Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tactics: Suppressing Fire

For as long as most of us have been playing, suppressing fire has always been one of the first things to catch our eye as a way to help defend yourself in the reactive turn. After all, when you know you’re going to get hammered by a big burst 4 weapon, what could be better than jumping up from Burst 1 to Burst 3 and imposing a -3 mod on them in return, helping you to even the odds a bit? Hell, if you’re hauling around an HMG of your own and sprinted halfway up the table on a merciless rampage, suppressing fire is even fixing your -3 range band within 8” too. Not half bad.


For many reasons, it should come as no surprise that you frequently hear newer players argue that suppressing is amazing. “Why you wouldn’t suppress everything you can on the reactive turn?” one guy asked me not that long ago. And it’s a fair question, because on paper, suppressing sounds really strong. The thing is though, suppressing has a number of serious weaknesses that have to be considered first.






Suppressing Fire – The Downsides

Anytime you have to do anything BUT suppress, it breaks - This means that if you want to shoot normally, dodge, discover, reset, fight in melee or pretty much anything else, you have to break suppressing to do so. This gets tricky when we consider…

It does almost nothing to people attacking you from outside 24” – Namely, because suppressing fire has a range-band cap of 24”, people attacking you outside of that distance force you to either break suppressing in order to dodge/shoot normally, or you have to take unopposed rolls. I say “almost” nothing because of course some attackers don’t care that they’re being shot at or value the suppressing more then turning on their attacker (maybe they are a normal sniper attacking a suppressing TAG in cover?) and would rather take the unopposed shots to the face. The other part of the equation is that at least your opponent is having to attack you outside 24”, which may not be an optimum range band for their weapon, board positioning, or overall game plan. Of course, it’s more than just long range that’s the problem…

















- Why you no come closer...

It’s equally bad vs. template weapons – Normally vs. template weapons you want to dodge to avoid getting hit, but of course when suppressing you face a difficult choice. Do you shoot the attacker three times, unopposed, but potentially die in turn? Or do you prefer the chance to stay alive by opting to dodge, giving up your defensive advantage and often knowing that unless you have other friendly models shooting, your opponent can probably just try again? It’s always a difficult choice, and this gets even more problematic when you consider cheap template warbands like Kuang Shi, Ghazi, Highlanders etc. who probably don’t mind the tradeoff if you chose option #1, or often have smoke to block your sight while they get into position. And speaking of what you can see…

Being attacked out of LOS – Most people know this one because suppressing only covers a 180 degree angle, but remembering that models can always get behind you and shoot you in the back is an effective counter to suppressing, especially as you can’t change facing without breaking it. But so long as the model positioned with its back to something (often in a corner) or is hard to get to from behind this one is rarely a big problem, but it does come up a lot when you consider that certain models can attack you out of LOS completely (Spec Fire, Intuitive Attack through Smoke, Hacking) or when you consider…

Corners are more trouble than their worth - It is possible for an enemy troop to move within the Zone of Control of the suppressing troop, but not within LoS, to force a Change Facing ARO. This then removes Suppressive on the troop and allows the enemy model to move freely, even into close combat. -- Thanks to Alphz in the comments below for pointing this out.

Suppressing is (usually) very vulnerable to markers – Camo, TO Camo, Holoprojector, you name it, and suppressing finds it tricky. Why is that? Well remember that suppressing fire is at best a 0 mod to hit (no positive range bands), so if these models are in cover (-3) and have some way to surprise shot you (-3) as well as modifiers (-3 from camo, -6 from TO!) you can quickly find it difficult or almost impossible to hit. Worse still, when these models move in a marker state you often have a real problem deciding what to do in the first place, because if you try to discover them you break suppressing and they can shoot you unopposed, but if you don’t they can probably keep moving and often end up wandering right behind you (see #4 above). Nasty stuff.

Failing guts rolls (deliberately or accidentally) – Either way, if your model finds itself in a bad fight and wants to get out of it, you’re either giving up suppressing fire or having to grin and bear it. An untimely failed guts check can ruin a strong defensive plan, and while a lot of models have Courage or some variation therein, this can often strike at the worst moments.

It costs an entire order –  Even setting aside the costly nature of entire order skills (coordinating aside), this also means that you have to already be in the right position after you previous order before turning it on. Because suppressing is a whole order skill, any enemy models that can see you can also attack you unopposed, which makes doing it out of LOS usually desirable, and yet this won’t always be easy if you’re trying to watch a crucial lane.

If your model plans on activating next turn, it will break – In some cases this of course isn’t a problem, but if you spent effort suppressing a model in a place that really didn’t end up doing anything on your opponent’s turn and you need to use that piece on your turn, it was probably a waste to do so. Try to think of suppressing models as static “dug in” pieces that ideally will defend a position and waste your opponent’s time, and don’t just waste resources suppressing where you don’t have to.

Smoke/Eclipse Smoke – Covering a key lane is all very useful, but unless you can deprive your opponent of key orders repositioning, they lack smoke access, or you have the means to ignore it (not Eclipse) then Smoke is an effective counter to suppressing, and even more so if your opponent can practically drop you in it to block all of your visibility.

Relying on it too much/feeling too comfortable – And this is perhaps the biggest weakness of all when it comes to suppressing – feeling like you are much more secure on a given lane or flank because of it and not realizing your defensive vulnerabilities until your opponent found a sneaky way to drop it.

At this stage some of you might be wondering, with all those issues, why bother suppressing fire at all? Well let’s now consider some of the main advantages…

Suppressing Fire – The Upsides

















- Keep firing like me, Ivan!


If they can’t stop you suppressing trivially, you are much harder to deal with – Tripling your usual burst AND stacking another -3 to your enemy is no small difference, and in fact if you hit up the N3 dice calculator, you might be surprised are how much an easy fight becomes a challenging one just with this small change. Another way of looking at this is you’ve also TRIPLED your chance to Crit (normally a 5% chance, now 15%) which feeds into the whole “stuff happens” issue for your opponent. But more dramatic than the odds in the actual firefight are…

There is now a much greater chance that “nothing happens” – Not only is your enemy far less likely to kill you and far more likely to potentially die themselves, but due to the greater numbers of dice cancelling out rolls and lower typical thresholds to hit on both sides (Suppressing gets no +3 for range, and the opponent is also -3 on top of everything else which means both of you have worse odds of hitting) there is a high chance in firefights that nothing happens. This usually means opponents have to eat up more orders than they otherwise would have to kill the same model. There other option of course is to use one of the effective counters above, but if you do it right…

They have to spend more orders before activating something else – This can either be because they are forced to deal with your suppressing model BEFORE moving their scoring model (directly reducing the number of orders they have to score with, perhaps) or because they have a better counter to your suppressing model that has to reposition first to get there (thereby depriving them of orders indirectly too). The more orders you take away from what they want to do because they have to shift you first, the better. And better yet, when it comes to their options…

Suppressing denies the opponent options – If you have a brutal suppressing model and they don’t have a clear way to deal with it, opponents will often have to ignore it or find a way around. Either way, this limits their choices by cutting down on their available options, because they now might have to approach you from a different direction or put off that goal for a later turn. 

If they don’t find a way to shift you now, you’ll still be suppressing later – Unlike a lot of skills, unless your opponent finds a way to break your suppressing fire or you choose to do something with the model, you’ll still be in suppressing all the way till the end of the game. This means that models suppressing in full view of an objective or crucial fire lane will have to be dealt with sooner or later, and this creates pressure on the opponents to tackle it now or risk dealing with it later when they might be lacking tools or orders to do so.

As you can see here then, there are clearly a number of tactical advantages to be gained here if you overcome some of the hurdles mentioned earlier. In short, as with all things in Infinity, you just have to find a way to use it effectively to get the most out of this ability. So let’s now turn to…

How to Suppress Effectively

























- Wise words...


Now we’ve looked at all the various tradeoffs, it’s time to assess how to actually pull this off on the tabletop. It’s clear that just looking at the pitfalls we have several key obstacles to avoid, but what we really want to focus on some helpful guidelines to get your spray-n-pray strategy working more effectively.

Firstly, positioning is everything. There’s no point suppressing if your model is stuck facing a wall somewhere in your backfield, so make sure your model has good visibility of a key area before you even consider it. A lot of people are tempted to coordinate suppressing with one active piece and a couple of line troopers, but sometimes you must ask yourself honestly if those line troopers are in the right position to do anything first, otherwise you might be better off saving that command token. So, when you’re about to open fire with everybody, make sure they can all see something useful.

































- Suppressing done poorly - the Dozer is prone (so can't see anything), a line trooper (so incapable of doing much damage), and largely boxed in. But hey, he was coordinated at least...

Of course, this we should balance carefully about the desire both to keep your model hidden from certain threats (if the suppressing won’t actively do much to alter the firefight and they are better off just hiding) and making sure that you suppress in such a way that the enemy can’t see you when you start. Therefore, try to anticipate where the enemy models WANT to be (rather than where they are) and only suppress actively with models you can afford to lose if they are going to have their heads poked out.



Secondly, distance is very very important. If you can be attacked with a template weapon (<10”) or a long-range weapon (>24”) then you are going to be tempted to break suppressing fire easily. 

But if most opponents are forced to engage you in that lovely 10-24” (better if <16) bracket, it’s going to be that much more annoying for them. 

So, pay attention to any enemies that can trivially reach you in your weak spots, and at least try and ensure that the placement of your model requires that their best counters to it are a few orders away or non-optimized for the job.





- Suppressing done much better - Here the Spetznaz (bottom left) will be tough to reach inside template range or at long range, he stacks mods, covers AD angles and protects both the backfield models and himself from harm.





Thirdly, choose your facing carefully. In an ideal situation, you would have your back to a wall or corner so enemies cannot trivially just get you from behind, but having models cover each other’s weaknesses it also a key part of the process. 

This only gets more important when you consider situations with multiple suppressing models, which lets them support each other in such a way that it’s difficult or impossible to bring the best tools to bear on one (say, sneaking up with a flamer) without entering the optimum fire lane (10-24”) of another. 

This kind of layered defense is crucial, because unsupported a suppressing model will likely eat it in a couple of orders, but if they must go the long way around and take risks with other models, now you can easily be looking at 3-4 or more.





Finally (and this is best seen with marker models) know when NOT to suppress. It’s tempting to put just about every model with a rifle in suppressing, but remembering that you might be better re-camoing yourself, staying out of LOS, staying available to hack, or threatening with other weapons your model might have (e.g. flamers, mines…basically anything you won’t be using if you continue to suppress) or even other range bands (a suppressing HMG and using single shot AROs have very different range bands) is a particularly valid strategy. 





- Covering all angles...


Each of those things are different trade-offs, and making the wrong choice, particularly if the counter is readily available, is the difference between your model being trivially killed and a real thorn in their side. For example – if you chose to re-camo but they have a sensor just one order away, now you’re probably toast. But if you chose to suppress and they have a hacker or impetuous template right around the corner, you might end up breaking it near immediately. Choices indeed.



Conclusion

Anyway, hopefully this brief guide sheds some light on a few of the subtleties of suppressing fire, and has given the more inquisitive among you a few pointers and ideas to get this ability working better for you on the table. Hopefully now, you can keep those guns blazing that much longer and really start to pin down your opponents on the table, rather than being picked out precisely from a weakness that you perhaps didn’t notice or consider.

Hopefully we’ll be back soon with some more tactical pieces, but until next time! 

4 comments:

  1. Great write up thanks! Suppressive fire is something I under use a lot in my games...no more!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Always good to get more info.

    Might want to point out that one shold be careful about suppressing near corners without covering fire as it is trivial to move into ZoC on the first short skill, force the suppresor to make a change face aro (and hence lose their aro) then round the corner straight into CC. This is perfect against supressing TAGs if the TAG player wasn't careful about providing any form of covering ARO on the corner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fair point, Alphz. I didn't even think about mentioning that myself, so I'll let the writer know and probably stuff it in myself.

      Thanks for reminding us!

      Delete
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