Which is better? 3-strong squads of suits or 4/5 strong Ghar suit squads? A massed unit of Concord C3D1s with their Plasma Light Support weapons or the C3D2 with a Plasma Cannon?
These were the questions that bothered me after experimenting with each on the tabletop…
I like my trio of C3D1s. Once they had a batter shield around them, they were solidly protected and could pour out a solid amount of SV 3 firepower. What’s more, being weapon drones they retained a 50% chance of surviving a hit that did get through the shield.
I also felt they were pretty good against Ghar suits, though the unit was expensive, simply because that Plasma Light Support could put a pin on the suits almost every single time. And once 5-6 hits per attack were factored in it meant each suit (in a three strong unit) was taking two Res saves – the risk seemed pretty good that one of the suits would fail.
But what about the C3D2? Sure, it had a slightly improved Res (10) and could take a batter, too. It, too, is armed with a PLS as normal but can be upgraded to a plasma cannon fairly cheaply. However, at that point it also needed a spotter for failed rerolls as the cannon only had one shot (and could suffer plasma fade). It seemed a bit too pricey for its effectiveness, even though the cannon is SV 6.
Of course, the cannon reduces a Ghar suit to a Res of 6 – and the Ghar is unlikely to have much help from cover whilst the medium drones could (it’s not large). Most of the time, though, that one shot will be put on a Leader, reducing the chance of a kill quite a lot. The thing is, it seemed a lot higher chance of a single casualty than an equivalently costed unit of C3D1s (often two).
But that’s the point: the D2 with a plasma cannon is a light anti-tank (Ghar suit) weapon. It’s meant to provide a decent chance of damaging an armoured vehicle or drone of some kind. As a single vehicle it was at risk from multiple hits, though – a squad of Ghar scourers in dispersed mode makes for trouble but the batter shield’s boost was really annoying, really limiting the chance of a hit and forcing Ghar to use scourers rather than disruptors to lay anything on the D2.
In contrast, the three-strong PLS drones stand something of a chance, but they are effectively multi-role squad support, able to provide large amounts of suppressing fire. Against most vehicles they will be fairly ineffective but in a squad of three they can really upset Ghar suit squads.
BUT… having played around on the table, it seemed that the D2 was being more effective than I thought, it’s single, rerollable shot pretty effective against armoured targets even if less intimidating against larger squads. Sure, the D2 always targeted one model, fired one (heavy) shot and had about a 78% chance of hitting (with spotter – it seems an odd number but remember a ’10’ on a hit is a dud). But, a good thing about that single hit is that it didn’t matter how many levels of Leader the target had, it could still be rerolled once.
What’s more, there seemed to be some odd results in D1s and D2s against suit squads of different sizes, whether 3, 4 or 5. C3D1s seemed more effective against the larger squads (true!).
So I crunched the numbers in a messy spreadsheet. It’s difficult to do that in Antares as there are loads of factors that can affect a result, so I had to simplify things somewhat to a Leader 2 in the Ghar and roughly rounded hits on the D1’s Plasma Light Support weapon. Further, actual battlefield conditions such as long range and terrain produced too many variables, so the results represented effective range, unobscured hits only.
Strangely, the numbers seemed to prove what I was experiencing: the D2 was pretty cost-effective at knocking off single suits but perhaps not as cost-effective as a 3-strong unit of D1s; against a bigger squad, the 3*D1s become more effective as the hit allocation starts avoiding the Leader 2’s reroll (4-5 hits against a 5-strong unit of suits is 1 each, all but one of which are at 10% chance of success; against a 3-strong squad the Leader can be allocated 2 hits, both of which have only around a 1% chance of success and so protecting the squad as a whole). And against that unit the chance of the Ghar succeeding at every save is only around 66% – a 1/3 chance of knocking off a suit from a five-strong unit.
Sure, the bigger suit squads helped with pins and break tests, but if they are against a Concord opponent with a a large C3D1 unit, they suffer more than would be expected. The D2 with cannon has a more limited role than the D1’s PLS but against vehicles and smaller squads it is resilient and is as cost-effective as a two-strong D1 unit and cheaper than the arguably more effective, but more costly, three-strong D1 unit.
Hmm; time to stop. All I’d done is proven the points costing mechanism is roughly correct but thrown another pair of spanners in the works: those highly effective 4- and 5- strong suit squads that normally scare opponents had an achilles heel in the massed PLS drones; the 3-strong suit squads would struggle more against pins and the D2 but might stand up better against the PLS fire.
Ah. I’d come to a messy, unresolved conclusion. However, to me it highlights the effectiveness of the Beyond the Gates of Antares game system: it forces players to make choices right from the word go, to try and guess what their opponents will do even selecting their own forces. It also means that a force set up for one opponent may not work the same way at all against a different opponent with exactly the same faction but a different mix.
And I think that’s the conclusion I really like.