Bad ‘Mechs – Banshee

Banshee Clown

Courtesy of EldoniousRex

“What. The. Fuck.” 

Hauptmann Müller turned to his chief technician, normally the best in the 3rd Lyran Guards, but now Müller was beginning to question his qualifications. 

“Yes, sir?”

Müller raised his arm and pointed at his Banshee’s cockpit. “What the hell is that?”

The tech sighed and shrugged. “We ran out of white paint, sir.” 

“So you thought it would be a good idea to substitute-” Müller paused to look at the pink skull that had been crudely drawn over the Banshee’s head, “-neon pink?”

“It’s all we had, sir.” 

Müller’s animated arm movements made it clear he was less than amused. “Well, scrub it off! I can’t take on the Dracs with a pink cockpit.” 

“We’re less than two hours from Vega and I’ve got the rest of the company to arm,” the tech held up a datapad to prove it. “What’s wrong with pink?” 

“It doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of hardened DCMS fighters,” Müller huffed. 

“Yeah? Well, neither does that popgun of an autocannon you got there,” the tech quipped. “Which, by the way, I gotta load up. If you’ll excuse me.” 

The chief technician left Müller staring at his ‘Mech, wondering if he still had enough time to just dump a bucket of paint thinner over the pink Banshee’s face. 


The Banshee is one of the oldest ‘Mech designs in existence thanks to a lineage that traces back to the Terran Hegemony. First produced in 2445, the original design largely attempted to mimic the Mackie in terms of firepower, using a combination of autocannon and PPC as its main armament and then backing it up with a pair of medium lasers and a single small laser. Although extremely well armored for a ‘Mech of the era, the BNC-1E Banshee was often criticized for its limited speed, even though its initial running gait matched the Mackie‘s 54kph.

By the year 2475, engineers at the Terran Hegemony decided it was time to solve the Banshee‘s single problem of low top speed. However, their solution was to replace the original engine with a massive GM 380 fusion reactor. This engine alone weighed over 40 tons and severely restricted the Banshee‘s ability to carry adequate firepower for an assault-class ‘Mech, forcing the removal of both medium lasers and a ton of AC/5 ammunition. Surprisingly, Hegemony engineers decided to retain the Banshee‘s 16 single heat sinks despite the fact there was almost no scenario in which even repeated firing of all its weapons would ever require all 16 heat sinks. 

Left with just a single PPC, an AC/5, and a small laser, the Banshee often found itself out-gunned by ‘Mechs half its size. Although adequately armored and surprisingly nimble for a 95-ton machine, the Banshee’s abject failure to deliver more ordinance than even a 50-ton Centurion forced the Terran Hegemony to relegate the 5,000 Banshees produced to provisional garrisons or training units.

Ironically, what saved the Banshee was its poor reputation for being an under-armed behemoth. The outbreak of the Succession Wars in 2786 forced House militaries to employ whatever ‘Mechs they had available, and this pushed the Banshee into active military use, although most commanders still kept it in second-line or fire-support units owing to its lack of firepower. Some forward-thinking commanders recognized one of the Banshee‘s greatest strengths lay in its massive fists, employing the Banshee as a sort of “brawler” ‘Mech to ensure better-armed allies weren’t forced into hand-to-hand combat during close-quarters assaults. Banshee MechWarriors employed in such a manner often took a page from the Atlas‘s playbook and painted their cockpits with a white skull. 

A full third of the original 5,000 Banshees produced were still in operation by the end of the Succession Wars, but even before then, engineers from various Houses attempted to rectify the Terran Hegemony’s original mistake in making the BNC-3E. The Free Worlds League first replaced the Banshee‘s AC/5 with another PPC and added back the two medium lasers in the BNC-3M, which first saw production in 2579. This solved the BNC-3E’s ammo problems with a more powerful energy weapon, but the same weapon overtaxed the Banshee‘s 16 single heat sinks.

Defiance Industries obtained the Banshee‘s design specifications and license in 3026, eventually creating the BNC-3S model. Defiance engineers felt that the Terran Hegemony had it all wrong in thinking the original Banshee was too slow, so they swapped the GM 380 for the smaller Pitban 285, dropping the chassis back down to a shambling 54kph top speed. However, the tonnage saved thanks to the smaller engine allowed Defiance to upgrade the autocannon to a larger caliber, add an entirely new PPC, four medium lasers, another small laser, and an SRM-6 missile launcher. An additional five heatsinks over the BNC-3E model keep the machine cool so long as the pilot avoids repeated alpha strikes. The BNC-3S would go on to become one of Defiance Industries’ most iconic ‘Mechs thanks to its popularity in the Lyran Armed Forces.

The BNC-3S would go on to inspire the BNC-5S following the discovery of the Helm Memory Core and its long-lost Star League technology. An XL engine allowed Defiance to bring the Banshee back to a more stately 64kph top speed while replacing the AC/10 with an even more powerful Gauss Rifle. Both PPCs were upgraded to their Extended Range counterparts, while the use of double heatsinks kept the BNC-5S far cooler than older models. 

More recent models use a Light Fusion Engine to retain at least some of the same durability as BNC-3E, while others make use of newer, harder-hitting weapons such as Heavy PPCs. The most recent model, the BNC-12S, upgrades the 5S with a Clan-tech XL engine, an Endo Steel chassis, and Clan-spec lasers. The saved weight allowed Defiance engineers to add several tons of additional armor, making it both the hardest-hitting and best-protected Banshee ever made. 

The moral of the Banshee’s story: a bad ‘Mech is eventually good, but a good ‘Mech gets deployed so often that they run out of spare parts when the factory gets destroyed.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

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About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

32 thoughts on “Bad ‘Mechs – Banshee

  1. Steven Newsom

    Bad probably not within 200 years of manufacture, Like before 2650. In 3150 yeah a 1E is obsolete, but so to is a MAD-3R. Though funny enough they have about the same damage output, unless you want to fry your pilot.

    Reply
  2. CF

    Strip out the AC/5; add another LL, 2 SLs, and 5 HS; or strip the SL, and add a ML and 1/2-ton of armor. Use its speed advantage over other Heavy or Assault units to stay at range, and use the LLs to grind the enemy down (ever notice how many Level 1 units have minimal hitting ability past 9 hexes?); then close and finish off the foe with physical assaults.

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  3. Outlaw

    Banshee was just a series of bad ideas until Defiance got their hands on it. Starting with the BNC-3S the Banshee becomes my favorite Assault mech.

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    1. Outlaw

      Addendum: The BNC-3Q can be a lot of fun in a close range fight. The AC/20 with twin fists of fury is always a surprise for your opponent. It can be a lot of fun to throw people off by tossing one of those on the board instead of something more expected like a Hunchback.

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      1. John Campbell

        Our merc unit ran a 3Q for a while. It was generally disappointing, but we did have one fight where it was MVP: It decapitated the enemy’s PPC-specialist Warhammer with an AC/20 shot, and then punched the cockpit out of the enemy commander’s Grasshopper. (Yay punches that round up to head-armor breaching!)

        The 3Q carries way, way too much ammo, though, which was ultimately the death of it.

        We picked up a 3M later, which was pretty decent, except for being woefully under-sinked.

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    2. E.T.

      The 3S is a monster. On the other hand, after a couple recent games my respect for the standard model has increased. If there are other threats on the field its easy to ignore the Banshee since its so light on weapons for an assault mech.

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  4. Max

    The banshee 3s is bar none best intro tech assault. I say that as a man who has an unhealthy love for PPC and the awesome. I did enjoy this and the stock 3e is trash. So I don’t want to pick apart the article. I find in narrative game play it’s got use as a mook and it’s great way to force others to learn flanks and movement for new players. A lot of newer players see it’s tons and drop bricks, even if they have something good like an archer, hunchback etc.

    A lot of later banshees are absurdly good. The reality is before XLs LFE and other stuff it is just too fast for it’s own good. Does make it a bit scary in Melee as it can still slap a unprepared player pretty hard.

    Even if you don’t do much pulling the ac5 ( mathematically worst intro tech weapon) for well anything helps a ton even if you can’t do a smaller motor IE field refit only.

    Lastly it just looks great I love all the art from the old stuff I grew up to and PGIs mwo/5 redraws I have a few minis and they do seem find themselves on the table a lot (just not as 3E unless as mentioned beforehand).

    I love this series “bad mechs” and Franky how civil and fun the comments have been. I feel better knowing it’s not my local circle but battle tech fans are pretty cool headed and nice people. Cheers to you all.

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  5. Vectivus

    I’ve never had a chance to play the tabletop game, sadly, but I’m a rabid fan nonetheless through the books and video games. In Mechwarrior 5 the BNC-3E started as absolutely mediocre, but got a bit better when melee attacks were added (but only a bit). I’m really looking forward to the third DLC, in order to see if a BNC-3S with a big honkin’ sword will be legitimately terrifying.

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    1. o0m-9

      If you have access to mods: the YAML (Yet Another Mech Lab) mod for MW5 adds quirks to most of the machines. In the Banshee’s case, it heavily boosts the melee damage to the point you’re basically walking around with a pair of AC/20s strapped to your wrists. I recommend trying it out if you enjoy meleeing the opfor into a fine paste.

      The mod also lets you attach a turbocharger to whatever you like, so you can push the engine even further beyond.

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  6. Paladin

    I’ve always said the Banshee had the excuse of being one of those early mechs from the era where designers and strategists weren’t sure *what* exactly a mech should do. It makes sense (in context) to give a fast moving brawler weapons whose range compliment each other while keeping the angry flashlight to discourage infantry.

    The Charger, on the other hand was made during an era where designers and strategists *knew* better. (At that point, though, the SLDF Procurement was so rife with corruption that just about anything got the green light).

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  7. Daniel

    I hope Catalyst will eventually put out a variation of their new Banshee miniture of the Succession Wars classic design. It has its place in the game. I’ve always found the ability to pick up and carry off up to a 20-ton cargo container very useful in a raid.

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  8. Steel Shanks

    Like other Mechs on this list of Bad Mechs, ( Assassin, Quickdraw ) I don’t completely agree. Yes, the 1E sure was under-gunned, etc. It’s armor still killed, and a Banshee Fist will one-hit-kill many a mech… An once the Tech became more advanced, the Banshee became a Terror! The Banshee had a slow start, but a Bad Mech, no, not at all.

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    1. Kage

      There is only a 1/36 chance that a Banshee or Atlas punch will one shot anything, 1/6 to hit the head, then 1/6 to hit the cockpit, or 1/6 for each fist to score a head shot. Course for the former with two fists that does become about 1/18, which is significantly less likely than the combined 1/3 chance both fists have for hitting the head each turn. Meaning on average a 55+ ton mech with two fists will kill a mech faster with two separate punches on two separate turns, than a 95+ mech will one shot anything.

      Reply
      1. John Campbell

        Your math’s a little off. For one thing, you’ve got to confirm the crit, which is 15/36, or ~41%. That includes a 5/36 chance of two crits and a 1/36 chance of just popping the head clean off, though. Then there’s the question of whether there’s anything in the 4-slot, and if so, what… there’s at least one canon design where they decided it would be a good idea for the MechWarrior to be sitting on the MML ammo.

        There are also a fair number of ‘mechs out there, some of them disturbingly heavy (*cough*Rifleman*cough*), where a 10-point sock to the jaw will just straight-up decapitate them. Though to be fair, most of those 9 will do just as well.

        Anyway, my preferred decapitation solution is a TSM 60-tonner.

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  9. Blaster

    Banshees just to be lots of fun back in the days, when punching was actually easier than kicking. It punches as hard as an Atlas and gives you a good change for a head crit (or an instant kill against p.hawks :-D). I remember a fight were we played as Mercenarys and had just captured an banshee which was our only assault mech. That mech tanked an insane amount af damage and in one fight destroyed two heavys and an Atlas. Still in another fight I did in mechforce, there was a time when another chapter pointed a Banshee right at our Awesome who just couldn’t put enough damage into it to keep it off and was later taken down by a fist into its cockpit. Those were the days.

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  10. Zera

    I wouldn’t even call the BNC-3E a bad mech. Under-gunned for it’s weight? Absolutely. Unlike the Charger however it has weapons it can adequately harass with while closing distance to where it REALLY wants to be and the armor and speed to get there.Bad reputation be damned. Even before the Succession Wars variants the Banshee was an overlooked gem that for me always put in good work.

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  11. Emil

    Even in the worst depths of the Mad Max era, it’s surprising that no Successor State issued a refit kit replacing the AC/5 with 4 medium lasers, an SRM-6, and a heat sink. That would have made it very nearly a Battlemaster, a ‘Mech that very few people describe as outright bad.

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  12. Vermonster

    More proof that Sean never actually played table top, or if he did only as a Clanner or post Jihad. The Banshee was excellent mech FIVE HUNDRED years ago, and while its age shows, it’s a monster in urban warfare. Remember when first developed, indirect fire with an ac5 was a thing. So you can suppress overterrain, or keep it until you’re likely to hit. The PPC doesnt need ammo so that is what your using as you close, and again, bring up tha AC for an extra punch at medium range. Then paraphrase a historical brawler, everyone has a plan until the get punched in the cockpit. With the 380, its faster than others in it class, so that rate of closure is better, and it has the armour to manage all the fan mail it gets while running up to hug you. And it is overcooked on the range, it runs frosty cold after you start breaking things, or with the city burning down around it.

    Dropping in the 285 makes it unremarkable for mobility compared to most assaults, but you can get Atlas style firepower, armour and mobility without the reputation markup.

    A true Mechwarrior would be able to look at the specs and see all of this in seconds, and have a plan of how it should be used. Maybe not a Clanner, but even the combination of inbreeding and having a beer keg for a mother doesn’t fully excuse the error of thinking the Banshee a “bad mech”. Just one the pilot is qualified to strap into.

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    1. Wolfbane2004

      Weirdly I’m surprised Defiance never made a Banshee for urban combat, especially given how Lyrans love LB-20X autocannons. Would have been a slow, lumbering but terrifying urban combatant in the FedCom Civil War era, especially if you also throw a snub PPC, up the armor and heat sinks and maybe ditch the second PPC for jump jets and add CASE. Nope, the later variants went long-range for the most part.

      Reply
  13. Michael

    The -1E is a fairly bad mech. Not the worst, but still bad enough to have a place in this series. Those extra heat sinks are what really kill it.

    To me, there is an obvious fix for the weapons loadout: Swap the PPC for a LL and the AC5 for an AC10. You get a slightly increase in overall damage output without a significant increase in heat production, which matters since you are going to have to lose a couple of heat sinks to fit the AC-10. The big benefit: Point Blank accuracy. The -1E wants to be up close and personal, and it has the speed to achieve it, so the fact that the PPC & AC-5 both had a minimum was a significant draw back. You can blast away with an AC-10 & LL and beat them to death with your battle fists without the guns missing most of the time.

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    1. Jason Coffey

      Like all discussions on variants of Mechs… FASA, FanPro and now Catalyst have a choice. To make thematic sounding variants for people to play with. Or to use the customization tools to clone the same Alpha Mech over and over.

      You and I can always customize a better mech

      We can also work with the sometimes silly load outs for different Factions, and apply that to the tabletop

      Reply
  14. Bob

    Well I started playing way back in the 80’s when BT 2nd edition hit the shelves in the UK. Bought TRO3025 1st ed and was introduced to the Banshee. I’ve read the above comments and I’m afraid there is absolutely no way I’d choose to use a 3E, I’ll spend my money on a Battlemaster if I feel the need for a 4/6 assault mech from that TRO. The 3S, now we’re talking. Love that mech.

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  15. John Campbell

    Ultimately, the Banshee’s problem is the same as the Charger’s, the same as the Cicada’s, the same as the Scorpion’s: It’s too fast for its size. Nothing heavier than 85 tons should go 4/6 with a standard fusion engine. Reducing its weight by 10 tons would *gain* you 5 tons of usable space.

    The problem with an 85-ton Banshee, though, is that its punches would only do 9 damage, and so wouldn’t breach a fully-armored head. The question you have to ask, though, is, are 10-damage punches worth losing the other stuff you could do with 5 extra tons?

    (Dropping the Charger to 60 tons would gain it *16.5 tons* of usable space. Dropping the Cicada to 35 tons would gain it 3 tons of usable space. Dropping the Scorpion to 50 tons… well, the Scorpion has a lot of problems beyond being too fat to go 6/9.)

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  16. Mattias42

    Honestly, I love this thing. The all energy, BNC-3M variant is just such a great Light and Medium hunter and harasser. Wear ’em down from afar, with no worries for ammo, and when you get a chance… blitz in for the kill with more armor left than most Lights can even carry if they drop all their guns.

    And it’s typically cheap & gets ignored, too, because everybody ‘knows’ the Banshee is a bad mech.

    But sure, if you try to go for that Assault on Assault shootout style of play… the Banshee falters. But to me, that’s like judging a bicycle for what poor mountaineering tools they make. It’s not really the poor bicycles fault you’re trying to use it on an 89 degree incline, right?

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  17. Brad

    Eh the Banshee 3E is a great machine. The only way a Banshee isnt a terror in the 4/6 speed category is if you balance by tonnage. 240 points of armor and 9.5 tons of structure mean its not going anywhere. 16 Heatsinks mean it can take an engine hit and still keep fighting no problem. The Ac/5 is not loved, but flak and tracer ammo are nice even in 3025, and if you dont use alternate ammo its still a great buy for the BV.
    10 point punches really are a thing too as if you hit with both you force a +1 PSR 20 damage check (so you dont lose the PSR from not kicking and maybe kill a pilot with a head punch) and all torso weapons is fairly unique in 3025, thus you can actually punch and shoot to engage multiple opponents.

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  18. Bob

    I get that with BV it makes sense. But if you don’t use BV and use cost as a basis to design campaigns the 3E is useless. BNC-3E comes in at 9.522m C-Bills. BLR-1G 8.501m C-Bills.

    Reply
    1. Blaster

      I’ve played quite a few Mechwarrior RPG campaigns and our understanding was that those c-bill values were the prizes of new (or as good as new) mechs. Those Banshees (and Chargers) that were around were usually hundreds of years old and would be discounted quite heavily because no one wanted them. Also in 2nd edition play, mechs were rare, good mechs were even rarer. You just couldn’t buy a Battlemaster or something similar that easily. But Banshees and Chargers … those were available.

      Reply
    2. Brad

      For this reason cost is a terrible balance mechanic. The cost issue always devolves into spamming cheap energy boats. Likewise, tonnage is a bad balance mechanic as it encourages taking the absolutely best over the top mech in a weight range. BV lets you take a Jagermech or a Banshee without crippling your force, instead of yet another Warhammer D or Awesome or Jenner F energy boat when using cost or tonnage balance.

      Reply
      1. John Campbell

        If you really go down the cost rabbit hole, you end up abandoning those overpriced boondoggles they call “BattleMechs” entirely and just spamming cheap ICE vehicles.

        You can field 20 Strikers for what a Banshee’ll cost you., and 200 LRM tubes and 120 SRM tubes will ruin most anybody’s day. Or over 200 Ferrets. Thanks to VTOL capability and range calculation ignoring vertical distance, you can even stack all the Ferrets in one hex, in a column 100 Levels high, you so you can get all 200 MGs into short range of your victim.

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  19. Bob

    Yeah I get you, but as game master I take these things into account. I could go into great detail on the changes I’ve made but this isn’t the place for that. Cost can be used to balance as long as your game master uses his noggin and limits what is and isn’t available depending on location and so forth. Sure in a pick up game I can see why BV would be useful. The last physical BT product I bought was the first edition of DropShips and JumpShips and BV hadn’t been invented. The guidelines at the time were to base everything on tonnage with 1 ton of mech or asf equal to 2 tons of conventional vehicle. As pointed out above this is totally hopeless as a balancing mechanism so I ended up deciding to create campaigns and game master them for my friends, mainly using cost to limit what was available. But not sticking rigidly to the listed costs and being very flexible with things to make the game as interesting as possible. I think I must have been 15 the last time I played a one player v’s one player game and that would have been around 1989 and I can’t remember how we balanced it but I do remember it being a company of mechs v’s a company of mechs and that I won at least partly due to a couple of lucky hits early on

    Reply

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