Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The support of the crutch is unshakable

This post was supposed to be a report of a recent tournament I attended, Coastal Assault at Dice Saloon in Brighton.
The UCM Ferrum Drone base Mk2
It wasn't going to be my normal report because my intended list for the event was going to be Ferrum-less, but, due to a mix up when sending lists the week before, and me not realising until the day before, I took the wrong list. It had a Ferrum in it and I came 2nd overall.

The Ferrum (and subsequently, double Ferrum) has been taking a lot of stick recently.
"it's OP"
"it does too much"
"it's too fast"

So I decided that I would prove a point and play a tournament without one. Just to show that UCM are still awesome without it.......I failed to even try the list, and to be brutally honest, I'm kinda glad I had the wrong list.

The Ferrum is a crutch that I (and many other UCM generals) depend on.
I really did want to try the UCM without a Ferrum, but after playing, I realise it is absolutely necessary to the UCM.

The list I wanted to use was as follows, and was designed with the 3 missions being played (Bunker Assault, Military Complex and Ground Control) in mind.

Looking over the list, I don't think I would have done as well as I actually did. The reason is solely down to the versatility of the Ferrum.

Without the Ferrum, the UCM are really lacking in options. This sounds really weird considering they probably have the most different options available of all the factions. The thing is all those other options are very one dimensional. The UCM units thrive at being good at the job they do. They can have a lot of synergy in their lists, units working for other units. It's not enough right now.

Speed is an issue. Without the Ferrum, there is no fast paced threat. In my opinion the UCM are now the slowest faction. PHR are 'supposed' to be the slow ones, but units like the Medusa, Helios, Angelos, Valkyries, Apollos etc have made the standard PHR list a very quick and maneuverable thing.

I can't see a competitive UCM 'take all-comers' list without a Ferrum. Is that bad?
Well yes and no

I'm a little loathed to say it but the Ferrum is as near as damnit an auto-include. I have stuck up for the Ferrum, saying "it's fine, it's not too bad, just improve your tactics blah blah blah" and all of that is still true, but maybe it does need a little toning down. Does that mean it's over-powered, technically yes, I suppose it does.

If I attempt to take off my UCM tinted goggles and look at it objectively then I think there are a couple (or 3) things that could be done.

  • First would be to make it Focus 3 rather than 4. This is not my own idea, but one that I really like. It would really help tone down it's huge threat. 2 hits would be E9, 3 hits would be E12. This is a lot better than a highly mobile E13 generator.
  • Secondly I would remove 'Scout' from the drones. Simple really. You can go slightly more complicated and say that if the squad doesn't fire it can scout, but it's a little messy. There are decent scouts already in the UCM army that are criminally underused because the Starsprites are scouts.
  • Lastly I would offer kill points for killing drones. 4 or 5 points per drone. Over the course of a game the maximum drone output is 28 so this would be 112 or 140 points to your opponent. I know it would take some book keeping, but it's not that bad. Normally I'd lose 12-16 in a game, that is a decent reward for an opponent, as well as an incentive.

So in conclusion, what I am trying to say, is that yes the Ferrum is very good. I don't feel that it is over-powered, maybe slightly. But the UCM need a unit like this. It helps bring the army as a whole, together. It offers synergy with a lot of other units that do specific roles. 
Without a unit like the Ferrum, playing the UCM would be very difficult indeed, especially with the versatility of other factions units. It is a hard counter to a lot of different units, and makes opponents think how to counter it. 


  1. I wish the Scourge had a versatile unit like this!

  2. I would argue that one of the big issues is the combination of AA and focus fire as well. I would argue to give them 2 weapon profiles.

    Either e6 AA
    or e6 Focus 3

    Which would give a boost to skimmer while still maintaining roughly the same output against everyone else (except the focus 3 change as you suggested)

    This would change it so that you probably would against scourge for example fire 4 drones on each of 2 grav tanks.
    2 shots will get e10 appr. 70% off the time. roughly meaning that if if you shoot 4 tanks, 3 of them will get e10 shots at them, killing 2 of them on average.

    4 shots will average 2 hits, netting 1 e9 shot which has 50% chance to kill. Ergo 1 dead tank.

    That would for me feel like a good change.

    1. You are aware that you can't focus on aircraft, right?
      Only vehicles

    2. I think the suggestion is by splitting it into two profiles, skimmers / hover vehicles would not find their defense removed against the AT shots.

    3. Exactly. Focus on aircraft is already handled today, but with the split profile the reverse would be true as well. Skimemrs and Hover keep their protection

  3. There's a lot of interesting discussion about crutch units happening in regards to the upcoming third edition of Warmachine (which i also plan to get back into once it's released).

    The basic gist is that once a faction gets a unit that is too good or too versatile it limits the design and decision space from that point on.

    Once you get something that's out of line, everything after that has to be balanced around the assumption that it's included to ensure that the new thing doesn't break the game when it shows up. But then you end up with a weak army that's only brought up to par by the out of line thing and anyone not taking it is intentionally hampering themselves.

    I'd really like to see a Ferrum nerf/retool that opens up more viable builds but as you say, the faction as it currently stands relies on it and might need to be brought in line.

    And yeah, the scout issue stands out. As it currently stands i take a squad of wolverines pretty much only to unlock two exotic slots cheaply, the snipers are way expensive and both have much less coverage than the drones. Additionally there's the kodiak, it already feels like the weaker commander option and that's already with the drone providing LoS to damn near anything you want. If they lose scout the kodiak takes a huge hit as well. The longbows will suffer too but they at least have a unique role and aren't in a direct rivalry like the kodiak and phoenix.

  4. I think you're probably right for the most part (you did a good job convincing me at Coastal assault!). Probably still of the opinion that something is wrong with focus rather than the ferrum though.

    I completely understand the scout thing, but I almost feel like removing it just hurts the kodiak rather than the ferrum, and the pheonix already seems like the best choice by quite a margin.

    Now here's the hugely rule bloating option... 3 drone options decided on launch! Scouts drones, AT drones or AA drones.

  5. I like the drone options idea of Tim. Just like drones now.
    I'm a UCM player aswell and my opponent is always PHR. I do not field a Ferrum. But use other aircraft. Because I don't like the look of the Ferrum. We are quite evenly matched. Mega Mike I think you play more games, and against diffrent armies. I've only played against you once. And that was the only time I faced an Ferrum. The killpoints for the drones would be a plus. As it stops you from using it as an expendable unit all the time. Just like you did in our game. Take the hits on drones from rapiers, follow up with the falcons/phoenix. So I'll take your word on this.

    Cheers, Thunder

  6. Good post. I think the main thing is the versatility. I think a point reduction and then removal of AA and scout would help, making it a fast AT unit but you need other units for AA and scout.

    I don't think it stops there though. 2 Things. First is the point that the UCM are sadly lacking. They are slow and the units being used are not up against the other armies new shiny stuff. They need to be biffed a bit. Second I think that the special units in the other armies that are kind of clearly better can be decreased. We have already seen the thunderstorm and the freeriders being nerfed. A little more overall and the UCM can start compete again without the Ferrum.

    But I also think that the Ferrum need to be limited much in it's versatility so that the UCM will consider other units more. Then we will see the changes needed to be done to the army and to the other factions to fix the matter.

    Thanks for posting! /Egge

  7. I was going to make exactly the same suggestion as Tim - have three different drone load outs (AT, AA & Scout). This would keep the versatility of the Ferrum, and keep it's place thematically in the army, but would remove versatility from the drones themselves.

    Whether or not you allowed mixed units of different kinds of drones I don't know. Probably not.

    Whether or not you'd allow the Ferrum to launch multiple types of drone in one turn (in different squads so say 6 AT drones and 2 scouts) I don't know. I'd be inclined to say probably yes because it would be silly to have huge fleets of scout drones buzzing around when in reality they'd fly singly or perhaps in pairs.

    You could potentially require players to paint their drones different colours / clearly mark them to allow them to take advantage of this option. Otherwise, every drone on the board has to be the same type? That would keep it clear for everyone.

    I've never played with or against a Ferrum so I've got no axe to grind. My main concern is keeping units playing like the setting suggests they should function.

  8. The Ferrum is broken from its design and it seems to be a love child of its creator 2 reasons why

    Why are the drones infinite? There is no way that 28 of them fit inside the drone base when you account for there has to be other things inside the base than drones like water, fuel, power, engine to drive the tracks, dead space given the command ‘tower’ pops up out of the body, dead space for the lift, electronic equipment (for communications and drone control at least). For a game where the designer often mentions adherence to ‘real scale’ this drone base is unbelievable as holding that many drones.

    How many drones launch and respawn a turn? 8 and 4. They have to be brought out of the body by a lift (even if we assume this lift is incredibly fast), the wing unfold and it has to be launched. Are we to believe that in the ‘hard sci-fi’ setting the drone base does this at a rapid fire rate that out strips the rate of fire of a main battle cannon of a future-tank?

    Both the slilly launch rate and the volume of drones this miniature produces it quite questionable. Given that these features have remained through both the experimental rules and a Reconquest update I am lead to ask how can they have failed to not this and return the thing to a more real capability? The answer: love child! It is a nice miniature, it sells well and the notion is cool – I can see why.

    Points cost aside here are some options to work the Ferrum to a more sensible unit (ideally both together). Before I continuing I would like to say that having concept inform rules not have rules before concept is a basic notion on which all this is founded on.

    If you could only launch 4 at a time regardless and have up to 8 in the air at a time this might help prevent the bulk initial overwhelm factor. As a player you would have the choice of sending out small swarms or building a mob.

    Drastically reduce the amount that can be respawned or remove the respawn all together. Less special rules is good and removes the waves of expendable drones aspect. The killpoint per done issue goes away too.

    Most importantly this returns some realism.

  9. I like Wenner's suggestions: two profiles, Alt-1 so you can only use one at a time, the ground attack profile has no AA rule and has Focus-3.

    1. I think that the problem is that it's to versatile. If the Ferrum have the AA it still ticks off; AT. AA. Highly survivable. Fast. Scout. Can not hold focal points easy. Even without scout it would still be highly viable in a game like DZC.
      Compare to 3 Rapiers for comparable costs: No AT. AA. Survivable (but not as much). Slow. Can hold focal points. Have dropship.

      It just doesn't compare. The flexibility need to pay a extreme premium price otherwise it will dominate. If it only had AT then you had to use other units for Scout and for AA which I think would vary list building a lot more.

      I think that no one would have cared if the Ferrum had come with only AT in the first release. It would have been used. But perhaps not all the time.

    2. Yeah, they are still too versatile in some regards. If they would have had only AT on the drones from the beginning no one would have objected. Perhaps then it could have been cheaper, perhaps with some added armour. Keep the AA or even beef t up on the main vehicle. Voila, you have a vehicle capable of both AA and AT but with a reason to actually dump it upfield with a dropship.

  10. Mike, your overall point is well taken, but your inclination to have the Ferrum adjusted in any way is terribly misguided. The other factions have multiple units that they can be proud of and lean on (multiple crutches). UCM (and likely Scrouge), not so much. Ultimately, by advocating for some sort of Ferrum adjustment, you're courting with the oblivion of your own kind. If the Ferrum gets "adjusted" like some have suggested..... We'll all calmly watch UCM fall *completely* out of the competitive scene. And at that point, the discussion will truly be over.

  11. I think this all just confirms one thing, speed is, and always has been, the most undervalued Stat in the game. You must have speed to be competitive, that's it.

    PHR were dismal in the tournament scene, a very aesthetically popular race that couldn't consistently win, until they got their newer fast stuff. Now the fast stuff is considered a crutch and PHR players get harassed for not using enough of the older slow units that don't work.

    Focus in on the Ferrum, same concept, as the article states they are fast and flexible, and totally required for UCM to compete.

    Really there are only a couple solutions, A: increase point costs of all fast units, in every army, across the board. B: give a big discount to all slower units in the game.
    Or, we could just keep cherry picking at the 'OP unit of the day' and not actually consider addressing the core problem.

    IMO, when the game was first released (aka the edition we are still playing in), armor was overvalued, speed and flexibility was undervalued, and rate of fire was undervalued compared to E. Now that the game has been extensively tested for years we know the inherent value of these traits, but the actual point value does not yet reflect the inherent value of these stats. I think we are getting closer to needing DZC 2.0.

    1. THIS! So much this! I think (and hope)DzC 2.0 is on the way in the form of the application they were teasing last year.

  12. If the Ferrum is a UCM crutch = then Medusa is now a PHR crutch = Veterans are Resistance crutch = Caiman or Drake Shaltari crutch = Destroyers are a Scourge crutch. It seems all the factions have an "auto include" unit(s) in them.