Arbitration Podcast – September 2012

A Time of War Companion - BattleTech

Arbitration Studio’s September 2012 BattleTech Podcast

This time on Arbitration we talk about A Time of War Companion, IK Miniatures’s latest offerings, and the fan produced TRO 3063.  After that it’s talk about Steve Jobs’s resurrection,  Saudi all-women cities and American Politics clashing with Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.  Plus Arbitration’s listener comments…

All in this month’s PodCast from Arbitration Studios – the last word in BattleTech
Chatterweb BattleTech Podcast
The Chatterweb: A BattleTech Podcast
Arbitration Podcast - September 2012


  1. Hey! Heard your podcast.

    Missus Arbiter: If you have the time, please send me any corrections on the intros you feel are vital and I will incorporate them into the text, print a new version and put it up on MediaFire (or in my case, OpenDrive). We had a couple of editors but as I remarked in the “Lessons Learned” piece, there is stuff we missed. I know we did, just from the amount we caught.

    ‘a new generation of Clan Mechwarriors..”

    I used ‘is’ instead of ‘are’ because I was referring to the new generation (singular) and not the Mechwarriors directly (which is obviously plural.

    Run-on sentences…. mmm, guilty, I suppose. And I do loves me some pronouns, but the writing *could* have been clearer.

    The Bu-20a: used a fusion engine due to the increased tonnage available for the rest of the machine. No defensive weapons, true, but as noted in the text, ammo is hauled in the backfield where (presumably) infantry are available. Nevertheless, there is the Bu-20b which carries pulse lasers in a turret and acts as an escort while carrying ammo of its own.

    The Hammerhead II: we don’t really know what the speed limit is for road trains with ICE engines. I presumed it would be as fast as they could haul. Slower is not better, or so I presume. Since we did not take the step of designing a road train tractor and calculating the speed an ICE could muster, I let that one stand. The Light Ferro Fibrous armor is not actually light ferro fibrous, but a brand name for standard ferro. My co-writers had issues with this until I pointed it out.

    The XL engine was put there to liberate tonnage for the warload, armor and upsized engine (more speed). I agree about the cost, but:

    (1) the military who provide these things have no issue with servicing such engines.

    (2) the ‘frontier world’ we were thinking of is not uniformly primitive throughout and so, again, it’s not unlikely that a few of these would be available.

    3) the fusion engine not only frees up additional tonnage for payload, it provides greater reliability – the idea being that as the roadtrain ventures out into the sticks, breakdowns and refueling are OK for elements of the roadtrain but the escort is ‘on-duty’ 100% of the time – especially during refueling and roadside emergency repairs.

    (4) the LB-X cannons are somewhat multi-role and have a bit better reach than the stock weapon

    (5) the Streak launchers are a combination of ‘dial-a-yield’ (matching the fire to the threat), conserving ammo in an environment where reloads are unlikely and a desire to limit the collateral damage a standard launcher would incur in any kind of ‘town’ environment.

    The Stingray – well, a lot of these designs (and I suppose this covers others as well) were handed to me waaaay back in 2007. We tweaked some, left others alone. I tried (in my clumsy way) to avoid duplicating machines that already existed, but even so, there’s no reason the ‘original’ would be available. The canon machines are supposed to be available to every faction, but that does not mean there is an adequate supply of them at any given time to satisfy the needs of a House.

    That said, we gave this one a fusion engine for the same reason we gave a lot of designs a fusion engine – it’s lighter, more dependable and sinks heat. We tried this out in playtest and it worked quite well.

    As an aside, I think you should take a look at the Record Sheets for this TRO – there are a lot of variants that fill the ‘gaps’ you perceive in the standard designs.

    The R2D2 art for the AMS is common to Stephen Huda’s design. Thank God we don’t have George Lucas on our butts about that! Other AMS illustrations differ widely.

    I wish you guys had playtested these designs before you took a shot at them. Loved the podcast, though of course, the C+ is your own take. With 112 entries and a total of 230+ designs (including variants), I think we got off lightly. Yes, some of the art is awkward (the Revenant is one that gives you the feeling it would look very different from another angle) and I am truly sorry we had to take the more advanced tech out (I would have loved to produce this as an Upgrade from a later era – and I may do that in about six months!) as no one loved those designs more than I did. But that’s a project for another time.

    Like I said, the Missus is welcome to submit needful changes. I will cheerfully incorporate them into the text and issue a revision. We will keep those changes when we get to the Upgrade and I would absolutely love it if she was interested in having a hand in editing the Upgrade when it is ready.


    Steve Satak

  2. Well I had the misery of listening to the first 50 minutes of this, and I’ll never get that time back, its gone forever.

    While I’m quick to find flaws in everything (its my job as an IT director to find better ways to do everything, so its in my idiom) and there are plenty in TRO 3063. I must say that ya’ll didn’t form very efficient arguments, in most cases what you based your arguments on was completely wrong or so biased towards your own opinions of how things “should be” that it all just came out to be directionless complaining.

    Some examples:
    The Hammerhead is fusion powered. Well, its a small vehicle and simply doesn’t have the fuel capacity of the transports. Think your car can go as far as an 18 wheeler? Think again. An LB5X is a *great* weapon against smaller support vehicles, especially those that were just published in ATOW Companion that infantry would use. It gives a -1 to hit and an impact is multiple potential critical hit chances. NOWHERE, in ANY book, does it say that an XL engine is “more maintenance” than a fusion engine. Also, even “frontier worlds” have millions to billions of people on them, as facts overwrite fluff, the whole “mad max” feel of BT is trumped by the facts that make at least a few hundred world have billions of people on them. Plus, who do you think has the best military equipment in the world today? Think its the military? Think again, its Xi/Blackwater/etc and the corporations that support the military. If I’m a corporation, even on a “mad max” world, I’m going to be using those guys to defend my assets, an those guys will have XL engines, pulse lasers, etc.

    Cost in BT is never an issue. Sometimes its mentioned in fluff, but with the proliferation of XL engines that quadruple the cost of many mechs, it is pretty obvious that in the BTU, the mighty C-Bill simply doesn’t matter.

    A support vehicle isn’t a “vehicle used for support”, its a different rule set for vehicles that are not expected to see combat in most cases. An ammo carrier, that follows around an artillery vehicle, tho its a support unit it is expected to see combat situations. Artillery often faces counter-battery fire, and a support vehicle would just make pretty explosions while the combat vehicle could survive long enough to leave the area. Being fusion powered means the vehicle would be less likely to “brew up” making any onboard ammo explode, plus would use less internal space as fuel isn’t required. PLUS, in the BU-20a/Sabra case, both are fusion powered, which means the vehicles don’t have to stop to refuel every couple hundred km, kinda important when battles take place over continents. Just ask the Nazis.

    Sure, the writing needed work and an editor would have been a GREAT asset. Sure, some of the designs could be duplicated by other designs that already exist in the universe, but find me a canon TRO that you can’t say that about. Heck, I even PLEADED with Centurion13 to remove the Dragonfly and Oculus because I hated the artwork without success.

    Oh, and as a former crewman of an M2A2 Bradley IFV, while the Pentagon Wars was a great movie, the end result after years of that development was the best IFV in the world; a vehicle that even 20+ years later isn’t even being considered for replacement; a vehicle that has proven itself in the Desert Storm, Bosnia, and OIF. Its a bad-ass vehicle. The armor sucks, but its not a tank, but it can kill tanks at 3.75km and the M242 25mm Bushmaster is a freaking awesome gun that decimates tanks and infantry alike.

    Since I hate to complain without recommendations:
    #1. PLAN your podcast before you start talking.
    #2. Push mute when you cough, I’ve had to do it a lot over the last week with the cough I have during online meetings and phone calls.
    #3. The Tech Manual and Tactical Operations make MaxTech completely obsolete, so using MaxTech for arguments is, well, kinda dated.
    #4. Learn the difference between “handwavium” and “choice”. The changes that were made at the last minute were to make the designs be LEGAL, so there were a lot of HPPCs replaced with BLCs and such. The BLC in 3063 is 100% legal according to the rules of the game (but yeah, advanced, not like we don’t have a lot of canon advanced designs these days). A LAC that was introduced in 3068 is *NOT* legal, regardless of what other source may say so, as TM/TO supercedes previous stuff.

    I’d give TRO3063 a solid B- overall I think, but I’d give your podcast an F-.

    Sorry, I rambled, so I’ll give my own review an F- as well.

  3. Thought you were overly harsh on the 3063 review, and came across as rather overly critical, and full of your own opinions.

    IMO criticism should be constructive. It is also better to provide a more balanced, good versus bad points review.

    Colour me less than impressed by your review.

  4. You want to know what invalidates much of the review for me?

    They carried on about the lack of the Clans. They downgraded the TRO because the Clans were not included. They *expected* them to be there.

    This, despite the fact that that they’ve been aware of the blog for years. A blog that has *never* mentioned the Clans as part of its mission statement. We never even suggested we would carry them – quite the opposite, in fact. No one asked. None of the art, nothing in over a hundred updates and thousands of words ever even hinted at it. Everyone knew from the blog – for nearly *five years* – there weren’t going to be any entries for the Clans. No one appeared to care.

    And yet our reviewers *expected to see the Clans*.

    ……. Really?!!!

    I’m sorry, but I honestly expected them to come up with more meat when panning the book. For example, they praised the Praetorian. Why not condemn it as a 50-ton knockoff of a Hatamato Kaze and call it redundant as well? I suspect it’s because they didn’t get very much further than the stats. If they had, they would have noted the encounter in the Deployment section with… Hatamoto-Kazes! The similarity of design was accidental, but I let it stand when playtesting revealed the Praetorian was a better machine. And included the playtest in the entry!

    I understand picking flyspecks from the pepperoni. I am a quality control inspector, after all. But claiming to be able to see flyshit while missing an elephant at ten yards leaves me scratching my head on this review.

    You guys didn’t really want to do this, did you? I could tell from the tone in your voices on the podcast. Why didn’t you leave it out if you didn’t want to do it? I would have understood.


    Steven Satak

  5. Hello, Arbitration! While these folks have a point about the unevenness of your review, I did enjoy the podcast, and am happy to hear you give the book so much attention.

    Mrs. Arbiter, thank you for mentioning “Blessed Order of ComStar” and “Blessed Blake” at 25:17 in the cast! Word usage was one of the more interesting things I got to look into for the book, and this particular instance took a bit to research before I okayed it in 2009.

    TR:3050 (pre-schism) uses “Our Blessed Order;” the ComStar sourcebook has both secular ComStar and the Word of Blake continue (post-schism) with “our blessed Order” (adjectives uncapitalized); in FM:ComStar the WoB reverts back to “Our Blessed Order” (capitalized), while ComStar basically avoids addressing the issue. The Field Manual doesn’t actively contradict the earlier books so there’s no reason to think usage has changed. (It’s possible that switching adjectives to lower case represents a meaningful change in how ComStar/WoB view things, but capitalizing them seemed more correct to real world style guides.)

    Remember, ComStar “secularized” because their new holy mission (sharing the good that technology can do) doesn’t support mystic trappings the way their old holy mission (preserving technology from those who would abuse it) did. They still believe that Jerome Blake was a uniquely wise man, and it’s still the truth and importance they attribute to his vision that gives their mission a spiritual character.

    There are a few things about the book’s style and diction that bug me. (I have a SRS BSNS vendetta against words like “load out” or “warload,” for instance, because viewing units as stacks of interchangeable weapons tends to produce uniformly shallow writeups.) But, like FASA, that’s something TRO3063 did right: it went for depth before sweating the superficial stuff.

    …which does leave a fair number of things that could use another eye, plus whatever subsequent tweaks (like “ComStar’s Focht War College”) that might not have seen an editor yet.

    Oh, also! At 31:20 in the cast you ask why use combat vee rules for something like the BU-20a. That’s actually very common: some people think the supvee rules cover ground that (at least for them) was covered adequately already; some people think that the supvee rules (although very good at what they do) don’t integrate well enough with BattleTech at large; but mostly, I think, it would help to glance through TR:3039. Like Bad_Syntax was saying, there is a distinction between “support vehicles” and “combat support” vehicles.

    @Centurion13, wrt Hammerhead: Boilerman has a neat trick for this – install electric batteries in all the roadtrains so they can ‘tank up’ off the escort’s fusion engine instead of having to carry fuel. Or include a modest additional fusion vehicle in the convoy, if you want to leave the escort free. (I think the writeup is fine as-is, mind you; I’m only mentioning this because it strikes me as a fun option.)

    @Bad_Syntax: the dates and fluff in TM/TO seem to support JP’s Maxtech-based comments.

    @Centurion13, wrt expecting Clans: this is one of the reasons I think fanbooks should have an out-of-character foreword, to summarize that stuff for people who maybe *didn’t* follow closely.

    @JPArbiter: Hahah, was not expecting you to recommend forums during your podcast, but doing that makes sense and I appreciate your thoughts. OBT does seem like the best option at the moment. (And thanks for elaborating on FM:SLDF.)

  6. Maxtech is an old product, and the Total Warfare Tech Manual and Tactical Operations superceded any previous product. Thus, using Maxtech as an argument for availability dates is, well, incorrect.

    Any CGL or FASA TRO is also full of little inconsistencies and errors (though perhaps not as many sometimes). While things like the tank artwork looking a little small in the rear was valid, increasing or decreasing the rating of a product based on minor issues with grammer is kinda hypocritical unless all the canon stuff is rated the same way, which it is not.

    TacOps had like dozens of pages of errata, in fact, just go check the errata forums, they are FULL of issues with EVERY canon product. Wars of Reaving had huge amounts of errata, and I saw nothing but fanboy drooling over it.

    If you want to be taken seriously when you rate something, you simply can’t be biased and hypocritical otherwise your arguments are diluted to the point where nobody can take them seriously.

    Though JP went off on the negative aspects for far more time on this product, if you count up actual “bad” vs “good” subjects, the good still won, but he still gave it a C+ 🙂

  7. Author

    Thanks for the comments all

    @ Cent 13, welcome to the audience, I tried to be as gentle as I could while still being honest.

    @ PiP First off you been rocking that shirt at your games? I tried my hardest to be as un-mean spirited as I could be, however I am a strong proponent of the “Yahtzee” style of product reviews, which can be summarized by “nothing gets a free pass.” that was why I said Field Manual SLDF was dull after all.

    There are also some things about the background of TRO 3063 that I learned that, if the source is accurate, have me less then pleased. given I can not account for the veracity of those statements I could not mention them on air though. and before you ask Cent or Syntax, no I will not share these rumors with you two either.

    @ Skil again Brutal Honesty, if I feel you can go somewhere else for a good chat about Btech I will tell you. But yeah I made OBT the home of the show for a reason.

    @ Syntax so much I could talk to you about, but I think I will leave it to this. you are wrong about the introduction dates for technologies, and it is based on a presumption of Retconning MaxTech rather then it being superseded. In Tac Ops we have three entries for production dates.

    One is labeled R&R start Date: AKA building materiels in a Lab and limited controlled field testing (proving grounds stuff)

    Second is Prototype Design and Production. this means that there is small batch production of said technology and it is being equipped on combat ready units and sent to the Front Lines for evaluation.

    Finally we have Introduced, as noted in Tech Manual and a few Items in Tac Ops. this equipment is in full production.

    to pick on the Binary laser and PPC Capacitor, neither of those items have an “introduced” date and thus were never considered to be “introduced.” by virtue of the LAC being in MaxTech though, a book set in 3060, that was at least one more bit of tech that COULD HAVE been there. I freely admit that other bits and pieces of tech would be all sorts of handwave.

    Regarding the Hammerhead, it might have been better to introduce the road train vehicles along side it, and were it me I would have definitely looked at support vehicle construction a lot more seriously for a couple of three items in the TRO. Likewise I would have experimented with Primitive Tech for the Thunderbolt. again my opinions I could be wrong.

    1. “There are also some things about the background of TRO 3063 that I learned that, if the source is accurate, have me less then pleased. given I can not account for the veracity of those statements I could not mention them on air though. and before you ask Cent or Syntax, no I will not share these rumors with you two either.”

      Okay, I won’t ask. But I am genuinely mystified as to (a) why you would bring up such a vague accusation of ‘wrongdoing’ without actually saying what it was and (b) what the hell you are talking about.

      Innuendo and gossip? Really? And you didn’t include it in the podcast – but it’s okay to post here? Do you have to be in the right *that* bad?

      There are only two things I can think of that would be a source of embarrassment during the production of the TRO: the original art wasn’t very original and I took a very long time to pay off some of our artists. And I was very vocal about both of those things on the blog. I replaced all the bad art (although, some would argue, with more bad art :-)) and I *did* pay off all my artists. And editors.

      If I still owe someone money, please let me know.

      JPArbiter, shame on you. If you didn’t want to do the review, why did you do it? And why, in heaven’s name, do you think that a poorly-done review is made any better by being ‘honest’? I don’t think of reviews in terms of honesty, I think of them in terms of accuracy and usefulness in improving future efforts. I don’t believe I am alone in thinking this way.


  8. Uhhhh, you said we had some dubious source, but you won’t answer about the rumors if WE, who CREATED the TRO, asked? That is a pretty stupid comment. You caught us, Herb put us up to the whole thing.

    I’m simply not wrong about the dates. The PPC Capacitor is in “prototype design and production” as of in 3060 as of page 337 of TacOps, the Binary Laser Cannon “prototype design and production” in 2812 as TacOps p319. So basically these 2 items are probably not in wide spread use, but both are 100% legal to use in 3063 according to the rules. Sure, you may have some bias against things in “prototype” stage, but CGL doesn’t and produced a whole slew of TROs that have this stuff in them, so what is your issue?

    So, you argue that a date, in a recent product that has actual specific dates, is incorrect.

    Then you use an OLD product, that is completely deprecated, stated as OPTIONAL, that has no specific introduction dates (in fact, I couldn’t find a single year anywhere in the book), as justification to say that LAC’s should be used?

    Can you say “hypocrite”, because we all can, and apparently you just love LACs and hate BLC and Capacitors.

  9. Thank you for the comments, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

  10. Author

    it is not a case of love of the LAC (which I do have) or hatred of the PPC Capacitor or Binary Laser Cannon (which I do not have). For me it boils down to the arbitrary use of these two technologies for the sake of avoiding bizarre anachronisms when other things could have been done to different vehicles.

    for example why not use Fuel Cell Engines on vehicles that need lighter engines but no heat sinks? Why not use Artillery Cannons on Pseudo MBTs? As previously addressed, why not use Support vehicle rules for the units that may Merit them?

    @Cent Regarding the use of Combat Vehicles being universal, that was true for the most part in the succession wars era, but a perusal of TRO 3058 and TRO 3060 shows the trend bowing out as time goes on. In the case of the Pilum Tank that I mentioned as a Stingray Competitor, the Pilum is manufactured in Lyran Space, and with he exception of Fedcom Regiments is not seen anywhere else. Likewise I did not bring up the Alacorn analogs of the Crinos and Xuan Wu because the Lyran Alliance hangs on to the Alacorn rather jealously.

    If you do want to Retcon something out of existence, I would recommend you rename the Werefox Petian. An Anti Semtic traitor who handed France over to the Nazi’s is not someone I would name a vehicle after.

    again I apologize for the inconvenience of not blasting sunshine and rainbows up the asses of the authors. Certianly a good review can be purchased from me if that is what is wanted. upon review even I admit that speaking my peace about it was a little less then properly coherent, which I blame on the urgent need to get an already late show out the door so we could move onto our October surprise we hinted at at the end of the show. I do stand by the final statement though. Altogether the product is a C Plus, not nearly as bad as FASA’s TRO original 3050 or 3055 but not blow me away awesome like TRO 3075 or TRO 3050 Update

  11. Nobody was looking for a good review, its just that you went off all over the place like TRO 3063 stepped on your kitten. Then, when asked why, the best you can come up wit were really vague arguments that in most cases seemed bound by your lack of understanding of some rules rather than anything with the product itself.

    Sure, many of the designs could have been done differently. The same can be said of ANY TRO. Canon TRO’s are filled full of really stupid designs (on purpose, they don’t want everything to be munchy) that you could easily say “why not do this instead?” and it be valid. The thing about TROs you seem to not want to get is that the authors are not trying to design the best units, or in many cases even good units. They are trying to add units to a universe with already over 5 THOUSAND of them.

    If you want a design for some specific purpose, you CAN and WILL find it from canon sources. TRO 3063 wasn’t about making a bunch of munchy designs (though I’ll admit some do feel that way) but instead just like every other TRO, to give you new pictures and some new fluff to read, and not necessarily show you good equipment.

    Canon is full of great units that for some idiotic reason went out of favor for some “new and improved” design that sucked in comparison to the original, so using that as an argument against any product isn’t very solid.

    As for that name thing. Gotta remember, this is over a THOUSAND years in the future. In another few hundred years (if people will stop comparing everything bad to the man) the Hitler name will be forgotten, in 500 years perhaps a new hero emerges that happens to have the name Hitler. By 3050, the name may have changed its meaning entirely, so trying to say a name based on a name from somebody who died a generation ago, that very few people in the world know of, isn’t appropriate that is just jumping to conclusions.

    In BT, every faction uses every technology, period. Everybody has clan stuff, period. Sure, some factions use some tech more than others in fluff, but in rules, its all the same. There is no tech to any specific faction. Perhaps the society stuff like iATMs and Nova, but I’m betting more than a few folks have already built units with those munchy systems.

    Just make sure when you go off on a rampage in various forums and online about something, you can back it up with something more than just your opinion, otherwise it just appears to be trolling.

  12. a later Battletech novel a Major character made a pretty extreme decision and when called on it said “who do you think I am? Amaris? Hitler?” (I want to say it was Morgan Hasek Davion in thew Hunters, but I am not 100%)

    names of evil men live on forever.

    and lets remember reviews are 100% opinion, they are an end users take on a product. any one looking for an objective review is on a snipe hunt, anyone claiming to be an objective reviewer is selling something. now if you excuse me, I will be more then happy to discuss my opinions with anyone besides the authors of TRO 3063, as they seem to want me to appease them.of course the remaining half hour of the podcast is open to anyone wishing to discuss.

  13. Centurion13, BadSyntax – you’re ownly embarrassing yourselves by your over-passionate defence of your baby. No-one should ever think they can do the perfect thing – someone else can always do it better. You need to be happy for yourself. This dogpiling any dude who doesn’t think your TRO is perfect just makes you look bad.

    AND JP dude, don’t gossip. Put it up there if you know it’s real, or apologise if you don’t think it’s real enough to put up here.

    1. Ummm… I’m not ‘dogpiling’ anyone. I’ve tried to offer explanations for what appear to be misunderstandings. On my part or the reader’s. They are ignored, as they were on the forums.

      I am also decrying what appeared to be a poor effort at a review – it’s mostly a handful of just-so opinions on something like six, maybe seven machines out of 250 or so. That’s… not really a review. It’s more like a drive-by. And listening to the podcast, it sounds like a *reluctant* drive-by – as though they didn’t want to do it in the first place, but were forced by a lack of suitable subject material.

      I am not defending ‘my baby’. It’s gone. It’s history, for better or worse. Love it or hate it, it’s already in the rear-view mirror and I left my ego at the door a long time ago (around the first time I got edited :)). I’m a middle-aged man with a lot of new things on my plate. But yes, I *do* want this fan work to get a fair shake, its day in court, if you will. I thought (briefly) that this podcast would be a good effort at a ‘fair hearing’. I was wrong. Furthermore, it was a waste of perfectly good content on the podcaster’s part.

      I actually took the Missus’ criticism to heart – as much editing as we did, it seems there’s more to be done. Others have said the same thing. I will pay particular attention to that in the next work!

      As far as my reputation with the BattleTech community… hrm. It is what it is. The world continues to turn and meanwhile, my garage needs cleaning. You should probably know that I mined most of the fun out of this over five years. The actual production was just the end step – for me, the journey was the thing.

      I thought by explaining the designs, I might help folks get over the impression that a particular entry was crap (and thus, useless). It appears some folks – including you, Ostie – choose to interpret that as Steve defending ‘his baby’. That is incorrect. I have an ego and it’s way bigger than it should be, but it’s invested in other things – not this. Not anymore.

      I should probably follow a piece of advice I was given a long time ago – “Never explain: those well-disposed towards you don’t need it. Those who are not, won’t believe it”.

      This will be my last post here, regardless of who else comments. If you want to discuss it further, look up my address and come over for a cup of coffee and we’ll talk.


      Steve Satak

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