Since I started playing Dropzone Commander there have been units that see no play time. Some of these are very specific, but there were two broad categories of units that have been dismissed. These would be fast movers and flame units. I will leave fast mover coverage to someone else, but I can’t help but wonder why I rarely see them. Yeah, I know, I should’ve written this in arcs so you could read while rolling your eyes.
This will be the first of two articles on flame weapons. The first will cover why they are unappreciated and basic tactics. The second will discuss the specific flame units and how best to utilize them in their respective factions.
There are a few reasons why flame units have been left out in the cold:
- No one will get within range of a flame unit.
- They are too specific and do not contribute to all the missions.
The first reason is silly. If you can control elements of the opposition’s army, you are doing something right. Threat and denial are underappreciated, as they are difficult, if not impossible, to calculate their worth. When a unit kills another, it is easy to take the point cost of the destroyed unit to give a number for perceived worth of the first unit. When a flame unit sits outside a building and the enemy doesn’t approach it, it may seem worthless, but if that flame unit had not been there the enemy would not have been deterred. This last point is also good against everybody’s favorite MC, the Freeriders. They will not allow you to flame them, but you can strongly encourage them to go elsewhere with a well placed flame unit.
The second reason is the easiest to immediately recognize, but I believe it to be a falsity. So far, flame weapons are mounted on vehicles (with the exception of the Ferryman’s Lifthawk), and when viewed as a vehicle they do seem too specific and a bit useless most of the time. This is the wrong way to look at them. They are an extension of the infantry. They may not be able to search for objectives, but they trump all infantry. Troops < Exotic < Flame. When looking for points in order to fit a flame unit in your list, replace a squad of infantry first. It may be one less unit searching for you, but if the flame unit does it’s job it could cost the opponent more.
It could be argued that infantry do not contribute to all missions, but they get a pass because they search for objectives and intel, which is the way you win missions that have objectives and intel. Flame units stop infantry from completing their objective. If infantry is not diving in to get the objectives or intel, they are not scoring points and they are not contributing to the game. By stopping the opponent from scoring, you are increasing your chances of beating them.
Also, it is worth noting that Bunker Assault is a focal point mission where infantry can hide without having to worry about falling masonry or demo. The only ways to get infantry out of bunkers is with your own infantry and flame weapons.
This brings me to my next point, there are only three ways to threaten infantry. They are by your own infantry, demolition, and flame. By committing your own infantry you are not only exposing them to danger, but you are also revealing your hand. Furthermore, this can quickly escalate, as no one wants to lose their infantry, and no one wants their infantry hung up in CQB. Unless you have good exotic infantry, and more of it than your opponent, you can come out the loser in the CQB which may dictate the game.
Demolition is another fair strategy, not so much for the falling masonry (though it helps), but for dropping the building. This is great, but if you take enough demo to reliably drop a 30DP building in your standard 1500 point all comer’s list, you are probably lacking in a different department. This means that unless you roll hot, the enemy infantry will be able to escape with their lives. You will have prevented them from getting the objective, but it also means you will not be able to get it either, as the building will be weak and they could then drop it on you if you were to try. I am not dismissing demo as a valid strategy, but you will need a game plan to support these denial tactics.
So lastly there is flame, which doesn’t expose our infantry, but it does allow you to win the objective, rather than denying it. But how can one best utilize these specialized vehicles?
There are two realistic uses for them, and they are:
- The bait and switch.
Before I get into either it is worth stating that your flame units want to activate last in the turn. Any wise opponent isn’t going to step in front of your flame unit until after its activation at worst, after it’s been dealt with at best.
Denial is pretty straight forward. The flame unit is going to be placed in the best possible way to allow it to reach a potential target while also trying to avoid incoming fire. For most this will be fairly close, but if you have some other units with them it gives the opponent something to think about as they cannot take out the flame unit without exposing their units. This makes them choose, take out the flame unit so their infantry can begin their search while exposing their anti tank to you, or confront your other units wasting time they could be searching.
This leads into the other use, the bait and switch. As you have probably guessed, this involves luring enemy infantry in to a building so that you can leave, flame, and hopefully put your exotic infantry in afterwards. Most cannot do all three steps, but even two of three can put the hurt on your opponent’s infantry. It relies on you being the occupier, which can be accomplished by committing your infantry to the building in front of your flame units in the last activation of the previous turn. This gives your opponent a choice, they either let you search, or try to commit their forces against yours. It’s unlikely they will fail to notice the flame units parked outside, but unless they spend the resources to remove those flame units, they cannot go into that building without getting flamed (again, flame units activate last). Lastly, if everything has triggered in the right order (a huge ‘if’ against an opponent on their A game) you then re-enter the building with your own CQB specialist. This will give up occupation of the building, but will knock their infantry down and leave them with the choice to either commit more of theirs, or let that unit fall.
The biggest shortcoming of these tactics is if you have first activation, and thus your opponent gets the last activation, assuming he hasn’t lost a BG. This is a good reason to finish enemy BGs when possible, but also it gives your opponent an interesting dilemma if they win activation. They may be tempted to go for the double tap they set up, but if they do that then your flame unit gets last activation. The double tap is nice, but objectives are what wins missions. In this same vein, if you win initiative and have the flame unit set up, you should opt to go second, and make decisions around the thought of going second.
So without talking about bunkers, what do you do in focal point missions? The same thing essentially: inhibit enemy infantry from participating in the battle. Besides that, they become unsavory targets as they do not threaten vehicles. This can be used to your advantage, by screening your own forces and making your opponent’s LZ hot for that last turn focal point grab.
So what you think? What experiences do you have with flame units? Whether you agree or disagree, please flame me in the comments and until next time just remember that dead braves can’t gate.