Category Archives: Historical

Bad ‘Mechs – Hatchetman

Bad 'Mechs Hatchetman

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“We’ve got ‘em on the run!”

Leutnant Lauren Kolberg marched her ‘Mech forward a few steps before sending it into a solid 64-kph clip. The Fourth Skye Rangers had been harassing the Seventeenth Benjamin Regulars for months on Komephoros, and her commanders intended to exploit a gap in the Regulars’ lines. Her lance was leading the charge for Second Batallion. She already had a Jenner waiting to be painted on her new Hatchetman’s cockpit, and she was hoping to add a Panther next to it. 

Unfortunately, the Panther matched her for speed and managed to stay just out of reach of her longest-range weapon, the massive Defiance Killer autocannon that sat on the Hatchetman’s right shoulder. Combined with the equally massive hatchet in her right arm, the Hatchetman was definitely a lop-sided design, but one that had already proven deadly to anything that strayed too close.

If only she could just get that Panther to stop running. “Arc 3-1 to Hammer Actual. Do we have any AeroSpace assets we could send to trip up these trailing elements?”

“Wait one,” Came the response from Second Batallion’s command and operations center. “Arc 3-1, elements of Clipper squadron are inbound.” 

“Roger,” Kolberg grunted, guiding her 45-ton machine around a massive boulder driven upwards by the planet’s glacial geology. Her rear camera picked up the contrails of two Chippewas before her sensors confirmed their design. It didn’t take them long to overtake her lance and streak off over the hills ahead, just where the Panther she’d been hounding had broken her line of sight. A series of explosions felt but not seen encouraged Kolberg to push her ‘Mech even faster lest the Chippewas take her kill. 

“This is Clipper 2-4 taking heavy fire, Clipper 2-3 is down.” came the panicked voice of the remaining pilot. “Turn your forces around, it’s a trap!” 

Kolberg realized the warning had come too late. She’d just crossed over the highest point and was already heading into a glacial valley. There was nothing to protect her from the sudden flurry of long-range missile and laser fire that lit her Hatchetman like a Christmas tree, and she didn’t have the speed or armor to close into engagement range.

She did have time to let out a sigh as she slammed her Hatchetman’s ejection button. Unlike other ‘Mechs, the Hatchetman’s entire head assembly flew off from its shoulders and her HUD gained an airspeed indicator and an altimeter. As Kolberg flew from the trap she’d narrowly survived, she grasped at the one silver lining: at least she wouldn’t freeze to death.

BattleTech Hatchetman Art

‘Mechs designed primarily for melee combat are nothing new to the 31st century. Even during the time of the Star League, designs like the Charger proved that sufficient mass and speed could be just as devastating as a ball of charged particles launched at a few integers shy of the speed of light. The brutal malice of physical blows can be equally destructive to a soldier’s morale. We can only assume these factors were considered by the enigmatic Dr. Banzai as he designed the Hatchetman in the early 3020s. 

One of the first entirely new ‘Mechs to be seen after centuries of combat, the Hatchetman was both to be a workhorse ‘Mech as well as a symbol of the growing military alliance between the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth. Introduced in 3023 by Defiance Industries, the Hatchetman was designed for urban warfare, with low speed and light armor but with impressive firepower for a 45-ton chassis. If allowed to close to point-blank range, the Hatchetman could literally cut a similar-sized ‘Mech to pieces before it could even return fire. Hence, the initial production run of Hatchetmans was sent to Lyran garrison units on planets with large city centers. 

Hatchetman 3025

It didn’t take long for the Hatchetman to see combat. A raid by the 4th Proserpina Hussars on Sevren resulted in severe losses after the 26th Lyran Guards lured them into an industrial park and then unleashed a Hatchetman-equipped battalion. Caught off guard both by the trap and the deadly new design, the surviving Hussars retreated off-world to inform the rest of the DCMS of the Hatchetman‘s existence.

The Hatchetman was eventually distributed to units in the Federated Suns just in time for the Fourth Succession War. The ‘Mech proved to be popular enough that Defiance couldn’t keep up with demand, resulting in the company sub-contracting the design to Johnston Industries to start manufacturing the Hatchetman under license. 

However, while the Hatchatman‘s early success could be explained by the sheer novelty of the design, by the War of 3039, opposing forces were able to exploit significant flaws in the chassis. Poor armor, especially on the legs, meant the Hatchetman could easily be disabled before closing to within melee range. Further, the ‘Mech’s poor speed meant it was unable to close with smaller,  lighter ‘Mechs, and even some heavier ones. Kept at a distance, the Hatchetman was far less menacing than it had first appeared. 

The HCT-3F Hatchetman comes armed with a single Defiance Killer 10-class Autocannon in the right torso and one Medium Laser in each arm. It has a single additional heat sink to mitigate the heat this payload generates. Four jump jets help the Hatchetman position itself for a successful ambush, but a top speed of 64 kph thanks to its GM 180 engine is insufficient for it to chase targets and unleash its signature hatchet

Hatchetman CCG

One interesting element of the Hatchetman is the full-head ejection system. Where most ‘Mechs will eject an escape pod after catastrophic damage, the Hatcethman’s entire head comes off its shoulders thanks to a series of rocket motors beneath the head assembly. The head’s somewhat aerodynamic shape and the small fins at the back allow the MechWarrior-cum-pilot to direct their flight back to friendly lines, significantly increasing survivability. However, the Hatchetman must be in the upright position for the ejection system to work, and reinstalling the head can be a cumbersome procedure.  

With the discovery of the Helm Memory Core and the return of Star League-era technology, Defiance upgraded the Hatchetman in 3049 to the new HCT-5S standard. This added a new Extralight 180 engine and replaced the AC/10 with an LB-X version, freeing up enough weight to replace the two lasers with Medium Pulse Lasers. The HCT-5S also has 8.5 tons of ferro-fibrous armor, increasing its protection by almost 30 percent and solving the largest complaint Hatchetman pilots had. However, the redesign had fewer heat sinks and less ammunition for its autocannon, trading one problem for two more.

It wasn’t until the 3060s that variants arrived that both improved the Hatchetman‘s speed and armor. The HCT-6D introduced a VOX 225 XL engine, allowing this Davion Hatchetman variant to run at 86.4 kph and mount five jump jets instead of four. A Rotary AC/5 and three ER Medium Lasers provided impressive firepower while 10 double heat sinks kept the design cool. ECM also allowed the 6D to remain hidden from sensors for greater success in ambushes.

Even with its flaws exposed, the Hatchetman‘s reputation proved strong enough to lead rival manufacturers to outright steal the design for their respective national militaries. When the Taurian Concordat gained access to the HCT-3F after a Davion mercenary outfit was adopted into the nation’s military, the Taurians set to work reverse-engineering the Hatchetman. From 3054 until 3066, Taurus Territorial Industries produced their own illegal copies of the HCT-3F until the factory was destroyed by the Fighting Urukhai, itself touching off a military campaign that would see the Concordat invade the Federated Suns. 

Hatchetman IlClan RecGuide 12

Draconis Combine engineers were able to reverse-engineer the HCT-3F much faster than the Concordat after several examples were salvaged during the war of ’39. However, DCMS troops refused to use a ‘Mech so heavily associated with the Federated Commonwealth. The HCT-5K, introduced in 3075, swapped the Hatchetman‘s hatchet for a more bushido-compliant sword. It also came armed with two Medium Pulse Lasers, one ER Medium Laser, and a locally-manufactured MRM-30. Targeting was improved thanks to a C3 slave unit and double heatsinks kept the Kuritan knock-off cool.

Even the Free Worlds League developed a version of the Hatchetman during the Jihad era. the HCT-6M is derived from the 5S, replacing the LB-X AC/10 with a Heavy PPC and adding a Beagle Active Probe. Following the Jihad, the Republic of the Sphere adopted the HCT-7R standard, using a light fusion engine to reach a top speed of 86 kph while keeping the same 8.5 tons of ferro-fibrous armor from the 5S. An array of six Medium Pulse Lasers and a single Medium X-Pulse Laser combined with the signature hatchet for potent short-range firepower if at the cost of significant heat build-up. Today’s HCT-8S used by the LCAF mounts Clan technology for a top speed of 86 kph, significant armor protection, and an actuator enhancement system for even more accurate blows from its hatchet.

Although present in multiple House and non-House militaries today, the Hatchetman remains most numerous in the militaries of the former Federated Commonwealth. The brutal fighting of the Dark Age, and now the ilClan era, ensure no shortage of victims for the Hatchetman‘s ambush tactics.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Mauler

Mauler Rain

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Patterson, on your right!” Hauptmann Tomas Jager called out on the wide band. “Drac Mauler!

“It is a Daboku, Lyran swine, not a Mauler!” 

That wasn’t Patterson’s annoyingly nasal voice. Patterson’s Centurion had taken a hit to its armored dome early in the fighting between the 14th Donegal Guards and the 7th Sword of Light regiment, which was currently defending the planet Utrecht with armored and infantry support. This forced Jager’s company to switch to the open-band comms in order for Patterson to receive orders at the same time as everyone else in the unit. 

Unfortunately, this also meant that any Drac that turned the dial on their radio could listen in on Jager’s comms. And this particular Drac apparently spoke German.

“Who the hell is this?”

“This is Chu-i Tatoro Yagami of the 7th Sword of Light,” came the terse reply. “This planet will be your tomb. Face me in honorable combat!” 

Crap, thought Jager, another holo-samurai wannabe. He’d never heard of the name “Daboku” though. The Lyran Armed Forces had taken to calling the new Drac assault ‘Mech the Mauler for its ability to absolutely maul an opponent from long range. If Jager was going to duel this guy, he’d definitely want to close the distance quickly.

Patterson’s already damaged Centurion didn’t have the armor left to stand up to the Mauler/Daboku. A flight of LRMs slammed into the medium ‘Mech, tearing through what protection remained on its right shoulder before sending the Centurion’s arm-mounted autocannon tumbling to the rocky ground. 

“Get clear, Patterson,” Jager called out. “I’ll take this joker.” 

“The joke will be on you, Hauptmann! Face me!” 

Jager kicked his Zeus into a run. The Chu-i’s Daboku was already turning to star throwing long-range weapons fire at him, starting with a hail of light autocannon fire. The rounds pinged off his Zeus like armor-piercing rain, but then inexplicably fell silent. 

“Chikusho!” Yagami shouted, still on open comms. “Curse this infernal machine!”

Jager had heard reports that the new Mauler might have been rushed into service courtesy of the Lyran offensive into the Draconis Combine. An unproven design that had skipped its shakedown tests for a trial by fire on the battlefield. Looks like the Drac engineers still hadn’t figured out how to keep those autocannons from jamming.

Painting the Mauler with his fire control radar, Jager sent a flight of 15 missiles into the Drac ‘Mech followed by a burst of his own autocannon. The LRMs wreathed the Mauler in fire before Jager’s cannon rounds slammed dead center of mass. The Drac assault machine rocked back on its heels but didn’t drop. 

“I will not be defeated so easily,” Yagami taunted, lifting both barrel-shaped arms and aiming them squarely at Jager’s charging machine. One large laser missed wide, while the other connected the two ‘Mechs in glowing light. However, Jager noted that the intense beam didn’t seem to cut into his Zeus’s armor more than it did just boil the paint on his unit insignia. Make that a failed laser-focusing array along with jamming ammo feeds.

“Ksa! Bakayarou!” Combined with the alarms sounding in the background, it sounded to Jager like the Chu-i was struggling with his ride. 

At 200 meters, the Hauptmann let loose with his entire weapons complement. Both medium lasers stabbed into the Mauler‘s heart, while his large laser struck it on the left torso. His AC/5 took the Mauler in the left shoulder, while the LRM-15 peppered the assault ‘Mech with tiny explosions from head to toe. 

“I will destroy–” And then the radio went dead. Jager checked his sensors and noted that despite the thrashing it had just received, the Mauler’s armor was still intact. The ‘Mech had just shut down. 

Jager slowed his Zeus to a trot as it closed to within a few meters of the Drac machine. Then he brought his ‘Mechs cockpit in close enough to peer straight through the two ferroglass layers that kept Chu-i Yagami and himself separate. Jager could see the Chu-i desperately bashing on his ‘Mechs console but to no avail.

In a maneuver that would later be recounted as the ‘Jager Bomb,’ Hauptmann Jager carefully placed his Zeus’s right arm against the Daboku/Mauler’s chest and gave a gentle push. The Donegal Guards MechWarrior had just enough time to see the look of utter terror and confusion on Yagami’s face before his ‘Mech toppled over backward, sliding downhill for several meters before finally stopping when it struck a large boulder.


The Mauler started life as perhaps the most colossal failure of any ‘Mech produced by Luthien Armor Works for the DCMS. It was so bad that the design actually needed to be renamed before Draconis Combine soldiers would agree to pilot the 90-ton fire-support ‘Mech. Quite perversely, the Mauler would eventually be designated with the reporting name given to it by FedCom forces during the Fourth Succession War.

The Mauler began as the Daboku, an assault ‘Mech designed to use a new (or rather, old) type of ammunition storage equipment that was rediscovered in the Helm Memory Core. Having been conceived as a long-range fire support ‘Mech that could put out withering fusillades of missile and autocannon fire, the Daboku‘s heavy reliance on ammunition was seen as a vulnerability that could be mitigated–at least in terms of a potential hazard to the pilot–through the use of Cellular Ammunition Storage Equipment, better known during the Star League as CASE. 

However, the Daboku was rushed into service at the outbreak of the Fourth Succession War before Luthien Armor Works could perform proper shakedown tests. As a result, the CASE system proved to be absolutely disastrous in actual combat. If the Daboku was struck dead-center on the torso with enough force, it would incorrectly trigger the CASE system to detect an uncontained ammunition explosion, causing the auto-ejection system to catapult the pilot out of what was otherwise a still-functional ‘Mech.

Mauler 3050

Functional is perhaps too strong a word for the Daboku. Even before it was thoroughly examined, the Daboku had earned a reputation among DCMS MechWarriors for being a virtual death trap, but post-combat inspection by DCMS engineers found almost every major system of the ‘Mech to be flawed. Its large lasers were prone to rapid inexplicable heat spikes, its ammunition feeds constantly jammed, and its LRM fire control computers would often lose lock at the worst possible moment. 

Publically, Luthien Armor Works apologized to the Coordinator for the new assault ‘Mechs teething issues, but rumors swirled internally that several designers were fired for trusting too much in a Capellan prototype that served as a basis for the Daboku. Those rumors were never confirmed, however, and those that remained on the Daboku‘s design team went back to the drawing board with more data from the Helm Memory Core to assist them.

What they returned with almost a decade later was designated the MAL-1R Mauler, ironically choosing the reporting name FedCom soldiers had used for the Daboku during the war. The Mauler was a completely different animal compared to the Daboku using absolute cutting-edge technology for 3048. ER large lasers provided additional range compared to their standard counterparts, while 11 double heat sinks keep the ‘Mech far cooler. Ferro-fibrous armor provided the equivalent of over 12 tons of armor protection for just 11.5 tons of spent weight, and an XL engine freed up enough tonnage to upgrade the Daboku‘s twin LRM-10 launchers to LRM-15s. Best of all, the CASE system’s auto-ejection issue had been entirely corrected, allowing DCMS MechWarriors to continue to fight under heavy fire. 

Mauler CCG

Even with a high-tech upgrade, the Mauler still suffered from some shortcomings. Its quartet of AC/2s had just two tons of ammunition supporting them, which often required reloads mid-battle. The Mauler is also a cumbersome beast with a top speed of 54 kph, making it unsuitable for running battles. Finally, the XL engine and relatively light armor make it vulnerable in a protracted firefight. The Mauler is best used in its intended role–as a long-range fire-support ‘Mech near protected supply lines.

Several variants attempted to revamp the Mauler for other roles. The MAL-1K, for example, swapped the ER Large Lasers for Snub-Nose PPCs and the autocannon/2s for light autocannon5/s. This changed the Mauler into a multi-role brawler, although it still suffered from relatively light armor protection for a 90-ton assault ‘Mech. 

The MAL-2R attempts to alleviate some of the Mauler‘s vulnerabilities by ditching the XL engine in favor of a heavier standard one. This necessitated reducing the Mauler‘s LRM-15s down to LRM-10s and replacing the large lasers with paired ER medium lasers. The AC/2s are replaced with Ultra versions, doubling their rate of fire but also exacerbating the Mauler‘s ammunition problems.

Mauler MWO

With the advent of C3 technology by the Draconis Combine, the MAL-3R fits a C3 slave unit while replacing its large lasers and AC/2s with twin LB-X Autocannon/10s and a small laser. Three jump jets provide some flexibility in terms of positioning to better allow its pilot to take advantage of data provided by the C3 unit.

The Mauler would go on to become a popular design for the DCMS during the Clan Invasion and into the Jihad, but production would cease after the destruction of Luthien Armor Works production lines by the Word of Blake. By the 32nd century, the Mauler had largely been replaced in the Combine’s armed forces, but surviving examples can still be seen throughout Combine space and sometimes even beyond.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Rifleman

Rifleman Coffin Dance

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Corporal O’Moore didn’t know what the Dracs were thinking. Wave after wave of aerospace fighters fell to his RFL-3N Rifleman‘s paired Imperator Autocannons and Magna Mk. III Large Lasers, many before they could even fire a salvo or release their bomb payloads. His Rifleman‘s Garret D2J–still state of the art even after half a century of warfare–continue to work like a dream, swatting down Kuritan Sabres like flies. 

It was enough to make O’Moore forget he and the rest of the First Clovis Guards were desperately trying to defend their home. But it only lasted for a few moments.

“They’ve broken through!” came the panicked voice of Major Yasser over the unit-wide comms. “First and second battalions fall back to waypoint Charlie. Third battalion, we need you to defend the logistics corps until they can pull out.” 

Third battalion. That was O’Moore’s unit. He took his eyes off his Rifleman’s scope for a moment to bring up his external cameras. Soldiers were all rushing to vehicles being loaded with munitions, desperate to pack as much as they could before the Kurita forces arrived. 

It didn’t take long. Not two minutes after the last of the Sabres fell to O’Moore’s guns did the first Drac ‘Mech appear on sensors. A Panther, of course–you couldn’t spit without hitting a Panther in the DCMS. But its particle projection cannon still made it dangerous. 

O’Moore’s targeting computer easily picked out the 35-ton ‘Mech as it confidently stomped into range. At 600 meters, he squeezed both triggers, sending twin bursts of tracers that stitched explosions up the Panther’s chest. He followed up with both his heavy lasers that melted more armor over the light ‘Mechs left arm and right leg. The machine staggered under the sudden loss of so much armor, but managed to fire its PPC in response, missing O’Moore’s Rifleman wide. 

Another salvo should take it out, O’Moore thought. Once again he depressed both triggers, but this time the paired autocannons that made up the Rifleman’s arms were silent. His internal diagnostics reported his ammo bins had run dry firing at the Sabres earlier. And with his ammo being whisked away on the beds of his regiments’ logistics craft, they wouldn’t be refilled anytime soon.

Instead, O’Moore fired his heavy lasers again. One struck the left arm again, shearing it off at the shoulder. The other hit the Panther dead center, opening a smoking wound that made the machine’s heat signature spike on O’Moore’s screen. An engine hit. No doubt that Panther’s cockpit was a sauna for its pilot.

And no less hot for me, he noted as a fresh wave of heat caused O’Moore’s cooling jacket to kick into overdrive. His Rifleman’s heatsinks weren’t designed to dissipate repeated firings of his large lasers, so he’d be down to just his Magna Mk. IIs. That’d be enough to finish the Panther off.

Just then, O’Moore’s radar pinged with another signature–this time a Dragon. Its own Imperator-A struck him in the shoulder, while a flight or LRMs rang deafening explosions just outside his cockpit’s glass. Slapping the override button, O’Moore fired at the new threat with everything he had, desperately trying to convince the Drac to find a new target.

Alarms were blaring and his cockpit was hotter than an active volcano, but O’Moore knew there was no escape. The Dragon could just run him down, and besides, the Rifleman’s heat burden made it feel like it was trying to move through molasses. 

The Dragon’s pilot was smart. Rather than engage in a slugfest, it began maneuvering to O’Moore’s right, threatening the truck convoy that was making its escape. He turned with it, slowly, trying to breathe air hotter than the sun while deciding if he could survive firing even a single laser just one more time.

He never got the chance. The Dragon suddenly pivoted and before O’Moore could react, it was in his rear arc. The Rifleman’s paper-thin rear armor couldn’t hold up to a stiff breeze let alone a full brace of autocannon, missile, and laser fire. His only consolation, as a flash of light signaled his Rifleman’s fusion engine losing containment, was that at least the Drac pilot was blowing him away rather than the retreating convoy of First Clovis Guardsmen.

RFL-1N RiflemanThe Rifleman is an exceptional ‘Mech. Exceptional in that the only reason why the Rifleman remains popular is because every attempt to replace it has somehow miraculously managed to be worse. This gave the Rifleman‘s engineers centuries to come up with better, more combat-viable variants. However, while the RFL-3N Rifleman is perhaps the most popular and numerous variant, it remains one of the worst heavy ‘Mechs ever designed, so cripplingly handicapped by a lack of ammunition, armor protection, and heat capacity that it’s only useful for guard duty in rear supply lines or in one-on-one gladiatorial combat where the pilot won’t have to gauge heat spikes beyond a single opponent. 

Getting to the RFL-3N will actually take more than two centuries of failure. The initial RFL-1N was first designed in 2505 by Kallon Industries as a medium fire-support unit. As one of the earliest ‘Mechs ever made, one can forgive Kallon for some missteps. The RFL-1N suffered from chronic overheating owing to its all-energy payload and criminal lack of heatsinks. Over fifty years later, Kallon would improve upon the 50-ton ‘Mech in the RFL-2N, upgrading its primitive components to open up payload capacity to replace the 1N’s large lasers with twin PPCs and add two additional medium lasers as well as six additional heat sinks. Although a marked improvement, the RFL-2N still suffered from the original’s dismal overheating issues. 

It wasn’t until 2770 that Kallon introduced the RFL-3N during the Amaris Civil War. Intended for long-range fire support and anti-aircraft work, the Rifleman RFL-3N was ten tons larger than its forebears. It used that additional weight to mount an Imperator-A AC/5 and a Magna Mk. III Large Laser in each arm. A pair of Magna Mk. II Medium Lasers offered the RFL-3N additional defense should it lose any of its main weapons, but its paltry 10 heatsinks made it impossible to continuously fire its energy weapons without suffering massive heat spikes. 


What made matters worse for the RFL-3N was its equally paltry ton of AC/5 ammunition shared between both cannons. This offered pilots just ten shots before needing to resupply. Combined with its inadequate heat-sinking and mere seven-and-a-half tons of armor, the RFL-3N is completely unable to perform in sustained engagements. 

Scholars will argue that the Rifleman was never intended to serve as a front-line heavy ‘Mech. In its intended role of defending supply lines from marauding air assets and the occasional light scout, the Rifleman excelled. Its Garret D2J targeting-tracking system–a system so potently accurate that it remains in production to this day–allowed the Rifleman to easily swat down incoming aerospace assets and deter lighter ‘Mech elements from a safe distance.

However, as the Succession Wars wore on, House militaries pressed more specialized ‘Mechs into roles for which they were never intended. The Rifleman increasingly saw postings to front-line regiments where its lack of armor (especially in the rear arc), ammo, and heat capacity were a liability.

Despite this, the Rifleman remained popular with MechWarriors thanks to its menacing silhouette, its impressive firepower, and its unique ability to swing its arms 360-degrees in order to engage opponents attempting to approach the ‘Mech from behind. This tactic was made famous by Solaris champion Gray Noton, whose custom Rifleman, Legend-Killer, ended the career of more than one promising competitor who thought they’d managed to get the drop on Noton.

3025 Rifleman

Before the ultimate dissolution of the Star League, two replacements emerged for the Rifleman. Kallon introduced the JagerMech in 2774 intended to replace the Rifleman in the anti-air role, while Technicron Manufacturing brought the Quickdraw to market in 2779 as a front-line heavy ‘Mech. Neither ‘Mech succeeded in replacing the Rifleman in either role, with both machines instead serving alongside Riflemans in various militaries across the Inner Sphere.

The RFL-3N would exist for over two centuries before finally seeing significant improvement. The RFL-3C, introduced by Davion engineers in 3026, replaced the twin AC/5s and large lasers with paired AC/10s and an additional two medium lasers as well as an extra ton of armor and autocannon ammo. This variant finally fixed the Rifleman‘s heat problems, although its ammo remained limited. Eight-and-half tons of armor was also still regarded as insufficient for a 60-ton ‘Mech.

The Gray Death Memory Core offered enhanced technology as the solution to the Rifleman‘s problems. Double heatsinks (including two more) effectively solved its heat issues, while an additional ton of armor mitigated some of the ‘Mech’s protection problems. One issue that was made even worse was its singleton ammo bin, which was tasked with feeding two ammo-hungry Ultra AC/5s capable of exhausting that bin twice as fast. 

It wasn’t until the Civil War era that the Inner Sphere saw a Rifleman that was truly capable of extended firefights. The RFL-8D saw Vicore Industries remove the Rifleman 5M’s armament in favor of twin Mydron Model RC rotary autocannon/5s fed by a staggering six tons of ammunition. Double heatsinks and a pair of ER medium lasers kept the ‘Mech cool, and 12 tons of armor kept it well protected too. Jump jets provided the Rifleman with an all-new feature for the chassis, and the same Garret targeting computer continued to direct its new armaments at any foe unwise enough to approach.

RFL-8D Rifleman

Curiously, it wasn’t merely Inner Sphere armies that saw the future potential of the Rifleman. Alexander Kerensky’s SLDF had several Riflemans amongst its regiments, eventually leading clan engineers to upgrade the design. The Rifleman IIC leans into its anti-aircraft role by pairing four large pulse lasers with an Active Probe. Even with five additional tons added to the chassis, the Rifleman IIC is curiously slower than the RFL-3N, although it does mount three jump jets to better position the ‘Mech to address incoming forces. Eleven tons of ferro-fibrous armor keep the ‘Mech protected and 19 nineteen double heatsinks keep the pilot relatively cool, although they can eventually be overwhelmed by repeated alpha strikes.

Both the Inner Sphere and the Clans have so many different variants of this venerable design that the chassis requires its own encyclopedia to identify them all. One could attribute the Rifleman‘s success to the business acumen of Kallon Industries, who spread production of the ‘Mech across multiple facilities in multiple House nations to ensure the design survived the Succession Wars. Kallon also licensed the design heavily, allowing other manufacturers to make their own variants using common parts. This kept the Rifleman fighting even as so many of its contemporaries faded into obscurity. 

But let’s not forget that it took centuries for iterations of the Rifleman to eventually raise the chassis to its fullest potential. And while the Rifleman remains in service with militaries, mercenaries, and even Solaris gladiators, the most popular machine isn’t always the most potent. 

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

Bad ‘Mechs – Hoplite

Courtesy of Eldonious Rex

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Hop-4bb Hoplite

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

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

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Land-Air Mechs

Land-Air 'Mechs

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Alright, here’s the deal,” Major Sheffield began. He then pointed at Sergeant Donaldson. “You get in the front seat, and you,” Sheffield pointed to the SLDF navy pilot he knew as Lieutenant Barber, “get in the back seat.”

The two SLDF service members looked first at each other and then at the monstrosity before them. It looked like an aerospace fighter had crashed into a ‘Mech and somehow fused the two together. It was a grotesque abomination of all things both pilot and MechWarrior considered holy, and it didn’t exactly motivate either to comply with the Major’s orders.

“With respect sir, just who exactly is going to be in control of that… thing?”

“Great question, Donaldson,” Sheffield replied with a smirk. “You both are. On the ground, Donaldson is in charge. In the air, Barber takes the yoke. Or stick–I’m not sure what you spacers call the thing.”

“Yoke is technically correct, sir,” Barber replied, stone-faced.

“The idea here is to cut down on the training required for Land-Air ‘Mech pilots by simply having both MechWarrior and pilot in a dual cockpit arrangement. If these tests go well, it could usher in a new age of cooperation between SLDF services.”

Sheffield’s pitch sounded like it had come straight from the bureaucratic number crunchers at SLDF procurement, and it did nothing to instill confidence in either of them.

“Communication will be key,” Sheffield added. “You’ll both have the authority to convert your Stinger LAM to either Air or ‘Mech mode, but you should engage targets in the mode best suited for the engagement. Now, get suited up and start blasting targets.”

The two pilots again looked at each other, looked at the Stinger, and then sighed in unison. It was the last time either Donaldson or Barber performed any task in sync. The dual cockpit test would go down as a colossal failure for the dual-cockpit LAM concept, and SLDF training footage would later include recordings of Barber and Donaldson engaged in fisticuffs over who would take control of the LAM during various stages of the test.

First Lord Michael Cameron II ruled the Star League during a time of unprecedented technological innovation. During his reign, the Star League Defense Force would produce impressive and terrifying military machines such as the Awesome BattleMech, the Cameron-class Battlecruiser, and the Gotha Aerospace Fighter. However, it was also a time of completely unmitigated spending for the Terran Hegemony‘s military industrial complex, and as such, it resulted in just as many hits as it did misses. Some of the more spectacular failures have already been discussed in this article series, but none were more costly than the unfortunate Land-Air ‘Mech.

Commissioned in 2680 by Admiral David Peterson, the intent of the Land-Air ‘Mech was to produce a unit that combined the deployment speed of an Aerospace Fighter with the versatility of a ‘Mech. An Aerospace Fighter could rapidly strike targets but its ability to support ground forces was limited. Meanwhile, the BattleMech required DropShips to deploy but once fielded were the undisputed kings of the battlefield. The Land-Air ‘Mech, or LAM, would theoretically combine the advantages of both to create a weapon that ensures the SLDF and Terran Hegemony’s military dominance for centuries to come.

At least, that’s what Admiral Peterson envisioned on paper. The reality of the Land-Air ‘Mech was far from the ideal superweapon that SLDF generals and engineers wanted.

Shadow Hawk LAM

The first company to win an SLDF contract was Allied Aerospace, which created the SHD-X1 in 2680. Based on the already proven Shadow Hawk, the SHD-X1 was a bi-modal Land-Air ‘Mech, meaning it would convert directly from BattleMech to Aerospace Fighter without any intermediate steps.

The brand-new conversion technology proved problematic in multiple ways. First, the bulky tech added five additional tons to the SHD-X1 compared to the all-‘Mech SHD-2H, but also limited the space available for the fusion engine and internal fuel tanks. Thus, the SHD-X1 was slower than the SHD-2H on land by nearly 20kph and had a greatly limited combat radius in fighter mode. Additionally, the AC/5 was replaced by an ER Large Laser and the SRM-2 was removed in favor of an internal bomb bay. Newer technologies of the era such as extra light engines, an Endo Steel chassis, and Ferro Fibrous armor all couldn’t be employed due to the LAM conversion technology’s bulk.

SLDF procurement officers were already skeptical of the new design’s limitations, but things got worse for the SHD-X1 after several test platforms were lost during public reviews in 2681 and 2682. The engineering flaws that led to these lost machines were largely solved by the time the SHD-X2 arrived in 2684, but by then the platform had already gained a reputation as a dangerously flawed design. The SLDF canceled its order, and although Allied Aerospace built 20 SHD-X2 demonstrators, the company failed to attract a single buyer.

Stinger LAM

The first viable LAM came from LexaTech Industries in 2688 with the introduction of the Stinger LAM. Ten tons heavier than the original Stinger and armed with three medium lasers, LexaTech’s design introduced the first tri-modal Land-Air ‘Mech. A third mode allowed the Stinger LAM to deploy its wings and legs simultaneously, allowing it to rapidly travel at low altitudes thanks to the ground effect. Although lacking an internal bomb bay, the Stinger LAM retained the speed of the land-based chassis and impressive Aerospace performance as well.

However, the Stinger LAM revealed several flaws shared by all Land-Air ‘Mechs. While the Stinger LAM proved that the additional bulk of the conversion technology could be accounted for, it still reduced overall payload capacity for either a pure ‘Mech or Aerospace Fighter of similar size. Being completely unable to mount weight-saving technologies such as XL engines or Endo-Steel chassis meant LAMs were often outclassed in their engagements. Land-Air ‘Mechs also proved to be quite fragile. Damage taken to the conversion technology would effectively “lock” the LAM in whichever mode it was currently deployed.

Cost was another issue. Not only did pilots require twice as much training due to the twin mandates, but LAMs themselves cost many times the price of either a single ‘Mech or Aerospace Fighter. With no lack of manpower, the armed forces of the Inner Sphere had more than enough financial incentive to simply invest in proven technologies to bolster their war machines.

Still, the Stinger LAM did at least find niche applications where it was better suited than either an Aerospace Fighter or BattleMech. The SLDF navy often deployed Stinger LAMs in operations on minor planetoids such as asteroids or comets, or against forces that were unlikely to deploy fighters or ‘Mechs of their own.

Immediately following the Stinger LAM came the Wasp LAM from Harvard Company in 2690, which found success in similar niche roles and often served alongside its predecessor. Allied Aersospace’s second attempt at a Land-Air ‘Mech, the Phoenix Hawk LAM, finally vindicated the company in 2701. With harsh lessons learned from its earlier failure with the Shadow Hawk LAM, the Pheonix Hawk LAM proved a far more capable design, retaining the original Phoenix Hawk‘s performance while adding a bomb bay and other capabilities from the conversion technology.

Although there were a few smaller success stories, the crucible of the Succession Wars proved Land-Air ‘Mechs were too costly for all-out warfare between galaxy-spanning armies. Most commanders were loathed to commit the expensive designs for fear of losing them, and with limited stores of spare parts, the destruction of most LAM factories proved to be a death knell for the innovative technology. Only LexaTech’s factory on Irece was still producing Stinger LAM components by 3025, but the Nova Cats put a stop to that after their successful invasion in 3050.

Surprisingly, Land-Air ‘Mechs had a brief renaissance courtesy of the Word of Blake. During the Jihad, Blakist forces unveiled the Yurei, Pwwka, and Waneta LAMs based on its Spectral Series of OmniFighters. By this era, Clan-spec weapons and double heatsinks weren’t quite enough for the three Wobbie LAMs to stand against more traditional ‘Mechs and Aerospace Fighters, once again limiting their use to surprise attacks against inferior foes. The conclusion of the Jihad saw all Blakist factories destroyed, ending the saga of the Land-Air ‘Mech for good.

Spectral Series LAMs

Ultimately, Land-Air ‘Mechs proved that not every new technology has a place in war. I’m sure given more time, research, and investment, Land-Air ‘Mechs could have revolutionized combat as we know it. However, time is often the resource in the shortest supply during wartime. We may yet see the LAM return once again as technological advancement returns to the Inner Sphere, but for now, Land-Air ‘Mechs are dead. May they rest in peace.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Hornet


Courtesy of EldoniousRex

It looks like an egg,” griped corporal Sumners sullenly. 

Lieutenant Garcia sighed. Losses had been heavy on Misery, and Sumners busted up Stinger had been replaced by an HNT-151 Hornet. She knew it wasn’t exactly an upgrade, but she hadn’t expected Sumners to be quite so morose about the assignment. 

“It looks like an escape pod that grew legs,” Sumners said when Garcia failed to respond. 

Garcia sighed again. “Your complaint has been noted, corporal.” 

“It looks like an angry peanut that’s trying to steal barrels of other peanuts so nobody can eat any peanuts.” 

“Sumners, I understand you had a rich and storied history with that Stinger, but you’re a soldier in Wolf’s Dragoons and you’ll pilot whatever the quartermaster damned well provides. Are we clear?” 

This minor dressing down did nothing to improve Sumners’ mood. “Yes ma’am.” 

“Good. We need everyone out there to meet the Third Ryuken regiment, and that includes you in your shiny new peanut-klepto metal egg.”

This managed to get a wry smirk from Sumners, who finally picked his head out of his hands, saluted, and trotted away from Garcia and off to the small ladder that would lead him to the Hornet’s cockpit. Now that she was looking at it, Garcia thought the Hornet really did look like an angry egg.

Following the success of the Crusader, which had gone on to become a workhorse of the SLDF, Kallon Industries started eyeing more niche defense manufacturing contracts. One of those was for an urban scout ‘Mech, a role that was becoming increasingly important in the fighting on Periphery worlds. However, Kallon’s proposal was a design that even on paper seemed ill-suited for the role. At 20 tons, with a top speed of 86 kph and armed with a single LRM-5 launcher and a medium laser, the Hornet was at best a light support unit masquerading as an urban scout. With little interest from SLDF procurement for a ‘Mech that didn’t even meet the most basic of requirements for urban combat, the initial HNT-171 Hornet variant was shelved for over two centuries.

As the Succession Wars finally began to ebb, Kallon Industries rediscovered the Hornet blueprints in the ruins of an ancient factory and decided to put the design back into production. Unfortunately, much of the advanced technologies used in the HNT-171 were no longer available, such as the Endo Steel chassis, Ferro-Fibrous armor, and anti-missile system. The downgraded HNT-151 Hornet was introduced in 2990 and sold on the open export market where it was advertised to mercenary units as a light support ‘Mech.

One of the initial buyers was Wolf’s Dragoons, which purchased a significant portion of all Hornets ever produced. There the Hornet served with distinction during the Battle of Misery, although the Hornet‘s success is perhaps best attributed to the battle acumen of Wolf’s Dragoons officers and MechWarriors than the ‘Mech itself. That said, the Hornet briefly became a favorite with the Federated Suns where it replaced ancient Stingers, Locusts, and Wasps with March Militia units. The Ceti Hussars and the Deneb Light Cavalry also equipped themselves with Hornets, but by the time of the second Star League and the FedCom Civil War, the Hornet had long been surpassed by superior designs in every role. 

Besides an almost ludicrous design that provides very little protection for the pilot, the MechWarrior suffers from the typical flaws of a light ‘Mech that sacrifices speed for a meager increase in armor and firepower. Although the extra armor allows it to withstand strikes from similarly light ‘Mechs such as the Locust or Stinger, and its LRM-5 launcher allows it to engage at distances typically reserved for much larger units, the Hornet lacks the speed to disengage when it’s confronted with a superior force. Jump jets only partially solve this issue, and commanders fielding Hornets were encouraged to use terrain wisely in order to provide a secure line of retreat for Hornet pilots. Note that this tactic didn’t save those Hornet pilots if the enemy force also had jump-capable ‘Mechs.

In an urban environment, the Hornet was at a strict disadvantage as it loses the benefit of the LRM-5’s longer range. An anti-missile system provides some additional protection from shoulder-fired missile launchers, but the closed-off spaces sometimes didn’t provide enough time for the anti-missile system to react to new threats. 

The Hornet was better employed as light support to heavier fire support ‘Mechs where it could add its long-range fire to whatever target the primary units were engaging while simultaneously defending them from return fire using their anti-missile systems. Jump jets and a medium laser provided some defense against armored infantry, but the Hornet‘s lack of arms made defending against Elementals difficult.

The Hornet did make a comeback in the later years of The Republic with the HNT-181 variant produced by Coalition Armory Inc. under license. Upgraded with an XL engine, Compact Heat Sinks, an MML-5, and a Small Re-Engineered Laser, the HNT-181 Hornet provided additional versatility without sacrificing performance, although the performance of the Hornet already left much to be desired. This cheap but modernized design was perfect for periphery militias to protect against bandits and pirates but failed to stand up against more threatening designs. 


And finally, there’s the issue of the Hornet’s looks which were comical even for ancient Star League designs. I mean, just look at the thing. It looks like a soybean cosplaying as The Rocketeer

As always, leave a comment with your opinion of the Hornet below along with your suggestion for the next Bad ‘Mech.

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 – Quickdraw

Courtesy of Eldonious

“This thing is supposed to replace my Rifleman?” Sgt. Browning asked with incredulity. Although not intended for fire support, Browning had grown attached to his Rifleman’s imposing profile and powerful long-range armament. 

The tech never even looked up from her clipboard. “Yup.” 

“Doesn’t look like much,” Browning offered. “Does it have more guns?”


Browning’s look of incredulity turned into an outright frown. “Okay, how’s it for heat?” 

“Toasty if you use those jets.” 


The tech sighed and flipped a page on her clipboard. “A little more, but not by much.” 


“You got a ten-pack of LRMs,” the tech scanned another page quickly, then shrugged. “The rest is medium lasers and a few SRMs.” 

Browning balked at the loss of so much firepower. “What the hell is this thing good for then?!”

“You can jump.” Another shrug. “And you can keep up with a Trebuchet. That’s about it.” 

The sergeant nearly gripped his neurohelmet hard enough to crack its casing. “Fuck that, I’ll keep the Rifleman.” 

“It’s already been reassigned,” the tech replied, already ducking to avoid the neurohelmet that had just been thrown at her. 

Courtesy of Alex Iglesias

A heavy ‘Mech that tries to do everything and thus does nothing particularly well, the Quickdraw began life as a replacement for the Rifleman, a ‘Mech that saw itself being used in roles it was never intended. The Rifleman was designed as an anti-aircraft ‘Mech, but Star League regiments fell in love with the design and started using them for everything from fire support to front-line assaults. It’s a testament to the Rifleman’s design that it was able to be employed in such a diverse array of roles, but its shortcomings also became clearer and clearer as the decades wore on.

Hoping to build on the massive success of the Awesome, Technicron Manufacturing submitted a proposal for a 60-ton ‘Mech with greater armor (although just barely) and better maneuverability than the Rifleman in order to replace it in front-line roles. Although the Quickdraw‘s armament was considered light for a heavy ‘Mech and much lighter than the beloved Rifleman, its array of medium lasers and missiles allowed it to engage at multiple ranges but maintained the bulk of its firepower at medium to close range where the ‘Mech was intended to operate.

The Quickdraw‘s speed and jump jets allowed it to keep up with many light designs and offered a range of tactical flexibility than the Rifleman did not. That said, the Quickdraw was not an especially fast machine and with its comparatively light armor and weapons complement, unwary pilots could find themselves in situations where their machine was grossly outmatched.

Perhaps most telling of the Quickdraw’s flaws was that it would often find itself crippled or stripped of armor after the first salvo from a Rifleman, while the Quickdraw’s return fire routinely failed to penetrate the frontal glacis of the Rifleman (not so its back armor, which was notoriously paper-thin). 

Quickdraw MechWarriors learned to lean into their machine’s strengths during combat. The Quickdraw was extremely fast for a 60-ton ‘Mech of the era, and pilots learned to appreciate not only the Quickdraw‘s jump jets but also its highly-articulated ankle actuators, which allowed the ‘Mech to stand firmly on slopes that would have sent other ‘Mechs toppling to the ground. 

Unfortunately, those same ankle actuators would prove to be just as much a weakness as a strength. The actuators themselves were fragile to the point where stray weapons fire could damage the ankle and leave the Quickdraw immobile. Once this information got out, MechWarriors learned to shoot for the ankles on a Quickdraw to earn a quick kill.

Another big issue with the Quickdraw was heat. The Quickdraw‘s 13 heatsinks were insufficient to dissipate heat from a prolonged firefight, often requiring the pilot to stagger their medium lasers and jumps or risk a catastrophic ammunition explosion. This flaw was largely solved by the introduction of the QKD-5M model with its double heatsinks in the 3050s, but Technicron never quite figured out a solution for the Quickdraw’s delicate ankles.

Ultimately, the Quickdraw never actually replaced the Rifleman. Units were to begin phasing out Riflemans for Quickdraws in 2779, but very few had been assigned to regiments before the outbreak of the First Succession War. House militaries were desperate for hardware and the Quickdraw soon found itself fighting alongside Riflemans along with many other designs. 

Unlike many manufacturers, Technicron was able to escape the Succession Wars largely intact and maintained Quickdraw production throughout centuries of conflict. As a result, Quickdraws can be found in all House militaries, as well as lesser houses, mercenary units, periphery bandits, and everything in between. A workhorse design that failed to live up to its expectations, the Quickdraw nevertheless managed to thrive in a turbulent galaxy where many other ‘Mechs didn’t.

On a personal note, the Quickdraw is one of my favorite bad ‘Mechs. It’s not one of the worst ‘Mechs out there by any measure, but it falls victim to the problem of jump jets on a heavy ‘Mech. That’s five tons that could have been better spent on more guns and armor, and indeed, the first thing I do with my Quickdraws in MechWarrior 5, BATTLETECH, or any other game is to remove those jets for exactly that. 

Keep on telling me which bad ‘Mechs you want covered, but I think next month’s Bad ‘Mech will be the baddest of them all.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechWarrior Online’s Renaissance Is All Thanks To The Developers Putting Players In Charge

courtesy of EldoniousRex

Something pretty remarkable is happening in MechWarrior Online. After years of falling player counts and being basically put on life support as developer PGI diverted funds and resources into developing MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, MechWarrior Online players are returning to this once nearly-dead game. 

There are a number of reasons for this unexpected renaissance. To start, PGI began providing MechWarrior Online with updates at the end of last year. PGI also hired a new community manager--a well-known figure in the MechWarrior and BattleTech community--to help reach out to players and convince them that MechWarrior Online was worth another shot. 

But I’d argue that the biggest reason why players are returning to MechWarrior Online is that PGI has done the unthinkable: they’ve put the players in charge of MechWarrior Online.

Not all of them, of course. Even an almost dead game still has thousands of players and most of them couldn’t be bothered to dive into the spreadsheets of data necessary for a game as large and complex as MechWarrior Online. But a small group of players plucked from all levels of play have coalesced into a governing body that has largely been given the authority to determine MechWarrior Online’s future.

Those players call themselves the Cauldron--a name chosen to represent their melting pot of opinions. Like many online PvP games, MechWarrior Online has a diverse group of players of differing skill levels, and like BattleTech itself, they all love different aspects of the game. However, this group of players has been able to do something that PGI has struggled with over its many years of MechWarrior Online development.

The Cauldron is bringing fun back to MechWarrior Online.

MechWarrior Online’s Many Missteps

MechWarrior Online is a textbook example of what happens to an online service game when it expands faster than its developers can keep up. You can hardly blame PGI for wanting to monetize MWO as best they could, but the way they decided to do that was to keep throwing more and more ‘Mechs and weapons into the game until it became too overwhelming for their dev team to keep up with both balancing the game and also creating the next big thing.

Those big things often became sweeping changes to MechWarrior Online‘s mechanics that nobody really asked for. Perhaps the best example of this is MechWarrior Online‘s absolutely byzantine skill tree--resoundingly panned for being both overly complicated and ludicrously expensive at launch, and that opinion hasn’t changed much in the years since. 

Throw on engine desync, overly quirked Hero ‘Mechs, pay-to-win airstrikes and artillery strikes, and the still-infamous golden ‘Mech cash grab, and at times it seemed almost like PGI was deliberately trying to alienate MechWarrior Online‘s audience.

It certainly alienated me. Until recently, I hadn’t even touched the game since sometime back in 2017. And although we don’t have a complete report on MechWarrior Online’s total player count, we can assume based on the game’s Steamcharts performance that it also alienated plenty of other players over the years.

By early 2020, MechWarrior Online had reached its lowest point. With few players still left actually playing the game, it made far more financial sense for PGI to focus on creating MechWarrior 5 than it did to waste resources in a game that nobody was playing. Although the servers remained online, few players meant extra-long wait times for MechWarrior Online’s matches to start, and so PGI declared official updates for the game would end in January of 2020.

At that point, the writing was on the wall. MechWarrior Online was on life support, and it seemed only a matter of time before it became more profitable to turn the MWO servers off rather than keep them online.

Then 2020 happened, and the whole fucking world changed.

A Pandemic Makes Fools Of Us All

In February 2020, there were as few as 577 players on MechWarrior Online via Steam. Then the pandemic hit, and despite the fact nothing in the game had changed, government-imposed lockdowns meant that lots of people were stuck at home with nothing to do. A free-to-play game like MechWarrior Online was a worthy diversion for BattleTech fans worried about an apocalyptic new virus, so by March, MechWarrior Online‘s population had jumped by nearly 25%. 

By July, MechWarrior Online‘s player count was nearly double what it was a few months before without the game receiving a single update. I don’t really know what was going through the minds of PGI’s upper management during this time, but from their actions, you get a sense that they weren’t entirely ready to give up on MechWarrior Online

First, PGI hired a brand new community manager in October. Daeron “Bombadil” Katz is a well-known figure amongst the entire BattleTech community for his time as co-host for No Guts No Galaxy, and especially well-known in the MechWarrior Online community. There was basically no better person to reach out to MWO players and ask them just what could be done to revive the game.

Second, PGI was purchased by Swedish games publisher EG7. Unlike many publishers, EG7 seems to be a very hands-off sort of company, content to simply fund studios to develop their games and then reap the rewards. With EG7 paying the bills, PGI could now afford to take even the tiniest financial risk in setting up a small team to once again begin updating MechWarrior Online

But it was a very small team, and both Bombadil and PGI marketing head Matt Newman made it clear in the early months of 2021 that they just couldn’t make the sweeping changes to MechWarrior Online that some players had hoped for (chief among those was porting the game from CryEngine to Unreal Engine 5, a heroic task even for a much larger developer). 

Matt and Daeron promised small fixes, some new events, and perhaps a new ‘Mech pack or two. Game balance--which by this point was hopelessly out of control thanks to high-tech-era weapons and over 1,300 different ‘Mechs--was mentioned, but never really highlighted. The effort required to rebalance MechWarrior Online simply cost more than PGI would get in return. Or so they thought. 

Welcome To The Gulag

Before we can talk about the Cauldron, we have to talk about the Gulag, a name chosen for several reasons but chief among them was the idea that they were providing PGI with free labor. The group first formed in early 2018 after several updates took MechWarrior Online‘s balance in a decidedly un-fun direction, nerfing certain weapons and ‘Mechs to the point where they became basically unusable for no particular reason.

The Gulag was by all accounts a reactive movement, but one with the best intentions. The group created spreadsheets of game data and made reasonable arguments to revert the changes or institute entirely new ones for the overall health of the game. MechWarrior Online‘s developers, however, weren’t a receptive audience.

“The attitude that PGI had at the time [was] sort of the ‘we don’t want your help, we can do it ourselves’ type,” Bear_cl4w tells me in an interview. The group operates mostly as a collective, but Bear_cl4w serves as the de-facto leader. 

“When we had finished our work and showed it to the community the feedback was generally positive. But again, the response from PGI… They saw it and told us, ‘yeah we’ve discussed it internally,’ and then nothing,” Bear_cl4w recounts. “Little did we know that at the time they were working on MechWarrior 5, which led to maintenance mode for MWO.”

Things changed over the course of 2020. Maintenance mode reverted back to active--if somewhat tentative--development. With PGI’s resources mostly diverted to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, the free labor offered by the Gulag suddenly seemed like a far more attractive proposition. 

But once spurned, twice shy. PGI needed to make amends, and that job fell to MWO‘s brand new community manager. 

“Daeron I would say is a big part in why it has happened,” fellow Cauldron member Krasnopesky tells me. “I agree,” adds Bear_cl4w. “Daeron is a familiar face in the community due to his ties with No Guts No Galaxy and his recent hiring with PGI, but it was less about the individual and more about the message: they were asking us for help.”

This first step to mending fences meant that the Gulag was back on board. Only, they couldn’t be called the Gulag anymore. To avoid all the negative historical connotations, and to represent their new partnership with PGI, the Gulag “had to lose the edgy name.” 

The Cauldron, as the group calls themselves now, got straight to work fixing all of MechWarrior Online‘s many ailments. “The Cauldron has been sort of set to high gear,” Bear_cl4w says. “Rather than tackling one part of the game, we intend to re-balance as much as we are able to. Or as much as PGI currently can do.”

Made Better By Real MechWarriors

Mechwarrior Online May 2021 Patch Review
Watch this video on YouTube.

Certain aspects of MWO are just beyond the Cauldron’s abilities to change. Fundamental aspects of the game--such as the team deathmatch format, the 12v12 matches, and user interface--require engineers on PGI’s end to alter, which are in terribly short supply given the company’s focus on MechWarrior 5. But anything that can basically be boiled down to a number on a spreadsheet is fair game, and the Cauldron loves its numbers.

They’ve also got a plan. “The Cauldron is going about it as strategically as possible,” adds Bear_cl4w. “For example, our April patch was the big weapons pass and some light quirk changes, and for May, there is a map rework coming from the recently added map guy PGI hired, Francois. But after every big step, there will be an iteration on the previous step. So for May, it’s a big mobility step, small weapon iteration, and some more light quirk work.”

May’s recent patch notes make Bear_cl4w a man of his words. April’s weapon changes get slight adjustments, but there are also some big developments when it comes to ‘Mech mobility. Old, outdated designs like the Centurion, Hunchback, and Firestarter have all received massive agility enhancements, while designs like the Jagermech, Jenner, and Cicada have all received armor and structure buffs.

It’s no exaggeration that these changes make all these old ‘Mechs feel like new again. I’m actually excited to take these old gals out for a spin, and I’m not the only one. Feedback on both Reddit and the MechWarrior Online forums has been universally positive, not just for the ‘Mech reworks but for the reworked Canyon map as well.

What’s next for the Cauldron and MechWarrior Online? Once again, Bear_cl4w lays out the near-term plan. “We are getting some significant stuff this year and we’ll push for as much as we ourselves and PGI can do. Our intended path is weapons, agility, quirks, rescale, skill tree.”

Not everything will come at once, but rescaling certain ‘Mechs to be smaller or larger than others (the Shadow Hawk has been annoyingly tall in MechWarrior Online for some time now), as well as a simplified skill tree will only help to bring more players back to the game and maybe even get new players to give MechWarrior Online a try. 

Courtesy of PGI

Before I heap all the credit for MechWarrior Online‘s revival entirely on the Cauldron, it should be noted that PGI has been uncharacteristically generous with its events recently. Last month, they gave away the Mad Cat Mk II-B, a powerhouse of the old meta with its twin UAC/5 and twin UAC/10s. For May, PGI is giving away the Timber Wolf-C, a laser-vomit specialist and one of the ‘Mechs that benefited greatly from the recent mobility pass. And even if you don’t play enough to get the free ‘Mechs (which honestly doesn’t take too many matches even if you’re of average skill), there’s still tons of free C-bills, skill points, MC, and Premium Time up for grabs.

But just by the very nature of the game, players wouldn’t come back to acquire these new ‘Mechs if they didn’t think there’d be anyone to use them against. The Cauldron has changed the perception of MechWarrior Online as a dead game without a future into something much brighter. 

For the past seven months, MechWarrior Online’s player count has only gone up. In my own experience, the time spent waiting for the matchmaker to find players for a game has gone down. And when those games actually start, I’m far more likely to see new and interesting custom loadouts that nobody has ever seen before. it honestly feels like a whole new game.

MechWarrior 5’s release on Steam in the coming days is sure to bring renewed interest to MechWarrior Online. When those players come, they’ll be met with a game being made better by the very same MechWarriors they’re facing online. Just as it should be.