Forgive the grandiose title. I'd been meaning to type this up for some time, and a Facebook request for faction tactics and info spurred me to finally do it. All of this is my own personal opinion. While some of it may seem anti-Rach, it's not - the opinions were formed getting my butt handed to me trying to find some way to defeat opposing Ritterlich squads.
Overall Force Capabilities / “Feel”:
If you look at the available Rach CAV, you'll see a tendency to mix direct fire weapons with (very) light rockets and possibly a token guided missile launcher (Dictator A/B, Tyrant, Vanquisher, Emperor, Conqueror, Gnomic). They field few “specialized” CAV that field only one weapon system (Reaper, Imperator). Literally none of their units field any kind of heavy rocket system. The Malefactor is the only Rach unit to field a heavy PBG, and only one of them at that. The Emperor, Imperator, and Despot are the only ones that sport heavy MACs or MRACs. Only the Reaper carries heavy guided missile launchers, but it carries a whopping four of them.
What does this mean? I take it to mean that the Rach like to be able to hurt every unit type they could possibly encounter, and they want you to see them hurting you. That sounds nice, but in practice, it ends up with you paying a lot of TVP to do a fair job at everything, while truly excelling at nothing. For the flexibility, it means you typically wield medium caliber weapons (or lots of light ones), instead of a pair of heavy-hitters. This makes a “stand in front of each other and pound each other to smithereens” a losing proposition against many opponents.
If you look closely, you may notice that absolutely none of the Rach units are equipped with an Active Phase Array. The Kahn is the only unit they field with EST. And the only unit to carry TAG is the Reaper, which requires it to be able to fire its missiles when an ECM field is in effect. These three points paint a picture of the Rach as glory-hounds and not wonderful team players. More on this later.
Now that it sounds like I've poo-pooed the Rach units, what units actually do something well?
Despot – This thing is nasty for under 500TVP. You get an 8 armor, 8 damage track tank that fields a heavy MAC and two medium guided missiles. If you park this thing in cover or a vehicle revetment, it can put the hurt on just about anyone. If you need to move, Assault 1 lets it effectively move 8” and shoot the heavy MAC. For some real fun, put three Despots and a Kahn in a specialist squad...
Imperator – One of the few specialized Rach units, it fields two heavy MACs, Assault 2 (Run 'N Gun all day long), rugged + heavy armor, a great targeting computer, and a Wizzo. This is an anti-tank and anti-CAV murder machine.
Reaper – Anything fielding 4 heavy guided missiles and good armor is something for your opponents to fear. This thing will put the hurt on anyone, save the toughest of CAV (Ogres, Rhinos, etc.). Salvo fire can fix that problem.
Voodoo – While the autocannons seem odd due to their low damage against hard targets, full auto helps turn so-so rolls into great rolls. If you can get it close enough to fire everything, it can dish out a lot of pain.
Kraken – It may seem strange to list an air transport as a great unit, but the Kraken is excellent. Its two medium MACs are easy to overlook as it closes to drop off infantry, but once it has delivered its cargo, it can start waylaying medium-armored CAV and tanks with surprising effectiveness. If your opponent forgets to bring anti-air weapons (larger missiles, auto-cannons, and PBGs), they will find themselves having a very hard time getting rid of this cheap unit (MACs can't shoot aircraft and even heavy MRACs have trouble piercing the Kraken's 5 armor).
Vanquisher – While mixing direct and indirect-fire weapons may not always be a great idea, especially when it involves light versions of both weapons, the Vanquisher fields LOTS of each. The A fields 4 full-auto RACs, some light rockets, a light guided missile, and a machine gun. The A will absolutely murder infantry (whether it can see them or not) and can turn aircraft into lawn darts with surprising efficiency. The B, while a bit expensive and lightly armored, fields enough MRACs and rockets to let salvo fire hit as hard as a heavy version of each. It can actually scratch a heavy CAV indirectly if needed, which is something the Dictator and Emperor can only do with insanely lucky rolls (need a crit just to match the armor rating). The Vanquisher isn't a CAV-killer, but it is a good niche unit that can cover gaps without sacrificing anti-CAV firepower completely.
Good, but not amazing units:
This is mostly personal opinion here, but there are no real “bad” units for the Rach, they're just not as hyper-specialized as some other units. That means they won't excel as noticeably. The Conqueror, Dictator (I'm fond of the A as a skirmisher), Emperor (it hits hard and is tough, who cares if its rockets are borderline pointless?), Kahn, Malefactor, and Warden are all serviceable units. The Tyrant can deliver a good deal of pain if it gets close to a low-armor target. Even the re-vamped Gnomic has its uses as a skirmisher and infantry/aircraft-killer.
The faction doctrines can really elevate a force group or specific units to a new level. Let's take a look at the Rach doctrines:
Children of the Storm – You trade slightly worse armor for better speed and an additional bonus to hit at point blank range (3 inches or less).
I wish I liked this doctrine a lot more than I do. When you look at the other faction doctrines, almost all of them provide a bonus that is worth a sizable amount of effective TVP in a 5000 point force list (exception: Almirithil Lend-Lease doctrine, which really just makes you a themed independent force with no tangible benefit). Terrans get free artillery and air strikes (50TVP/round), Ritterlich get a massive initiative advantage, Almirithil get free veteran upgrades for a Templar squad, etc. If you look at the construction rules, trading -1 armor for +2 speed is actually a loss on the TVP exchange. On a Dictator B, the base move + armor TVP is 225. If it were 1 less armor and 2 speed faster, it would have been only 205. Thus, you are overpaying for your units when you use this doctrine. Think about that – the TVP calculation considers what you're doing penalizing yourself. A meager +1 to hit at point-blank range is your only other compensation. I will also note that this doctrine effectively negates the “Improved Armor” upgrade that costs 10TVP per damage track. Never, ever use a Dictator B or Voodoo with this doctrine; just add the “Turbocharged” upgrade instead. I just really don't like the hidden cost of this doctrine.
Now, it may sound nice to close faster and bring your weapons to bear on the enemy. However, you'll die faster at most ranges against a normally identical opponent - you have weaker armor, but don't hit harder! Slugging it out within full view of the opposition is a colossally dumb idea here. Your best bet is to stick to fast units that can already “stick and move”. Units like the Malefactor and Dictator A can do pretty well here, firing on the move between areas of cover. Don't expect easy victories against opposition that likes heavy rockets or hits very hard, though (Raijin, Tiamats/all Ritterlich units, Bears, etc.).
No Mercy Doctrine – Rach infantry do an additional point of damage (NOTE: not double damage!) in close combat when they are the primary attacker.
To me, this is the doctrine that defines the Rach. As noted earlier, the Rach want you to see them killing you. What better way than to have their infantry swarming you and tearing you to shreds while they also gun you down? Infantry are cheap, but surprisingly effective at taking even the heaviest CAV out of a fight for a few rounds. The nature of close combat – opposed 2d6 rolls where armor value means nothing – makes it unlikely that anyone will deliver 3 points of damage to an infantry unit consistently. That means if you surround a Rhino II with 4 light infantry models, it will be tied up for at least 1-2 rounds if there isn't an anti-infantry model around to wipe out the infantry (watch out for Wolverines). At ~150 TVP for a squad of airborne or storm-trained light infantry, that's an excellent exchange against an 800-1200TVP CAV. The bonus? Your other units can shoot at whatever the infantry are swarming, while the target can't shoot out.
That sounds interesting on its own, but how to get the infantry into close combat? If you take a look at the Rach transport options, you might notice something about the Kraken – it's tough, fast, has pop-up, a Wizzo (!!!), and not one, but two medium MACs. That package only costs 225TVP. That would be excellent on a tank, much less an airborne transport. The Hetman is not available in Bonesium, but it's also not very impressive (I do love the flamethrower it carries, though). For <1500 TVP, you can get 10 medium MACs, 5 powered armor, ~40 damage tracks, and a couple of satchel charges – 5 Kraken, 5 PA, +2 satchel charges. This can be devastating to a fire support or tank squad.
You might consider orbital-dropping the infantry, but infantry have a hard time crossing a 12” gap between themselves and their target. A movement upgrade can help them cross 6” in one action, but they would need two more actions to close the remaining distance and initiate close combat. This just isn't possible with the 1 C3 point per squad activation expenditure constraint. Air-dropping them or delivering them to point-blank range via ground transport is your best bet. And don't for get to spend support points on satchel charges!
OTHER TACTICS & NOTES:
These last items have been hinted at or briefly touched on already, but here they are in no particular order:
With relatively few heavy weapon-wielding units, the Rach will struggle against heavily armed opponents like the Ritterlich (where having armor less than 7 must be tantamount to treason). You are ill-equipped to slug it on equal footing. So don't fight fair! Drop infantry on key units to remove them from the fight, even if only temporarily. Crack the armor with Imperators, Emperors, or Reapers before burning targets down one by one. Avoid return fire if at all possible.
(Aside: After KS1, I played probably a dozen solo games of Rach vs Ritterlich with no upgrade or support points, just CAVs and tanks. I lost as the Rach every single time, usually in spectacular fashion. It wasn't until using combined arms and specific upgrades meant to neutralize indirect fire and armor advantages that I could get the Rach side close to winning.)
Your token light rockets won't hurt most CAV, even recons, before they're heavily damaged. Only use your Dictator and Emperor's rockets on infantry if no target for your MACs and missiles presents itself.
ODST is the best friend/tailor-made upgrade for Voodoos and Tyrants. Voodoos are too slow to cross the battlefield and bring their PBGs to bear quickly. Just drop them 12” from some opposition, close to short range, and unleash hell.
Malefactors can be sneaky-good, but you have to keep them alive. They're more costly than Chieftains, but flimsier than Lions. So don't leave them as juicy indirect-fire targets if you can avoid it.
Fighting in a city or canyon is not a good situation for the Rach. In a city, you're probably going to have to demolish buildings to establish a line of sight to enemy fire support units or close quickly for units like the Voodoo and Malefactor. In a canyon, you're mostly SoL; hope the opponent didn't bring heavy rockets, or you need to bring boatloads of airborne infantry.
As mentioned at the start, Rach aren't great team players; they are at an EW disadvantage against almost all other factions. Killing opposing recon units will be of the utmost importance to remove hostile APA from the field. Neutralize that disadvantage as quickly as possible, or you risk losing in spectacular fashion. It is also incredibly beneficial to slap an external APA on one of your CAV if you're doing an orbital drop. The APA will cover any range band issues for the unit that activates it, while providing a bonus to your entire side. And by being deployed and activated instantly, there's no opportunity for opposing ECM to shut your APA down. Slap one on a Dictator B, drop it and 3 Voodoos at 12" from an enemy and fire away.
I may add some more to this later (I feel the Dictator warrants some special coverage, due to it being an icon for the game), but that's all I can manage for now.