Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Battletech Campaign #3: 'We Shoulda Brought an Atlas."

Following their defense of the logging camp, my son's mercenary battlemech company were able to determine the location of the pirate camp.

After hastily repairing and rearming some key machines, the company set off to finish their mission. I also took this opportunity to introduce a scenario structure closer to one of those from the Campaign Operations and Sword and Dragon.

As this was the final scenario of this contract, I went all in with the scope of this track. My son's mercenaries would be able to field two lances of 'mechs against a single lance of pirates. The pirates would be fielding some of the survivors of previous battles (hastily repaired, but still severely damaged) as well as two heavy 'mechs (including Medusa, the elite mechwarrior the mercenaries were unable to catch since they deployed to defend the logging camp instead).

Considering his options, my son chose the "Rushed Attack" and "You're Dead" options. His light forces would start on board and need to rush to the center of the battlefield to trigger his slower forces ability to arrive on the battlefield.

My pirate defenders were able to place three hastily prepared mech defense fortifications on the table. With our right and left flanks covered by woods, I placed them in the more open central map zone.

Battle is Joined

My pirate commander in his Flashman heading to the right to cut off my son's approaching Striker tanks. A pirate Wolverine is dug in behind a defensive fortification. The sensor contact for "Medusa" and her heavy 'mech shows up on my son's radar. 

The left side of the battlefield is dominated by forests, and mountain streams chattering over boulder strewn rapids. I moved these pirate mechs into the woods to cover my flank.

On the right side of the battlefield, my son sent a pair of mercenary Commandos and Striker tanks into the dense woods, hoping to trigger their reinforcements without coming under fire.
As mercenary reinforcements (including a Griffin) push into the right side of the battlefield, the pirate leader in his Flashman and the Wolverine charge to greet them.

The pirates are backed up by "Medusa" in her Warhammer, who takes position on a hill to provide covering fire.

Balancing Battletech was tricky when we were playing 20 years ago, but I decided to trust the most current point system to create a scenario I thought would be tough, but winnable. My son's mercenaries had light and medium mechs and were facing a pair of pristine heavies. The rest of the pirate force was made up of three medium mechs, but all had been savaged in earlier battles. 

The mercenaries' mission was to kill or cripple the two heavy pirate mechs. I decided to go "by the book" and use the Forced Withdrawal rules for the pirate morale since this was their last stand. Under my morale rules, mechs would start bugging out once enough of their allies had been destroyed or damaged. Under Battletech's Forced Withdrawal rules, mechs didn't depart the battlefield until they are truly crippled (most weapons destroyed, legged, etc.) and don't seem to respond to friends withdrawing.

With the mercenaries quickly completing their scouting objective, my son's heavier elements began appearing on the field. His two Centurions and a Trebuchet were met by the pirate Clint and Dervish in the river woods.

The Clint was damaged from previous battles and went down under fire from the mercs' medium 'mechs.

On the right side of the map, things were not going as smoothly for the mercenaries. The Flashman and Wolverine savaged the Strikers and knocked out a Commando.

The Commando managed to take out the Wolverine with accurate fire from the rear....

...but having suffered 20 points of damage in one round was forced to make a piloting check which it failed, taking out the last few points of structure to its center torso.

Survival of the Fittest

The battle shifted into a second phase. The Dervish peppered the merc's medium mechs as they closed in on the center of the battlefield, while Medusa attempted to knock them out with long range sniper fire.
The pirate leader mopped up the rest of the light units in the woods on the right.
"OH MY GOD WHY WONT THEY DIE," my son exclaimed in exasperation. His rolls had been fairly poor, and splitting his forces up so they couldn't support each other became a lesson in "how to concentrate your fire" or not, as the case may be.

As we took stock of the situation we realized we'd been playing FOR SEVEN HOURS. "Ah," I thought, "there's the Battletech I remember." We decided to work out the situation using my morale rules, and realized the pirates would have fled the field several hours previously.

We played a few more rounds (my son was determined to finish off the pirate leaders), but I decided to call the game as the merc's sporadic fire wasn't close to even breaching the heavy pirate mechs' armor.

Medusa in her Warhammer attempting to flee the battle, suffering from numerous critical hits. 

After Action

While the game was unresolved, we came to a compromise to allow the campaign to progress, summed up in the liaison's report to daddy moneybags back home.

It wasn't the most satisfying end, but it was a good lesson for me: don't trust the rules when they create a crummy game experience. All day Battletech games may work for other players, but they don't for us. I already knew that, and knew that playing 'rules as written' probably wasn't going to work. I should have trusted my gut and stuck with morale rules that had proved more than adequate in previous games.

My dissatisfaction with this interminable game did force me to reconsider Alpha Strike. Once I sat down and read through the rules in detail, I can see quite a bit that I like about them. We'll give them a try in our next outing to see how they compare. Plus, we haven't given up on Battletech. My son and I are signed up for a Battletech game at Historicon that we are both looking forward to.


  1. SEVEN HOURS... glorious/daunting/enviable.

    And certainly an indication that you should consider Alpha Strike (you could get more games in!)

  2. Seven hours, the tension at the table must have been incredible high to not notice the passage of such a period of time.
    While the end result may not been what you liked, the battle itself sure sounds like it was worth it.

    1. Yes! It was a good game but at the end we were just hoping to resolve the battle and be done. :)