The second part of the Empire of the Blazing Sun review (see here for first part: Massive Category) will focus on the ‘Large’ category.
Here, we have far more choice than in the Massive, which has just 2 Naval/Air units.
In ‘Large’, we’ll look at:
- The Sokotsu Battleship
- Hachiman Class Dreadnought
- Ika Robot Squid (yup..cool as fuck!)
- Tsukuyomi War Gyro
OK, so just double the choice..but what a selection! Huge robot submarine squids that rip ships apart with their tentacles to a floating gun ship with the surface covered by potent Naval beasts.
Each in turn though.. let’s start with the Sokotsu and see what she can do;
The Sokotsu is the main battleship of the Japanese fleet, coming in the starter box and at first, to me anyway, being a little underwhelming. But as soon as I got to grips with how to use it.. different class in my opinion.
Applying the Sokotsu, and any other main battleship, properly can be devastating to the enemy fleet.
Special rules and features are all stereotypical of the Empire. It has the ‘Sharp Turn’ rule, allowing it to move instantly rather than suffering through the constraint of a 2” minimum move. This is pretty huge for a large boat with only a 6” move. Allowing it to turn on a dime and bring the right weapons to bear in the right firing arcs can make a big difference to the game. This nimbleness can help to out gun other battleships, not through quantity of guns, but through quantity of weapons successfully brought to bear.
The Sokotsu, like almost all other elements of the Empire fleet, is equipped with the ‘Incendiary Rounds’ special rule as well, meaning that its Rockets can potentially start killing off the assault troops on board all ships, raging fires ripping through the decks. In practical terms, this just weakens them up for boarding and prizing at a later turn.
This links nicely into the offensive capabilities of the Sokotsu. Only 2 main turrets, which can harass at long range (up to 32”) but do little else until we get into at least RB3 (up to 24”) from here, linked fire for 9 attack dice can be tasty, up to a positively lethal range band 1 (up to 8”) 13 dice. This can, of course, be split against 2 targets manipulating the slick movement of the Sokotsu to ensure these shots are plausible. As the Sokotsu closes range, it can make good use of its Rockets, far more effective at range than close up, but complimenting each other quite nicely, one system’s use blending into the other systems as range changes. Synergistic. The one weapon system I struggle to bring to bear at full effect is the torpedo. The battleship has a reasonable complement of them, most effective at close range than afar, but in a fore-facing fixed arc, often meaning that I use this system to blast at a weaker, smaller target as an after thought to the main guns. Whilst it’s Broadside guns can be used to add fire to the targets of the main guns, the Torpedoes are often neglected. Although in the right situation, the 6 dice generated at short range can be very useful. The trick in offense is not to be too greedy and be desperate to use all systems as this can leave the Sokotsu over extended or in a poor position the following turn.
And on the reception of return fire? The Sokotsu holds true to the other stalwart feature of the Japanese fleet, the high Critical Rating. It has Damage 6 and a Critical of 11, making it tough to score critical hits on it and with 8 Hull Points, the Sokotsu can take a pounding before it becomes a useless hulk. As a large, capital ship the Sokotsu also has a Shield Generator to further reduce the incoming fire. Shield Generators allows for 2D6 to be rolled to try and reduce the Attack Dice that have hit by the number of hits rolled by the Generator. This too works with the Exploding Sixes mechanic. Defensively, it also has a reasonable complement of Counter Measures and Ack Ack to gun down rockets and to depth charge torpedoes.
As a Battleship, the Sokotsu has a large number of assault marines, 10 to be precise, on board and bearing in mind the effectiveness of the unit at close range, this compliments the ship very well. The only niggle is that you cannot assault what you have shot at.. but this is a minor point as I personally will be running the Sokotsu in pairs from now on. Meaning I can cross the fire over, damaging and reducing Ack Ack from a target before sending the other Sokotsu’s marines onto it to board and prize it.
Why two? They are effective and in my opinion, relatively cheap at just 180 points.
A giant, submersible robot squid? Yes, please…two please. The Ika is a Boarding monster. It sinks beneath the waters and speeds (albeit somewhat slowly) towards the enemy fleet. Unfortunately, the Ika only moves at 7” a turn. This means that for me anyway, it can take several turns to close with the enemy…the Ika is essentially a very short natured unit.
The underlying principal of the Ika is to close with the enemy unit and to make a boarding action. In doing so, the Ika has a whopping 9 AP to use, vastly outnumbering most ships.
If the Ika kills the enemy assault personnel on board, the ship becomes a derelict wreck as the Ika has killed off the crew and left it floating as a ghost ship.
What makes the Ika so effective? They possess the ‘Furious’ special rule which means that their attack dice hit on 3+ not 4+ like everything else. This makes a huge difference, as does the fact that these hits still ‘explode’ making a very potent boarder.
The Ika can be taken in units of 2 for just 200 points for the pair. Combined, the Boarding action of these hideous robots will leave even a dreadnought floating.
The process for an Ika squid to make its attack run goes as follows (taken from the Spartan Games Community site):
“Activate Ika. Move it into base contact with boarding target (don't forget to surface!). Do not shoot your boarding target. After your shooting (if any) has been resolved announce you are boarding your target. Opponent counterattacks with CC value (remember he rolls one less die for rugged construction). Apply damage to Ika then commence boarding. You roll your AP value (hopefully still 9!) hitting on a 3,4,5, and 6. Your opponent does the same hitting on a 4,5 and 6. Apply damage to both units. If your opponent's ship has been reduced to 0 AP his ship becomes derelict. Remember after your Ika boards it will be subject to robot vulnerability until the end of your current turn.”
Thanks to Timbo on the Dystopian Wars EotBS threads for this.
The ‘Rugged Construction’ special rule means that the enemy rolls one less attack dice against the Ika, so when the Ika boards, the enemy roll one less dice for CC (the counter charges/depth charges against torps and submersibles) – this makes the Ika more survivable as they charge headlong into the enemy fleet.
On it’s approach the Ika can unleash a pretty nasty salvo of fire. It possesses a single, fixed channel gun with crap Range Band 4 and Rb3 dice, but in RB2 it has 9 dice (linked) and in RB1 can unleash 15 linked dice or 2 x 10 dice against targets. This extents the use of the Ika from merely a boarding machine into something fractionally more flexible.
Another question of course arises for me – the Ika cannot (and nor can another unit) fire at its intended Boarding target, so could the Ika board in such a way that it pulls alongside the boarding target with its guns facing another target, unleashing a savage salvo against 2 targets, one via gunnery and the second by the boarding assault?
I’ll post on the community forums and find out..
On it’s approach the Ika can drop Mines, running in a pair we can then drop a fair few mines on the approach, attempting to block off territory and force the enemy fleet to advance on an alternative approach. This can be useful if situational. This cannot be combined with any other units in the Japanese fleet as there is bugger all else in the fleet that can drop mines, except the huge and overpriced Hachiman Dreadnought (overpriced for its ability, not within the game.. perhaps “underwhelming” is a better term), so the Mine Laying is not a huge deal.
The Ika is slow to get stuck in, but it is relatively safe from harm as it can approach submerged and is therefore only hit on a 6+. This is both a blessing and a curse.. it only has a Damage Rating of 5 so the enemy needs to be rolling 3 x 6’s on his dice to score a damaging hit (remember 6’s rolled explode into 2 hits)… and the Ika reduces incoming fire through Rugged Construction (as previously mentioned), so it is pretty safe. It has 6 hull points, so it can take a few hits, whilst keeping its main offensive output pretty safe, AP not being reduced by the damage taken unless there is a Raging Fire. A Critical Rating of 10 is pretty high and will keep the Ika in the game for some time.
My concerns are once the Ika has surfaced and killed a target.. it is then exposed for a turn until it can submerge once again below the waves, in this time it can take a serious pounding..let’s face it, if you stomp your opponents favourite ship, he is not going to let you just sail around with the Ika coming to a new target is he?!
The Ika and the Sokotsu.. one a huge draw for me starting the game, the other a real grower as I learn to play the game. The Ika has this iconic look that drew me to the faction as soon as I saw it.. truth is though, whilst lethal I find the Ika limited, on the other hand..the Sokotsu is a real grower and whilst I was underwhelmed with it to start with, I am really getting to grips with it now.
I’ll post more thoughts on the other half of the ‘large’ category later this week.
On a side note, many thanks to the guys that wished be well for my wedding last week..it was an amazing day..the happiest of my life so far. Bring on wedded bliss!