Lately I’ve been exploring the usefulness of one of the more maligned pieces of equipment, the nimbus grenade. Often considered the weaker cousin to smoke and eclipse grenades, nimbus grenades have some very interesting and unusual rules, which can make them tricky to fully understand.
What is a Nimbus Grenade?
First off, lets talk about what this uncommon piece of equipment is. It’s profile is very similar to a smoke grenade, with similar ranges, and special rules, the only defining characteristic is that it has nimbus ammo instead of smoke. Nimbus grenades can also be found in certain grenade launchers, but really, it’s the ammo that defines the weapon.
Here is the effect of Nimbus ammo from the wiki:
Nimbus is a non-lethal ammunition used to obscure enemy lines of fire and reduce the firepower of any BS Attackthat crosses the area.
- Nimbus Special Ammunition generates an area with the effects of both a Low Visibility Zone and a Saturation Zone (see Special Terrain, Visibility Conditions and Saturation) the size of a Circular Template and with infinite height.
- The MODs of Low Visibility Zone due to Nimbus Special Ammunition will be also applied to troopers equipped with a Multispectral Visor of any Level, or any other piece of Equipment that specifies the same.
- The Nimbus Template remains on the table until the end of the Player Turn in which it was placed.
- Firing Nimbus Special Ammunition is an Attack.
- Nimbus Special Ammunition is a non-offensive ammunition, so it does not require an enemy—or, in fact, any trooper at all—as a target, and can be thrown at any point on the table.
- Critical hits with Nimbus Special Ammunition have no additional effect.
Now we’re getting somewhere! Instead of blocking LOF, nimbus grenades create a Low Visibility Zone, as well as a Saturation Zone, and specifically do apply their effects to troopers equipped with Multispectral Visors. That right there is a big deal, unlike Smoke, which is nullified by MSV, Nimbus specifically reduces their effectiveness.
Note: There are also Nimbus Plus grenades, which create Poor Visibility Zones, instead of Low Visibility, but are otherwise identical.
To delve further into understanding nimbus grenades, we are going to need to familiarize ourselves with Low Visibility and Saturation Zones. First up, Saturation Zones are pretty easy to understand, they simply reduce the burst of any BS attack into, or through them, most people are familiar with these from a few scenarios which cause large swathes of the table to be Saturation Zones.
Low/Poor visibility zones are also generally well understood, but people often miss one critical detail…
The wording of these visibility zones is that models suffer a -3 mod for ANY skill, special skill, or piece of equipment that requires LOF. This is huge. Skills like Discover which aren’t BS attacks, but require LOF suffer the penalty, but most importantly, Dodge is also affected, as it (normally) requires LOF to the enemy.
Using Nimbus Grenades
So, now that we have taken care of the mechanics, lets see what that means in-game. Unlike Smoke + MSV, which is generally totally beneficial, the nimbus grenade takes a bit more finesse. The obvious use is to reduce the effectiveness of an enemy ARO. Knowing that the nimbus zone will affect both players, some caution is needed to decide when/if to use it.
Nimbus in Face-to-Face Engagements
If you are using a Low Burst weapon (B2) you’re going to need to do some quick math, since this will have a dramatic impact on the face-to-face roll, higher burst weapons, or B1 weapons however, are not nearly as impacted.
Lets see how a Fusilier with Combi would fare against a fully-linked Brawler, within 8″, and both parties being in cover. First, without Nimbus Grenades being used:
We are just using Fusiliers and Brawlers as proxy for BS12 linked troops with combi’s and shotguns, so never mind that nimbus is tricky to get in PanO. We can see here that this is a SUPER risky move for the Fusilier to do, and it even favors the shotgun slightly.
What if we throw down a Nimbus Grenade though?
Notice that the odds of inflicting a wound on the shotgun and have even gone up a bit, but the risk to the combi is cut significantly. The end result is that the maneuver, while still risky, is at least solidly in the favor of the combi.
Now, it’s obvious, those numbers aren’t terribly huge, making the use of the nimbus grenade very situational. It is better in some engagements than others when it comes to face-to-face rolls, and it will take practice to really see the areas where it is favorable, but there is a situation where nimbus grenades, are without a doubt, a huge benefit…
Nimbus Grenades with Direct Template Weapons
This is where the nimbus grenades really shine. Remember what we talked about with the penalty for Low/Poor Visibility zones working against Dodge? Well, this is where we get to use it.
Let’s say you’re playing Tohaa and drop a Nimbus Plus grenade at the corner of a building, so your Makaul can move up and flame the juicy target behind. Now they must choose between Dodging at -6, Change Facing at -3 (assuming you’re in ZoC), or shooting back at -9 with -1 Burst (Cover and Nimbus Plus)… All of this sounds awful!
Here are some numbers to look at, against a fully linked fusilier
So, we can see here that basically, no matter what, that Fusilier is torched. If there was no Nimbus Plus grenade in-use, the fully-linked Fusilier would have a ~60% chance to kill the Makaul in the process, sacrificing itself to take down the enemy threat, or a 50% chance of dodging the attack. Thanks to the nimbus plus grenade, the Fusilier is stuck with a less than 1/4 chance of stopping the Makaul, and an even more abysmal chance to dodge.
Furthermore, according to the FAQ above, if you can get the enemy trooper into the area of the nimbus zone, and they do not have LOF when you attack them with the Direct Template Weapon, they will be dodging at a further -3 (for dodging from out of LOF).
So, now that you want to try out these sweet toys, where do you get them? Unfortunately, not all factions have access to Nimbus grenades, and some only have them on niche or expensive profiles.
- PanOceania: Father-Knight (Forward Observer)
- Yu Jing: Zhanying (Sensor), Wu Ming (MULTI Rifle + Nimbus Light Grenade Launcher)
- Ariadna: None
- Haqqislam: Zhayedan (Missile Launcher), Druze (Combi + EM/Nimbus Light Grenade Launcher)
- Nomads: None
- Combined Army: None
- Aleph: Acmon, Dactyl (Doctor)
- Tohaa: Sakiel, Clipsos
- Druze Bayram: Druze (Combi + EM/Nimbus Light Grenade Launcher)
- JSA: Shikami
- Ikari: Druze (Combi + EM/Nimbus Light Grenade Launcher), Wu Ming (MULTI Rifle + Nimbus Light Grenade Launcher)
- StarCo: None