It’s been a while since I gave much consideration to my Combined Army. Back when HSN3 came out, I played Onyx, almost exclusively, for a year. I really enjoyed the army, but I moved on to USAriadna, Druze, and Ikari Company. Now that we have a new season rolling in, I thought it was time to go back to where I started and put the Combined back on the table.
I’ve played them for a couple months now, with a fresh perspective, and more experience. When I first played Combined, I was drawn to powerful units like the Charontid, Ko Dali, and Avatar, often capitalizing on fairly novice tricks, like MSV + Smoke. Playing Onyx meant I didn’t have access to my favorite units, didn’t have access to smoke, and had to totally re-learn how to make the aliens a threat on the table. I found units that worked particularly well for me, Rodoks in particular, and relied on the power houses I could find in Onyx, without deeply exploring new and interesting interactions.
When I switched back to USAriadna, I had to learn how to play a totally different game, lots of smoke, direct template weapons, good armor, and a mess of orders. Druze came out, and was something I couldn’t resist, I’d wanted a Druze army since the beginning. Their smaller unit count really allowed me to explore the army in depth, and then when Ikari Company came, I was ready to expand my knowledge of the mercenaries, with a strong foundation. Playing these different armies really forced me to explore new strategies and tactics, not relying on Rambo units to carry me, and using different skills and equipment to win my games.
With this new knowledge, I’m returning to the EI, sepsitorized once again, and bringing all this experience with me.
First Impressions, Again…
Over the last couple months, I’ve been playing games with the Combined, trying units and combinations that I haven’t previously. Since this is my only vanilla faction (for now), and I own the entirety of the line, you can imagine there are simply a ton of possible things I can put on the board. The amount of variety is simultaneously liberating, and daunting. When I was newer to the game, I often gravitated towards units which had obvious roles on the table. The Charontid HMG is a prime example, there is no subtly to it’s use, you toss some smoke in front of it, and it annihilates everything. The Combined Army is replete with brutal units like this, which just beat face.
Learning to master USARF, Druze, and Ikari Company, I couldn’t rely as much on one or two ultra powerful units to do all the work. Druze Shock Teams themselves are amazing toolkits, Hunzakut as well, and with practice I learned to leverage their wide variety of weaponry to maximum effect. Similarly, expanding my NA2 collection to Ikari, I had to figure out how to accomplish objectives, with only one Ninja as an infiltrating specialist. Versatile units like Karakuri quickly became a staple of my army creation.
Not only does Combined have an abundance of hard hitting monsters, they also have no shortage of all-purpose troopers. For example, the Zerat Forward Observer, easy to overlook, and often ignored in favor of the Shrouded FO. Of the two though, I usually go for the Zerat, which often results in people thinking I’m crazy. The Zerat however, has a few, extremely important advantages, over the Shrouded, which makes it more of a tool kit, rather than a single purpose specialist. First of all, it carries grenades, which with PH12 can land on 9’s, letting her easily assassinate enemy Designated Targets. Second, it swaps a Combi rifle for a Boarding Shotgun, letting you use Flash Pulse from 8-24”, which minimizes the downside of carrying a shotgun. Finally, without Camouflage, you’re losing nothing, other than deployment, when attempting to deploy over the 24” mark.
The Zerat isn’t the only trick up my sleeve though, Charontid Hackers can accomplish so much it feels like cheating. Not consuming the SWC that the HMG does, able to enter a marker state, and in general being a WIP 16 HD+ is nothing to ignore, for similar reasons, the Anathematic Hacker Lieutenant has been fun to toy with. Some of my other favorite units have become the Rasyat (particularly the Combi + E/Mitter), Corax Hasht, Sheskiin, Kurgat, Treitak Anyat, and Umbra (of either variety).
On it’s surface, Combined seems like an incredibly elite army, expensive power house troops, backed up by effective tool kits, but there are some great order generators as well. Many (most) of my lists begin with two R-Drones, two Ikadrons, and two Imetrons, netting me 6 regular orders for 42 points. R-Drones are basically fugazi, but Ikadrons are a bit different, they’re more like most factions 8-point baggage bots, but for an extra point, get a smaller silhouette, a flash pulse, dual light flamethrowers, BTS6, and most importantly, a pistol! They do miss out on a minesweeper, but for all they gain, that is nothing at all to be upset about. With 258 points to spend on the rest of your army, you’ll be in damn good shape. Something else that the R-Drones and Ikadrons provide is a killer hacking radius, just be sure to take some hackers of your own to take advantage of it. Advancing these repeaters up the field, backed up by an E-Drone, can shut down enemy links with ease.
Overall, I’m really enjoying CA on the table, I can get enough orders to fuel some of the games hardest hitting fighters, backed up by effective and versatile specialists. The only downside is that I want to run everything. Since they’re a vanilla faction, the amount of choices is pretty overwhelming at times. By leveraging a their wide variety of flexible troops, I find that it doesn’t matter much what I actually take, I always have the tool I need for the job. The only reason this is a downside is because I don’t find that they need as careful consideration for list making as some other factions, which can be fun.
Putting CA to Work
Next month, I’ll be bringing the Combined Army to the Emerald City Incursion Mk. II. It is a Limited Insertion event, and scenarios are Unmasking, Acquisition, Supplies, Supremacy, Firefight. None of those missions require taking a ton of specialists, which is nice, and really just about any list should be able to accomplish the objectives, so it’s just a matter of practice.
One of the random ideas I had recently was to take max Umbra. They can be fragile against shock weapons, but they are also terrors on the battlefield. A super-jump capable spitfire, or mimetism spitfire are both formidable ranged fighters, and either of their hackers can do their job quite well with WIP14. All of them bring Flash Pulse for solid ARO options, and it leaves enough points for some staples like a Noctifer Missile Launcher, and Kerr-Nau. One further thought was to drop the Noctifer for a Maakrep HMG. It reduces my ARO game significantly, but gives me another brutal, active turn option: MSV2 + Smoke.