Drop-verse Faction Intro: Shaltari
Do you like the idea of being an enigmatic duplicitous hobbit with a sense of inherent superiority?* Do you like the idea of manipulating lesser races into fighting each other for your amusement? Do you wish your body was covered in little hedgehog spikes? Then boy, do we have the Drop-verse faction for you!
*Credit to Drasnighta for this excellent line.
Welcome to Shaltari, a secretive and tribal alien race with highly advanced technology well beyond human and Scourge capabilities. They have shields, weapons of immense power, teleportation technology, and the ability to jump between systems without the use of the jump nodes every other race depends upon. A tribe of Shaltari were the ones that first established humanity on the Cradle Worlds, which turned out to be an attempt to use humanity as a meat shield against another faction of Shaltari. While there are some things that unite the Shaltari, unending rivalries between the Shaltari tribes is a main feature of their society. They view this as a strength of their society, as they feel it drives innovation. Those rivalries often break out into open war, though the battles are usually kept small scale. Their purpose is more to satisfy honor and preserve Shaltari strength. After all, there is no greater opponent than themselves, so periodic skirmishes hone the Shaltari’s martial strength. Shaltari themselves are functionally immortal, having invented consciousness transfer ages ago. When a Shaltari nears the end of their natural life (about 300 years), their minds are transferred to artificially grown bodies to start all over. Death by old age simply does not happen in Shaltari society. There are Shaltari that are millenia old. However, the Shaltari birth rate is very slow, so their population remains relatively small in number. The race has an odd dichotomy where they have a pathological fear of the “final death” on one hand, while also venerating martial achievement above all else on the other.
Never has cultural and technological superiority come in such an adorable little package
Since that initial break down in human-Shaltari relations, the pesky little space hedgehogs weren’t seen all that much. After the Scourge invasion, the UCM had no contact with the Shaltari at all until the Reconquest. That’s when the Shaltari re-entered the picture. They would intervene in battles seemingly at random, undermining UCM projections and drastically altering campaigns. In the single communication between the Scourge and the UCM government, the Scourge offered a ceasefire and alliance to deal with the Shaltari. The Scourge claimed the Shaltari had led the Scourge to humanity in the first place, and were prolonging the war to maximize casualties on both sides. When the UCM rejected the Scourge’s offer, the Scourge launched invasions against colony worlds, seemingly confirming the Shaltari had indeed been leading the Scourge to humanity, and were doing so again. Some fans have speculated that the PHR and the Shaltari are playing a similar game in trying to shape the Reconquest in more subtle ways, but with opposing goals.
On the table, Shaltari are the prototypical “glass cannon” faction. Their units tend to be expensive, have very powerful weapons, but not particularly good at taking a punch. They have some solid defensive options, but can get rapidly overwhelmed if they aren’t careful about properly concentrating their combat power. Their weapons tend to have noticeably longer range than other factions. While not quite as fast as Scourge units, Shaltari units are still quite quick. They have mechanics in both games that make them excel at lateral mobility, meaning they are able to shift units across the battlefield very effectively. All of that put together means Shaltari excel at hit and run tactics, usually only moving to close range once the enemy has been properly whittled down.
In space, Shaltari have the most unique mechanics in the game. They have universally low base signature values, but with a catch. Shaltari have two sig and two armor values. The first value in the respective characteristic is for when the shields are down. In this state, Shaltari ships operate just like any other. When the shields go up, however, the Shaltari’s armor becomes a passive save, meaning it is immune to critical hits. The expense is a massively increased sig value. For example, a Shaltari Amber Cruiser with the shields down has only a 3” sig and a rather pitiful 5+ armor save. With the shields up, that save increases to a 4+ passive save, but with a 16” sig. Putting the shields up also reduces Shaltari point defense, normally quite high, to zero (though you can still boost it back up with fighters). Managing your shields is probably the single most defining aspect of playing Shaltari, one that can take quite some time to master. Shaltari ships also have absolutely horrifying weapons. They have the largest scan values in the game by quite a bit. Their lowest scan value is 12”, outpacing the next closest faction (PHR) by a rather significant 4”. Many of their weapons bypass key defense. For example, a close action beam weapon bypasses point defense. Particle weapons ignore both armor and passive saves. Put all these mechanics together and you have a faction that excels at the alpha strike.
SEE! FLYING SAUCERS ARE REAL!
Shaltari drop assets are also very unique. They do not have dropships or bulk landers like other factions. Instead, they use their teleportation technology to deploy their troops directly from their motherships to the surface via void gates. This allows Motherships to hang back much further than conventional troopships. You can even chain multiple void gates together to increase the Mothership’s standoff range. You can also use gates to transfer troops laterally between clusters, making Shaltari the only faction able to dynamically redeploy ground troops without help from command cards. The catch is Shaltari can only land single bases of infantry or armor. They can’t put down a lot of infantry in quick succession like bulk landers can. However, void gates also double as defensive batteries. Their simple presence within 6” of a cluster makes landing opposing assets in the area much more difficult. It keeps the fight on the ground much more limited than other, more conventional, games of Dropfleet, which is just how the Shaltari like it.
On the ground, the Shaltari’s primary mechanic is their gates. These serve a similar function as other factions’ dropships, but with some key differences that make the Shaltari much more flexible. Rather than assigning units to specific transports, the Shaltari simply put their units in holding. Shaltari gates can disembark units in the same manner as other dropships. Each gate is limited by unit type and per turn capacity, but is otherwise able to disembark ANY unit from holding that they wish. This makes for two really cool aspects to Shaltari gameplay. First, you can play a bit of a shell game in the early turns. Because you can pull from your entire selection of holding units, you can wait to see what your opponent brings on before committing your own ground forces to any part of the board. In later turns, you can dynamically redeploy troops in a blink of an eye, reinforcing a collapsing flank or pushing a critical objective with as much combat power as you can muster. Again, Shaltari are not as outright speedy as Scourge, but that ability to move laterally across the board can be clutch.
Shaltari have a solid mix of units, though have a noticeable lack of indirect weapons. They rely on their superior range and firepower. They have a number of high energy weapons capable of bypassing passive and even evasion countermeasures. Their infantry, though not out and out as tough as some others, are nonetheless able to take and hold objectives well. Their Ronin suits in particular are a nasty large infantry unit able to take some serious punishment. They have access to both skimmers and walkers, though players tend to go with one or the other for no other reason than that’s what they like. Shaltari skimmers allow the player something similar to a Scourge playstyle, but with significantly more range. They are less armored than Scourge skimmers, but come with a passive save. Shaltari walkers are a bit like their PHR counterparts, though again with less armor and a passive save. They have an interesting sub-style of the walker playstyle that I’m going to call the “Warstrider” variation. While a standard Shaltari Battlewalker has A13, 2 damage points, and a 5+ passive, the Warstriders have A14 and 4 damage points. If you look at the models, they are significantly larger and positively stunning. The most recent unit rebalance made Jaguar Warstriders a standard choice, meaning it is now possible to run nothing but Warstriders for your armored units. I desperately want to see that on the tabletop.
I hope you enjoyed our introduction to the treacherous little space hedgehogs. If you have questions, feel free to jump into the Blissfully Ignorant Gaming Discord at https://discord.gg/77EQzSF. We’ll do our best to answer your questions there. Thanks for stopping by!