Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BattleTech 2.3.1: The BattleTech Reader


A riposté to The BattleTech Reader post. As always Steve's awesomeness in spending his time to think about this stuff amazes me. :-)

Moving on rapidly from evolving language jokes, to the meat of the post.



Even Bigger 'Mechs
 
Steve’s reply, "What players choose to field is going to be limited not by what the company provides in the way of ‘canon’ designs, but what the rules support... I know will not start churning out 400 ton machines just because they found a nifty set of add-on rules for it out on the net [snip]."

You are absolutely right on this account.

Steve’s reply, "First, the game has been tweaked and balanced to accommodate ‘Mechs and other machines of the current tonnage range [snip]."

I agree again, but will add the caveat that the balance in the force (game mechanics) can be restored, there is still hope in the galaxy.

Steve’s reply, "Second, who wants to allow such a beast in a game that is supposed to be over in hours?... The Ares is interesting and yes, cool, but only time will tell whether or not there will be rules to permit such a machine... I wonder if they are even going to bother with a set of rules for what is, admittedly, the only example of a +100 ton machine in the game – and which came from a spin-off game at that. It sets a precedent for something quite unpleasant to consider – the complete overhaul of a good portion of the TW rules. And once a foot has been wedged in that door, only God knows how and when they’ll get it shut again."

Not my call and the rules for the Ares have been announced as in the works. I think you are being to pessimistic here. YMMV.

Steve’s reply, "Finally, controlling the background setting of BattleTech is what keeps it BattleTech and also something they can put up for sale in the shops. Would you have them hand everything over to us (ugh!) fanfic writers? We’re a pretty shady lot. Someone has to set the limits, after all. Why not the folks who have the license and practically invented the game as we know it?"

Why not, but as many people have pointed out, just because you own the license to the game, doesn't mean what one writes will not unbalance the game?


Quad 'Mechs
 

Steve’s reply, "[snip] I think that the idea behind leaving turrets off the standard quad is intentional. It is in the interest of game balance, which I mentioned before.

Six legs – visually, quite impressive, but what effect in the game? Why would more legs help?
... I can see it in a movie or an anime series where the Rule of Cool is king. But translating it to a game where physics are paid a little more than lip service (not much more, I grant you), it just won’t wash.


The Centauroid ‘Mech is another product of the Rule of Cool... But I cannot think of anything, even a ProtoMech, which would benefit from that body plan in terms that would be meaningful in BattleTech [snip]."

Turrets have always been FUBAR'd ever since the construction first came out.  IMNSHO after 25 years I think it's time to fix them.  More legs, simple answer, it's a two for the price of one deal.

If you are adding hexapods, then Centaurs are just an easy variant.  As a Dougram fan I want hexapods so that I can field Desert Gunners, to go with the Crab (Goliath) and Tequila Gunners
(Goliath variant).  As for Centaurs, it is a logical design progression from biped with arms to quadraped with arms.  Heck, one could even have a tripedal mechs with arms!  Oh yeah, we are going to get one of them in a year or so. ;-)

As for in game benefits, more locations to cover (downside), but more internal spaces (upside).
Steve’s reply, "Moving the engine, gyros and such inside a battlemech would, I believe, break some fundamental rules in the game... There is something about the game’s insistence on placing the goodies in a location represented by a ‘7’ that says to me there is more going on there at the game’s structural level than meets the eye. A ‘7’ is the most commonly rolled number on two six-sided dice."

Your point is taken, but let me turn it around.  Quads are too good at present, or would be too good if changed, is an argument I've seen used on the official forum.  If the internal allocation for the engines and gyro were spread across all three torso locations it would make the quads more vulnerable to internal hits, which would balance out any perceived awesomeness of the changes.

Steve’s reply, "Some kind of balance is kept on the tabletop by this arrangement, I don’t understand it and as a consequence, I am loathe to screw with it. There is no telling what will happen, good or ill. Mayhap Mr. Eastwood could look into this?"

It would be great if he would, as it will take the skills and contributions from more than one person to rewrite a set of rules that are as much loved as BattleTech.

Steve’s reply, "Flexibility is fine, but the more detail you have, the more things slow down. I am not sure the addition would be worth the eventual cost. There’s a break-even point and I believe the game’s designers know where it is better than I do."

That last sentence is total hubris Steve, because by that argument I can turn it around and just say that the game designers haven't done a 3063TRO, because they know best what to write for the market.  Sorry if that offends.  Perhaps you were being the Devil's Advocate here?


Breaking the Game with TarComps

Steve’s reply, "Slow moving assaults move slowly because they are armored out the ying-yang and have a significant warload... Stationary opponents automatically gain an effective –2 bonus against targets that are running as a ‘Mech that stands still does not have a movement modifier to add to it’s own gunnery [snip]."

Calling EastwoodDC, calling EastwoodDC. What do you say?

Steve’s reply, "Furthermore, the lighter machine’s warload is not likely to hit hard enough to match that of the stationary target – who, even when hitting less often, hits much harder with guns only a machine of his size can carry – and usually in quantity."

As you well know using light mechs is not something that occurs in isolation. So your point while right, is rather largely academic. Light mech users, like myself, tend to be doing "pea in a pod" tricks, dividing the audience's attention and generating chances to roll dice for critical hits. A very metagame approach to playing BattleTech.

Steve’s reply, "Finally, the lighter fast ‘Mech is nearly always much more lightly armored. The hits from those big weapons that do land are going to get through pretty fast."

They sure do, no disagreement there, but academic, because when I play you will always be faced with a dilemma; shoot the little mech, or shoot the bigger mech.

Steve’s reply, "Yes, the big stationary pillbox can use a tarcomp to tip the balance. Many do. However, not many pack pulse weapons and the reason is simple – they don’t move fast enough to compensate for the shorter range. Now that light, fast ‘Mech?  It practically begs for pulse weapons, as it needs something to offset the penalty for running with the throttle slammed forward all the time.   And a lot of them have such weapons."

However, as I'm the kind of player that parks right behind your assault mech to get the kick in, you having pulse lasers or a targeting computer can mean "big trouble for a little mech BattleTech town".

Steve’s reply, "Die re-rolls replacing gunnery bonuses?... In any case, how will you translate the ability of the targeting computer to select a given location – at a +3 to hit – and slam it with every direct fire weapon that makes the to-hit roll?"

Not going to argue this as my comment was an off the cuff proposal meant to illustrate options, rather than a specific game mechanism I had in mind.  Not you, but people have somehow got it into their heads that I've already got this house version of BattleTech already written and ready to roll.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have some house rules I've used in the past, and some I've stolen, but as these blogs progress I'm realizing that house rules to achieve my goals will need much more work that the little fixes that most house rules cover.


Electronic Countermeasures, Sensors, Networks a Waste of Time

Steve’s reply, "If they were standard on every ‘Mech, THAT would be a pain in the tuckus.  Can you imagine trying to figure out the effective ECM bubble for every machine?   When would C3 ever be effective?  When could you field hidden units?

The one thing about the game that I think really reflects how much electronics are packed into the average machine is this: all players, at all times, can see what units are on the field of combat.  They can identify them, determine their state of damage and furthermore, know exactly where every machine is – friend or foe - even if it is behind cover.  Unless the unit is specifically Hidden or the game is Double Blind, we all take this privilege for granted."

I think you are absolutely right, but these additions are IMNSHO things that have been added to the game that break the spirit of the original rules.  If one is to keep them, then it requires some more digging into the core mechanics and assumptions of the game to make them fit better.  YMMV on that opinion.

Steve’s reply, "I see the ECM, ECCM, Beagle, etc as just specialized gear designed to get around unusual starting conditions or to counter special link systems – such as C3... Would you deny us the one piece of gear designed to combat it until such time as all machines can boast of having ECM?"

No I wouldn't.  I might deny you both, but not just one thing. :-)


Gentlemen Do Not Fight With Anything But Ranged Weapons & Their Bare Hands
Steve’s reply, "Ah, but the Solaris comment was supposed to elicit the understanding that physical weapons also appeal to the Rule of Cool – note their popularity with the gathered throngs – even when they are not strictly practical."

Agreed, which is why I wouldn't ban them or anything like that.

1 comment:

  1. >Calling EastwoodDC, calling EastwoodDC. What do you say?

    Huh? What! Oh ...

    Think in term of the relative advantage of moving. If you walk (+1 for you) 3 or 4 hexes (+1 for others shooting you) then there is no advantage. If you run (+2) but only go 4 hexes (+1 to others), then you are giving away a +1 advantage - in relative terms. Maybe moving a few hexes closer puts you in a shorter range bracket (-2), which often makes up for the loss in accuracy from moving in the first place. Of course, the other guys may have you in a shorter range bracket too.
    Sometimes you are out of effective range, and have to suck up the disadvantage until you get close enough to shoot back.

    I don't think Targeting computers break the game, at least not so much as Pulse Lasers do.
    The old "Target a Location" rules under the BMRr were definitely broken though, and I like the Total War changes that make Targeting operate as an "Aimed Shot".

    As my friend Tom said last night, "Light mechs tend to do very well so long as there are bigger mechs to shoot at."
    This brings up an interesting question: how do you decide what to shoot at? I hope to post something along those lines soon.

    Dan

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