Friday, March 3, 2017

Guest Writer: Guide to Understanding the 'ARO Piece'

A piece written by Freddie of  Under Bourak's Sun, a blog about a new Haqqislam player's journey into the world of Infinity and Haqqislam. A Blog Comrade here at Pride of Rodina.

In this article I'm addressing two topics that fall under the umbrella of AROs. These are:
  1. What are the goals of an ARO piece?
  2. What makes a good ARO piece?

This piece of writing is about what I want an ARO piece to achieve and how I choose an ARO piece based on these objectives. You'll notice here that I'm referring to ARO pieces rather than AROs. The reason for this is that I'm presenting a broad look at the specific units we choose to include in our lists and leave exposed in the opponent's turn in order to generate AROs, not on the "small" detail of which ARO action to pick.These seem to be reasonably simple questions - but with a lot of scope for varied answers. As always I'm going to preface the article with a disclaimer about safe uncertainty. Safe uncertainty is my current position in which I'm secure in the knowledge that I've constructed some truths and opinions about the game from my experience, but I'm also open to the idea that my perceived truths may be incomplete or even wrong. I'm happy with what I know but realise that others may know more or disagree.

What are the goals of an ARO piece?

The three primary objectives that I would like any ARO piece to achieve are the following:
  • Control the board
  • Cost the opponent orders
  • Kill opposing troops
I have arranged these goals in order of my personal priorities from most important to least, which is informed by the likelihood of each goal being met. I would love for my ARO pieces to kill opposing troops as their primary goal but it's not realistic so I've relegated that to the third spot!

Controlling The Board

The most achievable goal is zone control. Zone control is about claiming ownership over certain areas of the board, and making the opponent think twice about accessing them. Fundamentally, it's about trying to restrict the movement of opposing troops. Every ARO piece gives the opponent something to worry about, but the best ARO pieces really make an opponent consider whether they should be engaging the troop or avoiding it. What we're trying to do is influence our opponent's behaviour through our own troop placement - forcing the opponent to either engage or avoid us instead of just moving freely.There are two reasons why controlling the board is important. The first reason is because every time the opponent has to make a decision they're liable to make mistakes. If everything is fine and easy for your opponent then there's less chance of them making errors, so give them difficult problems to solve! Any mistake an opponent makes is an opportunity for you to pull ahead in the game. The second reason is because it makes it difficult for the opponent to approach their objectives. If we have a strong presence over a certain area of the board it's going to make it difficult for the opponent to move freely through that area. In theory it can be possible to dominate the board to such an extent that the opponent cannot physically score in the game. In practice what we want to do is at least make it really awkward!

Costing The Opponent Orders

The second goal I look for in an ARO piece is to force the opponent to waste orders. In objective based missions I'm ecstatic if my opponent spends orders trying to kill a troop I have in a good ARO position instead of moving up and gaining objective points. My stance on orders (as you may have gathered from previous articles!) is that they're an essential resource to be spent carefully. A good ARO piece should force the opponent to spend orders on things that they don't really want to be doing. Perhaps that's shooting when they want to move. Or taking a longer route to avoid a firelane that's covered. Whatever it is, in essence what you're doing is removing orders from their pool in a very sly way.Focusing specifically on movement, if the opponent is choosing to move-shoot instead of move-move then they've lost 4" of movement (in most cases). The only way to get that distance back is by spending more orders. This is actually a huge factor to consider. Just by deploying a troop into a position that threatens the opponent you've turned what could have been achieved in one order into two orders. If you have the power to halve your opponent's efficiency why would you say no? It's worth remembering that this problem gets more and more acute, the more survivable your ARO piece is. I'm assuming in the initial example that your threatening ARO piece is removed in a single move-shoot order, however if it takes more then your opponent can really be in trouble. Forcing your opponent to be inefficient ultimately means that things they want to do don't get done - and this means you can capitalize on those gaps. They may not be able to spend the order to put a troop into suppressive fire, giving you an easy angle of attack against them. Maybe they can't re-camouflage a unit which renders it vulnerable. Perhaps it's as simple as them only rescuing one civilian instead of two. Whatever the case may be, a good ARO piece can make it feel like you get to dictate how the opponent spends their orders, and that's a really powerful position to be in.

Killing Opposing Troops

I'm not going to explore this goal in any great detail because it's very self explanatory. However I would like to clarify the statement I made above about this goal being my lowest priority because I see it as the least likely.I want to be clear that obviously I would love it if my ARO pieces could remove opposing troops regularly, but I acknowledge that it's exceedingly unlikely. There are various reasons for this but the most important message is that the opponent gets to choose how they engage an ARO piece. This could mean, for example, an engagement at a range that doesn't favour your weapon or against a camouflage troop you can't hit. The other thing to remember is that the vast majority of troops get to fire a burst of one, maybe two, during the reactive turn whereas the opponent will likely be utilising much higher burst values. What this all boils down to is that most ARO troops are not favoured in face-to-face rolls and as a result, scoring hits can be tricky. Due to this I don't, personally, pick ARO pieces thinking that they're going to be killing large amounts of the opponent's force.

What makes a good ARO piece?

The last section focused on what I want an ARO piece to achieve. In contrast, this section is based on what I look for in an ARO piece in order to reach my goals. This can be broken down into three points:
  • Potent weapons
  • Resilience
  • Points cost
The Pride of Rodina wrote an article about what he looks for in an ARO piece, as well. You can read it here.


As previously discussed, when taking a BS attack ARO you only get to make a single shot in the majority of cases. Exceptions to this rule include:
  1. Link teams with at least three members (at least 2 shot AROs)
  2. Total reaction (full burst AROs)
  3. Neurocinetics (full burst AROs)
  4. Suppressive fire (3 shot in AROs)
Given that in most cases your weapon will be granted one or perhaps two shots as an ARO, it is worth factoring this in when choosing which weapon to equip your ARO piece with. We need to maximise the damage we do with our single shot, which leads us to review special ammunition types. Some common examples and their effects upon a successful hit are:
  • EXP (explosive) ammunition which forces three ARM saves
  • DA (double action) which forces two ARM saves
  • Viral which causes two BTS saves for each hit
  • Fire ammunition which causes the target to have to continue rolling ARM saves until they pass one or die

Therefore the weapons I find myself looking towards for ARO purposes are feuerbachs, heavy rocket launchers, missile launchers, multi weaponry, panzerfausts, and viral weaponry. The reason for this is that all of these weapons are seriously threatening to most troops even when only firing a single shot. In many ways what I'm doing is presenting a weapon to my opponent that simply cannot be ignored and in doing so giving them a difficult choice about how to proceed.I want to also outline the suppressive fire trait because, when activated, it makes the troop harder to hit (-3 to attacker's BS) and grants a burst of 3. It can be a very powerful asset to consider using, because it increases both the survivability of the unit using it, and increases the lethality of their AROs, but there are three issues with suppressive fire:
  1. It won't help you if your opponent is taking the first turn
  2. It costs an order and requires activating the troop to put them in suppressive fire. As it counts as an activation it means opposing forces can ARO you - and it gives them an unopposed roll
  3. Suppressive fire alters the range bands of the weapon, capping it at 24". If your opponent shoots you from outside that range you can't respond to it
One of the main reasons why I'm a fan of suppressive fire is because the -3 mod to the attacker's BS can really help a troop dig-in and control an area effectively. Furthermore with a burst of 3, even the weakest weapon has a chance to bring down large foes. A strength 13 rifle hit is going to cause a wound against a unit with 8 armour 25% of the time, and a unit with 3 armour 50% of the time! However what really makes suppressive fire fantastic is that you can combine it with some potent ammunition types for exceedingly scary ARO pieces. Forexample, a viral rifle in suppressive fire gets 3 shots when ARO'ing and each hit causes two BTS saves. However, just be mindful of the altered range bands!


In the section about killing opposing troops I highlighted just how vulnerable ARO pieces can be. This is mainly because the opponent gets to choose how they're engaged (typically it will bein a manner that does not favour you), and because most of the time you will be comparing one or two rolls against the opponents full burst of three, four, or five. ARO pieces can often feel remarkably disappointing if they're not used smartly because they're usually not favouredin face-to-face rolls which results in a lot of ARM rolls having to be made, and potentially a very quick death.It is important that we think about how resistant a troop is to opposing fire when we're considering it as an ARO piece. To control an area of the board and waste the opponent's orders you need your ARO unit to survive. To survive you need to either win face to face rolls or lose but pass ARM / BTS rolls.Let's look at the process of shooting and how we can twist the numbers in our favour:
  1. First the opponent chooses a target and calculates the number they need to hit. To increase our survivability here we can utilise models that are hard to hit such as those with camouflage and hiding (CH), optical disruption devices (ODD), holoprojector level 2, or those in suppressive fire. Holoprojector 2 is interesting because it doesn't lower the opponent's BS but it does force them to have to choose the "real" unit, thus granting a 66% failure rate (assuming standard conditions of two "fakes" and one "real"). That is assuming the "real" troop is even visible and possible to target!
  2. Next the opponent rolls the burst of their weapon in a face to face against your dodge or attack rolls. To increase our survivability at this stage we can utilise models that shoot or dodge well. Hyper-dynamics give bonuses to PH scores for dodging. Neurocinetics, suppressive fire, total reaction, and link teams increase the number of dice we get to roll when shooting in ARO and therefore increase our odds of winning face-to-face rolls.
  3. Finally, assuming the opponent wins the face-to-face we need to make ARM or BTS rolls to survive. We can increase our resilience here by looking at models with high ARM or BTS values that have a large chance of passing their rolls, or those with multiple wounds that can lose rolls and carry on fighting.

Therefore, when we talk about resilience we're exploring all of the ways we can survive, and that doesn't just mean taking hits and not dying it also extends to not taking hits at all. As in the case of increasing your burst, sometimes the best defence is agood offence - rolling lots of dice and being aggressive can be a successful strategy. However the downside of this approach is that if the opponent engages in such a way that your BS is significantly reduced, you're still unlikely to win the face-to-face. Rolling four dice and needing 5s when the opponent is rolling 3 dice and needing 11s is not an attractive proposition! Be mindful that it is possible for the opponent to stack sufficient negative BS modifiers such that a troop with a BS of 12 or under cannot physically hit.The other aspect of resilience is more defensive and focuses on not being hit at all, or being able to survive any hits that are taken. In this case we're looking to reduce the opponents BS or raise our ARM / BTS scores. But as with the last strategy there are counters to be aware of. Multispectral visor (MSV) reduces or removes the negative BS penalty incurred by camouflage. If you have a camouflaged ARO piece, be mindful of this. Likewise ammunition that's armor piercing, or that forces lots of ARM saves (such as EXP) can effectively counter very tough troops by either rendering them not so tough or just swamping them in so many rolls they're bound to fail one or two.Looking for resilient ARO pieces is hard because a lot of strategies have counters. However it is possible to rectify some of these downfalls when deploying so I don't personally feel it's worth discounting camouflaged ARO pieces just due to MSV, for example. It's very important to consider these issues because a vulnerable ARO piece is one that doesn't challenge your opponent or force them to deviate from their plan, and therefore is an ARO piece that isn't as effective as perhaps it could be.


There appear to be two main philosophies behind ARO pieces when it comes to points. The first is to choose very expendable, cheap troops that may lack resilience. The second is much the same but focuses on more expensive troops that are harder to remove. Both tactics concede that ARO pieces are vulnerable but each goes about answering the problem in different ways.

The first tactic addresses the problem of survivability simply by ignoring it. Taking many expendable troops means that losses are unimportant. It also means that you can place lots of ARO pieces with overlapping fields of fire, which forces the opponent to split their burst unless they want to face unopposed rolls from you. This is a good way to lessen the impact of high burst weaponry such as HMGs. The second tactic addresses the problem of survivability by maximising it. This methodology means that fewer ARO pieces are taken, but the ones that are included are more threatening and hopefully take more orders to dislodge. It goes without saying that fancier units cost more points, but the hope is that because they won't die as easily they'll continue to contribute orders to your pool for longer and they'll probably be more effective in intimidating the opponent. There's no right or wrong answer about whether to go for lots of cheaper units or fewer resilient units; you'll have to find a strategy that resonates with you. However, I do feel there is a middle ground. It's not mandatory when investing points to go for all the high-tech stuff on one model, and I'm personally loathe to put all my eggs in one basket. I'm reasonably fond of taking ARO pieces like Haqqislam's Azra'il because you're given 2 wounds, 5 armour and a weapon with EXP ammunition for 39 points and 1.5 SWC - which is really quite low. It's definitely not as "good" (read that as: flexible, interesting, and adaptable) as some other options, however because it's cheaper in terms of points I can include more ARO pieces in a list, and thus I'm able to utilise elements of both the "few but resilient" and "many but vulnerable" strategies that I outlined above. Whilst that is only my personal stance, it's objectively true that sometimes you don't have to take an either/or stance between a few elite troops and many weaker ones, there are possibilities for both/and.

In Sum

We want our ARO pieces to exert control over the board and force our opponent to spend orders doing things they don't want to do. This reduces our opponent's efficiency and can put us in the lead. In order to achieve these goals we need to pick our ARO pieces carefully, which means considering their weapons (ammunition and burst), resilience (how they deal with, or otherwise avoid, being shot), and points cost (how many we can take).

That's all for this article! I hope this has stimulated some thought about the role you give to AROs in your games and how you consider picking troops with AROs in mind. You may want to experiment with lists that include multiple resilient ARO pieces that really challenge your opponent, or perhaps try lists that opt for a great deal of less resilient ARO pieces. Maybe it's not your style at all and you just prefer a more proactive approach. Whatever your outcome I feel that experimenting is important because you can always be surprised. Have fun!

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Only thing I could say is that TR bots deserve a special bit of discussion, maybe you could cover them another time?

    Personally, I tend to go for a more resilient ARO piece when I can. I love the Swiss Guard ML and Nisse MULTI sniper; they're expensive, but they can shut down the entire board, and they're useful in the active turn, as well.