Saturday, April 20, 2013

Effective Gun Control: Shooting in Dark Age

    In the post-apocalyptic skirmishes of Dark Age, the order of the day is close combat- you simply cannot win on shooting alone.  However, effective use of ranged combat can tip the scales in your favor.  With as many penalties as there are to shooting, how can you make it work for you?

     There's no denying it: Dark Age is based on melee combat.  While you can focus a list entirely on this element- with a generous helping of balls-out speed to cover distances and get into the fights you want- I've always been of the opinion that mixed lists are not only more accurate to real warfare, but also allow for a far more strategic game than "1) run at that guy. 2) hit'em with a rock."  That being said, ranged combat in Dark Age is tricky at best, and very ineffective when used improperly.

Penalties everywhere!
     Let's look at the list of penalties to shooting to begin with. There's a lot of them, and it's easy to miss one or two if you're not careful.
  • Range Modifier: you have a -1 to TN for each full 4" increment you are from your target
  • Partial Cover: If the target is 50% obscured or less, a -2 COVER penalty applies to the TN
  • Cover: If the target is more than 50% obscured, a -4 COVER penalty applies to the TN
  • Firing through Gaps: If you cannot draw a line of sight from your firing model to the target without crossing over another model's base, a -4 COVER penalty applies to the TN
  • Target Prone: If the target has gone Prone (voluntarily or involuntarily), there is a -2 penalty to the TN.
  • Firing into Close Combat:  For every friendly model in base-to-base contract with the target, you suffer a -2 penalty to the TN.
Rate of Fire
     Another impressively limiting facet on ranged combat is "Rate of Fire", expressed on every stat card as RF.  Simply put, this is how many times per activation a single weapon may be fired- and there's a good chance that number is "1." 

Making Lemonade... Ballistic Lemonade...
     Okay, so that's a whole lot of bad news for your pew pew, dakka dakka, chaingun cha-cha units. Time to stop focusing on what we don't have, and take stock of what we do.

Massed Rolls means Criticals Happen
     Ask any Dark Age player, and they'll tell you Critical Hits and Critical Fumbles both come up a whole heck of a lot more than you think they should- this game loves to roll 1's and 20's.  In both cases it doesn't matter how many penalties you've racked up- it hits with no armor roll allowed, or misses big. Critical failures happen on armor rolls when you have to take enough of them, too.  TL:DR version- toss dice, and force your opponent to toss dice, and wounds will happen.  

Aim, then Shoot!
     So you have three actions, and an RF of 1.  Well, lucky enough for you, you can spend one of those actions Aiming.  Aiming gives you a +2 bonus to your TN.  10% better odds might not sound like a lot, but when you can't shoot more than once anyway, you'd best make sure it counts. Alternatively, if you have a MV of 5" or more, you may just be able to shave off 2 range increment penalties with a quick pull-up... just remember you're now a lot closer than you probably want to be.  However, Move-Aim-Shoot in this manner can remove a multitude of TN issues. 

Very, Very Friendly Fire
     So you have a -2 penalty to shooting into close combat.  Be thankful, in a lot of games you can't do it at all!  Add to that the fact that it is simply impossible to hit your own guy in the combat, and you've got some very friendly fire support indeed!  Walk your support unit up to say 31/2" from the bad guy, and light him up with a total -2 modifier. This is a great choice for weaker support units like Dragyri slingslaves... so you might have a snowball's chance of hitting an enemy model (your AS of 3 plus whatever their DF is, then subtract the -2 penalty), but you knew that bringing them in anyway, and with 4-8 of them lobbing those snowballs, with no RF limitation, that's 4-16 snowballs supporting your character in close combat depending on movement/aiming/etc. You don't need them all to hit, odds are 2-3 wounds wins the day for you, and the whole squad proved their worth.
Cover, Cover, Everywhere... But Half of it Won't Matter
      You'll notice that all of those except for Range, Close Combat, and Prone say "COVER penalty."  It's important to remember that only one COVER penalty can apply, so three -4's is still only a -4.  Need to wiggle that shot through four units, over a half-wall, into an enemy?  -4 total penalty, nothing but net.  Sure, you still have the Range issues to deal with, but chances are that guy's not Prone at least, so unless you're firing into a scrum, you're looking at Range and -4.  Spend an action to aim, and it's Range and -2 only. Fire Away.

Templates: The Great Equalizer
     Ask Belgarath97 or TokenGamerChic about how much I love my Plights and Firestorms. RF 1, no problem. Use them just right and you're hitting 2-4 units every time you fire (more if you're opponent gets lazy/forgetful). While the Erratas have made it necessary for Spray and Stream templates to roll to hit the target(s), range, cover, and close combat penalties are not applied. Sure, you get a -2 penalty if the guy is prone. Seeing as that stream template is 10" long, that's already 1 or 2 points of range penalty you're ignoring, let alone cover and firing into CC.  Your template has to be placed touching your base with its midline passing through the centerpoint of the enemy unit's base- meaning if you move in concert with close combat unit expecting to support them, you might just be able to fire into melee with no penalties whatsoever, and not even catch your own model under the template (I do this all the time to B97, he hates those Plights).  

Save the Cheerleader, Save the Game
     Most factions have a "Cheerleader" unit available- a model who has a beneficial affect on your unit's TNs. Never discount what a "+1 to TN" bonus can do when you have 3-5 models firing. Sooner or later, that Cheerleader is going to cause a "miss" to turn into a "hit."  I'm a big fan of support units of this type, they are very effective at affecting a battle in ways your opponent may loose track of.  

Thoughts? Recriminations? Points I totally buggered up?  Leave the comments below! I'll see you on the other side of the table.

The Second Class Elitist

1 comment:

  1. He's not kidding about the templates. He loves his Plights and I absolutely hate them. I devote a significant amount of energy in making them die, every time we play.