BattleMechs that Look Better than they Play


Ever since I looked at my first Technical Readout, I realized that BattleTech was a game about aesthetics, just as much as it was about blowing stuff up.  There were always a variety of BattleMechs that just has a really effective design.  Before I played my first game, before I even knew the rules, a friend told me to just play a ‘Mech that looked good – the better looking ones always played better.

Of course, now I’ve played the game long enough to know better.  Design and beauty aren’t always hand in hand.   There are a variety of units rocking the block that look like more of a threat than they actually are.  Let’s take a look at a few BattleMechs that I always thought had the look, but couldn’t follow it up.

Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Gun

HollanderI love the way this light ‘Mech looks, with the big gun, the frame built around it and more.  It just looks great, like a ‘Mech fused to a piece of artillery or a modern day weapon like the M777 Howitzer.  The ‘Mech has always felt like a realistic looking and strong design.  Except, it’s not.  As a design, it lacks ammo, backup weapons, armor, speed, etc.  It’s just not a strong design.  I’ve played them, and I have really wanted them to work, and it’s never to be.


Coming Soon to a Battle Near You

MaulerI know that the Daboku…Mauler is a major unit from the Draconis Combine that was a force in battle, supposedly, in various wars and such, and it looked so good, that they had it as one of the BattleMechs in the animated series.  But the problem is that when I started seeing it played at the kitchen table, it just wasn’t that good, especially for a 90 ton unit.  It’s armor is weak, it has the vulnerable XL Engine as well, it rocks a pair of ER Large Lasers, 2 LRM15s and 4 AC2s, so it lacks any form of closer range weaponry to help, and it doesn’t have anywhere near the heat sinks to use those weapons.  It’s a mess.

Looking Sexy in Red

RiflemanI know that I might aggravate some folks out there, but while I do think the Rifleman is an attractive looking design, the unit’s weaponry, armor, and heat don’t have a good payoff.  I doubt that the look and feel would have been copied from other sources (cough Super Dimension Fortress Macross cough).  It just looks awesome!  But the problem is the design.  You can alternate fire with the 2 large lasers and then the 2 AC5s, but that gives you a damage spread of 16, and then 10, and then 16, and then 10 again – pretty tame for a dedicated fire support unit.  It has notorious armor and ammo and heat issues. It has never worked well for me, or against me.



Get ready for a ‘Draw.

QuickdrawThe Quickdraw has always fascinated me.  It looks like a durable, solid, design, that is well built and ready to rock.  The concept of a lighter heavy BattleMech that leaps around and has good close-range weaponry seems like it’s one that should be really useful.  And then you get the Quickdraw.  First of all, its armor is really weak – which is a shock on a ‘Mech designed to get in close.  I mean, it may not be a Thunderbolt wading into battle, but when you are getting close range, you need more armor.  The LRM10 is an odd choice for a long-range weapon, since its weak short-range, and the unit could use some more heat sinks.  It just doesn’t work that much for me. It always dies too soon.

There are four units that never played well for us, but which looked really sleek and strong.

What are some units that you always felt had a bigger bark than its bite?

27 thoughts on “BattleMechs that Look Better than they Play

  1. Latro

    The Marauder and the Warhammer – at least in the 3025 configurations. I love the Unseen images, but always hesitate to use them. Weak armor and the inability to fire all its weapons all the time make them liabilities on the battlefield instead.

    1. Abe Sargent Post author

      My major issue with the 3025 Marauder is that there is ammo for the AC5 in the torso, and nothing else. So any critical hit will result in an ammo explosion. That’s just bad design.

  2. Ian Argent

    The 3025 stock Shadowhawk. Even in 3025, the AC/5 as a main gun on a medium is a tad light in the throw weight dept, and the LRM and SRM are more pea-shooters. Plus the SRM ammo’s explosion factor…

    Given the opportunity, I’ll do a K-type conversion; stripping the AC and SRM for a PPC, a second ML, and heat sinks. This isn’t the stock K model, I know, and there’s some range issues; but you have an ammo-independent medium raider capable of working its way through broken terrain, (if slowly).

      1. Ian Argent

        Not quite – the Griffin has a long-range weapons fit exclusively, and the LRMs require ammo, whereas the shadowhawk mod I prefer has the 2 MLs for knife fights instead of the LRM, and no ammo. Different roles.

        The SHD has always been the medium range mech of the GRF/SHD/WVR trio, I just rebalanced it towards the short/med range band

        1. Cokien

          You can improve almost every Mech (unless its already a flashbulb) by replacing its weapons with PPCs and lasers and the heat sinks needed to fire them continously. This is especially true for Mechs with AC/5s as main weapons, like the Shadow Hawk, the Wolverine, or the Hermes II. However, that’s incredible boring.

          1. Ian Argent

            Yeah, I’ve noticed that there is basically no tabletop-mechanical reason ever to carry an AC/5 over the PPC, even in 3025 play. Fluff-wise, of course, the AC is easier to build. I also think the PPC+heat sinks have a higher construction points value under almost every system you use to “score” mechs, including C-bills and BV; but I use computers to calculate that :)

            I find it very telling that the first tech update for IS gear gives us the UAC/5 and LB-10X in an attempt to make the mid-grade ACs viable in play. This didn’t work for the AC/5; I’m not sufficiently familiar with LB-X designs to say if the LB-10X is worthy, since I’m a flashbulb man myself.

  3. Aemielius

    Stone Rhino. That would be a Behemoth IIC for you Spheroids.
    (Now I know you gentlemen are talking in terms of tabletop BattleTech, but I am speaking from a video game perspective.)
    One might think that with all that armour and three ERPPCs, it should be able to lay waste to any ‘Mech it faces.
    The old, combat adage is true, “Movement is Life”, and the Stone Rhino simply does not move. It gets flanked by snails and slugs.
    I have been killed, seen the killing and done the killing with a Firemoth. Got around that beast and chewed the rear armour up like a terrier on a rat.
    Humiliating to have done, gratifying to do.

    1. James

      I’ve been looking over the Stone Rhino’s specs and none of the variants contain 3 ER-PPCs. Are you speaking of the Mechwarrior 2 or 4 games? (Those were the only ones that I found that held the Stone Rhino)

      1. Michael

        I was able to find an ancient (2005) reference to a Behemoth (BattleDroids) IIC. 2 ER PPCs (C), 2 ER Large Lasers (C) with 2 heavy medium and 4 heavy small lasers. 3/5 move. The only thing of note on that mech is that the large weapons are on a turret on the top of the mech so by theory could swing around and make short work of any Light or Medium trying to savage rear armor. Uncertain if cannon.

        1. Sam Crosbie

          Original Stone Rhino had Two gauss and Two Large Pulse Lasers, and one Small. It was a brutal mech in the board game, unless you fought in a terrain-heavy environment. Then you had a chance. A slight one. There was a revamp in…3058? Or later, I think, which stripped out the Large Pulse lasers, for One heavy Large, one heavy medium and one heavy light. While this increased the damage even further, the heatsinks remained unchanged, and it was a serious heat pig. In the video game, if I remember, it also used the primary configuration, but you could at times, modify your designs. So I could easily see a triple PPC variant. Or even scarier, a quad-ppc version, like…oh gosh. Hells Horses. 100 ton mech. quad ppcs, oodles of heat sinks and nothing else…can’t remember the name >.<!!!

          1. James

            Think you are talking about the Hellstar 4 ER-PPCs, 30 double heatsinks, maxed armor, 4/6 movement, and 95 tons.

  4. JPArbiter

    The Warhammer and Marauder are the most guilty of this, in 3025 play they just die to easy and in Jihad play they are targets because of Legacy. I have gotten more kills with Orion’s, Zeus, and Grasshoppers.

    on the Clan Mech End, the Uller and Puma both look like they should be the scariest damned light mechs ever concieved, but anemic armor and poor heat managment make them death traps to thier pilots. there is a reason that the popular perception is that the clans came roaring in with only the Loki, Vulture, THor and Mad Cat, those were the only really outstanding mechs they had. the rest ranged from “Okay” to “salvage”

  5. Battletech 8er

    I dont agree with the list. I hope i am able to explain my view, couse my english is not very good :-)

    Hollander: In a Lance siced fight he is a unit, that is able to move first because it can deal Damage from long range. Besides in BV1 (and 2) ist is realy cheap, so you can use some stronger units with it.

    Mauler: It is not a good Mech, but with the Advance of spezialiced Amunition, the 4 AC2 are quite funny to play. With Precision Armor, you are able to snipe at enemy Light Units and / or Tanks and Hovercraft. In a mixed fight you can use this cheap unit as an able support Mech. About The Heat Sinks: you only shoot the 2 ER Large Lasers if you are in trouble, the best option ist: 2 LRM + 4 AC + Running ==> No Heat, 1 ER Large + 2 LRM + 4 AC + Standing Still ==> 4 Heat, you can alternate your Fire to get rid of the waste heat the next Turn. Works also if you are in a good Position an get more heat through Walking or running.

    Riffleman: Best Fire Options: 1 Large + 2 AC2 (standing Still) ==> 0 Heat and 18 Damage (There are not many 3025 Mechs that can do this on medium to long range. In Close Combat (but not hand to hand) you shoot 2 AC5 and 2 Medium Lasers and you can run for 0 Heat. …i think, it is a good unit.

    Quickdraw: I agree, it is crap. But besides, it is a nice Head Chopper, jump in positon 1 Level above the enemy, and kick it in the Head.

  6. James

    The Solitaire, its speed, weaponry, and appearance (similar to the Hollander with a small mech having a big gun) it seems pretty impressive, until you realize you have nowhere near enough heatsinks to handle the load. One Heavy Large, 2 Heavy Meds, and a Heavy Small can provide enough punch to literally shred the armor off the rear of an Assault mech, but if it survives or has friends nearby, you are going to be shredded because even if you are lucky to avoid a shut down, your mobility will be reduced to where you can be more easily targeted.

    1. Sam Crosbie

      The Solitaire is a lot like the old3025-era Stalker. Use the ER-PPC for closing, then hammer with the pulse weapons. It’s a city-mech design. Using it in the open and you deserve a pounding. Which it CAN take. I’ve used them a lot, and I enjoy ’em greatly. If you REALLY want to irritate someone, replace the ER-ppc with a third Large Pulse laser and fight in a heavily industrial cityscape. >.>

      1. James

        We talking the same mech category here? Doesn’t seem like it, with mine being a 25-ton mech and yours being an 85-ton one. Also, I tried to find the Stalker you were describing but could not, are you sure it is not apocryphal? Only one I’ve seen armed with two large pulse lasers is the 5S but that version doesn’t mount an ER-PPC but has LRMs, SRMs and medium lasers. Personal variant of that mech perhaps?

  7. Offio

    I agree with all. I will only add that if you use Armor Piercing ammo, the Mauler is a blast as a long range dueler. 4 chances for a crit hit every round is hysterical! Up to that point, we have never even come up with a decent mod for the rotten thing. Parking it with the missle boats with AP ammo in the tanks? Oh yeah, that works.

    On the Behemoth, I think it would be funnier to kill with Savannah Masters! lol


  8. Wick

    I’ve never played it in classic rules, but when the Ryoken II figure came out for Dark Age I got all excitied (as a dedicated Stormcrow fan) as the figurine looks impressive. Then I saw the official stats and soured on it: 2 LRM-15s and 4 LB 2-Xs, with no energy weapon backup. It can’t concentrate damage anywhere, splattering bits of damage all over an opponent with little chance of making the 20 damage needed to cause a piloting roll, and with only 8 shots for each of its LRM15s, its too soon fighting battles with only its LB 2-Xs, which is a bad position to be in for a 75 ton mech. The role it plays is much better suited to a lighter mech: several medium clan mechs can mount the LRM 15s and two of the LB-Xs, and you might gain extra MP or jump in the process, and perhaps some ER medium lasers, too.

  9. Alex Ward

    The Loki. I love how it looks and most of its configurations seem more than capable of bringing the pain, but it just trades too much speed for armor. It is a great design against 3025 mechs, but you’re best off leaving the mini in the box if your opponent has any lostech upgrades.

  10. Michael

    Have to add the Annihilator to the list. Looks mean. Has weapons to instill much fear. And has a painful 2/3 move with 12.5 tons of standard armor (approx. 60% of max) and no rear facing weapons. 4 LB 10-X AC but apparently no CASE.

      1. Sam Crosbie

        Until you fire oodles of cluster ammo and discover why they have consciousness checks for head hits, and floating crit rules on those snake=eye rolls…>.>

  11. John Able

    Well, a lot of these ‘Mechs look like crap…and they play like crap…Quickdraw…I hated it ever since I purchased my TRO: 3025 in 1992…the Mauler…I hated that when I bought my TRO 3050 in 1995….the Hollander..that just looks like crap…

    Ones that are aesthetically pleasing that don’t play that well…Marauder and Warhammer if they aren’t played as long-range support ‘Mechs…Battlemaster…it is a good thing it has so much armor, but if you put it up against a lance of Shadow Hawks or Wolverines (as suggested in the narrative of several ‘Mechs in the TRO 3025), the lance of medium ‘Mechs is going to win…the Battlemaster is just not as bad ass as it looks or as its 3025 narrative suggests…

    Rifleman…the Rifleman’s problem is its lasers…5-10-15 puts it in easy range of AC-10s that will shred it..if you keep the AC-5s and swap out the lasers for LRM10s you have a good, effective Mech (so long as you have other mechs to keep the enemy from closing).

  12. Mattiator

    The Crossbow (early age of war one) is my favorite design, period. It has a tough, menacing design. I really love the arm missile pods. As a tabletop unit however, dear god it just doesn’t have enough heatsinks or armor to do anything but die miserably. Whoever thought a ‘Mech with a PPC, two medium lasers, and two LRM-10s was totally viable with only ten single heatsinks was insane. It’s a concept that would work fantastically with Star League tech, but in a primitive form it’s pretty much unusual. The ballistic variant’s no better, again saddled with the high heat of the PPC and paper armor.

  13. Ron

    All of the first wave Revival clan ‘mechs- but coming from a spheroid outlook. They by and large were optimised for dueling, as per their tradition. But as someone who’s first foray into the battlefield included a refurbed Loki, I was shocked at its loadout to armor ratio. It looks great and brings the pain, but it goes down fast.

  14. Flashfreeze

    Sigh, you just had to me think of the things that make me a little sad on the inside. As an artist, I love many ‘Mechs on the aesthetic level, but I know that in my cold calculating mathematical heart, they just don’t carry the day as well as they could.

    First up: the Shadow Hawk. The name alone is great, and as a fan of anime I recognized it instantly from Fang of the Sun Dougram, but sadly for all its awesomeness there it just comes up a little too short in its BattleTech translation. Bad range overlaps, too many heat sinks for its relatively cool payload, and an almost cruel shortage of jump jets make it the saddest general purpose ‘Mech in the early days of the game. It’ll do something in just about every situation you can put it in…it’s just that that something often won’t mean very much.

    The Caesar is visually one of my favorite designs in the game bar none, and yet I’m still painfully let down by its two main faults–woefully thin side torso armor in a design with explosive components and an extralight engine. Even if you put it into partial cover it doesn’t save the weak sides, as it needs the torso LOS to use that Gauss and the PPC (both on the same side, another significant problem if you ask me). It’s trees or nothing, and even then it takes just one large laser hit to either side torso to start feeling antsy, since another will go through if it gets the same torso. As a result, it’s extremely vulnerable when flanked. If I had a nickel every time I’ve seen a Caesar facedown on the table with a blown out side torso, I’d have beer money for the next game night.

    The Grand Titan, ah, my favorite of the 100-tonners in looks alone. Those missile launchers and laser barrels bristling from every forward facing location, the stout but powerful physique, and the vague resemblance to Optimus Prime don’t save it from the fact that it’s pretty bloody low on heat sinks and hobbled in much the same way as the classic AS7-D; its only long range weapon is almost token, with most of its other guns being effective at range 9 or less. To actually make the most of it, you have to close the range to at least six hexes and preferably four to take advantage of the MPLs’ bonuses—something that even a 4/6 assault is going to have a hard time doing. It also lacks CASE, which is a much bigger problem here even though I shrugged it off on the Apollo–you’re investing more in an assault like this. C-Bill wise it’s a price gouge, though it does manage to do a weird thing BV-wise and come in at under an AS7-D in value.

    As much as I hate to say it, the Crusader also makes the list of ‘Mechs that look awesome but are hobbled by poor design choices. However, it has very strange circumstances where its flaws make up for its other flaws. It lacks heat sinks, but it makes up for that with the fact that it can’t fire its missiles for long due to small ammo bins. The small ammo bins go dry quickly to compensate for the fact that they’re the only available non-engine, non-gyro crits in its torso. The placement of the SRMs in the legs ensures that they will last long enough for the centrally mounted SRM ammo to feed them (for the 7.5 turns that it holds out). With a few changes, it could’ve been great, but sadly it’s just mediocre.

    The Cauldron-Born looks great on paper. Typical Clan heavy Omni speed, decent armor (on par with the Summoner) and it even has respectable heat sinks and pod space. Why, then, does it underwhelm me so? Why are all its variants either comically oversinked or comically undersinked? Why do so many variants have a BV rating above some Clan Assault ‘Mechs? It isn’t the worst ‘Mech in the game, but I’m disappointed that its potential and wicked good looks have been hamstrung by questionable configurations. At least its Omni status means that reconfiguring it to my tastes isn’t impossible, just that I can’t grab a record sheet and set it on the table like I would with other Omnis.

    The Falcon Hawk looks like a particularly mean, upscaled battle armor, which means that its proportions are already innately pleasing…sadly, doing 5/8 at 35 tons with an XL engine means that it’s going to get jumped way too often for its own good, as seems to happen whenever I field League units. It’s not even a matter of not screening it well–I usually keep it as a second-rank sniper until someone gets too close. The problem is that it’s too easy to crack a side torso with just one good hit and lose the Falcon Hawk to a tactical kill. 35 tons is just big enough for people to start thinking that you’re worth spending a Gauss slug on and sadly no amount of looking sleek is going to stop one of those smashing a side open.

    There’s others out there that could be mentioned, but this is a good sampling of impressive looking designs that sadly fall short of the expectations, at least in the early years of stock and outside of the infinite possibilities of tinkering and custom configs.


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