Identify Your Role / Pick A Battlemech That Suits Your Role
Before you even pick your Battlemech you should identify the type of player that you are. Your play style and the role you want to play in the group will usually determine what 'Mech would best suit you. You should be piloting a 'Mech that fits your role and style of play.
Do you prefer to operate on your own? Are you the guy that likes to flank behind the enemy or scout them out? Maybe you like to be the distraction, keeping the back lines busy while the front line troops get into position. The roles that best suit those type of players is Scout, Headhunter (gets behind the enemy, shoots them in back or head) or Decoy. Fast moving light and medium 'Mechs are best suited for these roles (e.g.: Jenner, Raven).
The scouts job is to identify the enemy 'Mechs so you can prioritize the major targets. They also can flank the enemy, get behind them to core them or be used to draw them out. Often times players will get stuck into the first person shooter mentality and want to focus on someone trying to get that kill shot. When they are focused like that they tend to lose focus of their team and try to continue after them to kill them.
Strikers are generally fast BattleMechs, second only to Scouts, and armed with what would be considered a loadout of heavy, close-in weapons. In their strike role, they run in to face the enemy units and then let loose with as much firepower as they can unleash quickly. Generally operating in lance formations with other Strikers, they'll attack one designated target until it is removed as a battle-capable unit. While often costly in 'Mechs, these bold tactics often favor significant damage to the enemy.
Do you prefer to be support class? Maybe you like to shoot at long range with missiles or snipe at the enemy with your PPC and/or Gauss Rifles. The roles that fall into the support class are usually long range 'mechs or escorts.
Support Roles fall into multiple categories. Some of these types are Missile Boats, Snipers and Escorts. It is certain more exist. When dealing with the role of support, don't be afraid to experiment with your squad.
Some options are as follows. You can be long range support standing on the "high" ground and either snipe, or rain down LRMs on your foe. By peppering the enemy at the distance, you keep them distracted for the rest of your force. Another choice, you are an escort for heavier mechs. Your job isn't necessarily to be the one with the kill shots but, to make sure the heavies survive, to get the kill shots. Of course you do this by escorting them by weaving in and out drawing enemy fire, and letting your team do the rest. You want to be sure that you stop scouts, skirmishers, and striker mechs from getting the drop on the big guns.
Defending your base usually falls into the hands of support. Support mechs don't need to stay at base but, should be ready to run back if situation requires it.
Missile boats are known for their use of long-range missiles as a primary weapon in the mission of fire support, whereby they attack the enemy from a protective distance with indirect fire. In order to either protect the Missile boat or take full advantage of its mission, Skirmishers and Strikers generally close with the targeted enemy units, while the fire-support launches from behind full cover, such as a hill.
Snipers are BattleMechs associated with a specific fire-support mission on the battlefield, as characterized by the powerful long-range, direct-fire primary weapons. Though slow compared to the faster Skirmishers and Strikers, speed is not as much as a factor when used at a distance that protects them from the majority of counter-fire. Though this use of a protected position (also known as a "sniper's nest") is shared by the Missile boats, the two are differentiated by the latter's use of indirect fire weaponry. Since the Sniper cannot attack from a completely hidden location, it usually fires from woodlands or other partial cover. It is common to have Snipers protected from fast enemy units by Strikers or Brawlers.
Battle / Assault
Do you prefer to be the big heavy? You like to wade into battle like a warrior, get into the thick of it and just unleash everything. Your role in battle is usually the Frontline or Brawler roles.
This isn't the easiest of roles, as you can get easily overwhelmed. Just because you are the biggest bully on the block doesn't make you invincible; if you are overheating constantly, then you can't focus your fire effectively. Even though you have a lot of heat sinks, if you don't time your shots properly, you can easily overheat, leaving yourself a huge target.
Frontline / Brawler Role
Brawlers are considered to have less mobility than some other combatants, such as Skirmishers, but compensate for this with shorter-range weapons, heavy armor and a nasty reputation. Most often assigned to assault missions, they also serve to protect the slower Juggernauts.
Skirmishers are considered to be 'Mechs suitably adapted to a fluid combat environment, due in part to their weaponry, armor and speed, able to directly engage the enemy well enough to inflict appreciable damage. Their flexibility allows a battlefield commander considerable leeway when compensating for both tactical situations and local topography. They are often utilized as a partner to slower or lighter 'Mechs, engaging the enemy while the other unit manuevers to complete the mission.
Juggernaut units are designed with weaponry and armor foremost, speed being a minor consideration, because all these 'Mechs need to do is advance slowly but steadily in order to break a line. They are rarely fielded because they are easy to outmaneuver, when they reach the battlefield something is going to die. When paired with Skirmishers and Strikers they can be very devastating.
Picking a Battlemech is also important because not all 'Mechs are the same. Be sure to look at the hardpoints for the mechs here. Let's say you wanted to versatile design and you picked something you thought you could easily swap out weapons. For the most parts weapons are easy to swap out but you are still limited to the amount of hardpoints. You pick your 'Mech and decide you like but want to protect your missiles more so you want to move them from your arms to torso. As you can see you won't be able to do that. So if you bought this design with the hopes of adapting it to your needs you might find it won't do exactly what you need. After you identify what role you like to play, it is important when you pick your 'Mech that it not only suit you but plan ahead for what you may need it to also do in the future.