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

sillybrit

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Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« on: 16 November 2011, 03:46:51 »
Achileus Light Battle Armor - Field Manual: Free Worlds League back cover
Technical Readout 3058U page 11



     Sadly, for anybody who isn't a Free Worlds League fan, the Achileus is one of the best Light Battle Armor designs you possibly never used, and maybe even never fought - a group that included myself for many years, due to knowing so few players interested in playing for or against the League. Compared to the amount of combat involving the other House militaries during the period between the Clan invasion and the Jihad, the FWLM undertook relatively few operations, certainly none of the scale and duration of those by the Suns, Lyrans or Combine. The limited opportunities in the first decade of the Achileus' life would soon be forgotten once the turmoil of the Jihad struck, with the Achileus not only plunged into the chaos of the splintered fragments of the League, but also found in the ranks of the Word of Blake Militia.

     First published in Field Manual: Free Worlds League, both the Achileus and the larger Longinus Battle Armor have some distinct advantages over equivalent designs produced by other factions, although both also have a feature that renders the designs less than perfect, albeit a minor flaw in the case of the Achileus.  Without the urgent need of the factions directly facing the Clan invasion, the League could afford to take their time to develop Battle Armor, letting others suffer the pitfalls of rushing poorly thought out or implemented designs into production *cough*Infiltrator Mk I*cough* and they also gained the invaluable aid of the Word of Blake, who already had experience building and operating Tornado PA(L)s, with the two partners using that suit as the basis for the Achileus. The League's homegrown Battle Armor projects both began in October 3054 and apparently progressed smoothly and quickly for such well polished designs, with the lighter Achileus starting full-scale production in July 3057. One key goal of the Achileus project was to develop a mass production design, which could be fielded in frontline units, as opposed to the small-scale manufacturing of the Tornado, which limited it to special operations groups. Like all the Houses, the League also produced the Inner Sphere Standard, although the exact date that it was built and fielded by the FWLM is unknown, and it's even possible that the initial production runs for the Standard were produced mostly for export.

     According to Technical Readout 3058U, the League and/or Word didn't just restrict themselves to their own knowledge when developing the Achileus, being accused of having stolen research from the Lyrans and Suns, in particular the Improved Stealth armor. Whatever the truth of the accusation, the Achileus was the first Battle Armor design to use that technology, and it would be another ten years before a non-League suit entered service with the same capability, in the shape of the Draconis Combine's Void. The Readout does describe the Achileus as being less stealthy than the Tornado, but that is only partially true given the systems installed in the two designs. The Tornado's Basic Stealth armor is apparently less capable at shielding its IR signature compared to the Achileus, judging by the stealth effects of the various infantry sneak suits, and it's only the PA(L)s visual camouflaging system that provides it with an advantage, particularly against conventional infantry. Of course, in roleplaying or real world terms, a 750kg suit will probably make more noise in some circumstances than one just over half its size, but really there's a more significant problem with the Achileus if you attempt to use it in traditional sneak suit roles.

     Unfortunately, in my opinion, the designers opted for Basic Manipulators instead of gloves, as seen on the Tornado and even the Achileus' closest rivals, the Kage and Gray Death Scout. While they no doubt provide a stronger grip, and are capable of more finesse than a full Battle Claw, they deny the suit operator the ability to wield and fully manipulate normal equipment and objects. While not a problem in standard green ops, in black ops that could be a serious problem, perhaps even requiring the operator to unsuit so that delicate work can be done by hand. Since both the Word and the League have access to the Tornado to handle covert operations, with the Word also having the Nighthawk, this restriction was presumably considered acceptable, but it remains a somewhat annoying curiosity. Of course, from a game history point of view we know that the manipulator selection is at least in part because the Achileus was developed prior to the introduction of codified construction rules.

     Compensating for the inability to wield infantry weapons in its hands, the designers instead fitted the Achileus with an Anti-Personnel Weapon Mount on the left forearm, but most importantly it also has a Modular Weapon Mount on the right, allowing each suit to be equipped with a 'Mech-scale weapon, a greater capability than either the Kage or Gray Death Scout. As standard, the Achileus can be armed with a Small Laser, Flamer or Machine Gun, although it lacks the space to fit a missile launcher of any kind. The ubiquitous trio was also joined by the Light TAG and David Light Gauss Rifle after the publication of Record Sheets 3058Uu Clan & Star League, with the latter only becoming available as a standard configuration in 3063. When the Achileus was first published, the armament installed on the Modular Weapon Mount represented its only firepower in the BattleTech game, but later rule changes allowed the use of the Anti-Personnel weaponry, with the current Total War rules treating the suit as having an additional Ballistic Rifle Infantry attack. The design is also capable of both Leg and Swarm attacks due to its arm-mounted 'Mech-scale weaponry, with the former probably the favored choice by most players when assaulting enemy 'Mechs. It's not the cheapest Battle Armor in BV terms to perform Anti-'Mech attacks, costing only a little less than Medium designs like the Inner Sphere Standard, but it's a useful capability to have available.

     Although possessing more inherent firepower than the similar Kage, just like the Kuritan design the Achileus' most powerful configuration in many scenarios is the Light TAG. Combined with the impressive stealth capabilities, a TAG-equipped Achileus squad can provide a force with a hard to kill spotter for guided artillery and air-dropped bombs, as well as aiding units loaded with Semi-Guided LRMs, a technology developed by the Free Worlds League. Both Semi-Guided missiles and Achileus suits would have been available prior to Operation Guerrero, and we know that the former was debuted in that conflict, so it's likely that the same is true for the Battle Armor, plus we know for certain that the Word of Blake used the Achileus during their takeover of the Terra system in 3058, but after that opportunities for combat appear few and far between until 3067.
     
     Along with possessing the heaviest armament of the Inner Sphere's early Light Battle Armor designs, the Achileus is also the most durable. In part this is due to its excellent stealth characteristics, that can prevent it from being hit in the first place, but the suit also had thicker armor than its counterparts, although the write-up for the design notes that the wearer's hands are prone to injury due to the limited protection offered by the Basic Manipulators. With an armor rating of six points, an Achileus is still unable to survive a strike by Inner Sphere weapons such as a Large Laser or bigger, and the League are fortunate that they did not directly face the Clans, since the standard ER and Pulse Medium Lasers - common secondary weapons for many Clan designs or the main armament for lighter 'Mechs and vehicles - are both capable of achieving a one-shot kill. The Achileus does possess what could be regarded as the default mobility for all but the heaviest of Battle Armor designs, being able to walk at the same pace as foot infantry, but more importantly able to jump 90 meters, enabling the suit to leap tall buildings with a single bound and to generate a total +2 Target Movement Modifier, another feature that can help keep a squad alive when bullets are flying.

     Like all Battle Armor, but especially Lights, the Achileus wants to keep to cover as much as possible, preferably moving between two Wood or Heavy Wood hexes that are three hexes apart, for the maximum possible defensive modifiers. Even if this leaves the squad out of range for its own weaponry, the unit can still spot for indirect fire or artillery, both of which the FWLM have available in significant quantity. This makes eliminating, or even just encountering, an Achileus squad an experience potentially fraught with danger for any foe, since they can never be certain that there isn't a salvo of Long Tom shells or LRMs incoming. Of course, this is true for many militaries and their forward observers, but the FWLM have a long tradition of assigning artillery batteries to infantry units.

     The organization of those infantry is another factor that is sometimes overlooked by outsiders, with the FWLM's old-fashioned conventional infantry deployed in regiments of nearly 1800 troops, whereas the other Successor States field regiments roughly half that size or smaller. This same doctrine carried over into Battle Armor organization, with the FWLM also deploying the largest Battle Armor platoons, each possessing five squads of four, instead of the standard four squads. Although Field Manual: Free Worlds League only addresses Battle Armor up to the platoon level, and states that as of the date of the Field Manual in late 3058 to early 3059, that no unit possessed more than a platoon, it does mention that plans had been laid to field companies and even battalions by the early to mid 3060s. Those plans do only address the Longinus and the Achileus is only mentioned as being deployed in small numbers with special forces, but over time the FWLM presumably should have built enough to allow their assignment to scout platoons within line units.

     The Field Manual also notes that the FWLM always provide their Battle Armor units with transports, mostly in the form of Maxims and Maultiers, with other vehicles, including VTOLs, also briefly mentioned. Given the Achileus' capabilities, VTOLs would probably be the best choice for transport in most circumstances, allowing the Battle Armor to be swiftly moved across any terrain and dropped into key locations that provide a wide field of view to observe the enemy at a distance, or to then covertly approach an enemy position for more direct action. The Achileus is also capable of Mechanized Battle Armor tactics, and the FWLM eventually built up a solid OmniMech arm, but the Achileus is still best deployed away from combat or at most on the fringes, rather than being plunged straight into the midst of a firefight. Whatever the method of transport that is used, this high mobility greatly enhances the effectiveness of the FWLM's Battle Armor above and beyond their inherent abilities.

     Sadly for the Achileus, there's not much that can be done to upgrade the design. To an extent this is because the suit is already pushing the boundaries of Inner Sphere technology, and little could be added without requiring something else to be removed or downgraded, but a modest boost could be gained from switching to Armored Gloves, a change that wouldn't require any loss elsewhere. That would then allow the removal of the Anti-Personnel Weapon Mount, which would in turn open up opportunities in combination with adjusting the payload of the Modular Weapon Mount. That said, without switching to a fixed armament or moving the primary mount to the torso, as has been already noted the Achileus is incapable of mounting missile launchers of any kind, and is similarly denied the option of bulkier but still lightweight weapons such as the popular Light Recoilless Rifle. The existing suit could expand its skill set by mounting equipment such as Remote Sensor Dispensers, ECM Suites or Improved Sensors,

     Introduced in 3064 by the Word of Blake for its sole usage, the lone variant of the Achileus neatly illustrates the problem with modifying the design, since it is forced to remove its Modular Weapon Mount, to enable the installation of Improved Sensors and an ECM System. Lacking any appreciable armament, the Achileus (WOB) is best used as a scout and spotter, although the ECM does open up some offensive possibilities with some creative electronic warfare roles, whether generating Ghost Targets to shield friendly forces, disrupting enemy C3 networks or switching to ECCM mode to counter enemy ECM. When hidden units are being used, an Achileus (WOB) can help hide another unit from enemy Probes, but its one-hex radius does tend to be something of a telltale. Personally, when I've encountered these situations, I typically call in fire support to seed the hex with Area Effect weapons, or if those are unavailable and the hex is in a key location, I'll send in my cheapest available unit on a forlorn hope to trigger the ambush. The Achileus (WOB) can also be used in special operations, which typically are handled in roleplaying game sessions, but its poor choice of manipulators limit its effectiveness here.

     Thanks to the Jihad, the Achileus has become much better known outside what was the Free Worlds League, albeit mostly due to its deployment by the Word of Blake Militia in defense of the Protectorate. The future of the design is somewhat in doubt though, at least in the short term, with Gibson now glassed and maybe even the factory on Irian wrecked due the combination of the 3074 raid by the Regulans and the Blakists' tactical nuke scorched earth withdrawal the following year. Assuming the Irian factories are repairable or even unscathed, the Republic will hopefully be willing to share or trade the output with the former Free Worlds League member states, who suffered badly with respect to Battle Armor manufacturing, having concentrated so much of their production on Gibson and Irian. With two other manufacturers also lost to the Republic, presumably those states will be forced to build new faculties, with the Duchy of Oriente at least fortunate enough to possess a Longinus production line, although it was sabotaged by the Blakists and is barely functioning. However, as of the currently available publications, there is no known Achileus factory still confirmed operating, which is worrisome for both fans of the design and the military commanders of the League states.

     It's somewhat frustrating that what is arguably the most advanced and well balanced scout Battle Armor in the Inner Sphere has seen so little combat, when compared to the operational history of lesser designs like the Infiltrator Mk I and Gray Death Scout Suit. At least the Achileus eventually got to fight in the mother of all wars, finally giving it the stage to show everybody just what it was capable of achieving on the battlefield. Despite the current gloomy looking prospects, it's unlikely that the Achileus will fade into history, it's simply too good for such an ignominious fate, and no doubt it'll still be lurking patiently in the shadows for the day that the Free Worlds League stands strong once again.

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Ratwedge

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #1 on: 16 November 2011, 08:21:14 »
Love this Battle Armor so much. It ranks right up there with the Fa Shih for me in terms of must haves when I play Inner Sphere.

LastChanceCav

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #2 on: 16 November 2011, 09:45:39 »
Far and away my favorite light suit, it just got the the whole firepower, defense, mobility balance just right.

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Weirdo

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #3 on: 16 November 2011, 13:17:02 »
Suits like this make me glad to be a Leaguer. :)
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Ian Sharpe

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #4 on: 16 November 2011, 19:01:44 »
Best thing about it is the six points of armour, prevents the IS MPL from killing a suit from a single hit.  A mild annoyance save for the TAG model, but useful for being able to perform actual combat roles in addition to scouting.

Jellico

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #5 on: 16 November 2011, 19:26:10 »
The IS Battlearmor generation were all about trying to do the same thing. After the repeats of the Cav and the Kage the Achileus achieves the same capability by breaking new technological ground, yet is profoundly different to these older suits.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #6 on: 16 November 2011, 19:33:19 »
Sadly I'm not a Leager because this is one of the best made Light BA suits ever !
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Maelwys

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #7 on: 17 November 2011, 09:53:11 »
A solid suit much like its larger brethren the Longinus, I think part of the attraction is that people who are used to the Kage expect a single `Mech scale weapon, instead of the 4 that a Achileus unit provides. The smaller weapon limitation probably hurts post 3067, but again, its not a killer flaw, and all light designs are going to see it if they want to go modular.

Considering the WoB use the standard designs (heck, they were possibly the first to use it in combat), I'm not quite sure why the Record Sheets don't have 6 man squads like the Longinus does..both the fluff and the MUL support the use by the WoB.

As for the WoB specific variant..I don't mind it so much without a weapon and the unused weight (45 kg...Light suits can run out of space quick), but I sort of wish this design had the armored gloves.


sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #8 on: 17 November 2011, 10:28:03 »
Given the example of the first two Gray Death designs and a number of the XTRO suits,  the first thing I'd do in a campaign with field/maintenance refits allowed is to swap the manipulators for gloves, whether the standard or WoB variant.

Nikas_Zekeval

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #9 on: 17 November 2011, 21:30:45 »
Anyone try using the DLG loadout and hang out in a target's medium range?  +4 stealth and range, +2 jumping movement=+6  to hit.  Admittedly it'd be nice if the conversions was kinder to the DLG and KDLG, maybe treat it as a cluster weapon of two 1 point hits for better balance?

jymset

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #10 on: 18 November 2011, 02:48:07 »
Come now, the standard DLG is a very good weapon!
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #11 on: 18 November 2011, 14:12:23 »
Quote
Assuming the Irian factories are repairable or even unscathed, the Republic will hopefully be willing to share or trade the output with the former Free Worlds League member states, who suffered badly with respect to Battle Armor manufacturing, having concentrated so much of their production on Gibson and Irian. With two other manufacturers also lost to the Republic, presumably those states will be forced to build new faculties, with the Duchy of Oriente at least fortunate enough to possess a Longinus production line, although it was sabotaged by the Blakists and is barely functioning. However, as of the currently available publications, there is no known Achileus factory still confirmed operating, which is worrisome for both fans of the design and the military commanders of the League states.

Actually sillybrit, the Kopis write-up in 3085 states that Oriente is trading Kopis suits in exchange for Achileus and Phalanx suits from factories in Republic space. It sounds as if the Irian facilities were spared the Blakist withdrawal.
« Last Edit: 18 November 2011, 14:15:20 by Crimson Dynamo »
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #12 on: 20 November 2011, 14:21:00 »
Considering the WoB use the standard designs (heck, they were possibly the first to use it in combat), I'm not quite sure why the Record Sheets don't have 6 man squads like the Longinus does..both the fluff and the MUL support the use by the WoB.

Printing Record Sheets for every combination of squad sizes is not practical. So when we do print them, we print based on the faction which uses the suit the most. Only rarely do we print more than one squad size. The Achileus didn't rate.

Players can always create RS for other squad sizes.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Achileus
« Reply #13 on: 20 November 2011, 17:37:57 »
You can print a four-man squad and use two boxes for each Level I, too, marking out the bottom two in the second squad box.