I’ve been playing the new turn-based Battletech–the one I trash talked earlier this year–because it’s actually pretty good. It has all of the things I wanted out of a Battletech game. I do not say that lightly. It has the financial mechanics, pilot management, ‘mech repair and customization, and meat ‘n unseasoned potatoes story I want. All the depth is available, but optional.
I’ve been playing through with the default company name, [MY NAME] + Marauders. “Marauder” seems like a bad name for a professional military unit, but whatever. That’s because I didn’t want to get too attached on my first runthrough. Because of a game crash (it started using tons of memory for no reason), I had to play the tutorial mission twice and lemme express my strong disinclination to ever, ever start a new playthrough.
Regardless, I played through the first story mission, when I was hired on by an old friend who was working with the Magistracy of Canopus to recover some ancient dropship. It was after that point that the game came into its own and I started having fond memories of my battles with a set crew and a steady stable of ‘mechs.
TL;DR – The new Battletech game is actually really good and scratches a lot of my old Battletech itches. I’ve had a number of memorable encounters with Velding’s Marauders and I’m sharing them here.
Mission: Capellan Death Amphitheater
I’m trying to get in close with the Magistracy of Canopus, so I took a mission where Capellans had been sniffing around Magistracy bases. I tend to fight hard, so of my six ‘mechs, two were still in the shop when I had to take this mission and I had to take this mission because the end of the month was coming up and I wouldn’t make it if I didn’t take it.
It was a two-skull mission. The missions are on a scale of one to ten, and for the first few missions you’re taking one-half to one skull missions. So I dropped into this mission which was two to four times harder than my previous experiences with a Shadow Hawk, a Blackjack (with large lasers instead of light autocannons), a Spider, and a Commando. I literally received a warning from my admin guy, ‘Olivarez’ I think, before dropping. My response was to look at our monthly costs, throw up a shrug emoji, and hit into the drop zone.
That drop zone was in a frozen, vacuum world at the base of a slope. The direct approach was a clear gap between ridgelines on the right and left. The ridgelines created a half-circle that would require jump jets to move in from any direction but the front. The options were to circle around either side or move forward in an uphill assault through a killbox.
I instead opted to draw the enemy out and withdraw along the left ridge. Initially, the Shadow Hawk and Blackjack would hold in the center. The lighter Commando and Spider headed in to find the enemy. After contact, the lights would pull back and the mediums would provide fire support to cover them. As enemies approached along the outside of the left ridgeline, my ‘mechs could concentrate their fire and get the enemy into the killbox.
That plan fell apart quickly. Or rather Quickdraw-ly. I discovered a Quickdraw, Locust, and enemy Shadow Hawk and lost my Commando in a single round of combat. My Spider couldn’t pull back to safety, but found cover on the right side of the field. The wrong side. The fourth and last member of the enemy lance was barely on my sensors, but they seemed to be moving quickly so I wrote them off as another light.
The enemy Locust went down on my turn and I shifted my Shadow Hawk ever so gently to the right to wear down its counterpart and to cover the Spider a bit. The Blackjack stayed put and kept pounding away with its large lasers.
Over the next few turns, we traded blows and my Spider took additional hits from the enemy. My Shadow Hawk moved in, further right, to get in solid shots with its medium lasers. That ended when it was finally revealed that the fourth enemy was a Jagermech, a second heavy.
I was doomed by almost a full weight class of ‘mechs. I pride myself on immersion and taking hits, but I felt pinned by the ticking clock of my finances and the real meaning behind selecting missions that were literally harder. I could have abandoned the mission, but with just one objective–destroy all enemy ‘mechs–I would have suffered a bad faith abandonment and gotten nothing for it. I was a bit emotional and decided to savescum after fighting out a bad fight.
My Shadow Hawk did the reasonable thing and closed with the Jagermech. The heavier ‘mech had four heavy autocannons and it carried them at a great cost in weight. It also carried all of them in its arms. It had no close-in weaponry. My Shadow Hawk jumped onto the Jagermech with its jump jets and sheared off its left arm. From across the field, my Blackjack sheared off its other arm. I was really lucky and disarmed a deadly opponent.
I then focused on the enemy Shadow Hawk, who was heavily damaged. I was continuing to ignore the Quickdraw simply because it was overheating as badly as I was and I preferred to focus on enemies who were already damaged enough that I could eliminate their weapons.
My Spider was lost on another death from above attack on the Jagermech. My Shadow Hawk was eventually brought low by damage and my Blackjack was left alone against an unarmed Jagermech, a battered Shadow Hawk, and a pristine Quickdraw.
I focused on the Shadow Hawk first and lured the three of them into a radiation field, the field’s additional heat slowed them down a bit, and gave me the time to finish off the Shadow Hawk. I was ailing and losing armor fast, so I jumped to the right side of the field. That gave me a few turns of plinking at the Quickdraw while it cooled down and the Jagermech refused to even physically attack me despite being close enough to do so.
As the Quickdraw cooled and closed, I dealt as much I could. I was already hugging my heat curve tight when my precision shot ability recharged. I went for an alpha strike on its right leg, as that’s where a plurality of my previous shots had landed. The Jagermech continued doing nothing, even as I overheated and shut down.
The Quickdraw wasn’t phased, but did savage me at close range and knocked me to the ground. I recovered and returned the favor, shearing off armor and finally doing structure damage. As I stood above it, I took another chance and performed a final alpha strike to maybe slow it down. That might let me get some speed and put some range between us.
I should have jumped over the ridge then and there, but I was too aggressive and wanted my free hits while I could take them.
That’s when the Jagermech struck. My Blackjack had already taken so much damage from the Capellans that there wasn’t too much but luck and a few scraps of armor holding it together. One solid headbutt from an armless heavy was just enough to destroy it and the game learned what I knew seven turns earlier; I’d lost this one.
Next Week: Capellan Death Amphitheater, Part II (they get shorter)