Friday, 6 May 2016

Woah Man, That's Heavy

Let's go back. Way back. Way, way back. Back to the time when Coyotes strode the land, proud and alert, and Sabre's slunk behind each other in conga lines of death, articulated rail guns raising up and down like a Giraffe's neck. This was a time when the Heavy choice was a dangerous one, and if an adversaries army fielded one of these units it had to the potential to radically adjust your game plan. You see, the Gladius used to be a hefty elephant of war, and if an Odin dropped near, well, pretty much anything, it was brown trousers time.

These two units are a great example of how the game has developed over the last year and a half, for either better or worse. Both embody the characteristics of what you would believe make up a heavy unit; they both pack dangerous weaponry, can take a bit of a kicking, but are as slow as a paraplegic turtle. You would use them as a hammer blow on a back to back activation, drop last and activate first next turn, and the results could be devastating!

This has radically altered though. Since then the game has shifted dramatically, favouring speed and agility over brute force and armour. Not only this, but over time the elements that made these specialist tanks dangerous have become a lot less unique. Energy 11 weapons were a premium to begin with, but as the Arms Race began to rise E11 weapons have become easier to access and are more common place. As for durability, the power creep has again caused issues here, but more than that there are cheaper units which just soak damage better than these hulking goliaths of old.

As a result the Heavy choice has suffered a very similar blow to that of the Standard choice, and I rarely see or field heavy units in the warzone. If you don't believe me and accuse me of blowing out air hotter and stickier than microwaved jam, let's have a looksy at each race;

The previous God of War in the dropzone, the Odin walker, has become practically non-existent in recent times, which is a shame. They were a complete arsehole to play against and exuded an aura of total domination wherever they roamed. So what happened? The Helios and Medusa rocked up, that's what. A single Medusa in a Triton X is more dangerous, quicker, robust, flexible and cheaper than two Odins in a Neptune. This may not have been enough to bury the unit, but the excellence that is the Helios demand that they have a place in a PHR list, and after this there are really no more points left to spend.

The Hades is the other, even larger heavy walker that we don't see too much these days either. What's crazy is that it is genuinely great, but remains a stark reminder of how slow and stoic the PHR were before their new unit releases. Slow and steady does not win the race in this case. And as for the Taranis, well, that is a totally different issue altogether...

Not the worst sufferers by any means, but how often do you really see Hanibals and Zhukovs? I mean really? I took some Hanibals to the last Invasion, horribly mis-used them after writing a whole article about how we should be using them, and got no worth out of them at all really as their utility is ultimately a little stunted. I still stand by my article, but in reality two units of Vets in buses are just so much better.

Zhukovs have some die hard fans, I know this much, but the maths say that three Gun Wagons are better at the same job. They pose a more hardy AA bubble certainly, but boy do you pay for it.

Like with a lot of different rules, I've been banging on at Hawk Dave and Simon to fix the Slayers for about two years now. The painfully obvious fault with the Slayer and Tormentor is that they are armour 8. I'll put this into perspective for you; I doubled a Slayer out with an Intruder at Coastal Assualt. One six, and poooof, dead Slayer. Why aren't they armour 9!? This isn't really a new development though. The Hunter has always been the best standard AT tank in the game and continues to be so, and I can't see a future where Slayers are worth taking over them (which is totally bollocks from a selfish point of view, as I own four of the things).

Tormentors had their very rare uses but were finally neutered on the arrival of the Raider. Now with the Coruptor due for release very shortly the last trick (or worm if you will) up the sleeve of these two tanks has been removed. The Scourge need a heavy unit for ground presence, but these two just aren't up for the job.

Nothing to see here, move along...

As always Shaltari have to be different, and they actually have the most useful Heavy choices in the game. They are also the only race which make E10 worthwhile, in the form of the Caiman's triple shot gun. I really wasn't keen on the Caiman on release, but as the average level of armour has decreased from A10 their usefulness has multiplied twofold (not quite tenfold, or even fourfold). The Ocelot actually got a boost within the last year, and we see these now more than ever before! Bloody Shaltari, ruining my point!

That said the antique Jaguar is possibly a loser here, as four E6 AA and 2 E10 AT shots is pretty weak for a 100 point unit, but it still has its uses.

The grand Gladius and initially-gimped-but-then-almost-resurrected Scimitar are the tanks which see the least table time in this list. Much like the Odin, the Gladius has been replaced with units which are faster, more durable and offer more utility like the Ferrum, Eagle and Hazard Suits. I honestly can't remember the last time I faced off against the Gladius!

The Scimitar pops up every now and then, but remains a luxury unit which is likely to fall of the face of the Cradle Worlds with the Crosbow's (Longbow laser variant) imminent release.

In conclusion (excluding the Shaltari) each of the above units has either had their jobs taken by units which are cheaper, better or easier to fit in a list, or simply don't have a role in the modern game any more. In my opinion this has resulted in the Heavy slot becoming a bit of a luxury. Is this a bad thing? Perhaps. The very fact that there are support and exotic choices which are better at delivering the job of the Heavy choice is a little worrying, and for a whole battlegroup to not be chosen on a consistent basis summons the word 'unbalance' to my quivering lips.

This is of course fixable with the release of new units and tweak of old ones, but I'm finding it hard to figure out how to make a heavy unit feel 'Heavy' again. Higher energy? Nope, can't do that. More armour? Even the throw-away thought of the possibility of A11 over more DP's makes me shake nervously. That could open even more drastic possibilities, like a passive save on super heavy tanks fr instance.

It's a tricky question to answer. For now though, our sad and lonely heavy tanks will just sit in their bunkers, gathering dust and dreaming of the 'good 'ol days'; not better days mind you, just different.

P.S. We'll start being up-beat again soon, I promise. It's not all doom and gloom as the game is still the best wargame on the market, this topic just happened upon me!


  1. "P.S. We'll start being up-beat again soon, I promise. It's not all doom and gloom as the game is still the best wargame on the market, this topic just happened upon me!"
    I hope so!.
    That said, I can't falt your points. Fast is better.
    How about heavy's get to reaction fire on other ground target? ;)

  2. Great article, really feeling the lack of Hannibals and Zhukovs in my lists these days, but they're just... not good enough. Exotics kick their ass in almost every faction, as you say.

    Also nice to see *my* Resistance featuring in the picture - back when I thought Hannibals and Alexanders were worth taking to an Invasion tournament - I placed 48th I think!

    1. I was going to message you about using the pic, but lunch times are too short!

  3. What if A10+ couldn't be doubled out? The armor is just too good at that thickness/toughness. This just occurred to me. I haven't thought it out. Please, don't flame me too badly.

    1. What's the point of E13? (not flame, just counter question)

    2. The Ocelot is an over-compensation machine, clearly.

      Not keen on that A10 rule, but if ideas aren't suggested no movement will take place so good work for sticking your neck out. Getting A10 into the field is as simple as making anything E11 come at a premium, or stripping it from quick units. The Apollos are a good example of a quick unit with an E10 gun; balance done correctly.

  4. this is in the same ball park as my Trump meme. o how times have changed

    1. That was the best DzC meme I've ever seen my friend.

  5. First we gotta ask ourselves what we actually want. For Heavy units i'd say it's surviving at least one shot of most weaponry.

    Obviously the problem is that a lot of Heavy units have 2 DP and there's a lot of stuff that has at least a chance to deal 2 damage, namely everything E11 and above. Apart from simply making high energy weapons more expensive, a couple of options come to mind.

    The least intrusive solution would probably to give most heavy units 3 DP instead of 2. This ensures that they can at least one hit, even if it does 2 damage. This of course also makes them even more resilient against weapons that can only do 1 damage but i don't think that's a back thing, even if a points adjustment might be warranted.

    You could also introduce a special rule that cancels out double damage from high rolls but let's Devastator still work. I like putting it in a special rule better than tieing it to armor value as it offers more control to the designers and i think it's easier to keep in mind than adding special cases the the basic rules.

    And finally, you could remove the current double damage rules and hand it out selectively as a special rule again. I already suggested this in the comments for the arms race podcast where mike replied that we already had this with Devastator but i'm not sure he understood what i was proposing.

    Here's the suggested rule again:
    Overkill[X]: When attacking with this weapon, if the damage roll is at least [X] higher than required, this weapon deals twice the normal amount of damage.

    Another variant would be to make it dependant on the targets armor:
    Overkill[X]: When attacking a target with and A value of [x] or less, if the damage roll is at least 2 higher than required, this weapon deals twice the normal amount of damage.

    Both of these variants offer more control and flexibility from a design perspective than the current rules and would offer something a step below Devastator.

    1. Yeah, I also think the double damage rule needs adjusting. I think doing so would help rebalance the effectiveness of some units. I think I prefer giving "Heavy" units an armour rule/trait that has them ignore double damage, but with devastating always doing double damage regardless.

    2. I'm going to disagree with you both to an extent, I think the double damage rule is one of the stand out mechanics in DzC. The issue is not A10 / 2dp units, the problem is that there are too many units able to make this level of robustness irrelevant.

      The issue needs to be fixed on a higher platform so that a traditional heavy unit actually packs some weight behind it again. I would be more inclined to fix certain units weapons first before introducing rules with change the way damaging units works.

  6. I actually think shaped charge proliferation has had a hand in driving heavy's viability down to. A10 doesn't feel good against high energy or mass low energy shaped charges of which there are now plenty.

    It really has to come down to the "if fast moving units and exotics do the big gun and high resilence thing"... then well heavies have to be fast? /sigh

    It sounded like your brain found its way to shaped charges while taking about focus units in the arms race Dan, and I completely understand why. Loads of low energy shots that if you land enough kill something they "shouldn't" be able to.

    1. I do think probably something like a dispersed formation rule on heavys (with obviously a different name and reasoning) is likely the only answer at this point.

      Unless Hawk decided to massively change focus, and I would be surprised in honesty, that seems the only direction of travel. Well or just ignore it and let the heavy groups die.

    2. and whilst I keep replying to myself...

      2 Helios are basically 6 katanas versus A10, is that weird?

      Ok... a little less accurate.

  7. I prefer solutions that don't alter the basic game mechanics too much (or at all) if possible, so would prefer not to touch the double damage rules.

    I think Bistromatic has a point with making 3DP for heavies a thing, although that worries me from another perspective in that it starts another arms race. If civilian trucks can have 2DP then I don't have a problem with a heavy tank having 3DP. Although really I'd prefer the truck only had 1 and the heavy tank 2.

    The best solution would be to rebalance all of the units at the same time, whether or not that be in conjunction with a 2.0 rules update. I'd prefer to tone down newer, more powerful units than upgrade older ones as I think this approach to balancing never works.

    The other alternative is simply to make heavies cheaper. Instead of being slots that bring heavy armour and firepower to the table (compared to most other options), what they could do is bring discounted armour and firepower. You'd have to be careful not to make them so cheap that taking regular tanks was pointless, but they could be cheap enough that anyone taking a squad of Hunters would happily switch up to Slayers because the points difference was pretty slight.

  8. Focus fire /= double out ever. GO ahead and make E13 to do a pt on a 2+, but not 2x on 4+.

  9. are any of you guys from orbital bombardment going to the uk games expo in birmingham?

    1. All of us are down! Although only 2 (I think) are playing in the tourney.

    2. awesome! I'm going to the tourney

    3. Good stuff, be sure to come and say hi! Those of us not playing will be about at some point I'm sure.

  10. "the antique Jaguar is possibly a loser here, as four E6 AA and 2 E10 AT shots is pretty weak for a 100 point unit, but it still has its uses."

    As a newish DZC/Shaltari player, this statement perplexes me. Three Jaguars are cheaper than 6 Tomahawks supported by 3 Kukris. Admittedly, I don't get the skimmer bonus, but A9 v. A7 and 12DP v. 9DP is better survivability not to mention the fact that Jaguars are elevated and have better line of sight.

    Of course, they're elevated meaning everything else has line of sight to them. The Space Hedgehogs giveth, and the Space Hedgehogs taketh away...

    And this isn't even counting if you decide to take your Jaguars out for a walk with a Dreamsnare.

    Do Jaguars have epic levels of firepower? Absolutely not. Do they have a lot good firepower? Yes. Yes they do, and they have the staying power to make that good firepower count in ways that can outlast epic firepower.

  11. The Jag is less a victim of its environment than others, but I rarely see them these days I think possibly it's because of A9 and E10. To use your example of TH and Kukris, obviously A9 is better than A7 but you lose the skimmer bonus, and as E11 is prolific that is a big deal; You get doubled out on a 5+! Also in that scenario the skimmers offer a heap more target saturation.

    The more I think about the Jag I come to the conclusion that the A9 is actually its problem, but it couldn't be A10 as it would outrageous.

    You will get worth out of the Jag for sure, I'm just not sure there is room for it in the modern Shaltari list, with gates being the price they are.

    1. I agree with you regarding the Armor value versus Skimmer rule. It's a tough choice between the two with the trade off.

      The one point I think is completely in the Shaltari forces' favor across the board though is the fact that passive countermeasures eliminate about 33% of all hits (except for those Wave Motion Gun sorta hits from things like Ocelots).

      I thoroughly annoy my opponents by making waaaaay more PC saves that I have any right to.

  12. Title for the next article: Except the Shaltari
    Because every general issue, problem, or concept we talk about doesn't apply to the Shaltari.

    1. What the heck man! As a Shaltari player I take exception...

      ...hmmmm. Yeah, you've got a pretty good point there. I'll just sit over here and make notes for my next army.

  13. Big fan of a rebalancing for the older units. Power creep sucks.
    I definitely think that Heavies need to rock 3DP. That's a great start. Being doubled out by 1 shot is just wrong, and since there's very little rhyme or reason as to why the A and DP stats are the way they are, I can't see any issue with rejigging them a bit.

    1. Great episode btw guys! It's nice to hear constructive critique of the game from those who know it and love it.