Category Archives: Software

Did You Know? Tabletop Simulator has BattleTech in VR

Nothing quite beats the feeling of sitting down around a big table with your friends and spending an evening playing tabletop BattleTech. The sound of rattling dice, the camaraderie, the drinking (at least when I do it), and the inevitable hollering that follows when someone bumps into the table and knocks over everyone’s ‘Mechs. Priceless.

Sadly this option isn’t available to everyone. Sometimes there’s just not enough people around to get a good playgroup going. For those ‘Mech heads there’s always been MegaMek to get there giant stompy robot fix, but the virtual world has never really lived up to the meat world in terms of delivering the authentic games night experience.

That remained the case until 2015, when a hitherto PC game got some much needed giant robot love.


Tabletop Simulator is a game available for download on Steam (or Humble Store or- y’know what? Just go to their website for the full list) that’s really not much of a game at all. It’s more like a physics sandbox designed to mimic real life as much as possible. The game comes with a few classic board games (like checkers, pachisi, and go), but in a terrible oversight from the designers, it did not ship with BattleTech as an available game to play.

Lucky for us, Tabletop Simulator is easily modified by enterprising individuals with a little modeling experience and a love of the game.

“When I heard of Tabletop Simulator I found out that there was nothing on the Workshop for BattleTech.”

“I’ve been playing BattleTech since… well, yeah I started playing MechWarrior since I was, like, you know, three,” says Steam user Turduckens, who was the first to see the potential for Tabletop Simulator and its glaring omission of BattleTech. “When I heard of Tabletop Simulator I found out that there was nothing on the Workshop for BattleTech. And I think the game had only come out for, like, a year or so, so then I decided I’d get to work on that.”

Bringing BattleTech to Tabletop Simulator wasn’t entirely a walk in the park. Because the game has almost no scripting outside of rolling dice, everything that exists in real life has to be made to work in game. That means hex maps, ‘Mech models, even the Record Sheets had to be recreated by hand to work in Tabletop.

“The hardest thing was originally trying to find good sources for models. Like, there was always the paper models, which a lot of the times were MechWarrior 4 and 3 models, which I don’t know what magic they used to rip those from the game because I could not figure it out.”

And of course there were some mishaps along the way. When developing the original hex boards for use in Tabletop, he ran into a few minor issues. “I didn’t know how to use the hexagonal snap at the time so all of my hexes were slightly uneven and disjointed, haha!”

Fortunately for Turduckens, after the initial release of the hex boards he didn’t have to work alone. “As the word got out it kind of blossomed. Like, a lot of people started making stuff for Tabletop Simulator,” says Turduckens after his initial release of the BattleTech game boards.

Soon a community of user created content would develop around the project, culminating in the BattleTech Collection page under the Tabletop Simulator Workshop. Turduckens curates the page where he compiles and collates all the latest and greatest in BattleTech mods for Tabletop Simulator.

And there is quite a lot available. From hundreds of Record Sheets from Steam user Insaniac99, to a full fledged campaign from Steam user WuSu. There’s even other BattleTech games like the TCG and Alpha Strike.

Getting started in BattleTech Tabletop Simulator is easier than ever, with many user created quick-start scenarios. Turduckens has his hosted on Nexus called Davion vs. Mercenaries, a well balanced 4v4 scenario that pits a Federated Suns lance against a mercenary lance of classic 3025 era Battlemechs. For more experienced users, there’s more comprehensive collections such as Steam user ItchyDani3l’s Skirmish, which gives players dozens of ‘Mechs to choose from, both Clan and Inner Sphere.

Best of all, Tabletop Simulator has recently gotten VR support, adding a level of immersion never before seen to simulated BattleTech. Turduckens sadly didn’t have a working VR headset to test out his designs, but he did have a friend do it for him.

“One of my favorite moments when I was making this stuff was my friend joined and he had his VR headset on, and it shows you in-game exactly where his head is and where his arms are and he was, like, picking stuff up and he was looking at these ‘Mech models I imported and it was just so cool.”

It may be soon that the virtual world will be the space of choice for tabletop BattleTech fans.

For those looking to find Tabletop Simulator players, Turduckens recommends Clan Ghoul as a place to start. “They were so fun to play with, oh my god. Our gamemaster was running, like, eight ‘Mechs at a time versus us, and he was such a good host.”

Of course, we couldn’t leave Turduckens without asking him his favorite ‘Mech. “Oh, I’d have to say the Awesome. Yeah, I love ‘Mechs that can peek out and do a crap-ton of damage and then just go back into cover and cool off.”

Until next time, ‘Mech fans. Stay syrupy.

Solving the Range Problem with Armor Piercing Pancakes

There’s 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.

The guns.

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 a 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 because instead of shooting bullets, the AC/20 fires armor piercing pankcakes.

Tasty, tasty Hunchback pancakes. Servin’ ‘em up, hot’n’fresh!

Alright, I know at 0.76 mm the thickness of these pancakes are a shave wider than a human hair, but you cannot deny the amazing image they produced.

Till next time, MechWarriors. Stay syrupy.

The First Slate of Changes at MegaMekNet is Complete

MMNET LOGO

Many Operations Await

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

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Future Possibilities for Tabletop BattleTech

The game Golem Arcana being played out

Pondering tactical possibilities.

I am lucky to count myself part of an active and ongoing BattleTech gaming group. While we have a great time stomping about in our ‘Mechs, trying to complete campaign objectives, by necessity we are stuck playing only a single battle per meeting. Each battle, ranging from lance on lance all the way up to company vs company sized battles can take a daunting amount of time, with our average lance + support units vs star/multi lanced size opponents taking anywhere from four or more hours to complete. Many times we simply run out of time, and make judgment calls as to the results of the battles.

This has lead me to wonder, is there a better way? Being a technology junkie, I’ve often thought as to how to leverage technology to remove the tedium of classic BattleTech game play.

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New Releases for MegaMek, MekHQ and MegaMekLab

On Sunday, December 14, all three in house products were released for MegaMek, MekHQ and MegaMekLab.  These three development releases are timed together in order that users of the different programs can use them simultaneously.

If you are feeling a little bored today, and want to play some BattleTech, then just check out the free java-based MegaMek and it’s suite of programs.  The additions to MegaMek 0.39.4 handle some bugs, as well as improve images and other miscellanea.  All told, there are around 20 changes to the software.  MegaMek is a free java-based program that simulates playing BattleTech against the AI or real folks, and can be used to host games online.

Meanwhile, the full list of changes for MekHQ reveals a number of bugs squashed.  It can be used to track campaigns and manage your unit, and works with MegaMek as well.  Meanwhile, the MegaMekLab predominately enables it to communicate with the others.  Feel free to build your best stuff and play it against folks in MegaMek.

Download all three and get that Mek on!

New MegaMek and MegaMekLab Releases

On Saturday, September 27, two new development releases were announced for MegaMek and MegaMekLab.

A full list of the changes for MegaMek 0.39.2 can be found here:

The list of additions includes strengthening the AI “bot” that you can play against, as well as adding rules such as strafing and a variety of bug fixes.  All told, there are more than 50 changes to the game.  MegaMek is a free java-based program that simulates playing BattleTech against the AI or real folks, and can be used to host games online.

Meanwhile, MegaMekLab was updated to work with the new MegaMek development release.  You can build units with save-files that are compatible with MegaMek and try them out against friend and foe alike.

So download either or both, and get your Mek on!

MegaMek Announces Map Editor

mm_logo

Playing BattleTech since 2750

On Saturday, August 2, developers for MegaMek released a preliminary version of a map editor feature for MegaMek.  This will allow players to edit their maps prior to playing, so that they can play on a map they modified.  This highly anticipated feature is in the earliest, debugging stages.

MegaMek is a great way to play the BattleTech game online with some friends.  You just have to have a device that runs Java, and download the free client.  There are numerous programs that run with it to create campaigns, online worlds, and more.  Check out MegaMek and give it a spin.