It is unlikely that you'll choose what faction to play solely based on their special skills... although, it is possible. If you want something where you can play the same list regardless of Warlord, Cybertronic is your thing. If you really like taking "off-selection units" that have been swapped from Support to Troops, Capitol is the way to go, and so on. This article series will not only give you insight into what to select for your playstyle, it will also help the more competitively minded gamer to plan ahead for what they will be more likely to encounter in the tournament circuit.
Today we look at the optional special skills you can give Cybertronic: the buffs. For Cybertronic, these points are spent on a "per model" basis- a buff costing 3 points per in a five man unit will cost you 15 points. The benefit to this is that unlike Bauhaus, Capitol, and Mishima, your list is not dependent upon your Warlord, meaning you have greater strategic flexibility in your choices. Also, unlike some of Mishima's, the Brotherhood's, and Dark Legion's choices, nothing in the Cybertronic list requires an Action Point to be spent to utilize, so these special skills do not impact your maneuverability or combat effectiveness. Unlike Mishima, Dark Legion, and Brotherhood (and sometimes Bauhaus), you can't get a "bulk rate" on buying Special Skills "per unit" and must buy model per model. This goes doubly so for Capitol, who can by a special rule army-wide. Unlike Capitol, there's no option to change a unit's OOC slot. Verdict: this list is the most fluid of any Faction. While it is constrained to stat buffs and some limited special skills, diversity, redundancy, and player options make this an easy list to crunch numbers one- and thus, our perfect starting point.
Cybertrronic's special skills are known as Enhancements. Every model may take up to two enhancements, with all models in the squad being required to take the same ones. (A minor caveat: there are a couple which can only be utilized by the Squad Leader, in those cases, he can have two, and everyone else in the squad merely has the other one.) No Enhancements are Warlord dependent- whether you have a Tech, Close Combat, or Ranged warlord you still pull form the same bank of enhancements.
(A quick note on descriptions: I've intentionally left out the costs for each ability, they can be easily found in your rulebook. Some companies are a bit put off by certain things being posted, costs being one of them. If I get a blessing to do it from the Powers That Be, I'll add them back in. Until then, consult your absolutely beautiful rulebook.)
ANNIHILATOR MICRO-DEVICE: this one is for Lords or Squad Commanders only. When the model dies, everything within a small explosive template suffers a St12 AVV 0 autohit. Pros: in a close fight, this might deal the final wound to whatever you're banging on. If you got swarmed by small gribblies, it might do some serious damage to the unit. Cons: see, 3" might sounds like a lot, but let's look at it. It's centered over what in most cases will be a roughly 1 1/2" base. At best you've got a 1" reach to your opponent, and his melee range may well mean he's outside the blast. Verdict: if you can force an engagement with many small models that have to be in range, it can swing a battle. If you can't, these points are best spent elsewhere.
CELL NEOGENESIS ACCELERATOR: this lovely raises your Heal checks by one. Pros: your models stay around longer. If you already have a good heal (either a single model with heal or a squad lead by Dr. Diana) this makes the already good better. Since Heal checks are almost impossible to deny, this can make it very hard for wounds to stick. Cons: this has a 5% chance of affecting any particular check, and will only come up a small number of times during a game. Verdict: it's far more of a psychological weapon than anything else. CNA on The Immortal, for example, means your opponent needs to prepare for the possibility of a Heal (6) check for every wound. That may well give him pause enough to either tap out or overdedicate to threats. Capitalizing on these kinds of mistakes is very Cybertronic- as is forcing them. Unless this is stacked with another buff however, it's limited in scope, and just adding more bodies serves you better.
COMPUBRAIN: +1 LD, and dirt cheap. Pros: Chasseurs, Armored Chasseurs, Mirrormen, and Scorpions gain an inch to unit coherency, and it's price gives it the best "cost to stat boost" ratio available. Cons: you're buffing something Cybertronic has in spades already, so less likely to play a roll. Enhanced Machinators, and Cuirassiers do not see a coherency boost. Verdict: it's never my first choice... but it's always on the table. Unless you know for sure which two buffs you want to put on every Chasseur unit (armored or otherwise), it's cheap enough to feed in at the last minute, often with leftover points.
DERMAL MIRROR SHARDS: models gain Camouflage(1), which can neither be boosted, nor boost any other Camouflage skill. Pros: this stacks your cover bonus with more bonus, and mathematically 1 point harder to hit always trumps one point harder to wound. Cons: Immortal, Enhanced Machinators, and probably Mirrormen laugh at your Camouflage(1). (While Mirrormen do not have the Camouflage rule, smart money would say RAI the Camouflaged Suit will not stack with it. Also, this buff requires you to first have cover to be effective. While that should often be the case, it won't be always. Verdict: for your dedicated ranged units this is a good buy. For anyone else it's personal choice. Sure, there's some merit to close range units having better cover on the way in, but it might serve them better to fight better when they get there.
FEMORAL Enhancements: adds a +1" boost to all Movement Actions. PROS: cheap, and helps your close range units get into position quicker. Cons: it won't help you fight any better once you get there, and 1" is unlikely to shorten your trip by a whole action point. Verdict: 1 inch might not always make a difference, but it might give you a charge over your opponent or get you to cover instead of being open. Play with it to see if it suits you: I found it didn't, your mileage may vary.
MITOCHONDRIAL INFUSION: +1St in Close combat. Pros: hurt things, and about half the cost of Weapons Overhaul. Models with a RoA of 2 or better (Mirrormen, Attila, Machinators, Scorpion, Voltigeur, literally get double the benefit for the money. Cons: for Chasseurs you're better off adding a model, and for Armored Chasseurs it's questionable at best. Verdict: situationally awesome or unnecessary. If you have the points to spend to make hammers, the fact that this stacks with Weapons Overhaul & unit upgrades can be deadly: heat sword mirrormen with St14 swings and St18 Machinators are no joke.
MYELIN IRONISATION: +1 Wp. Pros: cheap, stacks with Resistance to Dark Symmetry. Cons: if the +4 wasn't enough, +5 probably won't do it either. Verdict: if you know you're going to be playing against Dark Legion or Brotherhood ("the other Dark Legion") a lot, it could be beneficial. Especially against Brotherhood where we have no bonus...but honestly our Willpower is pretty high to begin with.
OPTICAL ENHANCEMENT: +1 RS. For half the cost of Sonicator Receptor Array. Pros: stacks with Sonicator if you wanted the +3 RS to make sure you never miss, or with the Weapons Cyber-Link for a +1 always, +4 when aiming bonus. Cons: this one is pricey for medium and larger bases, and not cost effective for smaller ones. Verdict: Chasseurs (regular or armored) are better off mathematically adding a bloke. Aside from possibly the Attila, Scorpion, and EDD, everything else should get stuck in. Math just isn't in this guy's favor.
QUADRIPLEGIC RETRO-ENHANCEMENT: Free Jump range is increased by one. Pros: cheap. Cons: make sure the one inch makes a difference. Verdict: if your table's terrain can be safely free jumped with one more inch, this can be very useful. Small models would now have 2", mediums 3", and large 4". Know your expected terrain, or you might be buying something that either has no increased effect, or worse yet something you didn't need due to sufficient jumping range already. (Ps- if your table is that vertical, please invite me over! I'd love to play on that!)
SONICATOR RECEPTOR SYSTEM: +2 to RS. Pros: almost like getting a free action per model since it's the same RS bonus as aiming. Cons: small models only , and cost prohibitive. Verdict: Math says you're better off adding more Chasseurs than taking this. Armored Chasseurs it's a push. much like Optical Enhancement, everything else should be trying to get stuck in that can take it. Your best reason for spending on it is if you're maxxed out on weapons you can't duplicate just by adding a couple bodies: PR400s, TSW4000s, and SSW5500s.
STEEL SKIN: +1 armor Pros: arguably the same benefit as Cell Neogenesis Acceleration, for roughly half the cost. Cons: unlikely to cause any major changes. Verdict: for Chasseurs of either flavor, the net result is identical to just buying more models. Slightly worse than that for Mirrormen. It's probably best utilized for lords and small units like Attilas who cannot simply deploy more models.
STINGER-IMPANT SYSTEM: this one breaks the pattern. It's a one-shot short-range or close combat booster. Zero action points for a St13 AVV 0 attack. Pros: this is the "ace in the sleeve" that might turn a critical pivot point when all else fails. Cons: points spent on a one-use device are points that can't interact with the rest of the game. Verdict: if you have the unspent points and can't drop them anywhere else, make sure you take it. It's not quite reliable enough to be must-have, but guaranteed to not be less effective than not spending the points.
SYNTH-BLOOD TRANSFUSION: +1 to Con. Pros: cheap and makes your models more "reliable". Cons: Con won't come into play very much. Verdict: kinda like Myelin Ironisation, this one is a must have if you're finding your regular opponent targets Con all the time, and unnecessary if it's not a major component in your local meta.
WEAPON CYBER-LINK: +1 to RS during aim actions only. Pros: as it's dirt cheap, you may be able to buy it with leftover points. Cons: it's only effective when you aim- if you're concerned about RS, you're probably concerned all the time. Verdict: I think this one comes in nicely for a unit you're expecting to fire base with: sit them in cover, and let them aim & shoot every turn. Aside from that, I think you only pick this up with "spare" points, and even then they might be better spent elsewhere.
WEAPONS OVERHAUL: The St of the unit's weapons (ranged and melee) are increased by one. Pros: one of the few enhancements that is likely to see use from every model, every turn. It also stacks with Mitochondrial Infusion to make great CC hammers. Cons: its cost prohibitive: in Chassuers of both flavors you're better off adding models- even if only very slightly. Verdict: Where you really need it, this is good. In units expecting to engage both in ranged and melee combat, it's a good buy. Across an entire army though it's unproductive.
XLR8 MENINGINAL ASPIRATION: Makes a unit "Fearless." Pros: just what it says on the tin. Cons: it's a pretty hefty cost to avoid a special skill you may not see. Verdict: This one will be dependent on your local meta. If you gaming group sees lots of Fear builds, this will be invaluable. If not, it probably won't matter. At the tourney level, it's probably worth it to have one unit with this to tar pit a fearcauser, because I expect you'll see a lot of them at that level.
So, what's my overall opinion? I think these are a lot better game balanced than I expected. Which means while they're unlikely to turn a game, they do allow you to do many other things. Since there's little in the way of "clear winners" or "avoid at all costs" enhancements, they allow you to thematically tailor your force to suit your needs and play style without compromising efficiency. (Cybertronic should never compromise efficiency- it's unfluffy to do so!) additionally, it they will allow you to "stretch" your force: your buddy wants to play 200 points above what you have models for? Add in 200 points of enhancements without compromising the structural integrity of your list. All in all, while part of me was hoping for a definitive edge (and it's marginally there in boosting characters and heavy gunners), these enhancements are smartly balanced and will not grossly impact the game either way. Used with finesse they will allow a tinkerer to eek out a slight improved performance, but they're not gamebreaking.
Hope you enjoyed this Special Skills review, there's a bunch more coming. See anything I missed? Have questions or comments? Drop them down below! Good luck with your list building, and I'll see you on the other side of the table. Also, please feel free to examine our Mishima review as well.
The Second Class Elitist