Battletech Mech Tactics: Thunderbolt

Continuing our BATTLETECH heavy mech review with one of my favorite mechs this week…

…the Thunderbolt.

I find the T-bolt a very capable machine, with limitations that we can work with as long as one can show a little restraint as a mech warrior.

Tactically, the Thunderbolt is a mech that becomes more dangerous the closer it gets to the target or target zone- which fits tactically because it is a heavy mech.

It WILL be going in and taking stuff down, vs. light mechs that recon or dance around, or medium mechs who snipe of have escort duty.

We start off at range on the way in with the LRM 15. From the perspective of an LRM 5/10/15/20 the 15 and 20 are the best taken in a single weapon. An average roll on the cluster table with the 15 puts out good damage, roll hot and it gets even better. The LRM also give us some direct fire options if we have a spotter, but this is a bonus since the T-bolt is not a static mech like say the Longbow.

Getting closer we now add the large laser into the mix. First few times I was playing the Thunderbolt I was really wishing for the PPC- with the extra two points of damage and range. But with so few heat sinks there is a difference between 8 heat and 10 heat.

The large laser is a fair mix of damage and heat.

Side note: how many heavy and assault mechs do you see with a large laser as the primary weapon? Grasshopper and Stalker? Most are PPC like the Battlemaster, Awesome, Marauder, Warhammer, etc.

Once we get close to the target zone or opposing mech we now have a good mix of medium and short range weapons- the medium lasers and the SRM pack. Bonus tactics because these are in the side torso locations so the T-bolt can fire along with punching. As a heavy mech the chance to knock a head off with the tonnage damage is worth not taking the large laser shot, not that we have the heat management to do that at close range vs. firing smaller weapons.

LRM and large laser for shots on the way in.

Medium lasers and SRM for medium and close range.

Fists for brawling.

Machine guns?

I find infinite use for these, especially in a mech that wants and needs to close. A bit of extra crit seeking damage vs. other mechs, but the REAL use is anti-infantry.

There are times in a combined arms game where infantry are static and dug in- you are going to have to walk past them or flush them out. Three of four stands of infantry will murder a light mech and put the hurt on a medium mech- a heavy mech can take the shots, not that we want to take them, but it at least opens up the option- followed by making a stand vanish from machine gun fire each turn.

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4 Replies to “Battletech Mech Tactics: Thunderbolt”

  1. I agree, the standard TDR-5S Thunderbolt is a great generalist Heavy ‘Mech in the Succession Wars, and its ubiquity means you can fit it in most forces too. It is decently armored and has 15 heat sinks, allowing it to cycle fire quite well especially compared to the Orion and the Crusader. You can fire the Large Laser + LRMs for longer range and roll over to bracket firing the Medium Lasers, SRM/MG and alternate the Large Laser for close range.

    I do want to mention that it does have an unusual weak spot: the MG Ammo bin on the Left Arm. Because it is on the 7th critical slot on the arm and is the only occupied critical in the 7th to 12th slots, taking a critical hit in the Left Arm has a 50-50 chance of destroying the Thunderbolt outright. You may want to start with less MG ammo loaded and be ready to dump that ammo. I lost a Thud a couple times because of this.

    Of mention are the two other common variants for this time period: The Eridani Light Horse merc variant TDR-5SE, which is basically a Grasshopper-lite with a LRM-10 instead of LRM-5 in exchange for fewer heat sinks and one less Medium laser.

    The other is the Steiner TDR-5SS, which is one of my favorite direct fire brawlers. 21 heat sinks, a single PPC, 3 medium lasers, an SRM-6 rack and a Flamer for anti-infantry work. It’s a brutal 3-hex range fighting machine.

    1. Correction: Just read a clarification on the Battlemech Manual released last year and on pg 131 they stated that you always make two rolls for critical hit slot location. I.e If you rolled a 4-6 on the first dice and rolled anything other than a 1 on the second dice, you must re-roll BOTH dice again.

      This means that the MG ammo is fairly well protected after all, and the Thunderbolt remains as solid as ever.

      1. Good to know that rules- we have always played you just re-roll the once die once the first locations has been confirmed. Suitability for my Longbows just went up…

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