Those 4x15 tubes are not good enough imo (for an assault). Even if they are +2 dmg they don't guarantee a vehicle kill in any circumstance. And for me that's one of the primary reasons I do use LRM boats. Far before a 60 tube Stalker I'd rather take a 50 tube King Crab, so I'd have jump jets, much more armor and enough TTS so I'll never have any acc penalty. But 70+ tubes will do if you have guaranteed 95% base chance, from 60 to 70 tubes there is a big difference imo. Betheen 50-60 not so much.Stalker with 4x 15LRM (+2 dam, +2 stab, or combo) is a tremendous amount of damage. Include a TTS and it gets even better. With a spotter, you can rain as much as 360 damage on a target without exposing a unit to harm. I carry LOTS of ammo so I can just keep sending alphas if needed. Add in a pilot with -2 indirect fire penalty and you create headaches for anyone, regardless of tonnage.
The KC I mentioned also wouldn't be a good LRM boat but it makes for an excellent trainer mech which also can fire some missiles from very long range with indirect fire, excellent armor, JJs and many TTS+++.
The Archer has nothing to do with the Catapult, the TTS does nothing similar to the Archer quirk. You could say that if you take a 2xLRM20 Archer setup, the build will behave much more similar to an hypothetical dual AC20 loadout but having way longer range and indirect fire (the caveat being a lot worse headcap performance). In fact the Archer outperforms any other LRM based setup when used with Precision Shot. The bad is that the lack of firepower, which matters a lot more without PS or when you just want the spread to finish a mech.Archer is nice, but basically an upgrade to the Catapult with more tonnage and a built in TTS. Cats are nice in the early/mid game until you get the larger units.
Haven't thought of converting a BSK to missiles. Been having too much fun using it as a bullet sponge/ballistic platform. My current Steiner Scout Lance is Atlas IIc, BSK-MAZ, Anni, Stalker.
Here two charts, one with Precision Shot and another without it:
You're comparing a decent weapon (the Gauss) for the ANH with a pretty bad one (PPCs and AC10s) for the Marauder. Here goes a few setups:I've had better luck running with 4xGauss as a headcapper. The extra 20% damage afforded by the BCS module overcomes the 20% protection offered by trees or basic guard. If they have a little more (40% or 60% guard) it gets tougher. No cockpit I have seen in the game exceeds 61 hp (16 structural, 45 armor). So an ER PPC++ (70) or Gauss of any variety (75+5 + 20% for BCS on Annhilator) or AC20 (110 + BCS) can blow through the cockpit
Here's the math.
With an elite mechpilot sporting 10 gunnery, chance to hit head on called shot is ~18%. Or for the purposes of math, 82% miss rate.
4 Gauss guns aiming for a cockpit, statistically will get miss (82%*82%*82%*82) - 45% per turn
Compare that to a Marauder (Lance Command bumping Called Headshot to 35% chance to hit for same Elite Pilot with 10 gunnery, game maximum), who sports 2 ER PPC++s (and if you drop heat management or armor to squeeze in an AC10), who has a miss rate of 65%
2 PPC (65%*65%) - 42% chance of missing per turn
3 (2xPPC + AC10) - 27% chance of missing per turn
The Annhilator's Gauss guns are doing 75+20% = 90 Damage plus 5 structural, and typically if they don't hit the head they will inevitably hit a torso, which will strip off most if not all the armor, possible cause a crit, and if 2 shots hit the same torso will blow up both the torso and the attached arm, severely improving your already impressive survival rate in a 100T mech. Or can sometimes blowout a leg. Occasionally you can get lucky with 3 or 4 shots all landing in the cockpit and coring it out in one shot. And if you had pre-softened them with an LRM boat, its a near guaranteed knockdown. Both versions of Gauss work, the ++ version weighs less allowing more ammo (space shouldn't be an issue with a 4 Gauss Annhilator build). The Gauss++ allows me to carry enough ammo to last 12 shots for all 4 guns without shedding too much armor, (95% of my battles only need 8 shots), while still sporting 2 jump jets (for the high ground or get over pesky terrain).
Compare that to a Marauder, doing 70 damage with at best 2 rare PPCs (Donnegal ++), and an Autocannon (Kali Yama ++ doing 70 damage), you are less likely to blow out a torso or other body part and never core out a mech. It's rarer to get a knockdown with 2 PPCs and one salvo from an LRM boat (better chances with an AC10 as a 3rd weapon, but then you are trying to cool down next few rounds, not firing much).
The situation gets worse for the Marauder for guarded targets in cover, but not nearly as bad for the Annhilator.
An Annhilator running with 5xAC2++ does (35 damage + 20% - 42) which doesn't go very far especially scattered over several pieces (and certainly can't headcap). Heck you could try an 4xAC5++ that does 55 + 20%, or try carrying a UAC5(++) with more ammo. Same effective range (can't see past 300-420/520 m anyways), and the extra weight is well within what the ANN-1A can carry. At AC10 you might start having weight issues, dropping one gun/armor to carry 3xAC10s plus associated ammo last 9+ rounds. You could go 2xAC20s (or 2xUAC20s) with 3xAC2s with the leftover weight until you can close the distance. 2xUAC20 just shreds everything Heavy or lighter in one shot. Leave the energy weapons on your Atlas II/Highlander 732b (or Warhammer 7A if you find one), the weight is better used on ballistic weapons and ammo due to BCS module.
The one downside to the build is dealing with swarms of light mechs (pr light-esque mechs like Assasins). Yeah, they can't actually hurt a lance of assault mechs, but trying to hit them with 6 evasion charges is not fun. Best to soften them up first with your LRM boat. By the time you have this setup, you won't see too many swarms of light mechs anyways.
Note, the charts don't take critting into consideration but I count the +5 internal damage from the Gauss as extra regular damage. TTS+++ included: green 1, dark blue 2, pink 0 (too tight), orange 2, light blue 1, olive 2. Also added one ERLL to the UAC5 setup, just four UAC5 seemed very weak.
Also one extra chart to show damage/weight/heat efficiency for 80% headcap/CT-core, the darker the color the better:
Also the "typically if they don't hit the head they will inevitably hit a torso", no they won't. If you aim at the head but miss then the torsos don't have preferential treatment, CT gets 16% and side torsos 14% each, still considerably more than arms+legs combined but it's not inevitable at all. Chances to hit twice with a 4xGauss setup while aiming a the head are 12% for the CT and 9.5% for each side torso. That's not exactly something to rely on. It still won't be enough to destroy a side torso against most assaults and some heavies unless lucky with the crits, for which you'd only get two tries (assuming you did hit twice in the same side torso) which may not land the crit slot you wanted to crit within the side torso you wanted (if missed the head), or may hit where you wanted but miss the crit roll on a ammo bin.
The ANH no doubt is a monster BUT it needs support, some mechs around, because it's not nearly as survivable as the Marauder. In contrast the Marauder can very easily complete hard five skull missions alone with barely or no damage taken while the ANH can't (very easily). It is far more mobile too, and much better for support even if you have lower range weapons, having four JJs. That means very often you might be able to fire at foes in a vulnerable position where you couldn't with the ANH because you couldn't arrive in time before the foe is not-braced or not in cover/bulwark.Anecdotally speaking, the Gaussian Annihilator edges out the Marauder (or anything, really) for quick take downs, either directly by headcapping or just shredding them to pieces in 2 turns at any visible range. To say nothing of running ice cold even on martian planets, which you can't say the same for firing off 2 ER PPCs even when sporting Exchanger++'s, Heatbank++ and Double Heatsinks on the Marauder. Or taking out turrets/vehicles, which are best done with Ballistic weapons. It has more than enough armor, or just stand it behind an Atlas with full armor to soak damage, sitting guarded at 40-60% DR Guarded (Nothing practical can kill that or knock it down).
Still, I run both an Annhilator and a Marauder (and King Crab/Bullshark/Stalker/etc.) behind the Atlas, to get the 10% damage reduction from Marauder Lance Command Module and use the extra distance a Marauder runs to scout. At worst, the Annhilator continues murdering enemy mechs while the Marauder goes for a swim.
The thing is that the Bullshark is the best LRMb mech but otherwise other mechs far surpass him, in particular the very easy to come by Marauder.If I had both mechs, I too would make the Bullshark the LRM boat, but realistically, you're gonna get more Stalkers than Bullsharks as you level up. And I trully prefer a Bullshark with 4xUAC5s for long rage support (2nd choice to an 4xGauss Annhilator for head capping).
The 4xUAC5++, as it is (no more weapons besides that) is very poor for a high-end setup imo.If I had both mechs, I too would make the Bullshark the LRM boat, but realistically, you're gonna get more Stalkers than Bullsharks as you level up. And I trully prefer a Bullshark with 4xUAC5s for long rage support (2nd choice to an 4xGauss Annhilator for head capping).
Sure, but imo 60 tube +2 dmg LRM boat is far from perfect when you cannot rely on it killing the hardest vehicles any vehicle in any circumstance without PS. In my experience you need at least 70 +2 dmg tubes if you have maxed base chance, and that's a bit harder to do with the Stalker. At that point every ton of weight matters if you want to optimize for vehicle killing while retaining decent cooling and armor.Technically LRM boats are very weird, they don't need gobs of armor since they can avoid having a clean LoS, I don't run them with tin foil, but I don't armor them up like I would my other units, for what I want it to do, the Stalker is darn close to perfect.
And if you can get rid of the hardest vehicles easily at any moment, cover or no cover and from the front, that gives you more flexibility when planning ahead. Because you can't make sure to oneshot or twoshot the heaviest mechs with a single LRM boat but at least you can secure the vehicle issue.
Edit: added one extra chart for weapon efficiency