The Comm Guild Maelstrom's Edge

Tactics: Equipping the Epirian Master Bot Handler


Posted on Saturday May 12, 2018 at 09:30PM in Gaming


EQUIPPING A MASTER BOT HANDLER

A Master Bot Handler is one of the most powerful figures in the Foundation, able to command legions of robotic minions and carry a vast array of weaponry that common soldiers can only dream of. However, this dizzying amount of options can also make deciding exactly how to equip your own Master Handler a bit daunting. Have no fear though! Once you finish with this article, you’ll have all the insider information of what Master Handlers are capable of and know how you’ll want to equip yours.



TACTICAL ROLES OF A MASTER HANDLER

There are three main roles you can equip your Master Handler to fulfill:

  1. Bot Commander.
  2. Gun Heavy.
  3. Support/Melee.


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BOT COMMANDER

No matter how you choose to equip your Master Handler, you’ll want to be aware that, above all else, they are a force multiplier for Foundation robotic units. So if you’re looking to field a force that has a preponderance of Contractor or SecDef (coming soon!) units, then you might want to instead just stick with taking regular Journeyman Bot Handlers as the Command Model for your detachments.

With a Master Handler, while you pay a premium in points to take them, you get a heck of a lot of value by way of improving all the robotic units in your force. With his Neural Interface, a Master Handler effectively has the Command (3) ability, which means he’s able to issue orders to up to 3 friendly units within 18” per turn. Anytime a Bot Handler (of any level) issues an order to a Bot unit, that unit gets to enable its Bot Protocols for the turn, which makes them perform much better: Hunter Warmechs get to move and shoot more effectively, Scarecrows get to fire more shots, Firefly Drones dodge incoming fire better and Spider Drones make better use of cover they’re hiding in. If you’re looking to make the absolute most out of this ability to buff nearby robotic units in this way, then there are a few options for the Master Handler that are pretty much mandatory:

Neural Nodes - Master Handlers are able to take up to 2 Neural Nodes. Each one allows them to issue an order to 1 more unit then they normally would be able to. A Master Handler has a WP of 5, which means, especially later in the game when you have a lot of Command Points available, you can put 5 Command Points onto the Master Handler and with the help of a couple Neural Nodes, be able to issue orders to 5 nearby robotic units (thereby enabling Bot Protocols on all of them).



Command Booster Micro Drone - Being able to issue orders to 5 nearby bot units is great, but with a command range of only 18”, you’ll have to keep all those units pretty well clustered around your Master Handler, which is less than ideal. However, Master Handlers are able to take a Command Booster Micro Drone, which increases their command range up to 24”. If you’re looking to make your Master Handler into a true bot commander, then taking a Command Booster allows you to keep your Master Handler back out of harms way while still issuing orders to your bot units that need them.

Firefly Defender Drones - In order to get the most out of your Master Handler as a bot commander you’ll want to keep them roughly in the center of your force, within command range of as many of your bot units as possible. Unfortunately, a Master Handler's prickly superior attitude prevents them from joining friendly units, so to keep your Master Handler safe, a great tactic can be to keep him hidden behind a big obstacle or piece of area terrain so that the enemy can't even spot him. However, a canny opponent might try to counter this by outflanking that terrain in order to get some wide open shots on your Handler. While the Master Handler’s impressive MAS 3 can protect him from a small amount of enemy fire, if the opponent does get a decent-sized unit with open shots on your Master Handler, you're probably going to lose the linchpin of your entire force, and along with it, the game. Therefore taking 1-2 Firefly Defender Drones can be a solid idea to help protect your Handler. As long as you enable their Bot Protocols, Firefly Defender Drones grant their unit (including the Master Handler) the Dodge ability equal to the number of Defender Drones in the unit (so 2 Defender Drones means the unit gets the Dodge (2) ability).

Cheap Weapons - As your goal will be to keep your bot commander Master Handler hidden from the enemy behind terrain, it doesn't make sense to spend extra points on weapons that will probably never be used. As such, sticking with the 0 point weapons (like a Flakk Gun and/or Repair Claw) is the smart choice for a Master Handler acting as a bot commander.

Master of Machines faction objective - Finally, if you want to get the absolute most out of your Master Handler as a bot commander, then taking the Master of Machines as your faction objective is pretty much a must, as it potentially allows you to enable Bot Protocols on a 6th friendly bot unit, and better yet, one that’s beyond your Master Handler’s command range:

MASTER OF MACHINES This objective may only be utilized if your force contains a Master Bot Handler. If utilized, a Master Bot Handler is automatically your force commander for any objective type that requires one. This objective type can generate a maximum of 3 VPs per game, after which you may no longer utilize the Bot Mastery ability. ----- Partial: (each end phase) If at least one of your Master Bot Handlers is on the table and the Bot Mastery ability was not utilized that turn, gain 1 VP. Full: (end of game) If at least one of your Master Bot Handlers is still on the table, gain all of this objective’s remaining VPs. Bot Mastery: Once per turn, you may automatically enable one of your unit’s bot protocols when that unit is activated (regardless of whether its activation discipline check is successfully passed). You must have at least one Master Bot Handler on the table to utilize this ability.


SAMPLE ‘BOT COMMANDER’ MASTER HANDLER
  • Master Bot Handler - 16 pts.
  • 1 Firefly Defender Drone - 3 pts.
  • 2 Neural Nodes - 2 pts.
  • 2 Flakk Guns - 0 pts.
  • Command Booster Micro Drone - 3 pts.
  • TOTAL - 24 pts.


* * *


GUN HEAVY

The next major role a Master Handler can fill is one of straight-up shooty death to the enemy. The Master Handler’s powerful exo-skeleton allows them to carry more and heavier guns than any other Foundation infantry model released to date. That means when equipped properly, a Master Handler’s unit can be one the most devastating shooting units in your arsenal. But be warned, this is also the most expensive configuration for a Master Handler.

Fire Assist - One very important limitation to be aware of is that, while Master Handlers have the Fire Assist (+1) ability, this only allows them to fire a maximum of 2 weapons during each round of shooting. That means the only reason you’d want to equip your Master Handler with more than 2 weapons is to give you the tactical flexibility to choose the best 2 weapons to fire in any given situation.

Cluster Missile Pods - If you’re looking to get maximum firepower out of your Master Handler, then taking 2 linked Cluster Missile Pods is definitely the way to go. Linked weapons add +1 to the number of shots the weapon normally is able to fire (and also only count as a single weapon being fired). So if you can manage to find a target where you're able to cover 3 models with the Cluster Missile Pod's AoE template, then you’re looking at getting to fire 5 shots, plus any 6’s you manage to roll count as 2 hits instead of 1!

Arm-mounted Weapons- For a gun heavy Master Handler, you really can’t go wrong with any of the arm-mounted ranged weapon options. However, you do want to pick weapons whose range and weapon profile are a good match to be fired alongside the linked Cluster Missile Pods. The Cutter Light Machine Gun is the obvious choice. A Flakk Gun can be a great choice for your second arm-mounted weapon because it is 0 points and is useful to fire instead of the Cutter when your Master Handler happens to find themselves in an up close and personal situation with the enemy. The Drone Class Laser System (DCLS) is a fine choice to take instead of a Cutter if you desire, providing your Handler with the absolute maximum number of shots possible (albeit with a PEN of only 1), that pair nicely with the shooting of the Firefly Defender Drones that are part of the unit.



Firefly Defender Drones - While Defender Drones are great at keeping the Master Handler protected from enemy fire, they are also all equipped with a DCLS as well, which means when you take a full squad of 4 of them and combine their firepower with that of the Master Handler, you can obliterate almost any enemy light infantry unit right off the table, regardless of whether they’re in cover or not!

Aerial Drone Strike - One thing that should never be forgotten is that the Master Handler also has an Aerial Drone Strike: a one-time use, incredibly powerful area effect weapon. Best of all, using an Aerial Drone Strike just counts as firing a single weapon, which means the Master Handler can fire the Aerial Drone Strike and also fire another weapon at the same time (including his linked Cluster Missile Pods, for example), and all of this gets combined with the shooting of his Defender Drones as well!

Aerial Uplink & Targeting Micro Drones - There are two great Micro Drone options for your gun heavy Master Handler. The Aerial Uplink Drone allows the Master Handler to fire his Aerial Drone Strike two times during the game, instead of just once, which is great for obvious reasons. An even better fit is the Targeting Drone. This gives the Master Handler and all of his Defender Drones +3 SKL when shooting (except during close quarters fighting), which unsurprisingly ups the deadliness of their combined firepower to near obscene levels.

SAMPLE ‘GUN HEAVY’ MASTER HANDLER
  • Master Bot Handler - 16 pts.
  • 4 Firefly Defender Drones - 12 pts.
  • 2 linked Cluster Missile Pods - 4 pts.
  • 1 Cutter Light Machine Gun & 1 Flakk Gun - 1 pt.
  • Targeting Micro Drone - 2 pts.
  • TOTAL - 35 pts.


* * *


SUPPORT/MELEE

While the bot commander and gun heavy roles for the Master Handler are fairly straightforward and easy to define, you can also mix and match different aspects of these roles a bit to create something unique for your Master Handler. In addition, the inclusion of a Repair Claw allows a Master Handler to perform yet another role: that of helping to remove suppression from nearby bot units.

Repair Claw - Giving your Master Handler a Repair Claw can be a great choice, not only because it is 0 points, but also because it gives the Handler the Bot Repairs (2D3) ability. This means that whenever the Handler finishes an Advance & Fire or Dash action within 6” of another friendly bot unit, he can remove 2D3 suppression tokens (STs) from them, turning him into an excellent support unit (Note that you cannot use this ability on the Bot Handler’s own unit though). Considering that you'll be keeping your Handler near your bot units to help enable their Bot Protocols, you will often find him within range to perform these types of repairs. You can also consider giving your Handler 2 Repair Claws. While this doesn’t allow him to remove any additional STs from friendly units, it does turn him into quite the close quarters (CQ) powerhouse. Since the Handler is able to fire 2 weapons per round of shooting (which includes CQ fighting), this allows him to use both of his Repair Claws to their full effect. That’s a total of 8, PEN 4 shots during CQ fighting (on top of any shots generated by his Defender Drones) which ain’t too shabby! Be warned that the Master Handler is a pretty slow mover so it can be a bit tough to get him into CQ fighting, but once there, he’ll certainly be able to cause some significant damage.



Firefly Defender Drones - Whether you’re running your Master Handler next to your bot units to remove STs from them, or trying to charge into CQ fighting, either way you’ll definitely need to protect your Handler with at least 2, it not the max of 4 Defender Drones to dissuade the enemy from picking him off and to soak up the inevitable defensive fire he takes from the enemy.

Flakk Gun - If you’re taking 1 repair claw on your support Handler, then the obvious weapon to pair with that is the Flakk Gun, which excels at short range shooting. Since a support/melee Handler will often find himself near the enemy (when removing STs from your bot units and/or running around trying to get into CQ fighting) having a powerful short ranged weapon is a great choice.

Aerial Uplink & Defense Micro Drones - While there isn’t one Micro Drone choice that really excels for a Master Handler in a support role, the Aerial Uplink Drone is a solid pick. Because you likely won’t have the great firepower of a gun heavy build, being able to unleash an Aerial Drone Strike twice during the game can be quite useful. On the other hand, the Defense Drone is perfect for the Handler that is trying to get into CQ fighting. Sure it's a one-use item, but it’s 0 points, and for the turn it's used the Handler gets the Field (2) ability (great for when his Defender Drones have been destroyed) and makes him an absolute melee monster. Plus, because the Handler can fire 2 weapons, he’s able to use the Defender Drones melee profile as well as one Repair Claw in CQ fighting!

SAMPLE ‘SUPPORT’ MASTER HANDLER
  • Master Bot Handler - 16 pts.
  • 2 Firefly Defender Drones - 6 pts.
  • 1 Cluster Missile Pod & 1 Neural Node - 4 pts.
  • 1 Flakk Gun & 1 Repair Claw - 0 pts.
  • Aerial Uplink Micro Drone - 2 pts.
  • TOTAL - 28 pts.


SAMPLE ‘MELEE’ MASTER HANDLER
  • Master Bot Handler - 16 pts.
  • 4 Firefly Defender Drones - 12 pts.
  • 2 Neural Nodes - 2 pts.
  • 2 Repair Claws - 0 pts.
  • Defense Micro Drone - 0 pts.
  • TOTAL - 30 pts.


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How will you use your Master Handlers? To share your tactics or modeling ideas, or to discuss the loadouts described above or any other aspect of the Maelstrom's Edge game, visit the Comm Guild Facebook page.

You can find the Epirian Master Bot Handler, along with the rest of the Maelstrom's Edge model range, in the webstore here!

Find the Battle For Zycanthus starter set and the full range of Maelstrom's Edge models at www.maelstromsedge.com

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