This week in product reviews, we take a look at Technical Readout: 3145 Free Worlds League, the fifth in Catalyst Game Labs Technical Readout: 3145 faction series.
First, though, a disclaimer: Everyone has had their own experiences playing BattleTech, and everyone develops different tastes, preferences and opinions regarding what kinds of ‘Mechs, weapons, equipment, etc. that they prefer, usually based on those same experiences. Several times, I have felt a certain way about a ‘Mech by just reviewing their stats in a Technical Readout, only to radically change that view when I actually see one in play. This will probably happen again, and I hope it does. Otherwise, I’d probably get bored of the game. The point is, these reviews are simply written based on my own opinions. That’s all they are. I’m happy to debate various points with people, and I’d love to hear about your own playing experiences as well. (That’s what comment boxes are for.) But please, do not be offended if I seem to slam your favorite ‘Mech, faction, weapon or hovercraft. I assure you, it is never personal.
Without further ado, I’ll open by saying I love the cover art, courtesy of Jonathan Gonzalez. All the TRO: 3145s have excellent artwork in general, but this shot of a Stalker II and Quasimodo in the snow was beautiful. All ‘Mech fights should now be fought with a snowfall in the background.
As bad as the Jihad was for all the other factions, it ended the Free Worlds League, the original Successor State, splitting it into several pieces along with hundreds of independent worlds. This allowed each new faction to form their own identity, each with their own leader and “notable personalities”. The Regulans get to be everyone’s crazy, paranoid cousins, while the Duchy of the Oriente continued to follow the “fake” Thomas Marik, under the premise that he wasn’t crazy and/or a Blakist. That remained the state of affairs until the Dark Age era, where “Thomas”’ daughter, Jessica, pulled much of the League’s former member-states together in time to face the joint Lyran-Wolf invasion. While they didn’t stop the invasion, they managed to survive it when the Wolves turned around and attacked the Lyrans. Even so, the League, though technically existing, remains fractured, with some of the factories described in this TRO already falling under Alaric Wolf’s rule, while others are Regulan and still others are Andurien or independent.
Overall, the equipment offered here is very solid, particularly in comparison to the maligned (at least in my review) Technical Readout: 3145 Federated Suns. The three battle armors offered offer decent mobility for their roles, though none have jump ability. (This seems to be a sticking point with me.) The vehicles are a wide variety; the R10 Mechanized ICV is a medium-weight tracked OmniVehicle infantry carrier, which is something new. We get a new version of the Partisan, and it fulfills its function as an anti-air vehicle. The Bardiche is something of a “proof of” concept, loaded with experimental and advanced tech like the iNarc. The Bulwark assault tank is a straight up pounder, with a Heavy PPC and Heavy Gauss Rifle.
The ‘Mechs are a notch above, though. The Gambit has a sleek look and is a worthy successor to light, fast, sniper ‘Mechs like the Jackal and Talon. The Havoc caught my eye with splendid mobility; it can run and jump behind you, poke holes in your back, and then get away.
The Violator is a former Solaris ‘Mech that brings the Mining Drill into the mainstream, all on a very durable frame complete with a Claw. Likewise, the Sarath is a four-legged OmniMech that attempts to champion the Quad Turret. The classic Hunchback has been beefed up by five tons and renamed the Quasimodo, though oddly it swaps the classic massive autocannon for a flurry of advanced lasers and exotic defensive equipment.
The Anzu’s profile is somewhat reminiscent of the classic Thor / Summoner of the Clan Invasion, and it is simply a very capable heavy with proven technologies on a jump-capable chassis. It reminds me of when heavies like the Thunderbolt were called “workhorse” ‘Mechs. The Carronade manages to cram standard and silver-bullet gauss rifles on a single 70-ton ‘Mech.
You can tell the developers had fun making the Neanderthal, an answer to the Lyran Berserker almost eighty years too late. It’s an 80-ton hatchet-wielder, taking advantage of the M-Pods from the Tactical Operations book. It has just enough speed to close with anything trying to stay away from it, and it certainly looks intimidating, with a head that reminds me of the Aliens movie franchise. Some long-time fans were excited to see a new version of the Stalker when the cover for this TRO was released. Unfortunately, my reaction is a bit mixed. Yes, it is durable, with a big, standard engine and hardened armor with CASE II. And yes, I’m thrilled someone is actually trying to use Extended-range LRMs, which have intrigued me since the old Tactical Handbook back in 1994. The simple fact is its terribly under-armed for an 85-ton ‘Mech. The original 3025-era Stalker might actually be able to take it on a short map where the ELRMs weren’t decisive. Finally, the 90-ton Juliano is a good, solid, assault ‘Mech, incorporating a trio of extended-range large lasers (a proven favorite of mine) and Clan-tech SRMs onto a very well-armored body.
In all the Marik tradition, we get a trio of aerospace fighters to wrap up the TRO. The Picaroon is a splendid light pack hunter built around a heavy PPC. The Ipswich is a medium fighter built around two light gauss rifles. The Shikra rounds out the trio; a 90-ton beast that uses a combination of clan-tech, chaff pods (also from Tactical Operations) and a good, old fashioned gauss rifle to form one of the most powerful heavy interceptors yet seen.
Next, we get yet another assault shuttle, something we’ve seen a few of in the TRO3145 series. The Caerleon has excellent armor for a ship just below the 200 ton level, and can deliver a platoon of battle armor for a boarding action. The Seleucus, meanwhile, is a troop transport DropShip for battle armor and some light vehicles. It is understandable that battle armor transports have been emphasized in the Dark Age era, as they’ve spent so much time promoting new battle armor units. In the Gorgon, we have a medium-weight aerospace fighter carrier, bridging the gap between the old Leopard CV and Vengeance-class vessels. No pocket WarShips, but still plenty for AeroTech/Battlespace players to play around with. I admit, I don’t get to play the space game much, as it is not yet supported by MegaMek and other programs. Still, we can always hope that day will come.
The Free Worlds League, like the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns, is still grasping to its continued existence by a thread. They have the Wolves and the Lyrans on one side, the Regulans on another, and the Andurien/Capellan alliance on yet another. Probably the only thing saving them at the moment is the fact that the Wolf Empire is more focused on their other enemies (the Lyrans, the Jade Falcons and the Republic of the Sphere) than they are on the reborn League. (You really can’t blame them.) The “legitimate” line of House Marik seems scattered to the winds while Jessica “Not Really a Marik” continues to consolidate her power, such as it is. Nevertheless, despite the odds, the League still stands for the moment. Will the Eagle rally? We’ll have to see if the developers feel like giving them yet another reprieve.