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Author Topic: DropShip of the Week: Mule  (Read 4620 times)

Jellico

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DropShip of the Week: Mule
« on: 25 April 2014, 15:24:28 »
Mule: DS&JS, TRO3057, TRO 3075, JHS 3070


Built since 2737 the Mule has been representative of midsized transport DropShips around the Inner Sphere. There is not much more to say really. Good at what it does, this will be the ship that makes up the bulk of your transport fleet.

Historically Mules were not built in that many places. Just Sarna (Tengo Aerospace), and Tharkad (TAG). From here it would go on to dominate the late Star League shipping lanes. JumpShips and DropShips and TRO3057 go into mind numbing detail about the ship’s internals. A 3000 ton cargo bay low, a combined 5000 tons up high. Four 200 ton cargo elevators. Decks of crew quarters and specialized sales and financials rooms. Fluff fluff fluff. They even have a hydroponics facility.
Anyway. From our point of view the guns are ignorable and armour non-existent. Fuel is adequate and thrust enough to safely get into orbit. A little disappointingly there are no shuttle facilities. A shuttle is always handy in space.
Despite all of that this is one of the most important DropShips you are going to have to deal with. The Mule is a classic 3rd Wave unit. Wave 1 secures aerospace control. Wave 2 brings in the transports expected to operate in a moderately hostile environment. Wave 3 is where the soft and squishy transports come in. These are typically heavy lift units. They will be bringing your tanks and quite often infantry. All those second and third line units needed to cheaply hold the ground taken by your ‘Mechs and BA. The Mule comes into its own here. It brings your ammo, your armour, your food, your water. If you don’t need immediate access it can very efficiently carry tanks, ‘Mechs and aerospace fighters. About the only thing it doesn’t carry are people, mainly because it lacks the oxygen facilities.
You take a world with a Union. You hold it with a Mule.

The Star League used the ubiquitous Mule for something odd. They turned it into a genuine heavy assault DropShip. Doubling the armour loading on six White Sharks and six Barracudas and the heat sinks to fire them and six aerospace fighters the result is remarkably solid. The question is why on earth would they do it? WarShips weren’t rare. Neither were conventional assault ships. The term Q-Ship is bandied around a lot, but role doesn’t work. Historic Q-Ships were bait to draw in attackers. Ignoring the difficulty in commerce raiding in Battletech, who would be attacking League shipping? Or more importantly escorted League shipping. Q-Ships didn’t work in reality and it is easy to imagine that they didn’t work here.
However in the Jihad Word of Blake approached the same concept from a different direction. Their modified Mules were not intended to act as bait to draw in attackers. Instead WoB’s Mules would be sheep in wolves clothing, infiltrating commercial lanes and striking unexpectedly. Word of Blake would produce two different models. The “Pocket WarShip” was basically the same as the Star League model, but utilising eight AR10s in place of the mixed capital missiles. The “Q-Ship” model was an emergency construction which didn’t receive the extra armour.
All three variants are very good at what they do. At short range they can release a fatal spray of nuclear weapons. They are quite happy sitting in uncontested orbit dropping the occasional missile on the inhabitants of the planet below. More interestingly they are remarkably good AA platforms. Placed alongside WarShips or behind more solid DropShips like Interdictors they can maintain a heavy, extended bombardment at ranges where interception is unlikely while the true fighting ships remain.

In the modern era the capital weapon armed Mules are made as needed. Mostly by the Capellans at Sarna. The Fed Suns built standard Mules at Galax (Federated-Boeing) until the facility was destroyed in the Jihad, and Kathil (Kathil Shipworks) since 3039. TAG continues construction at Tharkad, and interestingly the Rasalhague Dominion builds Mules for the civilian market at their Alshain yard.

So how does one use the Mule? In the case of the cargo vessel, keep it away from things with guns. That is as hard as it gets. Using the Pocket WarShips is not much different. Try to avoid exposing it to frontline combat. Orbitally bombarding the defenceless is always easy. As noted above. Fire support in conventional combat is very doable, just be ready to run when things get hairy.

nerd

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #1 on: 25 April 2014, 15:36:22 »
IMHO, the Mule Q-Ship could be used as the escort for a flotilla of JumpShips and their Droppers, or as an escort in less secured systems (like Taurus during the Reunification War). It's an escort that has the same movement profile as the convoy, which makes some sense. Also, making fake convoys that get 'lost' to try raiders and defenders is an option.

Once dedicated assault ships start taking losses, a Mule-Q could be used for bulking out Assault DropShip squadrons. It's not the best ship, but it makes up for that by being available.
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Weirdo

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #2 on: 25 April 2014, 15:58:51 »
Given the sheer size of the SLN's coverage area, I'll bet that even out in the wilds, convoys abounded that lacked capital escorts. That would be the realm of Mule-Qs, working alongside Achilles assaults ships, among others. (Probably not Pentagons, since we know those were meant to serve alongside the Congress-class.)

Another thought is actually fleet combat. No, really. The Star League is all about defense in depth, especially with regards to fighter defense. While almost all League big ships have a decent missile loadout, I'm sure there's more than a few captains and admirals who long wistfully for the days when you could call on a Quixote for your support, or when the kind of big fish salvo only an Avatar can put out was your typical opening volley, so I'm sure they'd be delighted to have even a handful of Mules bulking out their ranged firepower. Closer in, these vessels would be absoloutely murderous on inbound fighters, especially when said fighters are likely to be mostly distracted by the Mule's own fighters and the fighters from the rest of the task force, to say nothing of the WarShips themselves.

Long story short, use 'em like most Battletech players use ground artillery. Harass the big stuff from long range, or close into direct-fire range to wipe out enemy battle armor fighters.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #3 on: 25 April 2014, 16:00:19 »
Yep, I'm with Nerd.  The old Star League models were probably used out in the boonies for pirate-hunting and less obvious convoy escorts, where you didn't necessarily want to tip off people you had a WarShip pirate hunting.

That said, two Mule-Qs on a Tracker could do an excellent impersonation of two cargo haulers on a Merchant class JumpShip.  It also stands to reason that the pirate hunters also make awesome pirates.
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Fallen_Raven

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #4 on: 25 April 2014, 23:43:37 »
The obvious use for a Mule Q-ship is for those times you don't want to admit you're escorting something.

For example, you're transporting prototypes of the latest Hegemony military technology to a secret SLDF base for spec-ops testing. Warships make it obvious you have something important to protect, but nobody thinks twice about a Mule hanging close to mooch "protection" from a Mammoth. They never realize that the little ship has enough firepower to ruin a pirates day really quickly. ;D
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Diablo48

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #5 on: 26 April 2014, 13:20:29 »
One small point about the stock Mule.  While it may not be equipped to carry people by default, it is almost inevitable that a number of these ships have been refitted with additional life support over the years given how many of them are floating around the IS.


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Weirdo

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #6 on: 26 April 2014, 15:20:38 »
That said, two Mule-Qs on a Tracker could do an excellent impersonation of two cargo haulers on a Merchant class JumpShip.  It also stands to reason that the pirate hunters also make awesome pirates.

That actually sounds like a really nice little fleet for gaming. Not much of a WarShip presence, but you have healthy raw firepower(with really good range), 2 squadrons of fighters, and a complement of shuttles with marines.
"Thanks to Megamek, I can finally play BattleTech the way it was meant to be played--pantsless!"   -Neko Bijin
"It's just that the Hegemony had one answer to every naval problem. 'I kills it with my battleships.'" - Liam's Ghost
"...finally, giant space panties don't seem so strange." - Whistler
"The BT universe is startlingly deficient in both wisdom and hindsight." - Cray
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #7 on: 26 April 2014, 17:39:35 »
That actually sounds like a really nice little fleet for gaming. Not much of a WarShip presence, but you have healthy raw firepower(with really good range), 2 squadrons of fighters, and a complement of shuttles with marines.

Exactly.  It's one of the least disruptive WS/PWS setups you could do for a conventional RPG campaign.  I ran something similar under GhostBear under the old S7 game here on the board, before either the Tracker or Mule-Q was published.

That reminds me, with the Mule/Mule-Q and Merchant classes this week, would y'all mind if I did the Tracker next week for the WarShip of the Week?
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Weirdo

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #8 on: 26 April 2014, 18:20:20 »
Go right ahead.
"Thanks to Megamek, I can finally play BattleTech the way it was meant to be played--pantsless!"   -Neko Bijin
"It's just that the Hegemony had one answer to every naval problem. 'I kills it with my battleships.'" - Liam's Ghost
"...finally, giant space panties don't seem so strange." - Whistler
"The BT universe is startlingly deficient in both wisdom and hindsight." - Cray
"Damn you, Weirdo... Damn you for being right!" - Paul
There's no shame in designing customs, so long as you keep them private and wash your hands afterwards.

Colt Ward

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #9 on: 27 April 2014, 00:50:04 »
Someone needs to mix the Homeworld intro with the Mule-Q . . . lol.  I am thinking Arcturus Mengsk is from Niops, his story fits there . . . or as a SIC refugee in the DA.
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Vehrec

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #10 on: 27 April 2014, 09:25:36 »
Be it ever so humble, but I like the Mule, and every other cargo-dropper out there.  Yes, they're 'uninteresting' in a wargame, but that doesn't mean you should ignore them.  After all, if Mercs are going to haul away salvage, if pirates are going to steal your water, if you're a spy team on an infiltration mission...what better vehicle for any of these tasks, than a humble Mule?

...well, okay, if you're going to steal something as common and heavy as water, you might want a bigger transport with some bulk-tanker capacity instead of the Mule's break-bulk and containerized cargo configurations.  But the Mule can probably still do it, you'd just need to bring some steel drums or something along to hold the loot.
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Maingunnery

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #11 on: 27 April 2014, 11:20:14 »

I am always hoping that we will someday get a Mule CV, think of the possibilities.....
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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #12 on: 27 April 2014, 15:41:37 »
I love the cargo droppers.

GMs throwing wenches in my plans of packing them with sand and accelerating them to relativistic speeds to get rid of rivals notwithstanding.


Jellico

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #13 on: 27 April 2014, 19:00:11 »
That reminds me, with the Mule/Mule-Q and Merchant classes this week, would y'all mind if I did the Tracker next week for the WarShip of the Week?

Go ahead. I need buffers to keep me from posting the League too soon.

Colt Ward

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Re: DropShip of the Week: Mule
« Reply #14 on: 28 April 2014, 01:26:11 »
I love the cargo droppers.

GMs throwing wenches in my plans of packing them with sand and accelerating them to relativistic speeds to get rid of rivals notwithstanding.

I seem to remember a few stories that came from . . .
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