Category Archives: Historical

Bad ‘Mechs – Yeoman

Bad 'Mechs - Yeoman

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Sergeant Bixonnen had fallen and couldn’t get up.

It wasn’t entirely her fault. Being struck by counter-battery fire isn’t expected to be a walk in the park for anyone, let alone a 60-ton walking death machine. What complicated the issue for her was that her Yeoman didn’t have arms--not really. Although labeled arms on her damage schematic, the boxy protrusions just contained a pair of long-range missile launchers that gave her ‘Mech impressive fire support capabilities.

When it was standing. Laying on its back, her Yeoman was little more than a 60-ton paperweight.

The irony was that she really wasn’t all that damaged. The likely Long Tom blast (she couldn’t say for sure, but the size of the explosion seemed a big hint) had removed a significant amount of her frontal armor, but the Yeoman was fairly well protected for an artillery ‘Mech. Far better than the LRM Carriers that her external cameras confirmed were smoldering wrecks around her. But she might as well have been a smoldering wreck for all the good her ablative protection did. 

Bixonnen knew that it was theoretically possible to right her ‘Mech without the help of upper limbs. She’d seen Solaris fighters do it, and amputee infantry did it all the time. At least, they did on the inspirational holos that she’d often watch before drifting off to sleep. A lot of them performed a sort of martial arts trick that she didn’t think was possible at 60 tons, but the rest of them just had to roll over onto their front, put one leg underneath, and then push. 

She tried just as she saw on the holos, envisioning herself rocking side-to-side a few times before finally tipping onto her front. The only problem was that she had two giant boxes on either side that prevented her from so much as budging. All she managed to do was scrape yet more armor off her backside. 

“Fire support, fire support, calling for grid coordinate zero alpha three six nine, fire for effect!” 

It was Captain Scarl. It sounded like the front lines were taking a pounding, but there was little she could do about it. 

“Sorry sir, this is Fire Lance Charlie, we’ve been hit by counter-battery fire. The firebase is a wreck and I’m flat on my back, over.” 

Scarl’s response was equal parts urgency and fury. “Bixonnen, I don’t care if you’re fending off the third coming of Kerensky! We’re getting slaughtered out here, and we need fire support NOW!”

Bixonnen flinched in her neurohelmet. She once again checked her external sensors to confirm that the three LRM Carriers and both J-27 Ordinance Trucks were either on fire or had been replaced by craters. Support staff were only now reaching the wounded while others wandered away from the blast zone like zombies, clearly shell-shocked. They wouldn’t be much help either.

Then an idea came to her. Bixonnen checked the requested grid coordinates and did a quick mental calculation, using all she’d learned in her ballistics and classical mechanics courses to calculate the theoretical range of her weapons. Then she reprogrammed her fire control computer to remove the missile safeties and to follow a non-standard flight path. Finally, she typed in the grid coordinates and squeezed the triggers on both her control sticks.

LRM’s erupted out of her Yeoman vertically but quickly bent in a ballistic arc toward the front lines. After the first flight left the tubes, she waited for the automatic reloader to clunk the next flight in before squeezing both triggers again. And again. And again. And again, until she’d completely emptied her ammo bins.

The radio crackled for a moment before Captain Scarl’s far calmer voice came through. “Great work, Fire Lance Charlie. We’ve got ‘em on the run. Drinks are on me tonight.” 

Bixonnen relaxed back into her command seat, satisfied with a job well done. And also because she wasn’t sure how to get out of her ‘Mech in this position and felt it’d be best just to wait until the astechs came to extract her.

Yeoman : Bad 'Mechs a Sarna Tale | Battletopia Stories
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Yeoman TRO 3060

Following Curtis Militech‘s debut with the highly successful Wraith BattleMech, the company’s next offerings targeted two requirements of any modern military: training and fire support. The Eagle offered a cheap trooper ‘Mech that could be produced en-masse and used to equip training battalions or fill out empty billets in garrison regiments. The Yeoman, introduced in 3060, offered a cost-effective platform that could provide more long-range warheads than older platforms like the Archer or Crusader.

Curtiss Militech sold the Yeoman to the Free Worlds League Military (FWLM) for most of its production run, with the occasional sale to some of the better-funded mercenary companies that operated within the League. It was seen as a serviceable design by most, with many commanders appreciating the increase in bombardment capacity despite the decreased cost. 

Pilots, however, were less enthused with the design. A lack of defensive weapons and no arms meant that the Yeoman was virtually helpless when enemies closed to within 210 meters. The lack of articulating limbs also limited the Yeoman‘s usefulness in logistics (where a big pair of mechanical arms could be quite helpful in moving munitions) and also made it exceptionally difficult for the pilot to right the machine should it ever topple over. 

Yeoman Mini by David Kerber

At the expense of these arguably non-critical components, the Yeoman does offer several mechanical advantages that further improve its fire support capabilities. Although early models could not torso twist as the legs integrated directly with the large missile pods that served as the ‘Mech’s “arms,” the extremely durable gear-shaped hips could be locked in place and its four-toed feet could dig into the ground to ensure the ‘Mech’s stability when firing volleys of 50 missiles at a time. 

As functional as they may be, these features couldn’t quite overcome the negative reaction to the Yeoman‘s outlandish appearance. Of the many nicknames given to the Yeoman by MechWarriors, the “boom box” is the most charitable. 

Only two variants of the Yeoman were ever produced. The original YMN-6Y came armed with twin Zeus LRM-15 launchers and two Zeus LRM-10 launchers mounted in the arms. Targeting data was provided by the reliable Dynatec MissileTracX system, while Curtiss’s own CurtisComm Mark IV provided communications. Ten double heat sinks kept the ‘Mech cool even when tasked with continuous fire suppression, and eight and a half tons of Kallon FWL Special ferro-fibrous armor provided sufficient protection for a ‘Mech that wasn’t expected to see front-line combat. A Pitban 240 engine gave the Yeoman a maximum running speed (which was more like a waddle given the width of the ‘Mech’s legs) of 64.8 kph.

Yeoman by DemonicForge (custom mini)

Yeoman by DemonicForge

Curtiss kept costs on the Yeoman low by utilizing standard components throughout the machine save for its endo steel chassis and ferro-fibrous armor. Conversely, The YMN-10-OR spared no expense during the tumultuous days of the Jihad. While the Zeus LRM-10 launchers were retained, the LRM-15 launchers were removed in favor of four MML-5s. These gave the Yeoman the ability to fire short-range missiles, providing a much-needed defensive capacity against close-in opponents. These state-of-the-art weapons were augmented with an XL Gyro, jump jets for added mobility, and additional armor protection.

Yeoman Mini by Psycho on Camo Specs Online

Mini by Psycho on Camo Specs Online

The Yeoman‘s tenure as the Free World’s standard artillery ‘Mech would be relatively short-lived. The League dissolved in 3079, with Curtiss quickly securing a contract with the Duchy of Graham-Marik to continue production from its factory on Paradise III. That factory would later fall victim to an atomic strike launched by the Principality of Regulus on February 26, 3080. With its production lines destroyed and Curtiss Militech unable to fulfill orders, parent company Curtiss Hydroponis liquidated Militech’s assets in 3085. The Wraith was sold to Hellespont Industrials, which continues to produce the ‘Mech to this day, while the Yeoman and Eagle designs were sold to the Duchy of Tamarind-Abbey. The Duchy manufactured a handful of new Yeomans over the years, but production numbers never rivaled Curtiss Militech’s, leading to the gradual phaseout of the design. 

Military reductions over the Republic years meant that Yeomans were often replaced by even less expensive LRM Carriers and other conventional armored units, while after Gray Monday and the reformation of the League in 3139, resurgent rivals such as the Crusader, Archer, and Longbow became more attractive purchases for the FWLM. Most remaining Yeomans can be found in garrisons within the Duchy of Graham-Marik, or the few mercenary units still operating this quirky design.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrup.

stay syrupy

Keeping BattleTech Consistent – An Interview Eric Salzman, Fact-Check Director At CGL

The year of BattleTech‘s 40th anniversary continues with yet another interview with brand stewards Catalyst Game Labs. This time we managed to snag Eric Salzman, a longtime fan who broke into writing and then ascended to become BattleTech‘s Fact-Check Director. This guy knows more about the universe than I ever will, which is why he’s in charge of keeping everyone else consistent with BattleTech‘s established lore—something we here at Sarna can certainly appreciate.

If you think you’re the “well actually” guy at your gaming table, then this interview is for you. And at the end, you can find out how to maintain the lore of the entire BattleTech community by joining the Fact-Check team. Enjoy.

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Bad ‘Mechs – Thunder Fox

Bad 'Mechs - Thunder Fox

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“All I’m saying is, if the WOBbies are gone and the good times are here, why are we retooling a ‘Mech factory in the ass-end of Moscow?” 

Undago sighed, once again reminding his comrade that peace was never sustained without force of arms. “And besides, you still want a paycheck, right?” 

“Hah, you got that right,” Milia replied with a snort. “And it’s in this new ‘Republic of the Sphere’ script too. They haven’t even got a design figured out yet.” 

“It’s just numbers in a ledger on some server anyway,” Undago said. “I hear they’ll call be calling it the ‘Stone’ thanks to our fearless leader.” 

“Great. ‘I’ll give you two Stones for a hot dog,'” Milia seemed to ruminate on the sentence for several moments. “I can’t tell if that’s an offer or a threat.” 

Now it was Undago’s time to snort with derision. “Maybe that is the point.” 

The two silently returned to their task configuring the massive robotic arms that would soon have Skobel MechWorks churning out new ‘Mechs for the Republic Armed Forces. The facility itself was ancient, dating back to the original Star League where it would produce the Mercury and Jackrabbit for the SLDF. Then it had been Excaliburs for ComStar, then the Legacy and Omega for the Word of Blake. 

The Word. Undago stared at the screen as he involuntarily recalled the occupation, the camps, the re-education treatments, being forced to work day in and day out repairing WOB ‘Mechs as they fought tooth and nail against Stone’s coalition. He remembered the Word of Blake ‘Mechs that held both his and every other engineers’ families hostage. And the night that ‘Mechs turned their weapons on—

“Hey, you alright?” 

Undago snapped back to reality. “Yeah, yeah, sorry. Just… remembering.” 

Milia nodded but said nothing. She’d had to drag Undago out from dark memories more than once. She was usually successful, each time offering her silent support. Undago was silently grateful each time. 

“What are we even making here?” Milia asked. 

“A new design,” Undago grabbed a holopad and brought up the schematics to show her. “It’s called the Thunder Fox. Quadruped design, but other than that, it’s a simple standard chassis and fusion engine. Off-the-shelf parts keep Skobel’s per-unit cost to a minimum.” 

“And the Republic gets a cheap ‘Mech that they can fill out all those busted regiments with,” Milia nodded. “Smart.” 

“Even smarter, Skobel didn’t even have to pay for development.” Undago pointed at the Thunder Fox‘s frog-like skeleton and the weapon mounts next to its angular cockpit. “I’ve heard more than one rumor that the chassis and weapon coupling ports are essentially lifted from another design. But nobody is suing because everyone wants to play nice with Republic procurement.” 

“Or there’s nobody left to sue.” 

Milia meant it to be an off-hand comment, but it had sparked another memory within Undago. The big man froze as he stared at the Thunder Fox‘s schematics, recalling the night his family had been gunned down by a WOB ‘Mech with four legs. It had a more bulbous armored skin and rounded actuators, but the engineer in him saw the skeleton, the same weapon junctions, and the same deadly intent. 

“Hey! Are you—”

Before Milia could ask if he was alright, Undago grabbed the holopad and brought up the schematics for the Blue Flame, a 45-ton Blakist ‘Mech. He then superimposed it atop the Thunder Fox. Milia gasped as she saw the same thing Undago had; the two chassis was nearly identical.

“You were right,” Undago muttered with quiet dread. “The Word of Blake is no longer here to sue Skobel for copying its design.” He then got up and walked away as Milia stared at the schematics. He didn’t say a single word to anyone else at Skobel. He merely left his security pass at the door and never returned to work.

Thunder Fox : Bad 'Mechs a Sarna Tale | Battletopia Stories
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Thunder Fox Courtesy of Bishop Steiner

Courtesy of Bishop Steiner

With the destruction of the Word of Blake and the capture of Terra, Devlin Stone‘s nascent Republic of the Sphere conveniently found itself in possession of significant ‘Mech manufacturing facilities it could use to refill units devastated in the fight for humanity’s homeworld. Unfortunately, most of those facilities were manufacturing ‘Mechs that were now heavily associated with the most reviled group the Inner Sphere had ever seen, perhaps barring Stefan Amaris and the Rim Worlds Republic. To ask dispossessed MechWarriors to begin piloting ‘Mechs so recently taken from their villainous foe was simply not an option.

In the case of the Thunder Fox, a morally dubious solution was found. Rather than make a completely new ‘Mech, Skobel MechWorks would take an existing Word of Blake design and modify it so no one would assume it had been birthed by the Word. That original ‘Mech was the Blue Flame, a 45-ton trooper ‘Mech commonly seen in Word of Blake forces during the Jihad. 

How Skobel came to possess the schematics of the Blue Flame was only revealed during the trial of one Lara Harman, the lead designer of the Thunder Fox. Previously an engineer at Mitchell Vehicles Interstellar, Harman left her former employer in 3075. Whether she deliberately stole the Blue Flame‘s schematics in an act of corporate espionage or merely retained them in violation of her nondisclosure agreement was never proven in court. What is known is Harman used those schematics to quickly develop the Thunder Fox for Skobel MechWorks who then began manufacturing the ‘Mech for the Republic Armed Forces. By the time the ‘Mech’s progenitor came to light, the contracts had long been signed and deliveries were well underway. Harman was later convicted of war crimes and profiteering, and the Republic buried the scandal to ensure its new main medium ‘Mech would still have eager pilots.

Thunder Fox MWDA

The Republic was entirely successful in burying the scandal, and the Thunder Fox became the backbone of the early RAF. It was beloved by technicians for its simple construction and easy maintenance, while pilots appreciated a modern design with state-of-the-art weapons. Production would continue for half a century with the design being licensed to both Defiance Industries and Luthien Armor Works.

Introduced in 3077 (although full-scale production wouldn’t begin until a few years later), the TFT-A9 Thunder Fox had a DAV 220-rated standard fusion engine mated to a modified version of the Dennenbach-Mitchell Series 8 chassis using standard materials instead of endo steel. Although slow for a 55-ton design at 64 kph, the Thunder Fox‘s four jump jets gave it a degree of maneuverability. Nine tons of ferro-fibrous armor protected the ‘Mech with all ammunition stored in a cellular storage panel in the right torso. 

The Thunder Fox was armed with the best weapons the Republic could source cheaply at the time of its construction. This included a Corean Light Gauss Rifle, a Diverse Optics Sunbeam Extended-Range Large Laser, a Diverse Optics Extended-Range Small Laser, and a Guided Technologies 2nd-Gen Streak SRM-4 launcher. All weapons were mounted on either side of the Thunder Fox‘s torso in swivel mounts.

Thunder Fox TGT-L8

Although well-liked by pilots, the Thunder Fox did see some complaints over its relatively light main weapon. The Light Gauss Rifle, produced by the Free Worlds League over a decade before the Thunder Fox‘s introduction, managed to achieve the same tonnage savings as the Clans did with their version of the Gauss Rifle. However, the caliber of slugs fired in the Light Gauss Rifle was half that of a normal one, resulting in twice as much ammo being stored per ton but dealing roughly half as much damage per shot in return. 

Analysis of the Light Gauss Rifle’s performance revealed it to have a damage-per-ton ratio roughly on par with an AC/5, which was considered rather anemic by the late 3070s. It did offer a superior range, though, and when combined with the ER Large Laser and the stability of four legs, the TFT-A9 proved itself an ideal sniper.

Production at Luthien Armor Works resulted in the TFT-C3 in 3085. A C3 command ‘Mech, the Light Gauss and Streak missile launcher were removed in favor of a C3 master computer, Medium X-Pulse Laser, and ER Medium Laser. A light fusion engine was used to free up space for a Cockpit Command Console, making the TFT-C3 excellent in both training and C&C duties.

Thunder Fox TRO 3085

The Lyran Commonwealth’s TFT-L8 was introduced by Defiance Industries in 3082. This Thunder Fox opted for an XL 275 engine to provide a top speed of 86 kph and make room for a heavier weapons armament: two Snub-Nose PPCs and an LB 10-X autocannon. An additional jump jet was installed to further improve the TFT-L8’s mobility over its cousins.

Production would expand into the 3100s and the design would find its way into multiple factions before Gray Monday, each with its own subtle variations. Some would alter the missile launcher in favor of additional energy weapons, while others would swap the Light Gauss Rifle for other projectile-based weaponry. Almost a dozen variants were known to exist by the 3130s, although their schematics can be difficult to find.

Much like how the Word of Blake’s destruction led to the Thunder Fox, the destruction of the Republic has likely resulted in the Thunder Fox‘s original factory being retooled to manufacture a design less reviled by Clan Wolf MechWarriors. But with such widespread manufacture beyond Terra, it seems the Thunder Fox is likely to survive well into the future. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Hellfire

Bad 'Mechs - Hellfire

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Another explosion rocked MechWarrior Creden’s Hellfire as his star continued a fighting retreat. The Blood Spirits had launched their assault on York soon after the bulk of the Star Adder touman had left to attack the Snow Ravens, leaving a contingent of solahma and second-line clusters to defend the planet. 

Both Creden and his ‘Mech were past their prime by most Clan standards. Creden was 44, but if you counted back to when his Hellfire had started life as a Lupus, his ‘Mech was over 200 years old. Even the best Star Adder engineers hadn’t been able to build out the quirks his ancient machine had acquired over its many decades of combat service. Throw in the electromagnetic interference from the new Heavy Lasers, and Creden barely considered his ‘Mech combat capable.

But fight he must. A Blood Spirit Zorya bravely fired its autocannon at Creden at just over 600 meters, its flechette rounds shaving armor off his Hellfire’s jutting chest but failing to find a breach. Creden returned fire with his LRM racks, the swarm of thirty missiles throwing up a cloud of dirt and smoke. Creden didn’t have time to determine whether his missiles had finished the small tank or not. He fired his two extended-range medium lasers into the cloud–just to be sure–before turning to a new threat. 

A Crimson Langur came bounding over a crest, lasers firing wildly at the Star Adders below. With his missile rack reloading and his ER Medium Lasers rebuilding charge, Creden switched his target interlock to fire his Heavy Lasers. Although powerful, the interference caused by the lasers’ massive discharge shorted many of his ‘Mech’s systems. For this reason, Creden tended to use the Heavy Lasers only as a last resort.

Muttering a small prayer to the Great Father under his breath, Creden pulled the trigger on his weapons. The green beam of the Heavy Large laser connected his Hellfire and the Blood Spirit Crimson Langur for a brief moment before a cloud of vaporized metal seemed to obscure his sensors. The other two beams went wildly into the cloud as Creden’s HUD began to flicker. A warning light on his damage display confirmed internal damage to his sensors, yet he’d not taken a hit to any of the sensor cowlings covering his ‘Mech. 

“Stravag,” Creden cursed. It was the damned lasers. He’d begged his technician to harden the Hellfire’s electrical systems, and each time they’d assured him that there was nothing more they could do. 

While he was cursing his technician, a beam from the Langur struck his Hellfire, disabling the ammo feeder for his missile racks. All three LRM-10 systems went dark on his wire display, and Creden cursed again as he slammed the button that would eject his ammo stores. They were just a liability if they couldn’t be fired–even worse than those damned Heavy Lasers. 

As the Crimson Langur closed, Creden fired again with his full complement of lasers. His cockpit instantly became a sauna as the Hellfire’s fusion engine revved to meet the energy demand of so much collimated light. Unfortunately, the massive energy discharge proved too much for the old machine. 

Creden’s HUD flickered, then went dark. Through the cockpit glass, he could see his two extended-range Mediums strike the Crimson Langur dead in the chest, but his Heavy Lasers somehow all fired in separate directions. Worse, one of the Medium Heavy Laser tubes exploded as the heat spike melted its cooling sleeve. 

Recognizing a losing battle, Creden considered an expeditious retreat, only to be thwarted by two things. First, a Blood Spirit Stooping Hawk had appeared on his flank and fired enough autocannon rounds into his left torso to shatter his Heavy Large Laser cowling. Second, his Hellfire’s damage display revealed his MASC system had failed along with his HUD during the energy surge caused by his accursed lasers.

Creden shouted in rage. It was more at his failing ‘Mech than at the enemy, but he let his external speakers carry the sound as he charged into the Stooping Hawk’s fire.

Hellfire : Bad 'Mechs a Sarna Tale | Battletopia Stories
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Hellfire MWO Blueprints

There are many instances throughout human history where a weapon system was invented before it had a platform truly capable of supporting it. The atomic bomb is perhaps the best example. Ideally, the launching aircraft wants to be as far away as possible once the bomb detonates, but at the time of the bomb’s invention, all that was available were relatively slow high-altitude bombers. This resulted in the bomber still being within the shock wave radius when the bomb detonated, which although not catastrophic for the crew, was certainly less than ideal.

The Hellfire was likewise an unideal platform for a new weapon system. Clan Star Adder invented the Heavy Laser at the end of the 3050s but required a platform to put them to use. The solution was to refit mothballed first-generation Lupus OmniMechs, convert them into BattleMechs, and load them up with a collection of the new Heavy Lasers. The resultant ‘Mech was extremely powerful but also extremely temperamental.


In 3058, Khan Cassius N’Buta ordered Lupuses to be refitted en masse to make use of the new Heavy Lasers and tasked Kappa Provisional Galaxy Commander Jenica Turgidson with overseeing the refit’s development. Galaxy Commander Jenica Turgidson in turn imagined a largely defensive heavy ‘Mech for second-line Galaxies, resulting in a unit that was slower and far more heavily armed than the original Lupus on which the Hellfire is based. 

The original Hellfire was armed with one Series 4D-2 Heavy Large Laser, two Series 6A Heavy Medium Lasers, and two Series 14 k. II Heavy Small Lasers. This assortment of Heavy Lasers was further augmented by two ER Medium Lasers, which had been in common use throughout the Clans for over two centuries, and three “Longbow” III LRM-10 launchers for adequate long-range firepower. 

Even if the Hellfire were equipped with standard lasers, such a massive quantity of weapons would tax the 17 double heat sinks tasked with keeping the ‘Mech cool. Unfortunately, Heavy Lasers were vastly more heat-intensive than either the extended range or pulse varieties and massively overtaxed the Hellfire‘s cooling capacity. Worse, the new weapons also arrived with several known defects. Best known is the inaccuracy of the Heavy Lasers thanks to the firing delay caused by the massive charge required in their operation. On top of that, the enormous discharge created electromagnetic interference which affected the firing ‘Mech’s targeting systems. Hellfire Crusader Clans

Sometimes the Heavy Lasers simply blew up during combat, their focusing tubes unable to endure the incredible heat and vast power required in their operation. It would take a decade for Clan Goliath Scorpion to correct this shortcoming, although the Improved Heavy Laser is still at risk of explosion should the focusing tube become damaged in combat.

Intended for defense, input from Star Adder MechWarriors noted the Hellfire‘s 64kph top speed as a detriment in running battles and asked to improve the ‘Mech’s engine. Unwilling to compromise on the Hellfire‘s weapons, Jenica Turgidson added MASC to provide the Hellfire with a temporary running speed of 86kph, albeit in short bursts. Nine tons of ferro-fibrous armor provided adequate protection, while a standard 240 engine gave the ‘Mech tremendous staying power even in the face of damage that would disable most Clan OmniMechs.

Hellfire 3067U

However, the addition of MASC to the platform resulted in another unforeseen detriment. Either due to the age of the Lupus chassis or interference from the Heavy Lasers, Hellfire MASC systems saw a 15 percent greater failure rate than other ‘Mechs. Star Adder engineers attempted to solve this issue after the Hellfire‘s adoption but were unsuccessful. Thus, Hellfire pilots are informed to use their acceleration signal circuitry sparingly or in dire circumstances.

The Hellfire would develop two alternate versions throughout its lifespan. The Hellfire 2 served as a testbed for the Advanced Tactical Missile system in the late 3060s. The ‘Mech would retain the Heavy Large and Heavy Medium lasers, replace the Heavy Small Lasers with a single ER Small Laser, and replace the LRM-10 launchers with two ATM 6s. The ‘Mech would also forgo MASC in favor of a 300 XL engine, providing a top speed of 86 kph without the possibility of myomer failure.

Hellfire MWO

The Hellfire 3 was developed through an alliance with Clan Hell’s Horses, which sought to refit the machine to perform dedicated support for its conventional forces. This saw the ‘Mech’s weapons stripped in favor of two ER Flamers, two regular Flamers, two SRM-6s, and four Plasma Cannons. These provided an unparalleled ability to eliminate infantry and conventional vehicles while being somewhat vulnerable to opposing ‘Mechs. The 240 standard engine was replaced by an extra-light version, and the MASC system was retained.

The Hellfire‘s story stops with the Wars of Reaving. The Adders are understood to have eventually secured total control of Arcadia, but it is unknown whether the factory that produced them continues to refit Lupuses. Even if it did, the potential number of Hellfires could never exceed the total number of viable Lupus OmniMechs, which among the Home Clans, is believed to be extremely limited. With such limited numbers and a reputation for being both a hanger queen and battlefield volatility, it seems likely that the Hellfire met its end at some point within the last half-century. Perhaps examples remain among the Hell’s Horses, but those are likely few and far between.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Art, AI, And MechWarrior Underwear – An Interview With Catalyst’s Brent Evans

As a bit of a treat for year’s end, we sat down with BattleTech Art Director Brent Evans to have a chat on a variety of subjects. We talk about redesigning classic ‘Mechs, where AI fits into your next BattleTech campaign, and why we haven’t seen more AeroSpace fighters get the redesign treatment (and why Ray is having nightmares about it).

As always, Brent had a lot to say, so I won’t waste any more time getting to the good stuff. Enjoy!

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From Covers To Cards: Classic BattleTech Art And The Collectors Who Hunt Them

Doug Shuler Warhammer

Warhammer by Doug Shuler

I recently saw Eye of the Beholder, a documentary on Amazon that looks at the art of Dungeons & Dragons. While it was fascinating looking at how D&D’s art has evolved over the years, one of the more interesting facets of the documentary was the existence of a massive market for D&D art collectors. Original pieces were selling for thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, with collectors adorning their walls with the paintings that became the covers of D&D’s classic sourcebooks.

I never would have thought that BattleTech had a similar secondary market until I received an email from Michael Todd (whom you might remember from various impressive projects including a fan-made TRO that I remain quite fond of). Michael reached out to inform me of an incredible find: six original BattleTech paintings that were originally created in the ’80s for NOVA Games’ BattleTech Science Fiction Combat Book

Doug Shuler Locust

Locust by Doug Shuler

This is a pretty obscure piece of BattleTech nostalgia, so I’ll provide a brief refresher. NOVA Games had a series of books that were essentially duels between MechWarriors. Each player would have pilot/’Mech stat card and a book that corresponded with various actions. The players’ choices would determine where they’d flip the book to, which would present the players with more choices and more possible outcomes. All those outcomes would be recorded on the stat cards until one ‘Mech emerged victorious. 

The advent of modern computer games essentially put these books out of business, but we can thank their brief existence for producing some of BattleTech‘s earliest full-color art. NOVA Games commissioned Doug Shuler to produce the covers and interior art for the six books, each of which corresponded with an Unseen ‘Mech: the Shadow Hawk, Wasp, Rifleman, Warhammer, Griffin, and Locust

Doug Shuler Rifleman

Rifleman by Doug Shuler

You can see the covers on Sarna of course, but digitized images don’t really do them justice. These pieces are gorgeous, as Michael found out personally. 

The story of their discovery is quite the tale. Michael is a collector (as many BattleTech fans are) who merely wanted to find the remaining four NOVA BattleTech Combat Books he didn’t already possess. And as any good collector would, Michael figured the best way to enhance his complete collection was to get each book signed by the original artist. So he reached out to Doug Shuler and after some initial correspondence, he agreed to sign the books and mail them back. 

But then Michael made another discovery. He noted that each image was copyrighted to Shuler personally and not NOVA Games. This led him to inquire if Shuler also still possessed the original paintings that became the books’ covers. Shuler did, and this sparked a months-long negotiation for Michael to purchase all six paintings. 

“Once you’ve beheld an original work, all the mass-produced stuff just becomes pale reflections. I’ve been the mountaintop and am now forever changed.”

Michael didn’t provide me with a final sale price, but he did say he had to take out a loan on his credit card. On top of that, Michael sent the money via an unsecured cell phone (not necessarily the safest thing in our current cyberpunk dystopia), but thankfully, Shuler received the cash without issue. A few months later, Michael had six truly unique pieces of art—something he described in reverent tones.

Michael with Shuler Art

Michael holding Doug Shuler’s Griffin and Shadow Hawk

“At this point, all I’ve seen are the published NOVA covers and a set of low-resolution mobile phone pictures of the originals. To say I’m nervous is an understatement,” wrote Michael in our email correspondence. “I’m literally trembling as I open the box. I don’t consider myself a religious man, but when I first beheld Shuler’s original works, it was like a religious experience. It’s the difference between seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and seeing a poster of it on your wall. They are two completely different works; two completely different experiences. And there is no going back. Once you’ve beheld an original work, all the mass-produced stuff just becomes pale reflections. I’ve been the mountaintop and am now forever changed.”

How To Get To The Top Of The Mountain

Let’s be clear about one thing right off the bat: collecting art isn’t cheap. Michael paid thousands for a series of six paintings, and from the prices I’ve seen, that’s not out of the ordinary for larger pieces—especially for art used on things like sourcebooks or novels. Buying a BattleTech painting isn’t exactly like buying a Rembrandt, but it’s difficult to start an art collection on a budget.

We’ll start with Heritage Auctions to give you a good idea. Here’s the cover of Mercenary’s Star by Boris Vallejo featuring Grayson Carlyle and his future wife, Lori Kalmar. This painting was originally sold back in 2007 and since then has received several offers, the largest of which was $4,000. 

Akuma by Dave Seely

Akuma by Dave Seely

For something under four figures, we head to Comic Art for this original oil painting of an Akuma by Dave Seely. This was originally done for the BattleTech CCG back in the ’90s, but as far as I’m aware, was never used for an actual card. This piece is entirely unique, but it’s smaller than the Mercenary’s Star cover and it didn’t get the chance to be associated with an official product. Seeley is selling this piece for $650. 

Ebay is another great resource, but what you find there can be hit-or-miss. For example, here’s a collection of five pen-and-ink drawings for BattleTech and Call of Cthulu by Earl Geier for $200. There’s also a collection of Dana Knutson sketches of various AeroSpace and ground assets for $30 each. 

As you can see, what you find ranges from novel covers to trading card art to original sketches that may never have been published. And while these official channels might be pricey, I’ve heard from several people that the best way to get a deal is by going straight to the source. 

Batu by Dana Knutson

Batu by Dana Knutson

Michael’s story isn’t unique. A lot of artists still have the original paintings, and BattleTech is a franchise that has produced a lot of art. Some of that art is just sitting in the artist’s archive, either because the artist simply doesn’t have the time to put their older pieces up for auction or because they don’t know what their work is worth. 

I spoke to Greg, a collector with a wall of BattleTech art he estimates to be valued between $15,000 and $20,000 (after adjusting for inflation). Collecting for over five years, Greg told me that most of his 36 pieces came from direct negotiations with the artist. However, that can come with its own set of headaches.

“Getting it from the artist directly is almost always the best price,” he explained. “Highlander Gambit probably has the best story. After sitting in the artist’s studio for a couple of decades I bought it through their agent. They dropped it off at a third-party shipping store that gave it to the wrong delivery service. The artist backtracked through all possible options and eventually found it in the ‘lost’ packages section at the wrong company’s local distribution center.”

Greg's wall of BattleTech art

Greg’s wall of BattleTech art

Besides potential mailing mistakes, other obstacles could be that the original artist simply didn’t keep their original works or has already sold them to someone else. Also, negotiating with an artist can sometimes be a lengthy experience. Michael told me that it took him roughly six months before he and Doug Shuler finally arrived at a sale.

“Most artists—most creatives really—just aren’t like the rest of us. They operate on their own time, have their own priorities, and most of them are much more interested in creating more art, rather than spending time corresponding with people they, frankly, don’t know. So, you’ve got to be patient, keep things simple, and, above all else, don’t overflow their inbox with a flood of messages,” he explained. “In short, respect their time.”

Greg Wright 3026 Cover

Greg’s TRO 3026 Cover

Another issue is competition. The reason why these auctions feature prices pushing into the thousands is because there’s demand for original art. “I believe that as with everything else around the IP, there is more interest now than there was when I started,” Greg told me, although he admits it’s still nothing like what you see in the Magic: The Gathering or Japanese mecha art communities. 

One way to limit your expenditure is to limit the scope of your collection. “I think the way in which pieces have been sold over the years leads to more shall we say focused collections where the person has some things of interest but may not be actively expanding,” related Greg. “Two examples that come to mind: in the Clan Invasion Kickstarter’s Khan & Kerensky-tier Discord, someone there showed off their collection of all of the WarShip art from TRO: 2750 which they snagged when Noble Knight Games first listed it.

Puma CCG by Jim Pavelec, via Greg

Greg’s Puma by Jim Pavelec

“I also had someone reach out to me over Facebook to show some photos of some TRO art they had in their possession. A friend of theirs had managed to get the TRO art for the Black Knight and Highlander at a GenCon in BattleTech‘s infancy. Again both of these would generate significant community interest if they came back on the market but I do not believe this person was trying to pursue any additional works.” In other words, they got their favorite ‘Mechs and got out before prices skyrocketed. 

Of course, there’s always just throwing money at the problem. Michael put me in touch with another collector named Steven who has only recently started collecting BattleTech art. He estimates his collection of five works would fetch between $7,000 and $8,000 at auction, but that’s just a mere fraction of his total fantasy/sci-fi art collection, which he guesses to be worth over $700,000.

“I’d say much of the competition for most choice BattleTech art already took place before I arrived on the scene,” he told me. “Fortunately, there aren’t so many collectors that everything has been scooped up! It’s just a matter of persevering.”

“My jaw almost dropped when I was told he still had the original art for it—a Timber Wolf / Mad Cat original cover is pretty much a grail in this hobby.”

Steve Art Christopher Moeller

Steve’s Warriors of Kerensky by Christopher Moeller

His first piece was Christopher Moeller’s Dropship Captain Archetype from the MechWarrior Companion sourcebook. That came from an Ebay auction, but it was quickly followed up by reaching out directly to Moeller (through his representative) for any potential pieces he had left. That led to Steven purchasing what is now his pride and joy, the painting that served as the cover to The Clans:  Warriors of Kerensky

“My jaw almost dropped when I was told he still had the original art for it—a Timber Wolf / Mad Cat original cover is pretty much a grail in this hobby,” Steve said. “Alas, the Field Manual: Draconis Combine cover is long gone. I’ve always been a Drac at heart.”

Although clearly capable of throwing some big money to close a deal, Steve didn’t amass over half a million in sci-fi art just by spending big at auctions. Like both George and Michael, he recommends reaching out to artists and their representatives to see if you can snag a bargain. You never know when you might find an exclusive piece.

Preserving Art For The Future

There is one other big player in the BattleTech art collecting scene and that’s Catalyst Game Labs. You’d think that the makers of BattleTech would already have a repository of BattleTech art, but the guardians of the BattleTech IP haven’t always been careful about preserving their creative property. Anyone familiar with BattleTech‘s tumultuous legal history might already have an idea of how things got lost over time.

"Slap Chop" by Eldon Cowgur

“Slap Chop” by Eldon Cowgur

I spoke to art director Brent Evans at Catalyst Game Labs who told me the whole sordid story. For much of FASA‘s history, the BattleTech Art Archive was just a storeroom full of paintings, sketches, and other physical media. Later in the ’90s that media was digitized and put onto floppy disks, and then later still, it was all stored in a shipping container in a long-term storage facility. Unfortunately, shipping containers are not the best way to preserve either art or digital files. Throw in some misadventures when FanPro dissolved, and by the early 2010s, there was almost nothing of BattleTech‘s original art left. 

That’s why Brent and the Catalyst team agreed to create a far more comprehensive archiving plan, with multiple backups should the worst ever happen—and it has happened on several occasions. According to Brent, Randall Bills has lost several workstations, and one time, his quad backup lost two hard drives thanks to an errant Windows update. 

"Operation Bulldog Ambush" by Florian Mellies

“Operation Bulldog Ambush” by Florian Mellies

Catalyst now has the hardware to ensure the BattleTech Art Archive can keep images for future generations and is now on the hunt to restore what was lost. That’s why Michael didn’t have to carry that credit card loan for long, and why we may yet see Doug Shuler’s art return in future BattleTech products. 

If you’ve got some old BattleTech art that you’d like to see preserved, you can reach out to Brent at Catalyst Game Labs or fill out the contact form on the company website. Note that the BattleTech Art Archive is for preservation purposes only and is not open to view by the public.

As for Michael, I’m told he’s already on the hunt for more BattleTech art. I suspect he’ll be chasing that high for quite a while.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Phantom

Phantom Bad Mechs

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“MechWarrior Donovan! Report to ‘Mech bay 12 for your new assignment.” 

Donovan immediately excused himself from his Starmates and left the mess hall heading down the corridor that would lead him to the ‘Mech bays. They’d only just been discussing his mysterious assignment, a new ‘Mech design that would replace his aging Mist Lynx. Donovan would miss what was a fairly rare design for a Clan Wolf MechWarrior, but he was told that its replacement would be bigger and better.

And larger it certainly was. The squat, boxy design had none of the elegance of his old Mist Lynx, with a hunched back that extended into a shroud that nearly enveloped the cockpit. The right arm ended in what appeared to be a medium laser, while the left arm had five missile ports--half as many as his Mist Lynx

Donovan was examining the strange ports and lenses that dotted the ‘Mech’s torso when his commanding officer, Star Commander Rachel, appeared with his neurohelmet. “Donovan, good. You will be trained on your new ‘Mech for the rest of the day. This design is called the Phantom by our scientists, and it was made with direct input from Khan Phelan Ward himself.” 

“A design made by Khan Ward? I have heard of his custom ‘Mech, Grinner. This must share its firepower, quiaff?” 

“Well,” Star Commander paused and looked away while she ignored the expected answer to Donnovan’s inquiry. “It is faster and better armored than the Mist Lynx, that is certain, but its available pod space is somewhat less than you are used to.”

“A Mist Lynx is no Timber Wolf,” Donovan said with a chuckle. “How much less pod space?” 

“Approximately 25 percent,” Rachel replied, and Donovan grimaced. “There is more. That lens on the left side of the ‘Mech is for your Targeting Acquisition Gear, and the domed ports on the right contain an active probe and ECM equipment.”

Donovan stared blankly at his Star Commander as she seemed to mentally review a prepared speech. “The Phantom is designed to ensure accurate op-for assessment and to prevent ambushes at the binary and trinary engagement level. Additionally, its high speed allows it to designate targets for artillery bombardment and escape before opposing forces can effectively engage.”

Donovan continued to stare at Star Commander Rachel silently for several seconds. Then, “Star Commander, what is ‘artillery’?”

“This has not been made clear to me,” stated Rachel, flatly. “I am told that Khan Ward has plans to integrate Inner Sphere military tactics with Clan doctrine, and this ‘Mech is the result.” 

“I see,” replied Donovan. “Can it jump?” 

“Neg. But it can outrun a Mist Lynx by more than 30 kilometers per hour.”

Donovan gave a critical sniff. “Well, we cannot argue with the wisdom of a Khan, quineg?”

Rachel smiled, hopeful that this meant Donovan was at least open to the idea of a radical change in tactics. Those hopes were dashed as the rest of the afternoon was spent trying to convince Donovan that he was meant to merely observe his opponents using the Phantom’s advanced sensors rather than engage them himself. Only after he’d run headlong into the blast zone of an Arrow IV impact did Rachel seriously consider requesting a return of his old Mist Lynx

Phantom : Bad 'Mechs a Sarna Tale | Battletopia Stories
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Phantom 3055r

The Phantom is a bizarre ‘Mech by Clan standards, but in hindsight, that was perhaps to be expected from the highly unconventional Clan Wolf. The Phantom takes the idea of the heavy scout to its extreme, eschewing almost all firepower in favor of maximum speed and armor. It is the quintessential team player, requiring assistance from other units (be those complementary ‘Mechs, artillery, or Elementals) in order to have an impact on the battlefield. 

This flies in the face of traditional Clan doctrine which emphasizes individual battle performance over all else. Even nonconformist Clan Wolf MechWarriors required some time to adjust to the Phantom‘s intended mission profile. They would have just five years to learn completely new tactics between the Phantom‘s introduction in 3052 and its trial by fire during the Refusal War, where light Stars led by Phantoms would harass Jade Falcon units and designate targets for artillery strikes.

However, the Phantom‘s efficacy was debatable. Although an admirable Elemental delivery ‘Mech with a top speed of 151 kph, its lack of firepower made it a mediocre ambusher, with other, older ‘Mechs able to fulfill the role of a high-speed harasser better. The Viper and Ice Ferret are both just over 10 kph slower than the Phantom, but with two and three tons of additional pod space respectively, both are able to mount much higher-damage configurations while maintaining a similar armor profile. Furthermore, both the Viper and Ice Ferret continued to develop new pod configurations for decades, with both receiving variants that mounted similar advanced electronics. 

Phantom 3055U

While one could argue the Viper is mostly found in the Ghost Bear touman, the Ice Ferret had been in production by Clan Wolf’s ‘Mech factories for over a century by the time the Phantom was introduced. Given the Ice Ferret‘s similar design, it’s a complete mystery why Clan Wolf commissed the Phantom to begin with, but it’s doubly baffling why both ‘Mechs remained in production simultaneously for decades. 

Clan Wolf factories on Arc-Royal would continue to produce both the Phantom and Ice Ferret throughout the Jihad, although production would cease temporarily after the planet was struck by Word of Blake forces. In the Clan Homeworlds, the one factory building Phantoms would exchange hands several times, causing the Phantom to proliferate among the Home Clans. It has reportedly replaced the Fire Moth due to its similar speed but heavier armor.

Phantom Prime CCG

The Phantom‘s end was thought to have come with the arrival of the Wulfen, an advanced light ‘Mech featuring stealth armor and an even higher top speed. However, demand for the Wulfen far outstretched supply, and Clan Wolf was forced to continue supporting Phantom-equipped Galaxies. With the invasion of Terra looming, Clan Wolf reached out to Clan Sea Fox to increase production of the older, heavier design. In return for retooling a Bloodhound factory to produce Phantoms, Clan Sea Fox was given the ‘Mech’s design schematics. The obsolete design is now freely available to any willing to pay Clan Sea Fox’s price. 

The Phantom‘s primary configuration exemplifies its role as a heavy scout. Its armament of one ER Medium Laser, one ER Small Laser, and a single LRM-5 launcher would be considered anemic even for an Inner Sphere light ‘Mech, but its arsenal of electronics (including TAG, ECM, and an Active Probe) makes it well-suited for armed reconnaissance or spotting for distant artillery. Six tons of ferro-fibrous armor is adequate for a ‘Mech of its size, but the Phantom‘s true defense is its blistering top speed of 151 kph.

Phantom Alt Config C CCG

It wasn’t long before Wolf MechWarriors began demanding more of the Phantom‘s six-and-a-half tons of pod space. However, with such limited pod space available, the Phantom‘s most threatening configurations typically feature groups of smaller weapon systems. The A and C configurations, for example, offer significant short-range punch multiple batteries of ER Small Lasers. Other configurations, such as the B, D, and F, mount more mid-range weapons such as SRMs and ER Medium Lasers.

Some even mount weapons originally intended for non-’Mech units. The E configuration sports an ATM-3 and eight Micro Pulse Lasers, while the G configuration has a ProtoMech-scale AC/4. The L configuration features three AP Gauss Rifles and a Plasma Cannon, both with a ton of ammunition.

More recent configurations utilize advancements in weaponry to help the Phantom punch above its weight. The I configuration has an Improved Heavy Large Laser and an ER Medium Laser tied to a Targeting Computer (with a Light TAG providing artillery with targeting data). The K configuration ties a single ER Large Laser to a targeting computer but manages to provide the primary configuration’s entire electronics complement with the Watchdog CEWS. And the R config mixes Inner Sphere and Clan tech with two IS-grade Medium Lasers, two Heavy Medium Lasers, and an SRM-6

Phantom ilClan Recognition Guide

Although the Phantom‘s popularity wanes in the Wolf Empire, its availability from the largest network of arms merchants the Inner Sphere has ever seen practically ensures the ‘Mech’s survival for many decades to come. It’s yet to be seen how populous the Phantom has become within the Home Clans or if the traditional emphasis on individual combat performance has resulted in the Phantom being relegated to second-line units. Perhaps even more potent Phantom configurations have been produced (using powerful yet light weaponry) that have yet to be observed in the Inner Sphere. Only time will tell.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Exploring BattleTech Lore And History With Sven Van Der Plank

A few weeks ago, I mentioned Sven van der Plank and his eight-hour Star League Civil War video, which struck me as bizarrely long for YouTube content that didn’t involve repeating a single song over and over. And then I actually watched it front to back and realized there was some excellent content being presented for each of those eight hours, and that it continued even further with slightly (read: much) shorter videos covering the First Succession War.

Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. So I reached out to Sven to learn more about him, his process, and what we can expect in the future from Sven’s channel. This time on Community Outreach, I present Sven van der Plank and his deep dives into BattleTech history and lore. Enjoy.

Sven Thumbnails InnerSphere

Courtesy of Sven van der Plank

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Bad ‘Mechs – Stinger

Stinger Bad 'Mechs

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“But these ‘Mechs have targeting computers!” Cadet Sebastien griped in the solitude of his ‘Mech’s cockpit to nobody in particular. “I joined the AFFS to become a MechWarrior, not to be some glorified infantryman.” 

Raising his Stinger‘s right arm, he brought the rifle-like medium laser up to its cockpit and attempted to line the iron sights up with the target 200 meters down the shooting range. He fired and noted with dismay how the green beam cut a dark scar in the sand dune roughly 10 meters from where the target stood. 

“Cadet-private Sebastien!” Sergeant Zhao shouted in Sebastien’s ear through his neurohelmet’s radio. “Bring your cockpit to the laser, like where you would place the butt of a rifle. Then try again.”

Sebastien wondered how it was even remotely analogous when there was over a meter between him and the iron sights on his laser, let alone whatever refraction might be caused by several centimeters of ferroglass. Still, he did as instructed and held down the trigger just as his eyes lined up with the laser’s sights. The green beam nicked the edge of the target where it left a small orange flame. 

“Congratulations, cadet,” came Zhao’s mocking tone. “You hit the target. Barely.”

Sebastien was considering a pithy retort when all hell broke loose. An explosion from behind knocked him forward and cut his Stinger’s sensors. Static told him that he’d also lost comms with the rest of his training battalion. Staggering, Sebastien looked around to see a crater in the middle of the parade grounds and trainers running for cover. In the distance, the yellow flare of a dropship bore the dao-in-fist of the Cappellan Confederation. It was a raid.

The procedure in such an event was for the cadets and trainers to get into the nearest available ‘Mech to meet the enemy head-on. Unfortunately for cadet Sebastien, without a functioning radio, he couldn’t be informed of the enemy’s location or the battalion’s rally point.

In the end, it didn’t matter. A bright green Locust bearing the Capellan crest came into view and began firing its machine guns into the battalion’s administrative building. If he didn’t engage, everyone inside would die.

Raising his right-arm medium laser to confront the marauding Locust, Sebastien made another unfortunate discovery: his heads-up display didn’t have a targeting pip. Worse, he didn’t have azimuth, range, or any indication his sensors had even picked up the 20-ton ‘Mech standing in front of him. 

It was then he saw the raised indentations of the laser’s iron sights. He hunched his Stinger slightly so the cockpit lined up with the laser, then took careful aim at the Locust. He breathed, then held down the trigger. 

The green beam cut through the Locust’s right leg at the knee, sending it toppling to the ground. 

Sebastien raised his ‘Mech’s arms in triumph and then realized he was still in the middle of a warzone. He also realized if his targeting computer had been working the active scanners likely would have alerted the Locust to his presence and prevented him from getting the first shot.  

“Maybe these low-tech exercises aren’t so bad after all,” he said to himself, before stalking off to find more Capellans to ambush.

Stinger : Bad 'Mechs a Sarna Tale | Battletopia Stories
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Stinger 3025

We should have some compassion for the Stinger. As the second-ever mass-produced reconnaissance ‘Mech, and the second most numerous ‘Mech after the Wasp, ‘Mechs were simply less threatening at the time of its introduction in 2479. But between that year and the year 3025, the number of Stingers in active service dropped from 200,000 to a mere 5,000. Over 500 years of attrition would surely be murderous on most military systems, especially when those five centuries included such things as nuclear holocausts. 

And yet, over 97 percent of every Stinger ever made is now so much scrap metal. The Stingers that survived were mostly used as trainers and not front-line combatants. Many ‘MechWarriors began their career in a Stinger. The smart ones moved on to a different chassis. The dumb ones are dead.

As with many iterative technical advancements, the story of the Stinger begins with a lawsuit. Earthwerks Incorporated spent 20 years fending off a lawsuit from General Mechanics--the maker of the Wasp--for copyright infringement. General Mechanics argued that the Stinger was mostly just a Wasp that had swapped its SRM-2 launcher for a pair of Machine Guns. Indeed, the two ‘Mechs shared the same mass and had a very similar outward appearance. However, neither Earthwerks nor General Mechanics wanted their full ‘Mech designs as part of the public record. This allowed Earthwerks to enact a time-honored corporate defense--delay, delay, delay. After two decades, General Mechanics finally dropped the suit, and the Stinger would go on to stand beside the Wasp as the backbone of the Inner Sphere’s reconnaissance forces.

Stinger 5M

Unfortunately for the Stinger, many battlefield commanders felt that the highly numerous ‘Mech was expendable and used it in roles it was never intended, leading to accelerated attrition. One DCMS commander, Tai-i Mercer Ravannion, developed the “charge of the horde” tactic which called for massed quantities of lighter ‘Mechs (usually Stingers and Wasps) to be sent against comparatively larger targets expecting sheer numbers to carry the battle. Tai-i Ravannion attempted this tactic on three separate occasions, and on all three attempts lost the majority of his ‘Mechs. 

It wasn’t until after his death (on his third and final attempt) that his protege, a surviving Stinger pilot named Marge Sippers, evolved the tactic to include heavier and more powerful light ‘Mechs like the Jenner, proving that it was the Stinger‘s lack of firepower that prevented the strategy’s success. By 3140, the mercenary unit Ravannion’s Redemption proved that massed light ‘Mechs could be a credible threat, but the unit was comprised primarily of faster and more potent ‘Mechs than the Stinger.

Although not a credible threat to most larger ‘Mechs, the Stinger‘s popularity as a cheap recon trainer has kept it in service with almost every nation’s armed forces. Earthwerks factories on Keystone and Calloway VI continued to produce Stingers throughout the Succession Wars where the model found its way across the Inner Sphere even as far as the Periphery. Coventry Metal Works would also produce the design under license, although its focus would shift to the Commando during the Succession Wars. Other manufacturers included Bergan Industries, Vandenberg Mechanized Industries, Detroit Consolidated, and Hellespont Industrials. Variants would even be produced by the Clans, where they mostly served in an instructional capacity.

Stinger 5R

The original STG-3R, produced in 2479, came with a GM 120-rated engine, six Chilton 360 jump hets, a single Omicron 3000 Medium Laser, two LGN Lindbald Machine Guns, 10 single heat sinks, and three tons of standard armor. It became infamous for an extremely cramped cockpit where most MechWarriors required outside assistance to be removed from post-mission (and oversized MechWarriors couldn’t fit at all). The design matched the Wasp for speed at a running velocity of 91.6 kph and a maximum jumping distance of 180 meters. 

One notable feature of the original design was the old-school iron sights that remained the Medium Laser. It was argued by Earthwerks that this forced trainees to develop their fine motor skills as they adjusted the ‘Mech’s posture and stance to fire without the benefit of a targeting computer. The usefulness of this feature is arguable given that it was eventually dropped on later models.

Earthwerks produced only two other variants prior to the Clan Invasion. The STG-3G replaced the machine guns and ammunition with a second Medium Laser in the left arm with everything else remaining the same. The STG-3Gb, on the other hand, was introduced for the SLDF’s Royal Divisions in 2720. This model was upgraded to a 150 XL engine (offering a top speed of roughly 111 kph), an endo steel chassis, and double heat sinks. Its armament was exchanged for three Medium Lasers and a single Small Laser, although no additional armor meant the pilot had to rely on the ‘Mech’s speed and jump jets to avoid incoming fire.

Stinger IIC

With the rediscovery of Star League technology in the Helm Memory Core, the STG-5M began production in the early 3050s. It kept the standard engine but upgraded the chassis to endo steel and added an additional half-ton of armor. It also replaced the twin machine guns with a single Flamer and an anti-missile system with a single ton of ammo. Earthwerks continued to iterate on the Stinger after the Jihad with the STG-6M, which replaced the STG-5M’s weapons with an ER Medium Laser, an ER Flamer, and a Laser AMS. The most modern variant offered by Earthwerks is the STG-6R, which features a 160 XL engine for a top speed of 120 kph and eight jump jets for a potential leap of 240 meters. Two Heavy Machine Guns and an ER Medium Laser harken back to the original Stinger model.

Although most numerous in the Free Worlds League, Earthwerks licensed the design to many other manufacturers across the Inner Sphere. The Lyran Commonwealth‘s Coventry Metalworks is perhaps the most notable, which began producing its own variants in 3067. The STG-6S uses a light fusion engine and MASC for a potential running speed of 151 kph and a jumping distance of 210 meters. Two Light Machine Guns and an ER Medium Laser provide a lighter armament than the original, and a small cockpit makes it brutally cramped even by Stinger standards. The STG-7S listened to pilot complaints and replaced the small cockpit with a Full-Head Ejection System. It also swaps the light engine for an XL, provides an endo steel chassis, and eight Improved Jump Jets allow it to jump as far as it can run. Curiously, it only possesses a single ER Medium Laser for defense, and its left leg carries slightly more armor than its right.

The Taurian Concordat is now the second-largest producer of Stingers with factories on New Vandenberg and MacLeod’s Land producing the STG-5R and 6R since 3067. The Capellan Confederation and the Magistracy of Canopus also produce Stingers on Sian and Detroit, and Bergan Industries has launched its own line of Stingers with the G-series, culminating in the STG-6G in the early 3100s.


The Clans are also Stinger producers. The Stinger C was originally produced by Clan Hell’s Horses and has since become the main trainer of Clan Wolf. An all-Clan-spec weapons loadout is complimented by an endo steel chassis and an additional Small Pulse Laser. And in 3085, the Stinger IIC became a symbol of the newly formed Raven Alliance as the nation’s primary trainer and reconnaissance unit. The Stinger IIC maintained the original standard engine, speed, and jump distance, but upgraded the chassis to endo steel and the armor to ferro-fibrous. It also featured significant firepower in two Improved Heavy Medium Lasers and a single AP Gauss Rifle

It’s the Stinger‘s proliferation and not its capabilities that have kept it alive over the centuries. Modern incarnations have improved the design, but it’s telling that most nations have relegated the Stinger to training and garrison units. That said, the Stinger has found a niche that will likely ensure its survival for many more centuries to come.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Vulcan

Bad 'Mechs Vulcan

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“You’re gonna be fine! I’m tellin’ ya, Dex has got you covered with a real Star League ‘Mech. You’ll eat this Drac dropout for breakfast.” 

Tychon’s words didn’t do much to assuage Vic’s growing unease. He needed this fight to go well--Dex had promised to have his arena license reinstated if he could beat Matsumoto’s Panther in an underground (and highly illegal) duel. Dex had even offered his own ‘Mech for the fight. All he had to do was win. 

And yet, something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the fact he was dealing with perhaps the lowest rung of Solaris society. Vic was used to shady characters like Tychon. It was the fact that Dex had offered his own ‘Mech. Never mind the fact it was supposedly from the days of the fabled Star League--everyone said that, and everyone forgot that there were just as many shambling junkpiles in the Star League as there were today. Nobody at this level lent their ‘Mechs out, especially when they were already doing a huge favor. Least of all kingpins like Dex.

Vic crossed his arms and looked out the hoverlimo’s window. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said, half under his breath. 

It didn’t take long to reach the makeshift arena on the outskirts of Nowhere. A crowd had already gathered in the bleachers, protected by a sparking net that looked like it couldn’t stop a fly let alone an autocannon shell. Vic knew that civilian casualties weren’t uncommon at these fights. He’d already written half of them off.

The hover limo parked right next to the gantries where two dark colossi stood. One was a Panther, but the other was a ‘Mech that Vic had never seen before. It was taller than the Panther, but far more gangly, with long, thin limbs and a cockpit that seemed to erupt from the machine’s wide shoulders. Vic could make out the muzzle brake of a light autocannon and a right arm with the telltale scorch marks of flamer, but it was too dark to make out the rest. 

“Get suited up, hero,” Tychon mocked as he tossed Vic his beat-up neurohelmet. “Time to put on a show.” 

The next ten minutes were all downhill. Vic was dismayed to find out that his “Star League” ‘Mech had just a 60mm autocannon as its main armament. The flamer might be useful if he could get close, but he only had a single medium laser and a piddly machine gun when his autocannon’s ammo bin ran dry. Worse, he had no hands, so close combat brawling was out too.

The jump jets were a bonus and the ‘Mech felt reasonably nimble after taking it through a five-minute shakedown, but he was hardly confident his firepower would surpass his opponent. 

The other five minutes proved his suspicions correct. The Vulcan, a name he’d only discovered after cycling through his diagnostic displays, had less armor than the Panther. That discovery was made apparent after Matsumoto’s PPC sheared off his left arm at the shoulder. The arm only contained his machine gun, but it was an arm down when he’d barely pockmarked the Panther’s armored hide.

Vic fired with his autocannon, scoring minor hits across the Panther’s chest. Meanwhile, Vic’s damage display showed several red areas where previous PPC blasts had ruptured his wiry ‘Mech’s armor. His only hope was to close the distance, get underneath the PPC’s minimum range, and use his flamer to force Matsumoto into shutdown.

Kicking his Vulcan into gear, Vic charged forward in a slight zig-zag, firing his autocannon wildly as he went. Most of his shots missed, but Matsumoto’s did not. Another PPC blast removed his right arm, while a second punched through the Vulcan’s chest to nick the engine shielding. Immediately, the Vulcan’s normally temperate cockpit became a veritable sauna and his forward momentum slowed to a crawl.

Vic couldn’t hear it, but the crowd roared as the Vulcan seemed to stagger forward after a mortal blow. A few more defiant plinks from his autocannon merely bounced off the Panther’s scowling feline face as the crowd jeered. Then the Panther let loose a flight of SRMs. Three erupted all around the Vulcan’s cockpit, but one slipped right through the rents in the 40-ton machine’s armor to touch off the remaining autocannon rounds. The resulting explosion killed both Vic and 46 fans who were cheering right up until the shockwave blew the bleachers apart.

Vulcan : Bad 'Mechs a Sarna Tale | Battletopia Stories
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Vulcan 3025

The bizarrely-shaped Vulcan is a ‘Mech made purely by necessity. In the closing years of the Amaris Civil War, the Star League Defense Force found itself fighting in the highly-populated urban centers of the Terran Hegemony. Ill-equipped for urban fighting, Alexander Kerensky ordered MatherTechno Incorporated of the recently liberated Northwind to produce a ‘Mech made to combat dug-in infantry--the most common threat faced by ‘Mechs when fighting in cities.

What MatherTechno came back with was quickly nicknamed the “Scarecrow” by SLDF MechWarriors. Tall and wiry for 40 tons, the VL-2T Vulcan also came with an odd assortment of weapons designed specifically to root out infantry. Its primary weapon was a 60mm Armstrong Autocannon/2, which was supported by a Firestorm Flamer and a Sperry Browning Machine Gun. The ‘Mech’s most powerful weapon, a single Medium Laser, was most often reserved for light-armored vehicles. 

The Vulcan‘s first combat action came during Operation Liberation, the battle for Terra. Primarily assigned to the SLDF’s Volunteer Regiments, the Vulcan quickly earned a reputation for being an effective city fighter. However, with only five tons of armor and an arsenal of light weapons, the Vulcan was vulnerable to other ‘Mechs or even heavy armored vehicles. In cases where the Vulcan found itself overmatched, a top speed of 97 kph and six jump jets theoretically allowed clever pilots to escape, but after years of bitter fighting, few Vulcan pilots opted for retreat during the Terran liberation.

Vulcan 3058

As MatherTechno’s first and only ‘Mech, the Vulcan also suffered from other design flaws beyond its armament. Without hands, the Vulcan was especially vulnerable to the sort of melee combat commonly found in urban settings. It also made the Vulcan less useful in non-combat scenarios and made it difficult to extract itself from rubble without damaging its Machine Gun or Flamer. The light autocannon was supposed to be a multipurpose weapon, but it was most often employed against hardened structures where the Flamer and Machine Gun proved ineffective. 

After Terra fell, the Vulcan temporarily found itself a weapon without a war. Luckily, MatherTechno soon found itself flooded with orders as every Great House frantically built up its arsenal in preparation for what would become the Succession Wars. This resulted in the proliferation of the Vulcan across the Inner Sphere, although their numbers would dwindle after MatherTechno’s factory was destroyed in the first few months of the First Succession War.

With its factory destroyed, MatherTechno was forced to sell the design to be produced under license by both Coventry Metal Works and Nimakachi Fusion Products Limited. This made the Vulcan most numerous in the Lyran Commonwealth and the Free Worlds League. In contrast, House Liao had the fewest number of Vulcans after the planet Sappho--where the majority of the Cappellan Vulcans were stationed--was lost to House Marik during the Second Succession War

Vulcan CCG

House Davion had a large stockpile of spare parts keeping its Vulcans operational, which were mostly the VL-5T variant. Introduced a year after the VL-2T, the 5T sacrificed the 60mm autocannon in favor of three additional Medium Lasers, two more tons of armor, and two extra heat sinks. This version of the Vulcan was far more effective at engaging ‘Mechs and other armored targets and proved instrumental in the retaking of Kentares IV during the First Succession War. 

It wasn’t until the recovery of the Helm Memory Core that new Vulcan variants started to be produced. The VT-5M from Nimakachi Fusion Products replaced the autocannon with a Large Pulse Laser, upgraded the laser to a Medium Pulse Laser, and upgraded the heat sinks to doubles. An endo steel chassis was used to make room for the additional firepower and an extra heat sink. Production of this variant would run from 3052 until 3069 when Nimakachi’s plant on Tematagi was destroyed by a pirate band known as the Order of the Faithful, a group unwittingly controlled by the Word of Blake.

The VT-6M, produced just before the factory was destroyed, upgraded the 5M’s arsenal with an ER Medium Laser and a Light Gauss Rifle with two tons of ammo. Only 30 examples of this variant were produced before the factory’s destruction and most of those were captured by the World of Blake.

Vulcan 3050 Update

With the Word of Blake’s de-facto takeover of the Free Worlds League, the VT-6C arose from the ashes of Nimakachi’s plant. This variant replaced the VT-5M’s lasers for an ER Large Laser, an ER Medium Laser, and a C3i Computer, and replaced the single Machine Gun with a trio of Light Machine Guns linked in a Machine Gun Array.

On the Lyran side, the VT-5S replaced the reliable Pitban 240 engine with an Extralight version, added ferro-fibrous armor and CASE for additional protection, and MASC for a temporary top speed of 129 kph. The lighter engine also allowed the Armstrong autocannon to be replaced by a much larger Ultra Autocannon/5. Unlike the Marik variant, the 5S would remain in production and even see a sub-variant upgrade produced during the Jihad. This variant--called the VT-5Sr--replaced the Ultra AC/5 with a Plasma Rifle and two additional heat sinks.

Following the Jihad, the Vulcan faced stiff competition from various OmniMechs sporting anti-personnel configurations, and the Republic disarmament meant that most militaries preferred to keep these adaptable designs over a dedicated infantry fighter like the Vulcan. With sales collapsing, Coventry and Nimakachi held a technical summit to redesign the Vulcan for the modern era. The result was the VL-7T. This entirely revamped Vulcan was armed with a Plasma Rifle, Heavy Machine Gun, Heavy Flamer, and an ER Medium Laser. A 240 XL engine and light ferro-fibrous armor allowed for the additional armament, all of which was linked to a Targeting Computer.

Vulcan RGilClan v30

Cheaper than competing OmniMechs, the VT-7T is the perfect design to defeat all sorts of armored infantry. The Targeting Computer ensures locks are maintained on squirrely targets such as Elementals, while the tried, tested, and true trio of Flamer, Machine Gun, and laser ensure that lightly armored and unarmored infantry can be cut down in droves. Today, the VL-7T is one of the top-selling ‘Mechs for both companies in no small part due to the prevalence of infantry on the modern battlefield.

However, that may not be the case forever. As infantry losses mount due to the deadly design, commanders may rethink their tactics to favor ‘Mechs once again. When that happens, the Vulcan will undoubtedly fall back on hard times.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy