Author Topic: Issues with Random Unit Determination for Scenarios?  (Read 331 times)


  • Master Sergeant
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Not sure if this is the correct section or not, but here goes.

So, I'm a big numbers guy.  I love math, I love Excel, & I love using the random tables to do rough estimates of the compositions of the various Clans, Houses, & other factions in the BattleTech universe.  Part & parcel with that is that, in the various Field Manuals, they talk about using the Random Weight-Class Tables if you're going to use a canon unit from a particular faction, & I've been trying to integrate the Regimental Composition tables from Campaign Operations into that mix.  FM:DC & FM:FWL actually had slightly different tables than BMR (which was the standard when the Field Manuals came out).  For the most part, the Total Warfare equivalents (pp. 264-6 in 6th Edition) do a good job of updating those tables from the BMR versions...except when it breaks down.  And it actually fairly quickly breaks down.

I'll leave the Clans to the side for now, because their breakdown actually goes back to BMR.  For IS & Com Guards/Blake Militia forces, the BMR tables worked just fine:  first determine if the Lance/Company is a BattleMech or "conventional" unit, either by deliberately picking it or rolling 1D6 (2:1 ratio of conventional to 'Mech) -- although if using the random roll, you have to decide if "conventional" means Combat Vehicles or infantry (including BA) -- and then either determining the weight class of the Lance or the composition of the lances in a Company (former using 2D6, latter using 1D6).  The weight distribution for random Lances is fairly straightforward, with 36 possible outcomes:
  • 6 Light Lances
  • 15 Medium Lances
  • 9 Heavy Lances
  • 6 Assault Lances

That distribution is fairly straightforward, & reflects the typical realities of the situation.  Assaults are expensive & slow, so they're not going to be as common; Lights are best used in recon/scout roles, so won't be the main part of the battle line; Heavies form the backbone of the main thrust; & Mediums are the jack-of-all-trade "Troopers" that make up the biggest chunk of your forces.

But when you get to TW, it...goes a bit off the rails.  I like the expansion of the unit type, if you want to actually break it down randomly (still using 1D6), with 6 possible Lance results:
  • 3 will be Combat Vehicles
  • 1 will be BattleMech
  • 1 will be Infantry (conventional or BA)
  • 1 will be ASF

In fact, that gives you a very nice force:  an Armor Company supported by a 'Mech Lance (or vice-versa), with a Platoon of Infantry (or BA Squad/Platoon) to provide rear-area security or scouting & a Lance of 2 ASFs for air support.

But then you get to the weight class portion...which, if you've already decided "My Lance will be a BattleMech Lance", you're skipping ahead to anyway.  Again, same 2D6 roll, so you still have 36 results...but while they're similar, they're not identical:
  • 11 Medium
  • 9 Heavy
  • 7 Light
  • 5 Assault
  • 3 Battle Armor
  • 1 ASF

Although the proportion of Heavy units is unchanged, & the proportions for Light & Assault are fairly close, roughly 25% of the Mediums are now replaced by non-'Mech (or armor) units, even though at this stage they shouldn't even be in the equation.

It gets worse if you consider that, if you combined the Unit Type and Random Lance Type chances, then you could build a respectable force that would normally resemble an RCT, based on 216 Lances/Platoons:
  • Reinforced BattleMech Regiment (36 Lances = 12 Companies = 4 Battalions)
  • 3 Reinforced Armor Regiments, or 4 Armor Regiments (108 Lances = 36 Companies = 12 Battalions)
  • Reinforced Aerospace Regiment (36 Lances = 12 Squadrons = 4 Wings)
  • Reinforced Infantry Regiment (36 Platoons = 12 Companies = 4 Battalions), with the possibility of swapping out 1 of those Battalions for a Battle Armor Battalion

Instead...because the Battle Armor & ASF show up in the weight classification table, you get the following distribution:
  • "Regiment" of BattleMechs (32 Lances organized into 3 Battalions with Command Lances & a Regiment Command Lance, but you have a spare Lance)
  • 3 "Regiments" of Armor (128 Lances organized into 9 Battalions with Command Lances, but instead of full Command Companies for each Regiment you only get 2 Command Lances)
  • Reinforced Aerospace Regiment (40 Lances, organized into 4 Wings with Command Lances)...but you're missing a Command Lance for the Regiment, so more likely to get 4 "independent" Wings
  • Reinforced Infantry Regiment (36 Platoons = 12 Companies = 4 Battalions)...However, while you could still maybe pull out 1 Battalion as Battle Armor, you already also have:
  • Reinforced Battalion of Battle Armor (12 Platoons = 4 Companies, although none of them will have any command squads/platoons)

Now, I know...if you're using the Random Weight table & don't want the non-armor/'Mech results, you could just adapt the table.  However, there are 2 issues with that.
  • It drastically throws off the weight distribution.  While treating the ASF result as an Assault Lance just restores the old BMR-type option, treating a BA result as additional Light Lances increases the allocation from 7/36 to 10/36...nearly as many Light Lances as you have Medium Lances.  That essentially means you'd be either adding a higher level of recon/scout assets (great if you're only engaged in scout ops, bad if you're expecting to go toe-to-toe in a pitched battle), or expecting your light units to function as Battle Lances on the battlefield (not exactly a great situation).
  • It makes it nearly impossible to integrate the weight allocation tables from FM:DC and FM:FWL into the mix, or even adjust them to more closely match the TW tables.  The DCMS emphasized Light Lances, but saw the biggest drops in their Heavy & Assault Lances (15/36 Light, 11/36 Medium, 7/36 Heavy, 3/36 Assault).  THe FWLM kept the same number of Lights (6/36), but drastically upped their Medium Lances (24/36) while cutting Heavies (5/36) & Assaults (1/36).  Note that for the FWLM, a 12 on the 2D6 roll was the only way to get an Assault Lance...& the TW table allocates that to an ASF Lance
  • From a game session perspective, if you've already made the decision about whether any non-'Mech units are going to be involved (especially given the release of the BattleTech Manual), allowing non-'Mech units onto the playing field against a 'Mech force could make the session more complex...particularly if, say, your "session" ends up randomly becoming a Platoon of Battle Armor suits against 2 ASFs. recommendation is pretty simple:
  • Keep the Unit Type table used in Total Warfare, but:
  • Replace the Random Lance Type Weight Class Table with the old Random Weight Class Table.

As for the Clans...well, even the BMR table has problems, but I'll review the changes as well:
  • While I'm fine with the chances for a Nova, the TW table makes some fundamental changes to weight allocation:
    • BMR Spread:  32 out of 35 Stars are 'Mech (12 Light, 11 Medium, 7 Heavy, 2 Assault), plus 2 ProtoMech Stars & 1 Elemental Star; 1 additional Star will be a Nova
    • TW Spread:  31 out of 35 Stars are 'Mech (7 Light, 11 Medium, 9 Heavy, 3 Assault), plus 2 ProtoMech Stars, 1 Elemental Star, and 2 ASF Stars; 1 additional Star will be a Nova
  • Although both the BMR and TW table for the Nova result (12 on 2D6) properly have you exclude another Nova result or an Elemental result on the follow-up roll, neither table excludes the other invalid Nova options.  With both tables, if you roll a 3, your "Nova" consists of a Star of Elementals & a Star of...ProtoMechs... that cannot carry the Elementals into battle (& that's the whole point, as the descriptions for the tables even say don't bother with Novas if you're doing a 2nd-line unit because you need OmniMechs -- or OmniVehicles -- to carry the Elementals).  Worse, with the TW table, a roll of 11 is considered a "valid" Nova...even though it would consist of a Star of Elementals & a Star of...ASFs.  Whether they're OmniFighters or not, they're not going to fly into battle with the Elementals holding on for dear life.  I'm not sure having the "Nova" option in the Weight Classification table is the best way to go.
  • Although both books assume that any Clan force is going to be a front-line unit, we all know from both the FM:Crusaders and FM:Warden, as well as the various novels & other sourcebooks for the official setting, that all too often Clan 2nd-line forces find themselves facing off against enemy forces (whether IS or other Clans).

For Clans, I would suggest a 3-tier approach to solve this:
  • Adopt a "Unit Type" table approach. Roll 1D6:  1-4 = Front-line unit, 5-6 = 2nd-line unit.
  • Bring back the Weight-class Table from BMR, but instead of a 12 being a Nova, it's an ASF Star.  Front-line units (except for Clan Hell's Horses) are always 'Mech Stars, but 2nd-line units are 50/50 'Mech & armor (CHH is "special", in that they integrate armor into their front-line units); whether you roll a dice or just pick is up to the GM (although I'd recommend rolling 1D6 for CHH units:  1-3 = 'Mech, 4-6 = Armor).
  • Determination of Nova/non-Nova status is a separate roll.  If it's a front-line 'Mech unit (i.e. rolled 1-4 on the 1D6 roll, and 4-11 on the 2D6 roll), then you roll another 2D6:  if you roll 12, the 'Mech Star is a Nova, & you add an Elemental Star to it.  You could also have the option of a "poor-man's Nova" for the 2nd-line units, where on a 12 result on 2D6 for a 2nd-line 'Mech means a Star of solahma infantry is paired up with it (or possibly Elementals if using 2nd-line 'Mechs); note that this is what CHH does with all of its armor units (whether front- or 2nd-line).  Also, instead of getting a Nova with a 12 on the 2D6 roll, CHH forces get a Nova with a roll of 10+ on 2D6 for 'Mech Stars (FM:Crusaders fluff says that 2/3 of their 'Mech units are Stars, but the Unit Generation rules in the back just say treat the 6 and 12 results from the BMR table as a Nova).


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Re: Issues with Random Unit Determination for Scenarios?
« Reply #1 on: 05 May 2024, 18:49:56 »
I think it makes sense in the context of the 'total warfare' book, but only in a 'theory crafting a RCT' kind of way.  If you generate a random lance, there is a chance it is BA or ASF, but partly thats due to the fact that TW is a combined arms book, so the aerospace and BA units show up more.

That said, the total warfare method of random units is super flawed, as it only works on the macro level.  They do call out that combinations of units is meant for company sized or larger battles.  If you are playing lance v lance, which is 'most engagements' per the book, then TW recommends 1 unit type.  Further, for 'most' games (4v4), using the random tables instead of players picking the type of unit they want will see games of 4 BA for example versus aerospace some of the time, which is not the intent of the random rolling--and why they say players mostly should pick the unit type they want to play and not roll for unit type.

So while the 'macro' unit generation, like you point out, is ok, the section is prefaced that the game is mostly 'micro', aka 4v4 or so.  Thus, for 'most games', you cant use the random unit type chart.  Btech having very poor 'how to make a force' rules has come up many times, and the tables you point out reinforce this.  Its all due to the 'macro' versus 'actual' gameplay IMHO... too much in btech focuses on the macro side of things without considering what people can actually play on the table/have fun with.


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Re: Issues with Random Unit Determination for Scenarios?
« Reply #2 on: 05 May 2024, 19:13:42 »
As a test, I rolled 3/6/5 versus 5/4/1 in TW.  So a vee/mech/air company versus vee/mech/infantry company.  5/4/8 v 6/7/7, so light vees/mechs and heavy fighters versus medium vees/mechs/infantry.  3/2/6 v 4/6/3 so 3 light vee, 1 medium, 3 light mech 1 medium, 4 heavy fighters.  Versus 3 medium 1 heavy vee, 2 medium 2 heavy mechs, 4 infantry.

If we keep both sides to kurita just to isolate faction difference, the 2 final companies are
savanah skulker pegasus drillson, locust jenner mongoose trebuchet, riever huscarl slayer chippewa

drillson condor blizzard manticore, shadowhawk 2k phawk 1k lancelot crusader 4k, mech+hover mech+wheel foot jump

So for company v company, its about ok, coming down to one side being way stronger on the ground with the other side having strong air superiority.  But, if it was just the first roll for a 4v4, then its some light vehicles versus 4 med/heavy mechs, and that game isnt fair or fun at all.  A savanah, skulker, pegasus, drillson versus 4 mechs is very long odds.  The random table is just too swingy for actual lance on lance play, and the company game generated above was a pretty lucky roll that actually included mechs on both sides.  Most times you generate forces on the table you will end up with all vees/support units on one side, or one side will have a massive weight advantage.