The Cataphract Battlecruiser mounts a twined pair of fearsome railguns down its central spine. However, unlike other Dindrenzi vessels, these weapons are optimised to forgo long range shots in favour of causing incredible devastation at closer quarters. Powerful engines and strong armour ensures the Cataphracts can complete their charge, while swift-tracking gun racks and clouds of remote mine explosives wreak havoc in the channel which the railguns carve through the enemy’s formation.
The Cataphract, the distilled power of the Dindrenzi railgun summed up in a ship that is all fast and deadly. Battle Cruisers follow a consistant pattern. Often the speed of a Cruiser, the power of Dreadnought and the durability of a Heavy Cruiser. They are prime targets for any player because the are prime examples of glass cannons, ships that can give but cannont take and the Cataphract is such a ship in the extreme.
The Cataphract is not a long range firebase like the Victory, Trident or many others can be. With four separate attacks putting out AD4 in RB3, its got a reasonable attack in that area but is a waste of its potential, especially when such a squadron would cost as much as a Dreadnought. The firepower of these models also more than DOUBLES when crossing the threshold from RB3 to 2, as such it should be an imperative that you get them into a decent firing solution as soon as possible. It also hardly degrades when it hits RB1 making it one of the best close range shots in the game.
This firepower combined well with its movement is utterly staggering. You can comfortably sit 30 odd inches away from your target with the knowledge you are going to sledge them with a high powered attack. Distance itself being a very useful defence, you will find that you can get
The mines and its upgrades I will go into more detail over below. Also, as a word of advance, dont get tunnel vision on that Foreward gun. It may be because I have not had the physical cue of an actual model to assist me but during testing I found myself actually forgetting about its gunracks quite often. They link for 10AD and thats enough to crit Cruisers or plink or shoe off racing Frigates, two targets that are very likely to find themselves on that flank sooner or later.
For the Cata, I consider their to be four main weakness. Cost, target limitation, Attrition and Defences.
Compared to other Battle Cruisers, the Cataphract is one of the most expensive, understandable because no other Battle Cruiser can roll as much dice in a direct attack as quickly as the Cata. Dealing x2 13AD shots from 24" or a Dreadnought busting 22AD is far from weak. Plus the added utility of High Energy Ordiance and Double Mines its got a solid base of abilities to complement all that firepower. Dont waste it, Battle Cruisers need to be high output to earn their keep, remember that whenever you play.
It has limited arcs of fire, with broadsides little better than a Cruiser that cost half as much and its firepower focused on a narrow band, you must remember to plan your approach. Either string targets together or move in such a way to extend the time spent in RB2 as long as possible approaching from either the flanks or simply moving at a crawl. Also the Turn limit reduction upgrade is very good insurance for being outflanked and makes it very hard for you to not find at least something to shot at.
Attrition, little can be done about. The Cataphract ages poorly, every point of damage drags down the firepower quite quickly and double degredation is a big issue. This goes hand in hand with its low defenses, like most things Dindrenzi, its hard to kill but easy to damage and a few light attacks are going to notch up some very noticeable dips in your firepower. Plan against this by activating late, overwhelming a targeted flank or using terrain to protect against counter attacks. With CR10 however, the Cataphract is well protected against those pesky double criticals that can ruin your game quickly.
The Hardpoint options have two clear favourites in the movement and turn limit reduction. It is a Dindrenzi staple that their ships have horrible turning limits however the Cataphract not only bucks this trend, but it turns it around with the opportunity to achieve the same mobility as the nimble Orca or even a Secutor Class Cruiser. Combined with its decent movement and the impertive that you use that giant gun it has on the front turn after turn, players are probaly going to be taking the Turn Limit Reduction more often than not.
A bit trickier to use, but still with a sizable payoff if you can get it to work, the movement increase synergizes well with the low RB1 drop off and high MN value potential of the squadron. With access to double mines and a starting value of 5, the Cataphract can unleash one of the most powerful MN attacks in the game. Like the Nausicaa above, never underestimate a powerful mine on a fast moving, high endurance ship. With a MV of 10 the Cataphract will also be able to accomplish a wide a lazy turn with three 45 degree twists in a single activation if moving at near top speed.
The Ablative Armor upgrade is another way to approach an improved mine situation but it will require players with more experience on this approach to comment than I as during my time I never really went down this route. Frankly, its a bit hard to divorce yourself from at least some movement enhancing features on this ship and so it doesn't exactly come recommended by myself. Feel free to try however.
Moving onto the upgrade list we have both High Energy and Double Mines.
For starters, High Energy is a bargain, for 10pts, you are buying this on four seperate attacks. Great for tagging Weapon Shielded models with disabled shields or simply salting the wounds on a larger ship, as always this weapon feature combo's very well with Kinetics allowing you to manipulate rolls of a 5 to an 8 on the critical chart into a crew destroying weapon. Essential against factions like Terrans, Sorylians and Ba'kash, simply handy against everyone else.
The Double Mines upgrade again is good value. Double Mines allows a pair of Cataphracts to pretty much wall of their approach if they wish with what can equate to either a pair of 7 AD mines or a single almighty 12AD one. Combined with the hardpoints cost and the potential of the High Energy MAR, we are getting into the 300pt territory with these guys
Used with attachments
The Cataphract maintains much of its potency when wielded as part of a squadron with a pair of Hammer class Frigates. Compared to the Nausicaa, what you create is a nifty forward fire focused scalpel that has greater speed and power than a Battleship with reduced endurance. For this experiment, I would swap my preferred hardpoint choice from Turn Limit to movement and likely drop the High Energy MAR to save on points. This is okay as linked attacks with their Hammers/Thraex actually breaks the Coherency effect of High Energy and so will be largely wasted. The value of this setup is that you get a 190pts module (130 + 5 + 5 + 25 + 25), essentially a budget battleship that can do a number of things just as well if not better than the Battleship for equivalent points.
With the MV upgrade you can race into RB2 from 34 inches away! That's the space between deployment zones, meaning that you can deploy roughly four inches into the board and feel confident of hitting your rivals Battleship/Dread/Carrier with what combines to a staggering 19AD attack with a bonus of 6AD of Torpedoes. This is enough to score a critical consistantly against most enemy ships and be in a good position to crawl foward on the next turn to follow it up with a second. If activated bottom of turn 1 and the top of turn 2, back to back activations could see a valuable enemy ship like a Dreadnaught roll up with four points of damage before it hits RB2! The early activation of the Battle Cruiser is also a added boon as attacks sunk against it will not reduce the potency of your future activations in the same turn. If your opponent chooses to ignore it initially to chase down targets yet to active, look for opportunities to crush the threatening flank to give your BC + Attachments the chance for THREE back to back activations. Its unlikely but completely possible as seen during testing.