By Big Pete
One of the interesting things I find is how people use Recce units in Flames of War. Naturally there are many different approaches and every player will have their own style that works for them. There are various options available for carriers, however these can be largely broken down into two main schools of thought, to up-gun them or not. This decision will make a big difference on how they are used in a game.
The first strategy is to up-gun them to give them, most commonly with 50cal MGs. This option is certainly very popular, I know many players who will do this every chance they can. I will admit this is very attractive - shooting at full rof3 when moving with AT4 and FP5+ can certainly be very effective, particularly against light armour. You can use your recce move to get out there and get into the action really quickly. However, there are downsides to this strategy. Shooting means you can't disengage when shot at, plus they are fairly vulnerable units and also can be forced to disengage when they are shot at (meaning they spend the next turn re-organising).
The other strategy is to use them as is, primarily for recce. moving in cover with cautious movement and not shooting. The idea here is to use them as enablers for other units, removing Gone To Ground (GTG) making units easier to hit. For example, consider a veteran unit that is concealed and GTG, normally when shooting at it you will need a 6+ to hit. By removing GTG, you can hit on a 5+. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it means by removing GTG every other platoon that shoots at that platoon is twice as effective. In many cases these other platoons will be a much more effective units.
Points-wise it costs 10 points per carrier to add an additional 50cal MG for a Confident Trained unit for a unit that costs 70 points for 3 carriers, which is just under 50% on top of cost of the carriers. The question that has to be asked is - are these up-gunned carriers 50% more effective? The answer will undoubtedly vary for very player and once again it depends on your force composition, style of play and how you use intend to use them.
Personally I prefer the second strategy, I don't often see the cost for up-gunning carriers to be worth it in many cases (unless I have spare points). In most cases I would rather upgrade other units or simply get more carriers. If I do up-gun them to 50cal, I usually get encouraged to use them more aggressively, which often results in them being more exposed (usually resulting in losing them easily, giving my opponent easy VPs). For me they are better used in cover to screen other units and to make them more effective. There will be times when you use them as MG platforms (for example if you can catch infantry in the open), but the standard Hull MG is enough to get the job done. For me the 50cals are only effective if you want to be able to take on light armour, in which case other units are usually much more effective options.
Don't get me wrong, I really like using carriers, but it is worth considering how you intend to use them and how they fit into your overall strategy/game plan.