Thursday 19 February 2015

Command Tokens 101

If you played N2 at all then you may know that, back in the day, Lieutenant Orders had a variety of extra uses (forming link teams, auto-passing Guts rolls etc.) beyond just moving your LT and getting him or her shot. However these functions and many others are instead now covered by the new resource in the game - the Command Token.

Each army, regardless of points level, starts the game with 4 Command Tokens, although some characters like Sun Tze provide a 5th using the Advanced Command skill. These are a non-replenishing resource - once used they are gone - so be careful with them. On the other hand you don't want to be left with a pile unspent at the end of the game either.

In every game of N3 I've played so far these have been very important, so I think it's worth talking about them a little bit. I'm going to try and give a description of what their different uses are and how to make the most of them.

Again this is a 'game theory' article so enjoy some pretty concept artwork by Corvus Belli rather than my usual photos.

Sun Tze - 25% more commanding than everyone else

Before we get started I think it's a good time to bring up the idea of Return on Investment, or ROI for short. What is ROI you ask?

"A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments." -

In our case the different investments are the different ways we can spend our Command Tokens. I'll be measuring the efficiency of these investments in terms of how many Orders worth of value they provide.

This value can be created in many different ways, such as by denying Orders to your opponent, allowing you to move additional troops, or keeping your troops alive so they can generate more Orders in the future and so that your opponent must expend additional resources on killing them.

A high Return on Investment means that you are getting excellent value for your Command Token whereas a low ROI means that you may be better off spending it on something else.

Basically it's how much bang we get for our buck. Hopefully this will all make sense as you read on!

Strategic Uses

Custom Tokens designed by poodleswithguns on the official forums.

Strategic Uses are designed to reduce the advantage that the first player to move has. In the majority of games the second player will not have their full order pool to work with and it seems only fair to even that out a bit.

If you are taking the second turn then you can spend a single Command Token on one of the below options. This is done at the start of the first player's first turn before they spend any Orders.

Reduce Order Pool

Return on Investment: 3

Action: Remove two Regular Orders from the opponent's Order Pool for the duration of the first game turn. This can be taken from any Combat Group or Groups.

Reasoning: The ROI on this option seems like it should be two, accounting for the orders you remove from your opponent's pool. However it is actually slightly more as you also gain value from any Troopers that your opponent would have killed with those two Orders. Those Troopers that survive can now go on to generate Orders for you and kill enemy units. In practice, this probably works out to an extra point of ROI or so.

This option is probably best used against armies that are highly elite, have a lot of Irregular Orders or have a powerful unit such as a TAG as it reduces the maximum Orders that a single model can receive. Alternatively, it can be used to seriously hamper a second smaller Combat Group on the first turn.

Limit Command Tokens

Return on Investment: 2

Action: Prevent the opponent from spending more than one Command Token during their own first turn.

Reasoning: This is tough as it all boils down to how much damage your opponent will do if he can spend all his Command Tokens that turn - or even if he was inclined to do so. It's safe to say that this option exists solely to reduce the power of Coordinated Orders in the opening turn as that's likely the only thing those Command Tokens will be used for that early.

I'd probably be inclined to use this against 'horde' lists where reducing them by two Orders would be fairly negligible. It will stop them using multiple Coordinated Orders to put all their cheap troops into Suppressive Fire straight away. With horde lists many of the cheaper troops won't be acting much, if at all, during the game and so want to be on Suppressive Fire as soon as possible because it persists between turns.

I've given it a notional value of two, but I'm not sure that's right at the moment and I'd welcome discussion on it. It seems like this option would push an opponent towards Ramboing (the act of piling lots of Orders into a single powerful model) whereas reducing their Order Pool would push someone towards distributing their Orders more widely by coordinating several models.

Tactical Uses

When in doubt about your tactical options, just bring a bigger gun.

During the game you may spend Command Tokens for any of these special abilities. There is no limit to how many Command tokens you can spend during a turn - unless you are affected by the 'Limited Command Tokens' effect.

Form Link Team

Return on Investment: 5

Action: You may form a Link Team during your Active turn by spending a Command Token. The Link Team must follow all normal rules and a Link Leader must be designated.

Reasoning: If you have a Link Team that is broken then you almost certainly want to fix it. The extra firepower, resilience and movement efficiency you receive is unparalleled.

This receives the highest ROI that I'm willing to grant as having an operational Link is the major perk of running a Sectorial. If you don't have one active then you are likely handicapping yourself. Every order you spend on a Link Team, as long as they are actually doing something useful, represents huge amounts of free value.

Move Between Combat Groups

Return on Investment: 2

Action: You may move a Trooper from one Combat Group to another permanently. This can only be done during the start of your Turn before you count up your available Orders.

Note that, unless this is subsequently FAQ'd, you can only move a model into a Combat Group that has spare space in it. If it had a full 10 Troopers in it then one of those will need to have died (or been moved out) to make room. A Trooper being unconscious is not sufficient.

Reasoning: I've seen some interesting ideas about having AI Beacons or AD/Hidden Deployment Troops sitting in a second combat group waiting to be moved over to the primary Combat Group once a casualty has been sustained. Another use could be moving a Specialist, or other key Trooper, to a Combat Group that has more available Orders.

Fundamentally though, you are just moving Orders around and often not really gaining anything. It's going to have niche applications but I'd never keep a Command Token back on the off-chance I'd want to use it for this.

In fairly ideal circumstances, where you can do this early and the Second Combat Group won't miss the order, this could have an ROI of 2 or even 3 at an extreme. However this would likely require some concession in terms of list building with cheap orders in the form of AI Beacons (Netrods/Imetrons) or corner guards (Volunteers/Naffatun etc.) which are stored in a second combat group ready to move over.

Cancel Possessed State

Return on Investment: 4

Action: Hackers can take control of TAGs you control using Possession. This is a bad thing. You can cancel the Possession effect by spending a Command Token at the start of your turn before Orders are counted.

Reasoning: If you have a TAG then you probably want to use it and the last thing that you want is to spend Orders shooting your own side, or to let your opponent go nuts with a TAG that's already in your own lines. In the final turn it could probably be ignored if the TAG isn't inhibiting your ability to claim Victory Points though.

On anything but the last turn of the game this is probably a near mandatory use of a Command Token. Just suck it up and be more careful around Hackers next time!

Guts Roll

Return on Investment: 1

Action: You can choose to Pass or Fail a Guts Roll regardless of the outcome of the die roll or any special skills that the unit might have.

Reasoning: This can occasionally be used to save a unit (Morats) or to continue threatening the enemy (everyone else) and is particularly useful if you need to maintain Suppressive Fire.

Transform Irregular Order

Return on Investment: 1

Action: For one Player Turn only, change an Irregular Order in your Order Pool into a Regular one. Note that when in Loss of Lieutenant/Retreat, all your models are considered Irregular for the turn (with exceptions for Veterans and Religious Troops). Command Tokens can be a good way to get things done despite the disarray.

Reasoning: This is really the simplest one; you get to use that Irregular Order somewhere useful. This option is occasionally useful, but rarely the best use for a Command Token.

I've also seen it used on the order that was left behind by Impetuous/Irregular model dying on its Impetuous move.

Ignore Retreat

Return on Investment: 1

Action: Have one Trooper be unaffected by the Retreat state until the end of the game. Note that most games will still finish at the end of a player's turn if they started that turn in Retreat.

Reasoning: Your army is still going to be Irregular by and large, so you won't get much use out of that Trooper. It'll be a rare game where this is the turning point.

The biggest problem with this skill is that if your opponent has put you into Retreat before you've had a chance to burn through your Command Tokens then something has probably gone very, very wrong already.

Doctor/Engineer Re-Roll

Return on Investment: 2

Action:  Re-roll a failed Doctor roll when attempting to heal a Trooper that has a Cube or re-roll a failed Engineer roll when attempting to repair a Trooper that has the Ghost special

Reasoning: If used on a key model then this could easily provide a ROI of 2. That model might well continue to provide Orders on future turns, it might cause casualties to the enemy and it will take Orders from your opponent to kill again. It would have a ROI of 3 if a successful roll was guaranteed.

Not only that, but if you've spent at least an Order and possibly more on the attempt to heal the model then failing would mean that those Orders would be wasted. Although this may come across like a gambler's fallacy, I do think you might as well salvage the situation with a Command Token especially if you have a high base WIP.

As an aside, this gives a WIP 14 Haqqislam Doctor Plus unit a 97.75% change of passing a Doctor check when including one re-roll. That's as close to a sure thing as you get in this game. Shame it doesn't work on MediKits, AutoMediKits or Regeneration though.

Best held back for armies that have middling Willpower (13 or 14) as it's fairly likely you'll eventually fail a roll and then will have a decent chance of passing the re-roll. I wouldn't want to spend a Command Token on a Trauma Doc (60% success rate) for instance. Nor would I hold back a Command Token on the off-chance that my Ghulam (85% success rate) actually fails.

Coordinated Orders

Everyone favourite Scot - Isobel McGregor. Complete with strategic tartan.

Return on Investment: 3

Action: A Coordinated Order involves between 2 and 4 troopers who all get to act simultaneously. They must all have the same training (Regular/Irregular) and must all declare and execute the same sequence of skills. One model must be designated as the 'Spearhead' and is considered the leader of the Coordinated Order.

The Spearhead has the Burst of his weapon halved and all other participants count as Burst 1 for the duration of the order (Missile Launchers are pretty good for this). All troopers must act against the same target - so no splitting up to attack different models.

In the same way, all models must activate the same objective, throw smoke at the same point on the table and so on. The exception to this is with Mines which may be placed freely.

Troopers that participate in a Coordinated Order only provoke a single ARO from each enemy that could see any number of them. Reactive models may use their AROs against any member of the Coordinated Order that they could normally react against.

In Close Combat, only the Spearhead gets to fight but gets +1 Burst and +1 PH for each other Coordinated model in the combat.

Reasoning: Coordinated Orders are at their best when you don't need to be shooting, or you are shooting Burst 1 weapons and/or through Nimbus Zones. In ideal circumstances you simply get four Orders for the price of one.

Uses for Coordinated Orders

Finally, I'd like to mention some of the common uses we've found for Coordinated Orders. This is far from exhaustive.

1. Move-Moving with 4 models at the same time. It's a very efficient way to reposition a lot of your forces quickly.

2. Flanking or overrunning tough targets like TAGs. If you can get multiple models (preferably with high power weapons like Sniper Rifles and Missile/Rocket Launchers) to Coordinated Order against a single tough unit then it will be forced to Dodge or to eat lots of unopposed attacks.

3. Suppressive Fire. You get to put up to four models into Suppressive Fire for the low cost of a single Order plus Command Token. It is a great, cheap way of setting up defensive positions at the end of your turn.

4. Okay, well this isn't going to a common use but it is funny. You can have up to four models speculatively throw Grenades at the same target. Bonus points if you marked the target with a Forward Observer first. Bombs away!


So what have we learned?

It seems that if you want to make the most of your Command Tokens then you want to use them for Strategic purposes and Coordinated Orders only where possible. Ideally you'll want to spend them all in the first turn or two of the game when you have the largest number of options.

If you have a TAG or a Sectorial list then you likely want to reserve one to cancel Possession or reform a Link. You may also wish to keep one back for re-rolling Engineer/Doctor rolls, especially on missions where controlling table areas is important.

Right, well that's about everything I have to say on these, so thank you for reading this far and I hope you've found some of this interesting and/or useful!

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