Monday, 5 May 2014

UCM: Jack of all trades; Masters of WIN

Me again, popping up to say hi and delivering the third part of my UCM tactica. In case you missed parts 1 and 2 they are here;

Part 1: UCM Getting Started
Part 2: Expanding from the UCM starter

Pass me the PHR can opener

This time I will be focusing on battle-group synergy and list building. I will get on to deployment strategies later. Now obviously it is all based on my gaming experience and how I play, which is quite aggressively. Sometimes I try to be cautious, but it just doesn't suit me. 

Battlegroup Synergy

What I mean by this is how different units interact with each other in a battlegroup and in an army. This is sometimes not immediately apparent, and can take a few games to learn.

The best way to start thinking about synergy is by picking a unit, understanding what it does and understanding what can help it achieve maximum potential. The best place to start are with the things that you must have in an army. 
So, for the UCM they are:
  • 1 Kodiak
  • 1 squad of Legionnaires
  • 1 squad of either Sabres or Katanas
I'll start with the Kodiak, it has an indirect firing space laser of Doom! which needs something in your army to have line of sight (LoS) to the target. It has a +2 Ac modifier if it can't be seen by the Kodiak, unless a Scout unit can spot for you, if so, the +2 is negated. Having a unit of scouts in your Command battlegroup makes sense then. 
You can activate the scouts first within the battlegroup and make sure they are in a position to spot the right target for the Kodiak. The scout units available are the Praetorian Snipers, Wolverines and the Starsprite drones from the Ferrum (support). Normally I go with the Ferrum or Wolverine A's - both are very useful units.

On to Legionnaires. They win you games, simple as. Without them you can't search for objectives, search for intel or get into enemy structures. The problem with Legionnaires is that they are the worst troops in the game. They need help, a lot of help!
Within an infantry battlegroup there is a support slot (at clash level). The UCM have an abundance of support choices, but which ones would actually aide the infantry. I've narrowed it down a bit to the best 4:
Fireblades - You can burn out your enemy before entering and finish off what remains with the Legionnaires. The Fireblade also acts as a huge deterrent to enemy infantry.
Eagle - If enemy troops are in a building, the Eagle has 6 high energy shots to pound the walls with. The resulting falling masonry can help turn the tide before CQB commences, or can destroy a building with enemy troops inside. 
Ferrum - the drones are so quick, they can take out enemy light dropships either before they disembark their troops in a building, leaving them vulnerable, or after the enemy is in the building, stranding them.
Rapiers - Much the same reason as the drones, taking out enemy dropships stops their troops hurting yours and prevents them winning the game, can also reaction fire - don't underestimate the usefulness of reactioning (I think I just made up a new word). 

My personal favourites are the Fireblades or the Rapiers. Currently my Fireblades love to make smoking boots out of Sirens <big smiley happy face> 

Finally onto Sabres or Katanas? - difficult question to answer, and I think it comes down to 2 things; player preference and what mission you are playing. 
If, like me, you try to make "take all comers" lists without knowing what mission you might play then it is totally dependent on your personal preference and what other units are in your list. 
Let's start with the Katanas as they are shiny and new. I have run these in packs of 3, 6 and 9 and I think the optimum number is 6. I found 9 far to clunky to drop-off and manoeuvre, which can drastically diminish their output. 
Now 3 was just too little to be effective, you feel very vulnerable as soon as you lose even 1 Katana. So 6, but what do you support them with? In the past few weeks I have been using 2 Longbows. I would drop the Longbows somewhere safe on turn 1 and rush the 6 Katanas 18" in their Condors for a turn 2 drop and double smoke. The problem with this is that the longbows will be affected by the Katanas smoke making it a 4+ to get off the Longbow smoke. This reduces the effectiveness of the Longbows almost by half on a crucial turn. 
I think what actually compliments the Katana well is the Eagle. Having these 2 together means that you have a really good chance of removing a 20 damage point building in 1 go, and even the chance to drop a 30 point building! Everyone moans about the lack of demolisher in a UCM army, but the shear weight of shots can be crippling to any building.
You can use the Katana as a drive-on or give it Condors depending on what you want to do with it. 
So on to Sabres, if you choose Sabres over Katanas, then it's probably to be your main anti-tank. The best thing to go with anti tank is more anti tank; Eagles and Falcons spring to mind or possibly more Sabres. 3 Sabres in a battle-group is a little light, 3 plus an eagle or a couple of Falcons can be destructive and 6 Sabres and an Eagle/Falcons is downright nasty.  

Now that you are thinking about synergy, it's time to write an army list. As I said before, I normally write mine as a take all comers list for a tournament I'll be attending. You will normally know what missions you'll be playing, so you can prepare a little. 
As an example, if I was going to a 3 game tournament and the missions were: 

  • Targets of Opportunity
  • Recon 
  • Land Grab
I would start by asking myself some questions:
Too many questions!!
  1. How many troops will I need, how fast do I need them and should I include exotics?
  2. How do I kill enemy troops?
  3. How much vehicle/aircraft?
  4. How much anti-air?
  5. What sized commander?
To answer them, you need to know firstly how to play each mission and secondly how to win each mission. 
So to answer the first question of how many troops, if you look at the spread of missions, you will need a good amount of troops for Targets and Recon. The more troops you have the more searching you can do. But in Land Grab you don't want too many as it is a points sink with little reward as there are no objectives to find/extract, in fact you are more likely to get into CQB in a land grab mission. 
Selecting whether to go Ravens or Bears is easy for me, it's Ravens every time. They keep the cost of your troops down as you only need 2 bases and they are more maneuverable. In targets you can bust a gut on turn 1 to go 24" and command the centre of the board, back them up with some Fireblades and who wants to enter a building? In recon they are the most effective for relocation to a different building, and having lots of cheap troops is great for this mission. In Land Grab they can hang back until they are needed (late game) and go hold a focal point. 
On to exotics, do I take Praetorians or not, there is a 44pt difference between legionnaires in a Raven and Praetorians in a Raven, so initially I say yes, but if you really need to drop down you can.
To answer "how many?" I would think 4 squads. In Targets, 2 can enter your back board building to double the chance of finding an objective on turn 2. The other 2 squads can bomb towards the middle to search the centre buildings as early as possible. In Recon you have 4 squads to gather intel, jumping from one building to the next. Taking them in Ravens makes them cheaper and more points efficient too. Also try to include a squad of Praetorians, which seemlessly gets us to question 2.
The UCM have loads of ways to kill enemy troops. The best ways are to knock them out the sky and there is only one way to do this effectively and often, the Starsprite drones. With their 15" Mf they are a constant threat to light dropships and if you kill nothing but light dropships then they have done well. Once in buildings it's very different, Fireblades will annihilate low armoured troops, Sirens, Warriors, Immortals and Aged ones will be smokin' boots. It's a little tougher against Braves and First Borns, but there is only a small amount on a base soften them up then chuck in a couple of squads of Legionnaires to finish them off.....or send in the Praetorians. They can go toe to toe with anything, honestly. Just don't let them get left on a building on their own as falling masonry will decimate them.
Another crucial question is the ratio of vehicles to aircraft, in Targets and Recon it doesn't matter one little bit. But in a Focal point mission aircraft cannot contribute their points or hold the objective. This is a minor problem for UCM as we have very good aircraft units like the Eagle and Falcon. When building a UCM list it will be tank heavy anyway so the odd Eagle shouldn't matter too much. You can be a bit more reckless with it too as the opponent won't want to use up too much fire power on something that can't win the game. 
Anti-air is a tough question to answer, lets be honest - most people will be taking a Ferrum they are awesome. The drones can handle most things but they cannot reaction fire therefore you need something else. Rapiers are the obvious choice, they are tough and have a cracking amount of firepower, but they are expensive. Wolverines can fill the void; they are mobile, have decent effective range and can reaction fire. 
Lastly question 5, what sized commander? I normally take a level 3 for 60 points. It's run-of-the-mill average. You won't win many activations and you get 3 cards (not too shabby, but the cards aren't much cop for UCM). Lately I have been using a level 4 commander, he's expensive at 95 points, I've enjoyed it but it is a massive points drain, especially in Land Grab where your Kodiak is not next to a focal point, and if he is then it will get blown up! I'd settle on lvl 3. 

So my list would be something like this

Kodiak (Lieutenant) 

Katana x6 

Legionnaires Raven

Legionnaires x2 Raven A
Legionnaires x2 Raven A 
Fireblades x3 Condor

Gladius x4 Condor x2 (m)

Wolverine A x4
Praetorians x2 Raven A

So thats 1499 points and covers everything, 6 battle-groups, 3 units of Legionnaires and a unit of Praetorians for objectives, the ability to wipe out buildings and some anti tank in the Gladius. We are a touch low on the AA, I would have preferred 6 wolverines, but beggars can't be choosers!

I hope this has been insightful, and next time I will talk about deployment strategies and how to stay alive.

Laters taters



  1. really interesting posts for a newbie UCM like me... just sad that nowbody talks about fast movers... are they really so bad? i found them inconsistent in our first game but they feel like they have potential to win games....

    1. Thanks, and welcome to the game. I actually think Fast Movers are excellent, the problem is the mechanic to bring them in. I don't mind the reserve roll, what I think hinders them is the attack roll. Having to roll a 2+ to make them do their attack run when they are available is silly. The Fast Movers are already high points cost (which is fair for the damage they can place anywhere on the battlefield) but they are too unreliable. Edchopp took a Seraphim to Invasion in Feb, and in 5 games it made successful attacks 7 times. That just isn't good enough. I hope that Hawk revise the current fast mover rules as I love my Archangels, they are the reason I bought into the UCM - they are just so cool.

  2. I am starting to fear the same thing. I LOVE the Seraphim, however the chance to roll any one of three 1s start to stack the odds against them. If I roll a 1 to not get them in, that is crippling, if I roll a 1 to hit, that is crippling and if I roll a 1 to damage then it is crippling. Basically there ends up being a chance of 125/216 that your shot gets through, this means that there is a 42% chance that your 115 point model does nothing!! This is also not taking into account reaction fire that could potentially (granted unlikely with the Seraphim, unless it is scourge) kill it as well. I really want to use them but when you run the stats they seem highly overpriced or unreliable in the least.

  3. Fellow newbie here for ucm . Very insightful read for me . Thank you