Good Morning Admirals,
Welcome to the final instalment in the Dindrenzi part of the Ship Assessment series for the Battle for Valhalla starter set, sorry it is a little later than advertised! Today we’re going to look at the Thraex Class Frigate, the smallest ship (not including SRS tokens) that the Dindrenzi get in the box. Frigates are very important ships in any fleet, bringing good mobility, decent damage outlay for their size and a bit of pace to get them where they are needed most. Most Frigates across the fleet lists tend to have similar stats, low damage threshold, high movement values and good turn limits. These ships are not designed to be even close to front line fighters; where they excel is in 3 roles as I will outline below.
The first major role for a Frigate is taking out other Frigates. All frigates have the Difficult Target MAR, meaning that capital ships suffer a -1 to hit unless firing Scatter Weaponry (be very wary of closing with a Sorylian capital ship!) therefore your Cruisers and Battleships are going to have to throw more dice against Frigates to achieve the same effect as a squadron of Frigates would. The Thraex is good at it too; at 24” a squadron of 3 is putting down 12 shots with Kinetic Weapons and 8 torpedoes. That gives you a solid chance to kill 2 Frigates which at the very least is going to force a disorder check and at best cripple that squadron’s damage potential and stop them from doing anything for a turn.
The next key role a Frigate squadron can play is the assassin. Using their increased movement and agility they can get around behind larger, slower ships and hit them in the rear where they are more vulnerable (-1 to DR and CR if the whole squadron firing is in the rear arc). If they have managed to get through unscathed then they are putting down between 8 and 12 Kinetic shots followed by 8 torpedoes. On average against a Cruiser sized ship that’s 2 hull points gone or possibly a critical hit (got to love those exploding 6s!).
The final role a Frigate can play, albeit not as well, is that of the “escort”; not in the sense of the actual Escort Class of ship, Escort’s have their own set of special rules which allow them greater interaction with their parent ship such as combining PD against incoming attacks, but by staying near a Battleship or Carrier and keeping the irritating but potentially deadly littler ships away from it. They also ignore the Difficult Target MAR of the Escort Class ships, meaning that if the squadron were supporting a Praetorian on an assault run they could take out the Escorts of the intended target to reduce the PD dice pool the defender has access to. This is where, for the Dindrenzi especially, I see a strong role for the Frigates. Keep them in close support of your Speartip, protect the main damage dealer and add supplementary firepower when you can.
As you can see, the Frigate is a very versatile ship, able to adapt to a variety of battlefield circumstances and may well end up taking on more than one of these roles during a single battle. However, it does have some clear weaknesses.
The main point it suffers with is the ability to take hits. All Frigates have 2 hull points meaning that unlike a capital ship if you hit that CR value the ship is just destroyed outright. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the ship is harder for larger ships to hit in the first place (Difficult Target) but a squadron can very quickly start taking losses if it is given any real attention. The best way to mitigate this is to ensure your Frigates don’t get isolated, or to make sure another target is present instead. If presented with a squadron of 2 Cruisers or 3 Frigates most players would shoot the Cruisers as they are more likely to generate hits and therefore damage than they would against the Frigates and the Cruisers are usually the greater threat. I’m not saying this will always be the case but it might go some way to protecting your squadron.
Another drawback to Frigates, and particularly the Thraex, is down to the movement mechanics. A ship, unless at Full Stop, must move at least half its movement value. For the Thraex this is 5.5”, which is slightly less than the full pace of some Battleships. This means that if you’re wanting to opt for a slow approach to get maximum use out of your fore facing weaponry while maintaining the ability to turn the rest of the fleet will struggle to keep pace, potentially leading to the isolation mentioned above. You can mitigate this with some clever turning, effectively zig-zagging up the table to burn movement but I think the best way to deal with this would be to deploy the Frigates behind the ships they are accompanying. This should buy you at least a couple of turns before you have to start worrying too much about the Frigates being left out on their own and by that point the battle field will likely look very different so you can use the extra space you’ve created for yourself with these nimble ships to capitalise on a situation. Of course, this isn’t an issue at all if you plan on ramming your Battleship down your opponent’s throat in a manner similar to the Praetorian tactics outlined in the first article of this series!
For my 800 point Patrol Fleet list (and the subject of a future post) I’m including 2 squadrons of 3 Thraex. One them is tagging along with the Praetorian acting in the third role I outlined above while the second squadron is going to be more reactive. I plan on using them as opportunistic hunters, finishing off damaged vessels and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Odds are they won’t survive many games but if they can take some of the heat off of the primary thrust of the fleet then they will have done their jobs admirably (no pun intended).
That should about do it for this post, as always if you have any thoughts, hints or tips please feel free to include them in the comments below!
Until next time,