Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Nailing it Down

This piece is a follow on to my previous entry "Crunching the Numbers." I've been delaying posting this piece for a whole load of reasons. Some are around doubt, and some are due to the effort it has taken me to calculate and then interpret my results.

And then today I had my eureka moment.

After the thought experiments I wrote, I had a fair idea of what a weapon was capable of doing, and the one big things that came out of this was range. If you are out of range, it doesn't matter how good the weapon is, as it can't hit the target.

Thank god for spreadsheets is all I can say. The new algorithm that I came up with today is as follows:

(R/9)*D/(W+H+A) = CV

Range divided by 9 times Damage, all divided by Weight plus Heat plus Ammo equals a weapons combat value.

What we get is a range of results as follows:

Machine gun: CV = 4

Autocannon 2: CV = 7

Autocannon 5: CV = 10

Autocannon 10: CV = 10/10

Autocannon 20: CV = 9/9/8/8

Ultra autocannon 5: CV = 10/9 (13/12 double shot)

LB10X autocannon: CV = 14

Gauss Rifle: CV = 22/20

Small laser: CV = 7

Medium laser: CV = 13

Large laser: CV = 10

PPC: CV = 12

ER large laser: CV = 10

ER PPC: CV = 15

Small pulse laser: CV = 3

Medium pulse laser: CV = 5

Large pulse laser: CV = 6

Flamer: CV = 2

SRM 2: CV = 8

SRM 4: CV = 8/7

SRM 6: CV = 10/9/8

Streak 2: CV = 9

LRM 5: CV = 14

LRM 10: CV = 16/15

LRM 15: CV = 18/17/16

LRM 20: CV = 18/17/16/15

The numbers with slashes indicate how the combat value changes as you increase the ammunition from one ton, to two tons and so on. The reason for doing an extended calculation on some, but not all the weapons that carry ammunition, is that some weapons come up rather short, and I wanted to see if carrying more ammunition affect the combat value adversely.

In particular the autocannon 20 with five shots is a bit of liability, and my gut feeling was that four LRM5 were as good as having an LRM20, which they nearly are.


According to these calculations the gauss rifle rocks, followed by the LB-10X, which pretty much sums up my players feelings about carrying projectile weapons. The UAC5 is good when double firing, but otherwise it appears that it doesn't offer much over a standard AC10.

Unsurprisingly, in the energy weapon category, the medium laser still looks good. But not as good as an ER PPC, and it only has a marginal lead over the PPC, which has a longer range to compensate for the one point difference.

With the missile launchers, I was surprised to see that the LRM15 appears to be the best LRM launcher to have from this algorithm. While the Streak2 is notionally the best SRM launcher, but there is not much in it really.

Your thoughts, considerations on what is implied, as always very welcome.


  1. Well, your equation assumes that every point of damage, heat, hex of range, or ton of ammo are equal when they're not; however, I do think it is how most BT players subconsciously evaluate the weapons. Suppose we expanded the equation to two-weapon combos:


    AC/5 & PPC: CV = 10
    AC/10 & LL: CV = 9/9
    AC/20 & ML: CV = 9/8/8

    Based on the results of a poll on the BT forums, I would have expected the 10/LL combo to lead, and to see a more significant difference overall.

    Damage cluster size, TN mods, minimum range, weird brackets, typical ranges actually used on the maps- I bet these could all be handled with fractional exponents, but personally, I haven't come up with anything useful.

  2. Skiltao, you pretty much summed up why I simplified it down to the things that one can calculate with a certain amount of certainty. I'm not putting this forward as anything other than a way of assessing relative value, but there are as you say a whole heap of confounding variables that make such an exercise difficult.

    I like the idea of combining two weapons, and I could even see how one could come up with a composite combat value of all the weapons that a battlemech carries, to give on overall thumbnail sketch of how effective the design was when firing.

    However, the reason for dividing the range by 9 in my algorithm was this is the maximum range of a medium laser. The whole purpose of the calculation was to show relative value of everything to compared to the medium laser baseline in Battletech.

  3. This looks much closer to the truth. It is simplified but still useful.

    While strictly speaking you would need to weigh things more heavily toward how large their short range bracket is than their max range, but that said I think this is a good summery.

    Why did you leave out the UAC/2, UAC/10, and UAC/20 may I ask? Same for the larger SSRM racks and Light Gauss.

  4. Pink, your formulae are good for an initial assessment, but I assume they hold true only when using standard ammunition.

    The special rounds available for the standard autocannon make it a contender out of proportion to the numbers you have assigned - precision ammo, for example, reduces the number required to hit by subtracting up to two from the target's movement modifier. In the old days, that was balanced by bulkier rounds - you needed two bays to hold the ammo per a given amount, vice the single bay for standard ammo. But I see from my references that this is no longer the case.

  5. I agree with you that a straight multiplication of the range and damage doesn't properly estimate the value of a weapon, but I think that a simple division by 9 won't reflect the true situation: Blanke Point accuracy matters. I would try the following: (MaxRange * (MaxRange-MinRange))^.5/9

  6. Oh gosh, I go away to a games show for a day and look at all the comments.

    Kit, the list is the basic weapons abvailable up to 3039, but I admit this is based on my old compendium, as I didn't sort out the TW list as to what is, or is not available for Inner Sphere 3025 pre-Clan according to any re-writes etc. I do plan on putting the current Inner Sphere weapon list stats into my spreadsheet when I have time.

    Steven, you are right that I've not calculated for special ammo. From the game effects that have been written for these I think a weapons trial would be the way to go. Rant mode on, this is not the way I would have written the the ammo rules, because they slow down an already slow game. I think this kind of detail is good in an RPG, but in a table-top wargame, I want streamlined rules. A lot of the rules aroudn ECM, C3I etc also fall into this category, far too detailed for the level of general play. And another thing rant, Battlemechs, even in 3025, were supposed to be state-of-the-art machines, and quite frankly ECM & C3I should be assummed as part of what makes them hard to destroy and effective at killing other things. End rant mode now.

    Mikael, I would tend to disagree about point blank accuracy, but I may not be following your argument here? For me at point blank ranges, which vary for some weapons, you are at the best base-to-hit number, which means for me, this is as good as it gets. I much more concerned about how effective a weapon in Battletech is at a broader set of ranges. Anyway, feel free to expand your argument if I've not understood you properly?

  7. I recall someone in a game a few years back complaining because he'd walked his own 'Mech right up to an enemy 'Mech which was down (the pilot was unconscious) and declared he was going to head-cap the poor SOB by placing his AC barrel against the guy's cockpit window and pulling the trigger.

    This bloodthirsty player was informed by the GM that he would have to make a to-hit roll just like always - and despite the freakishly low number needed to hit, the guy rolled snake eyes and missed. He ranted about that for days.

    "How could I miss?"

    Well, first of all, there's the thirty-meter limit. You rarely, if ever, drop below the level of resolution found in BattleTech - one hex, or thirty meters. That's what is involved with 'point blank' shooting - dropping below that limit into territory where the rules of BattleTech proper begin to break down. No shot is *ever* a sure thing.

    And another thing: unless unconscious, it's assumed (a) that thirty meters is room enough for the biggest machines to move around in and (b) every machine, whether it be 'Mech or tank or whatever, is going to be moving. Thus the standard shooting rules even when you are standing in the hex right next to your target. IIRC, you *can* get closer - vehicles can share the same hex as a BattleMech! The only problem is, I believe they cannot target them! Too close!


  8. And Pink, I believe BattleTech is just about the only tabletop wargame where folks routinely do a bit of roleplaying even when it's just miniatures on the table. That is supposed to be one of the charms of the game - that you can take a shot from a gauss rifle to the left torso, and take it personally, at the same time.


  9. Don't get me wrong, I like the RPG aspect to the game, but I don't want to spend four hours role-playing one combat scenario. Now I know lots of trick for speeding up games, once people get the general hang of what they are doing, but having spent a few day re-reading (mostly flicking over pages)Tactical & Strategic Operations books, I've come to the conclusion that the RPG side has taken over.

    It seems to me that the new Time of War RPG will be able to make full use of all the stuff in the other core books, and what we have is an RPG where the combat supplement was published first. A bit like Chainmail I suppose? Not a bad, neither a good thing, just a thing is all.

  10. I agree with your assessment, Pink, and to be honest, it's always been this way. I mean, really, what's the first thing you notice about the BT universe? I mean, after the 'Mechs?

    The massive depth of fiction which is heavily woven into the rules - and always has been.

    It's *always* seemed like an RPG which had a tabletop element tacked on as a way of resolving combats. From your description of the way they wrote ToW and my own experience of the existing rulebooks, that was what they intended all along.

    Funny thing is, GW games like WH:40K have also been garlanded with heavy doses of fiction, but I never once wanted to *be* that Space Marine commander for an afternoon.

    It is tough to combine the two kinds of games, and part of it is the fact you use two different types of thinking when you playing each one. Me, I love the game, but I have the biggest headache at the end of a session, sometimes....

  11. BT takes well to much of the talk & play of RPGs, as Steve said, but I dunno if the RPG mechanics have actually taken over. In fact, the longer I read Tactical Operations, the more I see that book as a Pandora's Box: a threat intended to discourage players from seeking anything more complicated than Total Warfare.

    ...but it's been years since I've played anything beyond Lv1, so maybe I'm biased.

    As for your numbers, Paint it Pink, I was just following suit (I think you forgot to divide by nine as well). They do look good as rough comparisons, and offhand I'd guess the confounding factors don't amount to more than +/-10%.

  12. I see the your point, and wasn't trying to suggest that Battletech the boardgame rules were an RPG as such, only that the way the book are marketed and presented is very RPG'ish.

    I've started reading the both Tactical Operations and Strategic Operations, and my heart sinks. Why? For pretty much the same reason you've stated. it has discouraged me from wanting to do more than run games using level one mechs. Mind you, I so rarely play anything but level one, and can't say that playing with the extra goodies makes playing the game more fun for me.