Category Archives: Miniatures

Your BattleTech News Roundup For November, 2021

I hope y’all had a good Thanksgiving weekend. Being Canadian, I already had my Thanksgiving a month ago, but that doesn’t mean I can’t eat a turkey twice. Or rather, two different turkeys. I don’t bury the turkey for a month to ferment and then eat what’s left a month later. That’d be weird.

Anyway, we’ve got a bunch of BattleTech news for you, so let’s get straight to it.

Last-Minute Halloween Video Serves Up A Spooky Hellbringer

HELLBRINGER
Watch this video on YouTube.

I didn’t manage to get this one into the October news blast because Farseer Animation released it on Halloween. Given the spooky themes, it was only appropriate of them to do so, but that meant it missed my deadline by a hair.

So we’ll have a brief throwback to Halloween in today’s news. Farseer has managed to create a believable and chilling campfire tale about a cursed Hellbringer. I won’t ruin the surprise ending, but I will say it’s pretty spooky. 

PGI Dev Says Those Datamined MechWarrior 5 Files Aren’t A Clan Expansion

Another follow-up to our October news about hidden files in MechWarrior 5 that might hint at a Clan Invasion expansion. Chris Lowrey, who worked as narrative director on Legend of the Kestrel Lancers, responded on Twitter to say that the files found are mostly future-proofing for modders who might want to add that sort of content themselves. They’re mostly blank faction files that modders can use to add whatever factions they want, and because PGI put them there to begin with, it makes the odds of a future update breaking those mods entirely a lot lower.

It’s plausible, and also fits with what PGI has been saying all along in that the Clans are not coming to MechWarrior 5. At least, not officially. More on that later.

On the other hand, Lowrey also recently told The First Circuit Podcast that he couldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of a Clan-themed DLC, saying “Nothing is decided on that front.” And so far I haven’t heard of any decisions one way or another. 

Catalyst Releases New BattleTech Companion App For Black Friday Sale With Force Packs Back In Stock

BattleTech Force Packs

Of course, Catalyst is cashing in on the consumerist frenzy that happens from basically now until December 25, but I won’t go into a full breakdown of what’s available because, frankly, it’s a lot. Clan Invasion Force Packs are available if you missed out on the Kickstarter, including ComStar Level IIs, Clan Stars, and a bevy of Inner Sphere Lances, including some that weren’t available the first time around such as the Clan Ad Hoc Star and Inner Sphere Heavy Battle Lance. There’s also a bunch of non-miniature items that are back in stock, so head on over to the Catalyst store to fulfill your intense desire to spend money on BattleTech merch.

But along with all those new toys, Catalyst brings us another. The BattleTech Tactical Companion App is now available for download for iOS and Google Play. The app contains digital record sheets for every ‘Mech in the Beginner Box Set and A Game Of Armored Combat that keeps track of ammo, heat, and armor, a custom MechWarrior creator as well as several pre-set pilot cards, a lance creator, and a full game state phase tracker to keep track of your games.

And if you prefer things on paper, you can always send your ‘Mech sheets to a printer to hold something other than your phone.

More Tiny BattleTech Stores? More Tiny BattleTech Stores

I’m not sure what a chain marketing itself as Solaris VII BBQ & Bar would be offering other than booze and barbecued meats. Do they just have Solaris VII matches playing on the overhead vids? Do they have holo tables where patrons can battle it out in miniature? Do they have simulator pods where they can get as close as they can to a real-life fight? I don’t have the answers, but I’d love to find out.

I had to look up what “Chava” is, and it’s apparently a beverage served on Trell 1. Nobody knows what Chava actually is, but given the name and context of it being drunk by military figures in Decision at Thunder Rift, it’s probably sort of like tea or coffee. I imagine Chava Garden is therefore something like Starbucks, only hopefully less obnoxious with its size names. Why the fuck is a “tall” a small? Truly baffling. 

A Discussion On Why You Should Be Okay With BattleTech’s Spheroid DropShips

I suppose the Union of the two ball-type craft we've talked about would require a joystick
Watch this video on YouTube.

Space travel is hard, atmospheres suck, so an armored re-entry vehicle with tons of weapons makes a lot of sense--at least, once you have a fusion reactor that can pump out the juice to power one. But why are most DropShips basically spherical? 

A good discussion on the subject can be heard from Sacred Cow Shipyards, a dude who’s been discussing the finer points of sci-fi space travel for some time. BattleTech isn’t often a topic over those parts, but recently he did a dive into the Union DropShips and the concept of spherical re-entry vehicles in general. There are a lot of good points raised, so you should listen. Because I listened and I thought they were good points, and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t trust my opinion at least that much. 

Clever Title About More Pokemon ‘Mechs

Lightning Lance – fourth completed Pokemech Lance. from battletech

I’ve posted a lot of Pokemon ‘Mechs over the few years I’ve been doing this. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. If you want my attention, mash together Pokemon and BattleTech minis. That’ll get you a spot in the Sarna news blast for sure. Here we have an entry from feor1300 who deserves all the praise for turning a Turkina into a Magnezone. Bonus points for the Raichu Imp. I think that Awesome is supposed to be Electivire, but I’m not too sure. It’s mostly just an Awesome with tiger stripes. 

MWO Free ‘Mech, November Patch, And Annual Rewards Program

We’ve got the usual MechWarrior Online stuff, including a free ‘Mech, not-free ‘Mechs, and a patch. 

We’ll start with the free ‘Mech, which is the Ebon Jaguar Alt. Config B. This laser boat used to be a powerful meta choice in MechWarrior Online, and it seems to still be plenty powerful. Win enough games and accrue enough match score and you’ll get one of these 65-ton monsters for free.

Next we have the annual rewards program. If you’ve purchased any amount of ‘Mech Credits in MechWarrior Online over the past year, you get the Urbanmech UM-R80. It’s basically a K9 with ECM, which means it’s the strictly better ‘Mech. If you bought any ‘Mech pack, bundle, new player pack, or more over the past year, you get the Viper Alt. Config F. It’s a machine gun boating medium ‘Mech that can fly and is my personal pick of the litter. The third and final ‘Mech is the Atlas AS7-K3 which you receive if you’ve purchased either the Stryker, Warden, Hunter, or Predator packs. This Atlas also comes with ECM and has jump jets, which is pretty terrifying on a 100-ton ‘Mech. 

If you qualify for any of these ‘Mechs, you should see them injected into your account already. If not and you think you should qualify, contact PGI support.

Last but certainly not least, we got a new patch on Tuesday. This patch is a little smaller than previous ones with fewer changes overall, but it does bring the fourth quirk pass for some of the ‘Mechs that still haven’t been looked at. The Vulcan, Dragon, Cataphract, Hellbringer, and Executioner have all received buffs, some big, some small, and some much-needed. All Dragon variants, for instance, now have armor quirks that match the Grand Dragon that was issued earlier this year. 

Next month will bring a new map and a return of the Stocking Stuffers event, so stay tuned for December stuff. I’ll hopefully have an update out before Christmas this time. 

The Clans Might Not Invade MechWarrior 5, But The Timber Wolf Will

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

The Art of BattleTech reached out to reveal another new mod being made for MechWarrior 5 besides the one that replaces the male protagonist with a female version. It’s something that the Inner Sphere was totally unprepared for and possesses more firepower than even most assault ‘Mechs in MW5

I of course speak of the venerable Mad Cat. Or Timber Wolf, if you’re nasty.

And not just any Mad Cat. This mod is based on the original art by Steve Venters and has been modeled and textured by the “supremely talented” Alan Yeoh. It’s basically the best a Mad Cat has ever looked in a MechWarrior game.

Art tells me that the plan is to have the Mad Cat out by Christmas with the Vulture and Thor arriving in early 2022.

Lady Centrella Has Now Ported MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries To Tabletop

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries

A little while ago, I interviewed Riley Centrella about her massive project to convert Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH into tabletop rules. Now she’s done it again but this time for the best MechWarrior game of all time, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. And best of all, you can download the whole thing for free.

This is certainly not a campaign for the faint of heart. It contains 43 Operations spread of a 98-page document. There are 43 maps, a special record sheet for the possibly fictional Commando COM-7X, and 165 Record Sheets for all ‘Mechs, vehicles, aerospace fighters, and battle armor featured in the original game.

You can download the whole thing from Magistrex Centrella’s Patreon. So long as I get to play Deadeye’s lines during the campaign, I’ll be happy.

Robert Thurston, Author of The Jade Phoenix Trilogy, Has Passed Away

We’ve lost a legend this month. Robert D. Thurston, author of the Jade Phoenix Trilogy, I Am Jade Falcon, Freebirth, and Falcon Rising, died on October 20 at the age of 84. A decades-long career that spanned over 40 stories, Thurston provided a unique voice to BattleTech that powered some of its most memorable and defining characters. 

“In his writing and thought, he was interested in exploring alternate worlds,” his family wrote in his obituary. “We hope he is finding some good ones now.”

You can read more about Robert’s life in Catalyst’s tribute here

Personally, I will always remember Thurston’s works as just being unique amongst BattleTech fiction. He brought a nobility and clarity to the Jade Falcons that has yet to be matched by any other author. Robert, you will be missed.

Microsoft Can’t Bring Back MechAssault Because Of Engine Troubles

MechAssault

Xbox recently celebrated its 20th-anniversary event by re-releasing a ton of old Xbox and Xbox 360 games via its backward compatibility program. Although there were quite a few big names on this list of over 70 titles, MechAssault and MechAssault 2 weren’t among them. Worse still, this was Xbox’s last hurrah at updating old games for modern hardware, which means we’re probably never going to see an updated version of MechAssault

Which is a bit strange considering MechAssault was basically one of the original Xbox’s launch titles. You’d think that they’d have a vested interest in preserving their legacy. Well, it turns out they tried, but there were problems with getting MechAssault’s engine to work. 

Answering ArtOfBattleTech, MechAssault game writer and designer Tom Dowd said that early iterations with Xbox Live didn’t play well with the game’s engine, so to get it to work Microprose had to cobble something together that just fell apart when modern Xbox folks tried to make it work on something like the Xbox Series X. Fixing it would involve a lot more than just mere emulation, so Microsoft cut its losses and just gave up on it. 

A shame for MechAssault fans, but don’t fret! There’s a new MechAssault game being made by some very talented individuals that you can play for free

A Lego Catapult You Can Build In Less Time It Takes To Read This Article

Catapult-Lego

Most of the Lego sets that I showcase have been fairly intricate affairs with hundreds, if not thousands of individual pieces. Here we have something that you could probably snap together in less than 20 minutes. And it still looks damn good.

This Catapult diorama comes courtesy of xig_brick, who also posted the instructions too. If you’re not into the Catapult, you can always go for the Marauder, although it’s somewhat larger. And if you don’t have the pieces because you’re a grown-ass adult who doesn’t have a bajillion Lego sets lying around (not me, of course), then you can purchase the pieces individually from Lego. Although the future is fast turning into the cyberpunk dystopia that games like Shadowrun warned us about, at least we have Lego on-demand. 

Unreleased Prototype Turn-Based BattleTech Game Debuts After 23 Years Of Waiting

Last, but not least, we’ve got a special Thanksgiving treat for you. 

MrTalida has just published a prototype build for a canceled turn-based BattleTech PC game that was being worked on by FASA Interactive and spearheaded by Asylum Entertainment way back in 1998. Unlike MechCommander, this would be a more faithful adaptation of the turn-based mechanic of tabletop BattleTech, with little digital ‘Mechs shooting over a hex-grid digital battle map. 

The game was never announced and judging by the Powerpoint presentation I saw, FASA had trouble getting investors to put money into a turn-based PC game. A shame, since then we might’ve had something before Hairbrained’s fabulous BATTLETECH from 2018. 

Over on the archive site is a Milestone 8 build of the game that was created in January 1998. The build comes with a playable scenario, ‘Mech editor, and map editor, but it doesn’t have all the planned ‘Mechs or assets. The final product was supposed to have 120 ‘Mechs, over 40 vehicles and infantry types, and have both multiplayer and a single-player campaign.

Getting this to work will be tricky as it was designed for Windows 98. I’m no expert, but you’ll need to at least start with an emulator and then cross your fingers. Even if you get it to work it’s still a prototype and not a finished game, so don’t expect much. But it is a very interesting look at what might have been. 

And that’s it for November! Join us next month as we go over your favorite Holiday-themed gift ideas. Although by then it’ll probably be way too late to purchase a gift and have it shipped in time for Christmas. Ah well.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For September, 2021

courtesy of PGI

September will be a month to remember. This month, not only did many of us receive our Clan Invasion Kickstarter packages, but we’re also getting a very special present in MechWarrior 5. For the first time in a MechWarrior game, we’re going to be able to play giant rock ’em sock ’em robots.

And yes, I’m aware Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH did melee combat first (and also allowed shoulder charges and mule kicks, too), but there’s something viscerally satisfying about punching a ‘Mech in first-person. It’s going to be so sweet.

As usual, we got a lot to talk about so we’re not going to dwell too much on the arrival of melee combat in a MechWarrior game for the first time, ever. Don’t worry, we’ll pick that thread up later. For now, on to the news!

The MechWarrior Online World Championships Are Back

The MechWarrior Online World Championship Series is back, baby! This was technically announced at the end of August, but we’re pushing this into the September news just due to how amazing it is. 

The last time we saw an officially sanctioned competitive MWO tournament was back in 2019 when PGI held an invitational-style tournament due to falling player numbers. The 2020 tournament never happened, which was unsurprising given how PGI was hard at work on MechWarrior 5 and the pandemic was putting a stop to many game events and tournaments.

But that’s all in the past. The MWO Champion Series returns in 2021 in collaboration with the MWO Comp community, a group of die-hard MechWarriors who kept the competitive spirit alive while MechWarrior Online went through its Cauldron-fueled metamorphosis

The rules seem to be mostly the same as previous championships, with 8v8 games featuring all tech and ‘Mechs available with a maximum of 3 ‘Mechs in each class with no duplicates allowed. A 480-ton maximum is also applied, so there’s no loading up on heavies and assaults allowed.

The competitive queue is already available to all MechWarrior Online players who are part of a competitive team, with the queue open on Thursdays and Saturdays. The competitive queue closes on October 18, and then round one of the double-elimination finals begins on October 30 with the grand finals on December 11. Prizes will be both in-game and real-life cash prizes. 

It’s going to be a very interesting tournament with all the changes that the Cauldron have instituted. New builds, new ‘Mechs, and new strategies will be employed to account for the refreshed maps that have arrived throughout 2021. It’ll also be exciting to see if there are any new faces that have arrived in the competitive scene thanks to MechWarrior Online’s renaissance.

But speakin’ of new maps, a brand new refreshed Caustic map arrived on September 21’s patch, along with another quirk pass. ‘Mechs like the Griffin, Enforcer, Thanatos, Ebon Jaguar, and Rifleman are all getting revamped quirks along with many, many more designs. Check out the patch notes to see if your favorite ‘Mech just got a facelift that’ll bring it into the current MechWarrior Online meta.

See The Timber Wolf In All Its Glorious Variations

SU-SMD recently started on an expedition to draw every version of the Timber Wolf, from Prime to Z, along with unique camo schemes for various Clans employing each design. I like ’em, since you hardly ever see a Timber Wolf other than the Prime variant, with its big, boxy launchers and paired laser pods. I can’t wait till we get to the U alternate configuration for some underwater Mad Cat action [UPDATE: it’s everything I imagined.]

Sarna Unveils A Searchable Map Of The Known Universe

First off, I want to make it clear that I had absolutely nothing to do with this herculean effort. That credit all falls to Sarna Cartographer Gruese, founder and editor-in-chief Nic, as well as the team members of Operation: Doneve. This searchable map will be made available on the main site as well as in the Discord, which you can find here.

This map covers the Inner Sphere and the rest of the known universe right up until the year 3151. Additionally, each planet will have its own centered map which allows you to see which factions owned it during which period. Just click the little arrow over the map to bring yourself forward or backward through BattleTech‘s eras.

You can see the whole map of the Inner Sphere here, and get an example of the planetary-focused maps by looking at Park Place here. It took over 6 years to catalog over 3,000 planets/systems, but the results I’d say are worth it. 

MechWarrior 5 Generated 160,000 Sales For Steam Release

We don’t know how many copies MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries sold when it was first released on the Epic Games Store, but we do know how many it sold on Steam and Xbox. This comes courtesy of a recent financial report from EG7, developer PGI’s new Swedish overlords. An additional 160,000 units were sold when MechWarrior 5 was re-released on Steam and Xbox in May, with 75,000 Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC purchases on top of that. About 81% of those sales were on Steam, so Xbox/GOG and Epic accounted for the remaining 30,000 in new sales.

That might not sound like a lot compared to all the many million-unit franchises out there, but EG7 considers this a financial success, and that’s all that really matters. EG7 will foot the bill for marketing and publishing, while PGI focuses on making new DLC and adding features to MechWarrior 5--such as the recently-announced Legend of the Kestrel Lancers. We’ll dive into that in just a second, but first… 

MechWarrior 5 VR Mod Goes Into Beta

Virtual reality compatibility was initially touted as one of MechWarrior 5‘s features back in the day, but the complexities of VR proved too much for PGI’s small development team. The feature was cut ahead of the game’s Epic release and there hasn’t been much discussion about it since then. Perhaps VR will get official support in the future, but in the meantime, we have mods.

Specifically, we have VRWarrior from modder Kitt, now available on Nexus Mods. This mod provides support for Oculus, HTC, SteamVR, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets to experience MechWarrior as never before. 

As someone who only recently got their first VR headset, there is nothing that compares to the level of immersion you achieve with VR, and especially for games that put you in some sort of vehicle. Games like Beatsaber and Superhot are fun and all, but when you can only move a few feet in any given direction before you hit an invisible wall, it sort of ruins the experience.

Sitting down in a chair with a headset and a game controller doesn’t have that problem. What VR does is allow you to move your head and look in the direction your head is pointing. This makes you feel like you’re really in the cockpit of a giant death machine, and that’s a feeling that’s difficult to replicate outside of VR. 

However, VRWarrior isn’t perfect. The mod only works when you actually get into a mission, with all the in-between menus and dropship scenes still happening on a flat monitor. It’s also still in very early beta, so expect there to be bugs (many of them are already noted on the Known Issues portion of the mod’s page). But either way you look at it, I’m excited for VR to finally find its way to MechWarrior

Gallery 3025 Brings Us Yet More Great Art

A little while ago, we saw this Archer as a work in progress, but now Jayden Morris has unveiled the finished product on Gallery 3025. It’s pretty amazing, and as always, I encourage you to assist Gallery 3025 by subscribing so they can bring even more precious BattleTech art like this into the world.

MechWarrior 5 Punches Onto PlayStation Along With New Legend Of The Kestrel Lancers DLC

MechWarrior5: Mercenaries - Legend of the Kestrel Lancers Expansion Pack Features.
Watch this video on YouTube.

Big, big news for MechWarrior 5. First, the game is heading to PlayStation. PGI senior community manager Daeron “Bombadil” Katz made the announcement on the official PlayStation blog earlier this month, noting that this will be the first time that a MechWarrior game has come to a Sony-branded console since MechWarrior 2: Arcade Combat Edition for the PlayStation. 

Besides receiving full crossplay with both the PC and Xbox versions, the PlayStation 5 version of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries will include support for the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. It’ll also come alongside a free update that lets players swap control of lancemate ‘Mechs during gameplay--another all-new feature never-before-seen in a MechWarrior game.

There’s also one other new feature coming with the free update. Fans noted in the PlayStation 5 announcement that there were some UI tweaks, and in the weapon’s table there was something labeled “HANDS.” A follow-up tweet from PGI offered a tongue-in-cheek “no comment,” but basically confirmed that the game was getting melee-based combat--a first for any MechWarrior game. 

Fast forward a week and PGI announced the new Legend of the Kestrel Lancers DLC will arrive at the same time as the PlayStation launch of MechWarrior 5. This new DLC brings MechWarrior 5‘s timeline up to the Fourth Succession War, which saw the newly-formed Federated Commonwealth steal away planets from House Kurita, House Marik, but mostly House Liao. This all-new 14-mission campaign will bring “unique mechanics, authored missions, and custom dialogue and cinematics.”

There’s also going to be new ‘Mech skins, 23 new ‘Mech variants (with a lot of Archers, for some reason), three new biomes (Jungle, Tourmaline Desert, and Megacity), five new random mission types (Scorched Earth, Objective Raid, Targeted Kill, Guard Duty, and Battlefield), and seven new quest lines including the new “all-out-war” battle scenario.

Also confirmed with the DLC features trailer was what MechWarriors have been asking for since as far back as I can remember. Melee combat will finally appear in a MechWarrior game.

It seems like it’ll be limited to just punching, which means only ‘Mechs equipped with fists will get the option to play rock ’em sock ’em robots. However, ‘Mechs with fists are the ones that often needed a little extra to feel the most impactful in the game. My Quickdraw suddenly shoots from bottom-tier to top-tier heavy ‘Mech, along with the Commando and Panther.

The mighty Atlas probably didn’t need the help, but I doubt anyone is going to complain. 

We still don’t know exactly how melee will work, but I’ll assume it’ll be like a weapon system that you can bind to a button and then launch a haymaker at anything that’s close enough. 

Lancemate ‘Mech-swapping and melee combat are included in the free update that launches alongside the PlayStation release of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Legend of the Kestrel Lancers will include the new campaign, sidequests, and 23 new ‘Mech variants. Both are launching on September 23. 

Hatamoto-Chi Is The True ‘Mech Of The Samurai

I couldn’t go without featuring SU-SMD’s other BattleTech piece, a commission from Everything BattleTech’s David for a Hatamoto-Chi in full Draconis Combine samurai regalia. This is the sort of thing that reminds you that the Dracs have a lot of very pretty ‘Mechs so long as you can get over the retro-futuristic aesthetic.

BattleTech Is Slowly Being Turned Into Audiobooks

I’m not sure if any of y’all knew this since I didn’t know it until a helpful Sarna reader pointed it out, but BattleTech’s many novels are slowly being converted into audiobooks. You can head on over to Audible to see which books are currently available, such as The Gray Death Legion saga, Wolves on the Border, and A Bonfire of Worlds. I’m a big podcast guy, so audiobooks are a great thing to slip into my usual listening habits. 

The narrators for books already converted are fine, but I’m holding out for Tex’s rendition of Michael Stackpole’s Blood of Kerensky series. Tex made the announcement on the official Black Pants Legion YouTube page, adding he’s under an NDA so he really can’t offer too much in terms of comments. All he told me was that he needed to upgrade his computer hardware just to render the audio of sufficient quality and that he considers himself an “ultimate amateur” in the audiobook biz, so don’t get too excited.

He also wasn’t able to offer me a timeline, so patience is a virtue and all that.

BattleTech Returns To GenCon 2021

Catalyst Game Labs was at Gen Con this past weekend to showcase many of the new miniatures that arrived with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter Wave 2 packages. I got mine, by the way, and the minis are superb. I hope y’all get your packages in the coming weeks. 

To really make these new minis pop, CGL, Arcturus Rising, and Iron Wind Metal set up a diorama featuring a mixed landscape battle bookended by boxes of Clan Invasion ‘Mech Packs. You can even spot a few new Iron Wind sculpts in there, including the Goliath C, Sojourner, and Archer ARC-9W. 

We’ve got Guardian982 on Reddit to thank for these pictures, which also show a brand new official Annihilator hiding behind a building. The Iron Wind Metals ‘Mechs are available on its website now, while that Annihilator comes as part of a brand new Wolf’s Dragoons Assault Star Force Pack available from Barnes and Noble. This is an exclusive item, so you can ONLY get ’em from Barnes and Noble, and it’s a pre-order item too. Shipping for these Wolf’s Dragoons Force Packs starts December 15. Inside you’ll find the aforementioned Annihilator, but also a Rifleman, Archer, Blackjack, and a re-posed Timber Wolf.

And that’s in for September! Join us next month as we head into the spooky season with some more scary announcements.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For July, 2021

It’s raining here where I am right now. A summer thunderstorm, the sort that comes on quickly, blocks out the sun, and then dumps a bucket of water over your head before leaning back into a more sustainable downpour that comes with the occasional far-off thundercrack and enough wind to rattle the branches of trees and bushes. It’s the sort of weather where you wish you could just stop whatever it is you’re doing and just read a book by candlelight.

Mostly because I’m worried one of those lightning bolts will strike my house and fry my laptop.

But that’s just how dedicated I am to ensuring you, dear Sarna reader, get all the BattleTech news that’s fit for human consumption. And trust me, there’s always a heap of BattleTech news to consume, so let’s hop to it. 

What If MechAssault Was A SNES Rail Shooter?

Just as July arrived, so too did these delightful images from MrTalida. They imagine MechAssault, a game we’ve discussed a few times around these parts, but as a SNES rail shooter instead of a 3D action game. Think After Burner, but with ‘Mechs instead of jet fighters.

As a huge fan of these classic arcade games, this set of pics hit me right in the nostalgic feels. But better, since it’s Mechs. It almost makes me wish that we had these MechAssault games instead of the brutally hard BattleTech game we got on the Sega Genesis (called MechWarrior 3050 on the SNES). 

MechAssault 2 Lives On In Garry’s Mod

Speaking of MechAssault, it’s been brought to my attention that a group of modders is trying to recreate MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf as a mod for Garry’s Mod. The current MechAssault 2: Mech Pack public beta provides potential players with access to all 15 chassis (or 33  total ‘Mechs, if you count the palette swaps and the Spider boss), as well as both Elemental and standard Inner Sphere battle armor

This is still a mod for Garry’s Mod, so you’ll need to own Garry’s Mod in order to install the MechAssault 2 pack. It’s also still in beta, although the mod creators are currently looking for others to help them complete the project and maybe recreate all of MechAssault 2 inside Gary’s Mod.

It looks like these guys have already made quite a bit of progress with almost 30,000 downloads. If you’ve got Gary’s Mod and loved MechAssault 2, check out the mod here

MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 Will No Longer Need MechWarrior 5 To Play

Podcast 226 - Living Legends 2 Dev Talk
Watch this video on YouTube.

So remember MechWarrior: Living Legends? The same folks are making a sequel, which was announced last March. At the time they planned on making it using MechWarrior 5, which would have meant you’d need to own MechWarrior 5 to play Living Legends 2, but now the dev team has announced that’s no longer the case.

JPL Studios has announced that MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 will no longer need MechWarrior 5 and will instead be released as a standalone game. Apparently, lack of access to MechWarrior 5‘s source code meant that the changes JPL Studios needed to make for Living Legends to exist as an MW5 mod were just too complex to do without knowing the ins and outs of MW5‘s code. 

This, unfortunately, means that JPL Studios is going to have to make an entirely new game from scratch. Well, almost scratch. It’ll be made in Unreal Engine (same as MechWarrior 5), but JPL will need to make all their assets, animations, and everything else on their own. And because the only way to get this done under Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules is to do all this without actually selling the game, MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 will remain totally free. 

It’ll also drop the “MechWarrior ” moniker because it’s copyrighted and just go by Living Legends 2. But we can call it MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 here because that’s basically what it is.

Don’t expect any updates on this project for a while. Scuttlebutt around the Living Legends 2 Discord is that we might see an alpha build later this year, but don’t hold your breath. 

As for the original Living Legends, expect to find new VTOLs in the future along with some “thoroughly reworked” flight models. 

Now This Is A Poster That Could Get Me To Leave My House

I made a poster for my upcoming demo event in Brooklyn this weekend. from battletech

Bauermeister hosted a BattleTech intro event in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, and to get everyone in the mood, they made a poster for the occasion. To say it’s pretty sweet is a bit of an understatement.

Not sure why that Clan Wolf MechWarrior is behind the wheel of what appears to be a very standard Inner Sphere Warhammer, but whatever. Rule of cool and all that.

Wolves Wave 3 Is Taking The Puma (Adder) In A Very Different Direction

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Puma aesthetically speaking. It’s a great little ‘Mech, don’t get me wrong, it just looks sort of like if a Kit Fox found a home that it started carrying around everywhere it went. The Cougar looks a lot cooler, which is likely why you see a lot more of it in various video games including MechAssault.

Wolves, the MechAssault fan game that we’ve been following for a while now, is getting ready for its Wave 3 release of ‘Mechs. And one of those ‘Mechs just so happens to be the Puma.

I’m not going to say that the Wolves version of the Adder improved substantially on the ‘Mech’s hermit crab aesthetic, but I will say it looks exceptionally unique. I’m here for it.  

Now THIS Is A Grasshopper

Reddit user Philbobagginzzz is a hobby enthusiast from Alberta, Canada who loves painting miniatures. Warhammer and BattleTech are both parts of Phil’s repertoire, but we’re going to focus on the BattleTech side in this post.

It’s a Grasshopper. But not just any Grasshopper--it’s a PURPLE Grasshopper. And the base is also the size of your fist, so it’s less of a tabletop mini and more of a figurine. It’s something that I’d be proud to mount on my mantle, and I love Grasshoppers, so it gets a pass in this month’s news dump. 

Alpha Strike Cards Out Now For WarShips, JumpShips, DropShips, And Small Craft

Alpha Strike might not get all that much attention around these parts, but it does something that I think is very important in BattleTech: it makes things simpler. BattleTech is fine for an afternoon of fighting between lances, but blow that up to a company-level engagement and you’ll be playing for a week. Alpha Strike cuts down on the dice rolls and makes it a lot easier to include large-scale engagements in your tabletop nights.

It also makes space combat a lot easier, and now that you can get Alpha Strike cards for WarShips, JumpShips, DropShips, and Small Craft, you can have a massive space fight that won’t take the rest of the year to finish. 

Both Alpha Strike card packages are now available on Catalyst’s store and Drive-Thru RPG for pay-what-you-want. That’s 140 WarShips and JumpShips along with almost 200 DropShips and smaller spacecraft. 

Also, a recent update on the Clan Invasion Wave 2 shipping: Australia and the UK within the next two weeks, mid to late August for the USA and EU, no word on Asia and “the rest of the world.” Here’s hoping Canada is considered part of the USA for the purposes of shipping. 

Crusader. That’s It. That’s The Title.

Samir Dawoud (who goes by SU-SMD on Reddit) is still posting great art online, so I’m gonna keep tellin’ you about it. This one is a CDR-3R Crusader, a classic Unseen design that only just got a visual makeover in Recognition Guide: ilClan Volume 17, which hasn’t been uploaded to Sarna yet. Until it does, this is the best-looking Crusader I’ve ever seen (I’m only up to Volume 14 in my personal reading). 

This particular image will soon be featured on a custom BattleTech card courtesy of Renegade HPG over on Gallery 3025. Speaking of which…

A Reminder That Gallery 3025 Exists And Is Doing Good Things

We’ve talked about Gallery 3025 before, and we’re going to talk about it again right now. Do you want new BattleTech art? Animations? Even more elaborate fan projects that bring the BattleTech universe to life in new ways? Then you should sign up to Gallery 3025. For a very low monthly donation, you can get quick and easy access to brand new BattleTech art and also bask in the satisfaction of knowing you’re one of the noble few keeping BattleTech alive. 

The latest from Gallery 3025 updates us on Jayden’s piece of an Archer as it gets reloaded with LRMs. The Archer is mostly done, and all we’re missing is the actual missiles, plus a VTOL and a bit of AAA. You can bet that when it’s done it’ll likely be the cover image for one of Sarna’s news blasts.

MechWarrior Online’s July Patch Brings More Balance To Weapons And Jump Jets

MechWarrior Online just got its July patch, and this month we get a weapons balance pass and a change to the new Canyon Network map that almost makes MWO feel like a live service game. 

Canyon Network has flooded as of this match! No idea what this means for gameplay (yet), but maybe it’ll mean ‘Mechs that stay low in the floodwaters will get bonus cooling while peeking above the hills will give better sightlines on your opponents. Also, it’s neat for any part of MechWarrior Online to change this rapidly, so kudos to Francois on this map update!

As always, there are too many weapon changes to just list ’em all here, but I’ll give you my quick hits. Pulse Lasers were overperforming for both Clan and Inner Sphere, so the Cauldron has decided to buff regular Large and ER Large Lasers to better compete, along with Light PPCs, Snubbies, and Heavy Large Lasers. Steam SRMs have been tweaked to better improve their striking power, and LB 5-X ACs for the Inner Sphere now take just 4 crits instead of 5. 

Another big change in this patch is to jump jets. Jumping has always felt better in certain ‘Mechs, with usually the lighter end of each class enjoying the best jump performance. The 40-45 tonners in particular made the best jumpers since their jump jets cost only half a ton but provided as much lift as you’d get on a lighter machine. 

The Cauldron’s latest changes help to smooth out jump jet performance disparity so that mounting jets on heavy and assault ‘Mechs isn’t quite so useless. Smaller ‘Mechs will enjoy increased initial thrust, while heavier ‘Mechs will have improved burn time so they can still make those high jumps, they’ll just do it more slowly.

MechWarrior Online is still in the midst of the Beach Party limited-time event where you can snatch a free Atlas if you play enough. There’s also a new Warden ‘Mech Pack coming that reimagines the Timber Wolf and Dire Wolf as old-school 3D renders sort of like how they did with Enhanced Imaging mode enabled in MechWarrior 2. They also come with some fun Elemental bolt-ons so you can bring a point of Elementals into battle (they won’t actually shoot or anything, but they look nice). 

That’s it for July! The rain has stopped here and we’re back to hot, humid, hazy weather--the kind that makes you want to just take out a book and read under a tree. This time without the fire risk.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Michael At Metal Core Collectibles Talks About 3D Printing And Making Fan Designs

Welcome back to Community Outreach, the series where Sarna reaches out to various members of the BattleTech community to ask them “what’s up?” And what’s up this week is Metal Core Collectibles, both a custom miniature’s small business based in Canada as well as a person! He’s a recent BattleTech convert but a longtime fan of giant stompy robots of all kinds. Plus he makes really awesome miniatures at home.

Sarna sat down with Metal Core Collectibles to see where it came from, where it’s going, and how its fate intertwined with BattleTech in an unexpected way. Enjoy.

Continue reading

Clan Invasion Box Set ‘Mechs Revealed!

You’re gonna love the news here, folks! Catalyst has revealed the ‘Mechs to be included in the upcoming BattleTech: Clan Invasion boxed set Kickstarter, and we’ve got a good spread on our hands.

The news comes from a recent update on the Catalyst website that gave us a sneak peek on what to expect. In addition to the box and rulebook art (which we saw in the earlier Kickstarter announcement), Catalyst has given us the five ‘Mechs to be included in the box set, and a few of them are personal favorites.

Starting with the Nova (or Blackhawk, to you Spheroids in the audience). I’ve loved the Nova since the early days for its pug-nosed and fireplug stance. The lack of torso to twist was never really a big deal, especially when considering the Prime configuration has enough firepower to core an assault ‘Mech in a single blast.

But more than that, the Nova appeals to my love of workhorse line ‘Mechs. The Nova was cheap (at least, cheap in terms of Clan OmniMechs) and fielded by almost every Clan in the Kerensky Cluster. It could fulfill almost any role and was never looked down upon by Clan warriors.

Next we have the Grundel–sorry, I mean the Grendel. This is perhaps my favorite Clan ‘Mech. As with the Nova, it’s a workhorse design fielded by many Clans, but unlike the Nova, it was a late addition to the Clan Invasion of the Inner Sphere.

The Grendel was created by Clan Diamond Shark and sold directly to other Clans looking to refill their touman before the Battle of Tukayyid. It was more common to find in Clan Smoke Jaguar, which had lost more machines in its drive to Terra than competing invading Clans due to their straight-forward and unwavering combat style.

Clan-Invasion-Star-All-Five - via Catalyst

What I love most about the Grendel is that it’s fast, powerful, and incredibly maneuverable. Seven jump jets let it jump over almost any obstacle, while its various loadouts allow it to strike hard at any range. If I had to pick any Clan ‘Mech of the 3050-era as my favorite, it would be the Grendel.

Frankly, it’s a little surprising for the Grendel to be included over something like the Ice Ferret or Viper. The Grendel didn’t take part in the initial invasion and really didn’t show up until Tukayyid. As much as I love the design and think it could beat a Ferret or Viper any day of the week, it seems inappropriate to include in a box set themed for the Clan Invasion.

Then again, there are still more than a few ‘Mechs left unaccounted for, so perhaps the Ice Ferret and Viper will still make an appearance.

Anyway, next up is the Adder, another surprise that I totally forgot about when the Clan Invasion was first announced. Twin ER PPCs make it quite the potent little ‘Mech and it’s definitely tougher than the Kit Fox, which was another common light design.

Next is the Timber Wolf, the quintessential Clan ‘Mech and poster child for Clan tech ever since the original TRO: 3050 dropped. And then there was MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 3 which again used the Timber Wolf for their marketing.

I get that it’s a favorite design for a lot of folks out there, but to me, the Timby is just totally overused. Give me the Summoner, the Hellbringer, or even the Linebacker over the Timber Wolf. But I can’t fault Catalyst for giving the fans what they want, and there’s no denying the Timber Wolf is a strong machine.

Clan Invasion

Finally, the Executioner. I’m not a fan of assault ‘Mechs in general, but I respect the Executioner for its speed and jump capacity. It’s out-gunned by many designs of equal weight, but nothing is able to withstand a blow and keep on coming than an Executioner. Perhaps best of all, it can keep up with the rush of smaller, faster designs thanks to its MASC. At least, for a little while anyway.

Catalyst has a full list of what you get with the Clan Invasion boxed set, including the 15-page Clan Primer, all-new 24-page novella, and Alpha Strike cards for the give designs mentioned. We also have a start date for the Kickstarter, which goes live on Wednesday, July 17th at 1 PM EST.

Head on over to the Catalyst site for the full deets. And maybe one of them can ship me the Grendel model before anyone else gets one. I’ve got a brother who would love to get his hands on one of these to paint ‘em up, and maybe do one for me too.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Catalyst Announces New Kickstarter To Bring Clan Invasion To New Box Sets

Timber Wolf

It looks like the new box sets Catalyst released earlier this year (technically last year, but they got a little held up) sold pretty well. So well, in fact, that not even six months later Catalyst is planning a big expansion. And there’s only one thing that could make an even bigger splash than the arrival of the new box sets.

Clan-Invasion-box-render

Is it the Clans? It’s the Clans, isn’t it? It’s totally the Clans.

Yes, the Clan Invasion is about to come to BattleTech: A Game Of Armored Combat. Only it won’t be coming in the same way the box did. Catalyst will be paying for BattleTech’s first expansion by crowdfunding it on Kickstarter, which is another first for the BattleTech board game.

As you’d expect, the Clan Invasion will add brand new Clan ‘Mech models redesigned in the same awesome way as with the original box set’s minis. According to Catalyst’s recent update, the new ‘Mechs will hold “to the spirit of their original design while embracing a modern aesthetic.”

So what do we know so far? First, there will be the core Clan Invasion expansion, which will include 5 new minis, one of which is the iconic Timber Wolf (or Mad Cat, if you’re a Spheroid). This expansion will also contain added documentation for the new Clan tech, new maps, “and more.” 

courtesy of Catalyst Games

Next will be two smaller Clan expansion packs modeled after a Clan star. The Command Star Expansion was pictured on Catalyst’s page and looks to include a Summoner (Thor), Shadow Cat, Mist Lynx (Koshi), Dire Wolf (Daishi), and Stormcrow (Ryoken). The Attack Star Expansion wasn’t pictured, but we’re told it contains a Warhawk (Masakari) and a Nova Cat, as well as three more.

That leaves a lot of Invasion-era ‘Mechs unaccounted for. Off the top of my head, there’s the Fire Moth (Dasher), Kit Fox (Uller), Nova (Black Hawk), Viper (Dragonfly), Mad Dog (Vulture), Hellbringer (Loki), Ice Ferret (Fenris), Gargoyle (Man O’ War), and Executioner (Gladiator), which conveniently would slot into the 9 Clan ‘Mechs still to be confirmed in the Clan expansion.

courtesy of Catalyst Games

As much as people will be excited for the Clans, we know they’ll be equally excited (if not more excited) to see more Unseen ‘Mechs return to BattleTech. Two Inner Sphere lances will feature lost designs, with the Command Lance shown to include the Marauder, Archer, Valkyrie, and Stinger, while the Attack Lance is said to have the Phoenix Hawk and Warhammer.

Still no sign of the Rifleman, but maybe it’ll be one of the other two chassis in the Attack Lance.

The Kickstarter starts on July 17th, and will include stretch goals for even more Inner Sphere and Clan ‘Mechs. There will also be other stuff, such as “exciting new BattleTech merchandise, the latest rulebooks, sourcebooks, boxed sets, and more!” As expected, details are scant on what will fit where, but you can expect to find out more (and likely discover the full roster of ‘Mech designs) once the Kickstarter begins next month.

For more details, check out Catalyst’s webpage here.

And as always, MechWarrior: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Catalyst Announces 35th Anniversary BattleTech With New Available Products

35th Anniversary

courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst Game Labs is celebrating 35 years of BattleTech with a huge release of new products.

Way back in 1984, FASA corporation created a game universe that would inspire countless novels, sourcebooks, and video games. Well, actually, not all that countless, but I’ve never bothered counting them all, and I’m sure it’s a very high number.

To celebrate BattleTech’s 35th birthday, Catalyst Game Labs–the lovable rapscallions that serve as arbitrators of BattleTech lore and it’s tabletop roots–are giving in fully to their capitalist urges and holding a massive release of some exciting new products.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, a bunch of items went up for grabs on Catalyst’s website and in your local games retailer, starting with the box sets. Both the Beginner Box Set and BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat will be available in-store and online starting on Wednesday.

That’s not all: Shattered Fortress will also be available in major retailers on January 23rd, and is already available on Catalysts’ website (and has been for a few weeks now). On top of that, a 35th Anniversary Edition of the BattleTech Manual will hit Catalyst’s online store which features all previous errata and the coveted 35th-anniversary logo.

Look at that Warhammer. Doesn’t she look pretty? Wouldn’t you like one on a t-shirt or something?

Well, good news! Catalyst has developed a mind-reading machine that can also see into the future and has prepared a bunch of 35th-anniversary merch with that same Warhammer logo! That includes a t-shirt, hoodie, and a pin for when you’re forced to be fancy but still want to show your love of BattleTech to the world.

And the Warrior Trilogy is back in stores for an anniversary edition PDF or Print on Demand. I’ve read all those stories twice now, so it’s a little less interesting to me, but if you haven’t read them before, you really should.

Now, normally we stick with BattleTech related items on Sarna, what with it being a BattleTech wiki and all, but Catalyst also watches over Shadowrun which is another FASA-born universe that I have much love for. If only the rules weren’t a complicated mess in desperate need of some D&D 5th edition simplification, I’d be playing it as my tabletop RPG every week.

It’s also Shadowrun’s 30th anniversary, so Catalyst has a bunch of new PDF sourcebooks and merch on sale too. A unique 30th-anniversary logo adorns a t-shirt, hoodie, and pin just as with the BattleTech merch, allowing you to show your love of the Sixth World in style.

Full details can be found over on Catalyst’s website.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy

stay syrupy

Year of Battle Armor: Unit 1 – Corona Heavy Battle Armor

Late in 2017, I took a good look through the unassembled and unpainted BattleTech models in my collection, and I came to a decision about something I really wanted to see in 2018.

One of my favorite parts of the BattleTech universe and game is Battle Armor, and I have collected a ton of it. But I have relatively little of it put together, and even less of that painted. Long story short, I spent some time evaluating what I wanted to do about it, and decided that 2018 would be known as the “Year of Battle Armor”.

Fast forward to half way through February, and I realized that I had not yet started into my plans for the year. January got swallowed up by so many other things that I almost completely forgot about my ambitious goal.

Developed by Clan Star Adder, the Corona Heavy Battle Armor was one of the first non-standard Battle Armors produced during the Clan Invasion.

So, I did something about it. And here we are, in the first article of the Year of Battle Armor series. This year (2018), I plan to complete 2-3 Battle Armor centric projects per month and write here about the progress of each project and the year as a whole. I also hope that many of the units I complete during the YoBA will in turn show up in my BattleTech battle reports, so we should get to see follow ups on how the units are being used after they are completed here.

So, introduction of mission completed, how about I introduce the first unit for the Year of Battle Armor, the Corona Heavy Battle Armor!

Rather than give an overview of the history of the Corona, you can click on the link just above to visit the Sarna article, which says most of what I would repeat here anyway.

 

Step 1 – Line ‘Em Up

25 Corona suits, ready to form up.

I chose the Corona as the first unit for YoBA for a couple of reasons. I believe that it is a great suit of battle armor that I think gets overlooked, even when compared to others of the underused specialty Clan battle armors. I think this is in part due to the when the Corona was released in the game, in TRO: 3075. During that era of the game, while the Wars of Reaving were reshaping the landscape of the Clan Homeworlds, the majority of people, both in-universe and players, was focused on the Jihad. This may have led to the Corona going a bit unnoticed, especially compared to other battle armors in that TRO, like the Clan Medium Battle Armor and Golem Assault Armor, which got to participate directly in the Jihad. While the Corona did migrate into the IS Clan General list during this time, most Clans just did not incorporate it in any meaningful way.

And since my primary faction is Clan Ghost Bear, of course this unit is joining my favorite Clan.

Step 2 – Getting Them on the Bases

Corona Heavy Battle Armor is easily distinguished by its shoulder-mounted Medium Pulse Laser.

I was pleased that I could fit five models on a standard sized hex base. The bases I’m using were 3D printed and are the same size and dimensions as the hex bases available from Iron Wind Metals.

Some modeling putty provided the perfect soft ground to sink the models’ bases into and saved me the trouble of having to cut off the bases. This won’t always be possible with all battle armors, In fact, fitting five models to a base will not be possible in all cases.

Step 3 – Primer and Colors

You want blue? We got blue!

I use Army Painter paints for my hobby projects. I quick spray and touching up with a basecoat of matching Ultramarine Blue, and the Corona is ready for colors.

Battle Armor is tough to paint!

Keeping the paint scheme rather simple, I went with my standard 2nd Bear Regulars scheme. Blue torso and head, grey limbs, and some metal for the metal bits. Also, not shown in this picture, I added some dull yellow to the view plates on the heads.

Step 4 – Shading, Basing, and Varnish

Almost there.

I washed the models with Army Painter Soft Tone, thinking that I could darken it up if I needed to. When it was done, I decided that I liked the shading and moved on to the next part.

Ready for action!

This was my first time using the Army Painter Snow basing material, and I really like it. I’ve worked with other snow basing materials before, and this stuff was my favorite to work with. I think the coverage was better than what I’d used before, and it seemed to stick better to the glue.

Once the glue dried, it was outside for a quick round of varnish, and there we have it!

Why Use Corona Heavy Battle Armor?

So it made sense to me to wrap up each YoBA article with some pros and cons and a little bit about why you might want to use the Battle Armor I’ve just discussed.

I won’t take the time to break down all of the BattleTech vs Alpha Strike differences, but instead focus on what makes the Corona an interesting choice.

Pros

  • Longer Range in BattleTech than most other Battle Armors.
  • Mechanized capabilities for OmniMech transport
  • Solid damage profile-to-PV balance in Alpha Strike
  • Opponents unlikely to anticipate the pick, for element of surprise.
  • IS Clan General beginning in Civil War time period.

Cons

  • Less armor than standard Elemental Battle Armor
  • No Jump Jet capability, leaving the Corona on the ground.
  • Only one variant apart from the standard version, listed as Star Adder available only.

If you would like to learn more about Corona Heavy Battle Armor, you can check out the products listed below.

BattleTech Technical Readout: 3075

BattleTech Record Sheets: 3075 Unabridged – The Cutting Edge

Parting Shot

And finally, I’ll leave you all with this teaser of the next Battle Armor, currently on the table. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for the rest of the Year of Battle Armor!

What is this Battle Armor? Share your guesses in the comments!

Community Outreach – BattleTech CamoSpecs Online

Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we speak with Todd “Mastergunz” Farnholtz, a BattleTech Miniature painter and admin at CamoSpecs Online, the biggest site and Facebook group for miniature ‘Mech painting enthusiasts. We ask him about CamoSpecs, how it came about, and how he joined up to help define the unit colors of ‘Mechs the universe over. Enjoy!

Sean (Sarna): Who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.

Mastergunz: My name is Todd Farnholtz, but I go by the handle ‘Mastergunz’ on CSO. I joined the group in Summer of 2009 – just in time to get a single piece done and added to that year’s Gencon 2009 CSO diorama. It was a Word of Blake Raptor II and I rushed to paint it because the mini had just come out and wanted to display it on the board. I’ve been playing BattleTech since 93′,  so having an opportunity to be a part of the game I loved was a huge achievement for me.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: What is CamoSpecs? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it?

Mastergunz: CamoSpecs.com is a 100% fan run organization that provides visual references to canon paint schemes for the BattleTech universe. While we do get support from IWM (Iron Wind Metals) and Catalyst for special projects, the site and its upkeep is 100% on us. We are a dedicated group of artists that comb all available canon sources to make sure what we paint is accurate to what is written. We have even at times been asked to create schemes for new units as they were created by the authors.

Sean: When did you join CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: I joined in 2009 after 2 failed submissions; finally made it in on my 3rd attempt.

Sean: What was the original idea behind CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: I wasn’t around for the initial inception, which was 2 years prior I believe. The site and what it sought to do was conceptualized and inspired by the old FASA Camo Specs book showing the various paint schemes of the units in the BattleTech universe.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: When did you get into BattleTech?

Mastergunz: I started playing BattleTech in 1993 with the 2nd Edition box set after having played the old MechWarrior computer game.

Sean: And when did you get into miniature BattleTech making?

Mastergunz: I’ve always been a lover of all thing giant robots. Starting back in the 80’s with Transformers, Voltron, Robotech, etc… the 2nd Edition box set is what introduced me to miniature wargaming and painting. Kit bashing the various variants of the ‘Mechs was just something that we all did from the start.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: How long does it take to make some of these miniatures?

Mastergunz: I can’t speak for the sculpting side of things but painting a single mini used to take quite a while. In the beginning I would spend 6-7 hours on a single piece to get it to tabletop standard. As with all things in life, practice makes perfect (and learning to use an airbrush didn’t hurt) so I can finish a ‘Mech from primer to seal coat in about 3 hours now and feel it is of display quality.

Sean: What’s your favorite ‘Mech? An all-important question.

Mastergunz: Hands down the AWS- 9Q Awesome. I’ve never been a finesse player so something that hits hard and can take a beating is right up my alley. The 9Q is the original zombie. I even have a licence plate frame on my truck that says ‘My other ride is an AWS-9Q’.  

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: And what’s your favorite miniature you’ve built?

Mastergunz: My favorite ‘Mech I’ve ever built and painted for BattleTech/CSO changes constantly as my skills improve, but I’d have to say my most recent favorite was the Zeus X4. It’s a solid model with a lot of dynamics to its assembly so it doesn’t have to be static.

ZeusX1

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what haven’t you played?

Mastergunz: I’ve played all the computer and console games, tabletop (both hex sheet and miniature rules) and little bit of Alpha Strike. I never got into the Dark Ages Clix Game but do own a ton of the models for kit bashing purposes. And of course I was a backer for the recent Kickstarter from Harebrained Schemes and am super excited for the beta to release.

Sean: How has CamoSpecs collaborated with official BattleTech content producers, like Catalyst Games?

Mastergunz: Yes. Our group leader, Ray Arrastia (who was recently promoted to Assistant Line Developer for BattleTech), is our direct liaison with Catalyst. We have been tasked with working on art for almost all of the books released in the last several years, most recently the Combat Manual: Mercenaries book and Alpha Strike.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: Let’s talk numbers. How BIG is CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: CamoSpecs is currently a stable of about 15-20 painters, though only 6-10 of us are fairly active. You have to remember that this is a purely voluntary group and so we do what we can as real life allows.

Sean: What’s in store for CamoSpecs in the future?

Mastergunz: The million dollar question. Well I can say we have been working behind the scenes to keep things going via Facebook, mostly. Since we lost our server host in 2015 it has been a task to try and set up something that was as comprehensive and easy to use as the original site. Again, as a fan run volunteer group the time needed to essentially build a new site from the ground up is prohibitive but we are working on something right now.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty :)

Mastergunz: BattleTech is my first love in miniature wargaming, and so I want to say thanks to all my fellow artist who over the years have pushed me to be better and became very good friends of mine – meeting up at cons and such. I can honestly say I would not be the artist I am today if not for their constructive criticism over the years and seeing the stuff they were turning out and making me say to myself “I want to learn to do that technique!”.

Shameless self plug time! To see some of my more recent BattleTech work (as well as not BattleTech) you can visit my painting page, Mastergunz Paint Worx, on Facebook and YouTube.

Also, some of my fellow CSO artist have a pages as well: “Captain of the Watch” Ed Smith on his Facebook page, and “B1BFlyer” Ryan Peterson runs a YouTube channel for CSO with lots of very cool tutorial videos up.

Incredible thanks to Mastergunz for agreeing to sit down with us. Tune in next time for more Community Outreach!

Pack Hunter vs. Solitaire – Strength in Numbers, Army of One

In my previous “vs.” article, I compared two second line BattleMechs, the Rabid Coyote and the Ursus. You can find that article here if you would like to read my analysis on the match-up.

In this installment, we again take a look at a pair of second line Clan BattleMechs, but these two are very different from our previous subjects.

When thinking about Light `Mechs, two images usually come to mind, at least for me. The first is of the stealth loner type scout, bravely attempting to get as close to the enemy as possible, even going behind enemy lines, in order to secure precious intel about troop movements, supply lines, and personnel locations. This lone ranger scout seeks out the weaknesses of the enemy and exploits them with brutal efficiency.

The other type of scout that comes to mind is the kind that searches and destroys vulnerable enemy targets in a small group. These scouts rely on gang-up tactics and misdirection to get the job done, working in highly coordinated teams to secure strategic kills, usually performing specific hit & run style strikes meant to pinpoint a specific target.

When juxtaposing these two types of BattleMech scouts, it is not hard to literally find the names of two `Mechs that not only resemble the concepts, they are named for them. The two BattleMechs we will look at in the context of these roles are the Pack Hunter and the Solitaire.

Perhaps not as well known or loved as other Clan favorites like the Dasher (Fire Moth) or Koshi (Mist Lynx), these second line designs come from an era when the Clans were still learning how to co-exist their Inner Sphere neighbors, adapting their toumans to be able to handle the myriad tactics that the Inner Sphere employs to get the job done no matter what.

But before we compare and contrast these Light hunting machines, let’s get to know each machine a little better.

Pack Hunter

Just out for a morning patrol and…holy crap, what’s that thing?!

The Pack Hunter would likely be considered an impressive effort regardless of the circumstances of its design and production. The first collaboration between Clan Wolf-in-Exile and their Arc Royal hosts, the Kell Hounds, the Pack Hunter was meant to be a test best for production capabilities, enabling the Wolves-in-Exile to work out any major problems with Clan technology before moving on to an OmniMech design. The project was a success, with the first production units rolling off the lines in 3059.

Matching superior speed and mobility with a single, hard-hitting weapon system, the Pack Hunter exists on a simple design philosophy. That being that light, fast, hard to hit BattleMechs can succeed in engagements with both Inner Sphere and Clan forces.

The design faced very few notable production problems and hit the field very quickly after its development period. During testing, it was found that as little as two Pack Hunters could demonstrate a clear danger to even a massive Dire Wolf, and the BattleMech is usually found deployed in teams of two or more.

Even under the Clans’ ritual rules of zellbrigen, the Pack Hunter is able to team up with its mate to take on a heavier opponent without the dishonor of breaking the traditional one-on-one combat doctrine. Working “around the rules” in this fashion had led to many Clan opponents wishing they had not agreed to the terms of the engagement.

A simple, efficient, and long-lasting design, the Pack Hunter has seen at least three variants put into production as well as receiving a second incarnation, the Pack Hunter II, during the Jihad and into the Republic era.

Armaments and Capabilities

The Pack Hunter exemplifies simplicity in its design and equipment, all packed into a tidy 30 ton chassis. Armed with only a single Clan Extended-Range Particle Projection Cannon, mounted in its right torso, the `Mech is built on an Endo Steel chassis and protected by four tons of standard armor. Its standard engine allows the Pack Hunter to move at a stop speed of 119 kph and adds to the BattleMech’s durability and affordability. Rounding out its equipment are enough jump jets to jump 210 meters.

Even without a complication array of weapons and equipment, the Pack Hunter‘s extreme efficiency has been proven on the battlefield since day one. Its frequent deployment in pairs is one of the most interesting developments with this BattleMech, as it heralded a slight shift in the Clans’ usually strict adherence to single combat.

Solitaire

Hey, is that a new Pack Hunter? Thor and Odin! No blast that large comes from a Pack Hunter!

That this BattleMech exists might be a bit of a small marvel in itself. The characteristically austere Clan Diamond Shark is not known for creating a BattleMech that literally takes every opportunity possible to make itself more expensive to produce. Yet, the Solitaire still rolled off the production lines and to roaring success to boot.

This blazing fast light BattleMech has few equals in terms of mobility, despite its lack of jump jets. Light Mech pilots in both Clan Diamond Shark and Clan Ghost Bear scrambled and competed to get a hold of any <em>Solitaire</em> that became available as soon as theMech was released.

Tactically, the Solitaire is deployed as a solo killer, stalking ahead of its unit to pick off any opponent that has strayed just a bit out of formation. With the firepower to threaten even most assault BattleMechs, especially when attacking from behind the larger machines, the Solitaire is highly effective when used as a backstabber and an assassin.

When the Solitaire entered production in 3064, the vast majority of units went to Clan Diamond Shark’s Spina Galaxies. Shortly after that, large numbers of Solitaires began to appear in second line units in the Ghost Bear Dominion. Apparently part of a large trade deal, linked either to the Diamond Shark’s help of the Ghost Bear’s earlier relocation to the Inner Sphere or for some unknown future consideration. Clans Cloud Cobra and Ice Hellion also showed interest in the BattleMech, but after the Wars of Reaving it is doubtful that the design would be found in the Clan Homeworlds in any significant numbers.

Armaments and Capabilities

Coming in at 25 tons, the spry Solitaire would not have been near as impressive of a machine if Clan Diamond Shark had cut any expense in its production. Based on an Endo Steel chassis and protected by four and a half tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor, the Solitaire is just about as sturdy and as protected as a Mech of its size can be. The real defensive piece is its Model SF-25 XL engine that allows a top speed of 162 kph. However, it is the chosen armaments for this BattleMech that make it stand out. Boasting one Heavy Large Laser, two Heavy Medium Lasers, and one Heavy Small Laser, the <em>Solitaire</em> is nearly unmatched in its weight class in terms of pure damage potential. The limiting factor for thisMech lies in its ten double heat sinks, making an Alpha Strike attack quite a toasty proposition.

Able to hit hard and fade away quickly enough to cool down, the Solitaire is one dangerous machine in the right hands. To date, the Solitaire has only one variant, which drops one of the Heavy Medium Lasers to add a MASC system. If the Solitaire is not fast enough for you, the Solitaire 2 might be the `Mech for you.

Head to Head

As with the previous contest, these two BattleMechs represent different takes on fulfilling the same battlefield role. The idea of these two `Mechs meeting on the field is one that makes me scratch my head a little.

Strictly speaking, I would imagine that Pack Hunter and Solitaire pilots would do their best to avoid one another on the battlefield. Each chassis is better designed to hunt down heavier BattleMechs than to hunt one another.

Click the picture to visit Iron Wind Metals’ Pack Hunter page.

But for argument sake, let’s take a stab at figuring out some possibilities should the two meet on the field and have no choice but to engage one another. For the purposes of this comparison, we will explore a 1v1 scenario and dismiss that Pack Hunters usually show up in pairs (though I will devote a few sentences to that scenario a little later).

Terrain may or may not be a factor in this match up. While the Pack Hunter‘s jump jets give it a slight edge in being able to ignore certain terrain types, the sheer speed of the Solitaire helps the lighter `Mech keep its own advantage, as long as the terrain is not wide open.

So the first part of the engagement will be advantage Pack Hunter simply because it will be able to open fire probably one turn earlier than the Solitaire, thanks to its ERPPC. Any ERPPC hit to the Solitaire‘s arms will rip it off clean and even lend some splash damage to the corresponding torso. A leg hit will not take out the Solitaire by itself, but it could help to cripple the lighter `Mech if a critical hit is scored.

Assuming the Solitaire can survive long enough to get into long range with its Heavy Large Laser, the battle gets a bit more interesting. Any hit from the Solitaire‘s main weapon will outright destroy any of the Pack Hunter‘s locations, save the Center Torso. Also, because the Pack Hunter only has a single weapon, if that happens to be to the Right Torso (or even the Right Arm in some cases), then the Pack Hunter might as well call it a day.

Click the picture to visit Iron Wind Metals’ Solitaire page.

From there it gets to be a worse proposition for the Pack Hunter, as the Solitaire can use its superior speed to further close the distance to bring its Heavy Medium Lasers to bear. At that point, the multiple hit capability of the Solitaire begins to exact a heavy toll on the Pack Hunter‘s chanced for survival.

One thing to point out here is that the Pack Hunter will benefit from better To-Hit numbers in almost every case, down to a range of 3 hexes. This is a good advantage and should not be overlooked. While it should also not be counted upon to make a huge difference, the advantage exists nonetheless.

So in most 1v1 situations, barring a lucky hit, I think I’m going to have to give the contest to the Solitaire. The speed advantage of the lighter `Mech does a lot to mitigate the range disparity between the two, and the Solitaire also boasts slightly more armor protection, which can make the difference when taking leg hits, thus keeping mobile and in the fight. While the Pack Hunter is more durable thanks to its standard Engine, losing its one weapon system is in most cases just as devastating as being destroyed.

Side Note: I promised I would address this, so here it is. I’ll have to give the engagement to the Pack Hunter if there are two of them. It’s simple a reorganization of the tactical situation. In a 1v1, the Pack Hunter is playing the Solitaire‘s game. Conversely, the 1v2 situation is more than just being simply outnumbered. It is a changing of the scope of the battlefield in a way that brings the Solitaire in the Pack Hunters‘ arena. A clever Solitaire pilot might still come out on top of a 1v2 scenario, but the value of two `Mechs working together is most often greater than the simple sum of the whole.

Final Thoughts

Both of these BattleMechs are amazing at what they do. They’re not completely dissimilar, but they’re also not really the same. Side by side, I would personally take the Solitaire, but I will caveat myself by reminding you that I’m a Ghost Bear player primarily. I have nothing against the Pack Hunter, however, and would not feel cheated or under strength if I had one or two in a Star. Raw BV aside, either situation can easily win back double or more its points.

As far as deployability, the Pack Hunter and its variants, including the Pack Hunter II, has found its way not only into the forces of Clan Wolf-in-Exile and the Kell Hounds, but also into pretty much every other Clan, Mercenary forces, the Republic, and several Houses. Widespread and valued for its capabilities, the Pack Hunter will continue to be a familiar sight on the battlefield for a long time to come.

Conversely, the Solitaire has experienced a rather limited breadth of varied deployment, seen only in the toumans of Clans Ghost Bear and Diamond Shark/Sea Fox even into the 3140s. I do not believe that this means that other military organizations have found fault in the design. Instead, I believe it is reflective of Clan Sea Fox’s continued efforts to keep the design as exclusive as possible, sharing the expensive BattleMech only with its Ghost Bear allies.

Want to Know More?

If you want to know more about either the Pack Hunter or the Solitaire, check out the reference materials listed below:

BattleTech Technical Readout: 3060 on BattleCorps, DriveThruRPG, or Amazon
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3067 on BattleCorpsDriveThruRPG, or Amazon
Pack Hunter on the Master Unit List
Solitaire on the Master Unit List

Want to see me continue to compare BattleMechs? Suggest a new pairing in the comments, and if strikes my fancy I just might write it!