In a previous article, I discussed the portrayal of the Capellan Confederation early in the lore and fiction of the universe as evocative of the yellow peril anti-China trope common in Europe and American beliefs, fiction and culture. My supposition was only a quick paragraph, and then we moved on to other topics, and the basic premise was initially dismissed by some. But let’s take a moment to delve into the topic and explore it fully, because this is an topic worth considering in full detail.
After writing up our recent ode to Missile Boats, it got me thinking about missile technology in the BattleTech universe. Not how each missile seems to do about as much damage as a modern-day bottle rocket, or how it can fly just about as far before running out of gas. No, it made me think about just how many of these missiles you can stuff inside a ‘Mech.
Think about it: a single ton of LRM ammo is 120 missiles. That seems like a lot considering a modern jet fighter has trouble carrying 10 of the things. Even the somewhat modern M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle doesn’t carry more than 7 missiles in its magazine, so where does a ‘Mech get enough room for 120?
To find out, I decided it was time to do some math. But before we could bust out the calculator, I’d have to pick a missile-toting ‘Mech to be our scientific guinea pig. I chose the Mad Dog for its distinctive silhouette, and because it’d be relatively easy to calculate the volume of those boxy missile racks it has for shoulders.
Now that we have our ‘Mech, it’s time to see how big those missile racks are. We know that a Mad Dog is roughly 12 meters tall, and those missile racks are about a third of its height, so we know they’re roughly 4 meters in height. Eyeballing the thickness I’d get about 1.5 meters wide, and roughly another 4 meters in depth. That gives us a total volume of about 24 m3.
But that missile rack isn’t a perfect cube; it’s got an angled side, and all these fiddly bits cut out, so I’d say we’ve only got a triangular prism to work with. That halves the volume we have available, so we’re down to 12 m3.
Not to worry – we still have plenty of space to work with. Each of these side torsos has 120 missiles, and if we assume each missile to take up an equal amount of space we know that they have to take up at maximum 0.1 m3 per missile.
Now that we know how much volume each missile can take up at a maximum, it’s relatively simple to calculate the possible dimensions of a single LRM. Since the height and width of a missile are the same (since it’s a cylinder, they’re both just going to be the diameter of the missile), the only question is how long the missile could be.
Let’s say the missile is 1 meter long (which is actually close to the length of a modern-day missile). The formula to work out the diameter of the missile would be:
0.1 m3 = L x W x H = 1 m x W x H = 1m x (W2) = 0.316 m
0.316 m is roughly 12.5 inches or a little over a foot in diameter. For a 1 meter long missile, a diameter of a foot is a bit chubby (maybe more closely approximating an artillery shell than a missile) but totally within the realm of possibility.
But we know that side torso isn’t just dedicated to missile ammo. There’s the LRM-20 launcher itself, a few crits of XL engine, and double heat sinks stuffed in there too. So let’s say that there’s really only half the available volume for missile ammo. The formula then changes to be:
0.05 m3 = L x W x H = 1 m x W x H = 1m x (W2) = 0.224 m
That still gives us a 1-meter long missile with a diameter of close to 9 inches. If we compare that to a modern-day missile, like, say, the AGM-114 Hellfire (which is 64 inches long and 7 inches in diameter), we’d see those numbers are roughly in the same ballpark and still very reasonably missile shaped. Cool.
Of course, we should also consider the fact that each missile isn’t a perfect rectangular prism, and each cylinder can save space by stacking in between the cylinder below it. My math wizardry is far from able to calculate how much space we’d save, but I’m sure one of you mathematicians could figure it out in the comments below.
So it seems a big ‘Mech like a Mad Dog doesn’t have any trouble carrying around 120 missiles, but what about a smaller missile ‘Mech? Let’s take a Javelin and see if it still can carry around a full complement of missiles like its heavier brethren.
Once again, we have to figure out how much of a vaguely man-shaped ‘Mech’s chest can be devoted to missile ammo. I don’t have an exact height for the Javelin, but since it’s a lighter ‘Mech I assumed it to be around 8 meters tall. Given that height, those boxes in the chest look to be around 1 meter wide and 1 meter high, and it has a 2-meter depth to its chest. Thus we get an available volume for missiles of 2 m3 for a single ton of SRM ammo, which is 90 missiles, and each missile can take up 0.0222 m3.
Since these are SRMs, let’s assume they’re going to be shorter than the long-range missiles and give them a length of half a meter. Using the same formula as before, we get a 0.21 m diameter missile or 8.26 inches. That’s still very reasonably missile shaped even on a tiny ‘Mech, and once again if we’d stacked those missiles properly we’d have even more volume available for an even bigger missile.
Before we all start celebrating this miracle of a single aspect of BattleTech that makes physical sense, there is a condition where a ‘Mech’s capacity for missile ammo starts to break down. When a chassis starts to horde ammunition, such as the Archer and its 4 tons of ammo, suddenly you go from hurling missiles to throwing shoe boxes that explode.
But hey, I’m happy to find out that my favorite ‘Mech designs can carry as many missiles as they say they can (unlike autocannons, which still make no sense).
And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.
One of the oldest military strategies ever created is to hurl rocks at your opponent until they quit. In the thousands of years of human evolution since then, the rocks may have gotten more technologically advanced, but the strategy has remained largely the same: keep chucking rocks and encourage your foe to go bother someone else.
To that end, BattleTech has seen a number of ‘Mech designs follow the same philosophy. Except instead of hurling rocks, they hurl long range missiles, and instead of throwing just a few, they toss dozens of missiles into the air at once. Gather a bunch of them together, and you’ve got yourself a firing line worthy of an 1812 Overture.
Although some may find the term derogatory, enthusiasts of the strategy have given these particular designs the descriptive name of Missile Boats. Their ethos is simple: load up on as many LRMs as you can carry and let the lesser ‘Mechs get their hands dirty while you send long-ranged destruction at the enemy from a very safe distance.
Some Mechwarriors call Missile Boat pilots cowards, but who do they call when their position is about to be overrun by a combined arms company? The forward artillery lance, comprised almost entirely of the tried, tested, and true Missile Boat.
Here’s a few of the more famous Missile Boat ‘Mechs throughout the ages of BattleTech.
We begin with one of the smaller designs to call itself a Missile Boat, the WTH-1 Whitworth. Although capable of carrying a respectable 20 LRMs at 40 tons, the Whitworth was never a particularly popular design as it was both slower than most ‘Mechs in its weight class and unable to outfight enemy ‘Mechs that got in close, being armed only with 3 Medium Lasers for close ranged combat. This lead many House militaries to give the Whitworth the unflattering nickname of “Worthless”.
That said, the Whitworth saw combat from its inception in 2610 right up until the Jihad era of the 3070s. But by then the factories which had been producing replacement components for the Whitworth had moved on to more capable and modern designs, and now the Whitworth can only be seen amongst pirates, some of the poorer mercenary groups, and Periphery nations.
The TBT-5N Trebuchet seems to correct many of the Whitworth’s shortcomings by being nearly 15 km/h faster, and by carrying a larger contingent of 30 Long Range Missiles. It is however armed with the same 3 Medium Lasers as the Whitworth, which make it vulnerable to enemy ‘Mechs that manage to sneak inside its missile umbrella.
For this reason, the Trebuchet was designed from the outset as a ‘Mech that was supposed to operate as part of a lance rather than a single machine. Often paired with the Centurion for greater flexibility in combat, lances comprised of both machines were highly effective, able to severely damage most opponents at long range before using their lasers and autocannons to finish off their foe.
Various factories around the Inner Sphere obtained the license to produce the Trebuchet, and it would remain a popular sight amongst all House forces for centuries.
One of the most distinctive designs ever created, the CPLT-1 Catapult is what most Mechwarriors think of when they hear the term Missile Boat. The Catapult is armed with 30 LRMs, just as with the Trebuchet, and mounts 4 Medium Lasers as well as 5 additional heat sinks to deal with close in threats, making it capable of defending itself when necessary. It does, however, sacrifice some mobility over the Trebuchet, having a top speed of only 64.8 km/h.
Notable for the Catapult is how its popularity led to several retrofits that often had nothing to do with its original role as a long range missile delivery platform. The CPLT-K2 variant fielded by House Kurita swapped out the twin LRM-15s for paired PPCs as well as enough heat sinks to fire them almost continuously. The CPLT-C3 swapped the missiles for a more dedicated artillery system, the Arrow IV, giving the Catapult a true over-the-horizon weapon. Taking a different tack, the CPLT-C2 swaps out the medium lasers for paired LB 2-X Autocannons, albeit with help from Endo Steel internals and an extralight engine.
The only Clan ‘Mech to appear on this list, the Crossbow is a highly unusual design amongst the Clans. Most Clan Mechwarriors find the sort of long range combat typical of Missile Boats to be dishonorable, preferring direct fire weapons. The entirely missile-based Crossbow, with a primary configuration of 40 LRMs, is thus a rare sight amongst any Clan Touman.
It should be noted that this doesn’t mean there aren’t Missile Boat variants of other OmniMechs (the Alt-D configuration of the Stormcrow and Alt-B configuration of the Summoner come to mind), only that the Crossbow is unique among OmniMechs for having most of its configurations feature LRMs.
When you think of ‘Mechs capable of putting out a wall of long range missiles, no ‘Mech comes more immediately to mind than the Salamander. Armed with a whopping 60 LRMs, the 80 ton PPR-5S Salamander is capable of fulfilling the role of fire support all on its own without any additional Missile Boats to help it.
All that long range firepower comes at a steep price, however, as the Salamander is virtually defenseless against enemies that manage to slip into close range. Armed with a pair of Medium Lasers, and too slow to escape, the Salamander is easy prey to lighter ‘Mechs that go unnoticed by an unwary pilot.
This flaw hasn’t seemed to keep the Salamander down, as it saw service throughout most of House Davion’s conflicts, serving with distinction as the primary fire support ‘Mech in most of their regiments. The Salamander would remain a popular choice through the Jihad and into the Dark Age era of BattleTech.
Was there a Missile Boat ‘Mech that we missed that you really think should be mentioned? Let us know in the comments section below!
And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.
It’s been a little over a week since the new Skill Tree has dropped on the May 16th patch, and while it has been as rocky an introduction as anything PGI has done in MechWarrior Online, it hasn’t resulted in any sort of wide abandonment of the game. It has however resulted in a lot of confusion as MechWarriors try to unravel the dense language that was given in the update and try to determine what it meant for their favorite ‘Mech.
The stated purpose of the Skill Tree was to enhance the customizability of pilot’s chassis, and in that regard the Skill Tree has succeeded. MechWarriors can now decide whether they want their Centurion to plod along and take hits relying on all of the armor and structure skills, or they can opt for a more nimble ride with a mix of weapons and sensors to keep your ‘Mech up and fighting.
Whatever route you choose, the patch has certainly shifted the viability of certain ‘Mechs more than others in this competitive game. It’s still too soon to see how the new meta will shape up, but there are some definite winners and losers with the Skill Tree, and we take a look at a few of them today.
The Skill Tree patch had a number of changes besides implementation of the tree itself. One of those changes was a review and revision of all ‘Mech quirks to ensure that the skill tree wouldn’t suddenly provide highly quirked ‘Mechs the ability to increase those quirks with skills to the point of creating a super ‘Mech. Mostly the patch removed the big weapon-based quirks that incentivised certain builds in certain ‘Mechs.
While this change has resulted in some big losers (which we’ll get to later), it also has resulted in some big winners. In general, ‘Mechs that had few or no quirks have seen their abilities increase since the new patch.
Arctic Cheetah – All variants
The meta light ‘Mech is one of the few light ‘Mechs to come out ahead since the Skill Tree patch. The formerly quirkless chassis now receives all the benefits of the skill nodes with no downsides, essentially supercharging the little rascal into unquestionably the best ‘Mech in its class.
The Hunchback has been a middling medium ‘Mech for some time, having long since been overshadowed by its Clanner cousin the Hunchback IIC. The Skill Tree has breathed new life into the original Swayback in the form of armor and structure skills.
The HBK-4SP retained its armor and structure quirks from before the patch that allowed the ‘Mech to remain viable, and these quirks benefit supremely from the new survival skills. How much do they benefit? With all survival skills taken, the center torso on the 4SP takes over 150 points of damage to destroy, turning the humble Hunchie into a tiny armoured assault ‘Mech.
With high mounts and tons of energy hardpoints, the Battlemaster BLR-2C has been a popular choice for competitive decks looking for a tanky bruiser. With few weapon quirks to lose, and retaining its massive structure bonuses, the skill tree turns the BLR-2C into the biggest zombie ‘Mech the game has ever seen.
Hellbringer – All variants
Having never needed quirks to be a danger on the battlefield, giving this Clan heavy ‘Mech access to skills that reduce its heat generation and allow it to fire its weapons faster just meant the DPS on this chassis got a big boost. The Hellbringer never needed the damage boost in order to be competitively viable, so watch out for this ‘Mech to receive some kind of nerf in future patches.
While many quirk-less ‘Mechs have won big in the latest patch, there are just as many quirk-full ‘Mechs that have lost out in a big way. With the introduction of the Clans some years ago, many Inner Sphere designs needed massive buffs to certain weapons in the form of quirks in order to keep up. Removing those quirks have resulted in some much maligned ‘Mechs being rendered next to useless compared to some of the big winners.
On top of that, the patch also introduced the engine desync, which altered how engine size affects performance. Instead of larger engines causing ‘Mechs to accelerate, decelerate, and turn faster, those qualities were rolled into the chassis itself while larger engines strictly affected maximum speed. This has resulted in some larger engine designs losing much of their maneuverability along with their firepower.
Locust – All variants
The combined loss of weapons quirks and engine desync has hit the venerable Locust particularly hard. Previously, its small size combined with its ability to stop and start on a dime meant it was particularly difficult to target the little bastard. Now it’s both lost much of its bite and is much easier to target.
The BJ-1 was of those Spheroid ‘Mechs that relied on its massive weapons quirks for its power, primarily in ballistics cooldown and heat generation. With those quirks much reduced and not enough skills introduced to replace them, the poor Blackjack is no longer the king Inner Sphere medium dakka ‘Mech.
The Cicada is another ‘Mech that relied on massive quirks for its usefulness. Although never popular, Cicada pilots definitely benefited from the -50% PPC heat generation quirk when plinking away with their particle gun. Now that quirk is gone, and there’s nothing in the Skill Tree that even comes close to approximating that massive boost, relegating the Cicada to the unused tier of ‘Mechs.
The hero Quickdraw was another ‘Mech that had a ton of weapons quirks to give it a boost, but it also lost out due to the engine desync as well. It had massive acceleration and deceleration quirks to make it one of the more nimble heavy ‘Mechs, but once those characteristics were rolled into the chassis it lost much of the benefit its large engine provided. Never a popular design, it feels like the rug has been swept right out from under the QKD-IV4’s feet.
Any ‘Mechs you think were big winners or losers in the latest patch? Let us know in the comments!
In BattleTech there are many philosophies that guide ‘Mech designers in choosing their armaments. Some go for the well balanced approach, ensuring they have a good mix of long and short range weapons. Others look to have a mix of ammunition and energy weapons, ensuring the chassis has a brutal punch at the beginning of the fight but also retains combat effectiveness if the battle goes longer than expected. Still others opt for the long range sniper approach, mounting ER PPCs, Gauss Rifles, and Ultra AC/2s in order to pick off their foes before they can close.
Then there’s those engineers that say “to hell with it” and throw on as many lasers as the ‘Mech can carry. I of course speak to the illustrious and proud history of the “laser boat”.
There are many reasons to mount a solely energy based armament, such as never having any concerns for ammunition or resupply. Perhaps the greatest reason to load up on lasers is their sheer efficiency. Ton for ton, crit for crit, lasers are some of the most efficient weapons in the BattleTech universe, allowing even the lightest ‘Mechs to carry an armament that would strike fear into the hearts of much heavier opponents.
Here we take a tour of some of BattleTech’s most famous laser focused ‘Mechs. There are many ‘Mechs that contain lasers as their primary armaments, but today we will limit our discussion to ‘Mechs that solely mount laser based weaponry.
Perhaps the poster child for laser boats, the 50 ton Nova Prime mounts a staggering 12 Clan ER Medium Lasers. While this armament gives the ‘Mech an alpha strike second to none in its weight class, it also runs the risk of cooking the pilot in their cockpit. With a mere 18 double heat sinks to combat a total heat per alpha of 60, the Nova suffers near catastrophic penalties to fire its full armament and is very likely to shut down immediately.
That said, whatever’s in the Nova’s sites is in for a very bad day. If all lasers strike, a total of 84 damage is enough to devastate all but the most largest of opponents. If fired from behind the Nova is almost guaranteed a kill on any ‘Mech.
The Inner Sphere is no stranger to laser boats, with the Federated Commonwealth’s Wolfhound as an outstanding example. Armed with 4 Medium Lasers and a single Large Laser, the Wolfhound is much better equipped to handle its heat load than the Clan Nova. Even still, firing all of its weapons would result in massive heat buildup that would require it to stagger its weapons fire for the rest of the battle.
A common refit to the Wolfhound would see the removal of the rearward firing laser for the addition of an extra heat sink on the WLF-1A. The upgraded WLF-2 would give the Wolfhound double heat sinks and largely solve the chassis’ heat concerns altogether. Only the addition of the ER Large Laser in place of the normal one would cause the ‘Mech’s heat to increase substantially with sustained firing.
Light ‘Mechs stand to benefit the most from the efficiency gains provided by laser-based weaponry. On no other ‘Mech is this more readily apparent than the Firemoth Alt. Config D. With 5 ER Medium Lasers tied to a Clan Targeting Computer, the Firemoth D is capable of a withering fusillade of precision fire that is able to punch well above the Firemoth’s 20 tons.
The standard 10 double heat sinks are sufficient to keep the ‘Mech cool even with sustained fire, and a single Flamer assists in anti-infantry duty when necessary.
A ‘Mech affectionately nicknamed the “flashbulb”, the Flashman uses its heavier weight limit to stack even more efficient laser weaponry. The FLS-7K comes armed with 5 Medium Lasers and 2 Large Lasers, giving it a punch at short and medium range. 15 single heat sinks allow the ‘Mech to fire either Medium Lasers or Large Lasers indefinitely, however alpha striking causes a debilitating heat build up for the pilot.
While the previous ‘Mechs have appeared in multiple MechWarrior games, the Flashman has only been seen once in MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. A terrible shame given the ‘Mechs iconic design and devastating firepower. Here’s hoping we see a resurgence of the giant, death-dealing light bulb.
Even the heaviest ‘Mechs stand to benefit from the use of laser weaponry. While it may seem that the Supernova is an upscaled Nova, the Supernova was actually designed first. Shortages of AC/20 ammunition lead Clan engineers to replace their King Crab’s weapons with clusters of Large ER Lasers, and from this the Supernova was born.
The Supernova does however share the Nova’s same design philosophy: mount far more lasers than it can effectively use for a single devastating alpha strike. 6 Clan Large ER Lasers allow the Supernova to fight at range for extended periods, however constant use of the full armament will lead to debilitating heat problems and inevitable shutdown. Most Supernova pilots stagger-fire one arm at a time in order to deal with the heat buildup.
Not every laser boat has heat problems to contend with. The Clan Stormcrow has a primary energy configuration while simultaneously mounting enough double heatsinks to fire all of its weapons indefinitely, even on the move. Only outside forces, such as Flamers, Inferno missiles or engine damage will ever cause this ‘Mech to overheat.
Armed with twin Clan Larger ER Lasers as well as a backup battery of 3 ER Medium Lasers, the Stormcrow is able to hit at all ranges effectively. The ability for lasers to be fired at both long and short range means the Stormcrow has an overwhelming sustained alpha strike that is capable of incapacitating much heavier opponents quickly.
What’s your favorite laser boat ‘Mech? Let us know in the comments!
There are two types of sci-fi universes: there’s the universe that provides no explanation and uses science as a substitute for magic (like Star Wars), or there’s the universe that tries to justify its awesomeness with plausible explanations. BattleTech has always erred on the latter side but for a few exceptions (the largest, of course, being the Kearny-Fuchida Jump Drives). However, one logical inconsistency in BattleTech has bugged me more than any other.
I can understand from a game balancing perspective why the range of your cannons will decrease as the bore size increases, but from a pure physics perspective, this makes absolutely no sense.
image courtesy of Taurus Manufacturing Inc.
Allow me to illustrate. Here, we have a standard 9mm pistol, available anywhere in the United States (depending on the state), and available nowhere in Canada. Effective range: ‘bout 100 meters, if you’re a reasonably good shot.
image courtesy of warfaretech.blogspot.ca
Moving on up, here we have a much larger round, the 30mm M230 cannon (of Apache attack helicopter fame). Effective range: 2000 meters.
image courtesy of turbosquid.com
Next up, the 155mm howitzer. Effective range: well, it’ll depend on which round you use, but the standard M107 HE is 24,000 meters or 24 kilometers.
Anyway, you see the pattern here, right? As a general rule, the bigger the gun, the further your projectile goes.
Now let’s go to BattleTech. The actual bore size of autocannons vary by manufacturer and can range from 25mm to 203mm. Curiously, however, the range on these autocannons decreases as you go higher, with the 25mm AC/2 having an effective range of 720 meters, while the massive AC/20 has an effective range of a mere 270 meters.
Thus, the question for the BattleTech universe becomes what happened to cannons to make them lose range instead of gain it as the bore size gets larger?
The answer, my friends, is in the math.
Curiously, however, the range on these autocannons decreases as you go higher, with the AC/2 having an effective range of 720 meters, while the massive AC/20 has an effective range of a mere 270 meters.
We all know that 1 ton of ammunition gets a standard amount of ammo completely dependant on the size of the autocannon; AC/2 gets 40 shots per ton, AC/5 gets 20, and so on and so forth. On the surface, this seems to make sense, as the bore size also decreases at a similar “divide by 2” rate – 203mm for an AC/20, 101mm for an AC/10, etc. But ammunition doesn’t just take up a linear length – it takes up volume. Simply making the diameter of each round smaller by half doesn’t allow you to keep jamming in half as many rounds in the same amount of space.
I’ll show you what I mean. We’re going to compare the volume of ammunition taken up by an AC/20 versus an AC/2. We’re also going to simplify the shape of each bullet into a rectangle to make the math easier (also to avoid the whole “stacking” problem), and also assume that the length of each round will grow proportionately to the “divide by 2” rate we saw in the bore sizes. Also, since the bore size is in metric, and BattleTech is a metric universe, we’re going to stay metric.
We begin with the AC/2. We know the diameter of the round is the same as the bore size (25 mm), so let’s assume the length of the round is about twice that, so 50mm. A rectangle is length by width by height, and through the power of math we get 31,250 mm3 (or 31.25 cm3)
I’m not going to bore you with the math for the AC/20 – because the numbers are vastly larger, it comes out to 16,730,854 mm3 (or 16,730 cm3, or 0.01673 m3).
Now we do a little more math. An AC/2 is 31.25cm3, times 40 rounds, means we need 1250 cm3 of space to hold those 40 rounds.
For an AC/20 with 5 rounds, we’d need 83,605 cm3. That’s actually 66 times larger than the space needed to house 40 AC/2 rounds.
But if a ton of ammunition holds a proportionate, “divide by two” number of rounds, how can they not also take up the same space?! The only possible answer is one of our assumptions is wrong; the volume of each round does not remain proportional as you go up from AC/2 to AC/20.
In fact, we can work out what the proportion should be based on our above math. In order for the five AC/20 rounds to take up the same volume as forty AC/2 rounds, and keeping the known variable of bore size fixed (203 mm), then the length of each round would have to be a ridiculously short 0.76 mm.
Thus, through the power of math, we have determined that the reason an AC/20 range is so vastly reduced compared to an AC/2 is simply that instead of shooting bullets the AC/20 fires armor-piercing pancakes.
Tasty, tasty Hunchback pancakes. Servin’ ‘em up, hot ’n fresh!
Alright, I know at 0.76 mm the thickness of these pancakes is a shave wider than a human hair, but you cannot deny the amazing image they produced.
‘Till next time, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.
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.
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
- Authorized by a competent authority
- For a just cause
- With a right intention
- As a last resort
- Harm from war not disproportionate to the gain
- 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.
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.
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?
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?
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!
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?