22nd November 2019 at 10:12 pm #4444
The most common question for any new player thinking of starting a new gaming system is which faction is the right one for them. Whilst many people are drawn into a game because of a faction, most people like the game and want to know about the range that will most suit their gaming style. And this is important because the wrong decision could not only lead to a totally different gaming experience, but also result in a lot of money being wasted.
Dropfleet is no different. With 5 very different factions available (possibly 4.5 given your definition) it is important to get the one that suits the way you want to play. But more than that it is criticial that you get one you can identify with, one that feels like they are an extension of you. This makes a game not only fun but also deeply satisfying. The good news then is that there is quite a narrow range of options so you are not going to feel overwhelmed. But before I go any further in explaining what the factions are about, I’ll start with the most important bit of advice that will over-rule anything you read below.
If you really love the models of one faction, just pick them.
Here are the 4 main factions, with the latest ships to be released. Starting in the top left and going clockwise we have Scourge, Shaltari, UCM (United Colonies of Mankind), and PHR (Post Human Republic). Each has a very different background, aesthetic, playstyle, and winning strategy. We’ll discuss all of them. But before we do that we’ll talk quickly about some of the key concepts of the game to help put everything in context.
The purpose of the game is to score as many Victory Points as possible according to the mission criteria. Usually the most points will be gained for landing troops on the ground in special areas called Clusters. Sometimes the targets will be Space Stations instead. There are some bonus points for destroying enemy ships and controlling areas in orbit. But from my experience the player that achieves orbit superiority generally loses the ground war, and therefore the game.
Troops are delivered in Strike Craft and Bulk Landers, and it is important to keep these alive for as long as possible. There are various classes of ship, starting at the tiny Corvettes, and then moving through Frigates and Cruisers up to Battleships. Occasionally you’ll encounter a massive Dreadnought. Most of these ships will be combat craft carrying a traditional weapon loadout, but some will be fleet ships armed with fighters and bombers, whilst others will have some sort of special ability such as better scanning or fleet protection. Generally ships are best at fighting other ships of the same tonnage, or the one just below.
All ships have 5 primary statistics. Movement dictates how far the ship can move, but this also sets the minimum distance. Fast ships can struggle to manoeuvre in tight circles, but can zip past and through enemy lines. Scan and Signature dictate how ships can be targeted, with anything outside of a range dictated by your Scan, plus target Signature unable to be seen (although high energy actions can increase this range). Finally armour and hull points indicate how survivable a ship is to enemy fire.
Strengths: Fast, aggressive, hard to see coming until it is too late, powerful close assault weaponry.
Weaknesses: Thin armour, weak scan, kill or be killed.
Suits: Players who like to play a long range tactical game where they can pounce at the right time.
Sadly the majority of missions don’t really suit the Scourge. They are at their best when they have time to out-manoeuvre their opponents, lurking at long range where they cannot be targeted, before using their incredible speed to close fast with the enemy. This allows them to bypass the medium-range fight altogether and close in quickly where they excel. With excellent close assault firepower, and some devastating weaponry that can strip the armour from an enemy, the majority of Scourge ships are all about the quick kill. This comes at a price – if they are unable to off the enemy on the first go then they can get embroiled in a dogfight that they cannot win. Whilst their fire-arcs are good (augmented by close assault not having a fire arc restriction) their high speed can often make turning back into a fight difficult, and this is where a second reserve wave can often make the difference, picking off the weak before they can fight back.
But this is a problem when the majority of missions are just a race to dropsites that have been placed “fairly” across the gaming table. The Scourge are simply obliged to head at full speed to not allow their enemies to get a foothold. And whilst they are great at closing the distance, they are not great at sticking around. This means the Scourge have to adapt to swarm tactics, going heavy in numbers for one cluster to overwhelm and wipe out the enemy situated there, and then turn and use their incredible speed to get to other clusters before it is too late. Meanwhile the enemy at these secondary and tertiary clusters can be softened up and pinned by one of the formidable Scourge Battlecruisers that can lurk with their cloaking technology and then pile in to take out key ships like Troop Landers – an expensive sacrifice but a game winning one.
This land denial game is also really important for the Scourge as once an enemy is in place they don’t really have any option than to try and swarm. With almost no bombardment capability (primarily due to their lore being about capturing rather than destroying the defenders) an emplaced enemy can only be removed the hard way – by winning the space race and then flooding with troops. This is practically impossible in the late stage of the game, as you will already be too far behind in points for anything other than a total capture, which there isn’t realistically time to achieve. So tactics like sacrificing high tonnage stealth ships and reverse-bombardment atmospheric capable frigates to kill bulk landers (the real threat due to their ability to drop orbital batteries which can kill invading troops) is invaluable to preventing too heavy a landing from being achieved. This also makes the Scourge much better at capturing Space Stations, because they don’t need to root out the ground troops to nullify the objective – they can simply destroy it.
Good Scourge Admirals need to be decisive. That’s true of all factions, of course, but it is a necessity for Scourge. They have to pick targets quickly that they are capable of overwhelming, and ones that they are able to slow up so that the late game is not too much of an ask. They need to understand that their best ships have to be sacrificed to achieve the mission aims, and not be afraid to swap high tonnage ships for lesser mission critical ones. Strike from afar, and strike fast.
There are two principle pieces of tech the Scourge have that really scare the other factions: Scald, and Stealth. Scald weapons are simple to explain, when the enemy is within Scan range they suffer a +1 to their Armour (making a 3+ save into a 4+ save). Now by itself this doesn’t sound especially threatening. A fair amount of the damage done will be criticals which ignore armour, and a -17% save chance is nice, but on weapons that might only average a couple of points of expected damage it is not going to make or break any attacks. Until you realise that it is basically on everything – it is not a weapon bonus so much as it is a faction bonus. It is even on Close Assault weapons, which have to be in Scan range to work. It makes this faction especially good against lighter ship classes, which might only have a 5+ save anyway. And if those ships have clumped the typical Damage 2 profile will cause critical damage which might even see a chain explosion through the group!
Even better is their stealth technology, which comes in the form of 2 technological upgrades. Their Stealth ships are able to run in Silent Running and still able to fire a single weapon without breaking it. This means that with some good co-ordination you will be able to take some shots from early in the game without exposing your position. As fleets typically start 48″ apart, and will move around 10″ closer each in the first turn, you’ll need a total scan distance of 28″ to get a lock. Factor in an 8″ signature and a 10″ scan, and a major spike will bridge the remaining gap and allow you to be shot. But remain on Silent Running and not only is the 8″ signature gone, but now Active Scanning is only going to work 50% of the time, eating valuable enemy resources. But it is when synergised with the Cloak technology that this really starts to sing, as a ship with a Full Cloak may not receive any spike for any reason. So even if they are knocked out of Silent Running that final 10″ cannot be breached as the Active Scan cannot lay down the Major Spike required.
The final excellent piece of technology sounds a bit bland but is hugely powerful for the smaller ships – atmospheric capability. Given the extreme velocities most ships travel at, moving into atmosphere would rip them apart. For the other factions to get their Frigates into the atmosphere safely requires such extensive modifications that it is only seen on Strike Carriers whose job it is to take troops down to the surface. The Scourge don’t have this problem as all of the Frigates can dip into it. This makes them very survivable because most ship to ship weapons (and all Close Assault) weapons are not suited for firing into (or through) the atmosphere, making them very ineffective. Indeed one of the ships (mentioned at the start of the next section) is specifically designed to hide in the atmosphere to target ships in orbit with it’s special Escape Velocity weapon!
Scylla: This Frigate (not in the picture above, sadly) is designed to shoot ships in orbit with its Reverse-Grav Cannon. At 4+ to hit, and with 2 attacks, it may not seem powerful but is great at picking off Bulk Lander craft at the Cruiser type level. A group of 4 costs about the same as a Heavy Cruiser and should cause critical damage in a single group volley (enough to initiate orbital decay).
Akuma: This Battlecruiser is the signature ship of the faction. It is the larger ships that tend to have the Stealth and Cloak technology, and during the initial invasion of the human worlds much of the UCM logistics corp was crippled by these silent hunters. And being able to move at the same speed as a UCM Frigate meant that as long as it was cautious it had no significant predators, as it could simply slink off into deep space when reinforcements arrived.
Hydra: With a fantastic Launch 5 capability for a Cruiser tonnage ship, the Hydra class Fleet Carrier is a mainstay of any Scourge invasion force. Like most of the fleet the Scourge Bombers are fast, and so have an extended mission range that allows the ships to stay at distance in a group.
Strengths: Great scan range, great launch, great speed, a trick for all occasions.
Weaknesses: Takes some important planning to get the best out of them, and mistakes are punished; drop count is low.
Suits: People who like playing Elves.
Given that the nature of the game is all about dropping troops onto objectives (something that really makes this stand out from random space battles) the characteristic feel of the factions primarily comes from how these troops are deployed. Do they rush forwards using lighter boats to get their infantry down first, or do they bring large bulk landers that are well armed and armoured and can withstand damage to sit imperiously above the cluster? Well Shaltari do neither, and this is what really makes them feel so much more different to the others. And this is a great design choice because it represents what you expect of an ancient powerful civilisation. They don’t take the troops to the planet, they teleport them there! This has some huge advantages – namely that your troop carrying ships don’t need to go forwards in order to deliver their payload. Instead they can stay out of the way, possibly even behind debris fields, and in that sense don’t even need much of an escort. To make the teleportation work the Shaltari use networks of Void Gates, small disk-shaped ships that can descend into the atmosphere. They have the role of Strike Cruisers of other factions, but without the limitation (or cost, being just 15pts vs 32pts for UCM & Scourge, and 39pts for PHR).
It is precisely this sort of technological trick that is the hallmark of this faction. They don’t exceed in doing any one thing well, but they have so many options that the flexibility means that a skilled Admiral can make it seem like they do. This is augmented by the one thing that the Shaltari surpass all other factions by, and by some margin: their scan range. This is 12″ for all ships, compared to PHR at 8″, and the others at 6″. This acts as a hard counter – if the Scourge want to be silent at distance the Shaltari can see them; if the PHR want to go in guns blazing the Shaltari can keep distance and whittle them down as they close in; and if the UCM want to brawl the Shaltari can “cross” their battlegroups, having the ones that are close and out of arc range shoot a different part of the UCM fleet and vice versa.
And that really is the feel that you get from playing this faction. They are not aggressive, or tough, or any of the standard “stat-based” descriptions you would expect. They are imperious. You are simply better than the other races, not because the game is unbalanced, but because you simply are the superior species. Nothing phases you in the game because there are always options to switch to. Never will you be fully caught in any trap because you have the tools to at least mitigate it. And with unique abilities you will leave a lot of players of other factions quite envious.
The most important technological advancement is the one mentioned about the void gates. Rather than having Strike Cruisers or Bulk Landers that have to travel to the clusters, the Shaltari have Motherships full of their troops. They they form a network with all voidgates which allows them to chain troops down to the surface. This means that it is possible to leave your Motherships out of range of the enemy big guns, possibly even behind debris fields for further masking. Yes the Void Gates can be destroyed, but this is a much harder task to complete if they have descended into the atmosphere. However this comes at a cost. Another fleet of around 1000pts might have a troop ship and 6 Strike Carriers, for a total drop capacity of 12 per turn (troop ships have 2 bulk landers, each deploying 3 troops). A Shaltari fleet can only launch troops from a Mothership, which are 100 points each, and can drop 3 each per turn – so about half the number. And to get the best out of the Mothership you need 3 Void Gates as well for a further 45pts. That’s expensive for half the launch of Scourge (105pts), UCM (111pts), or a PHR troopship that also has the same firepower as a cruiser (135pts). At least the Mothership can contribute with a front gun that can pack a bit of a punch.
To compensate for this the Void Gates do have a special piece of technology that warps the air damaging troops that are landing (destroying them on a 5+). But for this to be effective the Shaltari have to get the Void Gates there first, which is risky because the opposing Admiral knows all they need to do is destroy all the Void Gates early and they win the game.
But perhaps the most interesting technology they have is shields. Every faction has armour on their ships, and in a game with very few “saving throw” modifiers, this general 3+ (PHR, UCM large ships) or 4+ (UCM small ships, Scourge average) required to prevent damage is a significant mitigation of damage. But as any hit roll 2 or more better than the required roll counts as a critical and ignores armour, there can be some powerful ways to attack if co-ordinated well. Shaltari armour is just dreadful, at a near universal 5+. This means that even sustained pressure from smaller ships (who are unlikely to crit) will bring Shaltari vessels down quite quickly. But the Shaltari have a trick (don’t that always)! They have active shields that not only improve their armour save to a 4+ (uninspiring by itself), but can also be used against critical hits! That surpasses even the PHR. The downside is that it makes you light up like a Christmas Tree, but if you are close to the enemy then it doesn’t matter (well not much, as it can attract more firepower from further away).
Emerald: We couldn’t spend the whole summary talking about Motherships and then not include it here! The Emerald class ship not only has the aforementioned launch shenanigans, but also good speed, a low sig (just 3″, the same as a frigate of other factions), and a high scan, but also a single forward facing bank of disruptors with 6 shots. It won’t take anything down by itself, but with an average of 2 damage a couple of these can help pick away at a key target or, more likely, pop frigates.
Sapphire: This Battlecruiser is a real mixed bag, and epitomises the Shaltari versatility. It is best when in the middle of the fight, shields up, causing havoc. It boasts 4 weapons, 2 of which (unusually) are Close Action. Then it can also bombard sectors. These weapons are all 360′ as well meaning it can go weapons free without too much issue. More tricky is it’s final gun, but this is perhaps also the most devastating. The Gravity Coils don’t do a lot of damage (2 shots @ 2+, with 1 damage each) but they do spin the target ship around, which can really mess up it’s ability to fight back.
Amethyst: Just occasionally you’ll come across a Frigate that really scares you, and typically they are Close Action ones. With d3+2 shots and a 3+ to hit, each of these small ships can pack a bit of a punch. But unless they are in large swarms they tend not to bee too bad as the Point Defences can deal with each smaller attack bit by bit. Not so with Beam Close Action weapons which ignore them entirely, meaning that even with dedicated defence escorts large important ships are highly vulnerable. And given how Shaltari “don’t do” Close Action these ships are even more of a surprise.
Strengths: Great at brawling with good armour, good support, and wide fire arcs.
Weaknesses: Why are humans always the middle road all-rounders? Underpowered.
Suits: People who like the ship designs and the challenge of maximising difficult builds.
Whilst some people will just love the aesthetics of another faction, I think that these ships are just the best overall designed. Huge amounts of detail and a really solid naval feel, capturing the familiarity of modern warships with a futuristic edge. They feel both high tech and archaic. And that’s probably a good way to describe their play style. Because whilst you feel in control of a powerful brutish yet exquisite fleet of ships, in the end you feel like you are a tech level below the other factions. The problem comes in the 2 main types of gun that the UCM possess – Mass Drivers and Burnthrough Lasers. Both are just simply underpowered for what you ask them to do, and without a lot of shots available you really have to hit those dice peaks to kill before you are killed.
This results in some ships just being so much more superior to others because they perform much closer to expectation. For example the Burnthrough Lasers tend to have a Front Narrow arc, giving you about a 15 degree window with which anything can be shot. This is fine for the smaller ships that tend to have one of these and nothing else because they can manoeuvre to line up the shot and then fire the one main gun that they have. But for the bigger ships we have a problem. Take the Perth class Battlecruiser which has a powerful Viper Super-Heavy Laser backed up by two (medium calibre) UF-4200 Mass Driver turrets. If I want to fire all of them I have to go Weapons Free, but in doing that I don’t get to turn, meaning that only a complete noob of an enemy Admiral (i.e. me, most of the time) is going to leave something valuable in the way. The ship just contradicts itself, and not in a fun “make a choice” way, but in a badly designed loadout way. And this is not unrealistic (bad military design decisions are probably the norm!), but for 17% fewer points you could take a Moscow Heavy Cruiser that has just 2 fewer hull points and upgrades the UF-4200’s to UF 6400’s (heavy calibre), with 2 smaller UF-4200’s in addition. These all have excellent arcs, meaning that a couple Moscows can be used to break an enemy line.
And they are not even well supported. Whilst the UCM do have the best bombardment options, it’s a fundamentally un-fun way to play. The Strike Cruisers are fine but nothing special, the Troop Carriers are undergunned, and the launch capability is poor. And this last part is a shame as the Fleet Carrier ships are generally pretty good (with the New York being an awesome Battleship sized launch ship), but the Bombers themselves are pretty underwhelming. They do have a couple tricks up their sleeve. There is a dedicated AWACS style scanning Frigate that really helps boost their range to a level only bettered by the Shaltari. And they have a missile Frigate that is just devastating in large numbers. But you don’t play UCM for the Frigates, you play them for the awesome looking Heavy Cruisers and larger ships. Recent balance changes have helped, but this is still the faction most likely to have you feel like you have done everything right and still come away scratching your head about why it all went wrong.
The real hard hitting technology is the Burnthrough Lasers, and these are extremely volatile. The concept is simple, and two-fold. Each Burnthrough Laser has a maximum damage cap. You roll your attack dice to see if you hit, and for every hit you score you roll another die. And you keep doing that until you end up finally missing or you reach the damage cap. But secondly, as soon as you roll a critical hit all hit rolls that are successful after that count as a critical. So if you need a 3 to hit (and therefore a 5 to crit), and you roll 4,4,5,3,6,3 then you have scored 2 hits (the first two 4’s), and 4 crits (the 5, and every hit after that). And you should immediately see the problem. Roll 2 dice for the laser and there’s a decent chance you could hit with 1 and miss with the other, and then roll again for the hit and seeing a miss. All that potential and you have scored 1 hit that likely has a 50% chance to be saved. On the other hand roll a 5 to start and then four 3+’s after and you made 5 crits that could (with a decent crippling result) take out a hull 7 light cruiser in one shot. You just don’t know, so you can’t really plan for it.
Whilst the general scanning of the UCM is poor, the Lima detector ships allow for a lot of Active Scanning, even breaking normal Battlegroup Order rules. And this is great given that as the UCM are undergunned they really need to pick a target that doesn’t want to be engaged, spike it fast, and then turn all guns to bear. Combined with a horde of cheap New Cairo class Light Cruisers (cheap ships that have 1 main gun and can push forward as you don’t care much about them) and you can start to worry much larger ships that won’t be able to deal with them all at once (and remember there is no scan range limit on who you can Active Scan).
Lima: The scanning specialist is an absolute must for any UCM fleet, which makes it even sadder that these are marked as Rare – but probably realistic as I imagine every UCM Admiral refuses to leave the docking stations without some!
Taipei: The most devastating of the UCM ships, and once again it is just a Frigate. Still quite cheap at 39 points you can fit a lot of these into a Group, and it is recommended to maximise them as Point Defence applies to the shooting of an entire Group, so one group of 6 is 3 times as effective as the same number split over 3 groups where the PD applies to all. I’d recommend taking at least 18 of these (702pts) in a 2000pt game if you want to be competitive. Which is a shame as none of the UCM Frigates look close to as good as the Cruisers.
Seattle: Whilst UCM Bombers are terrible compared to other factions, launch is still the most powerful mechanic in the game. Whilst it is tempting to run these on defence, using Fighters to augment Aegis ships against the better enemy Bombers, I think you need to accept that you will lose ships and go hard on the counter attack. Launch is also one of the few ways that you can get around poor Scan stats, so use this to take out enemy key targets like Motherships and Troop Transports. Sadly they are only Launch 3, but at just 132pts you can afford a few.
Strengths: Extremely tough with high damage output if set up right, these are the late game brawlers. Bombers are incredible.
Weaknesses: Very slow and quite easy to counter, want to close for a brawl but Close Action is poor.
Suits: Players who like a highly tactical positioning game over full aggression or cat and mouse.
I’ll admit I am biased, because I just adore this faction. The sleek white ships with their silly blue fins and crazy dolphin faces just have an aesthetic that drew me towards them even before I knew how they played. And this is quite a mixed bag, as PHR fall into the category of having a lot of good base statistics and rules that never quite fit together, a case of the sum being less than its parts. This faction is also one for fans of the smaller ships, because it is the Frigates where they really shine, and the bigger the ships get the less well they tend to be. In many ways this faction is quite bloated with a lot of ships that look great but don’t function at all well, punctuated by a few superstars. And this faction also has the ship that is the #1 contender for best ship in the game (more of which a little later).
This faction is slow. You will not get to any clusters first, hoping for a turn draw at best. The Strike Carriers have no atmospheric capable ship to ship weapons meaning that they need an escort to stay alive. In return they can start bombarding the enemy position on the ground, making their late arrival a little more palatable. The slow speed is also mitigated by the design of their two gunboat Frigates. The Pandora has a small Burnthrough laser meaning it can do a lot of damage from afar early on with that focused firing arc, and the Europa has 2 broadsides that are Linked, meaning that it can fire 2 guns as if it were 1, preventing the need to go Weapons Free.
Wait, what was that? Broadsides!? Yes, for fans of old sailing ships this will bring a smile to your face, as the PHR are full of ships with broadside gun batteries. In fact other than the occasional Burnthrough Laser and two crappy medium calibre turrets, there are no forward firing weapons in the whole faction. This creates a patient playing style where you want to time your movement really well. And because of this PHR require good fleet setup more than any other faction. Because if you can make a ship go last and push forward fast to drive between the enemy so that they fall into the forward-most point of your side firing arcs, and then next turn go first so that they can move slowly and hit again quickly, you can do a lot of damage. And that’s the style – rely on the armour to stay alive as you cautiously move forward, and then get into big fights, using your large ships as a distraction so that your key ships can win the mission.
The broadside gun batteries are not only strong weapons, but also come with a host of little rule benefits that can really make them work well. And because of the high number of shots these batteries have (typically one for each gun you see on the model), they are also quite versatile. For a start nearly all of the ships have linked batteries which allows them to turn and get all shots off (the reason why larger ships tend to not do as well is that they have an additional weapon that requires you to go Weapons Free to use). Secondly the guns all get a bonus if they are shooting the ship type their calibre is designed for (light vs frigates, etc.). The typically high number of shots (12 for Light Calibre) means you can also take pot-shots against enemy Frigates in atmosphere, as needing a 6+ rather than the normal 5+ doesn’t hurt that much.
The second most powerful technological advancement is in the miniaturisation of the comp0nents on board these cybernetic ships. With a good distribution many gaps are left meaning that a shot which might cripple a ship from another faction could pass straight through a PHR ship doing no damage. This is represented by all ships in this faction having a 3+ save and more hull points. This is incredibly good for Frigates, as not only is the armour save immense (UCM will have 4+, other factions a 5+), but also moves them up from 4 hull points to 5. And given that you take a crippling damage roll if you go to 50% starting hull points, and that over half these rolls will apply 2 or more additional damage points, it is easy to see that doing just 2 damage to a Frigate has a great chance of killing it, unless it is a PHR ship where 3 is required. And if these are not critical shots, then 3 non-crit damage points would be required against a Scourge Frigate (1/3rd saved), whilst a PHR Frigate would need to sustain on average 9 non-crit damage points (2/3rd saved).
And then we get to Launch. Now the launch capability of the PHR carriers is pretty good, but not excellent. The Heavy Cruisers and Battlecruisers get 4, with there being some funky options for a Light Cruiser sized “Vanguard Carrier” with 2, and then a Frigate with 1. Yes Launch Frigates! But what makes these really stand out is that the Bombers hit on a 2+. And that means they crit on a 4+. Let’s take an example of Launch 4 of another faction (all 3+) vs a Moscow (12 Hull Points, 5 Point Defence, 3+ save). With 8 attacks the PHR will on average get 2.67 hits and 4 crits, vs 2.67 hits and 2.67 crits. PD will typically take off 1.67 hits, to leave 1+4c vs 1+2.67c. Final tally after saves is 4.33d vs 3.00d, a 44% improvement. Only Shaltari ships will stand a chance!
Bellerephon: Almost certainly the best ship in the game, it is perfect for what you want it to do. A Heavy Cruiser tonnage Fleet Carrier, the slow speed doesn’t matter as it won’t want to close with the enemy. Launch 4 makes it a huge threat, and even at 24″ you can use the Bombers to do a lot of damage even if the enemy ship can try evasive manoeuvres. Meanwhile it also has a single powerful weapon; a front facing Burnthrough 6 Laser. And with 13 Hull Points and a 3+ armour save it is going to be able to stick around as well. It is quite costly at 180pts, but given that it is doing the job of both a New Cairo (88pts), and a Seattle (132pts) but even better than both combined it is a cheap price to pay. The only reason not to max your Launch capacity with Belles is if you want a Scipio or some Andromedas as well!
Orpheus: Continuing the theme of 2 ships rolled into 1, we have this mixed Heavy Cruiser / Dropship combo. Like all PHR Heavy Cruisers it has great armour and hull points, and this time augments is two 12-shot Light Calibre broadsides with 2 Bulk Lander drop capability. It even has a little baby Burnthrough Laser on the front, although this is mostly ignored (as you don’t want the Weapons Free spike). This allows the ship to (finally) get over a cluster, and then contribute to air superiority whilst dropping 6 infantry a turn to the ground. Escort these ships well as they are the highest priority your opponent will have.
Calypso: One of the few ships in the game with no guns, just a few bad Close Action drones, this ship is all about defence. Want to keep those Belles and Orpheus alive? Well a Calypso (at the criminally cheap 37pts) can escort a high priority ship and when it is targeted by a weapon from an enemy ship that you think will devastate it you can use the Advanced ECM Suite to add 1 to the required hit roll. This is double powerful as it not only reduces the number of hits, but the number of criticals. It is this last bit that is important as with a 3+ save most ships can take a real beating from normal hits (39 required on average to kill a Heavy Cruiser). So taking a 3+ hit / 5+ crit up to a 4+ hit / 6+ crit can nearly halve the damage taken (9 attacks would go from 3h+3c=4d to 3h+1.5c = 2.5d). And if you are really worried then take 2 as these can stack (or more sensibly use against 2 different weapons).
Strengths: Highly flexible and customisable ships that allow you to get the style and look you like.
Weaknesses: Poor scan range and no point defence leaves these ships needing to synergise.
Suits: People who want something different as a second fleet.
The Resistance are a new, and strange, fleet only coming into the game in 2019 with the Battle for Earth expansion. Imagine if all the civilian ships from Battlestar Galactica upgraded themselves with weapons and military scavenged tech and you probably have a close feel for this fleet. They are not a military group, and they really feel like it, being underpowered in many areas. However they make up for this by being very flexible because unlike any other faction their ships are customised. Rather than agonising over whether you should take an additional group of Osaka or New Cairo (same ship, different guns) you instead pick a hull type and then fit in some weapons and subsystems. This is not quite as open as it sounds because the list that you have is still quite narrow, but it is much larger than the other factions still – and expect common variants to start picking up their own names. Where it comes in most useful is in not having to pay for what I would call design mistakes – not game design, but ship design where it doesn’t meet game rules. For example having a good Front Narrow weapon and other good weapons is a pain as it is hard to fire them all whilst having anything in the F(N) arc. This makes some ships totally undesirable compared to similar ships with slightly different loadouts. If you find this on Resistance ships then it is your mistake for designing them that way! Want to keep your Strike Cruisers cheap? Well don’t give them any guns and take more.
Close Action weapons are especially poor. With a small scan range you really need to be on top of the enemy, and with terrible Point Defence stats that’s exactly where you don’t want to be. More than any other faction the Resistance need a lot of carriers (all fleets should be maxing their capacity tho), but this is purely for fighter cover rather than the much stronger bombing runs. And this suits them because their bombers are poor (4+ to hit but with 3 shots, meaning whilst they have slightly more hits they have fewer criticals), and their fighters add the best point defence in the game. But this only just makes up for their low starting values. Missile frigates like the Taipei, and PHR bombers will have an absolute field day with this, as will the nasty Close Action weapons from the Scourge. Expect to lose your biggest ship every turn.
One trick the Resistance do have to counter is the fireship. This tactic originates from the middle ages where fleets would take one of their ships, set it on fire, and then put it on a course into a harbour, with the idea being it would set other ships docked there alight. Resistance can do this with remotely controlled ships full of explosives, that they can then crash into much larger ships trying to take them out. Must admit in a game where each ship is supposed to actually be able to fit on the size of a pin-head and is travelling at high speeds this doesn’t really feel right. But then the idea of the Resistance being able to muster much of a fleet to take on the military might of the other 4 factions feels quite immersion breaking as well. They just about make it fit, but it’s still a little odd in a design choice. Why not just a new faction?
The main aspect of the technology is the customisation. This allows the ships to all be built in a multitude of ways to really get your style across. The problem is that the base stats are set so low that you really need more of these than you can fit. To make up for it they have a few nice touches, although some of them don’t seem to quite make sense. The first of these is Low Power. Some weapons draw so little additional power to use that they don’t put a strain on the engine or other systems, which means that they can be fired without going Weapons Free. This makes them a hybrid between a regular weapon and a Close Action weapon, sharing the latter’s damage level but with all the advantages of a regular gun (not limited to just scan range, no point defence, and can take pot-shots into atmosphere).
Ablative Armour gives +2 hull points until a crippling hit is taken, which is not as good as it sounds (it just means you need to do 1 more point of damage to cause the crippling hit). Some weapons are unstable resulting in the firing ship potentially taking some damage. And perhaps best is the focused targeting rule where if enough shots are taken on a single enemy ship from a group’s weaponry then additional shots are given as a bonus. Lastly we have something that isn’t really tech, and isn’t really making sense – Elite Bridge Crew. Yes somehow we have fallen in love as a culture with the idea that a plucky rag tag band of people can be more highly trained than people who have been highly trained. But the concept is still a good one, even if maybe it could have been presented better, in that it allows the Resistance to remove a Major rather than Minor spike on Standard Orders. This makes them a little harder to see, which mitigates a touch of their own poor scanning. It means that they can take high-energy manoeuvres, fire a main gun and all the Low Power guns, and then still in their next turn kill the energy signature spike. Fun trick!
Being able to pic’n’mix your ships means that there are no set loadouts, and so this section is left to your own imagination!
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