Wednesday 28 June 2023

MAC Attack - Assassination

So I guess when I said "I'm making good progress with Mythic Bastionland as my main focus" I awakened the dormant curse of distraction, because I spend yesterday dicking around with MAC Attack. Yes I even wasted time with a little cover mock-up.

Well you know how this goes by now. This enemy can't be fought, it must be fed.

So today's post is a Battle Report for a playtest of MAC Attack. This isn't designed to teach the game, as much as give a general impression of what a small clash looks like.

If you want to follow along with the rules then go and read them, they're only a few pages.

Recent Changes

This is one of those games I keep tinkering away at in the background, so it's a sort of game design by a thousand cuts method. Since I last posted about the game the big changes are:

  • Simplified movement options
  • Simplified MACs, which now all get 6 modules
  • Simplified weapon ranges
  • Reworked weapon types to give more variety
  • More interesting hardware choices

The Forces

For this one we're using the minimum viable force of 3 MACs with a few Auxiliary Units to round us up to 50pts each. We're using the random scenario generator included in the doc.

THE GREEN COMPANY 
Mercenaries sent in to disrupt a local militia group. The Grizzly is a ridiculous melee MAC loaded up with one-shot explosives to fire off as they close in. The Buzzard is a long range fire support MAC also packing one-shot X-type weapons alongside their MagCannons, accuracy enhanced by an Optics module. The Python is a cloaked sniper MAC, ideally sitting in cover taking long-range shots at slow-moving targets.

 

GRIZZLY (20pts) 
Class 3 MAC
1: LB3-X RocketPod
2: SP2-X DemoCharges
3: SP2-X DemoCharges
4: Assault Weapon
5: Assault Weapon
6: Servo

2x LIGHT TANKS (4pts)
Vehicle
LP1 RailCannon

BUZZARD (16pts)
Class 2 MAC
1: LP3 MagCannons
2: LB2-X MacroRockets
3: LB2-X MacroRockets
4: Optics
5: Coolant
6: Coolant

PYTHON (10pts)
Class 1 MAC
1: LP4 IonBeams
2: Optics
3: Cloak
4: Patch
5: Patch
6: Insulant

THE RED MILITIA
Local defence forces trying to regroup at a nearby stronghold.

The Shocker is designed to fire off as many piercing shots at possible, best used against slow moving targets. The Quicksilver uses thermal weaponry to flush enemies out of cover or overload the heat capacity of rival MACs. The Guerrilla is held together cost-reducing Patch modules and packs a nasty punch with a single salvo of cluster bombs, reduced to a somewhat pathetic gun array when those are expended.

SHOCKER (20pts)
Class 3 MAC
1: LP4 GigaPulser
2: LP2 HeavyPulser
3: LP2 HeavyPulser
4: LP1 Pulser
5: Insulant
6: Insulant

3x HEAVY INFANTRY SQUADS (9pts)
Infantry
2x SP1 IonGun

QUICKSILVER (11pts)
Class 1 MAC
1: SB3-T Burner
2: LP1-T PlasmaGun
3: Servo
4: Patch
5: Radiator
6: Radiator

GUERRILLA (10pts)
Class 1 MAC
1: SB3-X ClusterBombs
2: SB1 GunArray
3: Cloak
4: Radiator
5: Patch
6: Patch

The Battlefield Marked with 9 potential deployment positions as per the scenario generator.

Green Objective
Destroy the Red Guerrilla MAC, piloted by a charismatic militia recruiter.

Green Deployment
Turn 1 - Grizzly and Tanks enter from point 1.
Turn 2 - Buzzard enters from point 2, Python enters from point 4.

Red Objective
Extract the Shocker MAC from point 1, where they are able to call in for support.

Red Deployment
Turn 1 - Shocker and Infantry enter from point 7.
Turn 2 - Quicksilver enters from point 6, Guerrilla enters from point 9.

Twist: Coldsnap - MACs Cool an extra Heat in the Cooldown phase.

In MAC Attack objectives are checked at the end of each turn from the end of Turn 3 onwards. If both sides complete their objective on the same turn then the side that sustained the fewest points of casualties wins. Here Red will have to juggle keeping both the Shocker and Guerrilla alive. The latter especially really isn't built to sustain much fire, so the question is whether Green can force these two units into a fight.

TURN 1

The two big MACs stomp onto the field, flanked by their infantry and tanks. The Shocker is keen to avoid engagement, but the Grizzly rushes into position to get line of sight on its target. It's a longshot but the Grizzly pilot unloads his precious LB3-X rockets toward the Shocker, hoping for a lucky hit. Two of the rockets land, damaging the Shocker's weapon-cooling insulant modules, but no first blood just yet.

 

TURN 2

The rest of the forces join the battle, rushing in to help the big MACs out. Red plays it safe with the Guerrilla, the target of the Green attack, moving them up behind a factory as cover. Meanwhile the Quicksilver dashes into a more open firing line, facing off against the Railguns of the Green tanks. Bold gambit? Cunning diversion? Bad positioning? We'll see. 

The Shocker pushes its engines to the limit, strafing out of the firing line of the Grizzly, as the brave red infantry square up to the colossal ursine MAC. There's no time for the Shocker to relax, as the green Buzzard MAC slinks onto the field, lining up its array of long range weapons at the Shocker.

 

As it so often the case, the order in which the units are activated in the Attack Phase is going to be crucial. Who's fastest on the trigger?

The green tanks loose their railguns at the Quicksilver, putting a dent in its PlasmaGun, but then the Buzzard unloads both batteries of Rockets at the Shocker, dumping a whole battle's worth of payload onto the towering MAC. When the dust clears, the Shocker is still standing. Its weapon insulants are destroyed, its smallest Pulser broken, and its reactor flooded with coolant... but it still stands with both main guns intact.

The Grizzly stares down the red infantry, deeming them a waste of precious demolition charges, watching as the flanking Python cuts them down with its twin IonBeams. Just one squad remains to return fire, cutting down one of the Grizzly's demolition launchers, leaving its right forearm completely exposed.

 

As the Guerrilla lurks out of harm's way, the Quicksilver incinerates a green tank with its PlasmaGun.

Amid the hazard lights and warning sirens of the barraged Shocker, the pilot elects not to fire, hoping to get their heat under control to allow for a more decisive strike next turn, and eventually a dash toward the extraction point.

TURN 3

As the Grizzly charges toward its prey, the Shocker spins around, backing up, hoping to be able to blast away the tireless predator. As the Python and Buzzard try to line up their distant fire support, the red Quicksilver dashes across the field, hoping to use its thermal weaponry to tame the Grizzly.

Sure enough, the Quicksilver is quick on the trigger, lighting up the Grizzly with both flame and plasma, sending its heat sensors soaring, but not quite enough to completely declaw it for this round. Meanwhile, the red infantry sear away at the Grizzly with their IonGuns, cutting through to the very structure of the bear.

On the horizon the Buzzard, rockets depleted, fires its MagCannons at the Quicksilver, shaking its modules but mainly causing cosmetic damage. The Python lines up its IonBeams at the Shocker, the first lance firing wildly wide of target. The second shot never comes, as the MAC enters emergency heat lockdown, the pilot squeezing desperately at the locked trigger.

The Shocker itself heaves its LP4 GigaPulser toward the Grizzly and unleashes a blinding beam, the last of the Grizzly's demolition charges exploding, rupturing its internal structure. Despite this... the Grizzly stands, close to meltdown, with only its claws still intact.

Before the red pilot can assess their exit strategy, the railgun of the remaining green tank barks into life, cleaving the Shocker's Gigapulser from its arm, sending a chain reaction into the MACs fusion drive. It's not quite critical damage, but now both of the big MACs on the field are a single shot from meltdown.

TURN 4

The Grizzly pilot, bombarded by alerts and sirens, makes their desperate choice, charging headlong into the Shocker. The impact sends sparks and smoke billowing from both MACs, their reactors critical, meltdown imminent, auto-eject countdown sequence initiated. Neither MAC will see the end of this turn.

 

The Quicksilver darts away from the impending explosion, setting sights on the Buzzard and Light Tank that have been harassing the Shocker from the other direction.

The Python, facing reactor problems of its own, hunkers down in position, desperately trying to vent heat from its core. The Shocker, spotting opportunity for a final attack, shambles through the woods, its flaming fuselage setting trees alight, hoping to use its lone functional weapon against the distant sniper MAC.

The Quicksilver floods the final green tank with fire, cooking its crew alive, before sending a bolt of plasma into the body of the Buzzard, its pilot undaunted while behind the stick of such a well-cooled MAC. The Buzzard returns fire and catches the fuel tank of the Quicksilver's burner module, sending the weapon up in flames.

Meanwhile the Python sends a streak of fire toward the Shocker, blasting another chunk of its internal structure, but its Pulser stays intact, firing one last shot into the Python, albeit just cosmetic damage.

The pilots of the Shocker and Grizzly can't hold out any longer, both ejecting from their cockpits as the two giants of the battlefield erupt in white flame, leaving two heaps of irradiated scrap where they once stood.

TURN 5

With the Shocker destroyed, Red stands no hope of achieving their objective, so their only chance of victory is to wipe out the Green forces before they can destroy the Guerrilla.

 

The Quicksilver rushes toward the Python, a plasma bolt sending the green MAC's heat problems into new heights, components being ejected as emergency countermeasures are activated. The Buzzard blasts away at the Quicksilver with its MagCannons, sundering the red MAC's Insulant module, crippling its PlasmaGun, and blasting apart external plates.

The red infantry, having scurried into the nearby woods, take the opportunity to further cut away at the Python with their IonGuns, yet the green MAC still stands.

In the distance, the Guerrilla finally starts to charge toward the battle, realising the time for lurking has passed, but can't get close enough to use its short range weapons.

TURN 6

The disarmed Quicksilver makes a desperate charge at the Python, ripping one of its IonBeams from its shoulder, but the impact is too much for the red MAC, and its meltdown alarm starts blaring. Still, the Quicksilver at least manages to block the Python's line of sight to the Guerrilla for this turn.

The Buzzard begins the firing, blasting a hole in the Guerrilla's armour, exposing its vulnerable core. Through careful manoeuvring by the Buzzard, the Guerrilla is still unable to bring its short ranged weapons to bear.

Meanwhile the red infantry finally pierce the heart of the Python, igniting its reactor and initiating meltdown. Mirroring the Grizzly and the Shocker, the Quicksilver and Python explode locked in a brawl as their pilots eject to the sky. 

TURN 7

The Buzzard and the Guerrilla are the last MACs standing, a single squad of red infantry lurking in the woods.

The infantry move out into the open, hoping to prevent the Buzzard from retreating out of range of the Guerrilla again. The Buzzard bounds toward the squad, crushing them beneath its metal claws, before turning to face the approaching Guerrilla.

Now the two final MACs face off... the battle may be decided by who can fire first.

The Guerrilla grabs the initiative, unleashing its full salvo of SB3-X ClusterBombs. The explosives detonate the Coolant modules that have been protecting the Buzzard throughout the battle, sending a chain reaction down to the fusion core and initiating Meltdown.

The Buzzard has one chance to take out the Guerrilla. The whole battle hinges on this shot.

MagCannon fire rains down on the Red MAC, sparks flying from its bomb capsules, gun array, cloak module... but the core remains untouched. As the Buzzard vanishes in a flurry of reactor explosions, The Guerrilla pilot surveys the empty battlefield.

Victory..?

THOUGHTS

It feels like the game is in a good place right now. Movement, damage, weapon types all feel more solid than they did in my last playtest.

As the game came down to "Last MAC Standing" you could argue that the Objectives were irrelevant, but this is a good example of a battle where the objectives clearly influenced the way the forces played, even if neither objective determined the final victory.

I've mentioned before that one of my favourite things about Battletech is that some Mechs are just kind of badly designed, and there's usually a setting justification for that. These MACs were all designed by me, but I definitely felt frustration at the design of some of them. The Python works great if you're standing still and sniping, but runs into real heat problems if you lose the Insulant module and find yourself needing to move around a lot. The Grizzly looks imposing, but actually getting into melee to use its claws relies on a bit of luck in the initiative deck. The Buzzard felt sleek and effective pounding away at long range, its advanced coolant modules keeping it nice and frosty, but those same fragile modules spelled its doom when it finally came under fire.

Giving MACs this sort of character, where you kind of have to learn to drive them, is right at the core of my goals for this game, so it's great to see that coming to life.

The Auxiliary units feel about right. Giving Infantry the option to take two Power 1 weapons makes for some dangerous little units, but still easy enough to squash if you commit to it. Of note is the Grizzly's decision not to "waste" its DemolitionCharges on the final squad of infantry, as that very squad was instrumental in taking down all three Green MACs by the end of the game.

Oh, and a confession. I completely forgot to apply the Twist effect to the battle, and Coldsnap could have certainly helped out MACs like the Python, who suffered badly with Heat toward the end of the game. I also completely forgot to have MACs taking 3 or more hits from a single attack take a Systems Check to avoid falling over.

I'm hoping these oversights are a side-effect of running both sides while also documenting the game, and should be easily remedied when playing under normal conditions.

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3 comments:

  1. Just curious, I see mention of spotting, and spotters in a few places. But no rules seem to interact with the word. Was this a reference to guided weapons that's been changed by chance?

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    Replies
    1. Spotting used to be a part of the rules for firing Arc weapons as indirect fire, but they've been simplified since then. Now it's essentially covered by the Arc weapon type.

      Arc (A): 9” Minimum. Counts as having Line of Fire as long as an Ally can see the target.

      For the purposes of the Scanner module the ally that is granting the Arc weapon line of fire is still referred to as the Spotter, but other than that there's no specific rule for spotting for an ally.

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    2. Thanks so much, I completely missed the Arc type. Excited to play.

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