MechWarrior One-shot/How-to: the Battle for Sally Ridge!

Yo! Etran Ramirez here, that’s Ramirez to you, or if you a green, TO Ramirez. I jockey a Phoenix Hawk, my boss is Jamal in his Hunchback, and my wingmen are Alvin Lansem in a Spider, and Frank Stocker in a Gryphon.

But let me tell you about this one time we got down and dirty on Sally Ridge.



Welcome to this one-shot filler for a week we can’t play our regular campaign. This session, we learn how MechWarrior works, at least for humans outside of the mechas they pilot.

MechWarrior is supposedly the ‘roleplaying’ side of BattleTech but what follows is a very simple skirmish game to show how movement and combat works. We have three players:

  • Alvin, played by DB
  • Frank, played by AL
  • Ramirez, played by yours truly
  • and we have a GMPC named Jamal.

We players provided the roleplaying element of the game by overacting and imagining what Jamal is like. I’ll try to do justice to that since it was the fun element of the session. Alongside that, I’ll outline the rules of movement and combat as I wrote them down.



Stepping away from the dropship’s cycling, Jamal listens to the scout-skimmer reports coming in. Then he wheels and shouts, his mighty afro swaying, the mid-morning sun glinting off his mirror shades:

Yo! Lissen up suckas! Some fools lightin’ up our grunts on th’ ridge ahead! Git yo’ asses movin!

Across the dropship’s other side Ramirez twitchily checks the charges on his flak vest: two spare for the laz-rifle he holds, one spare for his Cutlass autopistol. No glinting surface anywhere. He’s ready to go.

Further back team medic Frank Stocker, big-chinned, red-necked, spits his wad and checks his elevation. He likes to get maximum LOS from minimum exposure. Across from him Alvin Lansem, puffy-cheeked, beady-eyed, buck-toothed, checks his map:

That’s Sally Ridge all spread out for us

Jamal lifts his laz-launcher combo to the vertical so sunlight gleams up and down its length. He yells:

Les’ kick some ass!

And with that the command lance heads to Sally Ridge.


Initiative, Movement and Line of Sight

At this point the GM has sketched one (1) terrain feature upon our hex battlemap. That is where allied foot, two four-man squads, are and they are taking incoming ground fire.

Narrator’s forces on left, incoming fire from right

How line of sight works: Very much as you would expect (so far). The ridge is too low to completely block visibility either way. As the action commences, friendlies are dispersed and prone, and incoming are off the board.

How distance and movement works: Each hex is 5′. Movement is 1MP per hex to foot and various gaits achieve fixed maximum amounts of movement. Sprint 12, run 9, dodge 6, walk 4, crawl 2. The first two rates prevent fire.

How initiative works: Each character has a Personal Initiative Bonus (PIB) and adds that to the roll of 2d6. High is good. The lowest score declares, moves, shoots and melees first, which gives those with higher scores the chance to react, pick targets etc.

Initiatives (lowest to highest):

  • Enemy rifle platoon
  • Allied rifles/Ramirez
  • Alvin
  • Frank/Jamal


Round 1

Ramirez sprints [12 hexes] to within a dozen feet of the low ridgeline. From here he can see enemy heads, meaning they can see his head. Alvin sprints [12] not too far behind and to Ramirez’ left. Jamal does likewise, but Frank wusses out a little and runs [9] ending a few feet back.

There are no effective targets, and incoming fire zips harmlessly by.


How ranged fire works: Again in reverse order of init, targets are declared and rolls made. 2d6 are rolled, the aim being to make or exceed a target number composed of personal roll base plus modifiers from range, personal movement, target movement and other factors.

For example a generic rifleman has a roll base of 4, and firing at long range adds 4. A target walking carelessly forward adds 1 to that. So the rifleman needs to roll a 9 or better on 2d6.


Round 2

Ramirez crawls forward to sight his laz-rifle in. Riflemen from White squad are within a dozen feet or so to his right. Warm targets are just outside easy short range. Alvin, a few feet to Black squad’s right, crawls to firing position as well. Jamal glances over at Frank:

Yo! Don’choo run, dog! Check my swag!

Jamal pimp-rolls to position, biceps gleaming and afro waving gently. Off to Ramirez’ left Frank walks forward (not really pimp-rolling) and drops down, and they are ready to fire!

[Crawling moves 2 hexes, walking 4; crawling adds nothing to target and walking adds 1.]


Declaring targets: Again based on reverse order, the enemy riflemen would now declare targets first, then white and black squads and Ramirez, and so on. The higher up range order you are, the better you can react to hits made. Damage is recorded against each figure (though I gather there are quick-play rules that accumulate damage on formations). Those hit remain on the board for the round and effects are concluded at end of round.

Hit points and Damage and Location: Each person has a Body score, which covers a number of abilities. Each can take 10x Body in damage, though any one individual location can be taken out specifically. Therefore, location is important. When applying damage two identifiable dice are rolled, one the y axis and the other the x axis of a location chart. The proportion of damage taken is also important: as damage accumulates, a resistance roll is triggered to see if the combatant  can remain in the fight.


The enemy riflemen are advancing at a walk, firing. Black squad takes some heat without effect, and Alvin is clipped along his shoulder-blade [5 damage because his flak vest absorbs 1/2]. Ramirez returns fire [target is 5, from his base of 2+2 for range +1 for target walking] and scores a hit. His laz-rifle punches through the flak vest [less 2, because laz-rifle] and burns away the enemy’s left arm. The enemy keels over. [Resistance roll for about 1/3 total – failed] White and black squads’ fire is somewhat effective, another enemy falls. Alvin scores a big through and through on an enemy torso, dropping that combatant. Frank and Jamal score hits but without doing enough damage to stop their target.


Adjudication: Damage is noted as the round progresses, and effects are delivered end of round. In this session, enemy are not going to have access to a medic in the field, so those completely immobilized are removed. Three are gone right away.


Round 3

The enemy keep walking forward firing [GM rolls a Learn test for them, fails] without scoring any hits. Ramirez drops another enemy with a head-shot [flak vests don’t protect the head] and Frank takes a leg off his target [ditto the legs].

You messin wit’ the wrong dude suckas!

Jamal opens up with autofire, still not doing much but taking the leg off his target.


Learn tests: Each person has a Learning (Lrn) ability which covers maximum skills and ability to process information.


Round 4

Realizing their mistake the enemy begin dodging forward. It makes them less accurate but much harder targets. White and black squads miss. Ramirez sights in on a wounded man:

You ain’t leavin’ this dance early are ya?

And kills him. Alvin drops another of the wounded. Frank takes another target’s leg out, while Jamal’s next shot removes an arm.


Critical hits: While it’s too time-sucking to factor in crits for the riflemen, the GM applies crits scored by PCs in order to demo them. Frank’s location roll is a double which signifies a critical. He rolls a d6 to determine severity. It is irrelevant – internal bleeding which will make a medic check difficult.


Round 5

One enemy has closed in to short range and manages to score a minor hit on Alvin’s leg. White and black squads put one down and wound another. Seeing a couple of enemy beginning to cluster, Jamal flicks a selector on his rifle:

Eat grenade muthas!

The mini-grenade drops nicely among a pair of riflemen, dropping one and wounding the second.

Round 6

A wave of enemy dodge to short range! But dodging makes their fire inaccurate and only one hit is scored, and the squad member hit is still in action. In response all of white and black squads hit – but do not put any enemy down! Ramirez and Alvin take a leg out from their respective targets; Jamal drops a third one. In the distance about one-fourth the enemy begin retiring. Frank snorts at those:

Came up short against Sally Ridge

Things are getting hot! White and black squads marked by d6 of that color, command lance in middle. Enemy are colored d10s and d20s.


Pulling new weapons, standing from prone: Things are getting to melee range now – which is good from a learning point of view! It costs 1MP to draw a new weapon and standing from prone is 2MP. Neither appears to increase firing target. 

Firing into melee: Adjacent hexes count as melee. Those not adjacent count as firing into melee (randomly damaging those engaged), but there is no penalty for using a handgun at melee range.

How melee works: Again, results are decided in reverse order. The same process of 2d6 against a target, the same location chart. Modifiers are a little different – for example dodging into combat is only +2 to target. Frank, who has neither blade skill nor pistol skill, will roll on the default, raw DEX.


Round 7

Three surviving enemy rush Sally Ridge and pile on, bayonets thrusting! They are targeting the command lance. Ramirez is not directly engaged and stands, drawing his autopistol, and moves one hex [1MP] to close. All other in the command lance simply stand and draw sidearms. One each of white and black squads is also in melee range and draw bayonet.

All three enemy miss their thrusts, while white and black members manage a minor wound each. Ramirez shoots his man in the head, Alvin fires his heavy revolver to score a torso wound and Frank misses. Jamal has nothing to do since he was in melee next to Ramirez, so poses off.

Round 8

The two enemy still in the fight are engage against Alvin and Frank. Jamal and Ramirez pimp-roll over to help. In the melee exchange Alvin is nicked but drops his opponent and Frank shoots his opponent’s foot off.

Jamal surveys the field: two-thirds enemy are dead outright, a few are still crawling away. No friendlies lost.

Nice to get a warm welcome wherev’ we go!

End positions. Red dots mark the fallen enemy.

Frank stoops over his groaning opponent ready to give the coup-de-grace:

Hey Jamal whaddaya reckon on these neck tats?

Ain’t familiya wit’ dat dee-sign sucka, but warlords do patch pledges that way

That explains their can-run cain’t run method

And the others high-tailin’ it thru the horizon!

Figure they be back wit’ more friends an’ better gear

Jamal circles his arm in a rally-up movement:

Let’s git back, send skimmers ta recon their back-trail, an’ git heavy gear outta th’ dropship!


That concludes the one-shot. Comments that may or may not be of use for the future:

When there are more NPCs than PCs, quick-and-dirty beats individual rolls.

Our GM rolled a couple of ‘summary’ rolls for general firing, which sped things up, but too often, players were sitting watching dice being rolled. 

Role playing needs characters to roleplay

We provided our own fun, mainly by characterising Jamal as an Afro Samurai type of over the top blaxploitation warrior, but in essence this was a skirmish game. Of which there are numerous examples out there, of which a high proportion are far future, and I venture to claim that most are better at activation and action than these 80s-based rules. The key arguments to progressing this as a season of gaming are:

  1. The rules are already around
  2. There is a roleplay component where limited information is provided and characters interact with that limited information and action changes based on that interaction.

About andrewmclaren26

Weekly Roleplayer, Wargamer when I can
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