor value of 293 points. With what I just said, having that maximum value translates to 10 points of armor. The -1E does not have the maximum value, instead having exactly 240 points. That converts quickly and painlessly into 8 points. That's how we get our 8/8 A/S.
Movement in this case is similarly painless. For most 'Mechs, MV is simply the walking MP multiplied by 2”. There are some options, like MASC and Superchargers that will alter that. Jump jets translate exactly the same way, on a unit that has them, a quick and easy 2” per jump MP. TMM is calculated based on the maximum possible MV for ground movement. In this Banshee's case, 6” is good for a +1.
I do believe that leads us to the guns. Alpha Strike calculates overall weapon damage based on several factors, but the primary one is that weapon's own damage. The general rule is a weapon's damage divided by 10, or something close to its average damage if it's a cluster weapon. Minimum range and to-hit bonuses are included in this calculation. A PPC, for example, has damage values of 0.75/1/1, while a Medium Laser sports 0.5/0.5/-. Add all damage values at all ranges together for the unmodified total. This particular 'Mech has a PPC (Prototype PPCs have the same damage, higher heat), AC/5, two Medium Lasers, and a Small Laser: 0.75/1/1, 0.375/0.5/0.5, 0.5/0.5/-, 0.3/-/-. Adding up all of those numbers across range bands, we come to a total of: 2.425/2.5/1.5.
Here's the tricky part, where we check for how heat affects those values. The formula is more complex than most things in Alpha Strike, in that you have three operations in the same function. Heat modified damage is equal to the base damage times the total dissipation on your unit, divided by four less than the maximum heat generation, counting movement and defensive equipment. This value is calculated for all ranges individually.
In the Banshee -1E's case, we have a short range damage value of 2.425, and a total, maximum heat generated of 25 with 16 heat sinks. Therefore, the formula ends up looking like this: (2.425 * 16)/(25-4) → (38.8/21) → 1.8 damage. We also have a medium range damage value of 2.5, modified in the exact same way with the same numbers (Even though the Small Laser does no medium range damage, it still contributes heat), which gives us 1.9. Long range heat-modified damage ignores heat from weapons that do no long range damage, so the formula changes to (1.5 * 16)/(18 – 4) → (24/14) → 1.7 damage. [Author's note: it's entirely possible that I am dead wrong in this math, in which case disregard this paragraph. In the event that the Banshee -1E's unit card is changed to take this into account, I will go back and edit the entry on the -1E. Incidentally, a change like this would alter the -1E's PV down by 2 points.]
If the heat-modified damage values are different enough that it would give you a lower damage, then your 'Mech automatically gains OV equal to the points lost, up to a maximum of 4. You can't have an OV of higher than 4.
Specials are much more varied and numerous. The -1E, however, has none of them, so this section will remain pretty sparse. The end result is that we now have a 'Mech that has MV 6”, armor and structure values of 8 points each, and a damage profile of 2/2/2 OV1 with no Specials. Boom. Done.
Well, here we are near the bottom of the third page of a word document, and I just finished the first variant. Aw yeah. I'll try to make the next variants a little bit more concise.
Slightly differently from normal (though not visibly yet) we'll also be going through these ones chronologically, rather than alphabetically. This one debuts 30 years later in 2475, and brings the tech up to modern standards. Well, beyond primitive standards. Though the Banshee -3E is available to just about everybody, being one of the Terran Hegemony's earlier Assaults, it's predominantly found within Lyran Commonwealth ranks.
The Banshee -3E is the one everyone is most familiar with. This is the classic Succession Wars variant, the one that's too damn fast for its own good. The upgrade from primitive tech to standard tech is pretty evident here, since the difference between the 345-rated primitive engine of the -1E and the 380-rated standard fusion of the -3E is a whopping 12.5 tons. The performance difference between the two is that the -3E manages a top speed of 86 kph, significantly better than the plodding waddle of the -1E and most other Assault 'Mechs of the time. That speed is rather dubiously applied, however, on a 'Mech that (while matching the armor point for point) is armed even more poorly than before. Fifteen tons of standard plate is enough for the same total armor value, spread out identically, and saving 7.5 tons in the process. Upgrading to a standard cockpit nets another two tons. We are now “only” three tons lacking compared to the improved engine.
Those three tons come 100% out of the weapons. Both Medium Lasers are gone, as is the second ton of AC/5 ammo. The latter part is arguably good, but losing both Medium Lasers hurts the close range offensive punch of the unit considerably, and leaves it lacking any effective weapons that are actually scary inside the minimum ranges of its guns. Well, excluding the giant fists, at least. There is that. And now, you're actually fast enough to use them on some things! A 4/6 movement means you can reasonably close with and catch up to most Heavies of the day, and a few of the slower Mediums. Nothing likes 10 point punches or 19 point kicks. Sixteen heat sinks stay exactly where they were, meaning you're hideously oversinked, with a running alpha cooling two points.
All in all, the armor is heavy enough to take a good pounding while closing to good range, but now the speed is there to actually get into range. It doesn't have the threat I'd normally expect out of something this size, not in the slightest, but that can be used to your advantage. It can either be a big huge in your face “SHOOT ME” brick that draws fire from your smaller or more important units, or it can ghost under the radar and pop up when someone least wants two punches in the face (which is always). Decent flexibility in usage for something that really lacks flexibility in armament.
In Alpha Strike, this one I like arguably more than the -1E, thanks to the increased speed and the lowered PV of 38. The speed goes up to 8”, but the TMM stays the same. You get more mobility while still being just as hard/easy to hit. Weapon damage is reduced somewhat, to 2/2/2 with no OV. Everything else stays pretty similar. The damage is pretty lack luster on both something that expensive and that big, but that's partially made up for by the sheer durability of it.
Bonus points for keeping it cheap and
keeping the Sniper role. This thing, in this author's humble opinion, is even more useful for Assault Lances that are typically very slow. Considering that one of the major weaknesses of any assault formation is their inability to outmaneuver much of anything, that's a fine thing in my book. This Assault won't win any slugging matches with Atlases (especially not at a 14 PV deficit), but it'll sure as hell get where you want it faster.
That means the conversions are pretty similar too, so this will be quick. The extra ground MP brings it up to 8”, while the armor and structure stay the same. Well, the primitive armor is replaced by standard, and the engine likewise, but the actual armor value doesn't change, and there's no functional difference between primitive engines and standard engines in the conversion process.
Weapons are even easier than before. The standard PPC has the same damage as the Prototype, and the AC/5 and Small Laser stay here. Basically, you lose exactly one point of damage at short and medium, while long stays the same. The number of heatsinks stays the same, but with the lessened heat burden, there's really no change whatsoever in the heat-adjusted damage. 0.75 + 0.375 + 0.3 at short range gives you 1.425 at short, and then it's 1.5 at medium and long. All damage fractions round up after you hit 1, regardless of how little they beat it by, so the damage ends up being 2/2/2.
Over a hundred years later in 2579 comes the third model of Banshee, the BNC-3M. This time, everything on the base chassis stays the same, including structure, engine, heat sinks, and armor down to the individual point. The only changes come to the weapons. The -3M trades the AC/5 in the left torso for a second PPC, and then adds a pair of Medium Lasers seated under each PPC, one per side torso, while the Small Laser keeps mostly silent vigil in the Head. This must have happened before the Free Worlds League managed to lose all of its PPCs, or divert them to Awesomes, because that's the only faction that fields these versions in any quantity large enough to merit mention on the MUL.
The number of heat sinks has not been adjusted, meaning this Banshee runs hot. Four points of heat over the cooling capability even at a standstill, firing only primary weapons hot. A running alpha ends at +14. Some folks like to ride the heat scale, but this one is way too hot for my blood. The punch is undeniable, but the sacrifices required to get it are enormous. That said, firing 2-1-2-1 will at least keep the heat scale mostly neutral, and allow for some good, hard-hitting salvos while charging into the real objective of melee range. And really, that's what Banshees do. They shoot a little bit, and then wade into slugging range. This one does that, but it's a bit more high profile than I'd like to see doing it. Two PPCs is enough to make people sit up and notice, and Banshees don't like that.
In Alpha Strike the -3M is nearly identical to the -3E, with the only meaningful difference being one point of OV. ENE also makes an appearance in the Special box, as befits a 'Mech with no explosive components. Spoiler alert: That's the only qualifier for having ENE. Have no explosive components on the 'Mech. Not always possible, but since it reduces the chance to have your unit catastrophically cease existing on a critical hit by fully half, it's worth it if you have no strong attachment to a piece of equipment that disqualifies you from it.
The conversion process likewise stays pretty similar, though we'll get to see how OV works in this case. Move, armor, and structure all stay the same, but the weapons need a new set of calculations.
The short range damage increases to 0.75 + 0.75 + 0.5 + 0.5 + 0.3 = 2.8, which should
be good enough for three points. The head has something to say about that, however. (2.8 * 16)/(29 – 4) = (44.8)/(25) = 1.8. This rounds up to 2, rather than 3, so we actually lose a full point of damage thanks to that heat. We'll check it again at medium range, and if the point is still lost there, we'll get to claim a point of OV.
Medium range damage ends up being 1 + 1 + 0.5 + 0.5 = 3, so we're going well on that front. (3 * 16)/(29 – 4) = (48)/25) = 1.9. Success, we did lose a point in both medium and short range, so the Banshee -3M gets to claim a point of OV on the damage block.
OV1 is worth one point, and with the same damage output otherwise at all ranges, with the same movement and armor, the PV for the -3M is exactly one point higher, at 39. Extra potential damage output at an opportune time (or immediately before/after exploding violently) can definitely shift the battle, so I like this minor cost for minor gain. Despite the shift to what is arguably a more effective set of long range weapons, the -3M becomes a Brawler, rather than a Sniper.
Next up, the -3Q. This one is also
a Free Worlds League modification from the early 2900s, and it goes the route of the Hunchback. All of the weapons save the Small Laser have been ripped out to make room for a massive AC/20 in the right torso, fed by six tons of ammo in the left. Yes, six tons of ammunition in the left torso. That's the only thing in the left torso at all. Immediate red flag. It does not matter how effectively that AC/20 is used on the field, it's just waiting, begging to go up in a massive explosion. The armor is the same it always has been, which is good but not great, but even if this thing had 30 tons of hardened armor instead I wouldn't trust six tons of ammo alone in a location. Four heat sinks are discarded to make room for the massive cannon.
Which is a real shame, because the prospect of a 20 point wallop with the AC followed up a moment later by a 19 point kick, or two 10 point punches is delicious. However, since the AC and the Small Laser are the only weapons on the 'Mech, the range is hideously lacking. A maximum of 270 meters engagement distance is something a Hunchback can probably get away with, simply because it's 'only' 50 tons. A Banshee will get picked to pieces before getting into range, because there's a certain... gravitas of need that an Assault 'Mech bearing down on you has that a Hunchback just doesn't.
Alpha Strike once more comes to the rescue, utterly striking from the record the greatest flaw of this particular variant. Ammo explosions have a fixed probability in Alpha Strike, rather than the steadily increasing chance of a detonation with more ammo in standard play, and the damn near certainty of having this much in one unprotected location is a huge bump in survivability.
The damage block becomes significantly shorter ranged, hitting 3/2/0 with no OV. One something as slow as just about any Assault 'Mech I'm not a fan of no long range damage, but medium range is comparatively a lot longer than in standard play, and this one can still contribute at the most common engagement ranges. Armor remains the same, as do structure and move, so the durability is still there, as well.
Also showing up is the AC special ability, in the form of AC2/2/-. Two points of autocannon damage at medium range is some good stuff, and you can load specialty munitions to your heart's content with this one. That's true of the standard -3Q in general, however. Six tons of Precision, after a moment of thinking on it, actually sounds pretty nice! But not nice enough to make me want to use it.
The conversion for this one is easy. The maximum heat you can generate even on a running alpha is two points under neutral, so there's no chance of heat-modified damage whatsoever. Conversion is simple, too, with one weapon that deals 2 damage and one that deals 0.3, but only at short range. At short, 2.3 rounds up to 3, and 2 is a flat 2 at medium. Boom, easy.
The net change in damage, and the loss of OV from the previous models make the -3Q relatively inexpensive, at 37 points. The armor is still good, the movement is the same. You lose the long range capability, and become vulnerable to being dragged around the map by an annoying insect that can plink away beyond engagement range, but having a good punch in medium range should be good enough to get your points back over the course of the game. The role also changes again, this time to Juggernaut. The Juggernaut type is useful in Command Lances, and is good in Assault Lances for freeing up a 'Mech that may otherwise be required to be a Sniper to get the lance bonus.
The next variant, the -3S, brings us into the 31st century with a bang. Fielded mostly by the Federated Commonwealth states and the Free Rasalhague Republic, the -3S decides to forego the primary purpose of every Banshee up to now. It drops the speed back down to the 54 kph maximum of the old primitive version nearly 600 years earlier, but this time using standard components. Armor stays the same, at the 15 tons and 240 points that every Banshee has had up to now, so that tonnage goes directly
into guns, guns, guns.
In this case, 'guns, guns, guns' means two PPCs, one in the left arm and one in the right torso, an AC/10 with two tons of ammunition in the left torso, and an SRM-6 with one ton of ammo supported by no fewer than four Medium Lasers nestled under the PPC in the right torso. Two token Small Lasers are placed one in the center torso, and one in the head.
That is by far one of the most heavily gunned 'Mechs in the game in 3025. I daresay it outguns the classic AS7-D Atlas by virtue of having some range to play with. A total of 21 heatsinks is woefully inadequate at handling the heat load of so many guns, but with the varying ranges the -3S is fully capable of bracketing with the best of them.
Both PPCs and the AC/10 at a run will build up exactly +4 heat, just shy of heat penalties. Dropping a PPC every other turn keeps things neutral indefinitely. At close range, the AC/10, SRM-6, and four Medium Lasers are perfectly sinked, with a running alpha generating zero waste heat.
It's one of the finest bracket firing 'Mechs in the game, let alone 3025. Perfection.
In Alpha Strike, we finally get a glimpse at how bracket firing 'Mechs suffer. The method of calculating OV tends to punish bracket firing 'mechs and reward alpha strikers. The general PV of a bracket firing 'Mech will be lower, but it cannot use its full damage without incurring heat penalties. Let's take a look, since everything else stays the same.
Two PPCs are 0.75 damage each at short range. The AC/10 is 1. Medium Lasers between them are 2 full points. The SRM-6 goes by average number of missiles hit, in this case 0.8 points. The Small Lasers are 0.3 each, for an additional total of 0.6. Add it all together, 2*0.75 + 1 + 4*0.5 + 0.8 + 2*0.3 = 5.9. That's a pretty big chunk of change. But how does the heat stack up? The -3S can generate up to 43 heat at peak blazing fury, compared to just 21 heat dissipation. In our formula from earlier: (5.9 * 21)/(42 – 4) = (123.9)/(38) = 3.3, rounded up to 4. So we lost two full points of damage thanks to that heat. Jeez.
Medium range is pretty similar. We lose the Small Lasers, but the PPCs get 0.25 damage extra each, for a total net change of -0.1, down to 5.8. Put that back in the formula: (5.8 * 21)/(42 – 4) = (121.8)/(38) = 3.2, rounded up again to 4. Two more full points, which is good enough to give us an OV2. It hurts not being able to deal six damage every turn, though, for sure. OV is nice in a pinch, and good to have when you can't get damage otherwise, but it's definitely not as good as flat damage all the time.
The actual damage block does end up at a respectable 4/4/2 OV2, with the armor to back it up. The loss of speed hurts, but the TMM is the same. Having long range damage really saves this one, because otherwise I'd probably shame it for not being able to bring that impressive damage to bear on many targets with medium range only.
With all that offense, the -3S was bound to be more expensive. It delivers, at a whole 45 PV. The culprits for this are obvious, especially with the lack of Specials. Damage is damage is damage, and it's worth quite a bit. The role remains a Juggernaut, which I rather like for the reasons stated above. This one has the guns to really carry the lance, too, especially in pre-Clan games. Even post-invasion it can still dish out some hurt.
And now, to the first of no less than four
unique variants of the Banshee. One of those unique variants is from the Battle Lance pack, and will therefore not be covered here. This one will, though!
Three years after the production of the -3S, Mr. Reinesblatt fielded this customized model. Much of the armament remains similar to the -3S. Both PPCs have been removed in exchange for one Hatchet in the left arm and one Large Laser in the right. The right torso SRM-6 has also been converted into an LRM-10. Heat dissipation remains the same, as does the armor package of all Banshees and the speed of the -3S.
All in all, much more geared toward melee combat than any Banshee so far – odd, because it's one of the slower ones. This makes it difficult to get into melee range in the first place, but when you do things start to hurt, and hurt badly. Heat is still a problem on an alpha strike, and the optimum brackets for firing have gotten a bit... muddled. For extra confusion, this is also the first Banshee to mount something with a range longer than 18 hexes. Ever! So not only does it double down on melee, it does so while simultaneously reaching farther (albeit more anemically) than any Banshee before. Go figure.
Alpha Strike is kind to this one. The LRM-10 lets it keep a point of long range damage and gain IF1 for use while keeping to cover in order to get to melee range, while the Hatchet adds MEL for increased damage in melee. Five points is nothing to sneeze at. A final damage block of 4/4/1 OV1 is still respectable, lacking the burst damage of the -3S, but keeping a moderate amount of long range damage. That's invaluable, especially for a scary melee monster like this. I'm going to forego doing the OV calculation this time, because five examples should be good for you guys.
Alpha Strike PV is still 45, on account of the IF1 and MEL bumping it up just as much as a point of OV and long range damage brought it down. Role remains Juggernaut, good for use in Assault Lances. With this one, I definitely recommend taking Demoralizer as the lance ability. Really, anything that uses melee wants to do that, in order to make shots against you harder while not in base to base contact, and to slow down your target below the speed they need to reasonably outrun you.
Let me save you some time when you come around to considering the -3MC. It's bad. The armor and speed are back up to the typical -3E standards, but that doesn't save the 'Mech. Typically, the AC/5 is a poor weapon. On this 'Mech, the AC/10 is a poor weapon. In order to free up the tonnage for the cannon and two tons of ammo, the Medium Lasers are gone, and so are five heat sinks. The result is a 'Mech that overheats while firing its primary weapons, gives up significant amounts of offense at short ranges, doesn't match ranges well at all, and puts out less damage than just about any Assault 'Mech you could name, leaving aside the notorious Charger -1A1. This kind of firepower is matched and exceeded by 'Mechs half this size. Warhammers and Marauders point and laugh. Normally that's not a huge knock, but for something 20-25 tons larger, it's a painful sight. Barely worth mentioning is the single Small Laser that's still chilling in the head.
As for Alpha Strike? Well, it's cheap. Read the preceding paragraph again to remind yourself why it's so cheap. Armor and move are, once again, back up to -3E standards, which is probably this thing's only saving grace. Damage is a mediocre 2/2/1. At least it has
long range damage! There is no OV to even periodically bring the damage up to average levels. The only thing that recommends this is the AC1/1/- Special, which is useful for shooting at airborne targets, or targets with high move. That's about it.
Well, that's not strictly speaking correct. The -3MC actually gives me an excuse to break out the overheat calculations and show you how not
to build a 'Mech in AS. Damage rounds up to the nearest whole number, which makes things like solitary Small Lasers good for eking out that little extra bit of short range damage for a low tonnage investment. This particular Banshee could have done that, and instead screws it all up with heat.
Take a look at the short range damage. From the AC/10 we get 1, from the PPC we get 0.75 due to minimum range, and from the Small Laser we get 0.3, for a total of 2.05. Then the overheat calculations come in. (2.05 * 11)/(16 – 4) → (22.55)/(12) → I'm sure you can see where this is going. The final, adjusted value is 1.9 after rounding to the nearest tenth, not good enough to round up to 3 points. The heat has robbed us of a point of short range damage.
But what about medium? This thing lost a point at short range, why can't it at medium to claim OV1? Well, it's because of that Small Laser. It doesn't enter calculations for medium range, which means that it can't influence the damage of the combined PPC and AC/10 above their cumulative exactly 2 points if it tried. Ever. The heat modifies that slightly, too, to a similar 1.9. That rounds back up to 2 points, and since at medium range the 'Mech lost exactly nothing, it doesn't qualify for OV1. The long range damage of exactly the PPC and nothing else is not influenced by heat.
And that, kids, is how to avoid building a 'Mech for your own games. As alluded to earlier, the only saving grace of the -3MC in Alpha Strike is that it's cheap as hell at only 37 PV. It's also a Brawler, which means it no longer fits easily into an Assault Lance, but it can do well enough in a Battle Lance. If you do put it in a Battle Lance, you'll probably want to use the Battle Lance's Lucky SPA on melee attacks. Two points at short and medium isn't generally worth spending the rolls on unless you need two points to kill something right damn now.
The only significant numbers of this particular machine are found in the Magistracy of Canopus, starting in 3037. So I guess, if you really need a bad Assault 'Mech to fill out a unit playing Periphery, this is the 'Mech for you. I can definitely see the CAF deciding that Assault 'Mech > no Assault 'Mech and putting it into heavy production.
And with that, we have now entered a new era, ladies and gentlemen. The next Banshee on the lsit, the BNC-5S, is a product of the Clan Invasion. Notably just a bit too late for Tukayyid and the main thrust of the Clan Invasion, this variant stepped off the lines for the first time in 3053.
I would also like to say that, after the walking blunder that is the -3MC, the -5S is pretty good, guys. It starts on the solid base that the Banshee has been built on for over 600 years by this point, with a 64 kph top speed, and a solid 15 points of armor. The armor distribution has still
not changed even once, now on variant #8. That's all window dressing to the main event, however: the guns.
In order to save mass at the expense of bulk, an XL engine was fitted into the -5S's frame. This freed up over 20 tons
to use to improve the armament. And oh, how it is improved. The two PPCs from the -3S make an appearance, shifted around a bit to both fit in the right torso. Both are also upgraded to ER PPCs. Against the Clans, this is a significant benefit in range, and also has the benefit of making the -5S right out of the gate the single most dangerous Banshee yet, by dint of being able to put 20 points of damage downrange to 690 meters. Even better, that's not even the end of the big guns! The AC/5 has been upgraded into a fearsome Gauss Rifle, reaching just shy of the ER PPCs but bringing in an impressive punch. The only negative for this set up is the single, solitary ton of gauss ammo. You'll run out of ammo long
before you run out of armor. Fourteen double heat sinks (another awesome upgrade) struggle to deal with the heat burden of just the main weapons. Firing the three big guns all at once at a run will leave the -5S a little toasty in the cockpit, but it will still function at full effectiveness the next turn, which is the important part. It's easily sustainable to run at 3-3-2 firing pattern, dropping one ER PPC every third round and remain heat neutral. Or, for the slightly more daring, or the slightly better shots among us, 3-3-3-2 will also stay heat neutral while keeping firepower up longer. At that point, you do start to run into some targeting issues, but the increased damage output could be the deciding factor, depending on the range and speed of your target.
The close range punch of this Banshee got heftier, too. Two Medium Lasers in the left arm coupled with an SRM-6 and a ton of ammo in the right get good results, and arguably better than most Banshees before now regardless of other weapons especially at short range. The only downside is that they're arm mounted, which means in the event of a melee range brawl, you're either restricted to kicking, which can sometimes be risky, or you're unable to engage with all of your short range armament. An additional two Medium Lasers are mounted in the side torsos, one each, but face rearward. While good against backstabbing threats, I think I speak for most everyone when I say that forward mounted weapons are largely superior, and I would pick them every time. The head mounted Small Laser remains, and is actually joined by a second nestled in the Center Torso. I'm again reminded I'd rather have another Medium instead of two Smalls. Heat is fairly easily managed at short range, however, trading out one ER PPC for everything else
. Dropping one ER PPC and firing everything else in the front arc generates only movement heat. Pretty slick brackets, but firing an alpha strike will leave the pilot wondering who turned on the sun in the cockpit.
To my delight, the -5S stacks up well in Alpha Strike, too. This is the first time out of all our previous Banshees where the armor or structure changed. In this case, it's the structure. XL Engines in Inner Sphere terms basically half the amount of structure a unit receives (rounded up, with exactly one exception in the 80 ton column), so this Banshee comes in with 4 points of structure. This significantly reduces the total punishment that the 'Mech can take, but that does also affect how expensive the 'Mech is. In this particular Banshee's case, those four points of structure save around 4.5 PV, before rounding and final computation. I'm a big fan of durability, but a total of 12 points is still pretty acceptable, and the number of things that can take it out in one hit are very, very few and far between.
So where does all that raw gun
go in Alpha Strike? It goes into a 4/4/4 OV1 damage block. That's pretty solid right there. Good at all ranges, consistent damage, and a little bit of extra kick at short and medium range when you need it. It can't do 7 or 8 like we saw the Mad Cat Mk IV get up to, but the -5S gets top marks from me for damage, and good marks for combining armor, speed, and firepower all in one package. As an extra bonus, it has REAR1/1/-. Rear is one of the only ways to make a second attack in Alpha Strike, so it can be incredibly useful even though it does reduce your primary attack's damage correspondingly.
The rear mounted weapons make the overheat calculations interesting. In Alpha Strike, rear mounted weapons are not counted for overheat unless
rear firing weapons do more damage than forward firing weapons. I can't honestly think of any 'Mech where that happens, so it won't affect much here. Total damage of all forward facing weapons is pretty hefty. A point for each ER PPC at all ranges, half a point for each Medium Laser forward in short and medium, 0.8 points for the SRM-8 in short and medium, 0.6 total for the two Smalls in short only, and the Gauss Rifle puts up 1.245 in short and then 1.5 each in medium and long range. Or rather, that's what it would
do if it had 10 shots of ammo. Instead, that value gets reduced by a quarter at all ranges. Adjusted, the damage is 0.93375/1.125/1.125
That gives us an unmodified damage total of 5.33375/4.925/3.125. Damn, that's pretty sweet. As of right this moment, that rounds up to a total of 6/5/4 before we consider heat woes. Anyway, on to the calculations.
At short range, with everything except the rear mounted medium lasers, this Banshee can put out a blistering 45 heat at maximum movement heat. Plugging that into our cool little formula, we get (5.33375 * 28)/(45 – 4) → (159.345)/(41) → 3.6, which will round up to a total short range damage of 4 when we get there. That's a difference of two full points of damage. Now time to see if the difference persists in medium range.
Back to the formula (4.925 * 28)/(45 – 4) → (137.9)/(41) → 3.4, which will likewise round up to 4. That is a difference of only one point of damage. That restricts the -5S to OV1, rather than 2. This is likewise an example of how not to build a 'Mech for an entirely different reason. Have ammo for your guns, kids.
At 42 PV, this one is more expensive than the base -3E, but the capability it offers is vastly
improved offensively, for a not-insignificant but certainly not crippling hit in vulnerability. With its speed, the -5S plays more like an oversize Heavy than a traditional Assault. I like it. The -5S is a Sniper, which means it's a great addition to a Fire Lance, and the high damage at all ranges with good armor contributes to Assault Lances well, too. This one definitely wants to take fewer
hits than a -3E, but it can still take a couple, so don't be shy. The extra damage also means you can probably try to outduel someone in raw damage, and promotes being more aggressive with your shots.
The Banshee -5S is available to the Federated Commonwealth, member states thereof, and allies.
Custom variant number two. I had no idea who this one was named for until I saw that the source for it was actually the TRO3050 Upgrade record sheets. Apparently a mercenary in Bronson's Horde, Trent “Bullfrog” Sawyer opted to remove one of his Banshee -5S's ER PPCs and one heat sink in exchange for a full complement of jump jets. This allows the -5S (Sawyer) to really open up at shorter ranges without worrying too much about overheating too badly, even despite the lost heat sink. Overall offensive power is reduced, but the mobility is hugely improved.
Nothing else about the 'Mech changes, making this particular custom something that could easily have marched off the line at a glance if we didn't know anything about where it came from. There's only one -5S (Sawyer), and the Horde was destroyed as a fighting unit on New Avalon during the Jihad fighting on the side of the Blakists, so the likelihood of this particular model still existing is not high.
In Alpha Strike, the -5S (Sawyer) is pretty similar in Alpha Strike, too. The loss of an ER PPC reduces the long range damage by one point, but the rest of the damage component remains the same minus overheat. That is to say, you can still do 4 damage at short and medium, but the lack of ER PPC pumping up the temperature means that there's no overheat along with it; you just get 4/4/3. That's still pretty good! And the extra mobility granted by the jump jets arguably matters more here than it does in standard play. You don't lose distance when you jump, and being able to clear terrain like that makes the -5S (Sawyer) pretty terrifying in a built up area, especially since it can use that mobility to bully smaller but individually more powerful units. Getting into base to base contact means that the -5S (Sawyer) and original -5S don't lose any damage they could be doing, but if an enemy unit does less damage in melee, the Banshee comes out on top.
Despite the drastic mobility change, this one retains the Sniper role, and only goes up by 1 PV to a total of 43. I'd take that if I ever got the opportunity to use unique units like that in my games. As a Sniper, this one works well in an Assault Lance that's trying to stay mobile, like a Fast Assault Lance. At that PV, you can probably afford this plus a skill increase in the place of a 'true' line Assault. As a unique unit, no major power uses any great number of the -5S Sawyer. It debuts in 3057, and may be presumed destroyed by 3070.
Somewhat amusingly, our next variant is also unique. The Banshee BNC-5S (Vandergriff) is the personal ride of a Solaris VII gladiator. It, too, goes the way of improved mobility with jump jets, but it takes a different path to get there.
One of the ER PPCs moves to the left arm, while the other stays in the right torso. The rear mounted Medium Lasers are ripped out, and the SRM-6 is downgraded to an SRM-4, while keeping the same amount of ammo. Both Small Lasers are also removed, making at least one interesting first for this particular Banshee. That accounts for four tons, and the remaining four tons are gained by dropping the Gauss Rifle down to an LB-10X. Only one ton of ammo furnishes the weapon, defaulting to slugs. You keep the long range punch of the ER PPCs, but lose the long range concentrated punch of the Gauss. I'm genuinely not sure which I prefer, but it's definitely worth noting that loading a ton of cluster ammo makes this one an excellent generalist while the ammo holds out.
And I guess I should at least mention that the armor hasn't changed again, and that the engine is still the XL of the base -5S. Surprise.
The changes in Alpha Strike make the -5S (Vandergriff) much more average than the last couple. Armor and structure are what you may expect, and the jumping move is the same as the -5S (Sawyer). Damage is significantly evened out, a flat 3/3/3 all the way down, and OV2. Not losing that ER PPC while going to jump movement sure affected that significantly! I'm generally a bigger fan of 4/4/4 OV1 than 3/3/3 OV2, but you do get the points cost back for it. The difference in points is 17 PV for the 4/4/4 OV1, and 13.5 PV for 3/3/3 OV2. Significant enough to make a difference in the final PV, I wager. Also making a special appearance courtesy of the LB-10X is FLK1/1/1, making the -5S (Vandergriff) the first Banshee capable of effectively responding to airborne targets, or at the very least much moreso than previous variants.
At 41 PV, this version of the -5S is the cheapest so far, but not by too terribly much. The jumping movement accounts for some of that, as does rounding in the final calculations. If you ever do find an excuse to use this one, the role is that of a Skirmisher. This particular 'Mech was destroyed on Solaris VII during riots that broke out on the eve of the FedCom Civil War. The pilot did not survive.