The Danger of Being Cool

Thunder. Lightning. The way you love me is frightening.

The other day I was playing with a Lightning Attack Hovercraft on my side in a battle in MegaMekNET.  Since that campaign is set in 3025, having a LosTech hovercraft with medium pulse lasers was something I wanted to protect if I could.  Plus you have those two one-shot SRMs.  I was rushing past a target and I had a chance to fire the right-facing SRM at a distant heavy unit that had moved towards me.  I needed a 9 to hit.  I got lucky, and hit the target, which was taking damage elsewhere as well, and did some good with the weapon.  But I was really tempted to hold off on the SRM4 and hope for a better shot against a better target.  Holding off for the cool play.

Have you ever noticed a tendency to play BattleTech for the cool play, rather than the smart one?

I certainly have.  Head shots are an awesome and definitive part of the game.  Pretty cool right?  I like to play units with big guns lie Gauss Rifles and AC/20s, and it’s no lie that that’s because in part I love to see a one-hit kill on the head.  But my reliance on cool things can sometimes hurt my ability to win, because my team may not be properly balanced.  Everybody wants to see somebody win.

Death and Taxes.

Another cool part about BattleTech is when a ‘Mech tries to jump on top of an opposing unit.  Death from Above!!!  But to do so requires a huge number, you can’t use any weapons, and deals damage and falling down to yourself.  I’ve seen it attempted numerous times recently when a unit isn’t even that badly damaged and when they need a 9 or so to hit.  The attempt to do something cool interferes with the desire to play smart and ultimately win.

I get it.  This is a game. We play games to have fun.  By definition, a cool play is fun.  But there are a lot of ways in the game that we try to hard too do the cool thing.  It’s dangerous.  When have you (or someone you love) pushed a cool play too far?  When have you sacrificed the smart play for the fun one?

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About Abe Sargent

When his first attack roll with an LRM15 from that Crusader destroyed a Ryoken deep in the jungle, Abe grew hooked on the game that brought heavy metal to a smart sci-fi universe that realistically portrays humanity in the future with all of the foibles of today.

14 thoughts on “The Danger of Being Cool

  1. Aemielius

    Another ‘cool thing’ might have been to side-slip that hovertank around behind either target and stitch some MPL into their rear armour.

  2. Frabby

    I’m not playing cool as much as I simply suck at tactics. Since I was usually the GM playing the OpFor in our campaigns, my players appreciated that. I occasionally tried to pull off the odd stunt and it was always good fun this way either because my failure benefitted the players or otherwise because it made for a cool/funny/hilarious scene.
    I’m a seat of the pants player who prefers bravado over number crunching. True story, as a kid I was in a chess club and did very well in tournaments but I lost interest when my preferred fast-paced gameplay got bogged down by opponents who could spend minutes pondering a move even in the opening moves. In BattleTech, cool > statistics satisfies my impatience. :)

  3. Donald Paper

    I tend to play my heat on the somewhat dangerous side. In my last game I had 4 operational Mechs wheras my girlfriend only had 2.5 (destroyed gyro limits you somewhat). I decided to go full alpha with 3 Mechs – Kodiak 1 Atlas II Custom Model and a Solitaire 1 – for the fun of it. Solitaire shut down and Kodiak detonated some Ultra/20 ammo. The image of a Kodiak firing so many weapons the right side detonated? Worth it in my mind!

  4. Mattiator

    I GM a BattleTech campaign, and it was right near the end of a very challenging defence mission. I had managed to get a badly damaged Shadow Hawk on the capture point, who if not destroyed would cause a mission failure in a couple turns. Instead of doing the logical thing, say, shooting it or forcing it to fall back by threatening the little medium with their two heavies, instead a player Assassin decided instead to perform a charge on it. Through some crazy shenanigans, it knocked the Shadow Hawk off the elevated position… Right down into the cockpit of his ally’s Griffin, which then fell back into my own Cyclops, which fell out of cover right in front of a player Hammerhands. Blam blam. The Assassin pilot now has the nickname “Mr. Domino”.

    1. CoKien

      Quite nice :D
      A few years ago, I tried to charge an enemy Mech down a cliff on one of the large mountain maps with a bad-ass Stealth (which was actually piloted by a 4/1-jock). Consequently, the to-hit-roll was a 3 or 4. However, my Stealth actually missed, and ultimatively fell down the cliff itself :P

  5. MiriOhki

    Hm. Probably the only time I went for the cool was the last round of the night (most of the games I’ve played in the last 15ish years ended at 9:30 when we had to leave the gameshop). I only had one move left, an Ostscout 9CS. 2 ER Meds weren’t gonna do much to anyone left on the board, but there was an Avatar with his back in full charging distance. What could I do? I cranked the speed up to 130, put my shoulder down and managed to shear his entire right torso (with the oh-so-squishy XL engine) off with one point of CT carry over damage to spare. Almost lost a leg in return in the process, but damned if that scout pilot wasn’t cheering himself for taking out an Omnimech twice his weight in one hit.

  6. Pat Rich

    Yeah, I’m guilty of that, though the one time I DFA’d it actually worked. On the other hand I’ve lawn-darted multiple aerospace fighters trying to perform hammerheads when I was learning how to use them in ground support missions.

    1. Abe Sargent Post author

      I have almost never seen DFA work, and it’s rare that it makes tactical sense. I mean, sure, once in a while you’ll have the right positioning or a unit that’s lost all of its weapons but can jump full movement, but normally? Not really, you know?

      1. Marc Malone

        DFA has some specific uses.

        A target with gyro or hip damage is meat on the table. The problem with DFA is missing. Much easier to hit these critically damaged targets.

        A unit on a hill with a level2 drop or more is delicious. It helps to have a GM who understands per-second per-second.

        Remember the angle. If you come from the right point, you determine the location of the fall. Knocking a mech, with its armor breached someplace, into a lake destroys that breached area, at least temporarily. Great salvage! Pull it out and dry it off.

        Retreating units, especially anything with actuator damage, are good targets. Knock them down, and the ability to coordinate a retreat is finished. Moreover, a Mech on the ground cannot jump to get away. Losing 2 MP’s to stand up, often means you are a fat, slow target the next round.

        Head hits. A target already hit in the head a couple times is a great target to try to knock down.

        DFA is good also for attacks against targets facing where their guns can’t shoot well at you, or are engaged with your lancemate.

        Mostly, though, DFA is the reward for high piloting skill versus mediocre piloting. Gunnery skill rules, until you get into physical attack range, then tactical skill (initiative) and piloting can be a real threat. Yeah, it’s dicey, especially as a rookie pilot, but a veteran or elite pilot can ruin someone’s day. It can be decisive at the right moment.

  7. The Caveman

    Cool-vs-smart is the reason roleplaying games have gamemasters.

    Because sometimes as a good GM, you have to let a player get away with something incredibly stupid, just because it’s so AWESOME.

    Nobody likes having a player at the table who plays everything by the numbers, never takes a risk, and cares more about statistics than style. That attitude isn’t just boring, it’s toxic.

  8. Crackerbox

    I’ve actually been pushing my players of the game GM to try stuff that’s tactically smart AND awesome at the same time.

    I once replaced all the water on a stock map with chemical waste that was combustible and they used a flamer to set the chemical waste lake on fire after they broke the legs of an enemy mech in the lake. Roasted. As a GM, you have to abide by the rules for the most part, but if the player wants to do something plausible, but not totally layed out in the rules (like ripping the turret off a tank when they’re in am Atlas) I’m all for giving them a number that’s really hard, but not completely implausible.

  9. Metalyan

    It’s not a question of fun or win IMO. It’s what you impersonnate. I played tabletop Battletech and RPG for years. In the first case i like having a cool move or an incredible outcome in battle, but in rpg i play a mechwarrior, with life and hopes for the future. In our battletech rpg we play mech engagement with tabletop rules. I don’t play my IS veteran mechjock like i play Jurgen Hasek III, my character. one is a one shot tool, the other is… well… a part of me. IS Vet will try some foolish tricks , depend of my immediate mood, but honestly, it’s a question of probability with dices. Jurgen had tried foolish things, but it meant something at the moment. Life or Death, Glory or Shame, etc… if i’m not personnaly involved, i judge by the potential outcome of the roll. Not with Jurgen.

  10. Marc Malone

    I am boring. I don’t play for cool. Sometimes cool happens, but it is a side-effect. I play to win, or try to live to fight another day. BattleTech players generally fight to the bitter death, which goes completely against the BattleTech storyline, where the Mechs are precious and rare commodities. If the battle starts going against me, even a little bit, I break off the engagement. like a good little mercenary. I play the table top the same as the RPG. Calculated risks and no undue risks. Maneuver, maneuver, snipe, snipe. Give me a long-range battle any day. My favorite Mech is the Griffin. Long range firepower and speed to get away.

    The only exception is the decisive battle moment, the final battle of the campaign. That’s the payoff, when life is good. Conan, what is good? “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.” Final stand. Make them wail and gnash their teeth. Lick their sweet, sweet tears. :D


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