Unit Deep Dive: Knauf, Outlaw Sniper

Knauf is a character that has been around for some time in both the infinity lore, and on the tabletop. Prior to the release of N4 the general consensus seemed to be that his profile was useable but underwhelming. Thankfully for him the shift to N4 saw his profile overhauled and he now seems like quite an interesting option.

Lore

Knauf’s lore is explored in the manga Outrage. I’ll avoid going into too much detail from Outrage here, to avoid spoilers.

Knauf is an ex-Panoceanian operative, long since retired from active service. Said to be a legend, he is known to operate with frightening efficiency at all combat ranges.

He is perhaps best recognised for his clandestine work, infiltrating the Druze society. This posting took him deep undercover, and in order to solidify his position and build trust within the criminal network he was required to commit acts that would forever haunt him. His intelligence gathering was critical for the Hexahedron (Panoceanian military-intelligence), and as a result Druze smuggling networks were eventually shut down. However, the consequences of his actions were too much to bear and Knauf left the Panoceanian military shortly afterwards.

One of the immediate consequences of this operation was that Druze activity increased on Bourak, Haqqislam’s planet. This was a response to Druze smuggling rings dissolving elsewhere in space. Based on this, we could assume that Knauf is possibly not held in high regard by Haqqislam command. If you’re worried about fabricating a lore reason for his inclusion in your Haqqislam force then obviously there could be many justifications, but here are two suggestions:

  • Knauf’s activities are so secret that they are not well known to Haqqislam command. Seeking redemption for the consequences of his prior actions, Knauf accepts a Haqqislam contract with the secret motivation of helping those he accidentally harmed.
  • Knauf’s activities are known to Haqqislam command, but they were impressed with his combat abilities. Based on this, he accepts work from Haqqislam in order to help clean up the mess he made in his earlier years, and to seek redemption in their eyes.

Stats

This is Knauf’s current profile in N4.

Strengths

One big change between Knauf’s profile in N3 and his profile in N4 is that he gained BS Attack (+1B). This means that he now fires three shots with his sniper in the active turn, which is a big improvement over the two shots he fired with his old profile. The big effect of this change is that he’s now a respectable and reliable gunfighter. The more dice you roll, the less prone you are to bad luck, and going from burst 2 to burst 3 makes a noticeable difference in this respect. A burst 3 weapon with double action ammunition has the capability of forcing your opponent to make 6 saves – and that’s an incredible amount of stopping power.

Knauf supplements this with mimetism-3 and multispectral visor L1, giving him the ability to ignore negative modifiers to his shots, whilst simultaneously being hard to hit himself. Having MSV1 is a significant strength in N4 because troops can now use it to shoot through smoke grenades. This makes him an effective ARO piece against warbands that want to use smoke to protect themselves. It also means that you can use Knauf to shoot through your own smoke grenades in order to weaken opposing AROs. MSV1 troops, such as Knauf, take a -6 penalty when shooting through smoke, so it does degrade your own chance of hitting. However, if the opponent has a -6 penalty to shoot back (due to the smoke), combined with -3 from Knauf’s mimetism, and -3 from being in a poor range-band, then they’ll quickly hit -12 and may not be able to hit you at all. This big change to MSV1 means that Knauf can now make some incredibly safe pick-off shots.

In terms of raw numbers Knauf has CC21 and BS13 as standout stats. CC21 is good enough to take on a reasonable number of units that happen to get within melee range. It’s not amazing, but it can certainly discourage some enemies. Furthermore, his BS score of 13 is comfortably above average, and does make him an accurate shooter. Finally, looking at his weapons, we can see that he packs a multi-sniper and AP heavy pistol, making him quite comfortable at a variety of ranges. The pistol is going to make a mess of targets within 8″, particularly when you consider it’s burst 3 instead of 2. And similarly his sniper, shooting double action rounds, is going to force your opponent to make heaps of armour saves and perform very well from 16″ onwards.

Weaknesses

In my view, Knauf’s main weakness is that his profile lacks durability. With only 1ARM, 0BTS, and 1 wound he’s very unlikely to survive any shots that do manage to hit him. Furthermore, he also lacks true camouflage, which means that he cannot disguise himself as a camouflage marker. This means that Knauf is going to be a vulnerable part of your list as soon as you deploy him. These weaknesses are addressed to some extent by the fact that he has a very long-range weapon, which means that he doesn’t need to cross the board or risk multiple AROs before he can set himself up in a good position. He should be in a fine position in your deployment zone. However his low armour does mean that losing a face-to-face roll is extremely dangerous for him.

Unlike his lore, Knauf actually has a sizeable hole in his effective rangebands. The pistol excels from 0 to 8″, and the sniper excels from 16″ onwards. Therefore he struggles at ranges just above 8″, to just below 16″. This isn’t the worst weakness in the world, but it does mean that he can suffer against troops that manage to hit him during that 8-16″ soft spot.

Usage

Knauf is a pure gunfighter, and therefore this section will be reasonably short. He does not have any skills that make him a specialist. He does not have huge close combat abilities. He struggles to travel around the board safely because he lacks camouflage, high armour, and multiple wounds. He’s at his best when he’s staying far away from enemies and using that powerful sniper.

Offensive

Knauf is a reasonably flexible long-range fighter. He has mimetism, which gives him a small amount of protection against AROs. He has MSV1 and therefore can comfortably take on units with mimetism-3, and to a lesser extent mimetism-6. This piece of equipment also allows him to shoot through smoke. He has a solid BS value of 13, and his weapon is comfortable taking on both armoured and unarmoured targets. All of these skills and pieces of equipment together mean that he’s very strong as a static piece that sits in your deployment zone and picks off any target that doesn’t hide themselves properly.

There are two main intricacies when it comes to using Knauf offensively. These are:

  • Should I shoot through smoke?
  • Should I use AP or DA rounds?

In terms of whether you should shoot through smoke or not, my general gut feeling is no. The reason for this is that with MSV1, you’ll suffer the same penalty as your opponent for doing so (-6), and you’re therefore far more likely to miss and end up having to waste orders on trying again. I’ve messed around with some of the maths for face-to-face rolls before, and the general rule, last time I checked, was that if you have the burst advantage (which you usually will have in the active turn), then you want to maximise your own BS value, even if you’re also allowing the opponent to do the same.

However, there is one large exception to this. If the -6 modifier from shooting through smoke means that your opponent won’t be able to shoot you at all, then I would consider it. Particularly against dangerous ARO pieces. For example, a remote with total reaction and BS11 will still be able to shoot you even if you hit it at at its bad range. It’ll take -3 for range, -3 for cover, and -3 for mimetism, and therefore will still shoot you on 2s. Which might not sound dangerous, but a single critical hit could end up with Knauf getting killed. On the other hand, if you shoot through smoke then it’ll take -3 for range, -3 for cover, -3 for mimetism, and -6 for smoke, which caps at a maximum of -12, and therefore the remote can’t hit you. Yes, you’ll be more likely to miss your shot, but in this situation you’ve turned a very dangerous ARO piece into something that literally cannot harm you.

In terms of choosing AP or DA ammunition, I think the answer is mostly DA. Doing some very quick maths suggests that both DA and AP are about as effective as each other against an ARM8 target in cover (ARM11 total), and then from that point onwards AP becomes better. So the answer is almost always DA, unless you’re facing a big TAG that has cover.

(Maths for the curious: ARM11 needs a roll of 5+ to save against damage 15. So with double action it has a 64% chance of saving both, 4% chance of saving neither, and a 32% chance of saving one. The average damage is 0.4. With armour penetrating rounds the ARM11 target becomes ARM7 [ARM8 is halved to ARM4, and then adds 3 for cover] and needs 9+ to save against damage 15. So it has a 60% chance to save. Average damage = 0.4. So this is the point at which both choices are about equal).

Defensive

Knauf does not really have any defensive tricks, and due to this I would not use him as a primarily defensive piece. He has mimetism-3, which might deter some attackers, but not many. He cannot enter suppressive fire. He does not have mines. He does not have full camouflage. As a result of these weaknesses, I do not feel that he is notably effective in the reactive turn.

Having said this, I do believe that Knauf’s value as a defensive piece can increase throughout a game, and also depends a lot on your opponent and their list. Knauf might work as an ARO piece if your opponent lacks a long range weapon on a troop with MSV. In that situation there might not be a huge number of options your opponent has when it comes to removing Knauf, and therefore he could be quite difficult to shift. Similarly, if you’re deploying second then you might spot an area that Knauf can cover, which your opponent’s MSV or HMG units cannot reach. If that is the case then he might perform well as an ARO troop. Finally, if it is late in the game and your opponent only has a small number of orders left, then it might be worth leaving Knauf out as a reactive unit. If your opponent is forced to spend 1 or 2 orders killing him then that might be enough to stop them doing what they need to do to win.

List Building With knauf

As a long-range, mostly active-turn piece, Knauf does not require an awful lot of support in any list. His two main weaknesses – lack of durability, and some holes in his effective rangebands – can be largely addressed by good deployment, and calculated play. Despite this, it is worth considering how Knauf fits into your overall strategy, and how he’ll be protected by your other units while he does his job.

Knauf’s niche as an active turn shooter who wants to engage targets at 16″+ means that he fills roughly the same slot as an HMG or feuerbach user. In fact, he’s quite comparable to a Zhayedan HMG in terms of points cost. My personal opinion is that it’s not too necessary to run an abundance of this unit type, so if I was running Knauf I probably wouldn’t run another expensive piece that did the same thing. As Knauf has mimetism-3 and MSV1 he doesn’t have any obvious holes that would necessitate running another sniper or HMG. If he lacked MSV I might consider something else alongside him (well, actually I probably wouldn’t run him in the first place!), but because he does I don’t feel the need to do so.

When it comes to durability, there are some simple fixes that list-building can provide. Obviously running a doctor is a good move, because it ensures that if he loses a face-to-face roll and goes down, you can just pick him back up again. Furthermore, he is vulnerable to incoming fire. This might occur if a drop troop or skirmisher somehow makes it into your deployment zone. To address this I like to keep some other troops nearby to fend off any incoming attackers. Units with direct template weapons do this really well, and because shotguns give you a direct template, Haqqislam has loads of options. A simple Ghulam, Kum Biker, or Ghazi Muttawi’ah can prevent enemies coming too close.

Of course Knauf can’t be the sole active-turn shooter in your list. This is the case for essentially any unit in the game, but is particularly true for Knauf because he’s a little flimsy, and he doesn’t like being in the midboard where rangebands might get a bit closer. Running a competent troop with a spitfire or red fury alongside him is quite wise; just to make sure you have good options for every range-band. I really like the Mukhtar with red fury, and the Asawira with AP spitfire. Both are tougher than Knauf defensively and perform far better at close ranges.

Conclusion

Knauf is one of the most improved profiles from N3 to N4, in my opinion. That might be a statement that a lot of people disagree with, but I really believe it. The difference between a burst 2 sniper and a burst 3 sniper is massive when it comes to winning face-to-face rolls. That extra dice adds a lot of reliability, and it also means that in the best case scenario you can force your opponent to make six saves. As if that isn’t enough, the changes to MSV mean that he can now shoot through smoke too. His multi-sniper packs both DA and AP ammunition so it’s suitable against both armoured and unarmoured targets, which is important because the new edition has made heavy infantry and TAGs very desirable. And he packs mimetism-3, and the aforementioned MSV, so he’s happy getting into fights with most opposing troops. Knauf in N4 is a very dependable, and really quite deadly active turn piece. He’s definitely become a common inclusion in my lists, and so far I’ve been extremely happy with his performance.

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