I've been playing Battletech (on the PC) since late April. (April 26th according to Steam). Granted I only have 66 hours logged in it so far over 7 months, but hey, work gets in the way (and working road construction is long hours, espeically in the summer). So does life. I digress.
Some quick back story. I played a little Battletech on the table top back in the mid to late '80s. I didn't own any of it myself, but my friends did. Being a kid at the time, the idea of piloting a tens of feet tall battle mecha was pure adrenaline. Not to mention firing guns that lob bullets the size of a small car...yeah. But, I never really kept up with it after we moved to Texas. Not the game anyways. I still followed the lore over the years, but not as closely as I should have. Nonetheless, Battletech has remained one of my all time favorite space operas.
So, back to the most recent PC version.
After the obligatory tutorials and setup of the story mode, you get dropped into a fairly limitted region of space. You only have 4 systems you can travel to, and the missions are (naturally) fairly tame. At least from a payout standpoint. Your 'Mechs are all small and under powered, and suffer from "standard loadout" being a synonym for "ok against other standard loadout 'Mechs".
Very early on, I learned to fear vehicles carrying any sort of missles, especially those that had more than one rack of them. Nothing says "chew up armor" like a swarm of missles. Also very early on, I learned to gang up on enemy 'Mechs. Maybe my memories are skewed, but I don't remember ganging up on 'Mechs being as big of a necessity in the tabletop games. It probably was, but it's a necessity in the PC game. But like all games, once I figured out the minor quirks that make it playable, I settled in and started worrying about other things.
One of the first things I made sure to do was raise morale to it's maximum level. Sure it meant I had to keep using under powered 'Mechs, and passing up on better salvage because I need the C-Bills to bump morale. But it was worth it. In spades. All of my 'Mech warriors start with enough inspiration that they can use their abilities at the start of battle if needed. So far though, most battles start with at least a couple rounds of buffer before the action starts up, which means my warriors have more inspiration at their finger tips. I'm also fairly certain that bumping the morale as early as possible has greatly reduced the number of negative incidents that pop up. Early on, I had sever instances of 'Mech warriors being prissy little things and having to deal with the Drama Llama.
Once I had my crews morale maxed out, I started working on kitting out medium mechs, and I haven't been disappointed. As much as I wanted to keep using the Blackjack you start with, it just not that great of a long term mech. I replaced it with a Trebuchet TBT-5N and haven't looked back. I'm also running a Shadowhawk SHD-2D, Centurion CN9-A, and Griffin GRF-1S. I have a backup Trebuchet TBT-5N and Shadowhawk SHD-2H for when I need to rapidly complete missions and things break.
I'd really love to be able to command a Company of 'Mechs rather than just a Lance. Then I could use the light mechs for what they were designed for. Recon, harassment, long-range support, etc. The way it is, the game simply encourages you to take the biggest 'Mechs you can and hope you don't get swarmed by an enemy force of 2-3 times your 'Mech count. So far, that has to be one of my biggest gripes with the game. You get a standard Lance, they sometimes end up with the firepower of three Lances.
Getting back to weapons, and loadouts in general. Support weapons really piss me off. It's rare that I end up in enough close combat for them to be worth the tonnage to mount. Medium mechs are still small enough that having room for frivilous things like support weapons is still a no go. And finding support components, like better Gryos or Cockpits, is at this point, extremely rare. And then there's the weight limit. Sure there's an upper limit to how much over weight a system can be before it becomes unusable, but being a half ton over weight isn't going to impact performance of a 'Mech. Unless of course the systems are already running a their max rating, which would be plain stupid on the part of an engineer. It's also stupid in the case of maxing out the armor on each setion of the mech. Armor on a mech is just like armor on a person: it's weight is distributed evenly across the body. This means having a half ton of weight spread across the entire mech would effectively cause no major issues. Maybe the "hydraulics" of the future are super powerful but super sensitive to weight limits. I don't know, but it's annoying.
I try to kit out my Lance according to the following requirements.
1x LRM 'Mech
1x PPC/LRM 'Mech
1x Laser/LRM 'Mech
1x [as needed] 'Mech
As you can see, I have a large amount of LRM. LRMs (long range missile) are simply devastating, especially against the smallest mechs. Assume each missile from a LRM/20 impacts. That's 80dmg. On my LRM mech, I have 2 LRM/20s. If all of those hit it's 160dmg. That's impressive for a medium 'Mech, really.
You would need the following to match that much potential damage in one volley:
2x LRM/20 (160dmg) - 20t, 8 slots
7x AC/2 (175dmg) - 42t, 7 slots
4x AC/5 (180dmg), - 32t, 8 slots
3x AC/10 (160dm) - 36t, 9 slots
2x AC/20 (200dmg) - 28t, 8 slots
2x Gauss Rifle (240dmg) - 30t, 10 slots
7x MLaser (175dmg) - 7t, 7 slots
4x LLaser (160dmg) - 20t, 8 slots
4x PPC (200dmg) - 28t, 12 slots
8x LRM/5 (160dmg) - 16t, 8 slots
4x LRM/10 (160dmg) - 20t, 8 slots
3x LRM/15 (180dmg) - 21t, 9 slots
As you can see, most things that deal more damage require much more tonnage, slots, or individual components to mount. If you reduce the number of MLasers, you could mount 6 of them on a Cicada CDA-2A, which almost matches 2x LRM/20. The heavier end of the medium 'Mechs (45t and above) could easily handle the 4x LLaser, so there is some flexibility there. In terms of ultimate flexibilty as a platform, the Griffin 'Mechs have the most versatilty to offer in this respect.
Musings aside, 160dmg is hard to meet within the same footprint as 2x LRM/20. The great thing about LRM, and missles in general, is the percent chance to hit is per missile. If one missile misses, the others might not. Sure each missile only does 4dmg on it's own, but a miss of 4dmg is much better than a miss of 50dmg from 1x PPC.
Don't get me wrong. I don't run missile 'Mechs exclusively, that would be silly. Missles have a minimum range, which can completely screw LRMs at anything less than 180m. You still need 'Mechs kitted out with close combat weapons, or you will start losing 'Mechs and pilots to up-close-and-personal encounters.
Just as an aside about LRM 'Mechs, if you have a 2x LRM/20 'Mech that you put only 1x LRM Ammo on, put a pilot with the Sensor Lock ability in it, drop a bunch of Jump Jets, Heat Sinks, and armor on it, and use it to keep enemies in sensor lock. You will only have three shots with it since LRM Ammo only holds 120 missles, but by making it into a sensor 'Mech, you will get crazy bonuses on your targets and still have a few critical shots available when you desparately need them,
As for the other 'Mech load outs, I have a couple things I keep in mind. MLasers do 25dmg, LLasers do 40dmg, and PPCs do 50dmg. I generally treat PPCs as artillery; that is, when they hit, they hit hard, but if they miss, it's a big miss. I keep one PPC around because they are great against vehicles and turrets for one shot kills (usually), but their potential to not hit combined with their large size limits their use on medium 'Mechs. I also treat Lasers more like pistols, or small caliber rifles. Since you can mount more than one on most 'Mechs, the potential misses are somewhat offset compare to a PPC. In the case if LLasers a miss is still fairly significant, but if you have 2x LLaser and both shot's land you are doing more damage than a single PPC. Basically, I keep a PPC on the battlefield because it can make short work of the smallest 'Mechs, vehicles, and turrets. Otherwise, I try to keep my 'Mechs kitted with Lasers. I tend to not favor auto-cannons because their potential damage coupled with their ammo requirements isn't nearly as nice a missles or lasers either one. Plus they have the refire penalty to contend with.
And I'm sure there will be many people who don't agree with this, but I will sacrifce components for armor. Armor gives your 'Mechs staying power on the battlefield. If an arm is blown off, the excess damage starts transferring to the core of your 'Mech. Same goes for the torso. Start blowing legs off and your 'Mech is at best crippled, at worst disabled. Pay attention and the hardest fights you will have are ones where the enement 'Mechs are fully armored. I don't care what they are armed with weapons wise, they are going to put the hurt on you because they can take sustained fire and keep dishing out damage. (Pat attention and the easiest fights you will have are against Shoddy 'Mechs that only have 25% of their armor. Just saying.) That's why you will rarely find Jump Jets on my 'Mechs.
So far, I'm loving the game. It satisfies my need for blowing shit up in a spectacular fashion. "Target neutralized" as my quircky 'Mech warrior obliterates an 80t tank by blowing it's turrent off and dropping a PPC round inside it. I was pleasntly surprised when the only thing left of the tank was the turrent minus its barrel. The game also satifies my need for tweaking things to squeeze the maximum level of performance I can from them. It's pretty awesome.
I'll post some more stuff later, after I've started getting heavy 'Mechs.