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.

 

 

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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.

Your Favorite Clan Omni-Mechs of All Time

When the Clans arrived, they brought some seriously dangerous heavy metal to the Inner Sphere.   To this day, it’s arguably the most significant event in recent Inner Sphere history.  They came to fight, with OmniMechs that had flexible designs the pod space to fix them to your taste, terrain, and mission profile.

At first I thought it would be fun to have us all look at our favorite Clan OmniMech designs from Technical Readout: 3050.  But there’s such a small number of their designs, and without using any payloads, Omnis tend to be a bit generic.  So instead I figured we could just look at our top Clan OmniMechs from any era.  That way we can include stuff like the Crossbow, Naga, or Blood Asp.

Let’s begin by looking at my own Top 5 Clan Omnis, and then ask what yours are!

Jumping Over You Since 1990.

5.  Dragonfly/Viper – I never liked the Dragonfly at first.  It didn’t hit any of my buttons for a good, quality BattleMech.  After a couple of opponents had some success with it hopping all over the map, I just chalked that up to the luck of the dice.  Then I played it once, and then again, and duplicated their efforts.  After about a year of ignoring this 40 ton horse, I eventually embraced it in my playgroup and began to add it to the stable of ‘Mechs I would dip into regularly.  It’s always played better for me than it looks.  It has virtually maxed armor with ferro-fibrous combined with that strong 8/12/8 speed.  It’s hard to hit, and when you do, it has the armor to protect critical components.   Plus it almost has 9 tons of pod space available for stuff.  It’s good combination of weapon space and survivability.

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New Releases for MegaMek, MekHQ and MegaMekLab

On Sunday, December 14, all three in house products were released for MegaMek, MekHQ and MegaMekLab.  These three development releases are timed together in order that users of the different programs can use them simultaneously.

If you are feeling a little bored today, and want to play some BattleTech, then just check out the free java-based MegaMek and it’s suite of programs.  The additions to MegaMek 0.39.4 handle some bugs, as well as improve images and other miscellanea.  All told, there are around 20 changes to the software.  MegaMek is a free java-based program that simulates playing BattleTech against the AI or real folks, and can be used to host games online.

Meanwhile, the full list of changes for MekHQ reveals a number of bugs squashed.  It can be used to track campaigns and manage your unit, and works with MegaMek as well.  Meanwhile, the MegaMekLab predominately enables it to communicate with the others.  Feel free to build your best stuff and play it against folks in MegaMek.

Download all three and get that Mek on!

Robogames Video Series: BattleBots of the 21st Century

I’m sure most of you at least remember that there was a pair of Robot arena combat shows in the latter half of the 1990s called Battle Bots and Robot Wars. Each week, a number of amateur and professional propellerheads would get together to do battle within one of three weight classes. The shows were on the air for several seasons; and was pretty popular, spawning how-to books, video games, and other marketing tie-ins. Even Mythbusters alumni Jaime Hyneman and Grant Imahara competed.

Photo by Dave Schumacher

Photo by Dave Schumacher

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Lockheed Martin: One Hundred Megawatt Fusion Engine within Ten Years?

On October 15th, Aviation Week received exclusive access to Lockheed Martin’s Revolutionary Technology Programs unit; specifically regarding a new Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR) program lead by Aeronautical Engineer Thomas McGuire. McGuire and his team make a claim that uses a lot of phrases like “holy grail” and paradigm-shifting. How compact? The containment vessel in test unit is said to be roughly the equivalent of a business jet engine. “I studied this in graduate school where, under a NASA study, I was charged with how we could get to Mars quickly,” McGuire said in the article.

If true, this may ultimately be the answer to planetary energy needs within twenty years. With the initial testbed dimensions expected to just about fit on a truck bed. I know its larger and probably of too high an output to compare to, say a CoreTek 275 XL engine, but can power a small city of 100,000 people all by itself at one hundred megawatts. And this is just a working testbed due within the decade. This isn’t some guy tinkering in his garage in his spare time either, this is the Skunkworks; Lockheed Martin’s go-to gang of whizkids.

 

Compact Fusion Reactor cross-section. Pretty much looks the way I remember their BattleTech equivalents work.

Compact Fusion Reactor cross-section. Pretty much looks the way I remember their BattleTech equivalents work.

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Interstellar Operations Update

banshee-cover

Getting Interstellar With It!

After sometimes feeling like Vaporware, an update on Interstellar Operations was posted on BattleTech.com on Tuesday, November 18th. This long-awaited release has been highly anticipated by the community for years.  The good news is that we have a Table of Contents ready to go, and so so much material that it will require two sourcebooks to cover.  On the other hand, a release does not appear imminent.

Some online stores will need to change anticipated release dates for Interstellar Operations that are no longer.  For example, FRPGames has the release date of November 30, 2014.  Meanwhile, it looks like Spring on 2015 is the best guess for Interstellar Operations and it’s release.

The best news is that we have a beta release of the Abstract Combat System available for your use and comments.  Why not check it out and whet your appetite for some operations at the highest levels?  The long quiet wait is over!  Now it’s just a matter of counting down the days.

You can also follow Joel “Welshman” Bancroft-Connors, @welshman_bc, who’s a writer on Interstellar Operations and is tweeting about its’ progress.