Friday, 31 July 2015

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Helios

Yes the sun really does shine out of there.

I played in the UK Games Expo recently with a list that I have very much enjoyed playing with.

Although the tournament only lasted one day and consisted of three games it was plenty of fun and really let me run out the list I'd recently mulled over. See below.

Now never have I suggested that DZC is a game where spamming units works. All too often going heavy in one area does not work because you end lacking in another area that inevitably will become critical later on. However Helios neatly skirt round this issue by being versatile, like REALLY versatile. So as follows here's a list of pros and cons of Helios that I have come up with.

  • Tough - Initially yes A8 isn't amazing but with 2DP (seemingly standard in PHR) this bumps up survival rates. But mainly its the skimmer bonus. +2 to hit something is really important almost more so than high Armour because if you can prevent an opponent even hitting you it removes that last roll which might actually hurt you. (The reason passive saves are so good)
  • Quick - 6" MV is extremely good for a faction in which your standard units MV is 3". This manoeuvrability allows the Helios to threaten multiple areas quickly. More on this later.
  • Weight of fire - Having 6 shots is great, heaping a pile of dice into your hands is a nice feeling. PHR really lack weight of fire, (odd thought I know considering they are a gun line army but they do trust me.) More shots equals less chance of totally missing.
  • Two Weapon systems - This is really important for a couple of reasons. 
    • Reaction fire. You can use one system at a time to react. Killed it with the first one? Don't need to use the second and vice versa. Important note to remember when you reaction fire like that, the weapons are coaxial so they need to stay within the same arc of fire for the next one.
    • Got multiple small units to kill? No problem the Helios can take 'em. Separate your systems to take on multiple targets e.g. Wolverines, Prowlers, technicals, infantry in the open. Again the coaxial rule is important to remember here.
  •  Shaped Charge - Very important again. combined with the weight of fire having 12 shots this means that a pair of Helios (ostensibly an AA unit) have the ability to go heavy tank hunting as well. This shaped charge is key to the versatility I claimed they have. Nothing and no-one is safe from these guys. Thanks to Mega(Maths)Mike comparing 2x Helios VS 2x Ares is as follows:
    • Helios will do 1.67 DP per 12 shots;  Ares against A10 will do 0.83 and against A9 1.1 That's 2 Ares shooting not counting double ups.
  • Low model count - Helios can only come in groups of two. So spamming this unit is very difficult to do as you have to take up Support choices with them across multiple Battlegroups. Not necessarily a bad thing but it is something to think about. 
  • Not great at building Demo - They had to be bad at something didn't they? With 12 Shots hitting on 2+ against a normal building they will on average do roughly 3 points of damage against a building. (I think after the Katana's un-anticipated capacity for building demo Hawk have been very careful about units being able to spam low powered shots that hurt buildings on a 2+) Now three points doesn't sound too bad but really this unit should be hunting other things and building demo should be held back until there is nothing to reaction fire/hunt/kill to death.
All this adds up to a very, very good unit for PHR, being able to hunt Aircraft AND Vehicle types with an effective threat range (in a straight line) of 18" means this is an extremely important unit. The Helios is rather like a Scourge Reaper in that they are predators, Helios use their high speed and lethal output to surprise or at least keep an opponent thinking. A Helios should not stay stationary, and I don't mean just doughnutting for the skimmer bonus. It should nearly always be moving to engage something or maneuvering to ambush.

I can't remember seeing a PHR list without them in. But I haven't often seen multiple units of Helios in armies, which confuses me. These guys work really well and are frankly our best support unit, so why not use more than one squad?

Do you know my power NOW?!
So how does my list work?

Pretty simple really. The Ares and Odin/Zeus squads do the heavy Anti-Tank lifting while the Helios bubble up and go hunting. My list is designed to be fairly maneuverable without sacrificing high power shots. Which was an issue I had found using Apollos.

The Helios give me the ability to have an AA bubble that moves with my army unlike Phobos which primarily are an area denial AA unit. The sheer weight of fire two Helios can throw out is phenomenal, these guys really put the fear of Sphere into air units like Reavers, Drones, Minders. Even light gunships like Falcons will think carefully about engaging them as all it takes is one hit out of the 12 shots (which statistically will be 2 out of the 12 when hitting on 6+) and down the go.

So having Helios defending an area is very useful, but wherever possible they should be aggressive, this aggression will help slightly slower units advance under the cover of Helios AA. Plus aggression will help avoid reaction firing where possibly they could be hitting on full rolls.

Opponents will go for Helios but that's natural, they were going to go for them anyway. At least now with having six Helios I'll have spares if one dies!

Quick Tips:
  • Be mindful, Helios are rather lightly armoured so AT shots that hit them will really hurt, E10 will double up on a 5 against you. So don't sit in front of AT wherever possible, if you cant kill it immediately lurk menacingly till you can. 
  • Overlap your fields of fire, this will double or even triple your effectiveness. That's a generally good tip for gun line armies anyway, but especially effective for AA.
  • Watch the flanks! Helios are great but short range, so its possible to go round them. I've fallen prey to this too many times. Especially against MegaMikes 'Flying Circus' UCM. 
  • Be careful about splitting your units up. While inevitable in some missions like Secure the Flank, your AA bubble needs to be cohesive and strong in the right areas. Prioritise where they need to be, and which Aircraft they need to be taking down.
  • Prioritise your fire properly. Remember what Air Units have and haven't moved. If your opponent is dumping Prowlers on you while Reavers lurk unactivated behind a building nearby, ignore the Prowlers as they are clearly being sacrificed to allow the Reavers free reign. (Trust me I learnt this lesson the hard way!)
  • While the sun shines, hunt light Dropships. What I mean by this is that if you have the chance to, go for your opponents light Dropships rather than hunt tanks. By removing the infantry's ability to redeploy or extract objectives easily you are giving your opponent a massive headache. Plus it gives your infantry a chance to catch up and maybe take that objective from them!
So that's it! I love Helios, they are fantastic and used right will be giving your opponents migraines they wont soon forget! If you have any further tips and experiences using Helios, or think I am totally mad for spamming something in Dropzone leave your thoughts below.

My Six Helios taking a bow after I managed to take best painted.  

Just a final note, its really difficult to find bad ass pictures of Helios, mainly pictures of burning horses or a naked guy with a halo!


  1. I find that the Helios is zippy enough at 6" that it's not even necessary to give them a Neptune all the time. In a list with multiple units of them I'd definitely get a transport for some though.

    6 is absolutely a powerhouse list though, talk about a no-fly zone.

    1. Having a 3" move first turn is no good. You want your helios slightly ahead of the main force in order to ambush or hunt. If they spend three turns catching up they lose efficiency quickly.
      Plus a sneaky redeploy is great for wrongfooting an opponent.

  2. I love the last picture. 6 Helios all smiling for the camera while a scourge intruder sneaks past behind them ha ha ha

    1. Story of my bloody life. :-(

    2. Didn't see that one first. Really funny :-D

      It is a good post overall, Ed. You shame the Swedish blog. Thank you for a nice read.


  3. Glad you wrote this and hopefully some will pay heed to it. I always get a kick over distressed PHR players that run 4 Phobos and get picked apart. I kind of want to see a type 2 w/ 2 of those turrets on it. 24 E6 SC shots, haha, not that it would necessarily be as awesome, just lots of dice.

    1. Yeah I personally think Phobos force you into a defensive style of play because they move so slowly. When you first see them you think 'ooh 24" E7?!' and that blocks out the downsides of the Type I chassis.
      Megamike did come up with a Type V design which rather like a Jaguar had Odin Railguns and a Helios turret on the back. Model wise it did look awesome.

  4. I never leave home without a pair! I must agree that they are unbelievably versatile. By the way, nice work on that paint job! I can see why it won.

    1. Thanks I am at some point going to get round to taking proper pictures of them. Mobile phone pics are so meh!
      Maybe now you'll try out 2 pairs. ;-) I've been using a new list recently with 2 pairs and an Athena and its quite good fun. The Athena has been involved in several dogfights recently which was awesome!

  5. Much agreed. Helios are by far the most flexible and responsive combat unit available (aside from Apollo which has some issues). They're as well armed as a Gladius in terms of their expected damage output, but actually have a lot of maneuver and target selection flexibility. I personally am building a list that fields multiple with Apollos to get 'gunship-like' responsive AT.

  6. I only have one pair right now, but a second pair is on the horizon. So many tough choices. I think we need to start a worldwide push to move the 'standard' point value up to 2000pts.
    All the new infantry choices will need to be included, rumored changes of Type 3s to 1-6 means I have to start experimenting with solo Apollos and Erebos running around. Just can't fit everything into 1500pts!

    1. I disagree on 2000pts. 1500 is a 'sweet' spot for getting a game done in 2ish hours.
      Tough choices is what the game is about. No reason friends can't get together to play larger battles.


  7. Rich and I both ran 4 Helios in our LVO lists... and I completely agree about needing a transport. You want the Helios out in front, not bringing up the rear.

    1. Agreed! (This is Rich, BTW) Those things are MAGIC!

  8. Great article, Ed, and great list!

    When I heard you talking about 6 Helios in a recent podcast, and how you pressed an AA bubble forward with them and went "hunting" with them, it clicked in my head right away! I already had four, but only two completely painted. When I tried to put a 1,500 point list together with six, I got a little tied up, came up short on points. Then I realized my problem was the Mercury Drones and their Tritons, which I feel I have to take to project my commander's SoI forward of his walk-on Nemesis. The solution, of course, is what you've got here: Two Janus in a Triton. So I picked up my third blister of Helios, a blister of Janus and a blister of Triton A2s while I was at Gen Con, and they are high on my list to get built and painted to hit the table. (First up are my Athenas, tho; while I only plan to run one at 1,500, I do want to get them both painted at the same time, and then spring one of them on some hedgehogs! "You like hiding your gates behind buildings, do you? Surprise, Supercruise inbound!" Ha!)

    I love my Phobos, but everything you said as a "pro" (and the "cons") are spot on. Great blog post! Write more, please!