When Corvus Belli announced that a new sectorial, Spiral Corps, was in-bound, tied to Tohaa, but without the full support of the Triumverate, I was just coming to the end of my love affair with my previous army, Hassassin Bahram. Wanting to run something entirely different, I was intrigued by what little we knew about Spiral, and the prospect of painting some cool aliens was exciting, as I was getting a little bored of humans. Then the models were previewed, and I lost my mind! They were the army for me! Sneaking undercover agents, weird little alien critters, hulking close-combat monsters, all sporting cool and weird xeno-tech, unlike that of the usual factions of the Human Sphere.
Suffice to say, when the box came out, I jumped on it immediately, digging out the Tohaa bits I picked up on the cheap a couple of years back, but had never done anything with, and pulling together the bits that were usable in the brand new Spiral Corps army list. First impressions of the list were…mixed…I liked what some things could do, but was a bit put off by the lack of heavy firepower. Where were my HMGs?! Similarly, why could I only take one Kaeltar, making the choice of Mates or Bombs a bit of a one-sided one? Also, why couldn’t Reex link with everything, acting like glue like Makaul did in Tohaa?! It seemed like there were little pockets of cool, with a bit of a void in terms of the units around those key pieces.
Regardless, I started playing some games with them, trying stuff out, and deciding what I thought worked, and what didn’t. Initially, it was a bit of an uphill struggle – losing lots, or only narrowly winning, but then I started to get them – started to understand what works, and how to use them.
When ITS Season 11 rolled around, I decided that Spiral would be my competitive army, and what I would take for tournaments, the local league, to the Nordic Masters, and if I went, to Interplanetario. My first tournament of ITS11 went well, taking first place, and at the next one I came 3rd, with 2 major wins and a draw. My third, and fourth tournaments of the season also went excellently, as I walked away with the first place prize at both. In fact, I haven’t lost a competitive game with Spiral this season, which I think really is down to how well put together the army is.
As I approach the point of having everything I need and want for the list painted up, and I’m considering my options for next seasons army, I thought it was about time I did something new for the blog, and wrote and review of the army, from my experience of using them. The aim is to give some insight into how they have played for me, and what I’ve really enjoyed about this unique force.
I should caveat all of this with the fact that I’ve never played vanilla Tohaa, so the views posted below are entirely from the view of using the units in Spiral Corps, and the specific profiles available only to them and, of course.
Also, I haven’t tried everything out, only what appealed, and, of course, your mileage may vary.
General Tactics & Playstyle
Unlike other armies in Infinity, Spiral Corps can’t really do a lot of the plays you’d see from a more generalised force. They struggle with long range gunfights, they can’t do Air Drop shock and awe tactics, they’re not really able to engage in the Hacking game, and generally speaking they can’t do massive order lists. Where I’ve found they do excel, however, is in a guerilla warfare style of play, where they use two or three strong gunfighters to harass the enemy from the midfield, then pull back to a position and make the opponent come to them; forcing them to wade through mines, or Dazers, Kriigels, or SymbioBombs, or having to waste orders dealing with cheap, or high-risk ARO pieces, before getting to my active turn pieces. That, or having to spend their time digging out an awkwardly place Impersonator or two, before being able to attempt the mission, giving me the edge on momentum in order to move up and start taking objectives, or get an early lead on kill count.
Not having a large array of units that can handle a firefight means that you can’t really engage in open wars of attrition – you really notice when you lose that Draal, or your Kiel-Saan goes down. Similarly, your Fireteams aren’t as flexible as they are in Tohaa, so losing a member of one can be quite the blow, so do bear that in mind when you’re moving your pieces about the board.
I find that Spiral have much more success when they don’t over extended, and only leave a few choice ARO pieces out, with as many things tucked around corners, or a couple of orders away, for your opponent to deal with, and spreading the mission out across all three turns – due to the pricing, and nature of the units in the army, a Gung-Ho approach often leaves you without the pieces you need to win the game.
- Order efficient: With a combination of triads, high MOV stats, and solid average BS and WIP, Spiral are good at getting things done in a timely manner.
- Streamlined: As we’re seeing with a lot of the more recent armies/sectorials, Spiral dont have much in the way of point bloat. This doesn’t mean units are cheap, per se, but you’re not paying for things you won’t use.
- Fast: As mentioned above, a number of units in Spiral are blessed with a 6” first MOV rate. This, combined with some decent deployment skills, means you’re able to get your key units where you want them quickly, and efficiently
- Solid Defence: With a combination of tricksys links, cheap camo’d ARO pieces, and some tough midfield starters, Spiral Corps have a lot of tools to blunt an Alpha strike.
- Helots: Mentioned above, and arguably too good, these little alien mercs are amazing, and far, far too cheap!
- Special Triads:Spiral get access to a few particular fireteams, which aren’t present in regular Tohaa. They are quite unique in composition, and give a really interesting tool box to work with. There are two in particular that are outrageously good (more on those later!)
- Big Guns: There are a distinct lack of powerful, high burst weapons in the army, particularly HMGs, which only appear on a BS11 Neurocinetic Chaksa, and the less-than-impressive Anaconda TAG. There are alternatives, mind…
- Limited Specialists: Probably the armies biggest weakness is it’s lack of dedicated specialists, particularly Forward Observers, of which the Clipsos is the only one. Add to that the lack of hackers, and Classifieds can prove tricky to do, and missions involving the new Liaison Officer rule somewhat force your hand in terms of build. That said, Draal being specialist operatives means you usually have someone ready to push the buttons!
- Hacking: Whilst not a con necessarily, it is a blindspot for Tohaa in general, and it’s not much different for Spiral. Whilst having access to the Wardriver and Brawler hackers helps somewhat, the army lacks remotes to synergise the supportware benefits of these units. Similarly, no drop troops, and only 2 HI, means that you’re only taking Hackers to either complete classifieds, or be the target of enemy KHDs – a threat compounded by only having one killer hacker themselves (Hatail Keesan), and no repeaters at all! All of this culminates in there not really being much reason to take hackers, giving you an even smaller choice of specialists!
- Limited Insertion: I think this just isn’t really Spiral’ choice format. They rely on Helots to form multiple, cheap, AROs, and with them being Irregular, that’s an order you’re down. Tactical Window, on the other hand…
There are some real key players in the Spiral Corps army, and a few which I think the force really couldn’t do without. Below are some of my favourites, which I would urge anyone interested in Spiral to have a go with!
Draal Saboteurs: I freaking love this unit, especially the AP Marksman Rifle version! Fast movement, solid BS(13), decent PHYS plus Hyper-Dynamics Lv1 (so dodging on 15s), a WIP13 Specialist, with Forward Deployment Lv2, ARM2 (BTS6!), and Symbiont Armour to boot – the second wound has a slightly reduced statline, but it means it can take a SymbioMate! 3 solid loadouts, giving you the choice of short range gunfighting, backed up with a large template, or a more long range weapon, able to punch through armour. They can even have a Dazer, to help slow the enemy down, whilst having Multi-terrain and ignoring the effects themselves. All profiles having a Viral Pistol is also amazing, as it makes them lethal at short range. AP mines and minelayer (which plays really well with Forward Deployment) makes these beasts excellent at midfield control, able to take and hold buttons on their own, without much worry. Finally, they have a piece of equipment unique entirely to them – Stratuscloud. This tool allows them to deploy with, activate with an order, or ARO with (which takes effect from the beginning of that order!) the Stratuscloud state. Whilst active an area the size of the round template, centred on the Draal, becomes a low-vis and saturation zone for any model that DOESN’T have the Stratuscloud equipment. This lasts until the end of the following player turn. It is essentially a hard counter to a full Core fireteam, as it negates their +3 to hit and +1 Burst, and has proven the best tool for facing defensive links I think I’ve ever used. Combine it with Suppressive fire whilst in cover, and your Draal essentially becomes a 1 Tohaa pillbox! Anyone thinking of taking up Spiral Corps should definitely explore this unit – in my humble opinion, they’re a linchpin of the army, and you should never leave home without one.
Kiel-Saan: Another favourite unit of mine, and the one I go to when I need to get stuff dead! Again, with a fast movement, high BS, good armour, and multiple wounds (plus being able to take SymbioMates!) Kiel-Saan are normally able to get themselves where you need them, with enough orders to then wreak havoc. I personally prefer the Red Fury profile, as burst 4 means you can be quite aggressive with it, and you’re never going to be out-diced. Due to the Heavy Pistol and Panerfaust, both profiles have a +3 mod out to 32”, meaning that you can reliably leverage that high BS. It’s also definitely worth mentioning MetaChemistry, as it really can push the Kiel-Saan into unreasonable levels of excellent! There are no bad results on the roll (perhaps Bioimmunity, or Natural Armour?) but everything else can, and will, make the Kiel-Saan a night mare for your opponent. Also, the Kiel-Saan is one of the hardiest close combat units in the army despite not having Martial Arts. However, having Natural Born Warrior and Assault means you can run in from a scarily long distance, and offset your -3 from Assault with NBW if you’re facing weaker CC targets, or accept the -3 and ignore all of the benefits of CC specialists. Either way, with a total of 3 wounds, and being able to take a mate, your Kiel-Saan will be around for a while, and laying on the hurt, especially with a PH14, Double Action Shock Weapon! Finally, as a Veteran, the Kiel-Saan can achieve some classifieds, and gets an ADHL in Hunting Party, plus with a DA CCW, it can do damage to scenery items for missions like Looting and Sabotage. I’d highly urge anyone interested in Spiral to ensure they give this unit several outings, to better understand the array of things it can do for you!
Taagma: Taagma are one of those units that I probably could do without, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to. They bring two pretty important things to the table – Counterintelligence, and an MSV2 (Viral) Sniper! Counterintelligence is so important for Spiral as they can’t do many high order count builds,at least not without sacrificing some of their more important units and Triads. Whilst you’re not always going be going first, Spiral are able to throw out a pretty solid Alpha strike, and having more orders makes for a scarier threat. From experience, just the knowledge that an army has Counterintelligence is enough to stop your opponent from spending that Command Token. Having an MSV2 Sniper is always going to be helpful in a list, but when it’s your only MSV2, it almost becomes vital. Whilst not being as versatile as a Multi, the Viral sniper can be just as devastating against a variety of units – especially against those terrifying Werewolves! Couple this with the Special Triad with two Chaksa, and you have a really solid, and quite cheap, ARO unit, that can prove to be a horrible active turn threat.
The Holoprojector allows you to disguise the Taagma as something else, which is usually as a Chaksa for me (though it can be obvious having a flamer at the top of a tower), but is more useful when it comes to using the other sneaky tool Taagma have – the Tricor. This little dohiccy confers the benefits of a full Core link (Sixth Sense and +3 to hit) to the Triad the Taagma is in. The main advantage of this is that you get the shooting capacity of a full link, but with the manoeuvrability of a Haris.
Kiiutan: There’s not much more to say about the Kiiutan, other than 2 Wound Impersonator! Despite only being Inferior Impersonation, and so unable to reassume the marker state, the Kiiutan makes for an excellent assassin, with a good BS of 12, PH11 and Hyperdynmaics, and of course, 2 wounds. Depending on what you’re facing, you can choose to not deploy in the marker state at all, instead favouring to give it a SymbioMate or SymbioBomb. The profiles all having Viral Pistols is really nice, and I tend to prefer the SMG version – taking the E/Mauler if I have the SWC; this is unless I’m using them to start with points in my opponents half of the table (for missions like Frontline, or Supremay), in which case it’s the Combi-Rifle. Usually, I use the Kiituan as a distraction piece, as it’s amazing how many orders people will spend on getting to, discovering, and then trying to kill a multi-wound Impersonator, and this can be a great way to slow down an Alpha strike. If going first, and I have a decent target, I’ll sometimes try for an assassination run, or harrass single units, sometimes forgoing the marker state in favour of a Mate or Bomb, particularly if there’s a nasty looking link set up in ARO. If you’re expecting some nice, squishy targets it’s worth noting that the new Defiance character, Jaa Starr, is a more aggressive, and more expensive, version of the Kiiutan, so is worth trying that profile if you want a straight up mook killer (though the Kiiutan’s E/M and AP ammo is better for hunting armour!) Similarly, the Greif operative has an Impersonation profile for 21pts, so makes a cheap alternative, though I really do think the 5pts is worth it for the increase in stats and additional wound.
Kriigel: Whilst not appearing in every list I run, Kriigel’s have some utility that is almost unique to them. Firstly, there is a profile that has a Smoke Grenade Launcher, which is one of two smoke templates in the army (the other being the Kerail handler) – this obviously synergises well with the Taagma Sniper, and is pretty staple play in most games of Infinity. Secondly, there is another profile which wields a Phero-booster – a weapon unique to the Kriigel unit. It has several firing modes, allowing you to choose to best suit your target, and a range band good between 16 and 24 inches. As an added bonus, the weapon has the Pheromonic ammo type, so regardless of whether you wound or not, your victim becomes Targeted as long as you hit. Lastly, and this is the real winner about the equipment – hitting things with the Pherobooster counts as completing the Forward Observer skills for the purposes of Classified objectives. This is important as Spiral have a severe lack of Forward Observer specialists, as mentioned above! Regardless of which loadout you select, the Kriigel has two Pheroware tactics at its disposal; Mirrorball and Eraser. Mirrorball works exactly like White Noise, so gives the army a nice way of dealing with MSV troops, whilst Eraser is a bit trickier – it allows the Kriigel to make a WIP roll (with a -3 penalty to the enemy), which causes a damage 13 Double Trouble hit, Isolating the target if they fail. This makes for a pretty tasty attack vector, and an even nastier ARO if your opponent isn’t thinking about it – particularly against hard targets, or Rambo pieces. Be warned though, it can only target things with a Wounds value, so is useless against TAGs.
Helots: I’ve saved the best for last, and I say that in all seriousness. Really, Helots are far too cheap for what you get – particularly the two profiles that I take in literally every list I run. With BS11, they are average gunfighters, but it’s the addition of Neurocinetics which makes them so good – multiple dice in the reactive turn is an absolute killer, especially if you’re placing a template on multiple targets! Combine that with their deployment skill – either Decoy or Limited Camo – and you get an outrageously good road block. In terms of profiles, there are only two which stand out to me – the Light Rocket Launcher+SMG, and the Shock Marksman Rifle. Whilst I’m sure the Multi-Sniper has it’s uses, long range firepower is better handled by the Taagma Viral, and 1.5 SWC is a high tax to pay on an Irregular, BS 11 unit that only gets 1 shot in active turn. Similarly, whilst the Red Fury (probably my favourite weapon in the game) is awesome – paying 1 SWC for an additional burst doesn’t seem worth it, when the Shock Marksman Rifle is an option. Similarly, I only really use the Limited Camouflage deployment, as it makes the Helot even better at wasting orders – whilst a Decoy Helot can waste time, an opponent can move to and split burst between the targets, forcing a reaction.
Using Helots really doesn’t require too much finesse, but it’s often very tempting to reveal and ARO too early. I mainly use Helots to waste orders, and the more time my opponent spends trying to Discover them, the better they’re doing their job. As a general rule of thumb, I never reveal a Helot if my opponent has Moved to get it in their sights – the logic being they will have to Discover with their next skill, and if this fails, spend more orders swapping a new active piece into view – the one exception here, is if I can catch multiple models in the Light Rocket Launchers blast template. Similarly, with Limited Camo, and being in Cover, the Helot is always -6 to Discover before other modifiers – this means that all but high WIP/Full-core Linked/MSV/all of the above units will have a hard time revealing the Helot, so I normally let my opponent Discover+Shoot if they want to, unless they’re Discovering on an 10 or less.
In active turn, I usually spend the Irregular order to reposition the Helots to be as annoying in the next turn as possible. If people choose to Discover then I’ll loose off a single shot, but this is a mistake opponents only tend to make once. Anyone trying Spiral Corps will definitely want to try out Helots – they make up an essential part of the army’s defence, with no real comparable alternatives.
Having covered the standout individual units, I feel it’s worth probably discussing the Fireteams that I think really make Spiral Corps. These are all ones that I’ve used, to reasonable success, in both casual and competitive games, and they normally form the basic starting points of any list I write. They are also only available to Spiral!
Taagma Sniper + Chaksa Auxilia + Chaska Auxilia: This is usually the first thing I add to a list, along with 3 Helots, as that comprises the ARO presence of my army, and is something that I will include in almost every list, regardless of mission. The idea is that you deploy the Taagma as another Chaksa, but in the best sniper tower on your half of the board, with the true Chaksa covering the angles from Impersonators, AD units, Infiltrators etc, tucked away and safe from getting shot, one of them as the Link Leader. Players wise to Spiral will know what this is, and will inevitably engage it with a high burst weapon, as you should against snipers. If you’re lucky, your 2 dice will get a few orders out of them before the Taagma goes down, and you might even kill something. I normally back the Taagma up with a Warcor or a Helot, just to make my opponents life that much harder. When the Taagma inevitably dies, you then have a Chaksa Duo to move up to the midfield, Sensor sweep, and toast any thing they can, or lay in a position to template advancing enemy troops. If you get an active turn with this Triad, use it as you would any MSV sniper – lay down some smoke, and pick off any targets that will hamper your other units. For a total of 45pts/1.5 SWC I really don’t think there is much negative to say about this link team, and they’re a real joy to run.
Kiel-Saan Red Fury + Draal AP Marksman Rifle + Draal SMG: The wrecking ball of the army! As you can imagine, this Triad can achieve a lot in a game, and I’ve even go so far as to say that I’ve won games entirely with these three models; any mission which involves pushing buttons, or doing stuff in the opponents half of the board, is likely to include them. Generally, I will deploy both Draal just outside of my DZ, with the AP Marksman’s mine in the most annoying place possible, and the Kiel-Saan safely bunkered nearby – essentially, they are placed so that either the KS or the Draal with MMR can be the link leader, both of which will receive a SymbioMate. When my turn rolls around, I will use the Kiel-Saan to lead the advance, picking off any lightly .armoured targets as the Triad heads towards their objective. If I have a link team to deal with, or something with stacked odds (Marksmanship, or Mimetism etc) I’ll switch to the AP MMR Draal, and use Strastuscloud to swing those rolls in my favour. Once they reach the midfield, or have pressed buttons (hopefully achieving a Classified on the way) I’ll bunker the link up and cover lateral lines of advance, without presenting an easy target for my opponent, or move my Helots to provide cover. With the Pulsar on one Draal, and a Viral/Heavy pistol on the other two link members, anything getting too close will find themselves having an awkward choice to make, whilst similarly the AP MMR and the KS’s Panzerfaust means that I can respond to heavy targets that step into view. As a team, they really can cover all bases, though can be susceptible to Hacking due to the Kiel-Saan being Heavy Infantry, so be mindful of that when you’re trying the trio out – trust me, you WILL try this fireteam, and you will LOVE them!
Draal AP Marksman Rifle + Taagma Tricor + Kriigel SMG: So, this is my go to link for missions where killing stuff, and having things alive at the end of the game is the order of the day. The comparatively cheap units all benefiting from a full Core link’s bonus is a great way of whittling down the enemy force, whilst preserving some of your own points. The main idea here is that the Draal does a lot of the heavy lifting, using the MMR’s range band to keep in the +3, Stratuscloud to deal with linked targets, and if needs be, the Kriigel’s Mirrorball to take on MSV units that are locking me down. The combination of the Draal’s mines, the Kriigel’s Eraser, and the Tricor giving the link Sixth Sense, means that once you’re happy with what the link has achieved in the active turn, you can bunker up somewhere in the midfield, and use them to slow down your opponent in their turn. Having a Specialist Operative in the link too means that you can use them to grab buttons in the midfield, adding an extra bit of utility to this nifty little link.
Weaknesses and How to Deal with them…
Like all armies, Spiral have some things that will cause them headaches, but I don’t think there are any particular hard counters to the sectorial, and certainly nothing that a well thought out and balanced list can’t deal with. That said, it’s good to know what to be wary of, so I’ve listed a few things that you should keep an eye on, and ways to counteract them.
TAGs: Love them or hate the, TAGs are one of the coolest things about the game! They post a pretty sizeable threat to Spiral, particularly due to the lack of AHD coverage. When I’m expecting a TAG, I try to deal with it in one of 3 ways. Option 1) Smoke trick it with the Viral Sniper – high damage and 2 BTS rolls per hit, but will likely take an entire turn. Choice 2) Hit it in close combat – harder, due to having to get near them, but the Kiel-Saan, Kerail, or even the Igao can do a good job here. Alternative 3) The Kiiutan. A well placed Impersonator, particularly with an E/Mauler can deal with TAG surprisingly well. The addition of an E/Mitter means you have a good ARO against them, too, does the Kiel-Saan’s linked Panzerfaust.
Heavy Infantry Links: Eurgh, probably my biggest fear! Normally, I’d try to E/M them, but with limited options in Spiral, you can’t really go there. Try not to let them get too much leverage in their active turn, and try to cover them with a Viral Sniper, and at least one LRL Helot. In active turn, I’ve found that the Draal + KS link works well – the AP Marksman rifle or SMG negating their armour bonus, the Kiel-Saan doing the work in close combat, a Pulsar can hurt if you can get lots and you’re burst 2 (plus, a SymbioMate means you can walk into that exchange on ARM12, so can hopefully shrug off most hits), and even using the Draal’s Dazer to grind them to a halt can be effective.
Swarms: By this I mean Warbands – cheap, highly aggressive units that will rocket towards you. Being a relatively small army, Spiral can quite easily be over run, and you don’t want to really be wasting your Helot’s camo states by revealing to drop a Gaki – though, if it’s with an order or two of you, you definitely should. I try to place my Sniper with as much of the board in view as possible, and cover corners that warbands have to run around with LRL Helots, as you can sometimes catch extra targets in the blast. Having a high burst unit, like a linked Red Fury, can be a good answer, too.
Smoke Tricking: Having only a couple of MSV2 units in the army, and the Brawler sniper being somewhat underwhelming means that when that Taagma goes down you are vulnerable to being picked off through smoke. The best counter here is to deal with the enemy MSV as quickly as possible, using Mirrorball to your advantage if you can. Alternatively, if you’re facing a force with lots of MSV units, sending a Kiiutan on a smoke-thrower hunt is a good way to neuter the threat.
Wrapping it Up
As far as my enjoyment of the army goes, I could probably wax lyrical for days about how awesome Spiral Corps are, or how well they have worked for me over the last half year or so of playing them, but really it’s not until you get them on the table, and starting pushing them around that they will really shine. There’s a lot more to the army than I’ve written about, from simple things like having access to 2 Warcors (well, 1 and the Tohaa Diplomat), to the Kriigel + Reex ARO link, to being able to run FOUR Impersonators, but I feel the above novela covers my real highlights of the faction. They really are a wonderful army, and not quite like any other I’ve played, and I look forward to using them throughout the rest of the season, where they will hopefully perform as well as they have so far; regardless of success, however, they will no doubt continue to be all kinds of fun!
In terms of starting points, the Spiral Corps army box is a really solid way to go. Add in a Kaeltar specialist, the Kerail Preceptors, the Taagma Sniper, and a couple of Chaksa, and you’ll find yourself with the makings of a really solid force. Oh, and Helots! Don’t forget the Helots!
I hope this has given you some ideas about how you could go about using a Spiral Corps army, or some things to consider should you come up against one. At some point down the line I’ll share some lists that I’m running, along with some tactics for overcoming Spiral’s strengths, but there’s still a good chunk of ITS11 to go, and I don’t want to give my entire game away 😉
As always, please feel free to throw your comments my way, and share your thoughts on the army, what works and doesn’t work for you, or indeed of my write up – it’s always good to hear other viewpoints of things you think you know well!
Until next time, sports fans!