UCM Escort Guide

by Truthiness

Updated 22 October 2022

Welcome to part two of our UCM fleet deep dive. Here we’ll be talking about some more niche ships: destroyers, cutters, and monitors. These are on the smaller side, but have some oddities to them that make them unique from frigates. Our goal here is to give you an idea of how strong these ships are, where they slot into your fleet, and how you should use them on the table. We give each ship a 1-5 rating based on our totally arbitrary feelings about these ships. And because we like to be silly from time to time, we reserve the right to go beyond that scale to a 6 for truly fantastic ships. Because reasons. You can and should disagree as you gain more experience with these ships, and these ratings should by no means deter you from at least trying out a ship. We’re using a unique symbol for each faction. UCM gets explosions to represent their “when in doubt, apply more firepower” approach and generally brutal looking aesthetic. A ship rated with five explosions is something we consider extremely good, probably a “must take” in a competitive sense. On the other end, one explosion means you’re probably going to struggle to justify bringing the ship. Let’s dive in.

Vienna Escort Frigate

The Vienna is a really solid ship all around. They marry the Aegis ability, like the Jakarta, with a pretty decent burnthrough laser. The burnthrough value isn't particularly high, capping at only 3, but it's paired with the flash keyword as well. That makes Viennas really solid spotters for your fleet, painting enemy targets with their Mamba (yes, really) lasers for your bigger guns, while also providing Aegis protection with their presence. Their major downside is their speed. You want them out front, both because of their armor and their weapon adding spikes for shooters further back in your line. That likely means they probably need to spend at least a turn on max thrust, thus upping their own signature values on approach. They're also not an insignificant investment. They have to be taken in pairs, so a group of them is a 96 point investment. That's not bad, but also doesn't always work out.

Viennas are kind of an upgraded Jakarta, so a lot of what applies to that ship applies to the Vienna as well. If you keep a tight formation you can apply Aegis 8 (remember, Aegis stacks) to the surrounding ships. You can do this while also providing solid firepower, unlike the Jakarta. While Viennas will provide some spikes of their own, it can help to have a Lima in the group as well. Add 6" to a target to help the Viennas see it, and they in turn will add an additional 6" spike as well. You can then fire at it with big guns in your Battlegroup from even further back in your line. Remember when you're doing spike shenanigans, an unactivated ship can remove some or all of the spikes you apply, so if you're doing spike shenanigans like this you either do it all with the same Battlegroup or you're hitting a target that has already activated.

Istanbul Monitor

This ship is an absolute monster with firepower. When you compare it to a Madrid cruiser, two Istanbuls can cause even more damage with bombardment for only five points more. And, more importantly, their weapons can flex into space. Those same two Istanbuls can pump out 6 shots at 3+ lock, compared to the Madrid’s pretty pathetic 4 shots at 4+ lock. Oh, they also have a massive 10” scan and can shoot across orbital layers without penalty. The big catch is their 6” move and no ability to max thrust yourself closer to the fight. This was recently buffed just enough to make them a very intriguing option. Still, they're slow, so it can be hard to get these guys far enough onto the table to bombard anything on the other side of the board. Oftentimes that is something you really need from a bombardment ship. Another downside is that the Istanbuls, despite their 2+ armor, are more likely to go down quickly compared to a Madrid. They only have a combined 8 hull, half of which is highly likely to go away from crippling results. It doesn’t compare well to the Madrid’s 10 hull and only one crippling roll, despite the Madrid only having 3+ armor.

You can plug and play these boys pretty much everywhere in your fleet. They’re not fast and they’re fairly tough, so they don’t need to be in a low strategy rating group. That said, they do need to be on the table no later than turn two or risk being too slow to get into the fight. Honestly, you might need them on the table on the first turn if you want to get value out of them. If they’re in a 15+ strategy rating group, they risk getting into the game way too late in a distant deployment. I like to have them in a ground focused battlegroup if possible. A battlegroup of one San Fran troopship, three Istanbuls, and three Santiagos comes in at 11 strategy rating, ensuring they’re on the table by turn two in a distant deployment. Put together, the Santiagos can clear out enemy drop ships and the Istanbuls can clear out a sector with a defense battery, providing a clear path for the San Fran to drop lots of troops in the drop phase. I find they are best near the center of the board.

Havana Destroyer

You will probably hear a lot of veteran players say "torpedoes are bad." They're not entirely wrong. Most torpedoes have a short range, are quite unreliable at delivering solid damage, and the result is always delayed. As with all rules, though, there are exceptions. The Havana is that exception. Their light torpedoes don't look like much at first, but they are a great harassment tool for UCM fleets. The 14" thrust of their torpedoes means they can reach targets out to 28" range. PD doesn't work against torpedoes, so the only way to shake these torpedoes is to either max thrust or come to new heading. Both of these give a spike. This can be especially valuable against launch ships, such as Troopships or Carriers, who would rather be reducing their sig on standard orders. Even when the torpedoes run out, Havanas have good close action weapons. Plus, they have the thrust of a frigate and two more hull points. All of that for 11 points more than a Taipei? You better believe UCM loves this ship.

Havanas, as Destroyers, slot a little differently into Battlegroups compared to lighter ships. Their tonnage is a 2, so they add more to the strategy rating of the Battlegroup. They like being in a lower strategy rating Battlegroup because of their close action weapons, but it's more of a bonus than a requirement. More than anything, Havanas want to hang out at the edge of their range until they've gotten their torpedo volleys off. As such, they're OK flying at an angle to enemy ships if they're stuck in a higher strategy rating Battlegroup. Like a lot of launch-focused ships, they do generally prefer to activate later in turns to minimize incoming fire and get their positioning right. Once their torpedoes are gone, though, feel free to charge headlong into a target. You're paying mainly for those nasty torpedoes, so everything else is just a bonus.

Kyiv Heavy Destroyer

Say hello to the most appropriately named ship in the entire game. Kyivs give people nightmares, and for good reason. Kyivs murder everything. And not just murder. Kyivs are that serial killer that does unspeakable things to the bodies. This is not a nice ship and your opponent will hate their existence. At the root of the Kyiv's power is the re-entry keyword on their main weapon. While this is not unique to the Kyiv, they are the only ship to have the rule on anything but a close action weapon. That makes the Kyiv currently the only ship in the entire game able to hit things in atmosphere from scan plus sig range AND they get to do it on their normal lock value. And yes, spikes count as part of the sig. The first time you have a Kyiv bullseye your strike cruiser from 24” away, you will comprehend just how fantastic this ship is. And it’s not just useful against ships in atmosphere. Those two shots on a 3+ doing two damage a piece are nasty pieces of work. They also have fusillade-1, so they get an additional shot on weapons free. That weapon is paired with a ship that is basically a cruiser in all but hull value. It has a 3+ save, 5 PD, and an 8” thrust. The only thing that separates it from a cruiser is its tonnage (only a value of two) and its six hull.

On the board, I find Kyivs want to positively smash a flank. They team up extremely well with a pair of Limas, pinging your target or a couple targets to maximize the Kyiv’s ability to reach out and make someone’s life miserable. One of the most common Battlegroups I’ve seen is 3-4 Kyivs plus 2 Limas. And oh God does it hurt. What you target really depends on the situation because the Kyivs can smash just about anything. Early game I like to make strike cruisers out front pay for being out ahead of their fleets. Mid-game, you can either target critical drop assets or go for juicier targets, depending on which is the biggest threat at the moment. The biggest thing to manage is when you go weapons free. They’re tougher than your other small ships, but they can still go down quickly. Try to save the weapons free orders for when you’re confident in your ability to stay clear of the biggest enemy weapons. Make no mistake, your opponent will do their damnedest to neutralize your Kyivs fast. Keep them at range if at all possible, maximizing active scan pings from your Limas.

Vancouver Escort Carrier

The Vancouver is the least appealing ship out of the destroyer pack to me, but that’s not really saying much. Someone has to be the Luke of the Hemsworth brothers. And the Vancouver is still a solid ship in its own right. You might find yourself buying way too many destroyer packs because every single one of the variants are quite useful. The Vancouver sees plenty of use in the larger Dropfleet meta. That is courtesy of being the cheapest point for point source of fighters and bombers for UCM, and the second cheapest source of fighters and bombers in the game. While UCM fighters and bombers are amongst the least impressive, you can make up for it with volume. It also helps that the Vancouver is quick, a bit heftier with six hull, and has a lower 4” sig.

Vancouvers have no real weapons worth using (their close action weapon is so pitiful that most PD will nullify it outright), which can be a kind of benefit. Unlike many other UCM carriers, the Vancouver has no need or desire to get into the main fight to maximize its value. Just sit back and launch away. That lower sig helps in that regard as well. Even with a minor spike from launching, even Shaltari can’t pick you out from beyond your bomber range. Vancouvers also slot well in pretty much any Battlegroup, though since they’re usually hanging back, they don’t really need to be in a Battlegroup with a low Strategy Rating. Most players seem to like using Vancouvers to provide fighter support from the backfield, with the ability to flex to bombers if the fighters aren’t needed.

Reykjavik Cutter

Oh have the mighty have fallen. Before the 1.5 update, the Reykjavik was just absurdly broken, especially in combination with the Venice Battlecruiser. This bad boy was putting out Kyiv levels of firepower with a much higher threat radius at a 38% discount. No, it couldn't shoot into atmo like the Kyiv, but it was just so good at murdering everything in orbit that it hardly mattered. Weeeelllllllll, 1.5 hit the Reykjavik with a lot of nerfs. It lost fusillade, limiting it to just two shots. The front arc was also restricted to the narrow arc. On top of those two gameplay changes, they also hiked the cost up by 15 points. There's a lot of debate on how worthwhile Reyks still are. They still have the potential to hit pretty hard with a significant threat radius. Their 14" thrust means that even before factoring in sigs, they have a 20" threat radius. That's almost half a standard board. The narrow arc doesn't really matter a whole lot as their vector special rule lets them continue to get on target with plenty of ease. However, the cost increase in combination with the other changes makes them much less attractive. Their role is to disrupt an enemy backline, a role for which they compete with Havanas in my mind. For five points less, the Havana is significantly more durable and doesn't need to expose itself to nearly as much risk. There's something to be said immediate damage, as opposed to delayed torpedo damage, but the Havana close action weapons aren't exactly bad.

If you like the immediate damage of the Reyk over the Havana, you have to be pretty careful with them. You need to back them up with a solid core of cruisers, and nip around the edges board. They still pair well withwith Limas, just like their bigger Kyiv cousins. With two Limas adding 12” to a target’s signature value, there is just no hiding from the Reyks. With their speed, they’re also excellent backline hunters in their own right. Need an enemy detector on the backline to go away? Reyks can absolutely reach it, especially with the scannign ship's own signatures already elevated. They are also outliers, so they incur no strategy rating penalty for being out of battlegroup cohesion. Speaking of which, with such poor armor, you’re probably going to want to keep their strategy rating at least a little low. The aforementioned three Reyks and two Limas are a pretty comfortable strategy rating of 8. A group of three operating independently is only a strategy rating of 6. Both groups should slot nicely into a fleet.

Nuuk EM Harasser

The Nuuk requires careful planning and consideration. It has the same speed advantages and armor disadvantages as the Reykjavik. The difference is the payload, which is…weird. Instead of doing damage, the Nuuk forces targeted ships to remain on standard orders for the remainder of the turn. With a 4+ lock and only a single shot per ship, the ability is a little on the sketchy side. With two Nuuks firing at the same target, you should be able to more or less count on it, but there are bound to be some swings. Now that they are 30 points per ship,they are an intriguing ship, if still a bit on the janky side. You’re also obviously not going to be killing an enemy ship with their weapon, so Nuuks also have to worry quite a bit about retaliatory fire. That’s not exactly good news for a ship with paper thin armor.

While the TTCombat introductory article mentions trying to target big ships that want to go weapons free, that largely feels like a waste of the Nuuk to me. I think they shine best in a fleet with lots and lots of torpedoes. One of the biggest problems with torpedoes is the ability to shake them, both with come to new heading orders and obstacles. Between the two rolls to delay or nullify torpedoes, ships often end up shaking off quite a bit of potential damage. That’s where Nuuks come in. If you can activate Nuuks before a ship stacked up with torpedoes, you can keep that target off of come to new heading orders. That reduces the number of rolls it gets to defend against the torpedoes and also significantly limits their turning options. With only 45 degrees available, they may not be able to cross an obstacle at all. To accomplish this, you’ll want your Nuuks in a battlegroup all of their own, keeping their strategy rating to a bare minimum. If you feel you absolutely have to have three Nuuks, a strategy rating of six is acceptable, but I’d prefer to only take two Nuuks and keep my strategy rating at four. Pair that other battlegroups with as many Havanas and Romes as you like. It’s some nasty synergy.