Artillery: Revelations

Report by Heavy Gear Solid

Overview

  • Mission: Commanding Presence
  • Forces: SRA (South) versus UCAF (Utopia) (150TV each)

SRA:

During the game, the green-based models are the Naga group, the red-based models are the Jager group, and the blue tanks/blue-based Iguana are the Hun group. The yellow base is my Duelist.

Before starting, I declared the Hun group as recon, the Jager group as GP, the Duelist as SO, and the  Naga group as FS. We used default Objectives but we used the initiative-as-first-roll rule from the tourney PDF.

This list was inspired by my previous game against Utopia. Too many targets to shoot and seemingly invulnerable Armigers to back them up. So I built an army full of Split to shoot as many things at once on every order. I also decided to give myself the possibility of efficient indirect fire, which meant taking several units with effective indirect attacks (Naga and 2 Cobras).

UCAF:

UCAF told me that they decided to lean on their faction gimmick even harder after that game. That’s all I have to offer.

Yellow-brown buildings and terrain are Light cover. Terra Novan buildings and grey containers are Medium cover. The rectangular buildings and the big boulder are Heavy cover.

We really like this 3d mat, but didn’t want to create a situation where everything had cover always. Therefore, we ruled that the ground only provides cover if it is blocking at least half of your silhouette from the ground up.

Deployment

I lost deployment. UCAF decided to take board edge, which meant I did everything else second.

I started with Green Group, figuring that I’d be putting enough down on the board (and far enough away, given the fire support nature of this group) that I’d be safe from effective counter-deployment.

Then I did Red, because Jagers are fragile and of limited effectiveness beyond 18”.

Then I did Blue, because enough of UCAF’s stuff was on the board that I felt confident choosing a forward position for my Huns. The big concrete building was also the only piece of Heavy Cover I could use for ranged combat; I’ll have to think about melee groups in the future.

Then I did the Duelist. The Duelist was always intended to go hunt Armigers. Being an arm7 4/2 unit with 18” effective range, I figured it was fragile enough that counter-deployment would be a risk. So I waited until the last moment to deploy it, and it turns out that same building was my best avenue for a flanking assault.

I have no thoughts or explanations for my opponent’s deployment.  UCAF’s army list consists of 15 models named exclusively with the following 8 words:

Commando ECM Pazu- Close Support Recce N-KIDU Armiger

Close, ECM, and Commando each appear twice. Pazu appears once. I wasn’t really ready to try to assess any of that. I know what Armigers do, and what N-KIDUs do. They were the only two unit types on the field.

Objective Selection

  • SRA Objectives:
    • Assassinate (Commanders marked in image)
    • Hold
  • UCAF Objectives:
    • Wipe Them Out (SRA’s Green Group)
    • Break the Line

My “recon tanks” poised to wreck the airdropped CGL. (Featuring one of my Elans.)

Round 1

I went first. The Jager group had some encouraging success firing upon the airdropped N-KIDUs. I did build for this – Gunners having improved damage and Trick Shot further improving Split’s performance worked out exactly how I hoped. I killed an N-KIDU outright, even.

UCAF’s first group ran for the building I was Recon-deployed up towards. They did some indirect fire on my first Hun (and I think took a hit along the way?) The Hun took 3 damage.

The first of several failures to stop indirect fire – my JM Cobra went Cripped from indirect fire, spotted by an N-KIDU that the Cobra failed to shoot. UCAF did a good job of keeping their N-KIDUs buffed by their Armigers. The spotting action was taken before it left its Armiger’s bubble.

The forward Hun went Crippled during the recon group’s activation, but the pressure was on! The Iguana was ready to give it the ol’ Try Again on its miserable PI6+, no matter what happens.

One cool thing about this 3D mat is that 1-inch-tall minis can actually achieve cover (or break line of sight!) by making use of the elevation changes. The knocked-over concrete arch, combined with the lower elevation of that side of the table, led to the Hun avoiding LOS with much of UCAF’s stuff upon deployment.

Lost a Jager to an Armiger attack. Some more UCAF repositioning. My GMG Duelist pounced upon its primary target (the first marked Armiger) but failed to damage it. Instead, I hurt an N-KIDU.

The main event, however, was on my green group activation. I sprinted my Elans up the board edges. The leftmost one didn’t really do anything. The rightmost one got in the UCAF red group’s rear arc. It was time to put Flanking FOs to the test!

My Elan FO’d on the Armiger, which was out of actions. My JM Cobra fired its MAR and my BM Cobra fired its LFG.

We had to actually re-roll this once. It was a bit hard for us to keep track of all of the modifiers. But summary of the results…

  • The first N-KIDU was killed by the MAR, as UCAF chose to have the N-KIDU take the attack for the Armiger.
  • The Armiger went Crippled because it had a bad roll – even after spending a command point – against my 5,5 result on the LFG.
  • Neither artillery piece was in range (well, the MAR was in range against the westmost N-KIDU, but it missed regardless). That was a very strange experience after playing on 4x4s up to this point.
  • I hit my own Duelist with the MAR. I rolled a 6 on my attack. I rolled a 3 on 3 dice, but saved myself from damage with the Shield re-roll. (I chose the spotter for arc, and chose the JM for cover.)

The round ended and we headed off for the day. UCAF scored a point for controlling more sectors, because I hadn’t actually entered the southwest quadrant (the JM Cobra was in my DZ and it was the furthest-up model!)

Score: SRA 0-1 UCAF

Round 2

A few days later – just after the Compendium patch – we finally finished this game. Quick spinaround of the table!

Note the solo flanking Elan on the west side of the table. This will become surprisingly irrelevant later.

We did our best to stick with the original stats, since not much changed for either of us anyway. At the end of the game UCAF realized they “reverted” something that wasn’t changed by giving the Support N-KIDU Gunnery 2+ with its sublist upgrade. Uh, whoops.

UCAF sent the crippled Armiger in for a last-stand rear melee attack on my duelist. They achieved 1 damage. My CB Iguana finished the Armiger off through Retaliation, scoring me 1 of my 2 Assassination points.

The first Hun went down to some additional artillery fire, spotted by one of the N-KIDUs remaining in that dead Armiger’s combat group.

I didn’t take any pictures of it, but a recurring theme on the west side of the board was failing to damage any Utopian units. Some of it was bad rolls against N-KIDUs. Some of it was the natural unlikelihood of damaging an Armiger on 3-4 dice, because 4+ isn’t going to cut it at that dice total. Once it was my Command Naga rolling very poorly with a Focus+LTHI against the Armiger, and being out of command points because I spent the other one trying to stay alive against (incorrectly) GU2+ artillery.

I got very excited about my artillery success and activated my Green Group again. The western Elan was just outside of 9 inches, and thus couldn’t FO the rear arc of the Armiger. Thanks, Stealth. It did, however, succeed in spotting an N-KIDU for my Cobras. I forget if it did damage, but the resultant AE certainly didn’t damage the Armiger.

The eastern Elan was in range of another Armiger, but failed to FO it with a roll of 4. EW5+ is really awful and I didn’t have any command points left, since I was trying so hard to prevent artillery disaster on the west side. So the Armiger went unharmed.

Fortune favours SRA as the Hun lands a Focused Retaliate with the HIR* against the blue-group Armiger. UCAF’s CP-reroll makes the Armiger’s save even worse, taking it from 5 damage to dead.

*At the end of the game I realized that I did this incorrectly – only the LLC has React. However, the first roll would have still led to 2 damage (admittedly, instead of 5) and the Armiger’s re-roll would have still been lethal with the LLC. The Hun had no more actions either way.

Sometime during this turn, the Elan gets Crippled by a single attack, as you’d expect from arm4 PI4+ 3/3 without Agile.

The GMG duelist dives into the flank, my hopes high to start an absolute killing spree. She destroys an N-KIDU but misses the Armiger with the Trick Shot+Split attack.

Continued onslaught on the west side. My JM Cobra squeaks by with one health left. My Naga takes 3 points of damage. (Again, exaggerated by the mistaken 2+ Gunnery on the Support Armigers). I keep trying to split-shoot things and fail to hurt any of them. The Naga got jammed attempting some sort of Order. It’s out of Command Points again.

My GMG duelist goes down much like the Hun-retaliated Armiger did –  the Armiger activated and dealt 5 damage in a single attack. Re-rolling with my shield wasn’t going to deflect a net-8 attack roll, but net-4 on defense (even after the re-roll) certainly made things worse.

Not pictured, but the west Elan gets crippled by N-KIDU fire. It fails to go down though.

Jager squad pushes up, confident in the removal of some drone chaff. My Jager gunner scores an incredible long-bomb kill with the LRP. One die against an N-KIDU who gets unlucky on defense.

Tied on zones at the end of the round, but I got my first assassination, so…

Score: SRA 1-1 UCAF

Round 3

I won initiative and went first.

Two important events this turn. The first was that that I managed to kill the second marked Armiger. (I forget what killed it, but I think it was my Hun on the active turn.) The second event was that I finally pushed my Command Naga into the southwest quadrant. Doing so got me just over the UCAF’s total TV – 26TV vs 27TV!

We exchanged some more fire; the remaining Jagers and Hun advanced further; The Naga went crippled; the JM Cobra was destroyed; the BM Cobra did some more HRC spraying and failed to hurt the Armiger on the west side of the board.

UCAF kind of wanted to forfeit after every round, but we finally called it quits after this one.

With 3 sectors and the second assassination, I scored twice, bringing us to…

Score: SRA 3-1 UCAF

Round 4 (Prospective)

I’m pretty sure UCAF could have scored BTL on Round 3, never mind Round 4. They had N-KIDUs to spare at all times, my presence on the west side was minimal, and my gunnery was demonstrably insufficient to cut through their troops. Hell, the west-side red Armiger ended the game with just 1 damage! Regardless, UCAF was reluctant to swarm or run past me all game. Maybe they were a bit too focused on artillery, as it was doing plenty of damage to the Cobra and the Naga.

I have confidence that I could have retained either all 3 zones, or 2 zones while denying my opponent more than a single zone. It would have also been trivial to sprint my Iguana back to score my southeast Hold objective. That would have meant a total of 3 extra points scored on the final round while UCAF would score 1 extra point.

Predicted outcome: SRA 6-2 UCAF

Post-game Analysis

After our (unrecorded) 100TV game, my opponent adjusted their list to counterplay my tendencies on offense (ie: they brought more anti-armour). However, they failed to predict that I’d have an answer for their defense. Higher-damage AEs and Split attacks work wonders to thin out a 15-model army that depends on Formation to operate.

I was intensely impressed with the performance of rear-arc spotting. I only rolled a single 2d6 against a secondary target (and missed), but I really think reducing the Armiger’s defense dice to (2? 3?) and gaining an additional die was what won me the day over by the concrete building. My opponent scored two different flanking FOs on my forward Hun, eventually killing it, but that was less impressive and would have probably happened anyway (given the Huns’ whole “PI6+” thing.)

On that note, Huns are cool. The idea of a tank having the Recon role is very funny, and sticking a Chatterbox with them is enough to get you a very effective forward-deployed defensive group for a smooth 45 points. I’ll be sure to magnetize my Huns so I can also run the Recon Hun – I am very optimistic about the utility of Recon deployment + 3 support drones + whatever else is sitting further forward with the Hun. (Maybe even nothing? Two Huns are perfectly capable of supporting one another. Maybe I don’t need the Iguana at all!)

I completely forgot about Lead By Example, but my duelist was flanking the whole time anyway.

The floaty Armigers are astoundingly difficult to hit with South, thanks to defensive tech and PI3+. ARM7 means you can’t counter them too well with LLCs either. You’ll almost always be at disadvantage against them, so it’s better to get more attacks in (ie: split against N-KIDUs) instead of trying to stack modifiers against them. Artillery seemed pretty good against them too, but the main benefit of that is putting Blast to use. Stripping dice from a good pilot is crucial to actually hitting them. Maybe next time I’ll look more closely for a GU3+ troop that isn’t a Mamba. As much as I like Mambas, the Rotary Laser is the closest thing to a hard counter that “elite medium Gears” have.

As the person who kind of kicked off all the talk about indirect AEs, I want to disclaim once more – flank FOs are excellent. If you’re in optimal range and have Stable, you get that mythical 2d6 against secondary targets. If you’re not in optimal range, you’re still getting another die against your primary target, and – most likely – catching them without cover, reducing their dice. This has completely revolutionized my thinking as far as my artillery play goes – and I’m going to keep working on making my MARs work.

My opponent was playing an army with limited Retaliate options & a total dependence on N-KIDUs for numbers. This helped me dive very deep on offense, whether to get my Duelist shots or to launch some very-highly-buffed artillery attacks. An army with more effective depth-of-field likely won’t give me that much room to enjoy my firepower.

I am actually quite unimpressed with the LFG’s performance as an indirect weapon. Its 24″ range is especially limiting on a 6×4 table. It’s a very nice “second attack” when using a Cobra for direct fire, however. I would absolutely consider putting a Long Razor Cobra Fang Fang in charge of an artillery group to give myself some depth of field.

That Jager LRP success has me noting how sharply “loss of effectiveness” drops off in this game. At 36 inches, any unit with a conventional gun can potentially shoot two targets with a single die, and those targets can’t really do better than 3d6 on defense in return. Taking absolutely wacky attacks and getting any secondary targets can be a surprisingly effective way to turn out-of-position Actions into damage.

Stealth’s benefits synergize with both the offense and defense aspects of indirect fire, so I always feel like the best way to fight a Stealth-y army is to just stock up on my own Stealth units. I can’t jam their FOs without risking very expensive high-Sensor units. Maybe I start taking more Artillery Cobras?

It’s been great to play a “normal” wargame army for once. Most games I’m accidentally picking hyper-elite factions and stressing out over my single-digit troop count. South is so much more forgiving than my other armies, and its healthy artillery game lets me enjoy HGB’s vehicle simulationism from an angle I didn’t get with Battletech. I’m looking forward to playing more HGB and painting more cool mecha!