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.
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.