Light BattleMechs are, in my opinion, one of the more difficult units to use in actual game play. Heavies and Assaults typically fall into fairly easy to use categories: brawlers, fire-support, etc. Even medium, most of which fall into similar categories but at slightly higher speeds, are fairly logical in their practical application in a game of BattleTech. Light ‘Mechs transcend these very rudimentary tactics and since they do not fit into these basic tactical doctrines, players tend to find it very hard to use Light ‘Mechs, often using them as canon fodder or in unintended roles.
The Pursuit Lance
This discussion is going to focus on a select group of light ‘Mechs, specifically those higher in the speed scale, mostly 7/11 and above. Typically ‘Mechs falling below that speed curve are designed to perform more traditional roles like brawling or fire support, just in a cheaper, lighter package. Since most people are familiar with this, there isn’t much need to reiterate basic knowledge. Additionally, it is ‘Mechs like this that give Light ‘Mechs a bad name. Since typically, there is a medium sized ‘Mech that can do the same job, better, and with only a nominal increase in cost (BV or otherwise)
Light ‘Mechs, and even some Medium ‘Mechs, that have movement curves above 7/11 fall into a category I like to call Pursuit, as opposed to Cavalry or Brawlers. A Pursuit Lance is distinctive because it gives the commander the ability to provide surgical striking were it is needed due to the speed. Additionally, it lends itself to hit and run tactics, backstabbing, and general disruption of fire support units which would otherwise remain un-harassed in cover.
While I will be asserting these units are useful and valuable, they are still Light ‘Mechs, meaning they are fragile and weak. They indeed have many limitations, but if used for they’re intended purpose, you will find them quite adequate. ‘Mechs that I would consider falling into the Pursuit category include: Spector, Venom, Locust, Hitman, Duan Gung, Raptor, Anubis…just to name a few.
Now, I often see Light ‘Mech assets being treated as canon fodder. In some instances this is warranted, but most of the time, it is not. Light ‘Mechs should not be used in the main battle line along side. They are thing picked off easily at range due to their light armor and most likely XL engines.
Pursuit ‘Mechs (Lances) should be used in conjunction in a company. On a theoretical level, the lance can serve as a scout element. On a tactical level, the Pursuit Lance works well in conjunction with any standard Brawler Lance and Fire Support Lance. I will describe how I use a lance like this under that assumption.
The Pursuit Lance should be deployed on a flank, using their superior mobility to generate high move mods, keeping out at range, and bouncing between cover. Generally, you want to be un-hittable, or at least, extremely hard to hit. I see a lot of people lose their cool here. They’re desire to roll dice gets the better of their judgment, causing them to move in too close, hoping to get some “lucky” shots (10+’s). While I understand this need to roll dice, you’ve just committed a bit sin…let me explain.
Say you’re shooting on 10’s while the enemy is shooting on 11’s. Statistically, assuming 1 shot, you’ve got the better odds, 16.7% vs 8.3%. However, you’ve just failed to consider the volume and magnitude of the shots being exchanged. Say your Pursuit Lance each has an ERLL, 4 shots at 10’s has an expected damage of 1.336 per shot for a total of 5.344. In return, you get return fire from 4 ER PPCs, 2 LRM 15s, and 2 ERLLs, all of which aggregate to an expected value of 6.142 damage. Sure the difference isn’t noticeable, but then you haven’t factored in the armor vs expected damage. 5.334 damage on a heavy ‘Mechs is nearly meaningless. Even if we round up to 8 damage, you’ve probably barely scratched them. In return, you’ve just gotten hit by an ERPPC, and when your armor is that thin, you might be going internal. Moral of the story, keep your cool and don’t break you’re your discipline. A Pursuit Lance is not a bunch of mobile snipers, don’t play them as such.
With the mathematics out of the way, I can get into practical use. Ideally, the Pursuit Lance serves three primary purposes:
Skirmish and defeat enemy light flanking forces
- Harass enemy fire support elements
- Surgical strikes against heavily damaged opponents
Each Pursuit Lance will be better or worse at these different roles depending on what ‘Mechs you’re using and whether they have more long ranged weaponry, pulse weapons, or TarComps.
Skirmishing vs Enemy Lights
Hopefully, you’re not matching up against really similar units. Preferably, these are lights that are slower but maybe pack a slightly better punch. The key here is to mix it up quickly, isolate and pick them apart one at a time. It’s also nice if you can have your Brawlers or Fire Support elements send a couple shots that way during the advance to help open a whole or two. Pursuit units with lots of medium pulse lasers, TAG (with Semi-G LRMs coming from Fire Support), and TarComps excel in this particular role. Usually, you’re getting significantly better hit numbers because they’re slower and yours faster, giving you access to 4 mods while they are stuck at 3.
Harass Enemy Fire Support
Considerably more effective if you don’t have to deal with any flanking or screening forces (see above), harassing enemy fire support units is great fun. Fire support typically establishes fire arcs over the main battle field were the two sides’ main lines are going to clash. Fire support units are typically glass cannons, lots of fire power, but low durability due to XL engines, ammo dependence (even with CASE still gets ravaged), and lower than average armor.
By placing your Pursuit Lance on a flank, the opposing player will already be getting hit with your psychological warfare. His standard game plan has now been shot. If he implements his standard approach, you can sweep into his backfield and focus fire isolated targets and get easy kills. If he keeps body guards, then his main line loses some of its power, helping twist the odds in your favor there.
Surgical Strikes / Prey on the Wounded
The above two roles are your preliminary objectives….tide-me-overs, if you will, for your main role. The Pursuit Lance’s best attribute is its ability to converge concentrated firepower into a single target. Due to it’s speed, plethora of smaller weapons, and ability to avoid damage, the Pursuit Lance shines when coming in to finish the job it’s Brawlers and Fire Support elements started. Medium lasers & TarComps, MPLs, and SRMs (specifically Streaks) are awesome here.
Once they’ve finished off the target, they can break off again, heading to harass enemy Fire Support, continue to circle the melee looking for back shots, or break for cover and reposition for another round of surgical striking.
When to Use
Like anything in BattleTech, you have to know your enemy and know your situation. Whilst on the defensive, the Pursuit Lance is generally not as effective, but still useful, especially for disrupting enemy fire support. Additionally, make sure you’ve got a lot of map space to work with.
Speed kills on big maps. In a company on company battle, seek to go at least 2 by 2 on maps sheets, 2 by 3 if possible, and 3 by 3 is ideal. This space gives you the ability to stretch your opponent out, allowing you better opportunities to pick off isolated targets and use your speed to cover greater distances. Small playing surfaces greatly reduce the usefulness. The smaller the area, the most important jump jets because, as movement lanes tend to become cluttered and blocked. Regardless, Sprinting and Evasive movement rules are very useful things to keep in mind.
A commander must change their mind set depending on the force he is using. Often times, when paired up with brawler types, light ‘Mechs end up getting used out of their role, and into an unintended role. Here’s how I would describe the use of Light assets:
There is a certain finesse to playing the Pursuit Lance. It’s easy enough to rush forward with all that speed, but you quickly become the main target. It’s critical that you exercise patience and to move in alongside the heavier stuff and let it take the hits while you stay loose and mobile. Hopefully, the enemy will commit and you can use your speed to hit flanks or exploit bad positioning.
I think patience is the really the word of the day when you are using Light ‘Mechs. It’s imperative that you reserve your attack for the opportune moment. They key is that at range, your opponent would likely try and take pot shots, hoping one of your light’s eats a Gauss, one it cannot take. However, if you stay out of reach, he will turn his intentions to easier targets. Once the main battle lines close, his focus will be on the big, high threat targets and since up until this point, your Pursuit Lances hasn’t done much. Here in-lies their greatest mistake. Once they underestimate it, they let their guard down and then you strike.
Light ‘Mechs, when used properly and with purpose, are force multipliers. When clear goals and objectives are outlined, Pursuit-style light ‘Mech are very effective tools for a ‘Mech Commander. Hopefully, by reading this article, you’re come to understand the usefulness of these types of Light ‘Mechs and will consider adding them to your force the next time you play.
Please share your stories, thoughts, opinions and ideas in the comments or in our forum located here: http://ourbattletech.com/forum/campaign-advice-and-tactics-discussion/tactics-discussion-light-‘mech-tactics/