Infinity Arachne: Icestorm Camouflage Explored!

August 1, 2014 by crew

This is the the Wartrader, bringing the news and reviews to you! In our present Human Sphere it's hundreds of years since wargames, virtual and physical, became widespread, but new editions still cause a furore. Let's delve a little deeper...

If you haven't been watching the BoW Icestorm week, why are you reading this? Go watch the Camo video and then come back!
The Operation: Icestorm box is our first glimpse at third edition. There's not a massive amount of info yet but one aspect has really caught my attention - the replacement of Combat Camouflage with the new Surprise Shot rule.

Combat Camo for Newbies

In second edition, a camouflaged model that uncloaks in it's own turn gets a 'first strike' ability - it's attack is resolved before the reactions of the attacked models. Against weaker targets this is a substantial bonus as they get gunned down before they even get a chance to react. So the attacker makes Normal rolls and if the target survives they get Normal rolls back.

Surprise Shot for Newbies

Nomad Specktr

In third edition, a camouflaged model that uncloaks in it's own turn no longer gets to shoot first, instead any opposed roll suffers a -3 penalty. So for example shooting back will be with an additional -3 BS (Ballistic Skill) modifier while Dodging will be with a -3 PH (Physique) modifier. So it will be an opposed Face to Face roll but with the odds stacked in favour of the camo model.

First and Second Reactions

Ariadna Tank Hunters

Initially this seems a lot weaker than Combat Camo - a FtF roll always carries an element of risk because the target can roll higher than your hits or even crit you. Getting to shoot first lets you remove that risk.

Or does it? Actually it's not that simple. If you manage to fluff your attack rolls or your opponent makes enough saves, their reaction back will be unopposed - so Combat Camo is itself a pretty risky manoeuvre - try using it against a target that you're not likely to kill, such as a TAG, and your trooper is likely to end up eating an explosive round to the face.

Let's run some numbers, using ToadChild's excellent dice calculator.

Soft Targets

Basic one-wound troopers die easily to Combat Camo, making them the ideal target as they won't get to shoot back if they fail any saves at all.

To standardise things, I'm going to use three attackers and assume everyone is in their optimum +3 range and in cover:

Nomad Zero with BS11 and a Burst 3 Combi Rifle.
Ariadna Tankhunter with AP HMG.
PanOceania Swiss Guard with Missile Launcher.

Zero Vs Fusilier
Zero Vs Fusilier II
Zero Vs Dodging
HMG Vs Fusilier
HMG Vs Fusilier IIML Vs Fusilier
ML Vs Fusilier II

As you can see, even for a lowly Combi Rifle trooper, the new Surprise Shot doesn't change the odds that much, in fact the Zero is more likely to survive. However Dodging becomes a decent reaction to getting shot from camo because the range and camo modifiers don’t apply.

Another big effect of the additional -3 modifier is that it's very easy to 'force' the target to be in that magic -12 modifier range where most line troopers and even some elite troopers won't be able to hit the attacker at all. For example if the Zero is in cover and in the -3 range or worse for the target's gun, the total BS modifier by the time you add Camo and Surprise Shot is already -12. So gunning down rifle-armed troops is very safe from outside their 16" sweet spot range as they either misjudge the distance and shoot without being able to hit, or Dodge to increase their chance of survival and aren’t shooting back.

Hard Targets

I could take a TAG here, but I already know in advance that the Zero is going to end up dead and there's a pretty good chance of the same for the other two. So let's take the next best thing - a Morat Sogarat with Feuerbach. The Feuerbach was chosen instead of the HMG because it's capable of taking out the Swiss Guard in reaction, unlike the HMG which is the other weapon option for Sogarats.

Zero Vs Sogarat
Zero Vs Sogarat II
HMG Vs Sogarat
HMG Vs Sogarat II
ML Vs Sogarat
ML Vs Sogarat II

In this case, Surprise Shot is much better for the attacker, vastly increasing their chance to survive if they're not likely to one-shot the Sogarat. In fact, for the Zero, using Combat Camo in 2nd edition is worse than shooting normally.

Bad Targets for Surprise Shot

Now, there are some classes of targets that should see a substantial boost from the new rule:-

Troopers with Neurocinetics or Total Reaction to get their full Burst in reaction,
Troopers with very high BS or lots of positive modifiers,
Troopers with Multispectral Visors to reduce the Camo or TO Camo modifiers of the attacker.

To pick out one sample, because we’ve had way too many diagrams already, the Tankhunter HMG against an Intruder HMG - one of Ariadna’s most feared enemy units. P.S. I know it’s an Intruder Sniper in the image, he’s just so much prettier...

HMG Vs Intruder

HMG Vs Intruder II

So the Tankhunter is noticeably less likely to take down the Intruder and is also (and more worryingly) less likely to survive the shootout.

Reduced Rules Complexity

Combat Camo (indeed all effects in Infinity that take effect before the reactions) causes a disproportionate number of rules questions. For example, if you hit the target with a template weapon, does the guy next door have to survive the blast to shoot back?

Surprise Shot bypasses all these timing issues by simplifying it down to a regular FtF roll with a modifier. Overall the uncloaking trooper still gets a good bonus, in many cases being far more likely to survive the Order.

Known Unknowns

Sixth Sense let a model react simultaneously in 2nd edition. I’ve heard from a little birdy that in N3 it instead ignores the -3 Surprise Shot penalty which is pretty straightforward. There may also have been some mention of Multispectral Visor 3 also ignoring the penalty which would fit with MSV3 troops ignoring Combat Camo in 2nd edition.

Unknown Unknowns

We don't yet know how Surprise Shot interacts with Direct Template Weapons, either for the attacker or the target.


Swiss Guard

So, finally, the summary...

The rules get simpler without appearing to sacrifice much in the way of gameplay complexity, always a good thing.

Uncloaking against a target you're not likely to take down with one burst is no longer suicidal.

If you can swing the modifiers/range bands in your favour, it's easier to force a situation where the target can't shoot back, at the cost of the cost of the target being able to Dodge as their best chance of surviving. This will increase the importance of the PH attribute, giving Ariadna and Morats with their higher than average PH a slight edge against camo-heavy lists.

Some of the models that were most vulnerable to Combat Camo (Total Reaction Remotes, models with MSV1-2) have lost some of that vulnerability.

Overall, Surprise Shot appears to have a slight increase in power compared to Combat Camo, but also shifts that power - it’s not always good against the same targets as the older rule.

So what’s your take on the new rule?

Ian Wood aka @wartrader

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