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Subject: User's Guide to the weapons of TAL rss

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Dave Medeiros
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Continuing my meandering commentary on TAL (see my last post, “I really like this game!” for an early review of the aircraft types), here are my initial thoughts on the weapons. I’ve only played a few campaigns so far, so take this with a grain of salt: this is just a beginner’s guide to how the weapons work, and what’s the right weapon for the different kinds of enemies you’ll face.

I don’t review AIM-92 Stingers, BGM-71 TOWs, or LAU-68 rocket pods here, as I have yet to use them. Obviously, if you have SO points to spend you have better choices than those.

AGM-114 Hellfires: Bread & butter. If you’ve got WPs to fill and don’t know what to arm, take some more of these (or Rockeyes, see below). They can hit every kind of target except infantry and helicopters (as long as those targets stay out of cover), from good range.

AGM-65 Mavericks: 2 WPs is a bit painful, but if you have some space to spare, these are useful. You can reach any hex on the map (given LOS), and kill even tanks reliably. It’s great for taking out scary enemies like SAMs right away. If you arm 1, you’ll probably want 2 (or some Hellfires?) to make it worth your while to attack a hex at range (else you may end up with something better to do every turn, and never get to use them).

AIM-9 Sidewinders: Great anti-air, what’s to say? It’s probably a good idea to arm at least one of these on any mission; you might be forced up by an altitude hit and draw a helicopter Pop-up, and you don’t want to have to rely on cannons up close to deal with it.

[Cannons] Nothing you have to pay for, but worth a mention here. HL:CAO trained me to view using cannons as a last resort; in this game, the cannon is a workhorse weapon. This depends on the aircraft, of course; I wouldn’t rely on my AH-1s getting much done with their guns. Apaches and Harriers are another story, and for the A-10, the gun is often the best choice (certainly the cheapest, in terms of conserving ordnance) against lone enemies in its hex. And then there’s the AC-130… Here’s a tip: try using two demotions of other pilots at the start of the campaign, so you can take Zinger as a Veteran. Evasive 9, Fast, +2 Standoff: you have rolls of -1, 1, 3, and shoot first. Granted, if there are enough nasty enemies you can get in trouble (remember, Evasive applies to the whole stack of hit counters coming in, not to each enemy individually!), but once you silence the anti-air guns… enemies get into cover, or get destroyed.

ECM Pod. I always take this if I can, unless I’m desperately short of WP. It’s just a notch less effective than in HL:CAO, but it’s a huge relief to have a multi-red attack avoided completely.

Fuel Tanks. I find myself using these a lot. Sure, WPs are at a premium, but you can make up for the weapons you have to leave home with an extra 2 turns to use the cannon.

GBUs: especially for hard-to-kill enemies like Buildings and Tanks, these are great. But be wary: do your bombing as quickly as you can and drop back to low altitude next turn, there are some nasty Pop-Ups out there. Note that with the attack angle rule, Range 1 means you can (only) attack 2 different hexes (the one you’re in, and the one right in front of you). Hmm, except Harriers, who can carry these but also hover; they should be able to scatter GBUs on 7 hexes at a go…

LAU-61s: The better your skill and the softer the enemy, the more useful rockets are (because you’re likelier to get multiple uses out of them). They add versatility, especially to helos (it’s their only stand-off weapon that can attack infantry). Unlike the AGM-114, they can fire at 0 range, with a better roll than your cannon. If you only arm Hellfires, and then get unlucky with Cover rolls, you can end up with nothing to shoot at. With rockets, you can take out enemies that only attack at 0 range (most of them) without risking their fire by hovering in their hex, or you can get up close and attack the ones hiding in cover more effectively than with your cannon (on a per-roll basis, though cannons can be better if there are a lot of enemies in the hex).

Mk 20 Rockeyes. The more enemies on the board, the better these become (because it’s likelier that you’ll have multiple enemies in a hex, and these attack each enemy in the hex). I rarely leave home without them, and it’s not uncommon for half of my WP to be taken up with these. Drop two or three at once on those crowded hexes and clear them out.

Mk 82/83 Iron bombs: Not as reliable as GBUs, these still have a place on your pylons, because you can use them at low altitude. If there are only a handful of enemies in the battalion you’re attacking, these can be a pretty good choice. This is especially true for pilots with higher Strike/lower Stand-Off numbers.

And… that’s it! Obviously, this game has really got my attention; I hope you enjoy it as thoroughly as I do.
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Russell Woodland
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Dave,

Great little article. Just makes me want my copy more. Some where in the post on its way to new Zealand.

Expect my reviews, session reports and more
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Dan Verssen
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Great weapon review!

Thank you!
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pierre legal
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Good review ! thumbsup
Thanks..


Mk 20 Cluster Bomb Unit!!!! devil

Absolute killer !

I totally agree, my Hogs never take off without 'em !

Sometimes they got me overconfident, i drop only 3 of them on a bunch of vehicles and infantry and there : 1 infantry survives and I am here, a sitting duck being shot at....blush

Well, fortunately, it is rare, and the mk20 attacked hex is generally very quiet after the hog passage...devil

One of my most efficient association is a fast A10 fully loaded with mk20 and another aircraft or helicopter using standoff weapons to clear the air defense vehicles very early in the mission...





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Scott Key
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So far one the most "satisfying" experiences of the game is flying an A-10 over a ridge and dropping some Rockeyes on a hex full of targets. Even if not totally successful it's still fun...
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michael esposito
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morton grove
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Gotta get this game!!!!
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Andrew Walters
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Neat guide! We should build on this, as I have some additions or magnifications and some disagreements...

AGM-114: Sort of agree. They're very useful and cheaper than Mavericks, but you don't want to spend an extra SO point to take additional Hellfires you don't specifically need. I think the "bread-and-butter" is Rockeyes, with 114s batting cleanup. But wait, I hear you cry, Apaches can't drop Rockeyes. No, and A-10s are too expensive to allow you to have enough to fly them every day. That's why you need a Harrier or Falcon. But 114s are certainly the mainstay of the Apache.

AGM-65s: expensive, but as you mention the certainty of effect makes them attractive for the absolutely-must-be-destroyed-right-away target, eg SAMs.

AIM-9/92: don't forget you could be bounced by MiGs en route to the target. For some terrible, terrible reason you can no longer be bounced on the way home, but that's a separate rant. You should bring some sidewinders and hopefully an F-16 if you know you'll run into helicopters. If you don't expect helicopters you probably need Stingers instead.

AIM-92: since they're free you should always have a couple in case of a MiG event card or helo. If you *expect* Helos invest in AIM-9s, but if you don't the Stinger is the cheap insurance.

Cannons: used to be pointless, now they're awesome, just like in real life. The hover attack is the key to overcoming lots of people in cover. The fuel tank, as you mention, makes this better.

ECM Pod: I have mixed feelings. I don't like to leave much to the dice. I prefer to plan missions so that I take out all serious threats first, either with fast pilots or standoff weapons, so that I don't get shot at. I don't want to trust the dice any more than necessary. Still, I do take the pods when WP aren't super-tight.

GBUs: expensive, and they require going High. This means that a SAM or helo could pop up that you have not budgeted for. This may not be a problem for the AC that went high, it may be a problem for that out-of-ammo AC on the far side of the map that's all by himself. Nope, leaves too much to chance. The one thing these have going for them is that magic I. If you need that, these are great. Otherwise,as Consumer's Report says, "There are better choices." I use these in PL, but rarely in TAL.

Rockets: They're free. If you have extra WP but don't want to spend any more MP, load rockets. Used in enough numbers they can let Cobras do some standoff air defense removal for cheap. Their versatility, as you mention, means they often show up in loadouts, but they're still to chancy to be a mainstay in mission planning (except in quantity).

Mk 20 Rockeyes: I start every mission off with Rockeyes. Because they can potentially destroy more than one enemy for one WP/MP, they are very cost effective. As mentioned, you can't take your Thunderbolts out every day, so have a cheaper AC (F-16 or AV-8B) to carry Rockeyes on the other days, especially if you're attacking a battalion with a high number of counters in it.

Iron Bombs: on the one hand, the high to-hit numbers mean you need several to get the certainty of a kill you'd get with AGMs. Skilled pilots on low pressure missions could use these to save SO points, but skilled pilots are rare and low pressure missions are rarer. The A-10 is probably better off using its cannon, in fact, so this is really a weapon for the F-16, and even then only when you can spare the WP to carry enough to get hit.
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Dave Medeiros
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Yes, excellent points Andrew, thanks for helping to make this better.
The value of the AGM-114s does indeed depend on the aircraft you're arming (and what you're facing, how they're distributed, how many turns you'll have, Pilot skills, Pilot speed and your tolerance for taking fire, etc.). Definitely a mainstay for helos; I rarely put them on fixed wing aircraft, because it conflicts with their same-hex strike mission.
Rockets free: Only the LAU-68 rockets don't cost Ordnance points; the LAU-61s cost 1 pt. Still, they're cheap.
As you point out, the 0 Ord Pt weapons (AIM-92s, and iron bombs) can be useful as "throwaways" to counter card effects. But as you say, you don't want to be relying on these as your primary weapon. I'm coming around to thinking that 2 rocket pods and 4 AGM-114s on the Apaches is a good loadout (reflecting common practice in the real world, I think -- with maybe one pair of Hellfires switched out for AtA).
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