BattleTech: A Strategic and Tactical Primer (Pt 1)

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Back in early 2008, I was asked to contribute to an upcoming BattleTech product. Designed to be an expansion to the at-the-time forthcoming Introductory Box Set, the Clan Box Set Expansion would elevate technology, rules, and units for both new and experienced players alike.

I was asked to write the Strategy and Tactics booklet. In addition to the obvious look at strategy and tactics in playing BattleTech, it would also present general tips in using the included miniatures. Many hardcore Clan fans will notice the choice to use the Inner Sphere naming conventions regarding Clan BattleMechs. That was a conscious choice on my part, to reduce confusion inherent to the dual-name convention we utilize in the universe at large. There’s only so much a new player can absorb, after all.

The Clan Box Set has since been cancelled and my work, which was done on spec, lies fallow. So rather than let it go to waste languishing in a folder on my storage drive, I thought I’d use the material to craft a short series here on my blog. I’m including most of the text intact, so ignore references to other booklets.

Because the work was never formally contracted or paid for by Catalyst, it is important to note that this work remains mine and mine alone. There’s no implied association or official status with this work as it pertains to CGL or the BattleTech game. This is simply my submitted and “rejected” work, presented to the game-playing public at large. It is not endorsed by CGL in any capacity.

Enjoy.

BattleTech Tactics

You can have plenty of fun playing BattleTech by the seat of your pants, moving each BattleMech in turn and giving little thought to your next move or your opponent’s strategy. As with most games, however, playing is fun – but winning even more so!

Learning how BattleTech works and how to use your forces to best effect will make you a better player and will ultimately make your game more enjoyable.

The best way to learn is by doing. In order to eventually become a better player, you begin by playing plenty of BattleTech. That’s how the author of this section learned what he is about to tell you, and playing BattleTech is certainly more fun than reading about playing BattleTech! The following hints and tips, however, should give you an edge over your opponent: think of it as a shortcut on the way to a more satisfying game. BattleTech Tactics describes the games in terms that take you beyond the rules and numbers, showing you how to really play the game. This section will help you learn how to use your ‘Mechs to your advantage and offer insight into what your opponent might do with his ‘Mechs.

Once a player starts to use the more advanced units (such as vehicles and conventional infantry), weapons, equipment and special case rules found in Total Warfare, it is important to note that all of these tactics are still applicable to game play and will insure that as your ‘Mech advances in technology, your skill and expertise at playing will advance along with it.

Note: As discussed in the introduction to the Clan Introductory Rulebook (see p. xx), the ‘Mech icons used in the diagrams in this section represent generic ‘Mechs and so players should not be confused by a specific unit’s images when its game stats do not mirror the example.

Knowing the basics of BattleTech tactics will help you avoid the mistakes most often made by new players. The following information answers questions you may not even know to ask, such as, “Why shouldn’t I leave my Dragonfly standing in the open?” and “What is the most effective distance from the enemy for me to position my Masakari?” This section suggests answers to these and other thorny questions.

Organized into sections that correspond to the phases of a BattleTech turn, this tactical advice will show you how to crush your foes in each stage of the game.

INITIATIVE

Unfortunately, you have to work with the Initiative you roll; nothing really changes that result. But knowing the potential effects of winning or losing the Initiative and how to take advantage of either situation is vital to playing and winning BattleTech.

Losing the Initiative

If you lose the Initiative, don’t despair! You may not be able to turn it to your advantage, but if you play your cards right, you don’t have to lose any ground.

Unless your forces outnumber or out-mass your opponent’s forces, the best tactic to use when you lose the Initiative is to “go on the defensive.” This tactic works especially well if you are fielding light, fast BattleMechs. Because you may more your ‘Mechs before you have the opportunity to learn what your opponent plans to do, you should move your ‘Mechs away from enemy ‘Mechs and seek cover in heavy woods or “dead zones” behind hills or other terrain features (such as buildings) whenever possible.

The order in which you move your ‘Mechs and battle armor provides another opportunity to exercise strategy. In general, delay moving your fastest ‘Mechs as long as possible so you can put them to their most effective use. At first, move those ‘Mechs or battle armor with the fewest movement options, including slow-moving ‘Mechs and those that have fallen down (they rarely do more than simply stand up). ‘Mechs positioned far from the enemy also represent a good choice for an early move, because your opponent is unlikely to try to outmaneuver such distant targets. In addition, declare the movement for any ‘Mechs you intend to have stand still at this time, because standing still counts as a “move” and forces your opponent to move again without learning much of anything about your strategy. Even ‘Mechs that are immobile due to pilot unconsciousness, the loss of both legs, and so on, can be declared stationary to expend a “move.”

When choosing where to move, take into account the movement capability of those ‘Mechs your opponent has yet to move. If his or her remaining units are faster than yours and can outflank you regardless of how far you move, find a nice wooded hex for your unit to occupy and try to keep a Clear terrain hex at your back. After all, if you’re going to let the enemy get behind you, at least deny him the luxury of tree cover.

For more movement tactics, see Movement (below).

Winning the Initiative

It is always better to win the Initiative than to lose it, but you must know how to take advantage of winning the Initiative.

Winning the initiative gives you the opportunity to “go on the offensive.” You move your ‘Mechs after your opponent and will always move at least one of your ‘Mechs last during the Initiative Phase. This gives you an edge, because you can watch your opponent’s movement and then respond, rather than being forced to guess at what he or she might do. This is your chance to strike.

You should always plan an overall strategy for your attack, but don’t hesitate to change your planned movement to respond effectively to your opponent’s moves. In general, move your fastest ‘Mech last, using your knowledge of the enemy’s position to attack his or her ‘Mechs’ most vulnerable sides.

Next: Movement, Target Movement, Terrain, Dropping to the Ground, and Facing.

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