Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Guest Writer: Bots From Above (in ALEPH, ISS, and NCA), Tactica

By: Jason Christopher James Farley, aka Admiral JCJF

The Garuda is a light, airborne deployable, rapid assault remote in the service of the Special Situations Section of ALEPH. In terms of background we are told:

“Garuda, the fabulous bird ridden by the Vedic god Vishnu, has given its name to the Immediate Tactical Deployment Bots of the Special Situations Section. The Garuda is a light Remote model used for armed reconnaissance and airborne assault.
It has orbital and sub-orbital deployment capacity, able to be launched from spaceships, heavy unmanned gliders or a range of other airborne craft. The Garuda’s tactical profile is based on speed. Its rapid deployment to any point of an operation zone is its main feature, but once landed, speed remains a basic offensive/defensive element. Its light structure and protection make the Garuda a fragile remote, but it remains a lethal combatant. Its mimetic system, advanced fire control and great mobility confer the Garuda a high first shot kill probability, increasing its combat lifespan. If a quick kill is needed, the Garuda Tactbot is the best option to swiftly end any combat.”[i]

This fits well with the Infinity appearance of the Garuda, with the combination of AD: Combat Jump, 6-4 Move, BS 12 and Mimetism making all versions fast and deadly, while ARM 0 and STR 1 (‘though, admittedly, with Remote Presence helping somewhat) leave it somewhat fragile.
Looking at the full profile we see:

The availability here is for the Garuda in Vanilla Aleph, but they're AVA 1 in Imperial Service and the same for NeoTerran Capitaline Army, too. We’ll discuss the Garuda overall before examining it in each of these three different lists, as the environment significantly changes how we might approach its use on the table.

One thing which immediately leaps out is the lack of any Specialist profiles, or really any utility beyond pure gunfighter. This puts the Garuda into a clear but narrow niche. It is specifically designed to be an effective attack piece, with the tools to be effective in that role, perhaps slightly stronger against more straightforward enemy units (due to Mimetism but no MSV) and with the capacity to take on enemy heavy hitters while clearly outclassing line troops.

Without any direct template weapons the Garuda is vulnerable in the reactive turn except where suppressive fire is an option. Even then its speed and forward deployment are likely to leave it vulnerable to enemy skirmishers and close combat specialists unless it can find a good defensive position with long range support from other ARO units.

Overall this pushes the Garuda towards an aggressive approach, serving more as a throwaway killer than a piece you might put effort into keeping on the table. Low PH makes it unlikely that you will actually drop them onto the table (even with an EVO Hacker or Controlled Jump you have a 30% chance of scattering) under all but the most ideal conditions but high movement helps make up for that, letting you reposition quickly from the table edge.

As a remote, especially one with the low BTS of 3, the Garuda does have to be careful or enemy hackers or E/M weapons (‘though the latter no more so than any assault unit really thanks to Isolation). Repeaters can be a particular issue (given their ability to allow your opponent to concentrate hacking AROs) and those on the common Baggage Remotes and line infantry with Deployable Repeaters are particular threats to keep in mind.

Now, let’s look at the individual loadouts in a little more detail:

  1. The basic Combi Rifle, at 22pts 0 SWC a dirt cheap option, is perfect for outranging Skirmishers and Warbands while retaining high close-in capability. Less lethal than the Spitfire or the HMG, but more order intensive than the Boarding Shotgun, this is a cheap compromise option which offers the cheapest suppressive fire unit. This choice shines when you are up against smaller numbers of opponents (making the Boarding Shotgun less attractive) and as Suppressive Fire roadbump to help hold a key position.
  2. With many drop troops losing their option to bring the HMG, this choice becomes particularly interesting on the Garuda. While not the most intuitive AD option (as the 0-8 -3 and 8-16 +0 rangebands make it less than ideal for close assault work), and the highest cost of all the options 30pts 1.5 SWC, this unit shines in a slightly different role. It can work well paired with a Combi Rifle or Boarding Shotgun Garuda, following in behind its closer ranged brethren in order to reach out towards the longer ranged targets which they could not eliminate easily. It also works as a tactical support unit, deploying a heavy weapon at an unusual angle to engage enemy positions which are difficult to approach more traditionally. And don’t forget that in suppressive fire it’s as good up close as any weapon!
  3. The Boarding Shotgun is probably the most purely aggressive of the options and, at 21pts 0 SWC, also the cheapest. With no Suppressive Fire it’s very unlikely to survive the reactive turn so you want to get full impact when it hits the table. With the mobility of the Garuda offering plenty of opportunities to deny the targets cover, and the impact template allowing multiple targets to be hit at once, this unit is a great way to punish high order count forces which have clustered behind terrain. Between AD and 6-4 movement you’ll seldom struggle to bring the shotgun into optimal range, either. The order efficiency of the Boarding Shotgun can allow this option to work effectively out of a secondary order pool while your primary pool takes advantage of the opening it creates.
  4. Last, but certainly not least, the new Spitfire option (which also has a great new model to go with it) comes in slightly cheaper than the HMG at 28pts and 1.5 SWC. This option is better in close than the HMG (thanks to the 8-24 +3 band) but slightly less effective against hard targets (due to 1 lower damage). The overall best compromise piece, able to hit opponents close to the table edge or at reasonable range (and don’t forget that 6-4 movement lets you close quickly) with the high burst to either hit multiple vulnerable flanked targets (thus coming close to the Boarding Shotgun capability) and saturate more prepared targets with accurate fire. Like the HMG the Spitfire can hit hard and then drop into suppressive fire (still dangerous on the Garuda platform) to continue to act as a threat.

Overall the Garuda is a great way to punish opponents who go light on Hacking, providing a cheap and dangerous combat unit with amazing mobility. Even against a hacking-strong opponent careful placement can allow the Garuda to make a contribution, especially when hitting targets from unexpected angles while they are pinned by your primary forces.

The Garuda in Vanilla ALEPH
Two key things distinguish the Garuda in Vanilla ALEPH forces, other than the unique combinations and support options which ALEPH allows. The first of these is the presence of another, competing, AD unit. The Ekdromoi of the Steel Phalanx are an option at AVA 2 and they bring a different range of AD choices as well as higher PH which makes AD lvl 4 a more viable option. With direct template weapons on all profiles, better close combat ability and Super Jump the Ekdromoi compete for points and SWC. In particular the Assault Hacker (as a specialist) and short range options (Boarding Shotgun, Combi-Rifle) are strengthened by the close combat capabilities. The Spitfire and HMG Garuda remain the better long range options, however, if only because those same abilities (which cost a total of about 6 points) are not as significant. Availability 2 also helps here as it allows a 1-2 punch from a Boarding Shotgun Garuda (or Ekdromoi) followed up by the long range firepower of a Spitfire or HMG Garuda.

The Garuda in Imperial Service
The Garuda joins the Dakini and Sophotect as the ALEPH support offered to the Imperial Service, and provides their only AD option. With only availability 1 on offer it is important to select an option which compliments the existing options available. The Combi Rifle and Boarding Shotgun are both attractive as 0 SWC options (given the wealth of heavy weapon options available) but that doesn’t change the fact that “tricks” like AD aren’t what most opponents expect of IS, making a flanking Spitfire or HMG a potentially deadly option. One issue which can arise is the lack of other hidden units, making the existence of AD relatively obvious (you really only have the Ninja as your other ace up your sleeve), ‘though combining with other aggressive assault units (Kanren, Rui Shi, Su-Jian) can create a 1-2 punch threat to draw enemy units out of position so that they can be hit without LoF. The Garuda also makes a good “problem solver” as a low cost but high impact assault unit to eliminate an enemy threat pinning the rest of your forces down, one which you don’t necessarily need to worry too much about losing and offers another forward unit in a force not rich with options in that area. The huge order pools available to IS also allow the Garuda to be used very effectively in combination with other attack units, drawing on separate large pools for extra effectiveness.

The Garuda in NeoTerran Capitaline Army
Along with the Devas, the Garuda provides the ALEPH support to the NCA. As their only AD and with only the one available, this once again offers an interesting choice. The 0 SWC Combi Rifle and Boarding Shotgun options are attractive in the often SWC starved NCA, but at the same time their lack of mobility makes a fast and forward Spitfire or HMG very attractive. With the range of Thermo Optic Camouflage options in NCA it’s a lot easier to hide a Garuda, and AD isn’t one of their “usual” tricks which can make the Garuda a useful surprise. With the Locust and Peacemaker there is an opportunity to create a highly aggressive early strike build for NCA which can use the Garuda to punish opponents for weak deployment and exploit any openings created by the impact of the other units early. The limited Forward Deployment and Infiltrating options of NCA make the Garuda useful as a piece in missions where control over sectors of the table are important, giving a key piece to put onto the table wherever necessary.

Vanilla ALEPH, IS and NCA can all support a Garuda with Assisted Fire or Enhanced Reaction by pushing a messenger remote up a flank to provide repeater coverage. ALEPH do also have the option to use Pitcher deployed repeaters as well. But even without this support the Garuda can be very effective, using their flanking position and speed to deny cover in any case.
Overall the Garuda TacBot, in every configuration, is an aggressive piece which offers a cheap but high impact fast unit which packs real punch to all the forces which can field it. Point for point it is one of the most efficient attack pieces in the game, and is far too often overlooked.
Try one out yourself the next time you run Vanilla ALEPH, IS or NCA and you’ll see what I mean!

[i] https://store.corvusbelli.com/products/aleph/280851-0610-garuda-tactbots-spitfire

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