Designing an Antares Squad

Accompanying the shift to the rules being maintained by Rick and Tim as a hobby, there has been a growth of personal model’s being used in Antares – especially for Freeborn – and, at time, squad development. To support this, Tim has collated some advice and noted down the fundamental design principles behind V2 which, if adhered to, really help models being able to be played without breaking the game.

It’s worth bearing in mind is that whilst Antares 2 points values have a calculated core, the values for each unit were derived from a comparison during playtesting. This means the units may be a few points more expensive or cheaper than any calculator can work out. We heartily recommend that you follow this advice.

The Basics

The simple approach to designing your own squad is to base it on an existing squad such as Algoryn Vector AI, Freeborn domari or vardanari. Use the basic stats and add in weapons as needed: upgrading to plasma or compression weapons is typically a +1 point shift on a squad whilst a downgrade to mag weapons is around -1pt (this is very rough and ready, though). Generally, for support teams, the comparative costs of weapons can be gained from the options in the lists. Reflex armour is typically a +1pt shift and hyperlight or resharded a 2-pt shift, as can be seen in the Freeborn list. The cost of batter, spotter and medi-buddies can also be taken directly from the lists.

Be aware, though, that core units such as domari and AI Vector troops are already discounted so a special squad should be 10-15% more expensive.

We really recommend using the units in the Freeborn list as a basis for your own designs as it is so flexible and has a trio of useful templates: the domari, the ultra-professional vardanari, and Ferals. Another useful list is possibly the experimental Horde list.

The Antares 2 unit-by-unit selectors are a useful tool, too. The Ghar have a number of potentially cheap units but are restricted from having too many by the selection limits and by battlesuits being mandatory (and their narrative ethos to ignore many of their small units helps!). In fact, it’s worth developing a narrative for your army list, model or squad and adhering to that rather than by just creating an unbeatable squad (which no one likes).

Finally, we’ve mentioned it already, but it is always worth running multiple playtests against different opponents to get the points values right, though.

Fundamental: No MOD 3

Do not have any models who can have three order dice. The only time this *appears* to be broken is with Virai – but their third dice is not a normal order dice but a reprogram dice which can be assigned to another (non-MOD) unit.

This means that plasma amps cannot be given to Ghar vehicles – not that plasma amps can work on Ghar vehicles, anyway.

Why? Because MOD3 units, even Ghar with plasma amps, ended up being devastatingly disappointing and unbalancing to face: the point power application was too great. Point values were notoriously difficult to estimate so were always wrong: either they were too low in many situations (and it was easy to put even Slow MOD 3 units into dangerous positions) or were raised to such a level that they were too expensive. MOD3 units also unbalanced the core dice draw mechanic.

Fundamental: No swarms of cheap units

At the core of Antares is the dice draw mechanic, where each unit gets one dice and is activated when assigned a dice from a random draw. Despite the new points cost for an order dice in Antares 2 (a dice is worth 2 points, if you need to know, which helps flatten the small-unit advantage a little), the draw system can be easily broken if an army is able to take loads of small, cheap units.

If you need to represent a swarm, look at the Virai constructors, Ghar Outcasts or Ferals. Here, the squads can be slightly larger than normal, or expanded further, and a much better visualisation and realisation of a swarm army appears on the table with no need to break the core dice draw mechanic.

Why? With multiple, cheap units representing a swarm army, it was way too easy to just swamp opponents on a piecemeal basis with draw after draw of your own units (especially with Block!) or even design armies that were impossible to beat. It’s one of the technical reasons the Ghar Rebels were rolled back into the Empire: whilst fixing them we noticed it turned them back into a more Ghar Empire focus (a major reason was the story developing and Fartok taking over the Empire).

Fundamental: No more than three attacks

No model should have more than three attacks in hand-to-hand, for the same reasons as MOD3: the point application of force is too great, too easy to game and too easy to upset opponents. If you have a large model that you think should be tough, think: is it really so fast and has such a split focus that it can look in more than three directions at once? The answer is invariably no.

Why? It’s worth bearing in mind that Antares is not a ‘roll loads of dice’ game. We had to adjust the RF penalties because of the way that rolling loads of attack dice unbalances the Res save mechanic, especially for vehicles or larger models.

For a model that is big and tough, and which should have a mean presence in hand-to-hand, look at the Boromite Matronite Broodmother for inspiration. The matronites have a few attacks, but at a high SV and with immense strength – meaning they almost always hit. This means their impact is substantial without being a ‘beat an opponent with one unit’ sort of model. The Frenzy trait (which only applies on beasts, note) may be tempting to downgrade a model, but in practice it is not as much of a drawback as a purely mental exercise might suggest.

Another tip to be taken from the Broodmother is that of carried, smaller creatures in the form of hatchlings. Make sure these are quite weak though, or the unit suddenly inherits the ‘unbeatable’ invisible trait.

We also try to make sure that no model apart from vehicles has more than three ranged attacks for the same reason. This is slightly upset by the mag heavy support and some vehicle/beast weapon systems, but we’ve tried to point these out (stress ‘try’ – the MHS is still a deadly weapon). For normal models, though, the three attacks and three shots rule is a must.

A Brief Summary

It’s worth summarising the critical points:

  • No MOD 3. Ever.
  • No Swarms of cheap units. Ever.
  • No more than three attacks per model in hand-to-hand. Ever.
  • Limit ranged attacks to three on infantry and try and limit it to three plus a tougher shot on vehicles (e.g. a light support weapon and a main weapon).

We’ll add a few more as they occur to us.

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