Pack Hunter vs. Solitaire – Strength in Numbers, Army of One

In my previous “vs.” article, I compared two second line BattleMechs, the Rabid Coyote and the Ursus. You can find that article here if you would like to read my analysis on the match-up.

In this installment, we again take a look at a pair of second line Clan BattleMechs, but these two are very different from our previous subjects.

When thinking about Light `Mechs, two images usually come to mind, at least for me. The first is of the stealth loner type scout, bravely attempting to get as close to the enemy as possible, even going behind enemy lines, in order to secure precious intel about troop movements, supply lines, and personnel locations. This lone ranger scout seeks out the weaknesses of the enemy and exploits them with brutal efficiency.

The other type of scout that comes to mind is the kind that searches and destroys vulnerable enemy targets in a small group. These scouts rely on gang-up tactics and misdirection to get the job done, working in highly coordinated teams to secure strategic kills, usually performing specific hit & run style strikes meant to pinpoint a specific target.

When juxtaposing these two types of BattleMech scouts, it is not hard to literally find the names of two `Mechs that not only resemble the concepts, they are named for them. The two BattleMechs we will look at in the context of these roles are the Pack Hunter and the Solitaire.

Perhaps not as well known or loved as other Clan favorites like the Dasher (Fire Moth) or Koshi (Mist Lynx), these second line designs come from an era when the Clans were still learning how to co-exist their Inner Sphere neighbors, adapting their toumans to be able to handle the myriad tactics that the Inner Sphere employs to get the job done no matter what.

But before we compare and contrast these Light hunting machines, let’s get to know each machine a little better.

Pack Hunter

Just out for a morning patrol and…holy crap, what’s that thing?!

The Pack Hunter would likely be considered an impressive effort regardless of the circumstances of its design and production. The first collaboration between Clan Wolf-in-Exile and their Arc Royal hosts, the Kell Hounds, the Pack Hunter was meant to be a test best for production capabilities, enabling the Wolves-in-Exile to work out any major problems with Clan technology before moving on to an OmniMech design. The project was a success, with the first production units rolling off the lines in 3059.

Matching superior speed and mobility with a single, hard-hitting weapon system, the Pack Hunter exists on a simple design philosophy. That being that light, fast, hard to hit BattleMechs can succeed in engagements with both Inner Sphere and Clan forces.

The design faced very few notable production problems and hit the field very quickly after its development period. During testing, it was found that as little as two Pack Hunters could demonstrate a clear danger to even a massive Dire Wolf, and the BattleMech is usually found deployed in teams of two or more.

Even under the Clans’ ritual rules of zellbrigen, the Pack Hunter is able to team up with its mate to take on a heavier opponent without the dishonor of breaking the traditional one-on-one combat doctrine. Working “around the rules” in this fashion had led to many Clan opponents wishing they had not agreed to the terms of the engagement.

A simple, efficient, and long-lasting design, the Pack Hunter has seen at least three variants put into production as well as receiving a second incarnation, the Pack Hunter II, during the Jihad and into the Republic era.

Armaments and Capabilities

The Pack Hunter exemplifies simplicity in its design and equipment, all packed into a tidy 30 ton chassis. Armed with only a single Clan Extended-Range Particle Projection Cannon, mounted in its right torso, the `Mech is built on an Endo Steel chassis and protected by four tons of standard armor. Its standard engine allows the Pack Hunter to move at a stop speed of 119 kph and adds to the BattleMech’s durability and affordability. Rounding out its equipment are enough jump jets to jump 210 meters.

Even without a complication array of weapons and equipment, the Pack Hunter‘s extreme efficiency has been proven on the battlefield since day one. Its frequent deployment in pairs is one of the most interesting developments with this BattleMech, as it heralded a slight shift in the Clans’ usually strict adherence to single combat.

Solitaire

Hey, is that a new Pack Hunter? Thor and Odin! No blast that large comes from a Pack Hunter!

That this BattleMech exists might be a bit of a small marvel in itself. The characteristically austere Clan Diamond Shark is not known for creating a BattleMech that literally takes every opportunity possible to make itself more expensive to produce. Yet, the Solitaire still rolled off the production lines and to roaring success to boot.

This blazing fast light BattleMech has few equals in terms of mobility, despite its lack of jump jets. Light Mech pilots in both Clan Diamond Shark and Clan Ghost Bear scrambled and competed to get a hold of any <em>Solitaire</em> that became available as soon as theMech was released.

Tactically, the Solitaire is deployed as a solo killer, stalking ahead of its unit to pick off any opponent that has strayed just a bit out of formation. With the firepower to threaten even most assault BattleMechs, especially when attacking from behind the larger machines, the Solitaire is highly effective when used as a backstabber and an assassin.

When the Solitaire entered production in 3064, the vast majority of units went to Clan Diamond Shark’s Spina Galaxies. Shortly after that, large numbers of Solitaires began to appear in second line units in the Ghost Bear Dominion. Apparently part of a large trade deal, linked either to the Diamond Shark’s help of the Ghost Bear’s earlier relocation to the Inner Sphere or for some unknown future consideration. Clans Cloud Cobra and Ice Hellion also showed interest in the BattleMech, but after the Wars of Reaving it is doubtful that the design would be found in the Clan Homeworlds in any significant numbers.

Armaments and Capabilities

Coming in at 25 tons, the spry Solitaire would not have been near as impressive of a machine if Clan Diamond Shark had cut any expense in its production. Based on an Endo Steel chassis and protected by four and a half tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor, the Solitaire is just about as sturdy and as protected as a Mech of its size can be. The real defensive piece is its Model SF-25 XL engine that allows a top speed of 162 kph. However, it is the chosen armaments for this BattleMech that make it stand out. Boasting one Heavy Large Laser, two Heavy Medium Lasers, and one Heavy Small Laser, the <em>Solitaire</em> is nearly unmatched in its weight class in terms of pure damage potential. The limiting factor for thisMech lies in its ten double heat sinks, making an Alpha Strike attack quite a toasty proposition.

Able to hit hard and fade away quickly enough to cool down, the Solitaire is one dangerous machine in the right hands. To date, the Solitaire has only one variant, which drops one of the Heavy Medium Lasers to add a MASC system. If the Solitaire is not fast enough for you, the Solitaire 2 might be the `Mech for you.

Head to Head

As with the previous contest, these two BattleMechs represent different takes on fulfilling the same battlefield role. The idea of these two `Mechs meeting on the field is one that makes me scratch my head a little.

Strictly speaking, I would imagine that Pack Hunter and Solitaire pilots would do their best to avoid one another on the battlefield. Each chassis is better designed to hunt down heavier BattleMechs than to hunt one another.

Click the picture to visit Iron Wind Metals’ Pack Hunter page.

But for argument sake, let’s take a stab at figuring out some possibilities should the two meet on the field and have no choice but to engage one another. For the purposes of this comparison, we will explore a 1v1 scenario and dismiss that Pack Hunters usually show up in pairs (though I will devote a few sentences to that scenario a little later).

Terrain may or may not be a factor in this match up. While the Pack Hunter‘s jump jets give it a slight edge in being able to ignore certain terrain types, the sheer speed of the Solitaire helps the lighter `Mech keep its own advantage, as long as the terrain is not wide open.

So the first part of the engagement will be advantage Pack Hunter simply because it will be able to open fire probably one turn earlier than the Solitaire, thanks to its ERPPC. Any ERPPC hit to the Solitaire‘s arms will rip it off clean and even lend some splash damage to the corresponding torso. A leg hit will not take out the Solitaire by itself, but it could help to cripple the lighter `Mech if a critical hit is scored.

Assuming the Solitaire can survive long enough to get into long range with its Heavy Large Laser, the battle gets a bit more interesting. Any hit from the Solitaire‘s main weapon will outright destroy any of the Pack Hunter‘s locations, save the Center Torso. Also, because the Pack Hunter only has a single weapon, if that happens to be to the Right Torso (or even the Right Arm in some cases), then the Pack Hunter might as well call it a day.

Click the picture to visit Iron Wind Metals’ Solitaire page.

From there it gets to be a worse proposition for the Pack Hunter, as the Solitaire can use its superior speed to further close the distance to bring its Heavy Medium Lasers to bear. At that point, the multiple hit capability of the Solitaire begins to exact a heavy toll on the Pack Hunter‘s chanced for survival.

One thing to point out here is that the Pack Hunter will benefit from better To-Hit numbers in almost every case, down to a range of 3 hexes. This is a good advantage and should not be overlooked. While it should also not be counted upon to make a huge difference, the advantage exists nonetheless.

So in most 1v1 situations, barring a lucky hit, I think I’m going to have to give the contest to the Solitaire. The speed advantage of the lighter `Mech does a lot to mitigate the range disparity between the two, and the Solitaire also boasts slightly more armor protection, which can make the difference when taking leg hits, thus keeping mobile and in the fight. While the Pack Hunter is more durable thanks to its standard Engine, losing its one weapon system is in most cases just as devastating as being destroyed.

Side Note: I promised I would address this, so here it is. I’ll have to give the engagement to the Pack Hunter if there are two of them. It’s simple a reorganization of the tactical situation. In a 1v1, the Pack Hunter is playing the Solitaire‘s game. Conversely, the 1v2 situation is more than just being simply outnumbered. It is a changing of the scope of the battlefield in a way that brings the Solitaire in the Pack Hunters‘ arena. A clever Solitaire pilot might still come out on top of a 1v2 scenario, but the value of two `Mechs working together is most often greater than the simple sum of the whole.

Final Thoughts

Both of these BattleMechs are amazing at what they do. They’re not completely dissimilar, but they’re also not really the same. Side by side, I would personally take the Solitaire, but I will caveat myself by reminding you that I’m a Ghost Bear player primarily. I have nothing against the Pack Hunter, however, and would not feel cheated or under strength if I had one or two in a Star. Raw BV aside, either situation can easily win back double or more its points.

As far as deployability, the Pack Hunter and its variants, including the Pack Hunter II, has found its way not only into the forces of Clan Wolf-in-Exile and the Kell Hounds, but also into pretty much every other Clan, Mercenary forces, the Republic, and several Houses. Widespread and valued for its capabilities, the Pack Hunter will continue to be a familiar sight on the battlefield for a long time to come.

Conversely, the Solitaire has experienced a rather limited breadth of varied deployment, seen only in the toumans of Clans Ghost Bear and Diamond Shark/Sea Fox even into the 3140s. I do not believe that this means that other military organizations have found fault in the design. Instead, I believe it is reflective of Clan Sea Fox’s continued efforts to keep the design as exclusive as possible, sharing the expensive BattleMech only with its Ghost Bear allies.

Want to Know More?

If you want to know more about either the Pack Hunter or the Solitaire, check out the reference materials listed below:

BattleTech Technical Readout: 3060 on BattleCorps, DriveThruRPG, or Amazon
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3067 on BattleCorpsDriveThruRPG, or Amazon
Pack Hunter on the Master Unit List
Solitaire on the Master Unit List

Want to see me continue to compare BattleMechs? Suggest a new pairing in the comments, and if strikes my fancy I just might write it!

Interview with Jordan Weisman about the BATTLETECH game at GenCon 2016

At GenCon 2016 last weekend, we were treated to an awesome surprise: a playable Super-Pre-Alpha demo of BATTLETECH.

This game is going to be awesome.

The Super-Pre-Alpha demo was playable by anyone attending the convention, and featured a single mission where your lance attempts to capture a salvage base.  I had the opportunity to play it for a while and left feeling giddy and wanting more.  It’s exciting to see the game in such a playable state just 9 months after the Kickstarter wrapped up.

Afterward I stopped drooling over the game, I had a chance to chat with Jordan Weisman, creator of BattleTech (the table top game) and co-founder of Harebrained Schemes to talk about BATTLETECH.

BATTLETECH game

Nic Jansma (sarna.net): I spoke with Mitch Gitelman and Mike McCain of HBS last year here at GenCon 2015.  Since then, Harebrained Studios raised $2.7m in an extremely successful Kickstarter.  And only 9 months later, and you brought a playable demo to GenCon.  That’s awesome!  Your team has accomplished a lot.

Jordan Weisman: We have!  It’s exciting the way this development process has gone.

Continue reading

Review of “Hammer’s Slammers”

Slamming that Hammer

Well I felt it was time.  See, one of my passions in life is to read the books and works that helps to make something exist.  Take Dungeons and Dragons as a good example.  In his famous Appendix N at the end of the first Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax listed a bunch of writers and works that were influential to the game, and as launching off points for campaigns.  And slowly and surely, I’ve been reading Appendix N stories and writers.  I enjoy reading pre-D&D writers that had an influence on that game. And I do this with a lot of stuff, from epic sagas from other cultures to forgotten gems that few appreciate.

And there’s where my decision to read Hammer’s Slammers, by David Drake came from.  Published in 1979 and featuring an eponymous mercenary tank unit in the future of science fiction, it seems like a potentially interesting synergy with BattleTech.  The book is a collection of short stories, and thus easier to read for those that are involved with doing stuff.  So let’s read this thing!

Continue reading

Kickstarter Awards Arrive for BattleTech Video Game

Well, it arrived today!  I was one of many Kickstarter backers of the various levels for Harebrained Schemes’ BattleTech Video game, slated for release next year.

Like many folks I backed at a high enough pledge to get both some nice BattleTech swag, as well as some strong comfort in helping to bring back a major video game opportunity for the franchise.  We need an infusion of marketing and interest.  Hopefully the latest video game will prove just the ticket!

It’s hard for me to find swag anywhere but online these days, so it was nice for me to open up my sweet bag of Draconis Combine swag.  Here it is!

Swag = Mag

Swag = Mag

I’m pretty stoked! I’m wearing my Draconis Combine pin to work tomorrow!

Did you order anything?  Has it arrived?  What did you get?  And who’s ready for some BattleTech?

My Favorite Technical Readout

You wouldn’t think it by looking at me.  I love BattleMechs and smashing with the big guys.  I’m not a power armor or tank or anything else enthusiast.  I adore the big heavy sluggers of the battlefield.  That’s why I’m playing BattleTech and not something like Warhammer.

So why?  Why is my favorite Technical Readout the Vehicle Annex?

My Favorite Cover Art!

One of my favorite aspects of early Technical Readouts like Technical Readout: 3025 and Technical Readout: 2750 is the ability to include things like support vehicles and other important battlefield concerns.  I want stats on a MASH Support vehicle or an Ammo Carrier.  Because these things matter.  If I land one extra DropShip of stuff for a campaign, how many tons of J-27 Ordnance Transports can I fit?  How much ammo do I have available to me?

Frankly, I’ve long wanted this area of the Inner Sphere to be fleshed out.  We have a lot more ‘Mechs, Tanks and such in the various TROs through the ages than the good old support vehicle.  And we need more.  We need more conventional fighters.  More transports, and such.

And that’s why the Vehicle Annex is amazing as a piece of work.  It’s just satellites, IndustrialMechs, cars, trains, airships, planes, and so much more.  It’s so loaded down with great stuff that there always seems to be another strong entry on the next page.

I also love mining this for adventure ideas.  I loved the CattleMaster so I had a rebellion on a ranching planet that a conventional mercenary force had to put down a ton of these CattleMasters.  In another area we had a bunch of riots in a city that were causing violence and fires.  In addition to the normal responders like some infantry and tanks, we had two Cellco Rangers, one Saurer-Bucher Fire Engine, and a trio of Kressly Dillinger Police Vehicles.  Fun stuff!

It also adds a massive amount of options for the actual battles.  How many times are you fighting in a construction area?  If it’s like me, it’s pretty common.  And now we have stuff like dump trucks or a pair of LoaderMechs to toss in and make bystanders.  After all, having some hastily abandoned dump trucks could provide combat options for infantry or others.

At the end of the day though, in addition to great combat options, I feel that the Vehicle Annex is a massive flavor win for the universe.  From the great cover by the lost-before-his-time great Doug Chaffee to the awesome details on things like passenger trains we have it all.  Welcome to the Inner Sphere!

So do you have it?  What do you think of the Vehicle Annex?

Where Are The Bouncers?

Green Birds and Ham

In my copy of the Jade Falcon Sourcebook, it talks about the various battles of the Falcon Corridor of the Clan Invasion.  Many of these vignettes are just quick little paragraphs about the fall of an entire world.

On Page 36 it discusses the fall of Alkalurops to the ongoing Clan Assault.  And the results are very simple.  The planet is going to fall.  In addition to the local militia, there is the Bouncers, a combined arms regiment there defending.  The major cities and trade of the area is taken very quickly, but much of the outer-lying areas, as well as the Dravinna Vale will remain in the hands of the defenders, including most of the Bouncers.

And then, that’s it.  The Sourcebook says:

Just days after the planet’s surrender, these forces formed organized and effective resistance, attacking the invaders near the ore-processing factories of Dravinna Vale, using the valley’s perpetual fog to cover their activities.

That’s it. We know the planet falls.  We know it’s under the command of Falcon, but I’ve always wondered what happened to The Bouncers.  Did they evacuate?  How successful was the campaign on the planet?  I don’t know.

We know that numerous mercenary units were destroyed in the Clan Invasion, such as the 12th Star Guard.  So The Bouncers could have been destroyed.  In my campaign I have them cut down to less than half their force, get off-world, and then begin to rebuild with other contracts out in the Chaos March.

But I’ve always been obsessed with The Bouncers. What happened to them?  Where are they now?  Who were they?  What’s their history?  A regiment, even a mixed one, is not a small force, so how did they become The Bouncers?

And that’s one of the great things about the BattleTech universe.  There’s always something out there to grab a hold of and make it yours.  The huge sprawling universe is such a large, extreme place.  And while there is a lot of definition here and there, there’s a lot more to consider and run with.  A lot more decisions.  And little passing phrases here and there to tantalize them.

So what is your little obsession out there?  Is there a unit, a planet, a group, or something else to tantalize you?  Something that’s always been out there, with just a hint of information to intrigue you?

Who are your Bouncers?

Campaign Operations: First Look

Campaigning in Style since 2016

Campaigning in Style since 2016

Well that was fast!

After Interstellar Operations was being written for years before release, the next Operations books came quickly after.  Welcome, to Campaign Operations.

I’ve always wondered if other players play Campaigns as much as I tend to.  My playgroups, interests, games, and more are invariably part of an ongoing campaign.  It’s important for me because when I see the actual results of campaigns, folks play more realistically.  If you have a company of BattleMechs for a campaign, you might be more inclined to jettison one that’s critical in four spots, missing its right arm where the main weapon was, and just had a blasted hip actuator and is reeling.  You can save the unit by ejecting now, and then grabbing it post-battle, and just fix some internal stuff, rearm and re-armor it, and then grab a spare arm to weld back.  You might have to make some changes with weapon payload or something, but the unit is saved for later battles if you can salvage it.  A unit with both an XL Engine and CASE will just shut down when an ammo explosion destroys your left torso, not be destroyed.  Sure, it may not matter on the battlefield right then and there, but it’ll matter later for sure when you salvage it.  Folks are playing smart, long-game warfare, and worried about things like infrastructure, materiel, and support.  Campaign BattleTech supports a realistic form of warfare.

It’s rare that I don’t play some form of campaign.  They make me.  They invest me.

So it’s odd to me that we haven’t had a lot of Campaign stuff in a lot of more Core works, even heading back to earlier editions of the game.  We often have to wait for Campaign rules.  Now, we had some good ones sprinkled around in Tactical Operations and a few more rocking Strategic Operations with linked scenarios and such.  But it’s nice to have a new book that’s really focused on my zone of interest.  So hopefully there’ll be a lot of stuff here that sells me.  Now, there are still some things that are missing that I’d like help with as a GM of campaigns.

Take the industrial side of the Inner Sphere.  We know that there is a cozy relationship between the Military and Industrial complexes out there.  So how much would it cost to retool a Mechline to a new one with new technology?  What does that require?  So in a campaign, if I have a mercenary group with a good relationship with a particular company, how much would be needed to get your own ‘Mech design made?  Or how much to simply reconfigure a current line?  How about tanks?  And similarly, lots of missions will have units head out for stuff of an industrial nature.  “Hit that convoy!”  “Take out that construction group before they can finish building their defenses!”  Stuff like that.  How much money is salvaged from ferrocrete?  How about a few tons of industrial equipment?  If my mercenary unit is being charged for damages to local infrastructure, how much does it cost for various repairs?  TacOps has some of that, sure, but there’s a lot more out there I wonder about.

So I kept hoping that a Campaign-based rulesbook will talk about things like costs of military units to make, tooling factories, industrial finances, stuff like that.  But that still hasn’t really made it to the level I like.  Ah well.

Meanwhile we have a full-on Campaign Operations!

So what’s next?

Well you have the latest edition of rules like force creation and contracts.   Everyone has to get their Objective Raid on, right?  Buy some land.  Build a base.  And pretty much set up some shop.

And then skip past that for some formation building, and even some special pilot abilities.  Now I have to be honest.  I don’t have perfect recall by stretch of the imagination at all.  But there are abilities here I don’t remember in other products, like the Fist Fire ability that lets you fire weapons in the hand of a melee weapon (or punch) at the same time and hitting the same location the physical weapon hits.  And then we have stuff on conversions and campaigns for Chaos Campaign and Inner Sphere at War stuff.  And don’t forget solar system generation either.  I remember Beta Testing that for Interstellar Operations a while ago, but that was never included in it, and this is a lot more robust than other systems we had before.

So there’s a lot under the hood here to mention. Good stuff on my first read through, and I’m excited to try the new versions of some old rules, and new stuff as well.  Fist Fire away!

So the main question then is what are you looking for?  What excites you?  What’ll be the first thing your playgroup tries out?

Your Favorite IS BattleMechs from 3067

All Along the Civil War

The Civil War between siblings is over.  Much of the Inner Sphere rests in a very tentative, damaged, and brutally won peace.  And it stands on the threshold of oblivion.  War-torn and battle-weary.

Hey look, we all care about tanks and aircraft, infantry both powered and conventional, and more.  But at the end of the day I don’t keep coming back to this game year after year after year for the small stuff.  I’m here to smash BattleMechs together!

Continue reading

Sarna Wiki: Project Video Games

After some time off, I’ve returned to editing the Sarna.net wiki and have plenty of ideas for improving the wiki. As usual, there’s the constant need for new articles and article updates, as well as the ever-growing pile of articles that need proofreading. I want to pick up where I left off with the unofficial “project video games”.

'Mech combat on Cermak

‘Mech combat on the planet Cermak

With this project we are aiming to vastly improve our coverage of the various video games in the BattleTech universe. Though these games are not expressly canon, they still are an important part of the ongoing universe and deserve better coverage than they have gotten.

So far, we have quantified and organized all the MechCommander and MechCommander 2 equipment stats, but the ’Mech and vehicle pages for the original MechCommander need work. With more help for those pages and for all the MechWarrior games’ related pages, these video games could be much better covered.

Continue reading

Techwars Online Reviewed

Get your Tech On!

Last week, Techwars Online, a Steam Greenlight success story, that made it through all of the hurdles, was released on Steam for ten dollars.  Well that certainly seems like a price worth trying out.  So I grabbed a copy of the game, and invested some time into figuring out this turn based tactical game featuring BattleMechs fighting it out.

To begin, you can move each of your units up to three hexes, with a twist of your torso counting as one.  And you can fire one weapon.  Each weapon has different ranges and firing arcs.  You may have short range lasers that can only reach 2-3 hexes away, or long range missiles which won’t fire close in at all, but which can hit with a spread out range.  Some weapons require a direct line to hit, like your main cannon, so moving, firing, and more is all important.  Also important is turning after firing to protect yourself.  It’s all about winning, not about how damaged your unit gets in the process, right?

Continue reading