Tag Archives: Alpha Strike

A Short December 2017 BattleTech Gift Guide

At the time of writing, we’re already a couple of days into December, which means time is quickly running out to get some BattleTech related goodies for your gaming buddies, for your significant other, or hey, even for yourself!

I’ve taken a bit of a look around, and here are a few good places to find some holiday BattleTech models and books that just might save the day and give the gift of heavy metal mayhem this holiday season. This is by no means an extensive list, meant to serve as just a general survey of what’s out there in this snapshot of time, and it’s pretty well skewed towards being primarily useful to those in the US and Canada.

Just want you to be aware before diving in.

Local Game Stores

A word about FLGS’s and what they mean to the community. MechWarriors, if your LGS supports BattleTech by carrying product, please do all you can to do your buying and ordering through them. They are the ones who are taking the biggest chance by dedicating precious shelf space to the game we all love, and it’s important for us to make sure they know we appreciate it.

So please, before you order online, make sure to take a moment and confirm (it’s pretty easy for most of us, as I’m sure the majority already know, but it still has to be said) that you have no local sources for BattleTech models and books.

You may just help save your favorite gaming space if you can source your gifts locally.

Now, onto the guide.

Click on the logo pictures below to go to the relevant pages. 

Aries Games & Miniatures

One of the most popular of the online retailers that specializes mostly in BattleTech and Alpha Strike, Aries has a good relationship with Iron Wind Metals, so their catalog is fairly vast as far as selection is concerned.

Of note at Aries is that they seem to have a good supple of the highly sought after Alpha Strike Lance Packs that feature 4 hard plastic BattleMechs in each pack. At a price of $7.99 per Lance Pack ($2 off of MSRP), these are a great deal and a quick way to buy a whole Lance, Company, or even a larger unit.

Aries doesn’t stop there, either, as they have pretty much (I don’t think all of) most of IWM’s BattleTech Archive and bits catalog, too. There’s not much I can’t find at Aries, just poking around the site. So if you’re looking for a one-stop shop for a gift of BattleTech models, Aries is likely your best bet.

BattleTech Rulebooks

Though we’ve recently received some good news that the core rulebooks will see a reprinting, probably in 2018, many MechWarriors still need rulebooks now. From Total Warfare to Alpha Strike, some of these books are getting pretty tough to find. Here’s a few places I’ve seen with some of these books in stock.

Also, most any place that has any BattleTech rulebooks will have some selection of models, but none of them are as extensive in selection as Aries.

Game Nerdz

Alpha Strike, Combat Manual: Mercenaries, and the BattleMech Manual are among the books I’ve seen in stock with Game Nerdz. Not the biggest selection, but nobody has that at this point.

The War Store

Vik the Viking actually has a pretty good selection, but it is mostly TRO’s, Record Sheet books, and secondary game supplements, thought they do have both Alpha Strike and the Alpha Strike Companion in stock.

Miniature Market

This site has a good mix of game books and the Alpha Strike Lance Packs, though most items are in pretty low stock. But, if you’re looking for a place to pick up the Lance Packs and the Alpha Strike rulebooks in one place, this site is probably your one stop.

BATTLETECH – Harebrained Schemes

It’s not too late to get your BattleTech buddies (and yourself!) in on the BattleTech strategy game by Harebrained Schemes, coming out in 2018. I had a chance to talk to Jordan Weisman earlier this year at GenCon and try out the latest of the game updates as of that time, and wow! was it awesome a few months ago.

Since then, the multi-player beta has officially launched, and details are coming out on a regular basis about the game’s campaign mode and story line. This is one BattleTech game no Mech fan should miss for any reason.

MechWarrior Online Gift Store

If your MechWarrior plays MWO, then don’t overlook the possibility of getting them a gift code for a brand new, shiny Mech Pack. Thought it’s not a physical product, if your givee enjoys the digital Mech action, then the MWO Gift Store is a prime place to look for an opportunity. You get the Gift Codes through your email when you buy them, and you can forward them on to your favorite MechWarriors at the proper time.

Terrain

There are lot of options here, far too many to list. Good scale terrain for BattleTech has become more accessible over the past year or so, especially if your MechWarrior is into 3D printing, or knows someone who is.

One pretty awesome new source for 3D printed terrain files is actually a well-known site for digital gaming supplies, DriveThruRPG. There’s some great stuff available there for gamers who are already into, or are getting into, 3D printing.

BattleTech for the Holidays

Wherever you get your BattleTech related gifts, I hope that you all have a great holiday season playing and enjoying the game and the hobby that we all love.

Spread the joy, and always keep a light trigger finger.

Happy Holidays, MechWarriors.

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!

A Year of Alpha Strike – 2016 Leader Board, Week 6

My local group is partaking in a year-long Leader Board for 2016.

Week 6 of the 2016 season kicked off Quarter 2, as players met on Saturday, April 16 for another round of quick and bloody ‘Mech action.

Four players descended on the battlefield that day, including a new player who sported the colors of Clan Sea Fox.

The Forces

Due to the nature of this Week’s scenario, players had the option of bringing two rosters, one for Attack and one for Defense. Not everyone did so, but the option was there.

Clan Sea Fox

Our new player, representing Clan Sea Fox, came prepared for battle with a force of OmniMechs that showed off what a front line Clan force should look like.

Over a Star of Clan Sea Fox OmniMechs descended on the League.

Over a Star of Clan Sea Fox OmniMechs descended on the League.

Continue reading

A Year of Alpha Strike – 2016 Leader Board, Week 5

My local group is partaking in a year-long Leader Board for 2016. In cased you missed earlier Weeks, here’s Weeks OneTwoThree, and Four.

Week 5 for the Leader Board Season was the last Saturday game for the 1st Quarter of the year, and we decided to cap off the accomplishment with a Mega Battle!

The lines were drawn between Inner Sphere and Clan, and we all met on Saturday, March 12 to determine which side would reign as Quarter 1 Champions.

The Teams

Each side brought 900PV, split evenly between the players on each side.

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A Year of Alpha Strike – 2016 Leader Board, Week 4

My local group is partaking in a year-long Leader Board for 2016. In cased you missed it, here’s Weeks OneTwo, and Three.

Real life travel has delayed the Week Four report until now, and as such much of my memory of the Week 4 games has faded. I do, however, have army lists and the game results, so I will try to fill in the details the best I am able.

Week 4 of the 2016 Leader Board Season was played on Thursday, February 18.

The Lists

Clan Sea Fox

A wild Clan Sea Fox Star has appeared!

A wild Clan Sea Fox Star has appeared!

The Mercenary player decided to shake things up a bit and introduce a new force. The rules of the Leader Board do not prevent this, so he took to the field with a Grand Summoner, a Karhu, a Mad Cat Mk III, a Cave Lion, and a Tiburon. All units were at Skill: 3.

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A Year of Alpha Strike – 2016 Leader Board, Week 3

My local group is partaking in a year-long Leader Board for 2016. In cased you missed it, here’s Weeks One and Two

Week Three of the 2016 Leader Board Season was playing on Saturday, February 6. Clans Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, and Snow Raven were represented, along with Wolf’s Dragoons, Draconis Combine, and Mercenaries.

The Armies

Yay! I got shots of all of the armies this time!

Clan Snow Raven2016-02-06 17.02.29A carbon copy of the Snow Raven list used in Week 2, the CSR player wanted to gain more understanding of the list in the hopes of mastering the rules and tactics involved in the combined arms force. The Mad Dog and Linebacker were both Skill: 2 with all other units at Skill: 3.

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A Year of Alpha Strike – 2016 Leader Board, Week 2

My local group is partaking in a year-long Leader Board for 2016. In cased you missed it, here’s Week One

Week 2 of the 2016 Leader Board Season was played on the evening of Thursday, January 21. The Jade Falcon, Snow Raven, Wolf’s Dragoons, and Ghost Bear players were able to make it. Additionally, we had two players play in their first intro game that night, with one of those guys even picking up a list and playing a Leader Board game after two people had to leave!

Huzzah for new recruits!

The Lists

I was a little better about lists this week, but still not good enough. The Wolf’s Dragoons player managed to get away without me getting a picture of his force, so his list will be to the best of my memory.

Clan Jade Falcon

Nothing like a nice, full Star of Clan OmniMechs to wreck someone in the...wait, is that a Turkina?!!!

Nothing like a nice, full Star of Clan OmniMechs to wreck someone in the…wait, is that a Turkina?!!!

Two of the Jade Falcon `Mechs, the Turkina and the Flamberge, were at Skill: 2, while the rest of the force was at Skill: 3. This force was fast and jumpy. It can pretty much always be where it wants to be, when it wants to be there.

Clan Snow Raven

This Clan Snow Raven force is well-rounded and swift.

This Clan Snow Raven force is well-rounded and swift.

The Mad Dog and Linebacker were both at Skill: 2. All other units were at Skill: 3. A massively dangerous Aerospace fighter, the Kirghiz has the potential to deliver a killing blow to just about any unit in the game. Oh, and side note, nothing is more annoying that Battle Armor that can fly by you and drop bombs.

Wolf’s Dragoons

Image file not found. Please contact your local Comstar office for further technical assistance.

Wolf’s Dragoons hit the field with seven (7) BattleMechs of mixed Inner Sphere and Clan manufacture. It was a generalist list that managed to have everyone at Skill: 3.

Clan Ghost Bear

What, no Kodiak? I thought you guys were Ghost Bears.

What, no Kodiak? I thought you guys were Ghost Bears.

The Bruin and Arcas were both at Skill: 2. The SolitaireArcas 3, and Beowulf IIC were at Skill: 3. This list is very similar to the Jade Falcon list, fast and mobile. The differences between the Bruin and the Turkina allowed the Ghost Bears to have beefier heavy `Mechs.

New Blood

One of our new players jumped into the fray right after his Intro Game, and he loved the game right away. We think he’s going to keep coming back. His list was based off of my Draconis Combine intro unit, which was expanded to 250 PV with supplementary Mechs from the group for his game against Wolf’s Dragoons.

The Games

Week 2’s scenario was one of simple point control. Two 6″ diameter objective zones were established in the center of the board, 12″ apart. To score, there must be no enemy units contesting the zone during the end phase of a turn, and each player scores objective points equal to the PV of the units controlling the point. First side to 150 objective points wins. Scoring begins at the end of Turn 3.

Round 1

Wolf’s Dragoons vs Clan Jade Falcon

Disaster struck early for Wolf’s Dragoons as its Vulture found itself in the sights of the Turkina on Turn 1. A roll to hit, succeeded, and one vaporized Vulture. The early hit to morale proved too much for Wolf’s Dragoons, and Clan Jade Falcon continued to pummel the mercenaries, grabbing a swift and decisive early Objective Win.

Clan Snow Raven vs Clan Ghost Bear

The Ghost Bears deployed aggressively, hoping to bully the relatively lighter Snow Raven force from the first moment. The fighting over the control points was brutal, with the Snow Raven plan betted everything on bombing the smaller Ghost Bear BattleMechs off the board. Several bombs missed their mark, however, and only caused superficial damage to the Ghost Bears, who pushed the Snow Ravens off of the objectives and claimed a strong Objective Win.

Wolf's Dragoons prepare to counterattack against the advancing 5th Sword of Light.

Wolf’s Dragoons prepare to counterattack against the advancing 5th Sword of Light.

Intro Game Time!

The two new players played out their Intro Game concurrent to Round 1. One side had a Lance from the 15th Avalon Hussars, while the other side had a Lance from the 5th Sword of Light. Good ol’ Davion vs Kurita match. For some reason, I did not write down who won, but neither player really cared. They both jumped into the game and found it incredibly easy to pick up and play.

Round 2

One of the Intro players and the Snow Raven player had to leave after Round 1, so the other Intro player was outfitted with reinforcements for his 5th Sword of Light, and the battles commenced.

Wolf’s Dragoons vs 5th Sword of Light

The 5th Sword of Light deployed its Daishi just a little too far out in the open, and Wolf’s Dragoons decided to punish the new player for his mistake. With their heaviest hitter out of the fight so early, the 5th Sword of Light rallied and pushed back, contesting the control zones to the very last man. In the end, Wolf’s Dragoons triumphed by destroying just enough of the 5th Sword to claim an Objective Win.

Clan Jade Falcon vs Clan Ghost Bear

Showing no fear of the Turkina, the Ghost Bears went right after the menacing Assault Mech on the first turn, with the <em>Bruin</em> landing a devastating blow on the heavier BattleMech. However, the Ghost Bears paid the price for their aggression, losing the <em>Bruin</em> on Turn 1 for an instant 4 v 5 situation. The fates battled back and forth for the rest of the game, with the Ghost Bears relying on the stalwart nature of the two <em>Arcas</em> BattleMechs. In the end, the Jade Falcons could not stand up to the Ghost Bears' repeated all-out assaults, and the final roll (Double Ghost Bears!) to take out the last Jade FalconMech is memorialized in the picture below. Clan Ghost Bear claimed the Win.

The Flamberge did manage to kill the Solitaire with its dying breath.

The Flamberge did manage to kill the Solitaire with its dying breath.

End of Day Results – 

Moving into Week 3, which is tentatively scheduled for either the first or second Saturday in February, the standings are still anybody’s to take. We have only played a handful to games so far, so fortunes could shift at any moment.

FactionGames PlayedWinsLossesTies*Win %Scenario Victories*Scenario Victory %*Kill Score*Units Painted
Clan Snow Raven20200.00%00.00%200
House Davion0000#DIV/0!0#DIV/0!00
Mercenaries211050.00%150.00%220
Clan Jade Falcon422050.00%125.00%750
Clan Ghost Bear3300100.00%266.67%720
Wolf’s Dragoons211050.00%150.00%150
Undecided10100.00%00.00%100

My personal goal for Weeks 3 and 4 is to start getting numbers up in the Units Painted category.

So that’s it for Week 2 of the 2016 Leader Board Season. Week 3 commences on Saturday, February 6.

Has your group talked about starting something like this? Need any advice, tips, or ideas? Use the comments section to tell me about what you’re up to, and let’s see how many groups can get their own Leader Board going for 2016!

Want to know more about BattleTech: Alpha Strike? You can pick up the free Quick Start PDF at the Catalyst Game Labs website

A Year of Alpha Strike – The 2016 Leader Board, Week 1

This year, my local BattleTech group is trying out something new. Instead of just simply getting together for games once in a while, we decided that we wanted to make our games count for something.

The collaborative effort that came out of our many emails on the topic birthed the 2016 Leader Board Season.

We decided that the group would be able to meet 1-2 times a month between two locations, and that each player who wants to participate in the Leader Board should concentrate on a specific faction for the whole of the season. In this way, it feels a bit like a relaxed league that tracks a few more stats than just wins and losses.

Ghost Bear forces advance on the mercenary position.

Ghost Bear forces advance on the mercenary position.

The Stats

And speaking of those stats, let’s go over what all we’re tracking and why.

Games Played, Wins, and Losses – The basic stats, from which most of the other stats will be derived. Beyond being a rough estimate of who wins most often, it pretty much just shows which of us show up most often.

Win % – One of the four primary stats we are tracking. It’s not about how often you play, it’s about how often you win when you do play. This is one of the stats that will award a trophy to the highest scorer at the end of the 2016 season, also granting to the recipient the title, “The Victor.”

Scenario Victory % – This stat is important for any group that wants to get beyond the “line up and kill each other” style of game play. Each time we meet for a Leader Board round of games, a scenario that includes alternate win conditions to just killing the enemy will be selected ahead of time. While it will always be possible to win through the Forced Withdrawal rule and by wiping your opponent’s forces off the board, adding in scenario objectives adds a tactical level to the games that we all decided would be a good thing and add to the depth of play. The winner of this trophy also gets the title, “The Tactician.”

Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Snow Raven forces clash.

Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Snow Raven forces clash.

Kill Score – Using the Basic Kill Scoring Table, found on page 159 of Alpha Strike: Companion, we will also be tracking how much sheer damage and destruction is caused over the course of the season. The winner of this trophy will earn the title, “The Destroyer.”

Units Painted – The hobby side of the aspect is an important facet to the game, and we wanted the Leader Board to reflect that. As the only non-game dependent stat, we felt it was important to track and honor the hobby efforts of the group as we grow our armies and progress throughout the year. The winner of this trophy will earn the title, “The Maker.”

We still have to have a little discussion about the requirements for winning some of the awards in order to set a minimum number of games that have to be played in order to qualify. This ensures that we are all kept honest and don’t sit on a good stat halfway through the year, mitigating the risk of falling in the rankings.

Truthfully, I do not fear that anyone in the group would do this, but it’s still a good idea to have rules like that in place.

Week 1 Report

Week 1 took place on Saturday, January 16. Four of us were able to make it, and a total of three games were played due to one of us having to leave early. I remembered to snap a few pictures of the games, something at which I need to get better. Our Week 1 scenario was a basic scenario that was outlined in the Alpha Strike book that included two objective markers on each side of the board, with each side attempting to capture the objectives on the opposite side.

For now, all games are at 250 PV. The only restriction we have placed on force rosters is that each force can only have a maximum of two (2) units at Skill: 2 and a maximum of one (1) unit at Skill: 1, with the total maximum number of units at either Skill: 1 or Skill: 2 capped at two (2) units.

The Lists –

I don’t have the rosters for all four of us, something I might fix in future Leader Board reports, but I’ll briefly explain the lists used below.

Mercenaries – The Merc player went with a “quantity over quality” approach and fielded two full Lances of BattleMechs all at Skill: 4. The force overall stressed maneuverability, with half or more of the units sporting jump jets.

Clan Snow Raven – This force was the only one of the day with an Aerospace presence, in the form of one heavy fighter. The ground force was a full Star of Medium weight OmniMechs, all of at least Striker speed. All units were Skill: 3.

Clan Jade Falcon – The Jade Falcon force was a full Star of BattleMechs, featuring several Omni designs, that ranged from Medium to Assault. The force overall was sturdy, packing a huge heavy hitter in its Turkina Assault OmniMech, and had several jump capable units. The force featured mixed Skill: 3 and Skill: 2 units.

Clan Ghost Bear – The Ghost Bears fielded a speedy, combined arms list that featured 5 Fire Moth OmniMechs all carrying Gnome Battle Armor, supported by a lone Solitaire BattleMech. Speed and rapid redeployment, as well as swift objective capture were the main tactics of this force. The force featured mixed Skill: 3 and Skill: 2 units.

End of Day Results –

In the first two games, Clan Ghost Bear won a Scenario Victory by running circles around the Mercenaries, only losing a total of one `Mech and one Battle Armor squad all game while reducing the mercenary force to two BattleMechs. Clan Jade Falcon achieved a board wipe against Clan Snow Raven, even eliminating the Snow Raven Aerospace support when it came onto the board for a run.

The mercenaries move on an objective as Clan Ghost Bear rapidly redeploys to counter.

The mercenaries move on an objective as Clan Ghost Bear rapidly redeploys to counter.

The Snow Raven player had to leave early, so the Ghost Bear player only got one game in. In their second game, the Jade Falcon and Mercenary players slugged it out with both sides taking losses. In the end, the Mercenaries won out by numbers and achieved a Scenario Victory.

Below is the 2016 Leader Board as it now stands, heading into Week 2, which is scheduled to take place this Thursday, January 21. The errors currently displaying on the spreadsheet are due to lack of data for the formulas to compute. Two of our group could not make it to Week 1, so as they get in games, the spreadsheet will begin to look more complete.

FactionGames PlayedWinsLossesTies*Win %Scenario Victories*Scenario Victory %*Kill Score*Units Painted
Clan Snow Raven10100.00%0#DIV/0!150
House Davion0000#DIV/0!0#DIV/0!00
Mercenaries211050.00%1100.00%220
Clan Jade Falcon211050.00%00.00%500
Clan Ghost Bear1100100.00%1100.00%300
Wolf’s Dragoons0000#DIV/0!0#DIV/0!00

 

So what is your group doing for BattleTech and/or Alpha Strike this year? Perhaps you would like to take the 2016 Leader Board idea and adapt it to suit your own local group. Feel free to do so, and do let me know how it goes if you do!

Stay tuned for more 2016 Leader Board Weekly Reports as we dive into the year.

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!

Alpha Strike mod for Table Top Simulator

A chance interception on Reddit alerted me to this new work-in-progress game mod for TableTop Simulator on the Steam Network. TTS is kind of a virtual reality environment for playing tabletop games. You manually move the pieces, dice and sheets interactively – just using a mouse instead of your hand.

I was told by one of the users that the BattleTech mod uses map tiles and differing altitude levels, which suggests a measure of customizability to the environment. Though they and the assorted models and preset record sheets are fairly limited in number at the moment. There are nineteen ‘spheroid ‘mechs in the first mech pack. Turduckens has a number of these terrains to choose from, including River Map, Open Terrain, etc. Traditional rule sets for BattleTech have also proven to be  too clunky to be used in TTS, but Alpha Strike works very well. Even when fighting with a company or more on each side. It almost reminds me of a less-flashy prototype of what MechWarrior Tactics was trying for.

It’s certainly no MegaMek – but perhaps that’s a good thing. With a simple rule set and richer graphical experience, not to mention Steam Network’s voice chat system, ‘River map’ might develop into quite a compliment to MegaMek.

Thanks to Tipsymahn260 for the image.

Thanks to Tipsymahn260 for the image.

If you’re on Steam and feel like a game of Alpha Strike, or just want to check out the virtual models, it might be worth a look.