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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

papaisland

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Hi all,
The primary purpose of this thread is provide a BattleTech beginner's guide that doesn't have as much outdated informations as the ones written at game release. I've only been playing since the summer of 2020 and one of my primary annoyances was having to suss out which information was current (or DLC relevant), and which was out of date or core game only. I also want to write it for myself as a way to process what I've been thinking about. Am I qualified to write this article? No, but maybe something good may be had for you anyway.

Scope of the guide
This guide is meant to provide some basic advice for the early to mid campaign game with all DLCs. This advice MAY be relevant to career but I personally haven't focused much on career.

Starting Out
Don't sweat character creation, your choices don't have any lasting impact other than a few alternative conversation options that have zero impact on gameplay. The starting stat boosts will be surpassed in a few missions so live up your role-playing choices.

After the tutorial there's a final pre-mission which isn't very hard so long as you keep together and take down the turret generator fast. I stick to the right side. I won't ruin the end of mission fun.

Next up, you'll find yourself at a system with no missions other than a single travel mission. BEFORE taking it, go to the store and look around. This starting system has decent ballistic weapons that can seriously upgrade some of your starting mechs. I would highly consider taking any LBX or UAC you find with the possible exception of the 20 versions as they can be used, but are a little more tricky. But before we get to upgrading let's talk about some basic game management. This breaks down into 4 primary areas; Money, Reputation, Mechs, and Pilots.

Money Management
This is pretty basic. Have enough money at the end of every month or you lose. Costs are driven by 3 factors, Pilot salary, Mechs, and Argo Upgrades (you don't start with this but you have crushing loans at the beginning to replace this). At the very start you don't need to hire more than one extra pilot for 6 total pilots including yourself. My first priority is to get all 6 people to level 4 gunnery and guts. Guts for the extra health which can matter more than you think and gunnery so you might be able to hit something. Then go for the abilities which I go over in the pilot section. Pilot salaries can be found when looking at them and I find 6 pilots to be a nice early balance between costs and having backups when injuries come up. Suit yourself on how many for you.

Mechs are the next cost. It basically costs 12,000 per month per active mech. Early game, I run the starting 5 mechs until I can get a decent replacement for the light mechs, which happens pretty fast down the story line which I recommend. Once I get the 4th medium, I run exactly 4 mechs through mid-game with the exception of the occasional 5th slot for an "upcoming" mech which will take time to get into fighting configuration. Once you get into heavies and assaults, then feel free to go up to 12 mechs for a medium, heavy, and assault group of choices. A few missions will demand weight limitations and when you have those weights you will have missions providing enough income to justify having choices.

Argo Upgrades (and starting loan), I find to be of limited concern. The costs are there, but I find most Argo upgrades to be worth the monthly costs so long as the build costs don't prevent you from buying critical equipment.

Income comes from mission payments and mech salvage. When you sign up for a mission you get a choice for how much salvage vs money vs reputation. My basic philosophy is get the lowest possible setting to get 3 salvage choices and then maximize money. If I can't get 3 choices, then I go for the lowest setting that gets me one choice and max money. The rational for this is that mech chassis are the single most important early game need. Getting a heavy (or assault) is your number one priority. As that salvage can sometimes appear in unlikely missions you want to have 3 choices on the salvage screen to take the 3 parts if it comes up. You will kick yourself if you see an early game annihilator that you get lucky and generate 3 salvage for, but you don't have the choices to actually get it. I don't go past three parts because its rare in the early to mid game to have that many amazing mech parts to choose from. If I can't do 3, then I do 1 choice as then you get a little say in the salvage while maximizing money.

In general, each system should have enough doable missions to generate enough income to pay your monthly bills so its not really a tricky part of the game. You're only in danger of bankruptcy if you have an unfortunate convergence of issues likely selling most of your supplies for some prime tech and then getting annihilated in the next couple of missions (in ironman) or make some relatively dumb mistake in planning.

There's two more aspects which I will mention here. Storyline missions are tagged "Priority" which implies an urgency to take them. There is no urgency. They will stay until you attempt them so do not feel rushed into any of them if you don't think you're ready. There are also events which may have an option which requires money, so I try to have 1,000,000 in my account but its not critical. More critical is the 500,000 needed to enter the black market which brings us to...

Reputation (aka, I was supposed to be nice to the pirates??!!!)
The reputation system is pretty basic. For career there are additional considerations that I won't cover here. If you look you will notice that you gain a little more reputation with a faction than you lose with the OPFOR meaning you can actually be liked by everyone with careful management. But for the campaign you don't even need to worry about that. The only faction that matters is the "local" pirate faction. By local they mean galaxy spanning and by "pirates" they mean your easiest most common access to all of the best gear. It would have been a better game decision to name them black market forces or something along those line. Or if they really wanted pirates, have a black market faction AND a truly local pirate faction that operates like the local government faction. Instead, anyone deciding to hate pirates before they're in the know ends up having a bad play experience when they can't ever join the black market.

So, keep the black market "local" pirate faction in neutral or better reputation and always have 500,000 ready to pay the initiation fee when the random event fires inviting you to the black market. Choosing to have the pirates hate you is choosing for a higher difficulty game (which you may want, but you should know that you are choosing it). The reason being is that black market access is the dividing line between early game and late game. I don't care if the event fires on day 2, as soon as you have access you have easy access to late game mechs and weapons and will roll over the opposition quickly. The game ain't perfect.

Mech Management
Which weapon is best is common question of, well ANY game with weapons. In BattleTech you'll see discussions that revolve around PS (precision shot) load outs. Be careful of these analysis as a starting player. It's not that they are wrong, its that they often involve Marauders and high level pilots, neither of which you will see early. You also won't be seeing very many ERML++s either so you can't play along there as well. Instead, maximum total damage for the lance is your primary goal. Unless you have an AC20 tearing off torsos in one shot (which only works on small enough mechs) the difference between a PPC doing 50 to one location and an LB-2-X doing 48 to multiple locations is minimal. And that's because as a lance, your damage is getting spread out anyway, even with liberal usage of PS. Your 50 point PPC hit is great, but not enough to kill a mech on its own (outside a lucky head shot). So when your next mech fires, there's no guarantee of hitting the weakened spot.

These discussions also tend to miss out on high variance vs low variance weapons. An AC20 is a high variance weapon. It can kill ANY mech with a lucky 1% chance to the head. But when it misses, it does zero. There are times when I'm good with the occasional miss. There are many more times I'd prefer more predictable damage. An LB-2-X hit is 12 packets of 4 damage each. So if I have a 50% chance to hit, I know I'm going to connect with about 24 points of damage. If I only need to deal 20 damage to kill that SRM carrier about to fire, I'd rather have a LB-2-X firing than the AC20. (The LB-2-X also produces almost NO heat).

Armor should in general be set to max and then reduce the rear panels until you get to an even half ton. Expert players can play an entire encounter without getting hit. Good for them, the rest of us get hit, and as a beginner you'll get hit a lot. Max armor means you keep your weapons operating longer and have less repair bills (no charge for buffing the armor after a battle). Even LRM boats never meant to see the enemy can get surprised at times so I even armor up them. Start with max armor, then as you gain experience, choose your own style.

Heat management is the next big question. Which I will have to edit in later. My 6 year old is up and I'll have to finish some other time.
 
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Doctor Machete

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If I haven't missed something I think I agree with everything. But one thing that IMO should be pointed out is the huge importance long range weaponry has. In my experience in this and other forums I'd say pretty much every time some player claims having a very hard time with the game the lance has close or medium range weapons as most or all of his firepower. That's not to say that there could be no other factors, like inexperience with the initiative system and reserving. But I've found that if suggested using more long range weapons and avoid close-medium range when possible, that usually results in the tables being turned very quickly just by doing that.

Of course that's going to be difficult early on, even more if you don't have a good idea of which weapons to use, when and where. But in general I'd say the sooner you transition, partially or completely, to full long range setups, the easier it becomes and the easier the planning to make it work. Whereas if you have powerful enough mechs you can get away with facetanking at medium/close range.
 

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Unless you really need cash fast, you'll almost always get more C-bills by maximizing salvage, and minimizing money income. It might eventually take longer for the money to hit your bank account, but picking more 'Mech parts for salvage, and always selling completed 'Mechs is the way to go to maximize income.

There are also some important aspects to Mechwarrior management: How many Mechwarriors you should have, and what skills they get.
I've mostly been running a double lance, i.e. 8 Mechwarriors in 2 Lances of identical skill sets (so I always have a substitute).
What has been working for me is giving my frontline Mechwarriors Piloting and Tactics skills, while my support (LRM and snipers) have Gunnery and Guts skills.
 
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Silverhood

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Unless you really need cash fast, you'll almost always get more C-bills by maximizing salvage, and minimizing money income. It might eventually take longer for the money to hit your bank account, but picking more 'Mech parts for salvage, and always selling completed 'Mechs is the way to go to maximize income.
The problem with this advice on career mode is that you're not going to sell mechs until you have a second one, so it can take a prohibitely long time to get your cash machine going, especially if you have bad luck and keep facing different mechs. A totally valid tactic early on is to get your starting lance in a good spot equipment wise, then just go max cash every time, until you have a nice wad of C-bills and the Black Market event triggers. Then from the black market, buy some heavy duty mechs on the cheap. 3 x Atlas salvage for 4 million C-bills, 3x highlander for 3.5 million C-bills, or if you're lucky, an unfitted SLDF mech like the Black Knight or Marauder. Once you have execess armor compared to your OpFor, you can drag combat out a little trying to get a mech disabled and then begin the max salvage strategy.
 

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The problem with this advice on career mode is that you're not going to sell mechs until you have a second one ...
You're right, on career mode I would as a rule of thumb go 1/4 C-Bills and 3/4 Salvage, at least in the beginning. This worked pretty well for me at least - I don't really think there's any reason to rush getting an assault lance. During my career run, I got my assault lance around halfway in - so almost the first half of my career I ran medium and heavy lances. And I don't believe this really impacted my career score at all.
 
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Confector Tyrannis

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Unless you really need cash fast, you'll almost always get more C-bills by maximizing salvage, and minimizing money income. It might eventually take longer for the money to hit your bank account, but picking more 'Mech parts for salvage, and always selling completed 'Mechs is the way to go to maximize income.

There are also some important aspects to Mechwarrior management: How many Mechwarriors you should have, and what skills they get.
I've mostly been running a double lance, i.e. 8 Mechwarriors in 2 Lances of identical skill sets (so I always have a substitute).
What has been working for me is giving my frontline Mechwarriors Piloting and Tactics skills, while my support (LRM and snipers) have Gunnery and Guts skills.
Have you tried Guns 5 and the rest Tactics? A multishotting phase 5 light or 4 med scout is beast. Especially on defense missions when you can plink away before anyone else gets a turn to control the aggro from the get go.

They do take a lil more finesse without the pilot skills I agree, but they can be very lethal setups.
 

Corraidhin

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I'm halfway through my first campaign run post Heavy Metal. I'd say the absolute best thing you can do is get used to the idea that sometimes *not* shooting is the best option.

The Phoenix Hawk is my favourite scout mech now. A full jump with a +3 hit defense gyro tends to mean at least one enemy mech wasting it's fire. That's an entire mech's worth of dps rapidly exiting towards the horizon. Jump to cover with Bulwark and any hits tend not to be too bad either.

With early pilots it's equally important to remember when not to fire. If your chance to hit is low (I go with %60 to hit), disable that weapon and don't waste the heat. Heat management is absolutely key with low skill pilots. Once the enemy mech closes into ML range, you want to be able to alpha strike it with everything.

In short, learn when not to shoot.
 
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It pays to keep one fast maneuver element in your lance. At the start, I try to get my hands on a Jenner (speed 7) or Spider (speed 8), and maximize its armor, even if I have to remove all but one weapon, or even jump jets to add more armor. That allows me to do a high-speed run with 6-7 evasion, or 5-6 evasion into woods, and gain Line of Sight (LoS) to an enemy 'Mech. My other 'Mechs can then pick that target apart from afar, while my speedster is the only target that's visible to the enemy. The enemy will then expend its fire on something they can't hit with any reliability, while taking fire at considerably better odds from my slower units, which would otherwise be taking a lot of damage if they closed to visible range.

Against the light but fast opposition in many early missions, it may be better for your speedster to walk, and then sensor-lock an opponent to remove two chevrons of evasion, rather than shoot at bad odds to remove one chevron or run to merely spot. Against more powerful opponents, the higher evasion for running and woods bonuses are usually more important, since the enemy will typically be slow enough for your other units to hit reliably, and deadlier to your spotter.

Once I've got my high speed spotter, THEN I start to concentrate on obtaining heavier 'Mechs. I've taken the spotter concept to higher weights, using a speed 6 medium 'Mech to replace the 7 speed Jenner, or a 5 speed heavy such as a Quickdraw as a spotter for a Heavy/Assault combination. Put arm actuators ++ onto a QKD, with max armor and a bank of MLs and SRMs, and it makes a pretty scary spotter/brawler, capable of killing scouts in melee or doing pretty serious short-range weapons damage on its own, while also guiding in long-range fire from the rest of your lance.

There's a sweet spot, OPFOR-wise, where a Firestarter can shut down an enemy Heavy or Assault class 'Mech, allowing for called shots and a pretty good chance at 3 pieces of salvage. If the OPFOR units are too light, they probably won't generate enough heat to make the FS much of a threat. If the OPFOR is too heavy and/or too numerous, then the FS won't have enough Flamer ammo to effectively deal with more than one or two units, and then you're facing the rest of the opponents with less firepower on account of having taken the relatively light and only moderately fast FS instead of something a lot heavier or faster.
 
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Corraidhin

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It pays to keep one fast maneuver element in your lance. At the start, I try to get my hands on a Jenner (speed 7) or Spider (speed 8), and maximize its armor, even if I have to remove all but one weapon, or even jump jets to add more armor. That allows me to do a high-speed run with 6-7 evasion, or 5-6 evasion into woods, and gain Line of Sight (LoS) to an enemy 'Mech. My other 'Mechs can then pick that target apart from afar, while my speedster is the only target that's visible to the enemy. The enemy will then expend its fire on something they can't hit with any reliability, while taking fire at considerably better odds from my slower units, which would otherwise be taking a lot of damage if they closed to visible range.

Against the light but fast opposition in many early missions, it may be better for your speedster to walk, and then sensor-lock an opponent to remove two chevrons of evasion, rather than shoot at bad odds to remove one chevron or run to merely spot. Against more powerful opponents, the higher evasion for running and woods bonuses are usually more important, since the enemy will typically be slow enough for your other units to hit reliably, and deadlier to your spotter.

Once I've got my high speed spotter, THEN I start to concentrate on obtaining heavier 'Mechs. I've taken the spotter concept to higher weights, using a speed 6 medium 'Mech to replace the 7 speed Jenner, or a 5 speed heavy such as a Quickdraw as a spotter for a Heavy/Assault combination. Put arm actuators ++ onto a QKD, with max armor and a bank of MLs and SRMs, and it makes a pretty scary spotter/brawler, capable of killing scouts in melee or doing pretty serious short-range weapons damage on its own, while also guiding in long-range fire from the rest of your lance.

There's a sweet spot, OPFOR-wise, where a Firestarter can shut down an enemy Heavy or Assault class 'Mech, allowing for called shots and a pretty good chance at 3 pieces of salvage. If the OPFOR units are too light, they probably won't generate enough heat to make the FS much of a threat. If the OPFOR is too heavy and/or too numerous, then the FS won't have enough Flamer ammo to effectively deal with more than one or two units, and then you're facing the rest of the opponents with less firepower on account of having taken the relatively light and only moderately fast FS instead of something a lot heavier or faster.
My absolute favourite heavy scout right now:

1605112194778.png


I'll be upgrading the MGs to +/++ variants as and when I find them. Damn thing is already lethel at range or charging in.
 

foamyesque

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It pays to keep one fast maneuver element in your lance. At the start, I try to get my hands on a Jenner (speed 7) or Spider (speed 8), and maximize its armor, even if I have to remove all but one weapon, or even jump jets to add more armor. That allows me to do a high-speed run with 6-7 evasion, or 5-6 evasion into woods, and gain Line of Sight (LoS) to an enemy 'Mech. My other 'Mechs can then pick that target apart from afar, while my speedster is the only target that's visible to the enemy. The enemy will then expend its fire on something they can't hit with any reliability, while taking fire at considerably better odds from my slower units, which would otherwise be taking a lot of damage if they closed to visible range.
I'll second this. One of the very first tweaks I made, before I had any other 'mechs at all, was to take the starting Spider, pull a JJ and a ML off it, and add on a half-ton of armour and two SLs. It's still turbo-manouverable, it's less likely to overheat itself, and those extra 40 points can go into *desperately* needed strengthening of the CT/legs/head. It also becomes way better at actually killing the huge swarms of lights the game gives you early, particularly if you slot in some of the weightless melee/DFA mods you can find in Battlefield systems.

As the game moves on I shift into small-laser Firestarters, then Warhammers/Grasshoppers/Black Knights.

Once you can start stacking pilot skill and TTSes, you don't really need the support slots much any more, but I like to keep at least one filled on any given 'mech, just for the possibility of double evasion removal in melee and/or crit-seeking/additional damage in a brawl. A half ton for a small laser isn't a big commitment on anything above a light.

Oh, one other thing:

The magic number for a light 'mech in melee is 65, which weightless melee mods can make any light capable of achieving. That's the number at which you can punch someone's head off. There's nothing more annoying than taking a swing at 60 and seeing the enemy's head survive at 1 HP :(

(Beyond that magic 65 mark I like to load up with stability mods, so that you can shove someone immediately into instability and remove all their evasion chevrons. Makes shooting skeet, especially early game, much simpler.)
 

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I'm halfway through my first campaign run post Heavy Metal. I'd say the absolute best thing you can do is get used to the idea that sometimes *not* shooting is the best option.

The Phoenix Hawk is my favourite scout mech now. A full jump with a +3 hit defense gyro tends to mean at least one enemy mech wasting it's fire. That's an entire mech's worth of dps rapidly exiting towards the horizon. Jump to cover with Bulwark and any hits tend not to be too bad either.

With early pilots it's equally important to remember when not to fire. If your chance to hit is low (I go with %60 to hit), disable that weapon and don't waste the heat. Heat management is absolutely key with low skill pilots. Once the enemy mech closes into ML range, you want to be able to alpha strike it with everything.

In short, learn when not to shoot.
To add on to this: Early on particularly, when you're stuck with low-skill pilots and single heat sinks, simply punching people is a very powerful tactic. The stability damage can push an enemy 'mech easily into instability (particularly against the poor pilots you face at the beginning), thereby removing all their evasion (and the strike itself clearing Bulwark and Guarded), and allowing the rest of the lance to shoot them with efficiency. And with something like a Shadow Hawk or a Hunchback, there's enough pinpoint damage there that it can rip a light 'mech -- especially one without full armour -- clean in half even if it doesn't kill it outright. And you'll spend a turn cooling, which is very useful.

Also, jumping creates an awful lot of heat, way more than you might realize since it doesn't show on your heat bar unless you've already accumulated a bunch. Be cautious! If you're trying to jump and fire, you're going to overheat very quickly with most stock or near-stock 'mechs. Jumping and firing is very powerful, but it needs a lot of heat capacity and a lot of cooling to be really workable. If you're sitting on the stock 30 cooling from engines, a heat buildup can take a very long time to disappear. Instead, consider jumping and bracing, especially if you can do so into cover or with a Bulwark pilot. A 'mech that does so is a very hard target for the opfor in the early game, and they'll waste *their* heat and ammo shooting uselessly at it.

Then you can unload a full alpha on your next turn. And if you're playing initiative games, that might be before they even get the chance to go again!

Speaking of initiative, the morale abilities: In the early game, Vigilance is very useful and I often use it in preference to Precision Shot, particularly with Bulwark pilots. The additional defense it provides dramatically ups the survivability of your front-line 'mechs, and the bonus initiative allows you to double-turn against 'mechs in the same weight-class (or sometimes, even ones above), giving you opportunities to exploit the fire from your prior turn before the opponent can recharge their evasion or reposition out of your fire.

You really want to get your shipboard morale into the 40+ region ASAP; spend the cash, it's worth it. Once you're there you can stabilize back at neutral spending levels.

Where possible, try and use a morale ability late in a turn; if you have more than 50 resolve you get a +1 to-hit bonus. That's very useful when your pilots are all terrible, so you want it to be up for as long as possible in a turn.


Also, at the beginning of a fight, you've probably sprinted or jumped into cover. You are therefore in pretty much the best possible position -- lots of evasion, no heat, cover -- you're going to be all engagement to absorb enemy fire; use the reserve button to make the enemy lance waste their shots on your forted up folks and lose their evasion and guarded statuses, and then punish them for it.
 
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Kereminde

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My absolute favourite heavy scout right now:
The GRH-5H Grasshopper is always a fun thing to use - and properly equipped it can punch above its weight readily. Repeatedly. Until everything is just waiting for the salvage teams. Even the base, vanilla, form is nothing to laugh at... (Had fun watching a Space Russian prove THAT.)
 

Corraidhin

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The GRH-5H Grasshopper is always a fun thing to use - and properly equipped it can punch above its weight readily. Repeatedly. Until everything is just waiting for the salvage teams. Even the base, vanilla, form is nothing to laugh at... (Had fun watching a Space Russian prove THAT.)
I never liked the GRH at first, but then I got one with nothing better in the lance. Then I put 6 MGs on it.

My inner Ork will not allow me to relinquish the dakka.
 
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foamyesque

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The GRH-5H Grasshopper is always a fun thing to use - and properly equipped it can punch above its weight readily. Repeatedly. Until everything is just waiting for the salvage teams. Even the base, vanilla, form is nothing to laugh at... (Had fun watching a Space Russian prove THAT.)
Yep. With some tweaks it's one of my favourite 'mechs in Skirmish; nothing quite like jumping in behind someone and then unloading a 290 point alpha with pure introtech gear. Coolant Vent really shines when all you've got are SHS :v
 

Kereminde

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My inner Ork will not allow me to relinquish the dakka.
"At the point in time when bullets can pass through the interdimensional walls, when firepower takes up the entirety and eternity of space and time, all beings stuck in a neverending life and death cycle as bullets recover and destroy their bodies in quick succession, no one able to think about anything but the sheer force of the bullets rapidly flying everywhere in the Materium, turning the Warp itself into nothing but a sea of semi-automatic weaponry, then there will be enough dakka.

Or, at least, almost.
"
 
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josefrees

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Thanks for this topic! It is great for the menu based stuff! What about weapon balance? I heard L Lasers got buffed or M a lasers got nerfed is that true still or what is effective or what has been nerfed?
 

Doctor Machete

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Thanks for this topic! It is great for the menu based stuff! What about weapon balance? I heard L Lasers got buffed or M a lasers got nerfed is that true still or what is effective or what has been nerfed?
That was long ago, well before this thread was made.
 

Jade_Rook

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Thanks for this topic! It is great for the menu based stuff! What about weapon balance? I heard L Lasers got buffed or M a lasers got nerfed is that true still or what is effective or what has been nerfed?
Compared to tabletop, yes. Large lasers run a little cooler and medium lasers are a little hotter. I think they are both useful. Medium lasers are still among the most efficient weapons in the game, especially with the + rated versions.
 

Kereminde

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Compared to tabletop, yes. Large lasers run a little cooler and medium lasers are a little hotter. I think they are both useful. Medium lasers are still among the most efficient weapons in the game, especially with the + rated versions.
On the other hand, I'd argue massing a bunch of Medium Lasers together is probably the least efficient weapons setup. But then that's me :)