Wednesday, 12 November 2014

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover

Cracking book, but who commissioned this cover?
It looks like a theatrical version of Star Wars.
Not many sayings in this world are as true the title to this post. For instance:

'Don't go out with wet hair, you'll catch your death.' False.
'Often, less is more.' This is clearly not true. I would argue my new TV with you.
'A carpenter is known by his chips.' I don't even really understand this one, but I would think a carpenter would be known through work on house fixtures and storage ideas, rather than their work with potatoes.

There are many hidden gems out there in the world, overlooked by people due to a lack of glossy marketing tactics forcing them into your mind-tanks, and the world of wargaming is no stranger to this. There will always be the big, obvious shiny units like the Ferrum or Hades, which scream 'Use me, I'll make all your dreams come true big boy', but unsung smaller units tend to populate our battlefield.

Dropzone is no exception to this, and here are a few units which I think are owed more credit than they generally receive:

The Yari

On paper the Yari is too expensive to start off with, and on top of this you have to buy a gun for it. Although there are two options of gun to choose from, the Microwave Cannon is practically redundant, meaning the the more expensive Light Ion Cannon AA variant is your only choice. This brings each one up to a pricey total of 27 points, meaning a decent unit of three sets you back a whopping 81 points. This is very expensive for three paper thin units with one shot each! For perspective, you can get four AA Wolverines for 72 points or five missile variants for just 64 points.

I first started using the Yari due to the necessity of needing scouts in my list. I walk my Coyote on from the board edge, as I don't use a Dreamsnare to keep it alive, and even with a CV4 commander my SoI was typically limited only to my board half. With some of the shenanigans Shaltari can pull with their cards, extending my SoI bubble was something I needed to add to my army and the Yari was the easiest way to fit it in.

After a couple of games of using the skimmers, I was completely won over by them. Not only do they extend your SoI bubble incredibly well due to their outrageous speed, they can get sneak into unexpected areas very quickly. This either forces your opponent to deal with three seemingly irrelevant scouts, which I will add are harder than get rid of than you would think, or to just simply ignore them. If ignored they excel at clipping 1DP of large dropships, and even better than this they can sneak into your adversaries board half and take out light dropships with only average dice needed. They can also claim focal points, and at 81 points for three they are fairly efficient at winning them too.

These features have made three of the Scouts a must take in all my tourney lists, and they have literally won me games. They are largely ignored by people, due to me either hiding them or the tanks seemingly being in a 'useless' place. Most people forget they have a 24” effective range!

The Minder

Poor old Minder. Your first run between the 70's and 90's was made a mockery off by Shane Richie and co...

I'm obviously not talking about the TV series (those of you outside the UK and some of you in it probably
have no understanding of the joke above), but of the humble Scourge flying jellyfish. Scourge AA has always seemed a little sparse; although the Reaper is plenty powerful, each tank only has two shots each, making it fairly rubbish for dealing with swarms and reaction firing in general. To add on top of this, it hits all ground units at a 6+, whereas all other AA hits on a 3+. So the Scourge needed an air suppression unit.

The pre-jelly-pre-Richie Minder
Before the introduction of the Ravager, this option seemed to be unfulfilled. The only other AA unit available to the Scourge was the Minder. This weird, floaty bug machine seems like a strange option, and on paper really falls short of being any use. It can only move 4”, so it more or less stays wherever it is dumped by its Intruder, and it only has a shot range of 6”. To top things off, they are so pathetically armoured that a strong gust of wind could knock it out of the sky! However...

The gun is E6, and hits on a 2+. Again, you only hit ground units on a 6+ but when using an E6 gun, what viable targets are on the ground bar scouts? 'Come on Zombie, E6 is pretty average!' I hear you cry, well, your probably not adding on the fact that these guys are only 56 points for four and their Intruder. Take two squads (or one big one if you are short on slots) and drop them in front of an important building or bit of air space, and you have eight E6 guns shooting down light dropships for fun. They'll even have a good pop at Eagles and Condors, and Neptunes at a push!

I had always had an inclining that they could work, but at the time nobody was using Scourge so it was an experiment we couldn't run. A year or so later and Mega Mike has nailed the use of them, proving that if used efficiently they fill the suppression gap perfectly. An optimal amount in an army is eight in two squads (as if one dropship gets shot down, you don't have too worry about unit coherency), and I would take them over Ravagers for a sole AA role.

Oh yeh, I almost forgot. They are Scouts too!

The Ares

The PHR have a decent amount of choices across the board, but until recently the spread has been a little one sided. As is their mission statement, they excel in Heavy slots (Oh boy do they have Heavy choices!) and your flavour of army used to depend on which heavy walkers you decided to take. As such, the rest of the army was fleshed out with troops choices and AA.

The Phobos was, for a long while, the only dedicated PHR AA unit, and has a peculiar standing in that it is a standard choice. Due to this, and the costs implied in adding heavy units to an army, the other standard choices were fairly overlooked. One of these was the completely forgettable Ares.

The introduction of the Helios as a support choice, and as a more manoeuvrable AA choice, has thrown more choices into the PHR army. Because of this addition the Phobos isn't an auto-include any more, leaving the Ares open to now be chosen. Unlike the Yari and Minder, the Ares on paper is decent and is the loosest fit in the 'not judging by it's cover', because it's cover isn't actually too bad. It is hardy and leaves dents in anything it targets, as is the PHR way, and also hits anything on a 3+ (I'll come back to this in a minute). All this for only 42 points a model.  

Hitting any unit on a 3+ is incredible. It still hits normal units on a 2+, but the ability to shoot skimmers in cover on a 3+, and then destroy them on a 2+ is breathtaking! Four Ares are odds on for removing a unit of three Hunters in one round of shooting. The new Evasive countermeasures rule makes this weapon even more viable. Hitting pesky freeriders on a 3+? Yes please! Only Hawk know what units we are going to see with Evasive in the future (actually, they probably don't even know at the moment), but the Ares will be ready and waiting and smiling knowingly.

I think part of the reason we don't see more Ares is because when compared to the rest of the PHR line up they look underpowered. In fact, there is almost nothing in the game which looks as scary as an Odin (okay, apart from the Hades), and the fact that you can field four to six of the brutes is so tempting it tends to happen more often than not.

Cyborg / traitors of humanity players out there, give them a run of three games against varied opponents. I doubt you will be sorry!

The Resistance don't have a mention simply because they are too new, and the UCM because they are so very balanced. The closest unit is the Longbow, but these guys are used a fair amount so aren't really 'unsung heroes'.

If you can think of any more units just hollah in the comments!


  1. Intersting post and i totally agree with it. Except UCM: C'mon sell us the Scimitar or the Falcon ^^ *g*

    to be true my regular opponent uses Ares in a 2:1 ratio to every other walker (except he wants 2 nasty "in your face" type 2 lances...)

    Minders i have only encounered once but exactly as put by you... and maan.. i hate it to have to waste AA shots at them...

    Yari i use myself... actually everytime i build a list. And funny thing: i even get some use out of the microwavegun sometimes... ^^

    1. The thing with Scimitars and Falcons, are that they look ok on paper but in game they suck. Which, I guess, is the opposite of this post.

    2. I agree with MM, I would rather spend the points value of the Schimitar on toasters for all the Legionnaires Ravens and Bears, for their pre-drop pop tart.

      The Falcon is *okay* but isn't great. There is a strangely out of hand argument regarding its gun on the Hawk forum at the mo. It probably won't lead to anything productive (too many cooks and all) but will highlighted it's worst points.

  2. While I have a bit of hard time with the Yari I absolutely see their point with increasing the SOI for the Shaltari. I have always thought the minders great though and have always been afraid of the Ares. I like to play the "+2 to hit card" on my hunters and Odins or not - they will just waste their shots. I really love the minders with their ability to reactive fire and hit on 4+. I usually activate them last or second last and disembark them around an enemy dropship that has moved (preferred light dropships) and just ignore them until the later activations next turn. The opponent must shoot the minders down before moving their dropship and that soaks a lot of AA fire. It is a really nice tactic! For 112 points they are dirt cheap for 8.

    BTW a good post. Thanks. /Egge

    1. That's how I use my minders too. They are so good at surrounding enemy light dropships. If they get away, just load up and chase them!
      I also love my Yari's they are so quick, and have a huge effective range!

  3. as a UCM player I have really suffered the minders, they seem awesome at maintaining at bay my sprites... they rarely kill much, but they force me to change my battleplans, and being so swarmeable makes them quite anoying, you can have powerful AA but rarely enough rate of fire to kill them all...

    Also I miss the falcon in here... it doesnt seem good on paper... nor does the seraphim... the latter being as bad in board as in paper...