Bad ‘Mechs – Hoplite

Courtesy of Eldonious Rex

“This thing is the coolest ‘Mech you’ll ever drop feet-first into a firefight.” 

The claim sounded dubious even as the ‘Mech salesman attempted to accentuate the point with several slaps to the Hoplite‘s shin armor. Lieutenant Brooke Casia, executive officer of the Crimson Tigers mercenary company, was in the market after having her Centurion shot out from under her during her last contract. The squat ‘Mech certainly didn’t appear “cool” by her standards, looking more like a cleaning drone that had grown legs and an autocannon.

“Alright,” Casia offered with a sigh, “what’s so ‘cool’ about it?”

“The air-conditioning!” Another set of slaps once rang off the Hoplite‘s hull while the salesman laughed at his own pun. “Plus, this ‘Mech has sixteen whole heat sinks. You could fire everything this bad boy has while running full-tilt through a desert and you’ll be cool as a cucumber inside the cockpit.” 

This was enough for Casia to raise an eyebrow at least. She’d never enjoyed the sauna-like temperatures that ‘Mech combat frequently produced. A ‘Mech that couldn’t overheat would be an asset.

Hoplite

But there’s always a catch, Casia thought. “I can see an autocannon port here,” she pointed at the Hoplite‘s right arm, “and five missile ports here,” she pointed again at the launcher jutting from beneath the ‘Mechs cockpit. “This thing got anything else in terms of firepower?” 

The question seemed to finally reign in the ‘Mech salesman’s enthusiasm. “What you see is what you get,” he said. Casia noted this statement was made without a single slap.

“So that’d be, what, a 10-class autocannon and an LRM-5 launcher? Not exactly standing up to my old Centurion. Does it go faster at least?” 

Now the salesman seemed utterly crestfallen. “Same running speed as the Centurion. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t have any jump jets either.” 

Casia blinked. “Alright, so what does it have over a Centurion?” 

“About three tons of armor. That’s it.” 

“So you’re saying I lose half my firepower, a battle fist, and the ability to shoot upward without tilting the whole damned ‘Mech for just three tons of armor?” Casia ended the question with a slap to the Hoplite‘s other shin. It seemed far more intimidating than encouraging coming from her.

The ‘Mech salesman winced as though physically struck. He could already tell that this sale was as good as gone. “Ah, well, we do have other ‘Mechs’ in our garage…” 


While later Star League ‘Mechs often pushed boundaries in search of a technological edge, the Hoplite was born in the League’s early years, well before the rise of the massive industrial complex that would produce such unnecessary machines as the Charger and the Assassin. The Hoplite was designed and built to fulfill a specific military requirement for the least possible expense. As such, the Hoplite is a simple, rugged, and dependable ‘Mech that achieves its objective and little else.

Hoplite

Introduced by Martinson Armaments in the year 2758, the Hoplite is an infantry support ‘Mech. The HOP-4D comes armed with a dual-purpose LB 10-X Autocannon and a five-rack LRM launcher. The autocannon is effective against almost all targets, able to fire single slug rounds at armored targets and scatter-shot against infantry and light-armored vehicles. The LRM-5 launcher offers infantry with long-range suppressive fire and counter-battery fire on a mobile chassis. The Hoplite is durable, with an impressive eleven and a half tons of armor that allow it to withstand withering fire in order to protect Star League infantry, but its ability to combat enemy ‘Mechs is somewhat lacking. 

Although the LB 10-X is a reliable weapon, its limited ammunition and lack of secondary weapons make it vulnerable should the autocannon become disabled. The LRM-5 launcher is sufficient to support infantry, but most ‘Mechs will find it a minor nuisance at worst. The Hoplite can take serious punishment, but its inability to return that punishment ultimately makes it vulnerable in the modern battlefield.

Back in its heyday, however, the Hoplite was a popular machine. Part of that was due to the simplicity of the design: without arms, pilots didn’t have to learn how to control upper limbs, and with a curiously high number of heatsinks–16, in fact–pilots also didn’t have to worry about heat build-up. The Hoplite could fire all of its weapons until its ammo bins ran dry while running over a volcanically active mudflat and never have to worry about spiking its heat gauge. Combined with its massive armor and simple weapons loadout, Star League MechWarriors often considered Hoplite pilots just a step above tankers.

Star League generals, however, loved the Hoplite. It was a cheap, no-nonsense machine that was ideal for bolstering forces and filling out billet slots. The SLDF eventually came to possess thousands of the dependable machines, and many examples could be found in Alexander Kerensky‘s forces prior to their flight from the Inner Sphere. In fact, the design was so common during the Star League era that Wolf’s Dragoons thought it would be an innocuous design that wouldn’t arouse suspicion during its mission to spy on the Great Houses. Little did they know that the Hoplite had actually died out during the Succession Wars precisely because of its popularity with military leaders.

Hop-4bb Hoplite

The only notable variant was the HOP-4B, which replaced the AC/10 with a PPC and upgraded the LRM-5 to an LRM-15. This gave the ‘Mech better long-range engagement and improved firepower. A Star League “Royal” variant of the HOP-4B was also produced, adding Artemis IV tracing to the LRM launcher, Guardian ECM, CASE, double heat sinks, and an anti-missile system

The Hoplite would once again become a dying breed after Wolf’s Dragoons cut ties with the Clan Homeworlds in 3020. By the Jihad era, the Hoplite was again facing extinction, both due to a lack of factories creating replacement parts and due to the fact the Hoplite had long been outclassed by more contemporary designs. Even during the Star League era, ‘Mechs like the Griffin, Shadow Hawk, and Wolverine offered similar firepower with far greater mobility, and most skilled generals knew that mobility was the key to winning conflicts. 

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.

29 thoughts on “Bad ‘Mechs – Hoplite

  1. Carl K

    It’s always a good write up, and I love the humor in the fiction at the start, but got dang if it isn’t the art that always keeps me coming back to these articles! Good job again!

    Reply
    1. Owl

      Personally though, I think that the “Bad Mech” series is starting to stretch a bit to meet its goal of finding a “bad” mech. I mean, an AC/10 isn’t a bad weapon and is comparable to the old PPC. It’s only post Clan invasion once all the Clan tech creep came in that it started looking bad since all the energy weapons got a 50% power boost when it went into Clan ER tech upgrades.

      And yes the art is amusing and of a pretty good quality.

      Reply
      1. Kage

        I think the issue is the 16 SHS which is far in excess of what would be necessary for an AC10 and LRM5, effectively eating up 6 tons that could be far better used by by equipping more weapons. Hence the mention of the 4B being an exception to rule.

        Still as is the case with most of the Bad Mech designs, later alterations to the design can certainly redeem them.

        Reply
        1. Owl

          Look on the bright side, you can be standing in a fire hex and still remain heat neutral lol. People sometimes forget that the map terrain can add quite a lot of heat, especially if walking through fire hexes.

          Reply
  2. ClerkTechGB72

    Clearly another Mech that was once effective given its “modern battlefield” but now falls short because times changed. But much like seeing a Whippit tank in a post-Cold War conflict zone, the Hoplite can still find use either through particular application or apparent desperation.

    Given the theme of this article series, the types of “bad” seem to divide into four categories: poorly made, misused, outdated, and impractical. Arguably, much of the Mechs seen fall into more than one category. The Hoplite, though, appears to fit squarely into “outdated”.

    Reply
    1. Owl

      Don’t forget the last category. Reaching. lol.

      I mean, his article on the Nova being a bad mech stems simply from the fact that firing all the weapons causes it to overheat, but… why can’t the person playing the mech NOT fire off everything? Or since it is an Omni, use a different configuration? It’s not like all the weapons are hard linked to a single fire button and it’s all or nothing. I think after a certain point where you have used up all your stock of really bad mechs to write about, you kind of have to fudge a bit to get more articles of the same vein out. After all, there are only a finite number of mech designs in existence and you will run out sooner or later.

      I agree on your observation that it seems like tech creep did away with the Hoplite, in 3025, an AC/10 isn’t a bad weapon, it even compares favourably with a Rifleman’s twin AC/5 popguns but with the tech creep from “Clantech” after the Clan invasion, it started to look a lot weaker.

      Reply
  3. Bishop Steiner

    OK Sean…

    let’s see, you’ve done the Assassin, Charger and Hoplite…. 3 of my redesigns.

    Expecting…let’s see.. Clint, Vulcan, Urbanmech, Sentinel. Maybe the Crossbow Omni? To make the cut! :P

    Reply
    1. Cupra

      Id say this only means you got a a tender spot in your heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.
      And i really appreciate this.

      Reply
    2. SilverCyanide

      Add the Wolftrap, Man O’ War, Champion, Whitworth to the list, if possible. And, to be honest, I prefer Battletech when you have those bad designs running around because it shows that “you fight with what you have, not what you want”.

      Reply
      1. Owl

        It’s also a design philosophy difference. If you noticed, there is a general trend towards mech designs from different factions, or there used to be.

        Star League designs, with rare exceptions, tend to be ammo neutral, with things like the Mercury, Crab, Black Knight, Phoenix Hawk LAMs etc all being pure laser designs which reflects the logistical needs of managing the whole of the Inner Sphere, so they tend to be less ammo dependent. The Highlander and Bombardier are really notable exceptions to the rule and I guess are more “reserved” as the main striking force of the Star League and so are kept closer to resupply.

        House mechs tend to work on the lance principle where all the firepower of the lance is directed at a single target, hence they have a large variety of weapons with different ranges but no “optimum range”. Like Natasha Kerensky noticed in the Blood of Kerensky books, IS warriors are a lot more comfortable with hitting anything and everything in sight and won’t hesitate to allocate different targets for their different ranged tier weapons. Their firepower individually at a specific range is nothing to write home about, but in reverse there is rarely a time where an IS mech can’t hit something with at least one weapon.

        Clans focus more on head on, 1v1 confrontations, so this caused an interesting design quirk in their mechs. IS mechs have an armor distribution of 3 front armor to 1 back. Clans focus on head on combat reduces their distribution to 4 front : 1 back. They also tend to focus on a specific range/role in their configurations, so their mechs are not as “spread out” as an old IS one. Not that they can’t do it with their Omnis as well, they can, just that their warriors have quirks of habit from their fighting style. They also rarely use melee combat for some reason, seeing it as “barbaric”, hence many of their designs have the hand actuator removed for guns. Not sure which came first, the “barbaric” idea leading to the removing of the actuator or the removing of the actuator for guns in the arm leading to the belief that fisticuffs are “barbaric”, but melee combat is one rare area where the Clans are at a disadvantage vs IS mechs.

        This was my observations from the time I was playing BT, hope it helps to shed some light on the “why”s of some designs.

        Reply
        1. snarls darwin

          Iv heard the theory somewhere that since the clans are descend from the SLDF they took SLDF training doctrine and overtime it evolved along with zellbriggin. The idea being that the SLDF doctrine primarily focused on long range shooting as opposed to midrange infighting and close range brawling and if you were a good pilot you would have brought down your foe before it ever came to blows, that combined with the clans need to not waste anything might be why they have such a disdain for “barbaric melee”.

          Reply
  4. Michael

    The “stock” Hoplite is just so bad, but the -4B is actually pretty good. It’s well armour, well cooled and a PPC & LRM-15 is solid firepower for the era. It may not have the mobility of the Griffin, but it can put out damage much more reliably. The Centurion comparison is a good choice, as the Centurion does a lot more with those 9 tonnes (3 armour, 6 heat sinks) than the Hoplite does.

    Reply
  5. Flashfreeze

    The Hoplite is just an UrbanMech with bigger pants.

    By which I mean it’s great in one or two roles, but falls pretty hard on the others. Its best use IMO is the one suggested by the name: Hoplite, a class of soldier most known for their aspis shields.

    Get a lance of these things for cheap and put them in the front line to draw fire for other, more important units. The Hoplite is an excellent meat shield and you can put even put relatively inexperienced pilots in it and still get results.

    If you’re going to have to sacrifice a unit to secure a tactical retreat or protect the missile boats and snipers, you usually don’t have to feel bad about sacrificing a Hoplite.

    Reply
    1. SilverCyanide

      Your comparison would only work if the Hoplite actually had jump jets to be able to reposition itself effectively, like the Urbie can.

      Reply
      1. Flashfreeze

        In my experience on the tabletop I’ve found that 4/6/0 is the rough tactical equivalent of 2/3/2, and the Hoplite can at least get a TMM in most terrain.

        Besides, the point isn’t that it’s built like a bigger UrbanMech, but that it shares a certain type of Urbie vibe: excel in one or two roles while being relatively cheap and relatively expendable in those roles.

        Reply
  6. Codius_Dak

    Interestingly it is described as a Infantry support Mech, probably used to hit isolated pillbox’s, or fortified positions much like lightly supported FOB’s. So much like the Rifleman it is a Mech usually used outside the role it was intended.

    I feel a proper Post 3070 refit would include the use of top hull mounted turrets in the side torsos, arming each with a Light AC/5 and allocating 4 tons of ammo to the ‘mech would allow for the use of varied ammo, AP for Anti-Mech and vehicle Sniping, Fragmentation for Anti infantry and 2 full tons of standard for General purpose. a single light PPC mounted center would round out the ‘mech with the ability to take on lighter infantry suport tanks and battle armor. while adding

    This mech, while undergunned, would then fullfill it purpose as both Infantry Support and Light fire support. And designate it as the HOP-4D variant.

    Reply
    1. John Campbell

      It’s not so much bad as just really underwhelming. The armor slab is nice. It’s got a decent main gun. But it’s slow for a medium, it doesn’t jump, and its secondary weaponry is laughable, all largely because it wasted a lot of tonnage on way, way more heat sinks than it has any excuse for having. Seriously, it can run around alpha striking constantly *with two engine hits* and only gain a point of heat per turn. That’s excessive by any measure. You could strip it down to just the base 10 HS and it’d still be an icebox, and there’s way more useful things you could do with those six tons.

      Reply
      1. John Campbell

        For example, you could upgrade the 5-rack to a 15 and add another ton of ammo, so you have something actually capable of discouraging faster mechs from trying to kite you. Even with just the base 10 HS, you’d still be heat-neutral while running and alpha-striking.

        Or you could bump it up to 5/8, and have half a ton left over so you could put in a small laser and pretend that you’re still combat-capable when you run out of ammo. (Because, oh, yeah, that’s another of its problems: Both its weapons are ammo-dependent, and its main gun’s bin isn’t any too deep.)

        Or go the HOP-4B route and swap out the autocannon for an energy gun that’ll actually use all those heat sinks. Maybe swap the AC for a pair of large lasers and some more HS… 60% more short-to-medium firepower, the battlefield endurance to go with that impressive armor slab, and cut the mech-killing ammo vulnerability in half. And you still only gain 1 heat if you run and fire everything.

        Reply
  7. Vermonster

    The Hoplite is a meh Mech at the best of times. The -4B is is a vast improvement but that puts it in the same class as the Scorpion. It can be improved further, but at that point you’re basically making a new mech. But it is a good transport for battle armour, like a bunch of kittens sharing a roomba

    Reply
    1. CoKien

      The Hoplite is not an Omni. Thus it can’t transport BAs unless the BAs have Magnetic Claws.
      As for the Hoplite 4B, it also doesn’t have any equipment in its right torso. Consequently every critical hit in the right torso will be transfered to the CT. Imo, that’s a major flaw. The Hoplite 4C is also almost 200 BV cheaper, than a Hoplite B.

      Reply
  8. Colin

    Honestly, David White’s art of the 4Bb makes it look cool and functional, like a shrunken [i]King Crab[/i]. The armament and armour’s nothing to sniff at, either.

    Reply
  9. Mattias42

    It’s honestly kinda refreshing having a mech that’s not outright bad-bad, but more leans towards simply being obsolete even by Battletech’s standards.

    Like, I could see this thing pushed into garrison duty & moth-balls, if not for the fall of the Star League. Heck, retrofit to the HOP-4B, and you have what sounds like a quite decent long-range defensive unit.

    Reply
  10. casperionx

    Why no mention of the 4Bc…the hells horses refit that swapped the er ppc and lrm 15 for a gauss rifle and srm 6?? Arguably one of the more crazy refits, but it works…

    Reply
  11. Max

    As always I love this series half due to making me think of these mechs other half, the community views. Everyone is polite and shares how to use these “bad” mechs either in narrative play or max what it’s got to work with as well as mention variants that often are quite good (I’m really eyeing you Mr. Charger).

    Now yeah I would go as far as saying a hoplite just isn’t good as it stands but, since sometimes in my game group we get given some mechs to work with how I’ve found it useful as said before treat it like a fat Urban mech.

    The lrm5 is just fine to plop smoke or a little mine field. Using basic damage on it (or any lrm5 solo imho) is kinda wasteful. So let it semi concealed stroll up with the ac10.

    The bv is really too high for said above but part of the fun of BT is not everything is good and while most friendly game night groups do just basic force on force if you have a situation or campaign built it might be just what you need, at least better than some other things.

    The lrm5 does area denial some how and the ac10 with how thick the plates are on the mech is a great weapon to trade cool with. Esp if your opfor isn’t using TMM. Try to wild west shoot out with much anything in its weight class they will run into heat issues before you drop.

    Granted I’d take a shad 2h any day over a hoplite if we want to talk about low firepower and over sunk med mechs.

    Reply
  12. CF

    I’m going to go with the folks who point out the -4B variant — despite its name, the _Hoplite_ s a fire-support unit; the PPC-and-LRM15 is better-suited for that mission. I’d still like to see something for short-range work, as it’s not quite fast enough to run away (maybe a pack of MLs to cover the PPC’s minimum-range block).

    And remember: It’s pronounced “hop-lih-tay”, not “hop-lite”. .:)

    Reply

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