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Author Topic: MotW: Thunder Hawk  (Read 12967 times)

JadeHellbringer

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MotW: Thunder Hawk
« on: 08 December 2016, 14:26:27 »



The inexorable march of the SLDF towards Terra in 2771 left an impression on that military- and that impression oftentimes was left in dents and burns. The Star League’s army was the most powerful fighting force ever assembled, but even then it had its flaws. Units that served in large numbers oftentimes were poorly equipped for the tasks at hand (see: Magi), or simply lacked the endurance to survive in the kind of rough battlefields Amaris’ coup created (King Crab). Luckily, a group called Norse-Storm came up with a solution that feels so Lyran it might as well have a mailed fist stamped on the forehead of every machine.

The Thunder Hawk (TDK series) is a big, bruising monstrosity that delivers undeniably scary firepower at long ranges, but to do so it makes some unfortunate (and unavoidable) sacrifices. The League wasn’t in a position to say ‘no’ to a new assault design almost tailor-made to break through tough defenses, but with the massive investment such a machine required in terms of technology resources and straight cash, it’s no wonder the design was soon out of production after the war ended. Norse-Storm brought the design back after the Clan invasion of 3050, however, introducing a whole new generation to the king of glass cannons.

We start by opening up a TDK-7X, the standard model in both Kerensky’s day and again to push his offspring back hundreds of years later. At 100 tons, there’s no question that this is a machine intended to dominate the battlefield, and the looks back that up. The standard TRO:3058 curved armor gives a very sleek, almost aquatic feel to the enormous machine, although one is left to wonder if the perspective of the left arm pointed at the ‘camera’ may have influenced the miniature a bit too much. A hefty and expensive 300XL engine sits in the torso, a massive expenditure in its day but absolutely necessary to accomplish the Mech’s goal. One simply cannot build a Thunder Hawk with a standard engine and still keep the performance sought. Is it worth the money and vulnerability such an engine comes with? That’s debatable.

As befitting a 100-ton crown jewel Battlemech, that curved plating is as heavy as it can get, with 19.5 tons of standard plating, making it basically as tough as the famed Atlas that narrowly preceded it into service. Unlike the Atlas, however, the Thunder Hawk’s armor is increased by its very role- intended to stay back from the fighting, less weaponry can be targeted at a properly-used Thunder Hawk by dint of its very range, which means that plating isn’t tested nearly as often. The other side of that coin, of course, is the vulnerable engine, a problem the Atlas doesn’t have to contend with. It makes for a Mech that will withstand some solid hits early, but which simply cannot be allowed to remain on the firing line for long after those first few hits- otherwise disaster is certain.

That armor WILL be tested, too, because no enemy commander will allow such a machine to survive for long. Parked in each side torso and again in the right arm are powerful Norse-Storm 7D Gauss Rifles. Yes, Virginia, that’s three fifteen-point hits flying out every turn at impressive ranges, making for a terrifying salvo. Not until the appearance of the Masakari in the Clan invasion did we again see a canon design capable of such a feat (and even then at terrifying heat cost)- this is simply the way to open up a target and make it bleed. Each rifle is backed by 16 rounds, plenty enough for most operations, while a trio of Defiance medium lasers provide a respectable punch at closer ranges where the rifles aren’t the best choice. Heat is rarely a problem here, so long as you’re mindful of the lasers now and then (and really, if you’re firing them you made a mistake anyway). There’s only the ten heat sinks in the engine, and standard models to boot, but with the Gauss salvo being as cool as they are that should be plenty.

That’s the good news, of course. The bad news is that a critical hit on a Gauss rifle will cause an explosion inside that location, and the Thunder Hawk combines that threat with the XL engine, meaning that despite that heavy armor a Thunder Hawk is dangerous to its pilot as well as the enemy. Even the right arm mount’s explosion, while likely safe from damaging the engine, will hurt the pilot severely. A Thunder Hawk that loses a significant amount of armor over any of those rifles needs to get the hell out of danger, NOW- which isn’t always a good thing, losing what is likely the most powerful machine in your arsenal at a time when you likely need it most.

Three variants exist, mostly because it’s hard to really improve on something like this- the vulnerable engine and rifles make it what it is, so changes tend to be mostly minor. The TDK-7Y is a good example, trading the four lasers for two medium pulse lasers. This allows for easier targeting of the kind of fast harassers that would bother a machine like this, but less fire put out overall. Your mileage may vary, but I prefer the 7X.

More significant is the TDK-7KMA, which drops the ten heat sinks for double-strength models. A Gauss rifle is removed (whaaaa?) in exchange for an Arrow IV missile battery (WHAAAAA?) with two tons of ammo. This is intriguing- the Thunder Hawk now fits into an artillery battery nicely, adding its own missile to the barrage, and has the ability to provide the remaining pair of rifles to defend the rest of the battery against enemy forces that get too close. This is impressive stuff, and a whole lot of fun to use for a commander that you want to hold back from the front lines.

The advent of the Lyran light fusion engine gives us a variant designed to survive the kind of damage its predecessors couldn’t. The TDK-7S had to shave weight, and did so by losing a ton of armor, two tons of ammo, and two of its lasers. Those losses aren’t fun- the ammo in particular!- but the result is the drop to a 300L engine- which means that if a side torso is lost (or just gutted by an exploding rifle), the machine can survive to hobble home for repairs. The reduced battlefield loiter time before running out of ammo is made up for then by being able to remain in the field a little longer before being disabled.

(The author would like to take a moment to lament the lack of a field upgrade involving the removal of one of the rifles in exchange for an LB-10X, giving the machine an excellent anti-aircraft weapon combined with the ability to crit-seek after the remaining two rifles do their job. Such an upgrade makes too much sense NOT to have out there somewhere, and even saves several tons for new and entertaining ideas)

There’s no question that a Thunder Hawk is one of the most dangerous ground machines in Battletech, bipedal or otherwise. A trio of Gauss per turn is the kind of thing you want opening a hole in the enemy’s forces! However, for all its respectable power, the Hawk is surprisingly easy to disable with a lucky crit (especially if the floating crit rule is in play!), and its power means that its enemy is almost certainly going to throw everything possible at it to get rid of it before the rifles do too much damage. The result is a unit that is walking death for the first few turns of a standard engagement, and likely forced to withdraw before too long- or is left in a smoldering heap. The author honestly isn’t a fan of the design as a result- its firepower and range just don’t make up for the massive cost (money, BV, whatever measurement you use) and vulnerability.

You, however may love the Thunder Hawk- or at least respect it. Probably have stories from using them, facing them, fleeing from them, etc.? You really should tell those stories, because that’s what we’re here for. Get to it, folks!
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #1 on: 08 December 2016, 15:32:48 »
There’s only the ten heat sinks in the engine, and standard models to boot, but with the Gauss salvo being as cool as they are that should be plenty.


I found a draft of the Thunderhawk from the FASA treasure trove of documents and at one point it did have double heatsinks. Apparently this was lost in editing or someone decided to leave it with a little more vulnerability.
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Scotty

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #2 on: 08 December 2016, 15:55:37 »
Triple SB Gauss version when? O:-)
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #3 on: 08 December 2016, 15:59:55 »
I once saw a guy refuse to take a full Star of Dire Wolves out of hiding and into the fight, all because there was no way for him to get back under cover without first spending one turn in the open, at the outer edge of long range of a single Thunder Hawk and Devastator.

This would have been a lit funnier had he not been on my side, and our forces suffering mightily for the lack of all that firepower. [face palm]
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JadeHellbringer

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #4 on: 08 December 2016, 16:25:07 »
I once saw a guy refuse to take a full Star of Dire Wolves out of hiding and into the fight, all because there was no way for him to get back under cover without first spending one turn in the open, at the outer edge of long range of a single Thunder Hawk and Devastator.

This would have been a lit funnier had he not been on my side, and our forces suffering mightily for the lack of all that firepower. [face palm]

I wanted to avoid the T-Hawk/Devastator comparison so as to avoid derailing, but... yeah, there's no comparison to be had. The DVS loses a slight bit of range on the PPC switch, but gains two of them for one missing a Gauss, which means more damage. More importantly (to the author's sense of survival) is that the rifles have been moved to the arms, with the PPCs remaining in the side torsos. That means a crit on a rifle no longer means "welp, goodnight" due to the XL motor the way it does on a T-Hawk. That's huge- it means that gigantic investment a 100-ton assault Mech creates is no longer quite as vulnerable to an easy loss as it was.

If you get to pick one or the other, you keep that Devastator. You're far more likely to have it come home. That said, it does suffer the same problem the Thunder Hawk does- your opponent cannot and will not allow it to survive any longer than they absolutely have to, so it WILL get pummeled early and often if your opponent has any kind of tactical sense. Just more likely to last a little longer, at the cost of a slight loss of main battery range.
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Empyrus

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #5 on: 08 December 2016, 16:41:04 »
As with most TRO 3058 'Mechs, i don't care one bit for the Thunder Hawk. Ugly, and i dislike the idea of cramming triple Gauss into a 'Mech. I don't see that very useful either, would prefer more flexibility, and the T-Hawk has issues with survivability and endurance. Oh, it certainly is powerful but... meh. EDIT Actually, that endurance isn't necessarily an issue... as noted, the 'Mech is powerful enough it will attract so much fire extra ammo probably wouldn't be terribly important.
(And for the Clans, i like the concept even less. The Clan Gauss rifle is kinda unimpressive next to their ER PPC...)

For a multi-Gauss assault platform, if i had to take one, i'd probably go for a Pillager, with its jump jets and heavier secondary armament it is a bit more flexible (though it too has some issues with survivability, at least in its basic form...).
(The Galahad is probably the only IS multi-Gauss platform i really like. Standard Gauss, that is, not heavy or light.)
« Last Edit: 08 December 2016, 16:45:49 by Empyrus »
IS standard and pulse lasers: red; IS ER and X-pulses: blue; Re-engineered lasers: orange; Clan ER, pulse, and ER pulse lasers: green; Clan heavy lasers: yellow; PPCs: skyblue; PPCs w/capacitor: purplish-blue.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #6 on: 08 December 2016, 16:47:33 »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-saQlMmTo4

I like the Thunderhawk for the same reason people love the Gausszilla, hitting a target with 3 Gauss rounds at a time is a thing of pure joy.

You have your choice of zombies if your looking for survivalist, the Awesome always makes it to the top of my list but the Thuderhawk comes with power and range that few IS mechs can match. Play it like a tank destroyer, call it in only when you need something to die fast.       
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worktroll

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #7 on: 08 December 2016, 17:05:31 »
Best partner for a Thunder Hawk? A Jagermech.

Seriously.

The JM6-DG.

Nothing protects a glass cannon like a mylar cannon.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #8 on: 08 December 2016, 17:16:53 »
Best partner for a Thunder Hawk? A Jagermech.

Seriously.

The JM6-DG.

Nothing protects a glass cannon like a mylar cannon.

W.

Whats better than 3X Gauss Rifles? 5X Gauss Rifles! :D
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #9 on: 08 December 2016, 17:21:06 »
It was more about "Hit the Jagermech first!" ;)
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #10 on: 08 December 2016, 17:32:41 »
 ;D Very true but it would make for a very satisfying convergence of fire before it dies. 
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #11 on: 08 December 2016, 17:35:14 »
I want to face of against that pairing with a single original-spec JES-1 loaded with a mix of Infernos and TCs. I just want to know which side's warriors will be more terrified.
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #12 on: 08 December 2016, 17:43:33 »
I want to face of against that pairing with a single original-spec JES-1 loaded with a mix of Infernos and TCs. I just want to know which side's warriors will be more terrified.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #13 on: 08 December 2016, 17:52:13 »
C'mon, we just need a 12 or two before his machine restarts....
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #14 on: 08 December 2016, 17:55:20 »
(The Galahad is probably the only IS multi-Gauss platform i really like. Standard Gauss, that is, not heavy or light.)

Okay, so I'm curious, what is your favorite?

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #15 on: 08 December 2016, 18:18:54 »
Okay, so I'm curious, what is your favorite?

Of twin-standard Gauss platforms? Or of Gauss Rifles?
Of former, the Galahad, probably, as i said. That said, i usually prefer to wield only one Gauss and carry other weapons. For 100-ton assaults, the Atlas S3 is good with twin PPCs, LRM-15 and a Gauss.

Of Gauss Rifles... Good question.
IS standard and pulse lasers: red; IS ER and X-pulses: blue; Re-engineered lasers: orange; Clan ER, pulse, and ER pulse lasers: green; Clan heavy lasers: yellow; PPCs: skyblue; PPCs w/capacitor: purplish-blue.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #16 on: 08 December 2016, 19:01:42 »
The T-Hawk is why I value the light gauss rifle.  That 45-point Salvo isn't so scary when I'm raining hits on you from outside your max range.  Hawk pilots tend to play turret tech, so forcing them into mobility with a superior - range counter-engagement weapon is a great way to make them play your game instead of theirs.  Also, infantry.  They're pisspoor against infantry, so swamp them with grunts.
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #17 on: 08 December 2016, 19:05:51 »
The Thunder Hawk is a classic example of minmaxing: Cram as many Gauss Rifles as you can into a chassis and hope for headshots. Is that why you don't like it, Empyrus?

I personally don't think it's a bad thing, but designs like the Thunder Hawk IMHO counters the point that some folks make about no homebrew designs at their table because "They're all about minmaxing": Minmaxed stuff already exists for people to use. This, the Hellstar, the Alacorn, the Yasha, the Devastator, the Black Viper, and over a dozen more designs which are optimized and freely available for any munchkin to use.

The fear of minmaxing leads players to pull some seriously cognitive dissonant stunts like pretend that you can't refit designs with DHS, that players should ONLY be able to use the listed configurations of Omnimechs, and try their valiant best to ignore the dozens of examples that in-universe fiction and gameplay gives us of weapon swaps and other refits being commonplace and available to anyone with an okay tech and some time.


Now, in any other game, it'd be a valid complaint to say "limit designs to what are in the books" because unit design rules in games like Warhammer 40k and Warmachine are black-boxes, but in Battletech the design rules are a core part of the damn game. So why perform the rules equivalent of cutting off your arm for fear of a pinkie being infected?

It still confounds me. Even years after moving to Alpha Strike where it's a moot point whether or not a Shadowhawk can swap its crappy AC/5 for a Large Laser and some HS, it's an attitude that I simply don't understand.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #18 on: 08 December 2016, 19:22:21 »
It is min-maxed but it isn't a great example (no CASE, Gauss hugging XLFE), but that isn't really why i don't like it, i do like the Hellstar to an extent after all.
The simple truth is lacks the right feel... and this affects many TRO3058 units. A combination of art and stats that simply do not appeal to me, the Bushwacker, IS Omnis and some others aside.

That said, i'm not a fan of turret-tech either, though i'm not opposed to having some of that. Like the Galahad, but then the Galahad is also slow and comparatively weak since it is but a 60-tonner, somehow that makes it more acceptable in my eyes (though i don't generally speaking like 3/5 heavies...).
For (Inner Sphere) 100-ton assaults, i prefer either brutal close combatant like the King Crab or Fafnir, or flexible designs like the Atlas K (even without double heat sinks), S2/S3, Atlas II or Atlas III offer.

EDIT About customization and min-maxed designs... To be honest, i think min-maxed designs should not exists in TROs, especially those that are min-maxed in-universe as well (eg the Thunder Hawk can be seen as the ultimate anti-'Mech 'Mech, though obviously its min-maxing leads to several weaknesses)! Unfortunately they do exist and time can't be rolled back...
I certainly would prefer to avoid even more of them, at least for common games. (A game dedicated for min-maxing? Sure, why not.) If you want to bring a Thunder Hawk to a game, fine, it is official design, not really interested in your UberHawk though.

While i do design a lot of custom designs, i actually have zero interest in playing with them or against custom units, beyond scenarios. Perhaps personalized "commander" units are OK but nothing more than that.

I prefer to play the game as "you got what you got, make the best of them".
« Last Edit: 08 December 2016, 19:35:52 by Empyrus »
IS standard and pulse lasers: red; IS ER and X-pulses: blue; Re-engineered lasers: orange; Clan ER, pulse, and ER pulse lasers: green; Clan heavy lasers: yellow; PPCs: skyblue; PPCs w/capacitor: purplish-blue.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #19 on: 08 December 2016, 19:24:44 »
Stand-off weapons and a speed that makes not moving seem really attractive are my major issues with it.  The only reason these things get used as much by players as they do is artillery isn't an automatic inclusion in games.
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #20 on: 09 December 2016, 08:20:44 »
Ahh the Thundercheese!  A great review of a terrifying yet oddly fragile machine, all it takes is Mr Sod and Murphy of law to look at a torso and a floating crit and your 100 tonner is doomed.  Of course to fit that firepower she NEEDS an XL engine. 
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #21 on: 09 December 2016, 09:18:35 »
Of course to fit that firepower she NEEDS an XL engine.
No it doesn't. 200-rated standard engine is actually lighter, allowing for CASEd side torsos and an extra ton of ammo.
And if we use double heat sinks too, we can crit-pad the torsos with those doubles once some of ammo is moved to legs.
Since it is turret-tech, all it needs is strategic mobility and 2/3 movement is enough for that...
IS standard and pulse lasers: red; IS ER and X-pulses: blue; Re-engineered lasers: orange; Clan ER, pulse, and ER pulse lasers: green; Clan heavy lasers: yellow; PPCs: skyblue; PPCs w/capacitor: purplish-blue.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #22 on: 09 December 2016, 09:36:55 »
I wonder if some crazy Free Worlder captured one of these and swapped in three Light Gauss Rifles and a PPC?

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #23 on: 09 December 2016, 09:39:50 »
You mean a (ER) large laser?
IS standard and pulse lasers: red; IS ER and X-pulses: blue; Re-engineered lasers: orange; Clan ER, pulse, and ER pulse lasers: green; Clan heavy lasers: yellow; PPCs: skyblue; PPCs w/capacitor: purplish-blue.

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #24 on: 09 December 2016, 10:12:25 »
Standing alone, the Thunderhawk is pretty vulnerable. But part of a well thought out unit it can be a great teammate. I just wish the KMA had a little more ammo for the Arrow IV. We had a scenario where Jon "Potter" Peters had a lance (which became cannonized as Potter's Pounders) with a Thunderhawk, Devestator, Stalker and some other assault 'Mech. Sure, you could close and take out the T-Hawk somewhat quickly, but no one wanted to weather that storm of damage, it created a bubble of fear. It isn't like an LRM beast where you can snuggle in close and ignore the weapons because the Gausses at point blank are still firing with medium range numbers plus there's a 40 point kick there. Like many an assault 'Mech, you can get away from it, move around it, but if it's where you need to be it becomes a huge asset.
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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #25 on: 09 December 2016, 13:08:34 »
This was my baby for like 8 *(real) years of continuous campaign from 3058 to 3067.
Being said, this was mix RPG (using MechWarrior 3 RPG rules) and BattleTech Revised.

I truly appreciate the mech, though my character (being exComGuard) usually operated from the back of the battlefield and would seldom be advance forward to far due to the vulnerability of the Hawk's XL engine and lack of speed to maneuver.  My edge (redo or luck) saved my mech many a time from exploding due to a crit to a Gauss rifle.

One thing about a TDK-7X, its a great extended campaign machine. Such as when you have to do a continuous missions back to back type sorties, where resupply is difficult.  Its easier to conserve your shots you need when things go bad. Like going to Huntress  :P

An interesting field refit during the campaign i was when i needed to have a replace Gauss Rifle with AC/10.  Due to shortage of Gauss Rifles (it was a crit, not the explosive kind that got it.)  It certainly was nice change no having minimum for all my guns and reinforce my barely usable 3 mediums. 

TDK-7S is my least liked machine.  Despite it having Light Engine, the machine has limited use beyond normal encounter in campaign setting or causal pick up. It's way to easy to eventually breeze through your ammo with that machine. Light engine does allow you to keep going despite half your heat engine being gone, however i rather have the additional fire power. 

The standard Thunder Hawk is a very good for campaign, or nice assault.  Its tough mech to have to continually be using due to its vulnerabilities.

A funny example was when I was doing a planetary assault with my ThunderHawk, we were landing on the board (normal BattleTech map with the forest cover near middle and water.)  During the landing phase you can't fire, however i was going to land in cover for my turn of not firing.  As i landed in center of wooded area, i accidentally DFA'ed a Phoenix Hawk hidden in the woods.  Needless to say the Phoenix Hawk didn't make it.   ;D  However, the 2 platoons (lances) of Assault Tanks reacted as it was a ambush (which it was) took my XL engine rather quickly.  :-\ ;D

Thanks for great and informative Article, JadeHellbringer!
« Last Edit: 09 December 2016, 14:17:35 by Wrangler »
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Darkwing

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #26 on: 09 December 2016, 14:09:05 »
Ran a pair of these body guarded with a pair of Thugs and supported with a pair of Grand Crusaders in the Battle for Terra. It served admirably as a siege unit.  Had we continued the WoB campaign, I was drooling at the thought of dropping the medium lasers for a improved C3 rig. 
« Last Edit: 09 December 2016, 14:10:42 by Darkwing »
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Terrace

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #27 on: 09 December 2016, 14:24:13 »
If I'm reading this right, it's basically the same threat as the Alacorn tank in a 'Mech-shaped package, right? Three Gauss Rifles pointed your way is a definite pants-wetter, no matter what package is carrying it. Either way, strap yourself in and prepare for a lot of pain when trying to take it down, and Blake preserve you if it has friends...

SteelRaven

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #28 on: 09 December 2016, 14:28:09 »
I wonder if some crazy Free Worlder captured one of these and swapped in three Light Gauss Rifles and a PPC?

I would say this was crazy if it wasn't for the Awesome 11R...

An interesting field refit during the campaign i was when i needed to have a replace Gauss Rifle with AC/10.  Due to shortage of Gauss Rifles (it was a crit, not the explosive kind that got it.)  It certainly was nice change no having minimum for all my guns and reinforce my barely usable 3 mediums. 

I really like this idea
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Kidd

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Re: MotW: Thunder Hawk
« Reply #29 on: 09 December 2016, 14:33:44 »
I consider it a good writeup when the article sparks debate, so... good job.

So it may be a munchkin-Mech but as iamfanboy says, its all part of the game. Making stupid design choices is every bit as rankling, possibly even moreso. In this case, the explodey torsos and relative rarity balances out the munch; one ought not to expect more than one example in a single company of Mechs.

The Thunder Hawk IMHO is more of a direct fire support role than a generalist, though it can certainly serve as one too. Its the third Gauss rifle that clinches it. Mechs like the Devastator, Gunslinger and Pillager are more generalist than fire support because it is a genuine waste to use them merely to shoot two Gauss slugs downrange.

To make a start on defeating one, I think try two medium Mechs, or three sturdy Lights, go wide, and force the T-Hawk to split fire while taking it, always endeavouring to flank and backstab. Don't rely on closing frontally because those Gausses have quite low minimum range... unless you're also an Assault Mech, in which case charge in close and try to bring more guns to bear on those explodey bits. You're "only" tanking 30 points on average, par for the Assault course, suck it up and bring the pain to him.

 

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