Friday, May 22, 2020

Battletech Campaign #14: Situation Normal

After our straightforward last battle, I decided to offer my son a different type of recon mission. It would be challenging and risky, but offered a hefty reward in intel.

As Captain Razor lead his battered but victorious lance back to base he received a communication from their aerospace allies who spotted unusual enemy activity. The Lyrans had dispatched a small force to the battlefield and were sifting through the rubble in search for something. If they acted quickly, a different lance could be dispatched from the mercenaries' hidden base to intercept them. If the Lyrans recovered any sort of communication cyphers or equipment they'd be loaded in an "HQ" transport vehicle. A mercenary lance would simply need to reach the HQ vehicle, pick it up and make a hasty getaway back to base.

Weighing his options Captain Razor decided to proceed with the mission. Disappointingly, his recon lance was still nursing a Locust with a shattered gyro. Rather than risking further damage to the mech, the mercenaries' main battle lance was given the green light to suit up and race to the theater of operations instead.

Mercenary commands can't often be picky with the forces they marshal, and Captain Razor has been forced to gather the "odd men out" into his battle lance, a catch-all of disparate mechs and pilots that don't receive the plum assignments given to the command and recon lances. 

Racing ahead of the slower medium mechs in the lance, Cpl. "Cobra" piloting his 20 ton Wasp scout mech was the first to arrive within visual range of the battlefield. The sight before him was daunting.

Through the smoke from the still burning communications buildings, Cpl. Cobra could make out nearly half a dozen light mechs in a tight defensive formation around a number of light vehicles making ready to depart. 

"Lieutenant, it's a real hornet's nest up here." He radioed to his lance commander, "I've got eyes on the HQ vehicle, but they've got infantry in defensive positions to the west, about a full company of light mechs and armor, and a clear shot down the main road artery to the east. If they reach the main highway there we'll never be able to catch 'em"

"We're nearly there. See if you can't disable that HQ vehicle."

Outnumbered 12 to 1, Cpl. Cobra triggered his jump jets and took a pair of 180 meter long leaps along the north edge of the ice plain, just out of weapon range of the Lyrans. In response, a pair of lightly armed Locust scout mechs broke off from the pack in pursuit, while the vehicle convoy began trundling along the main thoroughfare.

Closing to short range one of the Locusts spat heavy machine gun fire at the light  mercenary mech, splintering and pock-marking armor along its arm. Cobra's lightly armed Wasp was still out of range of the HQ vehicle, and could only manage an ineffective laser shot at his pursuers.

Fearing the Wasp was a diversionary tactic, the bulk of the Lyran defenders fell into a tight escort formation, but freeing a pair of more heavily armed Commando scouts to fall back to pounce on any other threat that might appear from the west. Taking on a full lance of light mechs was more than Cpl. Cobra had bargained for.

"Man, why couldn't they have sent a Phoenix Hawk to do this? My Wasp aint cut out for this sort of thing!"

"Quit yer bellyachin'," a familiar voice drawled over the comms, "The cavalry is here." Cresting the rise to the west the remainder of the battle lance stomped into visual range. The gravelly tones of Sgt. Instein's voice had snapped scores of mechwarriors to attention over the years. Piloting the lance's Wolverine, Sgt. "Bone" Instein was a veteran of decades of mech combat. Legless and unable to adapt to cybernetic replacements, his Wolverine had to be specially modified to accommodate his battle wounds. Now his arrival stiffened the Wasp pilot's nerve as the lance began to focus on the mission at hand.

Sgt. "Bone" Instein in his Wolverine escorting "Tag" in the Trebuchet support mech.

"Slick", the lance commander piloting a Centurion directed his support mech to make best speed and target the fleeing HQ vehicle in hopes of disabling it. Still shellshocked from a mauling at the hands of the Lyrans several weeks ago, "Tag" in his Trebuchet reluctantly kicked his mech into a run towards the convoy.

Drawing just into range of the convoy, the Trebuchet's long range missiles snaked across the ice plain, impacting one of the trailing Scorpion tanks and knocking a tread from its road wheels. Disabled, it was still potent though and its turret rotated, firing an autocannon shell at long range that impacted Sgt. Bone's Wolverine.

With the convoy speeding away, the mercenaries were forced to throw caution to the wind and race towards their targets. The Lyran mechs fell on the mercs, battering their armor with lasers, missiles and machine guns.

Climbing a small peak to give him a commanding view of the battlefield, Lt. Slick was still too far out of range to do much good other than call out targets.

Seeing a golden opportunity, one of the Lyran Locusts peeled off to make a direct attack on the Centurion's rear. A more heavily armed variant, the Lyran LCT-1S fired a pair of light SRMs and a medium laser, scoring direct hits with all four missiles and the laser directly into the rear torso of the Centurion.

A capable mechwarrior, but with few combat missions under his belt, Lt. Slick cut the "low armor" alarm in his cockpit and nervously checked his internal structure readout.

"Team, I just took a pretty heavy blow here. All internals check out, but I want to remind everyone to check their six and avoid taking unnecessary damage to the rear of your battlemech."

Sgt. Bone cut the lieutenant's comm message short as a flurry of short range missiles impacted his mech's head. He steadied his Wolverine and unleashed a volley of SRMs and lasers at a Commando just 20 meters away, the Lyran lining up a shot on Cpl. Cobra's Wasp. LRM vapor trails streaked by the Wolverine's canopy as Tag attempted another shot at the fleeing convoy. Dodging attacks from a Locust and Commando threw off the Trebuchet's aim and the missiles fell wide.

One of the Lyran Locusts dashed towards the Trebuchet, raking the mech from behind with machine guns before unleashing a swift kick at the support mech. Slick ticked a box on Tag's pilot evaluation chart ("Situational awareness: Poor") missing the melee as Tag's Trebuchet darted forward, throwing off the Lyran's aim and sending the Locust crashing onto its back. 

The impact drove a hunk of scrap rebar through the scout's thin rear armor directly into its engine core. Heat sink failure cascaded across the mech's internal structure. Wobbling to a standing position, its internal temperature invariably rising and unable to cool itself, the Locust withdrew from the battle.

The mercs continued their headlong charge across the ice plain, dodging behind cover when possible, but shedding armor at an alarming rate as the Lyran light mechs and Scorpion tanks continued to inflict a death by a thousand cuts.

Piloting the slowest mech in the lance, Lt. Slick eased his Centurion off the rise and headed towards the fleeing convoy. Harried by a Locust and a pair of light hovercraft, the lieutenant had to divert to the north to avoid the dug in infantry lying in wait within the ruins of the destroyed base.

"Team, I've had to divert north to avoid some stiff Lyran resistance. You should be drawing within range of that HQ vehicle so I'll need you to direct the bulk of your attacks towards disabling it. Of course, don't hit it TOO hard. We don't want to blow it up."

"Aye, lieutenant," Bone spat through gritted teeth as he wrestled his mech's gyros into keeping the 55 ton behemoth on two feet after suffering the impact of four medium lasers from a single mech. "Watch yerself boys, watch yerself. Those basterds got themselves a Fire Javelin. Steer clear o' that one."

"Roger that sergeant," Tag acknowledged as both of his Trebuchet's LRM missile target sensors locked on to the fleeing HQ vehicle. "I've got solid tone on both racks? Do I fire?"

"Hmm, I think in this case with the volume of fire we're laying down range it might be prudent to only f-"

"Let 'em both loose laddie!" Sgt. Bone cut off the lieutenant as half a dozen enemy SRM rockets exploded in a fireworks display across his Wolverine's chest. Making for cover behind an outcrop of rock, his autocannon spat three 120mm shells at the Lyran Javelin. The Lyran backpedaled out of sight behind the outcrop, giving Sgt. Bone a moment to take a read on the situation. Turning his mech round, he stole a glance to see Tag's Trebuchet planting a foot into the frozen ground, leaning forward to counteract the force unleashed by the continuous rolling barrage of LRMs he was firing. Thirty long range missiles streaked over his Wolverine's head, their vapor trails white across a sky growing purple with dusk. A cascade of explosions rippled across the HQ vehicle, engulfing it in flame, hiding it from view in billows of ink black smoke. A hush fell over the battlefield as both parties checked the status of the prize.

"Hits away! Did we get it?" the lieutenant called over the comm.

The smoke cleared revealing the HQ vehicle rolling on  battered, blackened, dragging bits of metal that kicked up sparks on the road, but rolling nonetheless.

"Negative," Tag sighed, "it just impacted on the surface,"

"Right boys, don't think we can risk 'nuther shot. It's goin' t'be a scrum." Using his cavalary mech's enormous arm, he waved and gestured to Cpl. Cobra. The Wasp raised an arm in comprehension, turned, and bounded away in a long looping run out of view towards the northeast. Sgt. Bone triggered his comms, directing another salvo of the Trebuchet's LRMs at the convoy, but this time towards one of the lead Scorpion tanks.

The missiles shattered the tank's main drive wheel. Venting smoke from burning oil the armored vehicle ground to a halt, blocking the main road to the east.

"Sgt. Bone, I'm still encountering some stiff resistance to the west. What's your situation?"

"We're blockin' th' road, lietenant. Cobra's makin' a sweep round the ridge to the northwest. Should be able to flank that HQ truck and snatch it right up. They're almost to the main highway though. If'n we don't catch em, they'll be able to open their throttles and slip our grasp!"

Lyran Commandos continued to swirl around the perimeter of the battlefield. One sporting a tangle of wires and blackened metal where its left arm used to be throttled up in an attempt to get to a defensive position. Sgt. Bone locked his target reticle on it and opened up with this autocannon before delivering a swift kick that shattered the Lyran Javelin's arm.

The autocannon rounds pierced the Commando's light rear armor, touching off a round of SRM ammo, the explosions coursing through its internal structure and ripping its engine to pieces.

"Well, you seem to have things well in hand. I'm going to fall back to a defensive position to cover your retreat."

"Lieutenant, beggin' yer pardon sir, but we need that autocannon o' yours on this end o' the field." Another indicator on the Wolverine's armor integrity display flipped to red as the Javelin spun on him and melted away the last shreds of armor along its right arm with its quad medium lasers.

"I'm sorry sergeant, you're just going to have to make do with what you have. You see, there are these infantry-" Sgt. Bone muted the lieutenant's comm channel, unleashing another volley of short ranged missiles at one of the Scorpion tanks.

"Corporal, it's on you boyo." The Wasp's cloven feet kicked up clouds of ice particles as it raced round the far east end of the ridge. Cpl. Cobra sighted the HQ vehicle as it left the main road to divert around the wrecked Scorpion just 60 meters away.

"Allllllmoooost thhhheeere."

Suddenly aware of the peril their HQ vehicle was in, the remaining Lyran Scorpions deployed in a defensive screen around it.

"Watch it Cobra, they're on ter yeh!" Alerted by Sgt. Bone's warning, Cpl. Cobra turned his Wasp around and backed across the main road as the Lyran Commando and Savannah Master hover tanks raced towards him.

"Tag, we got t'give the boy more time. Light up those tank!"

 Tag eased his Trebuchet into a commanding position overlooking the battlefield and began knocking out the disabled Scorpions, but the return fire from the last tank disabled one of his LRM racks.

Focusing on the task at hand, Corporal Cobra shut down his primary laser weaponry and targeted the HQ vehicle for manual manipulation by his paired hand actuators.

"That's right Cobra, catch that oiled pig!"

The Wasp leaned over in a crouch, hands poised to snatch the vital cargo. Cobra licked his lips, the sweet taste of victory dancing on his tongue. An alarm cut through his focus. Incoming missiles. Cobra glanced up as a dozen warheads trailing white vapor trails filled his viewport. Explosions rocked his mech, driving it backwards from the impact before it teetered forward and regained its balance. Cobra caught his breath, staring in disbelief as the HQ vehicle trundled through the snow past his mech's severed left arm.

"I missed it seargent, I missed it! I lost an arm! It's no good!"

"Easy boy, I'm onnit." The Wolverine charged across the ice field, turning and skidding to a stop next to the HQ vehicle. Cobra's crippled Wasp fell back into a defensive position behind Sgt. Bone's mech.

"Get clear boy, y'canna do any more good back there!"

The Lyrans moved in for the kill. Thin green beams lanced from the Javelin, blackening and boiling away the armor on the Wasp's left leg, shredding the myomer fibers and internal structural supports. Wreathed in smoke from the burning wrecks, Sgt. Bone switched to magnetic sensors to catch a reading on the fleeing HQ vehicle. Nearly to the main highway, he was just in time to snag it.

The ghostly image of his Wolverine's hand actuators filled his magneto-sensor view screen, fingers flexed, grasping towards the HQ truck. A flash of light lanced across his screen, a medium laser from the Commando only a few meters away. As Sgt. Bone's vision cleared he could see one of his mech's hands hanging limply in the sensor screen, nearly severed at the wrist. A mirthless laugh escaped Sgt. Bone's throat. He flipped on all of his comms channels.

"- I repeat, Sgt. Bone what is your status?"

"SNAFU lieutenant. SNAFU."

Sgt. Bone threw his Wolverine into reverse, autocannon shell cases catching the last rays of sunlight as he laid down continuous autocannon fire at the Lyran mechs. Falling back to defensive positions, the crippled mercenaries made a hasty fighting withdrawal as the Lyrans fell back into a close escort of the fleeing HQ vehicle. The small convoy reached the main highway and headed south towards the primary factory compounds of Parakoila.


Forgive me, but I got a little carried away there with the write up. This was another game that seemed to generate personalities, heroes and villains that took life in my son's and my imaginations that I felt I needed to capture.

I'm employing a variety of house rules including some to make vehicles easier to run. I had some thoughts on making them a bit weaker and wanted to try them out with a convoy ambush. To keep things interesting I included a "snatch and grab" objective my son's mercs would need to capture. On paper the two forces were roughly equal in battle value and because he only need to pick up a vehicle and exit, or disable it and destroy the rest of the defenders I thought he'd have a fairly easy time of it. I was so very wrong.

I had inadvertently put his lance up against an entire company of enemy units. While most were low battle value targets that should have been knocked out relatively easily, the advantage I gained by always being able to position multiple units in his rear arcs along with the ticking clock of the fleeing vehicle meant he could never position his units defensively. He was forced to race his mechs across the table just to reach the HQ vehicle and he nearly did it. Knocking out the tanks to clog the road, attempting to disable the HQ truck before it could flee and swinging his Wasp around the back of a hill to catch the objective at the last moment were all excellent plans. Unfortunately his die rolling was absolute garbage. He lost initiative 6 out of 8 rounds and was routinely missing rolls where he needed a 5 or higher. Had his rolling been better, had either of us remembered he still has airstrikes available (which proved so decisive in the last battle) or had he used his battle lance's reroll ability this mission could have turned out very differently.

An absolutely brutal combat but the Raiders managed to escape with their lives and their mechs to fight another day.


  1. I love the way your rules work out that these situations arise. Most players would have kept on pushing, losing multiple mechs to the opposition and going for that 150 point objective. Very dramatic writeup and an enjoyable read.

    1. Thanks Panzerkraken! The interplay of campaign rules and morale tracker has generated a number of interesting scenarios. I'm really happy that we've avoided the dreaded "last man standing" victory conditions which really kill a lot of my enjoyment with Battletech.

  2. The many hour slugfest of CBT seems to be much improved with your rules. I found forced withdrawal was a good idea, but seemed to kick in pretty late so functionally didn't change a whole lot.
    I'm really enjoying following your campaign. What program do you use to layout your missions? They look pretty slick.

    1. Thanks Dave. I'm still tinkering with the morale rules but found they managed to cut down on slugfests and provide results that match the universe fiction of mechs carrying on for hundreds of years.

      My mission layouts are done in Photoshop. Thanks for the compliments!

  3. Late to the party. Oof to the Razor’s, tough one for them. Almost though.