I have found that Fast Movers can be invaluable, but I think that the issue for most players falls into one of three categories:
- They are unreliable enough to cause hesitation because of a potentially unusable number of points.
- They are too fragile to risk the cost on a unit that is best used backfield where the enemy’s AA is thickest.
- They are not cost effective compared to other AA.
Unreliable really comes down to two things, well, two rolls. The first is getting the damn things out of Reserve. The idea is a great one, to my mind. Having all Fast Movers available starting on turn one would lead to massive light dropship casualties and might make the use of light dropships so restrictive as to be unplayable. Imagine bringing your fancy elites onto the table and having them get blown up every game by some interceptors before you have a chance to get to the mid-board objective. Sure you can drive on your AA, but it’s nice to have the option not to.
The other aspect of Fast Movers is the roll to make the Attack Run each time they activate. Now, a one in six chance of not making it to the table is not horrendous odds, but it seems to be just enough to worry players that the one time you could really use the fighter to stop a dropship or hit a vulnerable target, it won’t make it. We all know that probability really means nothing when you are at the table and the dice will invariably do the worst thing for you when you really need anything but a one. Not to mention that an intercept roll only makes it two out of three times.
Cost effectiveness can be summed up thusly: for 135 points you can get three Rapier AA tanks with nine E7 shots with accuracy 3+. For 134 points two Archangels with a total of four shots (less than half) with the same 3+ accuracy can make it to the table.
So what’s the point of fast movers?
While they can be a little unreliable, Fast Movers offer some powerful tactical advantages. My personal favorite is the fact that your opponent tends to play much more defensively when you have a Fast Mover in readiness, because it can go anywhere on the table. Even the Phobos can’t boast that kind of coverage. This is the least tangible of the benefits of Fast Movers, and I think the most potent one. I would argue that this is worth the 67 points for an Archangel, even if it spends the whole game sitting in readiness.
The place where Fast Mover really shines is not shooting down other Fast Movers (although there are situations with poorly placed or severely diminished AA bubbles where this is the only option), but the ability to hit vulnerable or valuable targets in your opponent’s half of the table. This can be a dropship full of elite infantry on its way to unload on your troops frantically searching for an objective, or splashing a target trying to flee the table far away from your AA on the ground.
They definitely have a role that is valuable and different from any other units in the game and I wonder if FACs will be enough to get them to more tables.
Forward Air Controllers
An FAC reduces the roll required to make an attack or intercept run by one as long as the FAC has line of sight to any enemy on the table at the whopping cost of zero points. This means that attack runs always succeed and intercept runs runs only fail on a roll of a one.
At first glance, this is potent. My first thought was that Praetorian Snipers would be perfect for this role, as they spend a lot of time overwatching anyway, but the FAC unit must be in the Troops category, which means that the only eligible units are Legionnaires, Warriors (and Aged Ones), Immortals, and Braves. There are definitely days where putting my infantry on the wall has saved me, but whenever there are microwave or machine guns about I avoid windows like wide open deathtraps that they become. This tells me that using an FAC squad like any other squad of infantry is out of the question because they will either die quickly to enemy fire, or find themselves useless. Not to mention that being pulled into a CQB will render their spotting ability worthless.
Looking at what we know about upcoming units, the UCM are soon to get gun-armed, powered-armor-toting, hoorah-shouting badasses – although banking on them falling into the Troops category seems like wishful thinking, so let’s stick with what we’ve got. I’ll focus on the UCM for now, not because of favoritism, but because they seem to have the most command cards geared towards Fast Movers and will probably benefit from FACs more than any other faction because of it.
If we go bare minimum for an FAC squad, we’re looking at 52 points for a walk-on squad of two bases of Legionnaires. Having infantry walk onto the table seems like a big waste of time in my mind, but let’s go with it. 52 points is less than the 67 points for an Archangel, but still reasonably close. Typically two Archangels are used because one only has two shots, which is not quite enough to be reliable. If we split the two archangels into two squads to maximize the chance of one making it onto the table. With two separate squads there is only a one in thirty-six chance that neither of the fighters makes it on to the table. This is actually not bad at all. The chance that only one makes it on the table is eleven in thirty-six (I apologize if my math is wrong, but it has been years since I took a math class) which is about one third. That means that two thirds of the time, you will get four shots with a pair of Archanges. If they are in one squad, one out of six activations results in nothing arriving, although the chance of getting all four shots is slightly higher. With the FAC squad on the ground replacing one of the Archangels, your interceptor will make it onto the table every time with only two shots. Overall, I would take two Archangels in separate squads over one with the FAC supporting it because of the added firepower and the ability to potentially hit two different targets.
On the other hand, if I took two or more Archangels in one squad and a Seraphim in another, the FAC would be a requirement in my mind. having a one in six chance that my three Archangels would not make it onto the table each turn would feel like a waste of points. So let’s take a look at a list.
Bring on the Angels
Clash: 1498/1500 points
UCMStandard Roster [1498/1500 pts]
Field Command [203 pts]
Kodiak: Kodiak(Captain) [203 pts]
Armored Formation [328 pts]
Sabre Squad: 3x Sabre, Condor(+Missile Pods) [152 pts]
Rapier Squad: 3x Rapier, Condor(+Missile Pods) [176 pts]
Legionnaire Corps [299 pts]
Legionnaires: 3x Legionnaires, Condor, 2x Bear [141 pts]
^ Sharing ^ Legionnaires: 3x Legionnaires [78 pts]
Legionnaires: 2x Legionnaires, Raven A [80 pts] Designated FAC
Expeditionary Group [196 pts]
Praetorians: 2x Praetorians, Raven A [124 pts]
Wolverine Squad: 4x Wolverine A [72 pts]
Special Ordnance [159 pts]
Gladius Squad: 2x Gladius, Condor(+Missile Pods) [159 pts]
Air Wing [313 pts]
Archangel Squad: 3x Archangel [201 pts]
Seraphim Squad: Seraphim [112 pts]
I think this list suffers in focal point missions, and the Legionnaires could definitely do with being put into Ravens, but this list is what it is. With 313 points in the Air Wing, I would be very worried about rolls to get one fifth of my army out of reserve, but I would definitely appreciate having the FACs. Putting them in a building on the backfield that has an objective would mean that they could search for it, man the walls, and pass it to the Raven if the objective is found. This strategy would leave the Legionnaires vulnerable to demolition fire, but Legionnaires are always vulnerable to that anyway. Overall, I think the list above is playable and that the Air wing would present a potent threat to most armies that should not be overlooked. Its anti-tank weapons are a little lacking, but the air support might help work around that issue.
I really enjoy the idea of FACs, although it seems that they will make more of an impact on Fast Mover heavy lists, and may not be worth it with only one or two fast movers. I do appreciate that Dave and the Hawk team take the time to ensure that the game they have created encourages balanced list making and ensuring that spamming units is relatively ineffective.