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Thoughts on AtB
#1
6 weeks ago I discovered MM.  I was familiar with the inner sphere from MW4 and MWO, but had never played BT before.  In that time, by playing AtB, I have taught myself (in progress still really) much of the game, have fiddled with almost every setting in MHQ and MM, created some of my own rules, and annoyed the crap out of hammer and others with my endless questions here on the board. Wink I have covered 8 years in the game, from Jan 3050 to Feb 3058, with 11 contracts completed (unemployed+depressed=plenty of free time for MM).

Following are some of my insights and opinions on the current state and balance of AtB in the hopes of provoking dialogue.

Current deployment methodology results in about 2/3rds of TO&E utilized for a contract.  Reinforcement rules only allow already deployed units to support in battles (those assigned to scout on a d6 roll).  This seems backwards to me.  From an in-game perspective, if a unit is deployed in the field and calls for reinforcements than a standby unit would be mobilized, not a unit that has its own mission orders.  Further, any mission on which you are the attacker would most likely be planned before the unit left base, so supporting units would be decided on during planning, not redirected in the field.  From a mechanics perspective, any unit that is not deployed has no purpose or role in the merc group other than to pad the unit count.  They never really see combat across multiple contracts.  In my campaign, I've designed each of my lances to fill a roll, this has naturally led to my 3 recon lances getting deployed on any required scout missions, my fire support lances then fill in any further deployments on defend, as these are the most versatile lances that can handle most map/weather/objective combinations, and never have a reason to change this.  Many of my other lances, while useful are designed to rolls that are very dependant on either map conditions or scenario objectives so are too risky to add to deployment (i.e. my med and heavy brawler lances, which are screwed if it isn't daylight or on open fields).  These units are instead better suited to reinforcing under the specific conditions for which they are designed (i.e. the brawlers do great on defense in city maps, but usually I cant guarantee they will get that instead of a "hold the line" or "hide and seek").  I have taken to instead playing that I can only reinforce a scenario from those units in the unassigned unit pool (in the standard 12-(movement) turns).  The one exception to this is that when I am the attacker I will allow the deployed lance to choose to carry a BA unit with it into battle so that it can deploy at match start with the mechs, giving BA a key role in certain scenarios.  This provides purpose to having these additional units and fixes what feels to me the glaring plot hole that a merc group would allow 30%-40% of its warriors to sit on their butts never to see combat.  

As it currently stands, more units just mean more battles, a merc group that is a battalion in strength will find itself engaging in 1-5 battles a week (depending on deployment type) that are no different than the 0-1 battles it faced when it was a company in size.  One of the primary reasons a house would contract a larger merc would be so that it could engage a larger enemy, a player wants to grow to a larger force so that they can have a larger, more dynamic, fights.  It does not make sense that a regiment deployed on a planetary assault would only engage in dozens of 1 lance on 1-2 lance battles, it would occasionally have big throw downs where an entire company or even battalion might get deployed on either side.  To enact this my thought is that units assigned to the same deployment (i.e. scout, fight, etc) should have a chance of becoming involved in the same battle together.  After rolling to see if they are engaged in a battle that week, a second roll could be made for each unit to see if it is doing its own fight or joining one of the other units fights.  This could be set up such that if 3 units are scouting and all 3 get battles one week that you could have possible deployments of 1,1,1; 1,2; or 3.  Rolls to determine opfors could then be repeated based on the number of units in that engagement.  This would also have the effect of reducing the number of missions during a contract, meaning a lower likelihood of contract scores in the 20s and 30s.  By giving less opportunity to earn score it also means that failures that lose score will be that much more impactful.  As they are right now I don't fear to lose a mission or an attached unit because I'll win the next 10 anyway, which leads to my next thought.  

Opfor strength is too dependant on the deployed unit.  Sometimes your assault lance will run into that enemy light lance that was on scouting duty, just as sometimes your light lance that's scouting will run into an entire company of heavy and Assault mechs on their way to attack a base.  Making every opfor an attainable target for the deployed unit is not only unrealistic but also unengaging to a player.  There should be the posibility of some combats that there is just no way to win, or that will most likely be a phyric victory at best.  Imbalance forces variation in tactics, forcing the retreat, encouraging to overwhelm, or delaying for reinforcements (giving more reason to use reinforcements; see first thought) etc.  This leads to added strategy and challenge to successfully complete contracts.  My first several contracts I struggled to maintain a positive contract score (and I was even unaware of the reinforcement rules and so was over deploying every mission and still getting my butt kicked), but once I learned the game I became consistently able to win every scenario with minimal damage or losses.  This not only put my contract scores through the roof so I was at no risk of failure but also meant my income gain and therefore my growth was staggeringly fast.  Of the 11 mentioned contracts, 8 of them have scores over 10, with my current garrison duty at 36 with no losses and a year to go still.  By adding more variation to opfor strength and therefore more chance of failure it brings gameplay more into the realms of realism and adds more enjoyment and satisfaction to a player, as its no longer "going through the motions".  The simplest way I can think to enact this would be to simply change the opfor tables from d20s to d100s.  The probabilities for the existing results could be kept similar with the addition of a small chance for fringe cases of over or underpowered enemies.  I don't think this would be the best method, as it still leaves the opfor dependent on the deployed unit, but I cannot think of another way to implement that would not be overly complicated and difficult to implement (tables based on the contract type/enemy rating maybe).  

The rules do not currently allow easily for a clan aligned merc group.  AtB rules for things like contract generation, star weight, and recruitment/purchase do not have any settings for clan options.  I had an idea to run a game as a merc group that had been split off from the clans and so operated using largely clan mechs and personnel and T0&E organization and ran into some hurdles in those areas as might be expected.  Things like the ability to custom set the light, med, heavy, and assault weight categories would be useful not just to this idea but others as well.  A merc(clan) alignment option to affect recruitment and market generation would be cool, but a fair bit more work.

To be clear I have been having a blast of a time and don't expect to stop anytime soon; in fact, I'm working on getting 2 more games going, the clan idea and an early succession wars/star league era game.  This game is amazing and I am continually impressed with the time, quality, and effort that has been put in by the devs.  Just in case it hasn't been said enough I'd like to thank all the devs for all the amazing work you guys have done, this is obviously a project of love and it shows.  Now I just need to find some friends who are crazy enough to let me teach them how to play.  Wink Big Grin
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#2
I've actually put quite a bit of thought into some of your AtB criticisms, and share some of the concerns. Why do scout lances have greater odds of getting into a fight? Why do opfors always match up with your lances so well? Why can't I reinforce with my reserve units?

The main answer to all of those questions, for now, is that you can always assign your own reinforcements, and add/delete extra opfor lances to a particular megamek battle from within megamek. You can also GM mode delete scenarios you just plain old don't like. A lot of people make their own custom scenario generation rule sets (ask Bloodwolf about his). For me, I've taken to having a lance of aircraft on standby that can reinforce one battle per week (although it requires my unit commander to have an extra point in 'strategy' as if that air lance was being actively deployed).

With regards to opfor variety, the most recent version (43.6-dev) features opfor aircraft, turrets and infantry under certain conditions to "mix it up" a little. I guess I spent so much time adding those opfor aircraft and infantry manually that I decided to implement it in code. Also, let Princess have VTOLs back, she can fly them quite a bit better now (performance will probably still be sub-optimal in hilly and urban areas).

Keep an eye on future versions, as we are looking at feedback and making changes/new features on an ongoing basis.
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#3
I have been using the new .43.6 implementation of infantry, turrets, vtol, and aircraft and it certainly has been a fun addition. Thank you for adding them.

I have been implementing my own custom resolutions along the lines of what you're suggesting to each of these issues, adding opfor lances, changing reinforcement turn timers, etc. my rule with air has been I can deploy a lance for free on any mission where opfor gets air support, otherwise it follows my other reinforcement rules to deploy in a ground support role. My posting here was because while I have found solutions to all of these (and other personal preferences), these were the ones that I thought might be of interest to the community at large for consideration to future changes of the rules. It's a posterity post, not a complaint.

The only one of these that can't be implemented well by oneself via options and the gm mode is the clan group comment. for all that everything under the sun is customizable in the campaign options, the weight definitions of light, med, heavy, and assault lances are not (all assume a 4 unit group), so this is something that I would request to see a change in future updates for
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