Welcome to the Inner Sphere Heavy Battle Lance with this Mech Overview of the Nightstar, a 95 ton assault mech. If you’ve played the campaign in Mechwarrior 5, you may remember this as the old SLDF mech you recover in one of the final few missions. Despite having mostly died out during the succession wars, it returns to common use in the clan invasion era, and is one of my favorite ways to bring a pair of gauss rifles to the table (though I’m sure Perigrin will be along to say that the banshee is better).
Perigrin: The Banshee isn’t better at Gauss. The Thunder Hawk is better at Gauss.
At 95 tons, most variants of the nightstar move at a sedate 3/5/0 pace with an XL engine, which gives it loads of tonnage for weapons but does leave it vulnerable to crits. Where it shines is in front armor, which is nearly identical to (and in the center torso, stronger than) an atlas. Given the lower tonnage it does sacrifice a bit of rear armor for that – but just don’t get shot in the butt.
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).
The stock Nightstar, the 9J comes in with a ton of long range firepower. Each arm carries a gauss rifle and medium pulse, and there’s an ER PPC in the torso. Range bands line up nicely for all three long range weapons, and 28 rounds of gauss ammo per gun means you’ll never have to contemplate conserving ammo. As a bonus, all that non-explosive gauss ammo is great padding, losing a ton of it to a crit is no big deal. It’s sinked exactly enough to fire everything at a run, which is excessive, but it’s not compromising anything else to make that happen. While 3/5 is slow, the long range of the weapons makes that much less of a concern – this works very well anchoring a back line with good visibility or holding down an objective, as it can contribute effectively across most of a mapsheet. 2,399 BV is a lot, but it’s certainly a price I’m comfortable paying.
My rating: A
Perigrin: 2399 BV is an incredibly reasonable amount to pay for this. It has decent long range weapons and reasonable close range weapons. It is best used in the same role as an Awesome as a backline sniper. I would personally rather have a Thunder Hawk, but the Nightstar is better at defending itself up close and is nearly as good at long range, so it’s a matter of personal taste.
A bigger engine pushes this up to 4/6, which is great as the weapon range dropped. Still carrying an ER PPC, the arm weapons are now LB/X AC/10s, which have 20 rounds of shooting each. There’s a trio of medium lasers backing the autocannons up, though sadly not ER versions for some reason. While this is less raw damage than the 9J, ac/10s are still solid weapons, especially when fed with enough ammo to swap between slug and cluster at will, and the increased movement speed makes it relatively easy to get them into a useful position. My only real complaint here is that the side torsos are incredibly vulnerable. Even with CASE, there are 4 tons of AC ammo and 3 crits of engine in one side, with no padding at all, so a single ammo explosion will kill the mech. Despite that weakness, dropping down to 1,929 BV puts this at a very agreeable price for a relatively quick mech with good firepower.
My rating: B+
Dropping back to a 3/5, the 9SS adds jump jets, as it was designed to fight in the Solaris arenas. The guns also got bigger – one arm now has an ultra AC/20, and the other an LB/X AC/20. That’s a lot of pew pew and it’s got adequate ammo to run them, but even with jump jets getting into range for those guns is a challenge. 2,145 BV is cheaper than the 9J, but I’d rather take a 9FC that can actually reach the fight.
My rating: C-
Most similar to the 9J, this starts throwing a mix of inner sphere and clan weapons on the nightstar chassis, retaining the primary role of being long range direct firesupport. The heaviest gun is a clan ER PPC, backed up by a pair of ER large lasers and light gauss rifles. Weapon wise I’d call it a side-grade to the 9J, it has more total damage but fewer opportunities to chop off a head. This variant has serious heat issues though, as firing the energy weapons alone is +7 heat, and more if you’re moving or firing the light gauss as well, and it all wants to shoot at the same range. As a bonus, it has an XL gyro, so a crit to the center torso leaves you very fucked. 2,539 BV is more than the 9J for an overall worse mech.
My rating: D
This is pretty much a straight clan tech upgrade to the 9j. The medium pulses and ER PPC are all traded out for a trio of clan large pulses, so it’s got great ability to deal accurate damage, while still retaining the paired gauss rifles. It overheats a little bit, but that can be dealt with by firing the third pulse every other turn. One major issue, though, is that it’s still running an inner sphere XL engine, so it’s vulnerable to losing a torso, though there is good crit padding in both torsos. At 2,838 BV this is priced like any other clan assault mech, and I think that IS XL is a bit too much risk compared to its peers, though it’s not a mech I’d complain about having.
My rating: B-
The main real weakness to the nightstar is that an XL engine adds a fair bit of fragility to a 2000 BV assault mech, but both the 9J and 9FC variants overcome that to be great choices. I’m not as much a fan of the other variants, but whether you’re looking for a brawling assault mech or heavy fire support this does the job well – and looks great while it’s doing it.