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Author Topic: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?  (Read 480 times)


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Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« on: 01 November 2021, 20:43:40 »
So what have you found to be the best, or worst, formations, for the SPAs they provide?

Battle looks like an all-rounder; in the games I've had, we tend to forget to do the lucky re-rolls early on, then have to use them before the formation breaks up.

For Recon lances, Maneuvering Ace comes into its own once there are some trees on the table. We've found this notably more useful than Striker lance's Speed Demon, which is at least helpful when your Blackjack needs to keep up with it's faster buddies.

Pursuit seems a poor choice on paper, with only Blood Stalker on offer.

When dealing with Fire lances, what's better - the Sniper with default Fire, Oblique Attacker with Fire Support, or Weapon Specialist with Direct Fire? Oblique Artilleryman and Anti-Air specialist are probably valuable if their niche is in play.

Then there's Command, which looks overall too useful to ignore in most cases with the initiative boost and goody grab-bag..

But that's just my reading - not enough experience. What have you all found in play?
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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #1 on: 01 November 2021, 22:50:19 »
I used to think Battle was the best but I have found I tend not to get through all the lucky re-rolls before the formation is broken up.

The Command Lance is almost impossible to ignore, I take one in every game. The initiative re-roll is fantastic and Combat Intuition is probably the single best bonus in the entire formation rules. We also play the optional multiple attack rolls so marksman is the first attack scoring a crit on margin of success of three or better so I've actually been kind of keen on taking a super cheap mech with usually 1 or 2 damage at most in each range bracket and a decent TMM to stay alive and giving it a good pilot and Marksman as part of my command lance, letting him run around trying to thru armour crit slower heavier targets as much as possible each turn.

For Fire Lances, playing with the multiple attacks rolls at any rate, I tend to play the standard if I'm planning to stay in long range as long as possible, especially useful on IF focused units. I have been using the Direct Fire more often though if I plan to be in medium range most of the time. Decreasing the range modifier by just 1 at medium doesn't feel like taking full advantage of the formation and letting two units re-roll a single set of attack dice guaranteed every turn feels better to me. I don't really like the Oblique Attacker for Fire Support. The -1 is essentially the same thing as sniper at medium and worse than sniper at long. Only time it's better is short and who is IF firing at short? Sure you can fire without a spotter but again pretty inaccurately at that and if IF is your game plan, just build to have sufficient spotters. Really not hard to get multiple dirt cheap TMM 3-4 units, just take a couple Sprint Helicopters. One caveat however, Fire Support with Oblique Attacker is a lot better than standard Fire Lance and Sniper if you're in a C3 lance and enough ECCM coverage to ensure you can be firing at better range brackets anyway.

I played Pursuit a lot earlier on because I wanted to like it, but it honestly feels like such a trap formation. Way too easy to kite the unit around and either lure them into horrible positions or leave them with terrible +2 modifier shots. I have had very minor success with it however is IF and artillery is part of my game plan. Take a relatively cheap Pursuit Lance and just blood stalk their fastest formation that is most likely to end up hunting your rear line shooters so you can intercept them and get around their better TMMs before they can reach your artillery and missile boats.

I haven't done a lot with assault lances, I don't find I split fire all that often for Multitasker to be that effective and Demoralizer feels kind of at odds with what is usually a slower lance. My Brother has had some pretty decent success with a Demoralizer Assault Lance with his Draconis Combine army though. If we play Civil War era, he takes a C3 lance under the formation with a pair of Grand Dragon 7Ks, which just make the cut to qualify as an assault lance. With their high move, incredible TMM for their size and C3 slaves, they rush right into the enemy, get him his C3 short range and remain pretty well protected with their high mod and mostly demoralized opponents in short with them.

I find the Recon Lance is amazing for smaller fast units, I tend to default to Maneuvering Ace Recon units for any formation of light units, but if I'm pairing up with Artillery or an IF Fire Lance unit the Forward Observer is really nice too.

Striker Lance is probably my default now for any medium weight type units, the extra speed is great on units already moving 12" or 14" just propelling them that little bit further when jockeying for good positions and out maneuvering your opponent. I tend to find it better than Battle Lance most times, sticking with battle on slower 8" to 10" moving Heavy Lances and Striker for my medium lances with maybe a faster heavy or two sprinkled in. It's usually easy to have one mech in the formation at 16" or even 18" move that would usually range too far ahead on their own, but then the rest of the formation can now keep up. I find this happens a lot when paying my Falcons and running mechs like the Black Lanner, Shadow Cat, Viper or Ice Ferret.
« Last Edit: 01 November 2021, 23:08:14 by Zeruel13 »


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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #2 on: 02 November 2021, 00:50:55 »
I'll agree that Command and Fire lances are the top-tier formations in my group, with Recon and Battle following close behind.

The least used formations are definitely Assault and Direct-Fire. We tend to avoid the light swarms that call for Multi-Tasker, and as mentioned Demoralizer is really hard to employ with the slow stuff typically found in an Assault lance. As for Direct-Fire, I've yet to see anyone used it except when their formation fits nothing else, as there seems little point if the utterly lethal Fire lance is available.
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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #3 on: 02 November 2021, 09:16:07 »
Sniper not working for IF is really the main reason to take the Fire Support lance over the Fire Lance, assuming you're going to be using indirect attacks to keep your 'Mechs alive.  Get you some 'Mechs with IF3 and decent speed.  Lookin' at you, Cougar A.

One of these days I'm going to try a cheap-o Artillery Fire Lance using a couple UM-AIVs.  29 points each at Skill 3, and their lancemates can be zoomy guys like the Fire Moth or the 7S Locust.  Maybe shave a couple points off by bumping them to Skill 5, they don't need to aim good to be spotters.

I have a Pursuit Lance that's all LAMs, but I haven't played it yet.  I'm hoping their mobility will alleviate the issue of opponents just keeping away from them.  It bothers me that not all lance members get Blood Stalker, it's weird that there's the one guy who's like, "eh, whatever" about it.  Definitely use the option to designate a whole formation as the Blood Stalker target instead of trying to track it individually.


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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #4 on: 02 November 2021, 09:42:00 »
Sniper not working for IF is really the main reason to take the Fire Support lance over the Fire Lance, assuming you're going to be using indirect attacks to keep your 'Mechs alive.  Get you some 'Mechs with IF3 and decent speed.  Lookin' at you, Cougar A.

Somehow I missed Sniper doesn't work for IF.


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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #5 on: 02 November 2021, 12:20:46 »
I missed it until recently when I was comparing Sniper to Range Master and Weapon Specialist.


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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #6 on: 02 November 2021, 13:00:42 »
Playing around with the MUL and reading up on SPAs; I'm finding myself making forces consisting of Command, Fire, and Striker Lances. There seems to be good synergy between them. I'll add a Recon Lance to the mix when I have PV available and it makes more sense to have more units to the force rather than bumping skill levels.

Command SPAs are strong; Tactical Genius and two other units with Combat Intuition..../chef's kiss
Fire Lance > Direct Fire; There are other post on this sub-forum that go into details, Sniper is going to get used all the time.
Striker's Speed Demon; As pointed out in other post, not only does this SPA increase can increase damage via charging.

If there's PV available for a fourth lance? Recon Lance seems to be a solid choice with Maneuvering Ace. The other available SPA for Recon look solid, but that would be dependent upon your force composition (for Forward Observer) and the scenario rules (for Eagle Eyes).
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Re: Best and worse Alpha Strike formations?
« Reply #7 on: 02 November 2021, 21:33:39 »
In a Cavalry Company, I ran with:

Heavy Battle
Medium Battle
Pursuit (when green)
then later:   Cavalry (when more experienced)

I rate the Battle Lance extremely highly, basically top tier.  Even very high skill pilots sometimes roll a "3", and aggressive positioning on the tabletop often really, really relies on stable damage coming out of your mechs.  The re-rolls smooth over those bad moments in a big way.  Later, when my pilots became more skilled it allowed them start flexing significant long range damage without actually specializing in it.    My basic doctrine was to use rerolls as soon as possible, not in case the lance was broken up, but to maximize the early game damage and get the victory ball rolling downhill.  In an even fight, the first get to a kill has a very good chance to get 2 or even 3 to 1 odds locally somewhere on the table.  Once you get that, you start taking enemy pieces off the board even faster, and it all goes from there. 

Battle won't help you take stupid hard shots, like 10+.  It WILL help you win an exchange if you are aggressive at moving into position to score maximum damage, and generally need 6-9 as the target number. 
Rating -- Top tier

Pursuit, particularly commander's edition version, is extremely good for a lot of purposes.  Since your lance now "hates" an entire enemy lance, it is a lot more flexible than what it used to be.  It basically works out to +1 to hit for 3 of your mechs when used optimally.  I preferred this lance type for low skill pilots in reasonably fast, or very fast mechs.  All those green 5 skill pilots we picked up did a stint in this lance type, so the performed as if average skill.  The faster mechs was simply to help ensure that you can always move to see your preferred target.   
Rating --Mediocre, but optimal for a training lance with 1 skilled officer and 3 trainee types. 

Cavalry Lance I like a LOT. However I played in a campaign with a wide variety of mission types.  Frequently something would require moving across an eight foot table (save the vice president of a corporation, intercept the raiders, escort the supply convoy -- that kind of thing).  If you are often in a situation where you wind up sprinting for two turns before getting stuck in, this Lance ability allows some mechs to really hustle down the table.  This is especially noticeable for larger slower mechs that might be expected in a second wave.  Instead they show up with the Locusts and Hermes of the Company.   A Victor with 8" movement becomes 10", which is sorta okay.  But if it has to sprint down the table, it can book 16" inches.   I have surprised not only my opponents with massed Speed Demon, but even my own allies, who played beside me regularly. 
Rating -- Depends on your type of game.  If you play a lot of slugfests where you duke it out at medium range, or fight in an urban area, this is also mediocre.  However for campaign play where you frequently have to get mechs moved long distances, it is excellent.   I built my entire company around "faster than expected" speed, so this was right up my alley.

Fire Lance.  Straight up murder with the right mechs.   Long range damage values in Alpha Strike is very expensive, and not something that it is easy at all to leverage.  A 4 skill pilot shooting at long range needs a 9+ to hit an Atlas in the open.  A 10+ if the Atlas has any cover at all.  Those odds are bad enough that often your expensive "long range" mechs wind up doing minimal, or even zero damage in the long range band, and wind up fighting at medium range like everybody else.  To make the unit a for real long range damage dealer, as opposed to a long range "roll the dice and hoper", you need a Fire Lance.  Two mechs get a huge reduction to long range fire, making that Atlas now hit on 7+, or 8+ in cover.  Those are much more reasonable numbers.   If you are sporting an Archer, or one of those 6 damage Longbows, you actually might be able to hammer on the Atlas at long range hard enough, often enough, to make a difference by the time it lumbers into medium range. 
Rating -- Very Good.  This turns those expensive long range heavy and assault mechs into units that actually generate damage in real games. 
Rating -- The Variants are mediocre.  Oblique attacker is extremely specialized, and provides half the benefit compared to Sniper for an attack that is already harder in the first place to pull off.  Indirect fire is great, and this does help out, but it is very niche.

Assault -- I never used, even when playing other companies.  But it just is not good at all. 

Recon --  Either Eagle eyes if you need extra scouting, or 3 light mechs with Maneuvering Ace?  AND every unit get the Forward Observer ability?? This is flexible, and powerful.   
Rating -- Good. 

Command -- I generally didn't run one, but my co-mercenaries sure loved it.  It seemed that everyone wanted to be in Command.  The main advantage here is the options combined with the initiative re-roll.  But it does lack focus, and won't help you bump up your damage output like Battle or Fire Lance will.  Maybe not even Pursuit.  Best with an elite set of pilots in powerful mechs (to help take advantage of Combat Intuition).
Rating -- Good, most would say Very Good, but I think this is the icing on the cake.  The cake is more important to have first.

Support -- Kinda trash tier, but also you can get some really fun combinations going.  The best use I have gotten out of it so far has been to have Infantry support a Recon lance, giving two platoons the Forward Observer ability.  This dramatically increased my FO presence around the board and allowed me to rain down a ton of LRMs on any mech that I needed to.  It wasn't a bad thing, but most games Support winds up being half a Battle lance or something like that.
Rating -- Blah for front line combat units. Fun for other things.