I wouldn't say it was that easy though. If the SSU player decides to pull a **** move, like I said before and throw all their points at out activating you to make the helicopters work, it would be really difficult to have enough units to out activate them and still have a chance at even hurting their choppers. Even at small point battles an SSU player can just bulk out his force with Chinese volunteers, snipers or spotter squads and a balanced Axis or Allied army wont be able to out activate an SSU force. I don't agree with having to make a broken army to stop a broken army, its just a nuclear arms race.
I think one of the things we came up with when we saw a way to completely abuse this rule was 300 points of SSU consisting of 3 airblasters and then the rest of the points made up of spotters, so about 21 units in total. You could do a similar thing at 100 points (so an airblaster and 6 spotters) and most Axis or Allied balanced forces would be smaller than 7 units at that size and wouldnt likely have much in the way of effective AAA. Even if you went with a force of heavy recon grenadiers or grim reapers, which are two of the most effective AAA units, you would still only max out at about 4-5 units in 100 points.
These are examples of extremely unbalanced forces I know, but we did it to prove the point. An SSU player can still have a reasonably effective army as well as the choppers, but have enough cheap bulk up units to give them the activation advantage. Unless the allies or axis played an army which was just as broken and massively weighted towards AAA units, they are not going to get a chance to stop the SSU player dropping helicopters on the board unopposed with advance deployment, or then destroy them by either winning initiative or reactive fire. The SSU player can then just make sure he put airblasters right next to the juiciest targets and wait for the second round. When you also consider Yakov's skill, as already discussed, the SSU are going to be sitting in the position for a killing blow at the start of round 2 and there aren't many units that could scrub a chopper in one round of sustained fire (not to mention reactive fire).
If the SSU player is thinking their deployment through, they could wipe out any units which could pose a threat to his choppers this way at the start of round 2. Fine; all his 1 shot weapons might be used up to do this, but mopping up the remaining infantry with those horrible quad MGs isn't difficult, not to mention whatever else the SSU player has left to lend a hand. At this point I wouldn’t see much point in continuing a game which I had pretty much lost in the first activations of the second round unless there was a really good reason. Especially when you consider the scenario win conditions.
You can see where I am going with this, so I won’t labor the point. The current advanced deployment rule is pretty broken, or at least so open to abuse that it upsets the game balance. I cant believe that this was intentional. I have gamed this through and it works the majority of the time, so all I would ask is that you try this for yourselves. Proxy the units if you have to, set up a map – we used the largest battlefield from the Core Set (revised) 2 posters - and then try dropping 3 Airblasters right on one side’s front doorstep after all their units have activated and roll the dice next turn.
I am not complaining that SSU choppers are broken, nor am I bashing SSU players, I hope it doesn't come across like that - I have seen as many Allied and Axis players abusing the spotters for example. Aircraft are perfectly counterable when they start on the other side of the table and you have a chance to organize a defense against them. However I do think the Advanced deployment rule needs work and with the way that the current reactive fire rules work, it is possible to break the spirit of the rules with aircraft advanced deployment and being able to out activate your opponent.
There is an easy solution to this which might also ease some of the complaints I have read about the reactive fire and activation issues. After discussing it with the friend that I played during the games with the SSU choppers, though there are several solutions to potentially nerf Advanced Deployment, the simplest and most elegant solution is to allow units take overwatch actions, or something similar. Essentially it will allow an unit which activates to take an Overwatch action in order to reserve that single action to watch for and react to enemy movement at any point in future. Effectively reserving a chance to reactive fire. For example: an Allied Rattler activates and moves 1 space and also then goes onto Overwatch using both its actions and ending its activation for now. You would place an overwatch counter on its card to show the status. We already do this with things like reload, so the mechanic is not a big departure. The Rattler could then activate later cashing in the overwatch token for 1 action, when for example an SSU helicopter Advance Deployed within 6 squares of the Rattler.
This way, a single Rattler on Overwatch or even better a squad of Grim Reapers (which bizarrely are more effective against aircraft than a purpose built AAA platform) could actually be an effective deterrent. This I feel is a lot more realistic than what we have now where a single chopper can hover over an army in view and range of multiple adequately armed units. Any chopper that tried that today would be flaming wreckage before it could actually do much good. A single man with a light or medium machine gun is a threat against low flying helicopters especially in today’s battlefield and Choppers won’t fly into an obvious threat zone without good reason. I am talking here from recent military experience in Afghanistan where the use of helicopters in support of manoeuver on the ground is a daily occurrence. This is also a fairly sensible way of looking at the role of some units such as AAA. A dedicated AAA unit would not normally contribute to the ground kinetic battle if there was an air threat, they would be holding back, deliberately watching the sky one step back from the front line and dominating a significant proportion of airspace to prevent or deter enemy aircraft, such as that big, fat, slow, vulnerable; hovering chopper which is dropping into your zone of control. Maybe you could say that overwatch could be unique to AAA units, however I don’t think it would break the current game mechanics to leave it open to all units. An infantry unit could benefit from overwatch for example (again, a realistic task for infantry today) and could cash in its Overwatch token to attempt to fire at an enemy unit which moves or activates in range at a later time. This also wouldn’t take away reactive fire, as you could still use this for units which had yet to activate.
There are lots of possibilities with Overwatch, however I am trying to keep the idea simple. Just as Reload is an Action, Overwatch for 1 action would prevent too much sustained fire at aircraft and would at least go some way to preventing such **** moves as spamming your opponent with large numbers of 5 point units in order to ram 3 Airblasters in his face after he has activated his fewer balanced units. Yeah, I know DT is not real life and some people always play more competitively etc, etc. However against the tactic I described above I do not see many effective defences and it’s a cheap tactic which takes advantage of a loophole in the current rules set.
Overwatch is only one possible solution, there are others. I don’t want to lengthen this post more than it already has been but what do people think of overwatch as an idea? Will it break the current mechanics? We are testing it as a house rule, but I also think I will put it in the proposal to the Dust crew.
Again, thanks for listening.