UCM Heavy Ship Guide
Updated 22 October 2022
Welcome to part four of our UCM fleet deep dive. Here we’ll be talking about the heavy cruisers and battlecruisers of the UCM fleet. At this level of ship class, you start to get a discount on your commander. As such, you’ll almost certainly bring at least one of them, if for nothing else than as an efficient chariot for your commander. Plus, they all look pretty great on the table. 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. 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.
St. Petersburg Heavy Cruiser
The St Petersburg is a beautiful ship that unfortunately tends to be a bit of a let down. On paper, it is a very efficient package of firepower. It brings two burnthrough lasers for a significant discount over the equivalent firepower of Berlins or New Cairos, even more so with a points drop in the last balance review. On its own, it could rip an opposing cruiser in half with a good set of rolls, with a very high damage ceiling. Unfortunately it has one major obstacle in its way: the need to weapons free to get the most out of its weapons. That’s normally just a bit of a inconvenience, but with the St Petersburg, it is an enormous obstacle. Since both weapons are tied to the narrow arc, you will often find yourself wanting to turn. Weapon free means no turning and no layer shifting. A crafty opponent will use either solid maneuver or layer shenanigans to make a weapons free order hard to pull off. So, in effect, you often have to settle for only a single gun in order to get any weapons on target. That’s not exactly what you want from your big shiny death lasers.
On its own, I might even consider the St Petersburg the worst ship in the UCM fleet. There is, however, one great hope for this angry flashlight of a ship. The big exception to the above problem is a fleet that involves the Venice (more on that below). The St Petersburg is probably the ship most greatly helped by the Venice, granting the ability to fire that second weapon while still turning. That is probably the single best piece of advice I can give if you really want to bring a St Petersburg: bring a Venice too. Use come to new heading orders with reckless abandon, melting armor all over. Otherwise, it wants to operate much like other ships with burnthrough lasers. It is a ship best used at the vanguard of your fleet, charging out early, dealing as much punishment as it can, and spiking everything it can touch. If you think you can leverage it well, it will slot anywhere you already felt comfortable using two Berlins. It has the same strategy rating and amount of firepower, though at a noticeable discount.
Moscow Heavy Cruiser
The Moscow is an angry mass of guns, well deserving of its namesake. Much like the St Petersburg, it attempts to bring nearly the equivalent firepower of two smaller cruisers for a significant discount. It falls a little short of that since it lacks the squadron bonus that multiple Rios or Osakas would get, but it’s still a formidable amount of firepower. Like the other UCM heavy cruiser, it needs to rely on a weapons free order to maximize its firepower. That’s not nearly as bad of a limitation as the St Petersburg. The Moscow has a far easier time on weapons free orders since its main guns are able to swing to either side as well as the front. If you’re looking for a fairly cheap, efficient, and durable flagship, the Moscow can serve that purpose pretty well.
Like most of the Battlecruisers, you’ll mostly want the Moscow in its own battlegroup, or with minimum supporting small ships, especially if it’s your flagship. You don’t want your commander off the table for too long, so keeping it below a strategy rating of 15 is typically a good idea in case of a distant deployment. It also doesn’t help that the Moscow is a bit on the slow side. That 1” reduced movement over a cruiser is a little noticeable at times. A Jakarta is a good partner for much same reasons as they work well with Rios. Adding that Aegis protection to a critical ship helps keep it going longer. I also tend to like having a few dropships in my flagship’s battlegroup so that I can get both the commander and some drop assets on the table with one deployment in a column approach.
Burnaby Battlestar Carrier
Oh boy. This Frankenstein's Monster of a ship is cobbled together from the extra parts in the bottom of your bits box. So let's break down what we have here. We have the usual three Fighters/Bombers from our UCM cruisers. For the Heavy Cruisers, that's unique. The extra durability comes at the usual heavy cruiser cost of speed. We also have a standard Cobra Heavy Laser. That makes this somewhat similar to the PHR Bellerophon. And then we have what I'm guessing is probably a mistyped UF-6400 Mass Driver, which is usually a 3+ lock, but for some reason is a 4+ lock here. However, even with the proper UF-6400 statline, this is a mess of a ship. The need to weapons free with a narrow arc, as mentioned above with the St. Petersburg, is problematic. All of that would be fine if this was costed appropriately. Spoiler: it is not. For just 15 points more, you get the immensely superior Johannesburg, which brings more of pretty much everything. All of the recently released experimental heavy cruisers are not well costed, but the Burnaby is the worst of the bunch. Sad to say, as cool as this ship looks on the table (personally, I would put the UF-6400 on the top and the Cobra Laser on the bottom), I really have no ideas for how to utilize it. It's just plain bad.
Much like the Seattle, the Johannesburg can be a somewhat controversial ship. Your view of the Seattle is likely to be similar to your view of the Johannesburg. It is my personal favorite flagship for UCM fleets for much the same reason I love the Seattle. It is a great generalist, able to provide launch support, but also bring solid firepower to bear. It has all the same guns as the Moscow, including the flexibility of being able to fire its main guns to either side and the front. It also has two more hit points, a 1” greater thrust, better point defense, and 3 fighters and bombers. For 45 points over the Moscow, that’s a really good deal. As I’ve said before, I really like having a Johannesburg and two Seattles at the core of my UCM fleets. Together, they provide a solid 9 fighters and bombers as well as up to 16 shots on a 3+ lock, giving both the immediacy of powerful guns as well as the flexibility of launch bays.
Since I largely use the Johannesburg as an upgraded Moscow, my advice is going to be much the same. You’ll mostly want the Johannesburg in its own battlegroup, or with minimum supporting small ships, especially if it’s your flagship. You don’t want your commander off the table for too long, so keeping it below a strategy rating of 15 is typically a good idea in case of a distant deployment. Unlike the Moscow, there’s not much of a reason to bring a Jakarta, as the Johannesburg’s launch will cover itself from bombers in much the same way as Aegis. I do tend to like having a couple dropships with it, though. It allows me to get the commander and some drop assets on the table with on deployment in a column approach. While you’ll want to commit the Johannesburg to the main fighting, don’t leave it exposed and unsupported. As a launch ship, it will have some level of spike on it at certain points. Try to keep some picket ships ahead of it so that you force some targeting decisions for your opponent. Much like a troopship, you don’t want your opponent taking shots on your flagship without some danger to their own survival.
If you like burnthrough lasers…take some Berlins. If you like burnthrough lasers on a bit hull…maybe take some St Petersburgs and a Venice I guess? Oh right, there’s also the Perth, which is certainly…present. It’s not a terrible ship, but unlike the Johannesburg, it doesn’t really bring all that much firepower in its burnthrough laser. It’s more reliable than its smaller cousins in the UCM fleet since it starts with four shots, but with a cap of only eight damage, it is simply not going to put out as much damage as the equivalent investment in smaller cruisers. It has some smaller guns as well, but then you’re presented with the problem of having to go weapons free while trying to line up the narrow arc. It’s eight shots, but only on a 4+ lock, meaning they’re not likely to do a whole lot of damage. Oh, and it lights itself up with a spike when it fires its main weapon because of the Bloom keyword. That’s not ideal on a ship you are likely at least considering as your flagship. UCM have some solid options for flagships. The Perth is probably near the bottom of that list.
If you’re determined to use the Perth, you’ll likely want to help add to its threat range. A Lima or two would not be ill advised. Since Bloom will be adding to your signature, you’ll want to be doing the same so you can engage enemy ships on more equal terms. I’ve also some some success using some Viennas pushing out ahead of the Perth as a decently good pairing. The Viennas use their Mamba lasers to add some spikes and damage and then the Perth finishes off the target from some distance. Viennas would need to start with all head full orders to get far enough ahead to make it work, but the pairing has the added benefit of also adding to your point defenses. Remember, my advice for all flagships is to try and keep the strategy rating below 15 so that you can get in by at least turn two in a distant deployment. There’s nothing worse that paying for a solid commander, but only getting a good sized stack of command cards for half the game.
You are playing a game of feast or famine when you bring the Rome out to play. When those giant torpedoes hit home, they absolutely obliterate ships. Anything cruiser sized or smaller is almost guaranteed death. Battlecruisers are in for a very bad day. They’re even likely to cripple a Battleship and give a Dreadnought a seriously bad blow. If both torpedoes hit one target? Forget about it. But this all comes with a big giant asterisk. Torpedoes are always delayed until after the targeted ship’s next activation. That means that in addition to firing their weapons once again, they have some good opportunities to avoid damage. Once your opponent has played against torpedoes a time or two, they’ll quickly start to recognize they can hug some terrain and be prepared to use come to new heading orders. Plowing through any debris field is infinitely preferable to getting hit with Rome torpedoes, so you better believe they’re going to do it. This gives the ship two chances to roll to shake torpedoes: one for the come to new heading orders, one for the debris field. If they’re able to dodge into a dense debris field, they essentially get two opportunities to not take torpedo damage that turn on a 5+. Come to new heading only destroys the torpedoes on a 6, but even a delay is a major victory when you have up to 16 damage on the line. If they’re hugging a fine debris field, you shouldn’t even bother shooting. The odds of your torpedoes getting through are pretty slim.
Romes don’t really bring much weaponry to the table besides their big skyscraper torpedoes. Their close action weapons are pretty poor for a ship likely to be without anyone else in its group with whom to combine fire and overwhelm PD. That’s not to say Romes are useless. Their very impressive Aegis value makes them good at nullifying enemy fighters, bombers, and close action. It’s also not a terribly high priority for death if its torpedoes have already been launched, making it a fairly good flagship. Just dump your torpedoes (which you can do in a single turn!) and then concentrate on protecting your other ships and adding your tonnage to an objective. Even an opponent well practiced in evading torpedoes is going to be a little apprehensive approaching a Rome. The dice gods could very well turn against them, and if they do, it’s going to be a very bad day. Keep yourself on silent running until you’re ready to launch. When you are, put the Rome near the end of your activation order so that you reduce the amount of time it is potentially exposed to enemy fire. Once your torpedoes are enroute, you can use it pretty effectively as an activation delay since it is no longer all that worried about when it goes. As mentioned previously, you should probably have at least a pair of Nuuk Cutters if you have Rome. Being able to force a targeted ship onto standard orders with a pair of the Rome’s torpedoes inbound is very mean.
The Venice's value comes down entirely to the Command Deck and UCM Battlenet rules, which are as follows:
Command Deck - If you mount your Admiral in this ship, when drawing Command Cards, you may draw 2 more than normal.
UCM Battlenet - As long as this ship is on the board, when a friendly Battlegroup within this ship’s weapons range activates, you may choose to discard 1 Command Card and that Battlegroup gains 1 of the following bonuses when on Special Orders:
Any ships in that Battlegroup may add 4” to their movement this turn (after any Thrust modifiers)
Special Orders that allow ships to fire weapon systems allow them to fire an additional weapon system. Special Orders that do not allow ships to fire weapon systems allow them to fire 1 Close Action weapon (but does not count for launching Launch Assets)
Any ships in that Battlegroup may change Orbital Layer, even if they otherwise would not be allowed to do so (all normal restrictions apply such as costing Thrust distance and only entering Atmosphere if they have the Atmospheric special rule).
Your should be mind will be swimming with possibilities. And I guarantee as much as you’re imagining right now, it’s even better on the tabletop. Max thrusting Taipeis YOLOing their way to close action from half away across the board? I’ve done that. Come to new heading and firing both of the St Petersburg’s burnthrough lasers? Check. Oh yeah, it’s glorious. At 220 points, the Venice is the most expensive battlecruiser by a good chunk. Pair that with the fact that its weapons are so pitiful that you might as well consider them to not even be there. You’re just gonna make something angry. What you’re left with is a really damned good flagship, but a fleet that is essentially short 220 points worth of guns. The bigger the game, the less that matters, but in smaller games, that’s a big chunk. In anything below 1500 points I don’t think I’d even consider the Venice. Even at 1500, I’m eternally asking myself if the impressive capabilities of the Venice are worth the cost. The recent 1.5 nerf to the ship has made me lean toward "no," but it still an intriguing ship.
The really fun part about the Venice is the fleets you can assemble. You can get some real juice out of some suboptimal ships that other UCM fleets simply can’t utilize well. The most famous example is the St Petersburg, which goes from very difficult to use to a face melting mad man. The Venice itself is also probably the safest of flagships. Even with the change to its range forcing it closer to the fight, it can still hang back better than other battlecruisers and stay on silent running. You’ll likely want to get close to some clusters toward the end of the game, as your tonnage of 10 will help in contesting critical locations, but even then you can stay on silent running. Finally, while I have recommended this before with other flagships, I consider it an absolute must for the Venice. DO NOT exceed 14 strategy rating in the Venice’s battlegroup. Add some dropships if you like to help get them on the board in the same deployment as your flagship, but under no circumstances should the Venice be on the board any later than turn two. Your entire fleet will be heavily dependent on the Venice and its ability. Get it on the board so you can start piling up those extra command cards and spending them like a high roller throws around chips at a casino.