Howdy, this week we are taking a look at the Blackjack, the dependable little medium class dork you start out with in HBS’s Battletech video game, and one of the mechs featured in the Alpha Strike starter box. It is an odd looking, boxy dork of a mech, and it frequently finds its way into my lists for a few reasons, so lets talk about it.
Blackjacks on the whole are notable for basically never having lower arms, meaning that every variant can flip its arms to shoot behind itself, which means that it is never unable to return fire at something. This is fun but doesn’t come up nearly as often as you would think it does, at least in my games. This is due to another part of the Blackjack’s identity, which are jump jets. Most Blackjacks can jump, and this makes them a bit more slippery than a lot of other 3025 era medium mechs.
The Blackjack also was used as the base for an Omni-Mech conversion later in the timeline, confusingly also just called the Blackjack, which massively expands it’s variant list. I will be covering the Omni version of the Blackjack in this article, as they are very similar mechs and the miniature easily works for both of them, even though they are technically different mechs. The Blackjack is 45 tons, but the Blackjack Omni-Mech is 50 tons.
The “basic” variant of the Blackjack, the BJ-1 is a great example of a mech that absolutely rips in 3025, but falls off fairly hard later in the timeline. It costs 949 BV and carries 4 medium lasers and 2 AC/2s. I have been pretty clear in the past that the AC/2 is barely a weapon and only really has a niche against aircraft, but 4 medium lasers on a 3025 medium mech is very good short range damage. It even almost has enough heat sinks for them! It’s movement profile of 4/6/4 is also decent for the time, but the big issue with the BJ-1 is the march of time. It really compares badly to most modern medium mechs for the price, with thin armor, too much AC/2, and it is pretty slow. Probably a B+ mech in its era, but a C in more advanced games.
An interesting variant, and an earlier version in universe, the BJ-1X is honestly probably a better mech. It costs 964 BV. It swaps the AC/2s for 4 flamers, a bucket load of heat sinks, and it drops the jump jets to speed the mech up to 5/8. These are all great changes for the mech, and 4 flamers makes it death on legs to infantry. If you are using the heat damage optional rule for flamers (which you should), it also becomes pretty good at killing Elementals and tanks, and the extra heat can really mess with your opponent’s ability to manage their heat scale. That said, the 3 hex range on the flamers makes this somewhat rare. Overall suffers from the fall off as the timeline moves on much less than the BJ-1, I’d give it a C+ overall. It can mess with the heat scaling on an assault mech, and it is likely not threatening enough for you opponent to invest a lot of gun into on its way in.
Carrying marginally less armor, the 1DB is honestly a pretty good upgrade. Coming in at 1015 BV, it trades the basically worthless AC/2s and 2 of the medium lasers for 2 Large Lasers and a lot of extra heat sinks. It manages it’s heat decently well, and the Large Lasers give it a mid-long range punch that it didn’t have before. I honestly like this variant quite a bit, and I am confused why I don’t use it more often. B-.
The 1DC meanwhile is a really awful “””upgrade”””. It costs 917 BV. It strips the jump jets out of this mech, leaves the AC-2s in place, and, to make up for losing a huge chunk of the mobility, power, and flexibility of the basic Blackjack, you gain a mighty, earth shaking, apocalyptic 2 small lasers. Also you get one extra heat sink. I give it a D+ on its own merits, not having jump jets hurts real bad, but this is honestly an F tier mech because you could just spend 50 extra BV and get the far superior BJ-1. Cannot recommend this variant in any situation.
Coming in at 1148 BV, the BJ-2 is an advanced tech upgrade. It trades the weapons on the Blackjack for 2 ER large lasers and 4 streak SRM-2s. Streak SRMs are always good weapons, as they don’t fire unless they hit, and if they hit, all of the missiles hit, no cluster roll required. They act as nice back-up weapons. I am generally not a huge fan of the Inner Sphere ER large laser, I generally find it to be way too much heat for not enough extra range. It has slightly too few heatsinks to fire them constantly, but you can easily drop one of them at close range and afford to start jumping everywhere while firing the SRMs and one of the lasers. Not terrible, but compared to some other clan invasion upgrades of 3025 mechs it falls a bit short. Overall a B-.
Costing 1136, the 2r is a fairly recent variant in universe, and carries some interesting weapons. It carries 2 RE large lasers and a single standard medium lasers, with enough heat sinks to not have any heat management issues. RE lasers are interesting because they cut through any of the advanced armors that have come about to reduce damage, dealing their full 9 damage no matter if the enemy has Hardened Armor or Ferro-Lam or Reflective or any of that. They also get a -1 to hit bonus, which is insanely nice to have. This is a decent mech on its own merits, but it is an evil tech piece against anyone bringing those advanced armors. It is a particularly good counter to the Hammerhead, which is probably the mech with advanced armor you will see the most often, due to it having a plastic model kit and not having any variants without hardened armor. Overall I would give the 2r a B+, pretty decent most of the time and occasionally great.
Confusingly predating the BJ-2 in universe, the BJ-3 costs 1271 BV. It also is, in universe, the first new inner sphere mech to use Double Heat Sinks in the 3000s, which is neat. It is very similar to a Catapult K2, carrying 2 PPCs, 4 Medium Lasers, and 10 Double Heat sinks, making it frustratingly close to heat neutral, but it still manages its heat much better than a lot of mechs with more than one PPC. This is a pretty nice upgrade, but it stacks up really poorly against the BJ-2r for the price. I give it a B, a good way to get 2 PPCs into a force.
Costing 1063 BV, the BJ-4 is a very fun mech. It carries a Light Engine, making it a bit more vulnerable to dying to engine death, but it uses this extra tonnage to carry 2 light AC/5s and 2 ER medium lasers. It mates all of these weapons to a Targeting Computer, making it very accurate. Adding onto that that the LAC/5s are capable of loading precision ammo, and you can easily have a -3 to hit going towards some fast moving mechs. This makes it an excellent light mech hunter and it is great at keeping light, fast dorks off of your backline mechs. Overall I adore any mech that has LAC/5s, and the TComp makes this one of the best LAC/5 caddies in the medium weight bracket. A- from me, I really should use it more.
Costing 1165 BV the BJ-5 is aggressively OK. It has 4 Light PPCs and 2 Light AC/2s. These weapons are all basically fine, if disappointing. I am generally not a fan of Light PPCs, I see them as broadly a waste of BV compared to just combining a couple of them into an actual PPC. The AC/2 is still not a weapon, and overall its just an aggressively mediocre mech. C, mediocre but not terrible.
A Clan refit of the BJ-2, the BJ C rocks. It costs 1639 BV, which is a lot, but it carries 2 Clan large pulse lasers and 2 streak SRM-4s. This gives it a pretty massive increase in damage output, with the Clan large pulse laser being my personal pick for overall best weapon in the game. It is also fairly cheap for something mounting 2 of those, though it’s armor is a bit thin and it now has enough gun to be an actual threat, meaning it is going to draw more fire than other Blackjacks and it really doesn’t want to. I give it a B+ though, its a good mech, you just need to keep it safe so it can DPS for you.
Leaving behind the standard Blackjack, we now need to talk about what is different with the Omni-Mech version. The Blackjack Omni-Mech, or BJ2-O, is heavier, has thicker, though still a bit thin, armor, and the same movement profile. It carries an XL engine, which is pretty bad, but this does allow it to carry a hell of a lot of gun for its size. I am not a huge fan of XL engines if they are not used to make a mech faster, and the BJ2-O could really, really stand to be 5/8/5 instead of 4/6/4. That said, when I take a Blackjack it is usually one of the Omni ones.
The “Base” variant of the Omni-Blackjack, the BJ2-O costs 1201 BV and carries 2 Ultra AC/5s, 4 medium lasers, and 4 machine guns. This is a mediocre spread of guns for a mech this brittle, and I generally am not a fan of UACs in this game. I give it a C, its fine.
The A variant costs 1318 BV and carries 2 LRM-20s, 2 medium lasers, and a small laser. This is more like it. The A avoids the problems of slow speed and low durability by simply being way the hell away from your enemy. 2 LRM-20s for this price is pretty good, with this mech honestly being pretty comparable to a Catapult, which is a solid mech in its own right. I give it a B+, its a pretty good fire support mech.
If I am taking a Blackjack, 9 times out of 10 its a BJ2-OB. It costs 1323 BV, and carries a Gauss Rifle, an LRM-10 with Artemis, and a small laser. It also has a C3 slave, which can be fun, but even without using it this is one of my favorite Blackjacks. It does pretty good damage from pretty far away, and is one of the cheapest ways to get a long range headchopper in a list. It isn’t as cheap as a Hollander, but it is less fragile, has more backup weapons, and can use C3 to get way more accurate. I love this mech. I give it an A-, it is still a bit brittle compared to some other Gauss boats, but it is a very cheap one.
Costing 1189, the BJ2-OC carries 2 LBX AC/10s, along with 2 medium lasers and a small laser. This is good, LBX AC/10s are a perfectly solid weapon, but I honestly prefer the basic AC/10, because the LBX version cannot load precision ammo, making it less accurate in most cases. The cluster ammo is interesting, but I frequently find that it super isn’t worth it to fire, as it just slows the game way down for minimal gain. I give it a C-, its fine but there are much better Blackjacks to spend BV on.
Costing 1375, the D variant has decided to have all the lasers. Just, all of them. It carries a PPC, 2 large lasers, 2 medium pulse lasers, 2 medium lasers, and a small laser. 13 double heat sinks mean that it manages it’s heat better than you would expect. Honestly the laser pile here is perfectly fine, with decent damage at mid-long range and increasing damage as you get close. There are other laser mechs that I like better, but this one is perfectly fine. I give it a B.
The E variant costs 1260 BV, and is for people who want to sit at extremely long range and miss most of their shots. It carries a light gauss rifle, an ER large laser, an LRM 10, and an ER small laser. This is an aggressively meh bunch of weapons, with nothing doing much damage and the only advantage being extremely long range. I am hugely negative about the light gauss rifle, seeing it as a waste of BV and tonnage when you could have any of a wide variety of vastly superior guns. It has a niche at sitting 20 something hexes away and annoying bigger mechs, but I would honestly rather have a mech with guns that can hurt something. My personal distaste for it aside, it is probably a C, as it is pretty decent in it’s niche.
Costing 1405, the F variant carries an ER PPC, an ultra AC/10, 2 ER medium lasers, and an ER small laser. This is an ok mix of weapons, if inconsistent and swingy due to the UAC. I am, again, not a huge fan of UACs, as you pay BV for a 40% chance of double damage, which is, in practice, really inconsistent. The mech is fine, I give it a C+.
Costing 2010 BV, the R variant carries a full load of Clan grade weapons. It has a Clan Gauss Rifle, a Clan large pulse laser, 3 Clan medium pulse lasers, and a Clan ER small laser. These are all great weapons, with the LPL and Gauss being in my opinion the two best weapons in the game, but at 2010 the price is just not right here. It costs way too much, and isn’t any better protected than the other Omni-Blackjacks, which, as I have already stated, are a little bit brittle. It can hang back at long range though, and it will do a pretty good amount of damage while back there, but I am personally not a huge fan of spending 2010 BV on a 4/6/4 medium mech with mediocre armor and an XL engine. Probably a C, too expensive for what it is.
This is an underwater variant. You will literally never use this unless you have decided to play a game underwater. Underwater combat in this game is not very fun. I do not recommend playing in a game where this would be a relevant mech.
The X is an interesting mech. It costs 1335 BV, and carries 4 light PPCs with PPC capacitors, and 2 streak SRM-4s. PPC capacitors basically let your mech “charge up” it’s PPCs to do 5 extra damage with them. This means they can only be used every other turn, and they add 5 extra heat on both a turn they are charging and a turn they are firing. The X doesn’t have remotely enough heat sinks to support 40 heat worth of weapons firing, and even if you alternate, doing 2 at a time, you are still building 30 heat, and it can only sink 24. Its interesting, and I would love to see a mech using light PPCs with capacitors that I actually think is doing it well, but this is not that mech. D-, basically a barely functional BJ-3 in practice.
The Blackjack is a mech that will very rarely wow you, but it also will very rarely disappoint you. It is a great line mech, and it makes good unit filler if you can’t decide what else to spend 1000-1500 BV on. It will rarely be the star of the game, but it will usually get some decent work done somewhere. I love mechs like this, the dorky, middle of the road troopers that make up most of the forces in universe. It is not exciting, but it is pretty solid. I would recommend the BJ2-OB or BJ-4, they are both very dependable little mechs. Cheers.