Infinity Unit Review: 6th Airborne Rangers and Van Zant
Today we're doing a twofer, covering the 6th Airborne Rangers, and the legendary Roger Van Zant. These veteran units have impressive profiles, effective both at range and in melee, with the ability to deploy far up the board where your enemy may not suspect a threat to come from.
6th Airborne Rangers
First up, lets talk about the Airborne Rangers, as their name says, these are the AD units in the USAriadna forces. Looking at their stats, they have an impressive CC22, BS12 and WIP13. To further boast their combat skills, they have Martial Arts L2, and each comes armed with an AP CC Weapon and Knife. Overall their profile is among the more elite side of Ariadna forces, and despite being effective combat troops, they're also very competent in a shoot out. There isn't a single weapon option that I don't love for different reasons, though obviously the Lieutenant will never see the table (I really wish they'd change all AD Lieutenants to Executive Order, or Chain of Command).
When using AD: Parachutist troops, you will have to pick which board section of the table that ALL of your AD: Parachutist troops will walk on from, they cannot drop onto the board like other armies AD units. To pick which section, each side of the board is divided into two halves, and you pick which half they will come in from. They cannot walk in from the enemy deployment zone, so you're most often picking between two 12" strips on the left or right side of the table. It isn't unwise to save your Airborne Ranger for a reserve drop, as it will let you choose the safest place to pick, but if you're taking multiple of them, you're going to have to choose when you deploy the rest of your forces.
The basic profile is the Submachine Gun, able to get in close and deliver a fusillade of AP or Shock rounds into the enemy's backside, most importantly though, you can go into suppressive fire. The Molotok gives you the opportunity to come on the table edge with a punishing amount of fire power, though it does come at a steep cost. If you're wanting similar firepower, but on a budget, then the Rifle profile is surprisingly amazing, largely due to coming with an assault pistol as well. These profiles are easily my favorites and get the most game-time, that doesn't mean the boarding shotgun is a bad choice (it really is solid), but for me, the ability to go suppressive with a troop that is deep up the board, possibly in or very near the enemy deployment zone, creates a large zone that the enemy will struggle to take back.
Finally, Airborne Rangers have a Forward Observer profile, the standard specialist profile of USAriadna. If you're taking any Submachine Gun Airborne Rangers, it's always worth spending the extra point to become a Forward Observer. Not only do you become a specialist, but it also gives you a WIP13 flash pulse to use on ARO when you're not in your SMGs optimal range.
Regardless of what profile you take, never forget the option of getting into melee. Using Mavericks, Desperados, and Devil Dogs, you can put down plenty of smoke cover to advance through. Using a combination of Stealth and Martial Arts L2, you can move up into base contact with the rear arc of an enemy, then strike them with a PH14 knife (PH12, +3 for MA2, -1 for knife) and silently cut the throat of an unsuspecting enemy. Even without smoke, you can often pull this off using cautious movement.
Read more about using Stealth and Silent together in my previous tactics article on the subject, I wrote it because of my love for the Airborne Rangers.
Van Zant Profiles
The big daddy of the Airborne Rangers, Van Zant is a brutal beat stick, and rightfully the most feared unit in USAriadna, if not all of Ariadna, and possibly even all of Infinity. His profile is similar to the Airborne Rangers, a capable fighter both in melee and at range, he has a few major advantages over a standard Airborne Rangers. Stat-wise, he has an extra point of BS, PH, WIP and ARM. His skills are a little different though, to make him more survivable Van Zant has Dogged, most importantly though, his Parachutist is upgraded to Tactical Jump, allowing him to walk on from ANY table edge, regardless of deployment zones. Van Zant can come in anywhere, and start blasting things with his BS AP Rifle, or cut down enemies in melee with his trusty axe.
I don't think there is any way to properly explain in writing how amazing Tactical Jump is. Being able to walk on from any edge, at any time, means that Van Zant will be exactly where you want him to be, when you need him to be there. Since this is Ariadna, it is very likely that you'll have 9 order to plug him with after arriving. A poorly deployed opponent can easily lose 2-3x Van Zant's points in their own models the turn he shows up. Since Zant is Dogged, you can usually take an ARO hit and keep on going, in case of any bad rolls.
Van Zant comes with two profiles, the second simply has the addition of the Executive Order skill, at the cost of 1 point. This uncommon ability turns Van Zant into your Lieutenant the turn he arrives, essentially giving him access to yet another order. The downside however is that Van Zant dies. Your opponent will throw everything they have to end his rampage, and if he's put into Dogged, he's a goner. To properly use this skill, you must have a model with Chain of Command on the table (either the Unknown Ranger, or a Spec Ops), which then creates a deadly combination that I've used many times before. If you're going to do this, start off with a Lieutenant that is either cheap, or better yet gets a SWC discount, the Ohio Minuteman AP HMG Lieutenant is a fantastic choice, since they get a SWC discount on their gun, or the Grunt Light Grenade Launcher Lieutenant since they pay 0 SWC tax for being the Lieutenant. If you're taking the Ohio out of a link, you'll probably want to keep the order for himself turn 1, freely exposing your Lieutenant while getting a free order worth of AP HMG fire. Your opponent will probably kill him, in which case your Chain of Command becomes your Lieutenant. Then Van Zant will walk on and take advantage of the Lieutenant Order, then probably die, in which case the Chain of Command model becomes Lieutenant again.
All Together Now
Perhaps one of my favorite things to do with USAriadna, aside from blasting opponents to ribbons with Katyusha, is taking one or two 6th Airborne Rangers, plus Van Zant himself. The first ranger will walk on, clearing a path, then your opponent turns to face them, exposing their backs to Van Zant, who then comes on the back edge of the table, killing something else. Your opponent is caught between a deadly crossfire with no safe direction to turn. After clearing the landing zone another Airborne Ranger walks on and all 3 models go into suppressive mode. Suddenly a quarter of the table is shut down by models with AP or Shock weapons in suppressive fire, dug into cover. It really is a wonderful thing, I've even written an entire article about it before.
When people face Ariadna, usually they're aware of camo markers, Katyusha, and naturally the threat of Van Zant. There is no doubt in people's mind that if you have the ability to take Van Zant, that you are indeed taking Van Zant. You can use this to your advantage, as I've frequently done, keeping one order pool at 9 to trick my opponent into guessing which pool has him, or even two pools of 8. Sometimes I do this even if I'm not running him! If you can get people to worry so much about the table edge, then they'll be ripe for the picking from Desperados, Mavericks, and Devil Dogs. If they are facing the faster, more immediate threats, then they may be facing away from the edge, allowing Airborne Rangers or Van Zant to walk on safely. With these units you can play a surprising bit of the psychological game, even with the brute force army that USAriadna typically is.