Monday, April 19, 2021

Battle Report: Classic Battletech- Ambush on Mundos


I have had the Battletech 25th Anniversary box set sitting on my shelf for a long time.  I remember getting it, reading the rules, and then deciding that Battletech just wasn't the game for me.  I was a bit daunted by all the lore, the Mech builds, hex maps, the old-school mechanics and the very knowledgeable and passionate community itself.  In truth, I was not "in love" with the mech designs or the mechanics.  Therefore, I painted some mechs and used them in other games instead!  The boxed set sat on the shelf and collected dust.  I was not convinced I wanted to take the plunge into another "Life style" game like 40K had been. 

Then, one day out of the blue, my daughter and I pulled it down off the shelf and decided to give it a go.  She didn't know anything about it, and I didn't remember much about it either.  I pulled out the Quick Start rules and gave it a read.  The rules focused exclusively on the basics (so no Heat, Crits, Pilot Checks, etc), and even had some special "beginner" Mech record sheets.  We set-up for the initial Green Training Scenario.        

This pit an Enforcer vs. a Hunchback on a relatively flat map with some woods on each side.  My daughter played aggressively with the Enforcer, as I hung back behind some woods.  She did some damage closing, but I let her approach.  Then, I burst around the edge of the woods and pummeled her at close range with all my weapons.  I blew the arm straight off the Enforcer, and it was all down hill from there.  We chased each other around the board a bit, before I finally destroyed her.  Her hits ended up mostly scattered across my mech, while mine pretty consistently hit her in the right arm/torso until it transferred over into her Center Torso.  

To be honest, it really wasn't that much fun.  There were not enough decisions, too many dice rolls, and we spent more time calculating mods and filling in bubbles then actually playing the game.  Plus, one-on-one meant there were no synergies and we were at the whims of the dice.  It was a game of stacking or unstacking mods. 

Despite this, we decided that I would go back and read the fuller intro rules and come back and try again with a few more mechs.  I went off and read up and did my homework.  I skipped the fluff and what not and just focused on the rules.  Therefore, this battle will just be an extension of my previous Mech games that used other rules.  


Polanksi's Lancers were contracted to harass operations on the Planet of Mundos.  The primary export was timber and wood products.  Therefore, the Lancers were focused on attacking executives, storage facilities, and other infrastructure.  Their employer Lacstar Inc, was in negotiations to purchase the timber rights from the VolSaab Corporation, and any disruption to supply would cause the stock price to drop.  This would make buying the rights much easier.  

VolSaab was wise to such actions. Therefore, they had contracted out to two mercenary units to operate on Mundos to help protect their investment and get the best sale price of the rights.  The Rose Guard and Thor's Hammers were providing security on Mundos.  

Careful recon by Polanski's Lancers allowed them to map multiple patrol routes taken by Thor's Hammers.  The Hammers adjusted their routes regularly, but eventually an algorithmic analysis allowed the Lancers to predict likely paths of travel.  The Manager-Commander of the 14th Uhlans of the Lancers decided to try and set an ambush for the Hammers patrol using this intel.  


Polanski's Lancers- 14th "Uhlans"

  1. Quickdraw
  2. Enforcer
  3. Hermes II
  4. Trebuchet
Thor's Hammers- Elements of the 3rd "Hard Strikers"
  1. Dragon
  2. Hunchback
  3. Zeus

 All pilots will be assumed to have Pilot Ratings of 5.  I could not find in the rules where it dictated starting or how to generate starting Pilot Ratings.

Both of us got our Mech record sheets ready, our quick play sheets, pencils, and our own sets of dice.  The Introductory rulebook was handy and ready to play.   


Today's battle will be a straight forward fight to the death.  Units that leave the board will be considered retreating and destroyed.  Otherwise, the normal rules apply.  


I will be using Hex Map #2, the same one we used for the Green Training Scenario.  Pretty much flat with some light and heavy woods on both sides.  

Dragon is placed in the center with the Hunchback and the Zeus within 3 hexes of it.  The Lancers can be placed anywhere behind the tree lines, on either side of the board.  We assume that the Mechs were prone, but have successfully stood up to begin the attack.  

Hard to see what is what but he blue are: Hunchback, Dragon and Zeus
The Green are Quickdraw, Enforcer, Trebuchet, and then the Hermes at the other woods

Turn 1:


Since Lancers are on the attack, we decided let them move and then shoot first this turn.  We will go back to normal initiative going forward.    


The Lancers all move closer to their targets.  The Quickdraw begins to move around the wood, while the Enforcer and Trebuchet try to move through it.  The Hermes skirts the woods.  

The Hunchback eagerly moves to get the angle on the Quickdraw and use his Auto-cannon 20.  The Dragon turns and marches at the Trebuchet emerging from the woods.  Finally, the Zeus moves to cover the center.  


The Hermes uses his Auto-cannon and hits the LRM 10 detonating the left torso of the Dragon and causing extensive damage when all the ammo detonated!  Ouch!  Looking back, we probably should have applied the damage to the internal instead of the armor, but first game problems right.

The Quickdraws Medium Lasers also thwack into the left torso and center torso of the Hunchbacks armor and blew off a heat sink as well.  We definitely did not use the Crit table right on this result, but there it is.  The Enforcer is still too deep in the woods, while the Trebuchet fails to hit the targets with his lasers. 

The Hammer's respond.  The Hunchback rails the Quickdraw with his Auto-cannon and demolishes the right torso of the mech and bleeds over to the center.  However, the Hunchback raised his heat to around 15.  The Dragon also pings armor off the lightly armored Trebuchet.     


At this point, we also had a question about how to use Heat Sinks.  I have a feeling the Introductory Rulebook was a copy/paste job out of other Battletech books as some of the sections do not have proper headings, and other parts do not flow very smoothly between paragraphs.  Anyway, it looks like they work automatically during the Heat phase. 

We had been keeping track of it as we went along as well to make the Heat phase easier to recall.  

Turn 2: 


The Lancers win initiative, so the Hammers will move and shoot first.  


The Hunchback rushed the Quickdraw.  The Dragon pivoted and walked forward a bit to try and challenge the Trebuchet and Hermes.  The Zeus covered the treeline.  

Meanwhile, the Quickdraw fell back to make space for his LRMs against the Hunchback.  The Enforcer "jumped" to try and move beyond the Hunchback as well.  The Trebuchet also fell back into a covered firing position.  The Hermes darted forward past the larger Dragon and Zeus.  


The Hammers have limited shots.  The Hunchback tags the retreating Quickdraw with his Medium Lasers, and damages its left shoulder.  Sniping from the Zeus at the Trebuchet misses due to the tree cover. 

The Quickdraw returns fire with a full LRM burst and Medium laser barrage at the Hunchback.  The salvo impacts into the Hunchback's right arm, and mangles it.  It has 1 armor point left.  The Trebuchet also fires a barrage of LRMs at the Dragon.  One barrage misses, but the other connects with its right leg, mangling the armor there, and causing damage to the right foot actuator and upper leg accuator.  

No one else has shots this turn.  


Everyone is able to sink back to 0, but the Trebuchet and the Quickdraw both have 1 Heat. 

Turn 3:


The Hammers beat the Lancers this time.  Lancers move and shoot first. 


The Lancers do a lot of running.  The Quickdraw runs back into the woods away from the Hunchback.  The Enforcer runs to try and get behind the Zeus by the smaller woods.  The Hermes joins him there.  The Trebuchet stays put and prepares their lasers.  

The Hammers see their chance and the Dragon and the Zeus close in on the Quickdraw, trying to isolate it.  The Hunchback turns to cover their rear.  


The Quickdraw pours Medium Laser fire into the Dragon, hitting it in the Torso multiple times and in the empty ammo for the LRM 10.  However, a Gyro is also hit in the attack.  

The Enforcer uses its Auto-cannon and hits the Hunchback in the right arm.  At this point, we also realized we are doing Internal Damage wrong.  In the Quick Play rules, once armor was depleted it moved to the next location.  In the real rules, you blow off the armor, and then go to the Internal Damage before moving on.  Woops!  Too late now! 

The Trebuchet uses its lasers on the Dragon, and blasts through the armor on its right leg to cause internal damage.  Meanwhile, the Hermes uses the Auto-cannon and snipes the Zeus in the head and takes out its life support system!  Ouch! 

The Hunchback fires on the Enforcer and shreds its right arm with the Auto-cannon, and manages to tag the left arm and cause critical damage that disables the Laser there!  Ouch again! That leaves the enforcer almost weapon less. 

The Dragon missed its shots at the Quickdraw due to the other mechs speed and the heavy Woods.  The Zeus however landed hits to the center and left torso with the Large laser and Medium laser, but no Crits.    


Everyone gets to go to 0 Heat, except the Hunchback who is at 2. 

 Turn 4:


Hammer's win. 


The Enforcer jumps behind the tree line for cover.  Meanwhile, the Quickdraw scrambles away from the two Hammer mechs.  The Trebuchet stands firm.

The Zeus and Dragon get ready to shoot it out with the two lighter mechs.  


The Lancer shooting is mostly ineffectual.  The Dragon and Zeus both lose a bit of armor, but are fully functional.  

The Hunchback targets the Hermes.  Despite the Heavy Wood, the lasers and Auto-cannon tear into the small mech.  It's engine takes a hit and its left arm is completely blown off! 

The Dragon and Zeus also chip away at the Trebuchet and Quickdraw.  


The Hunchback is still at 2.

Turn 5: 


Hammers win again! 


The various lighter Lancers try to breakaway and converge on the Hunchback with multiple targets of opportunity, but also multiple return shots.  The other Hammers just turn and try to target the Lancers that ran past.  


The Hermes, Trebuchet, and Enforcer all open fire on the Hunchback, and all miss.  The Quickdraw elects not to take a shot. 

The Hunchback fires everything at the Enforcer, and hits it in the left arm and torso.  The lower arm actuator is damaged, and two heat sinks are blown off.  Thankfully, the auto-cannon missed.  

The Zeus targets the Hermes with everything and pours firepower into it.  The LRMs blast apart the left torso of the Mech.  In addition, the Auto-cannon hits the right arm and freezes its shoulder and blows off the medium laser! 

The Dragon also plinks away at the Trebuchet.  


The Zeus has 1 and the Hunchback has 4.


Turn 6: 


Lancers win! 


The Hammers withdraw back to a triangle of firepower, while the Lancers try to converge their fire on the Hunchback.  


The Hunchback just peels off armor, and misses with his Auto-cannon on the Enforcer.  However, the Enforcer loses another Heat Sink.   

The Dragon manages an engine hit on the Trebuchet!  The Zeus peels off a good chunk of center torso armor off the Quickdraw as well. 

The Quickdraws Laser barrage on the Hunchback destroys the medium laser on the Hunch's left arm.  The Enforcer misses, and the Trebuchet hits him in the torso on each side.  The Hermes uses the last of his ammo on his only remaining weapon to peel armor off the center of the Hunchback.  


The Hunchback is at 4 Heat.

Turn 7: 


Hammers win.  Lancers move and shoot first.  


The Quickdraw moves up for a closer firing lane.  The Hermes also runs up to the Hunchback, as I decide to try out the Physical attack rules!  After all, the little guy has no weapons left!  The Zeus and Dragon move out a bit wider for better firing. 


 The Quickdraw fires on the Hunchback, peeling off armor on his left.  However, the SRMs miss.  The Enforcer hits the Hunch in the left leg, peeling off armor.  Finally, the trebuchet fires on the right arm, and causes some internal damage and injury to the shoulder joint.  

The Hunch's small laser hits the Hermes in the leg, but the auto-cannon misses.  The medium laser on the right arm also misses due to the bad shoulder joint. 

The Dragon plasters the Trebuchet in the central torso with the last auto-cannon rounds and its lasers.  It causes a second engine hit, and a Gyro hit.   

The Zeus hits the Quickdraw in the right arm and messes up the shoulder.  Plus, he peels off some leg armor.  There are no crits.  


The Hermes runs up and smashes into the Hunchback.  The big machines stagger around to gain their balance but stay upright.  However, the Hermes has no more center torso armor left, but the Hunchback has its right arm smashed off, and takes an engine hit!    


Most units can return to 0 heat.  Even the Hunchback and Hermes.  Not being able to shoot makes heat management pretty easy. 

Turn 7: 


Hammers win, so Lances move and shoot first. 


The Lancers turn to face their foes where they can.  The Dragon tries to move in on the Trebuchet for a Charge attack, but the damage to its right leg finally is too much, and the machine falls to the ground.  It further damages the leg and is prone.  

The Zeus backs up into the woods for some cover.  


The Trebuchet and Quickdraw fire on their enemy mechs, peeling off armor.  

The Zeus returns fire on the Quickdraw, causing an engine hit.  The center of the Quickdraw is also in tatters. 

The Hunchback unloads on close range at the Hermes ripping into it with its Auto-cannon.  Its engine takes a hit, but the little machine is still in it!  It's center torso is shredded.           


The little Hermes kicks the Hunchback in the left leg and damages its hip, peels off armor, and destroys a couple of heat sinks.  The Hermes can not punch as it has no left arm left, and the right arm has a bad shoulder.  

The Hunchback responds by punching the Hermes with its left arm, and hitting it in the leg.  

Turn 8: 


Hammers win again.  


The Hermes backs away from the Hunchback, who is then immediately engaged in a Death from Above Attack by the Enforcer.  The Quickdraw backs away, but he is pursued by the Zeus.  

The Dragon pulls himself up, and charges into the Trebuchet.      


The Enforcer and Hunchback exchange fire as they approach!  They peel armor off each other.  The Trebuchet also peels armor off the prone Dragon.  

The Zeus fires on the Hermes and misses.  


The Enforcer lands and crushes the armor off the head of the Hunchback, and causes an engine hit.  However, the Enforcer also falls prone, losing armor.  The Hunchback tries to kick it, but misses.  

The Dragon charges into the Trebuchet and crushes it's engine.  The machine falls down, lifeless as the pilot struggles pointlessly at the controls.  In exchange, the Dragon's right leg finally gives out and the machine falls over prone again.  The right leg it totaled. 


Again, Heat is all under control.  

Turn 9:


Hammer win.  


The Hermes turns and flees.  The Quickdraw stays still, and the Enforcer gets up.  The Zeus moves to engage the Quickdraw in min range of his Auto-cannon.  The Dragon is prone. 


The Enforcer manages to blast a Gyro on the Hunchback.  The Quickdraw scuffs up the paint on the Zeus.  

The Hunchback and Dragon blow both arms off the Enforcer in a fusillade of lasers and auto-cannon fire.  The Zeus also manages to blast the Center torso of the Quickdraw completely open.  The next shots will be critical hits!  


The Enforcer kicks the Hunchback, considering he has no arms! He kicks the Hunch in the left leg, and it looks pretty weak.  In return, the Enforcer is punched in the left torso and sparks fly as there is no armor left there.  


The Hunch has 1 heat. 

Turn 10: 


Lancers win this time.  


The Zeus moves up expecting the Quickdraw to flee backwards.  The Hunch stays put. 

The Quickdraw does flee backwards to stay in short range of his lasers though.  


The Zeus opens fire on the Quickdraw and blows its left arm clean off!  The return fire is minimal.  The Quickdraws return fire is also ineffective.    

The Hunch uses its last Auto-cannon ammo on the Enforcer up close and riddles him with shots in the torso.  The small lasers also exchange inconclusive blasts.


The Enforcer fails to kick the Hunchback.  However, the Hunchback does land a punch that wrecks the armor on the Enforcers head.  


The Hunch is up to 2 heat.         


With that, the Uhlans send the surrender codes to their foes over the universal Merc frequency.  They are done here after 1 Mech getting cored, and the rest all taking severe damage.  By the Mercenary Code, details are arranged and the proper protocols followed for the surviving pilots to be picked-up, and the remaining mech to withdraw.  The fallen Uhlan Trebuchet is maintained as a prize by Thor's Hammers.  

Four and a half hours later, we have a conclusion.  Granted, we had to look up a lot of rules as we went, and we pointlessly jockeyed around shooting.  Clearly, we should have just closed and started throwing kicks and punches instead!  

Eventually, Thor's Hammers won! 

Uhlans- 6 Engine Hits

Hammers- 2 Engine Hits 

Final Results for the 14th Uhlans of Polanski's Lancers

Final sheets for the Strong Hammers of Thor's Hammers- Today's winners

Final Thoughts:

Yup, this confirms that Classic Battletech is not the game for me.  There was two much dice rolling and bubble filling in with not enough actual effect.  The decision making I found rather limited, as you mostly just stood there and tried to pound on the enemy.  Heat didn't become much of a factor to limit my decision making either.  I was typically able to do all the moving and shooting I wanted and I had enough Heat Sinks to take care of it.  

Mechs can take a ton of hits and shrug them off, especially if the shots are dispersed across the Mech rather than concentrated.  Even concentrated shots still took forever to actually DO something.  There were the occasional lucky hits, but not enough to actually influence the game, unless a weapon got destroyed.  Most critical hits just resulted in more annoying "Pilot Check" dice rolls or more Mods for me to remember and apply. 

My physical attacks were more powerful than my shooting attacks.  Therefore, I will just close in the next games, I will just close the distance via walking until I get close enough to kick, punch, or charge someone to death.  The boards are small enough where the game will be an inevitable brawl in the middle.  That does not feel very Big Mech to me, but what do I know?  Shooting almost seems pointless.    

I can see why this would be popular in some quarters as all the mods and options make the game appear to have tactical depth.  Honestly, I am not sure it is a very tactical game either as it seemed like standing still and blasting or getting up and kicking seemed like easy choices.  However, it does have a lot of potential for "Strategic" choice in the form of a bucket load of unit types and list building and a lot of opportunity to look for the "optimized" mechs and mech combos.  I am coming to realize that these "strategic" choices are highly valued in the wargaming community and perhaps to a very vocal minority is even MORE important than tactical choices.  However, I am pretty sure I do not know what people like to play so I am probably completely wrong.  

Overall, it was a bit of a frustrating game and frankly did not engage me in the game play.  By Turn 4, I was ready to call it a game even though there was no decisive result at that point.  It wasn't until turn 7 or so when things became interesting with damage levels, physical attacks, and falling over.  The long, slow, slog of the game did not appeal to me.  I could get a similar result with a different game system in about 1 to 2 hours instead.


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