I was pleased to see the new Flight Plan article from Warhammer Community provided us with some aircraft profiles from the Taros Campaign book, so it’s time to dig into them and discuss the Avenger Strike Fighter and Tiger Shark AX-1-0 in detail. I’ll be looking at it from a competitive point of view as well, and don’t think for a second that if I think something is sub par competitively I’m not buying a box of them anyway to paint and use in scenario play.
Avenger Strike FighterHot Take – Looking at the Aeronautica Imperialis Preview
For 20 points you get a bare bones strike fighter with an Avenger Bolt Cannon. Everything else is extra. You roll 5 dice, damaging on a 4+ and getting extra damage on a 6+. Targeting something on the same level this gives you an average damage output of 0.96. This is superior to the 16 point Dakkajet at an average 0.87 damage, but significantly below the 21 point Thunderbolt at 1.63 average damage. Comparing it to the 20 point Ork equivalent, the Fighta Bommer, the Ork plane is better if it’s able to get it’s forward and turret guns in arc to hit the same target. It also has an extra point of structure and speed.
You are able to purchase either lascannons or autocannons at +3 points, and I feel lascannons are by far the better choice for air to air or strafing, as at medium range lascannons will do an average 0.64 points of damage, whereas the autocannons will do 0.5 points of damage. I would have dropped the points for the autocannons to provide more of a choice between the two instead of a no brainer option in the lascannons. Making the autocannons +2 points would have made them a more viable option to take.
I feel GW will run into some issues regarding the granularity of points. At 21 and 23 the Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt Fury are absolutely bargains, and significantly better than any equivalent aircraft seen so far. This makes me worry that even though the Imperials are getting an additional five aircraft at least (Lightning, Avenger, Valkyrie, Vulture, Vendetta) then the forces we will see will still reflect the Thunderbolt Fury/Marauder Destroyer meta of Wave 1. This is why in my WW2 AI conversion I’m writing I’ve increased the points so that the difference between planes is more stark and there isn’t a glut of planes around the 16-20 point mark. I can see why
There’s been a lot of discussion about the Aeronautica FAQ changing the points of a plane or two (specifically the Thunderbolt and Fury) and I think that would be the way to go. I think otherwise in competitive play AI will continue to revolve around a T-bolt meta unless the Lightning is Dakkajet level points and packs a reasonable punch. If this doesn’t happen I can see the Imperial meta staying relatively static until Chaos Hell Blades upset that apple cart in Wave 3. Ideally there would be competitive play points updated every six months to a year in order to balance forces as the meta evolves, or if something (Thunderbolt Furies) is just too good.
What role does the Avenger have? I think it will be ground attack. It’s cheaper than a Marauder hull and faster, and can drop to speed 1. We haven’t seen the low altitude rules yet, and if it relies on handling tests then the Avengers 2+ handling means it’ll pass those tests 83% of the time, vs a Marauder Destroyer testing on 4+ or a Thunderbolt testing on 3+. It means we’ll see them turn up in scenario play or games where handling is important.
The models themselves look great, and this is the 40k version of the JU-87 Stuka (seriously compare the two). The Avenger is based off the Lightning design, and this is apparent in the wings, and is, in my opinion, the superior model in terms of looks. I’ll be getting a box, and likely doing the planes as tank busters, with lascannons and hellstrike missiles to give ground targets a hard punch. They’ll end up costing 27 points each, as much as a Thunderbolt Fury with the same load out, but I like the design of the planes so much I want a box to paint up and play.
Tiger Shark AX-1-0
This is where we get to the meat of the preview. The Tiger Shark AX-1-0 is not the plane in the Skies of Fire starter set, that is the standard Tiger Shark seen with burst cannons, and the article refers to the Tiger Shark AX-1-0-2, AX-1-0-3, and AX-1-0-4. The AX-1-0 is the titan hunter gunship version of the Tiger Shark, and can field either heavy rail cannon or heavy plasma accelerators. This means unless GW have got 4 or 5 different sets of weapon options on one set of sprues, then as with the Marauder and Eavy/Grot bombers there will be a common sprue and a variant sprue.
So what does the AX-1-0 give you? It gives you a strike bomber as fast as a Thunderbolt, as manoeuvrable as an Ork Fighta Bommer and as durable as a Marauder. The AX-1-0 can accelerate and decelerate as rapidly as a fighter with Throttle 2, and manoeuvre 1-4 means you can outmanoeuvre other bombers.
So how does it stack up? The Marauder Destroyer, clocking in at 27 points and with 9 dice of autocannons in it’s forward arc, gives a damage output forward of 1.485 on average (a Thunderbolt Fury is 1.98). At medium range the AX-1-0 with burst cannon turrets is 31 points and has an average output of 1.55. This means that with average rolls, then like a Marauder Destroyer or Thunderbolt Fury, you might punch out a structure 2 fighter per turn.
The AX-1-0 however allows for two different builds. Having drone turrets and being able to select them allows you to customize the secondary armament between one that rolls the most dice at medium and one that rolls the most dice at short range. A Railgun build naturally pairs with burst cannons, which can hit at long range, while a plasma accelerator build pairs with cyclonic ion blasters.
It looks like Tau are going to be very interesting, rolling fewer dice, but damaging more reliably. It also looks like they’ll be pretty fast, and pretty manoeuvrable. Selecting drone turrets and main armament allows you to customize your planes and if this is repeated across the faction it makes Tau incredibly flexible. We’ve already seen multiple main guns and drone turrets on barracudas, so if they can be customized for long range sniping, medium range duelling or short-range brawling, it opens up a lot of options for different play styles.
The model itself also looks really good. I’ll definitely be getting a box, and building one of each configuration.
Overall I’m impressed with the preview, and happy that Aeronautica keeps getting support. Hopefully we’ll have the Taros book and tiny Tau in our hands soon, as I know some people have held off starting Aeronautica until more factions are available (I know someone holding out for Eldar) and I look forward to more people playing the game. I continue to think this is one of the better GW rulesets, and that the game has real potential as a competitive game with some adjustments to the scenarios and points.