So I've gotten started on figuring out what I want to pick up for a freelance force. There's still some hashing over just what to pick up though, so I'm soliciting opinions. Criteria
My primary criteria is pretty simple: do I like the model? It's terribly subjective, I know- but that's the big thing for me in narrowing down my choices. From there it's mostly a case that I'm trying to have only a few different types on the board, rather than a patchwork of dozens of designs. I'm sticking with CAV 1 stats for now, just because they're set in stone and I don't know what's going to end up being definite with CAV 2, so I can't evaluate on that. Superiority CAVs
My theory on superiority CAVs is that the job boils down to one, very simple task: the speedy elimination of enemy CAVs, particulary other superiority CAVs. This means that a superiority CAV should be able to deliver a huge punch to the target as well as be able to move quickly across the battlefield to administer the beating. The ability to eliminate soft targets or make indirect fire attacks is useful but ultimately the job of other elements in the force, so in the interest of getting the most bang for the buck, I'm looking at indirect fire or decent soft-killing capability as point sinks.
Suppression Fire CAVs
- Mantis - My #1 choice for the job, due to a combination of respectable speed, firepower, and minimal waste. Plus, it ranks as one of the best looking CAVs in existence in my book.
- Starhawk VI - The Starhawk VI is something I keep trying to come with excuses to take as part of the force. It looks great, it's fast, it hits very hard, it's accurate, it's durable as heck- but it has a pricetag to match all that goodness. I'm considering whether or not I could justify it as my 'Super Heavy' due to the comparable pricetag.
- Chancellor - It's a little tougher than the Mantis, but it isn't as good at killing CAVs and it's more expensive. The big thing the Chancellor has going for it in my book is I think it looks really neat. But once it gets to the datacard, the Mantis just flat out wins on a point to point scale.
To me, suppression fire is a misnomer. The role of the suppression fire unit is not to suppress- the role is to brutally eliminate anything the superiority CAVs can't deal with efficiently. Gunships, fighting vehicles, infantry, missiles- if it isn't a CAV or a tank, suppression fire units are capable, at a very reasonable price, of eliminating it in a very brutal fashion. To some degree this overlaps with support fire, given that the latter tends to be good at eliminating the same targets, but suppression fire simply does it better.
Support Fire CAVs
- Sabretooth - There's just not that much competition here. The Ghost is nowhere as good at it, the Knight has an extremely limited range- the only other suppression CAV to consider is the Vanquisher, and what advantages it has in terms of speed are utterly outclassed in firepower, threat range (movement + weapon range), accuracy, and point cost. The Sabretooth is quite simply the best at what it does.
This is probably the most vexing category because there's three things I'm trying to balance for best effect. First, there's raw effectiveness. How much damage can be done, and to what? Indirect fire tends to be less damaging than direct fire, so there's no +6's or +7's to look for, but a support fire unit that can add some extra punch to a fight is helpful- moreso if it can take on both hard and soft targets. Of course, if it can hurt both hard and soft targets, it probably isn't all that good at either one. The second big issue is area of effect. The bane of indirect fire is drift. In as much as you may never get more than one unit under a template, a larger area of effect mitigates drift troubles by allowing you more leeway in hitting the target. So a larger area of effect is better. Third and finally, there's range. The more distance between the support fire unit and the target, the less likely the support fire unit can be engaged or retaliated against. Further, a unit with a huge range can support multiple units while remaining far behind the lines, increasing utility to the force as a whole.
- Sovereign III - The Sovereign III trades hard target damage and area of effect for extreme range and soft target killing capability. The 60" range on the indirect attacks along with the excellent accuracy means the Sovereign III has some very solid support power. Further, the threat range and hard target killing power of the direct fire missile racks give some extra protection if an enemy CAV or tank should sneak around the front line to engage.
- Blitz - Next we have the Blitz, giving up range for area of effect, and losing a little bit of specialization in hard vs soft targets to be able to hurt both- direct fire's a bit better versus hard, indirect's a bit better versus soft. The excellent area of effect is very tempting, but the range makes it much more likely the Blitz could find itself face to face with an enemy superiority CAV.
- Conqueror - The middle ground. Tremendous range and area of effect, good accuracy, but relatively poor ability to deal with hard targets. Still, at the price, range, and area of effect, this seems to be a very effective choice. The only thing that is giving the other two anything of an edge is that it doesn't rank as high on the coolness scale to me.
I tend to group these together because the only difference that really exists is the presence of an ECCM pod, something that could easily be altered on either of the Recon CAVs we've seen in CAV 1. Further, since part of Recon is usually not being seen, it seems foolish to assign that task to a large, hard to miss CAV. So the real issue becomes whether or not to field an ESM CAV- and if so, which one?
- Raptor - First things first: I think this is the best looking ESM CAV available. The lines of it just flat out appeal to me. It's cheap, it has an ECCM pod, I figure slap on a Chain Lock pod and this will do wonders- plus it can add in some indirect fire of its own.
- Talon - The price is a little steeper, the ECM is a little stronger, the speed is a little greater, and it focuses more on hard target killing than soft target killing. The problem with this is that it's really abysmal at both, and hard targets are usually tougher to deal with than soft ones due to more damage tracks and a tendency to hurt more when they fire back. While the Talon's got some good going for it, I think I'd rather upgrade the Raptor.
Well, you have this as the catchall. There's two possibilities.
- Sultan - A jack of all trades, master of none sort of CAV. It doesn't have the hitting power or speed of a good superiority CAV, it doesn't have the reach of a support fire CAV, it doesn't have the top-notch electronics of an ESM CAV, it's not overly tough, and it costs a pretty penny. But, it can do a lot of things passably well, making it a good 'line filler' and second stringer. The fact it provides customizable indirect fire and good guns means there's always the temptation to slap on another 65 points and use it as a sort-of ESM with some good punch. Plus, it just looks cool.
For the most part vehicles remind me of a quote from another game. "It's good at making like a tank til a real one rolls onto the field." That about covers the role of vehicles in CAV 1. Whatever they do, there's probably a CAV that does it better. They're not as tough (for their role), they're not as powerful, they're not as all-terrain, but they're cheaper than a CAV. If you have a handful of points and need to fill a gap, they work well. At least as long as they don't have to weather a CAV's attentions.
- Banshee - Upon seeing it, the Banshee immediately brought up some old memories and that alone was enough to make me want to add these to the roster. There's not a lot of competition in the hover tank class, at least not in CAV 1, and it was pretty easy for me to justify a speedy, hard-target killer. It isn't a Mantis, but it'd support one well.
- Dingo - The Dingo is a sort-of soft target killing tank. It isn't the best soft target killer- it just happens to be one of two tanks that are good at doing that job at range. The Poltergeist is nearly its equal, but falls behind in speed and some measure of resiliency under fire. Plus, again, I think think the Dingo looks good. The Poltergeist, not as much.
- Wolverine - Somewhere between the Dingo and the Banshee, with the ability to do both jobs in a halfway decent manner, not particularly quick and not able to take on soft targets at great range- but tougher. And if I had to do both jobs with only 200 points, it's probably a good buy.
- Nomad - The Nomad is the ground scout for the whole force. It's quick, almost frighteningly so, and it can provide more punch than a Recon CAV could at half again the cost. Plus, there's just something about the design that makes me need to have this present, even if only as one or two models.
- Outlaw - When you get right down to it, this is arguably the most expendable vehicle for the force in terms of 'what do I drop for points?' The dual IFM capabilites are excellent to have, to be sure, but between the speed and the fact all the support fire CAVs can do the same job better while defending themselves, it's difficult for me to justify it. Of course, if I had four of these raining fire on a target, I might scrap all the above and declare this a must have. Hard to say at this point.
Gunships in the game tend to be fragile killers, surviving via speed and the hope there's a better target to return defensive fire on. At the same time, you have your airbone mechanized transport. These just want to get where they're going in one piece. If I was to pick a role for gunships in the force, I think it'd be with the other vehicles, eliminating enemy tanks, mechanized transport, or other things I need to intercept quickly yet don't want to pull a CAV off its current job for. Airborne infantry, meanwhile- well, what better way is there?
- Dragonfly - It's really cheap and is classified as a scout- yet the Dragonfly's got a decent gun strapped to it for killing hard targets. I wouldn't expect them to survive the battle, but for the points, it's a nice pickup.
- Kikyu - The soft target equivalent of the Dragonfly, fast and capable of eliminating its designated targets while being inexpensive.
- Ghast - Much like the Wolverine is a combination of the Banshee and the Dingo in capabilities and role, the Ghast is capable of doing the same things as the Kikyu and the Dragonfly- except the Ghast is able to do it better than either one, sacrificing a small amount of speed and upping the price a bit to be tougher and able to engage with a remarkable threat range.
- Kharl - It's the Starhawk VI in a gunship- I really want to field it, but it's extremely expensive. But it's good at what it does, too. So maybe if I'm in a high points game I'll have a couple in the air, though I can't help but feel the point cost is paying for a lot of toughening up that won't mean a thing if a Sabretooth gets it in range.
- Merlin - One of my two aircraft for infantry delivery, the Merlin is faster, bigger, and able to handle a lot more targets to support whoever's on board. Unfortunately it's also relatively expensive as a delivery mechanism. But at least I know that any problems that crop up along the way will be solved, either by elimination or outrunning them.
- Vindicator - The less expensive of the two. Much more the soft target killer, the the point that it could probably stand in for a Vanquisher. Between this and the Merlin I won't be transporting much infantry, but I doubt I would anyways.
So now that you've slogged through all of the above, and have an idea of what I'm looking at in terms of units...