AGAINST THE BOT NEWBIES GUIDE (15th Nov 2014)
Step 1) get the latest version of mekhq from the Dylan repository, here http://bt.dylanspcs.com/
it will be listed as mekhq-<release version>-dylan-windows.zip OR mekhq-<Version number>dylan.tar.gz for people who don't use windows. Unzip that to a folder, standard procedure.
You'll also want to grab the rarity tables here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/357573/3028-3050%20Random%20Assignment%20%26%20Rarity%20Tables%209.02.pdf
And the rules themselves, Here (V2.3 as of this writing): http://bg.battletech.com/forums/megamek-games/campaign-rules-against-the-bot-thread-3/. Warning : MekHQ only implements rules up to v2.29 and even then not all 2.29 rules may be implemented. The devs have not bothered to keep a list of which are and which are not implemented unfortunately.
STEP 2) initial setup
Download the campaign options file here : https://www.mediafire.com/?uya15yd7bmgz4im and import it into MekHQ. Feel free to change the options as you like, the non-official changes i made were to reduce vehicle crew/infantry salary costs as they were several times more expensive than mechwarriors for no good reason.
Run Mekhq, and click start a new campaign, and select a starting date. From there, the Campaign options will pop up. Look up a guide on Mekhq if you aren't sure what all this shit does, but here are the AtB-relevant tabs.
Explanation of MekHQ/ATB campaign options :
Repairs and Acquisition : By default you need to make one maintenance check for each unit to keep them in good shape. The roll is tech skill level + site modifier + tech modifier + parts quality modifier and maintenance is done for every part.
Site modifier is based off the current location of the unit, a transport bay has a 0 modifier and maintenance facilities/factories give positive modifiers. The actual location of the unit is based off the ATB rules which is rather unrealistic unfortunately as it assumes that units are almost always considered "in the field" or "field workshop" which provides penalties. I would suggest that you at least set your units to "transport bay" most of the time when on contracts to simulate them being in your dropship for repairs/maintenance.
Tech modifier is the tech of the component with level 2 tech and clan tech being harder to maintain than level 1 tech obviously. Unfortunately even a ER med laser has a tech modifier penalty, which doesnt make sense in an era where it has been in use for ages.
Parts quality modifier is the condition of the part with high quality parts (F being the best) being much easier to maintain. D is average and is the default. The way the system works, if you keep failing maintenance checks, parts quality drops and you need to replace the part entirely as it gets harder and harder to repair it.
The problem with this system is that the default setting of 7 days is much higher than in Strat ops (which only requires one maintenance check between each scenario) and mekHQ does not allow you to use multiple tech teams per unit for bonuses. In simple terms, this means that regular techs will basically blow up your mechs very quickly through sheer incompetence. I would recommend turning maintenance off at first or giving yourself a positive modifier for maintenance and tweaking the options to suit you. The campaign options file setting works fine if you have at least veteran techs. You can also have a veteran/elite tech bring a unit up to F quality, then re-assign a lower level tech to maintain the unit, freeing up your higher level tech for more important stuff.
The overall quality of the unit, which can be viewed if you set the hangar to "Status" mode, determines the sell price of the unit. A good way to make money is to salvage units, repair them, and bring their quality up to F and sell them for the biggest profit.
Techs and Astechs have a certain number of minutes per day and you need 6 astechs per tech for a full tech team. Hire permanent astechs as they can gain xp, do this through the "hire personnel in bulk" or "hire ->" menus. Temporary astechs do not gain xp. Techs assigned to maintain units do not get a penalty for repair tasks, so feel free to assign techs to multiple units if necessary.
Special abilities are turned on in the campaign option, you may want to turn them off, up to you. They do give you more uses for pilot xp, but bot generated pilots do not have special abilities so you may find it "too easy". Units get 1 free special ability if they increase from regular -> veteran -> elite. These special abilities may be less than useful (Gunnery specialization Missle on a PPC mech for example) and i recommend changing them if you get a random special ability that makes no sense.
Mercenary : If using the campaign options file, contract payment is based off your TO&E unit value. By 2.29 rules, you must deploy at least 1 lance (3-6 units) for every 6 units in your TO&E rounded down. So 1 lance if you have up to 11 units in your TO&E, 2 lances for 12-17 units, etc. Contract payment is determined at the moment you accept the contract, so you can actually inflate your contract payment by placing additional units in your TO&E and then removing them after you accept the contract. Transportation payment, overheads support, etc are also fixed when you accept the contract so you can inflate those payments as well. Transportation payment, etc are all added to the final contract payment then distributed on a monthly basis on the first of every month. If you end a contract early via success you get the remaining payment.
Experience : This is rather unbalanced, you will notice that your Admin personnel will level up much quicker as they get an automatic xp every week and doctors are almost impossible to level due to a shortage of patients to practice their skills on. The system also encourages removing items from a mech unnecessarily just so that your techs can grind xp.
Against the bot : Skill level determines how tough the OPFOR will be. Regular should be fine if you are familiar with battletech rules. Share system makes your mechwarriors super expensive as they will run away with tons of your money upon retirement/deaths/etc, not recommended. I would suggest keeping retirement rolls off as by the rules, your commander has a very high chance of retiring after his first contract (you have to make retirement rolls after every contract and after every ingame year).
Contract radius determines how far you have to travel to your next contract, it does NOT determine contract availability. Restrict parts by mission is turned off as there is no way to tell what parts are restricted before you accept the mission (and the restrictions are pretty unrealistic given the high number of battles you have to fight) and it just forces you to stockpile parts beforehand (which is hard to keep track of).
Limit lance deployments by default limits you to a max of 390 tons per lance and 3-6 units per lance. Base number of lances controls how large enemy opfors will be (including allied forces). Anything above 1 will result in very large battles that take an hour for the bot to deploy (and it is not very fun to wait for 2-3 lances of allied units derping around). Per rank of strategy limits how many lances you can deploy based on your commander strategy level, with a minimum of 1 at 0.
Adjust contract payment for deployment limits should not come into effect unless you have a very large TO&E and a low strategy skill (don't do this, keep extra units in your hangar and not in your TO&E). Intensity is how often you will get battles, at the default setting of 1, you can expect to fight 3+ battles per month which is a tad high (a single lance destroying an entire battalion of enemy mechs in a 3 month raid contract is very silly). You may want to reduce this to 0.5 or lower to be more realistic.
Opfor lance type ratios determines the mixture of enemy units you will encounter. By default it was set to 1/2/3 and this generated mostly trash vehicles and very little challenge. Feel free to experiment with the ratios.
Adjust lance weight for player vehicles assumes that your vehicles are half weight, because vehicles are obviously less powerful than mechs.
Light conditions should remain off unless you want to derp around with quirks and searchlights in pitch black missions where finding the enemy force alone is a challenge.
Random enemy capture randomizes pilot captures. Every captured pilot will give you 50k c-bills as a ransom and there is a chance they will defect, defect chance is only rolled when they are captured and never again. Make sure to check the log after a battle because it will be lost if you advance the day. Remove prisoners with right click -> GM -> Remove person.
Step 3) actually building your merc company.
First, turn on GM mode as that will let you add dudes and mechs without paying for them, and edit their stats. To save time i suggest adding the following (check the ATB rules) :
-1 commander that is +1 gunnery/pilot better than your regular pilots, should have 2 points randomly distributed among leadership, strategy or tactics.
-One officer per extra lance that you want, who will either have +1 gunnery or piloting, should have 1 points randomly distributed among leadership, strategy or tactics.
-Regular pilots to fill up the extra lance slots (4/5 for regular skill level, 3/4 for veterans or clan regulars)
-1 doctor (with 4 permanent medics)
-1 tech (6 permanent astechs each) per 1 or 2 units (they will need to work on salvage tasks and maintain your units as well). Mech tech for mechs, mechanic for vehicles, etc.
-1 admin person of each type
Warning : MekHQ randomly rolled stats appear to be bugged and do not reflect actual odds in the rules, you will get mostly green/ultra green pilots. Save yourself the time and just edit their stats in GM mode. Add units in GM mode via "Purchase unit", the unit market is the non-GM way of buying units but the stuff on it is random.
Once all of that is done, go to the finances tab. Click "Add Funds(GM)" and give yourself 10-20% of your net worth in starting cash, and use that to buy replacement armor/ammo/other shit from "Purchase Parts (again, under market). You could also wait to do this after you're first mission, but I don't recommend it.
Step 4) Contracts
Now that you have your merc company up and running, go to marketplace, and select contract market. MakHQ might have generated a few already, or it might not have. Either way, look for a nice, easy contract. The best contracts are :
-The shortest durations
-Are close by (Spending 200 days to travel to the planet is a waste of time)
-Have easy opfors (green skill level, pirates, etc)
-Are either Liaison or Independant command level (Allied units take up lance slots, on house or lower command levels they are bot controlled and you get -1 contract score for every allied unit destroyed, so independant is the best)
-Have high transport, support and salvage terms (especially salvage, that's where you get most of your money)
The type of contract will determine the mission type and the chances of battles happening per week. There is NO incentive to engage in more battles than the minimum as the opfor is infinite. Pirate hunting is typically the best contracts as you can usually rout the pirates in a few months and complete the contract early (once the enemy morale level reaches Rout, it's an early victory). Avoid garrison duty as you will get stuck in it for ages when you could be completing multiple shorter term contracts in that time frame. Lance deployment type is also determined by the type of contract, raids typically require a scout deployment where units deploy in 6-walking speed turns, i suggest using mostly fast units of a uniform speed level in scout lances.
Riot duty has the chance of generating a special civilian riot battle where you can only bring units equipped with at least one small laser, flamer or MG. Have units prepared for this.
From there, go to the Briefing Room tab, and make a note of the planet name. Go to the Interstellar tab, input that into the textbox above the map and press enter (make sure the planet is actually selected) then Select "Calculate Jump-Path", then "begin Transit". then start mashing the advance day button until it tells you you've arrived in system. go back to the briefing room, and deploy your units as required by the contract (Middle-Bottom section).
Keep clicking advance day until the game gives you a battle (bottom left section). on the day of a battle, select the battle and the conditions will appear in the top-middle section. review them, deploy any reinforcement lances, then click "Start Game". this will open Megamek in a new Window with the forces already loaded. Play a normal game of megamek until you've achieved the victory conditions or gotten your asses kicked and end the battle. From there, Megamek should load the results automatically. Don't forget to hit the repair bay to un-fuck your mechs before the next battle.
Continue doing this until the date goes past the end date for your contract, and click complete mission. You'll get any remaining payments, make the rolls for retirement, and then you can start hunting for another contract. Note that contracts do not end automatically and every month the enemy makes a morale roll, when it reaches rout, you achieve an early victory.
If your contract score goes negative (typically by losing battles and getting allied units killed) you have failed the contract.
Step 5) Battle
I recommend using this megamek config file and edit it to your liking : https://www.mediafire.com/?67uztiza6yubja7. Just put it in your mmconf folder.
Note that Mek HQ does not transfer victory conditions to megamek automatically so you must set it yourself. You can set the battle to end automatically when a certain % of enemy BV is destroyed, etc. Declare /victory when you have achieved the victory conditions or when you want to end the battle.
Warning : MekHQ will not properly award kill XP or salvage sometimes, so you may need to do it manually. This seems to happen most often for units that have no chance of escaping when the game ends but is otherwise alive and relatively healthy.
It is quite common for the bot to freeze up. To fix this type /who to find the bot ID numbers and use /kick [ID] to kick the bot, then type /replacePlayer -b:Princess [bot name] to replace the bot.
Step 6) Salvage
At the end of every battle you get to salvage based on your contract terms and whether you have control of the battlefield. This is where you make the most money : fixing damaged units and increasing them to F quality can net you a huge profit, but will take time. Tip : A inoperable mech worth very little at the moment is a better salvage option than a undamaged one, as it takes up less salvage %, allowing you to salvage more units. Units marked "salvage" have been destroyed to the point where they cannot be repaired but contain useful components for salvage.
Step 7) Repair
Remember to go to your hangar and change the unit site location to transport bay or better or you will get a hefty repair/maintenance penalty. Every tech has a certain number of units that they can use for maintainance per day, you can right click -> extra time to make difficult repairs easier. If you have missing parts, go to the acquistion tab and order them (based off your Admin/Logistic's administration skill). If a repair/salvage fails, you need to use a tech one level higher to reattempt it. E.G. A Regular tech fails, you need to use a tech that is at least veteran level to try again. Elite techs that fail make the part impossible to fix and it needs to be scrapped. Using incorrect tech types, E.G. a mechanic on mechs, causes them to roll 3d6 and take the lowest two rolls.
Warning : Do not give a tech multiple tech skills of the lowest level unless they are equal skills levels. A elite mech tech with a green mechanic level will be forced to use the green mechanic level to work on vehicles due to a mekHQ bug.
If you need to, you can right click a unit and change it from repair to salvage mode to remove items from it, and then switch it back to repair. Useful to grind xp if your techs have nothing better to do.
Step 8) Customizing units
You can customize any unit you want and it doesnt even cost c-bills most of the time (except when buying new parts, etc). Its relatively simple to replace an existing weapon in the same location with something of the same or smaller size, but any major refits will probably be at least D level. Veteran and elite techs can make refits one and two levels below the listed site location if necessary (e.g. a veteran tech can do a maintanence level refit in a transport bay), and they will make a roll for success once time is up. Failing the roll simply restarts the timer but you do not need to roll for success again. The tech selected for refit is stuck and cannot be removed or be assigned to repair tasks, but will be available for regular maintenance.
Once you successfully perform a refit, that particular refit is now available as a refit kit which is easier to refit than doing it through the meklab. Canon variants of the same unit are available as a refit kit from the beginning so you might not need to use the meklab. Customizing units can make your force VERY powerful, use with care (5/8/5 jump mechs loaded with pulse lasers for example).
Step 9) Drop/jumpships
By default mekHQ assumes that you can instantly hire a drop/jumpship and they dissapear once you reach the planet. You may wish to buy your own ships (which takes many months to find due to the buggy personnel market) or assumes you are keeping them on hire and deduct funds accordingly. You cannot actually deploy them in battles unless the relevant campaign option is checked however.
Step 10) Personnel market
Every week you have a random chance of having one personnel available for hire depending on your HR admin skill (appears to be bugged). When deployed on a contract you can make paid recruitment rolls which may give you more potential recruits than normal.
Warning : Ship searches are bugged as it is only supposed to cost 100k a month but the money is deducted every week.
Personnel may come with their own unit, and if they have one, they will have a unit tab in the personnel market.
Warning : Right click -> hire full complement mostly generates green/ultra green pilots, use with caution.
There is also a major flaw with the way vehicle crews, infantry, etc are handled. The overall unit skill level in megamek is determined by the AVERAGE skill level of the entire unit (minus vehicle drivers). Hiring an elite soldier may get you a ultra green infantry platoon and it takes many times longer to hire decent vehicle crews as you have to hire them one by one instead of the whole crew at once. I suggest using GM mode to give the whole crew the same skill level as the one you hired.