The Dronescourge had been thought eradicated rom the reach of the Nexus. But after the ripples of disturbed space time spread from the Xilos catastrophe, it seemed gates have been opened to the past – and the Dronescourge have returned to haunt the galaxy.
Vira are an artificial, drone life form with a complex machine intelligence. They do not call themselves the Virai: it is the rest of the universe that has done so – Viral AI. Even their logo (right) is the warning symbol used by the Antares races to warn of Virai – the stylised top down view of a Virai Warrior drone.
There are three classes of Virai: architector, warrior and constructor.
Architectors are command and sub-commander drones created by each Virai hive’s founder, a ‘First Instance’. The First Instance commands the hive and normally contains the memories of all the architectors who spawned it. The immediate sub-commanders are ‘Second Instances’, high-function architectors who fill security, intelligence, management and command roles. Architectors with more mundane jobs like manufacturing, scavenging or maintenance control are ‘Tertiary Instances’ and are often accompanied by numerous constructor drones.
Though the terms ‘hive’ or ‘swarm’ are sometimes used for a settled group of Virai, any of the Second Instance architectors can found a new swarm and, indeed, many are sent out to do just that. They are equipped with the memories of their First Instance kept in a secure data-storage vault, ready for implantation in the new First Instance (a NuFirst). More detail of NuFirsts can be discovered in the Nexus article NuFirst Instances and establishing a hive.
Warrior drones are strong, well-armed and heavily armoured and are intended to have a dual-purpose heavy lifting and defensive role. They are occasionally specialised into purely militaristic drones with combat heuristics and stronger armour and actuators, but at the cost of some agility.
Constructor Virai are multi-limbed workers, scouts, miners or engineers, dependent on the task they have been created to perform. Though poorly armoured and equipped compared with the warriors, their tools and manipulator appendages can still be lethal in close combat. Some scavenging constructors carry equipment equivalent to Tractor Mauls and the heavy, fractal mining tools used elsewhere in Antarean space.
Virai also construct more militaristic drones in the form of Weapon drones, armed with a heavy array of fusion flamers, and small, specialised STAA probes (shared target acquisition algorithms). STAA probes transmit targeting data to the rest of the hive to enhance to chance of an attack hitting home.
See The Dronescourge Returns for more detail on the Virai Dronescourge. Free Online Army Lists will be available from this central Nexus article.
Military – on the table
The Virai Dronescourge are heavily reliant on their commander drones – the architectors – and on swarming opponents with their constructors. There are articles on their weapons: Virai manipulator tools and Virai weapons and equipment and Virai Manipulator Tools.
Virai attempt to reuse the equipment they come across. The more technologically advanced equipment relying on a nanosphere is useless in their hands but lower technology equipment, such as mag weaponry, is often reusable. They regard the combat-focused use of lighter weaponry as pointless, however, so only use scavenged mid-range or heavier weapons, and will also make use of repurposed and adapted, nanosphere-free or nanosphere–stripped vehicles. These scavenged weapons and equipment can be found in the lists below.
Whilst ordinary squads of Virai have no leaders so have no Leader rerolls, their architectors can grant nearby units such rerolls through their Repair Swarms – mobs of virtually mindless, miniature robots who repair any Virai nearby (and that’s any Virai, even enemy Virai units!). Architectors can also Reprogram other Virai on the fly, resetting any confusion in their combat algorithms or allowing them to cope witih current damage, or even Overlocking their internal processors and power plants so that the units gain a temporary boost.
Virai First Instances are too distrustful of naturally-evolving, intelligent creatures (biologics) so do not ally with any panhumans or the Vorl. They may, on occasion, ally with all-drone forces or with the Ghar Empire if it furthers their own, long-term goals. Even then, the Virai can only operate along the lines of the ‘Friends & Foes’ rules in The Battle for Xilos (p.65). However, a Virai force acting as an ally will never swap a dice when the swap would directly harm, risk or interfere with its operation in some way and a Virai force with less dice than their allies never shares its order dice.
The Virai regard the Boromite presence in asteroids or in mines as a parasitical infestation. In turn, Boromites regard the Virai as technological invaders into a domain for which they were genetically tailored. Boromites and Virai should always be regarded as enemies.
(Most are available in the Starter Swarm)
(not yet available)
Deep Mining teams – Scavenged Hauler –
How do the Virai play?
For an opponent, a Virai force can look dangerous due to the potential number of swarms and the number of MOD2 units. However, this apparent strength is an illusion as the Virai’s ordinary combat troops and drones have a maximum Command (Co) of 7 and their constructors have a Co of 6. Further their Initiative (Init) is abysmal, at 5 for warriors and weapon drones and 4 for constructors. This means that the force struggles to react to their opponents’ actions and lacking Leader rerolls are more vulnerable to damage. If isolated, the core troops are easier to pin out or damage than, say, an equivalent Concord or Isorian unit.
As a result, Virai are highly dependent on their architectors for command, control, resilience and reactions. The architectors’ Repair Swarms grant the necessary Leader rerolls and their better Co stat and Command ability helps bolster the weak Co of the lesser drones. The Secondary Instances also have reasonable Initiative and the Follow ability, allowing them to partially compensate for the lack of capability in their servant drones. Without such command elements, the Virai drones can be hard-hitters, but brittle, and opponents often target the architectors to reduce their effectiveness. Luckily, architectors are fairly tough and have their own damage chart, and have the crucial ability to ‘donate’ their MOD dice to nearby units to ‘Reset’ them and remove pins or to ‘Overclock’ them and allow them to act in a fashion similar to a MOD unit for a turn.
An opponent is advised to isolate individual Virai units to make them vulnerable, or to initially concentrate on the architectors or weapon drones. Unsurprisingly, to be successful a Virai player has to ensure these are well protected. However, an opponent who fails to deal with the architectors quickly cna be overwhelmed by the swarms of constructors – who can be deadly at close range – or by the hard-hitting assault and weapon drones. Key to success for a Virai player, is a careful balance of units – architector, warrior and swarming constructors – and the judicious use of timing in the application of STAA target ‘paints’.
The Complete Dronescourge
Plenty of Virai articles and background for The Dronescourge Returns can be found in a single, overarching article: The Complete Dronescourge.
Virai are defined in the narrative campaign supplement outlining their return to Antarean space: The Dronescourge Returns. The store has a flexible Starter Swarm, with more detail on it in a short article on the Nexus.
Click here for the main Virai collection in store, with clear acrylic bases as well as all the Virai options.