I'll cover the basics first before moving onto the intricacies of Holoprojector L2 and Surprise Shot L2. Those two skills are the main reason to take an Ayyar and they're exceedingly powerful, but they require a lot of words to describe properly so I'll start with the loadout and BS.
The Ayyar itself comes with a very respectable BS13 meaning you've got a very good chance of equaling or exceeding the BS of most troops. This puts the Ayyar in a very solid position as an active-turn, aggressive piece.
You've got two main offensive profiles, one with a rifle, E/mitter, and DEP, and the other with a shock marksman rifle. Both also come with 2 viral pistols. The rifle and DEP have the same range bands, preferring 8-16". The DEP is a nasty weapon, packing AP+EXP ammunition, but the issues with it are that you only get one shot with it, and only Burst 1 even in your active turn. A single damage 14 AP+EXP hit against a TAG or HI will definitely hurt, but it might not be enough to finish the job entirely. If an opponent is ARM5 then AP takes them down to ARM3, but cover brings them up to ARM6. Rolling 3 dice against DAM14 means they need 9s or better to pass a roll, which is only a 40% fail rate. Against a unit with 2 wounds or more there's a very real chance that the DEP hit doesn't kill them - and that only gets worse as their ARM increases. If you catch someone with low ARM or out of cover then it's likely to blow them away but with just one shot you really need to use it very wisely.
The E/mitter is similar to the DEP in that it's more effective against heavily armoured targets, and also only shoots with a burst of one. However, unlike the DEP, it can be used as many times as you want and it packs E/M2 ammunition which forces the target to take 2 BTS saves at half their BTS value. Targets are isolated and heavy infatry / TAGs are immobilized as well. This is a seriously effective anti-armour weapon and when combined with some of the tricks highlighted below it can be a real pain for your opponent.
The shock marksman rifle is a very interesting weapon, and in an ironic twist works really well against other Haqqislam players or those relying on massed light infantry. The marksman rifle covers 8-24" favourably which is fantastic because the 16-24" range-band outranges opposing rifles, but the 8-16" range-band underranges opposing HMGs. Therefore you have a weapon that can pick favourable spots against a variety of opposing troops. You also come packing shock ammunition which cancels Dogged, NWI, and kills troops with 1 wound instantly, instead of sending them unconscious. This makes it really nasty against troops with one wound, or opposing forces that have heavy doctor support. The downside of this weapon is the low strength of 13, which means it can struggle a lot against highly armoured opponents.
Remember that both offensive profiles carry two viral pistols. They give you 3 shots with a favourable range of 0-8" and all successful hits force the opponent to make 2 BTS rolls against damage 12. Yes, this has the potential of causing the opponent to have to roll 6 BTS saves every time you fire. I've checked the maths very quickly and it would appear that even if the opponent has a BTS score that is 1 higher than their ARM score, the damage 12 pistols are still more likely to cause a wound than the damage 13 rifle. I assume this is because the pistols just force the opponent to have to roll so many saves for every hit. And they'll also apply the same effects as Shock ammo.
Surprise Shot and Holoprojector
Now for the more subtle parts of the Ayyar's profile.
The most interesting offensive tool that the Ayyar has is Surprise Shot L2. This fantastic skill imposes a -6 penalty to the opponent's shot or hacking attack when they react to the Ayyar. However, it can only be used when the Ayyar is in a marker state (i.e. it is using Holoprojector L2 and has active holoechoes), in the same way that most camouflaged units may only use Surprise Shot L1 when they leave the camouflaged state.
There are two reasons why Surprise Shot L2 is so useful as an offensive skill. The first is because Haqqislam is outgunned by many factions such as PanO or Yu Jing in a straight fight, but by imposing that -6 penalty you can bring a huge BS15 behemoth down to a pathetic BS9. The second is because Surprise Shot L2 is a way of stacking negative modifiers that gets around MSV. This is crucial because MSV models can be very threatening to Haqqislam forces that might rely on camouflaged units such as Hunzakuts or Al Hawwa, and many MSV units can be very potent ARO pieces armed with nasty weapons and a high BS. By utilising Surprise Shot L2 it's possible to set-up an unfair situation that the MSV troop is not equipped to deal with, and therefore you counter their counter. This means the Ayyar is well equipped for dealing with ARO pieces that are extremely strong against most conventional defensive tech such as ODD or camouflage. However, it is very important to be aware that Surprise Shot has its own counters in Sixth Sense and the third lever of MSV, and therefore the Ayyar loses a lot of potency against link teams with 4 members or more as this grants the entire link Sixth Sense L2.
The Ayyar also features Holoprojector which is useful as an offensive skill in a variety of ways. Holoprojector L1 allows the user to disguise themselves as any other model with the same silhouette size. One offensive application of this is to disguise yourself as a vulnerable model in order to bait out opportunistic AROs, and then respond with a powerful BS13 burst. It's a great way of tempting models into shooting as an ARO when they might otherwise try to dodge prone to avoid being attacked.
The other application of HoloProjector is using L2 to place two holoechoes (essentially fake copies of yourself) besides the real model. Holoprojector L2 doesn't initially look like a very effective offensive tool because in your active turn you need to place a holoecho marker besides one of the models (whether it's the real one or a fake doesn't matter) to indicate that holoechoes are being used. In many ways this gives the game away, BUT there still many things you can do with Holoprojector L2 in your active turn that are extremely useful.
You can use holoechoes to clear mines, making areas of the board safe for your Ayyar to traverse. Another, more risky, application of holoechoes is to use them as 'cover' to move-move across long firelanes without necessarily having to be shot. When the opponent AROs they have to pick which model to fire their shot at - the real model or the fake holoechoes. They've got a higher change of picking the wrong model than the right one. It's not necessarily the best decision, but it can be used to great effect if you want to run across a wide firelane whilst trying to avoid a nasty sniper shot. However, watch out for template weapons that will hit all three simultaneously! Opponents are allowed to delay their AROs against units with active holoechoes, in the same way they can delay against a camouflage marker that moves, but if you then move-move their ARO is lost.
The last thing you can do with active holoechoes is perhaps, arguably, a little unsporting. It's not necessary to tell your opponent that they can delay against a unit that has active holoechoes. In a competitive game there's no obligation to tell your opponent what the best ARO decision is, however in a friendly game you may want to. Therefore, when you move your Ayyar into view with its two holoechoes it's very possible that your opponent will declare shoot straight away. If they do this, ask them which figure they're targeting because it's likely that they'll choose a holoecho instead of the real troop. A way to make them more likely to target a holoecho is if you leave the real troop in the open and put a holoecho in cover, because it makes the holoecho seem more valuable than the troop itself. Then once they've declared their ARO you can shoot back, and if they've targeted a holoecho by accident you get an unopposed shot. The ethical issue here is that you're baiting your opponent into making a poor play. They should declare delay instead of shoot because if they do that then you'll be forced to declare shoot first and you'll have to remove the holoechoes as you 'reveal', which means they can't accidentally target a fake. As I mentioned above, in competitive play this is probably absolutely fine, but in casual play it might be better to teach your opponent what the correct response is here. And if you do use it, don't rely on it because a good opponent is likely to either know how it works, or ask for a reminder of how Holoechoes work (which you could technically refuse, but then they'll go just go to the rules instead)
In my view the combination of a very good BS score, along with weapons that cover the entire range of 0-24" favourably, and finally a handful of tricks that can lower your opponent's BS makes the Ayyar one of the best gunfighters in Haqqislam. (user:HeadChime)
Your PH score is equal to your BS score, and both are relatively high, so shooting and dodging AROs can both be very viable as a way to keep your Ayyar alive. The Ayyar also has a reasonable ARM of 3 and 2 wounds. This means you only need to roll a 10 when you've in cover to save a damage 15 HMG shot, which isn't bad. The 2 wounds mean you can take a hit and keep on fighting too!
The Ayyar also boasts a more defensive profile in the sniper option. Unfortunately it only has Surprise Shot L1, and can't use Holoprojector L2 to full effect when ARO'ing (the holoechoes will cancel as soon as you declare an ARO) but it is an ARM3, 2W sniper with BS13. It's arguably too many points when competing with the likes of a Lasiq or Knauf, offering BS13, mimetism, and MSV1 for 32 points; but it does only cost •5 SWC. As a strictly defensive piece this profile seems questionable when compared to other options but since it can appear to be a Naffatûn or something and still carries Viral Pistols it's an option to consider.
On the other profiles, the DEP and E/mitter are both as good as defensive weapons as they are in the active turn because they're burst one anyway. It's probably best to leave these weapons for the active turn where the opponent is shooting back at you with burst 1 or 2, instead of 3/4/5 etc., but the point is that you lose less value using these in the reactive turn than you would if you use something like a rifle.
Holoprojector adds to the defensive fun in a few ways. Firstly you can disguise your Ayyar as something quite unassuming such as a basic line troop, which can help to draw your opponent's attention away from it. Secondly, you can combine both levels of Holoprojector in order to deploy identical holoechoes that all look like a troop that isn't an Ayyar. If you're playing second then you might want to deploy three Ghulams with panzerfausts on a rooftop, one prone and two standing. Remember you do not need to mark that they are holoechoes until your ACTIVE turn. Your fake Ghulams with panzerfausts might make the opponent avoid the area or, if you're very lucky, they might move out to engage your "Ghulams" in a firefight and then be very confused when you declare idle as your ARO (holoechoes can't actually ARO as they're not real troops). Holoechoes can be very effective in forcing your opponent to waste orders.
Holoprojector L2 engages automatically in every reactive turn if your Ayyar can't be seen. The holoechoes this produces deploy in base to base contact with the real Ayyar. This means a couple of things. The most basic advantage is that you can move your Ayyar ever so slightly in the reactive turn because the holoechoes that deploy do not need to be fakes. You could make one of the new holoechoes the real Ayyar, essentially allowing it to switch positions with a fake S2 marker. One reason this is useful is because it allows you to use holoechoes to bodyblock your real Ayyar and prevent the opponent from drawing line of sight to the real troop. Again - be very careful of template weapons! Another reason this is very useful is because it might bump you into cover if you were an inch away when your turn ended. Finally, it might allow you to go from being fully behind cover to being partially visible or fully in the open. Why would you want this? Because it works really nicely with suppressive fire! If you activate suppressive fire in a position where no-one can see you then your holoechoes will deploy in your reactive turn. You can then swap position with one of your holoechoes, going from a point where no-one can see you, to one where you're in a much better position to take really effective AROs whilst in suppressive fire.
- Holoprojector L2 requires that you put a holoecho marker next to one of your holoechoes in your active turn (whether you put the marker next to the real troop or a fake doesn't matter). Holoprojector L1 does NOT require this. Sometimes it's better to deploy your Ayyar in Holo L1 instead of L2, to avoid placing the holoecho markers, and therefore to avoid attention. What's your opponent more likely to come after, an Ayyar or a Ghulam?
- Use holoechoes liberally to try to get the opponent to make bad decisions. If you want to cross a large gap then consider moving the holoechoes out first, or putting them in a more prominent position. If the opponent delays then you can move again and they lose the ARO. If they shoot then they'll probably target the wrong model and you can then either move on safely or fire back unopposed.
- I've highlighted most of the other tricks in more detail in the sections above because they require larger explanations.
Ayyars are reasonably tough to counter when they're used well. ARM6 in cover, two wounds, BS13, and the potential to confuse you with fake holoechoes is a pretty potent package to come up against. However it's far from unbeatable. Remember to delay against holoechoes if you suspect they might shoot back. If they carry on moving you lose your ARO but at least you're safe. If they do shoot back then you don't need to gamble on picking the correct model because the fake ones will be removed.
One of the best ways to stop an Ayyar is to just use template weapons against them. Mines are easy for an Ayyar to avoid with holoechoes but things like missile launchers, flamethrowers, and rocket launchers have the potential to clip all of the models and therefore you don't need to mess around with delaying or choosing the right model - you just blow them all up. Both fire and explosive ammunition is reasonably effective because it has the potential to go through all of the Ayyars wounds at once. If you're a bit stuck for template weapons like rocket or missile launchers then even boarding shotguns could do it. Damage 14 and a template weapon means you have a chance to hit all the models at once and should do some damage.
Dealing with an Ayyar in your active turn is much easier than in the reactive turn. If the Ayyar wants to ARO in your turn then they need to declare it before you decide if you're shooting or not. As soon as they declare dodge or shoot, all the holoechoes will disappear and you'll be left with only the real model left to target - and hopefully a clear shot. The two main Ayyar profiles also have effective ranges that end at about 24" so you can engage a lot more favourably in your own turn with snipers or HMGs.
Some Ayyar players might try to waste your time by declaring idle so you still need to get through the holoechoes before you can target them. In this situation it's probably best to split your burst between all the holoechoes. Holoechoes are immediately removed once they're hit - they get no ARM or BTS saves. So even just a single hit with a rifle is enough to find out if the troop is real or fake. By splitting your burst in this way you should be able to find out which troop is the real one after 'wasting' just a single order. You could always try to discover the holoechoes to reveal them instead of shooting, but generally your weapons will have a higher burst than discover so you get more value from them.
I think the last thing to remember is that besides the DEP and E/mitter, the Ayyar can't do a whole lot against highly armoured troops. Throw a TAG or heavy infantry against them, particularly from a very long-range and they'll be a bit stuck. Their BS is a bit pathetic if you're above 24" away.
Ayyars fill a fantastic niche as both a gunfighter and a specialist troop (they have the Specialist Operative skill). This means it's very easy to fit one into most lists without sacrificing an awful lot, because they're just so flexible. The only difficulty you might have is that they do lack MSV so if you take an Ayyar as your main aggressive unit you might want to also take another aggressive unit with MSV or intuitive attack to deal with camouflage markers / ODD troops etc.
Ayyars are mainly vulnerable to hacking and highly armoured opponents at long ranges, because the majority of their weapons are either low strength or only effective at short ranges, and their BTS is only 3. It just so happens that both of these downsides can usually be addressed with your own hackers. An Al Hawwa assault hacker can provide mid-board hacking support for an Ayyar that wants to get around a TAG or other heavy infantry, whereas a killer hacker or normal hacking device on Leila Sharif or a Hassassin Barid can clear out opposing hackers. By including a hacker alongside your Ayyar you end up with a nicely rounded list where you have an answer for the really highly armoured stuff in hacking programs like Carbonite, and an answer for opposing hackers in things like Redrum.
To threaten your opponent you may want to combine Holoprojector L1 and L2 together in order to place something like 3 line infantry snipers, or 3 panzerfaust troops etc. when you deploy. The key to this strategy is plausability. You probably don't want to deploy your Ayyar as 3 missile launcher troops because your opponent is going to realise that you just don't have the points and SWC to do that. Three panzerfaust troops cost 1.5SWC and 45 points. An Ayyar is about 39 points and 0 SWC. If you've hidden some SWC as a camouflage marker, or even not spent your full SWC elsewhere then this is a reasonably plausible ruse. The nice thing about this deployment strategy is that it still works against more skilled opponents. The better they are, the more they're going to try to play around your ARO pieces by throwing things like smoke or avoiding them - and ultimately the more orders they're going to waste. Because no-one wants to take AROs, if they can avoid it.
Another advantage to the above is that it really punishes 10 order lists. If you deploy your Ayyar as Ghulams with panzerfausts that have really solid ARO coverage then you force your opponent to deal with them. An opponent playing a 10 order list is going to be set-back significantly more if they waste an order shooting at a fake troop than someone who is playing a 20 order list. The Ayyar is a master of deploying in ways that can waste your opponents time and put them off balance.
If you want to take all the attention away from your Ayyar then you can hide it as something more innocent with Holoprojector 1. Something like a Ghulam or Naffatun is good in this role. But just be aware that an experienced opponent might realise you have around 20 points missing and suspect something is up. If you play lots of camouflage markers, this can help to maintain the trick.
Finally be aware of your rangebands. Ayyars are mostly mid-range gunfighters with all the profiles having a weapon that does 16-24" well. Taking a midboard, slightly central position is often a good idea. If you deploy in this way you can attempt to push up early with a view to either taking objectives, or threatening the opponent's deployment zone.
Active Turn Role
The Ayyar is really a troop that wants to be pushing forward and shooting with both rifle profiles. Surprise Shot L2 only works in the active turn, and only if you have holoechoes active. One good strategy is to hide at the end of your turn so that you can't be seen, allow holoechoes to reactivate in the opponent's turn, and then once your turn comes around again pop out and use Surprise Shot to take something out.
Your BS is decent enough to threaten most troops, but your weapons that counter heavy armour (DEP, E/mitter) are both short-range and have a low burst, so targeting vulnerable light and medium infantry is a really good idea as your primary task. The shock in the shock marksman rifle and sniper kills these troops instantly. If the situation presents itself then the viral pistols or E/mitter can be decent against more heavily armoured opponents because forcing multiple BTS rolls per hit can drown them in dice. This is why pushing forward and securing midboard positions is a pretty sensible decision in your active turn.
It's also worth noting that whilst the Ayyar does lack MSV, you can still use it to threaten camouflaged troops if you take up a position where you can catch them out of cover. Obviously this is much easier if you've got a strong position in the middle of the board, than it is if you're stuck in your own deployment zone.
You've got 4-4 move, and holoechoes protect you against most minor ARO pieces so there's little reason to not play very aggressively and really sink orders into your Ayyar. You're paying nearly 40 points for a gunfighter, so don't be scared to really try to squeeze a lot out of it. With holoechoes and two wounds you can usually afford to make a mistake or two...well.... against most weapons.
Your BS and PH are both 13 so often shooting will be the correct decision, however it is possible to be caught out by camouflaged troops, and without MSV you're probably going to want to dodge in those situations. It's also worth bearing in mind that rolling any dice at all removes your holoechoes, so occasionally you might want to idle against opposing troops with something like a rifle instead of dodge or shoot. If your holoechoes are blocking line of sight to the real Ayyar then the opposing troop can't hit you anyway. In this case you don't run the risk of dying, but then again you don't have the reward of a successful ARO either. It's a niche application that can be useful, but is risky. However if your opponent is very low on orders sometimes it can be really effective to do nothing, and force your opponent to shoot against something that potentially isn't a troop at all.
The suppressive fire trick is a fantastic ARO option for the rifle and marksman rifle profiles because it allows you to enter suppressive fire safely out of sight, then move into a better position where you can use the suppressive fire more effectively in the opponent's turn.