This post is going to be the first in what is intended to be a series; now that we’ve had the DW 2.5 rules in our hands for a couple of months, I wanted to go back and take a closer look at some of the elements of the rules that have changed from DW 2.0, and ponder the effects those changes may have on the game. This first is all about carriers! More specifically, I’m going to be looking at the changes made to both the carrier rules and the SAS/SAW rules.
In my view, the rules for carriers were always treated as something of a “module” by Spartan. By that I mean, they were a somewhat self-contained portion of the rules that could be (and were) changed from edition to edition. To the best of my knowledge, Spartan never left carrier rules as-is from one edition to the next, for both DW and Firestorm Armada. True to form, 2.5 brings a number of changes to the carrier rules from 2.0. That being said, the changes that were made from 2.0 to 2.5 were somewhat less drastic than the changes seen in other edition changes.
Summary of Changes
So, what exactly was modified for 2.5? Here’s a summary:
Support Aircraft Squadrons
- Recon planes no longer exist as a type of SAW.
- The minimum strength for a SAS when created is 3 SAW (SAS can fall below 3 SAW during a game)
- Local Air Support can only be 5-strong fighter SAS. The number of local support SAS available depends on the size of the game.
- Aces now allow allows the player to re-roll all of the dice they supplied to an initial dice pool in an attack run, dogfight, or duel, instead of just one die.
- The carrier MAR now includes the exact SAS sizes a carrier is allowed to deploy at the the start of the game. A model’s carrier value is no longer necessarily equal to the number of SAWs it puts on the table.
- Carrier Actions have changed as follows:
- The Re-Arm action now costs 1 Carrier Point instead of 2.
- The Re-Task action now costs 2 Carrier Points instead of 3.
- The Re-building action has been added (new to 2.5), and costs 3 Carrier points.
- This action allows a player to re-deploy a completely destroyed SAS from the graveyard.
- The rebuilt SAS is placed within 4” of the carrier.
Discussion of Changes
To a degree, SAS are now somewhat less flexible than they were in 2.0, because players are not able to divide up the carrier points how they see fit anymore. Additionally, local support being fighters-only will tend to make SAS a bit more defensive. There will also tend to be slightly fewer tokens on the table overall, since many carriers are now deploying a number of SAW tokens that is less than their full Carrier Point (CP) rating. Between the mandated SAS deployment for carriers, and the elimination of Recon Planes as a unit type, there will also tend to be fewer activations on the table as well. For example, a model with a CP rating of 6 would have generated 3 activations under 2.0, with one for the model, one for a SAS of 5 SAWs, and a third for a Recon SAW; that now drops to two activations in 2.5, since the Recon SAW has been cut.
SAW are now a more robust weapon, since if one gets completely shot down the owning player can now re-launch it (assuming that the carrier is still alive). In principle, this seems to be a good change, as it offers the chance for carriers to remain combat effective in the late game. Of course, that assumes that the carrier model has survived that long, which from my experience doesn’t happen all that often. The sky fortresses are probably have the best shot at surviving into the late turns of the game, thanks to their ability to go into higher altitudes as a defensive measure. One thing I should mention is that Torpedo Bomber SAS have gotten a buff in 2.5 as well, thanks to the fact that torpedoes are now Barrage munitions, which means they ignore shields now (same as bombs).
Assessment & Final Thoughts
In DW 2.0, SAS were a potent weapon, though they required some skill and good timing to employ to maximum effect, and due to the fact in my experience that most games of DW don’t get played past turn 3 or 4, they tended to be “one-shot weapons,” in that by the time you got off an attack with a SAS, got it back to a carrier, and got it re-armed, the game would be over. At best, you could expect to get off two attacks in a game, but that tended to assume the carrier model had been moved up to reduce the distance the SAS needed to cover to get replenished/rearmed. The downside to that tactic, of course, is that carrier models tend to be squishy, which means that moving them within RB 3 or less of your opponent’s fleet is a good way to get them sunk! The removal of Recon SAS was a good change, I think. For one, it helps limit the total number of activations in the game, which could be a problem in 2.0. Secondly, it also helps to elevate the importance of models with the Spotter MAR, encouraging players to field some models that might not see the table otherwise.
So, are SAS in 2.5 better? I think that overall they are a bit stronger. The fact that 5-strong offensive SAS are more difficult to come by now is offset by the fact that carriers can re-launch fully destroyed SAS, and to a lesser degree, by the fact that torpedo bombers received a buff thanks to the Barrage munition rules. Thus I feel it is easier to get off more than one attack per game with SAS in 2.5 than it was in 2.0, though it will still be a challenge that will require careful planning and placement to pull off. So, I don’t see the changes to carriers in 2.5 radically altering the balance of power between carrier and non-carrier models.
Until next time!