Tuesday, 26 May 2015

What are the Shaltari drawbacks?

I don't think the Shaltari have any drawbacks.
.........there, I said it.

Now think about it for a bit.
They really don't.

In this post I will be discussing what I have just said. Also what I mean by it too. I might even draw some conclusions and possibly some solutions. Who knows?

Lets discuss drawbacks; what are they? and why are they needed?

In a tabletop wargame, in fact in most games, to balance out each faction they need to have a reason to use them and a reason or reasons not to.

Dropzone Commander is no different. Currently there are 5 armies/factions whatever you want to call them. On the face of it each one has it's positives and it's drawbacks. I have listed below what I believe the drawbacks of each army to be, I may have missed one or two, but you can forgive me that.....can't you?

  • Low number of high energy shots 
  • Very short ranged 
  • Light armour 
  • Fragile aircraft 
  • Can't play long range demo 
  • Tied to transports 
  • Ridiculously slow walkers and dropships 
  • Low number of high energy shots 
  • High armoured aircraft that are slow 
  • Tied to transports 
  • No gunships 
  • Slow (not the slowest) 
  • Low number of damage points per unit 
  • Typically high number of low energy shots 
  • Fragile aircraft 
  • Weakest infantry in both categories 
  • No resistance to falling masonry 
  • Tied to transports 
  • Slow in the armoured section 
  • Light armour/no countermeasures in the non-armoured section 
  • High number of low energy shots 
  • Slow medium dropships 
  • Tied to transports 
  • No standard light dropships 
  • No resistance to falling masonry 

For the eagle-eyed viewer, you may have realised that I have not got a list of drawbacks for the Shaltari. I will address these on an individual basis, and tell you why I don't think they are drawbacks at all.

Low Armour
Low armour is seen as the Shaltari's biggest drawback, but you'd think that low armour meant that it would be easy to remove Shaltari models from the board. Unfortunately it's not. Having a passive save across the whole army and a skimmer bonus makes Shaltari skimmers (the units with armour 7) some of the most resilient units in the game. Let me explain with some wonderful tables I've made.

This table show the % chance to do 1dp hitting on a 2+ against the normal* armour choices.
Looking at the table the 's' is for skimmer, and the P5+ is for a 5+ Passive save.

*When I state normal armour choices, I haven't included any Command units as firstly, they are not prevalent in the game (normally 1 model in an entire army) and secondly as the table would be a lot bigger with the different variances that they bring.

The table is not easy to compare, so I have averaged the results and ranked them as can be seen below.

We can see from the 3 tables that Armour 10 with a 5+ Passive save is the best you can get (PHR type 2's take a bow). I think everyone already knew that though. In second place come the Shaltari skimmers. They are the second most resilient unit in the game - Tomahawks, Kukuri and Caimen are the way to go it seems.

Before I started this, if you asked me if I'd rather have a Tomahawk or a Sabre, I would have said Sabre all day long, but looking at this, Tomahawks are just better!

Minimal Infantry damage points
The next perceived drawback would be having only 3dp per base on their standard infantry. I'm not sure anyone really thinks that Shaltari Braves having 3dp is a drawback - I'm clutching here.....

So how many dice would you need to roll in CQB to destroy a base?

Legionnaires/Warriors/Resistance Fighters (L/W/Rf) - 10
Immortals - 15
Braves - 18

What about how much they would kill in CQB?

L/W/Rf would kill 2.5 L/W/Rf, 1.67 Immortals and 0.83 Braves
Immortals would kill 3.75 L/W/Rf, 2.5 Immortals and 1.25 Braves
Braves would kill 3 L/W/Rf, 2 Immortals and 1 Brave

Immortals win that, but only initially, once you get into in, the Braves resilience will see off the Immortals.

With infantry it's not all about CQB though, as falling masonry plays a huge part of the game. It's ok - the Shaltari War-suits can help with that too!! With no double-ups and needing 5+ to damage it makes them extremely survivable in buildings.

Not enough Heavy Firepower
Before certain models were released, I would agree that the Shaltari were lacking in heavy firepower and weight of fire power. I think it was a good thing. You had to really think about placement of your limited resources. Tarantulas, Caimens and the errata have fixed all of that. Tarantulas are the equivalent of E12 against heavy armour, and with an 18" range and Mf 6" it makes a very potent weapon. Also, they will almost certainly get the first shot. Tarantulas don't even enter the battlefield until turn 3 at the the earliest (normally turn 4 when I play them). This means that they are completely safe until you want them to lay down some hurt.

Caimens add a whole host of goodies. They are the equivalent superior of 3 tomahawks for 19 points cheaper! Tomahawks obviously have the ability to split to 3 separate targets, and can move 9" if they don't shoot - but if they lose one, it diminishes the squads fire power. A Caimen doesn't suffer this, it's fires on full auto from turn 1. At 36" away it is very difficult to return any fire for a while. The Caimen is under-pointed and over-gunned. I think it should be limited to 24" range and cost about 105 points give or take.

The errata helped the Shaltari too. I know a few units got some point increases but they got some moving Ocelots and Warspears worth taking. This really helps with adding heavy firepower where you need it.

No Flame
Well that can be thrown out the door straight away. Shaltari used to have zero flame, now they have the best in the game. I say this because it is a secondary weapon on the Gharial not because it is E5 (which is too much) - no other race has flame as a secondary weapon choice, it is always a main weapon, meaning you select a specific flame unit and they do little else.

Don't forget that there is extra flame with some cards too.

I think that is about all the drawbacks I can think of without really scraping the barrel. All of them are no longer drawbacks, or weren't really in the first place.

As an Army/race in DzC they have many, many plus points. On an individual basis Shaltari win, lose and draw like any other army, it is when playing at a tournament and having a collection of armies together that the Shaltari shine. They are by far the easiest army to design an 'all comers' list for as they are so versatile.
  • They have very good infantry for objective searching, that don't suffer as much with building demo and falling masonry. 
  • They have the capability to drive-on any squads they like as they are not tied to transports, meaning that their early game urban renewal is some of the best. 
  • They can move units from one side of the board to the other in an instant, benefiting redeployment and/or focal point holding. 
  • If a gate is destroyed nothing happens to any unit that has used it (no units get destroyed the way that other races embarked units do). 
The Shaltari are a very good army. I will probably do some tactica on how to beat them, it seems a lot of players (not all) have a problem with beating them. The Shaltari are not for the faint-hearted though, they are the most difficult race to learn with, especially if coming from a different race in the game. Getting your head around the gate mechanic is a steep learning curve. Also declaring which gates to use each turn and the moving/shooting within a battlegroup is more complex. But, and it is a Kardashian sized but, they are the easiest race to master. Once you have understood their complexities you can really exploit the 'loopholes' in their design.

I'm not going to try and 'fix' the Shaltari (I'm not sure that they are even broken), I'm no games designer. There are a few things I would do differently and overall I think they need a drawback; something that players have to work hard to mitigate against.

If you can think of any more 'drawbacks' that the Shaltari have let me know. Or if you completely disagree with everything I have said I would like to hear it.


  1. I don't think Shaltari have any drawbacks that aren't mitigated by their speed. Outgunned? Teleport out of the way. Need to deny some K/P to win that tie? Teleport off the map. Armor too fragile? Teleport out of the way.

    The more I play DzC, the more I think speed (which Shaltari have in spades) is, by far, the most important advantage... if you have that, your game gets a whole lot easier. Speed, along with the flexibility of how they transport material are a powerful combo.

    Maybe adding a kill point based mission to the tournament pack would help? I think a good group of missions would be: Recon+, Land Grab, and a Kill Point based mission. There needs to be a mission that has nothing to do with speed.

    I'm curious to see if a good Shaltari player can win a non-kill point game without firing a shot. I think it's possible... especially against UCM and PHR.

    1. I agree! I think that is why the PHR dropships had such a reduction in points.
      I believe they were costed from a survivability perspective, whereas it should be speed that is the governing factor.
      Shaltari are not the fastest though, that is certainly the Scourge. Shaltari are the most maneuverable, by far.

      The thing with kill points is that Shaltari have a lot of fire power now. They didn't always, but they have now. So kill points is not too difficult for them. I may well shake it up a bit though

  2. What your tables don't take into account is that being A7 opens Shaltari up to a whole new class of weapons. E7 AA is usually multishot and ignores the skimmer bonus, hitting on 3s usually and damaging on 5s. Your whole army pretty much, with the exception of warstriders is vulnerable to almost every single gun the enemy has. E8 multishot is frigging hideous and generally low quality high quantity shots also happens to be the best way to get round low armour and a passive save.

    That's a fairly significant drawback right there.

    Additionally Shaltari really struggle to kill A6 flyers reliably. Harbingers and resistance dropships can be fecking murder, in fact just swatting annoying Neptunes can sometimes feel like a bit of a task.

    I think you guys are a bit hard on the Shaltari sometimes. It's still a new game, relatively speaking and a lot of people don't even re-read the Shaltari rules and suss them out properly till they've been playing a while. Not knowing the full extent of an army's dirty tricks does make it hard to come up with an effective counter. I wouldn't mind betting that we'll see a change in the standings in the next year or two, given that the tourney crowd are wising up and expanding and the faq changes have made some impact.

    My humble opinion and I retain an open mind to be convinced by the wisdom of those with more experience than I.


    1. It is true that I didn't take into account E6 and E7 AA shots, mainly because the AA should be getting rid of gates, firedrakes and warspears. It is not often you have spare AA ready to shoot tomahawks, kukri and caimens.
      I did however, take into account the amount of weapons that can hurt each unit as the table runs from E5 all the way to E13. In the first ranking table I totaled the % and divided by 9, so for armour 10, only E9 upwards can actually hurt it, but reflected that the E5 - 8 are still around to hurt lower armoured models.
      I hope this make sense....

      I agree Shaltari find hurting the armour 6 fliers a pain, but in reality it doesn't actually matter. They are not much of a threat. The ones that pose a threat are normally 1 or 2 dp armour 5 gunships (the cyclones are probably the biggest problem for them) and Shaltari AA fire has a lot of shots. Weight of fire is very nice to have. Remember they can also utilise small arms fire from Braves, that is E7 and a Warspear is E7 (and 4 shots!!) too.

      Maybe we are a bit harsh on the Shaltari. I don't want them nerfed at all, and I really like their mechanics, I just think they need a couple of tweeks to the way they operate

    2. You have a point but I still think it's too easy to dismiss low armour as not being a drawback, I play Shaltari (Although not as extensively as you guys have) and feel that low armour is a weakness. I tend to keep my gates well hidden and my opponent doesn't often get to shoot at them (I've even put them to the deck to hide behind warstriders before now, lol!) and I'm not a huge fan of the fire drake either which means that my opponent does often find himself without a decent target for his AA and I have lost big chunks of Caimens before now to it.

      I'd also argue that A6 heavy dropships are a real menace to shaltari because these are the ones that tend to carry onboard AA like the lifthawk and the Harbinger and these can be an absolute nightmare for killing gates. Quantity of shot is nice though, especially for bringing down fast movers. I might have to look into some Warspears though, hmmmm.... *chin stroke*

      It's certainly an interesting discussion! Look forward to seeing what you guys suggest.


    3. I don't know if anyone is still monitoring this post, and I'm sorry im late to the party. A couple of things to reply to Stomp:

      In last Saturday's (6/6) tournament, there were 8 players, 4 of which ere PHR and 2 of which were Shaltari. Shaltari finished First and Second. Doesn't look like the meta has been shaken up enough yet (in our first tournament, 4 April, Shaltari also finished 1/2, different players).

      In the 6 June tournament our only Scourge player, who really knows how to play Scourge, put 15 plasma shots from Hunters, Slayers, etc, into a single Jaguar AND DID NOT KILL IT! Having a P5+ across the board on an entire army is, IMHO, just too powerful. Throw in a Dreamsnare, and it's just plain ridiculous...

      Also, the player who took first always brings a Warspear, and it always pays dividends for him. Having 2DP and 4 E7 shots on a FM platform is a bit too much; not necessarily OP, just Too P. Again, IMHO...

  3. I think one drawback which could be given to the Shaltari which would not break them over someones knee would be to modify the walk on aspect. So currently the Shaltari unlike every other army do not have to designate at army list creation which units will walk on and which units will not. I suggest changing this mechanic via the following.

    So when making a Shaltari list you are limited as to how many gates you can take by the number of non gate squads as well as the amount of non gate mass. Units walking on are not designated until the actual game is about to begin. Instead at army list creation you should have to designate which squads are going to start materialized. They must walk on then and cannot start dematerialized, ever. Additionally their squad slots and mass do not contribute to the amount of squads and mass of non gate units for the purposes of determining how many gates may be taken. Example if you have 6 non gate squads and 1 is walking on, then for determining gates you only have effectively 5 non gate squads. Further example if you have say 15 non gate mass and 6 is walking on then for determining gates you only have 9 non gate mass. Those are just number examples that I made up so dont think on them to heavily.

    I think this change would do the following. Shaltari lists would become less flexible as choosing to walk on would be a permanent thing as it is in all other armies. Choosing to walk on would limit the number of gates to an effectively smaller army making it harder to later use them to move the walk on units. This would effectively put Shaltari in the same boat as everyone else when walking on, always with the same units, and with reduced maneuverability.

  4. "But, and it is a Kardashian sized but, they are the easiest race to master. Once you have understood their complexities you can really exploit the 'loopholes' in their design. " Too true, should left out the kar-TRASH-ian comment.

    IMO drive vs gate should be declared before paring and known mission type or when you design it "these X units always drive on" or Drive on units cannot gate.
    If you can't gate because you drive on = solves the I demo t1-3/4, then teleport to the focal points on T5/6.

    I still think you just need to suck it up and buy an extra AA unit (if your meta is SHAME tari heavy) and kill those gates.


  5. So I'm going to go against the grain here, and say that declaring what is and isn't driving on before games won't really make a difference. Most Shaltari will know their regular drive on units, and making them elect before a game may put them on the same page as everyone else, but doesn't help at all with their shenanigans. Now, not being able to drive on at all would make things interesting...

    Having successfully played with Shaltari I know there are issues, and I personally know how to deal with them (kill the gates) but it simply isn't that easy. I had 12 minders, 3 reapers and 2 mini arc casters yesterday and could not get them all without sustaining game losing loses.

    Mike's post is meant to be as constructive as possible, and keep your suggestions for a 'fix' rolling in!

  6. Drawback: AA... E6 at the price Shaltari pay for it is a significant problem.... Because the amount of highly resilient Aircraft is rather increasing (think Falcons, Lifthawks, all PHR Stuff, Harbinger, Phoenix...) mostly i don't even bother shooting at them (especially not in reactive mode) so my enemy has the skies if he realy wants to, because there is not much i can do about it.

    Drawback: Double damage, every Shaltaari unit can be duoble damaged by the "average" AT gun of the game. That makes up for durability a bit.

    Other stuff: I still think prudent pilot should work more restrictivly... so gate herding can be done effectivly and cordonning of aerial spaces would be viable... no much rules chance involved and way more challenging for both sides... and it directly adresses the lamented sheaniganans. on other notes... i think they might have gone a wee bit nuts on the flamers with shaltari... that was unnecessary even before the gharial hit the table (the cards are just insanly good now)

  7. An amazing post! Wish I would be able to hold this level of posts. Great job, Mike.

    I also agree they don't have any disadvantages. The gates should be a great gift when used many of but people can use few and get away with it perfectly.

    As for fixes (if any are needed) I would say the main thing is that I don't think they are being played as intended. They are most likely supposed to only work when they have many gates (at least normally) and that you materialize when you dematerialize (the rules seems to assume it is the only viable effective action).

    I don't think saying in the army list what drives on will help. If that unit never can use a gate - then ok. But not otherwise.

    I see 3 potential way to make them more dependent on gates and I think the main "solution" to my subjective view on the problem is to force them to have more gates;

    1. Never drive on. Of course. This is a way. Then you need to plan and most likely use more gates - making the ground forces weaker.
    2. Continue with the first turn restriction (though only flying gates). That is, you must activate a flying gate with each activation. That means that Shaltari would have the advantage of huge flexibility but the drawback that they need to use that flexibility early in the turn. This starts then to really suck when you loose just a single gate which I think is the way Shaltari players should feel when loosing gates.
    3. Never be allowed to leave the table except with an objective. Then they use their movement to get into safe positions. Not disappearing from the table. This would mean they have the advantage of not being shot down when embarked (because they would not be able) and instead the drawback that they can be shot at if not being able to fully hide.

    I'm actually thinking tht no 2 is the coolest way. A clear downside for focal points. It keeps their flexibility but damn it will be hard when you start loosing gates.

    1. Clarify; no 2 is that you could then activate all gates in the first activation but you need to activate a minimum of 1 flying gate each activation until you run out. With the Gaia counting as two and forcing the Firedrake to chose being a gate at the begiining of the turn would be needed to be changed, I think.

  8. Suggestion/Idea: Would require probably tweaking numbers (Pts or Mass), but how would restricting gates to one materialize/dematerialize action go? The biggest complaint/problem with Shaltari seems to be the great advantage in ultra-mobility that their gates lend them. By having to choose a materialize/dematerialize action (rather than having two), you could drive gate use to be more important and meaningful. No more easily juggling units between gates; like drop ships in the other armies, you'd need to carefully consider what units are going where through which gates; keep the freedom and flexibility behind the gate-assignment rules, which allows Shaltari to maintain that specific, unique element while toning down some of the mobility shenanigans that you get with allowing materialize and dematerialize action (difference of changing it from 'One of each' of to 'Choose one of two').

  9. Very good article, Mike! I totally agree with you.

  10. Nice article Mike. I agree that the new units fill the gaps that the once had. E6 AA I think is a bigger weakness than you give it credit though. It really cripples the Shaltari's ability to deal with an air heavy Resistance army, and the dreaded Desolator. Yes, Braves and the Warspear provide E7, but those are situational at best and nowhere near as effective as AA in a tank on the ground.

    I think your assessment of the UCM and Resistance weaknesses is a little light. The variety and breadth of Resistance units covers all of their weaknesses for clever players (except for their transports being tied).

    The UCM do have a solid number of high energy shots with the recent FAQ and releases. Also, their weak/cheap infantry can be an advantage for getting more squads into a building to make sure to have one not allocated to repel attackers, allowing for objective grabbing awesomeness. I believe that people have a tendancy to buy a number of infantry squads (1+1 for every 500 points) instead of spending a similar amount to other factions and getting more boots on the ground.

    I think that any "solution" to the Shaltari involves revisiting some of the mission types/placement of objectives and focal points, and/or changing what happens to Shaltari units when they leave the table. I think that anything toting an objective leaving by table edge or gate, should go into reserves. Also, maybe units that dematerialize and don't immediately dematerialize should go into reserves as well. Or if you really wanted to make the space edhogs (notice the accent ;)) suffer, make everything that dematerializes have a chance to go into reserves.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but those could limit the flexibility to mirror other factions without removing the uniqueness of the Shaltari.

    In any case, thanks for a wonderful article, blog, and podcast!


  11. Been meaning to throw my 2 cents in for a minute, but work been crae.

    I don't agree w/ all the drawbacks listed for the other factions but that isn't the point of this post.

    The low armor “fallacy” is indicative of a different issue. As others have commented, having A7 opens you up to a lot more weapons. But how common are E6-8 weapons? I've been thinking that there is a quality vs quantity issue with shots with a lot going for quality over quantity. This works well most the time, but against Shaltari quantity is better (some Scourge and Resistance armies can swarm). Also, AA is chasing gates, but the internet also says gates rarely present themselves as targets, so which is it?

    Minimal infantry DP per base isn't an issue because the only way to get rid of them is CQB. Masonry doesn't really cut it, and that's another issue I have w/ the game. Masonry is E6, which hurts all infantry on a 2+, except A4, which all seem to have rules making it 5+. I've wondered if Masonry was E5 and warsuit rule was changed to prevent double DP would make masonry a more viable tactic. It also makes A2 and A3 different.

    The other way to put DP on infantry is flame, which no one takes. Making all flame weapons mounted on units E5 would improve them vs infantry and allow them to target buildings so they wouldn't be so specific. It also makes the Gharial less special, though it would remain special due to versatility. Eldritch Energy kind of needed the rule to give it a point of existing, and it is a Mf 6” so can be limiting at times, depending on the situation.

    I remember when the Caiman got no love, it was Jaguar or nothing. People were coming around before the point adjust, but now Caimans are such a bargain. Maybe a point adjust, but I've had my Caiman bounce shots due to E10, so it can suffer against A10 targets. Tarantula are minimal, most take a token pair and they don't show up until the 2nd half of the game, so maybe 1 or 2 shots with them. My tarantula have probably just underperformed, though it is nice to be able to threaten A10. Warspear was worth taking before the update, but now it is real nice. Gives Shaltari some E7 AA, but the catch is it's on the expensive unreliable fast mover, so doesn't fill the AA hole completely. The Ocelot could use the help, I still don't think you'll see them super often. Compared to the firepower coming back, the Shaltari still don't put a lot of fire down range. It seems range is becoming more of their hallmark too, which doesn't help when they have to hang in an area too long.

    I think a lot of the problem is not the Shaltari, but how the game is played in general, and how that playing then relates to the Shaltari. Things that could change to help fix the Shaltari would be minimum number of gates. We have a maximum, but I think that was included for smaller games. Having a minimum would stop players from going so super light on gates, but not all Shaltari do and many lists spend around the same points on gates as the other factions do on dropships. I'm not sure how to fix the drive on issue, other than Shaltari declare drive on at list creation, rather than at the table. Some suggestions I've read seem born out of a vendetta rather than any objective approach.

  12. God bless you, Mike! And God bless the OB team for their wonderful sharing of thoughts about the game through the internet. I think you're track record in the small DZC competitions we've seen for this young game give your opinions some weight of authority and experience.

    MIke, you've nailed exactly what I've thinking for a while now and I find the article written quite constructively.

    I'd like to answer some of the points raised in the comments:

    - E6 AA. Well, some armies have E7 three shots and Shaltari have E6 four shots as standard. The gap is not as much as claimed here. There is a gap, I agree, but I see it as smaller than being stated. E7 gets double damage one in six against an A6 flier. Four shots vs three mitigates the increased damage of the E7 shot.

    It's possible to run another mathematical analysis to show the comparison but I'm confident on what I writing.

    - Shaltari have AA from multiple sources at a good price. Three Kukris are quite survivable, mobile and fire 12 E6 AA shots for a good price. Jaguars have inbuilt AA of four E6 AA shots in a combined AT, AA, high durability package for a good price.

    - I find the AA ion cannons on Yari to be quite useful with the superb mobility of the Yari. Down amongst the low armour of all factions' scouts, the 5+ shield has an big effect on the chance to be killed as well as skimmer bonus.So here we have possibly the most survivable scout outside of Free Ninja Riders with great mobility and a useful 360 degree 18" countered range AA gun.

    - The mathematical result of skimmer bonus plus 5+ save is there for all to see. We've all had successes and failures in the heat of an individual battle with the randomness of dice. So you have to step away from that. We need to use mathematics to see what the overall odds actually are. The more games you play, the more the random rolls will eventually even out.

    - While the A7 Shaltari skimmer tank is indeed more vulnerable to another class of weapons, and AA guns have excellent chance against it, the AA umbrella of the opponent should be placed under some form of pressure and concentrated attack by the Shaltari player.

    Shaltari have an amazing manouverability through teleportation to execute that strategy during the game.

    AA normally seeks to execute its primary purpose: AA. If the Shaltari player to expose his skimmer tanks to the enemy AA, they should be given a "rock and a hard place" choice about what to fire with other airborne targets also pushing up. This makes it hard for the enemy to know what to shoot at.

    - The Fire Drake is a superb unit. It is an amazing multi purpose tool box that has no real counter apart from enemy fast movers. Even against FM, the Drake can function as a gate while held within the Jaguar/Kukri/Birdeater/Yari AA umbrella. With so many shots of E6 AA present, any Fast Mover has to endure a murderous storm of fire to strike at the Drake.

    With effectively an unlimited range on a 4' by 4' table, the opponent has little response to the attrition by the Firedrake's E10 template. In normal course, it should completely dictate how and when it engages.

    I think that once the battle breaks up a bit is the best chance for a Fast Mover to bring down a Drake. At that stage of a game then also you can perhaps move your vital AA units out from around a corner to get in range and take a shot against the Drake.

    Playing on the player's greed to get a bigger template could also be a way of tempting this sky dragon down from the heavens into range where you can engage it.

    Anyway, using a Drake adds pressure on the opponent's AA. Other units also add pressure on the precious AA.

  13. - I'm going to make a bold statement now. Let's see how people respond. :) The Caiman has put a nail in the coffin of Shaltari inner play balance.

    Again, we have another unit with a range that in practical is almost infinite. Not quite, but you get what I mean right? There is little counter to it.

    A 36" range gun combined with a highly mobile 6" move skimmer that can also teleport is very powerful. Having all that in one package is a huge amount of synergy.

    If you hide from it, it has a great secondary power: urban renewal. :) Building demo, of course.

    The firepower is E10 but three shots has certain dynamics: three shots to hit a very hard to hit target, three shots to damage a single powerful model, three shots to absolutely make sure one unit dies.

    36" range E10 in a game where standard MBT guns fire at 24" is a big deal. This gives the Caiman an amazing survivability beyond it's Armour 7 rating as few units have the range to engage it.

    Now combine this range advantage with 4DPs, skimmer bonus plus teleportation and shared gate pool. If you manage to strike the Caiman it will likely survive and can escape through a gate or redeploy to another area of the battlefield.

    One thing that I do think is brilliant game design and should make the game more rich is that to counter such a unit you will need the tank destroyers with their infinite range lasers. This is giving a fun but neglected unit type a place in the game's meta. However, because Shaltari have such supreme mobility it is hard to get the tank destroyers into position to achieve LOS and catch the Caiman.

    I know my post is getting long, but I'll digress for a moment. It's hard to catch the Caimans with my laser units but I might be able to force them away and maybe reduce their firing output if they gate or hide behind cover. In doing that, I have achieved something useful anyway.

    Ultimately, the Caiman is another unit that dictates how and when it engages, like the Fire Drake. For the reasons I've written, I believe it is a unit that has few counters. This was simply not needed for this race.

    However, I adore the model and like the basic concept of a hard hitting heavy grav tank. The unit should probably be toned down or have its cost increased IMHO.

    I prefer it be toned down as I don't believe the super manoueverable race in DZC should get such long range units that totally dictate when they engage. It's like double dipping.

    - New flame options for Shaltari? Why add something to bolster a faction where it is already strong with teleporting, "stay on the board" Braves and First Borns?

    Someone posted that he spoke with Dave in the early days of the game about this race. He wasn't sure it would work and was pleased it was viable on the tabletop.

    Dave, mate, I hope you're reading this excellent blog post and the comments. The race has been given synergy after synergy and any gaps they had have been filled in. Time to take a step back and reflect. The results from the tournaments speak for themselves, though I think we need more time to asses the recent tweaks.

    1. I think with the updates to gunships, the UCM, Resistance, and Scourge all have some solid counters to the Caiman. I think the Caiman is still an outrageously awesome unit. I honestly take it more than a Jaguar now because I think it is more effective (as long as I have enough AA elsewhere in my list). Chris Loomis and I have found outrageous success with the Caiman, Firedrake, and Ocelot working together is a crazy awesome group. Long range, high energy, multiple shots, area, and demo. It's crazy awesome.

  14. The last thing I want to write is that I like the Shaltari. I like having an advanced alien race that has fast antigrav tanks, teleportation gates, battlesuits and scary units. :D

    As I wrote, I think there is scope for the guys at Hawk to take a step back and contemplate the overall situation with this faction.

    It is possible to beat them, of course. But I believe they have no real weaknesses as explained by Mike.

    OB guys, please write up something about countering Shaltari.

    1. @Sword: +1 with a re-roll, mate! Great comments, to a great blog post!

      @Kyle: I recently (and secretly!) bought up an all-skimmer Shaltari force, 1,500 points with some variations and flexibility in terms of units, so all skimmer+aircraft, no walkers of any kind. A friend of mine is building and painting it up for me, as he is simply awesome with an airbrush, as proven by his own Shaltari force. Point being, the "core" of the just-over-1,500 points worth of Shaltari that I will one day be able to field is a double Caiman/Firedrake Heavy battle groups, supported by Kukris and Yaris for AA, and Tomahawks because, as Mike pointed out, A7+s+P5+ is Top Tier protection from enemy firepower.

      Is that me taking advantage of two very powerful (maybe OP?) units with great synergy? Maybe... :-P

      But aside from so far not indulging in an Ocelot or two (and there's plenty of them in my meta, folks), why not play to an army's strengths, without giving in to it's really over-the-top defensive and offensive capabilities, which is what I the the Warstrider Brick is. I won't go down that route, because it leads to the death of one's soul, IMHO, but I'll skirt the edges and dally with two Caiman and two Firedrakes for a while, and see where that leads me! LOL!!!

      Point being, yeah, Caiman and Firedrakes are really good, and they synergize well, in an army that, as Sword pointed out, already has "too many" synergies, which, to a degree, is Mike's original point...

      (Anyway, is anyone still reading these comments? Or am I just blowing hot air?... Again?...
      8^D )

  15. Overall I feel that DZC is a "but..." game. Scourge skimmers are fast but really weak when hit. Sabres are tough but slow. PHR slower but tougher and harder hitters. And so on. But we don't get that with the Shaltari gate mechanic;
    *They can leave the table but...
    *They can transport anywhere but...
    *They can't get killed when dematerialized but...
    *The infantry doesn't count as in the havens so have much faster speed but...
    *A gate dies they can use another gate instead but...

    _All_ of them need to have a "but".


  16. I think the shaltari defence very much depends on luck, which is not true of any other faction. I therefore find it difficult in games to take risks with the army than say I would with PHR, whose defence is based on an immovable stat. I've had games where I haven't made a single 5+ save but then others where I can't seem to fail them. So luck does play a part in their inherent weakness, which is something a table can't accurately emulate.

    In response to Erik, I'd say a lot of those do have a 'But'

    They can leave the table but then have no impact on the game, also any other race can make a unit leave the table...

    They can transport anywhere but when they materialise they can't do anything, so are shot to bits, unless you have look on your side.

    They can't get killed when dematerialised but again they have no impact on the game. Also if a key unit dematerialises you can keep it out of the game permanently, just kill the appropriate size gate it needs to come back through.

    The infantry doesn't count as in the havens so have much faster speed but havens can't pick up objectives unless they are passed to them by a ground unit.

    A gate dies they can use another gate instead but they have to buy enough gates from their points allocation of the appropriate size.

    In my experience the weakness of shaltari is against armour 10, needing 5+ most of the time damage an opponent makes it a grind and removes the 2 damage opportunity. On the flip side it's very easy to get the 2 damage on a shaltari vehicle if luck does not go their way with the saving throw. So shaltari do have some very hard counters.

    But, shaltari are a mission army, they exist to play the missions and avoid confrontation. Yes you can build an army for reasonable damage output, but you then compromise the 'mission' aspect of their game.

    1. I'm not really sure how you reason on the drawbacks. At least I reason very different. To have a drawback you must have something that costs you for that rule you have.

      Units leaving the game have no impact on the game - I do not know how you mean here. That Shaltari can't stay de-materialized and not attack is not a drawback - it is the same principle all transported units go by. With the esception that Shaltari can not die while dematerialized and does not have to enter through the same transport. Other armies units can only leave the table while carrying the objective. So the drawback you are arguing for is actually an advantage compared to all other armies.

      That they can't do anything the turn they materialize is not a drawback- that is a basic rule. I don't feel it is enough to point out where the Shaltari follow the same rules as everybody else and claim "see a drawback"...

      "Just kill the appropriate size gate..." is not a valid argument in my opinion. Also again. You need to kill all the gates for that purpose. All other armies will suffer from one transport killed. So Shaltari have a huge advantage here. Also, you don't get the kill points for units stranded that way.

      Havens can have objectives in it's gate and is not locked to a certain unit. Havens are most likely the best ground unit in the game to handle an objective. The only disadvantage it has is that it can't pick up an objective by itself but otherwise it is much better than most units in objective handling.

      So while my arguments might be off. The "But..." things above is not really responded to. You actually argue like some Shaltari players I have met "The downside with Shaltari is that sometimes they have the same restriction as the other factions." People are so used to that Shaltari have no downside that they argue that Shaltari have a downside by pointing out restrictions that everybody else have.

      Sorry, my friend. I totally disagree with you.


    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. Ok, I understand what you are getting at in terms of 'basic rules' not being a disadvantage. But I think maybe the context of what I was trying to say hasn't come across, let me explain my thinking further, this is just from my limited experience of the game so far...

      Units leaving the table: I always see this as a big decision to dematerialise a unit and not re materialise the same activation. Why? Because I feel like every activation that model is off the table is an activation I'm playing with less points on the table than my opponent, for me this is a disadvantage, but I can see how others wouldn't see it this way.

      They can't do anything on the turn they materialise, what I mean here is that with the flexibility of gates its easy to get units stranded due to the I go u go nature of the game. Having enough gates to move units to support that unit can be cumbersome from a points perspective. So a good opponent can easily restrict gate movement and even strand key shaltari units.

      Not getting the kill points for a stranded unit is a stupid rule, I'll agree with that and something I really don't like, it's an easy way out for players and something I wish Hawk would change. If you're stupid enough to get your units stranded then you should pay the price. Tournaments should house rule this. But here I was trying to make the point that you are also making, kill the transport. It is the same weakness for everyone. But you'll be amazed how many opponents don't do this or can't effectively target prioritise.

      Driving over objectives is the drawback I was referring to, so I think we are saying the same thing.

      Overall in my experience of the game so far I think it's very balanced, I will however agree on the caiman, they lowered the points to make it competitive with a group of tomahawks, however they really should have dropped the range to 24, then it actually becomes a tough decision.

      Then again the thunderbird should be improved and the hades should cost more points and the free rider issues are well documented. Every faction has one or two unit balancing issues, it's not something unique to the shaltari.

  17. Excellent article, Mike, and as I've already stated, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get to this post and read thru it; been sorta busy...

    I think one of the truest things you wrote, in an article full of truisms, (and something that I don't think anyone else has touched on in the comments, or not much) is that individually Shaltari are not that difficult to manage, but in a tournament setting, they really do get some sort of "advantage" over the rest of the field. We've held three tournaments in the past three months, and of the two that were a "full" 8 players, Shaltari finished First, Second and (barely) Fourth (out of 4 Shaltari armies entered), and then First and Second, with only 2 Shaltari armies entered. Comparing that to the other tournament results that Nobody has compiled and published on the Hawk Forum, there's a very real and observable numerical anomaly going on in organized events. It's hard to argue with data (and yet some people, the same people, still do), and the data points to some sort of "edge" that Shaltari get when in competition/multiple games with linked results. I think this article of yours is the closest thing to pinning down what the core reason is - That Shaltari really don't have any drawbacks, but do have tons of synergy - than any of the rankings and ramblings and dart-throwing that has taken place online so far, at least what I've read. Thanks for putting up numbers... Like I said, it's hard to ignore data when you actually have to face it...

    1. Sorry, "rantings and ramblings" is what I meant to say (stoopid iPad autocorrect), and include my own in that flood of back-and-forth that has been going on online (rivaled only by the rampant Freerider Hate out there, which, I think, is more "fear of the possibility" than actual experience, aside from the very few occasions someone has actually faced (or reported facing) "Freerider Spam", but that's a subject for another blog post...)