Friday, 19 August 2016

First Impressions: Phase 2 Shaltari

We're as angry as you are! What are we angry about again?
Next on the review conveyor belt, and I sense the most anticipated of the lot, are the cosmic Galagos (google it) and the most recent additions to their roster. It seems that in order to not break tradition these new units have been designed to be somewhat controversial, a trait that apparently the Shaltari seem to love being! We have touched on a couple of these already, but thought it worth a full review for the three newest units (and a couple of extras thrown in).

Unlike my positive review of the Scourge, before I even start writing this post I know it is likely to be full of cow pats, so grab your wellies and shovels and let's get knee deep.

Crocodile

Of all the famous commanders to be converted into a unit for general use, the Crocodile was at the very bottom of my list of possibilities. An Ocelot cannon on a Caimen chasis, that has a MF 6"? I call bullshit, and can hear (and in fact did during Alpha release) multiple Talons second the motion. The alpha rules were ludicrous, with the skimmer being unbelievably potent, but I'm glad to say it's been toned down somewhat. Toned down enough? I can't really work that out.

I know, that's not what you wanted from this review, but without game time I have no idea where on the see-saw of balance it sits; does the heavy choice soar high into the air, with a big fat smile on its face, or is at the bottom of the playground toy, plank and arse dropped into a pile of bullshit. Having an Ocelot cannon on a skimmer is a bad idea, period, but it does have the same MF as an Ocelot if wants to use the howitzer. Being a skimmer does open it up to double tapping more efficiently; moving 6" and having a shot with the toned down E10 alternative, to activate first next turn and lay down the pain. This is a predictable move though and can be avoided, which brings us to another question; does its speed make it worth 25 points more than an Ocelot?

Yes and no. Yes, because it can claim focal points far more easily than an Ocelot as it won't require a gate to shift around the board. No, because it can only move 2" if you fire the daddy cannon, and really that's what you're buying it for; demolition and elite unit sniping. I have a suspicion that only players who use Ocelots will want a Crocodile, but may not often want or be able to find the points to 'upgrade' to one.

Verdict: It's still riding that see-saw

Mikes technical input: I find the Crocodile an interesting concept. I think it will play similarly to how the UCM use Katanas. Drive on and use the demo ability for a couple of turns while you get yourself in a position to affect the game in the later turns. I like the power drop if moving fast, I think it is a great rule, I do wonder if it will be worth it though. It is versatile in it's anti-tank output but lacks versatility overall. This is a good thing. I think it does it's job very well. Expensive though. 

Joe 2pence: I feel this is a bit of a lazy choice for a unit. They had to cap that MF speed with a special rule, otherwise this would also become bullshit. The Ocleot had so many birthing problems, changing from mf 0" to 2" was a big change for a unit. The Ocelot still doesn't get much field time because only 1 shot and easy to avoid. So the Croc can move but do you want to be paying more than a Caiman for a 1 x E10 shot if you do? I know what id prefer, the one that can move and have 3 shots. Some would say then just use it for demo. Yeah the Caiman option can do the same output while moving full speed. 

Firebird
We glanced at the Firebird in the past when the experimental rules first came out, and since then my feelings toward it haven't changed; it's a good gunship! Not great, but definitely a solid choice in the right Shaltari build. If you're looking for a close up, aggressive list then you will probably want these birds. If you're looking for a unit to target very specific backboard units, then again, you will probably want these birds.


The balancing act for most Gunships is making sure that their load-out is not too potent for the survivability of the unit, and Hawk have pretty much nailed it with the Firebird. It is potentially a very survivable unit, with E2 and P5+ countermeasures (Mike will have to do you the maths...), but due to the range of the gun, a mere 6", you need to take risks to actually get to your target.

'Nuff sed, I like it. That is until a squad disintegrate my Oppressor. Then they'll be bullshit.

Joe's 2 pence: I have used these, and a Thunderstorm was taken as a trophy. The short range is a set back. It means that most AA will have at least a reaction shot at them before they get to shoot. It becomes a little obvious after 2 turns of careful moving who their targets are! The damage output of these guys is very rewarding though. Watch out, lower armoured multi wound models. I would have liked to see the range up to 9"

Leopard
If any unit is going to bring the brick back into contention, it's this beast. A true master of close
encounters, you never want to be within 9" of a Leopard if you're any kind of ground unit. Boasting either three E12 shots or 2 E12 and 24 E4, whether you are a tank or infantry squad you're looking at having a straight up James-Blunt-Bad-Day, and all for a mere 85 points. It sounds too cheap doesn't it? There are other factors to take into consideration though; effective range, gate costs and deployment issues, and potential vulnerability without a Dreamsnare nearby.

Taking all of this into account I think 85 points is almost fair, but a tweak in the potency is probably needed. Instead of a points increase I would (and some of you may have seen this coming) reduce the amount of E12 shots it spews out onto the battlefield. I mean, three, is that really necessary? Keep the 85 points, keep the Dragon Cannon AT alt to be E12 and make its E12 top gun a single shot weapon. For comparison let's take the most similar unit from another army, the Odin. That costs 65 points and boasts two E11 shots, which have to shoot at the same target. Granted these shots have a much, much better range, but they don't double up as a very good AI weapon. Both are about as robust as each other, but within 13" the Leopard is twice as dangerous for an extra 20 points.

The idea of playing against a Leopard Brick build which contains two Leopards and a Dreamsnare, producing a ridiculous seven E12 shots a turn, makes me sigh both internally and externally. In fact, my external sigh may even sound like the word 'Bullshit'. Sadly, I know the Leopard won't be changing in anything apart from perhaps points. Why? It's got Dreamsnare guns, and Dave won't want to change the convention of E12 on them.

Mikes technical input: I really like the Leopard, but certainly agree that it has too many shots. 2 (at 2 targets) would be enough. It is brutally efficient, and removing one from as far away as possible will be essential. How you do that is a different story altogether; Dan touched on my idea above, to resurrect the Shaltari brick. It's fucking horrendous! Can you imagine 2 Leopards and a Dreamsnare dropping in next to you. Backed up with some Kukri for good measure. Fuck it, add the Gharial into the bubble for 9 E12 shots!! I do like the model and again the concept, I think it is a touch too far. I guess we will see. 

Joe's 2 pence: I agree with all of the above, the only thing I would add, is that the short range does have its drawbacks. Means whatever the Leopards shooting at is also in range to shoot it back or first!! Now we all know I love my Thunderstorm, 2 of these are cheaper by 25pts and have 2 more shots that doesn't blow your own face off (on rolling snake eyes to hit). Also don't forget armour 9 over 8 and that passive. Yeah he is a commander, just food for thought on those high energy guns.


Panther
Before we get into this bullshit sandwich, I am going to do my best to be constructive in my criticism of the Bull- I mean Panther, but I'm not going to apologise if I turn down the wrong tunnel and begin to rant. These type of things just bring it out in me. Those of you who have heard or read my opinions on the Panther's alpha and proposed beta rules in the past will know which direction this review will be going, and that direction is firmly down, straight into the sewers where the rules belong. So, anyway, the review:

Unsurprisingly, this unit is Bullshit.

Look, I want everyone to understand that I'm not just saying this for the sake of causing hysteria, or through sheer hardheadedness, I firmly believe that a total lack of thought, play testing and a basic understanding of how the game is played in practise has caused these rules to be released. In order for me to give a thorough explanation let's focus on the Ocelot, the mother of the Panther. The Ocelot is a two function titan, and is fully committed to demolition and extreme range anti-tank. Being able to hammer a building for 10 points in one shot or snipe a tank from the other board edge on paper seems extraordinarily broken, but in practise it isn't nearly as strong as you would think. For maximum demolition damage the Ocelot has to roll a heap of good dice, and to snipe a tank you have to wait for your opponent to provide an appropriate target in the open, which due to the level of LoS blocking terrain in Dropzone could be a rarity. In the end the chances are your Ocelot will never make its points back, either in influence on the warzone or in literal points; the very nature of the battlefield blunts the teeth of the Ocelot's bite.
The MK Dons of the Dropzone Commander world

Losing the demo and AT of the Ocelot (it should be said that it's still not bad at AT, specifically when targetting skimmers), the Panther is more streamlined to its main function, which is to provide unparalleled AA cover anywhere on the table. Being able to target an aircraft at any range is just mind-blowingly bonkers! This is a fact anvil I feel I shouldn't have to drop, but losing an aircraft is not the same as losing a tank. You blew up my Sabre? Fine, whatevs. You annihilated my troops transport carrying my exotics from 46" away? Erm, excuse me, what just happened?

See, the thing is AA has been traditionally limited to an average of 18", with the very best and most expensive units reaching 24". I have always been in the understanding that this is due to how open a battlefield can be for aircraft, bearing in mind that you will normally only have five buildings taller than 6" on a table. These 24" AA units are a solid pain in the arse and can be deployed to tear giant holes in your opponents plan-blanket, but they need to be deployed correctly to provide this level of support which takes time. Also 24" is far, but not unavoidable. The Panther doesn't offer either of these disadvantages. In a game which is mostly about air-to-ground deployment, infinite range AA from the first turn is far, far too dangerous, and removes a level of tactics from the owner of the Panther. That real thorn, nay, spike in my side is the reaction fire and the number of shots it produces. Reduce the range, or get rid of reaction fire. Removing RF is admittedly too far, but it seems I have to be over the top in order for things to change sometimes.

Having a look in the Shaltari toolbelt now, I can see it's almost full. They are at the top level for infantry, demolition, and now anti-air. They are even pretty close for anti-tank too! This isn't a balance any race should have.

I've gone on for long enough, and will let you make your own mind up about the unit. I will always think that it fundamentally goes against the principles of the game in this state of rules, even if it turns out to never be used and is actually garbage in practise. I know a horde (not hoard) of people will disagree with me, and I respect the opinion of those players, I just sincerely don't share it.

This all said, I do like the sculpt though. The gun looks 'infinitely' better than all other walkers weapons...

[Ed]
Don't know what all the fuss is about...

Mikes technical input: Dan has said it all....Bullshit! 

Ok, lets try to be rational. I see a lot of arguments saying that you can just ignore the Panther, just fly low, or fly more cleverly. I whole-heartedly disagree with that. A canny Shaltari player knows where best to place his Panther (or 2). It will be exactly where you need to get to. Yes you can hide behind buildings, either landing or going to the deck, but at some point you will have to make 'that run' the one that gets your infantry to the objective building. 

Each element of the Panther is individually fine. The Warstrider base, perfectly ok. An infinite range gun - fine, we have seen them all over the place. 3 shots E8 AA is actually ok, Accuracy 2+ is reasonable too. The problem is the combination of all that in one package. Lets take infinite range as an example. EVERY single infinite range gun in the game (pre-panther) has 1 shot. You get the benefit of being able to reach across the battlefield, but the drawback is the minimum 30% chance (or more more often than not more) of nothing happening. Having multiple shots gives you some redundancy, especially with hitting on a 2+. It all adds up to me hating this unit. 

There are so many ways that I could and would improve it for the game. 
  • Range reduction to 30" - still the longest AA but not horrible, may mean you forgo walking on in favour of gating on.
  • Accuracy increase to 3+ - this changed would probably be my favoured. It means that the reaction fire is on a 6+ which makes sense for the 'slow to traverse' special rule. Currently 'slow to traverse' means that the Panther is still just as good ans the majority of AA guns. 
  • No reaction Fire - Have the 'slow to traverse' actually mean something. 
  • Make the Mf 0" - Means that a gate is crucial and stops 'turn 1' dropship sniping.
Doing any one of these would certainly help balance the unit with the game, giving it an actual drawback.

Joe's 2 pence: I don't think this unit will be as bad(!!) against veterans of the game compared to the newer folk. If I was new to the game this would make me not want to play. It shouldn't have been made and I cant think of anything that would make it fit in. The Shaltari have merged into a walk on the table edge and shoot army

Other Reconquest: Phase 2 Tweaks

Ronin cheaper by 1 point - Er, okay, sure? Not sure why they bothered changing it by a point.
Samurai cheaper by 3 points - Cool. Still probably won't take them, they suffer general flame unit issues
Pungari points increase by 3 points a base - Link back to my post when the Hoard (Horde) rule came into play. Bump in points necessary after seeing them in use.
Ghariel points increase by 10 points - Unexpected, would have preferred a reduction to a single E12 shot rather than it being worth more on a FP or CL

Mikes technical input: I'm glad the Ronin and Samurai got cheaper. I like them (now they are suitably fixed) the models are cool too. I hope to see more across the battlefield.

Pungari absolutely had to have their points increased with the introduction of the Hoard rule. I did think that it would be introduced for all 3 and 4 based squads. Looks like I was wrong. 72 points for 2 searches was so so cheap. Now it is 84, still cheap but better - Pugari will now be the staple of the Shaltari army, meaning they will be able find objectives quicker (based on number of searches) than the other races. 

The Gharial is certainly the better Command choice when it comes to what it can do in differing types of scenario. Making it more expensive is not the way to fix it. It's sat at the right place, I am inclined to agree with Dan that making it only one E12 shot would have been the way to go. Could have made it 5 or so cheaper with that as well.

Joe's 2 pence: All good changes! Shaltari scouts though I feel are all under powered for how many point they cost, they all need some extra loving!!! I would have liked to see the Coyote go down in points, then the Gharial up.

Overall
I find myself getting frustrated every time conversations regarding Shaltari spring up. Some people think they're fine, some don't, others just don't care, and a small collective just won't bother playing them as they want to 'enjoy their games'. Recent tournament results suggest that Shaltari are on the rise again after the initial nerfs were made (about a year ago I think), which is admittedly a little worrying, and these most recent releases will only help push Shaltari up the ladder I feel. My opinion on the Shaltari is that they were designed to be a puzzle, a complex riddle to piece together and feel reward from solving. They are beginning to become a jumbo kids puzzle with minimal 3" large pieces, which for a faction who have distinct advantages over the other races is an issue that will need to be addressed. The puzzle needs to be put back into the Shaltari.

27 comments:

  1. Yay, I know something about Shaltari. Specifically, e6 AA really doesn't get the job done. Oh how I longed for a reaper - but not like this!

    Of all the proposed changes to the panther, I like the range reduction the most. There should be safe zones (whether through terrain or range) that a player knows about, that lets them play the game. Manipulating dice maths is find and good, even then having games being made lopsided as some eviscorators get aced bottom of one seems very unfair (disclaimer - I am also not a fan of the reaction fire or go to ground mechanics as they both feel too swingy, but understand their place in the game).

    Joe touched on it, but I felt as though it was screaming at me when I was reading the crocodile's entry - why take this over a caiman, or even an ocelot? Maybe it will feel different on the table. I do think it's interesting how people I have spoken to have either considered it a modification to the ocelot or the caiman, but never both.

    I don't know if I will use the leopard. If I do, it will be in an HQ squad with a gharial and a dreamsnare (that's a legal group, right?), all coming out of a gaia turn 1. Almost as scary as a thunderstorm, less effective threat but more firepower.

    I love ronin, and it's a pity firstborn are in the same slot. I would use samurai if I could take 2 of them at a time.

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  2. Reading this has persuaded me that the Panther is not right. Also, the Leopard definitely should only have 2 E12 shots. It stomps on an Odin with double the DP and so much firepower for only 20 points more, even given the range difference.

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  3. I expect there will be lots of talk of the Panther here, its the review I was looking forward too :)

    I haven't played against it yet bit on paper it looks a bit much and also not really in keeping with the other infinite range guns in the game.

    Infinite range AA just seems like a bad thing for a game based around dropship maneuvering but if it has to exist it shouldn't be this good. Its too efficient at shooting down the small drop ships with three shots and with Energy 8 it can even take down skimmers.

    My idea for it is to reduce the energy down to 7, making it less efficient at taking down skimmers and also bringing back meaning to armour 6 flyers. Also reduce its shots down to 1 and give it Dev-3, making it harder to hit with but able to deal massive damage to its target. This is in keeping with both the models triad gun and the other infinite range guns in the game.

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  4. My general opinion is that the first book (barring flame-weapons) should be the standard to go by. Shaltari had the general idea that they were hard to use and needed gates to survive. We really never were there (they are the army least dependent on keeping their transports alive) but now it is getting a bit much with all the stupid ranges in the game. By the basic book principle:

    One shot E 10 is the norm of shooting of a AT unit. E 11 is premium.
    24" range is faaaaaar range and anything with far range should have few shots.
    Dropships must be used to have the units being effective.
    If it is survivable it must be slow.

    In total there are so many things wrong with many of the new units. The old "same but played slightly different" is not good enough anymore instead we need the "each new unit must add a new concept from the old above mentioned" which I think is hurting the game.

    Full range of AA is just boring. I thought first it would be ok. But hits on normal 2+? And only +3 for reactive fire, i e hits on 5:s? While being the stupid hard to kill hull. I'm not liking it much. They could have done it a lot better.

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  5. The Croc won't get skimmer bonus if it fires the big shot, correct?

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    1. Correct, it uses alt profiles with one being MF 6" and E10, whilst the other is MF 2" and E13 & DemoD3+2.

      On the move it's a weak Caiman, but it has the option of being an Ocelot with lower armor.

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  6. I think the thing that surprises me when the panther is described as fine is the issue that if it locks down a direction I'm afraid the other direction will be the rest of their AA.

    Not even considering what two can do with 90degree angles, particulary on corners deployment missions.

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  7. When I first heard about the Panther I was in the camp that it wasn't going to be a big deal. Infinite range weapons have 1 shot, all of them, till now. The three shots I think was the most shocking thing I heard about it and is really the big issue.

    Really not looking forward to a Shaltari resurgence.

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  8. Like other models before the Panther, this will probably be nerfed into uselessness by over-reaction, don't worry. Until then we will learn to deal with it. In all likelihood through actual real-world time-on-table with it we will figure out how to cope or how to effectively take it into account in our tactics, thereby not even necessitating the level of nerf that everyone's initial reaction garnered.

    What I'm really not looking forward to is a Shametari resurgence. For a few glorious months there I was finally able to put my toys on the table without seeing the glares and hearing the comments that only asshole shithead powergamers play that army.
    -Major Awesome-

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    1. The idea the nothing is too powerful that it cant be countered by good tactics and therefore wont require adjusting is somewhat silly. Yes some things have been overnerfed, but a lot of nerfs were for very good reasons and brought much needed energy back to the game.

      The problem Shaltari have is that they seem to consistently get the most abusable things and it takes quite a while for them to be adjusted. This is a somewhat recurrent problem with "ancient mystic" races in such games, one can look at the Eldar in 40k for example. Such factions often get rather ridiculous things to match a background concept of being more advanced that inherently leads to overpowering rules.

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    2. I'm not saying it's perfectly balanced, I'm just saying that in all likelihood the reaction people have before they play with it and against it several times is creating more of a furor than is necessary.
      -Major Awesome-

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    3. Well, I've now played against it. The Panther won Joe the game. I did my damnedest to mitigate it, playing the avoidance game.
      It did 5 damage on my Overseer in 1 round of shooting!!
      I failed to kill the Panther with 3 Hunters and a Despoiler. The Panther then fluffed it's lines on it's next shot, I again failed to kill the Panther with the same 3 Hunters and Despoiler (10 E11 shots and only 2 damage!!). The Panther then killed the Overseer, which meant I couldn't get enough points on the Critical Location and lost by a point.

      The scourge may have the biggest problem against the Panther, as they don't have anything with long enough range to get a backboard unit early (without it being too obvious what you are doing)

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  9. Board control is its biggest issue I think. Shaltari were already the fastest most manoeuvrable army out there, able to deploy / redeploy with ease, its infantry (some of the best in the game) able to get pretty much anywhere by turn 2 etc...Now they have the Panther...Its not fast or manoeuvrable, but it shuts down your movement damn effectively just in avoiding it, even when its not firing (Not to mention all those low flying snake eyes that you just know its going to be inspiring....its almost like just by putting one on the table you give every enemy aircraft a 1 in 36 chance of crashing per turn).

    When you add double searching Pungari into the mix...Panther shuts down your movement and slows you getting to the objectives, While Pungari find the objective more quickly (and cheaply) than anyone else,, nice combo when you think about it.

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  10. My comments will be limited regarding game balance as I haven't played a lot and haven't played against the Shaltari much.

    My main issues with them are with concept-breaking and fluff-breaking rules. I don't like the 'slow to traverse' rule, for example, because I don't think the Shaltari should have a slow to traverse turret gun. It just seems unlikely that they would field something so old fashioned. If the gun in question needs toning down in some way, then it ought to be in a way that is consistent with the other game rules and the setting. And if that can't be done, then it shouldn't be introduced into the game at all.

    Likewise, I dislike the Crocodile's 2" MF rule, or rather, then weakened 6" MF gun rule. Both the gun and the mount are things we're familiar with and this rule seems like a very 'gamey' rule added very obviously for the sake of game balance. If the Shaltari were going to put this gun on this tank then they'd do it _because_ it was possible to MF the gun 6" at full effect. Once again, if this is too powerful then I'd like to see balance introduced in another way.

    I do like all of the new models though.

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  11. Getting really sick of all the Shaltari specialness. Seems like every other faction has been limited to just a handful of tools the Shaltari have in their abundant tool box, be it long range AA, long range flying template weapons, units that can disembark and then fire, amazing Passive saves, etc., i.e. no faction has as much crazy stuff as the Shaltari. It's frustrating that gate hunting has to contend with an infinite range AA weapon (does it still have Devastator, too?) and even more high energy ground weapons now. They were typically the most un-fun faction to play against before the nerf. After the nerf, they were closer to the other factions in overall balance. Now, with these new units, I'm afraid we're back to early 2015. How am I supposed to build a local player base with this BS going on?

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    1. oh please, if the PHR and Shaltari releases were reversed with appropriate change in theme (not rules) people would look at shaltari-valkyrie and shit a brick. But since they are PHR people love it. If Shaltari got the Thor people would never stop saying bullshit, because 4 have effectively infinite range, but as PHR it's fine nothing to see here move along. If Shaltari got the Aether people would shit a brick and call it bullshit that it can hit them with templates from 24" away (18"+6" move), without LoS, and continuously whine about how broken Shaltari is... but it's PHR so it's fine. And can you imagine if Shaltari got the Nemesis? oh man, infinite range dev-2, the forum would have imploded in an orgy of whine. But it's PHR so it's fine.

      and of course, if PHR had gotten the Panther as a Type 2 variant I bet my left nut that most people would look at it, say "thanks Dave!" and nod sagely about how balanced it is.

      But nope, since PHR got that stuff it's ok, and anything potentially useful that's Shaltari isn't ok.
      -Major Awesome-

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    2. Here's the thing, every one is protective of their own factions and probably have a right to be. After all, you've invested a lot into your army. That said, everyone has broken units in this wave! Well, apart from the UCM. Poor UCM.

      The Panther is broken but so are Valkyries, it just so happened that PHR were in need of that kind of unit, whereas the Shaltari didn't need the Panther. I don't think it's fair to post examples of units because they would never be the same (Aethers with a passive save would be bullshit btw), and also fit certain armies differently. It also isn't fair to say you'll never recruit new players because of one unit. The Shaltari have issues, but are not unbeatable. I know lots and lots of new Scourge players who get hammered every week, because that's how the race has turned out, but still enjoy the game.

      It's true that I think the Hogs are favoured by Dave, and that they are in the top position at the moment, but the game is not so unbalanced it is ruined.

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    3. Is it Hawk's fault that recruiting players is hard, or is it b/c with a bit of googling research on the game the potential player will find this blog with it's scathing review of a unit few have actually fielded?

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    4. Surely recruiting players is hard because Hawk have joined a competitive, niche market. It hasn't stopped GW and their game balancing is total turd.

      Besides Isn't the whole purpose of blogging to be able to voice an opinion? I would rather have that over some gushy drivel.

      All these phase 2 posts are called First Impressions, would you rather they waited 6 months before posting? Or are you just salty because you ordered two Panthers :)

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  12. Its the scourge I feel sorry for, they get an awesome unit like the overseer which helps them out no end....and its basically invalidated by the Panther which will blow it out of the sky as soon as it shows its face.

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    1. It's alright, we're used to this shit. Adapt and evolve...

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    2. walk on Oppressor anyone? :)

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    3. On good dice, sure, statistically.... not so much.

      God forbid theres a single good reason not to take an overseer though. Its like saying that the Ocelot makes the Zeus obsolete- not really true, but sure, if you arent thinking about it when you deploy its gonna hurt.

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  13. I understand the rage, but I like mike's practical suggestions and I think it's these things that should be focused on when people petition hawk.

    One thing I would point out are that shaltari were the only race without energy 7 / 8 on their ground based AA and with the amount of gunships and a6-7 aircraft now out I think shaltari did need something.

    For me the main issue is the infinite range. If it were 30" like mike suggested then the panther would not be so different to 2 Zhukov's or 2 Phobos.

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  14. The real puzzle of the Shaltari: how to fit anything in your list and still keep full battlegroups on the field you arent just ceding initiative by default.

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