Register Register

Author Topic: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf  (Read 3210 times)

sillybrit

  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 3923
Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« on: 09 June 2014, 19:13:07 »
Black Wolf Battle Armor - Technical Readout 3145 The Clans page 11


     The Black Wolf Battle Armor is the largest of the new Clan suits introduced in Technical Readout 3145 The Clans, joining earlier heavy battlesuits such as the Gnome and Thunderbird, as well as the Cuchulainn, which appeared in the 3145 Lyran Readout. Initially developed as a joint project by Clan Wolf and Wolf-In-Exile, the Black Wolf entered service with both Clans in 3138, but the Wolves aggression under Khan Seth Ward prevented further cooperation.

     The Black Wolf comes from the before time, the long, long ago, when clicking was a pestilence across the land. It was a Dark Age, awaiting the light of all that was Classic to once more return BattleTech to its righteous glory. Based upon the artwork of Brent Evans, the suit was originally intended as a Clan Wolf playing piece for an unreleased clickytech expansion, before finally appearing in the Wolf's Dragoons pack. Brent's concept art also provided the inspiration for PLOG's version that we see in Technical Readout 3145. Unlike other MWDA suits, the Black Wolf had just a single set of stats, making it relatively easy to translate to real BattleTech, something that's been a long time coming. The Reactive armor, jump jets and the need for a big ballistic weapon were thus set in stone, although it was initially envisaged as something akin to an Elemental, before design requirements made it go up a dress size.

     A heavy battlesuit, the Black Wolf is closer in style to a trooper design than a pocket-assault such as the Cuchulainn. Whereas the Exile's other new heavy design opted for an above average ground speed to accommodate its use of a Detachable Weapon Pack, the Black Wolf adds a bare minimum jump system instead, thus matching the movement capability of the MWDA original. With both ground and jump movement capable of one Movement Point per Turn, the jump system might seem a waste of mass at first glance. The reason for adding the single jump jet was to be able to access the +1 target modifier gained by jumping units, using a more mass efficient method than by boosting ground speed. The minimal jump capability does allow for a modicum of greater flexibility when dealing with terrain, such as jumping off cliffs and tall buildings, but overall that +1 modifier is the key benefit.

     The Black Wolf's armor is the next unusual feature. The eleven points of protection doesn't match any of the standard thresholds, being too high for an old-style PPC and too low for a Gauss Rifle. It is however a deliberate statement, being a point higher than any medium suit can possess. The battlesuit also excuses the stealthiness seen with the Cuchulainn, instead opting for the greater protection provided by Reactive, ticking yet another MWDA box. Thanks to this advanced armor material, a Black Wolf Point can survive a direct hit by Sniper artillery fire or a Long Tom artillery cannon, as well as take less damage from missile and mortar fire.

     The weapon payload reminds me of the old Thunderbird - which is another Clan suit that tried to match up to the Elemental - with a single high capacity Modular Weapon Mount, in this case capable of mounting up to 560kg. This is where I first start to have concerns about the Black Wolf. In my opinion, there's a serious performance gap for Clan weapons between 200kg and 800kg, with the former being enough for the incomparable AP Gauss Rifle and the latter allowing for heavyweight lasers such as the ER Medium Pulse Laser seen on the Cuchulainn. Clantech guns within those weight ranges generally lose out on range compared to the AP Gauss Rifle, such that a pair of those weapons are often much superior to a single 400kg or heavier weapon, for example. The Inner Sphere's Medium Laser might be seen as a potential option, but sadly the Black Wolf doesn't have enough slot space available for its modular mount.

     That means that the Black Wolf has to be armed with what could be viewed as a somewhat questionable selection of configurations, although to be fair they do all have their uses. Starting with the best of the lot, in my opinion, is the BA LB-X - which neatly provides the big ballistic weapon requirement. Although shorter ranged than the AP Gauss Rifle and lacking a concentrated punch, the ability of a battle armor Point to provide what is effectively a short ranged LB 20-X gives a superb anti-armor weapon. Damaged ’Mechs also have to step warily around Black Wolves, as the cloud of LB-X munitions make for efficient crit seekers that can severely punish any foe with exposed internal structure.

     If other battle armor are the expected foe, then the Black Wolf offers a surprising choice in the form of the Inner Sphere's Plasma Rifle, the first time we've seen a Spheroid configuration on a Clan suit. Again shorter ranged than the AP Gauss Rifle, and the LB-X as well, this weapon inflicts extra damage against battlesuits, which can enable it to outperform heavier guns. Sadly, this configuration does waste an incredible 260kg of payload, nearly double that of the LB-X option, which makes it the least efficient in those terms.

     The Heavy Flamer configuration is perhaps the least popular in my experience. Incredibly powerful against conventional infantry, and also capable of badly overheating a ’Mech, the Heavy Flamer suffers from very short range by modern battlefield standards, being the shortest ranged available to the Black Wolf at just four hexes. Many infantry platoons can outrange a Heavy Flamer, which makes this configuration best suited to urban combat and other close quarters situations. Yet again, the Heavy Flamer leaves a lot of unused mass, with enough remaining to mount an AP Gauss Rifle if only two weapons could be installed.

     The most damaging, the ER Small Pulse Laser would actually be my preferred choice if I was up against enemy battle armor, unless they were completely unsupported. The Plasma Rifle would inflict more damage on average when engaging battlesuits, and could inflict up to 60% more, but the laser is more damaging against other target types including conventional infantry and is also more accurate. The ER Small Pulse Laser does suffer from a relatively short range, matching that of the Plasma Rifle, so yet again I still find myself gazing forlornly at the AP Gauss Rifle.

     The final weapon option shamelessly exploits the luxury of such an inefficiently large Modular Weapon Mount in the form of a Heavy Mortar, which is also supplied with two extra magazines to enable it to switch ammo types. Admittedly that does only mean that the mortar could fire either flares or smoke instead of the default round, which may or may not be of any use depending upon the optional rules you're using and the scenario involved. Assuming that you're nightfighting, then the illumination provided by the flares could be an important edge, while a smoke screen can mean the different between survival or not, whether day or night. Perhaps of greater importance is that it showcases a capability added by the latest Tactical Operations rules, namely the ability to indirect fire, that can be very useful in cities, for example. During our talks about the Black Wolf, jymset also pointed out a design synergy that I'd completely missed: although obviously short ranged, if the Black Wolf got into a counter battery duel with its Mortar, its Reactive armor would give a distinct advantage.

     So, the Black Wolf's armament selection does provide a variety of useful options, but overall I can't help feel that the range/damage combination leaves something to be desired. The LB-X has the longest range at eight hexes, but for its mass its damage is moderate at best and is scattered across its target, which isn't always what you want. The Black Wolf ideally needs to be in a tactical situation that forces the foe into close range where the generally good damage can punish the enemy.

     A Heavy Battle Claw is mounted opposite the armament, which allows the Black Wolf to conduct Mechanized Battle Armor operations, but like other heavy battlesuits it's incapable of Anti-Mech attacks. Both the Wolves and Wolves-In-Exile still retain enough OmniMechs that neither should lack for transports for the Black Wolf, making the battle armor just as mobile as heavier forces, which can be very important in campaign play.

     As brushed upon above, there's a natural comparison to be made with the older Thunderbird, particularly its Upgrade variant that came out in the New Tech New Upgrades section of the 3145 series. The T-Bird opts for Reflective instead of Reactive, meaning that it's more vulnerable to the area effect weapons that're favored for taking out an entire Point (or squad) with one shot. On the other hand, the T-Bird is going to better weather the more commonly encountered energy weapons, such as the ubiquitous medium-class lasers. The Black Wolf does have a slight edge in raw protection, but not a really significant one, while the T-Bird is clearly superior in terms of mobility and also gets an extra Target Movement Modifier when jumping its maximum distance.

     The Black Wolf does technically have an advantage in weapon payload, but it's not that worthwhile in my opinion. The only Black Wolf weapon that the T-Bird can't mount is the ER Small Pulse Laser, and its ER Small Laser and Small Pulse Laser alternatives aren't that inferior, with the latter even superior in some terms. A T-Bird with a Heavy Mortar would lack extra ammo clips, but given that the available options are Flares and Smoke that's a small loss for some. So overall, it would be easy to favor the Thunderbird (Upgrade) over the Black Wolf.

     When compared to the other new kid on the block, the Cuchulainn, we are to an extent comparing apples and oranges. As I noted above, the Cuchulainn is a pocket assault, while the Black Wolf is a somewhat slow heavy trooper. Head to head I'd put my money on the Cuchulainn in most fights, but the Black Wolf is obviously going to outperform it against certain foes, assuming it has the right configuration. That flexibility, which the Cuchulainn lacks, explains why the Exiles would have been interested in developing a pair of technically competing heavy battlesuits. That they did pursue both perhaps also explains why they had a partner in the two development projects.

     Visually the Black Wolf is a sexy beast, but unlike some I find myself struggling to like the design. Perhaps it does indeed remind me too much of the Thunderbird, which has never really been on my Do Want list. For some players it's a great battlesuit, maybe even one they've long been waiting for, but for me it's just meh, with the venerable Elemental winning my vote instead. My opinion aside, both the Wolves and the Exiles seem happy with the Black Wolf, and so it'll be prowling the battlefields of the Inner Sphere for many years to come.



EDIT: Added link in opening sentence to the Black Wolf's base chassis entry in the MUL.
« Last Edit: 25 June 2014, 23:20:27 by sillybrit »

Wrangler

  • Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 17169
  • Dang it!
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #1 on: 09 June 2014, 22:03:45 »
Thank you for insightful write up, sillybrit.

I have trouble with assault and slow heavies. I'm glad Black Wolf has better mobility than other big suits seem to lack.  BA LB-X is interesting weapon, it certainly can ruin someone day.   I've only used it once in a MegaMek Battle, the point i was using was effective where other points or squads of Battle Armor would have been toast in raging fight.   

I think mobility is sore point with me with this unit.
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants

wantec

  • Freelance Writer
  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2882
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #2 on: 10 June 2014, 10:46:47 »
Thank you for insightful write up, sillybrit.

I have trouble with assault and slow heavies. I'm glad Black Wolf has better mobility than other big suits seem to lack.  BA LB-X is interesting weapon, it certainly can ruin someone day.   I've only used it once in a MegaMek Battle, the point i was using was effective where other points or squads of Battle Armor would have been toast in raging fight.   

I think mobility is sore point with me with this unit.
I too dislike slow infantry units. No matter how powerful they may be, if they can't get there in time to contribute, or they require a dedicated transport tank, they're not very useful to me. But in this case, with the mechanized BA capability, hopping a ride on an omni tank or omnimech is a quick and easy way to drop them in the thick of things.
BEN ROME YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD, I READ YOUR BOOK!


UnLimiTeD

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 1706
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #3 on: 10 June 2014, 13:10:43 »
As always, every suit pales to one that just dumps the equivalent payload weight into APGRs.
Aside that, it's actually a pretty solid contender.
The LBX isn't used all that often, and the payload options really make a lot out of a rather quirky base.
Savannah Masters are the Pringles of Battletech.
Ooo! OOOOOOO! That was a bad one!...and I liked it.

Wrangler

  • Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 17169
  • Dang it!
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #4 on: 10 June 2014, 14:59:13 »
I did fine that the Wulfen can effectively deploy Black Wolf well enough to get things done and not worry that the Mech wasn't contributing enough to the fight.   Sadly, speed is life, but in the city and pavement its hard....specially skidding into building and dying.  Thankfully, Black Wolf point jumped Mech to dish it out for short while longer than the carrier..
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants

sillybrit

  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 3923
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #5 on: 10 June 2014, 18:09:13 »
As always, every suit pales to one that just dumps the equivalent payload weight into APGRs.

Sadly true. Many weapons are simply rendered totally obsolete, while the viable alternatives fill niches surrounding the APGR's performance envelope, but typically pay for that in mass and/or reduced performance in a key stat, such as shorter range. If only the APGR did just 2 points of damage vs armored targets then it would bring balance to the Force.

sillybrit

  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 3923
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #6 on: 10 June 2014, 18:21:03 »
I did fine that the Wulfen can effectively deploy Black Wolf

Gah, I knew I'd forgot to comment on something in the article: the visual similarity between the Black Wolf and the Wulfen. I think jymset even mentioned it to me at some point, but I totally forgot. It's one of those nice little design hooks that add flavor in my mind.

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 6982
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #7 on: 10 June 2014, 19:36:17 »
To me, the Black Wolf visually hearkens back to the Demon-series of Battle Armour. Whether that's a good thing is up to you.

The reactive armour on it is definitely it's strongest point. I do like the BA LB-X as a weapon, but it would be nice to have a good, solid alternative, something the Black Wolf does definitely lack. It's one of those cases where it's good for specialty uses, but not so great if you want a "do everything at once" suit... ie, one with an APGR.

The Black Wolf itself is made of bitterness, resentment and the tears of Exile orphans
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



Whenever you use terms like 'fiat' or 'stupid pills', you render your argument invalid

How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way

Ratwedge

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1060
Re: Battle Armor of the Week - 3145 - Black Wolf
« Reply #8 on: 11 June 2014, 14:35:21 »
The Black Wolf really does look amazing, its stats and role on the other hand leave little to enjoy. I kinda understand why it was built as CWF needed a native Heavy to fill in the hole and CWX needed something to cover the Cuchulain's few weaknesses but really looking at the Black Wolf its nothing the traditional Elemental couldn't effectively do.

I have come to respect the BA LBX, its a interesting weapon to use and while not an APGR it does enough for me to be happy with it as another option, I also have come to enjoy reactive armor when deploying Black Wolves alongside Exile Rommel-Howitzers. I unfortunately can't respect the speed at which the Black Wolf deploys itself, it really does cry out for that second movement point.

Still its better than nothing. All we need now is a Stealth Armor refit for the Wolves and we are good to go.



 

Register