Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Humble Thorakitai FO

The Thorakitai Forward Observer (FO, for short) is probably the best unit in Steel Phalanx - possibly even in Aleph as a whole.

Yes, in a faction with ODD-equipped Heavy Rocket Launcher wielding lunatics, Ballistic Skill 20 Snipers, four-armed murder TAGs and even Achilles himself, this simple 13 point model is unrivalled in value and stands out as a pinnacle of efficiency.

This is a bold claim I know, but one that I think I can back up. So let's take a detailed look at the profile and see if I can really justify this bold claim.

Thorakitai - the real heroes of the Human Sphere!

Thorakitai Overview

First we need to understand how Thorakitai fit into the army as a whole.

They are Guards in the purest sense of the word and their basic job is to sit at the back of your army, provide a regular order for as long as possible and dissuade enemy attacks. They come as standard with 360 Visors, template weapons and 3 armour (and Flash Grenades, I guess) so they are fully kitted out as defensive powerhouses. In this role they are peerless in Aleph.

In fact, they are the only proper Guards in the army. Dakinis, the other 'cheap' option, are much more aggressive with their mimetism, fast movement, lack of armour and inability to go prone. Chain Rifle Myrmidons, who are the only other possibility, are more expensive, can't suppressive fire and only have a Pistol that can attack beyond template range. No competition here.

Thorakitai SMGs are ridiculously good when in suppressive fire. Their 360 Visor means that it cannot be broken by attacking them from behind, their short range is mitigated by the new brackets and they benefit from AP or Shock ammo when compared with many other weapons. Not only that, but they are a formidable ARM 6 in cover. Really excellent stuff.

To top it off, their template weapons can be used to hold the flanks against AD troops and shut down pesky ninjas. This also gives them a powerful tool when you are going second and can't set up suppression before you are attacked.

While they do suffer from the changes to Frenzy, their ability to form links should almost completely mitigate this in Steel Phalanx. Even unlinked it shouldn't come up often enough to be a concern as they aren't really there to kill stuff and if they become Impetuous then they have already done their job by seeing off an attack. Don't forget that they only become regular Impetuous so aren't obliged to make use of the order - unless you want that extra 6" to get closer to an objective of course!

Sounds okay so far right? But what if I told you it got better?

The Thorakitai Forward Observer

13 points - Submachine Gun, Chain Rifle, Flash Pulse, Flash Grenades, Pistol

So, onto the good stuff. You may notice that the load-out is almost identical to the Paramedic except that you get Forward Observer/Flash Pulse instead of Paramedic/Medikit.

The Flash Pulse is a big part of why this model is so strong. Between it and the SMG you will be hitting out to 24" at +3 and out to 48" at -3. Overall, this is one of the better range profiles in the game.

Flash Pulse has, unsurprisingly, Flash ammunition. This allows you to render even the biggest, baddest target completely helpless, at least for a turn. A single good Flash hit will stun a target leaving it unable to attack and force it to take a penalty on all rolls. There aren't many weapons that will stop a rampaging TAG outright, but this is one of them. Don't forget you get to fire with Burst 2 in a link!

You also have the ability to complete the Telemetry and HVT: Designation classified objectives. Telemetry is the easiest Classified Objective in the game that actually requires a specialist. It can be completed in a single order and from 96" away from the target (who is hopefully unconscious and unable to return fire) and in contrast with Test Run and Experimental Drug you can retry indefinitely if you fail.

Every now and again you may even Forward Observe an actual enemy. Being able to accurately attack with guided/speculative weapons is pretty handy and don't forget you have Burst 3 in a link. They could even be used to power a Samekh missile launcher!

Thorakitai give us the cheapest specialists in the faction and are great for missions such as Seize the Antenna, Antenna Field and Transmission Matrix where there are objectives that you need to take and hold on or near your Deployment Zone edge.

However, The humble Forward Observer is the only Thorakitai Specialist I'd take in a vanilla list. Both the Paramedic and Engineer are outclassed by the Posthuman Proxy 1 and the Sophotect whereas the FO has a lot less to contend with. The Daleth? Possibly. The Dasyu at almost three times the cost? Not even comparable.

Yep, you get all this value on an already excellent model for just one point more than the basic profile!

Not a Thorakitai but the recently revealed Scylla, Steel Phalanx's NCO - Corvus Belli

Other Profiles

Apparently there are other equipment options for the Thorakitai. So I've decided to write a few, broadly dismissive, words about them.

Submachine Gun: Bad, bad, bad. There is no reason not to take the Forward Observer option unless you are desperately short on points. There is nowhere else in the faction where a single point will buy you so much utility.

Combi Rifle: Not the cheapest, not a specialist, not a 'big gun'. Nothing to see here.

Light Rocket Launcher: Best used from inside a link, and even then not as versatile as Thrasymedes. Still, cheap at least.

Spitfire: Like Alke, but worse. Paying 4 points for +1CC, +1BS, +1WIP, +3BTS, Courage and the ability to form links and feign being a Lieutenant seems very much worthwhile.

Engineer: Can in theory complete Sabotage, Test Run and HVT: RetroEngineering but in practice never will. This is especially true now that you can just substitute in Secure HVT whenever you need to. It could potentially see use in remote-heavy Aleph, but then you can just buy a Dactyl, Sophotect or Proxy 1 instead and do it properly.

Medikit: The Paramedic isn't far behind the forward observer in terms of usefulness now, but probably only in Steel Phalanx. Fairly rubbish in vanilla Aleph though.

Being able to heal on the go is important and a 40% success rate on other Thorakitai isn't awful by any means. Armed with a 'love gun' and a discount price tag, I'd certainly consider a Paramedic in my links when I can't take a Chandra Doctor.


So here is what you get for your points:
  • A regular order
  • Great corner-guard
  • Solid offensive abilities (BS 12, PH 11, WIP 13)
  • Hard to kill with ARM 6 in cover
  • Suppressive fire with 360 degree vision and AP or Shock ammo
  • Excellent range brackets with variety of useful ammo/weapons
  • Burst 2 template weapons when linked
  • Specialist
  • Can complete assigned Classifieds from a distance

I hope this is enough to convince you about the greatness of the oft-overlooked soldier, and next time you have a thirteen point hole in your list you'll know how to fill it!

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