The Opinionated Bastards: Tukayyid Interlude

Introduction

(If you’re reading at Bay12 as opposed to one of the other places this runs, you can skip ahead to the last two paragraphs of the introduction, which reproduces stuff I’ve posted during the week there.)

Readers familiar with the BattleTech lore will have put May 1, 3052 and Tukayyid together already.

For everyone else, the Battle of Tukayyid is one of the seminal events in the history of the Inner Sphere. ComStar, up until now believed to be merely the people who run the hyperpulse generator interstellar communications network, reveal themselves to be guardians of enormous caches of Star League technology and an army as large as any of the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. They challenge the Clans to a Trial of Possession, a throwdown for the fate of the known galaxy. Seven miniature battles are set for Tukayyid, seven Clans against seven units of the Com Guards. If ComStar wins, the Clans advance no further than Tukayyid for the next fifteen years. If the Clans win, ComStar forfeits Terra itself. I won’t spoil the ending.

What I will do, since the Opinionated Bastards are on the sidelines for this month, is replicate one of the official Battle of Tukayyid scenarios and play that, with the Bastards replacing the Com Guards for fun.

The scenario is #3 from the BattleTech Tukayyid sourcebook: Battle in the Suburbs. Clan Nova Cat’s forces, battered somewhat by ComStar aerospace fighters while landing, nevertheless marched on the city of Joje in moderate force. In the real timeline, two veteran Com Guard divisions stood ready to meet them. The Nova Cat commander who won the batchall for the attack bid a single Cluster, which matched the Com Guard strength mech for mech, but ignored the Com Guards’ penchant for combined arms tactics. An engagement in the northern suburbs between the 9th Division and the leading elements of the Second Nova Cat Guards saw the Clanners stopped in their tracks. The Nova Cat forces, heavily dependent on ammunition supplies, made no further progress into Joje.

In our hypothetical timeline, it isn’t the Com Guards who meet the Nova Cat forces in Joje, it’s the Opinionated Bastards. In particular, it’s Drake’s Destroyers, Second Lance, and Reserve Lance. Facing off against them are two stars of Clan mechs, one medium, one light. The light star is down one mech, for a total of 9 Clanners. All are elite pilots.

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You can play along, too. The relevant files are here. In that zip file are three things: a randomly-generated board (tukayyidcity.board) which is approximately similar to the real mapsheet, but much larger (30×40 against standard mapsheet size of 15×17). Put that in your megamek/data/boards folder. There are also two unit lists in .mul format: one for the Bastards as present at the hypothetical fight, and one for the Clan Nova Cat forces. Put those anywhere.

Start an instance of MegaMek for each side, load the unit lists, and select the board in the map selection tab. (You’ll have to set the map size to 30×40 to see it.)

I would recommend playing this solitaire or against someone willing to play by Clan honor rules, because the Nova Cat forces really hamstring themselves. Per the sourcebook, the Nova Cats will strictly observe zellbrigen, the dueling code; each Clan warrior declares his target and attacks it and it alone. Even if the dirty Inner Sphere scum cheat and focus fire, the Nova Cats stick to the rules. They’ll never attack anyone besides their chosen targets. They also never make physical attacks and never retreat.

The Clans start on the north edge of the map. The Inner Sphere units start hidden anywhere on the map.

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002-balance

Although this is technically a hypothetical scenario, I’ll hand out experience to the participants at the end to sweeten the pot a bit. Say it’s a simulator exercise or something. (No killboard progress, though, and I’ll be writing it as though it’s actually happening.)

Deployment

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Clan Nova Cat approaches from the north, in line abreast. The Bastards have deployed to the east and west of the city, splitting Reserve Lance between the Destroyers and Second Lance to make six-mech detachments. (Euchre and Ker-Ker join Second Lance; Pepper and Wojtek join Drake’s Destroyers.)

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006-west

The Bastards have been briefed on Clan honor, and have been informed that Clan Nova Cat is one of the most honorable of all, to the point that they won’t even break their rules if we cheat. So, the plan is to sucker at least one of the enemy mechs into invoking zellbrigen against our units, then drawing them into range of our heavy units and popping them good.

The battle centers around a small town in the center of the map.

Round 1

The Bastards sit in still, quiet Mech cockpits as the Clanners advance cautiously.

Round 2

The plan goes into action. Private Hernandez, in his Phoenix Hawk at the very front of the western lance, flips his activation switches. His Phoenix Hawk rumbles to life. As it does, a Clanner’s voice crackles across the radio.

“I am MechWarrior Ogawa of Clan Nova Cat, piloting the sole Ice Ferret in Alpha Star! I hereby invoke the ritual of zellbrigen, challenging the Phoenix Hawk north of the river to a duel of warriors. Let no one interfere in this solemn matter!”

Yeah, we’re not going to listen to that.

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Further south and west, Double Dog starts his Thunderbolt, drawing a similar challenge from the Vulture (which its pilot calls a Mad Dog) northeast of the city. The remaining Clan mechs grind to a halt, waiting for their comrades to complete their challenges.

The Vulture runs to the southwest. It doesn’t have a shot on the Thunderbolt yet. The Fenris, however, has Hernandez in his sights. Missiles launch from ports in its torso. Drake was waiting for just such a moment, and responds with his… yes, his Clan ER PPCs. (I figured we should preview the refit, too. Linebuster joins him in the cockpit, manning the command console and giving us a bonus of 2 to initiative rolls.) He’ll be joined by Carcer, Woad, Pepper, and, of course, Hernandez himself.

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Alas, we probably jumped the gun a bit on the attack. Drake hits with two of his three PPCs, but everyone else misses. We won’t make the same mistake on the west side.

Round 3

“Treachery!” the Clanners cry. We don’t care.

The pilot of the Ryoken nevertheless challenges Drake. The Black Hawk picks Carcer as its target, and the Dragonfly declares it challenges Woad.

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The light mechs stay mostly out of the way, although the Koshi B declares he’s attacking Pepper. That’s one to keep an eye on.

On the west side the map, Double Dog hides behind a building; he’ll force the Mad Dog to come get him, even though such actions are not honorable.

Round 4

Drake uses his jump jets to pop back into cover in the woods, the first instance of jump-jet-based tactical cleverness he’s done so far.

The Clanners move in closer, while the Bastards try to keep out of their challengers’ sights. They’re moderately successful—Pepper in particular can’t be hit by the advancing Koshi, while it should be eminently hittable itself, and Hernandez has managed to sneak his way down into the water, away from the Fenris’ weapons.

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Drake and Carcer both unload on the nearby Koshi, hoping to free Pepper in the Archer to re-engage the Clan mechs without getting hassled themselves. As it turns out, Hernandez has a shot on the Koshi, too, even if it isn’t a great one.

Carcer gets the kill, but catastrophe strikes. The enemy Ryoken hits the Awesome with two medium pulse lasers… to the head. The autoeject system fails as armor shatters around them, and at a stroke, hypothetical-timeline Drake and Linebuster are dead.

Round 5

After that bombshell, we’re a much weaker fighting force, and should probably draw the Clanners back on Second Lance. In the interim, they do a good job keeping out of the line of fire of their various dueling partners—even though the Clanners protest the dishonorable conduct, only Woad and Wojtek take any fire from the mechs attacking them.

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The Ryoken pilot challenges Pepper in the Archer, while Wojtek, now revealed, draws a challenge from the enemy Puma in the northeast of the map.

On the west side, the trap is nearly sprung.

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Woad does his job admirably, hitting the enemy Dragonfly before him with all of his weapons. His right arm armor fails, and he takes some internal damage, but in return, Wojtek in the Trebuchet shears off the Dragonfly’s arm with a barrage of medium laser fire.

Round 6

The Dragonfly might finally have overextended. Hernandez is still alive, but only by playing hide and seek with the Fenris. If these Clanners were less honorable, he’d be eating fire from the Black Hawk and Ryoken, no doubt.

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The mechs on the west side will activate at the start of the weapons fire phase. Although the Mad Dog has a good shot lined up on the Thunderbolt with both its Gauss Rifles, it should take some withering fire in response.

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The ambush works like a charm. Rook nearly blows up her Stalker firing everything she can, and Double Dog finishes the job with a 48-point alpha strike. (Killing the Mad Dog, that is, not blowing up the Stalker.)

Pepper, however, has some bad luck: he takes a gyro hit from the Ryoken’s LRM-20 salvo and falls down. To add insult to injury, his mech shuts down, overheating after firing on the approaching Dragonfly.

Round 7

The two remaining, un-engaged Koshis, now that a wealth of targets have presented themselves, charge into the fray, targeting Milspec in the Crab and Ker-Ker in the Lancelot (the closest in weight to them).

On the east side, the river is dramatically slowing the non-jumping Clan mechs, stringing out their formation a bit. That plays well for us. Hernandez’ deadly game of sneaking around the Fenris is still ongoing.

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Carcer finally gets to fire her guns on a good target; the Dragonfly appeared around the corner of the building at a quick walk, and it’s aiming for Woad.

Carcer does heavy damage to the Dragonfly, taking off its right leg and hitting its engine repeatedly, but can’t quite finish the job. Between her, Wojtek, and Woad, they manage to knock it down. As it hits the ground, an enormous fireball blossoms from within: its SRM ammo cooking off, taking out its engine. Carcer gets credit.

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On the west side, Rook and Ker-Ker hammer the D-model Koshi with LRMs and PPCs, knocking it over.

On the east side, Hernandez is now more or less alone: the rest of Drake’s Destroyers and friends have retreated southeast of the city, where they’re preparing to batter the Black Hawk attacking Carcer. Hernandez will attempt to make a run through the city. While his Phoenix Hawk’s lack of jump jets isn’t usually a problem, it’s proving to be most bothersome here.

Round 8

The two Koshis continue their doomed charge, squawking about the dishonorable nature of the fight as each of them lose a number of limbs to Rook, Wizard (who scores a kill on the D-model), Double Dog, and others.

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Up north, Hernandez continues to take heavy damage from the Fenris, which is now behind him. On the other hand, he plants a kick on the Puma (whose target is Wojtek in the Trebuchet) which breaches its left leg, allowing water into the delicate internals. It falls over, and Hernandez may have scored himself a surprise kill.

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Round 9

It looks like Hernandez’ run of luck is about over. The Puma survives, and to get out of the Fenris’ line of sight, he had to run; running on a damaged gyro tripped him up; when he hit the ground, he blacked out. If he comes to before the Fenris gets to him, well, he might have a chance. On the west side, the remaining, damaged Koshi is looking likely to take some serious damage, but is in position to shoot at Milspec.

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South of the city, Pepper, nursing a badly damaged gyro, just managed to get down the hill to limit the Ryoken’s ability to hit. Unfortunately, he’s still within range, and likely to take a hammering.

020-downhill

The Puma attacking Wojtek finally has a shot at him. Rook brings down the remaining Koshi on the west side, and will be leading the charge eastward to reinforce the remnants of Drake’s Destroyers, at least until the other mechs turn and start to move.

The Ryoken scores critical hits on Pepper, beating through his rear armor with pulse lasers. A Streak SRM-6 shot hits in the same spot, cooking off Pepper‘s LRM ammo. He ejects successfully, but the Archer blows up beneath him. Just before he hit the metaphorical silk, however, he managed a large laser shot which cleaved the Black Hawk’s left arm from its torso.

Round 10

021-situation

“I, MechWarrior Jamelia of Clan Nova Cat, pilot of the sole Stormcrow of Alpha Star, invoke the solemn ritual of zellbringen, despite the actions of the honorless Inner Sphere scum facing me, challenging the pilot of the Grasshopper to a duel of warriors. Let no one interfere.”

Woad‘s next on the hit list. Given that the Ryoken is still in factory shape, that’s not good. The intervening forest is going to prevent Second Lance from, well, intervening for the next turn or two.

Milspec, the only member of Second Lance able to get a clean shot on anything, brings down the Black Hawk, freeing everyone to attack the Ryoken as they can. Mercifully, Woad only takes light damage; somehow, Hernandez survives.

Round 11

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Hernandez attempts to get into the Fenris’ face, but is unable to do so; the Clan pilot neatly sidesteps him and prepares to pour a barrage into his rear armor. The Ryoken pilot finds a spot where he can hit Woad, but can’t be hit by very much in return. Carcer is one of those who’ll be shooting back.

The exchange of fire goes quietly.

Round 12

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Hernandez still lives, the Ryoken is still trying to maneuver so that she can hit the Grasshopper without taking fire from too many other Bastards—an appellation she would certainly agree with—while still hitting her dueling target.

The blue of Carcer‘s large laser meets a cloud of red-orange fire and debris as she hits the Ryoken’s SRM ammunition. It blows up, and the Ryoken falls down. It’s unclear whether it’s dead at first, but it’s not at all unclear when Euchre marches up and rips off the Ryoken’s head with a barrage of SRM and laser fire. We’ll credit him with the kill.

Round 13

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Hernandez finally falls, his mech’s gyro destroyed. He blacks out as he hits the ground.

The Fenris and the Puma are all that’s left. The Fenris’ pilot quickly challenges Carcer in the Flashman.

Carcer takes a few hits and loses her left torso armor, but otherwise, she’s okay. The Puma, too, takes a few hits, but doesn’t lose any of its combat effectiveness, and scores some very minor damage on Wojtek in reply.

Round 14

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Not much movement to report. We get closer. They try to stay out of the way.

Wizard scores the kill on the Fenris with a low-percentage but nevertheless engine-destroying PPC shot; if this were the prime timeline, she’d be continuing her charge up the leaderboard. The Puma is prone, unable to stand up to the battering it’s taken given its pre-existing leg damage.

Round 15

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The remaining Bastards close in for the kill.

Everyone gets a piece of the Puma, but Rook finishes it off.

Analysis

Rook scored three kills, by my count. Carcer had two, and Wizard, Euchre, Milspec, and Double Dog each had one.

Losing alternate-Drake and Linebuster would have been a serious blow in the real campaign; it’s a good object lesson in how quickly things in BattleTech can go awry. Still, I’m pleased with the Awesome’s performance; it can maintain the same 3-3-2 cadence with Clan ER PPCs as it could for its original PPCs.

To generate the Clan force, I used the point values and roll-em-up tables in the Tukayyid sourcebook, with some tweaks to our point values. I used the point values per lance in the tables with some tweaks for the special mechs: Drake’s Destroyers was 155 points, Second Lance was 140, Reserve Lance was 125 (a heavy lance, but far from the maximum average weight). I didn’t use Bear’s Bruisers.

Another way of calculating would be to go mech-by-mech. Drake’s Destroyers has one 3050-refit assault mech (the Awesome), a 70-point unit, two 35-point 3025 heavies, and one 25-point 3025 medium, for 165. Second Lance is all 3025 forces with the same layout: an assault (45 points), two heavies, and one medium (25), for 140 points. Reserve Lance, with two heavies and two mediums, would be 120. Bear’s Bruisers, for comparison, is an IS medium and an IS heavy (25 + 35 = 60), plus a Clan light and a Clan medium (25 + 50 = 75), for a total of 135.

In any event, the Clan forces come out to roughly a light star plus a medium star, or one heavy star, possibly with some elemental support (but not a whole elemental star). It’s remarkable how much the Clan honor rules even the playing field. If we’d been a bit more clever with the ambush on the east side of town, we could likely have reduced the Clan forces by two mechs instead of just one. It’s also unsurprising that Clan Wolf, which abandoned Clan honor rules altogether during the Battle of Tukayyid, emerged the victors.

We’ll be back next week with an update on the Bastards, their current contract, and perhaps their next moves.

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