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RogueTech is the biggest, meanest and most unpredictable mod collection for BattleTech

Won this 'Mech in a game of cards

Lovely as it was, Harebrained Schemes's BattleTech felt like it trimmed back many of the tabletop game's wilder elements. RogueTech, a messy compilation of mods organised by "LadyAlekto" and crew, reinstates these complex rules and lets you bolt just about anything onto your big stompy bots up to and including the contents of the kitchen sink. If riding a clattering, improvised pirate 'Mech into battle with a hot-rod engine and a Gauss shotgun loaded with silverware appeals, this mod is for you. Just don't expect the galaxy to play fair, or make much sense.

There's no story to RogueTech beyond the one you write, no goals past the ones you set and no coherent canon. It just gives you a big messy galaxy full of mercenary contracts, and the looming threat of bankruptcy if you don't play your cards right. You'll probably die horribly, but you'll come away with some fun tales to tell. Below, three stories of my own attempts to lead a squad through missions and gain a foothold, plus a quick guide to how to install and play the mod yourself.

By default, RogueTech is a huge expansion to the sandbox-styled Career mode in BattleTech. It takes place on a persistent, shared online campaign map where players can change the ownership of a planet by completing missions for the faction they want to support. Every faction is at war with everyone else, so whoever you choose to work for is down to personal preference.

Every shot at RogueTech is going to be different, and the mod is continually evolving and adopting new features. While your difficulty level is entirely customizable (I'm playing on RogueTech's default 'normal'), chaos will reign, and your starting lance of 'Mechs will determine how you play. As these stories demonstrate...

Log: Old McDonald's Mercenaries

Assets: Almost normal

Bessie the cattle-herder, ready for war.

For this first run, RogueTech decided to have some mercy. A skirmisher Hunchback (with an LRM20 pod), an agile and laser-heavy Phoenix Hawk (a newcomer in this mod), a Hatchetman variant with a sword and good close-to-mid range weaponry - it's all good. Even the Urbanmech had an AC20 autocannon to offset being an Urbanmech. Among the light reserve units was a Javelin (also new) with quad Medium Lasers. Not terrible.

And then there was Bessie, the one-of-a-kind freakshow and albatross around my neck. How could I not name the outfit after it? Bessie was a mad refit of a civilian 'CattleMaster' herding 'Mech. The internal combustion engine swapped out for a fusion engine, but its armaments included little more than a retractable switchblade on one arm, a pair of flamer nozzles and a single-shot rifle. It also had a top-of-the-line stealth package, for some bizarre reason.

Mission 1: A lucky break

A nicely lit start for an uneventful mission

As this is RogueTech, I decided to tempt the fates on this first mission, taking on a rival mercenary lance in a straight slugfest. Either the enemy spawn tables weirded out, or we ended up fighting a completely broke unit, because all they had was a Wolfhound, a Uziel (new in this mod), and a pair of tanks armed with LRMs. I didn't bring Bessie this mission, because I like living and being alive, but this was a cakewalk.

The Uziel admittedly had some tonnage and decent-looking weapons, but it went down almost immediately after my Hatchetman drove its sword into its engine from behind. The enemy Wolfhound scored a lucky hit by circling behind and lasering a heat sink right off my Hunchback, but the LRM units just ineffectually lobbed shots from miles away. My crew wasn't allowed to claim the 'Mech chassis parts, but I did get both of the Uziel's snub-nosed PPCs.

Mission 2: The Clown-Car Brigade

Bessie stands alone, aside from all those ornery-looking tanks. Wonder if we can herd them?

A pirate base to clear out. Simple stuff, only a couple 'Mechs in defense, including a Shadowhawk (potentially dangerous) and a Stinger (new, and less so), plus a gaggle of mismatched vehicles. It was all going well - a few lucky early hits forced the Shadowhawk into hiding, and the Hatchetman moves in for the kill on The Stinger, takes a 97% chance-to-hit swing, misses, overbalances and lands flat on its arse. The next turn, the Stinger's foot comes down directly on my Hatchetman's cockpit - miraculously not scoring a kill, but injuring my pilot.

Everything that could have gone wrong, suddenly did. I learnt exactly what a Fire Truck can do when refit by pirates - turns out that it's mostly a truck that can shoot a lot of fire, which caused my Hunchback to wildly overheat. I took a risk and fired a single shot while just over the redline, and it caused all my LRM ammo to explode, with predictable effect. My Hatchetman was dismantled from all sides, the Phoenix Hawk got outflanked by the hiding Shadowhawk (fitting), and Bessie ate about two hundred missiles after missing four easy shots in a row. Welcome to RogueTech.

It'll take around half a year just to repair the surviving 'Mechs up to vaguely-functional level, so I think it's time to throw in the towel, but at least the curse is broken - the pirates got to keep whatever was left of Bessie. Maybe, someday, they'll use it to build the legendary 150-ton CM-XXX Moozilla. But that's a story for another time, and I don't think I've got the module installed for that particular monster to appear in my game anyway.

Log: The One Armed Banditos

Assets: Small 'Mechs, big iron on their hip

The most off-balance mercenary crew ever. They didn't last long.

Starting out in Solaris space, RogueTech saw fit to bless me with an oddball bunch of asymmetrical units, none heavier than 40 tons. The Wolfhound 7S has an oversized LBX/10 shotgun for one arm with both slug and cluster rounds, and a claw on the other arm. The Venom - a Spider variant - packs only one gun, but it's a heavy PPC, making it a mean sniper. The Vulcan, my 40-tonner, has the most guns, but the biggest it has is an Ultra AC/5 on the right torso. Oh, and a single rocket cluster 'death blossom' loaded with incendiary rounds, but only enough for one shot.

The Arbiter similarly packs an UAC/5, and a single medium laser, making it a one trick pony. Despite it having a symmetrical frame, my Jenner JR7-A only has weapons on one side - a large laser and two defective medium lasers, making it far from the most reliable weapon on the battlefield. Last, I've got a Panther armed with an SRM-4 and a single (also defective) large laser. A real motley crew - let's see if they can scrape even a single win.

Mission 1: They're 'armless, really

The first and last battle of the Banditos, and what a mess it was

This entire ill-fated mission was a colossal comedy of errors. A half-skull difficulty run with just a handful of pirates to deal with, right? I arrive in a nice sunny valley, crest a nearby hill and there's two full lances of Angry bearing down on me, including a 55-ton Griffin. All I could do was pull back and lure them over the ridge one at at time and hope against hope that I'd do enough damage to stall them until the next came barrelling over. That almost worked when dealing with the Griffin, but despite being knocked down, it just would not die.

And then everything went to hell for everyone. Enemies would fire missiles only for their ammo to spontaneously explode. Melee attacks on both sides would whiff repeatedly. Autocannons jammed, and somehow a point-blank shotgun blast only hit with one pellet. Enemies overheated, tripped over and generally made fools of themselves, but they still pushed forward enough to start landing flank shots. Before I knew it, my Vulcan was gone and the dice started to come up real bad.

In the end, I lost three 'Mechs outright and the fourth was in such a pitiful state that repairing it would bankrupt the entire company. It felt painful to call it quits after just one disastrous sortie, but the One Armed Banditos were simply not meant to be. See you, Space Cowboys.

Log: The Fortunate Sons

Assets: Bordering on a miracle

The Grimalkin, and the company's name before I changed it

Probably the best set of 'Mechs I've ever started with in this mod. Taking the lead striker role is a close-quarters Hunchback with a slab of medium lasers and two SRM pods. Backing it up at range is an LRM Trebuchet, about as reliable a duo as you can get. On the flanks are a Phoenix Hawk with extra heat sinks, making it an agile skirmisher, and the oddball of the bunch is a Grimalkin - a pirate-modded Cougar with weird jury-rigged weaponry, including potentially volatile missile pods that can load any ordinance, SRM, MRM, LRM, etc, and a pair of variable-power Light PPCs.

Mission 1: Clean sweep

An enemy Urbanmech gets thoroughly blatted

A polar battlefield, a lance of light pirate 'Mechs, and a fight that ended almost as soon as it began, making it an auspicious start. The enemy was overwhelmed by a deluge of missiles and laser fire from my Hunchback, and gunfire from every other direction. It seems that there wasn't anything heavier than thirty tons on the enemy side, and the biggest thing they had was an Urbanmech which kept trying to attack in melee. A rare case of everything falling into place all at once.

Miraculously, only the Grimalkin took any damage, and it was so superficial that it could be cleaned up in a day. Salvage was awful, but at least I came away from this fight with half a Wasp chassis and a few basic replacement weapons and heat sinks.

Mission 2: Twenty-one to win

The crew are running hot, but otherwise doing fine. Until the Grimalkin's gun just spontaneously exploded

Defending a base against two lances of pirate 'Mechs, with only a handful of primitive tanks and APCs for support looked pretty rough, but the enemy was mostly preoccupied with lobbing shells uselessly at the massive military structures while my squad swept up. The Grimalkin was easily carrying twice its weight, punching huge ragged holes in armour right up until the final turn of the mission, where one of its janky pirate Light PPCs went and spontaneously exploded, taking the entire arm with it. Pirate 'Mechs are fun.

Among the enemies was a Porcupine, an intriguing ultra-close-range 'duelist' variant of the Cicada, bristling with melee spikes and one-use-only explosives. I sadly didn't destroy it before the mission ended, but the two primitive model Blackjacks I trashed gave me so much salvage I was able to reassemble one immediately. Scrapping that for parts will pay for upkeep for the month it'll take to patch up the worst of the Grimalkin's gaping wounds and bolting on a pair of medium lasers where there was once a Light PPC.

Mission 3: Cool Runnings

The squad hunker down behind the trees for a knock-down, drag-out battle that never happens

A third and final run for this crew, deciding whether I'll try to make them last. Once again, the Fortunate Sons live up to their name. The mission sounds hairy - get in, pick up a scientist, get out, presumably while being shot at from all directions. It doesn't quite work that way. My squad crest the hill to the pick-up point sprinting and in cover, and spot a trio of tiny scout 'Mechs. A Stinger, a Panther and something else that blew up so quick I didn't even bother taking notes. One again, the Grimalkin did huge damage, the twin medium lasers a decent stand-in for the lost PPC.

With the first wave of enemies cleared out within three turns, I move into position, get everyone cooled down and ready to run the gauntlet, only for the game to inform me that it's a mission well done. A smattering of standard equipment in salvage, sadly no 'Mech chassis bits, but damage was so light that the crew are ready for another mission within a week. The Fortunate Sons live to see another day - maybe they've got a shot at this after all.

Ante Up

When you roll snake-eyes, your pilots will just bail out

And that's two tales of catastrophe and one minor victory. If you want to risk it and roll the dice, just know that this was using the default RogueTech install options, and the default difficulty settings, but you have a lot of choices open to you. If you want, you can make repairs faster, starting builds more generous, salvaged 'Mechs easier to assemble and more. Or you can throw yourself into the deep end, if you think you're a tactical genius. Read on for instructions for how to install the mod, and a breakdown of some of the core changes you'll need to take into consideration when planning your tactics.

How to install RogueTech mod for BattleTech

If all goes to plan, your RogueTech starting screen should look like this.

With BattleTech not having any kind of native mod support, setting up RogueTech is a little fiddly, but nothing too demanding. Harebrained Schemes rolled out a new update just recently -- v1.5.0 -- which is incompatible with RogueTech at the time of writing, but fortunately Steam offers the option to roll back to earlier patches now, though I'm unsure what the equivalent process on GOG looks like.

If you have the Steam version, right-click on the game in your library, and look in Properties/Betas and select V1.4.0 from the drop-down menu. Once fully un-updated, Steam will show the game title as "BATTLETECH [1.4.0]" - now you're ready to install the current version of RogueTech, which is the confusingly named "998 Patch12 HF5". You should check the RogueTech wiki here to see what the very latest release is, and whether you should update your game further.

You will need:

A: The latest RogueTech installer from Nexus Mods.

B: The Community Asset Bundle, also from Nexus.

Just install RogueTech via its installer - simple as can be. You'll be presented with an enormous list of options at one point, but the default settings should be fine. You may miss out on some of the wilder techs and 'Mechs, but you'll get a slightly more coherent and balanced game out of it. Do make sure you tick the box (as appropriate) for the Flashpoint expansion in the installer. The expansion's content isn't required, but it is supported.

Once RogueTech is installed, run the Community Asset Bundle installer. This is a huge compilation of 'Mech and vehicle models and other pieces of BattleTech-themed art. RogueTech uses just about all of it, so expect to see a lot of new hardware in the field, much of it familiar to fans of the older MechWarrior games - expect to see Clan 'Mechs before long.

With that done, you're good to go. Just launch BattleTech as usual and you'll get a new (and very slow, the first time) ModTek loader screen. Give it a few minutes, and eventually you should be greeted by the regular game's screen. If all went right, you'll see the RogueTech logo painted over the regular game title, and no error messages. Now all you've left to do is start a new game in Career mode, although even if you're a veteran of the vanilla game, you've got a lot to learn.

Back To Pilot School

The Uziel is one of the more iconic 'Mech types added by this mod

While a little clunky in its implementation, RogueTech makes an enormous number of changes to how BattleTech plays, from how you'll be picking your contracts to how you'll be fighting. It brings the combat a little more in line with the full, expanded tabletop rule-set (which no sane person ever used, thanks to requiring dozens of skill checks and countless dice rolled a turn), but through the magic of computers, we can experience all the thrills of full simulation-level 'Mech combat without putting you to sleep or frying your brain.

You can study the full rule-changes on the RogueTech Wiki here, but here's the big stuff you'll probably want to keep in mind:

Combat is longer-range and more mobile. You can sprint and shoot in the same turn (at a penalty to accuracy), and evasion is no longer a 'shield' stripped by enemy fire, but a turn-long boost to defence. During daylight hours you can see enemy 'Mechs from much further away, and sensors can pick targets up from even further back, which makes stealth and ECM loadouts all the more useful. Essential, even, as you can fire at sensor blips, even if they're an entire map away.

You'll have more down-time between fights. Before you upgrade your repair bays, anything beyond the most superficial of armour repairs takes a lot of time, and paying upkeep is expensive. Pilots also need a full week between sorties to rest. While not mandatory, you can send them out fatigued but they'll suffer a bit, stat-wise.

Enemies are smarter, more aggressive and more willing to take risks. They'll run their 'Mechs hot for a chance to flank around and take a shot at your backside, and even a light 'Mech can do terrible damage if it fires from the right angle, thanks to the new critical damage model.

Just because your fragile human eyes can't see something in RogueTech, it doesn't mean you can't shoot at it

Just because a shot doesn't completely melt away plating doesn't mean the squishy 'Mech-guts underneath are safe. Any sufficiently heavy attack has a chance (relative to the power of the attack and the overall plating strength) to cause internal damage and knock out an important system, although this can be mitigated through special Spall Liner armour. This makes big, heavy sniper-type weapons all the more viable, as you've always got a chance to knock out some system, even if you don't score a lucky headshot.

There is a mountain of new technology. While not exactly canon, you can find Clan tech out there, plus weird prototypes, kitbashed pirate equipment (with fittingly bizarre descriptions) and more. There are over a thousand 'Mech variants (many with entirely new models), hundreds of new vehicles and even power armour. One major change is multiple ammo types for physical weapons, like incendiary, acid or even chaff rounds. If you've got multiple ammo types on one 'Mech, you can switch between them with a left-click on the right hand side of that weapon slot in the HUD.

Pilot skills outside of gunnery are important. Piloting will keep your 'Mechs standing if they whiff a melee attack and overbalance, and a combination of Guts and Tactics will prevent panic or (in extreme cases) one of your pilots just hitting the eject button early and tapping out of the fight. This works both ways, too - a deluge of smaller hits can force less professional enemies to abandon their 'Mech outright, making for great salvage.

Without a very high Tactics skill or advanced sensors, you won't know exactly what kind of enemies you're up against, aside from their basic chassis info. No readouts on what state their internals are in - you've just got to go with your gut and figure out what they've got from what you've seen thrown at you. There's a lot more intuition and guesswork involved.

If you've made it this far and do install the game, tell us your experiences in the comments below. This is the kind of mod that gives you stories to tell.

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Dominic Tarason