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Living Life by the Drop

Posted November 10th, 2008 at 05:34 PM by R˙chean
Updated January 3rd, 2015 at 08:27 PM by R˙chean
When I first started playing Heroscape, the Airborne Elite were my favorite unit. Their ability to take over and dominate a game was unmatched. They are still highly capable of such feats and are extremely scary to high cost Heroes, but additional range releases have toned down their overall effectiveness. However, they are still extremely dangerous and respected. Because they do not start on the battlefield, their success is always in doubt. They scream “Be Aggressive!” but their low defense make it a bit of a gamble. The Drop has to hit to even have a chance but even then you have to play them smart to get something out of them.

The Drop is the most challenging part of playing the AE, but without it you don’t have them at all. If you Drop them too close then they may not even get to attack. If you drop them too far then their slow movement hampers their ability to get up and rain down. Drop them on high ground and they are right out in plain view with huge targets on their backs. Drop them on lower, covered ground and their defense and movement become a liability. The Drop requires a plan and the AE require order markers. Because they can achieve instant optimal positioning, they are probably the most “Use ’em up” unit in the game. Here are some ways to deploy them once you do get the Drop:
  • The Forward Drop – The most desired way to use the AE is to get an early drop, then smack your opponent around as much as possible before they die off. The idea behind a Forward or Offensive Drop is to get them on high ground and either just rain down the dice or move in for Grenade. In early game, the bulk or all of your opponent’s forces are still in the start zone, bunched up. High ground is not yet fully controlled by either army. This is usually the most coveted time to get the Drop, but don’t let your good fortune cloud your judgment. The most common drop mistake is not accounting for the AEs move value. I have seen players do it time and time again: They place the soldiers within Grenade range without accounting for their move value and then they lose 2-3 of them before they are even activated. These guys are already enough of a gamble; don’t play them like a gamble once they hit the board. If you are leaning towards early game Grenade, it is going to be a risk no matter what you do. You might want to consider having 2-3 within Grenade strike range instead of all 4. Be reasonable in your expectations and cautious with your deployment. While the opponent’s optimal Grenade target is probably the middle of their army, positioning your AE in such a manner to hit there may leave them extremely venerable if you lose initiative. Greedy Grenading can leave you with a squad of dead soldiers who never achieved their potential. If you get the early drop you definitely need to be aggressive but don’t lose your head. Make sure you place them at maximum distance (range + move) and take advantage of all cover and height you can. When using an offensive Drop, the AE are usually played out after 1 round; get all you can out of them!

  • The Reinforcement Drop – A Reinforcement or Defensive Drop is usually mid to late game. Most of the high ground has been secured or at least contested. Your other forces are in position. You are looking to get your AE in a spot where they are supported by the rest of your army but still able to step up and do some damage. With each round that passes without the Drop, the more you need to be aware of what you might do with them. If possible, leave good landing spots for your AE, but don’t do so at the expense of the game itself; after all, they may not ever Drop. The preferred task of the AE is to establish high ground position and pick off key targets then reap havoc. With a defensive drop, you are mixing them into your existing army. The nice thing about a defensive or behind the lines drop is that the AE’s range allows them to do so. Most other ranged units (AE threats) operate from a shorter range, usually 6-7. Also, a behind the lines drop is a bit more attractive if Marcus D is in the mix. He enhances their movement enough for them to keep up and his juicy attack bonus can be difficult to counter when there are static forces out in front of the set up.

  • The Split Drop – Having four AE to Drop does allow a player to split them into groups. Sometimes you may want a forward position for a couple of them but a defensive position for the others. This situation is usually in mid game when there are enough spaces left for some of the AE to do damage but not a decent spot for all 4 of them. You may end up placing a couple further back and a couple forward in hopes of getting some low hanging fruit or critical strikes while setting up to compliment your existing army / set up. A Split Drop is usually attempted when there are two or more key targets and/or objectives such as taking down a wounded Raelin and augmenting your current position or eradicating a glyph or two. You are basically hedging your bets: making a small, tactical offensive while working to reinforce your army.

  • The Scattered Drop – This is not usually an optimal way to Drop them but there are always situations where it is your best bet. Sometimes a 4 corner style drop is favorable when facing a heavy hitter, especially if that threat is already in position. For example, when facing Braxas, you want to drop them so she can only get to 1 at a time but they can all shoot her. There are a number of situations that can call for erratic scattering of your AE. This can be similar in nature to the split drop, but really is a bit more unorthodox. These situations are usually specifically for taking out a dangerous central threat or securing multiple areas or hitting key targets. Often times these situations are when you are playing from behind or at least in a less than favorable position. You are trying to disrupt things a bit and present a whole new set of targets and threats to your opponent. The AE are certainly capable of turning a game. A Scattered Drop is sometimes just the thing to divide and conquer.
I didn’t mention the Grenade ability too much, but it is certainly a powerful component of the AE. However, when you compare their normal attack versus using the grenades, the normal attack is usually the more favorable course of action. Firing 4 times from the maximum range of 8 is most always the safer play. A bad round of Grenades can completely kill off your AE with nothing but a whimper. A bad round of normal attacks at maximum range doesn’t doom them nearly as much. I basically view the Grenades about the same as I do Water Clone for the Marro Warriors: it is nice to have but it isn’t what makes them so good. There are times when it is well worth the risk. Know your matchup and react accordingly, but more times than not, the AE will better serve you by hanging back at maximum height and range while picking the opponent apart.

One last thing, I do not ever recommend forgoing the Drop. If it hits, you need to be ready to use it right then. I have seen them not drop enough to know that passing up a successful Drop is flirting with disaster.
Total Comments 5


This is your best article to date R˙chean..(and that's no small feat)...I like the versatility of the drop but have seen many an opponent use them too aggressively trying to get the grenade drop only to lose initiative and get them all killed before they even get a chance.
Posted November 10th, 2008 at 08:37 PM by Onacara Onacara is offline
Pickledpie's Avatar
Makes me want to dust of my AE again and stop using samurai and agents so much. I can't wait for the Ninjas post.
Posted November 10th, 2008 at 08:47 PM by Pickledpie Pickledpie is offline
R˙chean's Avatar
thanks for reading!
Posted November 13th, 2008 at 05:57 PM by R˙chean R˙chean is offline
AnubianWolf88's Avatar
Should have read this before facing Dignan. Would you consider grenades to be the preferred choice against Rats in the early game, followed by a fallback as you fire?
Posted January 30th, 2009 at 12:59 PM by AnubianWolf88 AnubianWolf88 is offline
Updated January 30th, 2009 at 01:00 PM by AnubianWolf88 (misspelling)
R˙chean's Avatar
The value of grenades does go up against deathreavers. However, the rats have move 6 which can typically close on the range 5 of the grenades. The defense 4 is also fairly strong against the grenade attack of 2, even if you roll all skulls. I would probabaly take 4 ranged shots at whatever the reavers are supporting. Getting some wounds on a heavy hitter seems better than killing 4-5 rats.
Posted January 30th, 2009 at 03:15 PM by R˙chean R˙chean is offline
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