BattleTech: BV and The Code

Howdy and welcome back to BattleTech. Here at Goonhammer, we are huge fans of the Battle Value system for balancing games, as it usually does an alright job of balancing two dissimilar forces against each other. This isn’t to say the BV system is perfect, but it generally will do an okay job for most people and most situations.

But what about when it doesn’t? BV 2, our current version of BV, is a bit long in the tooth and there are some situations and mechs that it just doesn’t cover super well. There are also plenty of ways to build two forces that, while equal in BV, are nowhere near equal in power. This can lead to some pretty bad games when more aware players with a wider knowledge of available variants play against someone who doesn’t know all 50 of their choices for their Warhammer and just went with the basic one. I am not proposing that players only take bad mechs, or that trying to take the best and win is wrong. I am hoping to give a set of guidelines for pickup games, and to teach new people so that you don’t let your opponent’s lack of game knowledge screw both of you out of a good game.

So, let’s take a look at all the places where BV doesn’t cut it and what you can do to not let it ruin games. At the end I’ll compile all the advice together and add a few more notes to create the Great Goon Code of BattleTech.

All bets are off at tournaments though. For that sort of play you can just use this article as a guide on how to maximize the pain you can inflict on people. No mercy.

Kell Hounds Nova Cat. Credit: Jack Hunter

Clan Pulse

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the widely known and widely reviled boogieman among more experienced BattleTech players: Clan pulse lasers. Pulse Lasers are intended to be shorter ranged but more accurate than ER lasers, which are the other advanced tech laser variety. Inner Sphere models stick to this, with medium pulse lasers only having a 2 hex short range compared to the ER medium laser’s 4, and the large pulse laser having a 3 hex short range compared to the ER large laser’s 7. The total range of an Inner Sphere large pulse laser or medium pulse laser is half that of their ER counterpart. The BV calculation for weapons really values range, so IS pulse lasers are a bit cheaper than IS ER lasers and are situationally better — but you will often prefer the higher range of an ER laser.

Clan ones say fuck all of this. They have stupid long range and still have an accuracy bonus. A Clan LPL has a short range of 6 hexes, equal to an Inner Sphere PPC and nearly equal to an IS ER large laser, with no minimum range and an accuracy bonus. Clan MPLs have the same range as Inner Sphere ER medium lasers. Clan pulse lasers combine the range and accuracy of both IS advanced laser types, leading to a weapon type that is good in literally every conceivable situation instead of having to select for close range accuracy or long range capability. Compared to Clan ER lasers, rather than having half the range, Clan pulse tends to only lose 20-ish% or less of the range, while doing the same damage more accurately at all ranges. They cost quite a bit more than IS pulse lasers — a hair less than an IS ER laser and pulse laser combined together — but what you get is significantly better than having both of those weapons. You get a significantly better ER laser with an accuracy bonus, and a pulse laser with twice the range. You also do more damage than IS lasers, because they really needed it.

The Clan large pulse laser is roughly equal in practical power to a Clan ER PPC, a weapon with a chance to kill you in one hit. The ER PPC trades reliability for spike damage, and has only slightly longer range than a Clan LPL. Despite this being, in my mind, a roughly even trade, the LPL is more consistent but the ER PPC can do some spooky things on occasion, the LPL is 200 BV cheaper. For the BV you can nearly have 2 Clan LPLs for the price of one Clan ER PPC, and I (and a lot of people) think the weapons are roughly even in power. This is nuts, Clan LPL mechs are consistently pretty cheap and will grind most enemies into a fine paste.

As far as the Clan MPL goes, it is one of the most efficient brawling weapons in the game, with the perfect range to keep SRMs and AC/20s at medium range while hitting at short range with a to-hit bonus. Mechs mounting 4+ of these rapidly become a serious problem, as they can whittle mechs to death very easily by simply always having the better to-hit number.

So what do we do about this?

Pulsing Responsibly

My first big piece of advice on how to not make everyone hate playing against you is just to limit the amount that you take. One Clan Pulse mech in a 10k BV game isn’t a huge issue, neither is having a few MPLs as secondary weapons on your battle line mechs. The big issues are mechs like the Goshawk Prime, Bounty Hunter Mad Cat, Nova S, Stormcrow A, and the like. Mechs that mount large numbers of pulse lasers on fast chassis that can chase down anything they feel like and grind them into paste with pulse lasers. I honestly don’t recommend taking a mech exclusively or primarily armed with Clan pulse lasers to a pick up game at all if you don’t know your opponent’s skill level super well.

Something like a Nova B with it’s single LPL is completely fine though, you lack the volume of pulse to make someone miserable. A Dire Wolf A is another interesting case of a mech where the pulse is probably fine, as it is so slow and such a massive BV sink that the opponent can actually counter play it by dodging out of its firing arcs, getting behind cover, or killing the rest of the list around it and then focusing it down.

Counter-play is the big issue with Clan pulse. A lot of Clan pulse boats (boat meaning a mech almost exclusively armed with a single weapon type, for those unaware) are very fast and hard to get away from. When something can run faster than you and has weapons that are just better than yours it is hard to really do anything about it.


C3 is a mess

C3 is a horrible mess in this game. C3 networks and their radical cousin C3i networks mechanically allow any mech in the network to measure range from any other mech in the network. This is very powerful and can make your to-hit rolls way better on average if you know how to use it. There is plenty of counter-play, with ECM hard-countering all C3 connections within range and standard C3 networks being dependent on a single mech who can be killed to disable the network. The issue is that ECM bearing mechs are rare and C3i networks are immune to being decapitated, so with the right setup and with the enemy force not carrying ECM you can completely dominate with it.

The biggest problem with C3 though has nothing to do with it’s power level. In fact, the BV cost on C3 is very high and usually makes up for the greatly-enhanced to-hit values by putting you down 2000+ BV worth of mech compared to your opponent. The problem is that calculating that BV cost is insanely annoying and it is very easy to miss in the book. It isn’t hard at all to miss that C3 has a BV cost, or to assume that the cost of the C3 system is baked into the BV cost of the unit. C3 BV calculation adds 5% of the BV of each unit in the network to every other unit in the network. This is a needlessly complicated way of doing this, and Master Unit List, the most common source for BV and list building, doesn’t calculate C3 BV or have any option to link mechs together.

Generally speaking I would recommend not taking C3 to pick up games with people you don’t already know. It is grossly powerful if used correctly and, more importantly, is just a lot to explain and a messy extra rules layer to pile on top of an already reasonably complex game.

Clan Wolf Fire Moth. Credit: Jack Hunter

Speedy Sam and the Perils of Velocity

Another point where BV stops handling things particularly well is with some light mechs. Not the regular 6/9/0 or 7/11/0 ones, but the 10/15/0s and beyond. Once you hit those sorts of speeds the BV hike on SRMs, pulse lasers, and other short/mid ranged weapons just isn’t keeping up with how hard to hit you are. You are simply going so fast that it becomes hard for a lot of more casual lists to deal with you. Things like the Fire Moth, Mercury, or Gunsmith are so unreasonably fast that you can completely dictate the engagement with a force made up of 4/6/0s, 5/8/0s, and 6/9/0s.

You get to deny the enemy a single good shot while always being at point-blank range to deliver your guns straight into back armor. In my personal experience newer players tend to skimp on fast movers/light mech hunters and load up on heavy mechs, so if you are not aware of where someone is at when it comes to knowledge about the game it might be best to only take one of these super high speed low drag skirmishers, so that you don’t give them a negative play experience early on by bombarding them with a half dozen little bees that they can’t hit.

Banshee. Credit: Jack Hunter

Biggy Thick and the Banshee Squad

There is a long-running adage around BattleTech optimization circles: “You don’t pay to be fat.” Heavyweight mechs with tons of armor and structure points but mediocre guns tend to be very cheap in BV terms. You might have noticed that I have a slight fondness for cheap, big, well protected mechs. [Here and here and here and etc. –Ed.] The issue here is that at lower BV counts you can outpace your opponent’s ability to do damage to you. You might only have 30 alpha strike damage from some medium lasers, an AC/10, an SRM, and some other little random guns, but if you have the same amount of armor and structure for 60% the cost that 30 damage starts looking like a very efficient trip to pilot death by constant PSRs.

If you are playing 10K BV, as we generally recommend here at Goonhammer, you can easily squeeze five Banshees, Orions, Archers, or Awesomes into a list and have room left over for things that can actually move and play proactively. A lot of lists just lack the damage output to deal with an entire lance of efficient armor losers on top of all of the other stuff you can bring. If you are able to keep one of them in the backline and let your opponent break themselves on the rest of your list, you will end up with a Banshee or Orion that is completely undamaged facing off against half of a Marauder.

This is generally good play, and it is one of the reasons that I think that the Lyran Wall of Steel is a very good list archetype. Newer players generally skimp on fast movers and the sorts of mechs that punish a reliance on cheap Succession Wars heavies and assaults. If you are playing into new players I’d generally try to make sure that at least half of your BV is in brawly medium mechs, like Enforcers and Centurions, or lower-end heavies, like Dragons or Linebackers. This will give your opponent more space to breath instead of just getting crushed below the sheer unmitigated Lyran Girth of your list.

If You Play with Ultraheavy Protomechs, You Are a Terrorist

I’ll start this off by saying that I wouldn’t use any protomechs at all against a new player; they are such a different animal to kill compared to everything else in the game.

Protomechs are little bastard mechs that move and activate in groups of five and are designed to drag down and kill mechs through numbers. The good regular protomechs, like the Delphyne and Roc, are all very strong play pieces and a lot of fun to use. BV undervalues the hell out of them. Five Delphynes costs around the same as a decent heavy mech and will absolutely maul the shit out of anything in their price range with five 5/8/5 medium pulse laser caddies.

One of the most annoying things about Protomechs is that they have a small chance every time you hit them to downgrade a hit to a near miss, saving them from death way more often than you would think. The thing is that if you know they are coming you can load weapons that are good at killing them and overpower them by spamming shots out and flinging Inferno Missiles at them. I still wouldn’t take these to blind games or games against new players due to them being so different compared to regular mechs, but once you have a handle on things they aren’t that bad.

Ultraheavy protomechs are some of the most blatantly overpowered units in the game. Every single one of them is a fresh hell to deal with. There are only 4 of them, so let’s go over why you shouldn’t let them anywhere near you.

The Sprite is a pocket assault mech, with 590 BV getting you either a 5/8/5 mini-mech with four LRM-5s and enough armor to outfight a lot of medium mechs, or a 5/8/3 ER large laser with enough armor to outfight a lot of medium mechs. Five ER large lasers with no heat issues and a chance to turn a hit into a miss by pure random chance, for less than 3000 BV, is incredibly unpleasant to deal with. The first BattleTech tournament that I ran was flooded with Sprites because the rules allowed them, and trust me when I say that a point of 5 of these little assholes will outfight an honest to god superheavy mech, and even two of them can win a fight against a lot of heavy mechs.

The Boggart is a little bastard; either a 5/8/5 plasma cannon, which is very funny and kind of good for CC, or a 5/8/7 medium pulse laser that lives in my nightmares. Combining the high TMM of a jump 7 with the chance to dodge incoming hits makes a frighteningly annoying unit that will slowly nibble you to death with that Clan medium pulse laser. These are straight up unfun to play against because of how little counter-play you have.

The Hobgoblin is the only bearable ultraheavy proto, with it’s best variant carrying four AP gauss rifles with only five shots each. It is also only 4/6, which is pretty slow for a proto, and overall this one is the only one I wouldn’t throat-punch someone over.

The Svartalfa is genuinely overpowered to the point of being unbearable. It can only walk 1 hex a turn, which seems terrible, and it has decently thick armor for a protomech, capable of walking off a hit to the torso from more or less any single hit in the game. The issue comes from the weaponry and movement. The stock variant has two medium chemical lasers and a streak SRM-6. Medium Chemical lasers are functionally identical to a standard IS medium laser, but require ammo. It can also move 6 hexes a turn using Wing in Ground Effect movement, a needlessly complicated section of rules that functionally lets the mech fly just above the ground and become goddam impossible to hit.

The much better variant, the Svartalfa 3, carries five of those medium chemical lasers and can move 8 hexes with it’s WiGE movement, making it functionally unhittable and capable of doing genuinely horrifying damage. It is 493 BV, so you can easily get five of these for the price of a high grade assault mech. 25 medium chemical lasers on 8 hex move flying chassis’ that can’t be hit, can dodge hits that manage to sneak through, and will almost certainly survive anything that manages to land on it, is capable of killing anything in the game. 25 medium chemical lasers is like being swarmed by Piranhas. Each individual bite does mild damage, but there are so many and it is so hard to manage that you will quickly be stripped down to the bone and the pack will move on to the next target, rapidly murdering it in turn. There is really no counter-play to the Svartalfa 3, I am genuinely at a loss for how the hell anyone is supposed to deal with that.

Don’t take Ultraheavy Protomechs to games without both warning your opponent and explaining exactly what the issue is. Honestly, just don’t take them at all, and wait until CGL rewrites Protomech rules entirely.

iATMs are the Devil

iATMs are total bullshit and you straight up should ban them about it. ATMs are already massively powerful weapons, and for a BV hike that doesn’t really matter, iATMs upgrade them to have Streak, meaning every single missile will hit. An iATM 12 will do 36 damage in 5 point clusters, 100% of the time, and also can flex into longer ranged missiles with lower damage, inferno missiles to shut you down, and all sorts of other horrible ammo types. They are genuinely unfun to play against, and almost no BV hike could make up for how overpowering they are. One or two of them on a mech isn’t the end of the world, super annoying but sorta manageable, but there are mechs with 2+ iATM 12s that will just completely pulverize anything they come into contact with. Take a page out of CGLs book and pretend they don’t exist.


EDIT: I originally forgot this section entirely, and I have no idea how. Charge bots are the single most potent abuse of the BV system in the game.

So, the principle thing that drives up BV is the weaponry that a mech carries. A super fast mech with a gauss rifle is a hell of a lot more expensive than a super fast mech with an AC/5. What happens when you have mechs with either no guns, or a most a couple of small lasers?

They get cheap. Upsettingly cheap. Mechs like the Charger 1A1 are not that bad, because they are still pretty slow at 5/8/0, but what if your unarmed suicide missile was, hypothetically, 16/24(40)/0, like the Fireball eXtra Fast. A charge deals damage based on distance travelled, and a Fireball XF running at least 30 hexes will do 60+ points of damage to anything that it charges into, in 5 point clusters. Because of it’s massive speed, that 60 point blast is almost certainly about to hit your rear armor. In exchange, it takes damage equal to a single punch in 5 point clusters, and gets ready to do another charge. It builds a TMM of “good luck trying to hit me”, so it is nearly impossible to stop it from rear charging your entire force to death. It only costs 612 BV, meaning getting one to 2 or less piloting skill is cheap and easy. 60+ points of effectively auto-hitting rear arc damage is fucking brutal.

This is not the worst charge bot in the game. The Celerity 05-X can move the same 40 hexes, is covered in spikes to boost it’s charge damage, and has impact resistant armor that reduces the damage it takes from recoil. It is only 225 BV. If you put one of those on a table, you are a terrorist. I strongly recommend banning anything that can get moving 30 or more hexes. There is no kosher use for these units, they only exist to cheese people out and ruin games.

That said, if a tournament has forgotten to ban them, bring 4, win the event, and be the reason they are banned going forwards.

Hansen’s Rough Riders Hatchetman. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Great Gooncode of BattleTech

With all of this being said, the best way to make a fair, fun army list for a new player to play against, or for you to bring to a pick up game with a new opponent or group, is to just pick a range of your favorite mechs, at a range of tonnages, and pick less good variants of them. Throw in some IS XL engines, MRMs, and Heavy Gauss Rifles. Load up on inefficient but cool mechs. I love running a pirate swarm of crappy medium and light mechs against new players, with the pirate king mounted in an Ostroc or Grasshopper. Take slower light mechs, faster heavies, and try to make sure there is something big and intimidating for your opponent to blow up.

For more specific advice, I’d avoid any Clan mech that carries pulse lasers or multiple LRMs. Something with a UAC/10 or an LBX/5 would be great, stock Thors are great for this. Mechs that are really cool but tend to kill themselves from heat, like Nova Primes or Masakaris, are also great fun to take against new players. The Masakari in particular makes a great centerpiece model for a less optimized force, as it is big, expensive, comparatively fragile, and riddled with heat problems.

I’d also make sure to mostly bring medium and light mechs, with one or two assaults and heavies adding some muscle to back up things like Panthers, Griffins, Hunchbacks, and Wolverines. These smaller mechs are easier to kill when you take slower/low tech variants compared to the Banshees and Orions of this world, and are canonically really common too.

Another way to make up for your greater knowledge and greater experience is to simply take the second or third best versions of whatever thing you wanted. Aim for the least consistent and most swingy versions of everything. For example, the K2K Catapult is fantastic, so maybe try an H2 and see if you can absolutely rip it with Rocket Launchers this game. The ON1-K Orion is ridiculously good value when it comes to durability, maybe try an ON1-MC and see if you can play around the XL engine and inaccurate MRMs. It can be way more fun to take some stupid, unoptimized, and generally bad mechs to a game and see how well you can do. Satiate your competitive spirit by LARPing as a dipshit merc commander making do with whatever they could scrounge up, even if that is just three Merlins, two Vulcans, and a couple of haggard Wasps.

Another really fun sub-optimal list building restriction you could try out to help you tone down what you are bringing is to only use mechs built by a single factory, a single planet, or a single company. I know someone locally who has a whole force of just GM production mechs and it is funny as hell. Mono-design units, like a whole company of just Wolverines or just Shadow Hawks, are something that shows up in the fiction and can constrain you into really interesting choices. If you can only use Wolverines, you end up trying to find a set of Wolverines that all work together and create a cohesive force. You can also just take 8 of the basic 6R models and see how far 8 AC/5s and 8 SRM-6s can take you. BattleTech has a lot of room for you to make a thematic list and build down in terms of power.


Honestly this article started out as “pain points with the BV system” so we could complain about Clan Pulse and Protomechs, but honestly “how to make people want to play you a second time” is a way more constructive place to go. It’s important to onboard new players gently, if you thrust a new player up against the most degenerate S-tier mechs it can be discouraging. Their big mechs will die too fast and they will get completely swarmed and pinned down, and that isn’t a great introduction to how BattleTech usually works. Try taking some bad mechs and seeing how you can do. I recommend the Company Challenge, where you try to fit 12 whole mechs into 10k BV. When you only have 800-ish BV to spend on each mech you end up with some very, very bad mechs and it is so much fun to play with.