UCM Light Ship Guide
Updated 22 October 2022
Welcome to part one of our UCM deep dive series. Here, we’ll be exploring the smallest ships in the UCM fleet: frigates, corvettes, and lighters. These ships are typically the most flexible in the fleet when it comes to making your list, able to plug into every kind of battlegroup. UCM light ships aren’t generally combat power houses, but they include your critical dropships, as well as a bunch of nice support capabilities. 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...look I’d like to tell you there’s a metric, but let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a totally arbitrary rating based on how I feel 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.
Starting with the smallest combat ship in the UCM fleet, the Santiago is a pretty great little ship. It has one role, kill enemy atmospheric ships, which it does quite well. Of the various corvettes in the game, the Santiago might very well be the best blend between speed and firepower. I would recommend always taking them in groups of at least 3 to take advantage of their squadron rule. It adds a significant amount of firepower to their combined shots, which can really help against stubborn dropships like the Medea or the Selenium. They are quite cost efficient, coming in at only 66 points for three ships. If you’re comparing costs just for atmosphere hunting, three Santiagos can put out 9+D6 shots on a 3+ lock for almost the same cost as a single Kyiv putting out 2 shots on a 3+ (which, admittedly, cause 2 damage per hit).
You can fit a trio of Santiagos pretty much anywhere, though it helps to put them in groups with low strategy rating. They can be wiped out pretty easily if they’re caught outside of atmosphere by bigger ships, so getting the flexibility of choosing first or last in a given activation can really help. You probably also shouldn’t really expect them to leave atmosphere once they’re there, either. It’s a problem all corvettes have: once you’re down in atmo and the big boys start rolling in, it’s very dangerous to pop back up. That means you’ll probably want to aim Santiagos in one of two ways. Either throw them toward a cluster that is heavily contested early on or deploy them to a cluster that you want to make too dangerous for the enemy to approach. For such a cheap group, don’t sweat it too much if they don’t trade up in value. If you yeet some enemy dropships out of existence quickly, they’ve earned their keep.
New Orleans Strike Carrier
The New Orleans is your bog standard dropship for UCM. Until more recently, they were the sole source of dropships. They’re not bad by any means, coming in with fairly standard UCM frigate stats: 4 hull, 4+ armor, 3 PD, and 10” thrust. They have weapons technically, but not much to speak of. They spend most of their time in atmosphere, so weapons aren’t a huge concern. They are pretty cheap and provide one of the most important assets in the game, so that alone should justify getting them on the table. Still, they don’t compare terribly well against other factions’ dropships. They have even started to be a bit outclassed by Lysander Lighters within the UCM ranks. There are still some reasons to take New Orleans, but you can see them getting replaced wholesale by Lysanders in competitive fleets.
You can slot these guys pretty much anywhere. You probably want them in groups with a lower strategy rating. The first person on the ground in a cluster often has an advantage, so you’ll want at least some strike carriers in the game on turn one. In case of a distant deployment, that means you’ll want at least some strike carriers in a battlegroup with a strategy rating of 9 or less. You also probably want your strike carriers in a battlegroup that is comfortable waiting to activate later in the turn, especially on the initial approach. The last thing you want is to move up your strike carriers early only to have them popped by some corvettes activating afterwards.
The Lima is an absolutely fantastic asset. In a game where range is dictated by spikes, the “Detector” keyword is an absolute must. That rule means that any number of Limas in a battlegroup scan always activate scan while the rest of your battlegroup uses a separate special order. If you have two Limas together, it means you can put two spikes (totalling up to a major spike) on an enemy ship of your choice, instantly adding 12” to your range. There is rarely a UCM fleet that doesn’t bring at least some Limas. They have the standard UCM frigate stats: 4 hull, 4+ armor, 3 PD, and 10” thrust. None of those really matter. Your job is to hang in the backfield, constantly throwing out spikes and plodding along at your 5” minimum move in a straight line. Just be sure to aim your ship away from obstacles when you move and and profit.
You’ll want to put a pair of Limas with your main killers. By having them together in a battlegroup, your Limas can add the spikes to your targets and then have your killers immediately take advantage of the 12” additional range you’ve just added to that target. You really don’t want to separate your Limas from your primary shooters because that gives your opponent an opportunity to remove spikes between activations. I personally love having two Limas with Kyivs. The Limas can scan, while the Kyivs can use whatever order suits their current purpose (we’ll get more into that in a different post). You could do the same with Moscows, letting the heavy cruisers go weapons free on a target from a long distance. Berlins/New Cairos are another great choice if you want to eat through a heavily armored target. The point is, Limas enable your heavy hitters. Use them.
Jakarta Aegis Frigate
The Jakarta is a solid support ship. It provides a good point defense bonus to nearby ships for a pretty cheap cost. This helps you against both bombers and close action, and unlike fighters, the bonus never goes away so long as the ship is alive. As such, Aegis is a solid bonus to bring to your fleet. Since Jakartas contribute with their mere presence, they’re also solid ships with which to use scan orders in a pinch. The downside is the radius is pretty limited at only 4”. If you’re relying heavily on Aegis to mitigate close action and/or bombers, often times a canny opponent will be able to just concentrate their attacks on ships outside the Aegis bubble. You’re still effectively protecting the ships you want, but at the expense of other parts of your fleet.
Jakartas want to be around big things that you want to keep alive, especially against enemy bombers. Troopships appreciate the escort, as do groups of cruisers. I especially like Jakartas around cruisers that are otherwise comfortable on standard orders. That allows the Jakarta to scan, and thus add range to the rest of the battlegroup. My personal favorite pairing is Osakas. The battlegroup is able to hang together either on the flank or set back a bit from the center, throwing out a lot of firepower from range. They keep their spikes down on standard orders, while the Jakarta keeps them relatively safe from enemy bombers reach out from beyond sig+scan range.
Taipei Missile Frigate
If you want some small ships that contribute in the ship to ship fight, then you’ll want some Taipeis. These ships are all about close action and man do they bring a lot of it. Their natural 4+ lock isn’t all that impressive, but their D6+4 attacks usually are, especially when you consider they can be taken in groups of up to six. 6D6+24 attacks is often enough to overwhelm even the best point defense values. It doesn’t come cheap, though, as Taipeis are the most expensive of the UCM frigates at 39 points. In terms of efficiency, you can get better firepower from other sources. They can be worth it, though, and man are they fun little ships. If you want a little taste of what it’s like to be Scourge in your UCM fleet, grab yourself a handful of these and Leeroy Jenkins yourself into an enemy battlegroup. They’re probably best hunting lighter targets as the higher lock value means they are less likely to crit.
Like many small ships, Taipeis probably want to be in a group with a lower strategy rating. While they are generally OK coming on the table late, they do often want the choice of activating earlier or later in an activation sequence. They’re on the standard UCM frigate chassis, so they’re here for a good time, not a long time. I also recommend using them in groups of at least four. Close action weapons want to focus their efforts to overwhelm point defense, so volume matters. The more Taipeis on a target, the exponentially more likely you are to overwhelm their defenses. Once you start losing Taipeis, their effectiveness will drop exponentially.
Toulons attempt to bring ship to ship firepower in frigate form, just like Taipeis. Unlike the Taipeis, they can do so from a comfortable distance, theoretically allowing them to keep their sig down and more likely to stay out of danger. In groups of three or more, they’re adding three attacks per ship at a 4+ lock, plus an additional D6 shots from their squadron keyword. I want to like Toulons, especially since UCM have a command card that can give you three free Toulons. However, they’re just...not great. Like Taipeis, they aren’t terribly efficient. On top of that, they lack the insane ceiling of the Taipeis. Even if you roll hot on the squadron roll, Toulons just can’t compare to the Taipeis in terms of volume. That said, I prefer the Toulons from the command card that gives either a free Rio or three free Toulons. That comes down to the Rio not being able to take advantage of its squadron keyword, while the three Toulons can. 9+D6 shots on a 4+ lock on standard orders is generally more appealing to me than four shots on a 3+ and four shots on a 4+ on weapons free.
If you’re determined to use Toulons, the good news is they are pretty flexible. Because of the command card, Toulons are an odd little ship. I often don’t want to spend points on them, but getting them for free is great. They’re comfortable activating at pretty much any point in the turn. They’re not often a priority for killing and they can keep their sig low on standard orders without losing any firepower. They have a 270 degree arc of fire too, so can be flexible on their approach. All of that put together means you can put them into battlegroups with higher strategy ratings without much worry. In terms of placement, you probably want to keep them on a flank or hanging back a bit, as they don’t really want to get into close action range, where ships are happy to just throw free dice at them without a second thought.
Lysanders have kind of stolen the role of primary UCM dropship in most UCM fleets it seems. When compared to New Orleans, they’re faster, really hard to detect, and come in at five points cheaper. They are a bit more fragile, with only 6+ armor and two hull. However, they don’t roll for crippling damage since they start with such little hull, so the reduced hull isn’t much of a factor outside of a lucky roll. They make up for it by having a 0” sig and a full cloak. The only way to hit these guys is to get in close action range, which is bad news in a mirror UCM match if someone is relying on Kyivs for anti-atmo firepower. They also have a bonus special rule that allows them to survey clusters in a surveying objective, despite their small tonnage. All in all, the Lysander brings a lot of upside compared to the New Orleans without too much drawback. You can mitigate their fragility a bit with solid game play. Where they really stand out is repositioning. They can shoot out of atmosphere on a max thrust order, move 20”, and take no spike because of their full cloak ability. A New Olreans in the same situation would only get 16” and take a minor spike, exposing them to fire from an additional 9” away with their combined sig and spike.
A lot of what goes for New Orleans goes for Lysanders. You probably want them in groups with a lower strategy rating. The first person on the ground in a cluster often has an advantage, so you’ll want at least some Lysanders in the game on turn one. In case of a distant deployment, that means you’ll want at least some in a battlegroup with a strategy rating of 9 or less. You also probably want your Lysanders in a battlegroup that is comfortable waiting to activate later in the turn, especially on the initial approach. The last thing you want is to move up your strike carriers early only to have them popped by some corvettes activating afterwards.