Author Topic: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too  (Read 11618 times)

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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Hah, I didn't even see that typo.


Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Welcome back to the actual, scheduled Alpha Strike 'Mech of the Week article for this week.  I've lost count of how many variants have been covered, but surely we're getting up close to 70 since two of the Unseen/Reseen got reviewed.  Today we'll be adding seventeen more in the form of the Catapult and its variants.  God help me.  Obviously, some of those that are very similar to others may be a bit rushed and glossed over.  It's a necessary consequence of having so many variants.

And here we go!  Let's give it the usual.  Rolling off the lines in 2563, we start with the Catapult -A1.  Size 3, a Heavy.  But then, you knew that if you've ever played BattleTech.  The MV on this one is 8”j, giving it a decent speed for a heavy, especially for the stereotypical fire support 'Mech.  Jump jets offer some tactical flexibility, allowing the -A1 to jump behind cover to rely on indirect fire or escape concentrated fire.  It's also capable of boosting the TMM from the normal +1 for walking to +2, in case not being hit is more important than doing damage in return.

With 6 points of armor and 5 points of structure, there's room for improvement but it's pretty damn good.  Six points of armor withstands two of the trademark ASMOTW's Thud hits without taking a crit, and 11 points total is enough to survive damn near everything at least once, especially at range where Catapults are typically most at home.

Speaking of those ranges, the Catapult -A1 acquits itself... rather anemically, with this variant.  A damage block of 1/2/2 with OV0 is not impressive, especially on a Heavy.  It does, however, come loaded with utility.  LRM1/2/2 means you can drop special LRM munitions for your entire damage value.  That's unusual for any 'Mech, but having it for LRMs is pretty nice.  You can lay minefields with Thunder munitions, target whole lances and play against the law of averages with Swarm, lay smokescreens with Smoke, or get extra damage from TAGed targets with Semi-Guided.  The uses are numerous.  IF2 also comes into play, meaning that a Catapult need not be in the enemy's face to engage.  Once again, TAG and NARC are great helps, and the Catapult notably loses exactly zero points of damage in IF.

At 33 PV, the Catapult -A1 is a little bit on the pricy side for the offensive capabilities it demonstrates.  However, there's a good deal of utility there, and it's on a sturdy enough, maneuverable enough platform that I tend to think it's worth the cost.  To no-one whatsoever's great surprise, the -A1 is a Missile Boat, making it a favored member of Fire and Fire Support Lances.  This benefits exactly the Capellan Confederation, the only major users of the -A1 for the duration of its existence.  Long time users may be dismayed to note that the -A1 is officially extinct in the Republic Era.

The next variant, the Catapult -C1, is oddly older.  It debuted in 2561, two years before the -A1.  It's less specialized, but also less versatile.  If that makes any sense at all.  The speed remains the same, at a brisk 8”j.  This particular model loses a single point of armor from the -A1.  This brings the total down to 10 points, split 5/5.  The -C1 will now take a critical hit from two Thud shots, which isn't a great thing, but it still survives three hits with more to spare.  In that respect, it meets at least one of the critical thresholds.  Good enough.

Where the major difference happens is in the damage block.  A full spread of 2/3/2 with OV1 is a significant bump over the -A1.  The capability to, even if not consistently, pump out 4 points of damage at medium range is not to be underestimated.

And now the less versatile part.  The IF has been downgraded to 1, while the LRM has likewise been reduced to 1/1/1.  This version of the Catapult likes significantly more to stand and fight than its -A1 sibling.  Odd to think of any stripe of Catapult, but there it is.

The Catapult -C1 weighs in at 33 PV, exactly the same as the -A1.  Picking between one or the other is a matter of taste.  Do you prefer to hail missiles from behind cover and use alternate munitions to lay minefields and smokescreens?  Then you want the -A1.  Do you prefer raw damage dealing potential, at the expense of flexibility and alternate munitions?  Then you want the -C1.  I tend to lean every so slightly on the side of the -C1.  It is also a Missile Boat, with the same things that entails from the -A1.  This version of the Catapult is on the IS General list for a very long time, clear through the Jihad.  By the Republic Era, the -C1 is on the Periphery General list and nowhere else.

Coming up almost immediately in the article, we have a unique, personal variant.  The -C1 (Jenny) “Butterbee” is... well, it's less of a Catapult than we're used to seeing, and more of a roided out Kintaro. 

Armor and movement profile are the same as the -C1, but the weapons suite is a whole different beast.  A damage block of 3/3/0 with OV3 is... painful.  Very painful.  It deals good damage out to 24 inches, and in a pinch it can deal some truly enormous pain, more than enough to take out Light and low-end Mediums in a single shot.  Very nice.  OV3 isn't particularly pleasant for the user either, though, so keep that in mind before letting rip with a full fusillade.

The Specials block rearranges itself to fit SRM2/2.  I personally like SRM alternate munitions more than I like most LRM munitions, because they can buoy the attacking unit simultaneously, rather than a turn or two later.  Infernos in particular are great uses of SRM.  It takes the points in HT out of the normal damage of the attack, but 2 points of HT is the maximum that can be imparted to a unit on a given turn externally.  After that, follow up with a round of Heat-Seeking rounds, and you can do extra damage at the same time your opponent is reeling from the slow down and difficulty targeting.

The PV cost actually goes down to 32, and the role switches to Skirmisher.  This thing is less a Catapult than a blunt instrument of SRM death, so don't think you can use it like an indirect fire support unit.  I'm a fan, but the property of the unit that renders it unique makes it hard to justify using more than one of them.

The Catapult was one such 'Mech to get a Royal variant, the -C1b.  Entering service in 2688, The -C1b takes the -A1, which it resembles much more than the -C1 in Alpha Strike play, and improves on it significantly.  The MV stays the same at 8”j, and so does the armor at 6/5.  Good places to start, and arguably the strengths of the Catapult chassis.

The damage block is where the majority of improvements come about.  With a painful 3/4/2 and OV0, the -C1b puts out 4 damage all day long at medium range, its new favorite engagement range.  The IF2 and LRM1/2/2 from the -A1 are intact, and CASE is added to help with ammo explosions.  The damage increase makes it more difficult to use this one, seeing as instead of getting full damage indirectly, you're taking fully half of your damage away in order to use those specialty munitions or indirect fire at your optimum engagement ranges.  That's PV you're paying for something you're not using.  In that respect, I prefer to use the -C1b and 'Mechs like it as main line combatants, albeit ones that may still have an avenue of attack even if LOS is blocked.  Keeping them deliberately out of sight means you're paying an extra six points over the -A1 for exactly zero increase in capability.

Speaking of an extra six points, that's how much more than the -A1 the -C1b costs.  39 PV is pretty steep, but with direct damage like that you'll earn your points back pretty quick.  We're back to the Missile Boat role, so this guy fits into a Fire Lance well.  Using Sniper to cut down range modifiers at medium range even by 1 point is enough to make a substantial increase in damage, especially for this one.  I consider it a good buy.

The Royal Catapult is extinct through most of the pre-Clan era, and available on the IS General list after that.

The next one on the list goes pretty far out of order, chronologically.  For some reason, the -C2 postdates the -C3 by 14 years.  No biggie.  Rolling off the lines in 3062, the Catapult -C2 switches to an XL engine.  This... doesn't go as planned, at least in Alpha Strike terms.

The change to XL means that the structure drops from 5 to 3.  Armor is a solid six, so the total health available is 8 points.  That crucially misses the triple triple threshold, which means this one is significantly more fragile than the other Catapults shown so far.  It does still manage to avoid taking a crit after two solid whacks, which is a point for it.

The weapons are where most of the engine tonnage went, and not a lot comes of it.  The LRMs gain Artemis IV.  In this instance, that's not a good thing.  They gain one point of damage at long range, in exchange for not getting LRM at all.  Units with Artemis are automatically unable to get any alternate munitions Specials.  It's a major strike against the system in general.  Additionally, in standard BattleTech, the -C2 gets a pair of LB-2X autocannons.  This translates to FLK0*/0*/0*, and exactly zero extra points of damage in the regular block.  Thirteen tons well spent!  Variants like this are why I'm writing an article on how to Alpha Strike Construction later.

At 34 PV, it even costs more than a normal Catapult.  The extra point of long range damage accounts for that, because alternate munitions Specials don't cost points.  Their loss is felt far more than the extra point of damage.  The -C2 is still a Missile Boat.  Once again, much like the -A1, this is pretty Capellan exclusive until the Republic era, when a bunch of former Free Worlds League states pick it up for some reasons.

Step 14 years back in time, and unleash my very favorite Catapult variant.  And Weirdo's favorite.  And, really, anybody who like artillery.  Say hello to the Catapult -C3.  The MV and A/S of the -C1 come back, and that's once again a pretty decent base to work from.  No fragile XL engine is definitely good.

The damage block of the -C3 looks like it's been mangled with something sharp that didn't manage to get all the pieces.  At 2/2/0, it doesn't exactly inspire fear in anything, but that's not why this thing exists.  No, the entire purpose for this Catapult is in the Special box.  ARTAIS-1.  What does that mean?  It means that this Catapult mounts an Arrow IV Missile Artillery Launcher.  Hell.  Yes.

Artillery is interesting in Alpha Strike.  Recent errata has seen it added to the standard level of the rules, so we'll dedicate this part of the article to that.  A more in-depth look at artillery, including advanced rules and equipment, will come on Monday.  For now, however, all you need to know is that artillery is one of the most fun things in the game.  There are several different kinds, but for right now I'll keep it primarily to the Arrow IV system.

Under standard rules, full on artillery pieces reach out to long range (42”).  They may fire direct or indirect, and in direct fire may either target a unit or a Point of Impact (PoI).  The recent errata also simplified things a great deal, to the point that it's as simple as a normal weapon attack.  When firing directly at a target, add the terrain modifiers and the target's TMM.  All artillery attacks use long range modifiers.  The resulting number is the target number for the attack.  If the attack succeeds, it strikes the point of impact (centered on the unit you're directly firing at), which becomes the center of a 2” splash template.  Anything in those two inches takes full damage from the artillery.  In Arrow IV's case, that means 2 damage.

Firing indirectly is similar, but can only be made against a point of impact and requires a spotter.  Firing indirectly imposes a +1 to hit on the attack.  This can be offset with the spotter's equipment.  If an artillery spotter has the RCN Special, then the indirect modifier is canceled out with a -1 to hit.  In the case of Arrow IV, it's actually more than taken care of, with a -2.  If the spotter fired, that's another +1, so even if an artillery spotter with RCN fired that turn, you'd still break even as if it were a normal attack at long range.

If the attack misses, however, it drifts.  The splash template has some numbers on it to indicate drift direction.  Roll 1d6 to determine the direction (with the template held such that the '1' result is 'north' on the map), and then another d6 to determine drift.  For tube artillery, what you see is what you get.  For missile artillery like Arrow IV, you double it, and then see where the POI ends up.  It's entirely possible to still hit an enemy target (or a friendly one!) even if you miss, which is part of what makes artillery so powerful and useful.  Of note, artillery attacks are separate weapon attacks that happen in the combat phase.  A unit that makes an artillery attack may make an additional regular weapon or melee attack that turn as well.

There are a number of alternate munitions for artillery, as well.  I'll go into those on Monday.

For now, back to the Catapult!  As you can see, the -C3 is a supremely helpful unit, as well as one of the more mobile and well protected artillery launchers in the entire game.  Artillery, far more than in the regular BattleTech game, is easy and fun to bring to the table, so this variant sees a lot of use at my tables.

At 35 points, it's only a little bit more expensive than the -C1, and the presence of artillery on the table is never to be ignored or downplayed.  It's a steal at that PV level.  It's also still a Missile Boat, which is helpful when forming Artillery Fire Lances.  With Oblique Artilleryman, your indirect artillery attacks are made at -1, canceling out the indirect fire modifier by itself, and allowing a spotter with RCN to make a shot a full -2 easier.  With Forward Observer from a Recon Lance, it's actually possible to apply a -4 modifier (-2 spotter with RCN, -2 for Forward Observer, +1 for Indirect, -1 for Oblique Artilleryman) to the TN, making your artillery arguably more accurate than your normal attacks.  Yes please.

The -C3 is available to most folks eventually, though it's concentrated with the Capellans and the Federated Commonwealth to start.

The Catapult -C4 practically takes the non-artillery, non-unique versions of Catapult we've seen so far and averages them.  The MV, like most Catapults, stays at 8”j.  At this point, I'm going to stop mentioning it unless there's something different about it.  The armor and structure are also similar, with the typical-of-half-of-them 5/5 split.

The damage block is pretty average, but also not deficient in any way.  It stands at 2/2/2 with OV1.  Consistent damage at every range, and OV to help out when needed.  What's more, there's OVL hiding down there in the Special box, which means that this OV will help clear to long range.  Definitely useful for a fire support design.  We also see a return to IF2 and LRM1/2/2.  Pretty solid, all things considered.

At 32 PV, it's actually cheaper than most of the Catapults we've seen so far.  I rather like it, with the OVL offering good damage at range, and the LRM and IF allowing it to contribute while outside of the line of fire as well.  This variant, like the -A1, is almost exclusively Capellan until the unit goes extinct in the Republic Era.

Here we go, a Catapult that does something useful with an XL engine!  The armor sticks at 5 points, but the structure goes down to 3.  A total of 8 points is more fragile than I like, but the freed tonnage went to actually improving the 'Mech this time.

Damage improves to 3/3/3 OV1.  The -C4C lost OVL, but the improved damage at long range at all times makes up for it, and now you can pump up to 4 damage at short and medium.  IF2 and LRM1/2/2 hold steady, and this one adds RCN and PRB.  This makes it, amusingly, a superb spotter for other Catapults, particularly the -C3.  Pairing a -C3 and a -C4C gives you good, consistent damage at all ranges, followed up by an artillery shot at -2 to hit.  Good stuff.

PRB and RCN aren't free, and come with a PV bump up to 37.  This makes it a fairly expensive Catapult by the standards we've seen so far, but that consistent damage and RCN is pretty significant, and I consider it well worth the 4 extra points from the baseline -C1.  More good stuff.  I'm a big fan of the Catapult, because most of the variants are pretty good on their own merits.  It's a good base to make things out of.

Another artillery version!  The Catapult -C5, coming into being in 3061, takes what made the -C3 great, and then improves on it.  Most things remain unchanged, including the damage and MV, but the armor changes significantly.  From the Catapult 'average' of 5/5, we see a jump all the way up to 7/5.  This makes it the most armored Catapult to date.  Twelve points isn't enough to withstand a fourth Thud hit, but every point matters, and it means you can use the -C5 in a dual-purpose role, firing artillery at dug in targets indirectly and shooting at main line combatants in the same turn, or doubling up to crit the hell out of whatever is in its way.  Being able to make two attacks in a turn is a very powerful advantage, especially if one of those attacks can hit multiple targets.

You pay for the extra armor, and the PV for the -C5 bumps up to 40.  That extra armor is invaluable.  Whether keeping it on the front lines for integral fire support to an advance, or using it to withstand counter battery fire for a few more turns, you can never have enough of it.  Like most Catapults, this one is a Missile Boat.  Also like most Catapults, it's Capellan nearly exclusive for most of its life.  This one lasts into the Republic Era intact.

There are a lot of Catapults.  This particular one, the -C5A, rolled into battle in 3068, right at the beginning of the Jihad.  It's a pretty good one, I think.  It keeps the armor of the -C5, but mixes up the weapons.  All of the mass from the Arrow IV goes into guns, bringing the damage block for this guy up to 3/4/3, OV1.  Pretty painful, especially at medium range.  Being able to do five points of damage at medium range when it's needed is big.  That damage improvement is gained through the use of Artemis over other Catapults, so there's no LRM Special on this one, but you do get to keep the IF2, and also add CASE for good measure.

At 43 points, this is the most expensive Catapult, period.  With damage like that, it deserves to be, quite frankly.  It remains a Missile Boat, too, for use with Fire Lances.

Do you like plasma rifles?  I like plasma rifles.  So does the Catapult -C6.  The armor and movement remain the same as the last few, at 8”j and 7/5.  The -C6 is mostly shorter ranged, a Skirmisher rather than fire support design.  Damage values of 3/3/0, OV0 mean that it is at its best every turn.  It doesn't get all the way up there on the pain scale, but it delivers a pretty solid wallop to medium range.  Additionally, the plasma rifles that I adore so much add HT1/1/- to the Specials.  Being able to heat up the opponent at the same time as a full strength attack every turn is invaluable.  A good show, -C6.

The much reduced damage from the -C5A results in a 37 PV price tag.  Hefty, but not huge, and definitely not even the most expensive Catapult.  As a Skirmisher, this one doesn't fit into Fire Lances nearly as well as its cousins, but does fit into Battle, Striker, and even Pursuit Lances.  It's more flexible in a force composition sense in exchange for being more focused on the field.  In what is surely a surprise to no one, the -C6 is a Capellan exclusive.

What's this?  A Catapult with a different letter?  The -H2 arrives on the field in 3064, and is promptly really, really average.  Armor is back down to the 6/5 standard of the early C models.  Damage is rearranged to 3/3/1, OV0.  Really, that's as average as average gets.  Additionally, there are no Specials.  What you see is what you get.  I think everyone knows my stance on 'Mechs without Specials by now.

The good news is cost.  At 34 PV, it's on the lower side of the cost spectrum than most of the higher mark Catapults.  It, too, is a Skirmisher.  Flexible, but utterly, boringly average.  In a stunning reversal of expectations, the -H2 is used primarily by the Marians and various pirates, of all people.  I suppose it makes sense that a Periphery brand Catapult would be average as hell.

We don't stick with the H designation for long.  We also go back in time to see this one, back to 3033.  The Catapult -K2 is the alternate Catapult that we haven't seen until now.  It bucks the trend every Catapult to date has kept, and ditches the 8”j movement.  It's down to 8”, no jump, and it's not immediately clear where that tonnage goes.  Armor is to the early C-series standard, 6/5 A/S.  Decent.  With the loss of mobility, not as great, perhaps, but still solid.

The damage block reads a lot like an -H2, but with a bit of a long range boost.  3/3/2, OV0.  Decent enough by itself.  There are no Specials to recommend it, so the LRM flexibility isn't there, and neither is the IF to contribute from out of sight.  This version of Catapult is pure main line combatant, nothing else.  No support aspect.  I'm honestly not a big fan, unless you really, really, really want to field a Catapult but don't like using indirect.

That said, there's hope if you also don't like playing Capellan.  This version is available to the Draconis Combine and Rasalhague, until its extinction in the Republic Era.  Before that, it costs 32 PV, making it one of the cheapest Catapults we've seen.  Silver linings, I suppose.  It's also a Sniper, meaning you can use it in a different sort of Fire Lance, or as part of an Assault Lance if you bring two.

Second verse, same as the – wait, what?  No, that's definitely not the same.  The typical Catapult movement (that was already bucked with the -K2) is usurped again, and this time in slightly more extreme fashion.  This particular Catapult moves 10”, making it capable of attaining a +2 TMM without jumping.  Okay, I was a little skeptical at first, but sign me up!  Getting that fast means sturdiness suffers a bit.  An XL engine means that the structure is 3 points, rather than 5.  Armor is improved to 7 points, however, yielding a total of 10 points.  That's enough to take three Thud hits, which is fine by me, and it avoids a crit on two of them.  Good enough for me.

How does the damage stack up?  3/3/2, OV0.  It's okay, exactly the same as the -K2.  In essence, this model trades away two points of structure for 2” of movement and one point of armor.  I'll take that trade, any day.  ENE rounds out the Specials, making ammo explosions a thing of the past.

At 34 PV, we're back at Catapult average.  Not too shabby, nothing extravagant.  The -K2K, like the -K2, is a Sniper, so all the same building tips apply.  Also similar to the previous model, the -K2K is available to the Draconis Combine, but this time not Rasalhague.  This may be a minor side effect of Rasalhague effectively ceasing to exist by the 3058 production date of the -K2K.

Curiously, the -K3 comes out 11 years before the -K2K.  Naming conventions, how do they work.  We're back down at 8” move, no jumping.  My least favorite Catapult move profile.  Armor and structure are back to the C-series average of 6/5.  Adequate, not as good as it's possible to hit.  Damage gets a bit of a bump at short range, resulting in a 4/3/2 OV0 block.  No frills, no thrills, great damage at short, good damage at medium, better than average damage at long range (for long range, at least).  Simple, effective.  No Specials, including a lack of CASE or ENE.

At 33 PV, it's even cheaper than the -K2K.  It's also still a Sniper.  By this late in the article, even if you were completely new to how PV works, 12 variants (ugggggh) later you should have a good idea of whether this is worth the cost.  Once again, the -K3 is available to the Draconis Combine.  Until the Republic, at least, when it becomes extinct.

Back to the Jihad!  3068 rolls around, and so does this new Catapult, the -K4.  This one goes in new directions.  It slows down, of all things, changing to 6”j.  This makes it the slowest Catapult by far, but it still matches the +1 TMM of the normal speed variants.  What you lose is a little maneuverability.  That's pretty important to me, but I know some folks don't care as much.  Armor is the best it will get, 7/5 A/S.

Damage for this one hits a health 3/4/3, OV0.  Good damage at all ranges.  What makes this Catapult unique among its peers is the presence of a C3 Slave, giving it C3S and MHQ1 for Specials, along with ENE.

Who would do such a thing?  The Draconis Combine, of course.  The Word of Blake also apparently sneaks a look into the -K4 during the Jihad.  At 42 PV this is one of the expensive ones, but that's easily explained as the good damage at all ranges, compounded by C3 adding a PV premium.  You get what you pay for, and this Catapult goes fantastic in a C3 linked Fire Lance or company, thanks to its Sniper role.

The final Catapult variant (thank god!) is the -K5.  Debuting in 3058 (dates are weird), it goes back to the standard 8”j of most Catapult variants, and mixes the high armor of 7 points with an XL engine for some interesting damage.  5/5/0 OV0 is pretty painful, and the most consistently high damage of any Catapult variant.  It lacks at long range, and doesn't have many ways to close against maneuverable opponents, so this one perhaps more than any other needs support.  If it did less damage, perhaps it would be a different story, but 5 point thumps will get an opponent to notice and avoid.  That can be a victory in and of itself sometime, but I like the things I spend lots of points on to do damage.

C3 is not used to the best of its ability on the -K5.  Being unable to respond at all at long range means that the -K5 still has to close to at least medium range itself to engage, and at that point the major benefit of C3 is lessened compared to what's possible at long.  If you end up using the -K5 as your spotter you neatly solve that problem, but you're not getting to short range consistently with this guy.

Still, at 41 PV for that damage, and the opportunity to take longer distance shots at short range modifiers is pretty good.  The -K5 is available primarily to the Draconis Combine and the Free Rasalhague Republic.  This one is also a Skirmisher, meaning it fits into a good number of lances that can take advantage of its C3 and good damage at medium range.

That takes care of every variant I can break down.  All 17 of them.  #P  As usual, there are a few Catapults can be found over at CamoSpecs.  There's also a previous 'Mech of the Week article, one of the first on this iteration of the boards.


Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen.  This is the article I have been waiting to write for two months.  Today's article is on the effective selection and use of artillery in an Alpha Strike game.  So go ahead and strap in, because this one should be a good one.

I went over a little bit of this with the Catapult article, just a few days ago.  This will be going significantly more in depth.  So you guys get the best picture of how to use artillery I can provide, I'm going to go pretty deep into the mechanics of it, and after that it'll be time for unit selection and actual use on the table.

Artillery has recently been the subject of a pretty major errata, which can be found here (PDF link) for anyone who wants to check it out.  It begins on pg. 3, and adds quite a bit to the game, both in terms of adding artillery to the Alpha Strike standard rules, and making it much easier to use.

In standard rules, artillery has a maximum range of 42”, unless using Extreme Range rules.  This is a lot of what makes it easy to use, since it's similar to making a standard weapon attack.  The major difference on that front is that artillery is always considered to be made at Long range, with regards to to-hit modifiers.  Snub-nose artillery, like the Thumpers, Snipers, and Long Toms you'll find most frequently fielded on 'Mechs use normal range modifiers.

Artillery may be fired either directly or indirectly, and unlike normal IF do not require a spotter in order to fire.  Direct fire artillery may choose a unit to target, or a point of impact (hereafter abbreviated as POI), while indirect artillery attacks may only target a point of impact.  What's the difference, you ask?  Direct fire attacks use the attacker's skill, terrain intervening, the defender's TMM, and are automatically at long range (unless they're snub-nose field pieces, which I'll stop referring to now unless it comes up specifically).  Indirect attacks use the attacker's skill, are automatically at long range, and add +1 for firing indirectly.

What gives?  That sounds like direct fire is always worse than indirect, at first glance.  A little deeper digging shows this isn't the case.  While direct fire uses a lot more modifiers than indirect, often times a savvy player can keep those all at zero.  If all else fails, there are even ways to switch between the two on the same target!  When firing directly, it's entirely possible that there will be no terrain in the way, and that the unit's TMM is equal to or lower than the indirect modifier.  You also can't use the bonuses provided by a spotter on a direct fire attack (with the exception of TAG and homing/copperhead rounds), which adds up pretty quick when you start bringing in spotters with Specials like PRB.  There's also, technically, nothing preventing you from laying a POI directly adjacent to the spotter's base and circumventing the TMMs that way, but I think as a GM I'd rule that as a little bit of rules-lawyering and not allow it.  Your mileage may vary.

Indirect, however, can only target a POI, unless there are homing rounds and TAG involved.  When firing indirectly, having a spotter with the Specials PRB, LPRB, or BH will reduce to to hit number by a point for most artillery weapons, and will reduce it a full two points if the weapon is an Arrow IV launcher.  Score one for the Arrow IV.  Indirect is, ironically, more accurate against targets that are fast, or hiding in woods or behind hills.  The presence of the spotter bonuses you can get makes it generally easier and better to fire indirectly than directly, though some exceptions do exist, usually if you don't actually have a spotter available.

If you hit the target, be it a unit or POI, an area of effect template is placed on the spot, with the size depending on the particular artillery piece used, and the ammo fired out of it.  Most artillery uses a 2” template by default, which includes everything except Long Toms, which use 6” templates.  Any true artillery (excepting Battle Armor tube artillery) is also capable of firing cluster ammo, which increases the size of the blast template.  Templates that were 2” become 6”, while the Long Tom's 6” template becomes a monstrous 8” across.  Damage is reduced by 1 for cluster shots, and that modified damage is again reduced by half outside of the normal size template (rounded down), however, which means that, as per the letter of the rules as they stand right now, all cluster ammunition not fired out of a Long Tom is utterly useless, and the Long Tom loses a point of damage in the 2” center in order to deal a single point of damage outside of 6” and inside of 8”.  There's a rules question pending on that one.  There was errata submitted on this very subject while I was in the middle of this article.  If the damage is modified to 1, then damage outside the center template is reduced to 0*, not just a flat zero.  This also includes the shots for Thumpers, which previously would be modified down to 0 by the cluster shot and deal no damage.  They now deal a 0* across the entire 6” template.

But what happens if the attack fails?  If you were using homing rounds of any sort, the attack misses and is never heard from again.  If you were using anything else, it drifts.  On each template is a series of numbers, from 1 to 6 on the perimeter of the template.  Each of those represents a direction that the shot can drift.  Oriented the '1' to the 'north' of the map, and roll 1d6.  Whichever number comes up is the direction that drift occurs.  As you can imagine, this can be problematic if you have units in the area.  Once the direction is determined, roll another d6 for the distance.  Tube artillery drifts however many inches appear on the die.  Missile artillery drifts double that distance.  The Oblique Artilleryman SPA reduces that drift by 2 inches, to a minimum of zero.  Yes, that means that it's absolutely possible to have an attack 'miss' but still land exactly where you wanted it to.  Welcome to the joys of artillery.

Units inside the blast template take damage.  Duh.  That includes units that may be hitching a ride on anything caught in the blast zone, but does not include units currently underground, inside buildings, and some units underwater, depending on how deep they are.  Please note that I may be incorrect on this one, as the rules as written only mention units' bases as they relate to the template.  I've taken the liberty of assuming that artillery damage resolves similarly to bomb damage, which make specific mention of those exceptions.  Of note, artillery damage cannot deal damage to the rear of a unit.  All damage is treated as being dealt from above, regardless of where the template is placed in regards to the unit.

Everything above happens whether you're using standard rules or advanced rules, pretty much interchangeably.  Where it gets really interesting is in the advanced rules, where flight times start coming into play, along with varying ranges for each artillery piece.  Most of it is still too far to be a real consideration on a normal table, but it can affect flight times.

Post errata, artillery now requires a flight time longer than same-turn when the POI is farther than 42” away, rather than the previous 34”.  This is a good thing, allowing artillery attacks to land the same time as LRMs fired from the same place.  Beyond that, however, flight times increase to multiple turns.  Beyond 42”, all the way out to 90”, artillery shots will land one turn after they're fired.  Beyond 90” out to 170”, artillery shots will land two turns after they're fired.  If you're using on-board artillery and your table is longer than 170”, I cannot comprehened the size of your playing surface and my advice does not matter at all.  Also on the subject of range, it should be noted that Battle Armor Tube Artillery, such as found on the Centaur Battle Armor, has a maximum range of 68”.  It is still subject to the 42” same-turn impact, but it cannot make shots further than two turns before impact.

Any spotting for an artillery strike must happen on the turn it's fired, not the turn it lands.  This makes first-turn attacks with artillery rather difficult, but I suspect that's part of the entire idea.  Coupled with spotters only being able to stop for a single artillery attack per turn, and I'd say that it's a good balance decision, even if it doesn't line up exactly with what we expect from real life artillery units.  Considering how much artillery I use in my games, this is a good thing, and prevents artillery from being utterly overpowered.  When artillery lands, regardless of the turn it happens, the the attack resolution is the same.

With a 42” same-turn flight time, there are some fun things you can do.  This is the first part of the article where I'll actually get into genuine tactics to use for artillery (finally!).  With some proper maneuvering, it's possible to land multiple shots from the same artillery piece on the same target in the same turn.  The effect, I must say, is immensely satisfying.  It relies on being able to predict enemy movements, but I'll take care of that in a minute.  As it so happens, movements in Alpha Strike are much easier to predict than in standard scale BattleTech.

Speaking of which!  The simplified movement system in Alpha Strike lends itself to very easy use of artillery.  This isn't a knock on players, but most people are really predictable when it comes to moving in Alpha Strike.  This is a natural consequence of the method of movement.  Imagine, if you will, a single enemy unit on the table.  For our example, this unit will have a potential move of 8”j.  Alpha Strike units are not required to move their full distance in order to get their full TMM, but for some reason everyone I've yet played against nearly universally moves the full distance every time regardless.  I'm not immune to this, but it makes for some interesting interplay.

Back to that unit.  Picture an imaginary circle around it.  That represents how far it can move in a given turn.  Let's also imagine that your artillery is exactly one turn flight time away from hitting anywhere near it.  There may be terrain nearby.  If that's the case, your job actually just got easier, especially if you also have units in the area.  Cover is a powerful tool, and if given a chance to have partial cover and a full TMM, anybody I know jumps at it.  This is exactly what makes predicting artillery easy.

Keep imagining that circle, and picture, after that unit moves next turn, which direction it will go.  You don't have to be precise to the quarter inch, just within an inch or two.  Knowing your opponent also helps, but it's arguably not necessary for a good barrage.  Drop your shot wherever on that circle you see that unit going the next turn.  There's no real need, 90% of the time unless your opponent knows what's getting shot at ahead of time, to try to measure and guess how far along that line it will move.  As mentioned before, Alpha Strike makes moving easy, and makes moving at full speed easy.  Predictably easy.  It's still more difficult for faster things, but be on the look out for nice spots of cover within easy dashing range of things like hovercraft and scouts.  Pay attention to places that will give your opponent a concrete advantage when engaging your troops, and then take it away from them with artillery.

That's the mechanics of artillery, and a brief snippet on how to use artillery with multi-turn flight times.  But what units do you pick to bring along, and what sort of tactics should you filed them with?  Well, this is going to be my favorite part of the article.  As of this paragraph, this article has officially surpassed 2000 words, so that should tell you a little bit about how much I enjoy artillery in general.  If this is my favorite?

So, what makes a good artillery unit?  That, in large part, depends on what you want to do with it.  I'll go over the three primary methods of using artillery first, and then go into how different kinds of artillery slot into that.

The first, and arguably the simplest, if not exactly the easiest method for utilizing artillery is have it truly off-board, or hang all the way in the back for the entire game.  This keeps it the safest, but it also keeps it from being able to react as much to the changing battlefield.  Shots must be made a turn or two in advance, and fire can't be shifted quickly from one flank to another as the tactical situation demands.    This is, by far, the most conservative way to play artillery, but it does keep them relatively safe from direct harm.  This is the method I like least.  Unless you're taking special care to keep them moving without actually advancing up to the front, they're also far and away the most vulnerable to counter-battery fire, and enemy aircraft ruining your day.  It requires a lot of baby sitting to keep mostly safe, and that draws still more away from your lines.  This is the method I'd use if your games are gargantuan affairs, and you have 200-300 points of artillery alone, where weight of fire is more important than accuracy or response time.

The other two methods are similar, but differ primarily in how the artillery units react to the enemy.  The second is to advance the artillery behind the main attack force, keeping the front within single-turn flight times.  This artillery is much more reactive than predictive, dropping artillery with deadly accuracy exactly where it's needed on a turn by turn basis.  Being this close to the front generally minimizes the risk of taking shots from enemy aircraft, which will have to expose themselves significantly in order to go after your guns, but it makes it much easier for enemy headhunters to engage given a brief gap in the lines.  This is my personally preferred method of providing support to my units, but it definitely takes a different kind of artillery unit to pull it off.  The main draw is the same-turn flight times, and being able to adjust immediately to enemy positions without having to guess where they'll be next turn.  This particular method works best with more mobile pieces, and those with a bit more armor than the rear echelon pieces that exemplify off-board artillery.

The final way to play artillery is by far the most aggressive.  This uses similar types of units to the previous one, and keeps up right there on the front.  The entire point of this particular method is to use the fact that non-infantry units with the ART special can make a weapon or physical attack the same turn they make an artillery attack.  These units thrive at medium range, engaging with their own guns and providing artillery support for their lance on the front lines.  It's particularly satisfying to open up holes in an enemy's armor, and follow up with another attack to start generating critical hits, or to use an Arrow IV launcher to land an Inferno IV in the line of the enemy's approach, forcing them to slow down or take damage in order to get good positions.  These artillery units are the very definition of close fire support.

Those are the three basic ways to use artillery, largely split between just how involved you want them to be in the main battle.  I, personally, prefer the latter two, but then again I'm recklessly aggressive.  There are artillery pieces that work best for one or the other, and that's where we're finally getting in this article.  Artillery as it relates to force composition.

Rear echelon pieces are cheaper, pound for pound, than forward acting, mobile pieces.  Movement and TMMs can inflate the cost of a unit, and so do extra armor.  The fearsome Mobile Long Tom is 28 points, and offers the only canon method to get a genuine Long Tom artillery piece on the table in Alpha Strike.  The Sniper artillery piece is 32 points, and has enough armor to shrug off a few counter-battery shots or air strikes.  Also of particular note here are infantry towed field artillery guns.  They're generally too heavy to transport with anything short of a dropship or small craft, but they're cheap as hell and their artillery works just as well as any one else.  The pieces you generally want for off-board and rear area pieces are these ones.  They're inexpensive, they have a good throw weight, and they don't need to move quickly or often.

Units that work well for the other two methods generally tend to perform similarly.  The primary difference is in application.  These pieces, typically 'Mechs or super heavy tanks, carry enough weapons and armor to take fire on the front lines and provide close fire support.  'Mechs like the Catapult -C3 and -C5, the Anvil -8M, Loki Mk II B, and Urbanmech -AIV embody these units.  Also very, very useful for the easy of transport is the Centaur Battle Armor.  Being able to drop a 1 point template just about anywhere on a normal map in a package that can be carted up near the front by your own 'Mechs before they engage is invaluable, and one of my personal favorite artillery units. 

Organizationally, these ones are a bit of an odd duck.  You can still put them in Artillery Fire Lances and use Oblique Artilleryman to make your artillery fire more accurate and drift less.  This is good for units just behind the lines, as you're less likely to hit your own units.  The other way you can do it is to group your artillery units, particularly units like the aforementioned Catapults and Anvil, into your line combat lances.  They won't get bonuses to their artillery attacks, but fitting one into a Battle Lance gives you a reroll on a particularly crucial shot, and gives your opponent things that are more immediately threatening to shoot.  Plus, you're close enough that you can then turn to engage whichever units lost armor that turn and start dealing crits, or you can open up holes for your lance to capitalize on.  Fitting one of those units into a Striker Lance lets your artillery close the gap to same-turn flight times quicker, and helps manipulate the range to keep your unit out of danger, or behind cover when an indirect shot will be easier than a similar direct fire shot at a weakened or hard to hit target.

That takes care of organization and actual use of artillery, so now let's get into alternate ammunition and other things you can do with artillery.  Cluster ammo, in particular, is probably the most useful alternate for your pieces to carry.  Not only do you gain increased splash for your shots, making a difficult shot more likely to do damage anyway by accounting for splash, you can also use it to damage more units and gain increased damage output in general.  It's particularly useful for parking multiple vehicles at range.

Units firing cluster ammunition may also engage in a special type of attack, targeting airborne aerospace targets.  Of important note, an Artillery Flak attack may be made against an airborne aerospace target that is in the Inner Ring, not just the central zone or over the ground map.  Shots against aerospace targets that are not in the central zone are made at a +2 to hit, but that's still more teeth than anything else on the ground has against air support.  If the attack hits, it does damage as if the aerospace fighter had been in the center template of a hit.  That is to say, minus a point of damage, down to 0* out of a Thumper.  An attack that misses explodes harmlessly.  Each attack must be targeted at a single craft, and does not splash.

An important thing to note!  If a fighter is hit by an artillery flak attack, it must still make a control roll for taking damage.  If the fighter is in the Inner Ring, it falls back to the central zone.  This does not count as ending its movement in the central zone, and it cannot make a ground attack the next turn.  Aerospace units (that cannot hover, which is most of them) must move at least one space on the radar map per turn if they're not engaged, and unless they can move two spaces per turn (requires a MV of 10a at least) they can't actually get back into the inner ring and then to the central zone in the same turn.  It's possible, with some luck, to keep a fighter falling between the Inner Ring and Central Zone in perpetuity, unable to conduct an attack run.

Air Defense Arrow IVs work similarly, though as written there's some... distinctly odd interaction with range bands.  Aerospace fighters conducting attacks on the ground map are treated at short range, targets in the central zone that are not currently over the ground map are at medium, and targets in the Inner Ring are treated as long range.  Then, on top of that, the attack is made at a -2 to hit.  The damage, as listed in my copy of Alpha Strike, is 2 points.  I don't see any errata for that as it stands, but it doesn't seem to have been changed with the general decrease in artillery damage seen in recent errata.

Homing and Copperhead rounds work effectively identical to each other.  A unit must be successfully hit with a TAG attack in order to be struck by a Homing or Copperhead round, but if the TAG was successful, then the target number is 4, period.  Damage listed is 2 points, which is likewise not touched by errata as far as I can tell.  If a Copperhead or Homing round misses, it explodes harmlessly away from the fight, and does not drift or splash.  This is the shell to use if you're concerned about hitting your own, or if your artillery unit has TAG for itself.  You don't have to declare the attack until after you've resolved the TAG, so you can hedge your bets, so to speak, on whether you can get things done with little collateral, or if that's not going to be possible.  It's the most conservative ammunition to use with artillery, but also the one with the least... well, not potential, because you can still hurt something with it, but it spreads the pain the least.

The other munition that I have much experience with is the Inferno IV.  Inferno IV missiles hit or miss like any other round, and drift on a miss.  Wherever the POI ends up being, the ground in a 2” template (sound familiar?) is set ablaze as if it were on fire.  Anything that travels through that area suffers one point of HT, which includes taking damage if they're a vehicle or infantry unit that doesn't have Fire-Resistant armor.  This fire is treated as a regular fire, including the rules for spreading it, and the rules for smoke as a result.

Flechette ammunition deals double damage against conventional infantry and wooded terrain, Smoke ammunition drops a 6” template of smoke, regardless of weapon used.  The inner 2” is heavy smoke, the rest out to 6” is light smoke.  Good for obscuring LOS or giving your units some cover from aerial attacks or attacks they can't respond against.  Illumination rounds cancel out any darkness modifiers, if you're using those, in a 6” area, and burn for 10 turns but do no damage.

Thunder and Thunder-Active are available only to Arrow IV launchers, and land 2” minefields with a density of 2 wherever they hit (and they do scatter on a miss).  That's not a huge minefield, and 2” is pretty easy to go around in Alpha Strike, so I'm not convinced of the utility of them, particularly in a game where facing and direction changes are free.  They definitely lose a lot of the luster compared to their ilk in the standard game.

That... well, I think that covers just about everything.  How artillery works, tactics for using it, units that fit those tactics and how to organize them, and finally alternate artillery abilities and ammunition.

A big thanks for everyone who reads this articles.  They mean a whole lot to be able to write and have the support.  This is one of my favorite things in Alpha Strike, and I'm happy to be able to put all this down on paper.  Up next: the Malak, on Friday.


Offline NGTM-1R

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
That was actually a fair better explanation of the subject than any other I've seen.

But temporary thread hijack. This is one of my older custom designs, and perhaps the only one I put huge effort into that was NOT preserved, at least temporarily, as part of TRO42.

Wildcat WCAT-1A
Rules Level:    Tournament Legal
Technology Base:    Inner Sphere
Chassis Config:    Biped
Production Year:    2764
Extinct By:    3080
Chassis:    WCAT-1 Standard
Power Plant:    Various 140 Fusion Engine
Cruising Speed:    43.2 km/h
Maximum Speed:    64.8 km/h
Jump Jets:    Various
     Jump Capacity:    120 meters
Armor:    Various Standard Armor
     2 Magna Mark II Medium Lasers/Argra 3L Medium Lasers
     4 TharHes 4-Pack SRM-4s/Holly SRM-4s
Manufacturer:    TharHes Industries/Benjamin Defense Industries
     Primary Factory:    Tharkad/Benjamin
Communications System:    Various
Targeting and Tracking System:    Various

The WCAT-1A Wildcat was developed in the late Star League era by the Lyran Commonwealth as a more mobile and more general-use alternative to the UM-R UrbanMech series, without sacrificing the close-range urban-combat design of the UrbanMech.

But the Amaris Coup got in the way just as the WCAT-1A entered widespread service. By a curious series of defections, coincidences, and general confusion the Wildcat not only served the Lyran Commonwealth but also the SLDF and then the Draconis Combine.

The WCAT-1A's primary weaponry is four SRM-4 racks. These give it a hard, but somewhat unreliable, punch. With a little luck, it can blast off enough armor and structure to cause an opposing 'Mech piloting issues, then leap away before accurate return fire is possible. Its maximum-firepower punch is also considerably more powerful than that of an UrbanMech, even without much in the way of luck. They have one ton of ammunition, giving the 'Mech a total of 6 solid volleys before it runs dry of missile ammo. This reduces its battlefield endurance compared to the UrbanMech, however.

Backing those up are a pair of medium lasers; the exact design varies depending on whether the Wildcats were produced on Benjamin or those built on Tharkad. Because of the extra heat they generate, Wildcat pilots are discouraged from using the lasers unless they have already expended their missile ammunition; indeed, the four pre-production models and approximately twenty of the initial run were shipped with a special safety lock circuit that would not allow the pilot to fire the medium lasers unless at least one of the SRM launchers was not loaded. This "feature" was universally derided by the test pilots and contributed to slow initial ordering, causing its removal. The fact it even existed was very nearly lost to history; only the existence of Serial Number 3P on Terra kept the circuit a documented part of the historical record after the damage to the Tharkad production facilities during the First Succession War.

Solid armor and all weapons and equipment mounted in the torso, a pair of rather rudimentary "gripper claw" hands that lead many early Wildcat pilots to consider their arms expendable, and the surprising redundancy of the Wildcat's weapons array lead the machine to a reputation for durability. As most MechWarriors have more of a book than a practical experience with the design, they often tag it a "zombie" capable of absorbing far more damage than normal. In truth, while more durable than the average, the Wildcat is not what it is made out to be.

MechWarriors who have piloted the design note it is unforgiving to newer pilots not because of its relative lack of maneuverability so much as the fact that the positioning of one of its heatsinks in the head as a dedicated cockpit cooling circuit creates much improved pilot comfort. Pilots who are used to instinctively judging their 'Mech's heat curve by the temperature in the cockpit often face unexpected shutdowns in the Wildcat due to this.

Battle History
The WCAT series has had a long and for the most part successful history as an urban and confined-space combatant. Sterling individual actions are rare, but militia resistance to pirates as groups of Wildcats engage in urban operations have produced a number of notable successes and one great infamy.

Prior to the Ronin Wars and the birth of Free Rasalhague, a WCAT-1S lance of the DCMS was responsible for over twenty thousand deaths during the suppression of a protest on Rasalhague. This one of the inciting events of the Rasalhague rebellion that lead into the Ronin Wars.

In 3031 a WCAT-1B1 of the 1st Legion of Vega engaged a lance of opposing Davion light 'Mechs during a raid on Kentares, and successfully defeated two of them in short-range exchanges of fire before the remaining two, both Valkyries, defeated it with LRM fire.

A WCAT-1A of the Thorin Planetary Militia successfully destroyed an entire lance of opposing Panthers in during the Fourth Succession War by jumping inside the effective range of their PPCs and peppering them with SRM fire, then jumping away again before the others could move to support the attacked 'Mech.

The WCAT has been a continuously-produced but never very numerous design. Originally produced by a factory on Tharkad, the plans were also given to a small factory in the Combine during the Exodus in exchange for supplies to repair several JumpShips.

The Tharkad factory was hit during the First Succession War, reducing production greatly, and the Combine never had a high rate. Several hundred were produced before the Succession Wars began; after that, production slowed to a crawl with the combined output of the two factories never managing to exceed 24 units a year, and often falling to 18. In comparison to the thousands of existing UrbanMechs, Wasps, and other designs at that time, the Wildcat was never common and at times uncommon enough to be mistaken for a lost Star League or even a "new" design. Constant warfare traded a few as salvage to every nation of the Inner Sphere.

Given its constant production and the availabity of new parts, though, the WCAT series has managed to last the centuries to the modern era better than many other designs that lost their production facilities. The number of Wildcats in the Inner Sphere managed to slowly increase throughout the Succession Wars era. The Clan Invasion dealt a serious blow to the design, but at the current time there are perhaps 225 to 300 WCATs active in the Inner Sphere, primarily in the Draconis Combine and the Lyran Commonwealth, a number that is expected to slowly rise until recovered technology becomes cheap enough for even planetary militias. The only place they can be considered truly common are garrison detachments of the Benjamin Regulars, though planetary militias near the Periphery in the Commonwealth deploy them with frequency. There are scattered sightings in the Federated Suns and Free Worlds League of units taken as battlefield salvage.

A Clan variant or variants have also been sighted in some Nova Cat and Cloud Cobra garrison units.

Known Variants
The WCAT-1B1 "Fire Cat" removes the SRMs in exchange for a battery of eight small lasers and five more heat sinks in addition to keeping the two medium lasers. It trades ammunition dependency for improved endurance and heat dissipation. It is popular with planetary militias, as it enables them to more easily go to ground and operate as partisans against large invasion forces, but still hits hard at close quarters.

The WCAT-1B2 is a variant of the Fire Cat design that uses four medium lasers instead of eight small lasers, giving the design a total of six medium lasers. It offers better range but is not as well-regarded as the B1 Fire Cat because it has a much more marked tendency to overheat in comparison.

The WCAT-1K is a light indirect fire platform, trading the SRM-4s for LRM-5s. This variant is exclusive to the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery, with probably no more than thirty having ever been in operation at one time. Despite this it was historically very popular with Combine troops, being treated as a foil to the Federated Suns' Valkyrie light fire support 'Mech and a good long-range complement to the ubiquitous Panther. (The -1A was itself quite popular in the DCMS as a good Panther companion for short-range battles.) Several -1K pilots distingushed themselves in the War of 3039, but the -1K has departed for relatively unthreatened garrisons with the arrival of more modern units like the Hitman.

The WCAT-1S is so called because it is most common in the Lyran Commonwealth, and trades an SRM-4 for three machineguns and a half-ton of ammunition, allowing the 'Mech to rely less on the protection of friendly infantry for urban combat. This relatively simple and commonsense modification is almost universal to the Wildcats in Lyran planetary militias, but is by no means exclusive to them or even to the Lyran Commonwealth.

The fact variant Wildcats have appeared among the garrison units of the Clans is relatively unsurprising given the close association of Serial Number 3P's pilot with Alexander Kerensky during the Exodus. It is a known fact that several of the machines accompanied the Exodus Fleet when it left the Inner Sphere. Details on their armament are sketchy, however.

Notable 'Mechs and Mechwarriors

Serial Number 3P
Serial Number 3P, the third pre-production Wildcat, holds a special place in the history of the Inner Sphere. When asked to name the first SLDF 'Mech to enter the Court of the Star League during the retaking of Terra the answer is always Kerensky's Orion. Many can also name the Atlas which cleared the gates for him.

Few know that an SLDF Wildcat had prepared the way. Serial Number 3P, piloted by a Lyran "Loyalist" who had defected from their unit to the SLDF for the effort to retake Terra, had jumped the walls of the compound and been engaged in clearing fixed defenses and infantry resistance with a load of SRMs with VT-frag fuzes. 3P and its pilot were not aware of Kerensky's unit being in the area as they were not aware of her and the two made contact only three minutes before. Lieutenant Lydia Danholme was asked to withdraw so that Kerensky could make his grand entrance for the cameras by one of the other members of Kerensky's lance via a private channel. Alexander Kerensky, when he saw the Wildcat jumping to leave the area, was surprised: and he later expressed regret that the Lieutenant was all but stricken from the historical record. Lieutenant Danholme herself became a confidant of Alexander Kerensky during his decision to lead the Exodus, assigned to his personal bodyguard lance. It is likely that the Danholme Bloodname of Clan Cloud Cobra are her descendants, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Serial Number 3P itself remains on Terra as part of the Liberation Museum, one of the few truly and completely intact pre-Fall of the Star League 'Mechs in existence.

Code: [Select]
Technology Base: Inner Sphere 35.00 tons
Chassis Config: Biped Cost: 2,538,360 C-Bills
BV2: 832 Tech Rating/Era Availability: D/X-E-D
Equipment Mass
Internal Structure: Standard 3.50
Engine: 140 Fusion Engine 5.00
Walking MP: 4
Running MP: 6
Jumping MP: 4 Standard
Jump Jet Locations: 2 LT, 2 RT 2.00
Heat Sinks: 11 - Single (5 in engine) 1.00
Heat Sink Locations: 1 HD, 3 LT, 2 RT
Gyro: Standard 2.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H    R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: 119 points - Standard Armor 7.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head: 3 9
Center Torso: 11 17
Center Torso (rear): 5
R/L Torso: 8 12
R/L Torso (rear): 4
R/L Arm: 6 12
R/L Leg: 8 16

Weapons and Ammo Location Heat Criticals Tonnage
2 Medium Lasers CT 6 2 2.00
2 SRM-4s RT 6 2 4.00
2 SRM-4s LT 6 2 4.00
@SRM-4 (25) RT -- 1 1.00
BattleForce Statistics
MV S (+0) M (+2) L (+4) E (+6) Wt. OV Armor: 4 Points: 8
4j 1 1 0 0 1 0 Structure: 3
Special Abilities: SRCH, ES, SEAL, SOA, SRM 2/2/0
"Load sabot. Target Zaku, direct front!"

A Feddie Story


Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Looks a lot like what happens when a Panther sees Macross for the first time.  Or a Javelin on the other side of the field.  Some solid fluff there.


Offline BirdofPrey

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Such long posts from Scotty because copy-paste
So customs now?  I have an Argus I like using, it's a modification of a modification.
The version I took from was in one of the fan TROs and takes an AGS-2D, moves both missiles to the arms, and replaces the PPC with 3 torso mounted MLs and a torso mounted ERLL.

I further modified it by swapping the missiles for MML-9s and adding some electronics.
I haven't fluffed it yet, though

Argus AGS-4T

Mass: 60 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Clan Invasion
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/X-X-E-A
Production Year: 3059
Cost: 12,475,200 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,545

Chassis: 1 A Type 12 Endo-Steel
Power Plant: GM 300 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 54.0 km/h
Maximum Speed: 86.4 km/h
Jump Jets: None
    Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: StarGuard II Standard Armor w/ CASE
    1 Exostar ER Large Laser
    2  MML-9s w/ Artemis IV FCS
    3 Intek Medium Lasers
    1  C3 Computer (Slave)
    1  Guardian ECM Suite
Manufacturer: Archernar Battlemechs, Robinson Standard BattleWorks
    Primary Factory: New Avalon, Robinson
Communications System: Archenar Electronics HID-8.7
Targeting and Tracking System: Sync Tracker (39-42071)

Equipment           Type                         Rating                   Mass 
Internal Structure: Endo-Steel                    99 points                3.00
    Internal Locations: 2 CT, 2 LT, 2 RT, 2 LA, 2 RA, 2 LL, 2 RL
Engine:             XL Fusion Engine             300                       9.50
    Walking MP: 5
    Running MP: 8
    Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks:         Double Heat Sink             12(24)                    2.00
Gyro:               Standard                                               3.00
Cockpit:            Standard                                               3.00
    Actuators:      L: SH+UA    R: SH+UA
Armor:              Standard Armor               AV - 184                 11.50
    CASE Locations: 1 LT                                                   0.50

                                                      Internal       Armor     
                                                      Structure      Factor     
                                                Head     3            9         
                                        Center Torso     20           28       
                                 Center Torso (rear)                  7         
                                           L/R Torso     14           23       
                                    L/R Torso (rear)                  5         
                                             L/R Arm     10           18       
                                             L/R Leg     14           24       

Equipment                                 Location    Heat    Critical    Mass 
MML-9                                        RA        5         5         6.00
    Artemis IV FCS                           RA        -         1         1.00
MML-9                                        LA        5         5         6.00
    Artemis IV FCS                           LA        -         1         1.00
ER Large Laser                               RT        12        2         5.00
C3 Computer (Slave)                          RT        0         1         1.00
Guardian ECM Suite                           RT        0         2         1.50
3 Medium Lasers                              LT        9         3         3.00
@MML-9 (LRM Art-IV) (13)                     LT        -         1         1.00
@MML-9 (SRM Art-IV) (11)                     LT        -         1         1.00
@MML-9 (LRM Semi-G) (13)                     LT        -         1         1.00
                                            Free Critical Slots: 7

I just made an AS card for it, but it may be wrong since I haven't converted anything before.

Such a shame the artemis prevents me from using alternate ammo, that's what I use the third ton of ammo for.
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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
You would probably not get SRM or LRM regardless.  MMLs split their damage at any given range to check for special attack values, so you're getting half of the listed damage toward either.  Typically that means you get neither, unless you're picking absurd numbers of MMLs.


Offline BirdofPrey

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Hmm, well that hasn't hit errata yet.  Reading the thread about it, though, it's not a split on all ranges, it's just medium range (and looking at the tables it looks like the damage WAS found by taking the short range value of SRMs, the long range value of the LRMs and averaging the Medium range value of both).

Since I have 2 MML-9s I would be getting .75 out of the pair (since the .75 damage per is halved and I am then doubling it). After adjusting for heat, I still have .62 damage at medium range which rounds normally to 1, so it would qualify for the specials, in this case SRM2/1, LRM0/1/1

I remain disappointed, though, that Artemis disallows specials regardless of the design of this specific unit.  Strict reading of both the footnote on the conversion table and the rules for each special, would suggest a unit with artemis could have them, provided you use the non-artemis values, and I am also confused that IF DOES get to take advantage of the artemis values.
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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
You have to do a minimum of one damage in a special attack before you get the ability.  It rounds normally only after you achieve that one damage.  Otherwise, a single SRM-6 would be enough for it, or a single AC/5 for the AC special.

You can apparently have a value of zero, though, while having it at other ranges.  LRM0/1/1 exists in a couple places.


Offline BirdofPrey

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Ah, well crap
makes MMLs seem like the red-headed stepchild of AS (I also saw that PPCs with capacitors lose out in the conversion as well) (sure you take a per tube bonus to LRM damage, but that averaging screws you on specials)

That doesn't change my feelings about Artemis as a whole, though.
edit: actually, now that I look at the tables, the conversion does seem a bit odd, weapons mostly have the same damage across ranges, when they don't, it's usually due to minimum range, though there are a few that have variable damage in TW.  it seems odd they penalize for minimum range but not long range.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2015, 10:53:05 am by BirdofPrey »
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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
That is because there's a built in penalty for long range!  It's the +4 to your you number every time you try to shoot. :P

You're traveling down the exact same chain of logic and realization I went down a couple months ago. :P


Offline BirdofPrey

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Well I meant more along the lines of weapons like SRMs, their maximum range is midway through the medium band in AS, so they'd be firing at a +4 some of the time.

Anyways as the resident AS guru,  how do you think that Argus stacks up?  I've enjoyed it in TW so far
« Last Edit: July 08, 2015, 11:54:34 am by BirdofPrey »
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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Well, I'm reasonably sure that Catalyst didn't want to utterly gimp anything that didn't reach out to the maximum range in hexes that translates to a given range band.  Medium Lasers that do 0.25 damage at Medium range is kind of bull****!  PPCs that do less than half a point of damage at Long range likewise.  That would give ER PPCs an Alpha Strike lease on life, but is it really worth crippling anything using introductory weapons not named the AC/10, Machine Gun, Large Laser, and Small Laser?  Certainly not.

As for the Argus: One of the awesome things about Alpha Strike is that, in general terms, you can look at the PV of a unit and determine if that unit is a good fit for you.  The -4D (featured TRO model) is 38 points, which lines up fairly well with a lot of Inner Sphere mid- and high-end heavies.  Considering it's a 60 tonner, I'd call that pretty good!  4/4/1 OV0 damage is pretty solid at common engagement ranges, and you can still plink at long.  Armor/Struture of 6/3 means you fail the critical "good job" 10 point threshold by one point, but is still decent.  IF1 offers versatility when out of line of sight for whatever reason.  PRB and RCN are great additions to a Recon Lance (the Argus fits nicely into a Heavy Recon Lance), and contribute to spotting for artillery if you get the chance or battlefield intelligence for initiative bonuses.  Skirmisher role means it can fit damn near anywhere.

If I had the mini, it would probably find its way into my lists for flexibility alone with good damage and speed high enough that I can use it how I like.  A solid B+, mostly because it fails to capitalize on the long range game and it misses that 10 point A/S threshold.


Offline BirdofPrey

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Fair point I guess.

I Meant the custom I posted, but most of those points stand.   Has the same armor and structure and only 1 more point of damage at long.  Also loses the scouting ability but gains the ability to spot for a C3 net and an ECM to keep it running.   I probably miscalculated,  bit it's a single point cheaper.

In TW scale play at least, I use it as heavy cavalry and a secondary spotter if the scout gets pasted.

I would think I'd use it similarly in AS
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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
Heavy Cavalry is the "I win" button in Alpha Strike, or at least it is when I use it.  Then again, most of the people I play Alpha Strike with haven't caught on yet that this version of the game is by necessity not as granular in maneuver as they want it to be; they think that placing a single unit or lance in a good spot guarantees advantage.  Alpha Strike is far, far more a game of grand strategy.  Flanking maneuvers and movements that maximize the number of units shooting while minimizing the number of units taking fire is essential and one of the two or three most important things you can do to establish control of the game.  The other most important things are to leverage position to unbalance your opponent and keep them out of the places they want to go, and command superiority with your support units.  You can lose one of those three things and still win the fight.  If you lose two, you've probably lost.


Offline NGTM-1R

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
It's time for 'Mech Design Tradeoffs 101.

Design, at its core, is ruled by two fundamental concerns: space and weight. Weight changes, 20 to 100 tons in most variations of the rules. Space doesn't change that much. You get between 47 and 51 free crits to start, depending on whether you want to have hands and lower arm actuators or not.

Most of your issues will come from two sources: the tension between space and weight, and the tension between engine weight and having enough left over for your desired equipment. We'll primarily talk about the first part, but also a little about the second simply because it comes into play. At some point, however, there's not much for the second but to compromise one or the other.

Space interacts with weight primarily because things that reduce weight eat up space: XL stuff, endosteel, ferrofiber. This is incidentally one of the reason why Clantech is Cooler Than You: not only does their gear weigh less, their weight-reduction stuff takes up less space.

So every 'Mech has to have at least a few basic components. A bunch of actuators that chew up space, a cockpit, some sensors, an engine, and a gyro. The one you want to pay the most attention to for design purposes is the engine, because it's the one that matters. The engine is pretty much the biggest single-ticket item on a 'Mech in terms of weight, and in terms of space it's usually only outdone by certain extremely large weapons and structural or armor lightening upgrades.

Your basic option to cope with reducing it is the XL engine, which reduces engine weight by half but adds either two (Clan) or three (IS)  more engine crits to the side torsos. The other option is the Light Fusion Engine, which gives you Clan-like criticals for a lesser weight reduction in an IS design. Pros and cons? It's hard to go wrong with a Clan XL engine. You're not at risk of totaling the 'Mech if you lose a side torso like an Inner Sphere model. Also, it's your only option. For Inner Sphere 'Mechs, an XL engine is usually a sign of GOTTA GO FAST more than reflecting an expanded weapons and armor fit because it reduces your overall durability a good deal. The Light Fusion Engine gives the Inner Sphere a clannish durability option with some weight reduction, but it doesn't turn up until the 3060s which is a little awkward for some people.

After the engine, the other big-ticket item on a 'Mech, especially at 50 tons or more, is probably the armor.  Now, there are a lot of kinds of armor, but only a few of them are really worth considering in the concept of basic design tensions. Standard armor is normal stuff, takes up no crits, by which all other armor is judged. Ferrofiber takes up 14 crits if you're Inner Sphere for a smallish weight reduction, but only 7 if you're a Clanner. There's also Stealth Armor, which is like standard in terms of weight, uses up 12 crits, and screws with people's to-hit rolls. Once again, going wrong with this on Clan design isn't easy, though it's easier than going wrong with an XL engine. Inner Sphere designs, especially larger ones making use of other space-consuming stuff like Double Heatsinks, though, might want to steer clear. That said, Ferrofiber as a rule doesn't buy you much extra tonnage to play with, so you may want to skip it unless you're fighting for every ton.

The 'Mech's internal structure is not, typically, a big-ticket item considering it's the weight of the 'Mech divided by ten. Your options here are once again, standard for normal weight, or Endosteel for 14 (IS) or 7 (Clan) crits and half the weight. That doesn't sound like much, considering it's only 2.5 tons more weight on a 50-tonner, but the thing is, Endosteel is consistently a greater weight savings for the tonnage of the 'Mech than Ferrofiber is. Especially if you're mounting less than either theoretical or efficient maximum armor.

As a result, you're unlikely to see all three weight-saving measures combined on an Inner Sphere 'Mech that's heavier than 50 tons, because all that saved weight now has exactly 13 (or 17 without hands and lower arms for actuating) free crits to be fit into. You can do it, it's just not easy and usually involves a lot of crit-efficent heavy energy weapons and not nearly enough heatsinks. A Clan design with all its weight-saving measures, on the other hand, is sitting pretty on 29 (or 33 after its removable actuators are removified) crits still, bringing us such lovely things as the 75-ton, endosteel/ferrofiber/XL-engine Mad Cat that's still packing enough firepower to have conquered most planets solo during the Third Succession War.

Now, we move on to the biggest-ticket items that don't actually constitute parts of your 'Mech, and yet do: Heat Sinks. Every 'Mech comes with ten. You don't get to have less than that. Depending on your engine size, you may have to allocate some crits to even the basic ten as based on an arcane formula your design program should totally be handling for you (what, you thought you had to do this by hand? We've had programs to automate the process since Windows 3.1!) you get to stuff a certain number of heat sinks into your engine rather than having to allocate crits to them. If that's more than the base number, congratulations: you lucked out when it comes to the next part. Because the reason I'm talking about Heat Sinks as big-ticket items has little to do with their weight. If you're using singles then yes, it could be really awkward to have to pack on another twenty tons of them to sink the heat from your two PPCs, but that's why nobody does that and just runs hot instead in ye olden days.

Instead, it's Double Heat Sinks. These are your big ticket item on crits, because they chew up 2 (Clan) or 3 (IS), but only one ton each. As you might imagine, the also sink two points of heat each. There is literally zero reason you should ever be using Single Heat Sinks if you have access to Doubles. However they quickly chew up all your crits, especially Inner Sphere models, so watch out trying to build IS refrigerated designs. As for Clan models, well, back on DSC we did terrible things to people we caught using singles on a Clan design. Even if you generate less than 20 heat, there's no excuse.

You now hopefully have a understanding of the basic tradeoffs of 'Mech design.
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Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
I figure I might as well weigh in on some of the other design aspects you can pick from when building a 'Mech, especially the newer ones (relatively speaking).

Much like the trade-off between Standard and Ferro-Fibrous armor, there are also varying degrees of this trade-off, expressed as Light and Heavy Ferro-Fibrous armor.  The change in armor provided is done in steps, with the Clan version not only taking up less space but also being more absolutely effective at doing it.  Clan armor is fully 20% more effective than standard plate, while Inner Sphere Ferro-Fibrous is only 12% more effective.  This is a significant different, especially on top of the space requirements.  Light Ferro takes up only as many critical slots as the Clan equivalent, but offers a 6% increase over standard plate.  This is typically not enough to be worth it on most designs, but on a design that has space to spare once components are accounted for it can be useful for a few points here and there.  Heavy Ferro, on the other hand, is a case study in too much of a good thing.  Coming in at a whopping 21 slots, Heavy Ferro is the only place where Inner Sphere armors beat Clan armor purely on an objective measurement of protection, with an equally whopping 24% increase in armor per ton.

The Clans have not been stagnant over the decades they've been in the Inner Sphere, and have developed an entirely new armor type.  Called Ferro-Lamellor, this new type of armor offers 12.5% less protection over standard plate (and a 27% reduction compared to Ferro-Fibrous), but in exchange ignores between 20% and 100% of incoming damage, based on how punishing the blow would have been.  LBX autocannons firing cluster shot are completely ineffective, while individual missiles like SRMs can be blunted significantly and do only half damage to the underlying armor.  Bigger hits like gauss rifles still deliver 80% of their damage to a target, however, so it's not universally better in all cases than typical Clan Ferro.

Also appearing later on the scene is Hardened armor.  The traditional design tradeoffs can often be expressed as a triangle of armor-firepower-speed: pick two.  Hardened armor allows a designer to pick armor twice.  It offers only half of the points per ton used, but each point can handle two points of damage, making a ton of Hardened fully as effective at protection as a full ton of standard plate - but a 'Mech can play host to fully double the tonnage of Hardened armor.  A 100 ton 'Mech can mount as much as 40 tons of this armor alone.  Hardened armor occupies no critical spaces on a 'Mech, but the additional plating and general inflexibility of the coverage means that a 'Mech mounting it is slowed by roughly 10 kph on a run.


Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
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. :P

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.


Offline Scotty

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too

Finally, out of the unique variants!  The -6S debuts in 3062 to the Lyran Alliance and the Lyran Alliance only.  It's also probably one of the most Steiner things to ever exist.  It's also the largest major changeup to the Banshee's base characteristics yet.

First up, the engine changes again.  It's moved to a Light Engine, and kept the rating and speed.  This makes the -6S inherently less vulnerable than the previous -5S, and I'm 100% okay with that.  Losing the tonnage for guns is a shame, but somethings are worth it.  Besides, the -6S keeps guns in an impressive way.  More on that in a little bit.  Double heat sinks are also kept, and all ten of them fit in the engine with no problems whatsoever.

The engine has changed, and so has the structure.  The -6S is the first Banshee to mount Endo-Steel, freeing up an additional four and a half tons, somewhat mitigating the switch from XLE to LFE.  You pay more in crits, but gain in durability.

Something I'm less enamored with, this is the very first Banshee to mess with the trademarked armor alignment.  Armor is kept the same type, but reduced by half a ton.  Most of that came out of the rear armor.  What was previously a pretty solid rear plate along all torsos has been reduced so far that an AC/10 will nearly breach the center, and will breach the sides with some boom left over.  Not having that threshold against what are arguably the most common big guns of just about any era isn't great for something that's designed to go in and mix it up.  Two points come off the center torso, too.  Then the legs get a pair of points each.  They were arguably the weak link on the Banshee's original armor segment, but I'm concerned that the loss is greater than the reward on that redistribution.  Which is to be expected when armor is reduced.

So, what's the point of all these changes?  Three words: Heavy Gauss Rifle.  Occupying almost the entire (CASE'd) left torso and what space remains in the center is the behemoth of a gun.  Five tons of ammo feed the beast, split with four tons into the legs and one in the right torso.  The right torso houses an LB-10X with two tons of ammo, also CASE'd.  The biggest knock against equipment placement on this 'Mech is that the HGR spills into the center torso but those two crits are unprotected.  It's entirely possible to go up in a puff of smoke if the rifle takes a crit, though to be fair CASE wouldn't stop that.  The token Small Laser returns in the head.  Mmmm, that sounds pretty good to me.  Total maximum heat generation on the whole 'Mech is a whopping 7 points.  You could probably pilot this thing in sweats and barely even notice.

In Alpha Strike, however, the Heavy Gauss isn't quite as sterling.  A short range damage of a mere 1.65, rather than the 2.5 you might expect, really weighs it down.  That minimum range hurts.  The combination of that and the LB-10X (and token Small Laser) brings up the damage totals to 2.58/2.63/1.63, for a final total of 3/3/2.  Not great, and certainly not what you'd expect to see out of a Heavy Gauss.  The threat range of the big guns in Alpha Strike just doesn't translate nearly that well.  Disappointing.  The heat level on this thing might as well be set at 'refrigerate', so heat modification won't be necessary in the slightest.

Now the good news: LFE means that we get a point of structure back, up to five, and the armor drop didn't actually change the number of armor points.  Rounding for the win.  With a total of 13 points, split 8/5, the -6S is once again capable of sustaining four hits from the ASMOTW's Thud test and keep trucking, which is definitely good for its utility.  FLK1/1/1 also appears in the Specials again.  It's also the first to have CASE, which is something, at least.

At 37 PV, the lack of general offensive ability in the Alpha Strike stats makes the -6S one of the cheaper Banshees available.  It doesn't come with a whole lot of punch, and it's titled as a Brawler so it won't really help you out in many Assault Lances.  This one is a battler, through and through.  Stick it in a Battle Lance to take advantage of the good durability, average damage, ability to reroll when it really matters, and the relatively inexpensive PV cost to field something that big that's still fast enough to stay in the fight.

Fast forward one year to 3063.  Looking for an upgrade to the -5S, the Lyran Alliance (as it was calling itself at this point) took what had worked from the -6S, the LFE and the Endo-Steel, and built on a good thing.

That starts with the armor.  An extra ton is added from the -6S, cumulatively a half ton more than most other Banshee's.  The way this armor was arrayed is... interesting.  There's a net loss in torso armor from the originals, while the arms and legs get a few extra points.  Now, the arms and side front torsos are evenly matched at 27 points each, enough fewer points that three PPCs or AC/10s, or perhaps more importantly a pair of Gauss Rifles will go right through it.  The legs are up to 32 points, significantly improving compared to the original, six points each.  It's probably a personal taste thing whether you want leg armor or torso armor.  With an LFE it's perhaps not quite as vital to have that torso armor as high as possible, but it doesn't sit well with me.  The center torso also loses a couple points front, to where the fourth PPC or AC/10 will outright breach, rather than leave the internals untouched but with no armor left.  The head armor stays the same at the ubiquitous 9 points.  Rear armor also takes a hit compared to the originals, able to stop a Large Laser exactly in the sides, and the same plus a Medium Laser in the center.  Overall, while the protection has gone up by eight points I'm not as impressed with the distribution.  Losing legs really sucks, but side torsos are more likely to be struck in the first place, and carry most of the 'Mech's firepower.

And now, to the guns.  An ER PPC sits under the left arm, supported at long range by a Gauss Rifle in the left torso.  This time the gun has a proper amount of ammunition to feed it, two tons in the center torso.  If there was ever a time to put ammo in a center torso location, gauss ammo is it.  The torso with the Gauss Rifle is protected by CASE.  An SRM-6 occupies the opposite side torso, with a single ton of ammo, likewise protected by the same CASE that protects the rifle.  That leaves two engine crits and eight explosive crits in that side torso.  No thanks, but with CASE it's better than nothing at all.  Finally, four ER Medium Lasers back up the SRM at short range, arrayed one in each side torso and two in the right arm.  All in all, a pretty hefty punch.  The same base 14 DHSs present in the -5S manage the heat well in brackets.  Long range is actually fairly cool-running, contributing an ER PPC and a Gauss.  Short range is similarly well behaved.  Four ER Mediums and an SRM-6 provide good short to mid range punch, and do so while still remaining heat neutral.  Add the Gauss as numbers permit, and in a pinch the ER PPC can add some firepower too, but you'll run pretty damn hot to do so.

How fare thee in Alpha Strike, champion?  Thee fares pretty well.  The 15.5 tons of armor aren't enough to bump the -7S up another point, so we're still at 8.  Light Fusion means 5 points of structure.  That's the same 13 points as the -6S, so same concerns (or lackthereof) about durability.

The damage is pretty sweet.  Unlike the -5S from earlier, this -7S does manage to claw its way up to 4/4/3 damage and keep OV2.  I think I might have mentioned it three or four times this article already, but while sustained damage is better, that OV potential is good for keeping PV down while keeping offensive punch.  The particular advantage, or at least my favorite way to use it, is on the very turn that the unit is destroyed.  In Alpha Strike, combat is conducted one player at a time.  That is, the player that lost initiative fires everything, and then the player that won initiative fires.  This allows the player that won initiative to react to destroyed units.  If a unit that just blew up but has yet to return fire has an OV value?  Punch it.  Hit the “All the Missiles” button, because there's no reason to leave the heat scale anything short of a melting ruin.  In PV terms, OV1 is one point, OV2 is 1.5 points, OV3 is 2 points, and OV4 is 2.5 points.  So, effectively, you're spending two points in order to take advantage of really good shots that may present themselves, and also to get two extra points of damage from a dead unit.  This contrasts directly with the PV cost of the damage you lost from heat.  OV2 corresponds to a whopping 6 PV you didn't spend on flat damage, so you're effectively getting a 4.5 PV discount on that damage as long as you use it a couple times.  There are definitely worse trade-offs.

I don't think I'll actually go through the heat calculations for this one, mostly because as of this paragraph, this article just hit 10,000 words.  Yeah.  I hope at least a couple of you read this far.  Not that I would blame you if you didn't.  Proof-reading this thing is going to be a gigantic pain, and I may forego it entirely just to get this out the door.

PV for this one reflects its abilities.  Good damage, potential for catastrophic damage, good durability, good speed for its size, and getting in close with one really sucks for anyone who does.  In light of that, 43 PV is a pretty good deal.  This one is a Brawler, fitting in well with Battle Lances.  This one also serves as a great bodyguard in a Command Lance, with the good OV capable of taking out headhunters or at least crippling them before they get to the CO.

Long ago, the five Great Houses lived in harmony.  Then everything changed when the Word of Blake attacked.  The Banshee -8S is... different. But good different.  Very good.  This particular version came about in 3070 as a result of the Word of Blake occupation of Hesperus II, and as such is fielded primarily by the Word.  Lyran units got their hands on enough to field them in notable numbers, and the Lyran state retained them after the war.

Lots of stuff changes about the -8S.  The engine is back to an XL, meaning the fragility of internal structure is back.  That frees up a bunch of tonnage, but the durability suffers.  Due to critical space constraints, a standard structure is used.  An XL Gyro also makes an appearance, freeing up yet more tonnage and making the center torso even more vulnerable once the armor has been stripped.

Speaking of armor, the -8S does it right.  Like, really right.  Eighteen tons of standard plate, 98% of the maximum coverage on the 'Mech.  Two hundred eighty-eight points of armor.  Every location gets a universal armor increase with the sole exception of the rear center torso, which finds itself barely inferior to classic Banshees.  Every forward location can take at least 30 points of damage save the head. The arms can take an additional SRM after that, the legs a Large Laser, and the center torso will nearly take a full on Gauss Rifle hit without breaching.  Nearly.  Good enough.  Rear armor is still good, with the sides able to take PPCs and AC/10s without breaching, and the rear can take a Gauss and still keep the goods safe.  Yeeeeeah.  That's more like it.  Putting any more armor on this would result in a minimum of three points wasted, so I'm willing to call this 'as good as it gets'.

What does all that leave for weapons?  A whole damn lot, apparently.  And more besides.  The -8S is the very first Banshee to mount advanced electronics equipment, in this case in the form of a C3 Slave computer in the left arm.  I'm honestly surprised it's not a C3i, but this is still fairly early in the Jihad, and fortunately for most Successor States the standard C3 network is a widespread piece of technology.  That could explain its proliferation into the Republic Era.  I'm not a huge fan of the location of the computer, because losing the left arm means you lose your connection to the network.  There's also a Guardian ECM Suit in the right torso, which helps to keep the C3 functioning for as long as possible.

What possible role could a Banshee play in a C3 network?  In this case, it's a damn fine spotter.  Already fairly zippy at 64 kph for an Assault of its size, the -8S upgrades to TSM.  When heated up, the -8S can reach speeds of 86 kph, truly blistering for a 'Mech of its size.  It gets better.  This version also has a Hatchet in the left arm, making for 38 point swings when it gets going, and it gets going pretty fast.  The -5S (Sawyer) was melee oriented.  The -8S is melee specialized, and it's damn good at it.  Weaponry is tailored to fine tune heat levels.

A Snub-nose PPC sits opposite the Hatchet in the left arm, supported by an ER Medium Laser in the same.  An ER Large Laser occupies the right torso supported by another ER Medium, and they're joined by two standard Medium Lasers, an ER Small Laser, and the customary head mounted Small Laser.  Finally, an LB-10X occupies the left torso, protected by CASE and fed by two tons of ammunition for good endurance.  A total of 13 DHSs keep the design cool enough to unleash the firepower, but hot enough to keep TSM active. Firing all of the energy weapons larger than Small Lasers at a run will bring the -8S up to a perfect heat level instantly, and there are enough and varied enough weapons on the 'Mech to reach any heat level desired.  Swap the LB-10X in and out for the ER Small Laser for heat purposes when range and to-hit numbers permit, and try to burn through the only explosive components on the 'Mech before the holes start getting opened.

Despite the presence of ECM on this 'Mech, the Snub-nose PPC and the ER Large Laser really lend themselves to parking 210 meters away.  Whether you have a target in range or not, keep the lasers firing to keep that heat up.  When an opponent is properly softened, or there's no danger of the C3 net being compromised by ECM or enemy action, wade into combat and start chopping.  38 point melee hits kill lots of things very quickly, and you'll be able to fire all of the weapons compliment you feel the need to even in the middle of the attack.

Me: “Alpha Strike!  Lay down your judgment.  What is your verdict?”

Alpha Strike: “Awwwww **** yeah.”

Me: “Thank you, Alpha Strike.

But seriously, this thing is a beast.  Damage isn't spectacular, but it is pretty solid at 4/3/2 OV2.  That means, in particular, that getting close is the order of business.  Good deal for a C3 spotter anyway, you'll be getting that close in the course of things.  OV means you can activate the TSM listed without giving up targeting penalties in exchange for no extra damage.  That's definitely a good deal.  TSM also increases melee damage, and the -8S is already an Assault 'Mech.  That means you can deal up to 5 damage in one hit with it at melee ranges.  But wait!  There's more.  The MEL Special means your melee range is extended, and you do more damage, for a truly monstrous 6 damage on a physical attack.  Physical attack rolls aren't affected by heat, so use that to your advantage when you're up close and personal, especially against 'Mechs that can't punch back as well as you can.  While in base to base contact, they can't shoot you, and you will do more damage than they do.  Period.  Also of note, if you're using the Variable Damage optional rule, physical attacks aren't affected by it.  That's right, that means that the six point smack that just happened isn't reduced by variable damage, it's six points whether you're using that rule or not.  Juicy.

MHQ1 also comes with the C3 Slave, and FLK1/1/1 from the LB-10X is honestly just icing on the cake at this point.  Oh, and I didn't get to this earlier, but the increased armor brings the beast up to a full 10 points of armor, the most that any 'Mech can get short of Hardened or Ferro-Lamellor.  Good show, buddy.  That keeps the total durability at 14 points, enough for four taps of the ASMOTW's Thud test and some besides.  Good stuff, especially with an XL engine keeping it fragile.

You pay for it, but oh lord is it worth paying.  A grand total of 49 PV gets you that mobile ball of carnage and electronics.  The role is Brawler, and in this case you absolutely want to be in a Battle Lance all the time.  Those rerolls turn already easy shots into practically guaranteed hits with a C3 net, and nothing says “screw you” like a 6 point melee attack that missed... except it didn't.  Go nuts, folks.  I know I will.

If the -8S is a melee brawler par excellance, the -9S is a sniper for the ages.  The armor, sterling standard that it is, remains the same, and good on it.  The XL Gyro also remains.  What changes, most visibly as yet, at least, is the engine.  Not only did it change back to an LFE, rather than an XLE, it also dropped down to a 285 rating, rather than the 380 that most Banshee's have.

What does that do?  Tonnage for guns.  The untold story of the Banshee is the quest for more guns.  Always and forever, the Banshee must find more room for guns.

The -9S successfully finds a lot of room for guns.  First thing's first, a Gauss Rifle in the left torso, two tons of ammo in the left leg.  The left arm hosts the rest of the big guns, in the form of a Heavy PPC and a Light PPC.  That's some impressive long range damage right there, and it only gets better with the inclusion of an absolutely massive 8-ton targeting computer in the right torso.  Two ER Medium Lasers occupy the right arm, with another in the head.  A standard Medium Laser slots in under the Gauss, and an SRM-6 occupies what space in the right torso that the TC does not.  One ton of ammo in the CASE'd left torso feeds the launcher.

Pretty sweet weapons suite right there.  A total of 14 DHSs struggle with an alpha, but handle the long range guns by themselves perfectly, with even a bit extra to spare.  They also handle the short range guns just as well, likewise with some room to spare.  If anything, the -9S is the slightest bit oversinked for a proper bracket firing design, and definitely oversinked for something that wants to stay at long range most of the game.  Even still, it's a pretty sweet fire support 'Mech, and the perfect foil to the -8S's melee brawler.  Two of the same base chassis of 'Mech that could hardly be more different in execution and role.  An interesting dichotomy to be sure.

How does it play in Alpha Strike?  Pretty well.  Lowering the speed is not something I like, but it keeps the +1 TMM that keeps 'Mechs alive.  The armor is good, up to 15 points.  Not enough to survive another Thud tap, but enough to have a few points left over after fully four of them.  Good marks for armor.

It's the guns, once again, that make this particular machine.  Look at the damage block.  5/5/4 with OV2.  Now that's some pain, easily the highest concentration of potential damage of any Banshees we've seen so far!  I like it.  I'd rather have it and be fast, but you can't have everything.  This one also has CASE.

Those guns make it the most expensive Banshee to date, however.  A full 51 PV to field this monster.  I, personally, think that 5/5/4 OV2 with 15 total points of health is pretty worth it for 51 PV.  The role is also Juggernaut, which makes this guy perfect for anchoring Assault Lances.  It won't get anywhere particularly quick, but it will keep in the fight at any range, and it's got the armor to stay in the field for quite a while.

The Banshee -9S stepped onto the field in 3071 in service to the Lyran Alliance.  Despite how badass the design is, it hasn't proliferated beyond Steiner territory in any great numbers into the Republic Era.

The depths of the Jihad saw many designs that might previously have been considered obsolete return to the fields of battle.  The Banshee BNC-3Mr is one such design.  For all intents and purposes a refit of the old -3M, the -3Mr is fairly similar.  If you recall the beginning of the article (if you don't, I don't blame you), the -3M had two PPCs, two Medium Lasers, and the token Small Laser in the head.  The -3Mr is curiously reminiscent of that, with two ER PPCs and two ER Medium Lasers all in the same locations as the older model, and the token Small Laser in the head.  Heatsinks are upgraded to doubles in order to handle the expanded heat load, and they're not always up to the task for a running alpha strike.  They are, however, up to the task of sending two ER PPCs downrange at a run every turn until the heat death of the universe.  Drop an ER PPC to get a couple ER Mediums in at closer range, and you're golden.

Just so there's no confusion, the armor and engine have not changed from the old -3M.  Fifteen tons, laid out as a classic Banshee.  No frills no thrills.

If you recall the -3M's Alpha Strike unit card, the -3Mr is pretty similar, with exactly one difference.  The upgrade to DHSs allows it to trade out the OV1 from before for the damage it lost to get it.  The damage reads 3/3/2 with no OV, which is 100% identical to what the -3M's would be if it had the heatsinks to handle the guns.  That's the interesting thing about ER Medium Lasers, and to a lesser extent ER PPCs in Alpha Strike.  In the case of the former, there is literally nothing ER Mediums do over standard Mediums.  Nothing.  They're hotter, and that's it.  Same range bands.  ER PPCs avoid minimum range, but otherwise do the exact same damage to the exact same range for more heat.  Fun stuff.  ENE denotes an all energy armament with no explosive components. 

At 41 PV, the -3Mr is pretty solid for the cost, offering average damage at short and medium and fairly good damage at long, for a total of 16 points of armor and structure.  Nice and durable, fast enough to bring firepower to bear, consistent firepower at all ranges, and no huge difficulties in use.  The Sniper role lends itself well to Fire Lances and Assault Lances without much difficulty.

The -3Mr stepped off the lines in 3073, and is oddly enough the first non-Lyran variant to be produced in nearly 150 years.  It is primarily fielded by, of all states, the Free Worlds League and various Periphery powers including the Taurian Concordat, Magistracy of Canopus, and Calderon Protectorate.

This is it folks.  The final stretch.  This and one more variant, and this unwieldy monstrosity of an article will be complete.  If I ever volunteer to do anything like this ever again, someone please lock me up.  The second to last variant on the list is the BNC-11X.  With a designation like that you know it's about to get weird.

Let's start with the similarities to what has already been discussed.  The armor is standard, and matches up nicely with the -8S and -9S models.  Eighteen tons of it arranged mostly intelligently.  The actual distribution changes up a bit, shaving down to 40 points on the center in order to bump up the rear center the same amount to 19 points.  I don't think anything else changed.  Sorta.  More on that in a couple paragraphs.

Endo-Steel structure frees up a few tons, but a standard gyro is used.  That differentiates it from the -8/9 series already, but it's about to get even better.  This thing uses a Clan 380-rated XL engine for locomotion.  Expensive as hell and limited to produce, but damn does it get the job done.  Durability is way up already on this one.

But wait, there's more!  Not content with 18 tons of armor and a Clan XL engine, the -11X takes it up to... well, 11, when it adds no fewer than seven slabs of modular armor, one to each front location save the head.  Well then.  Good show, gents.  That's a lot of tonnage spent on armor, and it does slow the -11X back down to 54 kph while there's still even a shred of modular armor left, but damn if this isn't one protected 'Mech, with the equivalent of 358 points of armor.  Jeez.  What's all this armor carting to the battlefield, anyway?  I hope it's something good.  It better be something good.

Well.... it's not something usual I guess.  The left torso plays host to a Gauss Rifle, again, except this time it's the Silver Bullet brand, laying down cluster shot to traditional gauss ranges and doing it in style.  I love SBGRs, but a quick look at the rest of the armament makes me really reconsider how well this one is used.  Two Bombast Lasers, both in the right torso.  No, that's neither a typo nor a mistake.  Two of them.  And then the token ER Small Laser in the head.  Not a Banshee without that.  Even better, the SBGR is only equipped with one ton of ammo!  You've got 8 shots, make them count.

You know what's great?  It gets even better.  Every single shoulder and hip actuator on this 'Mech is armored.  I'm reasonably sure, rules wise, that this negates the “Limb blown off” critical hit result of a 12 when determining critical hits, and it definitely reduces mobility hits once armor is breached, or penalties to... punching I guess,  but given the relative infrequency of those sort of things happening anyway, the -11X gets an A for effort and a D for Doing it Wrong.  On the other hand, the cockpit is also armored, so at least the pilot is safer than a normal 'Mech.  We'll bump it up to a C-, mostly because even though the -11X spends 3 tons armoring components it does manage to armor the most important one at least.

Fourteen DHSs are enough to handle a full alpha strike at a run with just a blip on the heat scale, and I highly doubt the ER Small is going to be blazing away every turn.  High marks for heat efficiency, as much good as that does.  Imagine, if you will, a MechWarrior 4 display.  The Armor and Heat Efficiency bars are maxed out in the green.  The Speed bar is orange, and the firepower bar is a very, very low orange.  That's basically what the -11X.

In Alpha Strike it's... better, but largely because the Bombast Laser isn't a steaming heap of useless crap in the conversion.  A damage block of 3/4/1 OV0 isn't particularly impressive at long range, but it does have some solid punch at medium where it should probably be doing most of its fighting.

Now, what the -11X does bring to the table is armor.  Lots of it.  Twelve points of it, shielding five points of structure thanks to the Clan XL's reduced vulnerability.  A total of 17 points is respectable for something with an SFE, let alone an XLE in Alpha Strike, so high marks for armor.  It's as slow as most Assaults, though, and will probably lose a slugging match to a good deal of those, so try to keep this one supported with units that can do damage reliably.  Giant bricks that function as damage sponges are great, but they do generally need more damage to help out in order to break even against 'Mechs designed to put out pain first and take it second.  Fortunately for the -11X, it also has the ARM Special, which means that the first crit it takes is just flat out ignored.  CASE or CASEII would be even better, as would CR, but that already reduces the number of crits it can possibly take down below the level I'm terribly concerned about it.  Also appearing is FLK1/1/1, thanks to the Silver Bullet.

All in all, it works much better in Alpha Strike than it does in standard, I'd say.  At 44 PV, it's a pretty pricy thing for the damage it brings (especially compared to the -3Mr just a few paragraphs ago, at 41 for very similar damage), but it will stay on the field for a long time.  No surprise, it's a Juggernaut.  Use it to anchor an Assault Lance or soak up fire in a Command Lance that your commander would otherwise take.  Also worth pointing out is that the -11X has the best art of any Banshee.  So there.  There were exactly three -11Xs built by the Lyran Alliance as testbeds and prototypes.  It's unlikely that they'd be found on the front lines.  But then again, this is BattleTech.

At long last, here is the last variant.  I don't actually even have a year for this one to roll off the production lines, quite honestly.  Neither that nor its faction affiliation are listed on the MUL.  It's fairly new, from the 3145 New Tech, New Upgrades section so that's not a particularly large surprise, but essentially you'll have to use your imaginations for this one.

On the surface of it all, this Banshee is fairly similar to the -9S, including in engine, armor, and the specific distribution of that armor.  Considering it's the -9S2, I'm not surprised in the slightest..  The primary armament is a Gauss Rifle in the left torso, fed by two tons of ammunition in the self same torso and a third(!) in the left leg, and protected by CASE.  The left arm still fits a Heavy PPC and a Light PPC, but now a second Light PPC joins the fun from the right arm.  Some pretty sweet long range fire power going on here.  An ER Medium Laser in the head rounds out the actual weapons equipment on the 'Mech.

It does not, however, finish off all the equipment.  Also much like the -9S, the -9S2 features a gargantuan Targeting Computer in the right torso.  And now, very much unlike the -9S, it also plays host to a Boosted C3 Slave in the same location.  For a Sniper like this, that's a pretty powerful piece of equipment.  The scout rushes in, and then at long range the -9S2 engages with pinpoint accurate fire with big, heavy guns and opens lots and lots of very large holes for the other lance members to exploit.  I'm not a huge fan of C3, but I really like it.  The typical complement of 14 DHSs rounds out the equipment, and manages the heat of a running long range barrage perfectly.  Adding the ER Medium is situational at best, and is probably best largely ignored.

The first thing to know about the -9S2 in Alpha Strike is that it has slowed down.  No longer 8”, it moves 6”.  And then, promptly forget why that matters, and look at the damage.  A fairly impressive line of 4/5/5 OV0 demands and commands respect at all ranges, but particularly medium and long.  It's a rare 'Mech that isn't an LRM boat to have a higher long range damage that short range damage, but somehow the -9S2 pulls it off.  Ten points of armor and five of structure are good to stay on the field a good long while, and the C3BSS Special means contributing from long range is much, much easier than it would be without.  Trivially easy, almost, especially since long range is the -9S2's playground.  Some C3 designs have issues with lacking damage at the ranges C3 networks are expected to fight.  Not so here.  CASE and MHQ1 round out the Specials box.

Standing proud and tall at 52 PV, this is the most expensive Banshee in Alpha Strike.  Not surprising, really, given the exemplary damage, C3 system bumping up all offensive point values, and the fairly good armor and structure shell keeping it in the field.  For reference, this exactly matches the Atlas AS7-D in PV, while significantly outgunning it at nearly all ranges, and coming very close to matching its durability.  It's a preeeetty sweet unit, no doubt about that.

And I do believe that should wrap up the article.  I'm never doing this again.  Ever.  Especially not with anything that has more than five variants.  Enjoy this 14,000 word article.


Offline BirdofPrey

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Re: BattleTech Megathread - Because HLP Should Have One Too
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