With Twinfinity looming, I am going to break down the missions that Sean has given us to chew on one by one. Why? Because writing things down helps me think them through and I might as well share. Here is my take on Transmission Matrix.
With the arguable exception of Biotechvore, no other mission is working against you as much as this one. Each of your objectives counts as a friendly repeater to both sides, so to score, you have to expose your units to enemy Hackers. Of the roughly 2,304 square inches on the board 1,004 of them are going to be your opponent’s hacking area (in addition to whatever their hackers would normally have). That’s a lot to deal with.
Scoring in Transmission Matrix is per round, with 2 points given for having more Antennas Dominated and 1 point for having the same number as your opponent (provided you have at least 1). To Dominate you must have more Army Points within 4 inches of the Antenna. Trooper miniatures or markers both count toward your point totals. There are 2 Classified Objectives worth 2 points each.
Deployment is the standard 12 inches. There are no specialist bonuses, no Retreat, no Intelcom, and no Exclusion zones. Baggage is in play, however. As I mentioned above, the Antennas count as friendly repeaters for both sides. I realize that it can be hard to wrap your head around exactly what that means, so check out this article and read about the Frenemy repeaters to help you with that. (The rest of the article is good too, and frankly, unless you’ve played this mission a lot, you could probably use all the help you can get).
First or Second
Going first is not ideal for this mission, but it’s not as bad as it is for some. If you do go first you have to decide if you really need to gain that middle antenna. It’s a bit of a trap. Letting it go will probably cost you 2 points, but may set you up better for the rest of the game. It will be very difficult to hold, as your opponent will have his entire turn (and his full order pool) to push you off. Playing it cool and getting your classifieds on that first turn might be a better option. Regardless, if you’ve gone hacker heavy you’ll want to take out as many visible hackers as you can on this turn and if possible, bait any marker state hackers into revealing.
Going second has its dangers as well. Commit too much to gain those 2 first round points and you could face a devastating counterattack at the top of the second turn. Going second does put you in the enviable position of knowing exactly how much you need to do to gain the 2 points each round, or in the last round, to win the game. Whether it’s worth it to choose to go second depends on the table, your opponent, and your strategy. Giving your opponent deployment and first turn can be a risky move, as he will get to set up on his favored table edge with almost all of your models on the table.
Blue Pill or Red Pill
There are generally two approaches to this mission. Go all in on Hacking ability (Red) or limit hacking targets (Blue). This used to be determined largely by faction, but the Alive crew gives everybody the ability to go hacking heavy. The benefits and drawbacks to both vary by faction. I do think that the middle ground needs to be avoided. Limiting hacking targets is pretty straightforward. Make sure your hackable targets are in a marker state, hidden in the corner, or left at home. Bringing a couple of Killer Hackers isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but someone who has gone all in will probably be able to overpower you.
Down the Rabbit-Hole
So you’ve decided to try to win the Hacking war. How exactly, do you do this? Well, it starts by taking some hackers. You need to be able to do two things here. One, beat another hacking heavy list, and two, use your hacking ability effectively against someone who has limited hackable targets. Let’s look at how each Hacker type can help.
- EVO Hackers (EVO): An EVO hacker provides great buffs for your other hackable units and it can fend for itself in cyber combat. I’m not going to go into all the ways they can be helpful. I will point out though that one of the more obscure uses for an EVO is bait. With BTS 3, two levels of unconscious, immunity to Shock, and a decent ARO program in Brain Blast, this is the target I’m hoping you’ll try to take out. Particularly in the active turn, it has the best chance to survive a nasty hacking ARO and still be functional with the help of an Engineer. You need some way to draw out your opponents Killler Hackers anyway. As a bonus for this mission, it has Baggage to help it hold down an antenna all on its own.
- Hackers (HD and HD+): Jack of all trade hackers are a good choice in case your opponent brings a list without much to hack. They can buff AD troops, run Supportware, and Spotlight opponents even if they decided to go with the blue pill. If they did go with hackers, these guys can still ARO Brain Blast and can stop Remotes and HI with Gotcha. Hackers and EVO hackers do get U-turn which can help against Guided Munitions. This is important because Smart Missile Launchers can be very effective in Transmission Matrix.
- Killer Hackers (KHD): The bogeyman (or woman) that everyone who goes hacking heavy is worried about. The KHD programs are so lethal that even a lower WIP hacker is a threat. It’s probably best to be cagey with them. There’s a good chance your opponent might be trying to lure them out. Even if they don’t find enemy hackers to kill they can still be useful. A Cybermasked KHD is a great way to hold an Antenna
- Assault Hackers (AD): Somewhere in between the HD and the KHD is the Assault Hacker. They can’t buff friendly models in any way and can only use Spotlight against models that aren’t Hackable. However, they are a real pain to any model that is Hackable. They can’t kill an enemy Hacker with any of their programs either.
- White/Defensive Hackers: To be honest I don’t know much about these. I do know that Defensive Hackers can bounce a hacking attack back at the source, but they can only do this if they can hold their ARO. White Hackers though, can hold their ARO against models in their Hacking Area, making Breakwater and Counterstrike a lot more useful. Both of these types of Hacking Devices have built in Firewalls (Hacking cover), but KHDs ignore Firewalls anyway.
Marker States, Indirect Fire, Templates, and Sensor
This game favors markers state units since units in marker states count toward dominating an Antenna and because a marker is not hackable. The flip side to this is an advantage in taking sensor units, since they can reveal markers and can also set up a Sat-Lock which I will get to in a second. Templates are another thing to consider. I could write a whole article on Templates and Camo Markers, so I won’t go into that here, but they can be a way to deal with them. Also, because of the nature of Dominating a 4 inch radius around each antenna, there is a good chance your opponent will bunch up. The mission favors indirect fire as well, since Grenade Launchers and Smart Missiles can clear the scoring areas around each antenna without taking return fire. Particularly for this mission, Sensor brings a lot to the table. Sensor can help you reveal those pesky Camo tokens and, if you brought a FO bot, set up Sat-Lock. Sat-Lock auto reveals all Camo/Hidden Deployment and puts them (and any other models in the Sensor Area) in the Targeted state. Sat-Lock looses it’s -6 mod when you have an EVO hacker making it a straight WIP roll. Who wants to take a chance and reveal their Hacker to stop an 8-point Repeater bot from dropping a Sniffer? Someone who has been Sat-Locked before, that’s who.
Gambit: Alpha Strike
A Gambit is giving something up to gain an advantage. It’s a risky move that can pay off huge or can fail utterly, leaving you with the butcher’s bill and nothing to show for it. In this case, if you choose deployment and your opponent chooses to go second, you can try to pull off an alpha strike that will leave them devastated. Down two orders (most likely) in a game where Heavier (hackable) Units are at a disadvantage there is probably only one way to pull this off. You have to push Infiltration. Your opponent can only respond with his reserve model. If a couple of Infiltrating units make their rolls, your first turn can wreak havoc on your opponent’s forces. You’ll certainly lose these units before your next turn, but in addition to whatever they kill, your opponent will have to spend orders to dig them out. This might be enough to keep them off that center antenna and give you at least a point on the first turn. More importantly it will put them at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. The risk is losing any deployables, camouflage, and having to start in your deployment zone touching the board edge. There is also the chance that a lucky crit will stop your rampage short even if you make the Infiltration roll. With the fairly standard PH13 you are looking at a coin flip’s chance of pulling it off. So the question is “Do you feel lucky?”
Additonal Gambit: ‘Eavy Metal
So you’re confident you can win the hacking battle and you’re want to get the most out of it. Bring a TAG. You’re going to either kill your opponents hackers and hack their hackable troops, or they won’t have any because they decided not to bring them. Either way, it’s an ideal environment for a TAG. If your opponent does Possess it, it will almost certainly get trigger an ARO allowing it to get Possessed back if they try to use it. In the meantime, your hackers get unopposed AROs on the whoever did the Possessing. The risk is that if you fail to win the hacking war, you’ll be even more vulnerable than you would have been since so much of your army points are spent on a model susceptible to hacking. Hey, as they say “Fortune favors the bold.”
Nullifiers can be very effective in this mission. If you are a Tohaa player I would strongly consider them.
Smart Missile Remotes really shine on this mission and are almost an auto include for anyone going hacking heavy.