[Battletech] AAR – World Wide Event “Finders Keepers”

The Tacoma chapter of the Puget Sound BT group re-ran the WWE this Saturday, and unlike last time I was able to attend. Apparently the last game was a pretty much instant blow-out, effectively decided for the Stoners on Turn 2 with a couple lucky headshots and some love from the Magical Death Acid. Full breakdown after the cut, this is gonna be a long one.

The Story So Far:
Essentially, intel on a ‘Mech cache leaked. The Republic of the Sphere being who they are, they attempted to impound and destroy all the available ‘Mechs. A small mercenary company is attempting to infiltrate site security, disrupt the attempts to salvage/destroy the cache, and steal as much as they can carry before reinforcements arrive. Note that we’re using per-Lance initiative and fire declaration here, which forced us to make some.. interesting tactical responses a few times.

 

Pre-match analysis:
Map: (top to bottom, left to right) Woodland, Rolling Hills 1, Wide River, River Valley.
Republic of the Sphere forces are defending, and may set up anywhere on the River maps. One lance sets up initially, then all others once the Attackers have committed.
Mercenary forces are the attackers, and may set up within 2 hexes of the far edge of the Woodland and Rolling Hills Maps.

Map, viewed from the Stoner side of the river.

Objectives:
Attackers must successfully cross the river, with at least half their forces surviving at end of game. Bonus for crossing on or before Turn 5. One additional VP per ‘Mech killed or crippled.
• Defenders must prevent the crossing. Bonus for holding the line for 5 turns or more. Multiple VP per kill or cripple (lost track of how many, I was in the merc briefing by that point)

 

Forces:
Forces were GM-selected from a set list of possible ‘mechs and variants, on a per-lance basis. Each side also got two special characters who could influence the battle in various ways.

Mercs left, Stoners right.

Mercenaries
I wound up pulling the lance on the lower left, a hybrid-Strike lance with an Eisenfaust (slow Medium with a sniping loadout), Calliope (slow-ish Medium with a very solid all-ranges setup, basically a Wolverine with a plasma cannon), Cronus (Aftermarket mod of the 55-ton Trinity ‘Mechs, loading a mish-mash of weapons and very good speed), and a Nyx (Like a Jenner, but much faster). I’d only ever used the Cronus before, but by the sheets they looked pretty solid and the Cronus is one of my all-time favorite units.
• Merc Assault lance – AS7-D(r) Atlas, CP-11-B Cyclops, NH-2 Rook, and an AXM-3S Axeman.  The Axeman was assigned a pilot who could skip a shooting phase to get a +3 on his to-hit rolls next turn (basically, it had some very short-ranged weapons and was the hardest hitter we had that we didn’t expect to be spamming every possible shot from the instant we made contact). The Atlas chose a plot that let him ignore enemy units during movement – normally you can’t enter an enemy ‘Mech’s hex, and you have to stop once you’re in the same hex as a vehicle. No-one’s stopping our roll across that river..
• Merc Cavalry lance II – Black Hawk Standard (both a Model 1 and a Model 3), CLN-4V Chameleon, and a WSP-8T Wasp.

You may notice there’s a lot of very hot-running machines on that list. And a lot of plasma rifles. This was already shaping up to be an amusing fight…

Stoner forces:
• Assault Lance – ST-8A Shootist, PRF-2R Prefect*, KGC-009 King Crab, and an AWS-9Q Awesome.  The King Crab was assigned a special character who could let his entire lance ignore Piloting Rolls to avoid being knocked over by physical attacks, receiving 20+ damage, or taking actuator damage. Ouch.
• Cavalry Lance – LGN-2D Legionnaire, OSR-5D Osiris**, SNK-2B Stealth Snake, and a stock SNT-04 Sentry. Took a pilot that allowed the entire lance to ignore intiative and take their entire turn before anyone else was allowed to move or shoot, once per game.
• Scout Lance – GRM-01C Garm, GBT-1G Gambit, VLK-QD1 Valkyrie, BH-K306 Battle Hawk.

*(fortunately the Prefect was the model that lost its usual head-removing Heavy PPC for a pair of sawed-off Snub PPCs and a pair of Light PPCs. In the event, that HPPC would have claimed at least 2 of our ‘Mechs with head-shots)
** The Osiris is a brutal little fast sniper with an HPPC and 7 jump jets. Thing is unkillable but at least it can’t hit for shit.

 

Setup:

Sorry about the glare. I only realized it was happening in T3.

The Stoners, rather predictably, dropped their Assault Lance dead center, on the massif surrounding Hex 1419 of Wide RiverNote: all hex numbers are given based on the MegaMap printout, not the actual printed maps, to avoid confusion.
I detached my Eisenfaust to advance with the Cavalry/Assault force, and our Assaults deployed right at the border of Woodland and Rolling Hills. Cavalry lance deployed to their immediate right. The Calliope went to the far end of the board with a nice 15-hex straight ahead of her, so I could max out her TMM for the first couple turns.
We wanted to force the enemy to break up his troops, then refuse the flank to whichever side had the enemy Cavalry lance on it by going around the massif with the Assaults on it, and try to punch through at either Wide River 0916-17 or River Valley 1023. We decided to try to needle the enemy Assault commander with our reasonably tough ClanTech Black Hawks as a distraction while the Assaults snuck into firing position.
The enemy Cav and Scout lances deployed on each corner, forming a mobile reserve, but holding out behind some decent cover.
My Eisenfaust was also put on Reserve Distraction duty, since it had no plausible way of crossing the river within the time limit, while the Rook was slated to hop over the rocks and join us in forcing the crossing to the left of the enemy Assault lance once we’d gotten our stuff in position. The jump-capable units in the Cav lance would be used to pin the enemy Cavalry, and I’d hold down the Scouts and take opportunity fire at the central Assault force as it presented itself until T4, then anyone with leg armor or jets left could hop over the river. The Wasp/Chameleon and whatever was left of the Cav Lance were going to sweep across the front of the massif with the Assault Lance on, using the large amount of L2 and L4 terrain there to break the Assaults’ LoS and hopefully refusing the flank to the enemy Cav lance. Unfortunately, that meant fording the river directly up a hill and into the guns of the Assault lance. As well as going straight through the Prefect and Shootist…

 

Turn 1:

Fuck-all happens. I dump a bunch of speculative shots into the Shootist, clipping it with a few LRMs and an ERML. Meanwhile the Black Hawk 3 on our center scores a TAC directly into the KGC’s.. Heavy Gyro.
Goddamnit.

Remaining forces flung about Plasma shots with wild abandon but no real results. The enemy Cavalry lance holds position, rather than moving to cover the center of the board.

 

Turn 2:

We lose initiative. go first, suddenly pulling the entire Cavalry lance to the left, though I make a mistake placing the Calliope one hex too far down the hill. The Scout player turtles up, rather than trying to skirmish with us, and the enemy Cavalry still holds position (though to be fair, we had 3-4 jump-capable ‘Mechs ready to come down his throat on a moment’s notice). We continue to snipe ineffectually at the Shootist. The Axeman snipes.. much less ineffectually at it, dinging it in the left arm with an LBX-20 slug and nearly killing the Shootist’s AC/20.

Nearly.

My Eisenfaust joins in the general blanket party we’re having with the King Crab on the right flank. The enemy Cavalry commander flings a fusillade of HPPC, ERPPC, and RAC shots in the direction of the Black Hawk on point. So does the Assault lance. The ‘Hawk takes over 80 damage, promptly losing its own gyro and both arms, falling on its face, and knocking the pilot unconscious. The King Crab and Shootist, meanwhile, both use their special rule to ignore the PSRs for getting their shit slapped. This will become a running theme…

Turn 3:


We win initiative. I hold until the end of turn, which baits the Scouts forward. Our Assaults move forward, and we prepare a second sacrificial Black Hawk for the altar of the King of Crabs. Now that the Shootist is in range of the Assaults, I pull the Nyx back to add some SRM support to their Gauss, Autocannon, and PPC fire. Along with the Calliope and the Cronus. 19 SRM tubes is a HELL of a drug, I tell you whut.

Our Assaults pound the ever-loving shit out of the Shootist, ripping off its arms and coring out the engine. The Shootist and Prefect respond by severing the Axeman’s left arm and coring out its LBX. For those of you keeping score at home, the AXM is now one hatchet away from Forced Withdrawal. All of my “beatstick” guns move to soften up the Prefect this turn, and the two Plasma shots slightly overheat it. What can I say? Split fire is my jam.

Meanwhile, the Eisenfaust and our Cav lance continue the blanket party for the King Crab, hitting it half a dozen times. It continues to stand. The sacrificial Black Hawk, on the other hand, does not.

 

Turn 4:

Black Hawk #2 manages to stand up and limp under the cover of the Level 4 cliffs directly in front of it. This will not save it from the Cavalry, but it earns a short respite from the Assault lance.
I maneuvered the Calliope into a bad spot last turn. I have to back out of it, getting pasted by the Battle Hawk for my troubles.. and EVERY SINGLE POINT OF DAMAGE goes into the left leg, stripping it. Someone’s not crossing the river tonight. The Eisenfaust finally gets some love from the AWS (since the KGC and AWS are both one hex away from the cliff edge, and it’s a Level 4, so the cliff is blocking LoS to the sacrificial Black Hawk #2). Said fire promptly punches two of my Double Heat Sinks out of action. Oh boy. Nothing like a 4/6 “flashbulb” skidding across the edge of overheat to improve your tactical options.

The ‘Faust has meanwhile pissed off smartly, leaving the fast jumpers of the Cav lance behind, and manages to clip the Valkyrie with its plasma rifle. This puts the wind up the Scout player. As does the Cyclops popping his Battle Hawk like a zit, landing a pair of perfect Gauss shots to the CT and the Head. Meanwhile the Nyx discovers the tender, unguarded rear torso of the Prefect has just parked next to a Level 1 cliff.

I begin humming the “Jaws” theme as soon as the Stoner players pass initiative. Sadly I miss the kick, but I manage to go internal on his LT and clip his engine with SRMs. The enemy continues to pound the Axeman, which is now a Right Arm, two stripped legs, and is down to 2 points of IS in the RT. But By God, it is going to apply that hatchet…

You may notice that we’re lining up to cross the river with about half our force next turn. The enemy had not.

Turn 5:

GODDAMNIT DIE ALREADY YOU BASTARD

The KGC finally succumbs to his 3rd Pilot Hit of the night, taking a 4th as he falls. Halfway through the turn, the Stoners realize to their horror that we’ve just put multiple ‘Mechs across the river, and >everything< on the other side of the river is pushing at least a +3/+4 TMM if it’s even in line of sight.

My glowing-hot 3/5 Eisenfaust (and its pristine legs) sullenly waddle towards the water, managing to land another Plasma Rifle shot on the Garm. The Calliope, drunk on power (and wanting to pin the Prefect in place so we can line up the Axeman to whup on it next turn), sprints towards the Prefect as we begin dumping a wild assortment of plasma, PPCs, and SRMs in its general direction. Sadly, the Calliope >also< whiffs her kick, falling on her ass and stripping the armor from her right rear torso. The Prefect.. does not miss. Wellp, there went the rest of her leg armor. And a pilot hit into the bargain!

Meanwhile, the enemy Legionnaire pilot continues to tape down the triggers on his RAC and BRRRRRRT.. well, pretty much anything in range. And not fucking jam, the son of a bitch.

Turn 6.

In which Axey Lives The Dream

.

Remember how that one Stoner got the rule that gave him a free turn? Yeah. My Nyx was stuck in the river and he thought it might be a free kill. So he jumped/ran his entire cav lance onto me, opened up.. and then promptly rolled >nothing< but 5’s and 6’s on a shitload of 7’s to-hit. The RAC finally landed two shots, which of course clipped into the water and detonated harmlessly inches from my legs.

Once that was over, I pulled the short straw on initiative this turn. My movement was no longer critical in pinning down the Scout or Cav lances, and we wanted the Axeman to accomplish his life’s dream of axing a Prefect several questions. So the Nyx and Cronus buggered off to flip shots at the Garm – who had also been taping down the triggers on his mysteriously-unjammed RAC – while the Calliope (no longer able to contribute to the river crossing) began retreating but pumped another shot into the immobile King Crab.

My company-mates laughed at me. “Five pilot hits”, they said. “He’s out of the fight for good”, they said.

“EAT ME”, I said. It’s a King Crab, I’ve run them before and I know pretty intimately what’ll happen if it gets back up…

With the enemy Assault commander’s Crab (and its special character) out of commission, his two remaining lancemates began firing wildly into anything that they could get shots on. The AWS managed to breach my ‘Faust‘s leg (that’s two out of the running for crossing the river), but not quite knock it down. The Axeman took the Prefect out with a perfect triple-crit to the engine, and the Prefect simultaneously punched his head clean off. We all paused to raise a toast to a man who lived the fucking dream.

Meanwhile the Cronus missed his kick on the Garm, and got punched twice in the ankle for his troubles. Two extremely tense PSRs later, and we were on to turn 7…

 

Turn 7:

The Mercs finally win initiative back-to-back after whiffing turns 2, 4, and 5. The Scout lance promptly retreated and turtled up in the corner (note: I would personally have jumped them into the river to block the line of advance; although our Atlas was the special character mentioned above who could ignore enemy ZoCs, it would still have needed more MP than were available to cross through one of the Lights and reach the other side).  Our Assault lance advanced under fire, while our Rook jumped behind the ridgeline to get a bead on the KGC. Which, apropos of my dire warnings the previous turn, woke up on boxcars. Our own Cav lance held positions across the river, helping me apply the boot to the remains of the enemy Assault lance. The Legionnaire in the enemy Cav lance promptly sprinted up behind the Rook to apply BRRRRRT. As one does.  The Calliope continued her retreat, landing a packet of LRMs into the Gambit‘s rear armor, and the Cronus cemented its MVP status in my heart by landing every single shot on the Sentry. Our Chameleon, now overheating literally to the exploding point after alpha striking for several turns and getting hit with plasma more than once, finally chilled out a little and kept it to the small lasers and MGs.

My ‘Faust, down six double heat sinks, pulled a J-turn to see if I could target-fixate the Assault lance and hold the heat off of our big boys (who were about to force the river crossing). He did, and managed to land a shot on the KGC’s head. Which the Rook pumped another 10 damage into a moment later. FINALLY.
Sadly, but also fortunately for us, the enemy Cav lance commander returns the favor – landing a LAC-5 hit on the head of my ‘Faust, which had already been stripped by one of the Prefect’s PPCs. On the other hand, the Cyclops was still nearly untouched.

My Nyx begins looking speculatively at the 16 row of the opposite map, while everything else I had took opportunity fire at anything hittable once I got my TMMs up.

 

Turn 8:

we win!

Turn 8 was pretty boring shooting-wise.  The Nyx fucked off and our Assaults finally forced the river crossing despite the deathball attempting to stall them.

Although this was supposed to be a 10-turner, we called it here because the Mercs had a 17-VP lead, massive maneuver superiority, and the Stoners simply couldn’t muster enough firepower (barring yet more headshots) to get the necessary VP from killing our remaining Assaults. As implied above, the MVPs were that goddamned Rook, which had more damage per turn than any other ‘Mech on our side of the table, and the King Crab. Which took on some triple to quadruple its weight in ‘Mechs basically every turn for 5 Turns before it finally went down, and then popped up for one last kill in Turn 7.

Scenario analysis:
This one was a lot of fun. It also has some very serious design issues. I know we won, but the Stoners also made multiple tactical errors, and we had more than one lucky shot in there. I feel that if both sides are played to their best the mercs are basically fucked. I’ll break out why below.
The short version? There are far too many ways for a couple bad rolls to knock out your force, and the Merc player not only has very little tactical flexibility once minis are on the table, but it’s possible to tell pretty much immediately where he has to move and what he has to do for the rest of the game.

The bad:
• The map setup restricts the Merc player to one of three advance routes, only one of which can feasibly be completed with the “Assault” lance. I’ve annotated the setup map, below, on a MegaMap printout to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. I’m not sure how this could be fixed without resorting to putting on some bridges or using HexTiles to alter the course of the river.

Map showing advance routes

Black routes are theoretically viable, purple routes are illegal or non-viable for Assaults

• Though the scenario rules state that “at least half” of the Attacking force has to cross the river, a few lucky hits to the legs and that becomes impossible. Especially if you take one of the sloggier routes to the goal, or have to try to cross two water hexes with your back exposed in a 3/5. Since there’s no running in water, and going in/getting out is 3 MP each, you have to use the Minimum Movement rules to get out at several points. Every turn you spend in the water risks a failed PSR and a breach, and with the amount of damage you take advancing that’s basically an instagib. So the Atlas >has< to cross pretty much exactly where we crossed it, or at the more-exposed crossing to the left of the central massif, while the ‘Faust, Calliope, and ‘Clops are in the same boat but can at least move through some woods for cover or dismount onto a hillside.
• Preserving your ‘Mechs once they’re across the river is important. You don’t get your end-of-game VP if they get shot down (though you do get the early bird bonus). But you have almost no maneuver room, and you can’t pull them off the map either. Since the enemy is at an even BV but has much higher resilience? If you hold back the ‘Mechs on the far side of the river, that means you’re getting plowed unless you managed an early unbalancing auto-kill or you can effectively knock out one of the enemy lances by a refused flank. And you can’t cross back over or you lose VP.
• The wild disparity in special rules. If the “ignores ZoC” rule for the Attacker were lance-wide, it’d go a HELL of a long way to balancing the scenario – that means the Stoners can’t turtle up several ‘Mechs in the water or in the woods on the river’s edge (on the above map, the area surrounding hex 0923 on River Valley, and the small hill on 0113 on Wide River)  and just linebacker you for multiple turns.
• Lance balance was schizo. The ‘Faust and Rook should probably be switched (which is effectively what we did). I’d probably swap the Osiris from the Cavalry lance into the Scout lance to it some punch value, since as it was they were mostly slinging a few 5-pointers. From what I understand the other ‘Mechs on the GM’s list can change balance a bit.
• The Mercs had multiple units that could easily generate +4 TMMs or more, in particular some of the stuff in my lance. I’d rather take slightly tougher stuff (Reseen Griffins and Shadow Hawks, for example) that the enemy actually has a chance to hit than be That Asshole for half the game. The mercs also have multiple units with 6 or better jump jets, which makes getting some units across the river on turn three trivial – let alone the limit of Turn 5.

The good:
• The game was taut, swingy, and challenging. And we all left happy afterwards – nobody felt fundamentally cheated by the scenario, just like there were some spots it could be improved upon.
• Lance design, despite its problems, means there are slots for each type of player. I got a weird range of movements, but I’m also comfortable detaching individual ‘Mechs to support other players’ lances and using split-fire or coordination. Good for snappy math. The Stoner Assault lance is a super-classic “hold the line and beat the SHIT out of them” with some appallingly tough ‘Mechs and simple bookkeeping. Very appropriate for a player unfamiliar with DA-era tech, or with a more “I’m just here to chuck dice” mindset. The Striker, Scout, and Cav lances all have a good mix of weapons and tools to play with, and reward careful fire declarations – though as I said the Scout lance on the Stoner side struggles to put any serious damage downrange. If the Garm goes, they’re hosed.
• The basic scenario writing and preparation notes are simple, focused, and well-written. Props to the demo team for putting together a good packet. As a long-time GM, I know that’s a huge pain in the ass to accomplish

>What’s next?
We’re thinking about running a “rear-echelon” game soon, with some Industrials/Primitives and infantry getting bullied by a couple lances of Assassins, Cicadas, and other shitmechs trying to knock out/steal from the Defender’s facilities as fast as possible. Defenders get some really nasty reinforcements halfway through, and the Attackers have to stage a fighting withdrawal while finishing their Raid objectives.
Should be fast and lulzy. I’ll post a scenario writeup if it goes anywhere.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: