Infinity: Stars of the Human Sphere: The Black Friar

This week Chris H looks at a most imposing figure in the Infinity universe – Pan Oceania’s Black Friar! Awesome miniatures aside (and they are pretty amazing), what deadly tricks will the Black Friar bring to the battlefield? Let’s find out:

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A new unit that first appeared in the Human Sphere supplement for Infinity Third Edition, the Black Friar is Pan Oceania’s attempt to deal with particular enemy threats. Fitted with a special visor allowing him to see through smoke, facilitate the detection of camouflaged troops and ignore the penalties associated with skills like Mimetism and Optical Distortion Devices, this is the Pan Oceanian Hyperpower’s attempt to plug holes in its defensive line.

It’s fitting to see Pan Oceania, the dominant power in the Human Sphere, responding to enemy threats by developing new equipment, and it’s going to be interesting to see how useful the unit is in practice. Let’s look at the profile:

First of all, he’s not the quickest. A movement of 4” with the first short skill of the order is fairly normal, but 2” with the second means that if all you want to do is run, it will cost you orders to get him into position. But this is fairly common with these sorts of units. His CC (Close Combat) is a fairly unremarkable 16, but a BS (Ballistic Skill) of 13 is good. With Armour 2 and Bio-Technological Shield of 3, he’s sturdy enough.

In terms of equipment, he has a Multi-Spectral Visor Level 2. This means that he can see through smoke, which will prevent sneaky enemies from covering their advance with smoke grenades. It also allows the Black Friar to discover camouflaged enemies much more easily, and deal with targets that use devices like the Optical Distortion Device to make them harder to hit.

He is also a Religious Troop, so he won’t be affected should you lose enough models to be placed in ‘Retreat’, and he can’t be forced to run and hide when the enemy blasts him.

So what about the weapons options? Well, the Black Friar at present comes with two options. The first is a sniper build, with a Multi Sniper Rifle capable of firing Shock, Armour Piercing and Double Action rounds. Combined with the Multi-Spectral Visor, this gives you a very solid reaction unit who can watch from distance, taking pot-shots at the approaching enemy. Should the enemy get a little too close, he has a Nanopulser, a short-range template weapon that fires a lethal cloud of nano-bots!

The second loadout is the one that has set tongues wagging, since it has a new piece of tech called Albedo. This cloaks the unit in White Noise, preventing enemies with Multi Spectral Visors from being able to see him. However, this does not prevent the Black Friar’s own visor from seeing out. It only lasts for one Game Round (so, each player’s first turn) so players need to make it count.

This loadout also has a Biometric Visor which helps the Black Friar to recognise enemies that are trying to impersonate friendly units, like the dreaded alien Speculo Killer or the Fidays of HaqqIslam. This is the unit you want to keep watch over your back line!

However, the second loadout carries a short-range arsenal. The Multi-Rifle has the same ammunition options as the sniper, but with much reduced range effectiveness. This loadout also includes the Nanopulser as well as Drop Bears. These are mines that can be thrown up to 16”, allowing the Black Friar to respond to approaching enemy units. Link team coming around the corner? Throw a mine. Want to cover an objective? Throw a mine. These things are very useful indeed.

Points-wise, the Black Friar is not cheap. You pay for his tech and loadout. At 30 points and 1.5 SWC, the sniper build is competing with the Nisse at 34 points who has Mimetism, making him harder to hit, and superior Armour, though no BTS. However, the Black Friar can be taken in the Neoterran Capitaline Army sectorial, but players will have a tough time deciding between the Black Friar sniper and the Hexa, who has Thermo-optic Camouflage, allowing it to remain invisible until called upon.

The second loadout, thanks to it’s Albedo and Drop Bears seems the most appealing. It’s the perfect look-out, as long as you avoid any long-range shoot-outs.

I actually think that the sniper variant should have Albedo as well. It’s a great piece of tech and provides an excellent counter to MSV-toting enemy snipers. However, I think it would require a bump in cost (maybe to 2.0 SWC) as it would boost the effectiveness of the sniper. But, as it stands at the moment, Albedo is restricted to the second load-out. Maybe, as time passes, we’ll see it rolled out to more units.

For the mean-time, Pan Oceania has a new tool in its kit, and canny players will certainly find a place for the Black Friar.

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