The Danger of Being Cool

Thunder. Lightning. The way you love me is frightening.

The other day I was playing with a Lightning Attack Hovercraft on my side in a battle in MegaMekNET.  Since that campaign is set in 3025, having a LosTech hovercraft with medium pulse lasers was something I wanted to protect if I could.  Plus you have those two one-shot SRMs.  I was rushing past a target and I had a chance to fire the right-facing SRM at a distant heavy unit that had moved towards me.  I needed a 9 to hit.  I got lucky, and hit the target, which was taking damage elsewhere as well, and did some good with the weapon.  But I was really tempted to hold off on the SRM4 and hope for a better shot against a better target.  Holding off for the cool play.

Have you ever noticed a tendency to play BattleTech for the cool play, rather than the smart one?

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TALON Precision-Guided Rocket- Turning Dumbfire Hydra Rocket Pods into Streak SRM Launchers

Historically, rocket munitions have always been more effective when fired in swarms. From the 15th century Korean Hwatcha rocket propelled arrow launcher to the MLRS or Grad rockets of today to the Itano Circus prevalent in ’80s Sci-Fi anime- and by extension, BattleTech. Rocket swarms can be brutally effective- if a not very efficient means of hitting your target. But those are artillery type weapons. Equipment covered in BattleTech by Arrow IV Missiles. What about something closer in?

The mainstay of western rocket direct-fire weapons for the past 60 years has been the Hydra 70 2.75″ (70mm) rocket pod. The Hydra rocket series weighs in at a hair over 6 kg, has an effective range of 8,000 meters and has an absolutely ridiculous selection of warheads to choose from (19 from the Wikipedia list). White Phosphorus, Flechette, cluster munition, HE, smoke, you name it.

M261 Hydra 70 launch pod with two different munition payloads.

M261 Hydra 70 launch pod with two different munition payloads.

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Real World Lasers are getting Smaller, and MEANER

Ever since Jules Verne and H.G. Wells enticed citizens and warmongers alike with talk of energy-based beam weapons, mankind has been struggling to catch up to its own imagination. And naturally, BattleTech is chock full of it – mainly in the form of lasers, and mainly seen from the view of a 1980s-era war game designer as a futuristic weapon.

Which it is… considering that compared to projectile, missile, and even flame weapons, lasers (especially weaponized ones) are to quote Val Kilmer in Real Genius “a young science.”

If only Jordan Weisman and team FASA could have seen the advance of real laser weapons in the past ten years from the ’80s. Israel is probably the most advanced so far, with several types in operation, mainly for air defense. Didn’t think the laser AMS got its start in the 21st century did you? The Iron Beam, as it’s called, is the close-in part of a multi-tiered air defense system called the Iron Dome. Iron Beam is reported to have an 80-90% success rate, and can engage even artillery and mortar shells in mid-flight with “into the hundreds” of kilowatts of energy. It’s essentially a land based version of a laser/projectile defense system like those used on the USS Ponce – which can also engage surface targets. But these are massive units the size of inter-modal shipping trailers. Next up, laser weapons that can be mounted on a light vehicle.

ATHENA: Looks like something you'd fight in MechWarrior IV.

ATHENA: Looks like something you’d fight in MechWarrior IV.

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Russia’s Inferno LRM Carrier

I follow world geopolitics pretty intensely. I credit epic, political space opera settings like Dune and, of course, BattleTech for my many years of interest. I was browsing some of the latest Russian shenanigans in Ukraine and Syria when I saw a Russian armored vehicle that made me wonder if they’ve been buying from Quickscell.

The TOS-1 Buratino really is a mobile warcrime waiting to happen, as it uses only incendiary and thermobaric 220mm munitions in the 30-tube launch system. The rockets have a minimum range of 400 meters and a maximum effective range of 3.5km. Short enough of a range that the system and crew are quite protected by the armored chassis of a T-72 MBT. Well armored by artillery standards anyway. This video shows that they can expend their loadout very quickly:

Be afraid, mechwarrior. Be VERY afraid.

Be afraid, mechwarrior. Be VERY afraid.

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The First Slate of Changes at MegaMekNet is Complete


Many Operations Await

As mentioned in a previous post, the online server for playing people online via MegaMek called MegaMekNet had instituted a new set of changes to shake things up.  The longest running server online, MMNet has decided to place the decisions for the latest cycle into the hands of the players.  Each faction elects a person to represent them on the stage, and then they suggest and vote on various rules changes that are fully player-suggested and supported.

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My Penance

So Much Better Than I Realized!

I have never been much of a fan of vehicles in BattleTech.  I grew up in an era when a combat vehicle was considered way too fragile for serious battle.  Maybe they had valuable tactical usages, keeping battles in certain places or whatnot, but they were not really something that made the cut anywhere.

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Alpha Strike mod for Table Top Simulator

A chance interception on Reddit alerted me to this new work-in-progress game mod for TableTop Simulator on the Steam Network. TTS is kind of a virtual reality environment for playing tabletop games. You manually move the pieces, dice and sheets interactively – just using a mouse instead of your hand.

I was told by one of the users that the BattleTech mod uses map tiles and differing altitude levels, which suggests a measure of customizability to the environment. Though they and the assorted models and preset record sheets are fairly limited in number at the moment. There are nineteen ‘spheroid ‘mechs in the first mech pack. Turduckens has a number of these terrains to choose from, including River Map, Open Terrain, etc. Traditional rule sets for BattleTech have also proven to be  too clunky to be used in TTS, but Alpha Strike works very well. Even when fighting with a company or more on each side. It almost reminds me of a less-flashy prototype of what MechWarrior Tactics was trying for.

It’s certainly no MegaMek – but perhaps that’s a good thing. With a simple rule set and richer graphical experience, not to mention Steam Network’s voice chat system, ‘River map’ might develop into quite a compliment to MegaMek.

Thanks to Tipsymahn260 for the image.

Thanks to Tipsymahn260 for the image.

If you’re on Steam and feel like a game of Alpha Strike, or just want to check out the virtual models, it might be worth a look.