Deadzone Faction Inspection: Asterians Starter Units

Mysterious and aloof this species has few dealings with the Galactic Co Prosperity Sphere (GCPS) who know almost nothing about them.  The Asterians are a highly technological species and shun bloodshed to the point that few of their warriors engage in battle in the flesh to prevent the highly valued loss of life.  The Asterians seem to value balance.  Their only interest in many of these Deadzones is to prevent further spread of the Plague and exploration of the Death Arc, an ancient piece of the galaxy that many seek to exploit for the treasures and resources found within.

Faction Overview

The Asterians are a very unit expensive faction with nearly all of their units at or over 11 points.  The faction is a classical glass cannon setup as most units are very deadly at range but easy to destroy themselves (if you can remove their armor).  To mitigate their fragility, many of the units in the Asterian faction make use of Toxic Smokescreens or Energy Shields.  Finally, while the Asterians largely can hit their target fairly easily, their weaponry has slightly less range of most other faction’s ranged weapons.

The Units

Asterian Overseer

This is the only Leader unit the Asterians have.  It is also the only true flesh and blood unit as well.  Statwise, the Overseer has some fairly poor skills with the exception of Armor and Command.  It is obvious that this unit is designed to stay behind the rest of their strike team and give Commands until they run out of Command Points and generate Battle Cards.

The Asterian Overseer is one of the few units armed with three weapons.  The first weapon is the Charge Glove which is exactly the same as the Cyphers with the same weapon.  It is a Fight weapon with Knockback.  The Overseer also has a second Fight weapon with his Staff of Command which trades Knockback for Armor Piercing 2.  Finally, the Overseer as a very short ranged Energy Pulse (just like the Cypher with the Energy Glove) which like the Energy Glove has Knockback.

Defensively, the Asterian Overseer has a lot of elements to keep him alive.  While his Survive is not at all impressive sharing the same stat as a Plague Dog, the Overseer has pretty good armor and a few Energy Shield dice to help prevent a would be assassin from removing the unit from the game easily and early.

Assessment: This unit is on the expensive side at more than a 1/3 of your strike team for an already expensive faction.  That said, I can’t say he is overpriced.  He would be great to use with the Rebs or Plague just for his Command value alone.  However, his unit cost compounds the fact that the Asterians can’t field all that many units and forces a player’s had on what they will take just to get a five unit strike team.  You pretty much have to take Noh Rifle Cyphers only or at least one Sky Razor or else be left with nearly ten points to purchase gear or Battle Cards.  Personally, I would like this unit to be just a little cheaper (22 or 23 points) as to allow more flexibility in the strike team you create.  After all, this is definitely one Leader you don’t have to worry about a player spamming.

Cypher with Noh Rifle

This unit represents the Asterians rank and file for Deadzone strike teams.  All Cyphers are constructed the same (with the exception of Cypher Prime) have identical stats except the Command Value of Cypher Prime and the Black Talon.  Cyphers are outstanding at Shooting and Blazing Away but mediocre at Fighting and Surviving.  They all feature very good armor but are Vulnerable.  To help survive they all have the Toxic Smokescreen special ability which allows the unit to place a smokescreen (like the grenade) with the Toxic special ability as a free action.  Finally, as these units aren’t actually living beings, they have the Construct special ability which prevents any change of Aggression good or bad.  Though, they can still be damaged by a Blaze Away which acts as if they are Pinned.

What sets these units apart from the other Cyphers are their weapon which is a slightly shorter range armor piercing rifle.  They are also one of the two (the other being Cypher with Charge Glove) Trooper options the Asterians have.

Assessment: Fortunately, these are a pretty good unit as they are really my only Trooper choice.  Since you must have a Trooper for each Specialist, Unique, or Rare they make up the bulk of every strike team like the basic Enforce does for that faction.  I have found that while most of the dice they roll are going to succeed, you still need to put together the largest pool possible as it can often times take at least three successes to just start to wound another unit even with the AP 1 the Noh Rifle has.

Tactics: Remember that you can both Shoot and Blaze Away in the same activation as they are both different and short actions.  Sure, you’ll lose the Aim for the Shoot, but it will give you two opportunities to kill the enemy which many of the times will out number you.

Cypher with Charge Gloves (Cypher Warden)

This unit is the other Asterian Trooper option. In addition to all of the typical Cypher stats and special abilities, this unit features a couple Energy Shields to protect it at range and melee.  This unit features the Charge Gloves for Fight and Energy Pulse for Shoot/Blaze Away weapons which both feature the Knockback special ability.

Assessment: I find this unit largely too expensive as it is a few more points more than the basic Noh Rifle Cypher.  Sure, it features built in Energy Shields but I have found them to be fairly unreliable.  The biggest weakness of this unit is its inability to kill anything.  You have to be right up on the target (at least with two cubes) to even get an attack with makes it impractical for ranged opponents.  Conversely, against melee focused factions, the Warden can’t take the punishment those strike team can put out.  It makes it odd that this unit is a Trooper choice when it very much works like a Specialist.  I might be able to give them more of a chance if they were the same cost (or a point cheaper) than the Noh Rifle Cyphers.  Otherwise, I don’t really bother with them.

Tactics: This unit is good for keeping the enemy off objectives and away from you.

Cypher with Force Rifle

The most affordable of the Asterian Specialists this Cypher comes in at the same cost as the Noh Rifle Cypher.  Along with the usual Cypher complement of stats and abilities, the unit features an interesting weapon.  At first glance, the Force Rifle seems like a good Blaze Away only version of the Noh Rifle.  However, the weapon also has the Blast special ability which elevates the usefulness of this unit by making the opponent wary to put to many units bunched together.

Assessment: This Cypher is better at its job than what I think the Cypher Warden was designed for.  Sure Blast isn’t as reliable as Knockback, but it can affect far more area, and the Force Rifle has five times more range allowing it to target virtually any cube on the board. Plus, the Force Rifle seems to be able to create more opportunities to kill an enemy unit even though it is Blaze Away only.  Of course, this unit doesn’t have any Energy Shields, but like I said during the Warden’s assessment, I find them to be something you can’t count on.  That said, I wouldn’t take this unit every time either as you are losing the flexiblity of the standard Noh Rifle and you can Frag with the Drone with Plasma Vortex.

Tactics: Try and maximize the number of units affected as well as the number of dice rolled by choosing you target well.  Remember, you only have to see a part of the cube to Blaze Away at it making it fairly difficult to never be able to Blaze Away unless you are head on with the target cube with a wall in the way.

Black Talon

Perhaps the best all round unit of the Cyphers, the Black Talon features the firepower of the Noh Rifle while having the the defense of a couple of Energy Shields.  However, what may be most important is the unit’s mobility.  The Black Talon has a Jump Pack to navigate the board a little easier.  It also has the Scout special ability to give it a little better initial positioning.  The Black Talon, along with Cypher Prime, make a good alternative to the Overseer as the strike team Commander for players looking to save a lot points.  It features a slightly better Command value than most Cyphers and is equivalent to the Enforcer Sniper in that regard.  Perhaps the biggest weakness of this unit is the fact it is a Rare requiring a Trooper to field it.

Assessment: I always want to field a Black Talon as it is basically an upgraded Noh Rifle Cypher.  Unfortunately, I find it extremely difficult to take this unit while having an Overseer as the Commander.  At the same time, if I make the Black Talon the Commander I have a difficult time taking other units I want as it takes a Trooper which limits my Specialist, Rare, Unique options.  Even with all those problems, I think the Black Talon is a bargain at the same cost as Cypher Warden.

Tactics: I like to set the Black Talon as a sniper on the tallest cube I can reach with Scout.  Another useful tactic is to place the Black Talon as the lead to lay down a Smokescreen for the other units to hide behind unit they can move into position on the board.

Cypher with Fission Beam

One of the most expensive Asterian units and thee most expensive Cypher, the Fission Beam Cypher is armed with the same weapon as the drone of the same weapon name.  The Fission Beam is the Asterian’s long range weapon with double the range of the Noh Rifle.  It also has Deliberate and Single Shot giving it a fairly narrow defined role on the battlefield.  The Fission Beam also has the It Burns! special ability and more Armor Piercing that any unit has by 2 points.

Assessment: This unit is pretty worthless.  You are paying a premium for range (which is not needed in standard Deadzone games), It Burns! (which is a fairly worthless, convoluted special ability particularly for the Asterians), and insane Armor Piercing (unless you play with the optional high AP Irresistible rules).  For that privilege, you lose a lot of flexibility with Shooting being the only thing you can do both as type of shot and type of action should you chose to.  Just take a Noh Rifle Cypher instead which kills better even with a range penalty.  Personally, I use the Fission Beam Cypher as my Force Rifle Cypher as the actual Force Rifle Cypher is hard to tell apart from the Noh Rifles and I can always use a third Noh Rifle.  It is units like this that give me doubts about the game designers ability or my understanding of the game.

Tactics: Don’t take this unit.  If you really want a Fission Beam, take the Drone instead.

Drone with Plasma Vortex

Drone are the other half of what most of the Asterian faction is made up of.  Like Cyphers, they have the Construct special ability, but don’t have Vulnerable or Toxic Smokescreen like the Cyphers.  Instead, they are passively more durable, though their Survive is a bit weaker, and the weaponized versions also have the Sentry special ability making them quite useful if you don’t expect to go first.

The Plasma Vortex Drone fits the same role as the Force Rifle Cypher to some extent.  Instead of being a Blaze Away weapon it is a Shoot only weapon with Single Shot.  It also needs to find its spot on the board quickly as the weapon is Deliberate.  While the range of the weapon is short even compared to other Asterian weaponry, it only has to hit the cube as it a Frag weapon along with the It Burns! special ability.  Did I mention it also has Armor Piercing?  It does.

Assessment: Between the Force Rifle and this weapon I prefer the Plasma Vortex as it is generally more useful.  Even Deliberate is not a very big issue as the drone is a Construct so Pinning/Suppression isn’t a worry.  As mentioned the drone’s short range isn’t much of a problem since you only need a single success to give you a +1 die to the cube so even if you miss you still hit.

Honestly, my biggest issue is with the Drones in general.  Because they are supposedly throw away units, I think They should be Troopers.  At least one of them anyways.  Even as a Specialist, I think the Plasma Vortex is a little on the powerful side and as a Trooper it would become an auto-take.  Part of me thinks their is a printing error with this drone and the Fission Beam.  If it weren’t for the Fission Beam Cypher anyhow.

Tactics:  This unit isn’t a vehicle so it can move up cubes.  Which I suggest the first round if it isn’t there already.  From there, the drone should have a good firing lane to tag anything that tries to come through.  I also suggest not worrying about the range penalty as it doesn’t affect the Shoot of this unit (since it isn’t targeting a model specifically) and aim for where you can do the most damage.  This is one the few units I would use Overwatch with through the entire round.

Drone with Fission Beam

There isn’t much to say about this unit as I have already talked about drones in general during the Drone with Plasma Vortex and the Fission Beam with the Cypher with Fission Beam.  This unit is a combination of those two things.

Assessment:  If any drone should be a Trooper it is this one.  The sad part is I still would have to weigh my options as the standard Noh Rifle has AP 1 which is usually enough for most units anyways.  I will say this unit is a sight better than the Fission Beam Cypher even if it is only a point cheaper.  Ultimately, I think either unit is just to expensive and will have the enemy gunning for them.

Tactics: Don’t bother taking unless you know you are facing a Strider or are using the Irresistible rules.

Drone with Shield Generator

This expensive unit is purely defensive in nature having no weapons at all.  Instead this drone features a fairly powerful Energy Shield that it and up to two other units (due to its size) can make use of.

Assessment: I think the designer overvalues Energy Shields if they think this unit is priced well.  Like I mentioned during other drone assessments, even if this drone was a Trooper I still would be hesitant to take it at the point value it costs.  Honestly, to make this unit worthwhile to me it would have to be in the single digits where I could take it as a point filler.

My biggest issues with it are that you have to bunch up your strike team to make use of it possibly limiting your threat area depending on how much terrain there is (I like a lot).  While most of the Asterians are Constructs and not too affected by Blaze Away, one good roll by the opponent and you just might lose more than you bargained for even with the Energy Shield protection.  Finally, the Asterians already suffer from a shortage of guns due to the high cost of their units.  I don’t need to purposely lose another one.

Tactics: If you happen to draw an objective holding mission rush the drone with two Cyphers toward the center objective.  The Drone’s shields should help weather attacks.  This have the two cyphers split off making use of their Toxic Smokescreens to reach the other ones as needed.

Sample Strike Teams

Asterian Overseer

Cypher with Noh Rifle x3

Cypher with Force Rifle

1 Battle Card

This is my favorite Asterian strike team as it really allows the player to control the flow of the game.  Unless the opponent activates all of their units, you will always get to first which with as many Battle Cards and ability to get triple successes on Command means you have the chance to Distract two units for the beginning of the game.  With all that firepower it is generally easiest to just go for total kills than any other mission.  If you do happen to get a mission that earns Victory Points for kills you don’t actually need to reach ten either as you can tear through your Battle Card Deck and end the game quickly it you want as well.  However, this strike team is incredibly weak to large groups of melee focused enemies.  Even Shooting and Blazing Away with each Noh Rifle might not be enough to keep a horde of plague dogs (or even Human Rebs) from swarming you.

Black Talon

Cypher with Noh Rifle x3

Drone with Plasma Vortex

Sky Razor or 3 Frag Grenades

1-2 Battle Cards

This list is even more about killing off all of the opponent’s units.  You won’t be able to hold initiative each round, but nothing in this strike team is so vital that Distract is stop it.  The Drone would be the only unit that would truly be missed as you could lose out on its Sentry Overwatch.  I don’t know about the Sky Razor either but I think the Asterians always needs more guns.

Black Talon

Cypher with Noh Rifle x5

1 Battle Card

This incredibly boringly constructed strike team allows for maximum flexibility as far as the Asterians are concerned.  It also allows for a great number of creative uses of the Toxic Smokescreen special ability.  Like the other strike teams you might be better off ignoring the mission is favor of total liquidation of the enemy.


I really like the Asterians and they have quickly become my favorite faction in Deadzone.  I like them because they are a challenge to play and I really like making use of smokescreens in any war game that allows for such an ability.  Unlike the Plague, this faction makes me really think where I want place my units and the Toxic Smokescreen for maximum effect.

My biggest complaints are the high cost of some of the units, the lack of both Leaders and Trooper options, and the fact that many units are same role (sometimes the same weapon just a Cypher or a Drone version).  Some of that might be relieved if I pick up the support booster to give me more choices.  Hopefully, as Deadzone expands, there will be a larger variety of units (in general for all Deadzone factions but particularly the Asterians) to help remove that large chunk of points I can’t use to get another unit because they are all expensive.

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