Squad Upgrades: Should I or Shouldn’t I?
A question that’s frequently aired is whether – or how to – upgrade individual squads with their weapon options. Here, experienced Antares player Geordie Irvin goes through some of the decision-making process that might help with this tricky decision!
Geordie: How many upgrades can you afford before they start to cut into the overall effectiveness of your army? It’s an age old question in wargaming, and I’ll try to break down how it applies in Beyond the Gates of Antares.
The short of it is that not all upgrades are created equal. Some are always good, some are occasionally useful, and others are very situational. If you are focusing on building an effective list for the points available, you want to focus on upgrades that are most commonly useful, which augment what you EXPECT your units to be doing. Trying to build super units for every occasion will quickly fill up your allowance and leave you at a disadvantage against a more specialised army.
So, without further ado, these are some of the most useful upgrades to take.
Any unit or support team that has powerful or useful single shot weapons should take a spotter if they have access to one. Being able to reroll that Lance or X-sling can make a huge difference in a units output. And there’s nothing worse than having your Plasma Cannon fluff its roll.
Special mention should be made for overhead fire weapons. They are the only weapons in the game that allow the units’ Spotter drone to poke out of cover to get Line Of Sight for them. So they should always have one for that reason alone. It also allows them to patch sight to other units within 20” to get Line Of Sight easier as well.
If you have a strategic choice with an overhead weapon, in larger games (1250pts+) it can be useful to get a basic Scout shard to support them. This allows you to get better LOS than you can with just your unit Spotters, as Scout probes can take advantage of vertical terrain and open ground that would be impossible for a unit to traverse. It also makes your opponent work harder to deny LOS as they have to choose to shoot at something (a probe) that isn’t shooting back.
Morale damage in Antares is at least as important as actually killing the enemy, probably more so. A successful hit with sling net will double the pins your unit does to the enemy. This can cripple an enemy unit when fired on successively by multiple sources of sling net. If a squad leader can take slingnet then they don’t need any other weapons unless they come up against a heavily armoured target.
High Strength shots
With the number of light to medium vehicles around (not to mention the ever present Ghar ) your front line squads will want at least some way to do pins to heavily armoured targets. If you are playing Concord or Isorians then your plasma carbines have this covered. But for others this means taking that plasma pistol/carbine on the squad leader or, especially on Algoryn, overload ammo for the Micro-X. Again, it’s worth taking a spotter with such high strength weapons or ammunition.
X-launchers and above can take a large variety of special ammo for all kinds of occasions. Net is an absolute must have to help with the pins game and to shut down big scary things. Scramble is not far behind for taking out armour bonuses and pesky buddy drones. And Grip will ruin someone’s day in an objective match. Once you’ve paid for those three you may as well get the bulk discount and get all the types for the same cost.
Scoot is worth a special mention: if it lands on target (which is likely with a fire order) it can force an enemy unit to waste a dice on a fruitless Run or Down order. This is immensely useful against Ghar vehicles like the Command Crawler, Assault Crawler or Bombardment Crawler, but works just as well on other, non-vehicle units and, importantly, on heavy weapons!
Generally speaking you only want to buy grenades for units that are expecting to get stuck into combat. Squads of 5 or 6 with basic guns aren’t going to get much mileage out of them. You’re better off buying something they want to use, like a spotter. However, a squad of 8 to 12 with grenades can possibly get enough hits to be worth it – and Ghar Outcasts charging with double-shot lugger guns, then plasma grenades can be incredibly fun!
Most units work just fine with small numbers. In general, a large number of smaller squads is more useful than a few big ones because of the way that pins work as well as giving more dice for the draw system. Having said that there are some ways you can boost basic survivability:
- Adding one trooper to make a squad up to 6 instead of 5 can be handy to stave off those often fatal “below half” break tests for a little while longer.
- For Ghar, a squad of 4 suits can also help mitigate the break tests for having pins equal to the number of models in the squad.
- If your squad has access to a camo drone they are always worth it as the enemy has a tendency to shoot back and being invisible any time you are “down” is a huge bonus. This is particularly useful for Isorian Phase snipers.
- Vehicles that have the option for a batter drone should always take at least one. Being able to bring your cover with you is huge and you can often shelter other units behind it as well.
Plasma Amps (Ghar only)
Always, Always, Always take plasma amps. Being able to activate more than once is the most prized ability in the game. Being able to choose the best time to use it is an art you’ll have to learn.
Whilst, strictly speaking, these are not unit upgradees, their effect is to upgrade or provide an advantage to individual units like the unit options/upgrades, so I thought it best to include them here.
Targeter Probe Shards
Though not an individual squad upgrade, Targeters are best seen as an army-wide upgrade to potentially every squad. They can be a massive help to make your shooting more effective for everything else with a gun. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of shots hitting on 9’s knows how dangerous they are. Even if they never reach the enemy the terror of their potential can force the enemy to shoot at them instead of the rest of your army. On top of that they are an extra dice in the bag. Not bad for 20-30pts.
Tectorists (Ghar only)
Like Targeters, Tectorists are best seen as an army-wide upgrade to every squad in the same fashion you might upgrade a squad to include a Spotter drone. The Ghar have very little support for their shooting and tend to hit on 5’s or worse, so being able to reroll those hits is very useful. Especially for those all-important Disruptor shots to supress the enemy. Tectorists are relatively cheap, though weak and often shot at, but are highly recommended – and they add an order dice, too!
All the army options have their uses, but ‘Block!’ and ‘Get Up!’ are the most commonly useful in my opinion. Being able to steal the initiative with a well timed ‘Block!’ is always worth it, and the threat of it can be almost as useful: take as many as you can! Unless you are going extremely well, you will always have at least one unit during the game that needs an extra nudge to get out of a sticky situation, so a single ‘Get Up!’ is handy.
That’s my list of the most useful upgrades to bolster an army in Antares. My armies are Concord, Algoryn, and Ghar, so my experience is based on my games with those armies. But a lot of this should apply to the others as well. Maybe you have your own list of ‘must haves’. By all means weigh in on the discussion on the Antares facebook page or write an article of your own.