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Author Topic: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph  (Read 3580 times)

sillybrit

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Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« on: 08 December 2011, 13:30:40 »
Sylph-XR - Experimental Technical Readout Clans page 13
Enhanced Sylph - Technical Readout Prototypes page 17



     While other Battle Armor designs have variants that add or remove jump jets, the Enhanced Sylph represents a radical design change from its parent. During its redesign, the Sylph morphs from a VTOL suit originally intended for reconnaissance duties to one firmly stuck to the ground, lacking even jump ability, but possessing a formidable street fighting capability. It's also one of the few designs where we get to see part of the in-universe development process, with prototypes that were originally available as experimental units.

     The first appearance of the Enhanced Sylph was in Technical Readout: Prototypes, however technically it was first encountered in-universe in the guise of the Sylph-XR prototype seen in the later publication of Experimental Technical Readout: Clans. Although we had the stats for the Enhanced Sylph first, I will be writing the article from the perspective of the universe timeline, so I'll first address the 3077 prototype and then move on to the final production version.

     To an extent it can be argued that the Slyph-XR was a product of new toy syndrome: the Clans had a new technology in the form of the Battle Armor Myomer Booster and they wanted to use it. In the case of Clan Snow Ravens they decided to apply the then experimental system to the Sylph, a somewhat problematic design that has struggled on the battlefield despite its incredible ability to actually fly. Thanks to the Myomer Boosters, as well as maxing out the base chassis motive system, the Sylph-XR could run at an incredible 54 kph, matching the flight speed of original Sylph. Of course, unlike the Sylph, the Sylph-XR would have to go through or around terrain, thereby slowing its progress, so in the long run the VTOL design would typically come out on top, with this superiority emphasized further by the ability to fly over terrain that would simply block any ground-based Battle Armor, such as deep water.

     Another limitation thanks to the switch to the new motive technology is that Myomer Boosters run incredibly hot and this increases the suit's infrared signature, making it impossible for the Sylph-XR and similar designs to lay concealed in ambush. While this might not seem important given how BattleTech scenarios are typically set up, it does actually take away a key component of the Battle Armor arsenal within the universe itself. Being such relatively fragile and slow units, with typically short ranged firepower, Battle Armor needs to get in the enemy's pockets as quickly as possible if they are to have a reasonable chance to defeat their opponent, and the surprise ambush by hidden suits obviously represents a powerful method to achieve this goal.

     With these issues in mind, the Snow Raven designers of the Sylph-XR apparently decided to tailor the new version of the Sylph to defeat the one battlefield unit where Battle Armor typically holds all the cards: conventional infantry. Armed with a pair of Light Machine Guns, the Sylph-XR has a respectable anti-infantry attack that can outrange many lighter small arms, with the suit's speed allowing it to effectively dictate the range that any firefights will take place. Given the greater prevalence of conventional infantry in the militaries of the Inner Sphere compared to traditional Clan combat, this is a reasonable route for the Ravens to take, although to be fair it should be noted that the original Sylph is equally adept at killing infantry. Where the Sylph-XR can gain an advantage over its sire is in urban combat, having superior mobility operating inside buildings, being able to run up and down multiple floors, or from building to building, while the VTOL Sylph is going to be limited to the same speed as foot infantry in circumstances when it can't take to the air.

     The Sylph-XR was also equipped with a searchlight to aid in night combat - which makes me ask how much it was influenced by or even based upon the Sylph (Upgrade) - and this quickly found a use in the prototypes' first operational use. The Ravens had been plagued by Word of Blake-sponsored terrorists and this presented the Clan with a perfect field testing opportunity, sending several Points of the experimental Battle Armor out to hunt for surviving members of the Dante's Inferno group. With other troops setting up ambushes, the Sylph-XRs flushed out their prey, hammers to the ambushing troops' anvils, driving the terrorists to their doom and even sometimes wiping out or capturing their prey with swift, slashing attacks.

     Although these field trials were successful, they also exposed some design flaws: many Elemental warriors found the suit uncomfortable to operate and some suffered burns, with a few even being killed by enemy snipers when they made the mistake of opening their visors in an attempt to take in some much needed breaths of cold air. Those are obviously only fluff issues, and apparently the cooling and insulation problem was overcome in the production Enhanced Sylph in combination with extra conditioning for its operators, but the final version of the suit also made a change that I consider was a big mistake.

     Some Elementals had complained about the lack of heavier armament, feeling that the Sylph-XR was ill-suited to engage armored opponents such as 'Mechs and vehicles. This makes me wonder whether those same Elementals had cooked their brains while operating the prototype suits. Unfortunately the Sylph chassis was already at its limits, and it simply had no more to give. To fit the heavy Myomer Booster system, the engineers had already removed the VTOL thrusters plus the then superfluous bomb rack - or the standard Machine Gun if it was indeed based more upon the Sylph (Upgrade). Weakening the already thin armor was not an option and even the Battle Claw had already been replaced by a pair of Basic Manipulators, so the only option was work with the mass already allocated to weaponry and ancillary equipment. With only 150kg available - or 155kg if the searchlight was removed - the best option would be a switch to a missile-based armament, providing both range and firepower at the expense of endurance. Given the light armor of the Sylph family, the limited number of missile salvos that could be fitted for the available mass would have been a worthwhile compromise in my opinion.

     Unfortunately, instead of opting for missiles, or the hard hitting punch of a Heavy Machine Gun, or even the multirole performance of the flamer, they chose to swap the Light Machine Guns for what is arguably one of the worst weapons that can be mounted on Battle Armor: the ER Micro Laser. While the laser individually does more damage than the original pair of machine guns, the pair combined does the same damage, together with greater firepower against infantry and even longer range. The searchlight was replaced by an Anti-Personnel Weapon Mount, somewhat mitigating the problem, but this could have easily been done without altering the main armament.

     The end result is that the production Enhanced Sylph is worse than the prototype Sylph-XR, gaining no real benefit for what it lost. Ironically, the write-up for the Enhanced Sylph acknowledges that its weaponry doesn't represent much threat to armored targets, as well as noting that its operational role will likely result in it encountering infantry. The change in weaponry also makes the Enhanced Sylph the joint weakest Clan Battle Armor for marine boarding operations alongside the Aerie PA(L), which given the naval background of the Snow Ravens is another amusing irony. I can only assume that the Ravens are satisfied that they have enough Elemental (Space) suits that they should never need to press the Enhanced Sylph into service as marine Battle Armor.

     The description of the Enhanced Sylph in Technical Readout: Prototypes also indicates that instead of being an anti-personnel unit like the Sylph-XR, it returns to its roots as a scout suit, particularly in cities, where it can swiftly run from building to building, charging up and down stairs to hunt down foes or to obtain high-up observation posts. This aptitude in urban warfare is simply amazing for such a lightweight design, and it can often catch opponents unawares, even those who know what the Enhanced Sylph can do can have momentary lapses, forgetting just how easily the suit can dart through multiple building hexes to make an attack that few other units could match.

     A particular threat for enemy 'Mechs and vehicles in these situations is the incredibly powerful Anti-'Mech attack enjoyed by Battle Armor equipped with Myomer Boosters. Whether using the Sylph-XR or Enhanced Sylph, when performing Leg Attacks or Swarms every single suit increases the damage inflicted, doubling the effectiveness of the armament when Swarming, while a full Point more than triples the damage of a Leg Attack. The Enhanced Sylph and its prototype arguably represent the most effective Battle Armor for Leg Attacks, matched only by the Elemental II, a design that is both slower and costs more for the same capability, although it does possess other advantages.

     Outside of the cities, the Sylph-XR and Enhanced Sylph aren't going to do quite as well. Yes, there are circumstances where their sheer speed will enable them to outmaneuver older suits like the Elemental, but this high ground speed often isn't quite as useful as a 90 meter jump range. The Enhanced Sylph can match the Target Movement Modifier of the Elemental if both move their maximum rate over clear flat terrain, but once into hills and woods the advantage starts to swing firmly in favor of the ol' Toad. For example, an Elemental Point can generate a +3 or +4 target modifier by jumping 3 hexes into Light or Heavy Woods respectively (with a further +1 if the attacker is non-infantry), but at best an Enhanced Sylph or Sylph-XR could run 3 or 4 hexes as appropriate to generate a +2 or +3 target modifier (again, with an extra +1 for non-infantry). Furthermore, the Elemental's movement is only limited by high hills or buildings, while the lighter suits can be slowed down by more woods or other rough terrain, or even blocked entirely by a river or other body of water.

     That's not to say that the Enhanced Sylph and Sylph-XR is worthless outside of cities, just that they will often be easier to hit, something that the light-skinned suits can ill afford, thus requiring careful shepherding to keep them alive. In the right circumstances, or with good support from other units, they can quickly get into position to inflict the same Anti-'Mech attacks that make them such effective city fighters; just don't expect them to last very long. Like the original Sylph, once the enemy does draw a bead, you're going to start losing suits so fast your head will spin. It will typically fare a little better against Inner Sphere opponents, due to common secondary weapons requiring two hits to kill it instead of the one-shot kill that is the result of a hit by a Clan Medium-class laser, but depending on the opponent that might be more than balanced by the greater availability of area effect weapons in Spheroid hands.

     As an experimental unit, the Sylph-XR showed a lot of potential and even performed well during its first canon combat. Despite the Enhanced Sylph having a similar early record according to Technical Readout: Prototypes, where it's noted as defeating piratical ex-Smoke Jaguars who even had Elemental support, I can't say that it has as much potential as its prototype. It's no longer treated as Experimental under the rules, thanks to Myomer Boosters being re-rated as Advanced in scenarios from 3085 onwards, but the same is also true of the prototypes, which otherwise lacked any new technology. As an urban specialist, the production design is still usable, and ultimately many campaigns and invasions will almost certainly end up fighting in the streets, particularly when Inner Sphere forces are defending, so the Enhanced Sylph will find a ready niche.

     Personally, whether it's the Sylph-XR or Enhanced Sylph, it's not a design I would use frequently or in great numbers, preferring the faithful old Elemental, and in that regard it's no different from the VTOL Sylph, just the circumstances of when I would select it are different. However, I'm confident that many will find it a fun unit and they will no doubt rack up some nice victories thanks to the Enhanced Sylph, whether their Points survive or not. Like the Cloud Cobra's original, the Snow Raven's take on the Sylph is an impressive display of Clan technology, setting new benchmarks for Battle Armor, and now it's up to the player to convert that capability into battlefield performance. Overall, my recommendation is to treat it like a Battle Armor (One Shot), with anything beyond that being a sweet bonus.

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Moonsword

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #1 on: 08 December 2011, 13:49:53 »
It's an interesting pair of designs but overall the production version managed to lose a solid chunk of the original's utility.  Personally, I'd have kept the LMGs.  At that point, with the weight available, the LMG is a pretty reasonable compromise.  Even if 'Mechs aren't that threatened by the damage, 10 one point hits spraying over their armor have their own utility.  Vehicles will like that experience even less.  It's not like you lose anything in the scouting role, either.

Ian Sharpe

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #2 on: 08 December 2011, 17:51:37 »
They really missed the boat with the Enhanced Sylph IMO.  There was the chance to add a better gun and improve the armour while retaining the VTOL capability, but this suit does not impress.  Its a less capable, non-jumpy Afreet. :(

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #3 on: 08 December 2011, 18:36:21 »
Except that neither the Afreet nor the original VTOL Sylph can do what the Enhanced Sylph can do when it comes to moving fast within and around buildings in heavily urbanised areas. While both older designs can perform well in that environment, they suffer when the fight goes inside or underground.

The Enhanced Sylph's only failings are its weaponry and its mass - like most Light designs it really needs to be a Medium.

Ian Sharpe

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #4 on: 08 December 2011, 19:04:15 »
I'm not real convinced on the underground aspect; didn't know the IS had so many underground parking lots.  Even harder to convince me its a base or whatever, given the 2 level tall mechs that inhabit the setting. 

Moonsword

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #5 on: 08 December 2011, 19:37:02 »
I'm not real convinced on the underground aspect; didn't know the IS had so many underground parking lots.  Even harder to convince me its a base or whatever, given the 2 level tall mechs that inhabit the setting. 

Tunnel fighting, including things like train tunnels.  Rooting people out of caves.  Parts of a base that aren't 'Mech-accessible specifically to prevent people sending things like Firestarters in.  And yeah, parking lots.  Part of the one at my office is underground, or would be in game terms.  (I'm not sure what the actual pre-construction ground level is in that area.)

All of this is the sort of thing a ground-mobile light suit would be very useful for in a situation where you're looking at fighting insurgents, not regular armed forces.  They have ASFs and bombs to do that.

Einhander

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #6 on: 08 December 2011, 20:09:02 »
Tunnel fighting, including things like train tunnels.  Rooting people out of caves.  Parts of a base that aren't 'Mech-accessible specifically to prevent people sending things like Firestarters in.  And yeah, parking lots.  Part of the one at my office is underground, or would be in game terms.  (I'm not sure what the actual pre-construction ground level is in that area.)

All of this is the sort of thing a ground-mobile light suit would be very useful for in a situation where you're looking at fighting insurgents, not regular armed forces.  They have ASFs and bombs to do that.

On the other hand, a suite for close-range / underground combat would benefit most from a high damage, close range weapon (such as a HMG) would be infinitely more valuable then the pop guns used by the design.

Unfortunately, I do not have the specs or the design know-how for battle armor design with the new rules (SSW, make me BA creator!), but if a decent battle claw could be added with an HMG, this design could really become a swarming/infighting monster. Heck, a standard machine gun would probably be sufficient.

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #7 on: 08 December 2011, 20:27:31 »
It must be said that it's already a Swarming monster and thanks to the twin Basic Manipulators it has no need for a Battle Claw. As a Light suit it wouldn't even need the Basic Manipulators being able to use mere Armored Gloves.

The HMG is one of the weapons I noted that I'd have prefered to have been used instead of the ERmL, although I do like the flamer instead. The flamer might inflict the same anti-armor damage as the ERmL, but its heat ability and anti-infantry firepower more than make up for it. To be honest, the prototype's twin LMGs also have their advantages, and the same could be said for a MG with 50kg devoted to other equipment, but with unerring accuracy the Clan engineers homed in on the absolute worst weapon choice in the shape of the ERmL, that offers no advantage over the other possibilties.

Moonsword

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #8 on: 08 December 2011, 20:36:16 »
On the other hand, a suite for close-range / underground combat would benefit most from a high damage, close range weapon (such as a HMG) would be infinitely more valuable then the pop guns used by the design.

I was speaking more to the utility of something that can do that job, not the Sylph's suitability for it.  Like sillybrit pointed out, the ER micro is a thoroughly lousy choice overall.

Decoy

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #9 on: 08 December 2011, 20:46:27 »
I get the strange feeling that this Sylph was made to enforce the divide between Snow Raven Elementals and Pilots. Can you imagine how many little grey areas the VTOL capable Sylph opened up? It could be as bad as LAMs!

But yeah. I prefer the original Sylph strongly. At least that one has novelty going for it.

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #10 on: 08 December 2011, 21:01:49 »
Although, if the blurring of the lines between Elemental and Pilot was a concern for the Ravens, you'd have to ask why they Trialed for it in the first place.

Even though I prefer Mediums over Lights, I'd like to see the Snow Ravens continue developing the Sylph chassis, merging it with the Aerie PA(L) to produce a replacement lighweight space ops suit to replace the latter, or perhaps the Clans' first stealthy recon design.

Grantwhy

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #11 on: 08 December 2011, 23:06:44 »
there is one advantage these suits get from their high ground speed vs the Elemental suit Jump capability (or other Battlearmor that uses Jumping as their main/fast movement), and it is regard to making Leg Attacks on 'Mechs , or more accurately, repeated leg attacks on a 'Mech >:D.

ie: An Elemental point makes a Leg attack on a 'Mech.  The next turn that 'Mech either remains stationary or moves only one or two hexes.  Yes, that makes it an easy target for the Elementals to make a second attack, but if they make that attack (especially on a 'Mech that remained stationary) the Elementals are now *MUCH* easier targets themselves for that 'Mech's team mates.  In that same scenario, the Enhanced Sylph (and Sylph-XR) could use their high ground speed to 'run a circle', finish in their starting hex and get their maximum defensive modifier.

ok - it still might not the be best thing to do, but it is a tactic the Enhanced Sylph/Sylph-XR can do that 'traditional'/jumping suits cannot.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Enhanced Sylph
« Reply #12 on: 09 December 2011, 05:47:05 »
there is one advantage these suits get from their high ground speed vs the Elemental suit Jump capability (or other Battlearmor that uses Jumping as their main/fast movement), and it is regard to making Leg Attacks on 'Mechs , or more accurately, repeated leg attacks on a 'Mech >:D.

ie: An Elemental point makes a Leg attack on a 'Mech.  The next turn that 'Mech either remains stationary or moves only one or two hexes.  Yes, that makes it an easy target for the Elementals to make a second attack, but if they make that attack (especially on a 'Mech that remained stationary) the Elementals are now *MUCH* easier targets themselves for that 'Mech's team mates.  In that same scenario, the Enhanced Sylph (and Sylph-XR) could use their high ground speed to 'run a circle', finish in their starting hex and get their maximum defensive modifier.

ok - it still might not the be best thing to do, but it is a tactic the Enhanced Sylph/Sylph-XR can do that 'traditional'/jumping suits cannot.
I now have an image of armored chicken-men (face it, the suit sorta looks avian) running super-fast, back and forth in the street, striking the mech's legs as they run by.
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