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Author Topic: Battle Armor of the Week - Gnome  (Read 4361 times)


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Battle Armor of the Week - Gnome
« on: 09 November 2011, 14:19:01 »
Gnome Battle Armor - Technical Readout 3058U page 51

     The Gnome Battle Armor design is the one unit that nearly turned me into a confirmed Clan player when it first came out. Elementals had almost achieved the same response, but Technical Readout 3050 also gave me the Inner Sphere Standard, allowing me to remain a Spheroid, but when the local Clan fans showed me the new suit in Field Manual: Crusader Clans only the fact that the Hell's Horses were still a homeworld Clan held me back. For me, Light suits were okay for recon units, and the powerful but clumsy Assaults had their place, but it was the trooper Battle Armor that was and remains my favorite: the bloody infantry, the doughboy, the duckfoot, the foot soldier who goes where the enemy is and takes them on in person. I wanted suits that could keep up with the 'Mechs and still sugar the enemy's tea when they got there, not ones that had to dodge combat or sit in defensive positions awaiting a foe to wander into range. For me, the Gnome retained just enough mobility that I could use it as a trooper, and added enough firepower and armor that it had a worthwhile advantage over the Elemental.

     Published in 1998, the Gnome was the first bipedal Heavy design introduced into the game, and unlike the Sloth - the Inner Sphere attempt to fill that weight class - the Clan suit could still mount OmniMechs for rapid delivery straight to the heart of battle, plus had the ability to actually survive once it got there. The Gnome even looked right, as if an Elemental suit had been working out and then put on a few extra plates of armor, with the latter somewhat reminiscent of the Roman Legionary armor that is nowadays called Lorica segmentata for extra cool points. The Gnome was a little slower than the Elemental and lacked multiple configurations, being armed with a fixed Extended-Range Small Laser on the right arm and a non-detachable missile launcher that was originally refered to as firing Streak missiles, although they were later renamed as Advanced SRMs to avoid confusion with the true Streak SRMs. Its Battle Claw was heavier than the Elemental's, although that has no effect in the BattleTech game, and there's no Anti-Personnel Weapon Mount, but overall at the time of the Gnome's introduction, both within the game and in-universe, its firepower was superior, as was its ability to withstand damage.

     jymset: After sillybrit's introduction, allow me to present a then-Clan player's point of view. FM: Crusader Clans came out after FM: Draconis Combine. The Clans had their sublime Elemental, but beyond that, the Inner Sphere had been spoilt with various choices - as other BAotW will tell you, the Sloth, Infiltrator Mk I, Gray Death Scout, Gray Death Standard [though at times synonymous with IS Standard] and FM DC as well as FWL BA were all already published! And yes, that includes that monstrous Kanazuchi.

     So when FM: Crusader Clans came out and the Clans received two new suits, the Salamander was evaluated on its own merits (elaborate gushing to follow in its own thread), while the Gnome - bigger and badder than the Elemental as it was - immediately begged comparison with the Kanazuchi.

     Back then, I was not immediately impressed, a diametrically opposed reaction to sillybrit's Inner-Sphere-centric stance. The jump-2 did not seem all that impressive. The Elemental’s jump movement was enough to get places on the battlefield, but anything below 3 was definitely always reliant on other transport modes or on terrain/scenario. So really, its movement did not seem eminently superior to the Kanazuchi’s. And it was not even that the Kanazuchi’s main weapon was superior - it was the armour. That measly 1 point that pushed the Kanazuchi to being able to survive a gauss rifle or Clan ERPPC - the fact that the Gnome failed this vital threshold completely devastated me. I wanted more of that.

     So initially, I used it as a slow super-Elemental and its main gun was what I loved best – a damage value of 5 is simply devastating. But between the rock-solid Elemental and my everlasting infatuation with the Salamander of the same book, the Gnome initially fell by the wayside. Dare I say it? I was in the n00bish phase of having a complete grasp of the rules, but only about 2 years' experience of their application when FM: Crusader Clans was released. I honestly thought the Gnome’s best use was as ablative armour. Heh, in some ways it certainly is the best ablative armour one could have, especially with pre-TW rules.

     But it is demeaning and completely negates the fact that the Gnome really is one of the very best heavy-class battle armour in existence. It set the standard for the weight class, much as the Elemental did for the medium class and by that very rationale also represents a mini-maxed design just as its progenitor. sillybrit will cover all that, but even in a Clanner's point of view, the Gnome has stood the test of time. Over many years of use, the 14+1 threshold has become just as valuable as the more obvious 15+1, with every Clan 'Mech and its grandmother carrying copious amounts of 7 point-inflicting medium lasers. So the one point of contention I used to have has diminished over time (especially with the emergence of real Clan assault designs) and its multi-use aspects and hard-hitting performance has wholly won me over.

     My one and only (very minor) beef with the design was an issue pointed out to me when I was first shown the design. The Gnome was supposedly a response to rumors of the Inner Sphere working on Assault class Battle Armor, and that could only mean the Kanazuchi, which had a R&D project start date of July 3053, while prototypes weren't tested until November 3055. However, the Gnome project was started in 3054, so just how could the Clans have heard about prototypes before those were even built, never mind the further issue of how could they even have found out about what should have been a top secret project, given that the Watch are not even up to the level of the Boy Scouts when it comes to the intelligence community? I'm sure an appropriate explanation could be given, such as interrogation of captured Kuritan officers who somehow knew about the Kanazuchi, an area where we do know that the Clans are highly capable given the example of Phelan Kell's experiences after being taken by the Wolves, but it is still a niggling point.

     The development of the Gnome progressed swiftly, with the design entering service in the Hell's Horses' Alpha Keshik in the spring of 3056, nearly two years before the Kanazuchi was ready for production it should be noted. Obviously the Clans had much greater familiarity with Battle Armor design than the Inner Sphere, but part of the reason that Clan Hell's Horses' Scientists managed to so quickly complete development of the Gnome was that they were able to base their work on an earlier suit. That suit was eventually named in Technical Readout 3058U as the Rhino, a design that was abandoned due to the superb performance displayed by the Elemental. I can only speculate, but given that Tech Manual says that the first Clan Heavy Battle Armor was developed in 2875, I assume that was the date that the Rhino was developed. Although the idea of Heavy suits had been discarded by the Clans, once they returned to the Inner Sphere they found themselves dealing with a foe that didn't play by the same rules, so heavier Battle Armor finally had an opportunity to return to the ranks of the Toumans. Other Clans soon took note, obtaining the new suit for themselves in Trials of Possession, while some were spurred to create their own new designs to stand alongside the long-serving Elemental.

     Battle Armor weight classes had yet to be fully developed within the game by the time of the Gnome's publication, but once the construction rules were introduced in Classic BattleTech Companion, they categorized the Hell's Horses' new suit as a Heavy instead of an Assault like the Kanazuchi. Of course, this issue doesn't exist within the universe, and the decision by Khan Malavai Fletcher for his Clan to develop a Heavy design rather than an Assault to counter the new Inner Sphere threat highlights a distinct split between the Clans' and the Inner Sphere's deployment of Battle Armor that has only just started to close in later years. Most Clans lack frontline APCs, so Battle Armor had to be capable of being transported via OmniMechs if they were not to be left behind by rapidly moving battles, giving them a predisposition against Assault suits. Clan jump-capable Battle Armor with more than 1 jump MP, and those jump-capable designs that also boost their ground movement, have a higher payload with a Heavy chassis, giving them a useful niche to fill. Even at those speeds where Assault suits have an advantage, the superior firepower or protection was apparently judged less important than the inability to undertake Mechanized Battle Armor tactics, an opinion that only began to change nearly two decades after the Clans returned to the Inner Sphere, with first modern version not introduced until 3067. Altogether, those considerations resulted in the Clans currently fielding a roughly equal number of designs within each class, with four models of Heavy suits and three Assaults. Obviously we have no way of knowing exactly how many of each design have been produced, but given the trend it's perhaps likely that there is at least a slight advantage in the number of Heavy suits in operation among the Clans.

     In contrast, the Inner Sphere have relatively few OmniMechs, with many units having none, whereas vehicle transports are in plentiful supply, so there was no significant benefit restricting Battle Armor to the smaller chassis, other than needing to set aside two more tons of troop space in APCs for Assault suits. Once we look at some of the details of Battle Armor design we can see some further influences: Inner Sphere Assault suits with ground-only movement of 1 or 2 MP, or 1 MP in both ground and jump, have more payload that a similarly mobile Heavy; and for designs with 1 ground MP and 2 or 3 jump MP, the two classes have the same payload, but the Assault has more volume. Meanwhile, Medium designs have taken the faster roles that Heavy suits might have occupied, due to the Mediums being introduced first, costing less and perhaps even because they require less modification of the old conventional infantry APCs. Given all these factors, the Inner Sphere have developed nearly twice as many Assault designs as Heavy, and one of the latter is incapable of Mechanized Battle Armor tactics and so could even be viewed as a pocket-Assault.

     With their Khan's directives for mobility setting the upper limits of the new suit's mass, that in turn fixed just how much weaponry and armor could be installed to meet Fletcher's other requests for uprated performance. Now named the Gnome - keeping to the four elements theme of the first four additions to the Clans' Battle Armor ranks - the chassis was given the maximum protection possible for a Heavy as well as the most powerful jump jets available without the use of Jump Boosters, a technology which had not yet been developed (or copied) by the Clans. Able to jump just 60 meters, the Gnome drops below the critical threshold to generate a Target Movement Modifier due to distance moved, but it at least can gain the jump modifier, putting it ahead of the Kanazuchi, the closest Inner Sphere counterpart at the time of the Gnome's development. Perhaps more importantly, the Gnome's armor is one point less than the Kuritan suit, which means that the Clan design cannot withstand a hit by a Gauss Rifle, making its ability to avoid being struck in the first place even more vital.

     Continuing the comparison between the Gnome and Kanazuchi, the armament review is both good and bad for the Clan suit: its ER Small Laser inflicts the same damage as the Kanazuchi's Medium Laser, but its range is a third less; in compensation, the Gnome's missiles are longer ranged and have a slightly higher average damage per two-shot salvo, but those advantages are partially eroded by the Kanazuchi's ability to fire both its launchers in a single Turn and the option to use Infernos. The Gnome's lack of anti-personnel weaponry was initially not an issue, but the rules eventually changed allowing them to have an effect, so at close quarters that gives the Kanazuchi another plus. Despite those negatives, perhaps the most important advantage for the Gnome is that it operates in Points of five instead of squads of four, making a Gnome unit overall more effective, whether confronting Kanazuchis or attacking other enemy forces, providing the Point can close the range to bring its laser to bear, otherwise the Kuritan design is typically superior. That last point is a major caveat: the Gnome must get close to have its greatest effect, it simply lacks the sustained firepower to engage in longer range firefights.

     Whereas the Kanazuchi is basically a mobile defensive bunker, the Gnome is an assault unit, with a small "a". Given its limited mobility, it wants to ride into battle on an OmniMech, being deployed close to the enemy so that it can get in their pockets as quickly as possible. Although incapable of Anti-'Mech attacks, it can still be advantageous to get in the same hex as the target, removing that opponent's ability to fire at the Gnome while maximizing the accuracy of the Battle Armor's weapons. Depending upon the target, terrain and supporting enemy units, in other situations the Gnome should follow the standard Battle Armor creed and get into cover as close as possible, enabling the Point to shoot effectively while increasing their odds of survival. When operating independently, Gnomes should still try to get in tight, but the lower mobility compared to Elementals makes this very difficult in all but the worst terrain, since even a slow 'Mech like the Atlas can walk faster than the Battle Armor can jump. If trapped in such circumstances, the best a Gnome Point can hope for is that there's friendlies that can come to their aid, because two Advanced SRM2 shots are not going to deter many enemies.

     Unfortunately for the original Gnome, the decision to not fit a Modular Weapon Mount to enable the installation of the ER Small Laser has ultimately proven unwise given the improvements in weapon technology. Initially, the Gnome held a major advantage over the Elemental as far as firepower was concerned, with longer ranged missiles that were more likely to strike with both in each salvo, plus a laser that had double the range and inflicted more damage. When the AP Gauss Rifle was introduced, the Gnome suffered a major blow to its previous superiority, and although it still held a damage advantage, the Elemental's sustained firepower now had better range to go with its higher mobility. Although the AP Gauss Rifle hadn't been invented at the time, in 3066 an improved Gnome variant was introduced that would potentially be able to address that problem, thanks to the addition of two Modular Weapon Mounts. Dubbed the Gnome (Upgrade), the new version also made the missile launcher detachable, a feature that has no effect in the BattleTech tactical game for Clan Battle Armor. Unfortunately, that's as good as it got for the original canon configuration which appears in Technical Readout 3058U, due to the choice of a pair of Bearhunter Superheavy Autocannons as the modular armament. The Bearhunter is one of those weapons that performed well in the roleplaying game where it was first introduced, but once converted to BattleTech stats it has proven to be simply awful. With poor range and equally bad accuracy, the Gnome would have been better off mounting Heavy Machine Guns or Micro Pulse Lasers, and the latter was added as a configuration by Record Sheets 3058Uu Clan & Star League, making the Gnome a decent knifefighter and anti-infantry suit.

     Those Record Sheets also introduced another Gnome (Upgrade) configuration called the MRR, or Medium Recoilless Rifle, the weapon occupying one of the modular mounts. Matching the range of the original ER Small Laser, the Rifle swapped higher anti-personnel damage for a 40% reduction in anti-armor firepower, plus its lower mass allowed a second weapon to be mounted on the other arm. The one-shot LRM2 is a somewhat bizzare choice, as bad in its own way as the Bearhunter. No enemy is really going to be that worried by such a low strength one-off attack, even if it can reach 21 hexes, and barring a miraculous critical hit, at best you're just going to mildly annoy them before they then ignore you, and at worst you'll provoke an enemy unit with the mobility, range and firepower to destroy your Point of Gnomes with no danger to itself. Still, as shown by the example of the Federated Suns' Hauberk, a Battle Armor unit with a decent sized multishot LRM launcher can be a real pain, and the AFFS suit is likely the inspiration for another variant first seen during the Jihad, the Gnome (LRM), which apparently is a field refit of the original Gnome. Replacing the fixed ER Small Laser, the new variant now mounts the one, the only, the gun you've all been waiting for: the AP Gauss Rifle. As if that's not enough, the two-shot Advanced SRM2 has been swapped for a four-shot LRM4, although sadly the opportunity wasn't taken to add an Anti-Personnel Weapon Mount. The Gnome (LRM) lacks the sustained fire support capability of the Hauberk, as well as the stealth armor to help it survive counter-battery fire, but its higher mobility, superior backup weaponry and heavier armor more than make up for it in my opinion. It's also capable of accurately delivering its missiles at point-blank range, enabling the Gnome (LRM) to continue the assault role of the original.

     Four years after the Gnome was first introduced, Clan Star Adder followed the Horses' example with their own Heavy design, the Corona, and those were eventually joined by the Ghost Bear's Rogue Bear in 3073 and the Nova Cat's Thunderbird in 3085. The Rogue Bear is the closest in style to the Gnome, perhaps not unexpected given the long rivalry between the Horses and Bears and their common history of strong Battle Armor forces, while the Thunderbird is just a poor man's Elemental. The Corona is something of an oddity, a sledgehammer with a glass jaw, that looks like an Assault suit that was shrunk, gaining Mechanized Battle Armor capability at the expense of armor, and while a capable design it can often struggle to survive before it can fully exploit the formidable firepower of its laser.

     With no obvious replacement, the Gnome Battle Armor, the first modern Clan Heavy suit, remains a valuable combatant in the Toumans where it serves, especially the recent refit developed by Clan Hell's Horses. The Gnome is unlikely to follow the path of the Elemental II, since a Heavy version of that concept would have less payload for arms and armor, for a modest increase in mobility in some terrain. The Horses might instead opt to follow the Nova Cat's example, but if they do then hopefully the result will be more successful than the unimpressive Thunderbird. For now, the Gnome remains the first and best overall performing Clan Battle Armor in its weight class, adapting over the years to new technology and the ever changing demands of the battlefield to fend off younger challengers, like a battle-scarred Bloodnamed warrior staring down the pups fresh from the sibko.

Next up:
  • Achileus
  • Longinus
  • Cavalier
  • Salamander

Quotation from Starship Troopers, page 99, author Robert A. Heinlein.
« Last Edit: 09 November 2011, 14:41:50 by sillybrit »

Southern Coyote

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gnome
« Reply #1 on: 09 November 2011, 16:40:38 »
Thanks for the article!

I'm a big fan of the Gnome, preferring them to the Elemental as well.  I received two packs of them last year at Christmas and was thrilled.  A friend of mine tried to tell me that the Corona or the Salamander (He's a Star Adder abuser) was where it was at as far as BA is concerned.  We played a relatively large game soon after, fielding Battle Armor, Protos, and Mechs.  I remember thinking that maybe he was right.  My Elementals began tangling with his mechs, while my point of Gnomes (The Bearhunter Variant) got pinned down by a point of Coronas.  We sniped at each other for a while before I got lucky and wiped them out to the man.  By this point, my Rocs had gotten pretty beat up and then he broke Zell by trying to finish them off.  I through my Gnomes in with the Rocs and took out his protos (I believe he was running Minotaurs). 

Gnomes are an excellent BA.  They serve as a good anvil to smash lighter opponents on, and reign supreme in urban combat. 
Dogged pursuit of your goal is an admirable trait in anyone.


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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gnome
« Reply #2 on: 09 November 2011, 18:51:13 »
I've been having fun with the Gnome (LRM) recently. The high initial firepower provides a nice little surprise, and since its Clantech, it can use those LRMs up close, AND it has enough ammo that you can keep shooting, or take the risk at higher target numbers. The addition of the APGR is great since it lets you keep shooting at range. I used a point to harass a Carnivore for a while.

The original has always worked well for me when I took it. I think like most people I ignored the "Upgrade" in 3058U. The MicroPulse variant and MRR variant might save it. I've used the MRR variant once. It was..kind of odd. Not sure on it yet.

Here's hoping the Horses are producing the original and the LRM variant post Jihad :)

Ian Sharpe

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Gnome
« Reply #3 on: 10 November 2011, 15:23:04 »
Long-time fan of the Gnome, remembering how they crushed my Toads the first time I ran up against them.  I tend to use them somewhat sparingly, though, since Toads already have trouble keeping up with my Mechs.  I try to field the Gnomes with my lights and mediums, drop them, and let my heavies/assaults pick them up to keep going.  The APGR model is OK, but I'd have prefered they use the APG, add a jump booster, and give me three shots for the ASRMs.