Dancing with Deathrain

Even though I’ve put my TIE Interceptors on the shelf for a little while, my favored playstyle in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is a game of re-positioning. In general, I like to attack the enemy from unexpected angles, adding in a touch of action denial and lots of burst damage to be able to quickly take down a key component of the enemy’s force.

I ran a tournament last night, and I only play in those to prevent a player from missing out on a match during a bye round (I select a player for the bye and grant it to them as normal for scoring, but they still get to play a game). Knowing my game results wouldn’t count for anything, I decided to field a ringer list that would attempt to match my normal play style in an untested way.

“Dancing with Deathrain”

Whisper – 32 (TIE Phantom)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Cloaking Device – 4 (TIE Phantom)

Deathrain – 26 (TIE Punisher)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Proton Bombs – 5 (TIE Bomber / VT-49 Decimator)
Proximity Mines – 3 (Slave 1 / IG-2000)
Extra Munitions – 2 (K-Wing / TIE Punisher)

Dark Curse – 16 (Starter set)

Total: 99 points

A large part of this list was a personal challenge to myself to put the TIE Punisher on the table. Unlike the rest of Wave 7 (including the Kihraxz Fighter, Hound’s Tooth, and K-Wing), the sturdy big brother to the TIE Bomber had yet to find its’ way into any list I was willing to field. Despite the impressive total of nine hit points, with only one evade die the Punisher can’t take serious beating. Without firing ordnance, the Punisher is just a fat, poorly maneuvering TIE Fighter, thanks to its’ primary attack value of 2 and awkward dial (no speed 1 turn, speed 2 turn is red, speed 3 turn is white). But loading the ship up with munitions to improve damage output turns it into a real point sink – it’s possible to spend 66 points on Deathrain, as opposed to the 39 allocated to his ship in this list.

Dark Curse is always a pesky target to hit, and often ignored as a result. With under 20 points to spend in an Imperial list, he’s my usual pilot of choice.

Whisper, in the TIE Phantom, is fully loaded and ready for combat. I feel safe lately bringing the Phantom back to the table simply because it isn’t seen as often anymore, so less of the hard counters are seen. Don’t get me wrong, the prevalence of stress in the current game meta still hurts, and a pilot skill 10 Corran Horn in an E-Wing or a pilot skill 11 Darth Vader in a TIE Advanced will still be a major problem, but lately I’m seeing less and less of the Rebel Captive that prevents a TIE Phantom from re-cloaking with Advanced Cloaking Device before taking return fire.  Twin Laser Turrets are an issue, but hopefully one that is somewhat mitigated by the Sensor Jammer I have equipped, along with careful maneuvering of the Phantom.

What Deathrain brings to the table in this build is, ironically enough, a similar element of slipperiness to what the TIE Phantom once had prior to change in timing for decloaking maneuvers. I’ve recently come to love what Advanced Sensors and a Boost action can do for IG-2000, allowing you to adjust a planned maneuver before executing it. Advanced Sensors and Deathrain’s pilot ability allows you to drop a mine or bomb token and Barrel Roll before your maneuver, giving a similar adjustment ability.  Combining those together allowing you to string together some wicked combinations. Like what, you ask? (You did ask that, right? I’m just going to say you did…)

Let’s say Deathrain is matched up against BBBBZ, 4 B-Wings and a Z-95. Lots of firepower, low pilot skills, BBBBZ hunts down higher pilot skill aces by spreading firing arcs and by attempting to block their likely maneuvers to deny actions. On this particular turn, the enemy lays a trap that would normally do an excellent job of pinning in a TIE Punisher.

 

BBBBZ Trap
Victims 1-5 set our scene, having already moved this turn in an attempt to block Deathrain in.

A very effective trap is set in the photo above. Deathrain will collide with someone if he dialed in a 1 forward or bank right, either speed 2 turn, a 3 forward, or a speed 4 Koiogran turn, and every one of those leaves him in one or more firing arcs. The unblocked options are speed 3 bank and turn maneuvers,  a speed 2 straight, or a 1 bank to the left. Each of these allow the Punisher to complete the maneuver and possibly get off a shot, but no boost action will allow him to both escape all firing arcs and get a shot at the enemy this turn, and only the 3 turn to the left followed by a boost allows the full no-shot escape.

The bad news is that Deathrain selected a 4-K maneuver this turn, which we already said was blocked. So that would normally leave him stressed, taking a range 1 and a range 2 shot from the enemy this turn, and getting no shot of his own. So why did I label the ships as “Victim 1-5”, rather than labeling the B-Wings and the Z-95 Headhunter? Because Deathrain is going to hit every one of these Victims without taking any return fire this turn.

Deathrain Bomb Options
Deathrain can drop his bombs from the rear as normal, or from the front of his ship.

With options to drop his bomb out the front or the rear, Deathrain has a decision to make. Dropping his bomb from the rear will only hit Victim 1, as illustrated above. The front would catch 1, 2, 4, and 5, but could be a bad place to drop the bomb, as completing the TIE Punisher’s maneuver could potentially bring him within range of the bomb. This is mitigated somewhat by his ability to perform a free Barrel Roll maneuver after dropping a bomb, but it’s not guaranteed to be safe.

Deathrain 4K locations
Deathrain can choose to Barrel Roll to either side after dropping a bomb and before completing his maneuver, giving him 3 potential final locations (plus wiggle room on the roll).

Even without the imminent collision from this scenario, performing the 4K in place leaves Deathrain in range of his own bomb. Rolling to his left, dodging Victim 1 requires him to slide backwards, which results in still being in range. Sliding forward and to his right, however, Deathrain can escape the blast radius of the bomb, leaving him with only shots from Victim 2 and Victim 4 to deal with (Victim 3 might have a shot too, if the Barrel Roll wasn’t far enough forward). So that maximizes damage dealt, but still leaves us open to return fire.

Let’s look at another plan. Remember when I said the speed 1 bank to the left was still open? Well, Deathrain didn’t pick that maneuver, but he still has it available via an Advanced Sensors Boost action.

Deathrain Bomb After Boost
After Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has new options for where to drop his bomb.

It’s important to note here that you can not drop a Bomb token first, then follow that with an Advanced Sensors action – Advanced Sensors are activated before a maneuver dial is revealed, and bombs are dropped when the dial is revealed. So after Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has to pick a new spot for his bomb token, if he’s going to drop it. But as you can see, with a banked Boost, your bomb ends up slightly in front of your previous position, and it probably goes without saying that a straight boost would leave the bomb precisely where your ship started the turn.

Since the rear location will hit more ships, we’ll have Deathrain drop it there (conveniently, it still catches Victim 4, as seen above), and then Barrel Roll left to make sure he’s out of Victim 2’s firing arc. Completing the Koiogran turn, our protagonist is now out of any danger of being fired at, and has a range 1 shot at Victim 3.

So let’s review:
Victim 1 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 2 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 3 – Range 1 shot
Victim 4 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 5 – Hit by Proton Bomb

Since I didn’t identify them, there’s an 80% chance that Victim 3 is a B-Wing with one evade die, 20% chance of a Z-95 with two. Three attack dice at range 1 results in 1.5 hits on average, and even with a Focus available, the more nimble Z-95 cancels 1.25 on average, so I’m calling that a hit too. 4 Critical Hits that ignore shields on top of a 3 die attack is nothing to scoff at!

As you probably guessed, I created this perfect storm scenario in reverse, finding a way to make it possible. But in just a handful of games, I certainly saw flashes of potential in the Punisher, and the tricks I outlined here were all used, just not in such a succinct manner. The TIE Punisher may not see competitive play often, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable when just playing for fun.

– The Tabletop General.

2015 Gamer Gift Guide

The holiday season is upon us again, and us nerds are no easier to shop for than in seasons past. So if you’re struggling with gift ideas for the gamers in your life, allow me to suggest a few options. Just as with last year’s Gamer Gift Guide, in this article I’ll point out several board games, video games, and tabletop games that have caught my eye lately, as well as some nifty gadgets and gaming supplies for the nerd who already has everything…

Video Games

What a time to be a gamer! This year’s holiday season sees several highly anticipated releases. Because nothing says “escapism” like “what would the world be like if we blew everything up?”, Fallout 4 is THE hot game this year for single-player enthusiasts, and my personal mini-addiction as of late. Or you can take the alternate history route with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, as the epic tale of intrigue and clandestine warfare pitting Assassins against Templars continues in 19th century England.

For those who enjoy multiplayer games, this year the latest Call of Duty, Black Ops 3, goes head to head against Star Wars: Battlefront. Personally, I’d take soaring over the battle in an X-Wing in Battlefront over CoD’s twitch-shooter style any day, but to each their own. If your gamer is looking for a pure action shooter, Call of Duty may be the better call.

Meanwhile, for a more laid back experience, if your kids (or you) enjoyed the Skylanders model, Disney Infinity is available on all consoles, as is the competing Lego Dimensions.

In the system exclusive realm, Master Chief returns to the XBox One for another tour of duty in Halo V.  For Playstation owners, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection bundles up the previous three games on PS4 in order to hold everyone over until Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End arrives early next year.

Wii U owners have a particularly nice batch of Nintendo exclusives this year. Splatoon is the ultimate game of paintball – a less violent approach to a shooting game that still appeals to core gamers. Super Mario Maker lets you remix the classic Mario experience, building your own levels that can be shared with others, playing others’ levels, and unlocking new components and characters (Amiibo compatible). Also, if you’re willing to go the pre-order route, Star Fox is ready to make a new appearance early in 2016.

Now, if you’re looking for a gift for someone that buys all these games the day they come out, there’s still an option available: Downloadable Content Season Passes. A Season Pass grants access to all downloadable content that will be released over the year following the game’s release, and at a discount over individual purchases. The DLC packs usually add new missions, maps, and equipment to the game, or sometimes even entirely new game modes. Fallout, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Battlefront are all offering Season Passes this year. These are also GREAT last minute gifts, as they’re digital download codes to be entered into the recipient’s console or computer – there’s no shipping required.

Board/Card Games

XCOM: The Board Game, provides an unparrallelled cooperative multiplayer experience – Using a free iPhone / Android App to automate the actions of alien invaders, players work together to manage their resources and race against the clock to fight back the invasion.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault probably looks really familiar to anyone who has played the Descent board game, but there’s definitely more depth to this one. Playable as a persistent multiplayer campaign or as a head-to-head competitive skirmish game, Imperial Assault gives you a big bang for your buck. If you’re buying for someone who already has the game, perhaps consider the new Return to Hoth expansion, releasing just in time for Christmas.

A pair of holdovers from last year’s recommendations, Trains and Trains: Rising Sun are a great expansion on the Dominion deck-builder mechanic; where unlike traditional card games with a construction mechanic, players build their decks from a communal pool available to all players as a core portion of the gameplay itself. Following in this vein, this year I’m recommending a pair of similar titles on a smaller scale: Star Realms (and its’ expansions) and Epic. Intended to be playable with just the 100 or so cards in each set, the complete game fits into one large deck box, making them perfect stocking stuffers!

A bit less on the strategic side, but most certainly entertaining, don’t skip out on Exploding Kittens, or for the brave, check out the Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition.  For a more dynamic party game, take a look at SUPERFIGHT – A game in the veins of Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, players actively lobby for why their custom created super hero would be able to defeat all the others submitted.

Tabletop Miniatures

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is still near and dear to me, as frequent readers of The Tabletop General can certainly attest to. The game is still growing by leaps and bounds, and there’s a lot of big recent releases, with more right around the corner (and rumored available by Christmas). A new Starter set for Episode VII has recently come out, including a pair of TIE/FO fighters and a T-70 X-Wing. Coming out soon, the individual expansions of both of those ships should be available, along with the Ghost and the Inquisitor’s TIE from Star Wars: Rebels, alongside bounty hunter ships, the Mist Hunter and Punishing One.

For a more substantial centerpiece-style gift, consider giving a new Imperial Raider or Gozanti Assault Carrier to rule the X-Wing battlefield, or their Rebel counterparts: the CR-90 Blockade Runner and GR-75 Medium Transport. For the X-Wing player that has “everything”, decorative items are the way to go: Space Rocks offers lots of custom obstacles and terrain pieces for the game, and there’s tons of options for X-Wing playmats as well (note, only the Fantasy Flight Starfield Playmat is currently legal for high level competitive play).

If Star Wars isn’t your gamer’s thing, Battletech seems to be making a big comeback (or at least it is in my area). Giant stompy robots trampling all over the landscape and battling for their nation, employer, or personal honor… you really can’t go wrong. For someone that hasn’t played before, the Starter Set is the way to go. For more experienced players, I would recommend giving a map set to expand their game play, like Hex Pack: Cities and Roads, or Hex Pack: Mountains and Canyons.

If your gamer was big on Warhammer Fantasy, but isn’t loving the new Age of Sigmar revamp, consider gifting them a copy of the rules for Kings of War. Written by gaming industry veterans, and fully compatible with Warhammer Fantasy models, this seems to be where the community at large is heading now.

And for the Warhammer 40K player, take a look at the new release from Games Workshop – The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Caalth. Technically a board game, this kit comes with tons of Forge World quality miniatures usable in 40K / 30K at a SHARP discount over retail prices. This is a limited edition that will sell out fast, so jump on it quickly!

Gaming Accessories

16 pocket card pages – Perfect for storing Star Wars: Armada, Imperial Assault, X-Wing Miniatures, or any other game that uses mini-american size cards.

Mini-American card sleeves – And these are the right size for protecting those same mini-american sleeves while in use.

Expo Fine-Point Dry Erase Markers – Whether marking up notes on a dungeon map in D&D, or recording Battletech mech damage, dry erase markers are way more useful to most gamers than they might realize.

Sheet Protectors – How are dry erase markers useful to gamers? Slip that character sheet or battle list into one of these sheet protectors, and suddenly you’re not destroying your paper every time you need to take damage, temporarily adjust your stats, or mark which units you’ve lost in this game. Combine the two items, and you’ll save tons on printing extra sheets, and do the environment a favor in the process.

Chessex Dice – You can’t go wrong with dice for a gamer. Adding custom colored dice is a great way for them to add flair and a personal touch to their games. For Battletech, Warhammer, or other large scale miniatures games, get them six sided dice (d6’s). For RPG gamers, go for the 7 die polyhedral sets, unless it’s a Star Wars RPG like Edge of the Empire, in which case they need a specific set of dice.

Brush Set – Any gamer building and paining miniatures (like for Battletech, Warhammer, Kings of War, or similar games) needs a good set of brushes. Odds are, they’ve bought only what they absolutely had to have, and they’re often using the wrong brush for the job at hand. Fix that now with a full set of brushes from Army Painter.

Laser line of sight tool – A holdover from last year, these lasers are incredibly useful for determining line of sight in tabletop games – whether or not a model can shoot, if they’re getting cover from trees or buildings, and so on. Every tabletop game I play needs one of these.

Gadgets

Directly copied from last year’s guide, these are standby great gifts for gamers because we’re pretty much all geeks too, and they’re just as good of an idea now as they were last year.

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 – I love having a wireless keyboard; it reduces clutter, and gives me lots of mobility around the room (I use a TV for a computer monitor at home). The only down side is that I’m constantly replacing AA batteries. But this keyboard eliminates that problem, because it recharges itself with light! Buy two, and send me one!

Energizer AA Charger with Batteries – Because not every gadget can be solar powered. I use rechargeable batteries for my keyboard now, as well as my XBox controller, TV remotes, and so on. I’ve got a handful more batteries than I need for all my devices, so that there’s always a fresh set ready to swap in when needed.

Google Chromecast – This is an excellent addition to your home media setup – it allows anyone connected to your WiFi network to stream videos and music to the TV just by plugging it into your TV. It’s absolutely great for parties, because everybody can contribute to the playlist!

 

 

If you have questions about any of my recommendations, or if you want to discuss the games your gamer plays and perhaps look into some specific items for their game of choice, feel free to reach out to me via Facebook. I hope this guide helps make the holiday season great for you and yours!

– The Tabletop General

Guest Battle Report – 2015 X-Wing World Championships

12232979_10104973718445210_1531483691_nToday we have a special guest battle report from Sam Talley. Sam is a local X-Wing player who has really stepped his game up in 2015, winning a Store Championship, going undefeated in swiss rounds on his way to an 8th place finish at the Atlanta Regional Championship, and generally being a holy terror in the local tournament scene. I’ve yet to see him playing in his Mandalorian armor, seen to the right, but the man’s got street cred among us gaming nerds.

I had the pleasure of throwing some “net list” tests at Sam during his preparations for Worlds, so he was kind enough to document his experiences to share here on the Tabletop General. Read on for his take on the biggest X-Wing tournament of the year!

My List:

Dash Rendar – 36 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Outrider – 5 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)

100 pts total

Theory and Playstyle:

Previously I had flown Corran Horn (E-Wing) / Chewie (Millennium Falcon), but I was too scared to bring Corran to the table. He was simply dying to quickly to concentrated Twin Laser Turret(TLT) fire for me, and after hearing all the hype from other National level tournaments about the TLT, I knew I’d want to try it out. The 4 TLT lists seemed too boring a play style for me, so I tried to pair it with something else. I landed on Dash. I liked his mobility and carrying a Heavy Laser Cannon(HLC) with 4 red dice gave me at least a chance to hit any target. The biggest weakness of this list was the donut holes on all three ships. I developed a strategy of jousting with autothruster (Starviper) equipped arc dodgers, using the main arcs of all three ships. I would keep the Y-Wings in front of Dash to block incoming high PS ships and keep them out of range the Outrider’s blind spot.

Against swarms or other turrets, my plan was to get my opponents to chase me through a dense obstacle field that I would build in the center of the map. I love this strategy and had used it to great effect with Chewie. I practiced as much as I could and watched all the youtube videos I could find of other major tournaments. However, I wasn’t in love with this list. I liked it, but I just didn’t truly love it. Still, I was prepared as I could be and I just hoped it would be enough.

Game 1

Horton Salm – 25 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)

Tarn Mison – 23 (GR-75)
R7 Astromech – 2 (E-Wing)

Miranda Doni – 29 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Advanced SLAM – 2 (K-Wing)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)

I saw this line up across the table from me and felt very good about the matchup. Tarn would be a annoying, but my turrets should still push damage through, and Horton dies as easily as any other Y-Wing. Miranda would be tough end game if I had to duel her with only Dash because of the shield regeneration, so I just had to keep one of my Y’s alive with Dash. My goal was to kill Horton first, then see where the game took me. We engaged in the middle of the map and the first shots went my way. I got all my shots on Horton and got him down to one hull. Dash lost a few shields, but I was ok with the trade since I could PS kill Horton at the start of the following turn. My opponent played it smart and got Tarn and Horton within range 1 of Dash, and away from my Y-Wings which had moved to engage Miranda on the table edge. Dash barrel rolled to get a shot and avoid Tarn’s arc. I rolled one hit, 3 blanks. I would’ve Rec Spec’d for a double focus if not for the barrel roll action, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Ok, so I need for my opponent to roll a blank green die, easily done right? Wrong. He rolled the evade, Horton lived. The exact same rolls would continue for the next turn. Horton wasn’t even using his focus tokens for R5-P9, using them to push more damage into Dash. My dice totally abandoned me this game. My HLC shot refused to kill a one hull Y-Wing for two straight turns, all the while his TLT continued to land every shot. Tarn finally got into the mix and started landing every red die. What did Dash do? He blanked every evade die as well. In an exchange where Horton should have died easily so that Dash could then run around Tarn, everything went wrong for me. Horton continued to live and do damage and Tarn rolled hot on attack dice, while my evades went super cold. My Y-Wings had to actually circle back to finally kill Horton, but by then it was too late. Salm had lived two turns too many, putting too much damage on Dash, and Tarn easily finished him off before he could do Dash things and run away. I got one hull damage on Miranda but then he started to regen her shields and Tarn turned around onto my Y’s. The R7 made Tarn unhittable for this game and I went on to lose quickly in 25 minutes, with a final score of 34-100.

My opponent was rather sporting, understanding how lucky he had been to keep Horton alive for so long and offered to buy me a beer later in the day. This was the hardest loss of the day. I love playing X-Wing so much that even loosing a close match can be very enjoyable, but this game was over too quickly. The dice didn’t let the match get into the tense, dogfight endgame that makes competitive play so much fun. Ah, the joys of a dice game. However, in an eight round tournament, you’re always going to have that one game where the dice go cold, and hopefully another game where they can’t miss. So I did my best to re-focus and prepare myself for the next game.

Result: Loss 34-100, record 0-1

Game 2

 

Talonbane Cobra – 28 (Kihraxz)
Predator – 3 (TIE Defender / Kihraxz)
Hot Shot Blaster – 3 (Most Wanted / IG-2000)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)

Palob Godalhi – 20 (Most Wanted)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Bossk – 2 (Hound’s Tooth)
Wingman – 2 ( Z-95)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Torkhil Mux – 19 (Most Wanted)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Greedo – 1 (Most Wanted)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

This list is a bit of mess, so many upgrades on 3 ships. However, seeing random Scum lists would become a theme for me. My opponent acknowledged it wasn’t quite a top tier list, but he was there to fly and just have fun. My biggest fear was having Talonbane get too close and really tear my ships to pieces. However, his set up made it easy for me to avoid that. I put my ships in a corner as he set up in the middle, with Talonbane furthest from me. He got caught behind the HWK’s and I was happy to joust him, with my Y-Wings in the front, guarding Dash’s donut again.  The HWK’s did their shenanigans, but with Recon Specialist, I’m okay with Palob taking a focus. I traded Dash for Palob and Talonbane and then the Y-Wings easily handled Torkhil. It was a fairly easy, short match. I was back on track.

Result: Win 100-52, Record 1-1

Game 3

IG-88 A – 36 (IG-2000)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Crackshot – 1 (KihraxzHound’s Tooth)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

IG-88 B – 36 (IG-2000)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

This was a very entertaining game. I did my best to built a tight asteroid field and we set up in opposite corners. My opponent and I both played it carefully and deliberately, circling each other for half the board. When we finally engaged I managed to get my arcs of all three ships onto A. IG-88 A popped glitterstim, but I still stripped 3 shields. Dash lost 3 shields as well due to A’s crackshot, but overall I was happy with the positioning and the exchange. The next turn was the game changer. He intentionnaly ran his aggressors into one another and stalled them in place. Dash, not expecting this, bumped one and had the other inside his donut. It was a great move by my opponent. I didn’t see it coming and my 4 straight move wasn’t enough to clear. While Dash didn’t take too much more damage, losing his offense for that turn hurt. The Y-Wings stayed close in and put 2 more damage on A with their main guns, but A took off running the next turn. Realizing chasing an Aggressor with Y’s was a terrible idea, especially with Dash not in a good pursuit vector either, I switched to B. A continued to hide into the mid-game, as B duked it out solo. I managed to drop B’s shields with the HLC, only for him to regain it with A’s ability as he killed the first Y-Wing. It was a great move to have A in this game, it really saved my opponents MOV. Time was running out, and with Dash’s shields gone, my only hope was to kill A and hope for a tie. B still had his glitter/crack combo in store and used it to finish off Dash, but only just after Dash managed to kill A. B then quickly finished my lone Y-Wing and took the game. It was a very close affair and my opponent knew how to handle his ships. I just couldn’t keep the pressure up on A, but I was happy with how I flew overall. [Editor’s note: Practice games against 2x IG-2000 did some good!]

Result: Loss 50-100, Record 1-2

Game 4

Super Dash
[Editor’s best guess on the build]
Dash Rendar – 36 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing / Imperial Aces)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Kyle Katarn – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Outrider – 5 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)

Tala Squadron Pilot – 13 (Z-95)

Tala Squadron Pilot – 13 (Z-95)

Tala Squadron Pilot – 13 (Z-95)

Now at this point I was still mathematically alive, I just needed to go on a run. I’ve been on hot streaks before and having lost games in this tournament early put me in an easier position moving forward to win. I was still cautiously optimistic setting up for game 4, the last match before our meal break.  

This was the closest I came to a mirror match all day. He had the action economy on his Dash, while mine had the pilot skill advantage. We built a tight debris field and lined up to joust each other. Of course I had no intention of actually jousting and turned my formation at the very start with the hope of dragging the Talas through the debris fields. It worked and my opponent gave chase while his Dash flew around their flank. The Talas broke their formation and were picked off one by one by my turrets. His Dash chased my Y’s, but did not concentrate fire on a single target. I destroyed his Dash, having 1 shield left on my own, a shieldless Ywing, and 1 hull Ywing. It was a huge error for MOV purposes, letting me save all of my points on the table. Although, judging by the 16oz beer he chugged mid game, I honestly think he was kinda drunk. But… Hey! A win’s a win. Now it was time for that meal break and to regroup for my epic 4 game win streak!

Result: Win 100-0, Record 2-2

Game 5

Omicron Group Pilot – 21 (Lambda Shuttle)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)

Darth Vader – 29 (TIE Advanced)
TIE/x1 – 0 (Imperial Raider)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Targeting Computer – 5* (Imperial Raider)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)

Soontir Fel -27 (TIE Interceptor)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Targeting Computer – 2 (Imperial Aces)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

This was one the few enjoyable, high level games I played that day. My opponent was an Aussie, the twin brother of the Super Dash player who would end up making the top 8. The targeting computer on Soontir was an uncommon sight and gave me the slight hope of being able to actually hit Soontir for once. However, my strategy for this type of list is to joust with the main arcs, hope to bump with the Y-Wings to protect Dash’s donut, and target Vader first. My opening was strong, changing the plan on the fly, I actually pushed Dash forward and managed to get the block on Vader, stalling him onto a debris field. The Y-Wings stripped his shields and did 1 hull damage, leaving Vader with 2 hull remaining. I knew had to destroy Vader in the next turn because then he’d simply turn and run and I’d never get a second chance. Also, Soontir’s targeting computer was really paying off in this match up, as he jumped in close and started to waylay my Y-Wings with accurate 4 dice attacks. So Vader 3 banks, keeps his stress and was hoping to get enough distance from my ships and hide behind another debris field. Here’s my chance, a hurt, actionless Vader in range of my turrets. The debris field pays off for the extra defense dice, along with Palpatine, and Vader doesn’t get touched that turn. Soontir continues to wreck my Y-Wings unchecked and now the shuttle has closed in and has joined the melee. I had a window of opportunity and I missed it. I won’t call that bad luck or dice though, my list building was more at fault here. As the top tables’ use of R3-A2 or Tactician will show, stress is the real way to counter an arc dodger. Stress kills Soontir, not a bunch of turrets. Dash did manage to kill half of the shuttle before he succumbed to the slaughter, and those 14 points would later proved to be rather important in the overall standings.

My slim hopes of going 6-2 were smashed, but my pride was not. I still had that to fly for.

Result: Loss 14-100, Record 2-3

Game 6

Serissu – 20 (M3-A)
“Heavy Scyk” Interceptor – 2 (M3-A)
Mangler Cannon – 4 (Scyk / IG-2000)

Guri – 30 (Starviper)
Virago – 1 (Starviper)
Autothrusters -2 (Starviper)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)

Palob Godalhi – 20 (Most Wanted)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Bodyguard – 2 (Starviper)
Blaster Turret – 4 (HWK-290)
Moldy Crow – 1 (HWK-290)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

Recounting this game is actually painful for me. The list is such an oddball assortment of scum. I flew perfectly, keeping all of his ships at range. I avoided the blaster turret and Palob’s ability and allowed only Guri to fire for four straight turns. My reward: my opponent’s evade dice went hot and he evaded ALL of my shots. I ignored Guri and attacked Palob, but his combo of endless focus, stealth device and serissu worked to perfection for him. To give you an idea of how the match went, his HWK hit my Y-Wing at range 3 twice with his single dice main weapon attack. We actually kept track and I totalled 3 whole evade results rolled on my green dice. It was incredibly frustrating to fly perfectly to your plan and still lose. I eventually managed to take down Serissu, but Guri had finally moved in to close range on my Y’s and started tearing them apart. It was such a unique, some might say random, list. It’s not something you expect to see at this level of event. Honestly, who puts stealth device on an HWK?

I still had hope to end the day at a respectable 4-4. Some players might roll over with my record, but I didn’t travel a thousand miles to roll over. Bring on the next match!

Result: Loss 26-100 Record 2-4

Game 7

Black Sun Ace- 23 (Kihraxz)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Sun Ace- 23 (Kihraxz)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Sun Ace- 23 (Kihraxz)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Syndicate Thug – 18  (Most Wanted)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
R4 Agromech – 2 (Most Wanted)

Yet another Scum list, my fifth of the day. Y-Wings don’t really care about Crackshot and those Kihraxz don’t stand up well to concentrated fire. I did my standard opening of pretending to joust and running my opponent through the obstacles. The Kihraxz did not begin in a tight formation, and became even more drawn out as they attempted to chase my turrets down. I picked them off easily enough, only losing Dash’s shields.

Result: Win 100-26, Record 3-4

Game 8

Jake Farrell – 24 (Rebel Aces)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters -2 (Starviper)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)

Tycho Celchu – 26 (A-Wing)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters -2 (Starviper)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)

Wild Space Fringer – 30 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Tactician – 2 (TIE Phantom)

At first glance this list made me a bit nervous. Those proton rockets could do some real damage if they got too close to Dash, but the Fringer is rather toothless without a cannon. My opponent explained his list as being designed to specifically hunt other arc dodging aces. Since we were meeting at 3-4 records, his list building strategy was going as equally poor as mine. As the game progressed, the Fringer did his best to crash in and block my formation. It was mostly ineffective, but the A-Wings did manage to launch both Proton Rockets into Dash. However, using both actions for Target Locks and Focus on offense left the A-Wings defenseless against the Y-Wings. Jake went down early, followed by the Fringer. Dash managed to limp away on one hull while the Ywings covered his escape. One Y-Wing managed a block on Tycho and the nimble A-Wing crumpled under the other Ywings TLT fire. I had won.

 

Result: Win 100-26, Record 4-4.

Final ranking after swiss: 110th out of 298; 822 MOV

 

I had fought back from 2-4 to an even record and could return home with my head held high. With slightly better luck I could have gone 5-3, but I still no right to consider being anywhere near the top tables. I did my damnedest to practice and prepare for this tournament, but the lack of a real warmup tournament really hurt me. I just didn’t get to see enough of wave 7 played on a high level. The biggest lesson I learned was about stress. R3-A2 or Tactician was the way to combat aces like Corran Horn, Poe Dameron, Darth Vader, or Soontir Fel. The Twin Laser Turret gets so much stronger when their targets don’t have any defensive actions to keep them alive, even if they do have Autothrusters or Emperor Palpatine. Of course, I didn’t learn this lesson from my own games as I somehow mainly faced haphazard scum lists. But watching the top 16 was not only entertaining, but educational. While the lists were quite diverse, but the one new strategy from wave 7 was mixing the TLT with a stress giving mechanic. In my opinion, that’s how Paul Heaver took his third straight World Championship. Going forward, along with the rest of the old Meta mainstays, a wise player would be smart to prepare for these strategies and tactics. I myself, plan on trying out TIE Fighter swarms loaded up with Crackshot.

At least until wave 8 drops and everything changes again.

A big thanks to Sam for sharing his experiences! As is our yearly ritual now, Sam and the other locals who made the trip up to the frozen tundra are leading the charge for more competitive play in our area, and more often. With only a month and a half until Store Championships begin for 2016, we’re already starting to ramp up, with competitive mini-tournaments for the veterans, and a rookie league for the less experienced pilots. Wave 8, as Sam alluded to, is on the horizon, and I can’t wait to see what it does to the meta going in to the new year. The only thing I’m sure of for next year is that there will be one more General on the ground at Worlds!

— The Tabletop General

Rules of Engagement; Battletech Campaign

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled. Coming from a background of Warhammer, but more recently playing X-Wing Miniatures and Armada as my primary games, and filling my extra gaming time with various board games, all of my gaming over the past few years has had sharply defined objectives and scoring. And you would think, with a the core Total Warfare rulebook spanning over 300 pages, Battletech would be no different; rules would be very clearly defined and easy to follow (so long as you could find them).

Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case this weekend, and I have to admit that it frustrated me a great deal. Victory and defeat in an individual game of Battletech and played at a casual level is easy enough to define. But at our FLGS, we’ve expanded the game into a persistent campaign – winning and or losing a game affects the overall campaign map, and losing a pilot in battle has permanent effects.

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Clan Invasion progress. Systems marked with yellow dots are currently contested, green are Jade Falcon territory, red have been claimed by Clan Wolf.

When I arrived at our planned meet-up for the week, a couple players were already gearing up for a game. As per the rules defined by our game-masters, players should either agree on a scenario in advance, or roll for a scenario defined in Total Warfare, and if you don’t like the scenario rolled, “tough luck, you rolled because you couldn’t agree”. So to see the players say “oh, I don’t like the Chase scenario, reroll that” hurt. The scenario was replaced with Extraction, under which an attacking force is attempting to retrieve and escape with a hidden object. We use units’ Battle Value to balance our forces for the campaign, so instead of the victory condition being “did the attacker escape with the item?”, the following formula is used for scoring:

[(BV of attacking units killed * 2) – BV of defending units killed] for the defender
vs
[BV of defending units killed – BV of attacking units killed + (BV total of defender if extraction is successful)]

The importance of this formula is that it is completely possible for the object to be stolen, yet the defenders win the game. Assume the game is played at a BV of 5,000, and the attacker escapes with the hidden objective, carried by a 1,000 BV unit. All other attackers are destroyed, no defenders are lost. In that scenario, the defender wins soundly by a score of 8,000 to 1,000. [(4,000 x 2 – 0) vs (0 -4,000 + 5,000)].

Fortunately, scoring didn’t come into play during the game I watched, as lucky rolls and a very dedicated Hunchback put its’ AC/20 to good use and wiped out the Clan Fire Mandrill attackers, making a total victory for the defender.

So moving on, the Clan player from that match then stepped in as an Inner Sphere opponent for my Wolves as they began to attack a new system, The Rock. Scenario roll… “Chase”. Apparently, we still don’t like this one, I bite my tongue and we reroll. Scenario roll two… “Extraction”, just as before. I made sure to explain the scoring rules thoroughly, not wanting there to be any issue where we both felt that we won the mission.

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The battlefield. Clan Wolf defends the eastern area, Inner Sphere forces enter from the west. I’m happy with this – the enemy has to cross the lake twice, slowing down for good shots both times.
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The forces posing for a pre-battle photo- A Timber Wolf B & D vs a speedy scout lance comprised of a pair of Ravens and Jenners, plus a beefier Black Knight providing fire support.

I won initiative on the first turn (and for much of the game). Knowing my best chance to hit the speedy light mechs would be as they slowed to cross the water, I quickly moved into firing positions with both of my mechs. With a commanding view of the battlefield from atop the small mountain (level 3 terrain), my Timber Wolf D was prepared to rain down PPC fire on the approaching raiders, while the B rushed up to greet them up close as they made their crossings.

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Making use of superior clan weapon ranges, but my dice were obviously of some flawed Inner Sphere design.

Sadly, the long range meant I still needed very high rolls to hit, and I couldn’t land any damage early on, but the positional game worked to my advantage. The Black Knight had trouble crossing the lake, having to do so over the course of several turns. A Jenner was the first of the enemy mechs to break through the lines and cross the southern ridge, but it was chased down from behind by the Timber Wolf B and destroyed. Simultaneously, the northern Timber Wolf closed in for a better shot, blowing a leg off of the Raven in the woods.

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A good turn for the Wolves. It would prove to be the last one.

With any luck, I could finish off the remaining scout mechs before the Black Knight could fully engage, and turn this battle on its’ head, using my speed and maneuverability to outmaneuver the remaining enemy, who would have a very hard time escaping with the extraction target. But unfortunately, lady luck had other plans.

The downed Raven took advantage of the mercy my pilots showed him, and continued to fire. Meanwhile, the remaining Jenner reached the hidden objective with a full blast from his jump jets, taking the opportunity to light up the rear armor of the Timber Wolf B. Combining that with the first successful incoming fire from the Black Knight, the omnimech was knocked from its’ feet (failing a to score 5+ on a 2d6 piloting roll).

As luck would have it, the Timber Wolf would slip and fall again as it attempted to stand, taking the full force of the impact on its’ head, damaging but not destroying the armor surrounding its’ cockpit. This left the mech unable to move very far that turn after it did manage to stand, and his ally was forced to rush in to provide cover, exposing himself to some nasty shots in turn from the remaining healthy Raven.

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The rear armor flew off of the Timber Wolves faster than LRM ammo from a Catapult.

This is where things took an even nastier turn. My opponent, being a part of this campaign, but primarily as Clan, cared nothing for his Black Knight’s pilot, and proceeded to max out his heat for multiple turns in a row, laying down round after round of punishing fire. Failing to hit the light mechs that were looking for an opening to flee, I changed tactics and took an opportunity to try and outflank the larger mech, but I lost track of which of my units was which, and ran behind him with a damaged gryo, causing myself to fall again. The Jenner took this opportunity to make his break and get a few extra cheap shots on the downed Timber Wolf while he was at it.

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6 mechs on the field, 2 mechs standing. Piloting rolls were not our friends.

And then the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back… the Jenner raced ahead, breaking for the home table edge “to end the scenario”. From Total Warfare, page 261, Extraction Scenario.

Victory Conditions
If the attacker can move a unit carrying the extraction target
off his home map edge, he wins the scenario. Otherwise, the
defender wins.
Battle Value: If using the BV system, determine victory as
follows. The defender scores points normally. However, the
attacker scores only the point value for each opposing ’Mech
he destroys (instead of twice their point value, as normal). The
attacker loses points normally for each of his ’Mechs that the
defender destroys. If the attacking player manages to move
the extraction target off his home map edge, he scores points
equal to the total points used to buy forces for the defender’s
side in the scenario.

Now, my understanding of the scenario had been that the game would continue for the remaining units, until all of one side had retreated or been destroyed, giving me an opportunity to finish off the remaining mechs that would likely not be able to escape, and thus squeak out a win. However, my opponent’s interpretation that at the end of the turn that the Jenner escaped, the rest of his units would magically disappear, and our campaign coordinator agreed. So I was forced to make a last ditch effort to stop the Jenner in order to have a chance to win the scenario.

The closest Timber Wolf stood, damaged Gyro and all, and ran after the Jenner, falling again at the end of his movement. The more distant of my mechs stood relatively still for a better shot, exposing himself to more enemy fire.

The “hail mary” maneuver paid off to an extent, and the fleeing Jenner was cut down from behind. And with an extra volley from the B’s rear mounted SRMs, the Black Knight was knocked down once again. But in return, all enemy units other than the Jenner unleashed their full arsenals at my units. The sheer volume of hits brought with it multiple hits to the head on my units, killing both of my most veteran pilots, and putting an end to the match.

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Our positions before the final round of firing.

So in my last two matches, I’ve lost my three most experienced pilots, and I now face a major uphill battle to continue the campaign, as my replacement pilots are dictated by the campaign rules to be skill level 4/5 (Inner Sphere standard) instead of 3/4 (Clan standard), while neophyte Inner Sphere players start with 3/4 stats for unkilled pilots to “make things fair”. Leveling up pilots to reach the 3/4 stats will require surviving 12 games each, no small feat.

Clan Wolf will continue, but not before a few rules clarifications. After all, knowing the rules of engagement is usually a key component to winning…

– The Tabletop General.

The Siege of Oberon VI; Battletech Campaign

Clan Wolf forces wasted no time after capturing Elissa, moving on swiftly to their next target. The Elyssian citizens, oblivious as they were to the nature of the Clans and believing their captors to be some sort of exotic pirate company, were all too glad to describe nearby worlds in hopes that they would be able to go back to their normal lives after this “small band of ruffians” moved on in search of richer victims. So it was that the Wolves learned of the Oberon Confederation, the closest thing to a governing state in their invasion corridor. Rather than give this local power time to react and form resistance against the clans, it was decided that the head would be sliced from this snake while it still slept.

Oberon VI, capital of the confederation, thus became the next target for the Clan Wolf invasion in a daring move that stretched their logistical limits. In addition to the battlemechs designated as the invasion spearhead, reserves, garrison forces, and supply ships were launched simultaneously, all arriving at Oberon VI together and appearing as a much larger force than was truly present. The move paid off; the best that Clan Wolf had to offer hit the ground initially, cutting down a first wave of defenders like wheat before a scythe. As more Wolf dropships continued to land, the remaining local forces surrendered quickly, not knowing that most of the remaining ships carried supplies and personnel. The Wolves would have easily overwhelmed the locals’ resistance without such trickery, but the garrison would have undoubtedly been foolish enough to rely on their near equal numbers and “superior training” to win the day and attack rather than surrender, thus costing the Wolves ammunition that could be saved for later battles with more honor to gain.

What the Wolves hadn’t counted on was the presence of House Davion, or at least a small set of representatives thereof. The Oberon Confederation had recently become a minor trading power, and had arranged for the sale of surplus war material to Davion. Several newly purchased lances of mechs and vehicles were trapped on Oberon VI by the sudden appearance of the Wolves. One lance in particular realized that they could not stand against the invaders without reinforcements, and their only hope of that was reaching the planet’s Hyper Pulse Generator, a communications array capable of calling back home across the galaxy.

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A lot of territory separated the Davion forces from the Comstar communications array.

Scenario: Chase

Attackers: House Davion, 5,000 BV
Atlas – 0 exp
Cyclops – 0 exp
Dervish – 0 exp
Saladin Hover Tank – 0 exp

Defenders: 10,000 BV
Timber Wolf B (Hammer) – 2 exp
Summoner D (Anvil) – 4 exp
Timber Wolf D (Hunter) – 0 exp
Nova A (Starlight) – 0 exp

Ill equipped for a chase, the Davion lance was both outgunned and slower than the Clan Wolf forces dispatched after them. Unable to run safely, the Davion mechs turned to fight, while the Saladin zipped away, as it was the only unit capable of outrunning the pursuing Wolves.

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Top to bottom, left to right: Nova A (proxy), Summoner D (proxy), Atlas, Timber Wolf B, Cyclops, Saladin, Dervish, Timber Wolf B(proxy).

The hover tank didn’t make it far. Before it could zip out of range, Hammer vaporized its’ thin rear armor and interior with a pair of quick shots from his ER Large Lasers.

The Dervish met a similarly quick end, as Anvil stripped all of the armor off the lighter mech’s left side with an opening salvo, and an SRM shot at the end of the salvo detonated the full magazine of LRM ammo inside the Dervish.

Emboldened by these early successes, the Wolves encircled the remaining Davion mechs, setting their sights on the towering Atlas. Things looked grim for the inner sphere pilots, but they still had 190 tons of deadly force on the field, and the Cyclops made the Wolves answer for their aggression – As Anvil pressed the advantage and nimbly landed his Summoner on top of the building behind the Atlas, the Cyclops shredded his cockpit with a sharp blast from his AC/20. Shrugging off the damage taken from behind, the Atlas unloaded into the nearest Timber Wolf, causing a surprising amount of damage. Suddenly, this wasn’t just a mop-up operation; the clan pilots realized that they now faced a pair of battlemechs designed to be on the other side of a siege, and that couldn’t be taken down in a quick alpha-strike like all the smaller inner sphere mechs they had faced thus far.

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Confident the enemy couldn’t outrun them, and now missing the hero of Elissa, the Wolves backed off to make use of their superior range and accuracy.

Beginning to learn the enemy’s capabilities, the Wolves backed away from the lumbering Atlas, daring it to give chase to one of them, and exposing its’ weaker rear armor to the others. Instead, the Davion pilot stood still and held down the trigger, blasting away equally at omnimech armor, buildings, and the ground. In his adrenaline fueled panic, the Atlas’s pilot failed to notice the beads of sweat gathering on his forehead as his heat levels steadily rose until they were at critical levels. The audible warnings from his on-board computer alerting of a minor engine breach were covered by the sizzling sound of PPC blasts washing over the mech’s armor and barrages of missiles falling like a hailstorm. A notable silence, however, rang through his ears loud and clear as the great siege engine’s reactor shut down, causing the behemoth to tumble to the ground.

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Pro tip: Mechs function better when they are upright and powered on.

The Cyclops was struggling with heat management issues of its’ own as it tried to provide covering fire for his fallen ally. Pressing the advantage, the Wolves advanced once again – the Nova charged in toward the fallen Atlas; and the Timber Wolves lined up close range shots on the only enemy capable of returning fire. Standing still and out in the open, it was a trivial matter for the Timber Wolves to decimate the Cyclops with their full arsenals, triggering a catastrophic explosion by detonating the remaining ammunition for the Autocannon that had claimed their ally just moments before.

The Atlas powered back up and stubbornly climbed to its’ feet, determined to fight off the Wolves and reach the HPG array. But another pair of the distinctive blue orbs of death from the Nova’s PPCs mangled both of the Atlas’s arms, significantly reducing the threat presented by its’ attacks. Standing still and firing everything left in vain, the lone remaining Davion pilot presented the clan omnimechs with too big of a target to miss, and the Atlas was quickly reduced to a smoldering heap of metal that would yield no salvage, nor would it be removed from that spot so long as Clan Wolf held this world. The HPG remained silent, and House Davion and the rest of the inner sphere would not learn for many months what had happened on Oberon on this day. And in sharp contrast to the prosperity that came to this world as a hub and staging ground for the remainder of the invasion, the charred remains of the nigh-invincible Atlas remained as a reminder of the conquerors’ might and absence of mercy.

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

– The Tabletop General