What If? – The War of 3039

We’ve all done it. At some point in our lives as BattleTech fans, each one of us has taken a look at how something played out and asked, “What if….?” This series of articles will attempt to take a look at both pivotal and seemingly unimportant events in the BattleTech timeline and ask this very question. My take on how events might have happened might be different from yours. Please, feel free to share in the comments how you think an event might have played out.

The War of 3039. It is sometimes forgotten as a pivotal war in the Inner Sphere. Post Fourth Succession War and pre Clan Invasion, this little war manages to fill a pocket niche in the BattleTech timeline that, while on the surface may seem unimportant, ended up as potentially the most critical event in the Inner Sphere leading up to the Return of Kerensky.

Imagine with me, if you will, what the Inner Sphere might have been like should the War of 3039 had never happened. If Hanse Davion had not decided to pursue his bitter rivalry with Takashi Kurita and launch a full scale invasion of the Draconis Combine, perhaps the Clans would have found a very different Inner Sphere when they arrived at the Periphery ten years later.

So what might have changed?

Well, the obvious change would be the stark lack of Free Rasalhague Republic conveniently located in the center of Clan Wolf’s invasion corridor. But let’s get back to that in a moment.

I want to focus first on the two main players of the War of 3039, House Davion and House Kurita.

The Draconis Combine is a bit of a tough nut to crack on this one, as their relatively late access to the Helm Memory Core was partially offset by ComStar’s deal to provide them with Star League era technology to have a fighting chance in the War of 3039. Takashi’s bluff that stalemated the war, even while Hanse Davion was unwittingly within weeks of breaking the Dragon and winning the war, was only possible due to ComStar’s intervention. A decade later, the arrival of the Clans would find a Draconis Combine that was even less prepared to handle the invasion.

As for the Federated Suns, an extra decade of research and development using the Helm Memory Core without the strain of rebuilding from the War of 3039 would have put the Davion run state in a great position to help out the Lyran Commonwealth when the Clans arrived.

Meanwhile, border skirmishes between the Federated Suns and the Draconis Combine would have continued going poorly for the Combine, and the Suns may very well have eaten up a planet here or there without triggering a larger scale conflict.

With no Free Rasalhague Republic serving as a buffer between the Combine and the Lyran Commonwealth after 3039, border skirmishes would have continued on that front as well, with the Fed Suns supported Lyrans gaining the same technology advantage over the Combine over the next decade.

Additionally, because both the Lyran and Combine states were not weakened by the formation of the Free Rasalhague Republic originally, if there was no FRR, the states’ respective military forces would have been even more spread out and hard pressed to repel the Clan invaders. In basic, the Free Rasalhague Republic’s existence actually ended up taking some of the pressure off of the other realms in terms of defense resources.

Things could just get more complicated from here, so I’ll stop this “What if….” right about here with a simple assertion, submitted for your approval. Without the War of 3039, the Clans would have found:

  1. A significantly less technologically advanced Draconis Combine. Without the opportunity to reverse engineer the ‘Mechs and technology given to them by ComStar, the Combine would have fallen behind the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth by a wide margin in terms of battlefield technology.
  2. Both the Lyran and Combine territories would have fallen faster, plant by planet, without the doomed FRR to help blunt the Clans’ invasion.
  3. The Lyran front may have found itself in a slightly better position to fight the Clans with the help of the Federated Suns due to the Fed Suns not needing to rebuild from the War of 3039.
  4. ComStar may have been ultimately unable to act fast enough to stop the Clans at Tukayyid. The unique situation in which the FRR found itself allowed ComStar the opportunity to swoop in and be the heroes. Without the FRR wanting special help from ComStar, the Lyran and Combine states would have had to find themselves asking for the same help, which I find unlikely.

Asking “What If….?” can sometimes lead down a rabbit hole that you never saw coming. Other times, it leads to a brand new universe of possibilities limited only by the bounds of the question itself.

So, what do you think might have changed if the War of 3039 never happened?

Interested in reading more about the War of 3039? Check out these BattleTech Sourcebooks:

BattleTech: Historical: War of 3039 on BattleCorps
BattleTech: Historical: War of 3039 on DriveThruRPG

Your Favorite IS ‘Mechs from 3058

From the Star League With Love

3058 is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to Technical Readouts (TRO), and that always made it harder for me to suss out.  It introduces Inner Sphere omni technology in BattleMech form in the TRO series.  It also features a large number of older designs, such as the Chameleon, Mackie, and Merlin and Striker that had been around for a long time.  As a player I was never sure why they did that, and our playgroup had a lot of questions.  But the TRO gave us some fun new ‘Mechs rolling off the lines with the latest tech as well.

So after all of these years, which of these are your favorite Inner Sphere units?
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BattleTech Battle Report – The Fox in a Bear Cave

“This is Star Captain Nick Hammond of Clan Sea Fox. I issue a Trial of Possession for your dining room table. I bring my command Star of BattleMechs. With what forces will you defend?”

This was the general message that I received from a buddy of mine who had just finished building his first Clan Star, a 3145 era Clan Sea Fox unit. I really enjoyed his approach to asking if I wanted to play a game of BattleTech that weekend, so I decided to respond in kind.

“This is Star Captain Rick Hall of the 2nd Bear Regulars. I acknowledge your batchall. Though I have my entire Trinary at my disposal, after reviewing your bid, I will defend my dining room table with three BattleMechs from my command Star, including myself. You accept my bid, quiaff?”

“Aff, Ghost Bear, though you truly underestimate Clan Sea Fox if you think that a mere three of your warriors can defeat five Sea Fox warriors. Never the less, I do accept your bid.”

“Very well, Star Captain Nick Hammond. In 24 hours, we shall meet at the coordinates I am sending with this transmission. There we will decide the fate of my dining room table.”

“Bargained well and done, Ghost Bear.”

I was more than thrilled at my friend’s insistence on roleplaying out the bidding process, and we decided to treat every aspect of the game as a true Trial of Possession, straight down to the zellbrigen rules and everything else. Being the defender, I was able to choose the battleground, and I made the tactical decision to fight on the BattleTech Canyon maps.

I knew that two of his Mechs did not possess jump jets while all three of myMechs were equipped with them. That would help to mitigate the numbers advantage.

Before I get into the battle itself, here are our rosters.

2nd Bear Regulars. Tau Galaxy
Total BV2: 14,851

Arcas – Gunnery 2/Piloting 2 – 4,868BV2
Bruin – Gunnery 2/Piloting 3 – 4,786BV2
Kodiak 2 – Gunnery 2/Piloting 3 – 5,197BV2

 

 

Clan Sea Fox, Tiburon Khanate
Total BV2: 14,964

Tiburon – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4 – 2,540BV2
Karhu B – Gunnery 2/Piloting 3 – 5,072BV2
Koshi (Standard) – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4 – 1,048BV2
Warhammer IIC 4 – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4 – 3,292BV2
Black Hawk (Standard) – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4 – 3,012BV2

ROUND ONE – I won the first Initiative roll, and we decided to enter the board from our respective sides for our first turn, to get the battle moving. Being the defender, I did not see a reason to rush forward. The Ghost Bears advanced at a walking pace, and the Sea Foxes moved into the engagement area at speed.

Round-1

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Future Possibilities for Tabletop BattleTech

The game Golem Arcana being played out

Pondering tactical possibilities.

I am lucky to count myself part of an active and ongoing BattleTech gaming group. While we have a great time stomping about in our ‘Mechs, trying to complete campaign objectives, by necessity we are stuck playing only a single battle per meeting. Each battle, ranging from lance on lance all the way up to company vs company sized battles can take a daunting amount of time, with our average lance + support units vs star/multi lanced size opponents taking anywhere from four or more hours to complete. Many times we simply run out of time, and make judgment calls as to the results of the battles.

This has lead me to wonder, is there a better way? Being a technology junkie, I’ve often thought as to how to leverage technology to remove the tedium of classic BattleTech game play.

A few days ago I ran into this article nominally posted by “Gabe” from the popular web locality Penny Arcade. Almost immediately after reading I grasped the potential of this technology to be used in BattleTech to do number crunching, helping to resolve line of sight issues, etc, all as mentioned in the article. One of the most tedious of battlefield chores that we have to do is to keep track of missile shots, artillery plotting, and things such as keeping track of fires, smoke drift and mines have flat out been banned by our GM just due to the amount of additional paperwork and tracking it takes to keep track of it all. I rather suspect many GMs are the same way, for good cause.

"Quick, drop that FASCAM now, now, now! Fire for effect!"

“Quick, drop that FASCAM now, now, now! Fire for effect!”

In addition I thought of how NFC technology (For example, as implemented in Nintendo’s Amiibo figures and software) could further automate record keeping by keeping track of individual ‘Mechs in ongoing campaigns. Besides significantly cutting down on the recording keeping time that GMs have to do, having access to the current status of a ‘Mech at a glance in digital form is a great capability, possibly being able to track and post this information online to help keep players organized and help them keep track of status of their favorite units between battles.

In order for our hobby to grow, we need to be aware that with the current status of tabletop BattleTech being the way it is we need to encourage new players. Things that make that process easier can really help to grow our ranks with new MechWarriors.

With the release of this game, I hope that the development team for BattleTech think about how to take BattleTech to the next logical level. Hope springs eternal!

Have You Visited the Master Unit List Lately?

The Master Unit List (MUL) is a fairly unique resource as gaming resources go. I am not aware of any other game or company that has a database of units quite like it. Catalyst has, free of charge, given us a tool that we can use to research units, find out where to get the record sheets for a specific unit and variant, and even find out if a `Mech is supposed to be used in a campaign based on the timeline and tech levels.

BattleTech Master Unit List

All of this is possible using the MUL, and that’s long before you even get to the part where you realize that they have provided all of the Alpha Strike unit stat cards for (nearly) every unit in the BattleTech universe. That’s right. If you play Alpha Strike, you never have to buy a single pack or file of unit cards. They have already been provided for you!

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Catalyst decided to throw something else into this amazing reference tool. If you take a look at any of the Alpha Strike Stat Cards on the MUL, you will notice that the “Skill” section of the card is filled in with the base stat, 4.This is useful until you want to improve your unit’s Skill. Well, it looks like they thought of that!

Enter the Custom Alpha Strike Card Generator. This handy dandy tool allows you to enter all of the necessary information for an Alpha Strike unit, either a stock design or one of your own design, and enter the values for PV and Skill as you see fit. Which means, you can either leave Skill blank and write it in later, on a per game basis, or you can create a card that has Skill 3, 2, or whatever else you want and adjust the PV accordingly so its right there on the card!

The possibilities for utilizing this feature are endless. I sat down with the MUL just a few days ago and began creating custom cards for the `Mechs in my 2nd Bear Regulars Beta Trinary, and before I knew it I had custom cards ready to go for the unit and many others. I went the extra mile and used Publisher to throw them all together onto a single page with some extra visuals and a chart to make PV and Skill Calculations easier.

Here is the end result, which the MUL made possible:

UnitLayoutTemplate

 

A reference sheet like this will help to speed up games, and the Master Unit List is to thank for that. The PV remains the base level that it is defaulted to Skill 4, but I can use the Improved-Skill PV Increase Table right there on the sheet to know how much to increase the PV for better skills, and then I can record any notes and the Unit Points Total right there on the sheet. This sheet hardly took any time at all to throw together, so doing something like it on your own would be a cinch.

The Master Unit List is worth a good look, especially if you haven’t visited it in a while. Once you spend only a few minutes looking around, you begin to realize that it took a massive amount of work and time to put together. I am thankful that Catalyst thought it was enough of a priority to find the people dedicated enough to do it because it makes playing all forms of BattleTech that much more fun for me and for others.

Stop on by and see what you find. Also, if you have a chance, send Catalyst some feedback or a thank you note for the MUL.

A big salute to all of the volunteers who have helped make the MUL possible and who continue to work on it to make it the best resource out there.

Your Favorite Scenario Packs

Scenario Packs and their ilk have been with us for almost as long as we’ve had the game. From the first campaigns to the latest Turning Point, we have seen a ton of scenario packs released down through the ages.

Sure, a handful of scenarios like UnboundLiving Legends and Necromo Nightmare might strike some fans as problematic from a variety of angles. Sales of modules, adventures, and scenarios are almost always going to be among your worst sellers.  And it’s no surprise that we’ve seen a variety of different takes of the Scenario pack, whether it’s replaying a major battle or campaign (Luthien, Tukkayid, Twycross) or whether it’s running the battles of a famous unit (Northwind Highlanders, Tales of the Black Widow Company), many scenario packs are repeats of famous aspects of the universe.  But when they don’t sell well, you get different flavors, such as generic ones like Operation: Flashpoint, Operation: Stiletto or those that push the limits of the universe (of which Living Legends is clearly the blatant example).

With that stated, what are my three favorite scenarios?

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The Clans of Kerensky, Part Three: Call to Revival

This article is Part 3 in a series on the Clans. The ongoing series attempts to cover the impact that the Clans, both as a society and as individual entities, have had on the Inner Sphere, since their arrival in 3050 to the present year of 3145.

The series began with Part One: Rise of the Clans and continued with Part Two: Crucible of Gold.

The Symbol of the Clans

The Great Debate

At the close of the Golden Century, the Clans found themselves increasingly divided along the ideological lines that separated the Crusader philosophy from the Warden mindset. As all of the Clans eventually declared for one philosophy or the other, a growing call in the Grand Council from the Crusader Clans necessitated constant delaying actions from the Wardens.

Crusader Clans insisted that a return to the Inner Sphere was imminent and unavoidable. They wanted to bring the rule of the Star League back to the Inner Sphere, once again uniting all of mankind under a single banner. While the idealism that existed within the Crusader Clans might have once come from a good place, which is known as Aleksandr Kerensky’s Hidden Hope Doctrine, the Crusaders had taken the vision of their Founder and crafted from it a call to arms to conquer and subjugate the “barbarians” of the Inner Sphere who has turned their backs on the Star League as the shining hope for mankind.

In direct opposition, the Warden Clans instead took the Hidden Hope Doctrine as a call to be the watchful guardians of mankind, always ready to intervene should a catastrophe such as an external threat or a shattering of the Houses endanger the very existence of our species. Acting in concert against the Crusader Clans, the Wardens began a campaign to stop the Crusaders’ inevitable invasion of the Inner Sphere. Through careful navigation of both the Grand Council chamber and the battlefield, the Wardens, championed by Clan Wolf, Kerensky’s own chosen Clan, were able to forestall any aggressive move to invade until just prior to the dawn of the thirty-first century.

Clan Wolf stood at the head of the Warden Clans

Clan Smoke Jaguar champion the Crusader philosophy.

 

 

VS

 

 

 

For most of the last quarter of the thirtieth century, the Clans discussed the matter of the invasion. Other problems, such as the feud between Clans Snow Raven and Sea Fox which resulted in the renaming of Clan Sea Fox to Clan Diamond Shark, stalled meaningful debate. In 3000, finally garnering the support she felt sure would bring the Crusaders victory in the matter, Ghost Bear Khan Nadia Winson called for a vote in the Grand Council for an invasion of the Inner Sphere. Only Clan Wolf Kahn Kerlin Ward’s suggestion that they first send a team of freeborn warriors to gather intelligence on the state of the Inner Sphere kept the Clans from voting to invade.

The Dragoon Compromise

Jaime Wolf’s chosen unit crest for Wolf’s Dragoons.

Even the staunchest of Crusader Clans like the Smoke Jaguars and Jade Falcons agreed that Khan Ward’s plan had merit. In what became known as the “Dragoon Compromise” Clan Wolf would raise a unit comprised completely of freeborn warriors that would travel to the Inner Sphere and infiltrate it, posing as a mercenary unit. Jaime Wolf was the man elected to lead the mission, and naming his unit what is now a legendary name across all the Inner Sphere, Wolf’s Dragoons.

Clan Goliath Scorpion helped Clan Wolf train Wolf’s Dragoons in Inner Sphere tactics that were used by the Star League Defense Force. The Clans rightly surmised that a mercenary unit fighting with Clan tactics would draw too much attention and cause people to ask questions. In 3004, Wolf’s Dragoons was deemed fit to proceed on its mission, and Jaime Wolf’s unit departed from Clan space.

From the Clans’ perspective, all went well for most of the first decades of the Dragoons’ mission. After a resupply run back to the Clan Homeworlds in 3019-20, the Clans never again received a report from Wolf’s Dragoons, and the plans for invasion were made using the reports they did receive from the Dragoons and what little other information the fledgling networks of Clan intelligence branches could muster.

Little did the Grand Council know, Khan Kerlin Ward had sent instructions back with the last Dragoon resupply run, telling Jaime Wolf and the Dragoons to prepare for an invasion.

Revival Trials

Back in the Homeworlds, the debate raged on about when to invade the Inner Sphere. Clan Wolf and the other Warden Clans were slowly losing the arguments against invading. The matter came to a final showdown when the Comstar Explorer Corps vessel Outbound Light arrived in Clan space. This resulted in an immediate invasion vote in the Grand Council, a vote that swayed to the side of the Crusaders thanks to the knowledge that the Inner Sphere now had the capability to find the Clans. Clan Wolf challenged the result in a Trial of Refusal. The Crusaders won the day, though it cost Clan Ghost Bear both of their Khans.

Immediately following the Trial of Refusal, the Clans began a bidding and Trial process to determine which four Clans would earn the immeasurable honor of invading the Inner Sphere. The Grand Council unanimously voted to award one of the four invasion corridors to Clan Wolf, making it the sole Warden Clan amongst the four invading Clans. The Wolf Khans took advantage of their position as Kerensky’s chosen Clan and believed that the best way to ensure that the invasion did not destroy either the Inner Sphere or the Clans was to be on the front lines of the war, helping to shape and guide the invasion.

Clan Steel Viper’s Crest

Clans Ghost Bear, Jade Falcon, and Smoke Jaguar were the three other Clans that won a spot as an invading Clan. Clan Steel Viper won the secondary honor of being the reserve force, its warriors traveling with the primary invaders in case any Clan ran into trouble. 

As 3049 dawned, the Clans stood on the doorstep of the Inner Sphere, ready to light the galaxy aflame.

 

 

 

For further reading on this time period in Clan history, check out the following products from Catalyst Game Labs. 

Operational Turning Points: Revival Trials on BattleCorps or DriveThruRPG
Field Manual: Warden Clans on BattleCorps or DriveThruRPG
Field Manual: Crusader Clans on BattleCorps or DriveThruRPG

 

The Continuing Series

This brings to an end the third volume in The Clans of Kerensky series, completing the shared history of the Clans as a whole. The rest of the series will concentrate on the history and the fate of a single Clan, from the time of Operation Revival through 3145.

MechWarrior: Living Legends Still Playable Despite Challenges

Despite many setbacks and obstacles in its way, fan-made game “MechWarrior: Living Legends” still fights on. Many gamers grew up with the MechWarrior franchise. Sometime late in 2006 the idea for “Mechwarrior: Living Legends” was born. The lack of recent commercial releases led Microsoft to grant a non-profit BattleTech license to the development team. MechWarrior Living Legends made its debut in December 2009.

The game saw steady development and made releases with new content every few months. The mod brought a unique combined arms approach to the Battletech universe. This continued until January 2013 when the MWLL website announced the end of development. Anything new for the game would now have to come from the community of players.

MWLL always saw an increase in players when new content was released. Things would level off until the next patch. The challenge now is to keep interest in the game despite the end of development. There can be no changes or modifying of the game. So it is up to the community to keep things interesting.

This effort started when a team of developers formed to finish unreleased official maps. The small team released the terrain control map Harvest in July 2013.The team fell apart but individual mappers continue to release maps.  The community then began to hold events to attract players. The first effort was the Phoenix Down event in July 2013. The game came alive for a weekend before returning to normal.

Meanwhile, a group of players were becoming frustrated with MechWarrior Online. A town hall meeting between parts of the MWO community and MWO developers did not satisfy hundreds of players. So that August an old MWLL group announced plans to return to the game and attract a few thousand fed up fans with them. The player base recovered for a while before the movement faded by the winter.

MWO had become attractive enough by this point that MWLL was dead to most fans. But a few members of the remaining MWLL community refused to give up on the game. Efforts began in November 2013 to start a 5v5 team tournament. Originally designed to be small, it eventually attracted eight teams when it began in February 2014. This Forever Legends event breathed new life into MWLL. Player participation and exposure of this event made the organizers hopeful for the future of the game.

Just as the tournament finished, Gamespy, the service responsible for MWLL multiplayer, announced it would  shut down that summer.. The news of development halting at least left a playable game. But now the game was facing certain death. Many solutions were proposed. But it was unknown if these solutions would work since the game was itself a mod of Crysis Wars. Community leaders felt urgency to maximize the time the game had left.

A 2v2 player Team Solaris Arena Tournament kicked off the  summer. Then came the crazy idea to hold a sequel to the most popular MWLL event with only two weeks preparation time. Operation Viper 2, a 72 straight hour event, was held on the last weekend before the shutdown. The event ended right before the scheduled shutdown.. The community had a blast with both current and returning players enjoying the event. Even a brief stay on the shutdown until July 16 did not change the uncertainty.

Luckily a few solutions did work. One of the old developers created a utility to connect to the servers. It required the player to manually input ip addresses but it did work.  The other solution, Qtracker, provided a complete replacement for Gamespy. Qtracker required editing a system file. But then everything worked just as before the shutdown.The end of Gamespy means people not comfortable with editing system files or using an external tool will miss out on MWLL. The game can be downloaded with instructions on how to play with the new solutions on the official site.

The player base hit record lows after the shutdown as word spread slowly about the solutions. The previous event energized the community into trying something a bit different. The Chaos March was to be an event spread over multiple weekends. A new system similar to a deck of cards would be a radical departure from the typical manner of building drop lists.

Player participation has steadily grown over the past three months. Nearly forty players have participated in December. The player base is diverse with players hailing from around the world. The event is held every weekend. Players can get information on the event here.

A major challenge remains for the community in spreading word that mod is not dead, getting players to install it, and getting them involved in the community. The servers often look dead when players log in because most of the player base is from Europe and Asia. So players can go to this website to see when players are in game . MWLL also has a steep learning curve. But there are veteran players, a video tutorial series, and a new player guide all available to help learn the game. Players can find the guide here.

Nearly six years since the initial game release and two years after development ended, MWLL still shows some life. The small but dedicated community works hard to keep the game alive. It is a mod that keeps going despite facing a commercial competitor, the end of development, and the shutdown of multiplayer services. A genre once devoid of new games is now a crowded space of mech simulators. Despite the age of the game, there is still a place for the seemingly dead Mechwarrior: Living Legends.