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.