The heart of the BattleTech game is effective maneuvering. Games often are won or lost on the strength of the competent, well-thought-out movement of each ‘Mech. Movement is intimately connected to both attacking your enemies and defending your own ‘Mechs. Successfully balanced, these factors lead to a winning movement strategy.
By moving defensively, you make it as difficult as possible for enemy ‘Mechs to attack you successfully. In this case, you should move your ‘Mechs as far as you can and end your movement in the best available cover. When moving to accomplish offensive goals, you must consider the best way to maneuver your BattleMechs into firing position against your opponent’s ‘Mechs, making sure your weapons are in range and the enemy appears in the appropriate firing arcs.
The following information outlines the effects of various types of movement in BattleTech. Suggestions for both offensive and defensive tactics appear under each topic.
The main thing to keep in mind when moving your ‘Mech defensively is that the further a ‘Mech moves during the turn, the higher its target movement modifier. This makes shots against your ‘Mech more difficult, resulting in a longer life span. For example, light ‘Mechs often carry minimal arms and armament. These ‘Mechs rarely survive a stand-up fight, but if they keep moving they are harder to hit. In game terms, a Mist Lynx is lightly armored, but if it jumps 5 or 6 hexes every turn, the opponent must add a +3 modifier to every attack, making his or her shots considerably more difficult.
The following target movement modifiers show that each modifier represents a range of movement. For example, movement of both 3 and 4 hexes gives your ‘Mech a +1 Target Movement Modifier. If you move 4 hexes, you receive the same modifier as for moving 3. If you move your ‘Mech 3, 5, 7 or 10 or more hexes, you receive the highest modifier possible with the least amount of movement necessary (which may be important when it is your turn to attack).
As a rule of thumb, never move 2 hexes when you can move 3. Never move your ‘Mech 4 hexes when 5 will put the ‘Mech in a similar position. Whenever possible, move your ‘Mech to get the highest target movement modifier possible. It can literally save your ‘Mech!
You will always benefit from using the terrain to your advantage, though some types of terrain are more advantageous than others in certain circumstances.
Particularly if you are playing a light or jump-capable ‘Mech, keep your ‘Mech in woods whenever possible. Standing in a Woods hex is an easy way to make your opponent’s shots more difficult. If you intend to attack you opponent during the turn, position your BattleMech so that is standing in woods but does not have to shoot through woods (remember, you don’t add a modifier to your attacks for the woods your ‘Mech occupies). If you don’t intend to attack, then the more woods between you and your opponent, the better!
Also don’t forget to use hills and water terrain for partial cover. While a +1 to-hit modifier may not appear that significant, it can be, especially when a good portion of any successful hits might strike cover and do no damage. Of course moving through water carries its own risks, such as taking longer to cross the same number of non-water hexes, not to mention all the dangerous Piloting Skill Rolls. But if you’ve got a ‘Mech with heat sinks in the legs, such as the Masakari or Daishi, the extra heat dissipation just might be worthwhile.
Though it does not really qualify as terrain, the edge of the map may offer a tactical advantage. In most scenarios, ‘Mechs may not move through or enter the half-hexes along the edge of the map. If you position your ‘Mech in one of the full hexes on the edge of the map with its back turned to the map edge, this means your opponent cannot shoot at your back. Because most scenarios also count as “destroyed” any ‘Mech that leaves the map (even accidentally) this defensive tactic poses certain risks. A ‘Mech standing at the edge of the map can be moved off the map if another ‘Mech successfully pushes or charges it; any death-from-above attack against that unit will also push it off the map. Players must balance this risk against the benefit of covering their ‘Mech’s back.
Dropping to the Ground
‘Mechs rarely go prone because it is difficult to fire weapons lying down and the player must make a Piloting Skill Roll to stand the ‘Mech back up again. In some situations, however, this maneauver will surprise your opponent and completely protect your ‘Mech from damage – if done in the right situation.
Moving your ‘Mech behind a Level 1 Hill and then dropping it prone takes your ‘Mech out od line of sight and makes it invulnerable to attack (unless the enemy can circle around the hill). A ‘Mech that drops prone in Depth 1 Water also will be invisible as though it were standing in Depth 2 Water. In both of these cases, you effectively hide your BattleMech in situations that normally would give your enemy several good shots at you.
Carefully consider the final facing of a ’Mech when moving. If you plan to attack, you must make sure the ‘Mech ends its movement in a facing that allows it to fire on its target. Remember that you can torso twist to change the firing arcs of some weapons.
Defensively, you can use your facing choice to protect a ‘Mech that has suffered significant damage to one side but not the other. By facing so that most enemy attacks will hit the undamaged side of the ‘Mech, you decrease the chance of suffering hits to the damaged side. For example, if you ‘Mech has suffered more damage to the left arm, torso, and leg, try to face your ‘Mech so attacks will roll on the right side column of the hit location table. Attacking ‘Mechs should also keep this principle in mind. Try to move your ‘Mechs so that they can launch attacks at the more damaged side of their targets.
A ‘Mech’s facing at the end of the turn also affects its movement in the next turn. Try to think a turn ahead and set up each ‘Mech for its next move when possible. For example, if you think you will want a ‘Mech to run very quickly toward the enemy in the next turn, don’t face the ‘Mech toward rough terrain or woods. That would require facing changes or moving through difficult terrain during the turn, which will slow its advance.
Next: Attacker Movement, Weapon Ranges, and Torso Twisting