Howdy! Battletech is a combined arms game, as much as myself and the community may lead you to believe it is just giant robots. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles are all present in the game, as are various kinds of infantry and other small targets. One generally tends to come up the most though, and can be a pretty tough puzzle for new players to crack, and you are fairly likely to run into them because they come in one of the current starter boxes. This week we will be taking a look at killing a fairly obnoxious target, the perfidious Clan Elemental.
Elementals, or Toads if you aspire to one day die in a war started by some autocrat to impress his teenaged wife, are supremely annoying to fight. As someone who mostly plays Inner Sphere forces, I have felt this pain many, many times. They are frustratingly durable, spread shots around the squad to keep you from concentrating damage, and can put out nightmarish amounts of damage at close range, including being capable of one shotting nearly any mech in the game with a headshot assuming they can get on top of you and start a Swarm attack. That is a hell of a lot of threat for around the same BV as an Inner Sphere Wasp, and if you don’t have a plan to deal with them, it can be a pretty rough shock to the system. This is honestly kinda cool, because most players will go through the exact same thing that the IS did in the lore, which is getting their teeth kicked in by Elementals that they under-estimated and didn’t know how to kill. Lets start by going over what exactly an Elemental is, and then talk about how to kill them.
One aside before we start though, I was moments away from naming this article “Toad Hunting: In which strategies and tactics for eliminating that odious pest the Clans refer to as “Elementals” are discussed, and the reader shall be educated as to the proper means of disposal, including good practices and general advice as well as specific advice and good units to include in any balanced force”, but apparently that is “Too much” and “Bad branding”. Accursed SEO has taken that insanely long 18th century novel title away from me and I am not bitter.
Knowing your enemy, in which the nature of the perfidious Toad is discussed, including an overview of its gameplay statistics and general battlefield role.
Battle Armor record sheets are a little different from mech ones. Basically, each member of the unit is equipped with the weapons on the left side. They cannot run and are stuck at one speed, though they don’t take a penalty from jumping and have no reason not to jump. Their overall health is on the right, with each trooper having a bar. All incoming damage hits a random trooper, so they tend to spread damage around. An Elemental has 11 health, 10 in the form of armor, and 1 representing the squishy, fleshy trooper inside of that armor. This is an annoying break point, because it means that most IS grade heavy weapons will come 1 point of damage short of killing one, and even most Clan grade weapons will come up 1 to 4 points short of a kill. They come in squads of 5, which is 55 total health. On top of this durability, they can jump 3 hexes a turn and have an innate +1 to hit penalty due to their small size. This means you are basically always going to be at a +3 to hit penalty when firing at them, which makes them annoying to hit and, comboed with their armor hitting a perfect breakpoint and their innate damage spreading, makes them somewhat of a nightmare to kill.
The scariest thing about elementals though is their Anti-Mech attacks. This, confusingly, does not refer to any attack that targets a mech. Instead, it refers to them crawling on top of the enemy mech and either crippling its legs or trying to peel the armor off of a hit location. Elementals specifically, when performing a Swarm attack, which can hit any hit location, do enough damage to destroy the Head hit location on any mech that doesn’t have some form of damage reducing armor. They have twice the chance to hit the head than a mech making a ranged attack, and even without hitting the head they can still inflict crippling damage. They are also fairly likely to hit the rear torso, which can cause some pretty scary damage to stack up pretty fast. This isn’t to discount their leg attacks though, which can pop actuators and lead to your mech toppling over, which makes it even harder to avoid being strung to death by bees.
Elementals also carry SRMs, with a standard point of 5 being able to lob 10 SRMs at you. That is 20 potential damage out to a reasonable distance, and out of something that only costs 447 BV that is kind of terrifying. Their small lasers/handheld weapons are only a concern at knife-fighting range, but they can do even more damage there. If you stand next to a point of 5 Elementals who still have SRMs, they can potentially do 35 damage to you, which is a respectable amount for an Assault Mech, and is a frankly disgusting amount of potential damage.
Elementals might seem slow and easy to outmaneuver, but they have a trick for this too. They can hitch a ride on any clan Omni-mech, either starting the game mounted or hopping on mid game. The Omni-mech cannot fire any weapons in its torso while carrying Toads, which is why the Gargoyle, Dasher, and Nova, three fairly cheap and fairly fast Omnis, only have arm mounted weapons most of the time. It allows them to carry Toads with no penalty, and their weapons tend to be designed to support the Toads in combat. This combination of fast, arm-heavy Omnis with Toads is one of the better forces that Clans can make, and provides some very heavy damage with decent mobility and low price (for a Clan list).
How to slay the Toad, in which weaknesses and problems with battle armor are discussed, as well as general strategies for avoiding the worse of the damage they can inflict
So, what do we do about these little bouncing bastards. The first and most important advice is to not stand next to the Toads. Treat them like poison dart frogs, physically touching them is almost certainly fatal and being within 3 hexes of them is flirting with death in a way you probably shouldn’t be. If a base of them does manage to get on top of one of your mechs and starts tearing them up, run that mech as far away from the rest of your force as possible while making the checks to shake them off, because if you can drop the Toads out in the middle of a field alone with no easy targets, your opponent will either have to divert an Omni to go pick them up, or they will have to slowly hop back to the fight.
They are very slow without Omnis to hitch a ride with, so try to kill the carriers first. Gargoyles, Dashers, and Novas, which are the mechs you generally see paired with Toads, are very fragile by Clan standards and don’t like taking sustained fire. In addition, if you shoot at the carriers before the Toads hop off, you have a chance of striking a Toad instead of hitting the mech carrying them. Some particularly cheesy opponents might take advantage of this, carrying toads on top of their mechs as ablative armor. This isn’t really a balance issue, as most battle armor are expensive enough that you don’t want to waste them like that.
Once the Toads have dismounted, you have a few good options. Some people like to blast them with SRMs and LBX’s, followed with various 10 damage weapons. The theory is to do that first point with a cluster weapon, and then just paste individual troopers with follow up shots. I don’t super like this method personally, because it is pretty inconsistent, but it is an alright one. Plasma Rifles do 10+2d6 damage to Battle Armor, though I have been informed that the damage is in 5 point clusters and has to be re-randomized, making them much worse than I thought. Still a great option, but not as good as I imagined. Clan Plasma Cannons, on the other hand, do 3d6 damage. This is in 5 point clusters. This is much worse than a Plasma Rifle, as it is less potential damage, and also less consistent damage. Inferno SRMs are also an interesting option, as they have a rule where, instead of doing damage, every 3 Infernos that hit a base of Battle Armor kills a trooper with no save or mitigation of any time. This roughly means that you can expect to gib a Toad with every 6 or so Inferno SRM tubes that you fire at the base. This does require you to be in range of their own SRMs, but generally a mech will win that trade. I would recommend using Javelin JVN-10N’s to deal with Toads cost effectively, as they carry 2 SRM-6s which can be loaded with Infernos and go toast 2-3 BA per turn pretty consistently, while only costing slightly more BV, so even if the BA end up killing them in return it is still shouldn’t be that big of a loss. Javelin 10N’s are good to have in general, especially loaded with Inferno SRMs, so even if you don’t end up playing against BA you can still go and merrily overheat people.
In terms of conventional weapons, Medium Pulse Lasers are probably your best bet. An IS one has a -2 to hit bonus, which is pretty good, and does 6 damage, which means that if 2 of them strike the same trooper they will kill it with only 1 wasted damage. The Clan one will waste 3 damage instead of 1, but has a much longer range, so you put yourself at much less risk engaging the Toads with them. Any weapon that deals more than 10 damage, so Heavy Lasers, Blazers, CERPPCs, Heavy PPCs, and Gauss Rifles can all one shot toads, though weapons of that grade feel really bad to shoot at Toads, seeing as a CERPPC for example costs nearly as much as a base of Toads, so you may want to look towards the other options here first. There are some mechs that properly spam MPLs, and those are some of the better mechs at killing BA.
In terms of movement, don’t end your movement within 3 hexes of a base of Toads, especially if they haven’t moved yet. If you have to get close, try to lead them away from the rest of your force. By this I mean, if you have most of your mechs to the south, and can run the mech that is fighting the Toads in any direction, try to run North or just, away from the rest of your force in general. This forces your opponent to make a choice between advancing towards your main force, or turning to pursue the unit that is trying to kill them. If that unit is a good threat to the Toads, like an Inferno SRM boat or a MPL boat, this will be a really hard decision for your opponent to make.
Conclusion, in which matters are concluded and the Toads have hopefully been accounted for
This article was a bit spur of the moment, brought on by a conversation about how to kill Elementals. I might have missed something, as I usually just go with Plasma Rifles to kill them, though I am probably going to start adding an emergency Javelin to all of my lists on the off-chance that my opponent brings Toads. I hadn’t actually read exactly what Infernos did to Toads until writing this, and man they are more powerful than I was anticipating. Go forth and roast some Toads for me.