To SpecOp or not to SpecOp, that is the question.
SpecOp models – introduced in the Paradiso Campaign – are what many folks have asked for: customisable characters. But are they worth the trouble?
Paradiso is the default gaming mode for SpecOps. They were, after all, designed to fit there, and give us a chance to build up, develop and upgrade a character. It also allows to build the most powerful SpecOps, as Experience Points (XP) are gathered from mission to mission. This is, however, balanced by the possibility of losing the SpecOp (with all the accumulated XP / abilities) if the model is killed.
Another point – Paradiso allows you to spend XP on Command abilities. While generally more expensive than upgrading your SpecOp, many players consider them more powerful. After all, these tend to affect the whole army. Plus, no matter what, you are not going to lose them, even if your SpecOp got killed and you have to start from scratch with a new one.
All that has lead to the point where some gaming groups introduced a house rule to prevent the players from spending all the XP on Command abilities.
Not to mention that in some folks’ opinion, advancing just one trooper is somewhat gimmick.
Well, the Dire Foes is a special case – in the Narrative Mode, you are to use a SpecOp Character. Who, in fact, is just a Special Character with appropriate point and SWC cost, and who gets some form of a bonus in the given scenario. No provisions are made for your typical, customisable SpecOp, though I guess you could agree with your opponent to allow a 12 XP one, and it wouldn’t derail the game.
Infinity Tournament System (2014 variant)
One of the ITS modes – the SpecOp mode – allows you to bring in a SpecOp with typically 12 XP worth of skills and stuff (I’m not a part of ITS scene myself, but I guess a tournament organiser could allow for more experienced SpecOp).
A 12 XP SpecOp is like a lockpick – you can configure him to offset typical drawbacks of your faction and, especially, sectorial. Short on Specialists? Making a SpecOp one costs a mere 1 XP. Doctor, Hacker or Engineer? 2 XP each. Many weapons – including ones capable of destroying scenery pieces (and in scenarios like Lifeblood it is pretty important) – can be purchased with XP, without increasing points cost of the model, or, in fact, having any effect on your SWC pool. Infiltration? Superjump? Climbing Plus? Minelayer? It’s all for the taking… an Infiltrating Specialist is very useful, especially if you can get him at a Light Infantryman’s point cost.
Also, do not forget that SpecOp is capable of linking with the troop type he comes from (typically, your basic Light Infantry), while not counting against that unit’s Availability. This, in turn, can affect your list build philosophy, allowing you to field Link Teams larger than a given Sectorial normally can – e.g. Hassassin Bahram fielding a Link Team of 4 Ghulam (AVA:4) plus a Ghulam-based SpecOp…
Yet Another Mission System
YAMS wasn’t written with SpecOps in mind, however, it takes the inclusion of 12 XP ones rather well. Since the system doesn’t need specialists to achieve objectives (as would be the case in ITS or Paradiso), it allows you to spend these points whichever way you like, often covering various angles you’d have to spend many more points and SWC otherwise. Or leave them not covered.
The ability to include a SpecOp into a Link Team is still very useful if you play a Sectorial.
My personal experience lies primarily with YAMS, so I’m going to get into some detail here. In my local meta, YAMS SpecOps are a popular choice, usually in the so-called “Swiss Army Knife” variant. You can easily make your SpecOp an Engineer, Hacker and Doctor, plus boost the model’s WIP (which tends to make him a better specialist than your standard Doc, Engineer, and on par with the better – if not elite – hackers) and even BTS. Depending on actual buildup, you may even have some extra XP left to get a support weapon (preferably long-ranged one, like a Sniper Rifle) – free of SWC. Which in turn allows you to have a single model, costing as much as a basic infantryman, cover the roles of 3-4 other, more expensive models. And thus leaving you more Combat Group spaces and points for fancy toys…
Let’s wrap it up.
SpecOps – if allowed – make building lists easier. Way easier. In my personal opinion – affects the game and counters certain faction’s weaknesses more than the use of Mercenaries. Actually, I suppose CB thinks alike, judging from the fact ITS 2014 allows vanilla factions to field Mercenaries (though Sectorials still have to keep to those listed in their rosters), while SpecOps are permitted only in the SpecOps mode.
Personally, I often play my games without using a SpecOp, even if permitted to field one. Relying on SpecOp feels kind of… cheap?