The Just Wars of BattleTech

It’s no surprise that BattleTech, which is a war game, has a lot of wars.  A lot of strife and conflicts.  That’s what we need to keep the property moving. Succession Wars?  Wars of Reaving?  Clan Invasion?  The Jihad?  We have wars in spades.

So given that, I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment to delve into some of the history of the wars in BattleTech that meet the jus ad bellum, or Just War criteria.

I’m currently working on (yet another) Master’s degree, this time one in Theology as a Catholic College.  In the European tradition, for centuries during the height of the Catholic Church’s power, war between Christian states was virtually unheard of.  The amount of stuff you had to jump over into order to declare war on your neighbor was rough.  From St. Augustine who began the Just War tradition to St. Thomas Aquinas who formalized it in his philosophy, we have a major shift in the way war is viewed.  In fact, the Pope would often and regularly lean on people to not declare war, or to end it immediately, when these conditions were not met.  The only major exception during this era was the Hundred Years War which began during the weakening of the Papacy and the Avignon era.  In order to declare war, you needed a casus belli.  A just cause.  But you also needed a lot more as well.  They fleshed out a list of things you needed to do, before and during the war, in order for it to be just.  And this just concept of war continues through today in major philosophies, politics, military, and other places.

So I thought it would be a fun thought experiment to go over the jus ad bellum concept of a just war, and then look at some conflicts in BattleTech to see if they line up.

Just War

Just War

I’m using a few books as the core for this article. One is Ronald Musto’s The Catholic Peace Tradition that looks at the history of Peacemaking in Catholicism, and talks about this at length.  But the major one is Morality and War, by David Fisher.  Both a trained philosopher and a high level position in the British Military for about 20 years, he has a unique perspective about what is just, and what wars have been as well – he comes from the practice side as well as the theoretical one.  In particularly, his 4th chapter outlines this quite nicely.  And he’ll look at dozens of conflicts, wars, attacks and more to try to suss them out.  So what is just?  What does it require?  These are great questions – let’s check it out!

 

The Just War Principles

  1. Authorized by a competent authority
  2. For a just cause
  3. With a right intention
  4. As a last resort
  5. Harm from war not disproportionate to the gain
  6. Non-combatants not deliberately attacked

So let’s look at each of these in turn.

Authorized by a competent authority.  This was added to the tradition by Aquinas.  His basic point is that some ruler of a city or a Baron somewhere can’t declare war justly.  It has to come from the highest power in the land.  If it does not, they it isn’t a just war.

A just cause requires a legitimate reason for going to war, not the mere pursuit of land, materials military factories, or more.  There needs to be a major just reason.  Was someone just invaded?  Is a massive humanitarian catastrophe about to happen?  Take the Six-Day War as a good example. Israel argued they were defeating themselves preemptively and that Egypt had unfairly cut off their oil and other supplies by the closing the Straights of Tiran.  So a just cause would be to fight and capture the ports, or to free up the Straits for their shipping.

The next requirement is a right intention.  Is there a just cause in the actions itself? Many rulers will use a just cause as an excuse, but then really want something else, right?  So in addition to being a good just cause, one of the key ways to know if the reason for the war was rightfully intended is if the side that declares the war ends it when their objective is achieved.  Take a real life war like the first Gulf War as a good example.  The just cause was removing Hussein from Kuwait.  That is a just cause; he just invaded and took it.  And as soon as the goal was achieved, the war ended.  That is a right intention.

Is this a last resort?  Were other things attempted first, such as diplomacy?  That is needed.  Now I would certainly claim that sometimes a last resort is sort of obvious.  America entering World War II after being attacked is a last resort.  You don’t need to ask Japan for reparations instead, after they bombed Pearl Harbor.  You also need a level of proportionality.  If you have an issue, and your response is a lot worse, then that’s not just.  If you drop a nuke to end a minor military junta that was only hurting the locals a bit, then that’s not proportionate, even if you only took out the junta leaders and military.

Finally, are you trying to keep civilians safe?  Out the way? Or have you harmed civilians by putting them into play or on the battlefield?  That is not just.  If you kill civilians as an accident hitting legitimate targets, that’s one thing.  If you bomb a military base, sure, you’ll likely kill some civilians.  But it’s still a military base.  That’s a fair target.

Still one of my favorites!

Still one of my favorites!

The Aleisha Liao led Ares Conventions puts a lot of just precepts into play in the BattleTech universe and the clan concept of Zellbrigen echoes it as well.

Alright, so given that, what wars count as Just?

Many conflicts are out straight away because they never had a just cause to begin with.  But let me start you with a war that I believe actually qualifies as just from every definition.  And then you can see how that operates.

Operation: Guerrero?

The ruler of the Free Worlds Leagues discovers that his son and heir passed away, and was secretly replaced by a fake by the Federated Commonwealth.  The implications of this are obvious.  If the duplicate takes over, then the League is in a bad place due to duplicity and subterfuge.  Going to war against the Commonwealth is the only way to punish them for this atrocity.  It is a just cause.  And in this case, given the surprise nature of the attack, the last resort is arguable as well.  Now what is the intention?  To punish them. What does that punishment look like?  Merely taking back the worlds that were captured from the League by the Commonwealth in the Fourth Succession War.  The Free World League even has international support from the Capellan Confederation and the now-splintered Lyran Alliance to show solidarity.  The war begins, the Free Worlds League takes their targets quickly, and then they call it. Peace is achieved, the Commonwealth is suitably punished for their actin, and the status quo occurs.  That is a rightful intent, just action, and more.  The Free Worlds League theater of the Operation meets the requirements of jus ad bellum, just war.

What about other Wars?

The Fourth Succession War?

On the other hand, the Fourth Succession War by the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth certainly isn’t.  Even if you grant that Hanse Davion wanted to punish Maximillian Liao for doing something similar with a duplicate, his response came years later, and therefore lacked the immediate last resort concept.   Nor was his response proportional, nor with a right intention.  He wanted to end the Capellan Confederation as a state.  That is different in kind to the Free Worlds League response. Without rightful intention, and without a last resort and barring a proportionate response, the Fourth was not a just war to my mind.

And we can do that with other conflicts in the universe all day.  So what conflicts are out there that you think are just?  What is close?  How about the common fighting in cities we see?  Barring a major military target in there, is that truly keeping civilians out of the picture?

 

 

Crossing Generations

Most of the games we play in real life are big for a while on release, and then that’s it.  They die down sooner or later.  There are a lot of reason a game fails to make it long term.  Maybe the people who played the games turn to others.  Perhaps the game never sold copies to make money.  Sometimes the company goes out of business despite that product being good.  Other games replace them in the mind’s eye.  For whatever reason, we’ve seen lots of games come and go.  Many of my favorite games, like HeroScape or Middle Earth: Collectible Card Game (ME:CCG) are done for – I’ve given up playing any more, which is real sad as they were quality games.  But the company mismanaged it, or the game went out of style, and I’m now looking back and wondering what could have been.

Luckily BattleTech is still trucking along!

tocover_final-copy

A few games have endured the test of time.  But you never know which is going to hit lightning.  Take Dungeons and Dragons as a good example.  No one knew how big that was going to end being.  The same is true of Magic:  The Gathering or Warhammer.  They are here for the future, and aren’t going anywhere.  Recently we saw World Champions in Magic who are younger than the game they are playing!

One major secret to these games’ longevity is that they crossed generations.  I was playing Magic back in 1994 when it was new on the scene.  And I’m still playing today.  Most of the people who played back then have left the game, but that’s fine.  Many others have joined.  And when I walk into a tournament, I’m often one of the oldest people in the room.  Magic crossed into the younger generation, and it will last.   On the other hand, I picked up Dungeons and Dragons in the late 1980s – 1988 to be precise.  Almost 12 years after it had been introduced.  I was one of the newer generations of players who was brought to it by older players.  And now there are players 20 years older than me and 20 years younger than me and its spread across one generation to another.  It crossed generations.  Shoot, I know four students at my small 1250 strong college down here in Mobile Alabama who play Warhammer: 40000 on the weekend.  Generation crossed.

So where is BattleTech?

Has it crossed generations enough to sustain itself in perpetuity? Or is it continuing with the people who came to it in its heydays back in the later 1980s and early to mid-1990s (like me, who came to it in late 1992) when it was at its peak?

I don’t know. I haven’t played a lot of real life BattleTech in a while – since I was in Philadelphia for a year back in 2012.  Mostly it’s online for me with MegaMekNet and other variants of the MekWars client online.  I know the folks there tend to my own levels of experience and age.  But that could easily be a self-selecting subsection of the overall community.

I love BattleTech.  And I don’t want it to end.  I don’t want it to be my next ME:CCG, lost to the mists of time.  Hopefully, the new video game will help to put it on the map of more people, much like the MMO MechWarrior: Online hopefully has.  And I would love to see a BattleTech real life movie that could really push this thing.  There’s a lot of appreciate with it.  Could you imagine if this became as big as Marvel right now?  Wow!

For now though, I wonder if we are in a good place moving forward.  Any idea from what you see?   Your games?  The people who you interact with?

Review of David Drake’s “Redliners”

Recently I had decided to pick up and read David Drake’s collection of military science fiction short stories called “Hammer’s Slammers.”  I was a bit surprised by just how evocative it was of many of the central concepts of BattleTech universe writ large.  We aren’t any better in the future than we are now.  We still have unethical wars.  We hold onto our religious and ethnic identities and use those to exclude and attack others.  We still have these “us versus them,” mentalities.   Technology has not led to morality.

Beleaguered Soldiers on a Far-Flung Colony

Beleaguered Soldiers on a Far-Flung Colony

There are a bunch of other similar things, like similar weapons, similar concepts of mercenaries, and more — and I was so taken aback by this pre-BattleTech story, that I wrote a review on it here.  Having read that, I decided to eventually take on another military science fiction book as well and review it for you.  Two weeks ago I was shopping at a Books-a-Million superstore when I came across “Redliners.”  It was recently re-released in this prestige format as part of the 20 year anniversary of the novel.  On the cover is David Drake talking about how this is his best work, to his mind, and the one that changed him the most after writing it.

Well that sounded compelling.  So I picked it up and started reading.

Now as I have mentioned before, I’m very comfortable with David Drake.  I’ve read a few short stories, and this is my 6th book by him.  He’s not an author I follow religiously, but he’s good at what he does and I respect him for it.  He was at a major school for studying Law when he was drafted in the 60s, and sent to work with tanks in Cambodia for two years, and then returned.  He always found it difficult to re-assimilate into life.  And this novel follows a similar track.

In a future war by a star-spanning human empire, a high reputation striker force does some bad stuff and loses a lot of people on the front line of a war against some aliens.  They have crossed the red line.  But instead of them being sent home to keep them quiet, the leader of the Empire decides to try something new.  They are sent to escort a group of colonists to a hostile but potentially wealthy colony world.  And they are pushed together and forged by fire.  (I’m trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free).

Now the book itself has a lot of the typical military science-fiction accoutrements.  Death.  Weapons.  Battles.  And the style of Drake is compelling.  It’s powerful and evocative.  And while it’s not my favorite book in the genre by any means, I get where Drake is coming from.  The book is worth the reading.

I’ve always wondered what would happen if David Drake wrote a BattleTech story.  Would it feel like a conventional one?  Would it be different?  Would he continue down that path or hew something else?  He has written in shared worlds before.  He is a big fan of the Cthulhu Mythos and has written stuff there.  So you never know.

Are you familiar with “Redliners?”  Have you read it?  What did you think?

Are You Heading to Mech_Con?

On December 3rd, over in the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Canada, Piranha Games is hosting a day long BattleTech and Mechwarrior themed convention.

A variety of events and fun stuff is planned.  Many guests from various community members and companies are planning on attending, such as Jordan Weisman and Randall Bills or online media personalities from Twitch and such.

Mech_Con

In the best traditions of the Solaris VII Games, one of the headline events is the first World Championship of MechWarrior Online.  Don’t you want to establish dominance and win that trophy?

Hey look, everybody knows that we don’t always get a chance to flip some dice and push around metal the way it was meant to be in real life.  I’m playing online with stuff like MegaMek.  So, getting the chance to play live with real enthusiasts, purchase stuff from live vendors, get some autographs, and rub noses and talk shop with with all of you folks is a great opportunity.

So what about you?  Are you heading over?  Why not check out all of the information they have to see if you are interested in getting your ‘Mech on, Vancouver style!

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?