Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The New Standard

Just before Christmas Hawk tantalised us with their advent calendar, showing close up shots of the new releases, followed soon after by full pictures of the new models due to hit the shelves in the following quarter. Slowly but surely after Christmas the new models were released, expanding the standard and support slots (as well as a few other more specialised slots) to give a nice broad range of base choices, which in my opinion the game needed.

The expansion of standard slots for all armies (except the PHR who have a few already) had been a long time coming, and from general opinion Hawk didn't fail to disappoint! Each unit is different enough to its fellow counterpart, but are the new units equal to, better or worse than the existing ones? As they have been out for a few months now and the necessary play testing has been done, I thought it would be worth comparing them with the first units, along with a couple of non-standard units before the rules are cemented in concrete in the new expansion book (Reconquest: Phase 1).

So here we go. We’re going right now. So don’t go away. Are you ready? You should be. Because here we go!

UCM standard choice - Katana

Overview: Before the release of the Katana the UCM had been threatening to become a little stale. With only the Ferrum as their most ‘specialised’ and truly exotic unit (in terms of function and look, not selection choice) prior to this (I exclude the Praetorian Snipers because, well, they just don’t work unfortunately. They are about as effective as a wet flannel is at tending to a forest fire) they were in desperate need of a new unit to give them a different way to play the army. Enter the Katana. When the rules were first released this was widely regarded as the best new unit; they each fire 2 E9 shots which hit on a 2+, so 6 can deal out a whopping 12 shots! Not only are they super effective at shooting down light tanks (they are public enemy number to Scourge and Shaltari armies) they bring a ton of building demo to the party. Also their smoke is not at all gimmicky, and can save them when their commander drops them in a dangerous zone (see what I did there?). As with everything in DzC though, they do have an Achilles heel which in this case is their armour.

Katana vs Sabre: Many thought, myself included, that the Katana would supersede the Sabre. It is quicker and easier to manoeuvre, can make itself harder to hit and throws out more AT shots as a squad than almost anything else in DzC! What we all failed to realise though was that being armour 9 makes it vulnerable. In fact, super vulnerable. If given the opportunity a PHR, Scourge, or even to some extent UCM army will plough through the unit. 2+ to hit (most turns) followed by a 3+/4+ to kill is dangerous, and if the dice are with your opponent you can end up removing your tanks disappointingly fast. What the Sabre still brings to the table is a more solid squad, a little more boring and more vanilla yes, but solid nether the less. They will die less frequently, you need less and the articulate rule means you don’t have to worry about deploying your models efficiently.

Verdict: The Katana is still awesome, but possibly not as good as we first thought. I would say it is an equal to the Sabre; different tools for different jobs. Don’t be disappointed by this though, it just means Hawk are doing things right! If you have 4 Gladius or 2 Eagle’s (or both, you filthy rotter) then Katana’s are the tanks for you, simply because you won’t need the Sabre’s qualities.

Scourge standard choice - Stalker

Overview: As we all know the Scourge have plenty of firepower. This comes in all shapes and sizes, from excellent gunships to the diddy Prowler, and more typically the Hunter. If there was one race who didn't need a new standard unit (from the angle of army balance, rather than want from players) it was probably the Scourge. Thankfully they got the Stalker, which has plugged a hole in the Scourge force I hadn't noticed until recently. It turns out that the Scourge are very light on the ground for focal point missions and encroachment, and although the Stalker is very cheap they are pretty survivable and have a devastating gun (because the Scourge needed more big guns...). True, it can't hurt buildings, but who cares when your commander can cause a potential 14 points of demo in one go. They are however slow and need to be dropped in the second or third sections of the battlefield. This does bring me round to another excellent feature of the unit though, which is the necessity for a Harbinger! These dropships quickly nulify the cheapness of their passengers but make up for it by being very hardy and having AA (the only other AA on a non FM other than drones!).

Stalker vs Hunter: It's hard to compare these units as they are so, so different. The Hunter harasses, distracts and can be brutal at hounding down back board units like Coyotes and Enyos. The Stalker instead consolidates positions and gives the Scourge a zone in which they can manoeuver around a little more safely. Just in case this isn't an option though, they hit like a trench knife to the man-sacks. If you don't know what a trench knife is, google the brutal piece of equipment now! That made you want to stay clear of them didn't it? Good.

Verdict: I'm glad to say that the stalker very much has a place in the Scourge army, and a player looking to overwhelm an adversary with fire power would do well with both these and Hunters in their list. They are equally as good at being the only standard choice too, so if you are looking to field a tonne of reavers or a few annihilators these will fit in nicely.

Shaltari standard choice - Tarantula

Overview: Before the Tarantula came along I had been moaning for a long time; this in its own right isn't surprising,  I am a moany bastard after all. My DzC moans though were typically aimed at the hapless Tomahawk, which lets face it, probably deserved to be moaned at. It's not that it's a bad unit, on paper it's pretty good, but they just don't seem to do anything. In a world of A10 tanks having an E10 gun and paper thin armour just doesn't seem to be enough to cause any actual damage. Enter the Tarantula. This lightly armoured speedy spider is my pick of the new standard units, not just because I play Shaltari but because I really think it should be the go to standard unit for a Shaltari player. It may be expensive, lightly armoured and hard to deploy but they kill things. Notice the bold font? It's that reason, and that reason alone that they are better. They are easier to hit and not as good at demo at long range but when the grav gun opens up big things just explode! The fact that they are so good at killing tanks also brings a large psychological fear to the unit.  After all, what PHR player wants their walkers in front of something that doubles up on a 5+. At 55 points and A8 a model they are balanced though, and you still have to be cautious with them.

Tarrntula vs Tomahawk: You may have guessed already, but unlike the other two new standard units I do favour the Tarantula over its skimmer counterpart. In a nutshell it's just more useful. In a battlefield it's also more useful too (Ba Dum Pish.). You need 6 Tomahawks to get the desired effect, and 4 spiders will do it better for cheaper. That said in games of 1000 points or less you are likely to find less scary enemy units, so 3 or 4 hawks may be worth taking instead.

Verdict: The Tarantula hasn't made the Tomahawk redundant, but it is pretty close. If they were mass 1 I think that would have been it for the grav tank. As I have mentioned in earlier posts the spiders can be hard to deploy and take a bit of getting used too, but once they click they have the capacity to beast midtable.

As always I'm sure you have different opinions to me, and I would love to hear them so don't be afraid to comment! I will be following this up with a comparison of a few non-standard, but new units in the near future!

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