Infinity Tactics 101: Using Template Weapons
As units move around the board, often times there are positions they'll be standing in, where they could be standing near another model. It is in these situations that having a template weapon is incredibly useful, letting you blast multiple opponents at once, but that's not the only time templates are handy. Some template weapons let you attack without rolling to hit (Direct Templates), or even attack without seeing your enemy (Speculative Fire and Intuitive Attacks). Leveraging template weapons in your favor can be hugely beneficial on the table, and knowing how and when to use these different attacks will add some fantastic tools to your arsenal.
All template weapons have some common traits, most obvious is that any model touched by the template is affected by the attack (unless behind terrain, which I'll talk about). Possibly one of the most important ones to remember is that enemies do not receive the +3 ARM bonus from cover against them. Regardless of the shape, Indirect, Speculative, Impact or Direct, no ARM bonus from cover, though the Hit penalty may still apply, depending on the weapon. The next most important thing to remember is that you can ALWAYS declare a Dodge if you are hit by a Template weapon, though you will be at -3 to your dodge attempt if: the trooper doesn't have LoF to the attacker, the attacker is a Deployable Weapon, or if the trooper is declaring a Change Facing.
Now, just because a model lies under the template of an attack, doesn't mean they're hit by the template, unless a weapon says otherwise, models are only hit if you can draw a line from the blast focus (where the blast starts) to the model, without going through terrain.
Since template weapons affect every model touched by the template, you cannot place templates in a position where they'd affect a friendly model.
Some attacks with templates are performed by placing a teardrop template, directly in base contact with the attacker, and does not require a roll to hit, the most common examples being Chain Rifles, various Flamethrowers, and Nanopulsers. You may place the template in any position in 3 dimensions, so long as the Blast Focus is touching the base of the attacking model (like shown in the Teardrop Template example above). These attacks automatically hit, provided you have at least one valid target model under the attack, which means any roll that the opponent makes will be a Normal roll, not face-to-face. Being a Normal roll makes these attacks relatively easy to dodge, and if the enemy wants to just take the hit, they can shoot you back with relative ease.
The unique rules of these weapons allow you to make attacks that would normally be very difficult... For example, a Myrmidon in cover on suppressive fire is going to inflict a -12 penalty on anyone trying to shoot him with a standard weapon. Attacking the Myrmidon with some sacrificial model armed with a Chain Rifle means they now have to decide if it's worth taking the hit to fire at the attacker, or if they're better off Dodging, which would break them out of Suppressive Fire. If they dodge, you can spend another order firing again, and again, until either they figure out how to stop you, or one or both of you die in the process. This is often referred to as "trading pieces," and is a fantastic tactic if you can trade a 6 point Galwegian for a 25 point Myrmidon.
Sometimes an enemy Camouflage marker will be standing next to another, attackable model. Using a template weapon to target the visible model, may allow you to also touch the Camouflage marker with the same attack, hitting them as well, despite not normally being targetable.
Most Direct Template attacks have the Intuitive Attack trait. An Intuitive Attack allows you to use a Direct Template weapon against an enemy in a marker state which you couldn't normally attack, which also includes firing through zero-visibility zones (i.e. smoke). If you are a high-WIP model with an intuitive attack weapon and smoke grenades, you can be a very deadly foe, take the Ghazi Muttawi'ah for example, they can throw smoke, walk into it, then intuitive attack enemies on WIP 15, or 45th Galwegians doing the same on 14's! This is a great way to keep your Warband units alive, any enemies dodging will be at -3 (hit from a template with the attacker out of LOF), or they'll be shooting back at -6 (BS attack ARO through smoke).
The most common Impact Template weapons is the ubiquitous shotgun. These weapons roll to hit like a normal BS attack, and you must pick a valid target as normal, you then place the template to determine all of the opposing models that are affected by the attack. Any rolls that the targeted enemies make will be compared to the BS attack roll you made against the initial target. So if you shoot a boarding shotgun, scoring a 5 and 11, any dodges, BS attacks, etc, directed back at you, will be compared against your two results, just like you attacked each one individually. Round templates are centered over the targeted model, while teardrop templates are placed so that the Blast Focus touches the edge of the model which is closest to the attacker, and then the template extends in the direction of the Line of Fire of the attack (i.e. directly away from the attacker). Since BS attacks can be conducted at any point during your move, should you also declare a move in the same order, you can place the template at an angle that doesn't align with where you ended your move, so long as the angle was valid at some point during your move.
Any time you can get your enemy to bottleneck and line up behind cover, a template weapon is your friend. Impact templates in particular are fantastic because it allows you to place a round or teardrop template further up the board than your own model (that's obviously the advantage of them). One of the best ways to get the most out of Impact templates is with AD, infiltrating, or fast units like motorcycles, moving up the board and firing at a clump of enemies.
Now, a fun trick you can do with MSV2, Smoke, and a template weapon. The rules for dodging through zero-visibility zones state that the target doesn't suffer the -6 that they would suffer for dodging through a Poor Visibility zone, they still suffer other penalties as normal, meaning, if they choose to dodge a template weapon being fired at them, they'll suffer -3 for being shot by a template from out of LoF. Keep that in mind when running Maakrep, Yaogats, and any other shotgun-armed MSV2 trooper.
Some Impact Template weapons can perform Speculative Fire, grenades and grenade launchers being the most common of these weapons. Speculative Fire lets you fire your weapon without LoF, but at a severe penalty, on top of normal range penalties. You can mitigate that penalty though through the use of Forward Observers and the Spotlight hacking program to Target enemies. One of the best parts about Speculative Fire however is that the target model need not be under the center of the template, allowing you to place the template in a position to maximize the number of models affected by the attack.
Generally, I don't recommend bothering with speculative fire for long-ranged attacks (other than high PH models with grenades), unless I have a lot of Forward Observers, and a lot of orders... which is exactly what I love about USAriadna!
Similar to Speculative Fire, Guided allows you to attack a model from out of LOF, but has some important distinctions. First of all, it is not a long-skill, it is simply the trait of a weapon, so the model firing a Guided weapon can perform a move short-skill in the same order, and it can be used on the Reactive turn (provided you still meet the requirements to have an ARO). Guided requires that the target model is in the Targeted state, ignores LOF, suffers (almost) no BS penalties, and gains a +6 BS bonus. Finally, the attack is Hackable with U-turn, can be mitigated with ECM, and limited to 5 attacks per turn.
Like Speculative Fire, it takes a a few orders to get the most out of Guided, but since it is generally more accurate, it's less order intensive than relying on Speculative Fire. Hackers using Spotlight can be used in place of Forward Observers, though camo Forward Observers are still more effective to target an enemy for either of these attacks, since they can Surprise Shot with the Forward Observer skill. It's important to note that Spotlight, as a hacking attack, can be used to target models without LOF, though it is usually more difficult to pull off.
Reactive Turn Template Attacks
On the reactive turn, templates can be far more effective than one may originally think, specifically when referring to situations where multiple units are activated with a single order. When multiple models are activated and move through an area where a template attack has been placed. It's a somewhat complex interaction, but understanding it is very important when fighting against Fire Teams or people using Coordinated Orders.
You can see here that the Fusiliers are left with a few bad choices. Since all models touched by the template are affected by the attack, if the Clipsos hits at all, then every model must perform some sort of face to face roll to survive. If they choose BS Attack for their second skill, that will only be face to face between the leader and the Clipsos, meaning the other two are very likely going to be hit, alternatively they may all Dodge, which would give them all a roll against the Boarding Shotgun, but it is not going to kill the Clipsos in the process.
A similar situation can happen, regardless of if the enemy is using Fire Teams or not. If in your active turn, when you activate a model and are affected by a template weapon, other, non-activated models, will not get to ARO, meaning they will be hit by the attack without any recourse.
The innocent Fusilier to the left in that picture wasn't allowed to declare a Dodge or any other skill, as he was not active at the time of being hit by the Kuang Shi's Chain Rifle. So, when you're going against template weapons, be aware of your neighbors, they might not appreciate being hit by shotguns, missiles, and chain rifles! It's also worth noting that if the model on the left had ben in a Camouflage Marker State, they still would have been hit by the attack, forcing them out of Camouflage, and possibly wounding them in the process.
Notes and Conclusion
You may have noticed that the majority of my article referred to Warband units with direct templates, and camouflaged infiltrators. While they aren't the only way to get template weapons into the army, they are often the most effective choices you have. Warbands are very inexpensive, often with poor BS, but off set with template weapons, while camouflaged infiltrators can easily get into position to maximize the damage potential of their weapons. If you have other means to get models across the board and blast large swathes of your opponent in a single order, it usually a worthwhile venture.
Template weapons improve the efficiency of an order by allowing you to affect multiple enemy models at once, and they allow you to protect crowded avenues of movement, especially from opposing fire teams. You can use template weapons to negate BS penalties, or to simply force your opponent into either trading pieces, or spending an order dodging. Template weapons are very diverse tools with lots of uses, so get some on the board and force some bad decisions.