By Billyjoeray (Ian)
Ian here with some ideas on tactical and effective use of the Desolator, aka: the DOOOOM SQUID!
The Desolator is probably one of my all-time favorite Scourge units. In fact, it was the original hook that enticed me to collect Scourge as my number one army. Something about how it was, in the early days of Dropzone Commander, the only monstrous doomsday machine of ultimate destruction made the villain within me cackle with maniacal glee. It also reminds me of the Reapers from Mass Effect, one of my favorite races of sci-fi doomsday machines. Of course this also prompted me to make Reaper noises while I flew the Desolator around the table and electrocuted my enemies!
I mean, what’s not to like about a giant malevolent alien death machine?
“That’s great,” you say, but why should you listen to my advice? What are my credentials? Show me the Carfax! I have played Scourge almost exclusively since the two-player plastic starter set came out. Since the Scourge lack other command units until the Oppressor becomes available, I have used a Desolator in almost every game.
In my escapades with the Scourge, I have won and lost a fair share of games against many opponents representing most factions. (The only exception being the Resistance, against which I have played only a handful of games.) Over the course of these games I have tried several different tactics with the Doom Squid, and I’ve compiled a few tips and tricks that will help Scourge players get the most out of this crazy unit!
It’s important to understand what the unit’s stats are so we can figure out where its strengths and weaknesses lie. First off, it is an Aircraft so only AA weapons can target it when it’s not landed. It boasts A6, which is pretty high for an Aircraft and puts it in the same category as heavy dropships. With 6DP, it has enough staying power to weather a shot or two of AA fire before it gets into trouble. However, if it is exposed to mass AA fire with unmodified rolls to hit (i.e. not from reaction fire, or when your Desolator isn’t using Jink and Weave), it has the potential to take a lot of damage and quickly be destroyed. So, like the rest of the Scourge units, you need to protect it until it’s ready to strike!
The Desolator moves especially slow for a Scourge unit since it only has a 12” max move and a 9” move and fire value. This leads into the next big point: its weapon, the Ion Storm Generator (ISG). The ISG is rightly feared with a modified Air-to-Ground AoE weapon that strikes everything (friend or foe) within 6” on a 3+, and anything from 6”-12” on a 6+ with an E11 hit! That gives it a maximum range of 15” from its initial location for 3+ Ac and 21” for the 6+Ac.
One important note: the ISG even hits units and structures out of line of sight, and buildings are always hit on a 2+! The attack is pretty devastating since E11 is high enough to damage almost anything in the game on a 4+ or better. However, with a 3+ to hit you will have a hard time hitting anything that has a modifier to the Ac value, such as Skimmer bonuses, Evasion, Smart Smoke, etc. Ideally the Desolator should target regular ground vehicles and walkers instead of skimmers.
The ISG also has an alternate single target profile with E13 and Demolisher D6+1, making it very powerful against buildings. With a lucky roll, it can take 14 DP out of any building, the highest out of any weapon in the game. In some circumstances or missions, it may be more beneficial to leverage the Desolator’s demolition ability than have it attack enemy units directly. Nothing makes opponents sweat more than having a building full of their infantry go from 30 to 16 DP in a single shot! The focused ISG is also a good choice when you really want a particular unit to die. It benefits from hitting on a 2+ and damaging anything in the game on a 2+. It doesn’t have the Destroyer rule though, so there is a 50% chance that you will still only take away 1 DP, and the most damage it can do is 2 DP on a 4+
Looking at the stats, the Desolator seems to be designed as a frontline shock unit and you might be tempted to charge it right across the board from turn one and blast your enemy. However, while it certainly can be very powerful this way, this tactic essentially signs a death warrant for it unless they didn’t bring any AA, which is an unlikely scenario.
Rather than charging head on, I have found more success with taking the meandering approach and lingering around midfield or on an exposed flank out of LoS. The goal here is to be within striking distance of the opponent’s main ground force but still out of sight or range of enemy AA bubbles.
I have found that the easiest way to accomplish this is to utilize large buildings around the midfield. Remember that your Desolator can’t be seen unless enemy units can draw LoS to the spot 6″ above the center of the flight stand. All the large buildings that come with the starter set are at least 6″ tall. This means that if your Desolator is right up against one of their walls, it cannot be seen unless they find a way around the corner.
This is true even if the tail, tentacles or chassis is visible around the corner as long as enemy units can’t see the center point. This is important because you may only have just enough movement to get behind a building and around the corner. Remember that if the buidling is 6″ high, your aircraft will not be able to fly over it and will have to go around. Since hiding isn’t good enough and we want to be in striking range on a later turn, hug the corner of a large building so you can get the most out of your 9″ move and fire value before you trigger the ISG.
What if there aren’t any conveniently located large buildings? Then you have to stay out of range until you get closer. Once you get within max AA range, usually around turn two or three depending on how soon they deployed, utilize Hitting the Deck. While it can be pretty risky, your odds of crashing are really small (1/36 to be exact), but you need to evaluate whether or not you think you can weather enemy AA fire. Usually the odds of survival are better when you hit the deck, but if there is very little or low E AA, it may not be worth the risk.
Remember that you can still trigger the ISG if you are to the deck or out of LoS. This is a trick that I have used to hide the Desolator behind small buildings or forests on rural boards in order to get closer to the enemy for increased accuracy without exposing myself to return fire. If you’re going to do this, just be sure that your own troops are well out of range or at least in the 6+ range bracket because if the ISG hits, it has high enough strength to wreck any of your units on a 2+
Other Unit Interaction:
Due to the indiscriminate nature of the ISG, certain units tend to work better in tandem with the Desolator while others are best kept far away.The best partners in crime are other aircraft since the ISG only targets ground units. This also allows you to fly those aircraft into the AA bubble first to soak up potential reaction fire, and enemy AA choose not to reaction fire, you can use the aircraft to shoot down the AA before they get a chance to! Reavers, other Desolators, Despoilers with Plasma Cannons and Harbingers are the best partners. Marauders and Invaders are too light and too poorly armed. Those units should remain out of LoS to prevent giving up kill points. Usually, they are more useful demo-ing buildings.
I find that skimmers also work well in tandem with the Desolator because they have the speed to get out of the way when they need to. If they can’t, they at least get a skimmer bonus. The exception needs to be made for the heavy grav tanks, Slayers and Tormentors. They can be one-shot on a damage roll of 4+ if hit, and since they aren’t as fast, they have a harder time getting away. You’re better off keeping them at a distance from the Desolator than risking them getting popped right away!
All of the walkers, Stalkers, Prowlers and Ravagers, tend to get in the way due to their slow speed and short range. Without a skimmer bonus they are much easier to hit, and although they have heavy armor they are still wrecked on a 4+ so they should be kept at a distance as well.
That being said, Ravagers are great for covering your Desolator from FM strikes as it advances into threat range since the Ravager’s range allows it to guard the Desolator until it is ready to move in for the kill. Minders are also very good for FM protection. I like to drop mine on turn two when they will be about where the desolator will loiter before striking, and they deter FMs from making attack runs.
The command cards for Scourge just scream “Play Me on Your Desolator!” Especially since Jink and Weave (JaW) now targets aircraft as well. JaW is now the most powerful card in the deck and it practically guarantees that reaction fire will not work, making it a 6+ for anything to hit it. However, it will be a little more vulnerable on their turn, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that JaW will make your Desolator indestructible because a really good roll or weight of dice can still bring it down.
Another excellent card is Relentless Advance. This card can give the Desolator an extra bit of movement to turn a meh Ion Storm into a perfect storm.
Finally, one of the best uses of the Assisted Targeting card is for the ISG since it gives you the option to re-roll all failed to-hit rolls. The benefits of that should be obvious, but it’s important to note that you may re-roll failed hits, so you don’t have to re-roll failed hits against your own units if they happened to get caught in the radius.
The Desolator is a great unit and it can be exceptionally powerful. However, it’s not indestructible and it will get eliminated by units that are hard counters to it. So, you need to use it wisely to use it effectively.
Hopefully this tactics article gave you some new tricks to try out! If you have any tricks or ideas that I might have missed, or if you have any other ideas, leave a comment below!