Tactical Discussion: Mines

Our BattleTechBattleTech Game TacticsTactical Discussion: Mines

One of my favorite tactical tools in the game of BattleTech is the various types of mines. My discussion of mines was prompted by a “Talk to me about: Mines” thread on the CBT Forums a while back (link broken due to forum collapse). In order to discuss why I think mines are one of the most important disposable assets available to a commander, I have to talk about the most important aspect of any war-game or table top strategy game….movement.

Movement, mobility, agility, et al, these are the foundation of success for many military victories. It is the ability to control and dictate the movement that is so powerful in these games. That’s why winning initiative is so critical (not as important in BattleTech compared to WH40k but I digress). The ability to control movement allows you to isolate segments of the opposing side, set up better to hit numbers, focus fire, and deny enemy quality targets, amongst many other things. There are many ways to achieve control over the movement phase, but I will specifically discuss one, the use and abuse of mines.

Types and Sub-Types of Mines:

1. Thunder LRM: Thunder LRM mines come in one ton ammo slots with the same amount of rounds as normal or other special LRM ammo. This is an excellent method of distribution mines, because they have great range, and you can deploy them in real time to block/hinder enemy movement once the battle has begun. Additionally, on a miss, you have a chance to scatter, meaning there is still a decent chance that the mines may end up There are many sub-types of Thunder LRMs, each with advantages and disadvantages:

A. Thunder-Inferno Thunder LRM – Useful against tracked and wheeled vehicles since they generate an auto crit chance.

B. Thunder-Augmented LRM – These are my favorite, affecting the target hex, and spreading smaller mine fields to all the surrounding hexes, giving you 7 hexes of coverage (great value).

C. Thunder-Active LRM – These mines can jump up to hit jumping units or hover vehicles.

D. Thunder-Vibrobomb LRM – There mines are weight sensitive, meaning you can set the weight above the highest of your skirmishing force’s weight and bait the enemy to run through your mine fields.

2. FASCAM: This is artillery provided mine distribution. It’s good because you can target in from maps away and usually creates a fairly large mine field. There are no additional types of FASCAM, just basic mines. I would recommend against using FASCAM, since Homing and Cluster munitions are just so much better. But it is an option.

3. Traditional Mines: There are other types of mines which can be deployed by infantry, battle armor units (Fa Shih), or can be pre-deployed on the battlefield. Infantry/BA delivery is often really slow, and ultimately only useful on larger battlefields or purely for defensive purposes.

Tactic Discussion:

I’m primarily going to be discussing mines from a Thunder LRM perspective, because it is general the most applicable way most players will see mines used in their games. The reason I like Thunder LRMs is because they give you LRM ‘Mechs something to do from turn 1 through the rest of the game, even if targets are out of range. Additionally, mines are a form of psychological warfare, were typically, the expectation of how devastating they are exceeds how bad (good) they really are. It is likely your opponent will have an unreasonable fear of mines due to “that one time” when he got hip crit’ed running through mines.

Below, I am going to discuss various uses and tactics to use with in conjunction with mines:

First Step – To maximize the effectiveness of your use of mines moving forward, you will have to gain an understanding of how players react to mines. To do this, include some Thunder LRM ammo in your next game. If they avoid it like the plague, now you know they will most likely continue to avoid the mines going forward. If they advance through the mines, then they will most likely continue that trend as well. This gives you an baseline understanding of which strategies you can employ against your various opponents. This is CRITICAL. Note that some player may avoid with light ‘Mechs, but not with heavies.

The Funnel – This is a generic defensive strategy in which you place mines over various attack corridors, forcing them to come down a corridor of your choosing. Obviously this only really works if you know your opponent is an avoider. The best way to use this strategy is close off the corridors of slower ‘Mechs, which makes it harder to redirect these ‘Mechs. Typically, your opponent will funnel his troops in small groups, making them easier to dispatch, since you can move your troops faster than he can.

Gridlock – I invented the name, and it typically works better on city maps, but the key is to plop mines in front and in back so they have no where to go. Very useful against heavy tanks that often present themselves in urban conflicts since they are slow and usually cannot avoid the mines.

Hidden Mines – Rarely do pre-deployment mines get used, but when they do, you have the option to keep them hidden or have them revealed. My favorite tactic is to keep them hidden. I’ll give you an example. Say your opponent has 3 attack lanes, you put mines in number 2 hidden. You focus your Thunders on lane one. But shoot one or two Thunder rounds in lane two, but in a way as it invites them to run down your into your hidden mines. He will assume you’ve hidden mined lane 3 since you didn’t do anything with it. Now he will be funneled down your hidden mines.

Offensive Uses – We have been conditioned to think of mines as a defensive tool. I urge you to break that thought process. Since Thunder LRMs are so versatile and have great reach, you can use them in all conditions. You can use Thunder LRMs early in the game to deny the defensive player quality cover. In a situation where the opponent is retreating, you can use mines to delay their retreat, allowing your ‘Mechs to close the distance and hopefully pick a few more of their ‘Mechs off. If your opponent has spread his forces out, you can use mines to block his efforts to consolidate his troops. Likewise, if there are reinforcements in the scenario, you can set up mines at the entrance points (especially if it’s a small zone) forcing them to suffer significant leg damage right as they enter.

Hovers + Mines: This is a particular favorite combination of mine. Hovers only set off mines on a roll of 12. As such, they should have little to no fear of setting mines off. The most effective way to do this is to spray an area with T-Aug (creates bigger blankets of mine fields). Then, you opponent will have to run around, turning a bunch, and get a very bad move mod. You can streak you fast hovers in, generating 4 mod’s, to either 0’s and 1’s and harass them. Meanwhile, your ranged ‘Mechs can fire from afar. This will soften the enemy up considerably.

Indirect Use: Just because you are firing alternative ammo, doesn’t mean that you can still use LRMs indirectly. Sure you still take a penalty, but the option is still there.

I thought this article would be of particular relevance, since I just won the MVP of my latest campaign game using T-Aug LRMs to cause over 200 points of damage to the AFFS forces with just two LRM 20 T-Aug rounds placed in key locations.  I completely neutered a lance of Striker tanks and softened the legs of a handful of ‘Mechs which later had their legs kicked off.   Very awesome use of mines in a city.

16 comments to “Tactical Discussion: Mines”

  1. Wow, great read! I’m pretty unfamiliar with the actual table top game and certainly the use of mines. This was a phenomenal introduction to the topic and offered some sounds tactics in their use. Well done! Thank you sir!

  2. Big fan of using minefields when I’m playing Liao. Your tactics for using Thunders is pretty spot-on, though I am also a huge proponent of using Fa Shih. I carry them with fast-movers, then let them sit in a hex for a turn or two, allowing my enemy to stress the minefield that may or may not be laid down. It doesn’t always work, but the CCAF functions best when misdirection is employed.

  3. Most BT games I know make a strong effort to limit Thunder Augs for the very reasons you mention. While I appreciate any article which attempts to focus on non-conventional weapons, Thunder Augs are one of the “broken” weapons in BT.

    1. I have to dispute the idea of T-Aug as broken. 3 hexes is a very easy area to clear with jump jets, and a force capable of laying down a true carpet of mines will be too LRM launcher heavy, and will be lacking other firepower. A jumping ‘Mech will only take 6-10 damage per turn on average from mines closing, and should be at point-blank range in 3-4 turns assuming 5 jumping MP. At that point, those launchers and their mine ammo are just dead weight, and you pound the mine-launchers to scrap. Like anything in Battletech, if you come unequipped to deal with the threat, you’ll likely lose hard. Thunder-Aug is only “broken” if you run nothing but ground-bound ‘Mechs.

      1. Having seen, and participated in games, where opponents take a map corner and surrond themselves with Aug minefields, I regard that ammo with only a raised eyebrow.

        Two launchers are sufficent to saturate an area, forcing the majority of units to either take inordinate damage, reduce movement, or +4 sniping.

        Sure skill beats noob, but Thunder Aug restricts unit choice and encourages game delaying tactics like fire starting or edge camping.

      2. But aren’t Inferno SRMs used much the same way?

        So which is broken – the Map setup or the Mines? From what I’m hearing, it seems like the game GM could have spent a little more time working on game balance, i.e. maybe expanding the number of maps or randomizing edge start.

        Then again, I don’t think you should blame the Mines or their use if they have placed you in a tough spot. After all, it takes a little skill to set yourself up in the proper corner, and lay down the proper minefield. If you ask me, that’s just smart tactics.

        So if you beat said “camper,” I guess that makes your tactics doubly smart. =) Mines aren’t broken, they just challenge your game playing skills. Makes them a good whetstone for the dedicated BattleTech player.

      3. Using two launchers firing T-Aug, to cover a corner of a map, defined as an area 9 hexes by 9 hexes, would require 9 salvos or five turns. The resulting area would still only inflict an average of 6 damage per turn to a jumping ‘Mech, assuming LRM-20s were used, and the area could be passed over in two to three turns assuming 5/8/5 movement, resulting in an average of 12 damage being taken by a ‘Mech passing through it by jumping. Comparing that to the amount of damage that could have been dealt if the launchers had just been fired directly at the target, it’s obvious that the twelve damage is much easier to handle than the full five turns of missiles.

        I hardly consider 12 damage to be “inordinate”, leaping wherever I please as suffering extremely “reduced movement”, or closing to point-blank range “+4 sniping.” If you stay outside the minefield, you’re simply playing into the mine player’s trap!

  4. I like Claymores because they are so wicked. My little battletech playgroup use them because you can funnel infantry and sometimes light mechs where you want them to go.Thunders do not get the respect they deserve.

    1. I guess that’s why practice makes perfect. When I do play MM or a TT game I stick with what I know, rather than experiment with something new. Looks like I’ll need to try my hand at laying some mine fields in the near future.

  5. I’ll agree that Thunder Aug’s are pretty broken, especially if overused. I tend to think people overreact to mines. But then again, I tend to run a high proportion of jumping ‘Mechs so I’m never that worried. Thanks for the feedback guys!

  6. To Knightmare’s recent comment.

    Connect the dots to your statement about a skilled corner setup: Thunder Augs, Inferno SRM heavy cover smoke, edge camping and let’s throw in some heavy woods and partial cover for good measure.

    No GM can stop such aggressive cheese tactics without imposing limitations and, trust me, people will “cheese” without oversight. For example, no campaign I play allows people to use Inferno SRMs to ignite hexes because the last campaign to do so had maps half filled with smoke.

    Beyond the questions of cost-effectiveness, I for one fall in the camp that regards weapons like Thunder Aug as Pulse as too cost-effective, there remains the matter of fun. If you regard the above mentioned edge camp as a legit tactic for a camp lances, I am going to look for games elsewhere.

    1. Fair enough. I guess ultimately it comes down to what kind of game you like to play. Fair and Balanced or Free For All – err, more realistic Game. You’re either a Chess Player or a Boar Hunter. Neither is better, just different. BT with or without Mines, Infernos, etc., is pretty much the same.

      I also try to keep in mind perspective. If I’m a player I’m playing to win. If I’m a GM, I’m working to ensure everyone has fun. Those are two different goals that don’t necessarily align.

  7. Good point KM, usually playing to win and making sure everyone is having fun tend to be mutually exclusive. Ultimately, it depends on the situation you find yourself in.

    If you’re playing pick games with random people, you got to expect this win at all costs mentality. They don’t know you or owe you anything.

    However, if you’re playing in a campaign setting, I can say that we have unwritten rules against overly cheesy and abusive things. I’d say we maybe have 1 or 2 Mechs out of a 4-5 lances carrying T-Aug. Maybe 1 in every 3 games someone is bringing Arrow IV. Obviously, if you’re in a campaign, it makes a lot of sense to discuss what’s acceptable and what is not.

    Additionally, with scenarios and objectives, the mine and castle in a corner can lead to a loss. Maybe diversifying the game types that you play to mitigate that type of behavior could go a long way.

  8. There was a really good article in a really old White Dwarf about offensive and defensive strategies in a fortified settings.

    I like the Gridlock that could be combined with an artillery box.

  9. excellent topic – while I love to use mines this gave me many new ideas to try as well as with other combinations – and with some lrm equipped hovers looks like you could really sow some chaos keeping the battle changing and making your opponents change strategies while you can think in advance

  10. Great article. I have only one thing to add- my special Vibrabomb manuver.
    Imagine that: in the weapon phase you launch a 20 point vibrabomb minefield under enemy unit, and you set those mines to lowest possible tonnage (that would be 20 tons). The next step is to loose initiative (or bank it if you play with force commander). You lose your initiative so you move first- and you move near your vibrabombs setting them off 🙂
    This is a great way of killing battle armour and fast units, also works great against players that stack lots of initiative mods (like command console or comm equipment).
    Enjoy

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