A question was brought up by Amitverse on the forums not too long ago, and got my gears going.
Here is the link for those of you who don’t like plagiarism and stealing: http://www.hawkforum.co.uk/hawkforum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=7015
So the premise is, do you take a huge battlegroup with one type of unit (anti air or anti tank) and ouch really hard with one activation, or do you spread those out so that each battlegroup has some flexibility and some potential wasted opportunity?
Focus your Battlegroups
The first option involves single purpose battlegroups. This could be a Hades, a type-2 brick, of Phobos and Helios for the PHR, a mess of Caimans and a Firedrake for the Shaltari, Gladius and Scimitar bricks for the UCM. The idea being, “I’m going to get a crapload if one type of attack to seriously mess up my opponent with one activation.”
In my mind, the merits of this are minimal. Three Caimans in one battlegroup or nine Hunters are absolutely fearsome. That is a huge volume of anti tank power that can actually take down a Hades in one volley with some decent rolling. It gives you some board control because your opponent will likely not want to confront the monstrosity of what you have assembled.
If you can spread that kind of firepower out into two or three squads, you can engage multiple targets on multiple fronts simultaneously. Imagine six Katanas on one sidea of the table and three on the other, able to drop in the enemy’s backfield to knock out the bulk of the anti-air in one attack. That would open up the table for your Falcons and your Phoenix to run around the table unchallenged.
The problem with this strategy shows up if you have a smart opponent. If they know that you have one battlegroup that is your anti-tank for the army, they can avoid it. They can deploy on a different part of the table. They can keep things hidden until you have activated the hammer, and then peek out and start to whittle away at you. They can see that you’ve activated all of your anti-air and then move into gaps in your bubble, knowing what you will be able to threaten next turn. In short, your opponent won’t have to guess what you will do and they will be less likely to be caught off guard.
On the other hand, you can spread things out and make sure you have access to several different capabilities with each activation. These battlegroups might include, a Jaguar, a mix of Phobos and Ares in dropships, a squad of Sabers accompanied by Rapiers, Immortals supported by Helios, anything that will give you multiple opportunities or targets for your squads to engage.
The advantage here is versatility. If your first activation means that your anti-tank units don’t have a target but your anti-air is going to be able to take out a critical light dropships, it’s not a loss. It means that your opponent will have a harder time predicting your movements and strategies because you will be able to spread out, both on the table and what you have available with each activation.
This strategy means that you won’t have a hammer. No Hades backed by a squad of Odins.
Mixing these two strategies is probably the best approach. Mixing most of your battlegroups and focusing one or two gives you some flexibility, but it also allows you to drop the Hammer when you need to.
A pillar of this strategy is maxing out your battlegroups and opting to activate last to ensure that you can wait to activate your hammer to crush an opponent once he or she has exposed a commander or tank group. You don’t want to activate the hammer until you actually have a target.
Having some flexibility with a battlegroup set aside to be your hammer can look different depending on what nails you need to deal with. One example would be:
Notice that this list will cost 46 points more with the new errata bringing it to 1499…unless my math is wrong. It probably is wrong.
This layout has a the anti-air spread out throughout the army, with splashes of anti-tank. On the other hand, the infantry battlegroups are fairly focused with two squads of Firstborn in one battlegroup, and the Braves and Totem have some very good synergy. The real hammer of this group is the Firedrake with a pair of Caiman (which could possibly be substituted for Ocelots when the rules updates are made official). This battlegroup, although mostly E10, pumps out 7 E10 shots at extreme range and includes a template. This group is capable of dropping the hammer on a small group of units, a large unit, or a building very effectively.
Another example could be:
This one seems pretty self explanatory: six Type 2 walkers. Together they are nearly unbreakable (unless you have three or four Ocelots hanging around) and can dish out eleven E11 shots each turn. Unlike the Shaltari list, this one does not have quite as much in variety with other battlegroups, because around a third of the list is in one battlegroup, but the Helios can fill several different roles, and the Athena can be used to help with building demo, or light dropship hunting. The Longreach team can hunt for objectives, spot for the Athena, and do some armor hunting if need be.
Wrap It Up
In my experience, many of the tournament winning lists I have seen tend to have some battlegroups that are focused and some that are flexible. There are always exceptions though. Perhaps it is because Dropzone has some of that illusive simplicity and tactical depth?