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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting more from your Squadrons - Splitting by Immobilisation

Today's topic will be about getting more use of the new Squadron rules, firstly because it seems a lot of players are still unaware of how much more user-friendly they are (it's almost as if GW want you to buy more models!) and secondly because I'm going to be showing how you can exploit them to their full potential. And yes I do mean 'Exploiting' the rules, but I don't have even twinge of conscience over it since it may help combat the Necron Flyer spam lists that are currently causing a lot of people grief.

Update: Just a few days after this article was published GW in their infinite wisdom change the immobilistion rules in FAQ 1.1; if a vehicle suffers an immobilisation result it now also loses a Hull Point. With this change, it becomes a lot less viable to use the tactic of purposefully immobilising vehicles in order to split up a squadron into individual components, and the Hydra is probably the only case where it might be even worth considering.

The Basic Squadron rules

I touched on the squadron rules in my earlier article Valkyries and Vendettas in 6th which is worth a look, but it is taking a while for it to catch on just how much more generous the the squadron rules are compared to 5th. Starting with the basics;
  1. Vehicles a squadron must remain within 4” of one another
  2. Must fire on a single enemy target
  3. Speed is judged individually
    1.                Assuming coherency is maintained it is possible for vehicles to move at different speeds and fire with different Ballistic Skills rules.
  4. Flat out is declared individually. 
    1. For example, if one skimmer in a squadron is stunned, it can leapfrog over a squadron mate to get a 4+ save while its comrade fires at full BS. (Since squadron-mates can see through one another without granting a cover save, you can fire your weapons through the open doors on the side of your comrades Valkyrie. It’s Cinematic).
  5. The closest model takes all the hits until destroyed
    1. All vehicles in a squadron as still vulnerable, but this is a big improvement over the hits being evenly ‘spread’ across a squadron immediately. The same applies for damage taken in assaults, so while a vehicle can still be damaged by enemy infantry that aren’t actually in base contact with it when they assault one of the vehicle's squadron-mates, it is more likely that a single vehicle will take most or all of the damage results.           
And now we get to the fun part                

Abandoning Squadron-mates: Splitting by Immobilisation

"If a member of a squadron is immobilised the rest of the squadron are permitted to abandon it. Move out of coherency and treat the Immobilised Model(s) as a separate unit from then on." (page 77). 

Not only is that a huge improvement over the old rules where an immobilised vehicle in a squadron was destroyed, there are a couple of very important things to know. Firstly, if your immobilised vehicle suffers another immobilised result it loses a hull point (pg 74), but a vehicle does not lose a hull point from just being immobilised. (Changed in FAQ 1.1)

Secondly, your ex-squadron mates have just gained the split-targeting ability of a Tau Target locking Long Fang Mofo.

How this applies to Hydras

All but one army in the game can ally to buy Hydras, but only one army can buy them individually. So for those less lucky or even IG who have better things to do with their other Heavy slots, buy a squadron of 2 or 3, and drive them into terrain each turn. If you go first, by the time your opponent's air force arrives on Turn 2 the odds are good one of your Hydras will have become its own unit and will be able to fire independently.
You have excellent odds of all three Hydras being able to pick out flyers independently by turn 4, just by gently driving forwards and backwards on the edge of terrain until they are split by immobilisation. 

(For the record, an Aegis is not adequate anti-air defence. If the enemy don't have air, they don't care. If they do have air, your Aegis is dead. On the other hand, 3 independently targeting Hydras and an Aegis might make your Necron friend consider bringing a better balanced list than more Croissants than a Breakfast Buffet.)

In practice, if you have a squadron of 3 hydras deployed near terrain and nudge them, you have a 42% chance of splitting at least one from the squadron on turn 1 (not 50%, don't even think that or you'll get flamed by the math-hammer gang lol), and a 66% chance of splitting at least one Hydra before the shoot-phase of turn 2.
The tactical cost of this crazy little operation are negligible; Hydras are generally deployed in a corner and behind a piece of terrain for cover-saves anyway, and the height and long range of the turret weapons should avoid any real down-side.


How this applies to Ordnance Batteries

The Basilisk, Medusa, Colossus and Griffon can all be bought in groups of 1 to 3. The rules for these tanks have changed subtly but sufficiently enough for them to warrant their own article, but for the purpose of this discussion it means they can now move and fire even when firing indirect, and thus can move into terrain each turn until immobilised and not lose any firepower.
So let's Smash 'em up, because if you like the idea of a squadron of 3 Griffons for 225 points you'll love having three that fire independently, and all you have to do to get that is break a few treads.


How this applies to Leman Russes

Edit: Definitely not worth doing now Immobilisation causes a Hull Point of damage.
Unlike other units, vehicles can move and fire Ordnance weapons (71), which means there is no penalty for your movement into terrain with that squadron of Leman Russes. Maybe you'll get lucky and immobilise one!
I'd only do this with long range tanks, so almost never with a Demolisher, but russes with a range of 48 to 72" work best in a corner deployment anyway Smashing one is well worth considering. Yes, you're going to be hit easier in combat, but it's not as big a difference as previously, the tanks can't contest objectives so have less reason to be moving anyway, and if the enemy get into assault with a 72" range tank something has already gone wrong elsewhere. 

Would I actually do this in a real game? Realistically I rarely play point sizes so large that squadrons of Leman Russes are affordable. If using Guard as allies with a force that could really benefit from long range AP3 firepower (Chaos Daemons for example) enough to take a squadron, then it could be worth considering immobilising one Leman Russ in a corner and having the other mobile.


How this applies to Vendettas

Edit: Definitely not worth doing now Immobilisation causes a Hull Point of damage.
This is slightly different; firstly if immobilised while zooming a skimmer just splits from the squadron keeps using the same speed, so this could be a positive thing. However, that can only be caused by enemy shooting, so isn't something you can or should hope for since it also costs a Hull Point.
You can however switch into skimmer mode, and land in terrain in a corner of the board facing in towards likely targets if you want to try turn squadrons into individual units ("Skimmers take a dangerous terrain test if starting or ending a move in difficult terrain pg99"). Don't move flat out into terrain as skimmers are still wrecked by immobilisation if flat out (pg99).

I really wouldn't advise trying it though - certainly, it would be nice to get 9 independently fireable Vendettas, but unlike splitting up Hydra or Griffon Squadrons the downsides to immobilising a fast moving unit that is usually only hit on a 6+ are too great.

Warnings and Caveats

Before you start breaking treads it's worth knowing how they could effect your results in 3 of the new scenarios.
  • Heavy support doesn't score in 'Bug Guns' if immobilised. pg 128 - Try not to immobilise the whole squadron
  • Fast attack doesn't score in 'Scouring' if immobilised pg 129 - Try not to immobilise the whole squadron
  • Purge the Alien Mission (page 127) “At the end of the game, each player receives 1 Victory Point for each enemy unit that has been completely destroyed”. This means a member of a squadron that becomes a separate unit and is then destroyed counts as a Victory Point.


The main thing this article is designed to do is show that Squadrons are significantly better than before, even if it requires going to the extreme of showing how they can be exploited. And the rules can and should be exploited, especially if your local area is seeing a lot of players exploit the 9+ Necron Flyer Breakfast-Buffet army builds while GW are still dilly-dallying about handing out some decent Sky Fire options. Currently the best options for splitting by immobilisation are squadrons of Hydras and Griffons, both of which are cheap and benefit from independent firing.

To this very day I still see lists with Dozerblade upgrades on Ordnance Squadrons; if you just take away one thing from this article I hope it would be to save those points for something more useful. 

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