Product Review: Technical Readout: 3145 Republic of the Sphere

product-TRO3145LyranCommonwealth_09de_cIn this edition of Product Reviews, we take a look at Technical Readout : 3145 Republic of the Sphere, the last of the faction TROs in the 3145 series covering the late “Dark Age” era.

The Republic of the Sphere is somewhat unique in that there was no equivalent whatsoever in the “pre Jihad” era. We had years to become accustomed to the Successor States, ComStar, the Clans, the major mercenary units and the Periphery States. Even the Word of Blake itself was a faction that slowly built up to be the ultimate big bad. They all developed their own identities, and they all had their fans among the community. Heck, I’m sure somewhere there were players who decided Clan Fire Mandrill was their cup of tea. It’s all good. The Republic of the Sphere, however, is a different animal. We got a glimpse of it when MechWarrior: Age of Destruction was an active system, and then it was effectively defunct until the “current” Classic BattleTech line moved into the “post Jihad” era. Even then, after the 3085 releases (including a Technical Readout and Field Manual) we received few updates on the Republic itself, due to the Fortress Republic. We heard a good bit about how bad things were in the former Republic, but virtually nothing from behind the wall. Having never read the Dark Age novels, I don’t have much of a connection to this faction.

Technical Readout : 3145 Republic of the Sphere not only gives us ‘Mechs, battle armor, vehicles and equipment from the years following the Jihad, it also gives us a glimpse at a new, resurgent Republic of the Sphere military machine, that promises to rise like a phoenix to burn House Liao, the Jade Falcons and everyone else who has enriched themselves at the expense of the Republic’s former territory.

We are all familiar with the format by now, so let’s dispense with further introductions. The Quirinus battle armor is a solid if unspectacular design, with light TAG, reactive armor and a light modular weapons mount. It is otherwise a poor man’s version of the Elemental, which remains the basis on which all other battle armor units are judged. The Simian earns its name from an ape-like appearance. Unlike most battle armor units, its not totally reliant on its jump capability for its maneuverability. It also boasts two magnetic battle claws, but is otherwise unremarkable with a heavier modular weapons mount. The Centaur is a unique animal altogether. Its slow, but since it employs a battle armor-sized artillery tube, it doesn’t really need to be fast. Finally, the Taranis is likewise slow, but relies on a medium laser and a heavy recoiless rifle to intimidate foes, along with the same protection as the Elemental. This helps make it, or whatever its defending, a tough nut to crack by battle armor standards.

This brings us to vehicles, beginning with two VTOLs : The Hawk Moth II Gunship is extremely fast and relatively durable for a 25-ton VTOL. Its weaponry is fairly short-range in nature, and we might imagine of pair of the craft making repeated passes against an enemy target, so long as said target is unable to focus its attentions. The Shandra scout vehicle is solid but unsophisticated, using no equipment that was not available well before the Jihad. The Crane Heavy Transport is a chopper to quickly deploy a large infantry detachment. It carries only two machine guns for defense, as it relies on its speed and armor. Its appearance is probably the most modern/realistic of the Dark Age units we’ve seen. Kinda makes it dull, but they’re pushing the combined-arms concept to its extreme, so it is probably necessary.

The MH1 Amphibious APC continues to play on the borderline obsession the current line seems of have with amphibious friendly equipment. It stubbornly refuses to offer anything else new or radical, even seeming to put the vehicle down in the flavor text. The Scapha, on the other hand, is a 40-ton Omni HoverTank with a double extra-light engine. It will easily rank among my favorite new vehicles of the 3145 series, offering a whopping 11 configurations in its debut with extreme speed and no glaring drawbacks. 7.5 tons of reflective armor is more than adequate for a vehicle of its class, and every configuration legitimately brings something to the table worth thinking about. (A Thumper artillery piece? On an 11/17 platform? It boggles the mind.) The JES III missile carrier is commendable fire support platform, a lighter descendant of the good old LRM Carrier. I was never much of a fan of the JES I and JES II. The former wasn’t fast enough for a short-range hover, and the latter was brutally slow. This one, at 60 tons, tries to find a happy medium, lacking the armor, Artemis systems and short-range weaponry of the second, but at least coming in with the speed of an Atlas. The MH1 Defense AA Tank (the AA for ‘anti-aircraft’) is the last of the vehicle offerings and again uses amphibious gear, and seems to fulfill its role admirably with two LB 10-X cluster auto-cannons.

The first ‘Mech offered in this book, the aptly named Celerity, attempts to take familiar concepts (ultralight drone ‘Mechs, double extra-light engines, OmniMech technology, quad legs) to a natural extreme : Its movement profile is 16 / 24(32) / 0. It has only 24 points of armor and only two tons of pod space for equipment. A PPC blast to any part of it would absolutely take it down. In game practice, it would only work for very large maps in situations where its user held the initiative. The Jackalope plays to one of my ‘Mech fetishes : BattleMech’s with extreme jumping ability. The 30 ton Clan-tech machine uses an XL engine, endo steel and Ferro-Fibrous armor to get the most out of every critical spot on its sheet. It has just enough weaponry to give it sting and just enough defensive equipment (including a Laser Anti-Missile system) to keep it in the field. Good stuff.

The Revenant is another quad drone machine, this one weighing in at 30 tons. It has a cool appearance, reminding me of the menacing probe droid from Empire Strikes Back. Still, not much else to talk about. The Night Stalker, on the other hand is a fast 40-tonner with a lance. That’s new outside of Solaris, and the electronics package makes it worth giving it a try. The Kheper is admittedly and freely derived from the Manei Domini ‘Mechs of the Jihad, though without the OmniMech status. It’s a solid medium weapons platform, though it doesn’t do much to set itself apart.

The Lament is a 65 ton ‘Mech with a rugged appearance and twin Heavy PPCs. It also uses an advanced Radical Heat Sink System. Full disclosure : I’ve never actually used the RHSS myself, so I won’t claim to have an informed opinion on its effectiveness. I will say that four tons and three critical are a lot for a piece of equipment that might only work three or four times per session, if you’re lucky. The weapons configuration is all energy, but still. Regardless, it’s a solid ‘Mech with enough speed to bring its short-range weaponry to bear on the target. The Uraeus is another Word of Blake inspired ‘Mech originally used by rogue ComStar units ‘behind the scenes’ until recently. It even carries a medium vibroblade. I’m not totally sold on it relying on its Triple-Strength Myomer for extra speed, as it has a profile of 4(5)/6(8)/0. More than sufficient for a fire-support ‘Mech, but the Uraeus is very much configured for short-range combat. Jump jets would have helped.

The Doloire is an impressive assault OmniMech built with Clan tech. The 80-ton class isn’t as popular as it once was – those of us who’ve done the math know the advantages of the 75 and 85-ton classes. Still, it has a lot going for it. Actuator Enhancement Systems in both arms give it an almost Rifleman-like appearance. Most of the configurations are eclectic, but I often find that the case with Omnis. The Malice (which is also featured front and center on the cover) is a 100-ton machine reminiscent of the old Clan Kraken in terms of its dependence on small caliber long autocannon. Although its extreme-range firepower is impressive, it is woefully under-armed for its weight class. I’m also concerned that is has more double heat sinks than it should ever need and that it lacks a basic like CASE.

Now we get to the fun part: The so-called Superheavy or “Colossal” BattleMechs. We first heard about these over a decade ago when the MechWarrior: Age of Destruction CMG from WizKids debuted. Later we saw the Omega in the Jihad : Final Reckoning release, with vague references to Terran Hegemony / Stefan Amaris project that eventually resulted in the Matar / Behemoth ‘Mech of legend. This books gives us not one but two of these monsters, both actual production models, both using tripod leg .

The first is the Poseidon, weighing in at 125 tons. Its an odd mix of Clan and Inner Sphere tech, but it looks pretty effective. Most notable are the six (!) A-Pods for dealing with standard infantry. B-Pods (for battle armor) arguably would have served it better, but that’s a secondary point. The Clan weapons include two ER PPCs and several medium and small lasers. 95 years after their appearance, energy weapons remain a key area where Inner Sphere tech doesn’t quite measure up. Representing Inner Sphere weapons include an Apollo-backed MRM-20, a TSEMP taser, and pairs of LRM-5s and SRM-2s, almost as an afterthought. Apparently, it takes three pilots to run these bad boys, but with this arsenal, we can usually take that.

Then we have the Ares, a 135-ton OmniMech. The flavor text makes it sound incredibly cumbersome with some major issues, but this isn’t even reflected under design quirks. Regardless, a series of Clan lasers and standard LRM and SRM launchers come fixed on the design along with A-Pods, very similar to the Poseidon’s supporting weapons. The configurations themselves are impressive : Whenever possible, they use Clan tech, except when there is no equivalent. As a result, it uses some of the most advanced Inner Sphere weapons combined with good old reliable Clan stuff. (We even get some Clan Streak LRMs.) So is it the most feared ‘Mech ever built? Well, comparing it to the classic Daishi, the Ares has almost 50 percent more armor and about roughly ten percent more weaponry. Of course, it is also one of the slowest ‘Mechs ever conceived at 2/3/0. At that speed, more long-range firepower might have been preferable for a lot of the configs. Still, it’s the last word on armored BattleMechs. Heck, even the head armor is reinforced. (No more Gauss Rifle single shot kills!)

Two heavy OmniFighters are offered, the Schrack and the Simurgh. The Schrack is fast for a 60-tonner and its Heavy Ferro-Fibrous armor keeps it well protected. The configurations all favor high-ammunition consumption, but in my experience that is seldom an issue in scenarios. This is doubly so for the Simurgh, which is dependent on rotary autocannons and improved gauss rifles. Nevertheless, the chassis themselves are solid.

Finally, we get the Duat Transport ship, which was used by the rogue ComStar First Division along with the Kheper and Uraeus, and like those units it very much has a Word of Blake feel to it. It is based on the old “six” military organization, so it is not really well suited to other standard military organizations. Otherwise, it would have been perfect for either the old Blakist militia or the ComGuard. The big innovation here is the use of cruise missiles for ground support, whereas the mixed transports of the past used standard artillery pieces. The Republic is determined to make the most of these ships, one way or another.

The Republic of the Sphere has had a relatively brief, tumultuous existence. Here, they begin to mature their own identity. Yes, there’s a bit of ComStar / Word of Blake flavor involved, and a fondness for Colossal ‘Mechs, and perhaps a disproportionately high amount of Clan tech. Still, here we see the weapons that the Republic and the returned Devlin Stone intend to use to reverse almost 15 years of military setbacks.

Only time will tell if it will be enough.

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