Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Battletech Campaign #13: Speed is Cover

After our last unsatisfying game of Battletech, my son and I were eager to get back to the Inner Sphere. We managed to sneak in an extra game this week, and it thankfully lived up to our expectations.

Having completed a recon mission, and now fully stocked on parts and supplies in their secret mountain hideout, Captain Razor of my son's mercenary company was ready to begin assaulting the communications network of the Lyran defenses on the ice world of Parakoila.

He planned on launching his mission during a blizzard, waiting for the arrival of a Lyran officer in the hopes of taking out an additional key Lyran asset. His mercs would be assaulting a small Lyran outpost, the site of a communications array that helped coordinate defenses on the ice world. With their satellite communications disrupted by the joint actions of Wu's Woeful Witches (an aerospace-only mercenary company), an attack by Razor's Raiders on the Lyran ground based communications would hinder their ability to respond to the merc's future attacks with heavy forces.

In essence, as the Lyran defender I roll 2d6 on a table of random defenders. The higher the roll, the more daunting the defenses. Currently I add a +2 to that roll, and each communications array the mercs destroy inflict a -1 penalty.

He'd be bringing his newly refurbished Command lance - Captain Razor in his Dragon, 'Snag' in his Centurion, a rookie in a Javelin and Sgt. 'Pepper' (who's heroic exploits in previous missions have made her a house favorite) in her Griffin.

If Razor bites it I'm going to petition for my son to let Sgt. Pepper take over as commander. I'm pretty sure you can figure out what I think he should rename the mercenary company in that eventuality.

As for the Lyrans, I managed to roll a decent weight for my lance: two 65 ton heavy mechs (a Thunderbolt and Rifleman), a 40 ton Cicada and a ubiquitous Griffin. The commander in the Thunderbolt deployed the bulk of his forces within the communications outpost, with the Cicada skirting the battlefield on the far north flank in hopes of swinging to the enemy rear.

A lonely Cicada working the perimeter.
With two lances of pristine mechs piloted by veteran mechwarriors, we were set for brutal match up. This one would be close.

Battle is Joined.

Despite the blizzard making missile fire inaccurate, the approach to the target filled the mercenaries with dread, looking more like a march into a lion's den.

Captain Razor gunned his engine for a small hillock to the south of the battlefield, but the rest of the lance panicked and headed to cover behind a tall outcrop as the first light autocannon rounds whistled towards them.

The battle barely begun and already Razor's Raiders were losing control of the situation. Thrown off by the appearance of such an intimidating force, the mercs scrambled for cover, maneuvering for maximum protection.

As the heavy Lyran mechs trundled forward and the enemy Cicada dashed towards the mercs pinned down by long range PPC and autocannon fire, Captain Razor remembered an asset he hadn't touched thus far in the campaign.

Radioing the allied aerospace mercenaries, he requested an airstrike on the the Lyran defenses. A Hellcat heavy strike fighter obliged, and angled for a strafing run on the Lyran defenses.

Only half remembering the rules for strafe attacks and not wanting to slow the game down terribly, I winged the ruling, allowing the Hellcat to make attacks on any targets within a five hex line. Lining up his shot, my son identified the targets and began rolling dice.

As the Hellcat screamed low across the battlefield, relying on sensors to hug the ground and line up targets, it unleashed a torrent of laser fire.

Explosions rocked the battlefield as fireballs erupted from two buildings utterly destroyed by the attack. The Rifleman, caught from behind, was knocked to the ground by the blistering laser salvo that sheared hunks of armor from its torso and arm.

Seeing the devastating effect of close air support the remaining Lyrans spread out in an effort to avoid being caught in future airstrikes, and to draw unimpeded beads on the mercs still cowering behind cover.

The Lyran Cicada rounded the far end of the battlefield, the Thunderbolt anchoring the center and making steady progress down the main road. Seeing the noose tighten, Captain Razor turned his Dragon and charged back to provide support to his lancemates. Despite the catastrophic airstrike on the Lyran base, the merc's attack was floundering.

With the pocket closing, Captain Razor opened a channel to his lance.

"Those Lyrans are going to be on you any second now. You've got to get moving!"

"But there's no cover! We'll be shot apart!"

Remembering the sage words of his own father, Captain Razor recounted the mechwarrior's creed, "Remember, 'speed IS cover'."

Snapped from her fear and confusion, Sgt. 'Pepper' punched her jump jets leaping into the open ice field. As the Lyran mechs turned their weapons on the new target, Captain Razor continued cajoling his soldiers, finally getting the rest of them moving from behind their defensive position. Left alone, Razor didn't register the thunderous charge of the Lyran Cicada.

40 tons of steel came barreling at him at over 75 kph, intent on charging into the mercenary commander. Catching the glint of ice particles thrown up by the Cicada's footfalls out of the corner of his eye, Captain Razor pulled back hard on the control yoke, barely avoiding the charge and managing to land a brutal kick to the Cicada's leg.

With battle fully joined,  both sides were now jockeying for the best positions on the battlefield. Like a prehistoric beast emerging from some primordial fog, the Lyran Thunderbolt took up an anchor position in the mists from a hot springs geyser.

The Lyran Griffin and Rifleman headed for a small hill to the south, hoping to gain a height advantage to negate any defensive cover the mercs might find, while Captain Razor, the merc Javelin and Centurion worked their way north towards the remaining buildings.

With most of the mercenaries spread out and using cover to mask their approach, the three Lyran mechs circled Sgt. Pepper's lone Griffin. Pepper lined up a shot at the enemy commander's mech and squeezed off a PPC shot. The electrically charged particles snapped across the short distance between the two mechs, shattering the armor on the enemy commander's cockpit but failing to disable any key systems.

Withering fire from all three defenders raked the mercenary Griffin, blistering her armor and exposing the delicate interior to the harsh winds of the raging blizzard.

In return Razor concentrated his long range fire on the House Steiner Rifleman. Shuddering from the impact of autocannon and long range missiles, the pilot steered the battlemech onto a low rise, hoping to set up a more defensible position at its far south end to provide long range covering fire for its lancemates.

With a nearly severed leg, the Lyran Cicada pulled away and punched the throttle to head back towards the communications base. Captain Razor and the rookie Javelin fell into close pursuit.

Buildings on either side of the Cicada erupted in flame as it dashed along the main access roadway as the mercenaries fired over open sights at the base structures.

Sgt. Pepper struggled to keep her mech upright after the accurate fire of three enemy mechs shredded her armor. Failing, she crashed to the ground barely succeeding to stay conscious from the bone jarring impact. Bleary eyed, she checked her sensor scopes.

"Captain, I'm down. That Thunderbolt's turned round, headed your way."

Her warning delivered, Pepper cut the alarms blaring in her cockpit and forced her shattered mech to its feet again. Treating her wounded mech as delicately as she could, she throttled up and swung south, attempting to get behind cover far from the main battle line. The Rifleman and Griffin turned to pursue. If they could take out the mercenary Griffin, they'd be able to rejoin their comrades and add their numbers to the defense of the base.

Too far away to aid Pepper, Captain Razor turned his attention to the mission at hand. Directing fire from the merc Javelin and Centurion, the three Raider mechs scored hits on more base buildings, setting them alight. The Lyran Cicada raced away from the infernos, but caught a single blast from Captain Razor's rear facing medium laser.

With the quick mercenary mechs in his base, the Lyran commander charged his heavy Thunderbolt back towards them as quickly as he could.

Razor took up a defensive position behind one of the target buildings. The two titan exchanged long range fire, the mercenary Captain delivering a solid kick to the base building.

Preoccupied with countering the Lyran commander's attack and stomping buildings, Razor did not notice the approach of the enemy Cicada. The light mech slowed to a walk, steadying its weapons and scoring the rear armor of the Dragon with laser fire.

To the south, Pepper scrambled to get away from the closing Lyran's but realized it was a fruitless task. Desperate to put the mercenary down, the Rifleman pegged his heat by unleashing two large laser attacks which hit, but failed to score critical hits. With myomer fibre bundles seizing up from the growing heat, the Rifleman pilot found he was unable to turn quickly enough to prevent Pepper from using jump jets to get directly behind him.

PPC bolts and LRMS sliced through the air at Pepper from the enemy Griffin, barely missing. Pepper wiped the sweat  from her eyes. Any single hit could inflict a critical hit that would cripple her mech.

To the north the two enemy commanders squared off, directing their allies to concentrate fire on their targets.

Despite being nearly equal in weight, the Thunderbolt outgunned Razor's Dragon. The Lyran commander continued to stride forward, shrugging off SRMs from the Javelin and ducking Razor's autocannon rounds. The Lyran Cicada continued forward, delivering tiny insect like bites of small laser fire to the Dragon's rear armor. Warning bells triggered in the captain's cockpit as the Cicada delivered a kick to the Dragon's leg. The Cicada's foot managed to pierce the rear of the Dragon's knee and putting 40 tons of weight behind it, shear down through the merc's leg, disabling multiple actuators.

While much of the base was blazing, one structure was left standing. Captain Razor couldn't be sure the mission was complete until each had been flattened, but both his mech and Pepper's wouldn't be able to hold out much longer.

While in better shape, the Lyran Thunderbolt was starting to take internal damage across its torso. The Lyran commander was keeping his cool and trying to talk down the Rifleman pilot who was reporting with, greater urgency, each the crippling hit the mercenary Griffin was inflicting on his machine.

"It's behind me, chief! I've got an autocannon out! My mech's burnin' up! Somebody get this thing off me!"

The Lyran Griffin strode forward, blasting Pepper with a PPC bolt that managed to hit despite the short range. Her mech reeled, but steadying it she lined up a long range LRM shot. The shoulder mounted rockets fired, vapor trails snaking around the enemy Griffin right on top of her to explode across the enemy commander's torso. The Griffin cocked a single foot, aimed at Pepper's cockpit. Pulling hard on the control yokes she darted out of the way, using the enemy pilot's momentary loss of balance to turn and deliver two quick jabs at the rear of the Lyran Rifleman. Rent by the airstrike at the beginning of the battle, her punches struck home, cracking the engine core of the Rifleman and damaging its gyro.

The Lyran commander paused and took stock of the situation. His base was on fire. The Rifleman mech, a hereditary asset assigned to the 19th Lyran Guard for six generations was nearly crippled. His own damage display was flashing red on both side torsos, the onboard helper button lit up "EJECT AMMO?".

"Stop messing around, finish off that Griffin and get over here. We need to put this Dragon down and end these pirate attacks once and for all."

Sgt. Snag, finally maneuvering his slow mercenary Centurion into a clear line of sight opened up with LRM and autocannon fire at the Lyran Thunderbolt.

With the Centurion in range the match up to the north was no longer even. The Thunderbolt commander began to backpeddle, calling in the Cicada to hunt the mercenary Javelin who raced in behind him.

With the Lyrans pulling back, Captain Razor sheltered behind the low building, content with firing long range missiles and autocannons as it reyreated. With a satisfying crash the building collapsed as Razor managed to use his crippled leg to knock out the final supports holding it up.

The Lyran Rifleman struggled to its feet. Overheating and staggering, it managed a single large laser blast at Pepper's Griffin as she arced overhead on jump jets, missing by inches.

The Rifleman pilot, strained to get his mech turned with a damaged gyro and myomer fibers seizing up from heat. Sgt. Pepper ducked another close range blast of PPC fire from her enemy counterpart and locked onto the rear armor of the distant Rifleman.

Risking overheating herself but desperate, Sgt. Pepper fired both of her weapons well under minimum range at the Rifleman. The PPC snapped over the Rifleman's head, and only four missiles struck home but their explosions cascaded through the Rifleman's damaged interior, sending shrapnel into the already damaged gyro.

As the whirring device shuddered and snapped from its bearings the Rifleman lost all sense of balance. Damaged cylindrical arms waved piteously as the 65 ton machine toppled over with a thunderous crash.

The Lyran commander ordered the remaining Javelin and Cicada to pull retreat. Saluting the enemy commander, the Thunderbolt backed away, ceding the field to the victorious mercenaries.


What a game! Initiative see-sawed between both sides and I'm not referring to the die roll.  I had forgotten about the possible airstrikes he could deliver, and their initial appearance obliterated two of the six buildings I was defending seeming to seal my fate from the first round. But having gotten used to the light forces I've been shackled with, or being able to run circles around my heavies with his recon lance, he was knocked off his game when confronted with such an intimidating lance of opponents. The opening rounds felt like the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, with his mechs hugging any available cover and my Lyrans laying down suppressing fire, but working their way forward to firing positions that would afford them unobstructed views.

Once he got going though, my slower mechs had a hard time responding. The Dragon's armament isn't impressive (in my opinion) but its higher speed allowed it to avoid my Thunderbolt and lay waste to my base. My Cicada (which I groaned over when I rolled it up) performed better than I expected. After missing a charge early in the game it was able to fall back and deliver some pretty decisive damage to the mercs, inflicting a crit on the Javelin's SRM in passing and crippling the Dragon by attacking from the rear and delivering a kick to an already damaged leg.

The star of the game though was Sgt. Pepper. I don't want to get into the nitty gritty of each die roll, but after she leapt out of cover she was focus-fired by three of my mechs for several rounds. It gave the rest of the mercenaries the breathing room to advance on my base, but Pepper's armor was absolutely shredded by the middle of the game. I was convinced a solid hit would put her down but she managed to avoid taking critical damage over the rest of the game. Easy shots (5+ to hit) would go wide, or hits that did strike home would fail to crit. My son was in a tough position, trying to get her into cover or flee but unable to shake the Lyran Griffin. Seeing he couldn't outrun the enemy he was forced to stay in the fight and ended up focusing on the wounded Rifleman.

A normal game of Battletech probably would have lasted twice as long if we were using the standard forced withdrawal rules, and Pepper surely would have lost her mech (if not her life) but under out morale rules forces pull out once they start taking excessive damage or losing mechs. Had I managed to drop Pepper and inflict a critical torso hit on the Dragon, my Lyrans would have claimed victory. It was only Pepper's tenacious survival and the lucky crits she landed that swung things in my son's favor.

A great game, each of us feeling we were about to lose before things tilted back in our favor multiple times over the course of the match. Headshots, heroes, crazy attacks that needed 12+ to hit actually landing - a great and thrilling game.


  1. That is one of the best battle reports I have ever seen. Great pictures, great commentary and a really tight finish. Congratulations.

    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! It was a blast to play :). When Battletech works, it REALLY works.

  2. Outstanding AAR sir. I know how much time it takes to write these up and want you to know that your hard work is appreciated. Again the Razor's confounded you. So close though. Hopefully the young padawan doesn't get to cocky and let his guard down in future rounds.


  3. The Razors must be hopping around cheering if they're going to get to salvage that Rifleman. They need more tonnage as things start to heat up with the Lyrans.