Welcome back to Catching Snowflakes, our series of tactics articles covering the less popular or prolific factions of Infinity. In this week’s article we’re talking about the US Ariadna Ranger Force (USARF)
Remember that time you wished your entire army was Arm 3 across the board?
Yeah, me neither.
Yet, here we are for your weekly dose of Chasing Snowflakes. This week we’re going to look at Team America: World Police (in contrast to Starmada, who are the Space Police. Starmada have
some good builds… a single good build and, as such, have no place in my realm). USARF is similar to JSA in as much as its aesthetics attract players in spades but, unlike JSA, I don’t believe it received the mechanics/rules tweaks it needed to graduate from Snowflake High-School as the game transitioned to N4. In this scenario, USARF is the kid who repeated 7th grade twice. Which makes it the perfect Snowflake faction.
‘Call of Duty: Army-wide Arm 3’
In playing USARF it’s important to understand what Arm 3 actually does for you. The difference between Arm 1 (standard LI stats) and Arm 3 isn’t huge when testing survivability on an individual basis. However, across the span of a game you can expect a few models to keep on punching when they kinda, sorta should have fallen over and if you’ve leaned into Flamethrowers (like a good little War Criminal), hopefully your opponent has traded poorly with you.
The Too-Long-Didn’t-Read of USARF’s Armour tendency is: It won’t save you on that one roll you really think matters but it’ll give you more, small opportunities across the length of the game.
There’s a few options here for USARF when it comes to Fireteam: Core builds…
- Grunts: Grunts make a good static firebase. They’re cheap, Arm 3 gives them a little survivability, and they can contribute as Cheerleaders even if the lead ARO piece dies. You can put the Unknown Ranger in here but I think four Grunts would prove to be quite an Albatross to that particular Ancient Mariner with their Move 4-2 and lack of stealth. Generally, my preferred Grunt Fireteam: Core looks like: Rifle x2 (if you need to hide a Lt with a 50-50 guess for those head-hunters out there), Paramedic, Heavy Flame Thrower, and a Minuteman Missile Launcher as your leading ARO piece. The Grunt Sniper is a smidge cheaper but not enough to offset the extra BS and Ammo-type that the Minuteman ML brings.
- POGs – Minutemen (AKA People Other Than Grunts): Did you ever want to pay near-HI prices for single wound Line Infantry with no visual mods or defence mechanisms except MI-tier Arm stats? No? Understandable.
- POGs – Marauders (Already recycling jokes?): I quite like taking the Unknown Ranger here, for a couple of reasons. This gives the entire team Stealth, which is useful for setting up those shots and avoiding getting Spotlit before you can engage. Dogged means that it’s just a little bit harder to lose the 5-man Fireteam bonus when you start taking casualties. Additionally, movement 4-4 and Forward Deployment (+4”) makes it easier for the team to follow UKR into the mid-field. Move 4-2 on Grunts can hurt the UKR’s mobility if he’s dragging them along with him.
There’s a couple of cute Fireteam: Haris options, though…
- Marauders: I quite like this option. Take an ARO piece (Sniper or HRL), a specialist (Paramedic or Wildcard Rosie), and a filler (Rifle or even the BSG if you want to get cheeky with Mines) and Job’s a good’un, boss.
- Minutemen: I mean, if you’re desperate to run a Haris and don’t have any Marauders I guess you can run some Minutemen…A Burst-2 Missile Launcher does stand out as a relatively high-threat ARO piece. That, or you form a Haris around the NCO AP-HMG and spray hot, sticky 7.62mm Freedom all over someone’s face.
- Grunt: Rifle or Grenade Launcher. Thank goodness they removed the SWC on these choices, makes it much easier to play Hide the Looie.
- Minutemen: I don’t hate it. Though, the Command Token +1 profile does give itself away…So, maybe don’t do that unless the 5th Command Token plays an integral part of your game plan.
- Marauder: Your only WIP 13 Lt option. Certainly doesn’t telegraph your Lieutenant choice. Do it, coward.
- Foxtrot: [Edit] Going to be honest here, this article initially went live without reference to the Foxtrot Lt option. That’s Stealth and Camouflage for you. It’s not a terrible choice but with AVA 4 on your Foxtrots, that’s one piece that isn’t going to be doing as much work as other Foxtrots in your list and SWC cost of 2 is a bit of a boner-killer. USARF can play a 4 SWC game, so I wouldn’t judge you for trying this out.
- NCO options: Worth noting that USARF actually has some cute NCOs, making taking linked or passive Lieutenants an entirely pleasant experience.
Foxtrots, Angry Grunts, Hardcases or Decoys. Cool.
The problem with USARF’s midfield play is that you get 4 Foxtrots to play with and not a Minelayer amongst them, which means that as soon as you put down 5 or more Camo markers, your opponent knows that you’re running Hardcases. The problem being that barely any of the models sitting under a camo marker poses a genuine threat to the sort of attack pieces your opponent may be inclined to punch through to your DZ with (with the notable expectation of the Foxtrot BSG).
I’ll not speak ill of the humble Hardcase, however. He’s still a cheeky 12-14 point camo marker who can trade up nicely between Surprise Attack, template mode on the LSG profile, and whatnot. In a pinch, the LSG profile can even act as a budget-Mine.
I prefer to lean into spending my Foxtrot AVA on Forward Observers but don’t let me stop you from testing out the Foxtrot Sniper. Her ability to -12 a Total Reaction Remote (Surprise Shot, Mimetism, Cover, and attacking from outside of 32”) might be a huge swing for your USARF list.
Can we truly consider ourselves to have fully explored USARF’s mid-field play without discussing our Infiltrating Arm 3 Flame-turrets? Of course not. Grunts now no longer have to Inferior Infiltrate, so the option to place them risk-free on your half of the table is huge for USARF. This is where Arm 3 really comes into its own. Every now and then you’ll have a Grunt just absolutely tank some shooting from your opponent, set them on fire, and straight up stall their attack run. This? This is why we’re here, people.
USARF has a crazy high AVA on models equipped with Motorcycles. On top of your baseline 2x Motorised 112, you can have up to 5 Mavericks and up to 6 Desperados. Maxing out your AVA on Motorbikes is an incredibly
cool ….silly thing to do. However, chicks dig motorbikes, so take a few anyway.
In N3 I certainly preferred the Assault Pistol Desperado, being cheaper and better at fishing for crits than the others but nowadays there aren’t many bad Desperado picks. Just remember that +1 Burst on those pistols helps their CC of 21 do a lot more work than you (or your opponent) may expect. Talking about Fast Movers in USARF naturally leads us to a wonderful beast, the Maverick (which I will cover anon, read on).
Smoke and MSV 1
There’s a reasonable number of pieces in this army that can drop smoke and a reasonable number of models with MSV 1. Now, I’m not going to advocate for using MSV 1 to Smoke-shoot all of your problems away but there’s opportunity here. My favorite piece for leveraging this mechanic is most certainly the Maverick with BSG. Not only does she bring her own smoke and MSV equipment but she’s equipped with a weapon that has a Direct Template Weapon (DTW) option, which ignores the -6 to hit while shooting through smoke with an MSV1.
This is gross. I love it.
The Marauders also have a few MSV 1 profiles, so don’t look past some cheeky wetwork with the HRL profile using his Assault Pistol at point blank. Finally, never forget that the UKR has MSV 1 and is desperately keen to kill every son of a bitch that ever said a bad word about Top Gun, the greatest film about beach volleyball ever made.
The Van Zant Effect
Van Zant, like my opinion on Margot and Duroc from Kosmoflot, suffers from the fact that he’s infamous for being a sneaky bastard. If you deploy 260-ish points of USARF (maybe hide some under camo markers? Sure, why not?) with only 14 or so order-generating models/markers visible (Don’t forget Hardcases and their Decoys, though), your opponent is going to think really carefully about guarding their DZ.
There can be value in leaving your Van Zant (or Airborne Ranger) deployment until Turns 2-3, in the hopes that your opponent ‘unpacks’ out of their DZ and gives you some openings. It’s a tough call, though. Every model you kill in Round 1 is potentially 2-3 orders your opponent gets throughout the rest of the game, so delaying Van Zant’s arrival has diminishing returns.
Gotta Go Fast
This is a curious list that integrates USARF’s enthusiasm for Bikes with static fire teams providing overwatch. Additionally, there’s some interesting interplay of Smoke and MSV1 to be had…
Fireteam Core: Grunts (Rifle x2, Paramedic, HFT) with Minuteman ML
Desperado with Assault Pistols (+1B)
Fireteam Haris: Marauders (HRL, Paramedic and Rosie Wildcard)
Blackjack with AP-HMG
Devil Dog with HSG and Good Boi
Breaking the list down we see that each combat group has multiple attack pieces as well as multiple specialists. The Blackjack can try to sweep the ramparts and drop any hard ARO pieces before you send in your Desperados to trade up aggressively. Meanwhile, you’ve got some good Smoke-MSV tricks with all of your Mavericks (and the Marauder HRL). The Devil-Dog is there because I had 27 points free and a Desperado that wanted to be upgraded to have two Wounds and Arm 4. I apologise.
Reign of Fire
Nope, not apologising for that list name. Talk about USARF and not provide a sample list with Van Zant or the Unknown Ranger? Had you worried there, didn’t I?
Infiltrating Grunt with HFT x4
Foxtrot FO x3
Hardcase with LSG
Fireteam Core: Marauders, with Unknown Ranger, Marauder Lt, HRL (and Assault Pistol), BSG (and Mines), vanilla Rifle and HFT.
Van Zant (Shh!)
This list presents a hideous burning tarpit in the middle of the table, shows your opponent 15 models/markers and asks them if they have the cojones to push through your picket line and try to kill the Unknown Ranger before he kills them back, twice. As your opponent unpacks to try and manage your mid-field, hopefully Van Zant will find an opening and exploit it. Unless your opponent does some basic mathematics and works out that you’re likely a few points down. There’s an argument for juggling the Camo Markers out, so that your opponent could be genuinely unsure if you’re running 4 Foxtrots or 2 Foxtrots, a Hardcase and a Decoy but that’s a matter for tinkering with as you see fit.
If you watched that scene in Avengers: Endgame where Captain America picked up Mjolnir and cried a little bit (even on the inside. It’s OK, this is a safe space, no judgement), you owe USARF a game. This is the faction that takes a beating from Purple Space Assholes, refuses to lie down and die, before picking up that goddamned hammer and saying something incredibly bad-ass like: Avengers Assemble. If that doesn’t rustle your jimmies in fantastically erotic ways you can just go back to the safety of your Cubes with their functional immortality and play a crutch-faction while I’m over here with all of the cool kids that don’t believe in TAGs, Hackers or Universal Healthcare.
Next week we’re going to cover what could arguably be the only vanilla faction that makes the cut as far as being a snowflake faction. Can you guess who I’m referring to?
In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.