Left of Arc #2 – Battletech after-action thoughts

As you may have seen from News from the Front #5, I had a lot to write about with just the story of the fight let alone all the extras I learned. This post is for those extras and I’ll be splitting it into 2, the first bit for BT and the other for solo gaming.

BT – One of the big time-consumers with this game was the maths. When it comes to shooting at something there are a fair few modifiers to take into account before you roll dice: How did the attacker move (walk, run, jump), how far did the opponent move, range, heat, sensor or actuator problems. Remembering who did what can be tricky depending on how many models you’re playing with. When the turn is broken down into alternate moving, target designation, shooting, it can be a bit of challenge. I’m not a huge fan of tokens or floating dice next to models, but I found that it actually helped. Even more so when using datasheets that have extra writing space for turn details. I used these boxes to note the modified To-Hit number (before taking into account range) of each attacker v their target. However, I noticed this helped so much to speed up my play I was sometimes forgetting to take range into account or other modifiers such as knackard actuators! The other bits and pieces that slowed my game down were mainly just lack of experience with the damage tables, and I think overall practice will resolve a good chunk of the issues for me. I may go down the route of making tokens to show modifiers, similar to Firestorm Armada, but hex maps can quickly get crowded with models let alone tokens. I’ll probably end up making more efficient use of the datasheets for each mech.

Left of Arc #2 - Battletech After Action Thoughts
Here’s an advanced version of the mech sheet. With it you keep track of damage to armour and internals, heat, ammo and the pilot. The boxes on the righthand-side are uber quick references of the game mechanics (helpful), and the bottom box helps the player keep track of heat and ‘To Hit’ modifiers. I used this box heavily and could probably have done with a bigger ‘Damage & Notes’ section as I used this to remember the awkward modifiers (sensor hits etc) and what weapons I was firing each turn (as these are declared when you designate your target as everything is meant to be simultaneous).

Solo – The big thing I was really testing was my “semi-AI” tool. I haven’t come up with a better name, but it is essentially a tool that tells me how to play a force using randomised behaviours. Over the last few months I’ve constructed this mechanic which involves giving the force/leader one of 5 behaviour types (peaceful, defensive, balanced, aggressive and erratic) and then D20 tactics from a list. In this scenario I halved a D10 to decide the behaviour type and which also helped me choose at what point the team should disengage from the fight. A D20 for the initial tactics and a quick plan later and the game was good to go. Generally speaking it went pretty well. I was able enough to act out the behaviour and plans even if it was not what I would do.

No test would be without its problems though. The tactics table combines a few dice results for one tactic and as each behaviour type modified the dice roll, it didn’t modify it enough for them to be distinct and useful. Additionally, I probably need to do some more work on how to actually play out each tactic. Whilst the names sound good a few of them can start to look very similar. This probably won’t be an issue for higher level formation games where multiple companies and platoons are working together but it’s somewhat more obvious when playing smaller formation.

“Semi-AI” Tool
Here’s a small spreadsheet with the behaviour traits and tactics I’m planning on using, as well as a small description on how they’re meant to work. I’ll probably need to expand on these as I playtest this tool, but so far I’m happy with it.

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