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Author Topic: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor  (Read 6890 times)

sillybrit

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Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« on: 24 September 2012, 23:34:57 »
Thunderbird Battle Armor - Technical Readout 3085 Supplemental page 45



     The Thunderbird is another attempt by Clan Nova Cat to cope with dwindling numbers of Elementals, although like their earlier Clan Medium Battle Armor design, their attempts to replace the irreplaceable has so far proved less than successful. Weighing in as a Heavy suit, the Thunderbird does have some modest advantages over the Elemental, but as we shall see it also suffers some disadvantages.

     Originally seen in Mechwarrior Dark Age, the proper BattleTech version of the Thunderbird was designed by our very own jymset for Technical Readout 3085 Supplemental. Translating clickytech unit stats is always somewhat awkward due to the different quality grades that are not always fully compatible, but the MWDA version did give jymset a platform to work from, combined with the rough parameters that he was given for the design. With jymset's kind assistance and permission from above, I'm happy to say that I can reveal just how the Thunderbird came to achieve its final form that we saw in the Technical Readout.

     With three Nova Cat units and a single Spirit Cat unit in the MWDA game, it was always a simple choice as to which Clan was going to be the developer of the Thunderbird. Together with the other specifications that the suit had to be jump capable, mobile, lightly armored and heavily armed, with a preference for a laser-based armament, ideally Pulse, that gave jymset the foundation for his design. By looking at the MWDA stats, he also noted an above average range, which combined with the Pulse laser requirement meant that the suit had to be capable of carrying a Small Pulse Laser.

     At a hefty 400kgs, the ability to carry a Small Pulse Laser pretty much dictated that the Thunderbird would have to be in the Heavyweight class. It would have been possible to make the suit a Medium, however the resulting armor would have been uncomfortably low for a non-stealthy design on the Clan battlefield, although still workable at a possible seven points. Other design considerations did reduce the viability of a Medium chassis even further, such as the Clan Medium already occupying the slot of an Elemental replacement with less armor, and so the result was that the Thunderbird was confirmed as a Heavy.

     As an alternative armament, thus requiring the installation of a Modular Weapon Mount on the right arm, the ER Small Laser kept with the laser theme, while still providing a greater range compared to the original trio of Flamer, Machine Gun and Small Laser that technically remain the benchmark of Battle Armor weapons. The last point is arguable with modern designs considering the plethora of new technology that has been developed by both the Clans and the Inner Sphere, plus I must admit I'm not as enthused as jymset as far as the Small Pulse Laser is concerned. The accuracy bonus is nice, as is the extra damage against conventional infantry, but its range can be matched or exceeded by weapons less than half its mass, and its damage equaled by similarly lighter choices, such as the Medium Recoilless Rifle. Still, given the requirement for a laser-oriented armament, the Small Pulse Laser is an obvious choice.

     The third of the canon configurations is the one that jymset found the least satisfying. Despite the range of the two laser-based configurations, he felt that the range of the MWDA version of the Thunderbird deserved a weapon with an even longer reach than six hexes, and at the time the only available non-missile option for the Clans was the AP Gauss Rifle. Not much really needs to be said about the weapon at this stage in the Battle Armor of the Week articles; it's simply the best overall Battle Armor gun, with a superb blend of firepower and range in a lightweight package. It's fair to say that the AP Gauss is so good that there's little need to ever consider the majority of other Clan Battle Armor weapons and as such it risks being overused, thus making for a game somewhat lacking in variety. Thanks to Tactical Operations 2nd Edition we now have additional options that had they been available, might have made a better choice, in the form of the Battle Armor LB-X Autocannon, another Nova Cat development.

     Alongside the Modular Weapon Mount with its oversized payload, jymset had to address the weird looking Battle Claw that could be seen on the left arm of the MWDA Thunderbird. Opting for flavor over pure efficiency, he decided that a Heavy Vibro-Claw was required to properly do justice to the existing imagery and also sealing the fate of the idea of an alternative Medium-weight Thunderbird. Not much use to a Heavy suit, the only advantage it provides over a Basic Manipulator is a token melee capability against infantry, although it obviously has more use if a Thunderbird finds itself up close and personal in the roleplaying game. For the BattleTech game, its only significant use is allowing the suit to perform Mechanized Battle Armor operations, which is a big advantage for Heavies over the larger Assault designs. As a side note, this is a key reason why the latter are less common among the OmniMech-heavy Clan forces, with two of the three Clantech Assaults being relatively late additions to the Toumans.

     Those players who enjoy designing their own Battle Armor will have noted that the Thunderbird has 5kg free, with more than enough slots to make use of that mass. The most common choice to exploit a spare 5kg is an Anti-Personnel Weapon Mount, but jymset wanted to give the Thunderbird a cleaner, more streamlined design, with the AP mount feeling like unnecessary clutter. Personally, given that thinking, I'd have taken a leaf from the other Nova Cat design, the Clan Medium, and added a searchlight, but it doesn't really do any harm leaving the 5kg unused.

     The requirement to make the Thunderbird mobile and jump capable pushed the design towards the use of Jump Boosters, as already seen on the Clan Medium. Allowing the suit to jump three hexes at a time, that meant that the Thunderbird is capable of generating a +1 Target Movement Modifier due to distance moved, giving it an advantage over the original modern-era Clan Heavy design, the Gnome. This Medium-level mobility matched the desired design parameters and also compensated for the less than maximum protection that would be available given the remaining mass. At ten points of armor, that means that the Thunderbird matches the Elemental it's designed to replace, as well as exceeding the Clan Medium, so although technically lightly armored compared to the Gnome, it's far from fragile and importantly reaches ones of the key armor thresholds.

     With the main stats all in place, comparisons to the Elemental are obvious, although jymset said that he isn't quite certain at what point in the design process that he decided to recreate the Elemental one weight class higher. In addition to meeting the rough design parameters he'd been set, he also felt responsible to existing fluff, in particular the write-up for the Clan Medium Battle Armor in Technical Readout 3075. The fluff for that design made a big deal regarding the Cats' lack of Elementals, which both helped influence the final design of the Thunderbird as well as its own write-up.

     As an Elemental Warrior, it made sense that Khan West would get involved with the development of the Thunderbird, although jymset did note that he over-extended himself by calling West the only Elemental Khan, having forgotten about the Horses' Khan. A side-effect of mentioning West actually meant that the Khan had to survive the Jihad, for which he shall no doubt be forever grateful to jymset, if only he knew the name of his inadvertent guardian angel. Wanting to keep the true spirit of the original MWDA Thunderbird, jymset included some of the crazier capabilities as features of the prototypes, which dictated the prolonged and difficult gestation before the design first appears in its production form in 3086. Little nuggets of information could also be mined from the Thunderbird's fluff, foreshadowing developments that have just begun to appear in the form of the afore-mentioned LB-X and the introduction of Reflec composites for Battle Armor, which I can only hope will one day be seen in an upgraded Thunderbird.

     When compared to the Elemental, the Thunderbird doesn't quite live up to the mark, like many others before it. The mobility, armor and Mechanized Battle Armor capability are obviously the same, but the loss of Anti-'Mech capability is a massive down check, and even the heavier infantry bay required for APC transportation can be considered another negative. With respect to the armament, it's arguable as to which is the better: although the ER Small Laser has a harder punch than anything the Elemental can mount, and the Thunderbird's Pulse option outranges the lighter suit's equivalent, the 800 pound gorilla in the room can't be ignored. The range advantage and firepower of the AP Gauss Rifle is so good that it's close to being the only viable choice for Clan Battle Armor. With both suits mounting the AP Gauss, the Elemental is the clear winner thanks to its missiles, which offer a more powerful alpha strike and the option of multiple warhead types, such as the incredibly useful Inferno. When armed with the AP Gauss, the Thunderbird is also effectively wasting 200kg of payload, further emphasizing the relative inefficiency of the design. As a final comparison, judging the Elemental's AP Weapon Mount versus the Thunderbird's Vibro-Claw is a no brainer, the latter simply pales when you consider weapons such as the formidable Mauser IIC. All those points combine to give the overall combat edge to the Elemental in my eyes.

     While the Thunderbird fails to truly replace the Elemental, that doesn't make it a bad suit, it's simply a testament to the superb nature of its forebear. The Cats' new Heavy is a solid trooper design, able to use its mobility to reduce the number of hits it takes, potentially making it more durable than heavier armored suits. Its firepower packs a reasonable punch, with my personal preferences being either the AP Gauss or the ER Small Laser; when armed with the ER Small, the ability to lay down an average of fifteen points of damage per Turn is nothing to be sneered at, although unfortunately that does fall short of forcing a Piloting check on 'Mechs. Sadly, apart from the LB-X and Heavy Flamer, there isn't really much that the suit could add to fully exploit its impressive modular payload, unless you're willing to go down the Mixed Tech custom route, with configurations that use the Inner Sphere's Plasma Rifle or King David Gauss Rifle being useful options. The inability to conduct Anti-'Mech attacks is the biggest worry for me though, especially since the canon configurations don't truly offer a significant firepower advantage over Medium designs to compensate for its lack.

     So far the Nova Cats have kept a jealous hold on their new Battle Armor, even to the point of avoiding assigning it to units allocated to the RAF. Both the Diamond Sharks and the Cats' Kuritan allies have been refused access to the design, and judging by the Master Unit List it seems likely that the Clan manages to retain exclusive use throughout the Dark Age and beyond. One curiosity does appear towards the end of the Thunderbird's write-up in Technical Readout 3085; with it stated that the Cats have avoided deploying it against the Bears, so that it wouldn't have to face the Golem. I'm not really sure what to make of that given that a Thunderbird has a decent chance of ripping a Golem apart if it can survive the pair of SRM salvos and is able to exploit its mobility to stay out of range of the Assault suit's Bearhunters. I know that I'm far from a Clan player, but it somehow seems unClanlike to avoid a challenge just because there's a chance you might lose.

     Overall, I'd have to say that the Thunderbird is no ristar, but it's no solahma either, and at least it looks good. Use it with recognition of its limits, preferably combining it with the greater mobility and spike damage of its Clan Medium "Rabid" stablemate to cover their individual flaws, making the partnership greater than the whole. Although added by jymset as something of an afterthought, I'd consider the AP Gauss as the primary configuration, only switching to the lasers as the situation demands. The Pulse would be a viable choice if you know you're going up against stealthy opponents, while the extra punch of the ER laser can outweigh its shorter ranged compared to the Gauss Rifle. If you're using custom configurations, the LB-X is an awesome anti-vehicle weapon, and also works well for crit seeking against damaged 'Mechs. As a less common option, the Heavy Flamer is an unpleasant way of making sure that every infantry platoon you hit dies quickly, but I find its reach uncomfortably short against the nastier infantry types.

    As an Elemental replacement, I have to say that it's a nice try, but no cigar; jymset simply did too good a job deliberately hamstringing the design. If instead you judge the Thunderbird on its own merits it does the job, especially on the battlefields of the Inner Sphere. For a Clan like the Nova Cats, that has now made its home among the Spheroids, then there's nothing else needed and they can count themselves content with their shiny new suit.

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Dragon Cat

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #1 on: 25 September 2012, 00:30:19 »
Nice article, I personally like the Thunderbird design, even with its obvious flaws.  Would have really liked an AP mount on the canon configuration but I don't hugely miss it.

I do agree that the AP Gauss is the best config, the AP Gauss is largely a victim of its own success much like the Magshot was when it first came out.  Now with the LB-X however I think it has at least one new competitor.  If there would be future Thunderbirds with laser reflective and reactive armour types then this suit would be even more effective.

Deploying the Thunderbird with Rabids allows the suit to operate very very well especially against other Battle Armour and infantry, the range of the AP Gauss mixed in with missiles and flames from Rabids make the combination truly nasty.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #2 on: 25 September 2012, 07:48:06 »
I must admit that I'm really looking forward to the inevitable LB Cannon Thunderbird.

Pa Weasley

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #3 on: 25 September 2012, 11:15:03 »
The Thunderbird works. It's not fancy, it's not a perfect replacement for the Elemental, but it works. Plus as the numbers of Elemental suits continue to dwindle in the Cat's touman it's the only canon AP Gauss Rifle-totting battle armor they have available. As others have already said, the fact it plays very well with the Cat's "Rabid" BA is a handy bonus.

I hate to keep using the APGR variant but the gun is just too good. The ER laser at least has it's place for those time that the extra firepower beats out the range. The pulse laser variant just suffers though. With the pulse laser's range brackets it can generate equivalent to-hit numbers at ranges 6, 5, and 3. It's actually more accurate at 4, 2, and 1 hexes. Is that worth losing three extra hexes of reach for the same damage? Outside of cramped conditions, not likely.

As for the new TacOps toys, they really have the potential to make this somewhat homely duckling into a beautiful swan of battle armor destruction.  >:D When we get an official BA LB-X AC equipped, laser-reflective armor clad Thunderbird I promise you I will be dancing around the house.

Thanks for the great article, especially the looking into jymset's design process. They're always a fun addition to these pieces.
« Last Edit: 25 September 2012, 12:43:15 by Pa Weasley »

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #4 on: 03 October 2012, 17:57:37 »
Something to consider with the new Battle Armor critical hit rules introduced in ATOW Companion: when using the LB-X as a custom configuration, it can make the TBird a mean Battle Armor hunter. Mission kills due to critting out vital equipment can be just as useful as a physical kill, and during testing I've found that heavily armored suits like the Kanazuchi can end up being defeated by operator kills or similar critting out, long before the armor is depleted.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #5 on: 04 October 2012, 06:29:16 »
Which in reality is exactly what you would expect to happen

Does question the use of Harjel since that is supposed to fill holes in people if they get shot in BA but I've not seen rules yet.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #6 on: 09 October 2012, 16:44:51 »
when armed with the ER Small, the ability to lay down an average of fifteen points of damage per Turn is nothing to be sneered at, although unfortunately that does fall short of forcing a Piloting check on 'Mechs.


5 Troopers using five five point weapons would cause twenty five damage. Thus causing a piloting skill roll ;)
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #7 on: 09 October 2012, 16:53:08 »
Indeed.  It's important to remember that the average is exactly that: the average.  The inability to force a piloting skill check on average does not preclude the ability to force a piloting skill check at all.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #8 on: 10 October 2012, 01:13:27 »
5 Troopers using five five point weapons would cause twenty five damage. Thus causing a piloting skill roll ;)

When you have a full Point of five suits that hit a target, you then roll on the 5 column of the Cluster Hits Table and the average of that is three hits, so at five points per laser, that's an average total of fifteen points.

Of course it's possible to get four or five hits, but it's not something to build a game plan around, because it's also possible to get fewer than the average.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #9 on: 10 October 2012, 10:41:48 »
When you have a full Point of five suits that hit a target, you then roll on the 5 column of the Cluster Hits Table and the average of that is three hits, so at five points per laser, that's an average total of fifteen points.

Of course it's possible to get four or five hits, but it's not something to build a game plan around, because it's also possible to get fewer than the average.

Gratend, but I think this should be pointed out in the text :)
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sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #10 on: 10 October 2012, 11:29:07 »
Well, it is, that's why I use the term "average" in the articles. While I sometimes make note of a certain games mechanic, the articles aren't to explain all the rules for using Battle Armor, that's what the rulebooks themselves are for.



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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #11 on: 18 December 2013, 08:08:01 »
Goodness. That Sloth article refused to die.

Now moving on to something that will draw the Nova Cats out of the woodwork. RS3145 NTNU's Thunderbird (Upgrade)

Thunderbird rushed blah blah 3089, an upgrade, blah blah reflective armour blah.

Yes this the much speculated reflective armoured and LB armed Thunderbird.

Basically it drops the vibro claw in favour of a battle claw and loads up on 10 points of reflective plate. We end up with 400kg free and 2 weapon slots for the modular weapon mount. The (Upgrade) loads alternatively an ERSL, a SPL or a BA-LBx.

So what do we get? A much tougher Thunderbird. It is going to take two ERPPCs to bring down a Thunderbird (Upgrade). Or less impressively three ER Medium Lasers. Not really that much more in the scheme of things. Likewise with Elementals using APGRs, SRMs or worse Infernos there is no real change in a direct matchup between the two. Worse unlike the Elemental the (Upgrade) can't resort to instakill Infernos when up against some of the nastier suits, while it is also unable to swarm 'Mechs.
The (Upgrade)'s best feature remains that big (though not so roomy) arm mount which can carry most of the standard BA guns. Unfortunately it is somewhat dated compared to some of the new heavy suits hitting the field.

In the end, treat it as a trooper suit and it won't do too badly. Just avoid the super suits and be aware that the (Upgrade) is largely a one trick pony.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #12 on: 18 December 2013, 08:53:58 »
I don't think the Upgrade is that bad of a suit. Yes it is somewhat limited by the heavy chassis, but it is still mechanized, still jumps 3, and still has 10 points of armor. It carries a bigger gun than the Elementals. And if missiles are what you're missing, just bring along a point of CMBAs.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #13 on: 18 December 2013, 10:39:49 »
*Nova Cat fan coming out of the woodwork.*

The Upgrade makes the Thunderbird seem complete, what it was always meant to be. So what is that exactly? Ignore the TRO entry, it's not filling the same role as the Elemental and never will. As wantec aluded to, the Cats have the "Rabid" for that and it does a respectable job. The Thunderbird is not an anti-battle armor suit. Though it could give some heavy and assault suits a beating. The Thunderbird (Upgrade) is a mobile, heavy weapon battle armor designed to support the big boys in bringing down larger prey at range.

Mounting the BA LB-X AC turns a point into a mechanized, though reduced range LB 20-X. Each one of those five suits can take two Clan Large Pulse Laser hits and keep coming. It can generate a +2 TMM like many smaller battle armor. If that's not enough to elicit an evil smirk, there's no helping you.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #14 on: 18 December 2013, 13:17:41 »
The Upgrade actually seems like a damn reasonable suit to me.
Indeed, somewhat "What it was always meant to be".
A big gun that isn't seen on every design and their mom, with a reasonable niche in being as crit-seek as it gets, and 10pts Reflective Armour on a jumpmobile design.
Not much to complain here; Sure, it's short ranged, but you can't have everything.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #15 on: 18 December 2013, 13:31:37 »
Well, eight hexes isn't toooo much to complain about on a non-missile battle armor weapon.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #16 on: 18 December 2013, 14:27:41 »
Well, eight hexes isn't toooo much to complain about on a non-missile battle armor weapon.

 Much better than 3. I'd take these over the wraith.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #17 on: 18 December 2013, 18:43:36 »
I really like what they've done with the Thunderbird (Upgrade). The original was always going to suffer comparisons to the Elemental simply because it was fluffed as being built specifically to replace the Elemental, and the lack of swarm/legging abilities was always going to cause it to come out on the losing end of that comparison. But the reflec armor and array of weapons gives it a solid niche as a trooper/support suit. I certainly hope that, like other Cat designs, the DCMS kept producing this one for their own forces.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #18 on: 19 December 2013, 08:57:36 »
Do Infernos count as heat based weapons in regard to Reflec armor? Could help mitigate some of the issues with Infernos. It's not as easy to one shot Battle Armor with the things these days, but it's still annoying that there's the ever present 'Infernos will kill it' counter argument to any heavy suit without fireproof armor.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #19 on: 19 December 2013, 09:19:00 »
I'm away from my books, but I believe Reflective will cut the damage from plasma weapons in half but infernos will still insta-kill a suit for every three missiles that hit the point/squad/level I.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #20 on: 19 December 2013, 13:46:53 »
Indeed, somewhat "What it was always meant to be".

If you take a look at the original TRO entry, you will discover: The upgrade is what the Thunderbird was always meant to be. Reread the fluff. ;)
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird Battle Armor
« Reply #21 on: 19 December 2013, 14:08:20 »
Minus the VTOL capability, anyways.

 

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