(Author's note: This is the second article in this series. Read the first "Things You Learn Playing BattleTech" here.)
I’m not sure at what point winning was no longer enough. Perhaps it was some time between the four or five hundredth battle between friends and siblings, but as any teenager is prone to do with too much time and way too much creativity, we began to make things more interesting. Taking the field of battle and leaving your opponent's mechs strewn around the field became less of the point. The real fun was found in making Ty, my older brother, mad about mechs. He would throw legendary tantrums that usually resulted in breaking his own possessions and on more than one occasion sent people to the emergency room. Though this was years before I became a Goon, I must have been born with that goonish desire to push the buttons of people who take games too seriously.
It’s not certain how it started, but I do remember one of the earliest salvos was launched as an attempt to find a quick and cheesy victory. For those who aren’t familiar with the large quantity of units in the BattleTech universe, there are these little hovercraft called Savannah Masters. They’re scout hovercraft, armed with just a single medium laser, known not for their bite but for their speed. Until, of course, I decided to use two dozen of them in a battle thanks to their very low battle value. At 20 hexes of movement per turn, the little Savannah Masters had no problem quickly traversing the battlefield maps we had set out on the pool table in the basement. My brother initially scoffed at the choice as he had his usual mix of favorite 3025-3050 Mechs arranged on one side. He was confident in his ability to crush the swarm of little hovercraft.
I did keep an Archer and Warhammer in the back, hoping that they might only be necessary should enemy survivors need to be mopped up. The hardest part of the whole preparation was to resist giggling as I set out the little pewter hovercraft that I had picked up the previous week from a rather astonished game store employee who had ordered them at my request. With maps agreed upon, battle lines drawn, and record sheets spread out in front of us like we were World War I generals, the game began.
It should be noted that the attack modifier for an attacker who ran during the turn is +2. While this seems like it might make attacks rather tricky when added to all the other modifiers that go into a 2xD6 roll, it was nothing compared to the modifier for trying to shoot something that moved more than 10 hexes in a turn. At +4 to hit, Ty made it through only the second turn before realizing his anticipated quick victory had become the proverbial quagmire. While his missiles, lasers, and AC rounds took miss after miss, my plucky Savannah Masters were able to surround and circle his mechs, landing damaging attacks on the side and rear of their much slower adversaries.
The battle went pretty much as you could predict. Occasionally, an increasingly furious Ty would land a lucky shot or two on the little hovercraft, and he did actually succeed in taking out almost all of them. Unfortunately, the fight left all but a single mech, his Thug. The 80-ton assault mech packed two PPCs and two SRM6s, which were more than enough to handle most foes. The surviving Savannah Masters kept within the minimum fire distance for the PPCs, leaving them useless. With each passing turn, I could see that I would have to make a choice that would affect the next few minutes of my life, if not more. His fuming demeanor and the way he threw the dice onto the table with frustration hinted at what I might unleash should I press my attack.
A last final crit on the engine spelled doom for the solitary Thug. What was left of the mech smoldered in our imaginations for only a brief moment before Ty leapt up from his chair and crawled up over the pool table. I dodged from my chair just as he reached out for my arm. His face was beet red with rage as he screamed a long chain of curse words and death threats. The specific words were lost to history, as I was laughing too hard and running down the hallway as if my life depended on it.
In my room in what I assumed was the knick of time, I slammed the door and locked it. A half second later, there was a tremendous crash against the door that sounded like a gunshot. I sat on the floor with my feet up against the door expecting to die in the very near future, but there was only silence after the first noise. I waited several minutes, then several more, before standing up and listening for movement in the hallway. I wasn’t about to walk into an ambush, so I resisted the urge to investigate until about an hour later.
As I scanned the hallway, my eyes rose to identify the source of the loud sound. Firmly stabbed into the door was an antique iron fireplace poker roughly three feet long. Ty was nowhere to be found, having likely retreated to his room. I was trying to pry the fireplace poker out of the bedroom door as my mom walked around the corner with her arms full of groceries. I took the flack for pointlessly destroying my own door even though I swore up and down that my brother did it. The ruined door remained where it was, until we moved a few years later, as a constant reminder of my victory and brush with death. It was nearly a month before my brother agreed to play BattleTech with me again and only with the stipulation that Savannah Masters remain off the field of battle.
As with any long war, tactics had to evolve.