Over the course of writing my reviews on the Technical Readout : 3145 series, I feel the need to regain perspective and look at the series as a whole, with respect to the units offered. The ‘Mechs, combat vehicles, battle armor suits, AeroSpace fighters and other units covered in these technical readouts essentially represent a new era. We shouldn’t compare them to every other ‘Mech ever made, we’re comparing them to their contemporaries. So I’m starting over, taking a second look at everything, and then we’ll see how close my original assessments were to how I feel about them now. For this article, I’m reviewing the BattleMechs. I was originally going to make this a comprehensive article, but I felt the size just didn’t work for the kind of detail I wanted.
Those of you who’ve been reading my reviews have probably learned about my own preferences. First, I am an unapologetic min-maxer. When I design a ‘Mech, I try to make use of every critical spot. I favor jump-capable ‘Mechs that can easily clear terrain. This is largely because the scenarios I play – either on the board or in MegaMek – tend to be heavy with terrain obstacles. I have a shamelessly guilty pleasure for assault ‘Mechs. The original BattleMaster had the same speed profile as many ‘Mechs that were 30 tons or more lighter, so battle value limitations aside, why wouldn’t you prefer the heavier ‘Mech? What’s more, I generally give OmniMechs a preferable grading curve. When deploying an Omni, it is far easier to justify using a custom configuration. Finally, all other things being equal, I prefer ‘Mechs that retain their hand actuators. I had nasty situation in a scenario once where a Marauder I was using was swarmed by Elementals, and I got taken down because I couldn’t brush them away. Swarm attacks are more dangerous against the “hand-less”. This is not to say I don’t use “hand-less” ‘Mechs; but if two ‘Mechs offer the same performance, and one has one or more hands, I will usually choose that one.
When it comes to battle armor, every unit will inevitably be compared to the classic Elemental. Is the armor faster? Better-armored? More firepower? Does it use some weapon we’ve never seen on battle armor? Next: C-bill costs. I really don’t care. Honestly. Obviously, we need to mind battle values when choosing ‘Mechs against an opponent. Most scenarios don’t take this into account, so I don’t intend to, either. This above all else: Regardless of the unit type, give us something that isn’t simply derived from something we’ve already seen. Give us a combination of weapons, mobility and armor that not only makes sense, but give us something different.
Obviously, this particular “favorite” project carries some unique challenges. For one thing, units employ Clan Tech (or Inner Sphere tech, as the case may be) with relatively little regard for faction. Same goes for the technologies that were experimental or advanced in the aftermath of the Jihad. In a related problem: We have some new unit types, like the QuadVees. I’m not even pretending that I’ve used some of these in any actual scenarios. Likewise, amphibious equipment seems to have become highly popular. Most of my own efforts to use ‘Mechs in water hexes have had mixed results at best, including suffering a complete disaster when my armor was breach. (Besides, who puts heat sinks in legs these days?) I later learned respect for naval combat vehicles, but obviously those require a certain kind of map.
We’ll begin with the ‘Mechs. For the standard-bearers of BattleTech, I limited myself to four of each class, in the hopes I would produce a reasonable distribution. The old Technical Readout: 3050 had a similar layout for the original Clan OmniMechs, and it seemed a solid arrangement.
The first light ‘Mech to make the cut is the 30-ton Wulfen OmniMech (from the Clans TRO). It takes some of the best technologies of the Inner Sphere circa 3145 and incorporates them into a super-fast Clan machine. It boasts stealth armor, a double extra-light engine (Clan quality), an extra-light gyro, endo-steel and ten tons of pod space. Some of the configurations are less than impressive to my tastes. For example, If an undamaged ‘Mech only generates a maximum of 21 heat, does it really need four extra double-heat sinks? Reviewing my original assessment from the Clans TRO review article, it’s pretty much remained consistent, though I had apparently nit-picked the pod-space and available critical spaces in the past. (Like I said, I’m a min-maxer.)
The Jackalope (from the Republic of the Sphere TRO) is another 30-ton Clan-tech ‘Mech, and its appearance and profile vaguely resembles the old Jenner. It has an 8/12/8 movement profile and a laser anti-missile system for protection. The laser anti-missile systems are, in my opinion, one of the most under-utilized pieces of equipment of the Dark Age era. Yeah, the heat usage is considerable, and on a ‘Mech like the Jackalope, rally firing is needed. But the effectiveness in shutting down a missile-heavy enemy is irrefutable. Its everything the original AMS was supposed to be, except without running out of ammunition after the first volley. In my ROTS review, I emphasized jumping capability and the classic Clan construction materials (endo-steel, XL engine and Ferro-fibrous armor) but probably didn’t speak enough about the laser AMS. My bad.
The Yinghuochong, a 35-tonner from the Liao TRO, is everything the old Clint was supposed to be. With a jumping factor of eight, it can pretty well go wherever it wants. With a Clan ER PPC, it has the firepower to sting much larger ‘Mechs and devastate smaller ones. Its the kind of ‘Mech that gets the most out of using improved jump jets. The only supporting equipment is a TAG unit and a remote sensor dispenser. I’ve never used the later, but I can at least appreciate the former. A ‘Mech that can jump 240 meters, serve as an artillery spotter, and put the fear of a head shot into other ‘Mechs? Gimme some of that. Even the variant is pretty cool, with the TSEMP in the place of the PPC. I didn’t give the Yinghuochong a proper review the first time through, though I wish I had.
Wrapping up our light foursome is the 35-ton Phoenix Hawk L from the Kuritan TRO. It retains a similar performance to its heavier classic cousin, and the DCMS can finally move out of the hopelessly outdated Panther era. Yeah, a lot of us like that old ‘Mech, but most versions of it were ridiculously slow for a light machine. This ‘Mech features a TSEMP, an MML-3, an ER medium laser and, oddly, three heavy machine guns. The result is another highly mobile ‘Mech that can threaten heavier opponents and completely own unarmored infantry.
Honorable mention: As an aside, the Mercenaries TRO actually had three fine light ‘Mechs, any one of which I could have gone with: The Koshi (non-OmniMech), the Cadaver and the Tiburon. As much as I liked them, none quite made the cut.
From my own perspective, medium ‘Mechs seem to have gotten the short end of the stick for quite some time. The newer technologies are the core reason for this. It is too easy to design a heavy ‘Mech with the speed and mobility we previously expected from a medium, and it is likewise simple enough to deploy a light ‘Mech with enough firepower and protection to hang with heavier machines. Gone seems to be the days when medium ‘Mechs like the Griffin, Shadow Hawk and Wolverine represented the workhorses of any ‘Mech formation. Still, one can find a few exceptions here.
The Night Stalker, a 40-tonner from the Republic TRO, incorporates an intriguing weapon we rarely see outside of the Solaris series: A Lance. With an 8/12/0 profile it has enough ground speed to keep up with all but the swiftest light ‘Mechs, and while the supporting weapons aren’t overwhelming, we all know that’s not the role it was intended. I could well imagine a recon or pursuit lance (lower-case, no pun intended) playing headhunter against an enemy commander’s much heavier ‘Mech, and the Night Stalker hitting a critical with the Lance rules. The Beagle Probe and TAG fit the concept well, and though I don’t like the lack of CASE for the short-range missiles, the Night Stalker doesn’t run hot anyway.
The Centurion was a classic Davion ‘Mech that seemed to fall by the wayside, aside from the dozen or so variations of Yen-Lo-Wang. TRO Davion changed all that by remaking it a modern OmniMech. It has a relatively simple base – 250-class XL Engine, Endo Steel, slightly under-armored – but what I liked most was the configurations. Each of them takes a different approach, but they all seem to understand what the original concept and purpose of the Centurion. Each mounts a powerful weapon in the right arm (though one of those is a hatchet), and there’s a smattering of various supporting equipment pieces. Two of the configurations even possess jump jets, which is especially useful for the D; a melee brawler worthy of Solaris. The E configuration carries a Boosted C3 Slave; and this is the perfect platform for “advanced” equipment. OmniMechs can easily swap it out if it doesn’t fit with the other available units.
The Gyrfalcon, a 55-ton machine from TRO Clans, offers something somewhat new with the partial wings. Combined with the MASC, the long range weaponry, reflective armor and a light probe, it’s a fine leader for a recon lance or star or as a point ‘Mech for a heavier force. I’ve said before I’m not a fan of Class-2 autocannon, including the LB 2-X. But the concept works here, finding critical chances at range in armor that’s been broken by the lasers.
The Exhumer, from Technical Readout: 3145 Draconis Combine, is apparently maligned in-universe. That’s unfortunate, because the 55-tonner has a lot going for it. It has excellent long-range sniping weapons with two ER Large Lasers and some supporting small missile launchers. With a 6/9/0 movement profile, it can hit and move as well as we could reasonably ask for. The battlefists, though not a huge advantage, show a strong thought process : This is not a ‘Mech that sacrificed its hands for a modest increase in its forward firing arc. Battle armor units are all over the battlefields of 3145. You need something to swat those bugs away. In addition to all of that, the Exhumer simply looks bad-ass. It has a stocky build with fearsome adornments. This is clearly a ‘Mech intended for both battle and those propaganda parades House Kurita is so fond of. The popular variant is even more consistent as it uses Triple-Strength Myomer and large pulse lasers to close and… “exhume” enemies. (It is possible the developers need to come up with better names.) I liked it the first time around, and seeing the developers released such a ‘Mech without resorting to Clan tech impressed me even more.
Honorable mention: I very nearly included the 40-ton Raven II, from the Capellan TRO, in my list. The electronics package is state-of-the-art, and it improved on all the annoying aspects of the original. (A movement profile that was outdated, most people didn’t seem to like the NARC launcher, etc.) What do I not like about the new Raven II? Well, it is a tad under-armored and it lacks CASE. This is a bad combination for a ‘Mech of its size, even one with stealth armor. Still, in small numbers, I could definitely deploy this machine to either lead a recon lance or attached to a command lance.
This brings us to the heavy class. Similar to the mediums, the expectations for the heavies changed post-Clan Invasion. Time was, a 4/6 movement profile was more than sufficient for a heavy. That can run into trouble against ‘Mechs using Clan tech that are far faster with more firepower. I’ve always favored the approach of trying to match the new expectations of speed and mobility, and doing the best one can with the rest.
The Scourge, a 65-ton machine from the Lyran TRO, caught my eye for its movement profile. The 5/8/5 became popular with heavy machines in the Clan Invasion era, beginning with the Thor/Summoner and continuing with the Falconer, etc. I call it the new heavy cavalry. I always liked the combination of mobility and equipment. Heck, sometimes I even stuck jump jets on a Timber Wolf. The Scourge comes up just short with four jump jets, but is otherwise exceptional, with endo-steel, light ferro-fibrous armor, a gauss rifle and an actuator enhancement system for the four ER medium lasers mounted on its right arm.
Building on what I said about ‘heavy cavalry’ ‘Mechs, the Capellan Confederation TRO offers us the Mortis. This 75-ton hatchet-baring 5/8/5 ‘Mech jumps in and decapitates you, while carrying an equally dangerous Heavy PPC. It is everything the old Axman was supposed to be way back when. Really, though, the Mortis highlights the usefulness of the actuator enhancement system. Really, the only thing I don’t love about it is the Rocket Launcher 10 in its center torso. One-shot weapons were never my deal. Regardless, though, the Mortis works as either a brawler or as a point ‘Mech for an assault lance.
The Lament, courtesy of the Republic TRO, impressed me because it had a consistent, well-defined purpose. It pushes in and pounds its opponents, and it keeps going since it doesn’t run out of ammunition. It feels like and Awesome for a faster, more mobile battlefield. The armor is the absolute maximum for its weight, making it an excellent “battering ram”. The range of those paired Heavy PPCs isn’t great, but with a 5/8 speed, it doesn’t have to be. The radical heat sink system, like MASC, is best used on alternate turns, and it seems more than sufficient for holding off the heat curve. It really does look like a ‘Mech you would hate to see charging towards you on the battlefield.
It was almost inevitable that my final pick in the heavy category would feature a duel between the two heirs to the legacy of the Timber Wolf/Mad Cat. In one corner, we have the Mad Cat Mk IV from TRO Mercenaries, also popularly known as the Savage Wolf. In the opposing corner, we have the Warwolf from TRO Clans. The Mad Cat 4 features a double extra-light engine, lamellor armor and endo-steel. The Warwolf counters with a standard XL and endo with reactive armor. (In a twist, the Warwolf also retains its left hand; rare in a Clan OmniMech, especially one with this heritage.) Both OmniMechs also employ CASE II. Something I really like about the Mk IV is that the configurations really try to stay true to the original feel of the Mad Cat, but with state-of-the-art equipment. Obviously, the XXL is a mixed blessing, but the lamellor armor is puissant. The Warwolf, though using somewhat more common construction materials, nevertheless offers 30 tons of pod space of the best Clan tech of the 3145 era. Inevitably, we start looking for flaws. The Mk IV carries 15 double-heat sinks, fixed. While these are probably needed for most of the configurations, it does reduce the inherent flexibility in an OmniMech. Why fix extra double-heat sinks when you may be going into battle packed with missiles or autocannon? I also don’t like that many of the Mk IV configurations carry a paltry supply of ammunition. (Admittedly, this was also an issue with the original.) The Warwolf avoids these issues, and I love that the configurations offered include jump jets, laser anti-missile systems, ER pulse lasers and even a supercharger. Ultimately, I give the edge to the Warwolf. It has more pod space and free critical spaces which give it greater flexibility, and the equipment is top notch. The battle values apparently agree with me; the Warwolf consistently outpaces the Mk IV. Still, you could easily take either of them. I favored both ‘Mechs the first time I reviewed their respective TROs, and this has not changed.
Honorable mention: The Catapult II from the Capellan TRO successfully improved on and modernized the classic ‘Mech, but I didn’t like that it was a little light on ammo and CASE.
Finally, we come to my heart and joy, my bread and butter, the assault ‘Mechs. These are the monsters of the battlefield, even in the 32nd century. (Unless you count assault DropShips, or WarShip weapons in orbit, or some-such.) It was odd that the faction most known for their assaults, the Lyrans, didn’t get a representative on my list. I just wasn’t impressed terribly with their offerings, not even the 20th variation of the Zeus-X. I did feel a little cheap including three OmniMechs on this list, but if anything, assault ‘Mechs require even more flexibility in their equipment profiles to account for their slower speeds.
The 95-ton Tenshi, from the Draconis Combine TRO, impressed me right off the bat. It seemed to achieve everything the classic Inner Sphere ultra-heavy assault OmniMechs – the Sunder and the Hauptmann – had failed to accomplish years earlier. It’s a happy medium of pod space and durability, using a light engine, endo-composite internals, compact gyro and maximum armor protection. Yeah, it is on the slow side, but in its class, it doesn’t really need too much speed. The variants posted make excellent use of top-line Inner Sphere equipment as opposed to relying on Clan-tech. I especially like the B – twin TSEMP weapons, a Heavy PPC and jump jets. (No CASE though? On a ‘Mech that could really take advantage of it?) If you need more speed in an Inner Sphere assault OmniMech, there is always the Templar.
This leads us to the 85-ton Templar III, from the Davion Technical Readout. Like the Tenshi, it boasts a light engine with heavy armor, in addition to endo-steel and a heavy-duty gyro. It can nowhere near match the pod space of the Tenshi, or even that of the original Templar, but the combination of speed and durability would seem to make up for it. The first three configurations are solid. Each has a theme – an overarching strategy or specialty – that it sticks to. I may not be in love with the combination of the chain whip and hatchet on the B, but at least I can appreciate they went to great lengths to make a close-range assault ‘Mech that had a supercharger and jump jets to close with a target. Configurations C & D seem overly dependent on the utility of Re-Engineered Lasers, and that’s not my cup of tea. But since it is an Omni, it would be easy to justify swapping those weapons out if you aren’t facing an opponent with the right armor. Like I mentioned earlier, OmniMechs are the best platform for a specialty weapon, or any piece of equipment that could be impractical in many situations. A standard BattleMech would be in serious trouble if their unit ran out of ammunition reloads for their primary weapons. OmniMechs don’t have concerns like that, and that’s probably the best edge they can still boast.
The Tomahawk II, from the Clan TRO, is quite simply the best 100-ton ‘Mech ever released, Omni or otherwise. I could go on, but really, I don’t think I can say much that I didn’t already cover in my Clans TRO Review.
Would I have done something different with the configurations? Maybe. But these are absolutely worthy successors to the variants of the Daishi/Dire Wolf.
The Republic of the Sphere TRO offered us two colossal-sized ‘Mechs; the 125-ton Poseidon and the 135-ton Ares OmniMech. The Poseidon got my nod first time around, as it combines Clan energy weapons with state-of-the-art Inner Sphere equipment. It is also faster than the Ares, able to keep up with those Atlases and Stalkers. The Ares, for its part, also carries a mix of Clan and IS tech, but I’m unsure if I understand its purpose. It is essentially among the slowest ‘Mechs ever put into general production. (The UrbanMech, at least, had jump jets.) Most of the configurations seem to favor short-range weaponry, and slow speed and short-range weaponry don’t mix in my mind. The original King Crab did the same thing, effectively creating a ‘Mech that dominated its immediate area as opposed to one fit for launching offensive attacks or holding the line in the open field. The Poseidon, in the meantime, is a more proper heavy assault ‘Mech. It even carries a higher battle value than most of the Ares variants, leading me to wonder why they bothered. The Poseidon gets the nod, here. I thought much the same during my Republic of the Sphere Technical Readout Review.
What about you? What are some of your favorite ‘Mechs from the 3145 Technical Readout series I’ve missed, and why?
As time permits, I’ll be posting future articles on the other units of the 3145 era.