Category Archives: Designs

Cross Electric Designs Terrain Review – For A More Militarized Battlefield

Cross Electric Designs Cover

A few weeks back, I spoke with Matthew “Stinger” Cross of Cross Electric Designs. While it was fun debating the merits of the Thor and Thor II, Matt was also looking to showcase his line of ready-to-paint BattleTech terrain pieces. We got to see a few of those in the interview, but Matt was kind enough to send a few more of those pieces my way for a more in-depth review.

First, let’s talk about the physical terrain. You might have noticed that Cross tends to focus more on industrial and military-style buildings rather than HEXTECH’s urban set. You can certainly mix and match these pieces with HEXTECH for a city garrison, but on their own, most of the Cross Electric Designs structures will complement an industrial complex, aerodrome, or armed garrison setting.

Cross Electric Designs Double Mech Bay

Case in point are the ‘Mech Repair Bay and the Double ‘Mech Bay. Most ‘Mechs require frequent maintenance, and the ‘Mech Bay is the typical home of a ‘Mech that’s not on maneuvers. If you want your home base to really feel like it services ‘Mechs, then these structures are essential. 

Although the terrain I was supplied with doesn’t have hex bases, both the ‘Mech Repair Bay and the Double ‘Mech Bay have hex base indentations that precisely fit the base of any standard CGL model (and there are now ‘Mech Bays that do have hex bases–more on that later on). Not only that, but the bays are large enough to accommodate almost any size ‘Mech, from the tiny Locust to a massive hulking Atlas. Only the thickest of assault ‘Mechs–such as the Stone Rhino, Kodiak, and Turkina–manage to exceed the ‘Mech Bay’s volume constraints. The Turkina is a special case, however, as it would likely have fit had its custom arms been lowered in a typical “shut down” position.

Cross Electric Designs Mech Repair Bay

One notable feature about the ‘Mech Bays is that they come with channels for LED lights and a slot to fit a 2032-size battery. This makes these bays perfect as display pieces or if you just want to add an element of realism with interior lighting. 

The models themselves are plastic prints that arrive unpainted, letting you customize them to your heart’s content. I did mine to match the HEXTECH colors, but you certainly don’t have to! The models also come with plenty of intricate detail, allowing you to get as creative as you like with your paint scheme.

Following the military theme are the Control Tower and Vehicle Ops Center. Just like the ‘Mech Bays, both models have plenty of fine details perfect for painters to exploit. There are minimal 3D-print lines and flat panels to add your own decals, but some might find it difficult to get those flat sides to really pop. My painter reported having to go with a dry brush to highlight some of the flatter surfaces. He also reported some challenges painting the windows, suggesting that sharper edges would have made it easier to get clean glass panes (although as you can see, he still managed just fine). 

Cross Electric Designs Vehicle Ops Center

Finally, we arrive at the more generic pieces from the Building Pack and Office Tower Delta. Even industrial zones and military installations will have boxy towers to house administrators and civilian contractors, so these buildings still very much fit the overall theme of Cross Electric Designs’ other pieces. They’re on the smaller side compared to HEXTECH, but they’re certainly no less detailed. 

I’ve mentioned HEXTECH a few times, and I’m struck by how well these buildings complement my previous urban terrain by adding variety to the structures. Every city is a wild amalgam of differently-shaped buildings, and one of the problems I had with HEXTECH was how similar a lot of the structures appeared. Cross Electric’s buildings provide a variety of smaller structures that add a realistic quantity to an urban setting. 

Cross Electric Designs Small Buildings Office Tower Delta

Although I didn’t receive every piece offered by Cross Electric Designs, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out the Aerospace Hanger available to anyone who wants to create an aerodrome, the various Factory Facility pieces, and Fuel Pods for anyone who wants to fight in a truly industrial setting, and numerous turrets available to enhance the defenses of any military facility.

Speaking of turrets, I did receive two Muse Missile Turrets, which are modeled after the Calliope turrets from MechWarrior 4. These don’t come with hex bases, but their overall size neatly fits into a standard BattleTech hex. There’s an excellent amount of detailing on these turrets, and my painter offered gratitude for how easily the detail lines held washes. 

Cross Electric Designs Muse Turrets

Similar praise was heaped on the Belisarius Hover Tanks and the Olympia Command Vehicle. These are excellent models that were reportedly a joy to paint. Although not necessarily modeled after official BattleTech designs, the Belisarius has a certain Bellona look about it, and the Olympia Command Vehicle (modeled after the mobile turret control vehicle from MechWarrior 4)  is easily used for any Mobile HQ units you might require as part of your campaign. 

Not pictured are two Troop Transport units that weren’t painted in time for publication, but just like the Belisarius, it easily holds washes thanks to its numerous panel lines. 

Cross Electric Designs also has a Military Hover Barge in case you’re fighting in an aquatic scenario, wheeled and hover troop transports, as well as the Beluga DropShip in both map and full ‘Mech scale (the larger one is obviously more expensive, and although big enough to contain a ‘Mech, doesn’t actually have working doors to stick your ‘Mechs inside). 

Cross Electric Designs Olympia Command Belisarius Tanks

Overall, I’m quite pleased with everything Cross Electric Designs had to offer, and I’d certainly look at purchasing the factory terrain pieces for a future campaign in an industrial world. I especially like the turrets and ‘Mech bays, which can turn even a papertech ‘Mech base into a realistic military installation perfect for a MechWarrior RPG

For those looking to purchase these pieces for themselves, head over to Cross Electric Designs’ side of Aries Games & Minis for Fortress Minis. I’ll list each of the pieces below for your convenience.

Muse Missile TurretMuse Turret$6.00
Track Troop Transport 2-PackTracked Troop Transport 2-Pack$9.00
Belisarius Hover Tank 2-PackBelisarius Hover Tank 2-Pack$14.00
Olympia Command VehicleOlympia Command Vehicle$12.00
Double ‘Mech BayDouble Mech Bay$24.00
‘Mech Repair BayMech Repair Bay$15.00
Control TowerControl Tower$15.00
Building Pack: SmallBuilding Pack Small$18.00
Office Tower DeltaOffice Tower Delta$15.00
Vehicle Ops CenterVehicle Ops Center$15.00

My one complaint with the Cross Electric terrain pieces is that they didn’t come with hex bases, making them a little tricky to situate on a hex board (my preferred playstyle for tabletop). But I’ve got some great news! Cross has recently finished creating new designs for the ‘Mech Repair Bay and Double ‘Mech Bay that now include hex-shaped bases. They also appear to be a little wider than the standard models, so they may have a slightly easier time accommodating the biggest ‘Mechs. The Mastodon gives a pretty good impression of overall size, although I haven’t tested them personally to see if they’ll fit a Stone Rhino. And just like the standard ‘Mech bays, these Hex Bays have channels and slots for LED lights.

Hex Bay and Double Hex Bay

Head over to Aries Games or Fortress Minis for the new Hex Bays. For those with the hardware, Cross Electric Designs is also available to DIY on Hardware

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Matthew “Stinger” Cross’s Contributions To BattleTech

Welcome to another episode of Community Outreach! This time we’ve got someone who’s made truly significant contributions to BattleTech, whether it be model-making, technical writing, or fiction. Matthew “Stinger” Cross has truly done it all, and he’s recently embarked on terrain and accessories for your next tabletop BattleTech game. Together, we go over his prodigious career and why the original Summoner isn’t nearly as good as the Thor II. Enjoy. 

Sean (Sarna):  Let’s start with introductions. I’m Sean, the Sarna news guy. For any reader who hasn’t read your Sarna page already, who are you?

Cross Electric Designs Logo

Matthew Cross (Stinger): Hello! I am Matthew Cross (Matt or Matthew, I generally don’t care), and my typical handle online is Stinger. I am an Iron Wind Metals freelance 3D designer, CGL freelance artist and writer, and the owner and proprietor of Cross Electric Designs!  I kinda do everything these days.

Sean: And how long have you been a BattleTech fan?

Matthew: Oh gosh. For a very very long time. My first memories of anything BattleTech-related involved a random Freeware game in the early ’90s when I was probably five years old called Megatron. It had a Mad Cat and a Vulture (which now I see was an obvious ripoff), but it was cool at the time. Then came a version of MechWarrior 2 that didn’t actually work on my PC but we could look at the MechLab and read the archive. I really got into things with MechWarrior 4 when I was 11. So, pretty much my whole life!

Sean: That’s MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 4, what other MechWarrior or BattleTech games have you played?

Matthew: So, I’ve played a little bit of everything except MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and Harebrained Schemes’ BATTLETECH. Back in 2009-2010 I even beat MechWarrior 1, played in Dosbox, without directly cheating. That game has an economic system that is easy to manipulate.

I’ve played chunks of Crescent Hawks Inception, the whole demo for MechWarrior 3 (never played the full game), and I was one of the first thousand beta testers for MechWarrior Online! MechWarrior 4 and its expansions are my favorite though, without a doubt. They’ve heavily inspired most of my 3D modeling career so far.

I’m a sucker for TROs, and 3075 is definitely a favorite. It was actually the first BattleTech sourcebook I purchased.

Sean: No MechWarrior 5 or BATTLETECH? Why avoid the two latest games? Just don’t have a rig for it?

Matthew: Don’t have the time! Well, for at least BATTLETECH. I actually backed the Kickstarter for that game, but it just came out at a busy time in my life and I guess I kept forgetting! Plus I’ve been busy with modeling, printing, writing, and not to mention the day job and being a dad! 

MechWarrior 5 I haven’t really played for two stupid reasons. First, I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetic of PGIs ‘Mechs, but worst, secondly, is that the scale of the ‘Mechs in the game is… wrong.

Let’s see if I can say this briefly without ranting… ‘Mechs are 6-12 meters tall. Some of the top assault ‘Mechs would obviously go over this number and some lights go under, but the PGI Atlas is like 20 meters tall. And the tanks are downright tiny. They feel like Honda Civics plinking at you from below. This issue more than anything has made me overall avoid MW5. It’s stupid, but I stand by it! 

And yes, I did hear about the mods for working around the scaling issue, which I should check out…

Sean: It’s true, mods do make MW5. But also, BATTLETECH is a triumph for anyone who likes turn-based tactics games.

Matthew: I know, I know! I really do need to play… 

Sean: Alright, let’s go through the list. Most important question: What’s your favorite ‘Mech?

Matthew: Ugh. Such a hard question. But let’s keep it simple. Hammerhands

It really caught my eye when I started getting really into BattleTech in college and the miniature was the first official BattleTech mini I’ve ever bought. And the mini, while scaled a little small, is absolutely fantastic.

I have so many more things to say are my favorites. Like the MW4 Daishi or the Mad Cat III (the XTRO version), the MW4 Vulture, heck even the Jenner is a favorite. I could go on and on and on, but I think Hammerhands is my final answer.

Sean: My favorite also meanders depending on my mood, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. What about your favorite era?

Matthew: Dark Age. Really anything post Jihad I would say.  I love the small stories that can be told in the era.  It feels like Succession Wars, but with higher tech.  So many little things happening that don’t have to be world-shattering, but interesting stories can be told nonetheless. Plus, most of my Ironwind Metals designs are Dark Age or Republic Era designs, so I have a bit of a soft spot I think.

Sean: Dark Age is a polarizing era–you either love it or you hate it. Or you get confused by it, which is where I’m at most of the time with all the factionalization of everything.

Matthew: Oh man, I think I have a strong attachment to the so-called “Pirate” factions because I had a small collection of MechWarrior: Dark Age figures. I got the “Premier” box set and probably only four to five boosters in total, but it cemented my love of the Blue and Green Swordsworn units. I think I have a good 20 minis painted in that scheme in my collection. Even my latest Shrapnel story, No Rest for the Accursed, actually dealt with two of the factions, the Highlanders and the Dragon’s Fury

Sean: I’m still getting caught up on Shrapnel, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for that story when it arrives. Any particular favorite bit of BattleTech media? A novel, video, or game?

Matthew: Well, excluding MechWarrior 4, I’m a sucker for TROs, and 3075 is definitely a favorite. It was actually the first BattleTech sourcebook I purchased. I’ve read a lot of novels as well, but I love the pure, crunchy, techy goodness that is a TRO or Recognition Guide.

Sean: Let’s get into your Sarna page. It says here your first contributions to BattleTech were to Ironwind Metals for the Vulture III and Thor II models. How does one even go about creating models for Ironwind? Is it like today with 3D modeling software or is it more old-school since these are pewter figures?

Matthew: I learned 3D modeling as a required one-credit course for my computer engineering degree at the beginning of college. This was 2008-2009 or so and 3D printing was barely a thing yet. But that class, combined with a weird summer internship where I was both working in CAD and writing code, in CAD, led me down a long journey of making BattleTech 3D models. I even tried teaching myself some techniques while modeling a Mad Cat at the internship. 

It’s… not pretty. 

Sean: It seems like it’s half a ‘Mech.

Matthew: I eventually finished it into what my friends commonly call the “Chibi-Cat”

Sean: Okay, I like chibi ‘Mechs. 

Matthew:  They say that everyone starts somewhere, and the Chibi-Cat was definitely my start. 


From there I did some more modeling, including my own version of a Manatee DropShip (from the aforementioned TRO: 3075), and then, right around the release of TRO: 3145: The Clans, I got images of the Vulture III and Thor II.  Being the big MechWarrior 4 and MWDA fan that I am, I know these two mechs are based on the MWDA versions of the ‘Mechs, which in turn were based on the MW4 versions of the ‘Mechs.  I jumped at the opportunity to model them for myself. Additionally, I knew Ironwind Metals was using 3D models for their minis, as this was around the time designs like the Dark Age Black Knight and the Ares tripods were released, so I knew that my models had potential. 

I also wanted to get my foot in the door, so I offered both models to IWM for free in an email to IWM president Mike Noe.  And private messages to Speck, the IWM admin. And general pestering. And while IWM opted not to use my Vulture III, and instead opted for a version closer to the MW4 art, they did ultimately go with my Thor II which was just hugely exciting. 

Sean: I see why that Mad Cat is considered the Chibi-Cat. Such tiny limbs! What other ‘Mech submissions did IWM accept? 

Matthew: Since 2014, I have had 21 accepted designs with Ironwind!  The Arion, Arctic Wolf II, Roadrunner, Pendragon, Centurion resculpt, and Centurion OmniMech.  A bunch of MechWarrior 4-based resculpts including the Cougar, Chimera, and Hellspawn.  I should really update my Sarna page with the full list.  My latest and greatest was the Mastodon, just released last month!

Sean:  Do you have a favorite IWM model that you created?

Matthew: It has to be the Catapult CPLT-C2, aka the Dark Age Catapult. Not the Catapult II, that’s a different ‘Mech.


I love the MWDA mini and decided to buy one off of eBay to use as a 3D modeling reference. I knocked out the first draft in like four hours straight (very fast for a model for me). I eventually was able to get the model through IWM’s Fan Funding program and the mini ultimately was made! I really tried to take everything that was good with that MWDA figure and mold it into something a bit more believable for the BattleTech universe.  Heck, I even made some TRO-style art for it from my model.

That, admittedly, was made even after the IWM model was made and includes some extra detailing, but it’s essentially the same design nonetheless

Sean: Rockin’. Alright, next on your page, I see you’ve also submitted game stats that have been officially published in multiple places, including the Clan Recognition Guides and TRO 3150. Does this mean you’ve made ‘Mechs that are now part of BattleTech canon?

Matthew: So, I’ve always been one to play around in the MechLab and try my hand at designing some loadouts. During the designing of the Pendragon for IWM, I wanted to design a bodyguard, dual C3 master version of the ‘Mech. This was 2015 I am pretty sure. The CGL assistant art director at the time was our now fearless leader, Ray Arrastia, who introduced me to the then XTRO developer (now the full TRO developer) Johannes “Jymset” Heidler who has become my good friend and mentor in all things BattleTech. We massaged the design a bit and got it included in the New Tech section at the back of TRO: 3150, whose record sheets were FINALLY released earlier this year!

Anyways, ever since, Johannes has been getting my ideas on loadouts and several of my Omni configs made it into the Rec. Guides along with the Jenner IIC 5I made a list recently!

Sean: Maybe you’d be a good person to ask since I see you worked on a lot of the “II” ‘Mechs. now, I have no problem with the IICs since they seem like a logical evolution for classic ‘Mechs that stuck around within the Clans. But the II ‘Mechs never made much sense to me. How do you feel about ‘Mechs like the Thor II and Loki II, especially with respect to the recent Clan Recognition Guides and the latest variants for the original Thor and Loki that have now been published?

Since 2014, I have had 21 accepted designs with Ironwind!  The Arion, Arctic Wolf II, Roadrunner, Pendragon, Centurion resculpt, and Centurion OmniMech. My latest and greatest was the Mastodon, just released last month!

Matthew: So, let’s talk about how the IIs came about.  Particularly the Thor II, Loki II, Kodiak II, Arctic Wolf II, Vulture III, and Mad Cat III. The Dark Age Black Knight and Atlas S3/II kinda also apply here and I may be missing a few, to be honest.

We’ll use the Thor as our main example here. We’ve got the original 3050 artwork. That in turn inspired its look in MechWarrior 4, but due to art style and whatnot, quite a bit changed. Also with that change came a change in default weapons loadouts, likely due to game balance. That MW4 design was translated into the MWDA dossier load out, which was (somehow) translated from real BattleTech stats. From there, CGL devs created fresh loadoats and artwork based on the dossiers and the looks of the Dark Age miniature, resulting in the Thor II. The lineage was original TRO art -> MW4 art -> MWDA art -> sequel Mech art.

It’s convoluted, but in the end, it ultimately makes some sense.  And frankly, I love the looks of many of the II designs.

The T configs on the other hand were created so you could buy a mini from the Clan Invasion box and play it in the Dark Age and IlClan eras. Does it make a ton of sense? Nah. Does it just give us more toys to play with? Definitely. 

I say majorly, to each their own. I love me the Thor II and will gladly use the extra 3.5 tons of equipment to pummel your original Thor into the ground.

Loki II and Thor II

Sean:  Well, that’s a fair answer. But if the Thor II and Loki II are attempts to canonize the MW4 ‘Mechs (and also MWDA ‘Mechs), then why the Catapult II and Raven II?

Matthew: Catapult II is a direct pull from an original MWDA ‘Mech whilst the Raven II was a production model of the experimental Raven from XTRO: Liao, I believe. Both are interesting cases that don’t follow the pattern.

Sean: You were first writing technical readouts, but then you swapped to fiction writing, the first being The Last Flight of the Black Condor in Shrapnel #10. Was that a big switch for you or were you always looking to be a fiction writer?

I love me the Thor II and will gladly use the extra 3.5 tons of equipment to pummel your original Thor into the ground.

Matthew: So, I actually tried my hand at fiction writing first. I wrote a story that was going to be in BattleCorps but, well, it was bad. Very bad. I tried writing in the first person, thinking it would be easier, then I tried converting it to third person, unsuccessfully. Tenses are hard.

Then, a few years after that I wrote a really fun article on why Clan ER medium lasers are better than standard ER medium lasers over in the fan articles section of the official BattleTech forums. I was inspired by another article I read on those forums to do it as a college lecture. My background as an engineer combined with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I have sat through a LOT of lectures. It was a style I felt I could do really well with. 

After showing off my article on the forums to Phil Lee, the Shrapnel Managing Editor, he was interested in me writing more articles for Shrapnel I was very excited about doing.  After getting four of those under my belt, I decided to tackle Black Condor, which was a scenario and setting I had in my mind for years and years. Heroic band of misfits saving the day, and getting picked off one at a time. I’m not going to lie to you, it was inspired by the climax of Shrek 2. It’s embarrassingly true.

The writing was hard and had A LOT of edits from the editors. It almost didn’t pass muster. No Rest for the Accursed was much easier on a whole. Getting the hang of dialog was a change from the lecture style and I think that was the hardest thing to do.

Sean:  Hah, well if Shrek 2 inspired Black Condor, what inspired No Rest for the Accursed?

Matthew:  A random violin piece by Lindsey Stirling. I’m not joking. 

Sean: Oh, I have a friend who really likes her!

I decided to tackle The Last Flight of the Black Condor, which was a scenario and setting I had in my mind for years and years. Heroic band of misfits saving the day, and getting picked off one at a time. I’m not going to lie to you, it was inspired by the climax of Shrek 2. It’s embarrassingly true.

Matthew: My kids found a song of hers, “Roundtable Rivals,” and I definitely thought immediately of a Highlander IIC having a slugfest with an entire lance, and wins. I did change the music to bagpipes in the story, but the effect remained all the same.  You really need to read this story…

Sean: Welp, I’m grinding my way through Shrapnel since it’s my preferred method of getting BattleTech short stories. 

I have a question for one that’s not canon–Welcome to Nebula California. I’ve never heard of this, and the art on the Sarna page makes it look like it’s about ‘Mechs versus superheroes. Can you tell me more about that and what you contributed to this sourcebook?

Matthew: Oh wow. Yeah, I forgot about Welcome to Nebula California!  That one was a collaboration between myself and CGL’s top layout guy, David “Dak” Kerber. Dak had a bunch of art he needed to create and we collaborated on using some of my IWM designs and integrating them into throughout the book. I did some renders (especially the cover) and Dak colorized them. Some of the silhouettes throughout the book are also my renders blacked out as well

It was just a free April Fools product, during some of the darker times for CGL, but that was a fun project to work on.

Sean: But, like, it is ‘Mechs versus super-powered people?

Matthew: I believe so! There is even an image of a Superman-type character punching my Thor II.  I honestly didn’t fully read the book myself, but it is very typical of an April Fools projectYou’ve got the Disney Princess ‘Mechs, XTRO 1945, Escape from Castle Wulfensteiner, etc. 

Sean: I’m gonna have to pick up some of these. I’ll grab the Nebula Californa one first. Now let’s take a look at your first official design: the Kamisori Light Tank. Seems like a fine vehicle, if on the lighter side. What was your inspiration for this spry little guy?

Kamisori pencil sketch

Matthew: So, this was another of my many collaborations with Johannes (mentioned earlier!). He and I were conspiring to make an XTRO that never materialized, but there was a tank that was mentioned one-off in some online-only MWDA fiction. The Kamisori Light Tank that was mentioned was transporting some battle armor, and Johannes whipped up some stats. The stats that he provided me in 2016 and I did a really fast pencil sketch that eventually became the final Kamisori.

From there, I made a basic model that I updated a few times over the years, but then we pulled in another good friend and excellent CGL artist Dale Eadeh to provide art direction. We took it from this:

Kamisori Light Tank Initial Design

To this:

Kamisori Final

Sean: I got some big T-34 vibes from this guy.

Matthew: With rumble seats in the back for battle armor! Originally the design was a flat-bed like a pickup truck, but we changed to the externally facing seats to make it more obvious in its role as a battle armor taxi

Sean: With a touch of mobile fire support on the side. Let’s talk about what you’re up to these days. I hear you’re making terrain for BattleTech, is that right?

Matthew: Terrain under my own label, Cross Electric Designs, yes! I am also doing more writing for Shrapnel and another mini for IWM, but I can’t really talk about those right now. So yeah! Terrain!

Sean: Alright, then let’s focus on the thing you can talk about. When did you start Cross Electric Designs and what products do you have available?

Mathew: So, back to Dale Eadeh.Dale runs his own little terrain studio, called Hardware Studios.  Dale was looking for some more terrain to fill out his digital files shop and I initially declined his offer to get my stuff onto his site. About a year later, with inflation being a pain in my rear end, I decided, hey, let’s try this digital files thing. I already had some terrain that I had previously made for various reasons, some to support Dale and some just for my own fun. I also had my Manatee DropShip that I designed years and years ago, and I decided to spruce that up, with a little extra art direction from Dale as well. Beyond all this, I had two 3D printers already and decided, “Hey, let’s sell some physical product as well!” 

Muse Missile Turret

I launched Cross Electric in and around the spring/summer of 2022, with just a handful of products. The Beluga DropShip (renamed for obvious reasons), my Vengeance Palace Wall set (inspired by the palace map in MechWarrior 4: Vengeance), the Muse Turret (inspired by the Calliope Turret from MW4 as well), and a few other bits and bobbles. I even started selling some prints on BattleTech International Trade and Sell and they were all a hit, much more so than I really expected. 

I moved from selling on BTI: Trade and Sell to Aries Games and Minis and I have recently expanded to having my stuff at conventions through BV traders and selling through Fortress Minis and Games.  And I think I have something like 30 different products, with more on the way!

Sean: That all sounds pretty great! I remember hating those Calliope Turrets. They’d make a great addition to a BattleTech scenario. Are all those homegrown designs on the Aries Games site now?

Matthew: Pretty much everything is on Aries, Hardware, and Fortress, yeah! There are a few designs that are less popular or too large to sell viably that I sell only on Hardware Studios as files, but otherwise, everything is on those sites!

Double Mech Bay

Sean: You mentioned a few MW4 inspirations for these designs, but I’m seeing a lot of MechCommander here too–like the gas tanks, the Double ‘Mech Bay, the Factory Facility Alpha, and the AeroSpace Hanger. Was MechCommander a big inspiration for these designs?

Matthew: So, actually the Double Mech Bay and the Gas Tanks were both direct MW4 inspiration, to be honest. The Double Bay was featured in the final mission of Vengeance (and a few other places) and the fuel tanks were present throughout! I played MOST of MechCommander 2 back when it was released as freeware by Microsoft in 2010 or so, and I am sure those inspirations were definitely still there, but they weren’t in the front of my mind. The Factory was something that kinda took off as I learned what my style was. It’s something that really needs to be established for an artist.  What is your style? You can see it in the MWO style of Alex Iglesias or the Catalyst style of Anthony Scroggins, but every artist has their own way of making things. I really am trying to learn from other’s styles still. I like to make things chunky with a lot of shapes, very similar to MechWarrior 4′s style because, back then, big boxy shapes were easy to make within the graphics limitations of the day.  But you have so many other interesting sci-fi styles to hit upon that I really do try to draw from other sources, but somehow I typically devolve into my chunky style.

Sean: Ah, you never played the original MechCommander? I think you can find MechCommander Gold as a free download somewhere. Might need to make an emulator to play it, though.

The Beluga DropShip seems very MW4. And I think the Military Hover Barge is also from a MW4 mission where you have to defend a bunch of barges. Turrets all seem MW4 too. So we can safely say MW4 really was your jam. What was your favorite part of MW4 that you wish could come back in MechWarrior 5?

Matthew: Hmmmm… Probably a few things. And I’ll likely be referring to MWO for comparison because I played a lot more of that game than I have MW5.


First off, and I know this won’t happen, but I loved the joystick support for MW4.  Playing with a joystick to properly control your mech felt like the absolute right way to be piloting a ‘Mech and it was the one thing that just felt so wrong about MWO to me. The ‘Mechs don’t shake around as much because you need to provide some stability to the mouse pointer MechWarrior 4 has some fairly turbulent fast ‘Mechs. Pointing and clicking with a mouse on an enemy just didn’t have the same effect as lining up a shot with the joystick and pulling the trigger.

We’ve already talked about scale, so we’ll skip that topic as well…

I think so of the speed of MechWarrior 4 is missing from MW5/MWO. The weapons hit faster in MW4, given the lasers were all hitscan (instant laser beam that just hits or doesn’t hit) versus the beam approach that MWO uses. The ‘Mechs felt faster and more nimble. And, well, to go to scale, the smaller scale but the same ground speeds of mechs make MW4 feel faster as well. MWO/MW5 ‘Mechs can feel floaty rather than stompy at times.

I’ve got some new factories in the works, a mostly finished Shrapnel draft, and a Mech assignment from Ironwind Metals. So many cool projects!

Finally, I think it really comes down to art style and the eras.  You weren’t able to get hyperrealism in 2002 vs. 2019 and sometimes, MWO/MW5 just seems too detailed and too real.  It’s a weird thing to complain about, but it feels more Modern Warfare than Halo sometimes.

Sean: MWO lasers are also hitscan, but they might not feel like it because of internet issues and the game polling rate. And I agree, MWO/MW5 is definitely going for hyper-realism with a dash of tacticool. There’s a winch on the front of the Marauder in the MW5 splash screen, for example.

I don’t think it’s a bad aesthetic, but if the ‘Mechs are hyper-realistic, then everything should be, and occasionally you’ll find some terrain that doesn’t make sense or foliage that seems too big or too small. I still really like the look of MW5 overall, and think it’s the best-looking MechWarrior ever made. But there was over a decade between MW5 and MW4.


Matthew: Oh, I’m referring to the lasers being an instant shot versus a beam that lasts for half a second or so for the hitscan. An MW4 laser is a single spot with a single spot for damage.  MWO/MW5 has a nice little beam.

But honestly, we are arguing a difference in huge game design decisions between 2001 and 2019. MW4 is practically an arcade game these days.

Sean: True, and I definitely appreciate the arcade feel of MechWarrior 4. I played it a bunch back in the day. Arcade doesn’t mean bad! It’s all just a matter of game mechanics, and MW4 was very solid mechanically speaking.

Anyway, we’ve talked a lot here. Did you have any other topics you’d like to discuss? Any other upcoming projects you’d like to announce?

Matthew: Haha, we have indeed talked a lot!

I think I have covered most of what I want to talk about, but I always have new stuff that I am working on. I’ve got some new factories in the works, a mostly finished Shrapnel draft, and a ‘Mech assignment from Ironwind Metals. So many cool projects! I try and share my stuff on my Facebook page, but I’m not amazing at keeping it updated.  My wife is supposedly going to be giving me a hand in that regard soon, but no promises! 

Sean: Alright, then that covers it. Thanks for sitting down to chat!

Thanks again to Matthew Cross for taking the time to speak to me, and be sure to check back soon as I take a look at some of the models offered by Cross Electric Designs.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Locust Labs And Creating The Hunchback For Tex Talks BattleTech

Welcome back to Community Outreach, where we sit down to chat with the movers and shakers in the BattleTech universe. With the release of Tex Talks BattleTech: The Hunchback, we thought it’d be a good idea to speak to one of the artists featured in the documentary. Locust Labs created many of the 3D models and animations seen in the Hunchback video, and she’s got dreams to go beyond fan animations to make a career out of 3D modeling. Please welcome Anna of Locust Labs.

Locust Labs

Courtesy of Locust Labs

Sean [Sarna]: My name’s Sean Murray. I’m the news writer for, the BattleTech Wiki. Maybe you’ve heard of us? 

Locust Labs: No, never really. No Sarna. Don’t know about that. Never heard of it. Never, never at all. 

Sean: You didn’t go to Sarna for, I don’t know, maybe pictures of the Hunchback?

Locust Labs: I don’t go to Sarna like every day to look up things while I work. No, that doesn’t happen. 

Sean: I do, but I also work there. 

“I’ve always just loved mecha in general too, but Tex’s videos–more specifically the videos on the Amaris Civil War–were what kind of got me back into BattleTech.”

Locust Labs: No, I obviously know of Sarna, all jokes aside. It’s been very helpful. I don’t actually use Sarna for pictures though, because you guys save the pictures on the site in some really weird format. And they don’t work in my reference image collector software, Pure Rev.

Sean: Sorry. I mean, I guess you could always just save them in a different format. That’s sort of what I do, believe it or not. But enough about me being bad at my job. What about you being good at your job? Tell me about Locust Labs. How did you get started? What is it exactly that you do for anybody who’s never heard of Locust Labs before?

Locust Labs: Well, it’s actually really funny because I mainly work in Blender as a 3D artist. And my first brush with Blender was when I was 14 and I was playing a video game called Unturned, which is a shooter. An artist that made low-poly weapons for the game joined the server, and I was interested, so he gave me a few lessons on how to make low-poly guns on Blender.

I kind of didn’t use it for a few years, and then I started getting into 3D Discords with my friends about 3D art and mecha. And one of my friends that I met there kind of started teaching me about how to use Blender. I started to relearn how to use Blender in general–which is not easy, which a lot of people will tell you–but eventually, you get the hang of it.

And then I started making buildings and vehicles and infantry for animations, and people seem to really like it. And a year ago, I told my girlfriend, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if someday I could work for Tex and work on a Tex Talks BattleTech with my silly little 3D models?” 

Then eight months later, I get a DM from the man himself. He’s like, “Hey, do you wanna work for me?”

Running Locust

Courtesy of Locust Labs

Sean: All right, so you’ve been watching Tex’s videos for at least eight months. Is that sort of what got you into the ‘Mech side of things?

Locust Labs: So my childhood was actually spent with BattleTech because my father is a huge BattleTech nerd. He probably has like a hundred books of battle texts. Some of the German-only books are there. I have his box of the old plastic line in my apartment as well as the ‘Mechs.

I’ve always just loved mecha in general too, but Tex’s videos–more specifically the videos on the Amaris Civil War–were what kind of got me back into BattleTech. I was huge into [Warhammer] 40K, but 40K was so incredibly inaccessible and expensive. Then I watched Tex’s videos on the Amaris Civil War, and I was reminded of BattleTech, of course. That was right around the time I had made my first 3D thing, which was bases to put figures on. And then I was like, “I could totally make a Locust,” which is my favorite ‘Mech. I was playing MechWarrior Online at the time. Basically only using the Locust “Pirate’s Bane“ and being a huge nuisance to people.

And I was like, I should totally just make a 3D model of a Locust. And then I made a 3D model of a Locust, and people were like, “This is really cool. You should keep doing this.” So I kept doing it, and here I am. 

Locust Labs Raven Animation

Sean: All right, so, you were into BattleTech from an early age. Uh, What like games and what parts of BattleTech have you engaged with before? 

Locust Labs: As I said, I’ve played MWO basically since it was a thing. ‘Cause my dad played it and he was like, “You should play MWO too.” And I did just like when he played World of Tanks, I played World of Tanks and it was just a great time.

I obviously played MechWarrior 5. Of the older games, my dad does own MechWarrior 4 and 3 and 2 in 1, and he basically played all the BattleTech games that are out there. But I only ever had a short brush-in with MechCommander and obviously classic BattleTech that I played with my dad.

That’s really it. I was mainly reading all the books that my dad had. I would sneak in and grab three of them and read them. He’d obviously be okay with it. It would just be like, “Oh, three books are gone.” I’m probably reading them. I even have his original run of the Grey Death Legion trilogy that I stole from him and have in my apartment.

“Tex was like, ‘Hey, I like this. Why don’t you make animations for my Hunchback video?’ I was like, oh God, is this real?”

Sean: Are you admitting to something in this interview then? 

Locust Labs: No, he’s fine. He knows I see them. It’s okay.

Sean: So you got into making ‘Mechs and then Tex reaches out after you’ve seen his videos starting from the Amaris Civil War. What does he ask you to do?

Locust Labs: Tex asks me, “Hey, we’re working on the Hunchback video.” I had just started making animations. I first kind of worked on just 3D models and I sent him an animation I had made of my second attempt to make a locust.

Basically, after a year, I was like, “Hey, I should totally make another Locust model.” And then he is like, “Hey, I like this. Why don’t you make animations for my Hunchback video?” I was like, oh God, is this real? But of course it was real. So first I have to make a Hunchback and then I have to animate it.

And then the project just kind of kept growing. First, he only wanted me to make four versions of the Hunchback, and then they were 10, and then he wanted the Hunchback IIC as well. It just kept getting more and more and I was like, okay, more Hunchbacks. Here you go, boss.

Sean: And there are a lot of Hunchbacks out there, so he probably could have gone through dozens of them.

Locust Labs: I made 19 models or color variations. Some of them range from little alterations, like there’s a different gun in where the AC/20 goes, all the way to redesigning the entire torso or actually just changing the entire ‘Mech around ’cause it’s the Clan. It was a lot of work, but I also had a hell of a lot of fun.

Sean: So these models are full 3S models, but also they’re fully animated. The torso moves, the legs move, and the arms move. It looks like a running Hunchback. How long did it take you to make the first Hunchback and get it fully animated so that we have this running gif here. 

Locust Labs Original Hunchback Model

Locust Labs: So my workflow starts before I even get to the animation. As you said, I obviously have to make the Hunchback. Depending on the complexity of what I’m working on, it might be a day or two for, let’s just say a tank, but because obviously this was for Tex Talks BattleTech, the big man himself, I put a lot of effort into it. I think it took me about a week just to make the base version of the Hunchback.

Starting from a very simplistic block like this where I just kind of box in the shapes and then slowly working my way over the details till I obviously arrive at the final result. In my process, I first paint them in Blender–hopefully in the future in Substance Painter, which is just a lot more sophisticated.

And then it comes to the rigging, which depending on what you’re doing, can be very sophisticated or very simple.

Since these Hunchbacks were only supposed to run, all I really needed to do was make a humanoid rig that fit onto the Hunchback, which is very simple. All you really need is two legs, feet, a torso, hip separation, and then the arms. So there’s nothing fancy, like if you were animating let’s say an animal or a dragon and you had to animate the wings or whatever.

Then it’s on to actually animating the thing, which is rather difficult in Blender ’cause it’s not sophisticated animation software. Blender kind of does everything; that means it might be good at everything, but it’s not the best. It takes a lot of effort to get good at rigging in Blender

Locust Labs Hunchback Final

I wouldn’t say I’m good at all, but I make it work. First of all, you basically set a time, which for a full walk cycle I need 60 frames. And then you set up your walk cycle. You obviously need to set up the middle, like the start and the middle of the walk cycle, which is one full cycle. Like a 60-frame, two-second thing, one full cycle. And then you need to make it so that in between those three frames–frame zero, frame 30, and frame 60–it actually looks like it’s walking. 

And that takes two things. First, you need to animate the model, and then you need to animate its surroundings so it actually looks like it moves.

Sean: And then also the shadows too.

Locust Labs: Yeah, you have a light source. In this case, there were actually three light sources to light it up evenly. There’s a little bit of a shadow, but it’s also supposed to kind of show everything, because if you only have one light source, sometimes the shadows are very dark in Blender.

It’s kind of necessary to have multiple from different angles. At that point, it’s just about kind of tweaking things. ’cause if you just had a running ‘Mech that’s just running straightforward or walking, it wouldn’t look very realistic. You need to have the torso balance and the arms shake, and maybe the hips are rotating along and bouncing as well.

Sean: I’m sure as much as Tex would like to, he can’t pay all your bills. What would be your goal beyond just making these kinds of 3D models for really cool internet videos?

Locust Labs Hunchback 4G Silverhawk Irregulars

Locust Labs: Currently I kind of have three main avenues. One of them is I simply continue doing this. I work on my portfolio. And eventually, my work is good enough to actually get hired by like a video game studio or for actual filmmaking or just in any kind of animator 3D model designer role at an actual company. I could be lucky and make enough of my animation commissions and so on to just live from it, or I might end up going to university because I am only 21 years old.

But if I had my way and I could make all my money just from the animation and so forth, I’d eventually want to actually come up with my own kind of setting, like BattleTech.

That’s been in my head for a while. I’ve even made a ‘Mech for it and a bunch of written lore for it. The problem is just there’s tons of systems for tabletop games and video games and books out there that nobody’s ever going to read. Because the person making them and writing them and working on them, nobody knows who they are. Why should people play your “homebrew” system that you developed when they can just play 40K

Sean: Yeah, that’s kind of a similar problem with a lot of RPGs. There are a lot of really great tabletop RPGs out there, but because Dungeons & Dragons is so well established, a lot of people are like, “Well, why bother doing any of these when we could all just be playing Dungeons & Dragons?”

I sympathize with kind of the challenge you have there. It’s not impossible, though.

“First, he only wanted me to make four versions of the Hunchback, and then they were 10, and then he wanted the Hunchback IIC as well.”

Locust Labs:  It’s also a problem we have in the tabletop RPG space is that there are a lot of great options, but a lot of people who want to make their own things end up making BattleTech lite or 40K lite. Here’s my grand scale strategy game for the tabletop, but in actuality it’s just the same rules as 40K with slightly different models. And then it’s like, why would I pick up a whole new system? Learn different rules, buy different minis when all my friends already have their Space Marine armies, and their 2,000 point, 6,000 BV list of ‘Mechs for BattleTech. Why wouldn’t I just buy BattleTech

Sean: Yeah. Another thing, especially with these older, established IPs, is that you’re kind of trying to advertise to an older audience that just doesn’t want that sort of thing. I think maybe the best strategy for trying to gain interest towards a newer IP is to actually go really young–like, single digits young. Try and hook kids on a game that will grow into something that they have that sense of nostalgia for as adults.

Locust Labs: I think it’s also a problem for a lot of people that they’re scared of even trying. ‘Cause. If you had told me that I’d be sitting here talking for a Sarna interview while my Hunchback animation is being shown off in a Tex Talks BattleTech video two years ago, I’d have told you you’re crazy. But here I am and it all kind of happened just ’cause I was like, I should totally model a Locust and that would be really fun.

Locust Labs Hunchback Animation

Sean: Take risks–you can’t really get anywhere without taking them. We should probably also describe where people can find you on the Internet. Where can people see Locust Labs and get the latest and greatest from Locust Labs?

Locust Labs: I have Twitter, I have Instagram, I have Facebook. I go by some version of “Locust_Labs” everywhere, even on Discord. I could also plug my Patreon if you’ll let me.

Sean: Does Locust Labs have any particular plans for the future?

Locust Labs: Making more animations–even just by myself making a longer fan animation–would be really interesting. I probably have to buy a better PC first because even the little Raven animation took my computer almost two hours to render and I’m still not really happy with it. But it’s also kind of the problem with my current pc, it can’t really do anything while I’m rendering.

Like I couldn’t watch YouTube or actually work on something else. My computer was basically just sitting there and churning out these video bits. So my first plan, once I have a little bit more money than I have right now, will be to buy a better computer.

So next time Tex hires me, he doesn’t have to wait as long and I don’t have to spend as long just sitting there watching my computer basically load.

“If I had my way, I’d eventually want to actually come up with my own kind of setting, like BattleTech.”

Sean: That’s probably not as fun for you if you can’t play some MechWarrior Online while you’re waiting for something to render. 

Locust Labs: Yeah. Like I can’t actually do anything while I’m waiting for it to render on my computer, so, yeah. 

Sean: I see you’ve made a Raven and of course, the Hunchback. Have you done any models of other ‘Mechs?

Locust Labs: Yeah. I’ve done a Warhammer. I don’t have anything to show these off, but I’ve done two Locusts. I recently did a Centurion that I think you saw on Twitter. I did a really cool Mackie for the cab team that does mods for MechWarrior 5. They asked me to make them a Mackie and I had a lot of fun doing that.

Sean: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

Locust Labs: I could show off three of the more interesting versions of the Hunchback I made after the video.

Um, I guess we’d start with the most vanilla one. I don’t know if it’s the 5N or the 6N, but this is one of the painted versions of the Hunchback I made. We have a Free Worlds League Hunchback, and then a little bit more advanced is the pirate Hunchback, which is the one with two LRM-5s, an AC/5, and two extra medium lasers.

Not quite sure why we picked this one mainly ’cause it was the wildest version and it was the last one Tex asked for and I didn’t know what to do, so I was like, why don’t I turn it into a pirate ‘Mech? And it’s actually my favorite of all of them. 

Sean: That’s the 4N model.

Locust Labs: And then this last version I have. You can only show off if this is released after the video because technically I’m not supposed to talk about it. And Tex kind of wanted to keep it as a shocking surprise for everybody that watches. But this is the ugliest Hunchback in existence. Oh, yeah. I don’t remember which version this is, but it has a torso-mounted cockpit and a RAC/5 or an Ultra AC/20, I don’t remember [ed. It’s a UAC/10]. And then because it was already so bad looking, we gave it reactive armor after that meme with Ukraine. 

I’m really proud of all of these, which have all happened in the last six months.  I’m very proud of them.Locust Labs Hunchback 7X4

Sean: Anything else you want to shout out? 

Locust Labs: Yep. I’d shout out the Black Pants Legion and the Aux, which is the kind of fan community for techs. They’re great. I’m really glad that I get to be part of that whole group of really cool people and that I get to work with Tex ’cause I’m apparently really good at getting exactly where I say I would like to be, just by doing what I do best.

Sean: It’s a good skill to have. Alright, well, it was great talking to you. I very much appreciate you taking the time to talk to me about your work and share all these really cool models.

Locust Labs: Alright, peace. Take care. Bye-bye.

Locust Labs Mechs

Courtesy of Locust Labs

Thanks so much for showcasing your work for us both here and in the Tex Talks BattleTech video. Be sure to follow Locust Labs on her social media accounts to see where this up-and-comer winds up next.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Stone Rhino

Eldon Stone Rhino

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“We require reinforcement, Star Captain! The Falcons are about to breach our perimeter!”

Star Captain Jolin Demos considered her options. Her Jade Falcon opponent in this trial had come at her swiftly, as expected, but she hadn’t expected her Elementals to be completely overrun. Now without infantry support, her lighter elements were being picked apart by highly accurate fire from quick-moving but well-armed Falcon heavy ‘Mechs.

Even in her dire situation, the choice was obvious. “Hold your ground, Star Commander.”

There was a moment of static, then: “Neg, Star Captain, we are in danger of being routed. I respectfully request reinforcement.” The transmission was nearly cut off by the sound of an explosion near Star Commander Jonathan’s Fire Scorpion.

“You have your orders, Star Commander,” Demos repeated with a voice like cold steel. “Hold.”

For a moment, Star Captain Demos felt uneasy about ordering her MechWarriors to hold without support. Her heaviest elements still remained in Alpha Star, including her own prized Stone Rhino. Its awesome firepower was the stuff of legend amongst the Clans and would surely have made short work of the invading Falcons.

But to put such a historic treasure in harm’s way… Such recklessness would certainly draw the ire of the Great Father’s spirit. And besides, her necrosia-fueled vision from several nights before assured her that victory could only come through patience.

A Falcon Kit Fox briefly appeared on her Stone Rhino‘s targeting computer–a quirk of her oddly perceptive and ancient machine to read such a small ‘Mech from such a great distance. Almost as though it were begging to be unleashed. Her Gauss Rifles could theoretically hit the 30-ton ‘Mech even at such a great distance, but Demos continue to hold her fire.

Another burst of static preceded a broadcast on her trinary’s comm line. “This is MechWarrior Colm. Star Commander Jonathan is down. We have but three operational ‘Mechs remaining. Requesting assistance.”

The Kit Fox blinked off Demos’s heads-up display, and she felt her Stone Rhino’s shoulders slump without her ever issuing such a command. Almost as though the machine itself was disappointed in her inaction.

“MechWarrior Colm, you will hold.”

Colm’s response was only static.

Jade Falcon Stone RhinoThe Stone Rhino, better known as the Behemoth to Inner Sphere forces, comes from strange beginnings. Originally modeled after the Matar, itself colloquially referred to as “Amaris’ Folly,” the Stone Rhino represents the epitome of Clan hubris. It’s also a ‘Mech that has historically been highly prized among the Clans, both for its historical significance and for its exceptional firepower, two properties that often made commanders reluctant to utilize the Stone Rhino‘s awesome power.

Originally a super-heavy design, the Matar was created in 2775 during the waning years of the short-lived Amaris Empire. Besieged by SLDF forces, growing desperation led Stefan Amaris to demand ever more expensive and elaborate wonder weapons, resulting in a 110-ton ‘Mech that was too heavy to move without shattering its leg actuators. Possessing a theoretical top speed of 32 kph, the Matar did have incredible firepower for the era, with two Large Pulse Lasers, two Gauss Rifles, one ER Large Laser, two Medium Pulse Lasers, and two Flamers.

When Terra fell, Aleksandr Kerensky captured the Matar’s project lead, Rifkin Amaris, a cousin of the usurper Stefan Amaris. This led to the SLDF obtaining the Matar’s blueprints which they brought with them during Operation Exodus. Over 70 years later, Clan engineers would take those blueprints and attempt to perfect the design, creating a formidable assault ‘Mech.

The Stone Rhino was introduced in 2847 by Clan Smoke Jaguar scientists eager to prove their superiority of the Clan way to anything even remotely related to the Inner Sphere. Named after an equally formidable beast on the planet Eden, the Stone Rhino came armed with the same twin Gauss Rifle and Large Pulse Laser combo as the Matar but removed the remaining weaponry in favor of a single Small Pulse Laser. Despite removing numerous weapon systems, advanced Clan tech meant that the Stone Rhino still offered similar firepower. Better yet, the machine weighed 100 tons and was capable of actually moving at 54 kph. Three jump jets enhanced the Stone Rhino‘s mobility, while unique shock-absorbing cowls on each arm allowed them to be used as battering rams in keeping with the Stone Rhino‘s namesake.

Due to its size and expense, the cost-averse Clans only ever produced the Stone Rhino in very small numbers–most of them initially in the Smoke Jaguar Touman, but the Stone Rhino‘s popularity soon saw scattered examples in most Clans. With so few examples of these ancient, battle-worn machines, each Stone Rhino is unique, offering curious eccentricities both to their pilots and to the technicians that service them.

The Stone Rhino‘s notoriety has in practice led to problems utilizing the ‘Mech’s power. Once spotted on the battlefield, opposing forces would often challenge Stone Rhino MechWarriors to Trials of Possession for their ‘Mechs. Even if the Stone Rhino pilot evaded such trials, the ‘Mech was still a high-value target that smart tacticians would eliminate quickly lest their forces are picked apart by the Stone Rhino’s twin Gauss Rifles. Not wanting to sacrifice these limited and valuable machines, allied commanders could be hesitant to commit Stone Rhinos to the crucible of combat–a psychological phenomenon that dates back to the Battle of Jutland on ancient Terra. Even during the heaviest fighting of the Clan Invasion, Stone Rhinos were a rare sight and often relegated to secondary garrison clusters.

Stone Rhino Jade Falcom sourcebook

Stone Rhinos would remain rarely seen until Clan Goliath Scorpion took former Smoke Jaguar holdings and developed a visually distinct new version of the ‘Mech. The Stone Rhino 2 upgraded the engine to a 300 XL, which allowed it to mount twin Gauss Rifles, twin Heavy Large Lasers, four Heavy Medium Lasers (two of which pointed rearward), one Heavy Small Laser, anti-personnel pods, and an AMS for defense from missiles. It also carried an impressive 19 tons of armor and pathetically inadequate 16 double heat sinks.

Soon after the Stone Rhino 2‘s initial production run, Clan Hell’s Horses captured the Scorpion’s holdings on Tokasha and began making their own variants of the Stone Rhino. The Stone Rhino 3 finally ditched the ‘Mech’s signature Gauss Rifles in favor of twin ATM-9s and enough heat sinks and ammo to use them until its ammo bins ran dry. Production was briefly interrupted when the Hell’s Horses were ejected from the Clan Homeworlds in the early 3070s, the Horses set up a new production line on Csesztreg that produced several more Stone Rhino variants, culminating in the Stone Rhino 8 which drops the original’s jump jets for an Actuator Enhancement System in each arm.

Stone Rhino IlClan

Although still powerful in the modern era, the venerable design would eventually be overshadowed by the Clan Wolf Crucible, which mounts a whopping four Gauss Rifles capable of eliminating smaller ‘Mechs in a single salvo. Perhaps taking the Matar too far, the Word of Blake Omega also surpassed the Stone Rhino. At 150 tons and mounting three Gauss Rifles and twin LB 10-X Autocannons, the Omega was a far more effective superheavy design that saw the heaviest fighting in the final hours of the World of Blake Jihad–just as the Matar did in another battle for Terra so many centuries earlier.

Today’s Stone Rhinos have been outclassed by more modern 100-ton designs and ‘Mech commanders have since learned to commit these fearsome machines to the desperate fighting of the IlClan era. Still, certain Clans revere the Stone Rhino enough to only use them in the direst of circumstances–even to their Clan’s detriment.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Whitworth

Whitworth Hop Hop

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

I was just following orders! 

Long-range missiles rained all around ensign Cora’s Whitworth. She’d been dodging fire from the First Arkab Legion for the better part of an hour, pushing her 40-ton ‘Mech to its very limits. Actuator warnings had already sounded on at least three separate occasions, but she ignored the blinking lights and blaring sirens. She had to keep moving. 

A Locust danced out of the shadows in front of her, the low flats of the suburban area of Greene hiding it from her sensors. Without thinking, Cora loosed a full flight of 12 SRMs from her WTH-0’s paired launchers. Two struck home, blowing off the scout ‘Mechs right arm-mounted machine gun. 

The light ‘Mech quickly receded to lick its wounds. Cora thought to give chase, to end the scout ‘Mech quickly to better aid her escape, but she didn’t have the time. Even then, proximity sensors alerted her to another volley of incoming missiles. The Locust was just a spotter. 

Dammit! Cora cursed and swapped her SRM-6s to fire inferno loads. Firing at the structures behind her, she hoped the conflagration would obscure her ‘Mech just enough to make an escape. She’d last used those rounds to roast an Arkab Centurion alive, but that was before the Seventh Amaris Dragoons had been shattered in the fighting on Timbuktu. She was the only one left of her lance–possibly even her entire regiment. And the Arkab Legion wasn’t about to let her go. 

She pivoted down a side straight, her Whitworth’s actuator alarms once again protesting at the sudden move. She knew she was overtaxing her ‘Mechs systems–it had been weeks since she’d seen a ‘Mech bay. Her ride wasn’t going to last much longer. The poor thing just needed to hold on a little bit more.

More alarms. Explosions rocked her as several LRMs slammed into her right shoulder, fortuitously knocking her sideways just enough to take her out of the path of a PPC bolt that followed soon after. She turned, fired more SRMs at the buildings and ignited a copse of trees with her flamer. Fires were building all around her as the sleepy suburb turned into a massive bonfire. 

And still the Arkab Legion kept coming.

Ensign Cora knew she was finished. Her Whitworth was too slow to escape. She could eject, but she’d seen what the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery did to her lancemates. What they’d done to any Rimworlds Republic soldier they got their hands on. She didn’t want to go out like that. She’d rather burn this whole city down first. 

So she kept running. She caught her breath, one step in front of the other, dodging tracer rounds and using buildings to block missiles and lasers from tearing away yet more of her precious rear armor. In the end, it wasn’t her dwindling armor coverage that did her in.

Her actuator alarms suddenly blared, followed by the screeching of overtaxed metal and torn cables. She’d pushed her Whitworth too hard on that last turn. Her damage schematics showed a clear break at the left hip, her former leg still standing several meters behind her–like it was begging to be reattached if Cora were to just hop backward a few steps.

Ensign Cora was a good ‘MechWarrior, but she wasn’t good enough to keep a one-legged Whitworth standing for very long. She toppled forward, her ‘Mech falling face-first into the pavement. The impact was harsh enough for Cora to see stars, then blackness, all of her Whitworth’s alarms suddenly falling silent. 

She couldn’t tell how long she was out. It might have been a few minutes or a few hours, but when she came to, everything around her was on fire. The flames were hot enough for her to feel even through the Whitworth’s armor plating. She thought again about ejecting and then sighed. If she was going to go out, she might as well suffer the same fate as so many SLDF soldiers had suffered at her hands.

She never got the chance. Cora’s proximity sensors blared and her rearview camera showed the barrel of the Locust’s medium laser pointing directly at the back of her Whitworth’s head. Then there was a blast of light, a wave of heat, and then nothing at all.

Whitworth 3025

Like many of the Inner Sphere’s worst ‘Mechs, the Whitworth was first dreamt up as a solution to a problem that never really existed. Meant to support scout lances of Wasps and Phoenix Hawks, the original production model Whitworth was equipped with far greater firepower than either machine but was also far slower. This, combined with a faulty actuator system that saw its legs tear clean off as Whitworth pilots attempted to keep up with their speedier lancemates, eventually saw the Whitworth redesigned as a light fire support ‘Mech.

Introduced in 2610, the WTH-1S Whitworth was armed with two SRM-6s, three medium lasers, and sufficient heat sinks, armor, and ammunition to stay in the fight far longer than the Wasp. Although a capable brawler and dangerous to any ‘Mech in its weight range, the Whitworth‘s Achilles heel would be its lack of speed. Whitworth Company engineers failed to consider the real-world combat environment faced by a 40-ton ‘Mech, which often required a hasty retreat when heavier units arrived. Without the option to flee, WTH-1S MechWarriors were often forced to either surrender or fight to the last.

Saddled with a poor reputation, Whitworth Company went back to the drawing board. The WTH-1 model, introduced in 2689, eschewed the original variant’s short-range missiles in favor of paired LRM-10s. This gave the 40-ton ‘Mech significant long-range punch and made it far better suited for light and mobile fire support. Whitworths of this variant became common in the SLDF, serving alongside Wolverines and Phoenix Hawks in medium striker lances or otherwise providing long-range fire support to lances of Warhammers and Riflemen

Whitworth 3050

A particularly noteworthy variant of the Whitworth is the WTH-0. Made exclusively for the Amaris Dragoons regiments of the Rim Worlds Republic, the WTH-0 was based on the WTH-1S, only its paired SRM-6s were filled with inferno rounds and one of its medium lasers was replaced with a flamer. The few WTH-0 built were notorious for their use as terror weapons, being used to flush out dug-in urban positions without a care for the collateral damage the inferno rounds caused. WTH-0 Whitworths became a special target for vengeful SLDF MechWarriors during the Amaris Coup such that no examples survived the civil war.

In fact, relatively few Whitworths survived the Succession Wars. With the destruction of Whitworth Company’s Dieron factories in 2776 and the near-constant fighting over the proceeding years of the Amaris Civil War, Whitworth attrition was such that only around 300 examples remained by the start of the Succession Wars. Many more Whitworths were lost in the centuries of warfare that followed as machines were cannibalized for parts. 

The Whitworth may have even gone extinct were it not for the introduction of Whitworth Specialty Manufacturing, which began producing replacement components exclusively for the Kuritan military. This gave the DCMS the largest active complement of Whitworths by the start of the Fourth Succession War. It was rumored that the corporation’s semi-revival was part of a deal between then-Gunji-no-Kanrei Theodore Kurita and ComStar to also supply replacement Whitworth components to the secretive communications company.

WTH-5S Whitworth

Although an adequate ‘Mech in 3025, the Whitworth was hopelessly outmatched by the time of the Clan Invasion. An upgrade package dubbed the WTH-2 was introduced in 3050 that used Star League-era technology in hopes of meeting the Clanners on fair terms. Adding Artemis Fire Control in place of two medium lasers, MechWarriors were divided on whether the enhanced accuracy of their missiles was worth the trade of most of their energy-based weapons. By 3060, most WTH-2s had been decommissioned, sold to mercenary companies and periphery nations, or scrapped.

A far better upgrade of the venerable WTH-1 came in 3068 with the introduction of the WTH-2A. Using an Endo Steel chassis to save weight, the WTH-2A swapped its LRM-10s for four Streak SRM-4s and a C3 slave unit, dropping the head-mounted medium laser for a small laser, and adding CASE to keep the Whitworth’s ammunition bins from catastrophically exploding in the event of armor penetration. An additional four double heat sinks kept the ‘Mech remarkably cool, although the Whitworth’s original problem–an anemic engine that provided insufficient running speed–remained an issue. 

Whitworth 3050U

By the Jihad era, all remaining WTH-1s remaining in storage with House Kurita were upgraded to WTH-K standard. The LRM-10s were replaced by two MML-7s, allowing pilots to choose between SRM or LRM ammo bins, depending on the situation. A C3 slave unit linked the Whitworth’s targeting computer to its lancemates, and five improved jump jets gave the WTH-K the ability to disengage in certain scenarios.

The World of Blake Jihad would ultimately prove fatal to the Whitworth. With the fighting on Benjamin damaging Whitworth Specialty Manufacturing, and with very few Whitworths left to refit, the ‘Mech was replaced in the DCMS by newer, more effective units. Whitworths can still be seen in the outer periphery amongst pirate bands and mercenaries, but no new Whitworths have been produced in well over a century.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Clint


Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Alright, McCoy,” said Joseph Andoran without preamble. The rotund CEO of Andoran Industries Ltd. was the utter picture of a fat cat corporate executive even though Andoran was one of the smaller suppliers to bid for Star League’s lucrative defense contracts. “Tell me your plan to corner the market on bandit-hunting periphery ‘Mechs.” 

“Yessir,” McCoy began, pushing his glasses up as a nervous tic. “As you know, the Star League Armaments Act calls for an inexpensive ‘Mech to defend the outer periphery worlds. Our proposal, the Clint, will be priced competitively–technically at a loss, at least to start, but we’ll make the C-bills back selling more lucrative supply and maintenance contracts.” 

McCoy stepped forward with a datapad covered in charts and numbers. “As you can see from my analysis, by outbidding our competitors, we can be the sole supplier of outer periphery ‘Mechs by 2610.” 

Andoran was typical of corporate executives but for one thing–he actually loved the numbers. He carefully reviewed the datapad, scrolling every so often and highlighting some lines that drew his attention. Then he looked back up at McCoy sitting uncomfortably across his desk, like a student who’d been caught cheating on his exam. 

“Take a look at the component values I’ve highlighted. If we replace the ankle actuators with our own BF-349s, the left finger motors with TT-560s, and use that new gyro the boys in engineering have just cooked up, we won’t even need to take a loss.” 

McCoy stared for a few moments. “But sir, these are proprietary components. We’ll need to send our own technicians to the outer rim to service these ‘Mechs. Even routine maintenance might need a requisition sent straight to Bell and back again.” 

“And how is that a problem?”

“These machines will be operating for extended periods away from refit facilities. Some might never power down in a full ‘Mech gantry again.” McCoy stopped to once again press his glasses back over the bridge of his nose. “It will significantly lower the Clint’s appeal as a suitable candidate for the Armaments Act.” 

“You let me worry about the pencil pushers at Star League procurement,” Andoran replied, reaching into his desk drawer for a cigar. “You just worry about making these changes unnoticeable to the casual observer.” 

McCoy coughed as Andoran blew out a perfect ring of smoke. 

Clint 3UOne could argue that the Clint largely suffers from the “40-ton curse,” a weight bracket much maligned for offering no real advantage. It has none of the armor or firepower of larger medium designs, nor does it have as much mobility as lighter ‘Mechs. Of particular issue is the heavy Armstrong J11 AC/5, which combined with its single ton of ammunition, accounts for almost a full quarter of the Clint‘s weight while offering only half the destructive capacity of its secondary armament of twinned medium lasers.

However, the Clint’s flaws go far beyond its unfavorable weight class and underpowered armament. The Clint was designed from the start to be a flawed machine, using substandard components in order to ensure periphery states and national garrisons signed expensive maintenance contracts to keep their Clints functional. Ironically, it may be the anti-customer design of the Clint that actually allowed so many examples to survive beyond the Succession Wars when many of its contemporaries died out.

The Clint was first chosen in 2607 as the successful candidate to the Star League Armaments Act, which required even the most remote settlements receive the latest in defensive technologies. That meant the Star League was legally required to provide BattleMechs to every garrison, regardless of location, population, or even military need. 

Clint 3025

That said, Star League budgetary restraints weren’t unlimited, and even the Star League Defense Force wasn’t about to provide every periphery garrison outpost with its own company of Atlases and Orions. Above all, the Clint was designed to be cheap–at least, to purchase. Maintenance would prove to be so nightmarishly expensive that many Clints survived into the 31st century only as Franken-mechs repaired using the spare parts of completely unrelated designs.

When Andoran Industries Ltd. won the bidding to fulfill Star League’s requirements for an inexpensive recon and trooper ‘Mech to send to the far corners of the Inner Sphere, the company undercut the competition by fielding a design that slashed production costs any way it could. This was often to the detriment of the Clint‘s technicians, which found themselves spending twice as much time maintaining the Clint as they would almost any other BattleMech. Using subpar and nonstandard parts, Andoran Industries sold the Clint to remote locations alongside a lengthy brochure outlining tiers of exclusive maintenance packages–packages many militaries were forced to sign in order to maintain access to Andoran’s proprietary Clint components.

Much like a certain 21st-century agricultural equipment producer, Andoran’s plan was to completely control the market by undercutting the competition and restricting the customer’s ability to repair their machines. Mass production of the CLNT-2-3T began in 2608, with both Andoran Industries salespeople and technicians traveling from Bell to every corner of the Inner Sphere to either sell more or maintain existing Clints.


By the time the first Star League fell, roughly 300 Clints were serving in various House garrisons with the bulk in the hands of the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation. Usually too far from the most intense fighting, few Clints took part in the First Succession War, which saw the Andoran factories destroyed in 2812. This ended the supply of replacement parts for the Clint, which further discouraged commanders from using Clints in heavy fighting. It also encouraged more creative solutions in the periphery to keep their Clints operational. While jury-rigging replacement actuators was possible if not ideal, replacing the Clint’s proprietary gyro proved too difficult even for the most resourceful technician. For centuries, a cored Clint was a dead Clint forevermore. 

By the 31st century, only 200 Clints remained in active service. These machines were largely in Capellan and Fed Com border regions, having survived the Succession Wars but still badly in need of replacement parts. Those parts would finally be provided in the mid-3050s with the birth of the Bell Refit Yards, which was built on the wreckage of Andoran’s old factory complex. An extensive maintenance and upgrade program began to breathe new life into the venerable design, improving it far beyond Andoran’s purely mercantile ambitions. Blueprints were also eventually obtained by Defiance Industries on Furillo, which began producing all-new Clints for the first time in 3055. 

Of those upgraded Clints, perhaps the most numerous is the CLNT-2-3U, a Capellan upgrade that replaces the weighty and ammo-dependent AC/5 with a Magna Firestar ER PPC and replaces both medium lasers with Magna 400P medium pulse lasers. To handle the significant increase in heat production, the 3U swaps its single heat sinks for double heat sinks. This simple and relatively cheap upgrade vastly improves the Clint‘s overall combat performance and eliminates at least one of its vulnerabilities, although it still requires increased maintenance compared to other ‘Mechs.

Clint 2T

Because the Clint often found its way to the outer reaches of the Inner Sphere, it became a popular sight in the militaries of periphery nations. The Taurian Concordat had several Clints in its armed forces, and although aging, were still in decent enough condition that the Taurians created their own upgrade package in the lead-up to the Word of Blake Jihad. The CLNT-3-3T replaces the AC/5 with a light autocannon of the same caliber and upgrades its standard armor to ferro-fibrous. This allows for CASE protection of its two tons of ammo and improves the defensive capabilities of the chassis.

The CLNT-5U was a far more extensive upgrade of the 3T produced by Defiance Industries for the Lyran Alliance just before the FedCom Civil War. An endo steel chassis and light fusion engine allowed its weapons payload to be replaced by an ER large laser and a trio of ER medium lasers alongside electronics upgrades including a C3 slave unit and TAG spotting laser. Double heat sinks keep this all-energy configuration cool. Many pilots considered this variant of the Clint a better Wolfhound thanks to jump jets improving its maneuverability. 

Following the fall of Hersperus II, Blakist forces began producing the CLNT-6S instead of the CLNT-5U. The jump hets and light engine were dropped for a larger 280 XL engine, allowing the Clint to sprint at 118 kph. Heavy ferro-fibrous armor further improved the Clint‘s defensive protection, and one of the ER medium lasers was upgraded to an ER large laser. A small cockpit allowed for the inclusion of an ER small laser in the head. 

Several CLNT-1-2R Clint prototypes were part of Alexsandr Kerensky‘s forces that went into exile in 2784. As such, when it came time for Clan Snow Raven to begin mass production of an appropriate garrison unit, the Clint seemed a logical choice. The Clint IIC offers a rare XL engine upgrade for a Clanner overhaul, although the 10 single heatsinks are retained. A Clan-spec LB 10-X autocannon and twin ER medium lasers offer effective stopping power, while seven tons of standard armor vastly improve the Clint’s protection compared to the initial prototypes. Further, Clan technicians finally replaced the Andoran proprietary components with standardized parts, allowing the Clint IIC to be repaired in the field with minimal downtime. 

Clint 3U 3050

The Clint is an odd case. Even its upgraded counterparts are largely outclassed by more modern designs, and yet the Clint soldiers on. It offers little more than a body, a ‘Mech that can fulfill almost any role adequately enough to just avoid a general’s attention. Somehow, the Clint would withstand the withering scorn of engineers and technicians for centuries, kept alive by necessity more than desire. 

There is at least one good lesson the Clint provides. No matter how much companies might believe otherwise, the need for interoperability and battlefield uptime will always overcome a greedy and anti-consumer philosophy that denies the customer their right to repair. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Hellbringer


Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Khan Lassenerra has directed us to create a new heavy OmniMech. And he has… ordered this BattleMech to be completed within six months.” 

Each of the scientists and techs within the Hell’s Horses boardroom had different expressions after this announcement. Some looked down in solemn contemplation, a few stared back at Scientist Hyun in open-mouthed astonishment for the exceptionally short timeline. One threw his tablet on the table and lit a cigarette in direct defiance of the Star Captain’s “no smoking” ordinance. 

Technician Samson picked up his jaw before whispering, “That’s… not nearly enough time.” 

“Contractions, Samson,” barked Hyun. “Nevertheless, we do as the Khan commands. Ideas?” 

The boardroom was met with utter silence for several uncomfortably long moments. Then, a voice from the back: “We could use the lower assembly of the new Summoner chassis?” 

Hyun squinted. The voice was too far away to discern the source. Perhaps calling an all-hands meeting for a single ‘Mech design was not the wisest course of action. “And why would we do that?”

“Because you said this needed to be developed quickly,” came the sheepish reply. “Well, that is half the design right there.” 

There were a few nods, and Hyun conceded the point. They needed to move fast and starting from a proven design was a boon she couldn’t deny. They needed all the help they could get.

“This limits the design’s potential capacity, but it is a start,” Hyun said. “Now, let us discuss payload.” 


From there, the boardroom descended into utter chaos. A section of the scientists demanded anti-personnel pods and machine guns for urban combat. A contingent of techs suggested an Active Probe and ECM to counter the growing threat of electronic warfare within the clans. A scientist at the far end simply shrieked “AMS”, prompting Hyun to write the acronym on her datapad without really considering either the source or purpose of such a suggestion. 

“And, let us be frank, our MechWarriors are not the best of the Clans,” Samson said during a brief lull in the brainstorming furor. “A Targeting Computer would be most helpful for our warriors.” 

“Agreed,” Hyun said, adding the technology to the long list of suggested equipment. “We have yet to discuss actual weapons.” 

The room once again fell silent. Then another voice from a distant corner of the packed room said what everyone was already thinking. 

“Twin particle cannons, a short-range missile launcher, and several medium lasers?” 

“Brilliant,” Hyun said with a smile. “Get this down to our engineers. We have a prototype to build.” 

As the room cleared, a single scientist stayed in her chair, staring at the notes she’d taken during the manic planning session. In theory, this new ‘Mech would be able to meet the demands of any battlefield–a true OmniMech. Only she couldn’t help but think that this design was slightly unfocused. And there was the nagging feeling that they were all forgetting something vitally important… 

Academics that have studied the Clans find the Hellbringer (also known as the Loki to Inner Sphere MechWarriors) to be a bit of an oddity. Its primary configuration comes with a litany of performance-enhancing equipment that most Clan MechWarriors would consider questionable, if not outright dishonorable. An anti-missile system, ECM, and anti-personnel pods provides the Hellbringer with additional defenses, while a Targeting Computer and Active Probe ensure the Hellbringer pilot can engage enemy ‘Mechs effectively in almost all circumstances. 

Hellbringer MWO

However, Clan Hell’s Horses wasn’t about to sacrifice the Hellbringer’s potential weapons capacity in order for it to mount this additional equipment. In order to ensure the Hellbringer could keep pace with similar ‘Mechs in the Clan’s touman, the ‘Mech was forced to maintain a running speed of 86.4 kph. That left armor protection as the only element engineers could scale back, leaving the Hellbringer with an abnormally light shell of just eight tons of standard armor. 

Hells Horses’ engineers were also perhaps too focused on the Hellbringer’s speedy development to remember that its mostly energy-based weapons would need to be offset by heatsinking capacity. The Hellbringer‘s 13 double heat sinks allow it to shrug off some of the heat generated by its twin ER PPCs, but not all, and it’s certainly not enough to cool the ‘Mech down if the pilot starts firing its trio of ER medium lasers

Despite these flaws, the Hellbringer would go on to become a popular ‘Mech, especially with Clan Jade Falcon MechWarriors. First introduced in 2926, the Hellbringer was disseminated to most Clans thanks to Hell’s Horses leadership gifting the design for political favors. By the time of the Inner Sphere invasion, it was a common enough sight amongst the invading Clans to be designated Loki by Captain Galen Cox for its “utterly mad” configuration. 

While the primary configuration of the Hellbringer maintained a mostly energy-based weapons payload, alternate configurations lean more heavily towards ammo-dependent armaments. The A configuration retains the Active Probe and machine guns but swaps the SRM launcher and ER PPCs for twin ER large lasers, an Ultra AC/5, and an LRM-20. The ECM, Targeting Computer, and anti-personnel pods were swapped for a NARC Missile Beacon for improved accuracy of nearby fire-support units–another strange addition for a society that values honorable single combat.

Newer configurations of the Hellbringer tend to eschew the specialist equipment to devote more of its 28 tons of pod space to weapons. Interestingly, the Hellbringer‘s dissemination also included Inner Sphere armies, with the G configuration sporting an Inner Sphere-built Improved Heavy Gauss Rifle. By the Dark Age era, Clan Sea Fox readily provided the aging Hellbringer to any customer willing to pay for it.  

hellbringer A

Amongst the Home Clans, however, the Hellbringer has largely been replaced by the Ebon Jaguar, a superior design that offers similar speed and firepower with far greater armor protection while maintaining a 65-ton gross weight. In 3121, the Jade Falcons attempted to improve their favored design with the Loki Mk II. Also known as the Hel, the Loki Mk II drops the Hellbringer‘s engine to a 260XL (resulting in a running speed of 64 kph) to devote even more of its pod space to weapons. The primary Loki Mk II configuration mounts twin Gauss Rifles alongside twin ER Large Lasers with a Streak SRM-4 for lighter targets. The Hel’s B configuration is even more powerful thanks to a Long Tom artillery cannon mounted in the right arm. Ferro-Fibrous armor improves the Hel‘s protection over its progenitor, but it still remains a relatively fragile heavy ‘Mech. 

The Hellbringer marks a logical extreme for Clan designs emphasizing offense and mobility over defense. While the Hellbringer‘s primary configuration offers its pilots a curious array of equipment, most would likely be better served by a few more armor plates. Today, Hellbringers are the preferred mount for elderly Clan ‘MechWarriors looking to die in a blaze of glory or younger warriors too foolish to consider their own mortality.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For December, 2021

Well, another year has come and gone. This is where we normally wax nostalgic over the past year and look forward to 2022, but I’ll be honest, 2021 wasn’t all that great and 2022 isn’t shaping up to be much better. With COVID counts where they’re at, we’re certainly getting off on the wrong foot.

But I will offer some hope. Initial reports are calling Omicron slightly less deadly than previous COVID strains, so if the pattern holds with the 1918 flu pandemic, future COVID strains will continue to get milder and milder until it’s basically just another disease. To be clear, influenza still kills plenty of people each year, but it’ll be manageable to the point where things return to some semblance of normal, albeit where vaccines and masks are way more common.

It took two years for the 1918 flu to get to that point, so while 2022 probably won’t be great (certainly not at the beginning), we might see things improve by the end of 2022 and into early 2023. Hopefully.

In the meantime, Sarna will continue to be your one-stop shop for the best BattleTech news. Let’s see what happened in December.

Gingerbread Spider Goes Brrrrrr

The Gingerbread Spider: A Mechwarrior Dubstep Rock Opera
Watch this video on YouTube.

We’ll start off this last news blast of the year with some festive content sent in by a reader. Elfcat presents “The Gingerbread Spider.” It’s sort of like “The Nutcracker,” only the ballet is being performed by a light ‘Mech that was designed to fly. Almost.

I wouldn’t say that SPD-5K is a meta build, but it’s certainly effective as part of a light ‘Mech wolfpack. It’s also great for picking off stragglers that might have had most of their armor stripped from LRMs or taking fire. 

Personally, I think the Mist Lynx-G is the better Heavy Machine Gun platform, but to each their own. 

MechWarrior Online Is Giving Away A Lot Of Stuff Over The Holidays

MechWarrior Online Hellebore Outpost Preview
Watch this video on YouTube.

There’s a DropShip full of MechWarrior Online news to close out the year. First up, a patch was released earlier in the month that added MechWarrior Online‘s first new map in years. Called “Hellbore Outpost,” this map brings unparalleled verticality to an engagement. Cliffs, canyons, and raised platforms mean that fire can come from any angle, with geological formations providing ample cover for an ambush. I’ve only played it a few times, but so far I find it an interesting addition to the usual playlist.

Along with the new map comes the fifth quirk pass, and it hits some of my favorite ‘Mechs. The Quickdraw, JagerMech, Summoner, Firestarter, and Annihilator have all had their quirks adjusted. The Quickdraw in particular is finally viable in today’s meta and I quite enjoy my laserboat QKD-5K. It’s great when a bad ‘Mech turns good.

Single heat sinks also received a buff as part of this update, so certain Inner Sphere assault ‘Mechs will find it more useful to use single heat sinks than doubles.

And keeping with MechWarrior Online tradition, the holiday season brings back the Stocking Stuffer event for another year. The event is simple: play games and unlock rewards based on your match score. The more you get in a match, the more stockings you uncover. Stockings can include C-bills, MC, skill points, experience, premium time, and more. Now is the most rewarding time of the year to play MWO, but be sure to get your games in before Jan 4 when the Stocking Stuffer event ends.

But we saved the best part for last. MechWarrior Online is giving away two free ‘Mechs for everyone who logs in between December 26 and January 4 to play one match. The Mauler MAL-2P and Marauder IIC-A can be yours along with 25 Stocking Stuffers, 6.5 million C-bills, 1,250 MC, and seven days premium time. Oh, and both ‘Mechs come with a 30% C-bill boost too.

There’s also a new ‘Mech pack available with two new versions of the Sun Spider and the Roughneck. Go check ’em out on their website here.

Congrats To The 1st Jaguar Guards For Winning The MechWarrior Online World Championship Series

MWO Comp Championship Series 2021 -Grand Finals - JGx vs. 5JDx
Watch this video on YouTube.

The MechWarrior Online competitive scene got a big boost with the game’s renaissance this year, and although there wasn’t quite as much ceremony thanks to COVID and the lack of Mech_Con, the final games were still an exciting display of piloting from the best MechWarriors in the world.

Ultimately, the 1st Jaguar Guards came out on top, defeating the 5th Jaguar Dragoons in the final round. Ghosts of Nox came in third and the appropriately named “here 4 da loot” came in fourth. KDCM V: Trans Rights, the team that was initially told to change their name before PGI backtracked, came in seventh place.

I didn’t get a chance to see every match, but I did catch the final ‘Mech usage statistics and was incredibly surprised to see such a wide variety of chassis used by the world’s top players. Whereas previous years would often see the same ‘Mechs over and over again (I’m lookin’ at you, Hunchback IIC), this year had almost twice as many ‘Mechs make it to the finals.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Firestarter, which has historically been one of those bad ‘Mechs that nobody really uses. I guess the recent balance passes have really shaken up the meta to the point where the Firestarter actually shines. Guess I’m going to have to give that ‘Mech a try.

The MechWarrior 5 Timber Wolf Mod Is Here

Timberwolf / Mad Cat Classic mod for Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries Trailer #2
Watch this video on YouTube.

Remember that Timber Wolf mod that was mentioned in November’s news roundup? Well, The Art of BattleTech managed to get this beaut out for Christmas

Not only is the outside a highly detailed model that brings the classic Mad Cat look into the latest and greatest MechWarrior game, but it also has a custom cockpit courtesy of Alan Yeoh. Honestly, it looks a lot like a modern fighter pilot cockpit with a few extra screens on the ferro-glass windows. It can seem a little cluttered in first-person view, but that’s why MechWarrior 5 has a third-person camera. There’s also an alternate cockpit with fewer screens but more rearview mirrors. 

As expected, the Timber Wolf is pretty overpowered in comparison to most of MechWarrior 5‘s available chassis. That makes the Timby a great choice for pretty much everything that the game can throw at you. 

You can check out the mod in action here and then head to NexusMods or Steam Workshop to download the mod yourself. 

Also, Here’s A Mad Dog Mod For MechWarrior 5

Mad Dog / Vulture Classic mod for Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries - Trailer
Watch this video on YouTube.

Not satisfied with just the Timber Wolf, Art is busy making the Mad Dog for MechWarrior 5 too. There should also be a Summoner on the horizon, but there’s no trailer of that delightful 70-tonner yet. Stay tuned. 

More Logistical Woes For Catalyst Orders

Don’t know if this has been shared yet from battletech

This really isn’t limited to Catalyst Games--lots of retailers are warning customers that orders aren’t arriving in a timely fashion this holiday season. Blame covid and the ongoing global logistical snafu, but if you didn’t get your Catalyst order in time for Christmas, you probably won’t get it until January.

On the bright side, the final two installments of the IlClan Recognition Guides have arrived, and since those are digital files, you can just download them now without waiting. 

Santa Nova Cat Is Coming To Town

I don’t know where Reddit user h_ahsatan got a beard to fit this Nova Cat, but I’m glad they did. Hopefully, it doesn’t catch fire when this thing lets loose with all those energy weapons. 

Duane Loose Reveals How The Stryker Was Updated Got HBS’s BATTLETECH

It’s no exaggeration to say that Duane Loose practically defined BattleTech‘s visual style for decades. The artist that penned the original drawings that appeared in TRO 3025 recently shared an interesting story on his Twitter account about how he teamed up with Hairbrained Schemes to redesign the Striker missile tank. 

Working with Mike McCain, Loose helped create several redesigned vehicles, including the Striker. Loose also dropped several sketches of the Swiftwind and Demolisher tanks, but the Striker received special attention with a set of eight sketches. You can see how the missile tanks started out with eight wheels before shrinking those down to just six by the time they arrived at the final product. 

Strikers were always the worst in that game, but at least they looked cool.

Duncan Fisher Wishes Us All A Happy Holidays!

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Black Pants Legion, ever patrons of the fine arts, asked George Ledoux to put on his Duncan Fisher persona and wish us all happy holidays. Thanks, Duncan. I think we all needed that this year. 

And that’s it for 2021! I hope you’re all staying safe, staying healthy, and are looking forward to a better year to come.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Charger

courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Gunjin Hataka gently wrapped the headband around his head as he knelt before a single candle and a burning stick of incense. He knew that this could very well be his last day alive, so he savored the sensations as he meditated on the nature of bushido. Of being a warrior.

And also why he was cursed with the regiment’s only remaining Charger

Technically, it was a promotion of sorts. He was now piloting the heaviest ‘Mech in his lance, almost double the weight of his Chu-i’s Phoenix Hawk. A proud Combine design that had served with distinction throughout the Succession Wars and bore the visage of a true samurai.

But Hataka knew the truth. Although his Charger massed 80 tons, it had the same armament as a lowly Locust. Five small lasers meant he must close to perilously short-range combat in order to be even remotely effective, and at that distance, he might as well start punching with his reinforced left arm. And with so little armor protecting him, the odds of closing to that distance was vanishingly small. His new ‘Mech made almost every assignment a suicide mission.

Hataka felt like a warrior of the divine wind about to attack in a war fought many centuries before he was born. Thus, it was only appropriate he honored their memories in a similar tradition. 

After several moments, Hataka bowed low enough so the rising sun on his headband touched the floorboards. Then he stood and walked away confident he would never return.

MW5 Charger

courtesy of PGI

Of all the ‘Mechs SLDF procurement somehow approved, the Charger CGR-1A1 is perhaps its biggest mistake. By the end of the Star League, corruption was so rampant that procurement officers rubber-stamped an assault ‘Mech that had so few weapons it wouldn’t concern most light ‘Mechs if one were to encounter one on the battlefield. The ‘Mech’s massive LTV 400 engine was also so expensive that you could purchase multiple traditional scout ‘Mechs for the price of a single Charger.


And yet, through grift, graft, or grit, Wells Technologies managed to secure funding to produce an assault scout ‘Mech–a battlefield role that never existed until Wells Technologies dreamt it up. Their proposal, the Charger, was an 80-ton ‘Mech equipped with the largest engine available, so large that it actually comprised more than 60% of the ‘Mech’s total weight. Ten tons of armor meant that the Charger was more than adequately protected in its role as a scout, but this left a mere 2.5 tons left for weapons. 

Wells did the best they could, but the end result was still so pathetic that the finished machine was almost immediately ejected from the SLDF after its introduction in the year 2665. A top speed of 86 kph was only barely acceptable for a scout, and five small lasers meant that the Charger was outgunned by nearly every ‘Mech in existence. 

Nobody saw the benefit of an 80-ton scout ‘Mech that couldn’t fight, so every Charger was returned to Wells Technologies en-masse. This resulted in Wells warehousing over a thousand Chargers as the company desperately tried to find a buyer. Lucky for them, the fall of the Star League and the start of the First Succession War brought forth an eager buyer happy to take every Charger Wells had in stock and more.


The Draconis Combine contracted Wells for an exclusive production contract in addition to every ‘Mech they had. Chargers were then distributed throughout the DCMS to fulfill whatever role was required of them, but because of their poor armament, the Charger was most often relegated to anti-insurgency work or garrison duty in low-conflict zones. Oddly enough, this led to numerous Chargers surviving the Succession Wars where many other designs didn’t.

Still, the DCMS wasn’t entirely filled with fools, and this meant that Wells Technologies would frequently receive requests for alternate variants that emphasized firepower over mobility. Most often this meant dropping the 400-rated engine down a few steps and improving the armament by adding a large autocannon. Several variants sold to the Capellan Confederation through the Kapteyn Accords did exactly that, and the Charger gained a reputation as a fearsome assault ‘Mech on the other side of the Inner Sphere.

Back in the Combine, the Charger would eventually serve as the base chassis for the vastly-superior Hatamoto-Chi, a ‘Mech that took the Charger‘s samurai aesthetic and dialed it to an extreme that wouldn’t be matched until well after the Jihad. While developing the Hatamoto-Chi, Luthien Armor Works also used newer technologies to retool the elderly Charger, coming up with the CGR-3K model. This replaced the standard engine with an XL version which added enough room to replace the Charger‘s armament with four medium pulse lasers and an LRM-20 with Artemis IV fire control. It also gained additional mobility thanks to five jump jets. 


As for Wells Technologies, they were less successful than their machine. Although the Charger was ostensibly a Combine ‘Mech and Wells Technologies was under an export restriction, the company sold Chargers on the black market illegally to recoup its costs on several other failed ventures. Combine officials eventually found out and punished Wells with enough lawsuits to push the company into insolvency. Luthien Armor Works then purchased Wells for a steal, ending the centuries-old company in 3027. 

There’s absolutely an argument to be made for the Charger as an ideal melee fighter. Its mass and barrel fist could be employed to devastating effect if a foe were foolish enough to close the distance with a Charger. But few pilots would be foolish enough to close with a Charger after recognizing its distinctive silhouette even after multiple upgrades gave the ‘Mech vastly improved firepower.

The Charger remained in production by Luthien Armor Works until the factory’s destruction during the Jihad. After that, Charger numbers finally dwindled until they eventually disappeared for good.

Consider this Sarna’s Christmas gift to you, dear readers. We’ll have one more news update before the end of the year and then it’s off to 2022.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

Christmas Urbie

Bad ‘Mechs – Assassin

courtesy of Eldonious Rex

Welcome to a new series here on Sarna I’m cleverly calling “Bad ‘Mechs.” It’s a deep dive into some of BattleTech’s least appreciated, least effective, but most awesome designs. You might think some of the ‘Mechs are completely undeserving of the Bad ‘Mechs title but don’t worry–even bad ‘Mechs have a story to tell.

We’re going to kick things off with one of my favorite Bad ‘Mechs, the Assassin: a light ‘Mech hunter that was often no better than the light ‘Mechs it was ostensibly designed to hunt. Despite being born of corporate fraud to having the tightest cockpit of any ‘Mech in the Inner Sphere, It took over four centuries for the Assassin to finally meet its end, and man, what a wild ride that was. Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane and remember the Assassin.

Waiting in an underground parking garage, Jenson couldn’t help but feel the clandestine nature of his business was entirely appropriate for a ‘Mech called “Assassin.” Maltex Corporation would never officially condone his actions, but Jenson knew the project was in trouble. Maltex could try to woo SLDF procurement officers with performance reports that stank so bad that even he could tell they were bullshit, but none of that would matter.

Money talks. Money gets you noticed by the right people. Not the official kind, or the kind that cared about budget estimates and cost projections; anyone who could put two and two together knew there was no way Maltex could produce the Assassin at the same price per unit as a Stinger. The unofficial kind. The illicit kind. The kind that gets exchanged underground in the middle of the night.

Which is exactly where Jenson was, and exactly where his contact would be in the next 45 seconds.

Sure enough, a black hovercar approached the parking spot where Jenson was standing. No words were exchanged. The black tinted window rolled down, an arm wearing a pinstripe sleeve poked out, and Jenson handed it the briefcase. Then it sped off back up the ramp and into the cool, damp night.

Jenson let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. The project would be saved, the Assassin would get made, and he’d make his Maltex overseer a very happy lady.

To understand the Assassin, one has to understand the heady days of the Star League. With one central, major military power, the military-industrial complex had just one place to turn to for funding, and it was often easier to bribe one’s way to a new ‘Mech contract than to create a quality product. Star League procurement was sensationally corrupt at its height, with corporations greasing palms more often than a thirteen-year-old after midnight.

Hence, we get the Assassin, a ‘Mech that fulfilled a niche that never really existed to begin with. Maltex Corporation marketed the Assassin as a replacement for the Stinger and Wasp, proposing it as a cheaper and more cost-effective alternative. They managed to convince Star League procurement of this through false budget reports and overly optimistic service life projections–the actual price of the Assassin was over twice that of the Stinger or Wasp it was meant to replace.

Costs aside, much of the Assassin‘s marketing centered around how the ‘Mech would out-perform its intended replacements, and in this regard, the marketing wasn’t too far off. With greater speed, jump capacity, armor, and weapons, the Assassin could dictate the terms of engagement with either the Stinger or Wasp, assuring victory in the hands of any competent pilot. This led to the Assassin‘s undeserved reputation as a light ‘Mech hunter.

Even when the Assassin was introduced, several Star League-era light ‘Mechs could outrun, out-shoot, or outlast the Assassin. The Commando offered nearly as much armor and speed but far surpassed the Assassin in firepower. Both the Mongoose and Hussar could outrun the Assassin, and even the humble UrbanMech had immense firepower and armor in comparison, albeit at the cost of near-immobility.

A century later the Assassin was falling behind in most areas. The Draconis Combine’s new Jenner equaled the Assassin in speed but far surpassed it in firepower. The Valkyrie could out-trade LRM fire with the Assassin until both their ammunition bins ran dry, at which point the Valkyrie‘s tougher armor would carry the day in a direct engagement. The Panther‘s PPC could blow holes in the Assassin‘s armor while enduring what little return fire it could muster.

But the Assassin would lead a charmed life. The chassis wouldn’t see large-scale engagement until 2980, when the Free Worlds League repelled a Fed Suns assault on Rochelle during the Third Succession War. Taking less damage than their slower comrades (which was probably better explained by selection bias than any true durability on the Assassin‘s part), the Assassin‘s reputation remained intact even as spare parts meant that House militaries fielded fewer and fewer Assassins as the Succession Wars dragged on. By the time the Clans invaded, there were very few Assassins left.

Maltex would later attempt to revive the chassis during the FedCom Civil War. The ASN-30 variant replaced the missile weapons with an LB-X AC/5 while the medium laser was upgraded with an extended range model. However, during those combat-heavy years, Maltex found that performance was the only metric that truly mattered to Lyran military procurement in the middle of a war, and the lightly armed Assassin simply couldn’t compete on the modern battlefield.

Hellespont Mech Works would attempt to field a further upgraded ASN-99 with Stealth Armor and a sword, but by then the Assassin‘s luck had run out and no new variants have been produced since the Jihad.

The Assassin leaves a complicated legacy, proving that with the right connections even a bad idea can become a highly profitable reality. But time has a way of ending lies, and so time eventually caught up with the Assassin and ended it.

Don’t think the Assassin deserved to be a Bad ‘Mech? Let me know in the comments, and also let me know what next Bad ‘Mech deserves a showcase.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy