A beginner's guide to BATTLETECH tactics
With the recent release of BATTLETECH, the first licensed Battletech videogame of its type since MechCommander 2 back in 2001, there will be a lot of people looking for advice on how to get the best out of their mechs. Luckily you’ve come to the right place! Here I’m going to quickly run through some of the most important tips I have for completing your contracts with minimal repairs (or re-hiring).
Attack from the side and rear
When you’re shooting at a mech from the front you’re not only hitting the strongest armour but you also potentially spread your damage across all the locations on the mech. Unless you get some lucky hits in, this tends to result in long battles where you slowly grind down armour. It’s slow, uninteresting, and puts your own mechs at high risk of taking a lot of damage. Even the lightest mech can hang on for a while if your attacks are spread around.
Attacking from the side means that you’re biasing your shots to hit locations on that side of the mech, somewhat concentrating your damage. This also has the bonus that an arm is likely to be the first location you destroy, reducing the firepower of the opposing mech. On the other hand, attacking from the rear exposes the much weaker rear armour of the opposing mech. The importance of this cannot be overstated: if you can get behind an opposing mech for a couple of turns then they’re going to be in serious trouble.
Perform a pincer manoeuvre
So, given that your mechs can’t typically move 10-15 spaces and still fire and the opposing mechs can easily turn to face you on their turn, how do you get behind them? The old reliable pincer manoeuvre! As you approach the opposing mechs you want to split your lance into two groups—one goes left and one goes right. Alternatively one stays in front while one dashes around the back. The exact movement will depend on the terrain and the formation of the opposing mechs. This works especially well if you can isolate one or two mechs, as they won’t be able to attempt to spread out and disrupt your manoeuvre. The goal is to ensure that the opposing mechs are always exposing their rear to at least one of your mechs every turn. Once the pincer is established you can make it even more effective by spreading out your mechs and fully encircling the opposing ones.
Focus your fire on a single mech
Another classic battle tactic that is effective in BATTLETECH is focusing your fire on a single mech until it is no longer a threat before moving on. If you spread your fire among multiple mechs then it will take much longer before any given one is taken out of the action, meaning that they all get that many more turns to fire back. Eliminating them systematically means that the return fire decreases, giving you a much easier time later in the battle. Note, however, that you will still need to be flexible based on the situation. Sometimes it makes sense to switch to a higher priority target or to split your fire when you have weapons that can’t hit the main target.
Note that the Multi-Target is really useful for pilots in mechs that have a mix of weapon types. For example, say you have some medium lasers with a 80% hit chance on your main target and an LRM rack that only has a 35% chance. Multi-Target will let you fire the lasers on your main target while still using the LRMs effectively against something else, maybe a building that must be destroyed or a mech that you need to remove an evasion point from.
Perform called shots
An important technique for concentrating damage on an opposing mech is that of called shots. These let you specify a location on the mech that you wish to aim at. Your shots aren’t guaranteed to hit that location, but they will have a higher chance than they would get from random selection. Called shots are available on mechs that have been knocked down or have shut down or via the Precision Strike ability, which can be used at any time and is available to all pilots but costs morale to use.
Keep your evasion points high
The faster you move, the harder you are to hit. This tip is basically that simple. The game provides you with evasion points based on how far you move, with more points making you harder to hit. It can be easy to forget though when you have an opposing mech in your sights and you’re ready to unleash an alpha strike that will take it out. Unfortunately, the next enemy turn will consist of a mech taking advantage of you being really easy to hit when stationary. Ideally you want to use your maximum move each turn. If the mech isn’t going to be firing then consider sprinting if it won’t put you in a bad position for next turn. Jump jets also play an important role here as they generate more evasion points for given distance compared to walking. They do generate more heat though.
Remove evasion points from opposing mechs
Of course, your mechs are not the only ones that generate evasion points by moving. Opposing mechs do the same and this can make your job much harder. If you’re focusing your fire on one mech then you will remove an evasion point with each mech you have firing at them, making later shots much easier to land. Alternatively you can make use of any pilots with the Multi-Target ability to remove a point of evasion from up to three mechs in a single turn. You remove an evasion point no matter how difficult the shot was and even if nothing hits, so if heat and ammo aren’t a concern then don’t be afraid to take some really low hit chance shots. Ideally you want to save your heavy hitters for after the points have been removed though.
Punching can be a good way to finish off a mech
While it may be fun shooting beams of energy or spamming missiles at opposing mechs, physical combat is satisfying and often has a more immediate result. This is especially true if your mech is heavier than the opposing one as damage is based on tonnage. The damage output from melee attacks isn’t huge but it is likely to be equivalent to two or three of your ranged weapons once you’re fielding mechs of around 60 tons. Importantly, though, the hit is often more likely to hit than your ranged weapons, all of that damage is being applied to a single location, and that location is quite often the centre torso. Add in the fact that punching doesn’t generate heat and it can quite often be a useful way to finish off a damaged mech. Watch out though if you don’t manage to take the mech out then it can punch back. Or it can walk around you and shoot you in the back.
Beware of the AC/20
I’ll keep this short: the AC/20 is a weapon that can, and will, effortlessly remove location from your mechs. If a mech is strolling around the field with one then you want to stay out of its way and take it out. Luckily the range is relatively short. Be glad the Hunchbacks fielded by the AI in the early-to-mid campaign are the energy weapon variant.
Beware of vehicles
Vehicles might not seem like much of a threat. After all, they’re small, relatively lightly armoured, and can easily be stomped on. Remember, however, that they are carrying the same weapons as your mechs. They will have medium or large lasers, LRMs, SRMs, even PPCs. Seeing a tank unload three PPC shots into one of your mechs is a great reminder not to ignore it. SRM carriers are also not to be trifled with. Those tanks embrace the idea of missile spam and then some and can leave your mech looking like a sieve.
Manage your heat
This is quite a basic part of Battletech and you’ll encounter this aspect of the game quite early on. Weapons and jump jets generate heat that is dissipated by heatsinks in your mech. Excess heat that can’t be dissipated will build up. Overheating causes damage to the mech’s internal structure and can eventually destroy locations. Too much heat buildup will cause the mech to shut down and make it vulnerable to called shots. Manage your use of weapons and jump jets to reduce buildup, refit a mech with more heatsinks to dissipate more heat per turn, or stand in water to dissipate 50% more heat. Of course, if you’re going in for the killing blow then a little bit of heat never hurt anyone. Right?
Consider having a pilot eject if it gets risky
Sometimes the mission overall is on the right track but a particular mech has taken a beating or the opposing forces simply got a few lucky shots. A dead pilot is of no use to you so sometimes the best course of action is for them to eject and live to fight another day. The mech will remain on the field but won’t be targeted anymore and will be recovered after the mission.
Withdraw to fight another day
On the other hand, if the mission has gone south then withdrawing may be the best option unless it’s one that you have to complete in order to progress the campaign. A victory isn’t really a victory if your repair (and/or rehiring) bill is more than the payment you get for it. If you withdraw before completing any objectives or getting any kills then it’s considered a bad faith withdrawal and you lose reputation. On the other hand, if you have completed at least one objective and got at least one kill then it’s a good faith withdrawal and you simply get a smaller payout. Part of being a mercenary is finding the line between pushing through and throwing good money after bad.
Hopefully these tips will be enough to get you started on your way to better battlefield decisions. Let me know how you get on in the comments below or on Twitter at @KempPlays.