In terms of offensive attributes and skills, the Bulleteer offers BS12 and ODD. This alone makes it a competent weapons platform, given that most opponents will take a hefty -6 penalty when shooting at it due to the ODD. In addition to this the Bulleteer is also a remote, and packs a repeater. This means it's incredibly easy to use a hacker to give your little drone Assisted Fire, which grants Marksmanship Level 2. The effect of this is that the Bulleteer now ignores cover modifiers and also packs shock ammunition. Shooting at an effective BS of 15, combined with giving most opposing troops -6 to their rolls due to ODD, means it should win most gunfights in its preferred range.
Whilst less obviously an offensive attribute, I would argue that the Bulleteer's swift movement value of 6-4 is important. The advantage of this as an offensive tool is reasonably simple - it's possible to reach targets while expending fewer orders, and it is easier to outflank enemy troops and attack from angles that deny them cover. A 6-4 Bulleteer that moves and shoots twice will move as far as a 4-4 unit that declares move and shoot three times. That's quite a big deal for order expenditure.
With regards to weapon options a Bulleteer is armed with either a Spitfire or Heavy Shotgun. The Spitfire's burst value of 4 and decent positive rangeband of 8-24" makes it a very potent active turn weapon that can easily threaten the midboard. It's probably best used to bully light and medium infantry because the Spitfire has a reasonably low damage value of 14. Shooting this against heavy infantry can be a little painful because anything with ARM8 in cover only needs a 7 to save, which means only roughly 1 in 3 hits will result in a wound, on average.
The Heavy Shotgun seems less suited to acting as an active turn weapon. It has a low burst value of just 2, and a positive rangeband of only 0-8". It does offer +6 to hit in that rangeband, which is absolutely fantastic, and it also has a template option which can be terrifying against fireteams, however the low burst and lack of range can be a little tricky to use on an active turn piece.
Having said that, against targets of opportunity (i.e. those that stray too close), a Heavy Shotgun Bulleteer is terrifying. It has a good damage value of 15, and has two ways of reducing armour. The template mode denies the cover bonus to armour, which is essentially a -3 modifier, and the AP mode halves the armour of the target. If we take the example of that ARM8 heavy infantry in cover that I referred to earlier; a damage 15 Heavy Shotgun hit with a template would require an 11 to save because it denies the opponent +3ARM from cover. The Spitfire will be saved 70% of the time. The Heavy Shotgun 50% of the time. So the Shotgun definitely has a niche.
A Bulleteer's main defence is ODD paired with a decent BS and gun to give a better chance of winning gunfights. Especially when combined with Suppressive Fire and cover. However, watch out for things which bypass your ODD, especially Direct Templates.
The reason for this is that aside from winning the face-to-face roll, the Bulleteer does not have an effective way to mitigate damage. Its ARM value is measly at 1, and its BTS is only passable at 3. A PH value of 10 is unimpressive enough, but because it's a remote it takes a -3 penalty to dodge attempts putting it at a pathetic 7. If the Bulleteer isn't opposing the face-to-face roll effectively then it's probably in trouble, because even a rifle has a 50-50 chance of wounding this thing in cover.
On the upside, carrying a Repeater can help protect against enemy hackers if you have enough hacking of your own. Any hacker able to attack the Bulleteer will obviously be within range of your own hackers and therefore open to retaliation. That can lead to some nice counter-hack shenanigans if you have a hidden Hexa somewhere.
Finally, Remote Presence is a pretty good defensive skill. This gives the Bulleteer two levels of unconscious, instead of only one. So in effect it takes three wounds to kill a Bulleteer entirely, instead of just two. If you're running an engineer then this can be super handy because it means that the opponent has to probably invest a reasonable number of orders taking this thing down, or run the risk of you bringing it up again. It won't give you incredible survivability but it's a tiny insurance policy.
- Stacking ODD, cover and Suppressive Fire or a Low Visibility zone gives horrendous penalties to enemies trying to beat a Bulleteer with brute force. For example, a Spitfire Bulleteer with Assisted Fire active, in cover, and in the Suppressive Fire state gives most opponents -12 to hit (-3 S.Fire, -6 ODD, -3 cover), while it ignores cover itself due to Assisted Fire. That's a pretty disgusting roadblock for 23 points.
- It carries a Repeater. This gives you counter-hacking possibilities if someone hacks the Bulleteer or, even better, it allows you to park it near to TAGs or heavy infantry and have a hacker attack them whilst the Bulleteer can stay safe, out of line of fire.
- Another useful trick the repeater allows is that any hacker can give the Bulleteer supportware from anywhere on the board. If your bulleteer ends up across the board, near the enemy's deployment zone, you can still throw Assisted Fire on it!
Anything other than a simple shootout will disable a Bulleteer relatively easily. Most of its defence comes from how well it can oppose rolls, but if that's somehow diminished such as through surprise shot, or extra long range, or even attacking out of line of fire then it's very likely the remote goes down.
Direct Templates and Speculative Fire bypass ODD and take advantage of remotes' penalty to dodging. Grenades are a great counter because they can be speculatively thrown, they force a -3 to dodge attempts if the target does not have line of sight, and remotes get -3 to dodge attempts anyway. That means a Bulleteer against a speculatively thrown Grenade needs a 4 to dodge.
Hacking can keep it out of an area, or force it out of Suppression Fire. Whilst the PanO player can use the Bulleteer's repeater for his own hacking shenanigans, if he lacks hacking then it's a really easy way to get rid of one.
Most melee focused troops will usually beat it once engaged, however it is worth noting that the Electric Pulse the Bulleteer packs can be a problematic melee weapon against softer targets. The Electric Pulse always hits on a 7 and it cancels any close combat modifiers to attributes, which includes things like Martial Arts giving +3 to CC or +1 to PH etc. However, what the Electric Pulse does not cancel is any modifiers to dice rolls. So for example a unit with CC23 would still add 3 to whatever it rolls on the dice. Because the Electric Pulse always hits on a 7 then any unit with a very high CC value knows that it probably only needs to roll a 4 or 5 or something to win the face-to-face.
Bulleteers are reasonably flexible for list composition because they're one of those rare PanO troops which offers a decent attack option for a small amount of points and SWC. At 23 points and 1 SWC, the Spitfire option is definitely affordable. The Heavy Shotgun option is a very low 17 points. It's obviously not some kind of BS15 mega-troop that wins pretty much every face-to-face, but it's not costed like one either, which means that it has a definite niche as a back-up option which you can throw into a list without losing much at all.
There's very little in PanO that does what the Bulleteer does for an equivalent cost. It's about equal to an Akali with Combi-Rifle (BS13, Combat Jump) or Bagh-Mari with Combi-Rifle (BS12, Mimetism, MSV1), or a Kamau with Heavy Rocket Launcher (BS13, Mimetism). I'm not saying any of those are bad troops (they all have a niche!), but none of them are rolling 4 dice when they attack, none of them are giving the opponent -6 when they shoot back, and none of them can be given Marksmanship to ignore cover modifiers.
One of the nice things about the Bulleteer's cost is that it's kind of between cheerleader and assault piece costing. It's not at true cheerleader levels of 8-12 points, but then again it's not like a Hexa Spitfire which will set you back 30 points or one of the knights that's costing 40+. Now obviously you get what you pay for - it doesn't have a marker state, and it's not the toughest model you'll be fielding, so it's probably not wise to build a list and rely solely on a Bulleteer as your one attack piece. But the point is that if it ends up doing nothing it's not a complete disaster because it wasn't a huge investment anyway, whereas if it does perform then that's fantastic because it really didn't cost much.
They also don't require a huge amount of support to function reasonably well. BS12 and ODD is enough on its own to be effective. However, you obviously need a hacker or TAG in your list to include remotes in the first place, but that's a given. If you do want to offer the Bulleteer more support you can grab a Fusilier hacker for 18 points and 0.5 SWC and throw Assisted Fire on it. With those two combined together you've essentially paid 41 points and 1.5 SWC for two orders, and a sort-of-BS15 Spitfire - which is a pretty good deal given that the Bulleteer will then perform similarly to a Swiss Guard when it's on the offensive.
Overall I think there are a few options for list-building with Bulleteers:
- You can use the Spitfire as a cheap backup attack piece and take it with no support. This leverages their reasonably unique position of being absolutely lethal and still under 30 points.
- You can lean into their efficacy and back them up with an engineer and hacker. This obviously raises their cost a little because you're focusing now on supporting the Bulleteer(s) instead of taking other options. However you gain a lot of utility and even with the cost of those troops factored in, you're still paying very little for a sort-of-BS15 threat.
- You can take the Heavy Shotgun as a deployment zone guard and focus on its ARO potential, but use it offensively if anything does approach too close. This might be useful in missions where the opponent is forced to approach you (Frontline is a good example). It's a few points more expensive than a plain cheerleader but you gain that fantastic weapon and ODD, which is enough to get excited about.
Deployment of these guys is reasonably self explanatory, because you're just playing to the range-bands of your chosen weapon.
An active turn Spitfire remote wants to go somewhere reasonably close to the front of your deployment, in a position where it's ready to engage the midboard after just an order or two. Remember not to leave active turn units exposed because they tend to not be that strong as ARO pieces. The Bulleteer can get away with a bit of exposure in the reactive turn because it does have ODD, but this isn't where it's most comfortable so probably best to avoid, particularly when deploying (you don't know if the opponent has MSV yet!).
A more reactive Bulleteer, most likely with a Shotgun, wants do the opposite to the Spitfire and be exposed a little bit so that it can threaten drop troops or anything else that might try to assassinate your squishy cheerleaders early in the game. Due to the short range-bands of the weapon it's best at the front or in the middle of your deployment zone where it's likely to be close to opponents. What it really wants is some kind of short alley or firelane to take advantage of where you know you're going to get a shot off at +6 to hit. Remember that ARO pieces are useless if they're not covering important areas or troops - if you want your Bulleteer to protect your deployment zone, make sure it's in a position where it's covering a path that the opponent will actually want to use!
Active Turn Role
The Spitfire has the most prominent active turn role, compared to the Shotgun. It's fast, it has a decent BS, and a Spitfire boasts a high burst. This is really where it shines. Use the quick movement to skirt around the edges of the board, attracting as few AROs as possible (the Bulleteer is hard to hit, but if it IS hit it goes down easily), and pick on overextended troops that are poorly supported in the middle of the board. A light infantry or medium infantry fireteam is a perfect target, because you can utilise the Bulleteer's good burst and ODD to punish opponents that lack MSV with reasonably safety, even if they do have +3 to their BS. Remember the Spitfire has better 16-24" range modifiers than rifles, and better 8-16" range modifiers than HMGs. Abuse this by approaching traditionally strong targets (fireteams, decent medium infantry) in such a way that they can barely shoot back!
You can also bully camouflage troops because even though you don't have MSV yourself, most camouflage troops won't be able to counter your own ODD, and most tend to have weak weapons such as Rifles. You might only be on 9s to hit, but if you approach correctly they could be on -12 (-6 ODD, -3 cover, -3 range) and therefore can't hit you at all! Also remember that WIP13 makes the Bulleteer not terrible at discovering markers either. Discovering on 10s or 13s if you catch the target out of cover is really quite respectable.
So as a midboard "problem solver" the Bulleteer is a pretty talented troop. Even against targets the Spitfire can't handle such as very Heavy Infantry or TAGs, you can use the in-built repeater to allow your assault hackers to take down the target from safety.
The Shotgun has a more niche active turn role particularly because its range bands are a bit trickier to approach from and because it has much lower burst. However if a troop is approaching your deployment zone (perhaps some kind of skirmisher or heavy attack piece) then an active turn Heavy Shotgun can quickly put an end to that. You get burst two, you're probably hitting on 18s if you approach them out of cover or if you have Marksmanship, and the Shotgun is damage 15 and has AP ammunition, or a template which ignores cover bonuses to armour. It's a really good way of taking out something like a marauding Achilles or another problematic troop that you have to get rid of quickly
This depends on the profile. Both are going to want to shoot whenever possible because the Bulleteer is horrible at dodging, but the question is really how exposed you leave it in the reactive turn.
Both the Shotgun and Spitfire can be good ARO pieces. The Shotgun on its own is fantastic due to its high likelihood to hit, but positioning is important because after 8" it loses a lot of efficacy. Remember you can give it Enhanced Reaction so it's burst two. Out of the two profiles this is the one that has a more natural reactive turn role due to its high damage and good chance to hit.
The Spitfire is less of a naturally good ARO weapon, so it really depends on Suppressive fire to be useful. If you don't have the orders to put it into Suppressive Fire then consider not giving it an ARO role at all - hide it. If it is in Suppressive Fire then it's good up to 24" and devilishly hard to hit so you can be a bit aggressive with its placement.
Also remember you can hack through the repeater as an ARO as well! A Bulleteer tucked away in the middle of the board can still provide hacking AROs against passing TAGs and Heavy Infantry.