As part of this group you have three mercenary Hackers - Cypher, BIT & KISS! and Switch whose services you can hire. I'll be going through each in turn to see how they might affect army building and the game in general.
If you haven't already seen the news, then you can find all their profiles on the official ARMY Builder and in the ITS rules PDF.
So let's look at each of the characters in turn.
Cypher is weird. Weird is a word that I think I'm going to come back to a lot during this review actually.
He (or she) is rocking a decent profile with good PH, WIP, ARM and BTS but is completely lacking any lethal weaponry, or indeed much ranged weaponry at all. Having said that, two E/Marats plus E/Maulers are terrifying to anyone who wants to get up close and they don't rely on his paltry BS score.
E/Marats are effectively Chain Rifles that fire E/M ammo, and he's got two of them so they fire at Burst 2. E/Maulers are effectively Mines that use E/M ammo. Non-lethal weapons that hit BTS are going to be a recurring theme here.
As a backup weapon he's got a Stun Pistol which forces two BTS saves and leaves targets in the Stunned state, completely prohibiting them from declaring attacks (including taking most objectives) for the rest of the turn. At BS10 this is an underwhelming prospect as even with Mimetism you'll likely be using one of your other weapons or Dodging instead.
Assault Hacking Devices are the best at dealing with TAGs, HI and REMs - offering excellent programs for inflicting the Immobilised-1, Possessed and Isolated states. Let's not forget that he also acts as a specialist and an affordable hacker for the purpose of including REMs in your lists.
Mimetism is always a nice skill to have, but feels rather out of place on a troop which isn't going to be engaging in many face-to-face rolls. Possibly it's useful if you are opposing a BS attack using a hacking attempt, but that's pretty niche and you should likely be using your E/Marat(s) instead.
Repeater is a nice skill for any Hacker to have, allowing any other Hackers in your force to back him up in ARO and dissuade other hackers from attacking him.
Cypher is certainly a significant threat, but only if he gets within Direct Template/Hacking range. Within this narrow band however he's a one-stop shop of HI/TAG/REM wrecking and acts as a significant deterrent to TAG rushes or HI links such as Domaru or Karakuri. Being able to immobilise a target from out of LoF and then step out of cover to knock them out with two auto-hitting templates is a powerful ability. He also decimates Fireteams if he can get more than a couple of members under the template.
As a pure hacker he's largely outclassed by regular line infantry options such as the Fusilier Hacker for 18pts or Assault Hacking skirmishers such as Zeros for 24pts. You need to have a plan for using his suite of E/M weapons to make him worthwhile as otherwise 19pts for an Irregular trooper that can't use suppressive fire is just a bit too expensive. Having a scary, auto-hitting weapon is unique in the group however so he certainly has his niche.
I could certainly imagine taking him in my standard USAriadna lists which otherwise lack the ability to deal with significant amounts of armour as he definitely brings something different to the faction. If placed carefully then he'll be almost impossible to kill without eating an E/Marat template so he is fairly likely to effectively trade for whoever attacks him. He doesn't pay an additional 0.5SWC tax like the Wardriver either.
So if all you want to do is keep enemy HI and TAGs out of your half of your table, then Cypher is the man for the job! You'll want to control his engagements carefully as you don't want to end up trading him off for a cheap Chain Rifle warband or have him picked off from a distance.
It's interesting to note that not having Impetuous actually feels like a downside on this profile, but at least his Irregular order won't go to waste as you'll happily move him up-field and drop E/Maulers every turn.
For those that need a quick recap, a failed save against E/M ammo has two main effects:
1. The target enters the Isolated state meaning that:
- They are effectively cut off from the rest of the order pool. They cannot spend any further orders that turn, they cannot receive further orders from the order pool and they become Irregular.
- All their Comms Equipment (such as Hacking Devices) switch off.
- If they are the Lieutenant then the army will be in Loss of Lieutenant next turn if the state is not cancelled (Chain of Command not withstanding).
- If they are in a Fireteam then they immediately drop out and if they are the leader then the Fireteam is broken.
Isolated sucks and it can only be cancelled by an Engineer. It's probably the worst condition to have, short of being Null or Immobilised-2...
2. If the target is a HI, TAG or REM then they enter the Immobilsed-2 state meaning that:
- They can basically only use the Discover, Reset, Regeneration, Sensor and AutoMediKit skills.
Immobilised-2 also sucks. Again, this state can only be cancelled by an Engineer.
Any Heavy Infantry, Tag or Remote that fails its save is completely wrecked. Apart from contesting table areas or making occasional Discover checks they are all but useless until an Engineer gets to them. If you want to terrify HI links then this is definitely the way to do it.
Don't forget that E/M halves the target's BTS value so even BTS9 TAGs are failing on a 1-8 and are going to be hit twice so only have a 36% chance of saving both.
BIT and KISS!
|BIT and KISS!|
Oh man, these characters are a veritable treasure trove of weird equipment. As a point of interest, I really like the thumbprint logo and the security connotations it has. Fits the character really well.
BIT is clearly set to be an un-hackable hacker. The White Hacking Device gives access to Counterstrike and Zero Pain which both make trying to hack her very difficult and she's got a whopping BTS of 6. Unfortunately she can't really accomplish much by herself due to having nearly no offensive capability.
Stun Light Grenade Launchers are potentially interesting weapons for breaking up concentrations of enemy troops and suppressive fire due to forcing two BTS saves. Unfortunately it isn't very accurate as she'll likely be firing on BS7 after mods and even then only within a narrow range band. Still, it's something to take a punt with if you have nothing else to do.
FastPandas are one-use deployable repeaters that appear up to 8" from the Hacker using them. They are potentially a good way of setting up a defensive hacking perimeter and Nomad players are likely to be familiar with them already. Unfortunately BIT can't make good use of the Hacking area herself so you really want to deploy her in a list with other hackers.
BIT has a lot of 'unfortunately's. She needs to be slotted into an appropriate list, or have a list built around her, to get maximum benefit.
KISS!, her personal G:Synch REM is an interesting troop. Carrying a Repeater it combos well with the Fast Panda to provide Hacking coverage. Move+Deploy FastPanda is a way of quickly spreading your hacking influence across the table for a single order and you shouldn't underestimate how annoying a 6-4 MOV Repeater can be.
The Adhesive Launcher is a fair defensive weapon that can threaten even the toughest enemies with a lucky crit. There's the possibility of attacking enemies with both the Stun Grenade Launcher and Adhesive Launcher in the same order to force them into a difficult decision, but there's a fair chance it will result in the death of BIT for no gain. It's far more likely to see KISS! used as an ARO piece instead.
Adhesive Launchers are also great for shooting at enemies who you've previously immobilised via another Hacker using KISS!'s Repeater.
I would expect to see her fielded moderately often as she's cheap, carries an unusual Hacking Device and will likely have something useful to do with her Irregular order every single turn.
She's a great support character and I can see her used in many lists as support for HI links and TAGs. She seems a natural fit for a second, smaller combat group alongside Total Reaction Remotes, Bounty Hunters, Warcors and so on.
She can happily spend her Irregular order each turn setting up Fairy Dust (granting all your HI firewall mods) or Controlled Jump to help your Combat Jump troops. She also provides resistance to Guided ammo, Possession and Combat Jump. It's just a shame that she can't use Enhanced Reaction or Assisted Fire
In particular, Yu Jing may utilise her services quite often to prop up their numerous HI and expand the influence of their KHD Ninjas. Aleph and Nomads may also make use of her ability to cheaply expand the effective range of their Hacking Device Plus users - particularly to distribute White Noise Zones.
An Adhesive Launcher is a respectable, and expendable, threat in ARO and her ability to spread repeater coverage via her REM and FastPanda is great for any other Hackers you are fielding.
Lastly, Switch. He's got quite an unassuming set of stats, not surprising for 14 points, but packs the lethal Killer Hacking Device, a couple of nifty skills and a LOT of guns.
E/Mitters are vicious weapons with Burst 1 and Rifle range bands and Switch is bumped up to Burst 2 due to having two of them. They come loaded with E/M2 ammo which is literally just E/M ammo but twice as powerful because it forces two saves instead of one!
Two Stun Pistols provide a respectable backup weapon and good coverage within the 0-8" range bracket, although a damage value of 11 means that you'll have trouble bypassing the BTS of a lot of targets especially once they are in cover.
Switch is the only one of the new characters who actually stands a fair chance of winning a gunfight and is a respectable threat at range. I wouldn't normally try putting him toe-to-toe with a HI or TAG in suppressive fire as he's unlikely to come out on top, but for 14pts you may find it worth the risk.
Everything would be so much better (read: more terrifying) if we could just swap Mimetism and Holoprojector between Cypher and Switch...
Holoprojector is Switch's signature piece of equipment which historically has only been truly common on Haqqislam's Hafzas. Being able to bluff an obvious Lieutenant or a powerful HI is a useful ability and now everybody has to worry about whether the harmless-looking mook in the corner is going to blast them with EM/2 ammo or not.
Killer Hacking Devices are vicious pieces of equipment which exclusively grant access to the three Sword-2 programs that allow you to deal damage to Hackers and they allow the user to use Cybermask to put themselves into the Impersonation-2 state. This can be pretty handy for once the Holoprojector state has been cancelled and for stacking Surprise Shot modifiers onto E/Mitter attacks. Whether you are willing to risk wasting orders on a WIP 13 roll is up to you however.
Stealth allows Switch to bypass enemy Hackers/Repeaters without triggering AROs as long as he doesn't attack or entire LoF which combined with Cybermask to skip Deployable Equipment makes him surprisingly manoeuvrable.
Switch is also pretty weird. He's probably going to be used a fair bit because he is a cheap specialist, enables Remotes and carries weapons that can significantly threaten heavy targets. Every now and again he'll take down something several times his points cost but that'll likely be between long spells of just getting shot in the face by Combi Rifles.
He does bring Holoprojector 1 access to almost every faction allowing for a whole new world of mind-games. Suddenly it's become a lot more difficult to gauge an opponent's army list at a glance and it finally allows Aleph players to put down 6 Achilles miniatures at once!
He benefits greatly from Repeater coverage to increase the usefulness of his Killer Hacking Device and so pairs up well with BIT, and he can help protect Cypher from enemy Hackers as well.
ALIVE Anti-Establishment Group
Rather unusually, you have the option to purchase all three of these characters as a group for a 3pt premium (total 50/1). If you do so then their training becomes Regular and they all have to be in the same combat group. It's worth noting that Switch's Holoprojector becomes far less of a surprise once you are using the full set of characters.
Needless to say, 50pts for three Regular specialists is decent value and provides excellent hacking support even to Ariadna and their sectorials! Unfortunately, not a single character can use Enhanced Reaction or Assisted fire making them not so great a choice for REM-focused lists.
Their major downside is that they can't actually kill anyone - CC of 8/12/13 and the one Killer Hacking Device notwithstanding. They do pack a lot of non-lethal weaponry though so if you have a seething hatred of TAGs, HIs and your opponent's Regular orders then they may well be the force for you! You should also expect to see them in every other list when playing Transmission Matrix as they offer great value in this hacking-heavy scenario.
As the majority of their weapons target BTS instead of ARM they remain surprisingly useful against Ariadna even if their Hacking Devices end up being less than useful. Having said that, don't be entirely surprised to see their counterparts staring back at you from the other side of the table!
One significant benefit of taking the entire group is that Cypher and Switch will be able to take part in coordinated orders with other Regular troops. Coordinating a Holoprojected Switch is an enticing prospect. They can even make use of Coordinated Hacking when supported by an EVO Hacker which isn't something to ignore, especially because they can all hack through any of the numerous Repeaters that they can collectively distribute.
A lack of deployment skills hinders their ability to actually get into Hacking range or get close to objectives though and it's very possible that taking three similar troops (short-ranged, non-lethal hackers) is unnecessary.
There are all kinds of nifty tricks you can do if you have all three of them, such as:
- Using Cypher to Immobilise-1 an enemy and then hitting them with KISS's Adhesive Launcher or Switch's E/Mitters.
- Breaking up Suppressive Fire on hard targets from out of LoF using BIT's Stun Grenade Launcher before attacking them with Switch's E/Mitters.
- Dropping E/Maulers around a corner from a non-hackable target and then Spotlighting them next Order. If they Reset they get hit by the E/Mauler. If they don't then you can put them in the targeted state and have BIT rain down Stun grenades.
- Alternatively, if the target is hackable you can immobilise them with a hacking program, then run out and E/Mauler them for good measure. Something is going to stick eventually.
- Protecting Cypher from other hackers using Switch's Killer Hacking Device as a disincentive.
- Creating a huge hacking area on turn one which enemy Hackers, HI, TAGs and REMs will all be scared to enter.
- Using said hacking area to deliver REM support-ware as needed using your other Hackers.
Switch and Cypher in particular benefit from Smoke cover in order to cross open ground, get into good range and to use their Hacking Devices from outside of Line of Fire. Expect to see them supported by Smoke+MSV2 shenanigans.
EDIT: It's been confirmed now that BIT should also have a Pitcher - effectively a two-use grenade launcher that fires Repeaters - as an added bonus when used as part of the entire group. This was accidentally omitted from ARMY when the rules were initially released. Needless to say that she can spread a LOT of Repeater coverage.
RIP Wardriver - 2014-2017. We hardly knew ye.
Overall, I think they are well designed troops who seem to be a balanced addition to the game. They are definitely going to see use in a wide variety of lists and each have their own niche use, but none of the three are too overwhelming in terms of ability.
I flip-flopped a lot whilst writing this article about which character I thought was best and, honestly, I'm not sure.
- Cypher - Best defensive unit. Auto-hitting E/M weapons coupled with the most versatile of the three Hacking Devices and the best stat-line is a good combination. He can pull off shenanigans if you use all his equipment optimally and can lock down table areas single-handedly.
- BIT and KISS! - Best support unit. A great fit for any HI/TAG/Hacker heavy lists where she acts as a cheap force multiplier.
- Switch - Best offensive unit. Surprise Shot with E/Mitters is going to ruin people's days and Cybermask + Stealth allows him to get to optimum range with impunity. Holoprojector allows for nasty surprises.
These characters all bring what was once rather rare equipment into the mainstream. No doubt they were deliberately designed this way in order to combat the suspected influx of TAGs that the new pilot system will encourage. Most people aren't overly familiar with the E/M rules though so I would imagine there will be much scratching of heads and despondent flicking through rulebooks when they find out the hard way!
Taking all three *probably* isn't worth it and you are more likely to see them individually than together. I am certain that people will be successful with using each of them and you'll see the whole crew at least on occasion.
I would expect the use of Engineers to noticeably increase in the coming months, both to repair the more numerous TAGs and to fix Isolated/Immobilised troops.
I do look forward to niche lists with Sensors, EVO Hackers and Guided Missile Launchers which would use all three troops, particularly with Nomads who can now put out a truly preposterous amount of hacking potential. Hmm... Time to start brewing I think...
What do you all think?