Wednesday 1 August 2018

If I only had a brain... and a large plasma rifle obviously..

I've finally got around to the last two skill sets, and arguably I've saved the best for last? Shooting and Savant are the wheelhouse of the Van Saar and are part of what makes them the most powerful house gang released so far (together with their excellent weapons list). Why are they so good? well read on...

I've once again furnished the article with images from the Chronicles from the Underhive facebook group as I'm still stuck in Moonstone mode at the moment but I am almost finished so expect to see some new Necromunda stuff any day now! honest! the new cultists, spawn and other bits even have some paint on them! I've looked for nice terrain for a change for this weeks images.

Shooting Skills

Board by Ramon Nanez

without a doubt the most useful skills in the game, shooting skills have a major impact once invested in simply because shooting is the single most common way to take out enemy models. Close combat may be more reliable, but shooting can happen every turn from the first and has very little return risk unlike melee, so anything that boosts your ranged damage capacity is always going to give you an advantage. part of shootings double edged blade however is that the skill is only as good as the weapon you are using, so if you do gain a shooting skill it's always worth popping to the trading post to get the best from it. Only Van Saar having shooting as a primary skill, and only Orlock and Delaque currently have it as secondary so if you want it in any other gang be prepared to pay. All shooting skills perform better on big open sector mechanicus tables but don't underestimate hipshooting and Trick shot in Zone Mortalis games either.

Fast shot  (costed/proactive) Shoot action becomes simple with non-unwieldy weapons
Fast shot basically gives you the ability to stand still to shoot twice, making any weapon twice as effective and giving snipers and ranged support models that don't tend to move once they find a nest more versatility. I don't need to explain why an extra shot (or multiple shots with Rapid fire weapons) are useful but it is worth pointing out that you can target separate enemies with each shot, giving even more chance to pin them and deny them their own actions. I like Fast shot with either weapons with good range modifiers or fighters with good BS as you won't be aiming as often so you'll need to gain those befits elsewhere- likewise scopes are rarely useful on Fast shot fighters so Las-Projectors are the upgrade of choice. Another good combo for an Overseer leader who can effectively gain 4 shots from one gun, watch out for ammo rolls messing you up- don't plan to always have 2 shots just in case the first one leads out with an ominous 'click' (note- a good tactics card against Van Saar and shooting gangs anyway, 'click' becomes excellent against Fast Shot fighters) in addition it's not worth taking on Combi Weapons or other weapons with a poor ammo rule or niche roll. . great to choose and great to roll (as with half of the shooting skills- except with a heavy) Fast shot is going to be a regular in most Van Saar starting lineups.

Gunfighter (passive/proactive) no penalty to using two pistols, may target different enemies. 
In a fairly odd way Gunfighter is one of the only skills to have actually got worse since '95, if only because the basic ability to fire two pistols (tecjnically sidearms since the big rulebook hit) is now available to everyone at -1 to hit. That doesn't mean it's not a good skill mind; pistols tend to have at least +1 to hit at close range, which is normally negated by the two-gun rules, but once you take that additional modifier out even having two cheap autopistols can give you an impressive 6 hits a turn spread out across a wide front. Once you've splurged out on some shiny gear like Plasma pistols on your Gunfighter you'll have an incredibly reliable close range damage dealer, and because unlike Fast shot you can still move and fire both pistols you don't lose any maneuverability. Of course if you have a lot of experience you can get both, giving you a potential 4 pistol shots a turn if you stand still, but personally I think with pistol ranges being so short it'll be a rare opportunity and you'd be better of going with Hipshooting or Trick shot as your second skill. Again good for a starting skill if you want a model who can bring close range pain, also a fun skill to gain randomly unless you get it on a heavy or sniper... (Note- remember Hand flamers are NOT sidearms in the current rules, so no double flame attacks for you!)

Hipshooting (costed/proactive) May Run and Gun (double): make double move followed by ranged attack with -1 modifier (non-unwieldy)
Surprise! Hipshooting is possibly one of the hardest skills to counter, giving most models an effective 10" bonus to their threat range, and meaning objective grabbers don't have to choose between going for the prize or shooting.  The versatility of a Hipshooting champion with a nasty close range gun (see: Combi Melta) is hard to plan against and allows it's owner to move quickly to close down gaps, take advantage of fighters out of cover or even sprint past cover entirely. Note that because Run and Gun is a double action you can't combine Hipshooting with many other skills (no aiming or second action) but it does work pretty darn well with Gunfighter (otherwise you'd be at -2) or template weapons (hit modifiers are for other people). Another great skill to choose as a starting skill it's the first skill I bought my Escher champ as a second skill as it's just too good with Clamber to pass up.  randomly rolled guess what? That's right, it's great unless you're a heavy.. (Another note- there's a lot going on today: abilities like extra arm or equipment such as the suspensor won't allow you to Run and Gun with unwieldy weapons as they don't remove the Unwieldy trait, and it's the weapons trait that stops these skills working rather than anything with the character, I know, I'm sad too.)

Escher Gang Goliath by Tom Fern

Marksman (passive/proactive) May choose target freely, double damage on 6 to hit (only first rapid fire hit)
Do you need a dedicated sniper? Is your cool stat up there with Escher's and Chaos cults? then Marksman is the skill for you! The number of times my boys and girls have let me down and shot the closest model instead of the horrific heavy-bolter lugging brute right behind them is more than I have fingers to count them on, so the ability to bypass my terrible stats and just shoot them in the face would be a godsend. whilst that's the main part of the Marksman skill you'll use for the most part, the extra damage is pretty immense too, especially if you are using a damage 2/3 weapon anyway. Great for ranged fighters designed to take out enemy champions and leaders, Marksman means your opponent will have to think very hard when moving around the table as there's no safety in the back ranks with you around.  Not the strongest shooting skill, I do think Marksman has a place in a gang so could be a starting skill, and again as a secondary skill (for someone with a long-las and fast shot perhaps) it's definitely a winner. randomly you'd still be happy, and even heavies can use this one, yay!

Precision shot (passive/proactive) no saves vs 6's to hit with shooting attacks
All skill sets have that one skill that just doesn't quite keep up with the others, the rhino at the back of the Jumanji stampede if you will- it's not that it won't trample stuff, it's just other skills are better at trampling stuff first. Precision shot is that skill in the shooting set.  For one- any skill that only triggers on a six (Disarm, Dodge and Marksman also suffer from this to a degree, but they have additional benefits or can be improved with weapon choice) is a bit too unreliable for me to spend hard earned XP on, and secondly you can remove the need for this skill at all by simply buying better guns- and credits are a lot easier to find then XP let me tell you. Precision shot is still not a bad skill by any stretch of the imagination- early game it will be removing some saves completely and if the weapon already has -1 pretty much all starting fighters are susceptible, and late game it can be the only way to take down serious tanks with their 3+ save. (damn makeshift armour). Not really a starting skill unless you want it for fluff reasons as pretty much every other shooting skill is better, but you'd not be unhappy with precision shot if you rolled it (and then remembered it in game!). works with Unwieldy for a change but as they generally have save modifiers anyway it's not exactly great for them.

Trick shot (passive/proactive) Shooting attacks suffers 1 less penalty for targets in cover
Every single Necromunda board should be jam packed with stuff to hide behind, from barrels, and crates to walls, pipes and walkways, drawing a clear line of sight should be a rare occurrence. This profusion of cover is what makes Trick shot such a great skill- practically every shot you ever make will be against a target in cover so ignoring even one point of it is good news. Strangely whilst I'd consider Trick shot as a starting skill I'd only buy it for a secondary skill once I'd maxed out my BS increases- after all +1 to hit all the time still trumps +1 to hit when they are in cover, and at only 6XP BS increases are cheap as chips. A good skill to start with and a good random skill, Trick shot does see a lot of board time and when combined with the right scope/las-projector can make a ranged killing machine you really can count on to hit.  Again- works with Unwieldy weapons! and is actually a great choice as a starting skill with them as it can let you get the best from your most expensive purchases right from the word go, especially as they tend not to be able to aim.

Board by Jon Wyatt

Savant Skills

Scatter terrain by Chris Prules

Ooh, where's techno you say? Back in the 90's where it belongs that's where. (I guess there were some limits after all) Now known as Savant the horrifically overpowered skillset of my youth has been dropped back to keep it in line with others, it's still a damn good set, but nowhere near the must-take it used to be. Several interesting skills in Savant are only useful out-of-game when trading, so no use in skirmishes and frustrating early on in campaigns as it can be hard to see the benefits on-table.  However, these skills are amazing in a longer campaign, and can pay for themselves very quickly by kitting your boys and girls out in no time at all. Savant is a primary skillset for Orlock and Van Saar, and secondary for Delaque and Chaos Cults so it's a pretty common sight in most campaigns.

Ballistics expert (passive/proactive) INT check on aim action- if passed gain additional +1
The 'meh' skill of the Savant list, Ballistics expert is also the only one that can have a direct aggressive impact on the game. So why don't I like Ballistics Expert? Firstly because it only works on a certain action, and even then only if I pass a test, and if I do pass the test I only gain +1 to hit. Which I could get all the time with a BS increase, or a Gunsight, or Trick Shot to ignore cover, or emperor knows how many other ways. Frankly of all the skills in the game this is my least favourite, even though it's probably more useful than Mighty leap or Dodge it's limitations make it
less likely to actually occur than those skills, and they at least bring something extra to the table rather than a very easy to replicate +1 to hit. I wouldn't choose Ballistics expert, and I'm pretty sure it only exists to give Van Saar something bad to roll on their primary tables.

Connected (passive/proactive) may make additional seek rare item action in end phase
Connected is a cheeky little skill, as it means you can maximise your cashflow by working  turf but still get all the nice toys from rare trade, or even lug some fool to the doc's and not lose your rare trade roll as well as the cash. as with all out-of game skills it will have little effect early on in a campaign, and is of course completely pointless in a skirmish. For gangs with a long-term plan I definitely recommend Connected as a starting skill as you can really make the most of your turf and still take some new shinies into the next game. Combined with Savvy Trader it's an unbelievably powerful combination on a leader although with two out-of-game skills you may find yourself fielding them less than more punchy champions. Connected is a good skill however you get it you'll really start seeing the benefits after you start losing champs to recovery.

Fixer (passive/proactive) extra d3x10 creds in post game gain rewards if uninjured/captured
Sometimes a little extra income can make all the difference when you have some moron bleeding out and the doc's prices are a little steep, especially as you can't work turf when you are carrying the chump. Fixer is a good skill for the patient planners out there, and if you do have a champion trying to stay out of the way and stack those C-notes instead of skulls then Fixer is the skill to get. (hoping The Compiler will roll it in my next game as he has the 9 XP to randomise on savant) other than that not a lot to say, more money = less problems. Could be a starting skill as the earlier you get it the better it is, but it's not exactly glamorous so I can't see it being chosen a lot. randomly rolled it's all good obviously.

Board by Trevor Goddard

Medicae (passive/reactive) re-roll first out of action result whilst assisting a recovery
Not quite the awe-inspiring '95 version where you dodged serious injuries Medicae is still pretty good if massively situational. If you're the kind of gang that actually cares about each other and actually move to assist in recoveries (I.E. not my chaos gang who have no empathy at all) it can get people back in the game and avoid having to roll for serious injuries at all. If you do want to use this skill to it's best effect then pick up a medipak on the rare trade chart, and get it on a fast model with minimal kit like a Juve, then dedicate them to getting allies back on their feet. A dedicated medic will find this skill useful and can be a big asset for any gang, but other than that I probably wouldn't choose it, though I'd be pleased if I rolled it randomly.

Munitioneer (passive/reactive) re-roll failed ammo rolls within 6"
Wow, what a skill. Munitioneer works best when you bubble up which has it's own down-sides but on a heavy with multiple rapid fire dice it's a brutal emperor sent blessing for keeping them in the game. Combines well with Fast shot too as you can keep the 2 shots a turn more reliably. One of the only non-leader skills that effects models around it Munitioneer is up there with the best skills in the game, reloading is an action (that may not even work) and this drains your pool of actions for a turn- Munitioneer can stop that happening on multiple models every turn. Always worth considering as a starting or chosen skill if you can take it. Obviously the biggest downside is if you don't fail any ammo checks it's a totally wasted skill, but in that case you're probably doing alright anyway so quit whining. You aren't going to be complaining if you get this randomly either as everyone could do with a few bullets more couldn't they?

Savvy trader (passive/proactive) +1 to seek rare item rolls for this fighter, reduce any items found by 20 creds (minimum 10)
I would say it's not worth taking Savvy Trader on anyone who isn't your leader as it would still make them only just as good at rare trade than him, but on a leader- average score of 10 on the rare trade, yes please! That's before we even get to the price reductions which is even more of a bonus- 20 creds off the cheaper end of the rare items can make them much more affordable (remember to add the full cost to the fighters value though!) and knocking heavy bolters down to almost heavy stubber prices is great at the top end too.  The biggest downside to Savvy Trader- once again you aren't going to be seeing any in-game benefits short term. however long term (and as long as you can keep the credits flowing) having a savvy trader can make you the most tooled up gang in the campaign with ease. definitely worth taking as a starting skill on a leader if you're the patient type, if you roll it randomly on a champion it's still good, just not brilliant. on a juve or specialist it's tears time...

Scatter terrain by Hurakan Summit Guides

that's it for skills! after my next battle report I'll be looking at each gang in depth, what they are good at and how I'd rank them in terms of ease of play or competitiveness if you're that way inclined. 

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