Howdy and welcome back to another Mech Overview. This week we are taking a look at the Catapult, an iconic and honestly adorable fire support mech. The Catapult is somewhat interesting because, despite being canonically rare, it has a huge amount of variants. In addition, during the Unseen debacle, the Archer and Crusader couldn’t be depicted in art or games, leading to the Catapult to fill the slot of “Inner Sphere LRM Heavy Mech” for most games from the mid 90s through to HBS Battletech. It also makes up the more distinctive looking part of the Mad Cat, and probably inspired the general “Chicken Walkers with Missile Pods” look that so many people associate with western style mecha.
All of this is to say that the Catapult is much more iconic and recognizable out of universe than it is in universe, but the Catapult has some genuine merit as a game piece, so lets talk about that.
The basic C1 variant of the Catapult is an unironically good mech for being one of the earliest stat blocks ever written for this game. It carries two LRM-15s, 4 medium lasers, and moves 4/6/4, which is the most common movement profile for Catapults. It also has 15 heat sinks, meaning that it manages it’s heat wonderfully while still getting a slight heat discount on its backup lasers due to the BV system math. As long as you fire the LRMs OR the medium lasers, you will have no issues with heat. Try to avoid firing both at the same time though, that is a great way to cook your mech. The Catapult also has unusually good armor for a fire support mech, thin on the arms but nice and thick on the torso. Those quad medium lasers are also a lot more than most LRM mechs have for backup weapons, so it defends itself better than most. For 1399 BV the C1 is one of the best LRM mechs you can get with Intro-Tech, and will generally do pretty well in that role. Now, whether LRM mechs are good in general is a slightly different question, I personally dislike them, but in that role the C1 is pretty damn good. B+.
The A1 costs 1285 and is nearly the same as a C1, trading away all 4 medium lasers for 2 extra tons of LRM ammo and 2 tons of armor. Honestly, if it kept 2 medium lasers and added either the armor or the ammo, this would be a pretty decent side-grade. The C1 can have a few issues with running out of ammo in a longer game, but the total lack of backup weapons is honestly crippling. Take an LRM carrier tank instead of this, its not completely meritless but it is much worse than the C1. D+.
The C1b is a profoundly disappointing upgrade. Costing 1590, the only differences are that it carries slightly more armor, has extra LRM ammo and CASE to prevent ammo explosions, and it “upgrades” the heat sinks to double heat sinks. The reason “upgrades” is in quotation marks there is that the Catapult already had absolutely no heat issues, as the situations where you would want to fire both the LRMs and medium lasers at the same time are vanishingly rare. What this “upgrade” does is remove the heat discount from the C1, and the extra armor just adds even more price. You are basically paying nearly 200 extra BV for the ability to fire a short ranged weapon and a long ranged weapon at the same time, which is a terrible deal. It isn’t terrible, but it is actually a downgrade due to the BV system. D+.
The C2 is an actual upgrade, even though I personally like it less. Costing 1346, the C2 carries 2 LRM-15s with Artemis and 2 LBX-2 autocannons. It also carries an XL engine, which is a downgrade and does make it more fragile, though honestly this thing is so full of ammo that it is probably going to die in an ammo explosion before it loses an entire side torso. I am not a huge fan of LBX-2 autocannons, I find that they do far to little damage to really consider, but adding Artemis to the LRM-15s does massively improve their damage output, and the doubled ammo capacity also helps. The C2 is significantly better at lobbing LRMs than the C1 is, but it is a lot worse once it has to defend itself or jump in and brawl, so I personally still prefer the C1. I give it a solid B, its still a great LRM mech, it just requires more protection and is much less self reliant than the C1.
The C3 is a weird one to talk about. It trades the LRM-15s of the C1 for an Arrow 4 Artillery piece. At 1368 this would be a good deal, Artillery is very powerful and very fun, and it is surprisingly usable as long as you aren’t using the super long range rules where you have to target your shells several turns in advance. The issue with the C3 is that it only carries 5 shots for that Arrow 4, which is not nearly enough to be useable for an entire game. D simply because of the lack of ammo, the core idea here is really good.
The C4 is very bad. Costing 1358, it trades the weapons on the C1 out for 2 LRM-20s and 2 small lasers. It also only has 10 heat sinks, so it overheats just firing the LRMs on their own. Avoid. F.
Serving as a fixed version of the C4, the C4C costs 1449 BV and carries 2 LRM-20s, a large laser, a small pulse laser, and an active probe that will probably never come up. Most importantly, it upgrades the heat sinks to double heat sinks, so it can actually fire it’s weapons. This is probably the best LRM Catapult in my opinion, it is 50 BV more than the C1 and, while it is worse up close, the large laser can still act as a get off me weapon and it will be a lot better at its actual main job of shooting LRMs at things. B+, worse up close but better at range than the C1.
The C5 is a fixed C3. It carries the same Arrow 4 artillery system, and upgrades the medium lasers to ER medium lasers. The improvements really come more on the system side than the weapon side though. It carries significantly thicker armor, 20 shots instead of 5 for the Arrow 4, which should be more than enough, and enough double heat sinks to jump 4 hexes and fire all 4 ER mediums without overheating. It is quite expensive at 1748 BV, but artillery hits not only the mech it aims at, but every mech standing adjacent to it, letting it potentially inflict an impressive amount of damage. The artillery also scatters if it misses, instead of just being wasted, so there is a chance that you will still do damage to your target even if you miss. Or you could damage your own units, but such is life. Overall I really like this and I give it a B, it’s expensive but could do very impressive things.
The C5A costs slightly more than the C5, and replaces the Arrow 4 with 2 LRM-15s with Artemis. There are no other differences. This is way too expensive for what it is. C-.
The C6 is nearly the same as the C5, it just swaps the Arrow 4 and two of the ER medium lasers out for 2 Plasma Rifles. This would be fine if it was cheaper, but it is actually more expensive at 1874 BV. This is far too expensive for what it is. D.
The first of the PPC equipped Catapults, the K2 is slightly short of great. Costing a cheap 1319 BV, the K2 trades the LRMs, backup weapons, and jump jets out for 2 PPCs, 2 medium lasers, 2 machine guns, and some heat sinks. It also carries more armor. Not having jump jets really hurts this mech, and with 20 heat sinks it is heat neutral firing the PPCs as long as it is standing still, so it doesn’t have super significant heat issues, though it could really stand to gain from just a couple more heat sinks. The K2 is a really fun mech, but not the best of the K series Catapults. B.
Costing much more than the K2 at 1716 BV, the K2K is quite an upgrade. Moving at 5/8/0 due to an XL engine, the K2K has significantly more armor than the K2, and upgrades basically everything. It carries 2 ER PPCs, 2 ER medium lasers, and enough double heat sinks to be heat neutral firing everything as long as it stands still. If it drops the ER medium lasers, it can happily run around shooting ER PPCs forever. It also trades away the explosive components of the K2, being weirdly hard to kill despite that XL engine. I quite like the K2K. It isn’t the best of the PPC Catapults, and it does suffer from “fast sniper syndrome”/”Grendel syndrome”, but upgrading from a K2 or a K3 to a K2K is a fantastic use of the last 300-400 BV in your force if you have it spare. B.
The K3 is unfairly good. It is nearly identical to the K2, with only two major changes. For one, it carries ER PPCs instead of standard ones, and for two, it carries double heat sinks. It is completely and totally heat neutral, and it can fire those ER PPCs all day. The lack of jump jets and 4/6/0 movement does hurt, and it is not terrible mobile, but it is very good at climbing up a hill/walking on to an objective and bombarding the hell out of people who try to dislodge it. The thing that makes the K3 so good compared to the similar K2K is the price. At only 1437 BV, the K3 is oppressively cheap, and as a sniper mech the limited movement will rarely matter once it gets itself into a nice woodline or on a hill/ridge. You need to deploy it carefully due to its poor mobility, but get one of these into a good place and it will work wonders for you. A-, one of my favorite mechs in the game due to the blend of good firepower, consistency due to great heat management, and low price for the weaponry it carries. Having the risk of ammo explosion from the machine guns is unfortunate, but you can just dump the machinegun ammo out on the first turn and ignore them for the rest of the game. Stellar mech.
The K4 is an interesting and potentially devastating mech. Costing 1880 BV, the first major difference is that it only moves 3/5/3. For weapons, it carries 2 heavy PPCs and 2 ER medium lasers. This is already pretty spicy, as heavy PPCs are headchoppers, doing 15 points of damage out to a pretty good range, and 1880 is already not doing bad on the Thunder Hawk/Hellstar index of Headchopper Efficiency. The extra spice comes from a C3 slave computer that is mounted on the K4. In a C3 lance, this could do some very, very scary things, acting as a fantastic payoff mech for any fast C3 spotter dorks you have in your army. I honestly really like this mech too, and might start taking it instead of/in addition to a Thunder Hawk. The Jump Jets really help it get into a good position much faster than the Thunder Hawk or Hellstar, and it can start firing sooner and, with the aid of C3, much more accurately than either the Thunder Hawk or Hellstar. I adore this mech and am going to give it a genuine and unironic A+. Even without using the C3 it is still efficient, but with C3 it becomes a monster of a mech.
The K5 costs 1457 BV and bucks the trend of K series mechs, being a missile Catapult rather than a PPC Catapult. It moves 4/6/4 and carries 2 MRM-30s, 2 medium pulse lasers, and a C3 slave. MRMs are incredibly inconsistent weapons, having huge damage potential but to-hit penalties that make them incredibly unreliable. The XL engine also does the K5 no favors. I am not super fond of this mech, MRMs are unreliable and mediocre and nothing else here is exciting, D.
The K6 is a mech that carries ELRMs. ELRMs are so terrible that they singlehandedly ruin any mech that mounts them. F. Its 1619 BV if you want to waste your BV on ELRMs.
The H2 is the “Hold my beer” Catapult. It carries similar armor to the C1 and the same movement profile of 4/6/4, but it has some nuts weapons. Specifically a single PPC, 2 medium lasers, and 8 Rocket Launcher 20s. RL20s are inaccurate and inconsistent, but that is still 160 potential damage to dump into something. At 1473 BV it is kind of expensive for a RL delivery wagon, and it is pretty slow and will have trouble getting close enough to effectively use them, but there is the small chance it does something incredible. C.
The Butterbee is the first of the hero/special character Catapults, and is an interesting one. It is nearly the same as the C1, but it trades the LRMs out for 4 SRM-6s. At 1242 this is potentially interesting, though it will have some pretty huge heat issues if you try to fire everything. I would honestly personally rather take a pair of 10N Javelins, they would do the job a lot better than the Butterbee. C.
There are a few other Catapult special character mechs, but near as I can find they do not have canonical record sheets for classic Battletech, so they will be ignored for this article.
The Catapult is a remarkably good mech with a lot of great variants. The core design of “decently armored decently mobile long ranged dork” is strong, and most variants play into that. I prefer the PPC carrying K variants, but the LRM variants are some of the better midline missile boats in the game, if that is what you are after. Less to say about the Catapult than a lot of other mechs, its just good and it won’t disappoint you. Cheers.