As you progress in the Battletech timeline past the Clan Invasion era, various types of specialized armor start popping up more frequently on mechs. Some of these armor types are broadly more effective against incoming damage, such as Hardened Armor, while others, like Laser-Reflective only gain effectiveness against a specific type of weapon. While you can always ignore the armor type and just shoot everything at a mech, knowing how to defeat each armor type can help you choose a target when you’ve got multiple options.
The simplest form of specialized armor, hardened can also be one of the most aggravating to deal with. It cuts all incoming damage in half, requiring you to take 2 points of damage before crossing off a pip of armor on the record sheet. This also means that you have to take 40 points of damage before potentially falling over.
While there’s no specific hard counter, mechs with hardened armor do have some weaknesses you can exploit. Their running speed is slower, and they take a penalty to their piloting skill rolls – so while forcing a PSR from taking 20 damage may be more difficult, getting up close to them and landing a kick can be devastating, as they’re more likely to fall over and will have less MP to make more the difficult rolls to stand back up. Sometimes you can also just ignore the mech, as the extra weight of the armor will leave them more lightly armed than similar mechs.
Much less common, Ferro-Lamellor (or ferrolam) armor also reduces incoming damage from any weapon type, though in a slightly different fashion to hardened armor. For every 5 damage per hit (or fraction thereof) damage is reduced by 1, with no minimum. This means, for example, that an LB-X cluster shot will do no damage, as each hit of 1 damage is reduced by 1 to zero – and those 0 damage hits can’t do pilot injuries or through-armor crits. Don’t shoot shotguns at ferrolam. It also reduces SRMs to 1 damage per missile, though as LRMs hit in clusters of 5 damage it’ll just reduce them to 4.
Dealing with ferrolam is mostly just about knowing what weapons to not shoot at it. LB-X are worthless, SRMs take a huge hit, and weapons that do 6/11/16 damage are no more effective than ones that do 5/10/15, as that extra point of damage is an extra point lost.
Working down the list of armors with minimal/no penalties during gameplay, ballistic-reinforced armor works exactly like hardened armor, but only against ballistic and missile weapons (DB and M types). It’s straightforward to deal with – shoot the mech with energy weapons, or punch/kick/DFA them.
Similar to ballistic-reinforced armor, reflective armor functions like hardened armor against energy weapons, including PPCs. Incidentally, it makes your mech look like a disco ball, if that’s a thing that interests you. It’s also effective against flamers and plasma rifles that increasing your heat, halving the incoming heat.
Unfortunately, unlike the above armors, reflective armor behaves like a mirror when you hit it. Falls and melee attacks inflict double damage, so kicking a mech and forcing it to fall over is highly effective, as a 50 ton mech does enough damage in a single kick to force a PSR in addition to the one for getting kicked.
By far the most common specialized armor, stealth armor is something the pilot needs to make an active choice to use, and can have destroyed mid-game. By turning off their ECM system (generally not that big a deal unless you’re using ghost target advanced rules or playing against c3), mechs with stealth armor become harder to hit at medium and long range – and can never be selected as a secondary target, so they won’t eat incidental fire. While being used, the stealth armor generates 10 heat per turn, so will generally limit the weapons the mech can use.
There are a couple ways to deal with stealth armor. The easiest is just to shoot the mech with long range weapons, from as close as possible. You can also try to heat the mech up, either by directly shooting it with heat-causing weapons, or by setting fire to the map where it wants to move. It’ll fairly quickly need to decide between being stealthy and shooting weapons, and if it isn’t shooting weapons it’s not doing a whole lot to you. Finally, you can attempt to crit out the ECM system. If it dies, the stealth armor stops working, but a lot of stealth armor equipped mechs are light enough that you’ll have just blown them up before getting a TAC to take out the ECM.
Still fairly uncommon, it wouldn’t be worth talking about specialized armors without talking about their direct counter – the re-engineered laser. A cross between a pulse laser and a heavy laser, re-lasers don’t have as good a hit bonus as a pulse laser, but they completely ignore the damage reduction from the armor. Personally I only really like the large version, I think the medium and small lasers are too short range to make an effective primary weapon system, but bringing a couple of the large lasers if your meta likes specialized armors can be quite effective.
While these aren’t all the possible specialized armors, these are the most common types. They’re still mostly rare to see on the table, unless your store, like mine, has discovered the Stalker STK-9F with clan large pulses, a targeting computer, and hardened armor. Thinking about how I want to approach that mech when I’m up against it was the impetus for putting this article together, and hopefully it’ll also help you.
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