Hobby: Justin Shearer, building my next army- part 2

Justin Shearer of the Freeborn Shard Podcast continues talking us through his thought processes when starting a new army for Beyond the Gates of Antares – if you missed last week’s instalment, take a look here.

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Last time we convened, we were finalising the initial Algoryn Scouting Force list – not to be the strongest 500 point list possible, but, rather, to offer a solid foundation for further additions, to motivate painting and to offer good, balanced games against a variety of opponents.

With that in mind, we’ve spent 307 points on:

The remaining 193 points will need to be used to upgrade these units and also will need to add at least one Tactical Option.

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There’s a few different ways to expand this force, and there’s a few considerations to make. The very first is that, as things stand, I don’t really have any reliable ranged punch against the Ghar. None of my weapons can currently put pins down on Ghar Battlesuits at range, although Mag Repeater fire is not bad, especially supported by the probe shard, at actually killing suits. I think a big part of designing lists in Beyond the Gates of Antares is ensuring that you can actually hurt Ghar Battlesuits – the Ghar are popular, after all!

The low hanging fruit here is to add ammo to my Support Team. Both Net and Grip are very effective against Ghar suits: Net ammo on the support teams can very reliably force suits down, whereas Grip can effectively hold suits in place. Net is generally more useful, so, for now, I’ll just take Net Ammo, but if I have a few points left over I’ll have to consider taking the Grip option as well.

The next obvious choice would be to take grenades on my Infiltrator squad. That doesn’t solve the issue of range, but if you don’t have grenades you miss out on the free, pre-game minefield – surely one of the most attractive reasons to choose Infiltrators!

Beyond that, with grenades, Infiltrators become much more threatening to suits in melee. Because I’m tight on points, I’ll take the cheaper Plasma Grenades for now – in bigger games, I’ll take Solar Charges. Again, if I have a few points left over, I’ll have to consider upgrading to Solar Charges… they’re exceptionally nasty and mine-fields of Charges are scary enough to deter infantry from accessing important parts of the board.

I still have plenty of points left over – realistically, not quite enough to take two Tactical Choices, although, I could drop the Support Team and have enough points for two choices. That would be “dice-neutral”, so it is worth considering, but a Support Team synergises with my Infiltrators and their spotter drone and without it I just don’t have anything that can reliably hurt Ghar suits.

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I’m still a little worried about the Ghar and so I’m wondering what else I can do to improve the matchup. I have two tactical choices that carry Plasma Carbines – AI Assault Command Squads and AI Command Squads. Plasma Carbines are useful because they can put pins onto Ghar Battlesuits. Another benefit of the command squads is access to Medi-Drones which stiffen infantry by providing a bubble of rerolls. That’d be rather interesting to sneak in to this list!

The downside, however, is that you pay a lot of points for relatively few bodies. Beyond that, I don’t have units that can readily and easily utilise the Squad’s Follow rule. The Assault Squad will want to run, whereas the Command Squad will often want to Fire, Advance or Ambush. The Infiltrators might be hard to position in range for Follow as they’ll usually be a little further up the board. On the other hand, Infiltrators, if I can give them a Camo Drone, can avoid accruing pins by causing incoming fire to automatically miss with a Down Reaction. That means they’ll be targets for Follow well into the game.

The second consideration is that, aside from the Support Team, my ranges are fairly short. I need to get reasonably close to the enemy to be effective – Plasma Carbines definitely help address that, as would regular Mag Guns. A regular AI Infantry Squad would bring a little ranged fire – albeit not very valuable against Ghar Battlesuits (unless I also opt to upgrade to Overload Ammo). The other advantage of the Infantry Squad is that for a few points less than the Command Squad, I would get an extra two bodies! And reinforcing that unit is cheaper.

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Before I make a choice about that, I really should think about what other upgrades are necessary on my other units. I’d like to add a 6th member to both my Assault Squad and Infiltrators. Adding troops to units in Antares is rather strange and I think the “optimal” number of infantry in a unit is not a settled question. Oddly, adding more infantry to units makes the whole unit a little more vulnerable to taking wounds – and this effect is magnified by how heavy your armour is: the heavier, the more vulnerable you are as you add more bodies. The reason for this is that the Leader reroll gives you more opportunities to save against incoming shooting and so, generally speaking, you want your Leader to wear as many shots as possible from any given volley of fire. Units with more base models aren’t all that likely to receive so many shots in one burst that the extra body is going to prevent you assigning a second attach to a Leader model, however!

There are other advantages to more models, and, primarily, I think that is that it will play around with your break tests. More numbers will help you avoid break tests (since pins equal to bodies will trigger a break test) whereas even numbered units are generally better because the condition for fleeing from the table after a failed break test is based on more than half of starting number. On the other hand, because friendly models block Line of Sight to each other you won’t want huge units – although melee units tend to be less harmed by this as the whole unit reaches melee if any single model makes the distance.

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Taking all of these things into account, I’ll take my extra members – I’ll also make sure that my Infiltrator’s leader is carrying a Mag Repeater. Factoring in the extra two troops, the net ammo and the plasma grenades, I have now spent 367 points, leaving 133 for my last squad and any other final upgrades.

One option would be to take a four man Command Squad and upgrade my Infiltrators such that they are carrying Solar Charges. On the other hand, I could take a 5-man AI Infantry Squad with two Micro X-Launchers and upgrade the Leader’s weapon to a Mag Gun. The latter leaves me with 36 points and creates a lot of options for me for final tweaks. I could spend those points in a few different ways – I could add another member to take the squad to 6 troops, leaving enough points for Solar Charges on the Infiltrators and a drone somewhere… a spotter for the AI Squad or a Camo Drone for the Infiltrators. The other option would be to keep the squad at just 5-strong, but give them Overload Ammo, which adds a nasty SV3 weapon to the list. Going that road leaves me with 21 points – since I’d like those Solar Charges, I’d have just 15 points remaining. Again, more choices…! I could take a Camo Drone or a Spotter and have enough points for either Grip Ammo for the Support Team and a Block army upgrade… or, I could downgrade the Leader’s Mag Gun for a pistol and add a 6th body to the unit. This would, of course, keep the exact number of Mag Guns in the unit anyway and improve them for the purposes of taking break tests.

Argh! Too many decisions… fearless readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to finalise this scouting force. If you’ve got any ideas, please drop me a line at freebornshard@gmail.com

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