Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Invaders, They're Coming Over The Hills

Until I looked up the lyrics for the classic Iron Maiden, British Heavy Metal track 'Invaders' to paraphrase the title of this post, I had no idea that the perfect lyric "Invaders...Marauding" existed in the second chorus. Either Iron Maiden are fans of Dropzone Commander and managed to leave a note in the past for themselves (like a reverse Blue Peter time pod), Dave Lewis is a secret-but-not-so-secret Iron Maiden fan, or it's all just a big, rather deflating coincidence.

Anyway; Invaders... Marauding.

I wanted to experiment with something a little 'alternative' in my Scourge list and general army meta, and with Coastal Assualt approaching I deemed it a more than adequate staging ground for this test. What test? Why, using Invaders in a Scourge list of course!

I've noted Invaders as being alternative for the simple fact that they just aren't used past the starter set, with the Intruder Alpha (the similarly named, light dropship troop transport) being seen as vastly superior. That isn't just our opinion at OB, although it is strongly our opinion, but is also that of the wider community too. The fact of the matter is that the Intruder is just better! I think it's only fair that I explain why, so let's get out them circles and stick some sexy bullet points on this mother;

Intruder > Invader because;
  • Intruders are incredibly manoeuvrable, with a top speed of 30" and the ability to deploy Infantry into a building from up to around 20" away, or building hop a unit up to 17". If deployed in a Marauder, the Invader can deploy Infantry into a building up to 19" away, and can only building hop Infantry if it is already deployed, and only up to a pathetic maximum of 5". To emphasise how bad the building hop range is, Infantry who have a move of 2" can move between buildings up to 4" away. This manoeuvrability also allows the Intruder to safely whiz Infantry across the board and out of the way.
  • Intruders are easier to hide (all aircraft measure to stems, but the Marauder is bulkier and will stick out more).
  • Two squads of warriors in Intruders are 49 points cheaper than two squads in Invaders, in a Marauder (and a squad of Warriors and Destroyers in Intruders 3 points cheaper!). In fairness to the APC, you do get three bases of Warriors for your troubles, but that is 7 points shy of a squad of Minders! 
  • Intruders offer battle group flexibility. Being able to place one squad of Warriors in their own Troop battle group in your roster allows for far more options within your force. With the list you will see below soon, I really struggled to fit in six battle groups. 
  • Marauders, and Invaders, are vulnerable. Although this article is on Invaders, Marauders should be seen as part of the package deal, and also part of the problem. Intruders I find to be more survivable when it comes to advanced deployment simply because of their speed, and also that only AA can target them.
So, that's a pretty inclusive and lengthy list of reasons as why not to bring Invaders to the party. It's worth noting that UCM have the same issues with Bears, and PHR have it even worse with Junos (due to the Neptune's speed and the Junos limited capacity of two bases).

Hot of the production line
One of the reasons for my experiment was that myself and the boyz had discovered that light dropships were superior pretty early on in our DzC careers, and as a result I had never used Invaders in a list! I also wanted to see that if despite all the short comings they could be used in a 'hostile' environment. 

I mused for a while over a list, and this is what I settled on;

Six battle groups; Check! Four Infantry; Check! CV4 minimum for a Scourge boss; Check! Really the only thing I missed out on in this list was the second unit of Exotics (which would be Destroyers), and honestly, I did miss them. I had a single prep game against Joe's Shaltari on the Friday before Coastal in order to shake of the rust (as I hadn't played a 1500 point Dropzone against since November!), which resulted in a draw and gave me some initial food for thought regarding the Invader; Coastal was going to be tough.

It turned out to be just that, but also very successful for me...

Game 1: Military Complex (WMD) - 20-0 - Oz with PHR
Warriors bravely,(as brave a zombie can be),
facing off against Sirens

Having played this game against Joe, I had an idea on how to deploy my Invaders in order to get the most from the squads, having made the mistake of putting both squads into my 'home' building in our game. Not being able to building hop a squad with an Invader from your 'home' building to the closest middle building on Targets Of Opportunity or MC (unless it is within 5", and you are willing to risk your Invader to AT fire) is a real issue for APCs, and it forces you to keep a squad on board for a turn 2 disembark. This results in less search rolls on turn 2, which could be critical if you are playing against a strong demo list. As it was Oz was fairly new to the game, and it turns out that I have DzC ingrained on my soul, and used every ounce of my experience to win this game. Mike called me a newb stomper, because he's supportive like that, but I will note that Oz went on to annihilate his next two opponents with his double Njord list and finished 5th! Good work chap!

Game 2: Bunker Assault - 12-8 - Papa Burch with Scourge

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing Mike, but, but, but... This was a tournament, and I'd never beaten him at a tournament before, and he's a better player than me, so to say it was a dread pairing would be fairly accurate. As it turned out, I managed to snatch a win after a couple of mis-deployments in the first turn (yes, the first turn, that's how tight our games tend to be) which I genuinely thought would cost me the game. My Intruder AT fire turned out to be strong however, with my transports matching the total damage that his Reavers caused all game (mostly due to a lack of ground targets on both our parts), and with a few key troop deployments I grabbed the win by 1 VP and an extra point from kill points.

The Invaders did what all troops do in this game when your opponent has an Annihilator and Monitors; very little. Against lists which did not pack blasts and too much AI I would have been tempted to bring them on turn 1 and deploy them into buildings to unleash hell (which with an Overseer boosting their shots, they really do!) but que sera sera. As it was they snuck on turn 4 after all of Mike's AA was dead or indisposed, and loitered around until end game to bunker up their troops. In this mission it was the Corruptor that secured me the win by squirting Razorworms into his 'home' bunker, as by having only two Intruders in the list meant getting there was always going to be an issue. I would have also preferred to have 100 points of Destroyers over the 81 points of Warriors which come inside the Invader.

Game 3: Careful Advance - 15-5 - Dave Clark with Allied Resistance

Now don't get me wrong, again, I enjoy playing Dave, but, but, but, but... You can shove four Typhoons and a Thunderstorm in one battlegroup right up your muck crease. Typhoons are bad enough, but four of them, seriously? Bullshit move, Clarkey. Anyway, as it turned out, after spending 280 points on choppers Dave had little on the ground to contest Critical Locations in turns two, three, and four which gave me a four point lead after he obliterated my home building and extracted his objective (making it 6-2 to me at the top of turn 4).

Get in and out, quick sharp!
I made a deployment error by sticking both my Invader Warrior squads into my home building, fully well knowing that Dave would decimate it within the first couple of activation's of turn 2, but even after a Brave Gamble (card is bullshit, basically three Quick Thinking's in one deck, it's bullshit!) on his Typhoon squad almost brought down the building after I won initiative, a clutch Underground Monorail allowed both squads to 'flee' into the central building and become occupier, which resulted in a CQB between six Warrior bases, my Eviscerators, and Dave's MFRs; I had 66 dice! I'll also note that they unbelievably only lost seven men, but then rolled a one and ran away. Luck's a funny thing.

Under the duress of typical Resistance building demo and an overheating Thunderstorm, I managed to find the central objective and my Oppressor ended up holding onto it at the end of the game to give me a 5 VP lead; I was never, ever winning the Kill Points battle. I think the rustyness of both our games showed, with in my opinion Dave's two Pathfinder Archangels (oh yes, he had two of these too. Resistance should win everything, they're so good!) picking the wrong targets for most of the game. Instead of downing the Eviscerator's Intruder he went after a Marauder loaded with Hunters (which I kept loaded as bait, it was worth the risk), which he could have just waited to disembark and tear up with the T-Storm and Typhoons.

If it had not been for the Underground Monorail in turn 2 I would have not been nearly as strong in that central building, and the issue of building hopping units with Invaders would have become a big issue again, especially with the threat range of Sappers and Typhoons who could have taken out the APCs. If not for my experience of the game, and luck dry-humping my leg, it could have been very different indeed.

After this game I was on equal points with a lovely chap named George, but nicked the 1st place medal on Strength Of Schedule (Mike came 3rd, and Dave came 6th). A real hard tournament, but so, so good. Dropzone remains hands down (and hands up) the best strategy wargame on the market!

Invaders though. Invaders. Hm. Invaders... Disapointing.

If I were to give a summary of 'APC configurations', it would be that they are usable, but in the most ironic of ways only for experienced players of the game. I understand why they come in starter sets, but they game would maybe be easier to teach and more immediately accessible if they came with light dropships instead (Shaltari and Resistance excluded, as with everything in Dropzone...).

The biggest positive I can take from the transport configuration is having three bases of troops at my disposal, which I enjoyed. It meant that I could be a little more cavalier with the squads in CQB, as they were 50% more durable than 'normal' which helps against solid CQB units such as Valkyries and Occupation Vets. Also falling masonry is less of a big deal too for the same reasons. Having the option of three squads leaning out of a window and shooting up to 18" is remarkably good, although that does require an Overseer to be nearby which isn't always a given.

Free-range Invaders
For the most part though the initial bullet points remain, big, glaring and unavoidable. No disrespect meant to Oz, but if I had played against an old salty vet like myself in the first mission, or even a demo list like Dave's, this tournament would have gone in a completely different direction. I would have lacked the simple manoeuvrability to compete with quicker lists. The fact that you cannot building hop between buildings more than 5" away from each other is garbage and kills the unit. I also always felt vulnerable, with a constant dread feeling that someone would realise that the Invaders is only A8, DP2, and very easy to remove in the current meta, where high energy and multiple shots continue to be prevalent. You can't even use a Call For Extraction effectively on a three base unit of Warriors, as they can't deploy into an Intruder, and I don't think any new Invaders could embark onto the original Marauder (as they weren't bought with the squad, not 100% on that though).

It would be unlike me to moan and not have a suggestion or two for fixes to the biggest trouble areas APC configurations face, so let's drag out those bullet points once more;

  • Allow APC's to disembark/embark out of their dropships, and disembark/embark their cargo up to their full movement value. This would give them a potential first turn building embark of 22" (dropship MV [12"] + deployment [3"] + APC MV [6"] + embark directly into building [1"] = 22"). The only possible issue with this is that it could allow first turn deployment into central buildings, but is that really a problem? APCs need a selling point, and if you want to risk being occupier in a central building in the Age Of Demolition that's your risk to take. It would allow for an 8" building hop, which is very important, and evens out with Shaltari who can already deploy into central buildings on the 1st turn (23" potential from an Eden/Haven on 1st turn). 
  • Tougher medium dropships. I'm not talking about a whole new sculpt, but perhaps adding a Beta class for the Marauder and Condor, to up their armour to 6, or increase their DP's to 4.
  • A variation of the Katanas / Fireblades smoke rule for the first time they deploy from their medium dropship. Invaders wouldn't need this, as if they can deploy their full move they would get a skimmer bonus, but it would be perfect for the Bear and Juno.
  • Change of objective rules to promote more bases. Not a change to the unit at all, but to the core Objective rules. I get no benefit for having more bodies in buildings at the moment, so change the rules to give bonuses to bigger squads (+1 to search rolls, for example, although Pungari would be outrageous thinking about it).

In my opinion some of the above would go a way to making APC configurations for Scourge and UCM more viable in the competitive game.

But that's just Scourge and UCM...notice how I haven't really mentioned PHR? Well, that's a different issue altogether. Neptunes and Junos are slow, and can only hold two bases of Infantry in each APC. Even with the above suggestions, it would give PHR an underwhelming first turn building deployment of 18". The release of the super-fly Valkyries essentially built a flat block over the grave of the PHR APC game, which was already 6 feet deep.

I've also not mentioned Resistance. Why? Because they don't need any help! As with PHR their first turn building deployment would only be 18", but the Resistance sweat demolition and would gladly allow you to occupy a middle building fist turn. They can easily drop that it and then swarm the remaining two central buildings with their numerous squads! Lifthawks are great (no matter what the haters say about 'Dropship Tax'), and being able to to house three separate squads of two bases is far better than having two squads of three bases.

So there you go. This analysis was long in word count, but also long over-due. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and any suggestions you may have to help us see more APCs in the game!


  1. Thanks for the article Dan. I've been trying to get mortar teams and flak teams into my UCM list and I'm finding Bears hard work. Do you think units like flak teams and mortar teams make APCs a necessary evil? I've not got very far with them but then I'm crap at the game. But with a decent troop only they can carry they could be worthwhile. Maybe APCs could be used as a weapons platform for troops? Giving them some protection without them having to deploy in a building?

    Chris Sprules

    1. Mortar and Flak teams are a bit of an exception to the rules above. What you'll find is that these Infantry units are very static and will stay in the same building for the entire game offering back table support, and should be viewed as a support unit rather than a dedicated Infantry squad. The bonus to this is that they can search for Objectives and hand them off to their Bears to be extracted.

      In addition to Mortar and Flak teams, you'll still want at least 3 more squads of Infantry, which could be a mix of Legionnaires, Praetorians and Hazard Suits. Mike has written some decent articles on UCM which are worth checking out!

  2. I agree with all this. Good analysis.

    1. I disagree with Green Stuff Industries (on principle -- he beat me at the LVO, the cur!), but agree with Sword.

      (Just kidding, Rich!)


    2. You can't listen to JD. He's from Arizona (He's craaaaazy).

    3. It's the heat, I tell ya! :-P

  3. Excellent writeup, Dan, one of your best.

    I don't think anyone disagrees with the harsh reality that APCs are rotten. But you put a fine point on it.

    And now I see how you took First Place at Coastal Assault with fewer total KPs than George. Well done, sir.

    More articles like this, if you please. (And a podcast soon, eh?)

    I've tried using Junos in a Neptune in the past, but mainly as an intentional hobble to force me to play better than my list. They (APCs in general) could be so much better, but the short building hop range is the real killer. That and the cost. Maybe someday... We all have enough of them, right?

    Thanks again! Glad you're back... 8^D

    1. Also, beautifully painted Invaders, sir. Hopefully they'll see the table again some time...

    2. That's a funny joke, right? This escapade gave me an understanding of the APC, but I have no inclination to use it again.

      Thanks chaps, I know own a fully painted Scourge starter for the first time ever :o

  4. This is how I imagine ( in my head)a scourge commander conversation about a invader would go:

    Commander: What's that?
    Transport driver: Invader sir, it can carry th..
    Commander: It's got no guns!
    Transport driver: Three squads and can be passed ob..
    Commander: IT HAS NO GUNS!!!!!!!
    Transport driver: It will allow us to..
    Commander: GUNS.

  5. I know I'm not a great (or even a middling) player of the game, but I use APCs quite a bit (Invaders specifically) mainly because I'm basing my army off the core set.

    Something you don't consider for making APCs more viable is alternative army lists. This might not help with tournaments - which I know are a big part of how you play - but I'd like to see more deployed armies.

    So, for example, I'd like to be able to take say a unit of 4-6 invaders with 12-18 stands of warriors and deploy them at the start of the game anywhere up to the half way line. These are the guys who've been garrisoning this part of the city since the day the UCM entered orbit 25 days ago. They are not the fast reaction force. They would be the equivalent of the guys in the trenches.

    Something else you might do with this kind of formation is to give them their own objective/scoring rules. e.g. if they still have any surviving troops in a building on turn 4, they score a victory point, and another on turn 6. This is to represent their objective being to hold territory rather than do what most units in DZC are supposed to be doing: zooming around scouting out new places.

    1. I like these ideas (but one or the other) as part of a specific scenario, where APC supported troops are meaningful or required by the scenario itself.

  6. Just trying to think outside the box here. Could you give APCs limited scout ability, like spotting, but not command radius, or the ability to call indirect fire from their associated dropship? Give dropships a free L-1 E10 missile when they are dedicated to APC deployment? Something similar, but not too powerful?