This Sunday, Naomi and I decided to venture up to The Contemptible Little Wargames’ Club in North Tyneside, at the invite of one of it’s founding members. It’s a really friendly club, and I’d recommend anyone who wargames in the North-East to make time to go check it out.
With me having forgotten to bring Horizon Wars or Tomorrows War, we settled back on our old, favourite set of rules: Hexless Classic Battletech, 7500 BV, and a no-frills pitched battle.
Naomi took her usual Warrior House combo, 3052 spec: Stinger-3G, Vindicator-3L, Hatchetman-5S, Rifleman-4D, Thunderbolt-7M and Flashman-7K.
I hemmed a bit over my force composition, before settling on a heavy half-company of Davion March Militia: Warhammer-6D, Grasshopper-5H, Marauder-3D, backed up by a Dervish-6M, a Hunchback -4G and a Vulcan-5T, setting the stage for grudge match between two hated rivals.
We set the board up with a central road running through it; reasoning that this would be the most logical axis for a meeting engagement, along with a mixture of ruins and apartment blocks, with a few plantations of trees and some light woods dotted in.
We dispensed with the deployment phase, and just had units move straight on from the board edge. I really liked this, as it saved us a few precious minutes of faffing around; though it does make for a slightly less considered deployment.
Turn one kicked off with Naomi barrelling the Thunderbolt and Vindicator straight up the middle, which I mirrored with the Warhammer and the Marauder. The Rifleman came into a fairly off position, screened by the treeline, whilst her Flashman deployed off to the right, where I safely ignored it. The Hunchback and Dervish were moved up to the habitation blocks on the right of the road, screening the former from long-ranged fire, particularly from the Flashman. Naomi’s light elements came in on the left flank hard, and I responded by positioning the Grasshopper and Fu Manchu to react.
A few shots were traded, most notably the Vindicator landing a solid couple of hits on the Marauder, wounding the pilot with an LRM-5 cluster to the head. The Dervish tagged the Thunderbolt with it’s LRMs, but otherwise, everything was too far away to really connect.
Turn two saw a lot more aggressive manoeuvring on my part, as I moved up and tried to concentrate as much fire as possible against the Vindicator. The Hunchback also dashed out, trying to bring it’s AC-20 to bear on the Thunderbolt.
My only concession to the (fairly serious) threat of being flanked by the Jenner and Stinger was to reserve the Vulcan and Grasshopper in case of any backstab attempts. I wound up putting the Vulcan way out of position doing this.
When none materialised, the Grasshopper fired it’s jets and leapt over the woodland, to bring it’s firepower to bear on the hapless Vindicator.
Despite some pretty decent to-hit numbers (7s to 9s, mostly), the concentrated fire failed to down the Vindicator. A solitary PPC hit chunked off some of it’s torso armour, as did an LRM spread from the Dervish, but all things considered, it survived remarkably well. In return, Naomi’s return fire savaged the Hunchback, forcing the first PSR of the game, as well as doing some damage to the Dervish and the Marauder.
I took a long shot with the Hunchback’s AC-20 at the Thunderbolt, figuring that I really didn’t need to worry too much about ammo expenditure. While the round didn’t hit, this would prove to be a wise decision indeed for my Hunchback pilot.
Naomi’s Flashman was still out of the game over in the far left, but I had failed to capitalise early on it’s absence.
Naomi took initiative in Turn three, mostly executing a rightward shift to sort of link up with the Flashman. Her lights sprang forward, occupying the left flank, but mostly at too great a range to do anything, though she got her Stinger into a backstab position on my Vulcan. Her Thunderbolt moved up to duel the Hunchback, while I slipped the Dervish back to keep it partially concealed from the Thud.
Spotting an opportunity, Fu Manchu dashed forward, moving himself behind the rear of the Liao Rifleman.
The exchange of fire was brutal. The Thunderbolt and Hunchback traded blows, knocking each other to the ground. The Warhammer and Marauder continued their unsuccessful attempts to kill the Vindicator, putting more holes into it but failing to finish the job, while Naomi’s flankers failed to accomplish anything bar a medium laser hit on the Vulcan and Warhammer.
Fu Manchu, however, had no plans for such mediocrity. With his first shot, his large laser blew through the Rifleman’s cockpit armour and torched the cockpit. First blood to House Davion!
I won initiative in Turn Four, but didn’t really accomplish much bar committing very heavily against Naomi’s now-reinforced right flank. In return, she held off on enveloping my units; which was good for me as I wasn’t suddenly subject to having my flank collapse on me. Suddenly faced with not one, but two Liao heavies barrelling down on him, my Hunchback decided to remain prone, and take his chances. I zoomed the Vulcan up, hoping to bring the fast-moving raider’s laser array to bear against the Thunderbolt and finish it off, while the Marauder positioned itself to screen against the threatening Lights.
It’s at this point that I realised just how much fun Classic Battletech is. Sure, it takes time, and the record keeping can be a faff, but the sheer amount of tactical options it offers you – particularly with hexless – is unbelievably cool.
No other system has quite the same level of granularity; ammo management, heat management, weapon range brackets, plus the delicious dance of positioning mechs in the alternating move phase. It’s not an easy game to play, but by Jove is it rewarding.
This round of fire proved to be a bit of a whiff, proving once again that one of my major flaws is that I just don’t commit enough fire to a single target. The Vindicator just refused to drop, soaking both the Marauder’s PPC hits while dinging it up in return. The Thunderbolt took another AC-20 round, punching through the right arm armour and blowing it clean off with a 12 on the crit roll. The Warhammer decided that it was time for the Flashman to take some damage, and opened up with it’s PPCS, while the Vulcan and Grasshopper committed to killing the Thunderbolt.
Despite the relatively good to hit numbers, the Thunderbolt just soaked an insane amount of damage, spreading the laser hits all across it’s limbs and torso. It took a single engine crit, but not enough to put it into Forced Withdrawal.
My one consolation was that Naomi’s fire was similarly ineffective, with the flankers not really committing to, well, flanking, and the Liao Flashman managing to rip up but not penetrate the Hunchback’s armour anywhere critical.
Turn Five, and Naomi committed her flank attack. Unfortunately for her, this was also the turn I’ve reserved the Vulcan and Grasshopper for exactly that eventuality.
Naomi, as you can see, capitalised on this by heavily committing the Flashman. I decided to finally get the Hunchback back up, back the Warhammer up out of the ambush, and generally gtfo from the rapidly developing encirclement.
In this exchange of fire, the Hunchback finally copped a round to the AC-20 rack. Thankfully, Naomi managed to hit the top rack, where all but one of the rounds had been depleted. That long-shot on turn two had been a good idea!
Still, the damage was pretty catastrophic, putting an engine hit on the mech, and, with all but the head laser knocked out, and into structure in every torso location, it was put into forced withdrawal. By some miracle, the pilot made his consciousness check, as well as his PSR.
The rest of the fire was, well, a bit naff, with the Vulcan tearing up chunks of the Stinger’s armour, and the Grasshopper blowing one of the Jenner’s arms clean off.
The Flashman took laser hits from the MAD-3D, and a double barrage of PPCs from the WH-6D, while managing to miss all the Grasshopper’s vulnerable rear torso areas.
In melee, the Vulcan kicked the Stinger and knocked some armour off it’s leg, while the Grasshopper’s kick connected to the Jenner, shearing the leg clean off and effectively immobilising the frail lighter unit. With one arm and one leg gone, it was only capable of firing with it’s SRM-4. The Jenner’s own kick, however, connected squarely, knocking the Grasshopper to the ground.
Sadly, I didn’t get any decent snaps of Turn 6, which we rushed through as the club was closing up.
The Hatchetman finally entered the fray, moving to backstab the Warhammer with it’s multiple pulse lasers, LB-10X and fearsome hatchet.
Naomi committed the Vindicator to killing the now-withdrawing Hunchback, in an act of self-defeating spite in the finest traditions of House Liao.
The Flashman and Grasshopper squared off head to head, while the Marauder backed up and unleashed it’s full complement of fire into the Flashman.
The Dervish held it’s position, unleashing it’s LRMs into the Flashman while engaging the Vindicator with it’s short-ranged weapons.
The Vulcan launched itself at the wounded Thunderbolt, which now had all the armour stripped from it’s centre torso, while the Stinger went for the Marauder’s flank.
The game ended with the Hunchback dying at the hands of the Vindicator, though the Vindicator itself was put into forced withdrawal. The Thunderbolt and Vulcan failed to do more than really ding up each other’s armour, while the Flashman just continued to soak the insane amounts of damage that FSK-7s can.
It ended with a minor victory for House Davion; one kill apiece, but with one Liao mech effectively crippled, one in forced withdrawal, and two more in fairly precarious situations with their armour. Still, it could have gone either way had we continued, and it was a testament to how far Naomi’s playing has gone on that she put up such a strong fight.