I’ve played on a variety of table depths in Antares, and I have to confess that, like others in our group, I’m beginning to favour a deeper table depth than the recommended 4′. I’ve also developed an absolute loathing for 3′ deep tables and for extended, deep (10″) deployments on 4′ tables which, in my mind, stretch the Antares game balance to its limit and end up significantly biasing the game towards particular factions and weapons.

Rather than just mention those preferences, it’s probably worth stating why and how they each affect the game.

Range & Movement

It’s probably worth highlighting the common weapon ranges in Antares: 20″ is effective range for a lot of weapons whilst 30″ is the maximum long range and frequently the maximum range for hand and standard weapons (9/17 modes in the core book!). It’s only the majority of light support and heavy support weapons that have longer effective ranges. For most standard weapons, extreme tops out at about 50-60″ (bar the phase rifle!) and it’s only the Ghar Disruptor Cannon  that has a Light Support Weapon range of less than 60″.

On top of the ranges we have movement to consider. Whilst normal movement is 5″, infantry sprints are 15″. Not only that, but the fast skimmers not only can run at 20″ but can sprint, too (30″) and, whilst doing so, they also gain a forced rerolls on ranged attacks against them, which significantly enhances their resilience. When you look at Drop troops, who can move 5″ and fire or MOD units that can move multiple times in a turn and still fire, the table depth starts shrinking rapidly!

So, whilst this means Antares ranges are quite longer than other games I’m played, they are reasonable for the troop scale – it could even be argued they should be longer but, then, we don’t know what meta-suppressors are being used on the battlefield to jam and obscure range finders, obfuscate sensors or confuse targeting computers. We do know that the nanophages and Ghar pollution are an integral part of Antarean warfare, however, so can assume they are causing real problems.

Key, though, is that ranges are linked in with force capabilities. The Ghar have few long-range weapons and prefer a closer, ranged conflict; the Concord are generally a little weak in hand-to-hand but have good ranged weapons and blast resistance – they also have a geat, rapid-moving strike force in the shape of drop troops; Boromites have a few ranged weapons and have some very pokey vehicle options, but really prefer close-in, hand-to-hand fighting; whilst the Algoryn are pretty flexible and adaptable at long range and in close.

Size/Set-up impact

Normal set-up is within 1M (5″-10″) of a table edge. Some scenarios devised by the community allow 2M or 10″ setup on 4′ deep (48″) tables. Whilst this can produce some interesting games at low point values, the range-at-deployment (RAD) is 26″-28″ (36″-2*5″ or 48″-1*10″). This means that we are beginning to favour or even enable some weapons that are otherwise not in range on normal sized tables.

We could have a look at a representational game between the iconic Concord and Ghar.

A Ghar disruptor, with its two pin capability, has a range of only 30″. On normal tables, especially with the substantially increased chance of intervening terrain (the 38″ RAD on normal table/deployment is approximately 1/3 longer than the 26-28″ RAD), the disruptor rarely has a look-in on turn 1. However, with such short ranges, the disruptor can be used on a Fire order and almost always could be used on a simple advance that narrows the range to something like 21-24″ (moves are rarely straight forward). A second advance, such as on the Command Crawler or Battle Suits, and the Ghar are in effective range with the disruptor…

In contrast, the Concord are quite happy shooting at the Ghar from longer ranges, especially over 40″. Whilst the C3 may be at extreme range, their carbine’s 2 SV means they can pin Ghar whilst the Ghar can’t even respond! Further, the Concord have really nice support options with the C3D1 and  C3D2 drones which have superb effectiveness at range, spotters and SV that can pin Ghar, if not cause real damage. At closer ranges, the Concord are disadvantaged as all their armour and weapons are geared for long-range.

To be honest, the Concord would prefer a RAD even longer than that on the standard 48″ table! The deeper depth (!) means they can move into range, or move to stay out of the Ghar range, and take long-range shots with impunity, forcing the Ghar to  close the range rapidly and risk running into the open (Ghar suits hate terrain!).  Even if the Ghar wangle a bomber squad, they typically can take only a few and it’s one weapon, overhead blast… all the Concord have to do is sneak into some protective terrain and they’re laughing (well, almost!).

And guess which squad is going to attract the heavy plasma cannon or plasma light support fire on the Concord drones?

The following specific observations are all compared with standard, 4′ across tables and normal, 1M deployment.

3′ across/deep/RAD 26″: Assaults and in range

One of the reasons that a 3′ deep table or RAD of 26″ or less is that almost every weapon is in range and most within long range or less. Further, weapons such as the Ghar disruptor cannons are easily able to Advance and shoot, giving them an instant advantage over their normal 4′ tables. Many rapid-fire weapons also max out at 30″, so a RAD of 26″ is something over which they can dance for joy.

It’s not just particular weapons that gain an advantage. Given the Fast or Rapid Sprint capabilities of some assault units and skimmers, the game is radically biased towards their capabilities. Lavan species just need a single advance/run plus a sprint and they are in range of a target without having to take much in the way of shooting. Whilst it may seem fun to have the number of movements reduced, in practice this isn’t so much fun if you have a lighter force!

There is another, more subtle effect of shallow tables and narrow tables: compressed deployment. This gives a distinct advantage to OH weapons that miss and are forced to move off-target. With compressed deployment, it makes it more likely that they will hit something, making X-launchers, micro-X’s and similar weapons more potent.

The net effect of this is that some factions are given an automatic advantage (say Ghar) whilst others that suffer in Assaults (say Concord, despite their Lance) are disadvantaged. Further, because some selections are significantly favoured over others, it biases the nature of unit selection.

5′ across/deep: a personal favourite

For games of 1250 points or above, I have to admit that I prefer a 5′ deep table. This even works for 1000 point games, especially for the range-loving Concord, but at that level it depends very much on the mission objectives and scenario. The 8’x5′ set up is often readily available in halls as it is the same size as a table tennis table.

The thing is, I prefer this depth even with my Ghar, but why?

At this sort of table depth, units are often spread out much more than they would be normally, reducing the effectiveness of OH fire. Further, forces that prefer longer ranges are now able to use their weapons to greater effect and not have to succumb to melee or the depredations of fast moving units so quickly: they have a chance to shoot at the oncoming threat.

As a result, and perhaps non-intuitively, the 5′ depth (50″ RAD) encourages more movement simply because units have to move to get into range with their weapons. It also brings out the natural advantages that some weapons are supposed to have over others: the mag gun becomes useful, for example, meaning Freeborn and Algoryn get some fun even without their normally influential, and lethal, support skimmers. The depth also encourages the selection of weapons like the mag cannon and plasma cannon as they can get off more, and effective, shots before being eaten alive or crushed to recyclables by melee-favouring troops.

Sure, you have to be careful about some types of scenario requiring deep maneouvres into your opponent’s half of the table – the extra depth adds an extra move to get over there. This means that some fast-moving forces will be advantaged in such scenarios. Whilst it may seem an easy fix just to extend to 2M deployment (and you may well need even deeper deployment) the question then becomes: ‘Why not just use a 4′ deep table for such scenarios?’

Overall, though, the 5′ deployment brings scope for, and encourages, maneouvre in the game. It also allows each faction’s strengths and weaknesses to be emphasised. And should we mention the really nice look and feel of a broad expanse of terrain covered in great models?

6’+: perhaps a struggle

Given that 5′ is so good, why isn’t 6′ or 62″ RAD even better?

Frankly, I think it’s that 62″ RAD as many infantry weapons are several moves out of range: movement is now forced. Sure, it has a superb potential for epic maneouvre, but it actually means that several turns are spent trying to move squads into a position where they can have any effect at all and some scenarios become completely. Those first few turns can be fun, but you’re troops are now being shot at by every tank or heavier vehicle on the table.

Perhaps that’s the benefit of such a deep table: that it can be great for tank battles and heavy weapon usage. Scout probes come into their own for patch sighting and the MOD units become invaluable. Of course, that means that the lighter troops may have to be dropped unless they have transports as they will not be able to get into range so quickly.

Such a drive, though, means that the very deep tables (which will need to be wide, as well) can foster some great tank and drone battles using the variant forces in The Chryseis Shard. A Freeborn Raider’s list or a C3 Drone force really come into their own, great fun can be had with a Ghar Seige force, and the Algoryn Spearhead list gets to show why it is so feared.