With the most recent releases for Para Bellum’s Conquest, has the first over-powered unit revealed itself, or is it still the up-and-coming competitive fantasy darling?
Around the middle of last week I came home to find a recent order of Conquest new releases awaiting me. I eagerly dug into both flavors of Militia and Vanguard-Clones, marvelled at the beautiful, and surprisingly well-priced models, and paused to decide how I would build them. You see, each is a dual-kit, and the competitive side of me debated building all of the Clones as Infiltrators. Much had been said of the unit, both on the game’s active Discord, and elsewhere, and community leader Vanguard Auticus used some clever math to highlight the units devastating offensive potential. Needless to say I built several units of each type, and have been in heavy real-world testing mode ever since.
So are Vanguard-Clone Infiltrators over-powered? Let’s discuss my experiences.
Firstly, a little bit about the unit’s fluff. Even as a pretty hardcore competitive player, I have found myself enraptured by the lore behind units in this game. Primarily it is because teh fiction, free of decades of baggage, so lines up with the rules. I don’t know if that will stand the test of time, should Conquest really endure as a major game in our industry, but in this shining moment, everything just aligns in a really satisfying way.
Whereas the significantly more common Drones are brewed from a genetic soup of local biological matter, Vanguard-Clones are in fact 100% pure Exile DNA. In every meaningful way they are proper Exiles, and the true citizenry of The Spires… that is every way except for one. When spawned from their breeding pods, Vanguard-Clones are denied “self-hood”. In short, they are not considered proper, complete, beings until they earn the right. For most this comes from long years of service in whatever field they prove to be naturally gifted in. For some, however, the elite military service as an Infiltrator allows a far riskier, but far faster way of earning full status is society.
To think of Infiltrators as Ninjas is more than fair. Highly mobile with several tricks supportive of fluid positioning, this unit is very agile despite a deceptive 6” movement stat. They are competent in melee, though this is rarely where they want to be, as shooting/assassination is their greatest strength.
Where Infiltrators reveal their true value is in a quirky combination of special abilities that when considered together, create a unit unlike any other. While a cost of 195pts for a minimum unit literally prices them in the realm of heavy monsters, and among the most expensive units in the game, they can easily earn back their price, but only when used VERY thoughtfully.
First, the most straight-forward truth about this unit is that against its ideally targets, it will absolutely mulch opponents with its shooting. With an 18’ range, and both a Volley and Barrage of 2, this units puts out significant shooting at its fairly modest range. The addition of the amazing “Deadly Shot” ability, elevates this greatly though. Against multi-wound models, each unsaved wound actually doubles, to two wounds. This makes the offensive potential against Monsters, Cavalry, etc… absolutely incredible. Worth stating, at a measly 10pts, a Leader Command model has that much more value here, where converting even one more dice to a success can yield two wounds.
What makes this even more incredible is the unit’s “Snapfire” special ability. This allows a unit, at the end of its first March action, to make a Volley attack at -1 Volley stat. Notably, this is specifically not a Volley Action, meaning you can take the action later in the turn. While the free attack is certainly a less accurate one, double shooting is still an incredibly potent asset for a unit who doubles it wounds versus ideal targets.
The final place where special rules align is in this unit’s Vanguard ability and Fluid Formation. The first allows this unit, when reinforcing, to have an additional free March Action. Paired with Snapfire, this unit can arrive, shoot, move, and shoot, all in its very first activation of the game. Disruptive positioning and offensive threat combine powerfully. Fluid Formation, meanwhile, grants a free reform action, allowing VERY skilled players to potentially reform in such a way that you are now out of arc of an enemy.
None of this even begins to address some of the incredible additions that can be made to this unit, such as a Mimetic Assassin with the Biotic Hive Mutation, or the Unstable Enhacement Biomancy which borders on absurdly synergistic with Infiltrators.
So are Infiltrators over-powered, to return to my original question. After six games with them, I can confidently say they are NOT, but strictly for the very best of reasons.
Infiltrators are obscenely powerful, however they are the most skill-based unit I have used in this game, to date. They are expensive, fragile, and require optimal targets in order to let their potential shine. Considering all those factors, I love that the challenge of using this unit is place firmly on the player. One of the greatest offensive units in Conquest requires you to actually play well, a sadly shocking principle in a competitive gaming space often ruled by netlists, and auto-fire armies/rules.
Conquest has held up. Three weeks of constant, rigorous testing has shown me a game that can use some rules clarifications when dealing with some odd interactions, but which otherwise continues to dazzle me as a competitive system.
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