At first glance, a Smart Missile Launcher Remote (SMLR) looks amazing. The ability to hit a target without line of sight is something that any player can appreciate. It seems almost broken. As attractive as raining death down on opponents is though, these guys don’t end up in every list. That’s because, while SMLRs are good, they aren’t necessarily good in the way people expect them to be.
A Damage 14, Armor Piercing (AP), Double Action (DA), Impact Template that ignores your opponent’s Mimetism, ODD or discovered camo mods and cover while giving them no way to shoot back seems like an easy button. Target your opponents key units and boom. With a little set-up, you can just chuck BS18 (BS12+6 for Guided) missiles at them, ignoring negative hit mods, until they finally fail their PH-3 Dodge. Even being limited to 5 uses per turn doesn’t matter much, as whatever you’re shooting at will almost always die before you hit that limit.
That “little set-up” turns out to be quite troublesome. There are three options for Targeting a model (the prerequisite for using Guided munitions). The first, Forward Observing, is a Burst 2, Non-Lethal, Technical Weapon attack. This attack requires Line of Sight and uses your WIP, but it has no positive range bands and turns negative at 24 inches. It cannot be used in ARO. Targets still get to use Camo and Cover mods as well as shoot back at you. In short, it is nowhere near a sure thing and it puts a specialist that may be important to you (depending on the scenario and classifieds) at risk. Against a hard target with a -9 modifier (ODD + Cover or Suppressive Fire, Cover, & Mimitism), most Forward Observers (FOs) will be hitting on 5s or less. The second option is to use the Spotlight hacking program. Although this method ignores negative hit Mods and doesn’t require Line of Sight, this has drawbacks too. Spotlight is burst 1 and always has a -3 Mod to your WIP. An average WIP 13 hacker only has a 50% chance of pulling this off unopposed, but it gets worse. This is still a face to face attack and your target can Reset (hacking dodge) using their (probably unmodified) WIP. The last option is Sat-Lock, which allows a Forward Observer/Sensor Remote to attempt a WIP -6 roll to put any model or camo token in their Sensor Area (Zone of Control plus Zone of Control of any deployed Sniffers) in the Targeted state. Unfortunately, the negative mod makes this difficult as well. These factors mean that actually getting a model into the Targeted state can be like throwing orders into a very deep hole. The U-Turn program is another possible problem which allows each hacker that uses it to ARO against a Guided shot to subtract 3 from your BS. This is stackable for each Hacker that AROs it and requires no roll on their part, so it takes only 2 hackers to put you back to base BS. Also, a TAG would seem to be exactly the kind of unit that makes an ideal target for a SMLR. Unfortunately all (I think) TAGs come with a ECM device that cancels the +6 conferred by using Guided ammunition. Once you factor in all these limitations, many players find this process to be more trouble than it is worth and decide to leave the SMLR out of their lists.
The SMLR is flawed in the role of “killer of my opponent’s difficult models,” but there is another use for them to consider. It turns out, with BS12, no negative rangebands, and the ability to use supportware, that SMLRs are pretty good ARO pieces. Let’s compare the Nomad Vertigo Zond with the Nomad Alguacil Missile Launcher:
At 15 points and 1.5 SWC, the Alguacil gives you a BS11 Missile Launcher that can choose between a Burst 1 Damage 14 Explosive (EXP) Impact Template Blast Mode or an AP+ EXP Hit mode. The Missile Launcher’s range bands are -3 from 0-8 and 40-96 inches, flat from 8-24 inches, and positive from 24-40 inches. A Vertigo SMLR comes in at 18 points and 1.5 SWC and gives you a BS12 Burst 1 Damage 14 AP + DA Impact Template. Aside from the slight differences in BS and firing modes, two big advantages are that the SMLR has no negative range bands and more importantly, the SMLR can use Supportware to be burst 2 in ARO. That makes the SMLR a pretty potent ARO piece. Perhaps the biggest advantage though, is that the SMLR still does have ability to kill some of your opponents difficult models in the active turn if you give it some help. After all, it isn’t the Remote’s fault you are having a hard time Targeting your opponent’s models. As with many things in Infinity, it’s important to support the SMLR properly.
FOs in a full link can add +3 to their WIP and are Burst 3. This makes the odds of targeting your opponent’s models much better. Camo token FOs can use surprise shot to give targets (without Sixth Sense Level 2 or MSV3) a -3 Mod, which can also help. Another possibility is to use multiple FOs in a Coordinated Order. Only one of the “shots” will be face to face, which should give you a good shot at success.
Perhaps the best assistance an SMLR can get is from an EVO Hacker. An EVO Hacker allows your Hacker to re-roll a face to face roll using a Command Token, allows for Coordinated Hacking attacks, can be an easy source of Supportware, and removes the -6 penalty for Sat-Lock. Although still potentially an order sink, the offensive ability added to the ARO abilities can make the SMLR a bargain.
An SMLR is a powerful tool that can be a little difficult to use. They aren’t a “win button,” but they are potent ARO pieces with considerable offensive punch IF you have planned ahead and supported them properly. In a mission like Transmission Matrix, where there is extensive repeater coverage, an SMLR can be absolutely frightening. While the SMLR isn’t necessarily going to smite your opponents like the hand of a malevolent god, it can still be an effective option.. Whether or not the SMLR is good fit in your list will likely depend on what else you are planning on taking. Are you running a lot of hackers with EVO support? Do you have Sniffers and an FO/Sensor Bot in your list? Do you have a lot of FO options? Yes to these questions might mean an SMLR is a good fit. On the other hand, if you are short of orders, already have good ARO coverage, and have units with the ability to remove your opponents difficult models, the SMLR is probably not the best use of your points.