Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tactics: Ariadna Paracommando - Death from the Skies

Lately we've had quite a bit of PanO content available lately on the site, and continuing my trend of doing tactical pieces for more obscure models, I thought it was time I focused in on an outlier from the Ariadna side... the FRRM Paracommando!


The Paracommando has always been something of an oddity in Ariadna, with AD in general not receiving much love outside of the well known (and feared) Van Zant. Now in the sectorial, of course there's not much in the way of competition there, but nevertheless this is an interesting point to consider, as a lot of people can struggle to get any effective use out of this model. I think that with a bit of effort, overcoming the limitations of the Paracommando makes for a fearsome piece, and all things considered, it's rather aggressively priced for what it can do.


airborne.jpg
- Death from the skies!


So let's take a look, shall we?
Statline
MOV
CC
BS
PH
WIP
ARM
BTS
W
S
AVA
4-4
13
12
11
14
2
0
1
2
3 (6 in FRRM!)
Bizarrely high AVA aside (seriously, is anybody bringing in 6 models with Parachutist except for teh lulz?!) Paracommandos actually have a rather good statline for their cost. BS 12 is definitely more Medium Infantry for Ariadna, and ARM 2 is rather decent too. WIP 14 though is really high, with only 7 total models with a WIP that high in Ariadna and only the Veteran Kazak also having a Specialist option (we'll get to that!).


The really notable thing though is that all Paracommandos also come with Mimetism, which, for those of you who are familiar with things like Tiger Soldiers or Garudas know, is really good. Deploying with AD unfortunately prevents getting cover under normal circumstances (can't touch terrain), so Mimetism really helps to survive a landing should you draw unwanted attention upon insertion, and makes you better able to stack odds as a gunfighter once you get to the target.


But as with all things, the devil is in the details, and we need to see what equipment Paracommandos can take that makes them good...

Profiles



Section 1 - Rifle (20 pts/0 SWC)



para1.jpg


The base load out, and really, there isn't much to recommend about it because it simply suffers too much from the competition. For just one point more you can have the fantastic Forward Observer profile, who with WIP 14 and unique deployment, is generally quite well equipped to go after far flung objectives and certainly doesn't mind having a flash pulse for the trouble. Even if you don't care for objectives, the Grenade Launcher option is only marginally more expensive (if you can spare the pts/SWC) and well worth it to start speculatively attacking people from bizarre angles, so I'd generally recommend that instead. In other words, skip this load out unless you REALLY need to save a point.



Section 2 - Rifle/Forward Observer (21 pts/0 SWC)



Probably my favorite load out for the Paracommando, the FO profile is a cheap and cheerful specialist option. Offensively, we should first look at the rifle that we skimmed over in the above profile. The Paracommando is a halfway decent gunfighter, with BS 12, a decent chance to get shots in the back arc and varied range bands for its gear. Defensively, the Paracommando meanwhile can rely on a combination of Mimetism, ARM 2, Cover (+3) and Suppressing Fire to be an absolute pain to shift. The fact that you can get all of this on the cheap means you've got a model that's just effective enough to not be ignored without being costly enough to be worth over-extending to remove. This makes it sit in a really juicy points bracket, because at 21 points this model can happily bully and defeat backfield cheerleaders on the active turn, and yet it'll probably take a few orders to get to it and put it down which is not exactly an automatic decision. Disposable and effective - that's the Ariadna way!


Where this model uniquely shines vs. the other profiles though is the fact that she's a WIP 14 specialist, and likely to start further up the board than any other model in your army. Providing you can land safely, this makes the Paracommando possibly the best equipped model in your army to go after enemy objectives that lie deep in their half of the table or far off to the side.
This is particularly effective both early in the game if scoring is done by round (as it will likely cost you fewer orders to get there than any other piece in your army) and late in the game (where the approach is less likely to be well guarded), so the Paracommando is a pretty versatile and effective scoring model.  



Section 3 - Rifle/Light Grenade Launcher (24 pts/1 SWC)



para2.jpg


In cases where you don't need the scoring model though, this is certainly a strong consideration as an upgrade for the rifle Paracommando if you find yourself with a couple of points/SWC to spare. The grenade launcher is a fantastic weapon on this platform, as you can often get great angles to shoot models in the back or clear up tightly clustered models in the opponent's backfield, where template weapons can wreak havoc upon cheerleaders and Lt options alike. Nobody likes taking template weapon hits on their vulnerable models, but if the AD model can manage to wrangle a back arc shot (which isn't always unlikely...) in an optimal range band (8-16, which conveniently, is out of their ZOC) there's not actually a lot that they can do about it.


Furthermore, being able to bring on a Speculative Fire weapon from an unexpected angle is great for clearing models that thought they were safe (especially on rooftops) and only further heightens this Paracommando's specialty of clearing up a vulnerable backfield. This can make the Paracommando one of the better choices for nabbing cheerleader Lt options, and then of course it can always still drop into suppressing fire or gunfight normally exactly the same as the FO profile above. A decent if underrated profile overall, and one that I vote for if you have a few extra pts/SWC and don't need the scoring option.


Section 4 - Sniper Rifle (27 pts/0.5 SWC)



french_sniper.jpg

I honestly count this version of the Paracommando firmly into the "nope" category. Most AD models shy away from long range weapons for obvious reasons, as they're dropping into the opposing backfield and likely in close range of dangerous opposing models. But when you factor in that you have to assign your deployment BEFOREHAND, not even an opportunistic "I drop on the empty flank and snipe across the board" becomes realistic, seeing as you can't change your drop zone after seeing how your opponent starts to move around the table. Now factor in that you can't deploy touching terrain and that snipers generally rely on both stacking mods and range bands, and you can see why this profile isn't winning many friends.


Really I've only noticed one use for this model, and it's to drop the Sniper off in YOUR backfield, as a kind of "improvised" Hidden Deployment Sniper. It's tricky to get the positioning exactly right, and it will usually be a little order intensive, but Ariadna completely lacks hidden deployment options, so it's one of the few ways we get to hide a sniper off the table. It's not something I would personally bother with vs. a regular camo marker alternative, and it still can't ARO like a "traditional" hidden deployment sniper option, but if you were absolutely determined to make it work, I think this would be the best way to pull it off.



Section 5 - Boarding Shotgun (22 pts/0 SWC)



The most aggressive of the Paracommando profiles, the Boarding Shotgun load out really does exactly what you'd expect it to - survive the drop, move in close and murder stuff dead. Combined with the mimetism and good range bands, this profile can really stack odds, but it's definitely going to want to get the most out of an active turn as it lacks the suppressive fire option to simply stand there as a nuisance in the opponent's side. This profile lives and dies by the board you're on, as some boards have absolutely incredible flanks to drop on unhindered and allow you to close in to murder things up close...while others are largely empty on the edges or require longer range weapons to battle with on approach, making such a choice a rather meta dependent selection.


Still for the cost and the right board setup, it's very hard to argue with the effectiveness of this model. Find yourself (or make yourself!) an undefended drop zone, and you can really clean house with the opposing backfield, which only gets better if you're laying down BS 18 Impact Template shots into models back arcs while they struggle to even change facing. Nasty stuff. Overall this gets a "maybe" vote from me, as it's too particular to recommend wholeheartedly but can really get serious mileage if given the opportunity.



Section 6 - HMG (31 pts/1 SWC)



para3.jpg


The biggest bruiser of the Paracommando profiles, the HMG is probably one of the more interesting loadouts and one that many people are quite the fan of. Unlike some of the more "close quarters" load outs, the HMG is one that is far more likely to drop in on any of the deployment zones on your half of the table, but both Sections 5 and 8 can still be desirable if you think you'll be able to put a few decent bursts downfield at long range. So having just knocked down the Sniper profile, why does the HMG pull ahead then?


Well actually, we've got a few great things going for him. First of all the HMG isn't confined to shooting at long range, as it can always position in key areas and drop into suppressing fire, providing there's nobody there to directly oppose him. Suppressing fire in your opponent's backfield is always annoying, as you're close enough to be unlikely to be out-ranged, it makes you harder to hit, and you can lock off key chokepoints. Burst 4 is also no joke, so even if you ARE directly shooting with bad range bands, clipping people out of cover with a bucket of dice is still a fight you've got very decent odds of winning. Finally, the HMG is very aggressively priced, coming in at only line trooper SWC costs (1), despite being on a decently elite platform (ARM 2, BS 12, Mimetism and 4-4 MOV combining the best of both LI and MI).


All of this means that even if you don't AD at all, the Paracommando is still a very decent HMG option for the price you're paying, with Moblots and Zouaves demonstrating a fairly respectable comparison. Realistically though I'd still always AD this model even for the "surprise" factor, but you do have to be quite careful with where you choose to drop this model in to ensure you're putting the raw power of the HMG to good use. Don't be afraid to drop in close if you think you'll be able to stack fights really unfairly in your favor, but also don't be afraid to go for a more conservative drop on your side of the board if you think




Overall Assessment?



I think the specialist profile of the Paracommandos are probably my favorite overall, with 0 SWC cost, low pts cost and a decent ability to score. I'd say both the Grenade Launcher and HMG profiles tie for second place, with both bringing interesting options to the field for a combat model that can really improve the gunfighting aspect of this profile if you don't mind working with their limitations. The Shotgun is the firm "middle of the road" option, being either incredible or awful based on your ability to land safely and actually get real close to the target on the board/meta that you play in. The rifle is largely outclassed by other options, and while not a "bad" choice, only really exists for people who absolutely MUST shave off the extra cost associated with other load outs. Finally, the sniper is the trickiest to work with, and the difficulties of Parachutist combined with amazing similarly costed sniper options in Ariadna leave other choices pulling ahead.


Of course if we're going to talk extensively about making the most of Ariadna AD options, what we really need to talk about is...

AD - Parachutist



Airborne2.jpg
- Kind of something you have to prepare for...


As by far the worst of the AD options, Parachutist comes with a lot of limitations that need to be carefully worked around in order to get enough mileage out of this model. Choosing the right table side before deployment seriously limits the model out of the gate (and at least partially explains some of the aggressive pricing) so you really want to take a close look at the table and suitable "landing zones" to ensure your Paracommando arrives without drawing an unopposed roll and likely dying in the process.


Potential ARO's on arrival are only part of the equation though, as once you hit the table you need to decide where your model wants to be. Most of the close range profiles will want to opt for Section 5 or 8 (the sides of the table and nearest to the opponent's deployment zone, while longer ranged options consider 1 and 4 as their arrival points to make the most out of their generally longer range bands (unless they can get a great long range avenue shooting across the table). The other thing to make note of is which parts of the table are going to be "hot", as in where the action is going to be, valuable objectives lie, and crucial choke points to make your impact felt on. After all, there's no point landing the Paracommando on a part of the board that's largely dead and irrelevant, especially if it ends up being a big point sink to relocate it later. If you land in a place that's going to be crucial to the game though, you'll get a lot more use out of the model.


Our next consideration is that because the Parachutist landing needs to be decided before the game, a few extra steps are required to ensure their arrival is as surprising as possible. Writing down the location beforehand can stand out like a sore thumb (with the only other thing you typically write down before a game being the Sabotage objective) and so I strongly recommend using your phone to note down the location. An opponent scrawling something down on a piece of paper is a bigger giveaway than somebody tapping away on their phone, a common occurrence these days.


Second of all, the Parachutist, like any AD model, leaves a gap in your order pool, so I strongly advise keeping it in pool #2 where a not "completely full" pool isn't exactly surprising. This does also dictate list building a little bit as well, as this might not be an option for very "elite" armies (e.g. Limited Insertion)and you also want plenty of cheap regular orders available in that pool (because AD can be a bit of an order sink to use effectively), so this can make list composition difficult if you were planning for a build that largely runs a second pool of cheap irregular/impetuous troopers. Ariadna also doesn't have Hidden Deployment, so once opponents get wise to the points costs of your models, it's strongly advisable that you have a wide array of camo markers to help mask the "missing" points values. Following all of these steps helps the Paracommando make a much bigger impact, as they are rather predictable models, but only IF the opponent knows that they are coming.


In some ways though, peculiarly, the Paracommando also lives and dies by you/your meta's usage of Van Zant. Van Zant is well known in Ariadna for his terrifying ability to arrive on any table edge (including your opponents), and by being both a relatively powerful and popular model, it isn't uncommon for opponents to be expecting him. This however makes the much more predictable Parachutist occasionally difficult to use, because of course if your opponent is consistently guarding their DZ approaches and any flanks for a potential Van Zant arrival, it can make it difficult to land and attack with a Parachutist model.


The problem then with Parachutist of course is that once you've chosen your location, you're stuck with it, and if the battlefield situation changes or opponents have that section guarded, the Parachutist is in trouble. This is why sometimes, it's important to send other models ahead to clear up the territory before the AD model's arrival or to perhaps wait another turn to use the trooper more effectively. That's why we need to look at...


Timing



Like all AD models, timing is everything, but never is this more true than with the Paracommando. At least with AD level 2 and upwards you can always choose another landing spot if your original desirable landing zone becomes hotly contested, but you have no such luck with AD level 1. As we alluded to earlier, spending orders on other models to ensure you clear a spot (or at least cover the area with ARO's so nobody wants to stick their head out) is desirable, but you have to be careful with your order economy here as well. After all, there's no point spending a bunch of orders clearing out a safe spot, only to have almost nothing left to actually use on the AD model itself.


This is why sometimes you have to exercise restraint, and consider whether landing in turn 2 or turn 3 is the better judgment call. Ideally by then the board would have been more cleared out (fewer surviving enemy models) but that also means you have fewer turns to actually deal damage with as well. As part of this, you also have to consider the purpose of the AD model, as hunting down cheerleaders and damaging their order pool might be harder earlier on, but almost certainly more damaging to their overall gameplan (more turns for them with fewer orders). Likewise, objective grabbing Paracommandos want to think about when objectives need to be capped, as some scenarios reward only showing up Turn 3 (no scoring till then) whereas others reward earlier capturing and holding that you might want to consider.




















-Showing up when you least expect it!


Even if you simply plan on landing, moving to cover and suppressing, you will need at least 2 orders to do that, and you'll probably want to time things so that both the normal movement and suppressing fire are coordinated with other models in your army. This means you also have to factor in what the rest of your army wants to be doing on a given turn, as the Paracommando needs to be on the table at a certain point in the game to both coordinate those actions and carefully balance the order of operations.


As a quick overview the, let's consider some tradeoffs of arriving later on. There tend to be fewer enemies on the table, which also means fewer obstacles to overcome on your active turn and fewer tools your opponent has to stop you on their active turn as well. If the model surviving is paramount, then a Paracommando arriving on a much emptier table has far greater chances of surviving, and this can mitigate the "one hit wonder" aspect too. On the flipside, this might also mean that there is much less for the Paracommando to actually DO if it arrives later on, as some tasks might have already been handled by your other models or become increasingly irrelevant as the game goes on. As part of this, the longer you leave a Paracommando, the greater the chance that your own order pool would have taken some damage and the longer the rest of your army has to manage against a bigger force. Bringing in the AD model on earlier also means that, if it survives, it will be generating orders for your pool the following turn, which is not an insignificant bonus either.


Basically, in short, you have to carefully consider the board, your army, their army and your gameplan before bringing the Paracommando in. Bring it in too early and it might be ripped apart and killed, but bring it on too late and it might be an utter waste of points. Time things right though, and you can pick off hapless models in the back arc, score previously undefended objectives or save a weak flank from collapsing all in one swift move, and certainly bring some style doing it.


Conclusion



Looking back then, we can see that once you overcome some of the challenges of Parachutist and the timing when using this piece, the Paracommando is actually a really sweet model for the price you pay. Paracommandos are certainly one of the trickier and less talked about models in the Ariadna arsenal, and certainly when compared to the flexibility of Van Zant, a lot of players shy away from taking them. Nevertheless there are a lot of merits to this model, and when you consider that a well played Paracommando can get do just as much damage as him while costing considerably less and potentially scoring too, it's a model I think more people should pay a bit more attention to.





















I hope you all enjoyed this write-up, and my continuing focus on some of the subtle tactical uses of different Ariadna models. Any comments are welcome below, and otherwise let me know some other pieces you'd like to see me take a look at for other articles in the future.


Until next time :)

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