Welcome to the final mech in the Inner Sphere Heavy Battle Lance with this Mech Overview of the Axman, a 65 ton heavy designed around melee combat. It’s fairly well armored and with 4/6/4 movement is on the slow side, though jump jets do help a lot in alleviating issues. What it’s not, particularly in the first few variants, is a good melee mech.
A hatchet does the same damage as a kick, with a worse hit modifier (-1 rather than -2), though it does hit on the full body table. Unless you’ve got a good hit chance (maybe your opponent stood still) you’ll probably want to kick instead – you’re more likely to hit and when you do hit you force a piloting skill roll to avoid falling over. That said, against a target that’s hard to hit you at least don’t risk your own fall if you miss.
Coupled with a hatchet not doing any more damage than a kick is that you can’t make a punch attack (or hatchet attack) with an arm that fired any weapons. While the later variants mostly fix this, the first few have more damage in lasers in the same arm as the hatchet, so you’ll mostly be shooting with them instead of axing questions.
Most variants also run an XL engine, which I don’t like on it, as there’s quite a bit of risk of an ammo explosion taking out the entire mech even with CASE.
These mechs have all been reviewed based on a standard F through S scale, which you can find described on our landing page here (along with all of our other ‘mech reviews and our general methodology).
Backing up the hatchet are an AC/20, large pulse laser, and three medium lasers. All three of the medium lasers are in the right arm, so if you want to use the hatchet you don’t get to use them. 10 shots for the AC/20 is enough for most games, though not enough to take precision ammo (which, thanks to rounding, would drop you down to 4 shots). It is, however, a fairly cheap mech. 1,374 BV is not much for a bundle of armor, AC/20, and a large pulse, so I can’t hate on it entirely – just don’t base your use of it around trying to hatchet things.
My rating: C
Like the 1N, this has three medium lasers along with the hatchet in the right arm and a large pulse in the left. Unlike the 1N, this rolls around with a pair of LRM-15s instead of an AC/20. Mostly you’re going to want to sit at 7 hexes and shoot things with the LRMs and the large pulse (where the hit bonus will balance out being at medium range). It’s basically a better catapult. The hatchet continues to sit there as a threat that you mostly won’t use. At 1,458 BV it comes in all of 59 BV more expensive than a Catapult C1 and does the same job better.
My rating: B+
This is a massive step up in mech design compared to the 1N, switching from an XL engine to a light engine (so you can survive side torso loss) and moving the medium lasers to the left arm. It also swaps the AC/20 for an LBX/20 (and two extra tons of ammo), which makes it tremendous at crit fishing. Unfortunately the loss of the large pulse does reduce overall firepower, and a crit on the left torso has a 50% chance of causing an ammo explosion and leaving you with nothing but the hatchet for weaponry, so it’s not all good. It’s also a big step up in cost at 1,649 BV, which I think is too much for something that’s just a more mobile hunchback.
My rating: C
A 3S with a rotary AC/5 instead of the LBX/20, this is much more effective at ranges beyond point-blank, but still has issues with a left torso that’s begging to be turned into an explosion. It carries a C3 slave, and can be a decent spotter if you’re running a C3 lance, but otherwise I don’t see it filling much of a useful role. At 1,743 BV, it’s too expensive for what you get.
My rating: C-
This changes weapons up quite a bit and no longer has the somewhat characteristic main gun of previous variants, instead carrying four light AC/5s and a targeting computer. While individually unexciting, four of them is still as much damage as an AC/20 (though spread out) with better range. The targeting computer helps with accuracy, though unfortunately I don’t think this carries enough ammo – 10 turns of shooting is fine, but light AC/5s love precision ammo, and taking that would drop you to 5 turns (or you could take 2.5 turns of shooting precision and 5 turns of regular ammo, which might be enough, but ehhhhh). What makes this variant interesting is that it is cheap as hell. 1,222 BV is hardly anything for something that can be an annoying pile of armor that does just enough damage that it can’t be ignored.
My rating: B
We’re back to putting lasers in the hatchet arm, this time with a trio of Inner Sphere ER mediums. The left arm carries a Clan ER PPC, and the torso replaces the autocannon with a HAG/20. It’s unfortunate that the medium lasers are in the hatchet arm as this is the first variant that actually wants to make use of it, as it runs triple strength myomer, doubling your melee damage at 9 heat (and that ER ppc makes it fairly easy to heat this mech up). 26 damage is a point where a hatchet becomes much more interesting than a kick, as against anything other than a center torso on nearly any heavy mech you’ll be going into internal structure. Unfortunately, those clan weapons make this expensive: 2,575 BV is probably not going to make its points back in most games. That said, a big TSM hatchet is always fun.
My rating: B-
This is just weird. I don’t think it’s very good, but I also think it’s the bad kind of weird. Primary weapons are a pair of thunderbolt 15 launchers, which are basically autocannons with LRM range (including high minimum range), relatively high heat production, and vulnerability to anti-missile systems. Each of them gets 8 shots, which is probably adequate. Four ER medium lasers are mounted in the legs, leaving the hands free for handheld weapons (which you can find the rules for on page 128 of TacOps: Advanced Units & Equipment). Essentially, the mech can use both arms to carry one of a variety of weapons, each of which is a self-contained package including ammo and adequate heat sinking. They all suck and have a chance to take damage any time your arms get shot, and losing either hand actuator will cause you to drop it.
With the handheld weapons this axman no longer has an axe. At 1,830 BV, take something else.
My rating: F
This is a 6T with a clan XL engine instead of inner sphere, a supercharger to bring it up to 5/10 movement profile (neither have jump jets), and only 4 shots per thunderbolt launcher. For the privilege of running 2 hexes further and not having enough ammo for any sort of fight you spend an extra 300 BV, going up to 2,132 BV.
My rating: F
Most of these variants use the hatchet as a threat rather than a primary weapon system – if you let it hit you, it’s got a 1/36 chance of just knocking your head straight off. If you keep that in mind and concentrate on effective weapon use rather than hitting things, it’s mostly an adequate if uninteresting mech. Once you add TSM to the hatchet it becomes much more interesting, though overall for effectiveness I think the not-catapult is the best Axman.