Monday, 6 July 2015

Can less activations be a game changer?

Nobody press the RED button!!!!
I have always been a big advocate of maximum activations. Which means utilising the most amount of battle-groups allowed. When designing a list for this I would normally have a couple of powerful battle-groups and a couple of very minimal battle-groups to ensure I had as many options as possible. 

Recently I have been wondering if having less activations could work as a tactic.

Players who design their lists with maximum activations in mind, normally dread losing a battle-group in game (I'm one of them). It can screw over your plans completely, but if you design your list for minimum activiations will it be easily outmaneuvered or will it be a tough nut to crack?


The theory is a simple one. You will get to activate more of your army than your opponent for equal activations. Therefore, you have the potential to do more damage to your opponent and gain the upper hand. 
The minimum battle-groups you can get away with is 3. A command, a standard and an infantry. 
I think if you want to use it as a valid tactic, you need to go minimum battle-groups and not just have 1 or 2 less than your opponent.

In Practice

So how would this work on the table-top, what are the pros and cons?
I'm going to start with the cons, which are all the reasons why this kind of minimal list is never seen. Firstly the first turn; your opponent is going to know where everything is and can plan accordingly. You will have no wiggle room, once you place a massive battle-group, that's it a third of your army down already. 
The next is that in the majority of missions where you need to get objectives out of buildings, placing your infantry in early will mean they will suffer a lot of falling masonry. Normally you want to put them in last to minimise the damage you will suffer, this list means that at the latest they go in 3rd activation, meaning they will have to weather a storm. 
Focal points can also be a bit harder to manage as in the last turn you won't be able to out-activate your opponent (unless you have utterly smashed him). 

List design is a problem too. The amount of squads allowed per battle-group is quite varied among the races we have so far, also what comprises each battle-group (Standard, support, scout exotic etc). 
I think PHR, Resistance and possibly Shaltari could lend themselves to this kind of strategy due to the varied nature of their Command groups (PHR/Shaltari, and Infantry (Res).

So what are the pros? Obviously you will get to activate a lot of models in 1 go. If they are in the right positions it could be devastating for your opponent. The great thing about DzC is that shooting is done on a unit to unit basis - so larger squads aren't as much of a problem as some other game systems. 
You need to have a plan set before the game. If you play minimum battle-groups you play proactively, force your opponent to react to you as you won't be able to react to your opponent until the following turn. 
A high level commander is a must, another reason why it suits the PHR, the level 5 commander is only 120 points and PHR cards are just nasty.

With list design, you still need to try and win the missions, so you need a decent amount of infantry, solid AA and some heavy hitters 


Below are some examples of 3 battle-group lists, one for each faction. This was no easy feat to produce! I had a real tough time with the Scourge and UCM lists and I still don't like them. Also the Shaltari battle-groups are not that great to build with. I possibly went the wrong way with it and should have made a drive on list.

As the Longreach team are not in FFoR as of yet, you need to swap out 1 squad of Immortals for them making 1496 

I managed to get 4 infantry (2 exotics) and Freeriders in, plus AA in each battle-group

My least favourite (along with UCM) I would never normally take Aged Ones!!! and only 3 troops

Probably not enough gates, but has a lot of potential for causing a lot of harm

Just a bit too static for my liking and also doesn't really pack enough of a punch

Would I try it, shall I try it?

You know what, when I started writing this I thought that there was no way I would even think about designing a list that didn't have 6 battle-groups at clash level, but looking over the PHR list has me very interested in trying it out. 

It could be the key to making PHR more competitive. It would play completely differently to any other list, you get to utilise they heavy hitters earlier and in greater numbers to make your opponent suffer. I think it is what PHR are designed to do. Move and fire in one big slow block. 
You talk about the deadly Shaltari brick, the PHR are a moving castle and castles > bricks!!


  1. Pretty interesting. 3 BGs may be a bit extreme, but 4 or 5 w/ early game objective of knocking opponents BGs out to even the discrepancy and hopefully provide you with the edge late game. Very interested to hear more about this, especially w/ PHR. On the one hand it makes sense to play to their strengths, but at the same time a similar logic path has been taken leading to PHR w/ less dropships which doesn't work so well. Ain't gonna know until it hits the table.

    1. I went with the most extreme as for this tactic to even have a hope of working you need to have maximum effect from each group. I think 4 or 5 activations is a bit soft. If you have 5, why not have 6? It's a whole different army build.
      I have an inkling to try out a modified PHR list like the one I posted at a one tournament next month. Just to see how it works. I'll have a couple of practice games too.
      I wonder though if it is a bit too mobile. Everything has a dropship - maybe I should have some walk-on units?
      Who knows
      It might not work at all, I may end up crying in a corner!

    2. If you're using PHR isn't that the normal state players wind up in? It's certainly how Tech Boy transfers his feelings these days.

      I'll prepare myself to be tar and feathered by the Cyborgs Boys and the Spacehogs now...

  2. I really think you could just have the best of both worlds with a "battlegroup curve". One big, hard-hitting battlegroup for the first activation, then a long tail of little battle groups so you can get last activations and hide your deployment.

    1. That's what I normally do, have 2 quite powerful groups the rest a bit meh. This is trying something different. Not sure it will work tbh, worth a try though

  3. I like the idea but think you could get away with 4 battlegroups. But as long as we don't have any advantage I think 6 be will rule still. It is worth a try though.

  4. Interesting that you posted this. In my last game vs Shaltari, which was last week, Andrew, the Shaltari player, wanted to try this idea out as well, although with a rather different list. I believe he had (in no particular order, just trying to remember):

    - 2x Eden gates
    - 2x (3x?) Haven Gates
    - 2x Spirit Gates
    - Gharial w/ CV5 Commander
    - 2x Jaguars
    - 6x Tomahawks
    - 3x Kukris
    - 3x Kukris
    - 1x Dreamsnare
    - 2x Braves

    I think I'm forgetting something, but that was the gist of it, and it was definitely just 3 battle groups.

    I was playing my usual PHR list
    - Nemesis
    - 3x Ares/Phobos/Neptune squads across 2 BGs + 1x walk on Phobos
    - 2x Helios in a Neptune
    - 2x Immortals in Juno A2s & a Neptune (yes, I'm spending the extra points to do that!)
    - 1x Immortals in a Triton A1
    - 4 Mercury Drones in 2 Triton A2s for with Twin Stealth Missiles
    - 2x Sirens in a Triton A1 w/ miniguns

    Usually our games of Shaltari vs PHR are close, and we're about even on Wins/Losses, although I think Andrew might be slightly ahead of me.

    I crushed him.

    To be fair, even with the Dreamsnare, he couldn't make a Passive save for love nor money. And I was rolling particularly well. But I think only having 3 BGs really hampered him, as I was able to do a lot after the 3rd activation, and he couldn't do anything but try to make Passive saves, remove models, curse, and wait for the next turn. It also didn't help that I had 4 God hands of command cards starting with Turn 1, and I won every Initiative roll, despite only having a CV4 Battle Vizier to his CV5 commander.

    So, more tests need to be run, to be sure, but it seems like while you do get to do a lot in each of your three activations, there's half the Turn where your opponent gets to unload on you with half his army, or thereabouts...

    Will be interesting to hear about your results, Mike...

    1. Sounds like you had some serious luck on your side. To win 1st activation each turn with a lower CV is just down-right rude!!!
      Also I think he needs some Caimens! May as well rock 'em while they are hot (until they get balanced)

    2. Yeah, like I said, I was rolling particularly well that day.

      I'm trying to remember what else he had, cuz that doesn't sound like a full 1,500 points what I wrote. But I don't remember a Caiman, I think I'd remember that. I was kinda surprised he didn't bring a Caimen, but I think he said he was trying to go "crutchless". LOL. Watch, it'll turn out he took 2 Caimen. My brain is just that fuzzy these days... 8^P