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LongRange

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But a high ML load, like with the GRH or the HBK laser boat, will sand off armor more effectively than a couple of LRM20s. Not the knockout blow of some of the AC20s or UAC10s, but important to survival none the less.

I have fond memories of discovering the awesomeness of the GRH. Armored up to ~1200 total armor points with all those lasers makes a beast for anything in its weight class or below.

I will also say that there is nothing like the relief you feel when getting your first Heavy class in the game. You’re usually still running mostly lights, then boom have a heavy, either by salvage or cash, and suddenly you have a beefy big brother to take care of the little Lights. Had a lance of PHX, VND, PNT and JR7 and disabled a Marauder (the laser version). Now my lance is MAD, PHX, VND, PNT. PPCs for everybody!
 

Kereminde

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How that can be?

As said by the other person after you:

But a high ML load, like with the GRH or the HBK laser boat, will sand off armor more effectively than a couple of LRM20s. Not the knockout blow of some of the AC20s or UAC10s, but important to survival none the less.

Sanding off armor is, by definition, not efficient. Effective? Sure. Efficient? Not so sure. You want to remove that target from being a threat as swiftly as possible, with as much assurance as you can muster.

So while you're trading a single high-damage shot for multiple lower-damage shots, they also are more likely to hit across the target. (Though it's seriously not as bad as tabletop, since HBS' game simply makes it impossible to hit the left side of the 'Mech from standing on the right side.) Even if you control where you're hitting by taking side-shots, after a certain point in Campaign Mode (not so certain on Career Mode) ... when your pilots are gifted with 10 Gunnery and 10 Tactics... There's no reason not to use higher-damage weapons to blast someone down. And I'm not talking about going for the heavy guns, mostly because there's a big trade for that. Large Lasers and AC/10s are quite enough.

Or, alternatively, load up the LRM/SRM racks and go for sanding armor off as well as stability damage.

Me? I'm happy to have trawled through post-Campaign systems until I could outfit two 'Mechs with Gauss Rifles and two ammo bins each... and simply snipe at where units keep their ammo. That through-armor-structure damage is quite decent at exploding ammo... works like a charm on Thunderbolts.
 
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Doctor Machete

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So while you're trading a single high-damage shot for multiple lower-damage shots, they also are more likely to hit across the target.
Here you're ignoring MLs are actually more dmg/heat/efficient and not merely smaller hits dealing the same total damage overall than big hitters. If you can mass MLs then most likely you're dealing MORE damage total and delivering the same (or more) damage to the desired location plus extra damage onto other locations as well.

Now, if you're factoring range then that's much more difficult to quantify, but weapon efficiency alone? that's easy.

Me? I'm happy to have trawled through post-Campaign systems until I could outfit two 'Mechs with Gauss Rifles and two ammo bins each... and simply snipe at where units keep their ammo. That through-armor-structure damage is quite decent at exploding ammo... works like a charm on Thunderbolts.
That's very situational but we can make some estimations:

Code:
0.80 (chance to hit CT with max base chance) * 0.60 (~ chance to crit if landed) = 0.48 chance to crit aprox
    TWO AMMO SLOTS IN CT --> .48 * .5  (2/4 slots) = .24 -> 24% TO CRIT AMMO SLOT PER HIT
        1x GAUSS --> ~24% TO EXPLODE AMMO
        2x GAUSS --> ~42% TO EXPLODE AMMO
        3x GAUSS --> ~56% TO EXPLODE AMMO
        4x GAUSS --> ~67% TO EXPLODE AMMO
    ONE AMMO SLOT  IN CT --> .48 * .25 (1/4 slots) = .12 -> 12% TO CRIT AMMO SLOT PER HIT
        1x GAUSS --> ~12% TO EXPLODE AMMO
        2x GAUSS --> ~23% TO EXPLODE AMMO
        3x GAUSS --> ~32% TO EXPLODE AMMO
        4x GAUSS --> ~40% TO EXPLODE AMMO
A 4xGauss is two alphas from a dual 2xGauss, a massed ML based setup is going to have higher chance to CT core with two full salvos against a mech with two ammo in CT (unless 60% DR), much more against mechs with only one ammo in CT and way way more if the target has no ammo at all in the CT. So I wouldn't say ML boats are the least efficient weapon setups, although for single alpha a 2xGauss is superior against mechs with two ammo in CT.

And if I'm not mistaken there are only four mechs with two ammo slots in the game. Ammo explosions are not exactly a reliable tactic while having more damage helps against everybody to some extent.

A gun like the Gauss don't scale as well as other big guns when you use more than one and those big guns don't scale as well as MLs. A TEX10% reduce 16.7% heat from MLs and 20% from Gauss, but reducing heat is almost meaningless for Gauss while it isn't for MLs, which also are far easier to mass.

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Corraidhin

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Weapon efficiency is intrinsically linked to the chassis it's mounted on for me. UAC/5s are horrifyingly efficient on an Anni, The PHX-1B is just plain terrifying with 2 LL+++ML++S, and SL+++. It would still be slasher film worthy even without the ++/+++ variants.

With a GRH, its actually the 6 MGs you can throw on it that make me giggle, especially with the +variants. Anything below an assault tends to just dissolve under a full salvo to the side.
 

Kereminde

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Weapon efficiency is intrinsically linked to the chassis it's mounted on for me. UAC/5s are horrifyingly efficient on an Anni, The PHX-1B is just plain terrifying with 2 LL+++ML++S, and SL+++. It would still be slasher film worthy even without the ++/+++ variants.

With a GRH, its actually the 6 MGs you can throw on it that make me giggle, especially with the +variants. Anything below an assault tends to just dissolve under a full salvo to the side.

"How about a magic trick? I'm going to make this DRG-1N disappear...."
 

papaisland

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My philosophy on (early game) weapons is as follows. It's pointless to compare two weapons on the forum in a vacuum. Because that's not where a new player is. A new player has a limited set of weapons, mechs, and resources and needs to put together the best package of what they have (or can reasonably buy quickly).

I reiterate the value of early game maximum firepower. Yes it get spread around, but very few large packet damage sources that are common early game (a basic AC20) will reliably one shot an opposing mech. An AC20 to the center torso of a light mech will do it in. But so will more damage spread out. Light mechs are paper. The bigger question is how they do against the more problematic mediums and heavies that can take an AC20 and keep on going. Once we're beyond potential one-shots, the need for a second shot greatly reduces the value of single packet damage sources. So early game new players really shouldn't worry about them.

So instead of asking is one weapon better than another, you should ask how do I combine my available weapons with my available mechs? After reviewing your options, first ask whether or not you think you'll be focusing knockdowns or not. The ability to knockdown opposing mechs in the early game can be VERY powerful. It does 2 primary things. First, it provides called shots for all follow up shots improving the firepower of the whole team. Two, it adds another way to get a reliable pilot injury. This cannot be understated. Getting 3 (or a little later 4) pilot injuries means a pilot incapacitation and three mech parts! Stability damage can be VERY powerful IF you achieve critical mass. It is (mostly) pointless if you don't achieve critical mass and get the knockdowns. So it becomes an all or nothing question for your entire lance. Do we have the tools to reliably get knockdowns? If so, design the whole lance around it. If not, focus on total damage and ignore stability damage as it will rarely come into play.

As an example, do I use a PPC or a large laser. The PPC has a lovely 20 stab damage. Which is utterly pointless if your entire lance does very little stability damage. So go with the large laser instead. However, if your other lance members are a LRM boat, a SRM boat, and a mech with significant stab damage from AC/UAC/LBX, then suddenly the PPC's stab damage becomes much more relevant and may be the difference between a knockdown or not.

So once I've decided, knockdown focus or not, that starts to guide our direction (and you may need to come back to that question if after building out your lance you realize you should have gone the other direction). The next question is what is my baseline damage for the mech in question? The best way to do so is to assign MLs to every possible laser slot and then add heat sinks to come out heat neutral (or close to). This gives you a base measure of damage for that mech. For example, take an enforcer, add 5 medium lasers and heat sinks and you come out with a base 125 damage per turn. Then modify from there. You may decide that is great and not do much. Or you can start to tweak it. Perhaps replace a medium with a large. Okay it adds 15 damage but takes 4 extra tons and 6 extra heat. Is that worth it? Well, enforcers don't go very fast so it might be if you have consistent trouble getting it into ML range. Or perhaps you max jump jets and it generally stays with the group in which case the 5 MLs might be superior. But the point is your 5 MLs gives you a base. The enforcer comes with an AC10, why not keep it? Well, it is an awful lot of weight for 60 damage? But perhaps you're running knockdown so the AC10 is better even though it's overall damage is less. Just be aware that the same mech could be putting out more total damage with lasers. Which mech goes with your plan?

In assessing weapons remember the speed and role for the desired mech. A missile centurion may be outpaced by the rest of your lance and so the small laser you put on NEVER comes into play. Until that one attack and defend mission where you run out of missiles and need to wade into melee combat. Another example is the idiocy of the small laser on the urban mech. Sure, the mech was designed for short range, but most missions that small laser will never get used. Better to turn it into the third jump jet or more armor. So when calculating your damage, remember to only count damage that is likely to happen enough times to be worth it. ie. don't add the small laser damage to your urban mech total damage calculation. It will rarely happen, even in cities. This is in contrast to Vulcan or Pheonix small lasers which will regularly get used.

So make a potential lance and see how the damage adds up in total and does the group make sense? Do you have the roles you want and the mech to fill it. Are all your mechs trying to do the same thing? Is that a good thing or a weakness. Do your close range mechs have the mobility and survivability to get to their targets? Do you missile boats have sufficient ammo and what do you do when you're out?

As far as heat balancing goes my general rule is as follows:
Build so it can alpha 3-5 times before overheating in a heat neutral environment.
If the mech commonly jumps, build weapons to have your alpha equal your cooling.

TLDR:
Fill your mech with medium lasers first and balance your heat. Use that as something to compare your out of the box crazy build against to see if you would just be better off with medium lasers.
 
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Harmon Ward

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"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."

You have to be very careful when you have no backup mechs. Yang can fix your armor damage with no delay, but internal structure and weapon replacement take time, especially in the early game before the Argo's mech bay is fully upgraded. Going on a mission with damaged internal structure is asking for even more damage when the limb or torso is destroyed. You have a range of 0-7 possible missions per planet. Perhaps one more will be available if it is a Flashpoint. If you are forced to leave that system because your surviving mechs require 16 days for repairs, that costs you a lot. Happiness is a spare Griffon-1N in the mech bay!
Another point about Mech Repairs. Take note of which things cost time and money and how much they cost. A stock Jenner can be converted to a JR7-F in no time, even early in the game. It takes no days to pull out the SRM4 and Ammo and no days to add 3 tons of additional armor. This leaves you a mech which will not explode, is better at heat management and is significantly better armored.
 
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Kereminde

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Another point about Mech Repairs. Take note of which things cost time and money and how much they cost. A stock Jenner can be converted to a JR7-F in no time, even early in the game. It takes no days to pull out the SRM4 and Ammo and no days to add 3 tons of additional armor. This leaves you a mech which will not explode, is better at heat management and is significantly better armored.

And is a holy terror of a Light 'Mech.
 
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Jade_Rook

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Medium lasers are great weapons and it easy to fit a couple of them into almost any build (yes, even your LRM boats could use some close range weapons). That said, there is also value in having range. If you can fire medium lasers, then your enemies can fire all of their guns too. Yes, mediums and SRMs can deal massive amounts of damage very quickly, but getting close enough to use them can put you within range of the entire enemy lance. Good positioning and use of initiative can negate these problems, but it is something to think about, especially if you are just starting out. Being able to engage early or keep an enemy far enough away that they cannot effectively fire, or at the very least their lance mates can't provide effective supporting fire, can help minimize damage you take.
 
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LongRange

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A couple of things...

One is that I started a new campaign and painfully remembered just how BAD the pilots are at hitting anything until they up into the 7-8 levels across the board. Leg a TBolt and only need 24 to take off the other just to watch one of the mechs miss with everything and have the enemy stand up and injure my pilot with a luck head shot. Wasted a lot of missiles,too.

Next is that, in my play style, range is key. LLs, PPCs, LRMs and AC5/AC10s are all problematic at any distance, but my goal is to keep the opfor as far away as possible so the AC20s never come into play and you minimize wear and tear from MLs and SRMs. So weaponizing properly is very important.
 
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Harmon Ward

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Lots of great comments and hints on this list.
I relearned something recently that I thought I would share. The Artificial Intelligence is better at defense than offense. Use the terrain to be able to constantly retreat. As the AI advances it will usually send one mech ahead of the others. Concentrate your fire and bring it down. Then retreat again. Repeat as often a necessary until there are no more OP4s on the map.

I just played a 4v12 scenario. When I tried to advance, I was hurt real bad. So I tried constantly giving ground on the replay and it was easy.
 

Kereminde

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A couple of things...

One is that I started a new campaign and painfully remembered just how BAD the pilots are at hitting anything until they up into the 7-8 levels across the board. Leg a TBolt and only need 24 to take off the other just to watch one of the mechs miss with everything and have the enemy stand up and injure my pilot with a luck head shot. Wasted a lot of missiles,too.

Interestingly enough, that... wasn't my experience when I last played. Though I must admit, there are a lot of other factors involved in me taking shots...

Up until Heavy/Assault weights, things can move quite fast/far and accumulate evasion easily. (Exceptions to the rule are 'Mechs which are heavily armored and expected to take punishment.) For this purpose, I tended to use Sensor Lock to strip the evasion - or alternatively, have something fast which could move in for melee. Mostly because early OpFor pilots are terrible at staying stable, but also because melee damage can be brutally efficient.

Secondly, as I'd played the tabletop quite a bit, I was a bit more conscious of how range bands matter... it's often much easier to hit something in a closer range band than at the far extent. The game shows this as a highlighted area which is the "optimum range" when you fire your weapons, and ignoring this is pain. (If you can still dig up the old demonstration videos, you can watch Mitch forget this about 2 of 3 times.)
 

foamyesque

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How that can be?

Without access to good aimed shots or DHS/TEXs, it's at least arguable.

MLs are a short-legged, fairly hot weapon that does no stability damage. I think they're still very good and worth slotting to bulk out alphas or to give you some sustained fire capabilities, but you can only fit a couple before you hit heat-positive, and after the third you need to pay full price on the cooling -- which makes them a 5 ton, 5-slot 25 damage weapon: 5 damage per ton and per slot.

An SRM6 (the others are mostly-proportional but the math works cleanest here) is 48 damage on 8 tons and 7 slots, and is superior to a ML on damage / ton and damage / slot once you have to pay for the cooling, and comes with piles of stability damage as well. On the downside, it doesn't holepunch even as well as MLs do. The other weapon in that range bracket are AC/20s, which get up to around 4 damage/ton accounting for ammo and heat. That is noticeably worse but gives you in exchange the only weapon capable of headcapping in the stock variant, a stack of stability damage, and the ability to core lighter 'mechs in one shot (or eliminate limbs in one go for mediums).