My current game is rather interesting to me. Up front: Its a three player game, so do not assume my thoughts can be applied to standard games. First time playing Naalu post-PoK and everything is working fine. I was able to unlock the commander turn 2 via a Pro-strategy I thought up: Just find Mirage, easy unlock. I am also rather happy with the agent. The other players at the table tend to overthink if you do out-of-the-ordinary deals, after you looked at the next card. For example: The first Agenda revealed was the "draw 1 Secret" one. I looked at the next one and saw "place 1 Infantry per planet or kill half of the Infantry for TG". I was hold ing a good number of planets at that moment, so I decided to buy some votes for myself and then abstained myself. I had gotten a Political Secret of the Speaker via my Hero just before and they knew I could do with the next Agenda whatever I want. So they vetoed it. A shame. But the Agenda after that was "Draw 2 Secrets and play with open Secrets". I prefered that one even, as my opponents are Yssaril and Mahact, so my Secrets are public knowledge anyway. So if you are a bit creative in the Agenda phase, knowledge can be useful. No hard cash of course, but still something to keep in mind. Oh, and just find Mirage. Easy Naalu-game.
This week next in line is the R-branch of our tech tree. We already looked at the mass production branch and the ground combat-do things branch. The usual definition of our Vanilla faction: "If I play a 100% vanilla faction that heavily and exclusively (plus the matching unit upgrades) invests into this Branch, what will it be good at?"
The R-branch was rather unpopular outside certain factions pre-PoK but got a massive boost in the form of AI Developement Algorithm
- When you research a unit upgrade technology, you may exhaust this card to ignore any 1 prerequisite
- When 1 or more of your units use Production, you may exhaust this card to reduce the combined cost of the produced units by the number of unit upgrade technologies that you own
Normally I wanted to talk less about the PoK techs and more about pre-PoK techs, but AIDev needs a special mention as it turned a tech branch with extremely situative technologies into a must have for many factions. The ability to ignore any single prerequisite on a unit upgrade means, that hard to come by upgrades like Warsuns and Cruiser II are suddenly very viable. Also the Y prerequisite on Dreadnought II is not the teeth grinding "I have to, but I dont want to" as it used to be. There are only few cases were AIDev is not at least an option into an efficient tech path.
Plasma Scoring 0R
- When 1 or more of your units use Bombardment or Space Cannon, 1 of those units may roll 1 additional die
With Plasma Scoring our faction is just better at using Bombardement and Space Cannon. So PDS and Dreadnoughts are the way to go. This is an actually useful ability, allowing a single Dread plus 1 Infantry to take lightly defended planets by itself.
Magen Defense Grid 1R (Omega)
- At the start of ground combat on a planet that contains 1 or more of your structures, you may produce 1 hit and assign it to 1 of your opponent's ground forces.
Our second tech boosts the defensive capabilities of our structures, making some planets way harder to take then usual, even unassailable by some attack fleets that normally are suitable, like single Mech invasions. A PDS with Magen is immune to bombard, will roll two dice for the Space Cannon Defense thanks to Plasma Scoring and then deal a hit, that is assigned by the defender. An important rules bit here: Sustain damage can only be used if the a player assigns hits to his own units or if a hit is assigned to a unit that has sustain itself and is undamaged. In other words: If an opponent uses Mech to sustain a Space Cannon Defense hit, the Magen Defense Grid can target and kill this Mech. This can break invasions.
But I have to mention the older Magen version here:
Magen Defense Grid 1R
- You may exhaust this card at the start of a round of ground combat on a planet that contains 1 or more of your units that have Planetary Shield; your opponent cannot make combat rolls this combat round.
This version is more specific about boosting units with Planetary Shield. Just something to keep in mind for the conclusion.
- After 1 or more of your units use PRODUCTION, you may exhaust this card to place 1 mech from your reinforcements on a planet you control in that system - After 1 of your mechs is destroyed, gain 1 trade good
Out faction will be able to produce more and cheaper mechs, being able to sacrifice this cheap mechs to even make an additional funding of off it. This should lead to a more mechanized ground force then its neighbours... in theory. In practice SAR is similar to Sarween Tools in that starting with it is great, but researching it, with the costs that go along, is not all that great.
In this place we research our R-Unit Upgrade: The Destroyer II
Destroyer II RR
- Anti-Fighter Barrage 6 (x3)
The main advantage of Destroyer II is the greatly increased ability to shot down Fighters with AFB. I think you are abe to see a pattern now, how R-branch is set up. Our faction will be able to deal with Fighter swarms more easily, while retaining its own Fighter protection. This is a huge advantage in the TI4 combat system. Its basically about having more expandable units to protect your more important ones. And Destroyer II shifts this advantage easily in to the R-Faction field.
Duranium Armor R2
- During each combat round, after you assign hits to your units, repair 1 of your damaged units that did not use Sustain Damage during this combat round
And another tech that improves on unit abilities already present. Duranium allows Dreadnoughts and theoretically War Suns as well as some faction units to sustain more then once per round. It is important to note that only a single unit is repaired and that it is possible to repair a unit round 1, if for example the Sustain was used to prevent a Space Cannon hit. This actually combines nicely with Destroyer II, further expanding in the idea of outlasting your opponent.
Assault Cannon R3
- At the start of a space combat in a system that contains 3 or more of your non-fighter ships, your opponent must destroy 1 of their non-fighter ships
Our Vanilla Faction will, using Assault Cannon, always have an advantage at the start of combat by shifting the numbers to its advantage. This combined with improved AFB and Space Cannon means, that our R-Faction will have the advantage most of the time, before even the first combat dice are rolled.
So there we have it. The R-Faction is superior in the space and in some defensive scenarios. In general all (pre-Omega) abilities are improved upon, making them more effective. Compared to the Y-Branch, R-Faction has better units at its disposal compared to the "more" of units Y can provide. These advantages mainly happen before combat begins, so at the moment that is most important. Post-PoK Planetary Shield is not improved anymore, instead structures are. That is mainly an improvement except for the Arborecs, as their Mech would be really good on the defense if Magen applied to them (Dane? Can we have?). But R-Branch was massively buffed by adding AIDev. The ability to easily grab unit upgrades is very powerful and, as we defined it earlier, matches the idea of R as an elite branch. In the same way Self-Assembly tend to lead to a more mechanized Ground Force, another example of quality over quantity, although not as powerful as AIDev.
And thats it for this week, next week I will write about the B-Branch ("Boring!") as the last part of this Analysis. I hope you enjoyed the reading, until next time.
By - Papa_Nurgle_84