Bad ‘Mechs – Blackjack


Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Why the hell do they have us stripping these relics anyhow?” Helen asked. It had only been a day since news came down from the college that NAIS would receive several Blackjacks for evaluation, but when Hanse Davion made a proclamation, people tended to move fast.

BattleMech engineering lead Jameson looked honestly surprised. “You mean you didn’t get the briefing? Or I dunno, catch the six o’clock news?”

Helen rubbed an oily palm against her face, smearing a black line from ear to eye. “I had a bit of a late night. You know what time of year it is, right?” Helen glanced at the colorful flag on her toolkit. 

Jameson laughed. “Of course, how could I forget?” The family man moved to help the party girl with removing the Blackjack‘s knee assembly, taking the crane controls while he explained the situation. “Some hot shot on Xhosa VII apparently used a lance of these things to take out an entire battalion of Dracs. Got himself a medal for his efforts from the big cheese himself.” 

“Cool,” Helem grunted as she grabbed a piece of the Blackjack‘s kneecap and placed it on a waiting rack. “Doesn’t explain why I’m doing heavy labor with a hangover.” 

“Well, conventional wisdom is that Blackjacks are awful ‘Mechs that only survived the Succession Wars because nobody wanted to take ’em into battle.” 

“Yeah, something about brittle armor and being inherently unstable?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Jameson tapped at the crane controls to bring the hook to the Blackjack‘s other knee. “But with our young hot shot becoming a national hero in a BJ-1, Hanse is seeing an opportunity to build some national pride. He wants his best engineers to look at these old heaps to see if we can do something to fix ’em.” 

“That explains why you’re here, it doesn’t explain why I’m here so early.” 

Jameson grinned. “Somebody’s gotta do the heavy lifting around here.” He ducked as Helen tossed a bundle of extracted myomer at his head.

The rest of the unscheduled teardown went without incident bar a few muttered curses and demands for ibuprofen to quell Helen’s raging headache. Each part was meticulously categorized and evaluated, and each one was found to be totally without fault. Every armor plate removed seemed just as solid and sturdy as the armor you’d find on a brand-new Enforcer fresh off the Achernar production lines. And while the Blackjack‘s feet might not have been as wide as a Catapult‘s, Jameson’s analysis couldn’t find any problems with keeping the ‘Mech upright.

By the time they were done and the sun was setting over The College of Military Science, Jameson was utterly flummoxed. “I don’t get it. There’s nothing wrong with this thing. By all rights, it should maneuver at least as well as an Enforcer, and your impact tests proved there’s nothing wrong with its armor placement either.” 

“Maybe it’s a fluke,” Helen said, wiping the sweat off her brow with a rag about as filthy as her coveralls.

“The other teams taking apart BJ-1s are reporting the same thing: ain’t nothing broke to fix,” Jameson spat. “Hell, we have dozens, maybe hundreds of these things being used for training and security that could’ve been on the front lines this whole time.”

“Well, no sense crying over under-utilized BattleMechs this late in the day,” Helen announced as she threw her dirty rag in a nearby bin. 

“Where do you think you’re going? We gotta put this thing back together, and I see a couple of light autocannons that could definitely be improved with the latest-gen laser tech.” 

Helen groaned. “Ugh, just lemme get some more coffee, you sadist.” 

Blackjack TRO 3025

The story of the Blackjack is one of rags to riches, from a virtually forgotten ‘Mech by the end of the Star League to a beloved workhorse design by the time of the Fourth Succession War

In the mid-2750s, the Star League Defense Force requested a combination of anti-insurgency and fire support ‘Mech that could effectively quell uprisings in the occupied Periphery. The original BJ-1X prototype satisfied this requirement with a pair of GM Flashpoint Flamers, several medium-class lasers, and a 45-ton chassis capable of maneuvering at over 85 kph. Although manufacturer General Motors found the prototype effective at counter-insurgency operations during testing, it proved woefully inadequate at providing fire support for ground forces. This led GM to replace the flamers with light autocannons. However, this necessitated the reduction of the Blackjack‘s engine to a GM 180 capable of just 64 kph—barely sufficient to keep up with allied units in a running battle, but fast enough to support infantry and armored vehicles.

Satisfied with the BJ-1 model, Star League procurement handed GM an initial order of several hundred units in 2757. By all accounts, the Blackjack should have gone on to serve in the SLDF with distinction if not unremarkable performance, but a flood of negative press claiming unsubstantiated manufacturing faults buried any positive reports from actual pilots. Everything from claims that the BJ-1’s Star Guard II armor was so brittle that entire panels fell off during combat, to accusations the Blackjack‘s feet were so narrow that pilots constantly had to correct the ‘Mech’s stability to prevent it from falling over even at rest.

Blackjack BJ-1 CCG

No one knows where the sudden media blitz originated to this day, but most historians attribute these rumors to GM’s competitors. The malicious media coverage worked, and despite having no proof, the Blackjack gained such a toxic reputation that the SLDF canceled its order for the BJ-1 and GM was forced to halt production. All existing BJ-1s were sold to militia units or the armed forces of the Great Houses at a considerable discount. Most found their way to the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation, but only their love of autocannons gave the Blackjack much service within the AFFS.

General Motors is no stranger to bad press. The company would survive the boondoggle and even the destruction of the Blackjack‘s production line on Kathil in 2796. The Blackjack, however, would spend centuries on the sidelines, considered by all to be a flawed ‘Mech only worthy of light combat, garrison duty, and armed training. This perhaps explains why so many Blackjacks survived the Succession Wars despite so few having been produced.

The Blackjack might have remained an underutilized and unloved ‘Mech were it not for the battle of Xhosa VII in 3022. There, a single lance of NAIS cadets piloting Blackjacks held off nearly a battalion of Kuritan light ‘Mechs (mostly comprised of Wasps and Stingers) under the charge of Tai-i Mercer Ravannion, now notorious for his largely ineffective “charge of the horde” tactic. Cadet Michael Ubodo is credited for arranging the Blackjacks in his command in a defensive posture that leveraged the ‘Mech’s exceptional range to focus fire on individual DCMS ‘Mechs before they could close in with the NAIS cadre. When they did, the Blackjacks’ medium lasers shredded the damaged light ‘Mechs, sending them into a full retreat. 

Blackjack TRO 3050

Once word of his victory reached New Avalon, First Prince Hanse Davion invited Ubodo to receive his commendations as well as a promotion to the Eighth Deneb Light Cavalry. At the same time, Hanse ordered all existing BJ-1s to undergo examination for frontline duty. Fed Sun engineers were astounded to learn that despite a poor reputation spanning centuries, all technical claims against the Blackjack were false. The ‘Mech was sturdy, well-armored, and perfectly balanced. The only criticism MechWarriors had was its light autocannons being less useful against larger targets—a critique that Hanse immediately ordered solved with updated variants.

The original BJ-1 came armed with four medium lasers, two 40mm Whirlwind-L autocannons, and a single extra heat sink to deal with the additional heat load. A GM 180 propelled the design up to 64 kph, with four Whitworth Jetlift jump jets providing additional mobility. The BJ-1DB replaced the light autocannons, a ton of armor, and two medium lasers with two large lasers and six additional heat sinks, providing the ‘Mech with significant firepower at the expense of some range and protection. The BJ-1DC instead removes the jump jets to add two small lasers and one additional heat sink. Both variants were produced as refit packages for existing BJ-1s. 

It wasn’t until 3042 that a brand-new Blackjack variant was produced in the BJ-3. Utilizing rediscovered double heat sink technology, the BJ-3 was armed with two Ceres Arms Smasher PPCs and four medium lasers. These models were built by Ceres Metals Industries for the St. Ives Compact, suggesting that the Capellan Confederation had stolen plans for double heat sinks from the Federated Suns years before the BJ-3s introduction. 

Blackjack BJ-2 CCG

General Motors didn’t produce a new Blackjack variant until the BJ-2. Like the BJ-3, the BJ-2 used double heat sinks, but it was entirely armed with formerly Lostech weapons. Two Diverse Optics Sunbeam ER large lasers replaced the BJ-1’s autocannons, and the medium lasers were replaced by four torso-mounted Hovertec Streak SRM-2 launchers. Initial BJ-2s were refits of existing BJ-1s, but entirely new BJ-2 chassis were produced from 3054 onward on Talcott until GM lost the factory during the Jihad.

The BJ-2 would become so popular that Luthien Armor Works contracted Ceres Metals to acquire the plans for the BJ-2, which it then used to create the Blackjack OmniMechthe BJ2-O—in 3057. Increased to 50 tons, the primary configuration mirrored the original Blackjack‘s primary armament, with four medium lasers and Ultra AC/5s offering significantly more firepower than the 40mm Whirlwinds of the BJ-1. Four machine guns also offered vastly improved anti-infantry capabilities. LAW would produce other variants of the BJ2-O and sell these OmniPod kits to Irian Technologies, General Motors, and Ceres Metals. 

Luthien Armor Works also stated that the BJ2-O would be compatible with Clan technology, a claim that Irian and Ceres both disputed after discovering export models of the BJ2-O could not. It was later discovered that only LAW-produced BJ2-O models were compatible with Clan tech. This diplomatic incident would only be solved years after LAW finally agreed to release schematics and software upgrades that brought export variants of the BJ2-O up to domestically produced standards.

Blackjack IlClan

After the devastation of the Jihad, most license holders sold their Blackjack rights to raise funds to rebuild. This resulted in the Blackjack proliferating across the Inner Sphere. Recent models include the BJ-5, with its quad-pack of Light PPCs and paired Light AC/2s offering exceptional range and flexibility. Even the Clans field a retrofitted version of the Blackjack, dubbed the Blackjack C, with twin Large Pulse Lasers and twin Streak SRM-4 launchers. 

It’s hard to imagine a more successful “bad” ‘Mech, one that rose from obscurity to become a workhorse machine across every military of the Inner Sphere. Both the 45-ton BattleMech and the 50-ton OmniMech continue to serve with distinction, and it seems likely both will continue to serve well into the future.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Share this:

This entry was posted in Art, Editorial, Historical on by .

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 – Blackjack

  1. Nopesauce

    I was never super impressed with the Blackjack, until the one I got at the beginning of the HBS Battletech game single handidly took out a Marauder in one of the later missions. Its a solid machine.

    1. Curtis Starr Cook

      Same here, but you need to keep in mind that the HBS game uses a lot of Solaris VII dueling rules. In the dueling rules AC-2s can fire up to 4 times a round (using 4 times the ammo and generating 4 times the heat). This turns a long-ranged plinking mech into a force to be reckoned with. Upgrade to Ultra-2s (which never jam in the HBS game) and they become Awesome… uh, I mean awesome.

  2. Uzxhra

    The BJ-1 has been an asset to our 3025 CBT merc unit, often pairing favourably with similarly mobile designs like the heavier Catapult. The autocannons tend to be merely for plinking at range to further harass the targets of LRM attacks, but the odd TAC or lucky headshot has managed to save the day. The four lasers are nothing to sneeze at if and when enemy scout elements reach the support lance, so yeah, whoever started that smear campaign was just being jealous of losing their share of the market.

    Looking forward to the advanced versions in the CBT campaign, if we ever get there, had great fun with the BJ-3 in a AS game!

  3. John Campbell

    Another one where it’s not a Bad ‘Mech so much as a Bad Weapon. AC/2s are way, way too heavy for what’s basically a super-duper-extra-ER machine gun, so all the designs that carry them underperform. People talk about crit-seeking, but there’s nothing that makes weak shots intrinsically better at getting through-armor crits than powerful ones. You’d get better performance at a third the weight with an LRM 5, plus IDF capabilities. Yeah, you lose three hexes of range, but it’s not like the Blackjack is fast enough to keep the range open anyway.

    The Blackjacks that strip those out and replace them with better weapons… well, the BJ-2 had a good idea, but then they ripped out that lovely, lovely ML bank and replaced it with Streaks, instead of just adding a couple more heat sinks. The BJ-3 is a solid pocket heavy; I’ve run Marauders with that same weapons loadout to good effect. The BJ-4 and -5… I’m assuming only exist for delivering AP ammo, because they’re back to the crappy small ACs. The -4 carries way too much ammo; it won’t live long enough to burn through even half that, and given that it’s slow, relatively short-ranged, and has low-end-medium armor, it’ll be lucky to get through more than a quarter. The -3 will eat either of their lunches.

    1. Robunos

      “AC/2s are way, way too heavy for what’s basically a super-duper-extra-ER machine gun”
      Indeed, the Real World 40mm/L70 Bofors gun is only 5,330 lbs /2 1/2 tons in weight without mounting.

  4. Steel Shanks

    This is GM’s most “OK” Mech ever built, for further reference see Tex Talks BattleTech: The Blackjack on YouTube. Great Vid.

    I have killed so many Blackjacks… Especially in MWO. So many… Ridiculous amounts. In HBS, and Table Top too. My Blackjack in HBS is usually dropping the AC2’s for an AC10, or AC5 with Large Laser. I never keep it stock. I like the 1DB with the large lasers… I’ve seen the BJ-5 do some work, and the “Arrow” Hero Variant in MWO is quite good. Over all though… Blackjacks are just “Ok”…

  5. Josh

    The Blackjack is one of those mechs that can make more sense in the fluff than it sometimes does on the tabletop where units are usually fighting to decision in a full battle.

    As an anti-raider militia mech, those AC/2s suddenly get a major bump in utility, because serious pillaging and looting requires means to haul the loot. What doesn’t like the steady tap tap of 40mm? Soft targets like hovertrucks.

    And pirates running old salvaged junk generally wouldn’t be overly inspired to roll up a hill at a lance of Blackjacks packing sixteen medium lasers between them, either. In the 3rd Succession War the Blackjack is basically the platonic ideal of a militia unit for a lot of worlds.

    1. Craig


      Four medium lasers (and a single blessed extra heat sink) make the BJ more useful than half the OG medium mechs, and many of the lights not named Jenner. How every heavy and assault mech does NOT come with a brace of 4 or 6 of these things I’ll never know but it’s what separates BT from reality somewhat so that’s ok (honestly heat dissipation should range less to more as mechs enlarge but whatever).

      That kind of loadout means “DO NOT GET CLOSE TO” and makes this mech deadly to light and mediums alike. 10% of its mass is devoted to the best weapon in the game. Ignore the AC/2. BTW weapons like that should use artillery rules anyway – double the range and shoot at hexes only, hoping to hit whatever’s hiding there with cluster rounds or something.

      Personally I like the 40 ton frame with 5/8/5 movement, it allows 30% towards weapons and still keeping jump jets. And under the 3025 rules it allows 5 MLs and 17 heat sinks, which is punishing turn-after-turn damage at medium-to-short as you run or jump (firing only 4) around slow mechs like Blackjacks.

      The biggest issue this Mech really faces is its absurdly slow speed, which seems to be a fixture of every successor-state specific late model: Vindicator, Hatchetman, the later Draconis Panther (original had a LL and 6/9), even the Enforcer and the Centurion suffer from this bracket as well. If I commanded a Mech force I’d put ALL the 4/6 units in one detachment, and ALL the faster ones in another – an offensive and a defensive half. There’s just nothing else these ponderous lumps are good at but a flexible defense around a starport, city, or LZ.

      And for the record I’d take 2 AC/2’s over the AC/5 on the Clint, Shadow Hawk, Wolverine, Hermes 2, etc. – yes that AC/5 hits reliably at medium range where the lasers fall short or miss but those AC/2s allow an even greater annoyance zone and two of them means twice the chance of a lucky hit. Especially against vehicles.

  6. ArelMCII

    Based on what I’ve read, the BJ2-O’s creation wasn’t the result of the BJ-2’s popularity; in fact, it was the opposite. The BJ2-O was created in response to Ceres trying to screw LAW by giving them an unpopular ‘Mech with the hope of receiving one of LAW’s brand-new OmniMechs in return.

  7. Dog of War

    The weight of the AC/2 always felt like it was poorly thought out in terms of damage to weight ratio. Sure, that range is very nice, but not that nice. But with the advent of the light ACs thought makes them far more attractive options. Especially in the case of the Blackjack. Swap those AC2s out for light AC5s and you’ve got a machine with some decent punch with some extra weight to spare.

    1. Wolf Hreda

      You could have weight to spare, but the savvy commander will use that weight for more specialty ammo. With the ammo per ton essentially halved, I recommend two tons of standard ammo and one of a specialty, particularly Precision ammo. A case can be made for Flak if you know you’ll be dealing with aerospace assets.

  8. Mikael

    I often feel like the Blackjack is a both a well-loved and heavily disliked mech. If you can get past the god awful AC-2s, it’s well armoured and well sinked for a succession wars mech. 4 MLs will always be a respectable amount of firepower in any era. Once you start playing around with variants, the 13t of AC-2 and ammo open a lot of options. Even something silly like swapping one of the AC-2 for an ERLL and a single additional SHS still works. The clan invasion era variants are both extremely solid, though I am less impressed with the jihad variants and the omni.

    Note to self: try running a garrison lance made up of an UrbanMech, a Blackjack, a Charger and a Banshee.

  9. Flashfreeze

    The stock Blackjack -1 is an air defense platform run cheaply. With one of those on the table, I have a fairly safe “no helis allowed” zone and a reasonable “you ASFs get outta my airspace” bubble.

    I play a lot of Third Succession War era campaign stuff, so for me the AC2 still has a niche as the longest-ranged crit finder against vehicles. Later Blackjacks turn into different creatures, of course, but that’s what tech booms do to a platform.

    1. Steel Shanks

      I like this… Same reasons I’ve run a Jagermech-1A, with the AC2’s and LRM’s, He sits in Overwatch for Helo’s, Aero,etc. and can still drop LRM’s as needed.

      1. Wolf Hreda

        My favorite practical refit for the Blackjack basically turns it into a baby JM6-A. Drop the AC/2s and ammo for four LRM-5s, 2 tons of ammo, and three extra heat sinks. It has about the same battle endurance as the BJ-1, and when things get close, it can reliably jump and fire its lasers for four turns before you should turn one or two off.

  10. Wolf Hreda

    As a recent convert to the Church of Blackjack (Hookers optional), I saw the title and went “There’s no way they’re gonna do my boy like that.” And you didn’t, because just like the lore, it’s not a bad ‘mech. You just have to use it smartly.

    HBS Battletech is the origin of my love for both the BJ-1 and the JM6-S Jagermech, because you run what you brung, and I got the Jagermech practically for free when my Centurion punted its pilot into the afterlife in an early mission.

  11. Eric Karau

    I personally like the BJ-2 Blackjack variant, and look how much firepower the Blackjack OmniMech can throw out in it’s primary configuration! That’s as much as some Heavy Mechs can do! That’s nothing to sneeze at!

  12. PoptartsNinja

    It doesn’t have Antiaircraft Targeting, so the Blackjack’s not an anti-aircraft platform even though it probably should be.

    Where it would really excel would be killing unarmored civilian vehicles at completely safe ranges. It’s basically the IS version of a Technical hunter. If you’re worried about a civilian uprising, send in a Blackjack supported by a Vulcan and some Firestarters. If you’re worried about BattleMechs, leave them at home (unless you’re House Davion)

    1. Owl

      Don’t forget lore wise, the most common mechs you’d see from the Draconis Combine are Wasps and Stingers, and massed AC2s do a really fine job on those very light mechs too, they simply do not have the armour to take many hits. IIRC think it was 6 points of armour per torso section? By the time those ML armed scouts get to firing range, they would have at best been in tatters. At worst? They don’t get into range at all.

    2. mitchberthelson

      AC/2 is also good at holding down the trigger to saw apart buildings from beyond range of retaliation (-4 to hit immobile target). Alternately, it can carve up PART of a building to kill a sniper without bringing the whole thing down.

  13. MWbookwyrm

    Yay! The Blackjack is finally here, and the article is as good as I hoped it would be!

    I’ve noticed that the Blackjack’s reputation IRL is very similar to its reception in lore. People are always decrying it for things like slow speed, low armor, and AC2s. But once they actually try it, they often find that its surprisingly serviceable. I run it every chance I get, though that’s probably because it’s my first and favorite mech.

  14. Lanzman

    I LOVE the Blackjack. Those AC/2s are just the thing to seriously annoy the enemy while he can’t hit back. Same reason I like the Pike support vehicle. Pair the Blackjack with something that looks vaguely similar but has potent short-range weapons. Use the AC/2s to harass an opponent into charging into what they think are light autocannon and then shred them with PPC or large laser shots. That’s why I pair Pikes with Schrecks . . . they look close enough that an enemy annoyed by AC/2 fire will charge right into PPC range.

  15. Max

    Sean, I’ve often spoken how I enjoy this series and how many times, it’s just a bad mech in lore of a bad stock config. But this time, you hurt my soul.

    Yes the stock BJ is just not good, but I’ll always have a soft spot and as many agree, so many good configs to me it’s not even like say the Charger, where the idea failed but good “bones” so to speak.

    The BJ just suffers bad guns stock the mech is great, imho and every one that’s not the stock is lovely and while mech warrior games aren’t canon or factored in here, darn good!

    Either way, fun read as always and great comments keep both of them coming!

  16. Doug

    I rather like this mech. The ac 2 is good for plinking tanks but the 4 med lasers make it a real threat to other mediums. Amazingly all 4 lasers point in the right direction too, which makes the Blackjack uniique in its era. The omni Blackjack is surprisingly good . I did try the Blackjack vs Vindicator scenario on both sides with friends playing the enemy. The Blackjack always got whalloped, but the Vindy is a deceptively brilliant machine so not the Blackjack’s fault.

  17. Terminator

    I’ll preface this by saying I dislike 4/6 trooper mediums in general. I like my ‘Mechs like I like my warships-outgun what you can’t outrun, and outgun what you can’t outrun. At 4/6, a medium is going to have heavy ‘Mech speed but not the armor or firepower to go with it, which puts them at risk of getting cornered by enemies they can neither outfight nor elude, and dying horribly. So the Blackjack’s already starting off on the wrong foot.

    So the speed’s not good on this ‘Mech. The designers did make a legitimate attempt at armoring it, but at 45 tons, there’s only so much you can do. I like my heavies to roll with an armor factor not less than 200, and if not, there’d better be a darn good reason for it. 2 AC/2s is not a good reason. It’s only got half a ton on the Quickdraw, and despite being 5/8/5 with 60-tonner internals, Quickdraws are not renowned for durability under fire.

    That brings us to firepower. I don’t know where, but I saw somebody sum up the BJ-1’s weapon thusly: “It combines two of the worst guns in the game with four of the best guns in the game.” I love the four medium lasers on the Jenner and Fire Javelin. But those are light ‘Mechs, and 50% faster than the Blackjack. Going up 50% in tonnage and down 33% in speed to add a pair of popguns just isn’t a good tradeoff in my eyes.

  18. Chaosticket

    I love the Blackhack in the Battletech 2018 turn-based tactics pc game.
    There it was buffed up because that game improved the damage of Autocannnon-2s by +150%.
    In other mediums its terrible because of those same guns.

    One of the issues is that there is a very similar 40ton mech, the Whitworth, that actually doesnt quite well. Its the Autocannons that are the real problem.

    1. Matt

      Thank you! I always feel that the Whitworth gets more grief than it deserves. If the BJ is ‘perfectly serviceable’, as many here seem to agree, why is the similar but arguably better (and cheaper/lighter) Whitworth not at least considered decent?

  19. Lanzman

    Perhaps I’m in need of counseling, but the Blackjack is one of my favorite 3025 mechs. There’s just nothing like peppering an opponent with annoying AC-2 fire from outside of their effective return range. Yeah, doesn’t do a whole lot of damage, but it’s fun. I also seem to do pretty good with my Blackjacks in MWO. Bad mech? Not hardly.

  20. Andre

    Compared to other light and medium 4/6/4 mechs the BJ-1 does fine. Mostly due to it’s ML’s, 11 HS’s and decent armour.

    Of course one could use the 13 tons of AC and ammo for some much more powerful options but as it stands and compared to mechs like the stock Panthers, Vindicators, Enforcers, Whitworths et al it does a decent job

  21. Eric Karau

    The Blackjack’s record DID start out bad, but just like the history says, it got MUCH better at what it does than when it started! Rags-to-riches story indeed!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.