Sunday, February 28, 2010

Playtest #3 - Hot Lance-on-Lance Action!


More Jenner X playtesting! Brian set another game up as lance-on-lance combat. The results are interesting, and he even provided a snapshot for each turn of play. The text tells you who hit what and what damage was done – but I think a close look at the gameshots tells a more informative tale.

The Third Playtest Game

"I put a Jenner X and XT [a version which switches out the MRMs for Streak-4 missile racks] with a Daimyo and a Javelin in the hands of a good friend and recovering DCMS player. He knows how to use the Jenners of old so I was interested in seeing how he would use the new variants without any prodding.

For the OpFor, I used a mixed lance, a Goblin Infantry Support Tank, Falcon Hawk, Watchman, and a Kintaro.

For your reference we used movement dice: white = walk, red = run, blue = jump

Jenner = Jenner X
Cicada = Jenner XT
Clint = Daimyo
Hermes = Javelin

Vindicator = Falcon Hawk
Trebuchet = Kintaro
Panther = Watchman
Galleon = Goblin Tank

Turn 1 - DC Loses Initiative
No shots. Terrain prevents shots.

Turn 2 - DC Wins Initiative
Falcon Hawk and Goblin score hits on the Jenner XT, crits upper arm actuator. Other fire misses.

One medium laser hits the Goblin in the turret.

[Note the two Jenners – circled in blue – are at top speed, the red movement die signifying a run and the modifier a solid +4. The hits on the XT probably required moderately high numbers, but as you can see, the enemy ‘Mech and tank are both at very short range.]

Turn 3 - DC Loses Initiative
Jenner X loses RA, gets a gyro and an engine hit due to lots of combined fire. The XT gets some damage to armor but not much else.

XT rips open rear armor on LT but fails to crit. Hits 2 head hits. X hits with 2 ML and 1 MRM but fails to penetrate armor.

Jenner X makes his pilot roll. OpFor makes his consciousness checks.

[This is where the Jenner player lost the advantage of high speed – all that damage need not have happened! As you can see from the white movement dice, the Jenner XT (circled in yellow) and the Jenner X (circled in blue) are now walking and their modifiers are nil or one. Not good! The Jenner is ill-equipped for a slugfest with anyone, especially another light ‘Mech. Part of its protection comes from its high speed and that is absent at this point of the game.

Lots of fire’ came from lots of enemy guns which had the range and good numbers – the Jenners should have been a long way from those trees by now. Being forced into a furball is one thing - volunteering for it is a bad move.]

Turn 4 - DC Loses Initiative

Goblin cores XL engine on Jenner X. Javelin loses an SRM 6 and a lot of armor.

Jenners combine to core out XL engine on falcon hawk.

[The Jenner X was a needless loss. He should have been turning on the far right of the map with his partner and coming back for another pass. Instead, both walked - again! - and got nothing for a movement modifier. That the Jenners took out an enemy ‘Mech was luck – the Firehawk has nearly as much armor as the Jenners!]

Turn 5 - DC wins Initiative
Javelin declares charge on Watchman.

Javelin is destroyed by torso destruction. Kintaro is destroyed by ammo explosion.

[The red die on the far side of the Jenner XT shows that it is back to running, probably using the won Initiative to position for the backshot which blew the Kintaro’s ammo bin].

Turn 6 - DC Loses Initiative

Goblin and Watchman hit the Daimyo but do no significant damage.

Daimyo hits the Goblin and reduces movement to a 2/3 and destroys a weapon once the rear armor is depleted.

[The Jenner X is now at the far right of the map with a red movement die. It is being played to best advantage at this point, hustling to get some speed, distance and movement modifiers. It should be turning next round… but this action is probably more a function of the lost Initiative than calculated tactics].

Turn 7 - DC Loses Initiative

Watchman and Goblin continue to slag armor off the Daimyo. Two DHS are destroyed by the Goblin.

Daimyo hurts the Goblin more but does only armor damage.

[There! The Jenner XT is sweeping around, with a red movement die indicating a modifier of +4. I am not sure if this is due to the lost Initiative (and a resulting defensive move) or a sound tactical choice on the part of the player].

Turn 8 - DC Loses Initiative

Goblin is destroyed by the Jenner XT. The Watchman and the Goblin combine to deliver 3 crits to the Daimyo CT but fails to kill the 'Mech.

Game is called as it is 2 on 1 and the Watchman can only retreat to save itself.

[Note at this point the Jenner XT has a high movement modifier and is in position to fire on a target (the Goblin) which has no movement modifiers at all (a 6 on the die represents zero). Note also that the target of opportunity for the enemy is the Daimyo (represented by the Clint standing on the tank) which has a modifier of zero and not the Jenner, which probably presented a difficult target with its +3. Which is the point of having high speed, after all].

Post Game Analysis

I am betting that if both Jenners had been played to their strengths (high speed, lots of striking power) throughout the game, they might both have survived. It’s possible the game would have lasted a lot longer with the two ‘Mechs running about with throttles slammed forward – after all, they would be in the enemy’s sights for a relatively short time. But with just two additional turns, the harder-hitting warload of the Jenner X and XT might have carried the day for the Draconis Combine - with minimal casualties.

I know, the DC won the encounter.

And to be fair, they won only two of the seven Initiatives where both sides had firing solutions. But the point was to try out the new machine with the recommended tactics. The first half of the game saw these Jenners being deployed as standard models with numerous medium lasers and jump jets.

Unfortunately, these machines don't have them. And it took the player a while to adjust.

Meanwhile, the enemy’s Kintaro is pretty quick for its size, the Watchman has jump jets, the Fire Hawk was as fast as our Jenner and depending on its variant, the Goblin is well-armed. After one Jenner was lost, the other Jenner began to follow our recommended tactics; whether this was due to a reaction to lost initiative or a hint from Brian is moot. As you can see, when used properly the Jenner XT performs as advertised.

I think.

A Lot of Variables...

See, the problem is I have to make these calls based on only four turns’ worth of game, and as was pointed out at the beginning, the DC player wasn’t told how the new Jenners were to be deployed. I don’t know if he meant to get them into a ‘furball’ or if that’s just how things worked out. It is hard to say whether he used them correctly or incorrectly – but he certainly was in a hurry to blow the enemy away. From the way the table was set up, he could have swept through with the Jenners, come around either side and then swept back through to add more damage.

Maybe the lure of a backshot was just too much. However, despite its armor and its flipping arms, this particular Jenner is not meant to participate in a “Conga line”, where machines line up behind each other to take back shots. MRMs are at a distinct disadvantage in close combat. There’s patience involved in harrier tactics, as well as the practice of looking ahead and moving your other forces in order to position the enemy for the Jenner’s return sweep.

So many other things could have been – should have been – different as well.

What Might Have Been

I think with its jump jets, the Javelin could have avoided trouble and even lured the enemy on while the Jenners streaked off to begin their turns. The Daimyo in any of its variants would be a fearsome opponent to corner, with either an ERPPC or ER large laser to make an approaching enemy pay dearly while these two waited for their lancemates to come around.

But here’s the rub; the Javelin and Daimyo should also have been moving at top speed for maximum multipliers, jumping if able when their side lost initiative. Their warloads indicate machines which do most of their rough work at range. The strength of their main guns is not just in their striking power – that too - but in their range advantage. Because they did not have range, because they walked and engaged in early melee, the Daimyo and Javlin were forced to use long and medium range weapons up close. And they lost that advantage.

If they’d maintained a full run, they’d have had a chance to keep the enemy off-balance and reacting while the Jenners swung around and began a second approach. Furthermore, by running towards the right side of the map, they would have reduced the time to engagement for the Jenners – assuming the enemy was in hot pursuit. And there is no reason why the enemy would not give chase, with the potential for backshots luring them on.

The 7/11(14) Jenner X has three MRM-10s with good range and these hit hard. By the time the Jenner XT had closed for another shot, there would have been several large holes in the enemy. A Streak barrage might have finished the job.

Finally, the idea of running these machines in pairs is so that they can concentrate fire on a single opponent. The Turn Three and Turn Four text suggests they did, but both were at a severe disadvantage at that point and never got a chance to work together after that.

Oh well. No sense in re-fighting the battle. I wasn’t there and I am sure the players did the best they could. We learned quite a bit from this little soiree. Thanks to Brian, Andrew and the rest of the ScrapyardArmory crew for taking to the tables to see what our new design is made of.

And thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We Playtested the Vulcan VL-7M...

Hello all.

Good news from Lee Madison – he has finished work on the Sarpedon original provided by Ian Stead. I sent the Merkava MkVII for similar treatment.

David Dryburgh is working on modified versions of the eight vignettes we mentioned a few posts back – they may contain color or not, depending on his need. I am willing to pay for a few additional color pages to accommodate his artistic style. The subjects are all machines from the TRO itself, so this should be interesting.

I received a Jenner X playtest report, a very short one, from Jeff Wheeler of BattleTech Universe.

“Did the playtesting this weekend for the Jenner. I think it did well; knocked out a Commando IIC with a missile head shot and got a good piece of a Shadowcat Prime before being eliminated by engine crits from that same Shadowcat's gauss rifle. I am going to add it to my HMPro designs.”

Not much meat there, Jeff! But I asked him to put it through its paces with a mate, with the both of them using certain tactics I felt were suited to the design based on earlier playtest results. He has said he will give it a go this upcoming weekend.

So far, no response from the other playtesters, who were unable to run a game or scenario for the Jenner X due to any number of things (weather, illness, etc). Again, perhaps this weekend will give us something more to consider.

One the other hand, I did run a playtest on another TRO ‘Mech about a year back, when I was wondering if the upgrades to the Vulcan were really as good as they looked on paper. I have lost the name of the playtester who ran it – at the time, there was no cover page or anything else and it did not occur to me to save this man’s name for the Credits section. If anyone reading this knows who playtested the Vulcan VL-7M, please contact me.

A kitbash miniature of the new Vulcan is at the top of this page. As you can see from the picture, the new machine is a lot like the old one in many respects (though the TRO art is quite different, it retains all the important styling cues). However, fans of the Vulcan (and yes, they are out there) will note that this model has hands. Hands. Furthermore, there is a big gun poking out of the right torso.

For those of us raised on Duane Loose’s mechanical reincarnation of the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, the best parts are the actual statistics for this machine. It is part of the Free Worlds League Project Retread, an attempt to upgrade older ‘Mechs without having to actually re-manufacture them from the chassis out. It includes the Thug, the Black Knight, the Guillotine and the Vulcan. All of these machines have been significantly beefed up and enhanced with the latest post-Invasion technology, but the Vulcan can arguably be said to have gotten the best of the deal.

It features many things the older versions lacked – and I am not just referring to hands.

Here is the old version, the Vulcan VL-5M.

As you can see, all the weapons are relatively short-ranged, making this an infighter. However, unlike most close-combat machines, it doesn’t feature much in the way of armor. In fact, some front locations actually have less protection (in terms of points) than the underlying structure!

Furthermore, the combination of firing the large and medium pulse lasers and jumping a full six hexes is covered by the standard ten double heat sinks – I have no idea why there is an eleventh heat sink added. You would not want to waste time firing a flamer or machine gun, given their poor range and low damage potential.

The flamer and machine gun are good weapons for fighting standard infantry – if anything, they are too few to make a difference when attempting to mow down troops. However, as any player can tell you, the mix of two hundred rounds of machine gun ammo and very weak armor (especially in the rear) is a recipe for disaster. Against any other foe, the MG ammo is a liability. Most pilots would get rid of it on Turn One, but that is a wasted turn dumping the stuff and many opt to take their chances.

So – too few anti-infantry weapons to make a dent in a platoon, and a very good chance of losing the ‘Mech to an ammo explosion. Not a good combination at all. No wonder the president of Nimikachi Motors lost his job.

The weak armor is the biggest issue. If the machine could survive close contact with an enemy unit, it would be to the purpose. But even the fusion engine and its inherent toughness will not do more than prolong the agony of a ‘Mech which is neither fish nor fowl.

So I had a go at it. Here is the VL-7M. Click on the image to get a better look.

The VL-7M is a whole new baby. It carries 60% more armor and while dropping two jump jets, largely maintains its movement profile. The warload returns to something a bit closer to the original Vulcan’s, with a large long-range weapon and several guns for close-in work.

The role of anti-infantry has not been neglected; not only does the VL-7M carry medium lasers to augment the ER large laser at medium ranges, it packs no less than four small pulse lasers in the left arm. These do horrid amounts of damage to unarmored infantry and are extremely accurate to boot, quite the bonus when jumping about while trying to get a bead on a bunch of fleeing troopers. But this warload is nearly as effective against battle armor, something that is becoming a greater menace on the 3063 battlefield.

Some may point to the short range of the pulse weapons, or the relative fragility of the extra-light fusion engine, but so far the extra armor has been enough to compensate, protecting the engine at the close ranges required to carry out ‘squishie missions’.

Heat can be a problem… but only if you alpha-strike. As with most such warloads, the important thing is to stick to your range bands. Shooting point blank with an ER large laser may occasionally be useful, but what it really says is that the Mechwarrior in the cockpit is too close, too soon. Wear your foe down at range, then get in there and shake salt in the wounds – that’s the ticket.

Here is the report from that unsung playtester:

“Ok, now the VL-7M went through its paces in the playtest battles quite well. The one thing noted by my players was that the arm-mounted weapons were all short range, and this prevented them from punching/pushing while maximizing firepower. That said, my players did not perform any physical attacks the entire combat, so who knows if that is even a valid concern?

My own personal take is that this is quite a beastly 'Mech for its size. The firepower is well-balanced against heat dissipation and the survivability, when compared to the typical XL-engined scout, is very good. I did find that I missed the lost jump movement, but would be hard-pressed to give up any of the firepower to regain it. One player has come up with a "elegantly simple” solution for my dilemma. He said: "Well, if we capture it, I will just give it a clan ER large laser and that will be that." I felt that I should share that with you all.

I missed the new hand actuators, but apparently my player saw them, the one who was interested in punching. Thus far, we used it in non-campaign battles only. On the lightly forested map it was able to deal handily with two infantry platoons and a Javelin.
While it was taken out by a Trebuchet before it could retreat, the new Vulcan's mission objective (destroy opposition HQ, including all infantry) was a smashing success! In a pair of duels against a Strider omni mounting Clan medium pulse lasers, it lost badly once and had one Pyrrhic victory. I personally feel that with the extra jump jets that near-loss would have become more solid, but again, I have no real suggestions for what to strip off.

On a lark, I matched it against two VL-2Ts and it came out smelling like roses, ripping through both older 'Mechs with little trouble (almost overheated using an alpha strike at point blank range the last round, but it turned out to be worth the risk).
I really can't wait to use this thing as part of a FWL scout lance working in my MW game. It is really a joy to run. Battlearmor is a rarity on our fields at present, but I will try to work up a playtest scenario.

And there you go. The original Vulcan was a poor design outside of its own era, and passed into obsolescence after the Clan Invasion. Even with tweaking over the following years, it never really did well as it was almost always under-armored for its intended missions. The VL-7M upgrade returns this venerable ‘Mech to useful status, even making it a preferred machine for certain missions.

There is another Vulcan in the TRO, the Vulcan II, which focuses on anti-infantry operations with battle-armor hunting a specialty. It lacks the hard-hitting ranged weapon of the earlier VL-7M, but compensates by adding three medium pulse lasers – and a movement of 7/11/7. Very fast, very accurate, and it has the same solid armor protection as its sibling.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Playtest Results! Part Two

Back once again!

I am busy today – the game over in Redmond was cancelled due to folks being down with the crud, the hacking ague and like that. Next mercenary game won’t be until May, I think. So now I am moving about, getting models packed and shipped, cleaning house (a never-ending task) and doing some research on three fifty-year old plastic model cars (with boxes) which I gained back in 2004 while helping a friend clean out his house for a move.

More on that in my next update...

We have another test run for you to look over – Brian over at gave it a go, this time with more machines in a scrum/furball/slugfest which lasted ten turns. The result was some juicy lance-on-lance action, good enough to make the next ‘Mechs Gone Wild’ CD.

Ummm… wait….

Right. Set yourself up with a cuppa because this one is going to read a bit longish. I edited it for brevity and clarity, but really, Brian kept to the facts and there are some very interesting questions raised by Scrapyard Battle II.

Draconis Combine

2 Jenner X


Lyran Alliance



Terrain: Wooded Hills

Turn 1: DC wins Initiative
Nothing but movement, no shots at long range with the mods figured in.

Turn 2: DC wins initiative

Javelin rushes forward into heavy woods. Jenner #1 takes the bait and MASCs behind him with a 3+ mod. Wolfhound moves in for a juicy shot. The Owens runs in fast to support with a 4+. Valkyrie moves in behind Owens. Daimyo moves to center of battle to threaten either the light ‘Mech jumble or the Enforcer.

Enforcer is not fast enough to get to optimal range but moves on the Daimyo. Jenner #2 MASCs into 7 hex range of the Enforcer which keeps both at medium range for main weapons.
Time for some shootin! Jenner #1 misses with everything while Jenner #2 hits with two shots on the Enforcer. Owens takes minor damage. Enforcer and Wolfhound take scattered damage. The Wolfhound is hit by a small laser to the head and makes his pilot roll.

Turn 3: DC wins initiative

Valkyrie jumps to woods. Jenner #1 gets frisky and tries to MASC again, rolls snake eyes! He makes his piloting roll and struggles to put distance between himself and the swirling masses. Javelin can’t resist the back shot opportunity on Jenner #1. Jenner #2 moves to support and gives the Javelin something else to think about. Wolfhound looks for a kill shot on Jenner #1’s backside. Owens is able to walk for a 2+ and get behind the Valkyrie while still keeping the Javelin in sight. Enforcer takes high ground and the Daimyo pushes in to support the light ‘Mech scrum.

Jenner #1 flips its arms and shoots up Javelin, hits to the RT go in and hits ammo, Javelin goes boom. Javelin returns fire to the rear of Jenner #1 and gets 2 SRMs into the internals. Crit rolls are 11 and 12. MRM ammo goes boom and so does Jenner #1. [As this ‘Mech has CASE, the pilot survives] Two ‘‘Mechs are now down and a lot of wasted shots zing past dead targets. Daimyo and Valkyrie each take a few shots.

Kicks fly and the Valkyrie loses a jump jet but keeps his balance.

Turn 4: DC wins initiative again

Enforcer parks in woods on hill. Owens moves to cover from some Level 2 terrain. Valkyrie moves to the flank of the Enforcer away from the furball. Daimyo moves into woods for a +1 facing the Enforcer. Wolfhound moves for rear shots on Daimyo, Jenner #2 moves behind Wolfhound.

Daimyo armor is beaten up by Valkyrie and Wolfhound but the Enforcer misses with everything. Jenner #2 hits with only 1 MRM and 1 Medium laser. Owens adds to damage but no open locations just yet. Daimyo puts minor damage on Enforcer.
Kick opens up Daimyo’s left leg. Jenner #2 returns the favor. All ‘‘Mechs make pilot rolls.

Turn 5: Lyrans win initiative.

Owens moves back to avoid danger. Enforcer stays put on top of the hill in woods. Daimyo moves to woods 7 hexes away from Enforcer. Valkyrie jumps into heavy woods in front of the Daimyo. Jenner #2 MASCs to a position flanking the Daimyo and covering his back. The Wolfhound moves in behind the Daimyo but only gets a +1 mod. Hopes that the risk will be worth it.

Daimyo gets plastered by all Lyran ‘'Mechs, takes engine hit, missed crit rolls in other locations. Lots of holes present but got a little lucky with the to-hit rolls by the Wolfhound from the rear. Owens and Daimyo team up to open the Enforcer’s left arm but the rest of the ‘Mech is looking good. (Liking the Owens Prime for its dual role bracketed weapons. Second turn the LRM5s have come in very handy). Jenner #2 rolls well and hits with 2 MRMs and 2ML. Crits DHS in Wolfhound LT, opens up Left Arm and center torso armor. Wolfhound fails pilot check and falls. Needed that one badly to avoid the Wolfhound’s kick to the Daimyo.

Turn 6: DC wins initiative

Wolfhound gets up on a run and retreats to woods. Jenner #2 chases and lines up a kick to the weakened right side. Valkyrie lines up on Jenner. Daimyo moves to heavy woods. Enforcer walks into short range on Daimyo. Owens rushes behind Enforcer but stays at range to use LRMs.

Enforcer misses 7s twice. Daimyo returns fire and only hits with 1 ML, but crits the arm and takes out the Large Laser. Owens misses with LRMs but hits with ML and punches through RT armor. No crits though. Wolfhound hits with only 1 LL, heat effects forced the miss. Jenner #2 returns fire, hits with 2 MRMs and 1 ML. Crits Wolfhound’s hip in RL. Wolfhound falls and takes another pilot hit. Jenner #2 winds up full body chart kick and misses...

Turn 7: Lyrans win initiative.

Daimyo stays in heavy woods. Enforcer run to level 1 terrain beside Daimyo. Owens runs behind Enforcer. Valkyrie jumps in position next to Enforcer. Jenner #2 MASCs to rear shot of Enforcer. Wolfhound gets up on a run and barely makes it to the Daimyo. Poor Daimyo is not in a good position.

Daimyo survives weapons fire but loses left arm in the process. No more PPC. Daimyo targets Wolfhound and hits with everything! Rips off the LT. Owens and Jenner #2 team up on Enforcer, both rear shots. Jenner #2 misses with all MRMs but hits with ML. Owens lasers add to the damage but major critical damage is avoided. Daimyo fails pilot check and falls.

Wolfhound kicks and crits the Daimyo’s CT for another engine hit. Daimyo heats up unexpectedly.

Turn 8: DC wins initiative.

Valkyrie jumps across to woods, setting up a shark circle around the Daimyo. Daimyo gets up on a walk and stays put. Enforcer jumps to woods beside Valkyrie. Each defends the other’s back. Owens runs beside Valkyrie lining up kick on wounded leg. Wolfhound moves in front of Daimyo with his back to friendly units. Jenner #2 takes a risk and walks to a rear shot location behind Enforcer.

Lyrans ignore Jenner (actually in great position on left side while enemy weapons are in right arms) and pile on the Daimyo except the Valkyrie who targets the Owens. To-hit rolls are lousy and only an AC10 and a ML hit but they shred the Daimyo’s LT and 2 DHS with it. Daimyo throws everything at the Wolfhound and hits with 2 ML and SRM6. Crits across the board, Foot, Lower Leg, Gyro, ML gone. Wolfhound falls and lands on CT destroying itself. V

alkyrie hits Owens with ML to CT. Owens returns fire and lands a single small laser. Jenner #2 misses all but a ML to Enforcer.
Owens kicks off Valkyrie's right leg. Ouch!

Turn 9: Lyrans win initiative

Daimyo stays in Heavy woods. Valkyrie rotates to get the Daimyo in arc. Owens runs to woods around Enforcer flank. Jenner #2 runs beside Daimyo for support. Enforcer backs up to put distance and terrain between him and the Daimyo.
Valkyrie hits the Daimyo with 1 ML and finds fresh armor (amazingly). Enforcer pegs the Owens with the AC10 and strips all armor from the arm. Daimyo riddles the Valkyrie with lasers and SRMs but no crits. Jenner #2 fires only lasers as he only has 1 more shot left with the MRMs.

Turn 10: Lyrans Win Initiative

Daimyo moves in on Enforcer. Valkyrie rotates to get Daimyo back into arc. Jenner #2 and Owens move to box in Enforcer. Enforcer moves away to 5 hexes from Daimyo.
Enforcer misses with his last AC round. Daimyo misses as well. Jenner unleashes last MRM rounds and hits armor in the torsos of the Enforcer. Owens lasers do not penetrate either.

GAME CALLED, Moderate victory to the Draconis Combine

Two 'Mechs out of ammo and lots of degradation of offensive power will easily lead us to a stalemate. At this point I'm sure both commanders would bargain for salvage rights and walk off the battlefield with the rest of their lances intact.

Many times, I had the choice of leaving some space between the Jenner and its targets but I always found myself striving to get in close to short range to mitigate the +1 of the MRM. Turning an 8 to a 9 or taking a 7, there is no comparison. So it played just as well as I expect Jenners to play. The ammo is a difficulty but maybe I should have waited for better shots earlier in the game.



The score?

The Draconis Combine lost a Jenner X to an ammo explosion, with the other Jenner X down to a pair of medium lasers. The Daimyo was a walking dead man. The Owens was still game, but as light as it is, no telling how much longer it would last.

The Lyrans lost a Javelin to an ammo explosion, a Wolfhound to severe damage and a fall, and were left with a neutered Enforcer and a Valkyrie doing its best to function as a turret.

I might have pushed it another turn, just to see if the Lyrans could take another turn's pasting, but it would have to be done with medium and small lasers - and kicking might have done more damage!

Finally, there is no mention of the variants used in this scenario. You can piece together most of the types fielded by their name and warload, but it would have been helpful to have the actual model numbers presented at the start of the report. Otherwise, excellent work, Brian! Thank you!

I have bombarded Brian with some questions of my own based on this combat sequence.

1) Would the Jenner X be best restricted to Elite pilots (gunnery skill of 2 or less)? This would offset the +1 penalty of the MRM to a certain degree.

2) Is the Jenner X really capable of dealing with ‘Mechs its own size? I think that at the high speeds encountered with smaller machines, the Jenner X is actually at a disadvantage, unable to use its longer reach due to the high ‘to-hit’ numbers. Brian was forced to operate at short ranges in order to get a decent chance at hitting his target. The short-range game is one in which the MRM comes off decidedly second-best. It seems to me from the above report that the Jenner X is actually most useful when executing fast strikes against larger (and slower) targets whose lower movement modifiers mean a decent ‘to-hit’ roll at longer ranges.

3) Was the Jenner X deployed in such a way that it made the most of its speed? With the terrain, could it have been? I am thinking here of the ‘sabre-dance’, a practice of making high-speed passes on a slower target vice the usual melee (‘furball’) in which a standard Jenner is designed to participate. Yes, this means the Jenner X would be out of combat range every other turn, but it (and the ton of ammo) would last a lot longer, get better shots and not worry overmuch about getting nailed in physical combat.

Furthermore, a modified version of this tactic involves the Jenner sweeping through at a run, hitting Target A on turn two, Target B on turn three and Target C on turn four before swinging around for another pass. True, there is a chance of taking a backshot, but that is going to happen in close combat anyway, as was seen above. I saw a lot of ‘Conga lines’ in ten rounds.

4) Would the Jenner X be better served with an additional ton of ammo? I am thinking of a variant that drops both medium lasers, replacing them with two ER small lasers and another ton of MRM ammo. There’s more reliance on missiles though, and I wonder if the Jenner X would last long enough in combat to use that additional ton…

What do you folks think?

Thanks for stopping by. We will have more test results in a few days.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

FIrst Jenner test results...

Hey there!

Welcome! Some good news on the art front, an area I thought all but wrapped up but for the fleshing out of of some computer-generated art. David Dryburgh has agreed to do a few vignettes for the interior illustrations. I asked him to do them based on designs we have in the TRO, so I will send him some of the more unique machines. Some will be ‘Mech-centric and others will focus on vehicles.

As you know, I put some feelers out on the forums for playtesting the Jenner JR7-X. No one nibbled until I added that the playtesters would get their names mentioned in the Credits section of the TRO. Now I have no less than five playtesters! The first to come back with some solid information on the performance of the JR7-X is Brian over at What follows is a paraphrasing of his first report:

“First battle: Jenner JR7-X vs Jenner IIC
Terrain: 2 standard BT maps

First three turns are boring. The one who lost initiative was always able to evade the other. We figured this had to change so we chose to engage, no matter what, for the remainder of the game.

We begin duking it out in the center of the map. The winner of initiative was able to bring full weapons to bear while the loser was at least able to perform an arm flip. The worst aspect of a lost initiative was the potential for an unopposed kick, which can be devastating for ‘Mechs of this size.

First round of fire from the IIC scattered damage across the X while the lightly armored IIC suffered a shoulder crit from return fire.

The second round of fire shaved more armor off the X while the IIC suffered two leg crits thanks to a successful kick.

The third round of fire was the last. The IIC took additional MRM shots to its damaged leg, blowing it off.

During each round of fire only one of the three MRMs hit but it was enough due to the IIC’s poor armor. The IIC had slightly better success with its shots, scoring five successful SRM hits. However, the SRM damage was spread out and never came close to punching through the armor of the JR7-X.

I have two more battles planned. Working on them hopefully this week.


I will continue to post playtest results as they occur. Hope you enjoyed this one. The only advice I have for Brian – and this is a suggestion based solely on the capabilities of the JR7-X – is that he might have used the longer reach of the MRMs to get a few hits in prior to the close-combat sequence. Of course, MRMs have a +1 penalty to hit due to the nature of their ‘dumb’ rounds. And the Jenner IIC might have been all but impossible to hit from longer ranges due to its speed modifiers and the movement modifiers generated by a JR7-X pilot trying to keep up.

There is no way I can know, so I rely on Brian’s experience and skill, assuming he did the best he could with the tools at hand.

‘Til next time!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Writing is complete...


This entry will be short. I have to vacuum the house, fold and stow all the washed clothes and do the grocery shopping while Momma is at work. It is 3:30 now and time’s a-wasting.

Sent some money off to David Dryburgh. He has not responded to my questions on the vignettes, so my guess is that he will not be able to do them. Too bad. I will send the remaining money to him in the next two weeks.

Ian Stead has submitted the final version of the Merkava MkVII, as you can see at the top of today’s entry. It looks very nice and will be a solid addition to the TRO.

The TRO Table of Contents has been updated and page numbers added. While I was working on the Index, I discovered that I’d left a Lyran ‘Mech out of the page count and the TOC, so I added it and went through the page count to renumber everything. The Index is also complete, all the ‘Mechs and Vehicles listed in alphabetical order in two different sections. I sent these three documents off to our layout man to incorporate into his work.

Click on the image below to see Index Page One

Click on the image below to see Index Page 2
If there is any confusion over the difference between the number of machines presented in the index (102) and the number claimed for the TRO (107), it is because five machines are Omni variants of the Roland OmniTank and the Culverin OmniMech.

No response from the playtesters yet on the fate of the Jenner JR7-X. I asked for a quick turnaround, but at least a couple of them are real games so it’s anyone’s guess whether or not they took place this weekend. I may have something to report by this time next Sunday.

The others are presumably being tested out on MegaMek software. MegaMek is a game which permits you to play BattleTech against the computer or online against other players. So far as I know it’s free. There are scads of updates which add ‘Mechs to the roster by year. And you can punch in your own machine if you like. I have neither the time nor computer access to really take advantage of MegaMek myself, so it will be up to others to do the testing. A friend of mine tells me it is processor-intensive, some battles taking hours to complete due to the game’s limited AI.

The writing is complete, pending any further oversights.

The art is down to Lee Madison adding some scenery to CG vehicles. My payment roster still stands at about $150 total, and most of those will have to be sent out by money order to folks who do not have access to PayPal. Several folks have pitched in over the past couple of weeks with money through the PayPal button – I thank you from the bottom of my heart as I wait for the funds to be transferred to my checking account and the money orders cut.

We are almost there. About another month while we finish the last of the art and make final artist payments – hopefully Josh will have some good backgrounds ready to go by then. After that, it is a matter of dropping all the content into the waiting PDF framework, correcting the format and proofing the final product.


I ordered an R36C, or so I thought. What I got was an R36K, the longer version. It works pretty well, though, and as it is a ‘guest’ gun for my son’s friends to use, will do quite nicely. Had to get an adapter to charge it from our existing wall charger, but it cycles nicely on 9.6v and that battery should last the game. I hope. I have a spare for it, but to be honest, even after all the trimming of the internal battery compartment to fit the longer cell pack, I need a few taps from a hammer to get the locking pin into place. Not what I call sound design on the part of the manufacturer.

I finally got a response from Echo1 and have ordered the replacement parts for my M-14. They should be here in a week or two. Maybe this time I will break down and use Loctite on my gun’s wayward bits so they don’t fall off in the woods. Hopefully I won’t have to remove them in the near future, as they must come off to disassemble the gun.

We are ready to play another game, but the weather continues to alternate between damp and cold, and just plain rainy. Bill is already preparing to play with an ‘official’ airsoft group in the area, but I am holding out for a local game with the kids. After all, that is why I got the guns in the first place.

For now, I am halting all further expenditures on airsoft. We have the gear we need. Now it is just a matter of organizing games. I think things will pick up when warmer weather arrives, but last year the warm weather did not come until early June, so who knows? Besides, I need to save up for the printing of the TRO.

Thanks for stopping by. Off to do the laundry!


Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Jenner JR7-X Test Run fizzle... :(


I have just about finished with the image cleanups. The Lyran Vees are nearly done. I am sad that I had to reduce them from 2+ megs each to a little under a meg, but it was that or I would still be plugging away at the first one. Essentially, I have to pour white paint into the spaces that are filled with bluish grey artifacts. Got it tuned just right. So last night I buckled down and despite freezing fingers, knocked out four vees – the Panzerfaust, the Montgomery II, the Ural and the Stingray. I've already finished the Lyrans and have started on the Periphery - not as many there, but just as fussy. [Update: I finished all the remaining vehicles this evening! All that remains is a tank with Ian Stead and some background work by Lee Madison and the images will done as well].

Click on the images to see why I do this.

The old Monty II:

And the clean version:

Our layout man responded when I sent him the cover art – he has been down with the flu, something we can all relate to in one way or another. He should have something soon.

Jenner Test - Meh. And it's not the 'Mech's fault

Today was the day I was to test out the new Jenner. I got two machines and joined the Word of Blake (WOB for short) for an afternoon. Unfortunately, I assisted in planning a defense that was so effective, nearly all of our esteemed foes (the High Rollers) were trapped on the far side of a large minefield which got bigger each turn.

We began laying it at the start of the game – after all, we had to protect the artillery to our rear which was bombarding another battlefield several mapsheets away. And we did it. But our layered defense (similar to that used by the Soviet Union in WWII) wore the High Rollers down to the point where they actually called it a day and left with just one WOB Sniper artillery unit destroyed out of four emplacements (two Long Toms and two Snipers).

Great, huh? Well, not so great from my perspective. Sure, the High Rollers met with defeat for a change. Unfortunately, our defensive strategy included holding our light shooty ‘Mechs in the backfield behind big buildings until the enemy crossed the minefields. My two Jenners rushed out once, plastering an Orion with no less than five MRM-10 launchers (each doing six points) and four medium lasers between them. I drew them back after that and they never saw action again. Our foes chose to retire.

I think the mission profile is good and so is the machine, but again, urban combat just isn’t a good place to test these little guys. There really isn’t much data with which to work.

Would anyone out there be willing to seriously test this design for me in an actual game? Shoot me an email: ssatak AT

To my mind, two of the High Rollers could have penetrated our defenses by jumping over them – the Templar and the Nightsky were choice for this. They would have to deal with our backfield, but would probably have honorably acquitted themselves and nailed for at least two more artillery units before going down. Sure, they’re a loss, but that’s what ejection seats and credits are for, right? If I had been working the ‘players’ side that is what I’d have tried. But then, Chris might not have deployed that minefield and stuck to the plan if I wasn’t there. No telling what might have happened, I guess.

There’s not a lot happening with airsoft, but maybe I will have more next time. Weather has been uncooperative to say the least. The only problem I have with our current wooded play area is that come summer, it will bloom and begin blocking the pathways. Furthermore, you won’t be able to see folks until you are right on top of them – there is precious little cover right now with the leaves all fallen, but that will change. Well, maybe we’ll have picked up some new tactics by then, too.

Speaking of tactics, I know the High Rollers have a new respect for properly-deployed minefields. It’s not the damage they do, but the fear of damage they might do that makes them so effective. In the final round, I deliberately drove a poor Galleon tank across not one but five mined and double-mined hexes. My fellow players thought I was mad! Eight rolls for kaboom! and five went off. The tank emerged from that with about fifty points of damage here and there, a reduction of movement by one and a cumulative +3 to the driver’s skill. Not bad. I would rejoice if the consarned thing carried more than three medium lasers. But there you have it – I got a machine into our attacker’s backfield, if only just. That was a personal goal I’d set for myself from Turn One.

One disadvantage of vehicles in BattleTech is that they take motive system hits from a dirty look. On the other hand they have four locations which can soak up the damage from a minefield, whereas a ‘Mech has only two – the left and right leg. To my Word of Blake Galleon, fifty points translated to modest damage at best. Still plenty of armor left. To a light or medium ‘Mech, it would probably result in a leg blown off. So maybe the High Rollers made a good call after all, eh?

Egads. Next game I will be piloting ‘Mechs for the High Rollers. We will have to dodge all those artillery rounds coming from the emplacements I worked so hard to preserve this game. War is strange, isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pleasing tidbits along the way...

Good day to you all.

We have several incremental advances on the Technical Readout that are sure to please.

First, I was able to correctly identify Jan Majore as the man who created our cover art. All this time I thought it was Alex Iglesias – but one click on our prototype cover featured at the top of this column and you can see why. Next, I located a working email address for the man, who has gotten around quite a bit the past few years. I emailed him and sat chewing my nails for about two weeks before I got a response which was, effectively, written permission confirming that I could use the image for our cover. I cannot make a profit from it, but that was never an issue anyway.

Yay! We get to keep the cover art!

Next, I have finished cleaning up Vlad’s ‘Mech art. Several sessions in the garage and that portion is done. Now I am slugging away at the vehicles, which are more numerous and take about the same amount of time. My stable of artists has already cleaned up most factions, so I breezed by the Draconis Combine, the Capellans and the Federated Commonwealth. Right now it’s slow going, but I finished the Free Worlds League’s Bengal last night (whew!) and am halfway through the Diomedes UAV.

This is the dirty version....

And below is the cleaned-up version.
Click on them to see the difference.

Our new layout man is presumably working on the backgrounds; I am not going to ping him with an email as he has many other projects in the pipeline and frankly, I am lucky to have gotten his services. I don’t want to annoy him with pointless reminders. He’s not the type to forget or neglect. It’s in the works, and that is all I can say. No response so far out of our old layout man from any of a multitude of emails, so after two months of silence I feel secure in my decision.

This weekend I will be playing BattleTech. I have asked the GM permission for two things. First, I want to play on his side (the ‘adversaries’) against my own group (the High Rollers) in order to give him a bit more tactical advantage. Chris is not strong in that area – he’s a strategist at heart - and the past few games have been ones in which the High Rollers should have lost or at least taken more of a beating. His associates need more practice in tactics as well. Chris said ‘yes’.

But this move is not simply pity on my part for our distinguished competition. No sir.

I have also secured permission to bring two or three ‘Mechs from the TRO to play-test in an actual game. The ‘Mech in question will be the Jenner JR7-X, which I have outlined in previous blog entries. Two or three of these will be sent out to see if the design (and its mission profile) is suitable for play. Not that I will retract the design if it handles poorly – I have every confidence it will do well as a ‘Mech. And besides, I already paid for the art! But the writeup (as with all such writeups) sketches a mission profile and, in a roundabout way, suggests ways the player can best handle his machine. This is what is really under the gun. Have I got the mission profile and deployment technique right for the new Jenner’s capabilities? That is what I will find out, and that is what will change if I am wrong. Words are cheap.

I have been graciously offered a new used laptop computer to continue my cleanup chores. As has been noted in the comment section of the previous blog post, I do not have the funds to purchase a replacement unit that will be significantly faster than this little Toshiba laptop I am using now. My baby is quite adequate for writing duties and that is what it has been doing for the past four years. But quickly manipulating graphics requires more memory and processor speed than I have. So the new unit will be a blessing, to say the least.


I got my Cyma airsoft pistol in the mail Monday. It is a sweet little number. After charging the battery, we took it out for a spin. Chrono tests show that it puts out .20 pellets at 200 feet per second, at a rate of 12 bps. We were startled by the speed at which it cycled, comparable to my son’s Barret on a 8.4v battery. I discovered a few drawbacks – the ammo clip holds only 30 rounds, so more clips are in order. There are high-capacity clips available, but they are made of plastic (the stock clip is metal) and there is feedback which points to frequent jams.

[A little side note: the local shop owner has put together a gun with a stock gearbox and piston powered by a three-cell LiPoly battery rated at 11.1v and probably supporting peak current flows of around fifty amps. He shot it off for me in the shop. It fired so fast it actually buzzed, like a saw ripping through wood. I am told this represents a firing rate of thirty pellets a second. That is a lot of plastic moving downfield, but I cannot help but wonder if it will eventually destroy either the piston or the cylinder seal.]

The metal clip has its own woes – mine was missing a screw and it appears that these screws vibrate out from regular use. I replaced the screw and tightened the others, but a little LocTite would be appropriate. On full auto, the pistol winds through that clip in about 2.5 seconds! So it is single-shot mode for now. The gun comes with a hop-up, and I intend to use .23 pellets, so the speed will drop - but the pellets will carry a bit further with more accuracy.

I will have to pick up a tactical vest sometime from the local shop, as it has pockets to store extra clips and a chest holster for the pistol itself. The battery is a NiMH unit, 7.2v @ 450 mah, and there doesn’t seem to be one available which would increase staying power by much (the second generation of this pistol has a 500 mah battery), so I suppose a second battery would be in order. On the other hand, I cannot see using the pistol in most situations, so perhaps I exaggerate the need for that extra battery. Most of my shooting will be done with my rifle.

I am debating picking up another M-14 from a different manufacturer, but that is waaaay down the road. My written letters to Echo1 have met with silence so far, so I do not know if they can provide replacement parts for my gun. At least, not for the bits on the outside which are dropping off or taking a beating due to poor design.

Meanwhile, we are planning another game soon. If the weather permits, we will go into the woods again. I discovered that playing on school grounds is manifestly a * bad * thing and we were lucky no one reported our little game at the local grade school a month back! The R36C I ordered online should arrive soon, perhaps this week, and now my son’s best friend can compete on a level with the rest of us. Considering his skill with a pump shotgun, this may not be the best decision I ever made if I have to face him on the playing field!

Bill’s G36K is performing well, about what we expected. He plinks at soda cans and a special sight frame he built, getting everything adjusted to his taste. That sight of his (40mm) is a monster, and I can see why he got it. We moved my son’s sights closer to his eye, but John is now jonesing for an extended barrel for his gun, along with the longer internal precision barrel. It will run about $150, almost as much as a new M-4 DMR online. I would rather spend the extra $40 and get the new gun, if truth be told. It’s not like my son can change barrels in the field.

Bill is eagerly talking about playing with other organized airsoft groups in the local area, so perhaps we’ll get a chance to play there as well. They require insurance for their playing fields and have rules about what weapons you can use, maximum fps, and so on. Not sure I want to deal with ‘professionals’ anyway, as many of them are Navy boys with money to burn on the latest advances in technology – and for others, this is their sole hobby. It’s quite a bit of a jump from casual games; I would like to get many more ‘backlot’ encounters under my belt before stepping up to the ‘major leagues’. For me, it’s a minor hobby, not a way of life.

That’s it for the news. Thanks for stopping by.