Monday 8 February 2010

Forum Get Away


Over at the usual place there has been an interesting thread on auto-cannons. Unfortunately, as I was checking this post today, gone with the forum crash that CGL had a while back.

On this occasion there has been a lot of useful discussion, even if total consensus has not been reached. One of the problems with designing anything by a committee is that they tend up producing elephants, rather than mice. Forums are like a giant chorus of me too's and squabbling when the toys are taken away. Can't be helped, as it is the nature of the mob, or the psychology of crowds that give anonymity to act out the individuals desires. Being human we all have a lot of desires in common, but I won't go there, as that would be a digression.

A very good point is made in the thread about the damage per ton of ammo being an over looked weakness in the auto-cannon design. Looking at the argument I thought it had considerable merit. For me, one problem with house ruling auto-cannons is that you can so easily end up with things that are a lot better, and that will as a consequence create more problems than they solve. It is the equivalent of an arms race. Improve one thing too much, and the proponents of the energy weapons will want to redress the balance.

My contribution was to posit an AC2 that would have 30 rounds of ammo that would hit twice, each time for 2 points. So still an AC2, but doubly effective. I also suggested making the AC5 into an AC6 and giving it double 3 points of damage, same again for the AC10 as a double 6, while finally making the AC20 a double 12 weapon.

Then the idea gets the mob look over and the feeling is that the AC20 should just remain an AC20, because having two chances of head-capping, or loosing the ability to punch 20 points into one location were deemed as either unbalancing, or weakening this fan favourite. I'm not sure that I would agree with this consensus.

However, one thing I did think of later, which I didn't post is to address the ammo explosion rules for mechs. I'm calling this CASE 0(Zero).

CASE 0 would mean that when an ammo critical hit was made then only one round of the weapon would blow off. So a machine gun round is 2 points, but an LRM20 is 20 points. Since the damage is all internal the attacker gets another chance of a critical, and if they hit the ammo again you get another blast of damage. Therefore it would still be possible for a mech to blow up, just not as likely to do so. Also, I would add that once any ammo blows then the feed mechanism is jammed. Either assume the weapon has one round chambered, or roll on a D6, and on 1 to 3 it doesn't and on a 4 to 6 it does.

I'll have to run the numbers through a 36 round test to see what the average damage looks like, before signing off on this one for my house rules book.

Disclaimer: All posts are condensed & abbreviated summaries of complex arguments posted for discussion on the internet, and not meant to be authoritative in any shape, or form on said subject, T&CA, E&OE & YMMV.


  1. I actually never saw much problem with the ballance between Energy Weapons and Ballistic Weapons. Basically the question I think is being distorted and really amounts to the trade off that Ballistic and Energy weapons present.

    Ballistic Weapons offer sustainable firepower at a cost of mass - overall firepower carried (yes, even though they are ammunition limited). People forget how short the typical BattleTech game ends up being. Most games are typically decided in 15-20 rounds. Yes 5 rounds for an AC20 doesn't seem like much, but when you consider that is about 1/4th of the game time and then consider how much of that you expect to be at short range, it doesn't look nearly so bad.

    Energy Weapons by contrast provide lots of firepower, however ultimately cannot sustain said rate of fire because of the heat. To be fair Double Heat Sinks did shift some factors in their favor, but level 2 rules also gave Autocannons stuff to improve their effectiveness as well (special munitions, better Autocannons, so forth). Yes, a 'Mech mounting all energy weapons will be able to deal SIGNIFICANTLY more damage than a similar 'Mech that carries a Ballastic Weapon, however it will be hard pressed to keep things up for long.

    A good compairison is the AC10 vs. the PPC. The PPC has slightly longer range and weighs less, which allows the 'Mech to carry additional secondary weapons. It also produces more than THREE TIMES the heat. In order to deal with all the heat from 2 PPC's you must carry 10 heat sinks, which seriously hampers the weight savings of selecting a PPC in the first place (24 tons total mass). By contrast you can talke 2 AC10's with 2 tons of ammo for the same amount of mass, have only slightly worse range, and still manuver while firing without any heat buildup.

    1. Heat and ammo explosion balance is the thing. Auto-cannons don't do much heat, but boy do they blow up real good. Also, limiting the ammo is really tieing the hands behind the back for auto-cannon effectiveness. Sort of like adding salt to the wound IMNSHO.

      Imagine a game of Battletech where engines only came with 2 heat sinks, all they need for normal function, and that you had to add heat sinks as required. Uhm, auto-cannons would start looking better then.

      As Heinlein said "there is no such thing as a free lunch". In Battletech there is such a thing as 8 free heat sinks. YMMV

  2. I made a post on my own blog that sort of touched on the topic more in depth, but let me address a few things here.

    Limiting ammunition isn't so much a factor as people think. As I pointed out in my last post here most BT games last 15-20 rounds. This goes pretty much regardless of force size as larger forces tend to break each other more swiftly because of higher available firepower (I will admit here that people who play much more defensively probably have longer games).

    Now, if a game lasts 15-20 rounds the question becomes how much of that time will you spend in the range of an AC20 (and be able to shoot)? How about an AC10? Even if you spend the WHOLE time there in the worst case with the AC20 you are still able to take a shot 25% of the time (assuming other factors don't prevent you from doing so) - and this is in a case where the enemy is silly enough to let you potentially take a shot at them. Things look even better for the AC10, where if you were to be able to shoot every round you could fire 50% of the time.

    1 Ton of ammunition ends up being plenty for most AC's, though you may argue that 2 tons for an AC20 is prudent. In either case it is much more likely that you will use up all the ammunition before it gets struck.

    But all that aside I think one thing people need to stop doing is comparing weapons to each other and instead consider them on their own merits. I have found that often a unit is most effective when it has energy weapons backed up by either Ballistic or Missile (or both) weapons.

  3. I agree with mutantmagnet, ACs/2x2, /3x2, /6x2, and /12x2 is a neat replacement for regular autocannon, and I can't help but wonder if the RACs were originally meant to replace standard ACs in a similar way.

    CASE0 is about par for homebrewed ammo explosions, though it isn't far from my personal favorite solution (spread a ton of ammo across multiple, fractional-ton ammo slots).

    1. Kit,

      I think it is always human nature to compare things, and asking them to stop is probably a pointless exercise. :-)

      IMNSHO the ammo argument you present is only valid for pick up games, no argument there from me. In campaign games the resupply of ammo is a real big deal.

      Also, I'm a firm believer that the numbers will favour those who fire more, because Battletech has a lot of luck involved in it, but you can't get at that if you are not firing. Energy weapons allow you to take more marginal shots at your opponent and give you the chance to get lucky. An auto-cannon without ammo is just dead weight.

      As an aside, if energy weapons all blew up when hit, then the playing field would be more level. However, it also has to be said that auto-cannons fair far better in vehicles. So as usual YMMV.

  4. Just done some tidying up here, and discovered the link no longer works etc.