‘Oh’ is for Overhead fire…

It’s great playing with a variety of opponents because you pick up errors and misunderstandings in the rules, both your own and others. As ever, it’s often due to carry-over from other rulesets, but sometimes its simply due to interpretation. Elsewhere, we’ve mentioned about allocating Res saves from shooting and one of the other areas with a few gotchas in Beyond the Gates of Antares is that of overhead fire. Whilst OH fire uses the same mechanics as normal shooting, it is trying to model a very different type of attack so the detail is slightly different.

OH fire is iused by a range of weapons, too, including the eponymous X-Launcher, the X-Howitzerr, the Mag Mortar and the Micro-X let alone the Ghar Heavy Disruptor Bomber. So, it’s worth looking at overhead (OH) fire in a bit more detail.

OH fire first

In a mixed weapon squad, one with, perhaps, micro-X launchers and mag guns, the overhead fire should be allocated first. Further, for weapons which have two fire modes, such as micro-X launchers, the mode of fire should be stated as it makes a big difference.  There are several reasons for doing so:

  1. In order that hits can be allocated evenly on the target (p.34) – it is, after all, only the first in a volley, and
  2. OH blast hits can hit figures that normally cannot be hit by direct fire.

Algoryn X-Launcher teamHits still have to allocated according to the balanced hits rules and viable target rules (p.30), however, but that second point is really useful for the firing unit.

The firing unit will find it useful because the blast template can be placed over anyone in the target unit (p.34, LHC) as long as the OH shooters have sight to at least one model in the unit. That means that you can target those members of a squad hiding behind the front row (scutters in a Ghar Bomber squad, for example) or the special figures hiding behind an intervening building or rock. It also means you can target the OH fire at some figures and, perhaps, alter the hit distribution in your favour.

However, there is a defensive clawback because that most OH blasts generate a random number of hits (D4, D5, etc). Hits have to be allocated first to figures under the template (p.34, RHC) and only then can they be allocated to other figures in the unit. In other words, hits can be allocated to models not covered by the template providing they are in the same unit. However, the defender still chooses where these hits are allocated, just as normal (except in the standard case of a lucky shot where the attacker can choose where the first of those hits is allocated – but that still has to be under the template). The advantage is that the defender could deliberately allocate a weak blast hit at SV0 to a squad member to limit the possibility of, say, a more direct, SV1 shot having to be allocated to them.

LoS penalties still count

Even though the OH fire is not firing through terrain, accuracy penalties for intervening Obstacles (-1) and Light Terrain (-2) still count. It’s not the trajectory that’s being penalised, but the ability of the shooting unit to pick out opponents in the electronic and nanospheric haze of an Antarean battlefield. So, shooting across an undefended Obstacle still attracts a -1 Acc penalty; shooting across a piece of Light Terrain still incurs a -2 penalty.

And that’s on top of the normal -2 penalty for shooting overhead in the first place.

No Fire bonus

This is easy to forget: the +1 Fire order bonus does not apply to OH fire. Instead, the deviation on a misss is significantly reduced. Missed OH shots do not ‘miss’, per se, but deviate: D5″ with a Fire order, D10″ if shooting with an Advance order…

…and deviations

If an OH shot misses, the deviation range is extended by +1″ for every pin the firing unit has (p.35,LHC). So, not only does the firing unit struggle to land a shot on target by having its Acc reduced by 1 per pin, but if it misses, it iis also likely to miss by a long way.

This is mentioned because it highlights another major gotcha: targeter probes work differently with OH fire. Rather than adding +1 to the shooter’s Accuracy, targeter probes reduce the deviation of OH fire by 1″ per probe (p.36, RHC).

Template twists

Algoryn Mag Mortar
AI Mag Mortar

For double template weapons, once a hit has been determined reposition the basic template, if necessary, and then position the double template. It’s much easier doing it this way, for a start, never mind about the fact that its how the rules indicate it should be done (p.36, LHC).

Whilst we’re here, it’s worth mentioning that for blasts and Net who use the OH template, the target is only actually hit if a portion of the template sits over the centre of a model base. Weapon drones, humungous beasts and vehicles are only hit if the template lands on the body of the model, though players may well have to agree between themselves as to just what is the body – the page 3 rule, again (p.35, LHC top).

…and positioning on a model

An easily lost gotcha is that shots using the blast template have to be positioned and centred over the top of a model in the target unit (p.34); shots using a marker can be placed anywhere that the shooters can see.

Even when shooting blind, it’s the same approach. All that happens, though, is that with blind fire even if you hit by rolling a ‘1’, the template or marker is moved D10 +/- penalties. Don’t forget, though, that when shooting blind, rolls of 2-10 are dud shots, not just the normal ’10’.

And, of course, see our first point above about selecting models the firing unit may not be able to see!

Gotcha, patchya!

Patch sighting seems straightforward. If the firing unit cannot see the target, it can patch through to a scout probe or spotter drone within 20″ who can see the target and use the patched drone’s LoS instead.Patch chaining – patching through a number of drones or probes – is often brought up on the boards, but for clarity and ease of use the rules as written (RAW) do not allow it. Nonetheless, it is an interesting twist for private games but beware as it can significantly boost the effect of overhead fire.

Key, though, is that the patch sighting rule only applies if the OH shooting unit does not have Line of Sight to the target. This means that you cannot patch sight to a friendly scout probe just because you want to avoid the awkward piece of Light terrain stuck in the way (this will be clarified in an errata).

However, when patch sighting measure LoS penalties from the spotter or scout drone to which the OH weapon team’s spotter is patched, not from the shooting team (also to be clarified in the same errata). This means you don’t get a reroll, but it does mean you can fire over the top of the squad in front of, and protecting, your X-launcher.

Of course, you could allow optional, in-house patch sighting rules that allow patching to avoid, say, that Light terrain. The reason for doing so is that, for example, a unit shooting at an Acc of 5, OH (-2) and through Light terrain (-2 Acc) ends up needing a ‘1’. This gives it a 19% chance of being on-target once the spotter’s reroll is included.  The thing is, if the shooting unit could voluntarily patch sight to another spotter than had a clear LoS, it would just hit on a ‘3’ – a 30% chance of being on-target.

It’s a nice thought, though.