Claiming Elissa; Battletech Campaign

The first encounter was a complete mistake. While open to any clan by virtue of its’ presence in the periphery, Elissa laid within Clan Wolf’s designated invasion corridor, and thus the Wolves took it for their own.  Unbeknownst to the initial landing force, a small contingent from Clan Diamond Shark had already arrived. The Diamond Sharks had covertly appropriated multiple Inner Sphere Battlemechs in order to keep their presence quiet, and the initial engagement between the two clans was well underway before either side discovered they were not being ambushed by the best equipped militia this backwater world could muster. Within minutes, with one pilot dead and with mechs barely standing, the surviving Diamond Sharks were in full retreat.

Analysis of intercepted communications indicated that the Diamond Sharks had been looking for Project Achilles, a legendary Star League research facility. Combined with the location of the prior engagement, the Clan Wolf commander selected several potential search areas, and set out to engage and drive off the other clan.

This time, all pilots involved knew exactly who they faced and was at stake. Another defeat would be too costly, and the Diamond Sharks would have to withdraw from the planet. But a defeat of the Wolves would serve as a major power shift between the two factions, and likely cause an escalation into a much larger conflict than would be normally expected for a world of such low strategic value.

As a reward for their heroics in the prior battle, Wolf MechWarriors “Hammer” and “Anvil” were given the right to investigate the ruins which were calculated to have the highest chance of encountering the Diamond Sharks again. Much honor was gained this day by the intelligence agents involved in those calculations, as the Timber Wolf and Summoner pairing (still proxied, due to supply issues) arrived in the sector simultaneous to a Diamond Shark force consisting of two Kit Foxes and another Timber Wolf, approaching the ruins from opposite sides.

Left: Diamond Sharks; Right: Wolves
West: Diamond Sharks; East: Wolves

Clan Wolf enters from the eastern side, Diamond Shark from the west. Outnumbered, and not expecting the rules of Zelbriggen to be followed based upon the awkward nature of the previous battle, Hammer and Anvil approached this battle cautiously, not wanting to close too quickly on the enemy. Both Kit Foxes were of the B variant, and their Timber Wolf ally a C variant – In addition to their other weaponry, all three Diamond Shark Battlemechs carried an Ultra Autocannon, a rapid fire weapon which could cause a significant amount of damage in a hurry at a relatively low heat cost.

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An alternate view of the facility, as seen from the right flank of the Diamond Shark forces.
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The Kit Foxes moved into cover quickly, maneuvering for position while just outside long range.
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The Diamond Shark Kit Foxes (obviously proxied models) visually acquire the first Wolf target moving in front of the “water tower” at the edge of the combat zone.

With targets acquired, the Wolves assume a defensive posture to maximize use of their long range weaponry. The Kit Foxes then shift direction and flank to the North (with the Wolf, hoping to catch the Summoner unaware while separated from his ally.

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The Kit Foxes redirect to the north, still just out of firing range.
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Unexpectedly, the twin battlemechs split up, attempting to bait the Wolves to attack.
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The closer of the Kit Foxes ducks behind the north-most building, only to find a nasty surprise…

The plan to circle and isolate the Summoner, who stood back as a long range sniper in the previous battle, backfires on clan Diamond Shark. Having lost the initiative roll this turn, one Kit Fox takes cover behind the large building on the northern edge of the combat. Anvil then takes zellbrigen into his own hands, forcing single combat by triggering his jump jets and leaping over the building into a close range to officially open the firefight!

As advertised, the Kit Fox delivers a nasty punch to the Summoner, landing multiple hits, stripping most of the armor from the right side of the mech, and damaging the internal structure of Anvil’s right arm. But this pair of Wolves have earned a third designation outside of their callsigns and their official ranks within the Touman: the “Headhunters”. Anvil proves this true by laying in to the Kit Fox with three of his four lasers – missing with one ER Large Laser, hitting a leg with one ER Medium Laser, and slamming home the remaining ER Large and Medium into the cockpit of his target, killing the pilot outright.

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Hammer & Anvil are going to have to start keeping score.

Hesitant to meet the same fate but unwilling to surrender the planet after one display of accurate shooting, the remaining Sharks took note of the Summoner’s jump jet capabilities and approached under cover.

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Both Diamond Sharks hide behind the same building to the southwest. Abandoned as it is, the Wolves still hesitate to destroy it, in case Project Achilles is real and within this complex.
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At an opportune moment, the Sharks rush in, starting a melee in and around the wooded area at the northeast corner of the facility. This doesn’t work out well for the remaining Kit Fox.

The remainder of the battle takes place at point-blank range, without all the dancing and maneuvering seen during the approach. Having seen in their previous engagement that the Diamond Sharks are perfectly willing to fire from prone, and that the Catapult from the previous battle refused to surrender despite grievous damage and later escaped, Clan Wolf would not be allowing the enemy to escape again, nor would it treat these interlopers with honor by waiting for them to stand (or fire from prone, as was more likely). Instead, the Headhunters prepared to finish off their foe. This caused the enemy Timber Wolf to rush to the aid of their star-mate, and be taken down himself in the process.

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With multiple engine hits on the Timber Wolf, and a missing leg and a damaged gyro on the Kit Fox, both Diamond Shark mechs are down and would not be getting back up again.

With severe damage piling up, and unable to bring significant weaponry to bear, the Diamond Shark known as “Whale” ejected from his Timber Wolf, and was allowed to flee the battle on foot and add to the legend of the Headhunters by reporting back to his unit. The Kit Fox, however, took one last opportunity to prop up on one arm, and fire a Ultra Autocannon/10 burst into the rear armor of Hammer’s Timber Wolf. For his efforts, the Wolves provided him with summary execution, twisting at the waist and unleashing their full armaments into the remains of the machine. This was the end of “Ray”, and thus the end of the Diamond Shark presence on Elissa.

A search team arrived shortly thereafter to examine the facility, but nothing of note was found. However, in their haste to flee the world, the Diamond Shark forces left behind a Nova Omnimech, which the Wolves claimed as an additional prize, and added to their arsenal, to be presented to a pilot who proved themselves in battles to come.

Despite being defended by an unexpected foe, this world was now a Clan Wolf holding. Regardless of whom they faced along the way, there would be many further conquests on the road to Terra. One step closer to their goal, the reluctant crusaders would march on.

Stay tuned for future battle reports from our Classic Battletech campaign.

– The Tabletop General

Gaming roundup, October 2015

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and I suppose I should check in and give my readers an update. This won’t be a deep article by any means, just a high level overview of my recent gaming exploits, including X-Wing, Armada, Battletech, and a bit of video gaming too.

X-Wing

A big time sink for our X-Wing Miniatures group lately has been a cooperative RPG campaign, Heroes of the Aturi Cluster. We have a group of six pilots including myself, plus a standby backup pilot, chewing through this adventure on a semi-weekly basis. So far we’ve manged to capture an Imperial Moff, shoot down a couple TIE Phantoms, and clear a giant minefield. We have not, however, managed to protect anything we have been supposed to escort. We’re good at dealing damage, not preventing it.

We take this way too seriously and not seriously enough at the same time.
We take this way too seriously and not seriously enough at the same time.
Hey, guys, weren't we supposed to be protecting something on this mission...?
Hey, guys, weren’t we supposed to be protecting something on this mission…?

It’s otherwise been pretty quiet on the X-Wing front lately. I’m still playing regularly, often multiple nights per week, but there’s a bit of a lull for the moment. Everyone is still trying to absorb the influx of new ships from the X-Wing Core Set 2.0, Wave 6 (TIE Punisher, K-Wing, Kihraxz Fighter, and Hound’s Tooth), and the Imperial Raider  (including the TIE Advanced fixes). We’ve got a few local players that are making the trip to the World Championships next week (sadly, I will not be one of them), so we’ve had some regular practice sessions lately to throw “meta” lists at them. In the process, I’ve gotten a decent bit of familiarity with flying Sith Lords (Palpatine in a Lambda Shuttle, Vader, TIE Interceptor ace of choice), and have come to really appreciate Bro-bots (dual IG-2000‘s) once again. I might field the IG-2000’s at a few store Championships, in fact.

We’re continuing to stream X-Wing from a local gaming store every other week, and I’ve made several appearances lately. Rather than linking to individual videos, I’ve assembled a playlist of my games, with the more recent matches being up first on the playlist.


I’ve been working with one screwball list lately that will likely be on a future streamed game, and it is detailed below. There’s a few too many points tied up in Rhymer for my liking, and I want Engine Upgrade on Vader. But it’s fun for a semi-casual game, and can dish out a lot of burst damage to clear small ships quickly, or cripple a big ship with loads of critical hits, thus the name.

Crit City

Major Rhymer – 26 (TIE Bomber)
Extra Munitions – 2 (K-Wing / TIE Punisher)
Advanced Homing Missiles – 3 (K-Wing / TIE Punisher)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing / Imperial Aces)
Proton Bombs – 5 (TIE Bomber / VT-49 Decimator)
Munitions Failsafe – 1 (Z-95 Headhunter / TIE Defender)

Lieutenant Colzet – 23 (Imperial Raider)
TIE/x1 – 0 (Imperial Raider)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Fire-Control System – 2* (TIE Phantom / B-Wing)

Darth Vader – 29 (TIE Advanced)
TIE/x1 – 0 (Imperial Raider)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Targeting Computer – 5* (Imperial Raider)

As far as our local Atlanta meta is concerned, things are all over the place. Players love the T-70 X-Wing, but the TIE/FO Fighters aren’t seeing much play. TIE Phantoms are starting to show up again, but they’re just tasty snacks for the Twin Laser Turret Y-Wings that are way too prevalent for my liking. The TIE Punisher is the one thing that really hasn’t taken hold out of the Wave 6 releases – I still haven’t found a reason to open mine.

3 YV-666's (1 with Greedo) and a Z-95. Not exactly fun to chew through.
A more unusual sighting: 3 YV-666’s (1 with Greedo) and a Z-95. Not fun to chew through.

Armada

Armada has been my least active game lately. The game just feels stale at the moment, at least until Wave 2 arrives, bringing Imperial Star Destroyers, Imperial Raiders, MC30c Frigates, MC80 Cruisers, and a collection of Rogues & Villains to boot.

We did get a sneak peek of these ships during the recent Massing at Sullust pre-release tournament. I brought a rebel swarm list to the event, and did okay with them, taking 4th place and scoring myself an Imperial Raider for my trouble. I had a 2-1 record on the day, but I hit a figurative durasteel wall in my loss, getting completely wiped out by a trio of Assault Frigates carrying Advanced Projectors and Gunnery Teams – I just couldn’t punch through enough damage to actually hurt any of them.

Unnamed 300 point Sullust list

Nebulon B Support Frigate
Mon Mothma (CR90 Corellian Corvette)

Nebulon B Support Frigate x 2

CR90-A Corellian Corvette x 2

A-Wing Squadron x 2

All those fighters go away if (when) I can kill the capital ships they escort...
All those fighters up top will go away if (when) I can kill the capital ships they escort.

Battletech

After a handful of demo games recently, I finally got in my first mission of my our Clan Invasion campaign over the weekend. I’m still using proxies from the Starter Set because there was a bit of a mixup on our shipment, and my mechs haven’t arrived yet. I have to say I’m glad that my FLGS is dealing with that for me, and I’m not working with the supplier directly.

At our default Battle Value allowance for the campaign of 5,000 points, my Timber Wolf and Summoner (represented by the unpainted Catapult and Hunchback, respectively) squared off against a Catapult, a Timber Wolf, and a Jenner.

Sizing up the opposition and setting up for a defensive engagement.
Sizing up the opposition and setting up for a defensive engagement.

As I had hoped, the enemy  chose to avoid the water, and rushed my Timber Wolf, allowing the Summoner to snipe away at the advancing enemy unmolested with his Extended Range Lasers and accompanying Targeting Computer.

Timber Wolf vs Jenner and Timber Wolf...
Timber Wolf vs Jenner and Timber Wolf…
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…but one good Gauss Rifle shot leveled up those odds. Splash one Diamond Shark.

Things continued to go my way for the rest of the match, and the Diamond Sharks eventually retreated from the field to avoid further losses.

I think we hit them a few times...
I think we hit them a few times…
An example piloting skill roll for the Diamond Shark Catapult, which spent more time prone than upright, yet managed to survive and flee the battle.
In the odd manner of clan honor, I'm not sure which pilot did better - the one that got chewed up by the enemy, or the one who didn't get hit at all.
Post-battle status of my mechs. In the odd manner of clan honor, I’m not sure which pilot did better – the one that got chewed up by the enemy, or the one who didn’t get hit at all.

In the interesting style of this campaign, my opponent and I are due to fight at least one more battle, as control of a given planet is determined via a best of three series. I expect to face a pair of slightly heavier mechs instead of a trio in our next engagement. I’m tempted to use that salvaged Jenner (borrowing the model for an appropriate paint scheme) just for fun and to thumb my nose at the enemy’s honor.

Video Games

On the electronic front, I haven’t made a lot of new purchases in recent months. Partially because I’m stubbornly waiting for a version of Blood Bowl 2 that comes with all the DLC teams bundled in (gonna be here a while), and partially because my PC is showing its’ age and in dire need of replacement.

Watch Dogs has been my go-to for console gaming lately, and I have very mixed feelings about it. The story is far-fetched but okay, and it gets the ideas that the writers were trying to emphasize across. And there’s tons of depth in the side games, everything from chess puzzles to quicktime drinking contests, with random PvP  firefights sprinkled in. But the hacking is just too simple. I get it, that’s the moral of the story, but when there’s more effort involved in playing a hand of poker than in detonating a grenade in someone’s pocket via their phone, that bugs me a little bit. There’s too much of a “Press [X] to play the main story” at times, but the game itself does have some depth to it, and it’s refreshing to actually have to think about combat as opposed to being able to charge straight in and recover from 10 gunshot wounds every 15 seconds.

Rebel Galaxy has been my recent PC choice when the hardware wants to work – it’s a space combat sim with a Firefly-esque, “Privateer lite” sort of feel. Cool soundtrack that could use a little bit longer of a playlist, an engaging if slightly predictable story… it’s worth picking up as-is if you’re into space sims, but I’m hoping for more out of future updates.

Summary

So that’s what I’ve been up to as of late. Nothing hugely significant, but I’m trying to keep up with everything I’ve been involved in, and starting to ramp up for the X-Wing Store Championships starting in January. Speaking of which, I’m working to informally coordinate a schedule of the Fantasy Flight Games Store Championships around the southeast. So if you haven’t talked to me about it, and you’re running an event, and you’re in the southeastern US, please send me a message. Who knows, I might just pop in for a visit?

– The Tabletop General

Wolves on the Hunt

“The Wolves of Kerensky have claimed this world for their own. What tame dogs defend it?”

I make no claim to having mastered the other games that I play, but it’s high time that I diversify my gaming and explore a new ruleset. Well, new to me at least. Classic Battletech is as old as I am, having first been published in 1984. I never got enough of the MechWarrior series as a kid, a first-person shooter set in the Battletech universe. The struggles between Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf sucked me in for hours and hours. I led multiple mercenary groups to fame, glory, and riches. MechWarrior: Dark Age might be the best and worst game that WizKids ever published, I opened booster pack after booster pack chasing rare mechs.

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Mechwarrior 2 – Not much could stand up to the firepower of a Nova. One good alpha strike and that Summoner would be toast.
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WizKids simultaneously tried too hard and not hard enough with MechWarrior: Dark Ages.

The one flavor of Battletech I’ve never really been a part of though is the core Classic Battletech miniatures game. I’ve owned an older variant of the Classic Battletech Starter Set for several years now, and had played a few intro games, but never against anyone that understood the game any more than I did, and certainly not at a competitive level.

For those unfamiliar with the game, each player controls a small army made up of giant robots, occasionally also containing tanks, aircraft, and infantry. Rarely, forces will contain just the support units with no robots at all (but where’s the fun in that?). In Classic Battletech, these armies wage war on a map covered in hexagonal grid; each hex having a designated terrain type which can affect movement (penalties for changing elevation), line of sight (can’t see through hills or certain amounts of forests), or even allow its’ occupants to fire more weaponry than normal (mechs shed waste heat faster when in water).

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An example map sheet from the Battletech starter set

Weapons, ammunition, equipment, and armor are all located in certain sections of the mechs, and each attack performed against a mech can hit one or more sections of the target. Each location tracks damage separately, eventually being destroyed entirely, causing the mech to lose all associated equipment. Damage spreads differently depending on the target and source’s orientations, allowing a mech to protect vital systems by turning away, or protect its’ legs by taking cover behind low hills for instance.

The game is simple enough to play, even though there’s tons of books and charts. Everything works off of constant numbers, or using six sided dice for randomization. Each action has a cost and an effect – Standing still generates no heat, but does not affect your shooting. Walking generates one point of heat, allows you to move a certain number of hexes, and adds a small modifier to the to-hit numbers when shooting or being shot at.

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A Spider (right) relies on its’ speed to protect it from enemy attacks. Running 8 hexes to long range of the enemy would apply a +7 modifier to attacks, meaning that a stationary “average” (gunnery skill 4) pilot would need an 11 or 12 to hit on a 2d6 roll instead of a measly 4+!

When it comes time to shoot, all weapons generate X heat to fire, work at Y range, and deal Z damage with a hit. A mech sheds N heat per turn, with increasing detrimental effects for allowing heat to build up. Attacks require a roll of 2d6 for each weapon to hit, needing to meet or exceed the pilot’s base gunnery skill to hit, modified by range, cover, the attacker’s movement speed, and the target’s movement distance (an important distinction between speed and distance, to be covered more later). So two heavy assault mechs standing face to face can land lots of hits on one another, but a pair of light recon mechs sprinting around between forests might hit nothing but trees. When an attack does hit, another 2d6 roll is consulted to see where the attack hits, and damage is marked off of that location on the target’s sheet.

An example record sheet for a Dragon heavy mech.
An example record sheet for a Dragon heavy mech, worth 1125 BV points. The top-left box details the weapons on the mech. Each circle on the diagrams on the right side represent armor and internal structure. The bottom-left denotes which critical systems are where, if a lucky shot passes through armor. The bottom-right lists what happens if the mech begins to overheat.

Just as with most other miniatures games, a point value system is in place to ensure that opposing sides bring forces to the battle that are roughly an equal match for one another. Battletech refers to the cost of a unit as its’ Battle Value, calculated based on its’ armor, weaponry, speed, and a few other relevant factors. Individual mechs can have a Battle Value as low as 150 for the lightest of recon mechs, or nearing 4000 for walking fortresses.

So all of this means nothing to me if I’m not actually playing the game. But recently, a group of players have resurfaced at my home gaming store, and like finding a cache of Lostech, a flurry of activity, excitement, and exploding giant robots of death was sure to follow. A demo game or two brought in a lot of new players as well, and we’ve got a decent sized group now. Within just a couple weeks the more experienced players began to organize a campaign based around the Clan invasions of the Inner Sphere circa 3050. Visions of conquest and glory danced through my head, and I threw my hat in the ring, despite knowing very little about the higher strategy of the game, and knowing good and well that there are some basic rules that I don’t know yet either.

It is sure to be a learning experience, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to represent Clan Wolf. Since I don’t own any Clan appropriate mechs (I don’t own the newest Starter Set which includes a Timber Wolf), I’ve requisitioned the following units to start the campaign:

2x Timber Wolf (Mad Cat)
1x Summoner (Thor)
2x Kit Fox (Uller)
2x Ice Ferret (Fenris)

Battles fought in the campaign will have a default Battle Value of 5,000 points per side, which I can fill in several different ways with these forces. The Timber Wolf and Summoner mechs are all roughly 2,200-2,700 BV each, depending on the configuration used, so for brawls requiring heavy hitters I can pick a combination of two out of the three, including a convenient option of two identical Timber Wolf C variants which each cost exactly 2,500. The other four mechs have configurations varying from 1,000 to 1,500 points per model, allowing me to send out all four of them together as a reconnaissance unit, or pick any two of them to pair up with one of the heavier mechs instead.

I’m excited to get my hands on these mechs and put them to use, and I’ve been fighting the urge to use proxies just to get a few games under my belt. I’m less excited about painting them, as that’s always been one of the less enjoyable parts of miniature gaming for me. But I’ve decided (roughly) on a paint scheme, as I really like the Wolf Spiders black with red accents (anyone who knows me might only be surprised that it’s not red with black accents, which I might end up doing anyway). Here’s a quick sample of the scheme:

A Nova / Black Hawk in Wolf Spiders colors. Copied from http://camospecs.com/Miniature.asp?ID=6213

Battletech could be a great adventure for me, or a disastrous failure. For all I know, I could turn out to be the worst commander in the history of Clan Wolf. But I welcome you to join me on my quest to reclaim the Inner Sphere, and good or bad, there will be stories to tell.

– The Tabletop General