Battletech and Roll20

I use Roll20 to play my Dungeons & Dragons games and it works well for me, especially in this COVID world. Some of those I play with have shown some interest in Battletech and I thought Roll20 might work well for that too.

Doing some research, it looks like some people did a little bit of work to set it up about 4 years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere. Additionally, I discovered a set up called MegaMek. It’s had a LOT of work on it, as an online way to play Battletech. I didn’t really feel like getting into a total new virtual system, so I investigated a little further before deciding to see what I could create myself.

I thought to start with Character Sheets. Making custom ones requires Dev access to R20, an additional cost. So I paid that and looked into it. The Character Sheets are basically a webpage, built with some code and a style sheet. I started a basic one.

One of the early realisations was that I need to make a single sheet that was able to cope with the myriad of mech designs. This was going to be a lot of work.

I got as far as creating space for some basic details (Mech name, tonnage, class, MechWarrior name) and realised that this wasn’t really worth the effort, if you couldn’t really play the game in R20.

So I ceased work on that and started to look at the maps. R20 can do hex maps, so first tick. I know you can quite easily build maps with pictures, but BT relies on elevation and type of terrain in each hex. This affects line of sight as well as hit and damage calculations so is very important. But isn’t something that is part of R20 (as near as I can see). So I would have to mark each hex, just as the cardboard map sheets included in the box sets do. Annoying, but manageable.

I set about making a bunch of tiny individual hex tiles for the terrain. I could put all of these on the map layer and build my board. I looked up weapon ranges and made a map board that was three times the longest range. That way they wouldn’t be able to engage as soon as the game started, inciting some manoeuvring in the beginning of a game. This made a board that was about 80×30 hexes or so. And I started putting each little hex down. Water, forrest, hills etc. Took a while, but I had a map done up.

This is about half the map I made.

Next was tokens for the mechs. I found a bunch of random Mech pics, and used Token Stamp 2 to create hex shaped tokens. Pretty soon I had a bit more than a lance of Inner Sphere mechs ready to fight a star of Clan mechs.

Oh, this was going to need all the same paper recording that playing for real would need. Mech Record Sheets, tables for hits etc. Some more google work and I had some printed out for my test game.

So I set up a scenario with the IS attacking towards a Clan Dropship across my map. I realised very quickly that with all the terrain in between and the way that attacks are calculated, meant that engagements were only going to happen at close range. The heavier mechs could only travel 4-6 hexes a turn so there was going to be several turns of just movement (isn’t that what I wanted? Sure, but not so good from a testing perspective).

The fight is on… the mechs have closed to just a few hexes in range to fight, otherwise shots are needing 9/10/11 or better on 2d6.

As they moved into firing range…. actually I’ll go back a step.

I played BT back in 1989/90. Before the Clans were brought into the story (they were simpler times when the great houses were just whacking each other). After that period, while I still bought the occasional reference book and bought my first minis, I never actually played BT. Sure, I played the computer games and recently have read a lot of the novels, but I never got down and rolled the dice.

The way Battletech works, it uses 2d6 for most things. A hit starts with the attackers gunnery skill (default is 4 for IS, 3 for Clans) then adds movement, terrain, weapon ranges. Using a 2d6, means that the little 1 difference between the two gunnery skills makes a significant difference (about 10-12% I think). Then add better weapon ranges and movement (another 1 or 2 points there as well) and suddenly the IS needs a 10 or better but the Clanner only needs a 6 or 7 to hit. Then add in the better heat management and more efficient weapons and suddenly the IS mechs are getting pounded.

But that’s the game. Later the IS improved their tech, and changed tactics and the playing field, at least in the stories, is levelled somewhat.

So I have a bunch of hex tokens on my map. I’m trying to track heat levels, facing, and movement, while also using the paper record sheets to track damage etc.

I found that I could track facing through using the twist ability of the tokens. Also, each token has three circles above it. In D&D I use these to quickly see a character’s hit points, armour class and passive perception. After some experimentation, I began to use these to track overheat level, the number of hexes moved and whether the token ran/walked/prone/stationary etc. This worked quite well actually, letting me run the fights and the info I needed was available easily.

This Battlemaster has a overheat of 8, it’s moved 1 hex and is Walking. It’s also facing south.

I also experimented with using dynamic lighting. By limiting the arc, I could clearly see the front face of each mech. The hiccup is that a player in the game would only see out that arc, when actually a mech can monitor 360. Using dynamic lighting, this is all black outside of the lit arc. So a partial solution, but I can use the ruler tool and the directions already in the BT rules to do the same thing.

Overall, my hashed together Roll20 experiment worked okay. I still needed paper record sheets and my BT reference tables. Shots weren’t calculated automatically, and I didn’t really investigate a way to track torso facing. But then, those are all things you can’t do with a set of minis, a big table and a cardboard game board.

What it does mean is that I can get a couple of people together and we can play a game of battletech, without actually meeting up. Roll20 acts as the cardboard game map. And no more. At least at this stage.

Oh, and that size map is way too big. At least if you just want to get in and shoot stuff.

BT – New Minis, Old Minis.

So on the occasion of the arrival of my boxed set of BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat, I noticed some small differences in the new plastic models, as opposed to my 30 year old Ral Partha metal miniatures. 

I’ve got some pictures of the old vs new here. And some photos of my collection.

Comparing the Mechs

First up, a Shadow Hawk, a 55 Ton mech. During my playing of Mechwarrior (the original PC game) this was my go to Mech. With the long reach of the auto cannon, I could engage the enemy mechs well before they could approach my lance.

Some minor changes, mostly the shoulder missile launcher and the arm laser

Then the Battlemaster. An 85T assault mech, and in the first set (and this new version), the largest mech included. Later, playing the Pirahna Games BattleTech game, I could never get a Battlemaster that really seemed to work for me. Either no hitting power or too much heat. It stayed in the Mechbay.

To me, it looks clearly bigger. Some minor detail changes to the PPC, and a change in pose too. The SRM launcher is more pronounced as well.

My Mechbay

Okay, here they are. My entire holdings of Mechs. Arranged by weight, from 100T Assaults on the left to 20T Lights on the right. As you look through the pictures, they are divided into 3 phases of purchase. Painted mechs are Ral Partha (except 1 plastic has been done). 2 are painted in a funny mix of colours, these were second hand and I have not yet repainted them. The grey plastic ones are the new ones.

Here they are. Most of these minis are around 25-30 years old! And the painting was done then too

Now, sorted roughly into lances, is the Bleeding Skulls Merc Company. 

Assault / Command Lance

3 Battlemasters and an Atlas. 

Leading the way, in the iconic Atlas painted as if it’s a Bleeding Skull, with the blood of his enemies on his hands is the leader of this band of Mercs. Backed up by (now) a trio of Battlemasters it’s a powerful assault lance.

Heavy Lance

An Awesome, Warhammer, Thunderbolt and Grasshopper

Backing up the Assault, is the Heavy Lance with a lot of firepower. The Grasshopper provides a way to swiftly flank using its jump jets.

Medium Lance+

2 Shadow Hawks, 2 Wolverines, and a Griffin

Swift with some solid firepower, the Medium Lance provides some flexibiliy for the company. All jump equipped for extra manoeuvrability.

Fire Support Lance

Catapult, Rifleman and a pair of Crusaders

A trio of LRM carriers with a dedicated Anti-Air Rifleman provides fire support to the company

Scout Lance++

Phoenix Hawk, Panther, Commando, Wasp, Stinger and Locust

An enhanced scout lance provides the company with the ability to split into seperate teams, or to provide a couple of mechs as flankers, or extra security for the fire support lance if needed.


Warhawk, Stormcrow, Dire Wolf and Timber Wolf

They also joined the Bleeding Skulls. The Dire Wolf would fit into the Assault Lance, the Warhawk and Timber Wolf augmenting the Heavy Lance, and the Stormcrow backs up the Medium Lance or provide the Scout Lance with some heavy firepower.

Final Thoughts

So there are my Mechs. Having spent my entire life until these, painting 1/72 or 1/48 aircraft it was a big challenge and this was before there was an internet to get tips, advice and painting ideas. So most are painted in sort of aircraft style camo, rather than the more colourful ones seen in the current books (and those who are used to painting Warhammer might have done). Some experiments worked (like the Atlas) and some did not (I’m not sure where I was going with the white Dire Wolf, now I’m thinking an ex-ComGuard). And if you check out the shiny Griffin you’ll see the difference between painting metal using matte enamels vs plastic using acrylics. The light also makes the woodland camo seem like some sort of crazy colour mix, when it’s actually quite similar to the Shadow Hawk next to it.

So what happened this year – 2019

About Bikes

Really happy with my decision to change over.

Well the Ninja has been out and about. I’ve put almost 16,000km on her this year and sees me in to the 3rd service since I picked her up, only about this time last year. I really enjoy the bike, and have been slowly tinkering to clean her up and set her up for me (like the awesome top box). I have been to Canberra twice and Newcastle once, but apart from work or commutes, there has been little in the way of fun only rides. Still she suits me well, is much better for what I do than the Daytona.

The Daytona is missed, but would likely have seen a fraction of the kms this year. I hear that almost without being ridden the new owner has sold it to a person down in Melbourne. Hopefully they will use her more.

I also rode a VFR during the year and was totally disappointed. I guess I’m now a 100kW or more rider.

I found this a disappointing ride

I would certainly love a 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 to replace this one, but I’m happy for now.

About Babes

Well I have one in High School now. A few hiccups at first, learning lessons about being responsible and planning your assignments but she seems to have settled in well, making good friends and doing well. The other is in Year 5 in 2020, which means High School too in 2022!

About Bytes

Well of course, there is the recently posted completion of BattleTech. Yay. I did enjoy that.

Lady Arano gets her throne back.

My degree is finished. I am waiting for the official results from the school, but to the best of my information, I’ve passed. I am now a fully qualified but not completely registered Primary School Teacher. Huh. That’s a bit different. (and the lack of study in no small way has contributed to the completion of Battletech!)

Just waiting for the official results

About Other Stuff

Dungeons and Dragons flashed back into my life. After a 30 year hiatus, suddenly I find myself Dungeon Master once a fortnight and ad hoc DM’ing for my daughter through an adventure. I am enjoying the distraction and my players seem to be enjoying my management. The accessibility and the ease of the current rules do help that.

And I think that’s a good summary of my year.

I am not sure where 2020 and especially 2021 will take me. I intend to slowly transition from my current employment into teaching through part time (at work) mixed with casual (at teaching) to ease into it. With the plan to switch completely in 2022. Let’s see what happens.

BattleTech – The Arano Restoration

Lady Arano rallies the troops.

The end of 2019 sees the completion of another computer game – Paradox’s take on BattleTech. Late the other night I had completed the third to last mission, to Liberate Tyrlon.

This mission saw my lance dropped into some mountains with a time limit to cut the power to the space defence grid. The added curl was that there was also off grid artillery which (I assume) would have a significant impact on any mech caught in the fire zones.

Using my usual assault and heavy mechs I was a bit concerned about about the time. It was generous, but the terrain had many choke points and there was ongoing harassment by the enemy. This would all add up to slowing me down.

I hit the first target quickly, then went up behind it to get to the next one. My lance was split at this point, with two mechs ahead, and two behind, cleaning up the defenders. I decided to push the leading pair (An Orion set up for LRMs and a BattleMaster, with a mix) into the furthest target and then the second pair would hit the closer one as soon as it could. This would be faster than trying to hit them consecutively.

The Orion, up ahead, triggered the landing of a reserve lance, 3 heavies and a light (an artillery spotter). At this point the two trailing mechs (a Highlander and a Cyclops) were almost right on top of the enemy reinforcements. I split my lance further, with the Orion taking the far target, the BattleMaster hitting the near one and the others holding the reinforcements. I figured two assaults could hold these clowns

The final power station came down with about 3 turns to spare. Mission successful.

Normally at this point I leave the story missions for a while and gear up. Instead I spent some money, picking up a Stalker and an Atlas. This would give me a full set of Assault. I also picked up a second Highlander. I ran a couple of missions, setting myself up with a cool climate lance and a hot climate lance and getting used to the new mechs.

So after a the famil over a couple of nights, I felt ready to hit the next story mission. This one is different as once complete you must launch straight into the next one, with only the resources available on the Argo and NO TIME to repair. (Hence the bulking up of my inventory). At this point I had an Atlas, 2 Highlanders, a Cyclops (as my leading lance) with a Stalker, a BattleMaster, an Orion as replacements (or if the climate was on the hot end) and some other Heavies. (I think a Cataphract and a couple of Grasshoppers). With a full Lance of elite MechWarriors plus several lower ranked substitutes I should be okay. I have rarely lost a ’Warrior.

The first of the pair is an assault on a comms station. Supporting a pair of APCs (who take over the fixed emplacements) and carrying my lead tech to upload some dodgy stuff into the comms array (in order to disable a Warship that will turn the battle from us). Supported by a couple of PPC carriers we attacked the base. Finding a Jenner, an Orion and a couple of other mediums, we quickly had control.

It did take a little while to deliver the tech as the Assault mechs are slow and the base was confusing to navigate (and I didn’t know which mech the Tech was riding). But she got in and got started.

Reinforcements arrived soon after, with a lance of heavy/assault dropping near the entrance. While my lance used focused and aimed shots to bring each Mech down quite quickly, they were ably assisted by the PPC carriers who had remained outside the base. This meant that to turn and attack my lance, each enemy mech had to turn his weaker rear armour to the caress of 3 PPC blasts from each carrier. It certainly helped.

With the clock ticking down for success, a second lance dropped in just as the first fell. These dropped almost on top of half my lance, but allowed us to focus fire them quite easily. A fighting movement rearward (we were certainly NOT withdrawing) allowed the mechs to open up to beyond their minimum effective range, increasing their damage, and the new lance followed all the rest.

In the story, the usurper gives up at this point, declares for our employer, Lady Arano, and it should be all over. However the usurper’s daughter, Victoria, issues one last challenge, fight or Lady Arano loses a respected and valued ally and advisor that Victoria holds as prisoner.

And hence our last mission. Lady Arano in her stock Atlas II (So updated tech like double heat sinks and ER lasers). I deploy my Atlas, a Highlander and a BattleMaster.

The fight is in an arena, with some forest cover, a few monoliths (to break line of sights) and a large pool in the centre (providing heat relief). I headed to the left flank and the cover.

The enemy approached, almost one at a time. I had destroyed one opponent (I forget what) when Victoria’s mech started to make its presence felt. A King Crab, with upgraded EVERYTHING, it was a weapon! As I killed the second from their lance, my personal mech, the Atlas, had its head destroyed in a single volley. Ouch. We were now 3 vs 2.

Time to switch tactics. I moved my mechs into the water, breaking line of sight with the Awesome that was also still fighting. It also improved my lance’s rate of fire. I left Lady Arano up the bank in cover to hold Victoria’s attention and switched focus to the King Crab, instead of the Awesome that I had planned.

The Highlander lost an arm, but the Crab was put down. The Awesome following soon after.

Lady Arano had her throne back. And I had an Atlas II and a fat wallet.

Lady Arano gets her throne back.

And I’d finished something from my backlog 🙂 Looking back, Tomb Raider, back in 2014 might be the last game I finished (or Portal in the same year).

Erm, 5 years ago. Even this seems to have taken me about 18 months. Still in the same time I’ve also completed another degree.

In all I have enjoyed the game. It does take ages to load every time you go from boot, to Argo to mission and back. But having played the tabletop so long ago, this felt like a great version of that. I’m not sure about post campaign as there just isn’t the impetus to keep playing at this point. We’ll see.

BattleTech Update

I restarted a while back, but other priorities has meant not a huge amount of gaming time. Overall the restart is going well, and I am happy that I made the right decision.

I did a bunch of missions in the early game, building up cash. I didn’t really have much luck finding heavier mechs, but I think I picked up a medium before moving into the story missions.

Currently I’ve just completed the Liberate: Smithon mission that caused so much grief. This time I had a Jagermech, Dragon, Shadow Hawk and Centurion. Two heavies and two mediums this time.

I did abort and restart a couple of times. I initially gave them a LRM focus, but realised that when I used the same strategy as my previous success, I actually wanted a big short range smash down. I sit behind this hill in the corner (right hand side) and wait for the mechs to come around and into the pass, then they each get a face full from my lance.

It worked well, and soon eight mech were down to three. There was a tense moment in the middle when I had an almost cored Cicada, a fresh Jenner and Dragon come around the corner almost at once. This was just after destroying a Panther and Firestarter, so my lance was pretty warm. I backed off around the corner to give them a chance to recover.

The last three mech had figured out the trap but scattered, so I was able to chase them down individually. As I stayed so far back there wasn’t a lot of LRM fire from the turrets, so apart from a lucky hit from the Panther on my Jagermechs head (that didn’t take it off) my mechs were lightly damaged.

So after that mission, I have 2 heavies, a lot of mediums, and the cash to buy several more Dragons from Smithon if I wish. Argo has had a lot of upgrades already completed as well, so overall I am in a lot better position than last time.

Other games of note – I dropped in to take out a base and approached from a unusual angle. I sent the short ranged Dragon in to scout while my longer ranged mechs sat in a river to cover. Of course the enemy lance dropped in about 2 hexes in front of the covering mechs. So I had 3 mechs scrambling for minimum distance (against a bunch of lights) and another mech struggling to close the distance to join in. It was never in doubt, but it was a little mixed up.

I also did a similar obtuse approach in a 3.5 rated mission, my toughest by far. Again, assault a base, I circled around the map and approached from the rear. Here I discovered half the “reinforcement lance”, a Cicada and a Griffon waiting for their trigger. I almost cored the Cicada and damaged the Griffon before they activated, but hadn’t quite finished them off when the original lance of Panther, Hunchback, Shadow Hawk and Vindicator arrived, along with a Wolverine and another Cicada as the other half of the “reinforcements”. The Hunchback’s right torso was focused as soon as he showed up in order to eliminate that AC20.

It got pretty tense, and while I steadily wound back their numbers, the Dragon lost both arms, I ran out of LRMs on all of the mechs as well as most of the SRMs. My Griffon also lost an arm and torso. The Dragon took a Death from Above from the Shadow Hawk, but this exposed its back to several volleys from two mechs (but it still took a while, Shadow Hawks can take a pounding).

Soon after I had finally eliminated the mechs, while spending the whole time hiding out of LoS from the turrets. It might have actually been easier straight up the guts as I would have hit the lighter lance first and hopefully eliminated more mechs to start with. It wasn’t as expensive a repair bill as a I was expecting, but it wasn’t cheap.

Now I plan to hit up some more missions before the next story one on the moon.

BattleTech – Restarting

I have been struggling the last few missions to get anywhere. I seem to be always putting things back together and am still lurching from month to month, contract to contract. Even though I’m picking up only 2 skull rated missions (out of 5) I seem to run into mostly heavies. For my lance of mediums this is a big ask, and they’ve been found wanting.

I decided to go back to the start and spend more time in the early game between story missions, running missions. I figure this will get me a better baseline to start from.

Plus I can use the lessons that I have learned along the way to perform better than before.

But there’s no way to skip the first story mission so here goes nothing…

BattleTech – Setting out on my own

After Smithon I completed the next story mission. This went much better, though the game did hang just as I was about to win. I did have a halfway through save, so the next chance I got I started from there.

This second one went much better (strangely enough) and instead of being caught separated and out of position I was able to get the lance organised to destroy the reinforcements. This saved two pilots and mechs from destruction.

After this I decided it was time to head out and try to get myself a bit of a buffer of resources and see if I could increase my mech weights. I still have to run 2 or 3 mediums and 1 or 2 heavies, but I’d like to get some heavier mechs.

So picking up the Nav charts I picked a couple of high tech level but low challenge worlds and set out away from the story zone. The idea was to hit up a string of easier missions, sucking the money up and hopefully a few bits of mechs and weapon upgrades.

There doesn’t seem to be any specific advice on whether it is better to go all money, all scrap or strongly one or the other in the game. It certainly depends upon what has happened in your career. Remember you can have a 10/10/10/10 pilot in a solid mech and a headshot takes out the mech and the pilot in one shot. Or you can slug it out with 8 mechs and barely a scratch on your lance. The random number effect can be strong in this game.

So I’ve mostly gone cash, and thankfully it has been some time since I’ve spent all of my earnings (and more) from a mission. I’m still usually a month or two from bankruptcy, but I’ve been spending on upgrades (of my ship and on upgraded ++ weapons), rather than repairs.

My idea is to do this for a little while, then head back into the story with a bit of a buffer. Research shows I’ve completed 9 of 20 story missions, so there is a bit to go. But there are some tough ones to come if I don’t gear up somewhat.

Still enjoying the game. It’s giving me some sleepy days at work meetings!

BattleTech – Liberate Smithon

I’ve finally managed to get past one of the toughest story missions yet.

Liberate Smithon sees me drop against 2 lances of mechs, supported by turrents, with the intent to capture the supply dump from the Directorate. We also tasked with protecting as much ammunition as we can and intercepting two escaping supply trucks.

You drop in the southern end of a map, on a small rise. There are small passes to the left and right as well as the option to rush straight at the base forward. There are several light mechs in the front with several heavier fire support mechs to the rear. It is also a hot environment, playing havoc with your rate of effort.

Normally people suggest three things. Drop heavy, as heavy as you can. I agree with this. Take LRMs, and again I agree there too. Also ignore the supply trucks, they’re just a distraction, most definitely agree. The trucks give you almost no time to be in position and they take a beating. They also put you out of position to take on the mechs.

There’s two more suggestions. An ammo crate in the front right is situated under a turret. Blow this one when there are a couple of mech in the blast zone, but fairly early on as well. You can usually catch at least one mech in the explosion, and some have caught up to three. They end up heavily damaged, and the explosion will destroy light ones. Do this! The turret is a threat as well and needs to be removed.

The last suggestion is to go left.

I go right. The same reason, there is a hill on both the left and right, to use as cover from the back of the map fire support. But I like the right a little more (I have been more successful that way).

I move right immediately, baiting the light fast mechs up to the small pass behind it. Focus fire each as they come around into sight.

So at the end of the first turn, my lance has moved right, heading behind the rise in front of them. This also puts you in easy reach of the ammo crate. Stay in the cover of this hill and burn up the mechs as they try to come at you.

You will need to soak up some LRM fire, but judicious use of Bracing at the end of turns will help a lot. And also help with heat management.

With the extra kill or two from the ammo crate, I don’t need to leave this area until the last two heavies are left. This is usually a Dragon and a Griffon. Focus fire these down. Done, 2 bonus objectives. Lots of cash.

I think the move left is similar. However it’s more difficult to hit the particular ammo crate from there and I think is a little harder to actually move to while remaining in cover.

In the end I used a Trebuchet, Hunchback, Centurion and a Vindicator. All except the Hunchback ran some LRMs. All suffered some damage. But they had much more luck than previous drops involving Jenner or Shadow Hawks for example.

Hope these tips help. I went off and worked some missions up before returning to this one. Story missions don’t disappear so you can take your time. This was probably the biggest difference, I was running a heavier lance.


BattleTech – a longer review

Battletech – I promised a review later, and it’s now later.

I am only a little way through the story, and I know that there are many who have finished. I do not know how long the story is, I think I am up to about the 4th or 5th story mission (called Liberation:Smithon). At the moment I am leaving that mission aside as I train and gear up my lance.

My first impressions of a faithful recreation of the table top game, along with decent graphics and AI are still pretty much unchanged. The first, that its a faithful recreation of the table top is for me a real positive. I think that has made it easy for them in that balance and such have basically been play tested for 30 years. The great big positive for me is that turn based copes very easily with random interruptions. I can stop and sort out life stuff without stressing about what the enemy are up to. I know it isn’t everyone’s favourite way of playing, but I don’t mind it.

The graphics look good on my iMac. I imagine there are more impressive games and on more capable systems there are more impressive games. But graphics aren’t everything.

The story is fine. It’s very similar to the really old “MechWarrior” game, where you are a merc with a story and the intent is to carry out some contracts until you’re geared up enough to finish the story. What I do like in this version is that the story engages you as you go. In the old game every time I headed back into the story I was arrested and the game ended. I gave up and just set about getting awesome mechs and lots of money. Turns out I should have gone back at that stage.

Anyway, the game does get a little slow during some combats when there is a lot of actions queued up. The random number generator can be a bit vicious sometimes, but it works both ways. Sometimes a game will be tough, sometimes its not.

The rounds can take quite a bit of time, an hour or more. But I don’t find that a bad thing 🙂

So overall I am very happy.

One word

and it’s not Avengers, it’s Battletech.

The new Battletech from Paradox (also available through Steam) is excellent.

And personally the best news, its ON THE IMAC as well. So I can play it.

And its really interesting and really well done.


I’ll do a longer review with pics in a bit. But if you’ve ever been a table top player, then I think you’ll enjoy it.