This guide covers all the information necessary to survive the first hour of Battletech.
Combat in Battletech occurs primarily between Lances: Four battlemechs piloted by MechWarriors, each with its own distinct traits and performance in battle. The goal is to disable the enemy mechs while protecting your own.
Battlemechs are destroyed if they lose both legs, the center torso, or the head (where the pilot is seated). However, damage is modular and it's possible to effectively neutralize enemy mechs by shaving off surplus bodyparts with your own weapons.
Mech performance generally depends on the pilots assigned to them. There are four skills:
- Gunnery increases ranged accuracy. Useful for nearly any mech.
- Piloting determines Melee and Death-From-Above accuracy. Also boosts max Evasion, sprint distance, and the amount of stability damage your 'Mech can take before becoming Unsteady. Recommended for close-combat mechs and those with jumpjets.
- Guts determines your Mechwarrior's maximum injuries, how much heat you can build up before Overheating, and reduces the recoil penalty for Autocannons. Also, each point of Guts increases a hidden chance for your Mechwarrior to survive being incapacitated in combat, up to 50% at max level. Useful all around, but particularly for frontline brawlers, mechs with poor heat ratings, and mechs that need to sustain fire for a long time.
- Tactics determines your line-of-sight (LOS) distance, information gained from radar blips, reduces minimum range of weapons, reduces your accuracy penalty when indirect firing with Long-Range Missiles, and increases the precision of your Called Shots (the likelihood you will hit the part you choose as your target). Perfect for long range mechs.
Each MechWarrior also has special abilities available, which further specialize pilots and their mechs.
Each combat round is divided into five Phases, and which Phase each Mech can act on depends on the size of the ‘Mech. Lighter ‘Mechs can act earlier in a round, while heavier ‘Mechs are forced to act later in the round.
The game will always try to trade off acting between you and your opponent, until one side runs out of Mechs in the current Phase. When that happens (like in Phase 3) the side with ‘Mechs remaining will get to use all of them in a row.
After the end of Phase 1, a new round begins at Phase 5. (Or the first Phase that either side has units available for.)
You can Reserve mechs for acting in a later phase (all the way until Phase 1), allowing you to wait for the enemy to take an action and then react - or simply skip the phase to bring a greater number of mechs to bear later on.
The terrain you fight in has a crucial effect on combat, determining lines of sight, bottlenecks, movement speeds, and more. In general:
- Large open spaces are dominated by sniper and heavy weapons mechs. They are generally a bad idea to be caught in, as they make flanking easy - not to mention, the enemy Lance can focus fire more effectively.
- Forests give you a +25% bonus to cover, as do destroyed buildings.
- Roads increase your movement speed, while Rough terrain reduces it and increases Stability damage.
- Water and Marshes halve heat accumulation or stability damage respectively.
In general, always look before you move out and choose your terrain wisely. Landing an already heat-resistant mech in a water terrain can turn into a frightening damage dealer, allowing it to fire all of its weapons without overheating too fast.
- Use WASD keys to pan, mousewheel to zoom, and hold R-Mouse to freely tumble the camera. Mouse edge-panning is also enabled by default.
To fight enemies, you first need to locate them. Until you make contact (enter sensor range), you can move your mechs all at once without limits. Sensor range is 400 units by default, with spotting range at 200.
Once a mech enters sensor range, you will see its silhouette and weight show up, but won't be able to make an attack until you establish line of sight (or use the Sensor Lock ability).
Of course, not all mechs were manufactured equal. Combat mechs typically suffer from reduced sensor range. The Atlas AS7-D, for example, has only 50% sensor range, making it vulnerable to, say, a Commando COM-1B which not only has 140% sensor range (detecting enemy mechs at 560 units), but also a +25% spotting modifier, allowing it to engage the Atlas with impunity (until it closes distance and teaches it a lesson in Inner Sphere manners).
Each mech is distinguished by three bars on the HUD.
- The upper bar refers to its overall damage level. Each body part has an armor and internal structure rating; the former (white) refers to the amount of damage it can absorb before it starts losing structure points (the latter, yellow). Internal structure refers to the base chassis underneath all that armor. If the structure reaches zero, that body part, along with all of its subsystems, is lost. Also, once a part loses all its Armor, the subsystems inside (weapons, ammo bins, jumpjets, heatsinks, etc.) become vulnerable to being damaged or destroyed by Critical Hits to that location.
- The second bar refers to heat. Nearly every action, except for slowly strolling, generates heat: Firing weapons adds heat depending on the category, sprinting reliably causes the heat level to rise, while using jumpjets adds a lot of heat. Overheating mechs (>50% heat capacity) start taking internal structure damage, while those that exceed 100% shut down to cool down and become vulnerable to called shots.
- The third bar shows mech stability. Mechs which exceed 50% stability damage become Unsteady, taking a penalty to accuracy, while a full bar sends them prone: They are vulnerable to called shots and need to spend move points to get back up.
Maneuvering is the first step to fighting enemy mechs. Depending on where you are relative to the target mech, you can be either attacking it from the front, sides, or back.
- Attacking a mech from the front requires brute force, as each carries the bulk of its armor facing the enemy. Damage is also spread over a larger area.
- Sides are much more vulnerable, as you run a higher chance of hitting one side of the mech (eg. left or right torso/arm/leg) and disabling it more rapidly.
- Backstabbing is the most effective way to attack the enemy mech. Only the torso segments possess any rear armor, everything else will suffer damage to internal structure. These attacks also ignore Cover and Guarded bonuses.
All weapons you use to damage enemy mechs fall into one of several categories. Each of these relies on a different resource:
- Energy weapons are simple and accurate, and include medium and large lasers, as well as the Particle Projector Cannon. They require no ammunition, but generate a lot of heat.
- Ballistic weapons are primarily autocannons, which range from peashooters to superguns. They deal both direct and stability damage. They generate little heat, allowing for fairly sustained fire, but have limited ammunition, can explode if destroyed, and continued fire has a small accuracy penalty.
- Missiles are either long-range (LRM) or short-range (SRM) and fire a varying number of projectiles (as indicated by the number appended; LRM-10 fires ten long range missiles, which is very bad news for anyone on the wrong end). They deal large amounts of direct and stability damage, but have limited ammo supply (particularly the large LRMs) or very limited range (SRMs; think shotgun).
- Antipersonnel weapons (or small weapons) are the lightest type of armament found on a mech, but shouldn't be discounted. They can be fired on their own at short distances or while attacking in melee, and cause excellent internal structure damage if armor is gone (machine guns), greatly damage armor (lasers), or raise enemy heat (flamers).
Finally, there's melee and death from above. The former occurs if you have enough move points and elect to attack in move mode, the latter if you have a jump-jet capable mech and target the enemy mech while jumping. Both are devastating in terms of raw and stability damage; DFA even more so, but as can be expected, when several dozen tons of war machine collide with another several dozen tons, the attacker will also suffer damage.