THE CARE AND FEEDING OF COMMAND/CONTROL/COMMUNICATIONS, OR HOW TO MAKE A C3 OPFOR
A C3 network connects the systems of multiple units together, which gives two advantages. First, it allows every unit in the network to use the Range modifier of the networked unit closest and with a valid LOS to a target - this doesn't work with the IF special, sadly, as the firing unit does have to have its own valid LOS. Second, when using the Battlefield Intelligence rules, having a network gives enough MHQ points that you will almost certainly have bonuses to your Iniative.
Now, what's the vulnerability? ECM. Any C3 unit within an enemy ECM's area will lose its connection to the network, unless it has a friendly ECM to counter its effect. These effects do stack, so (for example) if a C3S has three enemy ECM bubbles and two friendly bubbles on it, the enemy ECM wins out.
There are three types of C3 networks available in Alpha Strike: C3 Master/Slave, C3 Integrated, and C3 Master/Slave Boosted - while there is a C3 Integrated Boosted Special, as of yet no units are equipped with C3BSI.
A note: units not on this list aren't BAD - but the units listed are as close to perfect as you can get without designing your own. Many designs not listed here are usable, and I do so frequently. But if you're starting off and want to know what's best, here it is.
C3 MASTER/SLAVE NETWORK
A C3 Master/Slave network has a central computer (or several!) which each control up to three slave computers - and yes, a master of one network can be the slave of another, which allows a maximum network size of 12. Always shoot for 12 in a network; that way the C3 PV premium is working to its maximum.
The faction most associated with C3M/S is the Draconis Combine; House Kurita was the first house to really push C3 networks under the guidance of Kanrei
Theodore Kurita. However, all the Successor States have access to C3M/S, and mercenary units also make use of it. C3 MASTERS
A full network of 12 needs four C3Ms in one configuration or another; one unit with C3M2 and 3 with C3M or 4 with C3M. C3M units need to be durable and long-range: dealing at least 3 damage at Long range, with at least 6 points of Armor and/or a +2 TMM. You can't risk it at Short/Medium range, not when it has Slaves to do that job.
Those criteria trim off quite a bit. Of the culls, a Fennec
is borderline with 3/3/2 OV1 damage, A/S 6/3, and 12" MV, one of the most survivable mobile C3Ms out there; a Mongoose II
is super-fast; the Daimyo
and Grand Dragon
are super-cheap; and a Avatar-OU
may have pathetic damage above water but has TOR 3/4/3 and only costs 29 points - perfect for a 4-unit C3M configuration with plenty of water on the table, just stick it underwater. On the CV front, an Maxim
also earns note for being fast and reasonably priced.
The two C3M2 units which fit our criteria are powerful: the Naginata-C3B
. Of the two, for five PV more the Naginata is a better pick; ECM lets it defend its link against isolated disrupters, and D3/5/4 is perfect. However, the C3M version
has 3/5/5 - one of the rare units with C3 that does 5 or more points of damage at long range. C3M2 units can also choose to drop their MHQ Special at the start of a turn to create an ECM Special, making it even harder for rogue ECM disruptors to destroy your network.
With a four C3M-unit configuration, you can pretty much pick and choose any of the following 'Mechs: Lao Hu
, Thunderbolt (Ilyena)
, and Avatar-OC
- of those, the Atlas and Hauptmann are the only ones that does 4 damage at long range. For CVs, all the Schiltrons
, and Challenger
are relevant - and all deal at least 4 at long range. Of note is the Prime Schiltron, which has a dual ARTAIS launcher; that makes it double-nasty as a 4-C3M network core because it can stay hidden and deal damage.
The current Introductory Boxed Set has four potential C3M units: the Atlas, Battlemaster, Cyclops, and Dragon. Just a thought, if you wanted to get a C3 company started.C3S + ECM
With C3, the simplest and most brutal strategy is to move in waves: while one unit is in Short range (by preference, where as few as the enemy as possible can shoot at it) while the next sacrifi- er, spotters, move closer. The lifespan of that unit can usually be measured in a single turn, so always keep more waves moving in.
A first wave unit needs to fulfil 3 criteria: 1) Very fast (preferably 16"+), 2) ECM (because that close you're guaranteed to hit at least one enemy ECM bubble), and 3) expendable (not that you WANT it to die, but there's a difference between spending 17 points on a unit that lives one turn and 36). I establish the line of 'expendable' at sub-25 points, and the lower the better.
Tied at lowest cost for 17 points apiece are the Crow Scout Helicopter
and LCT-5W2 Locust
. Okay, I lie, a Mantis Attack helicopter (ECCM)
is the cheapest at 11. Sub-25, the Pegasus MRM
, Sortek Assault Craft
, and Hermes
are your choices; of those the Hermes is better for being faster and dealing 3/3, but it is more expensive at 24 PV to 21.
Now, second-wave 'Mechs have the following criteria: 1) At least MV10", 2) Durable (at least 5 points of armor), and 3) High damage at Short and Medium range (at least 3-4). The main job of these guys is to make it to ECM-contested spots on the board and reinforce your bubble over theirs and use their superior move to dish more pain via backstabs.
At the fastest end, you've got the Bishamon
, Sha Yu
, and the Gladiator
. At the slightly slower side, the Manteuffel
, and Banshee
are the choices - and let me tell you from experience, that Banshee is terrifying
from the other end of the table. With Fist Fire and Melee Specialist, it deals 10 damage per melee hit, and is pretty difficult to kill before it guts at least one or two units - doubly so with Speed Demon under its belt as well. The Sirocco
is pretty unkillable at 10"j and A/S 10/8, but with that low damage you're better off getting it into melee.
One borderline unit is the Komodo
; it unfortunately suffers from Lokitis, where its armor is so low and damage so high that it's a casualty if used wrong. But few Inner Sphere units deal out hits of 5 or more damage, so it's worth noting.
Last on the list of C3S + ECM are the juggernauts - units with 8+ Armor and preferably high damage, though that really isn't the main quality needed. After the lighter ECM units on both sides are knocked out, it's your Juggs that will ensure your solid control over the electronic battlefield. The Thug
, King Crab
, and Challenger MBT
all have variants that fulfill these needs, but for my money the Ajax
is a true threat - that D7/7/0 with 10/5 A/S is VERY threatening. The Hunchback
also dishes out D5/5/0 and with 6/4 A/S would be a solid budget pick for this category at only 39 PV - most of the rest are 50+.
Note that Challenger and King Crab variants deal 4 points of damage at Long range - a vital category in my next post.
So what's the ideal amount of ECM to have on the battlefield? Well, unless your opponent loads up on Savannah Master (Interdictors), you should only need to fret about maybe 3-5 ECM units tops. Pick 4-5 ECM units and keep in mind where your enemy's ECM is.
Of course, playing it safe and picking C3S units ONLY from the above list is a rational decision, with 26 units that are solid. However, the next consideration is C3S units that deal out large damage at medium and long range, and that's not something you want to miss.Damage Dealers
Now, it's time to consider the meat of a C3 company; namely, units that dish out ungawdly amounts of damage. I've split these into two categories: one of units with Long of 4+ (not including any mentioned above) with special note of any that deal 5+, and one that deals Medium or Short of 5+, with special note of any that go higher.
In category one, the super-threatening winner is the Di Morgan Assault Tank (LRM)
; with D5/8/7 it is far above any other damage that you can field. At 5+ are the Templar
, JES II SMC
, Partisan LRM
, and LRM Carrier
, which is good budget, being as it has 3/5/5 IF5 and only costs 34 points. At 4+ damage, there's a lot more variety; Atlas
(which does have OV1 and OVL, so in water it can deal Long 5), Awesome
, and Challenger MBT
all meet the criteria.
For ungawdly amounts of damage close-in, here ya go. The Sunder
, Demolisher Tank
, and Glory HFSV
all deal 6+ - with the Sunder topping the scales at D7/7/0, and the Glory dealing Long 3. Speaking of that, the Akuma
and Black Watch
have D5/5/3 - still a respectable Long poke as they close. For the units that have D5/5/0-1, the Daikyu
, Manteuffel Attack Tank
, and No-Dachi
all have 10"+ movement - and the No-Dachi is another potential melee monster. Rounding up the selection with 8"j or less are the Orion
, and Catapult
- and most of them have at least 7 armor.
"But Fanboy," I hear you cry, "What if I need some points-budget options to round out my list?" Don't worry, Uncle Fanboy is on your side. I've divided the budget options into snipers and beaters. The soft border is >37 PV, to avoid going too high in pilot cost - though you'll not need to buy too many upgraded pilots with C3!
For budget snipers, the damage needed is at least Long 3. The Fennec
, Blackjack Omni
, JES III
, Partisan (Quad RAC)
, and Brutus HPPC
all fill that - though none are under 32 PV. The Yasha VTOL
, which only has Long 2 is also only 19 PV for a 14"v unit.
Cheap-as-chips brawlers aren't too common, but there ARE some good ones. The main qualifier is at least Medium 4 damage. The Crusader
, and Javelin
all fall in, though only the Whitworth and Jav are sub-32, and the Jav only does that with OV. The Wolverine-9K
also deserves mention, as it has TSM, MEL, 10"j, and A/S 6/3 - a budget melee 'Mech at 32 PV. TACTICS
Each C3M+3 C3S should be an independent entity; that means that using the wave tactic it should have 1 C3M unit (of course!), 1 first-wave C3S+ECM, 1 second-wave C3S (+ECM by preference), and 1 C3S damage-dealer.
Expanding the wave tactic across an entire company turns it from reliable to vicious, with 3 first-wave units, 3 second-wave units, and 6 damage dealers. Hold back one of your first-wave units to quickly respond to a threat, while slowly moving several damage-dealers forward as backup to the second-wave units, and keep your C3M units together so they can reliably focus their fire at proper targets. It's nasty and cruel and works
What this means, from an organizational standpoint, is that lances are organized into four 3-unit groupings as well as three 4-unit groups, as C3 forces defy the traditional idea of grouping forces by movement and damage bands, and in fact need the exact OPPOSITE; C3 requires a variety of movement and damage bands in the same force. C3M2 + 2 C3M
I actually find this to be an inferior choice in all regards but one - it IS cheaper. Even using one of the two 'ideal' C3M2 units (Taisho or Naginata), your C3M force comes out 30-50 PV less; it's very hard to squeeze out a C3M company below 500 points without using a C3M2 unit. However, it means that you now have a very, very critical link that is harder to protect.
This leads to two choices: a fighting C3M2, such as the Naginata or Taisho, or the hiding C3M2. It's hard to justify 40+ points of non-combatant on a force, but when losing it means crippling a lance AND the rest of the company it's justifiable. 4 C3M
Using this network will definitely cost a lot, as 4 C3M units chosen from the 'optimal' list will break 200 points by themselves. You can sacrifice a combatant slot by buying that fourth C3M from the budget list - the Avatar-OU, Dragon, and Daimyo are probably the most solid choices if you need to cut corners in this, but really, the 4 C3M configuration is NOT budget. It is safer though, as you can keep the central C3 computer out of enemy contact without losing a great deal of combat readiness.
C3I LEVEL II
C3 Integrated takes a different approach: Rather than having a central computer, it spreads it around the network. Two factions specifically use C3I networks: Comstar and Word of Blake, as the networks themselves are sized to fit their base six formation. The Republic of the Sphere also inherited the C3I tech, though from what I can glean they appear to use it rarely if at all.
C3I forces have an advantage and a disadvantage compared to C3M forces. Advantage: No vulnerable C3 Master, so you don't have to worry about the destruction of a single unit ending your entire network. Disadvantage: Only six units can EVER be in a C3I link, unlike C3M/C3S where you can have a total of 12.
That six unit limit reshapes the entire approach of C3I, and renders the wave tactic bad in a way that doesn't involve raw PV, as each unit destroyed is a 1/6th reduction in firepower.
As it stands, a C3I player can adopt one of three tactics when constructing a force: the wave tactic, the disposable tactic, and the powerhouse tactic. With the wave tactic, you have to minimize your losses to its paradigm so one first-wave unit, two second-wave units, and three damage dealers would probably be the best blend. With the disposable tactic, everything in the network is cheap, to wreak as much havoc as possible before being destroyed. The powerhouse tactic is the opposite, where everything is a blend of powerful, tough, and fast, with no respect for PV cost.
A C3M/S network can use the powerhouse tactic too, but it gets expensive
. C3I + ECM
Even more than C3M, C3I is vulnerable - after all, it's why the Savannah Master Interdictor
exists. But there's a dearth of good C3I + ECM units.
For super-fast (20"+), the Nightshade ECM VTOL
, the HER-4M Hermes
, and the MON-266 Mongoose II
are all good in different ways. at 14"-18", the OTT-9CS Ostscout
, Zephyr Hovertank
, CNS-TD9 Cronus
, GAL-103 Galleon
, and Malak Dominus
all are useful in different ways.
For second-wave units (10"-12") with ECM, there's fewer good choices - gods, do I wish the Grigori were a heavy cav design instead of being a weak-sister to the Deva. The BTL-C-20A Battle Cobra
, [http://www.masterunitlist.info/Unit/Card/718?skill=4]CRB-30 Crab [/url], GRF-6CS Griffin
, RJN 200-B
, and 200-C Raijin II
are all usable. The Griffin is probably best in show.
Top-end damage dealers with ECM are even fewer, and only one is a real Juggernaut: the Archangel Comminus
, but the Seraph Comminus
breaks 5+ damage with OV, and the GOL-5W Goliath
is worth noting for MV8", D3/3 OV1 HT1/1, A/S 9/6, and STL. My personal fave of the long-range damage is the KGC-008 King Crab
, but the Deva Infernus
and AV1-OE Avatar
fit the criteria, even if the Avatar is at the borderline of being bad in damage, speed, and armor, but it ain't over the line. For a more mobile unit, the Deva Comminus
has 8"j and D4/4. OTHER C3I
For first-wave type units, the lack of ECM is usually a deal-breaker, but there are some exceptions that have a nice combination of stats or Specials. The CLR-03-0 Celerity
lives up to its name; at 40" it can put your Level II in Short range turn one, and is has DRO so you don't risk an actual pilot. The GUR-8G Gurkha
has TSM+MEL, OTT-10CS Ostscout
has 20"j, Preta Dominus
has 16"j, D3/3, and A5/S2, BCN-5W Buccaneer
has MEL and 10"/14"j, A6/S3, and at the very top the EXT-5E Exterminator
is fast, VERY tough, and has INARC for missile funsies.
For second-wave and powerhouse closing units, there are several acceptable choices. The KW2-LHW Lineholder
, CHP-3P Champion
, OSR-5W Ostroc
, and MAD-9W Marauder
barely break 4 damage with OV but have other merits; a FLS-9C Flashman
has A7, MV 10", and 4/4/3 OV2; and a KTO-21 Kintaro
is worth noting because SRM2/2 can become HT2/2...
Close-in units have a good list; at over five damage dealt there's a lot. The Demon Tank HGR
and PAT-007 Puma
, with the Puma getting Long 3 but the Demon having Lokitis. A P1W Perseus
is 'average', the Archangel Eminus
and FNR-5WB Fafnir
share ENE and HUGE A/S values, a KGC-005 King Crab
has FLK3/3, a VKG-3W Viking
exists and has Long 3, a CRK-5004-1 Crocket (W/P)
has 6"j and Long 3 but only breaks 5 with OV, and a MR-6B Cerberus
is slightly faster and has D5/5/3 OV2.
Non-ECM snipers are moderately scarce. The Seraph Eminus
...exists, a VQR-7V Vanquisher
is best Vanquisher with D5/5/4 OV3, a HGN-736 Highlander (T/P)
has S4/M5/L4 and 6"j, and a THG-13K Thug
has D3/4/3 OV2 OVL.
The list of budget Snipers is thankfully pretty good. The BTL-C-2OD Battle Cobra
, CRB-45 Crab
, and Burke Defense Tank
all break Long 3. At a slightly higher price, but being faster and tougher: LNC25-06 Lancelot
For those waiting for me to mention the Omega
, it's listed as Experimental, and for the purposes of this list I don't do Experimental - it usually means one-off or extremely limited runs of a unit, so it isn't commonly available. If you want to do the Fall of Terra, the Omega is surprisingly cheap for the damage and armor it has at only 64 PV.
C3 BOOSTED MASTER/SLAVE
Lastly, we discuss the Boosted networks. These didn't start appearing until the tail end of the Jihad, with the Federated Suns being the first to deploy it; with the proliferation of ECM it made a standard network difficult to run (as we can see with my insistence on listing ECM units in this guide!)
The advantage of a Boosted computer, Slave or Master, is that it is immune to ECM
, with only the more powerful Angel ECM (AECM) being able to cut it off.
You can mix Boosted and non-Boosted computers together, be it Masters or Slaves, but note that only the Boosted parts of the network are immune, and only if connected to a C3BSM - if a C3BSS is hooked to a C3M, it's treated as a C3S. Example: A C3BSM, 2 C3S, and 1 C3BSS are networked. The network would NOT be cut off if an ECM bubble were on the C3BSS, if an ECM bubble was on a C3S than it would be cut off as normal, and if an ECM bubble was on the C3BSM than the two C3S would be cut off but the C3BSS would still be connected. C3 BOOSTED MASTERS
In the C3BSM2 department, there are two good choices. The Gulltoppr OmniMonitor
takes the concept of "impossible to kill" to an extreme, with A23
/S13, and its only armament is dual Long Tom Cannons
; however, it is a superheavy vehicle and is easy to hit, and it costs a whopping 85 PV!
In this author's humble opinion, the SR1-OM Strider
is amazing at 28 PV. It's a C3M2 on legs and nothing else; for those keeping track at home, this is perfect for the 'hide your company-coordinating computer' tactic. This lets you conserve points on the central part of your network and spend them on more damage dealers; even if this guy does nothing else for 28 PV, it doesn't have
to. PROTIP: When setting up terrain, try to make sure that some deep water is on each side of the board and park this guy in there when the game starts.
The C3BSM unit list is kind of limited as to what meets our criteria: A6+ and Long 3+, with a non-Experimental caveat - nearly half the list is Experimental. The Fury Command Tank
and HA1-OM Hauptmann
are about it, but both of them are great. The Hauptmann in particular boasts a Damage 3/5/5. A borderline unit is, once again, the FEC-5CM Fennec
; A6/S2 and 10" is durable enough, but it only has D3/3/0 OV1 with a grab bag of Specials that it'll find hard to use. C3 BOOSTED SLAVE UNITS
In the fast (14"+) category, there are few units of note. The COM-8S Commando
is fast, cheap (17 PV), and comes in the IBS. The ZPH-5A Tarantula
is faster and slightly tougher for 19 PV. The Saladin II HCV
is tough and has 20"h for 21 PV.
At 10"-12", there are more units. The CDR-2BC3 Cuirass
has 12"j and MEL, plus it looks bad-ass. The CN11-OE Centurion
is notable for having AECM, as is the LI-0 Vandal
- the Vandal's better at 12" A7/S3 D4/3/0, but the Centurion is cheaper. The LI-0B Vandal
doesn't have AECM, but it does have MEL at SZ3, and is only 35 PV. At the top end, the MTR-7K Maelstrom
has 12" A8/S3 D4/4/2 OV1 - pretty damn good stats, but for 44 PV it should.
The rest of the good stuff are almost all long-range killers, though the SGT-14D Sagittaire
deserves note for that 6"j, A10, and D4/3/0 OV3. At Long 3+, in ascending order of damage, the WHM-8D2 Warhammer
, PPR-7T Salamander
, LGB-14C2 Longbow
, NK-BC3 Narukami Heavy Tank
, Fury Command Tank
, BNC-9S2 Banshee
, and the SD1-OF Sunder
exist. Of special note are the Banshee and Sunder, which break Long 5.
C3 is a good tactic because it destabilizes the Range mechanic - each increment of Range you shave off via a network is worth Skill +2, which for some of the above units is a pretty big number!
However, it requires judgement and solid tactical ability to succeed, as a C3 force will have generally have fewer units on the table and will especially be missing the support units such as AFs and artillery. To put it simply, if you go C3 you're going C3 all the way
, with little room for anything BUT C3 in your OpFor.
It is also not difficult to counter when the opponent brings enough ECM to the table - which, if someone knows you're running C3, can be done cheaply via the Savannah Master (Interdictor) or a dozen other SZ1 units. Plenty of powerful units have variants which toss an ECM Special on there, making tournament preparation for ECM easy as well. "Gee, this Battlemaster
has D5/5/1, A9/S9, and ECM; might as well bring it just in case..."
But if you shoot straight, expend ammo, and buy your 'Mechs from the Dragon, you can succeed with C3.