Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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Category Archives: Battletech

Capellan Confederation Reconnaissance in Force

This is the third game of a continuing campaign with the same “green” Capellan Confederation Lance. With a salvaged Archer replacing the old Javelin, they actually has some significant firepower now. They can actually handle a raid scenario– putting some “teeth” into their recon.

The situation I had in mind is that command needs to get to turn this unit into veterans quickly, they need them to accomplish an objective that is within their reach– but they can’t afford to risk losing their mechs. Strategically, this is part of an overload action– many feints and probes happening concurrently in order to push the defense to their limits.

Davion’s city defenders fields 4 foot/rifle infantry, 4 MG/mechanized, 4 Vedette tanks, and one Battlemaster. House Liao has a Vindicator, a Blackjack, a Clint, and an Archer. (I’ve got no Battletech counters, so I’m raiding Ogre again in order to make do.) Command wouldn’t know the exact strength of these forces when they send the lance out. The objective is to take out a couple of hardened reactors if possible. If they get both without losing any mechs, that is a phenominal victory. If they take out just one, that is a decisive victory. If they get none, draw out the enemy, and retain their mecha… even that is a marginal victory under the circumstances.

Now… this scenario was just made up out of thin air based on what the continuing characters had and what would fit in what what we’d done so far. I wanted to continue experimenting with what I consider to be the criminally underplayed conventional units of the BattleTech franchise. I have to say… when you combine these units with some reasonable morale/withdrawal rules based on the need for Mecha to not get arbitrarily expended, everything clicks. Infantry can be easily shot up, but they have to be dealt with before they can get close. Tanks can carry comparable firepower as a mech, but given the ease with which they can be disabled, people are going to tend to neutralize them before they target opposing mechs. Finally… if you irreplacable units are controlled by continuing characters… well, there’s all kinds of interesting situations you can throw at them and you won’t have to have half of them die in each game. The conventional forces produce decisive and dramatic action that is resolved quickly while the mecha jet around the board behaving like de facto chess queens. It’s orders of magnitudes more fun than the sort of straight up “company on company” battle royales that are the norm in the scenario booklets for the line.

In our game, the mecha crept to the forest edge and started unloading on a reactor at medium range. At the rate they were damaging it, the could expect to drop it within a few turns. The attackers didn’t bother targeting the defenders due to the extra protection they had from being able to take cover in buildings. On turn two the defenders opted to rush. The Capellan Clint got hit by two AC/5’s from the Vedettes and the PPC from the Battlemaster. It was enough to take out the Clint’s leg. He managed to stand up on turn two despite the need to roll 11+ to do it. (FASA BattleTech Master Rules has it as a +5 piloting roll that requires two MP’s; the guy got it on the third try.)

The Vedettes are not terribly fierce units. The lance commander panicked when they bore down on his newly acquired Archer. He pulled back with it instead of risking it, but regretted it when he realized just how well armored the thing was. The Clint started backing away one hex at a time. (He was limited to 1 MP a turn with the disabled leg, but I ruled he could still hobble along through the terrain.)

The Blackjack ended up doing quite a bit of damage to the encroaching motorized MG infantry. (Double damage in clear terrain is a nice, reasonable, and bloody rule.) A total of 35 points of damage was done to the one reactor. If the Archer had actually hit with his LRMs, it may well have been worth sticking around to burn it to the ground, but being only about 1/3rd of the way there, it was time to get out of Dodge.

The Clint had to jump in order to evade the Battlemaster and the infantry that were closing in on him. He fell a couple times making his way off the board, but was not in any real danger. The Vindicator and the Blackjack could easily jump through the woods, demonstrating the true utility of the light mechs. I believe the Davion defenders will be forced to reinforce this position if they want to keep these assets. If this light lance returns, it could easily finish the job they started here.

In Mechwarrior first edition, the characters get xp for each point of damage they do with more for criticals. The enemy forces also have an XP value equal to the tonnage of the mechs, half the tonnage of the vehicles, and ten tons for each infantry group. I split 25% of this between the continuing characters due to the marginal victory. (I would have given 100% if they had taken out the reactor and not lost any mechs… and 200% if they had managed to take out both reactors.)

The player characters all went up a level in gunnery. Finally! We can now play some more sensible scenarios where the they will have a much better chance of actually hitting stuff. (Although they could have spent XP to convert one the Archer’s attacks into a hit if they had spent some of his XP to do it now that I think of it… not that it would have made a difference)

Here’s the XP tallies:

Vindicator (6/4): 75 + 63 + 111 – 175 = 74

Clint (6/4): 92 + 93 – 175 = 10

Archer (6/4): 106 + 88 – 175 = 19

Blackjack (7/5): 61 + 112 – 125 = 48


Capellan Confederation Ambush With Conventional Forces

Okay, this was a game I waited decades to play: BattleTech with mecha versus a infantry and tanks. Seriously, the xerox copy I ran off of the CityTech infantry record form has been sitting in the box for over twenty-five years!

Here’s how I set up the game. First I calculated the repair times for the surviving mechs from the last scenario. Then, as I would with D&D, I improvised a chart to account for the most reasonable outcomes:

1-2: The Vindicator which would take an hour an a half to repair is immediately sent out on a mission by itself without the rest of the group.

3-5: The Vindicator, the Clint, and the Blackjack are repaired and sent out on a mission together, but the Blackjack’s arm could not be reattached in time.

6: The full group is sent out, the Blackjack’s arm is repaired or retrofitted, and… the mech pilot that was in the destroyed Javelin is reassigned to a Locust.

The die roll came up as a two, confirming my original instincts for how to play the next game… but adding a sense of fairness and rightness that maybe wouldn’t have been there before. I still had this problem of the destroyed Javelin. I didn’t really want to let a Green mechwarrior with any  amount of experience go to waste. But I didn’t want to hand out “free” mechs either. So I ruled that for this game… if an enemy mech got dropped in such a way that it could be repaired, the Javelin guy would pick it up as his replacement mech.

I decided that a Davion Archer and Rifleman would be ambushed by four motorized MG infantry, 2 Patton tanks, and the “green” House Liao Vindicator. The Archer and Rifleman would come onto the board… and the House Liao units get hidden placement with a surprise round. I also ruled that Davion would have a morale of 9… minus the number of criticals they received. A number higher than that rolled after any turn they received a crit and they would turn tail and run.

Basically… a totally made up scenario with the objective of introducing infantry and vehicles while giving every conceivable break to the new guy just getting the hang of the game. (I could have maybe added one light mech to this group if I wanted it to be more even.)

The game played very fast– lest than three hours, easily. The Davion guys did not care about the green mechwarrior at all. They wanted to take out the much easier-to-mission-kill tanks first! Besides, the green guy just doesn’t hit often enough to be worth bothering with.

The infantry were interesting, more fun than I expected… and way too effective. I was running the game wrong, of course!

  • Mechs get a +3 bonus to to-hit with melee attacks against them.
  • Infantry take double damage if they are hit in a clear hex.
  • Mechs also have the option to move into the same hex as them… which would have the Archer the chance to take some better cover than I allowed him.

Everything played out perfectly for House Liao when the Archer took first a medium laser shot to the head followed by an AC-10 shot that blew it entirely off. The Javelin pilot will be coming back next game with an ARCHER! (And hoo-boy, does this change the overall complexion of the lance…!)

Here’s the current XP values as calculated by Mechwarrior first edition:

  • Blackjack (7/6) — 61
  • Clint (6/5) — 92
  • Javelin/Archer (6/5) — 106
  • Vindicator (6/5) — 75 + 63 = 138

The big break for this group comes when the 6/5 guys reach 175 XP… which is not that far away. (The Vindicator and Archer are liable to both get there next session.) The Blackjack was nearly useless in the first game, but if he can just hold on until he can reach 125 XP, he will be able to at least do something.

Anyway, that’s how the second installment went. Can’t what to see what happens to these guys next!

A Capellan Confederation Light Lance versus Four Patton Tanks!

This game’s been a long time coming.

Ever since the release of CityTech, I have wanted to use the BattleTech vehicles rules. But Mecha are so danged fun in an of themselves, they dominate whenever anyone puts the game on the table. No one ever wants to play with the tanks! Sigh…. Ah, CityTech… another victim of the Pareto Principle!

I went all out for this one, too.

  • I used first edition Mechwarrior to create a lance. One of the more interesting rules here is that you can take a penalty on your ‘mech assignment roll in return for additional character points. This resulted in a set of Green mechwarriors with ‘mechs weighing in at 45, 45, 40, and 30 tons.
  • I used the awesome force faction tables from Combat Operations  to select ‘mechs that would have been available to the Capellan Confederation circa 3025: VND-1R Vindicator, BJ-1 Blackjack, CLNT-3T Clint, and JVN-10N Javelin. (I also used the Battle Value numbers in there to determine a fair situation that slightly favored my opponent.)
  • I used the old FASA Master Rules to create a scenario for these guys: a breakthrough situation where four Patton tanks are attempting to break through this recon lance across three map sheets. (There really is a nice selection of “stock” scenarios in there.)


The action was furious. Lots of hard decisions and tough lessons here!

  • The AC/20 looks fearsome, but the ‘mechs can really soak up a lot of punishment. So much so, they’re safer than you’d think.  The Clint lost a leg. The Blackjack lost an arm. The Javelin had an arm blown off and would have survived, but when its leg got blown off at the end, it fell down. As it clambered to its feet, it ended up taking one last AC/20 shot to the center torso.
  • The Javelin is an effective anti-tank unit due to the SRM-6’s. Every single hit against a tank has a chance of dropping its cruising speed, immobilizing it altogether, or eliminating it altogether via a critical hit. (The Javelin did just that with an impressive ten missile hit, scoring the first kill.)
  • The Pattons would have gotten more tanks off the board if they had focused entirely on running away. Those short ranged AC/20 shots were just too fun to pass up, though.
  • The Green 6/5 mechwarriors and tank gunners could not hit anything unless they were at short range. The 7/6 pilot in the Blackjack had a devil of a time hitting anything. (Can’t recommend handing such a character to anyone to play, though working him up to 4/5 would be quite an achievement.)

Game time ran into the four hour mark. The play was so immersive and the desire to know how the next turn would play out was so great, I didn’t notice that it was a bit long. And for a continuing role-playing game type situation like this, I have to say… going with ‘mechs versus tanks was perfect. There’s plenty of decisive action, but the players are relatively safe. Plus, you get to play with the “big boom” stuff.

The next scenario writes itself, of course. While the Clint and the Blackjack go back to the shop for repairs, the Vindicator will be tapped to lead a conventional force of tanks and infantry to raid a supply depot. The lance is shorthanded now, too…. The replacement ‘mech will be (rolls dice…) a 20 ton Locust, because shame on you for wasting such an awesome light ‘mech as the Javelin!

Why Nobody Played CityTech

Okay, this is pretty simple.

It doesn’t matter if your a fast ‘mech or a slow ‘mech. If you are inside of a CityTech building-scape and you lose initiative, you get as much distance and as many buildings as possible between you and anyone that is liable to shoot at you.

So even fights that begin in good faith in a city will see the combatants leaving town fairly quickly in order to duke things out where there is a little more breathing room.

Jump capable ‘mechs could conceivably flee into the city if they cannot expect to stand toe to toe with their opponents outside of town. If the attackers lack mobility, then they will have to maybe enter the city from several directions… risking one-sided ambushes or being defeated piecemeal. Without some sort of scenario defined time limit or objective, the attacker will simply turn all the buildings into rubble.

CityTech does not include any scenario rules. Most people that manage to dip into this expansion at all will go back to playing vanilla BattleTech before they would have developed an engaging scenario with its new game elements.

So most people most of the time never bothered to do all that much with this set. Its prime feature is a game design puzzle– and not anything that readily makes BattleTech more fun.

It’s a turkey, y’all!


A Brief Encounter with CityTech

It’s a harsh truth of gaming. Eighty percent of  gameplay from a particular line is going to be taken up with fraction of its supplements. With BattleTech, this means that most people are going to play just with the core set and the technical readouts. Practically speaking, CityTech and AeroTech are going to end up gathering dust alongside Truck Stop, Boat Wars, and the weirder Star Fleet Battles modules…!

So I count myself lucky to have gotten to play CityTech. But 100 ton ‘mechs are cool, so we played it with units that… well, that don’t really work well with the system.

Above you can see my opponent realizing that a ‘mech with lots of LRM’s is just not going to do well in this environment. Meanwhile, my ‘mech loaded with short range weapons had no way to take advantage of the initiative to place any reasonable shots at all.

The L3 building is extremely tall but can be turned to rubble with just three medium laser hits.

With slow assault ‘mechs without jump jets, it’s still a problem. Looks like a city battle just isn’t going to happen!

My opponent just can’t allow me to get in close, so he felt like he had to do everything he could to keep the distance up. Unfortunately for him, I could climb a hill to score a single large laser hit.

This shouldn’t been that great of a setback, but this is BattleTech. I rolled a 2 for hit location, scoring a critical on the center torso. This turned out to be an ammo explosion, ending the game rather earlier than expected.

Next: Probably something involving jump jets!