With a reasonably low BS of 11 and no special skills or equipment, the basic Ghulam profile is not an absolute active-turn all-star; that much is clear. However Ghulams do have a lot of options in terms of loadout.
The rifle and light shotgun option is something that comes reasonably standard in Haqqislam and is found on a wide variety of troops. The advantage here is that it boasts a fantastic +6 to BS at 0-8" from the shotgun and a nice +3 to BS from 8-16" from the rifle. A Ghulam with BS17 due to the range modifiers of a shotgun is actually something that may make an opponent worry, especially because shotguns are template weapons. Ghulams can also take an HMG, which is a weapon that most players know and love due to its high damage and large burst value of 4.
The light grenade launcher loadout is particularly interesting. Light grenade launchers can be fired at targets without line of fire due to speculative fire. This takes an entire order and imposes a -6 penalty, meaning your Ghulam will likely only be hitting on 8s, in good range. However it does enable your 13 point troop to take pot shots at approaching targets without being exposed to return fire. The grenade launcher is also a template weapon so when it does hit, it can really rip apart bunched up infantry. This is perhaps not the most reliable option but is interesting nonetheless.
Ghulams in Qapu Khalqi and Hassassin Bahram can enter fireteams of up to 5 members. Fireteams with 3 members add 1 to their weapon's burst, and groups of 5 add 3 to their BS. This turns Ghulam into very threatening infantry indeed. An HMG with a burst of 5 being fired by a unit with a BS of 14 is nothing to take lightly. Under these circumstances Ghulams change from being no-frills budget infantry into very capable troops.
BS of 11, PH10, and ARM1 all add up to Ghulam not making the best ARO pieces around. However, as described in the section above, fireteam bonuses are particularly useful in helping them out. Burst 2 AROs are obviously much more powerful than burst 1 AROs, and raising your BS from 11 to 14 can be exceptionally useful. Without this extra boost Ghulam are reasonably weak - but their power really comes from their low points cost. Their low cost enables you to take multiple, which forces any attacking opponent to split their burst, or else face an unopposed ARO.
Haqqislam's trademark shotgun is a significant advantage for point blank AROs, often giving you a higher target number than your opponent; and so a significantly better chance of surviving. The shotgun is also a template weapon and therefore can take out multiple approaching troops at once, if your opponent isn't careful with their positioning. However be aware of situations where your shot will be cancelled due to the shotgun's template having to hit a friendly troop. In these cases you need to use the pistol instead.
The missile launcher and light grenade launcher also offer templates. The light grenade launcher excels from 8-16", whilst the missile launcher is best for very long-range AROs as its optimal band is 24-48". On top of being a template weapon, missile launchers also use explosive ammunition which forces the target to have to roll three saves per successful hit. Missile launchers also have a mode that doesn't use the template but hits with AP and explosive ammunition, instead of solely explosive ammunition. These weapons are absolutely lethal and allow your Ghulam to threaten some very tough targets.
The panzerfaust is another tempting defensive weapon because it also utilises explosive ammunition, like the missile launcher. This profile is also much cheaper than the missile launcher profile so it's perhaps easier to take a few of these troops to form a defence of overlapping lines of fire. The panzerfaust excels between 16-32", but its downside is that it has the disposable(2) trait, meaning you get just two shots with it per game. However, baggage bots can reload these weapons with the use of a short order.
The e/mauler is worth mentioning because it's essentially a mine you can place in your active turn (or as an ARO) that hits with e/m ammunition. Hits from E/m ammunition are taken against half BTS, Isolate targets that fail the save, and, if the target is a heavy infantry or TAG, Immobilise as well. They can be very potent options as defensive tools against heavy infantry or TAGs. A Ghulam with e/maulers could be used to protect your deployment zone or key battlefield objectives.
Finally, it's also worth pointing out that the forward observer Ghulam gains access to the non-lethal flash pulse weapon. This weapon is good between 8-24" and uses flash ammunition, which stuns units that fail a BTS save against it. Stunned units cannot declare attacks! This is exceptionally useful. The reason why this weapon is interesting is because it is fired with WIP instead of BS, and Ghulams have a considerably higher WIP value than BS value (14 vs 11).
- A shotgun's impact template occasionally allows you to hit several models at once. It can also hit markers if there's another legal target to fire the initial shot at and the marker is covered by the template.
- Don't forget speculative fire on Ghulams with grenade launchers!
- Ghulam forward observers can put enemy units into the Targeted state. They have a good WIP value of 14 which makes success more likely, and don't cost so many points that a failure is disastrous. A unit in the Targeted state grants you +3 to your BS when you shoot them, so it can really benefit the rest of your force to attempt this. It also allows you to use the Guided trait of the Shaytaniyah's smart missile launcher. Additionally, the forward observer can make a very solid ARO piece especially in a fireteam. It gets a flash pulse (due to forward observer) that operates off of it's WIP of 14 and it is +3 from 8-24 inches. So in a 5 man fireteam, this unit is stunning enemies in ARO on 20's with burst 2!!! All for 13 points! Even if not used as a specialist, this can be a solid defensive option.
Shoot them, knife them, blow them up. Ghulams on their own have absolutely no specialist defensive skills.
Ghulams in links can be trickier to deal with due to all of the link bonuses, but still go down very easily once they're hit. Ghulams in a 5-person link have a BS value of 14 and make burst 2 AROs, so it should still be relatively possible to out-shoot them. This is particularly the case if you use a unit with ODD or camouflage to target them because they lack MSV.
Ghulam fall into three general categories in terms of list-building:
- The cheapest specialists available to Haqqislam. With Haqqislam's typical high WIP of 14 Ghulam are some of the games most points-efficient specialists, providing cheap forward observers (most often used for claiming objectives), hackers (although these are often edged out by competition from the Barid or Al Hawwa) and doctors (who benefit from Doctor Plus to heal patients on 17s). Ghulam doctors in particular are phenomenal at their job because they cost virtually nothing and have only a tiny, tiny chance of failing their doctor rolls.
- Budget Support Weapons and Fireteams. With access to HMGs, sniper rifles, missile launchers, and less typical options like panzerfausts and e/maulers Ghulam can provide pretty good firepower when linked. Without a fireteam these profiles are fairly weak compared to the other units competing for your SWC, so it's rare to see more than a sniper rifle / panzerfaust or two. Having said this, they certainly do offer a lot of utility for a low cost, and overlapping sniper or panzerfaust AROs on cheap troops can be a potent strategy.
- Lieutenants, decoys and cheerleaders. As one of the cheapest Regular models in Haqqislam Ghulam can be used to hide in your deployment zone to provide orders for your more important troops (often called "cheerleading" as they cheer on other troops). A Ghulam lieutenant is among the cheapest lieutenant Haqqislam has access to, and fulfils the requirement of having a lieutenant on a model that's likely to be in little danger (due to the fact that they often stay in the backfield) and can be hidden among several decoys. As Ghulams lack defensive skills it is worth seriously considering taking decoys if you choose one as your lieutenant. If an opposing troop does make it into your deployment zone, your Ghulams will likely go down very quickly.
Deploying a Ghulam is going to change a lot depending on its role. The long-range ARO pieces are obviously going to want to claim cover at the back of your deployment zone to take advantage of their favourable range-bands, whereas the active-turn Ghulams with mid-range weapons will want to occupy a much more central and forward position. Remember that when deploying ARO pieces so the best thing to do is to overlap AROs so that multiple units can all ARO together.
Cheerleaders and specialists usually require quite a lot of care to place correctly. The issue with cheerleaders is that you want to keep them alive so they continue giving regular orders, but you also don't want them to be completely dead weight. A useful deployment strategy might be to consider covering cluttered board edges where drop troops may choose to come in. If the board edge is not too open then the Ghulam will remain relatively safe, whilst also providing some useful ARO cover against drop troops. Alternatively you may set them up with positions that cover your deployment zone with AROs, in case of Impersonators or troops that push forward aggressively.
Specialist Ghulams such as doctors or forward observers usually require a relatively forward position so that they can be close to the action, but they're not usually frontline combatants. In these cases it might be a good idea to look for little covered areas of the board they can take advantage off when deployed and moving up. This will enable them to remain in the thick of things, but not over-exposed.
Active Turn Role
The most common use for Ghulam in the active turn is moving forward under the cover provided by more combat proficient units in order to take objectives or provide a specialist skill such as Doctor Plus. When doing so the emphasis is on remaining safe and using your orders as efficiently as possible in order to take the objective before moving back to a covered position.
More active Ghulams such as those with HMGs and/or those in a fireteam will often act as a sweeper unit. This means their job is to take down enemy ARO pieces so other troops can advance safely. In these cases their active turn will consist of moving into a favourable position and shooting often, in order to inflict maximum damage. Fireteams that include specialists will probably want to make forward pushes in order to take objectives. Therefore fireteams that mix aggressive weapons and specialists can really achieve a lot by moving and shooting their way up the board.
As Ghulams lack MSV or any special skills you may find yourself dodging instead of shooting against camouflaged units, or those that strike you from ranges where your weapons aren't favoured. With a low PH of 10 this can be quite a scary prospect, but it's certainly better than trying to shoot on 5s!
Ghulams in fireteams gain a host of advantages that help to offset their weaknesses. The +3 BS bonus from being in a fireteam with 5 members helps to ensure that shots will be more favoured than dodges, which makes your Ghulam ARO piece more lethal. Sixth sense L2, which is gained from being in a fireteam of 4 or more members, allows a Ghulam to ARO against a shot that comes at them through smoke without the -6 penalty, or against a Surprise Shot without the -3 penalty. In these cases a Ghulam is actually a very potent ARO piece because it can respond to attacks that would seriously hinder other infantry due to negative modifiers.
Even unlinked, a ghulam sniper or panzerfaust is a cheap way to cover an area of the table away from powerful enemies. A sniper covering the space immediately in front of your own deployment zone can make it significantly harder for enemy warband to reach your support troops.