Monday, June 19, 2017

Tactics: Joint Operations with Armored (K)Nights (JOAN)


Earlier this year, the controversial Tech Bee made a few waves in the Infinity community, with many comments around her lack of engineering status and even more about her scantily clad attire. Since then, she’s largely been and gone, with most seeing the Tech Bee as a nicety - another extra if you will to fill out the remaining points in the list, or a way to grab yourself a cheap specialist to sit on homefield objectives.

But it was around this time of year that I discovered something even more interesting – a sum of all the parts, so to speak. It just so happened that I was reading Daboarder’s fantastic Massed Armor Operations thread (essentially running 5 HI or 2 TAGs - see here), and something… clicked. 





Why not put two and two together; namely, running Joan with her growing gaggle of irregular orders (Warcor, Techbee, others as desired), and fill out the rest of the list with heavy infantry.

And from these initial musings, something monstrous was born.


Basics - Support

Like any sensible build, you’re going to want at least 10 orders and a decent array of specialists for pushing buttons and providing support. Therefore, filling up with five stompy heavy infantry or TAGs is only the beginning of a build like this. The really tricky part is building in enough support, and that’s where Joan provides in spades. Now Joan provides Inspiring Leadership (and don’t worry, we’ll discuss her in her own section below) but for the purposes of this section, that means that she turns Irregular orders Regular. 


Now right away you’ll notice that for a mere 8 points, we can get 2 orders (Tech Bee + Warcor), which also buys us a specialist, and a pair of flash pulses for defensive AROs. The techbee also buffs our resident Machinist, which we’ll also want as Pano’s sole engineer, your only option to deal with isolation/ADHL (common threats for a build like this), a rare source of D-Charges and if you’re running a TAG or any useful remotes, a great source of repair.  Consider it sold!

















Next we’ll need a Hacker, because running massed armor means we’ll want Fairy Dust and/or Exorcism, but the utility for things like Classifieds, hurting Combat Jump, U-Turning guided ammo, and buffing any REMs you might have is all nice and well. Now the Fusilier hacker is the obvious choice for being cheap, but for the rest of this season, I’ve taken to running Bit and Kiss for non-REM builds, as she’s still regular under Joan, provides the same level of support, is generally harder TO Hack, cheaper, and provides some clutch utility in weaponry. What’s not to like? 

There is a caveat of course with the above, in that if your event allows SpecOps, you can actually potentially replace your Machinist and/or Hacker with a Regular SpecOps and kill 2 birds with one stone. This is definitely a really great option for cutting down on costs and perhaps gathering some utility to boot with the remaining points, but just be wary of putting all your eggs in one basket and don’t “limit” yourself to crutching on the SpecOps in case you are forced to play without one. 

Finally, we’ll need at least one more regular order for our support base, and in this case cheap is best, so let’s go with a Fugazi. I generally rate this over the Mulebot because it’s got a Mimetism + Flash Pulse (you might be sensing a theme here with our cheerleaders…) and because baggage isn’t usually as necessary for holding quadrants when you have high point-cost heavy infantry. Finally, the Fugazi is faster than the Mulebot, which is nice if you ever need to bring up your repeater or get quickly across the board. We can also upgrade this REM to either a Pathfinder or one of the combat options as points and SWC allow, depending on your dream-team lineup of the HI (below).

So here’s our lineup so far – 5 orders, 3 specialists, and a mere 44/0.5 points for the privilege. Beautiful.  


Joan v1.0

Well we’ve talked about our fair lady a “fair” amount in this article, but she’s such a lynchpin that she deserves her own section. Aside from being 1/5 HI, she:

1.       Is the Lt, which solves issues with finding a couple of mooks to stand around in the backfield, and is generally resilient enough to survive some of the dangers like Impersonators ganking her in close combat (or you just nanopulser them and that has decent odds too!).
2.       Provides Inspiring Leadership, which converts the irregular orders (yes), but also doles out Courage. Which is awesome because I hate making guts rolls (too much randomness) and passing/failing at will is great tactical flexibility. Oh, plus you ignore retreat, which is super unlikely to happen while she’s alive, but it does exist.
3.       Her Lt order is basically a coordinated order, which rocks. 10 orders doesn’t feel that restrictive when you’re really getting 13+ (because you still have your other command tokens), and shifting all but one HI up the table in a single move or coordinating 4/5 into suppressing at the end of the turn is seriously important for this build.
4.       She’s ARM 5, (essentially) 3 wounds, BTS 6 (9 if Fairy Dust) and has no need to march up the table till the late game until most threats are dead, making her quite tanky. Plus…
5.       She’s killy as hell, with a BS 15 multi rifle, CC 23 and Martial Arts:L3, with a AP or DA CCW and a Nanopulser. Awesome

In short, she does it all, for a low-low price for 49/50. Now there are only really two downsides here. The first is that she is of course important, and dedicated opponents will kill her. But the fact of the matter is that as long as you are smart with placement, she can be really difficult to get to and not-trivial to put down once they get there, and because the rest of the list does a LOT of heavy lifting even without her, I’ve found her in danger only a handful of times. Just keep her near the back (suppressing usually, see #3 above) and force your opponent to fight through everybody else to put her down.



The second main issue is that she has Frenzy. This is annoying when it triggers because you lose a lot of durability, but mercifully she still shoots well enough to win a lot of F2F rolls, and ideally she shouldn’t be triggering Frenzy anyway till T2 (at which point it won’t kick in till T3, when it may not matter anyway). Just be mindful of it as a weakness, but with a model this good, I suppose she had to have something. And hey, enjoy that free Impetuous move I guess, because you’re a short ranged gunfighter in an order efficient list who rocks in melee. It’s not all bad J

Finally – whether Joan 2.0? Honestly I vote no – while she has 6-2 MOV + Multiterrain, when you’re normally coordinating her movement for double move or suppressing, it rarely matters in this kind of build? Secondly, she costs more, and every point counts here with this type of setup. The dip in ARM is also not a joke on such a lynchpin model (more so when Frenzy triggers, which it WILL if you’re using those extra combat capabilities that you’re paying for!) which is the real nail in the coffin for me if I’m honest. Finally, while the Spitfire is admittedly nice, the Multi Rifle has its own charms and is arguably superior most of the time in ARO (DA ammo or suppressing with ammo choice) which is when I often find Joan is doing most of her work.

So I’m not AGAINST v2 per se – maybe it’s just an issue of me not having the courage to risk trying it given the brutal meta that I play in. YMMV of course.

Finally on the choice of melee weapon, it’s honestly what you can afford. Trim down to AP if you need the point, go for DA otherwise. So now we’re at 93-94/0.5 SWC, leaving us with an average of 50+ points per model with the remainder of the list.


Heavy Infantry – The bulk of the build.

With 4 slots still to fill and a boatload of points to spend, this is the fun part of the list. There are so many ways to do this, but I’ll touch upon a few of my favorite choices, ranked in terms of some of my favorite choices from those available.
I also have one last rule of thumb – try to get 2x big guns (you have plenty of SWC, I usually like at least one Spitfire and a HMG) and at least 2 solid specialists to go up, score, and take a punch (the 3 you have so far are largely backfield and support). To that end, let’s divide this list into 4 sections (I accept there will be some crossover):

  • 2x Short-range Specialists (usually Combi or Multi models)
  •  1x Mid-range Big Gun (Spitfire models)
  • 1x Long-range Big Gun (HMG models)
  • 0-1 Outliers (replacing any of the above, but ideally only if you've still merged those capabilities)

NOTE – This is the list of models that I consider in this build, not an exhaustive review of every option!


Specialists

Hospitaller Doctor (Combi or Multi as pts allow) = 37-41/0















The one HI I never leave without in this sort of build. He’s a great specialist (WIP 13 in Pano wut…) a Doctor (which you’ll really WANT in this elite build, plus classified coverage), he’s durable (ARM 4 BTS 6 – 9 after Fairy Dust!), he still fights okay in melee (CC21, MA:2, DA/AP CCW), and crucially, he’s cheap. Thanks to the frenzy “discount” this guy feels almost criminally under-costed, and the fact that a doctor pulls a huge amount of weight in this build and we want a couple of HI specialists makes him absolutely gold. There’s a good reason he makes every armored setup list. Some swear by the Palbot and the Multi Rifle, but I vote absolutely NOT in this build on the former (prevents coordinated orders = nope!) and the latter is a luxury I can only sometimes afford. Grab it with the first 4 points you have spare.

Santiago Paramedic = 41/0














An interesting comparison vs. the Hospitaller, the Santiago is on the face of it a bit poor by comparison (dropping BTS down to 3, MA down to 1 and Doctor down to Paramedic), but he does have some things going for him. E/M Grenades are a fantastic tool against heavily armored targets, and for cases where you can’t feasibly outshoot them or punch them to death in melee, you’ll be glad you have them (especially for SpecFire). A suppressing tag is a mean feat to shift if you can’t get it outside 24” with this kind of build, but E/M grenades totally change the equation. The Nanopulser for an upfield scoring model with 2 wounds is also no joke for defensive capabilities, and of course if you’re suppressing, it has 360 vision too, which is really nice. Most importantly, aside from a couple of other situational niceties, the Santiago is the 2nd cheapest specialist in our list, which usually makes it choice #2 and something we upgrade as points allow.

Father Knight Hacker = 50/0.5
















A more expensive option, and sadly lacking much of the utility and frill of many of the other choices in this section. However, he is durable (ARM 5, BTS 9, no frenzy) and provides excellent hacking potential to take down harder targets thanks to his high BTS (12 with Fairy Dust is truly obnoxious) despite average WIP of 13. Furthering his Classified Coverage is the fact that he comes with D-Charges, allowing for easier sabotage objectives and seriously upping his melee potential. When you put the two together with his Assault skill, the Father Knight really starts to make sense as a melee monster, immobilizing harder targets with a hacking program and auto-hitting them with a D-Charge (vs. IMM-1) while they struggle to reset. This is typically one of my staple choices. 

Swiss Hacker = 70/0.5

The last word among the specialist options, the Swiss gives you a lot of raw potential but for a very heavy price. You know her, you love her, and while she’s definitely bleeding into being more of a killy model at times (which we’ll review in the HMG section) as a hacker she’s an incredible close range specialist. BS 15 lets her kill just about anything she wants with a multi rifle (quite a step up from other choices) and TO camo lets you both stack mods brutally in your favor and avoid difficult situations thanks to the marker state. Finally, being an assault hacker with TO camo means surprising a lot of folks and tackling their harder targets with ease – an enormously useful capability in a build like this where having flexible models do a “little bit of everything” is immensely valuable considering your limited number of overall orders. Really there’s nothing to dislike about this model except for the high price (a full 20 points more than the next most expensive option in the Father Knight) and while I decidedly lean on the side of “worth it”, with some of the other pricey items in this list, you can’t make them all fit at once! 


Spitfire Models

Teuton Spitfire = 37/2















I know the Teuton has lost a lot of popularity since HSN3, but I’m sorry – I love this guy! 37 points is crazy cheap for a HI nutjob with a BS 14 Spitfire, and in this he’s perfect to gain you raw firepower at a bargain basement cost. The best this is that he’s a pain to get rid of and yet utterly disposable, due to the fact he has to take 2 wounds before he folds (meaning even a lucky crit won’t stop him on his active turn rampage) and it’s hard not for him to kill far more than he’s worth or take more than he’s worth to stop him. Berserk is also hilarious, because the granted: Assault skill covers his inside 8” dead zone, and the end result is that if he does go down in melee, Berserk itself usually means he’s taking someone with him, often with a CC 27 resulted Crit. Joy. I often throw this guy into the list as I’m working on a list template, and then consider upgrading him to a more expensive Spitfire carrier (below) as points allow.

Santiago Spitfire = 44/1.5















Everything we said about the Santiago above applies equally here, except you trade being able to score as a Paramedic for a much bigger gun and a bit of a bump in price. This is quite a nice role for the Santiago to have, and while it pays more than the Teuton for your Spitfire platform in points, it does gain some nice extras (partc EM grenades, 360 suppressing and the Nanopulser) plus it’s lighter on the SWC. This is pretty clutch, as while the Joan list rarely has problems here (You do have a mighty 7 (!) after all) sometimes things just don’t add up right. Or maybe you just like both the capabilities of the Santiago Paramedic and Teuton Spitfire and just want a hybrid option of the two. Regardless – it’s cheap-ish, effective and has a boatload of utility, which makes it an interesting option in my book. Doesn’t always make every list, but I’ve def considered it plenty.

Guarda de Assalto Spitfire = 51/2















This guy is truly exceptional in a build like this, so that big bump in points over a Teuton is definitely worth paying for. You give up most of your melee potential and a bit of BTS, but it’s not all bad as you gain extra BS which is nice for gunfighting. The real draw here though is the slew of extra weapons, giving yourself not just a fantastic heavy flamer (templates and especially fire being big in a list like this to beat camo to death) but the little Auxbot with a light shotgun….and an eclipse smoke grenade launcher! That’s right folks – smoke in Pano, and nowhere is it more important than in a build like this that relies on delivering beefy targets up the table and start digging their heels in near important quadrants or objectives. Now you aren’t impetuous and don’t have enough orders (or reliability – bah BS 10) to spam it, but a well placed template like that can truly make a turn. Furthermore, because him and his little G-Sync’d buddy generate a single ARO, you can do all sorts of clever tricks like have him take a hit and then have the bot cross a dangerous gap after AROs have already been declared, or force opponents to make difficult choices between dodging the Heavy Flamer or F2F rolls with the Spitfire/shotgun. Strictly speaking, apart from poor ARM/BTS for his price, the biggest weakness of this model is that he can’t coordinate, which can be a nuisance in a build like this that relies on it for a big chunk of your turns. So bear that in mind when picking the rest of your HI to make sure you have other valuable models that will want to coordinate often, and remember that this guy will need “hard” orders every turn so his actions can be pretty costly.

Sepulcher Spitfire = 56/2















We’re definitely creeping into the pricier end of the spectrum here, but you’ll notice that each time, a lot of utility tends to accompany the higher end models. In this case, the Sepulcher Knight is definitely a parallel move vs. the Santiago, and while he loses all the cool extras like 360, the template or the EM grenades, picking up Holoprojector Lvl 2 is what you’re paying for here for the princely sum of another 12 pts. It certainly is a big price tag, but Holo lets you neatly deal with deployables (mono mines and mad traps being 2 big ones!), avoid certain AROs (by forcing them to choose), surprise shot to stack mods further and potentially confuse your enemy if you’re disguising as something else T1 and going second. It’s a nice laundry list of capabilities, and while the utility may not be straightforward, it’s certainly powerful in the right hands. Now whether you want to pay for that capability over the cheaper options or the perhaps simpler GdA for less is up to you, but with time and practice you can def make Holo 2 (and 1, perhaps as a bit of T1 deception) a pain for your enemy, so it’s near enough a straight upgrade from the Teuton for a fair few points if you can afford the extra capability.

Seraph = 82/2












I know I know, it’s a TAG, but in an armor build like this, you can just about fit one of these in and still have enough points to grab yourself 3 more other HI to round out the rest of the build. Now the Seraph doesn’t particularly shoot better than other Spitfire carriers in this category, but it is undoubtedly tougher, faster and can Super Jump, which lets it potentially get to a lot more targets. His little flamer bot buddy can’t come with him, but combined with the nanopulser on the seraph, you can force difficult choices (shooting or dodging…) like the GdA flamer + Auxbot combination above, and in melee, it can give the Seraph extra burst with that mighty EXP CCW for one hell of a punch. It’s definitely on the pricey end here and still “just” a Spitfire, but few things boast raw ARM potential like 3 STR, 2 unconscious wounds (REM presence) and ARM 7 so it certainly fits with the theme if you can afford it.


HMG models

ORC HMG = 44/2















The barebones HMG option in this list, the ORC HMG is usually the first thing I reach for when points are tight thanks to extravagant expenditure in the other categories. It’s decent enough for a cheap, plain BS 14 HI platform (the BS 14 being a big sell over other factions typical HMG HI options, something they normally have to pay a lot more for) and while he has 0 frills, he lacks frenzy (unlike many of the Knights) and isn’t paying too much for his capabilities either. BTS 3 and 0 extra utility are the only main downsides IMO, because you definitely can’t argue with the price, and certainly not compared to other HMGS in this list.

Aquila HMG = 62/2















For 18 (!) more points, you can bump a few of your Orc’s crucial stats (BS and BTS) and give him MSV3. The Aquila is hard to argue with in terms of raw firepower, and giving you a viable option against camo of every flavor as well as a nice bit of extra insurance against Surprise Shots/Attacks coming from more obscure sources, like Impersonators, Holo and the like. Assuming I can afford it, this is usually my standard “middle of the road” HMG option (wow I don’t think anybody has called an Aquila “middle of the road” in price before!!) and he definitely pulls a lot of weight in a build like this by basically ensuring you face next to no overwatch when moving up the table on the active turn and clearing anything that moves. The main reason I consider this guy pretty important is that tough to shift TO models are otherwise a bit of a nuisance for a build like this, and even more so when they’re hackers. But being an Aquila, he can usually mow down just about anything he gets a bead on, and so saving you the orders with an automatic discover followed by a big burst is ultimately invaluable.

Swiss HMG = 68/2















The other side of the premium HI coin, the Swiss costs marginally more than the Aquila, and other than grabbing a pip of ARM, the main change is swapping MSV3 for that fabulous TO camo. This makes the Swiss an absolutely incredible gunfighter, usually stacking bad range mods on most targets with TO and Surprise Shot and proving to be a serious death knell with B4, BS 15, DAM 15 rounds down range. Brutal. The fact that you can completely hide such a powerful piece from view until you’re ready to strike is excellent in a build that is otherwise lacking subtlety, and the theory behind a list like this is stacking more resilience than most enemy lists can deal with. Adding TO to a HI platform like this is excellent, and while she lacks the flexibility of the Hacker or ability to score, if you’re looking for a powerful HMG, it's hard to argue with her potential.

Tikbalang = 85/2















The most expensive option on our list and technically a TAG, the Tikbalang I definitely feel is worth paying for if you can keep your costs ultra low on the rest of your lineup. The usual BS 15 HMG goes without saying, but strapping climbing plus to that means frequently catching opponents in a bad place, and the fact that you can use it to avoid melee models (by clinging to a wall out of their reach – eat it Mr Oniwaban!) and attack from bizarre angles really makes it hard to avoid. Frequently when you have a powerful active turn HMG, opponents are hiding to avoid getting perforated, but being prone-on-a-roof won’t save them when the Tik just ambles casually right up there. The heavy flamer is absolutely incredible on this fast platform as well, really cementing his defense from dangerous close-up opponents, and together with his mines is providing you immensely valuable template defense in your force. Finally, like the Seraph, the combination of the extra ARM, extra Wound (and in Tik’s case, Mimetism) really helps to cement the durable focus of your list, giving your enemy too much to chew through and then really hammering them on the active turn.


Outliers

Montessa LGL = 48/1

















Definitely an oddball choice from our lineup, the Montessa doesn’t really fill in any of our “essential” roles above, but he’s so interesting anyway because he brings two other things you can otherwise struggle to get – Mech Deployment and Speculative Fire (other than Santiago grenades but bear with me). The advantage of starting halfway up the table CAN be a bit of a two-edged sword (more so when going second) as it leaves you vulnerable to thinks like infiltrating hackers, warbands and the like, which are all things the Montessa isn’t fond of with ARM/BTS of merely 3. However, when going first, the ability to lob spec-fire grenades on your opponent right away and usually hit on 11s is not to be understated, allowing the Montessa to deal with things that you might otherwise resent like well stacked mods, prone models, hidden hackers, cheap cheerleader remotes (die netrods) and cancelling enemy suppressing fire. Thus if you can keep him safe and don’t mind that he tends to be pretty greedy on the orders, he’s a fantastic toolbox that can patch over many of your problems in a build like this, and the fact that he isn’t nearly as expensive as some of these choices makes him sometimes a favorable choice for helping make the points add up.    

De Fersen = 58/2















De Fersen largely “cheats” in my categories, because he provides you with both the Spitfire AND the specialist on the same platform, making him a very attractive choice for getting both capabilities together if you’re wanting to allocate your points elsewhere. Really it’s hard to argue with anything that De Fersen brings, being a nasty hacker (WIP 14, BTS 6 and upgrade Trinity all being pretty godly for any model in Pano), and the fact that he’s there to still put out a lot of BS 14 B4 shots down range is excellent overall utility. In melee he’s no joke either, proving to be second only to Joan with the rare (in Pano) MA: L3 with CC 22 and a better sword. Lovely.  Somehow he also loses Frenzy too, which is…interesting! Basically everything is amazing and lovely about De Fersen except the high cost, which can make him a tricky fit sometimes (you’ll notice the HMGs tend to run more than the Spitfires in this build) but you can definitely create some interesting workarounds by essentially “merging” your capabilities under De Fersen and allowing other models to distribute their weight better accordingly.


Putting it together – Sample lists.

Well after what seems like an overview of basically half the Pano HI, I think it’s time to see how we put each of these steps together and create a useful list (or few).


This was my original build, and in many ways, it’s hard to beat. Keeping the points fairly “modest” on the HI expenditures let me upgrade the Fugazi to a Bulleteer, and the combination of assorted specialists for classified coverage, both stacking mods and ignoring them, and varied vectors to push from all combine to make a very flexible generalist setup.


This is a minor variation on the above, simply going for a cheaper hacker in B&K (my default at the moment) and the Fugazi so I could afford to upgrade the Father Knight into a Swiss.



This is my Tikbalang build, which is probably harder to use but I really enjoy it. You’ll notice I’ve left 5 free points, mostly because you have a few options –
  • getting a Fusi Hacker after ITS ends
  • upgrading the Hospitaller to a MR
  • upgrading the Santiago to a Spitfire (remember, Tik can score with his crabbot) or
  • upgrading the Fugazi to a Regular with Sensor (because combatting camo is important in a TAG list and you get more mines!).

All good options.


Finally, this is my setup with a few more of the "outlier" options that I think is one I'm most excited to play, simply because it crams a lot of utility onto each platform. You can even go for an Orc HMG over the Aquila here and upgrade a few things in line with the above.  


Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this overview on what I think is one of the more interesting builds in Vanilla Pano at the moment, and I can honestly say that it’s an incredible fun, rewarding, and interesting list to get on the table. The flexibility of your setups mean that you can easily tailor the core build for a variety of situations just by slotting in your favorite “flavors” of HI choices, and the fact that so many combinations exist means you can play around with it till your hearts content.

Or in other words, let’s get more builds like this on the table, because YJ aren’t the only HI faction that can build a terrifying list ;)

Until next time!   

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