Having spent a good chunk of my spare time for three weeks getting my Ghar army together, I think it’s worth taking a look at how it performed. As described in part 1, I won one game and lost three – why was that, what could I have done differently? Let’s look at each unit in turn. (I’ll be taking better photos at some point in the next week or so too).
Ghar Battle Squad (3 suits) – 214 points
Much as expected, really. Fairly hard to kill (notwithstanding the plasma reactor overload the very first time they were fired at!), the choice of fire modes for their guns mean that whatever they come up against, they have a chance of doing something.
The main thing I found (and this applies to the other suit units too) was that as soon as they started taking any pins at all – especially if targeted by net ammo – they take break tests so quickly that they’re forced down in no time, even if they haven’t taken any casualties. In game two in particular, my opponent was playing whack-a-mole with battle suits – force one down, move onto another, when the first one rallies go back to them, and so on. Game balance dictates that there have to be downsides for heavily-armoured units, but mechanically they feel fragile despite being hard to kill. Why should a meagre three pins have a 50% chance of taking battle suits out of the game? I know they don’t suffer pins just from being hit by low-SV shots, but it’s not like Plasma Lances are hard to come by (just three points to upgrade a Concord Strike Trooper, for example) even if the opponent doesn’t bring net ammo.
I did find that Plasma Amplifiers are worth their weight in gold, though. Unit not in a good position? That’s OK, just run into a better position and do what you need to do with your second order. You may only be able to do it once or twice in a game per unit so upgraded, but it’s well worth the investment. Again, this applies to all the suit units, and the Command Crawler, too.
Ghar Assault Squad (3 suits) – 214 points
Unlike the Battle Squad, my Assault Squad seemed to find itself with nothing to do a lot of the time. The ability to force units down by shooting them with Gougers was nearly crucial a couple of times, but in four games I didn’t see a single round of melee, with my Assault suits or anything else. (Indeed, the one time they tried to charge, the target unit simply sprinted away at 3M as a reaction, while my Assault troopers lumbered around doing nothing, wondering why they’d just given my opponent a free order dice).
Unlike the pin problem I mentioned above, though, which seems to be inherent to the game system; I feel like I could get better use out of my Assault Squad if I were a better or more experienced player. Units can’t run away from a charge if they’ve already got an order dice, for example, and if other units can pin the charge target (or even force them down) the Assault Squad can make a real mess of them.
I do wonder how viable that really makes the squad, though. I’m very much in favour of units having to work together in combination or exhibit synergy; that encourages manoeuvre, good tactics, and good game-play, as opposed to a unit being an OP win-button. On the other hand – at nearly a quarter of the points cost of the entire army, I’d hope an Assault Squad could present some kind of threat on its own, and I never really felt at any point during the day that they did very much. I need to play some more games, find the synergies, and re-assess them.
Outcast Squad with Disruptor Cannon (12 infantry) – 87 points
It’s possible that this squad were my best-performing unit on the day. (Not as high-performing as a similar unit fighting for the Rebels in the final game, when fire from a bunch of Lugger Guns blew up my Command Crawler*). In the very first game, a fortuitous deployment let them form a firing line and gun down most of a Vardanari squad with rapid fire; in the third game, they were my only unit to retrieve a relic, using their numbers to form a conga line while my slow-moving battle suits lumbered around ineffectively.
Unfortunately, they’re my least-favourite models in the army! Convenient for filling up points, numerous enough to do things suits can’t do, more effective in battle than you might expect due to rapid fire… they might to all intents and purposes be an essential pick in any Ghar army, but I still can’t bring myself to like them very much.
Disruptor Cannon (2 infantry) – 24 points
A cheap option that was convenient to use as a distort dice dump a couple of times. I don’t remember if this unit succeeded in killing anything all game; if it did, I suppose it was a bonus. Not much more to say, more games are needed to decide how useful this unit really is.
Command Crawler (vehicle) – 253 points
By far the most disappointing unit in the list. Almost the opposite of the Outcasts, in fact – I adore the model, but it seems terrible on the tabletop.
It’s true that it’s almost indestructible; it took until game four before I even had to check the rules for what happens when it takes damage. (It then promptly exploded to small-arms fire*, after rolling an obscene number of 10s). Trouble is, a unit that takes up a quarter of my army and the only thing it succeeds in doing is (mostly) not dying, clearly isn’t worth the investment.
The confusing thing is that all the research I’d done on Ghar beforehand suggested that people think a Crawler was a must-have – not just due to unlocking options like Bomber Squads, but in its own right. I just don’t see it. True, nearby units get a slight bonus to their Command checks (10% chance of making a difference); true, nearby units can be ordered to Follow, and I can imagine circumstances under which that would be useful (most likely when everything is somehow already in position and you just need your whole line to open fire at once). None of that is worth over 250 points.
Granted, it’s MOD2 (or MOD3 when you need it, with plasma amps) but what are you going to use those multiple order dice for? Running 30″ in a turn seems like it might be useful, but what are you going to do when you get there? With just two Scourer Cannons it’s got the firepower of an under-strength Battle Squad, for double the price. I don’t get why anyone thinks that’s good.
In future games, I will be using Fartok (not an option on this campaign day) to unlock Bomber Squads and be an awesome unit in his own right. The Command Crawler will remain in the box, until someone explains to me why it’s useful.
Bomber Squad (2 suits) – 147 points
Bombers are pitched as being essential for Ghar as they have the range that’s lacking in other units. I’m not sure how true that is – most other units have a 30″ range at least, and on a typical 6’x4′ tabletop that’s usually plenty. Only once in four games, I think, was one of my units out of range of what it needed to shoot at; most of the time shooting took place within a 20″ effective range.
Nevertheless, the Bomber Squad was pretty handy. OH fire opens up options for getting past things like batter drones, and the blast allows a good number of hits to be inflicted. Disruptor for double pins was useful too. I’m not sure that this unit blew my socks off, and it would clearly be much more effective if you could have the Leader and/or any additional models armed with Bombers too, but it did OK.
Tectorist Scouts (4 models) – 20 points
It’s actually quite hard for me to judge this unit, as it turns out I was getting their rules wrong for most of the day! (It came up in Rick’s Q&A that as a sharded infantry unit, Tectorists don’t quite work how he intended. In some ways, like an inability to carry objectives, I was playing the letter of the rules “wrong” but still the way Rick intended them to be. In other ways, such as thinking they granted +1 to hit instead of a single re-roll, I just completely screwed up. Ce la vie!)
Nevertheless, a dirt-cheap unit, where models move as individuals, that grants bonuses to the rest of the army, and can be used as a distort dump if required? Yeah, hard to see how that’s going to be anything other than a good thing.
Army Options – 40 points
Get Up! – Given the comments I made above about pins and battle suits being forced down, it will come as no surprise to learn that this came in really handy. Of course, even if the unit gets recovers from going down, it’s likely still to have lots of pins on it and thus struggle to be effective – but this at least opens up the possibility.
Superior Shard – I found this to be basically meaningless in standard games, where both armies start fully deployed; opponents will almost always have more order dice than Ghar, and losing one dice just means one of their cheap throwaway units doesn’t do anything. But, in scenarios where not everything starts on the table – or, in the end game where there’s only a few units left – this could be brutal. That’s what I found in the very first game: my opponent’s Vardanari were the only squad that landed, and use of the Superior Shard meant they didn’t even get to do anything on the first turn. It gave me a real advantage.
Marksman – Forcing all dice to be re-rolled, not just the misses, means this isn’t as useful as I hoped. I took it with the intent of getting the most out of the Bomber’s single shot, but in fact, when you need a 2 or 3 to hit anyway (and might still hit something even if it scatters), a re-roll is hardly worth the bother. So I used it a couple of times in a desperate attempt to get some use out of the Command Crawler: dispersed shots from its Scourer Cannon on a fire order managed only one hit, so I re-rolled and scored… one hit. Ho hum.
I’m still getting to grips with the Ghar, and it’s going to take some time. That’s OK – I like armies that need some thought to use. Perhaps the biggest thing to come to terms with is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the list that’s outright destructive. Even a full unit of battle suits letting rip with Scourer Cannons only fire nine shots, expecting roughly 4.5 hits and maybe 2-3 casualties, depending what they’re shooting at. (The Outcasts and their Lugger Guns do better statistically by sheer weight of fire, albeit it that they’re so fragile and cowardly they might not often get a chance to put that into effect).
I know for sure I’ll be bringing Fartok into the list and taking the Command Crawler out. I’d intended to use the spare points for more Bombers, but I’m actually now wondering whether just more Battle Suits is the way forward. I can’t wait to play some more games and work all this out.
* Note added in edit: having re-checked the rules, I think the Command Crawler should not actually have been destroyed by Lugger Gun fire after all. Heavily armoured targets only roll D5 on the damage chart, not D10 – so it should have been +1 pin and down, instead of outright destroyed. Ce la vie, I got plenty of rules wrong myself, it was an honest mistake made in the heat of tabletop action – and it doesn’t really change my thoughts on the unit. Even if it had stayed alive, it wouldn’t have done anything other than sit there soaking up fire. That’s situationally useful, but not worth over 250 points.