First, I want to extend my apologies to the staff and readers for being away for so long. A few months ago I took a new job in a new city. (A rather large city, in fact.) It has taken me this long to get settled and to reach a mindset where I felt I could do a good job with these articles. I know the products I’m reviewing came out months ago. Nevertheless, I feel obliged to continue with what I started for as long as Nic allows.
In this week’s product reviews, I examine Technical Readout: 3145 Lyran Commonwealth, the sixth in Catalyst Game Labs series to bring us up to speed on the ‘Mechs and machines of the late Dark Age era.
The Lyrans are arguably the only faction who has suffered worse in the time of the post-Blackout than the Federated Suns. Three Clans are now assaulting House Steiner from two directions. The military removed Archon Melissa Steiner II from power, only to restore her when the guy they replaced her with – Vedet Brewer of Hesperus – turned out to be even worse. Tharkad gets sacked, Melissa is assassinated (wait – didn’t that happen back in 3055? :P) by the clan invaders, and Trillian Steiner, a descendant of Peter Steiner-Davion, winds up as Archon simply because House Steiner has apparently run out of viable members. A map of the once-mighty Lyran state is depressing to look at, with huge blocks taken by the Jade Falcons, the Hell’s Horses and the new Wolf Empire. They’ve managed to hold onto Hesperus and other critical worlds, but only barely.
But let’s face it – you can get all that from the Field Manual or the Era Digest. We’re all here for the toys.
As with most of these Technical Readouts, three new battle armor designs are presented to us. The sole surviving legacy of the Gray Death Legion is their battle armor of the same name, this time in the form of an Infiltrator suit. This one actually has exceptional mobility for an armor suit, along with an adequate quantity of stealth armor, relatively speaking. The Cuchulainn and the Fenir II are both heavier, less mobile suits. I don’t play with battle armor enough to give a highly-confidant analysis, but that always seemed counter-intuitive to me. If your choice of unit is battle armor, you need that unit to do what traditional battle armor (meaning Elementals) do: Hop around and swarm. Otherwise, you’d choose a combat vehicle or a light ‘mech.
The vehicles begin with a Winterhawk APC, our textbook case of a fuel cell hovercraft. Not much to see here. We get a VTOL with a name so obvious it’s almost pun, but at least it offers an interesting combination of features with the speed to make them work. The Swallow is a WiGE, and while the flavor text seems to disagree, I compare it to the classic “Mech Buster” of long ago. I don’t know the purpose of the Schildkröte. If you’re going to make a slow tank, make it heavy enough that it can carry enough firepower so that it can hold its own. Instead, it’s a mere 50 tons, and though it is very well armored, it’ll be in trouble for anything beyond playing defense. With the Manticore II, they decide to turn a classic tank into an “amphibious vehicle”, which means it can float. Okay. These exotic unit types have become the norm for the Dark Age. The DI Schmitt and the Kelswa Assault Tank are more typical of the heavy tanks of the post-Clan Invasion era. Yes, they’re slow, but you wouldn’t want to take one on one-on-one without some serious firepower – like a Daishi – backing you up.
The final vehicle offering is the Gulltoppr, a 190-ton Clan Wolf-in-Exile OmniVehicle. It’s got lots of Clan-tech weapons and/or artillery… and it moves as slow as molasses. Why a Clan known to prefer fast ‘Mechs would go to the insane expense of developing a super-sized vehicle like this is anyone’s guess, it is a dangerous machine. For some reason, it is equipped with single heat sinks as opposed to doubles, making the use of large Clan energy weapons unfeasible. Still, it’s enough for most artillery, gauss rifles and LRMs, and that in a nutshell sums up the various configurations offered. Still, I’m not sure it can live up to the flavor text.
The first light ‘Mech we see is a new Firestarter. I don’t know why it required an “upgrade”; it doesn’t even include any Dark Age technology. You could easily have recreated the ‘Mech prior to the Jihad. The Jaguar is beautifully shaped and named, bristling with Clan-tech and with a quad turreted ATM launcher. Despite their reputations for assault ‘Mechs, the Lyrans actually produced an impressive succession of formidable light ‘Mechs that combined speed, mobility and firepower. The classic Wolfhound was a given, but the Spector, the Talon, the Scarabus and the Stiletto were all very impressive machines. The Jaguar fits nicely in that class. I’m not sure the same could be said for the Storm Raider, however. Maybe it’s the old prejudice against Class-2 auto-cannons (whether standard, ultra, LB-X cluster or rotary) but when a Rotary AC/2 and a mace are your only weapons, you need something more to work with. It is also just a hair slower than an advanced-tech light ‘Mech should be expected to be, and sorry, MASC doesn’t cut it with me. There’s no advanced, post-Jihad tech to speak of, either.
The Mongrel is a 50-ton machine, built with a combination of Inner Sphere and Clan parts. That’s not why I dislike it. There is no reason to be using a standard autocannon-5 in… “this day and age”. I could at least understand if it were using special ammunition rounds, but it makes no mention of that. To top it all off, the flavor text makes mention of pilots using the autocannon to keep Clan opponents at long range. Tell me – since when are the Clans terrified of a standard autocannon-5, I ask you? The Gauntlet is much more satisfying. A 55-ton OmniMech with modern refinements such as a Light Engine and Light Ferro-Fibrous armor along with Endo Steel. MASC as well. It seems to draw its appearance from another Lyran ‘Mech, the Bushwhacker. The configurations offer some fine examples of post-Jihad technology.
The Scourge may be one of my favorite ‘Mechs introduced in the TRO: 3145 series, as I was always fond of the “heavy cavalry” type-‘Mechs with a 5/8/5 movement profile such as the Thor and Falconer. The Scourge only jumps four, but it’s that kind of machine. Solid uses of advanced tech as well, with LFF and an actuator enhancement system in the right arm. A classic Gauss Rifle will make anyone pause, while an array of extended-range and medium pulse lasers burn anything that closes. It’s a proper package. Oddly, the weapon configuration bears a remarkable resemblance to the original Jinggau of the later Clan Invasion-era. That feels a little lazy on the part of the developers, but okay. The Ursa is a 65-ton tough-looking quad ‘Mech, with an interesting weapons array and no major weaknesses. Supposedly, its known for its charges the way the Highlander used to be known for its Death-from-Above attacks. The Götterdämmerung is 75-tons of pure resilience. I appreciate the consistent thought approach that went into the ‘Mech; yeah, it is slow, but its equipped for long-range combat. With a Compact Engine, a Torso-Mounted Cockpit and Heavy Ferro-Fibrous armor, this guy isn’t going down easy. I have but two concerns : First, the LRM launcher only carries eight rounds. (Who does that these days?) Second, there’s no CASE protecting the torso, even though this is a ‘Mech where that could make a big difference. Maybe the idea is the MechWarrior is supposed to burn off his LRM ammo quickly so they don’t have to worry about having it explode later?
Of course, appropriate for a Lyran book we are offered an upgraded version of the classic Zeus, this one continuing the X-series made famous by Stacy Church of Wolf’s Dragoons during the Jihad. The ZEU-X4 Zeus X (Why two X’s?) continues to use the most advanced / experimental weapons and equipment available. A double extra-light engine allows this Zeus to keep up with much lighter ‘Machines, and combined with a command console and near-maximum armor, this helps make it an ideal command ‘Mech. It carries reactive armor along with excellent long-range weaponry. They finally did justice to the traditional Lyran assault ‘Mech.
Having produced so many upper-heavyweight assault ‘Mechs throughout their history, it should be no surprise that two such machines would be included in this product. What might be a surprise is the two ‘Mechs chosen. The Viking was a solid ComStar / SLDF fire-support ‘Mech from the later Clan Invasion era, taking the idea of an LRM-missile boat to the extreme. This version, the Viking IIC, does the same thing but with Clan Tech, demonstrating a wonderful use of the Artemis V FCS system. Regrettably, it also has a maximum speed of four, a result of using a standard engine and hardened armor. The flavor text tries to make it sound like close-range combat is no longer a major problem for the Viking. Although the armor protection is impressive, micro lasers and machine guns aren’t stopping anyone besides unarmored infantry.
Finally, we have a new King Crab. The original, and most of the successors, was renowned for its overwhelming short-range weaponry, designed to simply “control” a small area of the battlefield by its sheer presence, deterring other units from getting close. Even the ComGuards’ Tukayyid version accomplished a similar feat, though with dual Gauss Rifles. This King Crab, however, relies on indirect fire, all of it coming from ammunition-consuming weapons. Yeah, it’s armored to the max with a standard engine. But the long-range firepower consists of a pair MML-7s. So in constrast to the Viking IIC, a very slow ‘Mech that was wisely equipped for distance engagements, the new King Crab is a slow ‘Mech that can’t close fast enough to make the full use of its modest arsenal. It is still a 100-ton monster, of course. But we compare 100-ton ‘Mechs against other 100-ton ‘Mechs, and this fella comes up short. (As an aside a descendant of Thomas Hogarth, the Jihad-era Leroy Jenkins homage, gets a mention.)
The Sternensturm is an excellent medium OmniFighter. It sacrifices quite a bit of pod space for speed and armor, but at least its built with a thought in mind. The Würger is an assault craft, designed to screen for Pocket WarShips. I dunno how well that works, given its weapons are barely strong enough to ward off fighters. Mostly, it relies on multiple anti-missle systems, and not even the laser kind. The Trutzburg is a transport DropShip, carrying a ‘Mech company, a fighter squadron and four squads of battle armor. Essentially a smaller version of the Fortress DropShip of the past, the Trutzburg is very well armed and armored. Of all the spacecraft introduced in this series, it may be among the best, or at the very least, among the DropShips you’d be most likely to use during a campaign that didn’t focus on AeroTech 2 / BattleSpace elements.
Like their formed Federated Commonwealth partner, House Davion, the Lyrans are teetering on the brink in the 3145 era. They now face – when counting Hell’s Horses – the three most aggressive Clans still remaining in the Inner Sphere, plus a not so friendly border with the Free Worlds League. Quite simply, they need a win right now just to survive. Their famous military industry has produced an interesting offering of ‘Mechs, vehicles and other assets that include a few gems, but a few possible duds as well. Only time will tell if House Steiner’s fortunes will rise like a phoenix (or, more appropriately, a resurgent stock market) or collapse like a flying elephant. They may not survive another “market correction”.