Friday, March 10, 2017

Deep Thought; Tech Bee, Just a Distraction?

Bootleg Beauty

Ever since the original Bootleg model, the PanOceania Tech-Bee has been something of a focal point for certain kinds of Infinity related discussion. For many this was an example of the kind of sexism that they don’t want to see in their wargaming, while others saw it as an expression of the Manga inspiration of Infinity and simply part of the background design aesthetic of the game.

One thing which helped to keep the tone of discussions in check was the fact that the Tech-Bee was firmly relegated to the Bootleg modelling and painting range, only appearing on Infinity tabletops when serious players did conversions. However, all this changed in late 2016 when news spread from a Bostria seminar appearance that this was soon to change.

Tech-Bee Maintenance Battalion Unit

Furious speculation erupted over what this unit heralded, would this at last be the fabled “second Engineer” PanOceania players had long awaited? Perhaps it would be the PanOceania equivalent of the Pilots which other factions had been promised. Would she be some I-Khol/Natural Born Warrior close combat specialist? Or would this simply be another HVT model (after all, we do need a lot of them for the Rescue mission)?

With the release of the Crabbot info and the confirmation that the Tech-Bee would be packaged alongside the PanOceania Remote Pilot some possibilities were eliminated, while frenzied discussion continued over those which remained. The arrival of such a “cheese-cake” model onto Infinity tables (even if only as a HVT) also attracted intense scrutiny from those who saw the design as offensive.

As of last night, we have our answer:

Tech-Bee On the Table

This one profile contains quite a lot to unpack. At first glance what we have is a unit which is very similar to the Tohaa Diplomatic Delegate, a 5-point Irregular Specialist Operative to make Objective runs and provide backup. There are two key differences which make that first glance less than accurate.

First off, there’s Flash Pulse. This (even with WIP 12) makes the Tech-Bee a dangerous ARO threat in the same mould as the WarCor. For 5 points it’s going to be well worth putting out a second Flash Pulse threat to cover another lane over and above the WarCor, you may  already have in position. It's also worth noting that she has a pistol and is able to eliminate targets, unlike the WarCor.

Secondly, and most significantly, there’s “Remote Assistant L1”. This new skill pulls the Tech-Bee in a very different direction. If you have a Machinist (or two in Acontecimento), Cordelia or a Spec-Ops Engineer then they get +1 to their WIP as long as the Tech-Bee is on the table. This makes it well worth keeping her a lot safe, more than the average ARO nest will make her!

This same advantage is also extended to any Remote Pilot you have deployed. Your Crabbot units will be operating with WIP 11 rather than their usual 10. That might not sound like much, but as always an extra 5% is nothing to sniff at! With the extra edge, the Crabbot is only just short of the usual WIP 12 PanOceania players are well used to.

The Tech-Bee also synergizes well with Joan, bringing another cheap Regular Order to the table with her Inspiring Leadership. This is particularly potent in the current ITS season (and possibly into the future) thanks to access to the ALIVE gang, in addition to the WarCor, Bounty Hunter and even Miranda Ashcroft as usual.

Obviously the Tech-Bee is also effective in the same way as the Tohaa Diplomatic Delegate; a reserve specialist, or an inexpensive and disposable one (with Flash-Pulse as a solid ranged defensive option) to push into an objective covered by enemy fire. This allows an additional scoring piece to squeeze into tight lists which might otherwise suffer from a lack of specialist options.

And a Little Dose of Salt

The Tech-Bee profile has not been met with universal approval however. The introduction of an Irregular PanOceania unit (where previously the entire faction had been Regular) is not a design choice which everyone is glad to see. And the widespread expectation that the Tech-Bee would finally provide a second Engineer for PanOceania forces outside of Acontecimento (or occasional Spec Ops) has also led to some disappointment.

It is the Remote Assistant skill itself which has some players particularly concerned, however. This kind of table wide static bonus is an unwelcome kind of design common in other systems which many have fled to play Infinity, a worrying precedent. It is also an unusual departure from the “always 3” modifier design ethic to which the Corvus Belli team have previously adhered. Adding more Irregular units for the already strong Joan of Arc to utilise is not universally praised either.

Overall the Tech-Bee has suffered from a controversial model design, which has become more of a concern to many now that she will be a playable Infinity unit and not just a Bootleg model. The speculation over what she would be on the table, and some interesting design choices, has fed into a somewhat mixed reception. The unit is certainly effective for the points (perhaps even too much so) but not in the ways which some players might have preferred. 

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