This is somewhat targeted at Haqqislam players, but I hope it will be helpful to anyone who is struggling with weathering their Reactive turns.
One of the most common issues new Haqqislam players have is stopping strong gunfighters. Shooting is definitely not Haqqislam’s strong point, and if you try to just go toe-to-toe with a shootier faction, it often doesn’t work out in your favour. What this turns in to frequently on forums and social media is “My opponent had X Fireteam and I had Y and I can’t think of a better ARO piece and I still couldn’t stop them.” The same advice is given, but it can be a complex idea to digest in a single social media comment, so I hope I can clarify some of the common advice I see given and give a more complete answer to this question.
For the sake of a visual, here is my deployment in my last game. I was playing Vanilla Haqqislam, my opponent was playing Steel Phalanx, the mission was Highly Classified, and I was deploying first.
What I look for when I’m deploying is not lanes that go back to my opponent’s troops, but lanes which my opponent might use to approach the objectives. I’m more interested in controlling portions of the table than I am in locking down particular units, or in limiting their deployment options. I will also choose lanes which give me the best chance of achieving a range band advantage.
I generally prefer not to deploy troops on rooftops, since it limits their options later in the game, but if you look at where I put my Lasiq Viral Sniper you’ll see that by placing it where I did I was able to cover multiple long, wide sections of the board, so my opponent had very little option but to neutralize the Lasiq before proceeding with the Mission, and also very limited options for dealing with it outside of its good range. The Lasiq did not survive the game, and I was frankly surprised it lasted as long as it did. The point of putting it there, though, was not to decimate his forces with Viral rounds. That would be nice, but what I wanted and what I achieved was to drive my opponent to spend orders doing something that was not the Mission. What the placement of the Lasiq accomplished was my opponent moved his Enomotarchos around the long way to try to get into more favorable range bands before engaging, which took up a lot of his Orders, and steered him into a trap.
I cannot emphasize enough how powerful Hidden Deployment is. Now, as far as Haqqislam goes, only Vanilla has access to it, so I won’t linger on this particular too long, but any time you can deny your opponent the knowledge of when, where, and how part of your army will engage with his, that unknown threat is tremendously powerful. Even if they expect it, they’ll be spending Orders to move more carefully. If they don’t expect it, you’re getting shots off that they weren’t anticipating, and are probably very favorable to you. AD can function similarly, and was also a big part of my victory in this game. To continue the recounting of events, my opponent moved his Enomotarchos to try to achieve more favorable range bands before exchanging fire with my Lasiq. (I should say I removed Teucer and Phoenix in my first turn, and the rest of his army was limited to rifle ranges at best.) He went the way I wanted him to and was caught unawares by my Taureg Sniper. If you refer back to the deployment photo, you’ll notice that I didn’t use the Taureg’s Infiltration. I had wanted to Infiltrate onto a side of the board somewhere to cover a horizontal lane, but I set up terrain diagonally like that specifically to help break those up more and there wasn’t a place I liked as well as this one spot in my DZ. That was, again, because it gave me good coverage of a path I expected him to use to approach the objective. I knew he’d have to go after my HVT, so I had both the Tuareg and the Lasiq overlooking it, and my opponents primary lanes of approach to it. With his MSV gone, and no way to touch the Tuareg with a template without weathering a lot of fire to get close enough, my opponent went down the middle approach, still in bad range bands against the Lasiq, but without the Tuareg to worry about. At that point he ran out of orders, Enomotarchos extended almost to the midpoint of the table, with very little watching their back.
I mentioned that AD is another source of a mysterious threat vector. Even veteran players can be caught by AD, not because they don’t think you have it in your list, they know how to count points, but because you just can’t cover every angle all the time. Which is why my Bashi Bazouk didn’t come in until turn 2, behind Hector. It wasn’t the perfect place, I had to be in view of the Myrmidon Officer in order to be out of a Charybdis bot’s Flamethrower range, but thankfully she picked the wrong Holoecho. I then proceeded to pump Hector’s back full of AP rounds (I took a gamble here by lining up for a Chain colt shot instead of taking cover, and it paid off. He Dodged with both troops until Hector was dead, and I was able to finish off the Officer with the chain colt next.) Now this doesn’t have anything to do with AROs, but it is still a deployment issue. The Bashi Bazouk is a parachutist, so I needed to pick which edge I would come in on at the beginning, and I picked the one that I foresaw being unguarded after he started to advance. Again, I’m not lining up shots at the moment of deployment, I’m deploying to control portions of the board. The more influence you can assert on the table, the better you can anticipate what you may need to face during your Reactive turn.
All that said, this is, of course, a dice game. I had some really clutch crits in the beginning of the game, that made a huge difference for me. I only needed one order to take out Teucer, and we were on fairly even odds for that. Phoenix I knocked out by shooting through smoke with my Djanbazan, another thing which not all of Haqqislam can do, and I happened to double crit on that roll. Phoenix and Teucer both could have won those rolls, but they didn’t, and it dramatically limited my opponents options for answering the questions my snipers asked.