Fireteams in the New Human Sphere
At first sight, not much has changed about the linked teams with the new Edition of Human Sphere. They do pretty much the same things as they did before. A burst bonus, sixth sense, and a bonus to discovery and shooting rolls. Everybody is familiar with that. Looking into this matter a bit deeper one will find that there are quite a few significant changes:
1) Coherency Check: This should have been in the rules a long time ago. This rule doesn’t add anything new, but makes the game cleaner. Before, I felt that there was always this grey zone of what you could possibly do and how far you can stretch your team. Those ambiguities are now gone.
2) Entire order skills can now be performed by team members. This allows hackers in the team to use supportware programs. Speculative fire is now an option. For example, a metro with a light grenade launcher in a team of five would get +3 bonus to the BS test when doing a speculative shot, but only with B 1. Being able to nullify the negative modifier for such a shot at ideal range may finally make the inclusion of a grenade launcher a viable option for linked teams. The only exception for entire order skills seems to be suppression fire.
3) Duo teams. They don’t provide bonuses apart from saving orders when moving models. EVO hacking devices allow to put troopers with this rule into Duo teams even if they are part of a generic army. As a logical result, two troopers are still considered a team even when their Haris comrades have been taken out of the fight.
4) Special Fireteams. With a few exceptions, before HSN3 Core fireteams and Haris teams consisted of members of the same units. Now some units can mix with others in special Fireteams. Sr. Massacre has the dubious honour of giving Corregidor Jaguars a boost by allowing them to form a Haris or Core team with him. Without Sr. Massacre, no team of Jaguars. This certainly seems a bit strange, because Infinity did not have the mechanic of boosting special characters before. (Apart from maybe the Aleph Enomotarchos.) Another great example of a special team is to include a Highlander Grey into a linked team of Caledonian Volunteers. The Grey may be armed with an AP HMG, has good armour and smoke grenades. With the support of the cheap team, he can boost his BS to 16.
5) The biggest change of all is not in how fireteams work, but which Fireteams are available. Before HSN3, Haris Fireteams were not widely available. Now almost every sectorial army can have a Haris team. This adds a lot of punch to the sectorials, up to the point where some players are asking whether it is still viable to play generic armies at all.
What to do with Fireteams?
The Fireteam rules are very impressive on paper. Many a player has left the battle defeated, frustrated by a veteran who knows how to use his/her Fireteam properly. Those players may have gone home with the plan to assemble a Fireteam themselves, in order to win their next game. Unfortunately, this next game again is likely to cause frustration because the veteran shoots the team to bits. Fireteams are indeed tricky. In small games with low model count, the team models can’t get to their full potential because they have to bunch together. Moving together poses greater risk of exposing models to unforeseen AROs. This darn veteran always finds some strange angle where only one team member can see the approaching enemy, resulting in a smaller and thus less powerful team. Bunching up the team members to maximise ARO firepower exposes them to be communally blown to bits by a missile or grenade. Oops, it is not possible for one trooper to shoot and the others to dodge that shot from far away. Now the team leader is down again which will cost a command token. The team leader should have been kept prone behind that crate. Now the link is broken. Yes, Fireteams require a lot of training, but it is certainly worth putting effort into learning how to use them properly.
Generally, there are two ways of using Fireteams. These ways are not exclusive to the type of team and a team can switch from one use to the other during a game.
The defensive Fireteam. This team should have a mix of weapons for all range bands. It is very important that they have weapons covering the long range band, preferably more than one of them. Sniper rifles and missile launchers are perfect ARO weapons in such a linked team. Cheap units are great for forming such teams, as they will act both as strong defenders with the boosted BS and as order providers for the heavy hitters and specialists.
Obviously, you want to maximise the ARO shots in a defensive Fireteam. But keep in mind that such a team must be spread out to minimise the impact of blast and template weapons. One can be surprised how fast a template weapon can be thrusted on a Fireteam. This is precisely why they need to look in all directions. It is not enough to be allowed to act once the team gets attacked, someone needs to spot that Yuan Yuan lurking behind your back, sneaking into the best spot to kill off the entire team in a suicidal chain rifle attack. The team leader is a good choice for a trooper who stays prone and watches the back while the rest are fighting the brunt of the enemy. You don’t want to lose the leader and thus the team bonus in the beginning of your opponent’s turn.
The aggressive Fireteam. Heavy infantry is probably the best type of units to perform this task as they can endure some punishment as they move across the board. The team should include a specialist if the mission demands it. There should be at least one member with a heavy weapon. Let the champ do the work, and the other team members best spend their time hiding behind a wall. If you do not hide the other members, a self-sacrificing enemy trooper may pick one of them as their ARO target instead of the link leader, which will diminish the powers of your team. With the new type of “special Core” teams consisting of an expensive trooper and multiple cheap ones, it makes sense to use the team in this way.
Another way of using aggressive teams is to move your great close combat fighters in unison in order to gang up on single opponents. This is what Duo teams were made for. Before, we had Devil Dogs, Antipodes and coordinated orders to do this. Now the duo teams may shift the odds in melee fighting.
Because of their ability to move multiple models at once, Fireteams are great at missions like Frontline. They may see their limitations at missions like Quadrant Control or the 20×20 mission “Occupy Buildings”, because the team members have to stay close to each other.
Fireteams are strong, and the new Human Sphere book has certainly boosted the sectorial armies quite a bit. Some players have voiced opinions such as “Generic armies are too weak now” or even “Infinity has turned into a squad level game”. I have played all my post-HSN3 games with the Caledonian sectorial, and it did not feel that much different from my previous games apart from the fact that I had two links. My Caledonians have won me the first prize in a small ITS event. I won the last game against a generic Ariadnan force, but during the game I certainly wished I had my opponent’s models. The flexibility of single models paired with the greater range of available units still make generic forces a feasible choice. Fireteams are a strong option, but do not provide an automatic win over generic forces.