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Heat is the enemy of all mechs. Everything a mech does from walking to firing off weapons generates heat. Even the environment can contribute to heat buildup in a mech and don't forget those damned heat penalties for having to many of one kind of weapon. What does this mean for you as a pilot? Well a few things. When you design your mech you need to keep in mind that each weapon system has its own heat-to-damage ratio. (I’ll leave detailed analysis of what weapon is best when it comes to this ratio to someone better at match than I am). You have to keep in mind that loading up that Atlas with 50 medium lasers might make for one helluva first strike but once you shutdown due to an overheat you’re a sitting duck.
So how do I counter heat you ask? Heat sinks! They are your best friend. They will dissipate (although not prevent) heat buildup in your mech. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when designing a mech is assuming that more heat sinks will prevent your mech from generating heat. This is not how the game mechanic works. I won’t go into detailed examples in this guide but keep an eye on the heat efficiency tab in the mech lab when you are placing weapon systems and deciding on how many heat sinks to use. Keep in mind that each heat sink weighs one ton so you have to find a good balance that works for you.
Armor is a pretty simple aspect of mech design at first glance but there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The more you have the more damage you can sustain in battle. Now keep in mind that the amount of overall armor you have doesn’t mean you are invincible. Each weight class has a maximum amount of armor allowed based on whether it is a light, medium, heavy, or assault. You will have to decide how important survivability is to you and how much weight you want to dedicate to armor allocation. A mech is divided into 11 locations. These locations are: Head, Legs, Arms, Center Torso, Right Torso, and Left Torso. Now I know what you’re asking, “There are only 8 sections listed!” I’ll explain that next. One important aspect to keep in mind when assigning armor to your mech is that the three torsos have front and back sections. Therefore, armor allocated to those locations is divided between front and rear. So if a center torso has a maximum points of 40 allowed you will have to decide how much to allocate between front and rear. I know I stated I would not get into specific configurations but I feel it is important to note that most pilots choose to allocate the majority if armor to front locations because ideally you will not have mechs taking potshots at your rear armor for prolonged periods of time. I’ll leave it to you to decide just how much armor is important for your build but experiment to find what works for your playstyle.
Engines are pretty straightforward. The bigger the engine the faster your mech goes. The trade-off is weight. The bigger the engine the more it weighs and the less tonnage you have to work with when it comes to armor, heat sinks, and weapons. If speed is your priority, you’ll want to drop in a bigger engine at times. Now engines have one more interesting decision to make when it comes to which one you should use. There are two engine types to choose from. I won’t debate which one is better but I will give you a general idea of the pros and cons so you can make an educated decision. XL engines give you a higher maximum speed while weighing less than its standard counter-part of the same size. So an XL engine might give you an extra 15/kph and freeing up an extra 3 tons to use for other systems in your mech. Well what’s the downside you ask? XL engines take up slots in all 3 torso locations. This has the dual effect of taking up more crit slots and making it easier for enemy mechs to obtain engine hits on your mech, which will result in your mech’s destruction. XL engines also carry a hefty price tag and can be quite expensive to repair so that is definitely something to keep in mind when it comes to engine decision. Once again, I will leave it to you to decide what an acceptable trade-off is when it comes to these decisions.