Code Name: Black Mamba
Manufacturer: Territorial Arms
Height: 4.6 meters
Weight: 6,500 kg
Baconradar’s Summary: An excellent strike gear with a knack for survival
At W:6 G:7 with airdrop it has good mobility, especially considering its armour rating
Excellent survivability with AR:7, PI:3+, and Agile on a 1.5” silhouette
Good UA variety, available in RC and PT as a CGL
Airdrop trait allows it to get flank or elevated which synergises with GU:3+
Very well rounded and versatile
The LRP is underwhelming and doesn’t make the most of that GU:3+ skill
Somewhat under-gunned for the cost
Unspecialised – not the most cost effective way of doing any one thing
A poor choice against heavy armour
Better skill ratings are nice, but usually only a marginal advantage
- Strike Gear: This is a term used to describe a lot of gears in the game and it’s a little nebulous, being tied more to flavour and operational history in the setting than the actual abilities of the models. I want to ascribe this label to a particular type of model with certain strengths; they must be flexible, mobile, have decent survival prospects, and better offensive output than basic trooper gears. In many ways they should be an across the board upgrade over a trooper gear. Rather than having a predetermined objective like ‘kill the tank’ or ‘assault an objective’ they must be able to react to the flow of battle and fulfil a number of roles, opportunistically inflicting and avoiding damage, particularly in combat with other gears. The Black Mamba, with airdrop, good speed, great stats, agile, sufficiently diverse and potent weapons, and the armour and agility to survive prolonged combat, certainly fits the bill. My appraisal of the Mamba has actually come full circle over time. Initially I was wowed by seeing how many upgrades of the Jager it got (agile, airdrop, +1 PEN on the AC, +1 EW, PI, GU, and AR) for only 5 TV more and felt it might be under-costed. As I gained experience I realised how minor those skill differences actually were and saw that against the more expensive models which dominate the battlefield the Mamba really didn’t provide better answers than the Jager and was still quite vulnerable to their powerful weapons, despite costing nearly twice as much. But recently, partly through doing these spotlights, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Mamba can thrive through the varied edges it has over other gears, and provided it is used flexibly, is actually quite cost effective. The key is to make use of as many of those advantages as possible, engaging at the right time, from the right range, at the right angle, against the right target. Airdropped in, the Mamba can happily flank and maul a fire support gear despite having lighter weapons and armour, simply because it is much more able to dictate the terms of the engagement. Similarly it can chase down and reliably cripple problematic recon gears, or reposition to threaten an objective or entire flank. Individually strike gears do lack the firepower to outright destroy many targets, but they are superb opportunists and in HGB when you have an opportunity it is usually best to focus a decent amount of effort on it – this is the real forte of the strike gear combat group.
- Troop Hunter: I haven’t yet written a spotlight on any of the ubiquitous trooper gears like the Hunter, Jager, Warrior, or Chasseur, but I consider them cost effective and sensible picks, in addition to simply being very commonly owned models. As such a counter to them is a useful thing to have – these counters can come in many forms, but the Black Mamba is arguably one of the better options because its mobility ensures it will be able to engage them and it offers many of the same generalist abilities that the troopers you’re countering do. While the skill improvements over the Hunter really aren’t a big deal, +1 PEN, +1 AR, and agile absolutely are. Consider this – a Hunter firing his LAC at a Mamba with some cover (3d6 vs 3d6) will do an average of 0.43 damage, while the Mamba returning fire with his MAC will do 1.77. Things get even worse for the Hunter when you start considering AE weapons, to which the trooper gear, relying more on numbers, is inherently more vulnerable. The Mamba takes an average of 0.41 dmg as a primary and 0.19 as a secondary target, whereas the Hunter takes 1.09 dmg as a primary and 0.49 as a secondary. This is an experiment the reader can run for themselves, but I’m quite sure Mambas beat equal TV worth of Hunters in a firefight and have the mobility to ensure few of their number are crippled or destroyed. The story is relatively similar with the heavier trooper gears too – Mambas can edge out wins over Tigers and the like just as well.
Strike Black Mamba: For +0TV you swap your MAC for a LBZ. By this point regular readers will be aware I am generally not a fan of bazookas on relatively expensive models, and the MAC is such a clear and solid primary weapon for the Mamba, particularly as it has GU:3+ and the extra dice from better optimal range and the burst trait are thus more important. So on paper this doesn’t look terribly inviting. But unlike many models where the bazooka armed variant isn’t likely to get the dice it needs to make the most of the AP:2, the Mamba’s speed and airdrop trait make it a relatively simple matter. Flanking a tank will give you 3 or 4d6 at GU:3+ against 2d6 at PI:6+, which means you’ll have 51% or 68% chance of getting MoS:2 or greater. Again unlike other bazooka variants this doesn’t represent a specialisation – if anything it broadens the potential targets for the Mamba by giving it an acceptable AP weapon with which to damage heavy armour. I’m not convinced this is a good idea and would generally rather spend fewer TV on a Para Striking Jager, Strike Diamondback, or Striking Jager, but I don’t think the Strike Black Mamba is terribly over-costed, it just suffers from being a bit under-gunned for 11 TV.
Brawler Black Mamba: For +0TV you swap your MAC for a MGL and your LRP for a LAPR. This allows a pretty big change in role, making the Mamba more inviting in an assault role. The MGL is obviously shorter range and less accurate than the MAC, but blast and AE:3 means it will almost always negate any cover they have and that extra point of PEN is a pretty big deal against gears, the primary opponent of the Mamba. This variant is actually well suited to crippling and destroying other strike gears like Jaguars and Cuirassers, which typically rely on cover, ECM, and the agile trait, all of which is negated by the MGL, which will always do at least 2 damage on a hit, and has a good chance of dealing 3 which will cripple them. Switching the LRP for the LAPR is less painful when you consider that the MGL already provides most of the LRP’s benefit, but remember that the LAPR is only PEN:3, which means it really isn’t any good against anything beyond basic human infantry and isn’t a weapon you’ll use if the APGL is a viable option. I have mixed feelings about the Brawler – I like swapping the MAC for the MGL at no cost, but I don’t like that you’re losing an entire range bracket (beyond 27”) and I’m not keen on the LAPR, which needs some MoS it’s unlikely to get. It’s probably worth taking one in an airdrop group of Mambas to add some more tactical flexibility, but don’t mistake them for real assault gears.
Longfang Black Mamba: For +1TV you swap your LRP for MRP (Link). This is a pretty easy variant to evaluate. Whenever I find myself firing my LRP with the Black Mamba I feel slightly annoyed because it feels very much like a suboptimal usage, especially when the MAC (with split:2 no less!) is available and is more accurate, unless the enemy is using ECM defence. With the MRP this is no longer the case – that extra point of PEN makes a really big difference to a weapon that generally has low MoS, often allowing it to deal double the damage of the LRP. Is this worth 1 TV? Yes, provided you’ll be fighting opponents where it’s relevant (clustered gears, things under ECM defence), which is thankfully easier to control with an airdroppable and fairly swift strike gear. You also get the benefit of the MRP being linked. I’ve said several times I don’t really consider link to be an important trait, but let’s get into the maths. Let’s say the Mamba will have either 1 or less frequently 2d6 when attacking with the MRP, while the target will have an average of 3d6 at skill 4+ on defence. At 1d6 the link trait is completely irrelevant. At 2d6 without link you’d have a 48% chance of hitting – pretty good! With link you have 52% chance of hitting. It’s barely worth considering at all. Despite the MRP not making the most of either link or the GU:3+ skill on the Mamba, I’d still consider the Longfang a reasonable choice over stock.
Blazing Black Mamba: For +1TV you swap your MAC for a MRL, which is a pretty rare weapon, so we should consider it carefully. Firstly the MRL is clearly superior to the MAC at anything within 24”, but it does give up that extra 12” of range, which is relevant when your other choice of weapon in the 25-36” bracket is the LRP in suboptimal range. This isn’t too problematic for as mobile a gear as the Mamba which should never be hurting for juicy targets nearby, but it’s worth considering. It’s also sometimes worth considering getting into optimal range (6-12”) for the MRL because that extra point of skill matters more here than it does with the linked MRP. For reference, assuming 3d6 from the Mamba against 3d6 skill 4+ for the target, outside of optimal you have a 67% chance of hitting and inside optimal that climbs to 75% – not overwhelming, but actually worth considering. Of course in addition to being more accurate the MRL also has an extra point of PEN and as discussed before the jump from 7 to 8 PEN is a big one – suddenly you’re in the realm of actually hurting fire support gears and commonly doing double the damage against strike and trooper gears. This is an attractive variant unless you really want to keep your enemy at arm’s length – I wouldn’t suggest taking it against Lanciers, for instance.
Blitz Black Mamba: For +1TV you swap your LRP for a LATM (LA:2). Losing the LRP leaves you with no real AE weapons, but having a LATM on a GU:3+ model for a faction with easy access to TD:2 is a pretty big deal. The step up from the Blitz Jager to the Blitz Mamba on an average roll of 4d6 against a target at 3d6 and skill 4+ is from 71% to 81% chance of a hit – not bad. The problem here is that with the Blitz Black Mamba you’re either paying for a lot of features that don’t synergise with the LATM+TD combo, or you’re paying for a LATM that isn’t best used for a strike gear. That isn’t so much of an issue with the Blitz Jager because it’s only 2/3 of the cost and is interesting simply as the cheapest way to get a LATM. That said you don’t have to use that sweet TD:2 every time for the LATM to be worthwhile – when fired direct it’s still a long range, hard hitting, and AP:2 weapon that likes to benefit from flank or elevation. I think the variant is pretty good, but really shines if you can work out a way to use it both with TD:2 and in its normal strike role. Just be aware that the lack of AE weapons may result in missed opportunities. You might also want to consider, if you aren’t going the airdrop route, how it stacks up to the Fer de Lance, which is very clearly a better option to combo with TD:2 since for the same cost it has unlimited ammo and the veteran trait.
Razorfang (Black Mamba Upgrade): For +1TV you improve your EW by 1 (to 4+) and gain SatUp:6+ (Aux). The improved EW is rarely relevant but it makes a decent difference to any Comms action you might end up taking to Forward Observe or distribute a command point. More relevant is the SatUp which combines well with the superb Chatterbox Iguana, should you need to separate your combat group and keep them in formation, or more importantly receive and distribute a TF:2 Forward Observation. This is obviously of interest if you have Blitz Black Mambas and Blitz Jagers (who share the SK UA code), but in terms of building a fire support combat group I’d use a Razorfang Cobra instead.