BattleMech Combat Categories
(edited article from FanPro's CBT Introductory Rulebook, pp 51-54)
BattleMechs are always designed with a specific purpose in mind, be it speed, long-range effectiveness, firepower, or versatility. Over the years, a total of seven commonly accepted major BattleMech categories have emerged to illustrate the characteristics of different BattleMechs and their purposes on the battlefield.
Brawler 'Mechs are armed with mostly long-range weaponry. Unlike juggernauts, they are maneuverable enough to bring their potent arsenal to bear on the enemy with little support from other classes.
These 'Mechs lack the mobility of skirmishers but make up for their lesser speed with more powerful weapons and/or heavier armor. These 'Mechs often form the backbone of an assault force or act as mobile escorts for the painfully slow juggernauts that often comprise the main punch of an assault.
Although these 'Mechs cannot fight effective running battles, they are well suited to a variety of other tasks. They shine in defensive battles or in attacks against stationary targets, and can use their slight advantage in maneuverability to take out enemy assault 'Mechs. Two or three of these 'Mechs should be able to outflank and eliminate any one slow enemy 'Mech. Use them to flush snipers and missile boats from their positions.
Slower and more heavily armored than brawlers, juggernauts carry enormous amounts of "big punch" close-range firepower that can reduce enemies to rubble very quickly. They also often carry an assortment of long-range weapons to provide added defense against enemy flanking movements.
Juggernauts are slow-moving 'Mechs with excellent short range firepower. Lacking long-range weapons or speed, juggernauts must rely on brute force to maneuver their way to within attack distance of the enemy. These 'Mechs are usually very well armored so that they can withstand heavy fire as they slowly advance toward the enemy. In theory, this armor is sufficient to allow them to get in a few successful shots—which is all they need to take out their opponents. Team up juggernauts with skirmishers or strikers as escorts, assigning the smaller 'Mechs to flank the enemy 'Mechs and threaten them with attacks against their backs, essentially shepherding them toward your juggernauts!
The three juggernauts shown below all carry the massive AC/20. One of the most damaging weapons, the AC/20 inflicts 20 points of damage to a single location when it hits. This is enough to penetrate the armor of most 'Mechs and can even destroy a light 'Mech with a single attack! Because this powerful weapon only has a medium range, most enemies will take great pains to position themselves exactly out of touch from a 'Mech carrying it.
 Missile Boats
Missile boats can be regarded as a subset of the sniper category, armed almost exclusively with LRM technology. However, they have a number of technical advantages over them: they do not need direct LOS to target an enemy, and they can quickly cripple enemy 'Mechs when their weapons are used in tandem with allied NARC beacons.
The virtually all-missile weapon loadouts of these 'Mechs allow them to maintain extreme long ranges from enemy forces and rain down devastating fire with impunity with little risk of being attacked themselves. To make the most of these 'Mechs, accompanying forces must move forward and prevent the enemy from closing in, a task usually accomplished by skirmishers or strike lances. A useful and common tactic is to find a "nest" for one's missile boat BattleMechs from which they can fire on the enemy's position without being dangerously close to it. Ideally this spot should have woods for cover and at least one level of height to provide line of sight to most of the 'Mechs on the board, such as on a hill. The attacking 'Mech gains partial cover from the hill.
Scout 'Mechs have extreme speed, but little armor and nominal firepower.
These extremely fast 'Mechs rush ahead of the main force, using speed to achieve their objectives and avoid the enemy. These types of 'Mechs are most useful in campaign settings where intelligence-gathering is important, but they also can be useful in standard scenarios. Use them when you need to reach an objective quickly or when you expect the opposition to field very fast 'Mechs.
Though protected only by light armor, scouts are not defenseless. Moving at their maximum speed makes scouts virtually invulnerable because their opponents must overcome their relative movement to make a successful weapons attack against them. Those scouts that can jump should do so as often as is practical. Head for the heaviest woods available and use them for cover, or move into a dead zone behind a hill. It’s more important to protect a scout from attack than to get in a strike with it's meager weaponry. Hold your fire until you have the opportunity to strike an opponent in the back, where even a relatively weak attack can penetrate thin rear armor and score critical hits.
Scouts work best when teamed up with medium and heavy 'Mechs that can provide covering fire and present more threatening targets for the opponent to attack; a fast-moving Spider is likely to be ignored in favor of a stationary Catapult. Ideally, this match-up buys the scout the time it needs to move into position for attacks on the enemy’s rear.
Generally found in the medium-heavy range bracket, skirmishers are usually equipped with a varied arsenal capable of operating at almost any range. Their speed makes up for lack of heavy armor.
Skirmishers are versatile 'Mechs with the mobility, armor, and firepower to take the fight to the enemy and inflict serious damage. Unlike most other types of 'Mechs described here, skirmishers can be used in a variety of ways depending on the situation at hand and the terrain.
Commanders commonly use these 'Mechs in tandem with lighter or slower 'Mechs to provide mobile fire support. The skirmishers harass the enemy forces while the special-use 'Mechs maneuver into position. Skirmishers often draw heavy recon duty, probing deep into enemy territory where lighter 'Mechs would fall to enemy attacks before they could return to friendly lines with intelligence on the enemy positions. For scenarios involving breaking through enemy-held positions, skirmishers offer many advantages.
Skirmishers should not be sent on missions of direct assault. Their firepower, while respectable, is not sufficient to take out heavy or assault 'Mechs quickly. To succeed in a direct assault, skirmishers need support from snipers and/or missile boats. Combined, such 'Mechs can take out heavy opposition with little difficulty.
Snipers are armed with direct-fire weapons capable of long-range combat. They exchange heavy engines for higher-than-average armor and and support systems such as heat sinks and/ or jump jets.
Because they don’t have to close with the enemy to fight effectively, their lack of speed represents only a minor weakness. Most sniper 'Mechs set up a “sniper nest” on the battlefield, in much the same way as missile boats take up and maintain a strategic position. Unlike missile boats, however, snipers are armed with direct-fire weaponry and cannot attack from hiding. To compensate for this necessity, choose a sniper nest far from the enemy force that provides cover in the form of woods or other partial cover. As the enemy advances on your position, attack while staying stationary. As additional protection, assign striker or brawler 'Mechs to keep fast enemy 'Mechs away from the snipers.
Strikers are characterized by largely ammunition-based short-range weaponry, high speed, less-than-average armor, and, commonly, electronics systems such as ECM and MASC.
Not as fast as scouts, these 'Mechs sacrifice some speed for a heavier complement of close-range weapons. They dash in, stand toe-to-toe with the enemy, then unload a massive barrage of weapons fire. Commanders often send an entire lance of strikers into the midst of the enemy, ordering them to concentrate fire on a single enemy 'Mech and thus eliminating a medium or heavy 'Mech in a few turns. Commanders should be prepared to sacrifice these 'Mechs to enemy fire in exchange for a significant damage against enemy 'Mechs. Use bold tactics when deploying strikers; bold strategies get the best results.
Deploy strikers with heavier 'Mechs that can provide long range covering fire, but make sure these 'Mechs can keep up with the striker 'Mechs—both types of 'Mechs need to stick together to distract the enemy. Any of the 'Mechs in the skirmishers group would serve this purpose. To survive long enough to close with their opponents, strikers need to keep moving, staying in woods or behind partial cover whenever possible until they reach medium or short range to the target. Then let 'em have it!