Category Archives: Reviews

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?

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!

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!

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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?

Campaign Operations: First Look

Campaigning in Style since 2016

Campaigning in Style since 2016

Well that was fast!

After Interstellar Operations was being written for years before release, the next Operations books came quickly after.  Welcome, to Campaign Operations.

I’ve always wondered if other players play Campaigns as much as I tend to.  My playgroups, interests, games, and more are invariably part of an ongoing campaign.  It’s important for me because when I see the actual results of campaigns, folks play more realistically.  If you have a company of BattleMechs for a campaign, you might be more inclined to jettison one that’s critical in four spots, missing its right arm where the main weapon was, and just had a blasted hip actuator and is reeling.  You can save the unit by ejecting now, and then grabbing it post-battle, and just fix some internal stuff, rearm and re-armor it, and then grab a spare arm to weld back.  You might have to make some changes with weapon payload or something, but the unit is saved for later battles if you can salvage it.  A unit with both an XL Engine and CASE will just shut down when an ammo explosion destroys your left torso, not be destroyed.  Sure, it may not matter on the battlefield right then and there, but it’ll matter later for sure when you salvage it.  Folks are playing smart, long-game warfare, and worried about things like infrastructure, materiel, and support.  Campaign BattleTech supports a realistic form of warfare.

It’s rare that I don’t play some form of campaign.  They make me.  They invest me.

So it’s odd to me that we haven’t had a lot of Campaign stuff in a lot of more Core works, even heading back to earlier editions of the game.  We often have to wait for Campaign rules.  Now, we had some good ones sprinkled around in Tactical Operations and a few more rocking Strategic Operations with linked scenarios and such.  But it’s nice to have a new book that’s really focused on my zone of interest.  So hopefully there’ll be a lot of stuff here that sells me.  Now, there are still some things that are missing that I’d like help with as a GM of campaigns.

Take the industrial side of the Inner Sphere.  We know that there is a cozy relationship between the Military and Industrial complexes out there.  So how much would it cost to retool a Mechline to a new one with new technology?  What does that require?  So in a campaign, if I have a mercenary group with a good relationship with a particular company, how much would be needed to get your own ‘Mech design made?  Or how much to simply reconfigure a current line?  How about tanks?  And similarly, lots of missions will have units head out for stuff of an industrial nature.  “Hit that convoy!”  “Take out that construction group before they can finish building their defenses!”  Stuff like that.  How much money is salvaged from ferrocrete?  How about a few tons of industrial equipment?  If my mercenary unit is being charged for damages to local infrastructure, how much does it cost for various repairs?  TacOps has some of that, sure, but there’s a lot more out there I wonder about.

So I kept hoping that a Campaign-based rulesbook will talk about things like costs of military units to make, tooling factories, industrial finances, stuff like that.  But that still hasn’t really made it to the level I like.  Ah well.

Meanwhile we have a full-on Campaign Operations!

So what’s next?

Well you have the latest edition of rules like force creation and contracts.   Everyone has to get their Objective Raid on, right?  Buy some land.  Build a base.  And pretty much set up some shop.

And then skip past that for some formation building, and even some special pilot abilities.  Now I have to be honest.  I don’t have perfect recall by stretch of the imagination at all.  But there are abilities here I don’t remember in other products, like the Fist Fire ability that lets you fire weapons in the hand of a melee weapon (or punch) at the same time and hitting the same location the physical weapon hits.  And then we have stuff on conversions and campaigns for Chaos Campaign and Inner Sphere at War stuff.  And don’t forget solar system generation either.  I remember Beta Testing that for Interstellar Operations a while ago, but that was never included in it, and this is a lot more robust than other systems we had before.

So there’s a lot under the hood here to mention. Good stuff on my first read through, and I’m excited to try the new versions of some old rules, and new stuff as well.  Fist Fire away!

So the main question then is what are you looking for?  What excites you?  What’ll be the first thing your playgroup tries out?

Your Favorite IS BattleMechs from 3067

All Along the Civil War

The Civil War between siblings is over.  Much of the Inner Sphere rests in a very tentative, damaged, and brutally won peace.  And it stands on the threshold of oblivion.  War-torn and battle-weary.

Hey look, we all care about tanks and aircraft, infantry both powered and conventional, and more.  But at the end of the day I don’t keep coming back to this game year after year after year for the small stuff.  I’m here to smash BattleMechs together!

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Techwars Online Reviewed

Get your Tech On!

Last week, Techwars Online, a Steam Greenlight success story, that made it through all of the hurdles, was released on Steam for ten dollars.  Well that certainly seems like a price worth trying out.  So I grabbed a copy of the game, and invested some time into figuring out this turn based tactical game featuring BattleMechs fighting it out.

To begin, you can move each of your units up to three hexes, with a twist of your torso counting as one.  And you can fire one weapon.  Each weapon has different ranges and firing arcs.  You may have short range lasers that can only reach 2-3 hexes away, or long range missiles which won’t fire close in at all, but which can hit with a spread out range.  Some weapons require a direct line to hit, like your main cannon, so moving, firing, and more is all important.  Also important is turning after firing to protect yourself.  It’s all about winning, not about how damaged your unit gets in the process, right?

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Rabid Coyote vs. Ursus – The Second Line Bodyguards

While not as adaptable or flexible as OmniMechs, the Clans as a whole still see the indelible value of standard BattleMech technology. Even in their limited configuration state, when equipped with their venerable technology, Clan second line BattleMechs provide some of the most solid, dependable, and fun designs in the game. From the well-known Mad Cat Mk II to the iconic Kodiak and the re-imagined IIC lines, Clan second line designs range all the way from amazing to completely laughable.

Second line `Mechs are generally used for defensive operations, with some exceptions, and as such generally use less expensive and more stable parts and technology. Standard Engines are commonly found in second line designs, as well as standard chassis as opposed to Endo Steel construction. Ferro-Fibrous Armor, however, still appears to be the normal standard even with second line designs.

Today I want to take a look at two second line BattleMechs that were designed a few years, and couple thousand light years, apart from each other. These two `Mechs were designed to fill similar roles in their respective Clans’ toumans, and each Clan went about the job a different way. In the case of Clan Coyote, they needed a lighter and faster design that could deliver a good punch standing alongside heavier units while still possessing enough speed to pursue attackers. For Clan Ghost Bear, the need for a strong and dependable second line design was apparent from the moment they arrived in the Inner Sphere and began taking and holding worlds.

Even with some of the differences in need, Clans Coyote and Ghost Bear ended up designing and producing similar BattleMechs that fit the needs of each Clan near perfectly. Let’s dig into the histories, similarities, differences, and ultimately a comparative match-up, of the Rabid Coyote and the Ursus. For the purposes of this article, we are going to look at just the standard variants of both BattleMechs.

Rabid Coyote

Clan Coyote created the Rabid Coyote out of a need to support their highly successful assault class designs, such as the Canis and Savage Coyote. The larger `Mechs lacked a speed that was necessary for pursuing fleeing foes and suffered from the ability to engage faster enemies that could redeploy and attack from new angles.

During the time period following the Great Refusal, in the upheaval and scramble for new resources that followed the vacuum of Clan Smoke Jaguar’s demise, Clan Coyote did not fare well. Clan Coyote, once at the top of Clan heap, now found itself on the edge of irrelevance. Even the introduction of Advanced Tactical Missile technology, solely a product of Clan Coyote, was not enough to catapult the Clan back into the spotlight.

The Khans needed something to help their touman, help their warriors on the battlefield, and help stabilize their decline. The future of the Clan was riding on the success of their next venture.

Designed as a bodyguard unit for heavier `Mechs, the Rabid Coyote was abjectly rejected upon arrival by the Warriors to which it was assigned. The concept that a BattleMech should play bodyguard and support to another BattleMech was one that Coyote Trueborns especially despised.

Regardless of the reception, the Rabid Coyote appears to be here to stay. Field tests and trials by fire have been positive for the new design, and Clan Coyote is committed to keeping the BattleMech in its ranks.

Armaments and Capabilities 

Likely, at least in part, to further highlight their new technology, the Rabid Coyote‘s main armament is a single ATM 12 set in its left torso. The ATM has one ton of ammo for each type of ATM missile. This main weapon is backed up by four Medium Pulse Lasers, two in each arm, and an Electronic Countermeasure Suite (ECM) located near the cockpit. Ample armor protection, eight and a half tons of Ferro-Fibrous Armor, for a 55 ton BattleMech is provided, and battlefield staying power is backed up by its use of a standard engine, all mounted on an Endo Steel chassis. 12 Double Heat Sinks allow the Rabid Coyote to remain fairly cool when utilizing its entire arsenal.

This design on paper is as solid as they come. Perhaps a bit slow for a Clan Medium, in its intended role the 5/8 speed works out just fine, especially when compared to the speeds of the BattleMechs in whose company the Rabid Coyote is most commonly found.

Ursus

Rolling off the production in 3059, seven years before the Rabid Coyote appeared in Clan Coyote’s touman, the Ursus was a triumphant accomplishment for Khan Bjorn Jorgensson and for Clan Ghost Bear. The first Clan BattleMech produced completely within the Inner Sphere, the Ursus was designed to fill a painful gap in Clan Ghost Bear’s second line forces.

The Ursus was designed somewhat with a “less is more” mentality that enforced its purpose. Using simple technologies like a standard chassis and engine, the design is dependable and able to take a lot of punishment for a fifty ton Medium `Mech. Received well by the touman as a whole, the majority of the first production runs found assignment to units primarily along the Draconis Combine border and saw action against both DCMS and Clan Nova Cat forces.

While not specifically created as a bodyguard unit, as in the case of the Rabid Coyote, the Ursus still found use in the role as it was soon assigned to duty alongside larger and slower second line BattleMechs like the Kodiak and Grizzly. In this role, the uncharacteristically slower speed of the Ursus did not feel at all like a liability, and the machine continued to shine as a defensive unit. Many commanders now consider the Ursus to be a quintessential companion to slower Heavy and Assault second line BattleMechs.

Click on the picture to visit IronWind Metals and get your own Ursus.

Armament and Capabilities

Thanks in part to its smaller engine, and the use of eight and a half tons of Ferro-Fibrous Armor, the Ursus packs an arsenal of weaponry that outclasses almost any other Clan second line Medium and many OmniMechs of its weight class. Its main armaments are on its right arm, which houses an Extended Range Large Laser and two Medium Pulse Lasers. These are backed up at long and medium ranges, respectively, by an LRM 10 on its left arm and an SRM 6 mounted in its center torso. Adding a final touch to the brawler nature of the BattleMech, each side torso sports an Extended Range Medium Laser, adding to the design’s ability to engage effectively and decisively at medium range. Finally, the entire BattleMech is protected by an integrated Electronic Countermeasure Suite mounted in its right torso. 16 Double Heat Sinks allow the Ursus to stay just about as cool as the Rabid Coyote when using its vast array of weapons.

At first glance, it just doesn’t seem like it is possible to fit all of that into a fifty ton chassis, but there it is. The secret to the Ursus is in its speed. 4/6 is painfully slow even for some Clan Heavy `Mechs, but in its intended role as a defensive and bodyguard unit, the Ursus just plain does not need to worry about being speedy.

Head to Head

Each of these BattleMechs represents a different take on what are essentially similar battlefield roles. The Rabid Coyote was additionally designed to emphasize pursuit after a successful defense, and the Ursus was designed to maximize overall defensive capability and sturdiness supporting larger `Mechs. Both designs are most commonly seen in the company of heavier designs, providing escort and support for the larger machines.

Both `Mechs’ incorporation of ECM suites makes them invaluable on the battlefield in the company heavier units that are not commonly equipped with such countermeasures.

Also, it is highly unlikely that either of these two BattleMechs have ever seen each other on the battlefield. First, they are designed for the same role, not opposing roles, which means it would be more than exceedingly rare to see one or the other in an attacking force where the other is present among the defending forces. Mostly, though, is the fact that the Rabid Coyote is deployed by a Clan that is located totally in the Clan Homeworlds, and the Ursus is deployed by a Clan that is now completely located in the Inner Sphere. The Ursus was only ever produced in the Inner Sphere and was never transported to Clan space during the short time between its initial production and the Ghost Bears’ exodus from Clan space.

IronWind Metals has Rabid Coyote models, too!

While Clan Wolf did obtain the design from their Coyote friends some time before their ejection from Clan space, eventually deploying their own variant during the Jihad, it is still highly unlikely for the two BattleMechs to have met on the field of batter. But we can imagine what a heads up engagement between these two BattleMechs might have looked like.

I’ll give the long range game to the Ursus, even if slightly. Its ER Large Laser and LRM 10 are not affected by the Rabid Coyote‘s ECM Suite in the same way that the Ursus‘ ECM affects the Rabid Coyote‘s ATM 12 launcher. Fortunately for the Rabid Coyote because of its speed advantage over the slower Ghost Bear `Mech, the long range game should not last very long.

In the medium range, both BattleMechs enter each other’s real danger zones. The Rabid Coyote adds four Medium Pulse Lasers into the mix, where as the Ursus adds two Medium Pulse Lasers and 2 ER Medium Lasers. If accuracy becomes an issue, the Rabid Coyote has the edge at this point. Its greater movement based defense also helps to further mitigate the non-Pulse Laser part of the Ursus‘ battery. However, a few luckier hits at shorter ranges with the ER Large Laser could keep the Ursus well in the fight.

It is at short range that the Rabid Coyote might finally turn the tables on the Ursus in a convincing manner. The High Explosive missiles on its ATM 12 will begin to exact a heavy toll on the Ursus, which does gain the use of its regular SRM 6 at this range.

In my estimation of the two BattleMechs, if the Ursus can prolong the longer range engagement, keeping to long range and the far end of medium range, for as long as possible, it will keep the upper hand. However, once the Rabid Coyote is able to make use of its superior speed and close to short range, the power of ATM 12 system will likely overpower the Ursus‘ ability to answer back as effectively.

I know that at this point you might be thinking that I’m going to avoid outright declaring a winner in this fight, and you would be right to think so. Both of these BattleMechs are well armed and armored for their weight class, and in a medium weight, non-striker defensive role, they are both perfect in their own ways.

Final Thoughts

While not as widespread as other designs, both the Ursus and Rabid Coyote are available in certain places should you be looking for a flavorful addition to a unit.

The Ursus has found its way, in the form of the Ursus 2 variant, into the touman of Clan Hell’s Horses, and the original variant also traveled with many of the Ghost Bear Clusters gifted to the Republic of the Sphere after the Jihad. Of course, you can almost always come up with a reason to have any BattleMech in any force, especially a mercenary unit, and I would not be surprised to see the Ursus scattered about very thinly in the forces of the Draconis Combine, Clan Nova Cat, and even Clan Wolf. Salvage is a beautiful thing.

The Rabid Coyote only regularly appears among Clan Wolf forces in the Inner Sphere, but the Homeworld Clans Coyote and Cloud Cobra both field the design in large numbers. It is also not unheard of to see the design fielded by Clan Burrock and the Dark Caste. Like the Ursus, the design may have spread in very limited numbers, as salvage, from Clan Wolf and into the forces of Clans Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, and Hell’s Horses, as well as even possibly into the LAAF.

If you play any of these factions, or you just really want an awesome and defensive Clan tech BattleMech, and you have the means, I highly recommend picking either one (or both!) up.

Want to Know More?

If you want to know more about either the Ursus or Rabid Coyote, check out the reference materials listed below:

BattleTech Technical Readout: 3060 on BattleCorps, DriveThruRPG, or Amazon.

BattleTech Technical Readout: 3067 on BattleCorpsDriveThruRPG, or Amazon.

Want to see me compare two other BattleMechs? Suggest a pairing in the comments, and if it strikes my fancy I might just write it!

Product Review: Technical Readout: 3150

777px-TRO3150I, Dædalus; my poor boy, Icarus;
Thy father, Minos, that denied our course;
The sun, that sear’d the wings of my sweet boy,
Thy brother Edward, and thyself the sea,
Whose envious gulf did swallow up his life.
Ah! kill me with thy weapon, not with words.
– William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act 5, Scene 6

Was I the only when a little angry when Technical Readout: 3150 was released with absolutely no original designs?

Okay, I get it. The Technical Readout: 3145 series – with each major faction receiving its own book – was fairly massive in the sheer amount of content produced. We received a relatively huge amount of new ‘Mechs, battle armors, vehicles of every kind, DropShips, Aerospace fighters and even ProtoMechs. Heck, we even got a new class of unit: the QuadVee. Vehicles transforming into four legged ‘Mechs. For those people who thought the “beloved” Land Air ‘Mech wasn’t bastardized enough. Or possibly for those people who thought that BattleTech needed to be more like The Transformers. One of those. So in a sense, it is understandable that Catalyst Games would release a significant sampling of choice units from the books of the 3145 series. It is totally understandable, in fact.

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Product Review: Operational Turning Points: Capellan Crusades

Operational_Turning_Points_Capellan_Crusades“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown”
– William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of Richard the Second, Act 3, Scene 2

How do you tell the story about the death of a legend?

Those of you who have read my articles may be aware that my introduction into BattleTech was the start of the Clan Invasion era, beginning with the novel Lethal Heritage. Michael Stackpole introduced us to a generation of larger-than-life characters. Victor Steiner-Davion. Phelan Kell. Shin Yodama and Hohiro Kurita. And, of course, Kai Allard-Liao; the greatest MechWarrior of his time and era, with the self-confidence of a mollusk threatened by a salt-shaker. The confidence part changed, of course, over the course of the novels. Kai, sadly, lost his precedence and became a secondary character to Victor, but perhaps part of that was the fact that the character evolved to the point where further exploration would have been superfluous, at least from a development standpoint. Nevertheless, Kai Allard-Liao was the best of the best. (In fact, the flavor text in this product firmly and definitively establishes this.) I certainly still found him interesting and relevant. (Heck, I even wrote a Sarna Wiki article on his ex-girlfriend.)

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