Thursday, December 27, 2012

Range Banding in 6th Edition

One of the interesting phenomenons of 40K tactics is range banding which works better than it did in 5E thanks to the preeminence of shooting.  More sophisticated players actively use this idea to great effect.  Like Japan in World War II, the idea here is to layer the defense, create lines of repositioning and play the timing game.

To be less vague and esoteric, you want to line your guns up in strata, based on their range.  You will usually have three strata of Guns, and then you will have the sacrificial lambs whose only job is to die and keep those guns firing (while themselves contributing to the fusillade). 

In this strategy, the list may seem at first more disjointed than usual, but it's function is merely to time the enemy approach so that it most advantages the Big Guns.

Look at this example list here, farthest back first:

Strata 1:
2 x2 Broadside Team leads (TL plasma, Multi trackers)
2 Pathfinder units
Sky Ray
3 Kroot Units

Strata 2
3 Teams Sniper Drones
3 Missile Suits
2 Pathfinder Devil fishes with Flechette (use flat out movement to block for their charges)

Strata 3
3 Fire Warrior units
3 Devil fish's with Flechette (use flat out movement to block for their charges)
Aegis Quad Gun

This list is very specifically designed to slow and clog the enemy and generally make it as hard and slow a bit of work as possible for the enemy to get to the rear areas; and if they do get there, to protect the guns for an extended period.  The idea obviously is to maximize damage at the expense of mobility and simply playing a space denial game.  Some refer to the idea of "winning in the movement phase" and essentially, range banding can do that for you.  it also helps you create target saturation more easily than the more aggressive movement strategy of dividing the enemy efforts by exploding outward in all directions (a personal favorite way to fight for me, but certainly not the only way to skin the cat)

Deployment is key to this kind of idea and one of the oddities of it is that the Aegis Defense Line goes nearly to the very center of the board.  It isn't even used as a shooting barrier per se FOR the Tau Empires defense as much as it is used as a hindrance TO the enemy movement itself.  The SOONER in the game you are able to slow the enemy, the more fire you can pour in.  You don't want to give a lucky charge the chance to negate that Aegis Line right in front of you and you don't want the decision by the enemy as they are coming in to be an easy one.  By placing the Defense Line so far forward it means they are slowed SOONER and now they might well be tempted if taking casualties, not to cross it and take advantage of its value on defense.  Some of the advantage of placing the Defense Line so far forward is psychological: The option to utilize the line "for free" makes movement behind it ever so slightly more complicated.  In the end, this can put an offensive army on the defensive.  On its own not game winning, but consider that you as Tau can negate all of the benefit of the Defense Line.  So just one round of indecision by the enemy or one moment of caution by them can prove not only futile but ultimately, the tipping point advantage you need.  Once they realize their error, there will be one less turn to do anything  about it.  Their instinct to self preserve and convert over to the long game, even though they aren't really built for it may prove fatal and bring you victory.

This same basic mechanic is very adaptable to most armies.  The army that seems to make a lot of sense for it to work is the Tyranid forces.  I have often thought that they can fight very well with Range banding.  I know unbridled aggression is the philosophy of Tyranids but given their restrictions, it could be quite good.  They amongst all the army have readily available tar pits and units that are designed for exactly this kind of game.  They have counter charge units that are hard to beat, and they have outflanking/Sneaky mobility.  Unfortunately the build to do this is really specific, but the fun news is, they have the tools to actually do it.

Allies create an immense wealth of possibilities for this idea to flourish.  Armies that start with fearsome barrage capability can couple their forces with other forces of similar ferocity.  This wouldn't be done so much to add firepower as it would be to add UTILITY to that firepower.  Consider that IG have endless streams of long range artillery.  However, imagine what it might add to have a second Range band of artillery, much closer than the others, that is very tough (as Artillery now are), that can roll out a 3 small blast pinning barrage, Re-rolling misses, wounding on 2's, re-rolling wounds and Penetrating tanks 33% of the time (3 times)!  Now the enemy has a VERY tough choice to make:  let THAT keep firing at short range, or expend energy on Armored artillery long range!  Eldar D-Canons added to IG might be a terrifying prospect because within that range band, it's dangerous as hell to be anywhere near it yet the enemy knows if they assault towards it, its "bodyguard" units will defend it.  IG don't really have a unit that can change the VALUE of enemy loadouts when so much of what they bring to hurt you is ARMOUR, allowing an enemy's anti-armour to shine.  It changes the TYPE of weapon you need in order to kill the threat and it multiplies the amount of shots that must be expended, all of which is just ONE range band worth of problems added.

Intentional range banding of armies isn't as common a practice as I thought it would be, but it does seem an effective primary strategem to use (understanding that all strategems must alter as the battle dictates after it has been joined).  I have taken to using the similar approach with Sisters of Battle, especially in certain missions, but other armies can do this equally well. 

Give it a try and report back, or just tell me what you thought about the idea in general.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Exchange units in 40K

How do you feel about them?
There is a brand of unit in Warhammer that I term the Exchange unit.  It is a unit whose characteristics make it ideal for killing certain targets but at the same time are quite likely to die in response to their effort since they are most often taken at minimal unit sizes. 

An example is 5 Swooping Hawks.  They are good at killing vehicles, but are also likely to be vaporized on the ensuing round, as an enemy can scarcely allow them to go bouncing about his parking lot a second time.  Their weak stats and decent but surmountable armor will insure that moderate effort will end the small unit of Hawks.

As a matter of strategic philosophy (in other words the overall plan going in moreso than the logistics of carrying out the plan) I know that First Blood makes an exchange unit a more risky proposition.  I also observe that Kill Points do matter in numerous missions.  Exchange units are by definition sure to die.  In tourney play that can make it difficult to win if you over invest in such MSU tactics.

Well first, strategically, the best place in the list for exchange units is in the Elites slot and the HQ slot (assuming you have 2 HQ's to avoid losing your Warlord).  If you take them from the Heavy or Fast Attack slots, that could penalize you in the Big Guns Never Tire mission and the Scouring mission.  Best to use Elites, as a practical matter.

So right off the bat, on the macro level of army and battle planning, we know where thse units should best come from but is there an exchange unit worth taking in Elites/HQ in your codex?

Many codex's have Elite/HQ units that can be used this way.  Eldar have Fire Dragons which may be one of the most well known exchange units.  Sisters of Battle have Celestian squads which really function well as Fearless Roadblocks to tie up the enemy until the Sisters next turn; so not an offensive juggernaut, but an exchange unit with a specific purpose.  Imperial Guard Storm Troopers could be considered because they can carry a fair amount of special weaponry.  Tau are famous for their "Suicide Command suit".  All of these fit the bill.

What all of them have in common is, you're conceding them to the enemy.

My question is, as you look at your battle plan, do you prize offense so much that you would abandon defense this way?  Keep in mind that just one member of a unit left alive denies the kill piont and allows you to score/deny with it.  Keeping unit fragments alive and fading them back can be an important part of your strategy.  If the unit is too small, then it is just a 1:1 exchange at best and has only weakened you if the enemy has more units than you do.

Overall I do not like this exchange idea for a couple reasons:  The 5 Fire Dragons will kill the LandRaider and die (for example), but if it had 3-5 ablative wounds in the unit, you're going to kill two LandRaiders with the same Kill point and/OR potentially live to see the end of the game! Since the enemy's firepower becomes less over time, the unit fragment will become progressively less endangered.  Yet it still adds to the target saturation issue when it would not have before!  So the ability to press forward after terrific losses to a unit is key.

My suggestion here in the end is that if you are sure you must have the three 5-man squads of Fire Dragons or the Suicide suits, reconsider and add bulk to the units.  That means another part of the list "suffers" (an overused term if ever there was one) but it also means you're not just throwing away the KP's that can be a big determiner of success.  Since exchange units are in the Elites/HQ slot, the enemy isn't firing at the more important slots in the army so in some ways the extra wounds are really wounds that you could consider to have BEEN in those other units!  Think about it:  if they weren't in that exchange unit, the enemy would have fired into the more important unit without fear of the now dead Elite.  Abstractly, do you really care how many die in total?  Not as much as you care which ONES died.  So by forcing the enemy to pour more of its units into THIS task, you are giving the scoring components of the force more shelf life.

Food for thought.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wraithbone sings in anticipation

One does not want to make oneself seem as if one is only a one trick pony.  Some have suggested that Tony Kopach, the reknowned Warhammer championship level player could not do what he does with any other army.  He "sees the field" so well from the vantagepoint of his Thunderwolf Cavalry or the visors of his Grey Hunter Spamalotiness that he would simply be incapable of winning with anything else at the level he does.

Hey, going with what works is the orthodox aproach to take when you're paying good money to go to these events am I right?  But then, this isn'tthe land of the orthodox here is it?


So since I know that Sisters of Battle can bring me home the hardware, it's time now to see what other 6E concoctions will get me there.  Obviously we want something that defies the norm and uses tools not always talked about as much.  Enter my new Army.  The rough outline is as follows:

Autarch (Mandiblaster, Power Weapon, Fusion Gun, Warp Generator)

Farseer (Guide, Doom, Runes of neener neener)

Aegis Defense Line (Quad Gun)

D-Cannon battery (3 Cannons)

3 Dark Reapers (Tempest Launcher, Crack Shot, Fast Shot)

3 Dark Reapers (Tempest Launcher, Crack Shot, Fast Shot)

3 Jetbikes (Cannon upgrade)

3 Jetbikes (Cannon upgrade)

3 Jetbikes (Cannon upgrade)

10 Guardians (Eldar Missile launcher)

7 Striking Scorpions (Chainfisted leader)

8 Warp Spiders (Powerbladed Dualgun leader, Withdraw)

8 Warp Spiders (Powerbladed Dualgun leader, Withdraw)

8 Warp Spiders (Powerbladed Dualgun leader, Withdraw)

First, a few observations:  There is exactly ONE Melta Weapon in the whole lot.  This sets the list apart from a majority of lists on its own.  Secondly, it has zero vehicles.  It is a Footdar army.  Eldar are often characterized by their long range fusilades from Warwalkers, and their high AP.  This list does pack some decent AP weaponry, but not on the scale Eldar usually do, nor on typical platforms.  The D-Cannons are the only actual AP 2 threats in the list and they do tend to scatter and are plagued by 24" range which isn't too awesome.  In fact the entire army has incredibly short range for the most part.

Yet I think this list has scary potential.  When you look at list construction abstractly, you find out that there are some easily identifiable parts to a list that are needed to succeed.  They are:

Anti-LandRaider unit (Generally Melta variety weapons, though Scourges and EMP or similar systems can also be used).
General Anti-Armour (large numbers of grenades are exceedingly effective, but this can also include the plethora of STR 7, Rending, Powerfists and other tools for wiping Rhinos and Predators).
Anti-Horde (Sheer volume of fire, and the poor hordes of the world mourn its veritable proliferation)
Anti-Terminator (Just one unit is usually needed to soften them over the course of a couple rounds, and typically this is plasma or something similar)
Anti-Power Armor (Which can be through volume or through AP, or even melee)
Objective taking (Speed kills, peaches!)

So those are the pieces you want to have when you are building a list for success.  The real trick is in evaluating, based on the strategy you will use, how much of any one thing you really need, and also identifying where the areas of overlap can be so that your list will be more efficient.

In this case I built the list to exactly that list of needs.

For the LandRaider, I have sent my brave Autarch to bust it open with the help of the Bright Lance.  This may seem a very small amount but consider my real motivation:  I want whatever is inside to be outside.  Right?  So if I fail to kill it, while a bummer, the stuff inside is sure to come out and play with the prospect of a Warlord kill.  So I kind of get what I want either way.  Since my Warp Spider bodyguard unit can withdraw, it scarcely matters if I get charged; for now the enemy that charged me will be in the open.  I can then split the leader off to try again on the Raider, while the Spiders shoot the contents with their brethren.

Anti-Armour:  This list features a huge number of STR 6 shots, all of which are easily capable of reaching the side arcs of any tank they desire.  Put simply, this list does not fear armour generally.  There is less mechanization in the world these days and so fortunately I won't have to commit alot of effort to that task in more than half the games I'll play, but the army is absolutely filled with competence at this job.  Literally every unit can destroy the sides of more conventional tanks.  Leman Russ's are one area of concern because against a savvy opponent, I will really struggle to pop the 13 side armor on those things.  This is a potential weakness for the list since Leman Russ's tend to come in packs.  The one way to handle that is to force the tank through use of the terrain and movement to turn one way or the other and expose its rear.  Meanwhile I'll need to keep myself spread out in circular deployment until that problem is resolved.  I will acknowledge though that a large grouping of LeMan Russ's would be a real test for the list and perhaps I will seek such a force out as my first test.  That being one of 16 codex's I might face, at least I know I won't see them every round in a tournament in that configuration!

Anti-horde ability just comes purely down to the number of shots you can project.  This army not only projects a lot of shots (and at VERY high STR), but typically will have the initiative when doing so and Warp Generators extend the effective range ofthe weapons from a defensive standpoint.  Due to premeasuring, I can see where your maximum move+ fire distance is and can place myself at its edge and wait like a hunter in the grass.  Or I can just deep strike and outflank quite suddenly, wiping out the front line and then jumping back and prepaing to do it again.

Anti-Terminator duty:  This is where the D-Cannons can shine.  They are simply ruthless weapons, the bane of any multiwound model since they instakill on a 6.  They are Barrage so they can snipe characters.  They obviously work great against the threat of Deep Striking clumped up Terminators and similar threats, especially if they're not in tree cover or some other form of cover.  As a close defense weapon, you can't really find one that's better than a D-Cannon battery.  Whatever doesn't die from its blasts will still have to contend with the Guardian and other fire in the backfield.  We all know that Terminators only really can be finished off through volume of fire anyways.

The horror that this list brings is in its anti-Power Armor ability.  At this there are going to be few armies that can match it.  The Tempest Launchers and Reaper Cannons, The D-Cannons, the Autarch and the Guardian Bright lance and so so so many shots at short range (an area of overlap in the list since volume works against all unit types and the str of the weapon is unusually high making it ideal for blowing through FnP and so on) are just ridiculous in their efficacy.  That I can ignore cover and re-roll failed to wound rolls with the Tempest Launcher is really the scary aspect of it.  That I can snipe with 9 small blast templates in a first round means that any independent character should fear for his life.  The First Blood and Warlord points are easier to get with this list.  So is linebreaker. 

In single objective games it will never be enough for an opponent to control their own objective against me, forcing them into the teeth of my guns.  In the multi-objective games, my army has the speed to steal objectives with alacrity and conviction, and enough high value targets to keep you from ignoring them entirely in favor of my troops (and my troops will often be in reseve anyways).  In kill point missions, I am exposed somewhat because Eldar are squishy and there are 14 fairly small units out there that concentrated fire can eleiminate one at a time.  However to be fair, I also have all three Fast and Heavy slots filled, and so my number of scoring units is very high and very mobile in the missions Big Guns Never Tire and the mission The Scourging.  So I am well equipped for those missions.  In the case of the Heavy support, I stand a relatively good chance of not losing them unless i'm facing a drop army, but in the case of the Scourging, my special abilities are very good for avoiding the unit wipe on the fast attacks (I have withdraw, AND I have the Warp Generators!). 

I feel like the army can compete extrmely well, but the proof is in the pudding.  I will begin practicing with this army and we will see if I can master it.  Come back here later for updates.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Warhammer 40K Beasts and Cavalry

I love them. 

I got my first taste of their delightful ability with the Dark Eldar BeastMaster unit.  The unit simply FLIES across the table and can all but guarantee its arrival on target, on time.  That it carries around so many wounds within it is an added bonus.  It simply is a beastly unit to take down and while it often IS taken down eventually (after all, it's an assault unit, and most assault units, like NFL Running Backs, can only battering ram their way so far before they are stopped) the damage it can do is far in excess of the risk.

The most interesting target for Dark Eldar Beasts is the Parking lots of the world.  Imperial Guard and other Razorspam type lists rely on the effectiveness of their artillery and long range weapons to make the threats manageable before they arrive so that lesser weapons might matter.  They often wrap their vehicles in non-essential units.  So the trick is to assault the guardians from an angle directly opposed to the angle of approach the Beasts want to take, clearing the way for them, leaving the meaty insides of the enemy artillery attack open for the taking.

I personally have used 2 Razorwing flocks, 5 BeastMasters, and 4 Clawed Fiends to tremendous effect.  The Razorwings provide perfect ablative ability, especially in cover and the BeastMasters are distributed to avoid losing morale.

Perhaps scariest of all, adding a fearless character that's fast on the move can really make the unit a LOT tougher to take down.  Baron Sathonyx is a popular choice as an escort for the unit because he gives them better leadership and can take hits.  He's probably the best choice to accompany them but allied choices also exist.

Beastmasters are not the only Beasts in 40K.  The Chaos Space Marines now have a worthwhile Beast option, the Chaos Spawn.  Just 30 point 3 wound Beasts with random coolness in close combat (but all of their random coolness is good randomness). They cause fear and are fearless which really helps them fill a tarpit role if needed and it can potentially even the scales against more able combatants.  They get D6+2 attacks on the charge and possibly many more.  They can be in units of 5 And for 6 points per model, they can get tough 6!

So 168 points for 5 Nurgly Chaos Spawn?  That just is really a fantastic value buy.  Fleet just makes Beasts complete in their speedster role.  I am sure that most people can find a spot for a 168 point unit that is that cool.

The combination that caught my fancy is a force led by Huron Blackheart and a Chaos Lord on Steed of Slaanesh.  The ability to outflank them seems attractive to me and the advantages of Hurons Warlord trait suits my style of gaming very well.

Imperial Guard Cavalry are now seemingly much better also.  Though the rules need a slight adjustment on the issue of their lances, they are a fearsome counter charge unit.  In fact they are exactly that, protecting the lines with vicious power.  You are always torn with this unit between wanting to charge the field or do what they were designed to do:  defend.  But in the end, when they hit at or near full strength they can obliterate most units.  They are prices as a sacrificial unit after that and that's fine.  I don't know if a lot of people will turn to these fun figures given the FOC slot they fill honestly, but if they were to move it to a different FOC, you might start seeing more of them.  I have used Rough Riders for quite a while and really enjoy the whole idea of them, but in actual combat one can see that to take them is to be bold indeed!

I could go on about these unit types but my main encouragement is to try these things in your games and report back here with your experience using them.  I'd be very interested in hearing how that has gone for you and what your thoughts might be on the new Chaos Spawn and really any of the Beasts and Cavalry units there are.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Transports in Warhammer 40K

Tactically, movement with vehicles has become a more important consideration.  The main threat to motorized armies is that if you get blown out of a transport, you can only snap fire in the next round and cannot assault (save for the assault vehicles exception clearly spelled out in the main FAQ) plus may even be pinned   I am going to review just a few tactical questions that come up as regards this movement, but this is not going to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject:

Tricking enemies into not killing your Rhino:

When in a Rhino you have effectively taken the choice of the enemy out of his hands:  He now cannot shoot at what is inside and must kill the Rhino.

However when the unit jumps out in front of the Rhino, it now has cover many times and is now a very unattractive target for multiple reasons besides that.  So think about it for a moment:  If you start embarked, move up 6”, jump out 6” you are now presenting your scoring unit or special weapons unit etc… as a target.  MOST enemies will bite, attacking the unit instead of the vehicle.  This is  what you want them to do actually.  This goes back to my philosophy that having 10 man units is better than 5.  I have ablative wounds whose lose do not take away from my essential offensive abilities and furthermore have effectively shielded the Rhino from any harm!  When I get back in and back away towards my rear objective, the enemy realizes they have wasted a lot of firepower on a unit that was never going to be at the front anyways, and the unit may never be a target again.  Their superficial sacrifice protected other rhinos equally laden with threats.  The effect is to sacrifice the casualties without sacrificing the actual Kill point, and then retreating, allowing the rest of the force to advance much more unmolested.  When you figure the math, it can EASILY take 4 units or more of fire to take down an entire 10 man squad.  It’s a real undertaking.  But the enemy does not want those flamers/whatever in that unit reaching them so they will pound away as long as they need to to stop it from happening.  If they don’t, all the better for you!  Their shooting has also made it more difficult to charge the unit.

So in many ways, a unit thrown out there and fed to the lions is worthwhile if it is large enough.  But this hardly makes any sense to do if you aren’t basically a fully mechanized force because there won’t be enough transports to protect to make it worth it.   The goal is to keep at least one alive and preserve them for the endgame while saving other Rhinos their untimely fate.  You won't cut out all the anti-tank shooting this way but you will limit it at little tactical cost to you.

Advance Behind transports or advance in them?

Assuming you took transports:  Obviously if you advance behind a wall of Chimera’s/whatever you create two problems:  you can’t fire because LOS is blocked and you also aren’t going as fast, meaning you won’t make it to assaults until turn 3 in all likelihood.  Similarly, if you were in a Rhino and got out in round 2, you also aren’t charging til round 3.  So in most cases where the enemy isn’t walking into the charges, you are going to be doing it in round 3 regardless of whether you’re in it!  That is important information to know!

So the actual question to be asked is, given you took transports, is the loss of shots going to be more impactful or is the fact you preserved your unit strength going to matter more?

That’s a pretty interesting question.  Are counting on your longer range shots for good productivity?  IG flashlights probably aren’t doing a ton of damage at range, and so they might well want to advance behind transports.  But if you look at a Plasma veteran unit with 3-4 Plasmaguns, the effect of firing can be greater than the protection of the transport, but you run a SIGNIFICANT risk of losing a lot of them, PLUS losing your firepower in an explosion.   Space Marines don’t fear explosions as much but also cannot fire from their shells as much and so they may well be taking greater risk than reward when trying to fire from the safety of a rhino.

There really are a lot of factors to consider here which makes me think there isn’t a RIGHT answer, but each battle will present you with an APPROPRIATE answer if you think about these issues a little bit.  A broad sweeping statement that one is better than the other seems unlikely to mean much. 

One thing I will say though is this:  HAVING the Transports to do this is probably better than NOT investing in them.  For with them you can take advantage of all the tactical possibilities your opponent leaves you.  Without them, you simply don’t have the options and when a cluster of IG large blasts saturates an area, the devastation can be awe inspiring.  In games where you elect to run behind them I think you are not worse off than if you didn’t.  Tank Shocks attack morale directly without a shot being fired which is a big deal as well.  I cannot tell you how many times a tank shock paid off, but it’s enough to tell you that it matters against more than half the enemies you will face.

Land Raiders

These behemoths are a special case.  I will spare you the boring and advanced  math for figuring out whether the LandRaider is harder or easier to kill in 6E.  It’s harder in general.  In addition  its damage output is greater in general because glances do not steal its ability to do anything.  Of all the 40K vehicles, it is most iconic.  It made Assault Vehicles what they are now and it is the King of them.

This vehicle is perhaps the one vehicle you can safely say you want to be inside of.  Math says so and the Assault vehicle designation is pretty much a promise, not a possibility with this thing.  Though on occasion they may be silenced, that is the exception, not the rule.  It is truly a thing of horror for enemies to see.

One thing I will suggest with Land Raiders that I won’t with any other is that you should trust to its armor and allow it to move at maximum speed at minimum in the first two rounds.  Unlike other transports, you aren’t trying to “beat the odds”.  You are the odds to be beaten!  You can afford this level of aggression with it like no other.  Because its occupants CAN assault after its destroyed, you have little to fear.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Warhammer 40K Heldrake

Traditionally I don’t like to help my opponents win tournaments I happen to be in.  However, when my friend said he wasn’t planning on bringing his Helldrake to a tournament, I leapt up and Nerd’d out on him about it and told him he simply must avoid such foolish notions in the future.

The HellDrake is quite impressive.  I am aware that Skyfire exists but Skyfire is no more guaranteed to kill anything than its non-Skyfire counterparts would if firing at a Chimera and its not cheap to get.  Wringing ones hands over that is a fools errand and its not like you wont take a shot at shutting the big guns up anyways.

Just to review, both his movement and shooting phase are attacks.  Already that is a little scary.  Like The VoidRaven bomber, though they do it different ways, this monster can hurt you twice per turn, something most units cannot do and when there are only 8-12 Kill points on the board many times, that’s not a small thing.  In addition they provide an enormous punch that can fly from threat to threat, weakening them to the point of ineffectiveness so that your actual force doesn’t suffer the attrition it otherwise would have.  This Heldrakes need to be proximate to its target also means it takes more risks than some flyers but as its strength is in flanking anyways, it costs the bird of prey nothing to simply limit the enemy to the absolute minimum shots possible by flanking.

It can cook people in fortifications but good, wipe out entire squads dumped from Rhinos, peel the armor off multiple vehicles at a time when it gets the right angle (and a little luck) and it forces heavy weapons to fire at something that is a MUCH lower percentage play than any alternate target.  It cannot be hit by a plethora of weapons and really, if you can knock out the 2-wound sky-fire cannon in round 1, your opponent will cry a lot when the Helldrake arrives.

This is going to be a VERY popular model!

One thing about models like this is they really require you to build the list around THEM.  So if you’re going to field these death machines, you are going to have to think outwards from them rather than the more traditional HQ and scoring units that most plan around.

My question was, does the Helldrakes price seem worth it and if so how many SHOULD you afford?  It is by no means inexpensive.  The more elite the list, the more you cannot afford the smaller number of baskets for your points to sync into.

After seeing it in action, I have zero problem recommending two.  I’m not a “redundancy” fanboi but if the goal is for you to flank with them, there are two flanks, and you don’t wanna’ be in each other’s way.  This allows yout to ”cross over” your two birds as they pass the centerline and probably keep them active on the board longer.  So strategically two makes more sense than one unless you just aren’t going to flank.

In a list that does this, you need some High STR, HIGH AP stuff to bust the Interceptors. Early.  So make this a priority in the list.  Just one unit should do it if it’s an accurate  heavy squad with good range (or reach).  Alternatively you could rely on ordinance to do it in. but doing so really limits the Defiler in its role so try to take a dedicated anti-Cannon unit.   Lascannons make the most sense but failing that, something that pours out High AP volume will work too.  Stingwings, and even (gasp) Storm Troopers are actually pretty good for this duty.  What’s important though is that you do it at all cost because the devastation you are going to cause is worth every point lost to this pursuit in the end.  And heavy squads like Devastators are tailor made for the job.

One other thing:  Ive talked about it before but keep in mind:  whatever the NEXT target for the Winged wonders is going to be becomes a lesser priority for the rest of the army, so keep that in mind while you are choosing targets for the accumulation of skulls for the skull throne.

Victis Chaos!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where have all the 40K Cowboys gone?

I was told the other day that no one would EVER go for the crazy deep strikes I do, nor engage in the sheer volume of tank shocking through terrain that I dare.  I always smile wryly when I hear comments like this and tell them "Just rolling in Vegas baby".  You don't live forever and really, how many chances are you going to get to win this ONE game?  Just this one right?  It's 4th Down and 2, and you're down 17 points...  You gotta' go for it.  So are you playing to win...or playing not to lose.

Cowboys play to win.

So where have all the Cowboys gone?  This careful, methodical lustreless form of 40K wherein all risks are minimized even at the expense of reward has me perplexed.  I cannot even begin to tell you how affected many games have been by the bold audacity to simply press the envelope and ally your fates with the dice.  I look at a situation where only ONE direction threatens me on a deepstrike and think:  "the odds are in my favor".  The listless accountant playing against me with the dull eyes and the joyless voice tells me "but you could scatter into me...".  Is he serious?  Lose the chance to charbroil an entire unit so that I won't lose a couple dudes?  HARDLY!  The Mishap table is now so generous that one MUST take the risk.

Now tactically, you don't turn yourself into a fool.  If you can't scatter without a 70% chance of hitting something bad in any direction, maybe you don't go there.  But strategically, you gotta' Cowboy up when theres' two hit markers on the dice and 83% blue skies around you!  Else why even have a deep striking unit?

Tank Shocking is another thing.  You now HAVE to roll a die for EACH separate piece of terrain you hit.  This increases the danger of such meneuvers dramatically, even with a Dozer Blade.  But what I see is that if I do not get to my attack point in time, I may get stranded or WORSE if I DON'T take a shot at it.  Getting a free morale check out of the enemy for moving to where you wanted to be anyways sounds pretty good to me.  The gains outweight the potential disaster and an immobilized tank is more likely to get shot dead than be lost to assault if you're trying to move forward anyways.  Go for it!  Breaking morale is a really large part of the 40K flavor.  Men and women run.  Self preservation does take over sometimes.  Force every advantage!

I sense a calculated austerity in players, especially hard core tourney ones, and I wish very much for adventurous opponents.  But perhaps I should not.  For if they were more adventurous, they would threaten me more.  And we don't want that do we? ;)

I'd like to hear the craziest or funnest risk you've taken in a 40K game.  Those are stories worth sharing.  Just reply with yours if you want (or dont if you don't).  Hopefully it's not a cricket fest out there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

40K Eldar in 6th Edition

I am curious as to how people are feeling about Eldar in 6th Edition.  The models have always been some of the coolest there are if you like the fuffy elf thing (and I do).  Unlike some 4th Edition Codex's, it still wins tournaments in the right hands!

6th Edition changed a LOT.  As a very shooty army, the Eldar benefitted from those changes.  Unlike Tau, which have a built in inability to fight fisticuffs, the Eldar actually can do so fairly well.  It is no wonder that many people find the Eldar a lot easier to use than Tau if they like that type of army.

Below I have included a few notes on the Eldar and what I have seen of them.  Please add your own observations to the comments!

Avatar:  The fearless bubble is a bigger deal now and the Avatar is already a fantastic threat.  That bubble means so much to an army like Eldar, especially when playing Guardian Heavy.  The Wailing Doom is more terrifying, Avatar immunities really stand out in the new meta and its hella hard to take down.  For the price, it really is tough to argue with its stature amongst 40K HQ's.

Precision shot (see my previous blog on that) has made the already good Pathfinders into very popular units as allies as well.  They have more punching power and range than their Guardian buddies; and they can take a beatting better.  Pathfinders have really risen from their position as the unit that "if you have the points left at the end" you'll take them.  The new Psyker powers make these scary.  Eldar players will find it a mistake to overload on them.  Still, 10 of them is a great investment.

The Eldar Jetbikes have also become a really fine choice as allies.  Their range and firepower is nice, but its their speed and what it can do for an army later in the game that propels them to a new and much more appreciated status.  The unit is solid in every way that matters.

Wraithguard were a popular "flavor" pick for some armies but I really dont think they were as good in 5th Edition.  In 6th Edition, where they are speedier and more able to benefit from psykers and characters, these sometime liabilities are now very powerful.  Their toughness and the addition of a 2+ armor character really makes them about as scary as they always should have been.  They can blast anything in the game to smithereens and still charge, they no longer need a transport and you can take them in larger numbers with confidence and if you take 10, as most know, they are now eligible to be a Troops choice.  Of all the Elites, these ones really shine a lot more and present a serious problem for the enemy indeed.

Heavy Support: 
Barrages are now more terrifying and the Night Spinner which was a "kinda cool" option, but hardly worth investing in other than for cool points but now it seems really good!  Sniping with Barrages is nice and slowing units down has taken on way more importance than it used to, making even a near hit highly valuable to the Eldar forces.

In fact that same reason has really upgraded my thoughts about both the Tempest Launcher and the D-Cannons.  Here again, these units were always quite valuable, but to see their efficacy now is to marvel.  In particular the D-Cannon is a devastating defensive weapon.  Though hampered by range, it's potential is frightening to any unit in 40K.  The sniping aspect, here again, just adds to the craziness.

Fast Attack:  Reliability in the role the unit has is the key word. 
This is still the weaker part of the codex, and Warp Spiders are still kings within its fold, and none of the reasons for that seemed to have changed.

However, I have to say that the Swooping Hawks are way more interesting with reserves always on a 3+.  That reduces the "tax" for using them well to just one Autarch and as anti-tank goes, they are very good at their job and able to get to the artillery batteries that can be so burdensome.  While the unit still suffers its main downside (SLIGHTLY overcost'd in nearly everyones opinion), no unit in the army can do it quite as reliably.  With Biomancy, you have the potential to make these units into a much stronger choice as well, reducing enemy toughness scores and if you have doom to go with it...  Even their blasters can matter.

I doubt seriously that most will take the Swooping Hawks, but they have grown synergistically in usefulness and of course are fairly aesthetically pleasing anyways.

In General:
The Eldar don't seem to have gotten weaker on any fronts.  The Howling Banshees got worse due to defensive fire but other than them, there really isn't a unit you can point to that suffered terribly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

40K 6th Edition look at Sisters of Battle

EDIT:  short Battle report will be found in the comments section

6th Edition is really making it clear that you can't have all your eggs in one basket.  Monster deathstar units, while still scary and for good reason are no longer as practical as they were.

Below is the list I am now going to be using for 1850 tournament play.  In 2000 Point games, a small Seraphim unit is added.  Thoughts are welcome!

1 Saint Celestine

My deep Strike Element.  She can bolster a unit if need be or just tangle one up in a pinch as needed but her real value is objective stealing, Line Breaking and of course denying the enemy my Warlord point through the power of her resurrecton.

   1 Uriah Jacobus, Protector of the Faith

Stabilizing force for the army.  His abilities buff a unit considerably and turn them into at least a passing attempt at a melee threat, albeit only against middle of the road units.  His ability to re-roll the number of Faith Points each round is his primary vaue.  Still, when he is with the Sisters repentia he does make them unstoppable killing machines.

   7 Repentia Squad, + Mistress of Repentence

They trail behind the force as a counter attack unit.  They can knock out any tank or fortification they come across and are Fleet, meaning they dont strictly NEED a Rhino, though they can steal one to start the mission.  They begin the game as Fearless and with the Shield of Faith and Feel No Pain, they are not defenseless.

   9 Battle Sister Squad, + Flamer x2
      1 Sister Superior + Melta Bombs
      1 Rhino + Dozer Blade Hunter-killer Missile

   9 Battle Sister Squad + Flamer x2
      1 Sister Superior+ Melta Bomb
      1 Rhino + Dozer Blade + Hunter-killer Missile

   9 Battle Sister Squad + Flamer x2
      1 Sister Superior+ Melta Bombs

The addition of the Hunter Killer missile takes pressure off the unit once it disembarks, forces a little more decision making on the enemy.  The meltabomb on the sergeant means the unit can attack any target type and potentially survive the dreadnoughts of the world.  They are best on defense and are equipped with flamers to help them fill that role.  Typically will have them walk to objectives after the first wave of attacks has hit to soften the blow and so they aren't the "obvious" target anymore.  Their Acts of Faith make them better on defense as well.

Fast Attack: Dominion Squad
   9 Dominion Squad+ Simulacrum Imperialis + Meltagun x4
      1 Dominion Superior+ Melta Bombs
      1 Rhino + Searchlight + Dozer Blade + Hunter-killer Missile

Fast Attack: Dominion Squad
   9 Dominion Squad+ Simulacrum Imperialis + Flamer x4
      1 Dominion Superior+ Melta Bombs
      1 Rhino+ Searchlight + Dozer Blade + Hunter-killer Missile

Dominion will scout forward on missions we go first on and ourtflank in missions we do not.  That flexibility and the help of St. Celestine gives the army true mobility and threat range to all parts of the board and will make line breaking easier.  Also, they are Fast attack so in the Scourging Mission, taking objectives becomes much easier for this army.  That the units can twin link themselves and re-roll failed attempts to do so makes them a very potent offensive punch.

Heavy Support: Retributor Squad
   5 Retributor Squad + Simulacrum Imperialis + Heavy Flamer x4
      1 Retributor Superior + Melta Bombs
      1 Rhino + Dozer Blade + Hunter-killer Missile

These roaming vagabonds are a great counter-attack unit.  They shore up a flank so that the enemy cannot run away.  Armed with grenadesd and bombs as well as the infantry killing ability to Rend with their Heavy Flamers is pretty cool.  Even Vehicles can be downed by their powerful flame.  get them to a Tower and watch the place and people burn.  Uriah makes sure they don't miss.

   1 Exorcist

   1 Exorcist

Though I won a tournament recently without these beasts in the force, I have found in other games tha the reach of their gun is just a vital component to have.  Their unreliability is legendary however, and so I have decided to take two of them.  Together they should be able to down the enemy predator(s) or armored firebases so that the Sisters of Battle are on a more even footing against the foe.  There should be enough smaller tanks to protect them from Drop podding assassins and the like.  their very high point of fire (the top of the organ pipes) makes them ideal for avoiding intervening models and terrain as well and they do have the 6+ Shield of Faith save like all Sisters of Battle units do.

Points:  1850
Models:  66 Infantry + 7 Armor = 73 models
Units: 16

Monday, October 29, 2012

What makes Warhammer 40K games fun?

It’s a basic question.  After you play for a long time I think some kind of forget what makes it fun because we are just sort of invested in it to the point that we feel obligated, in a sense, to keep playing.  That compunction (and some would say, addiction) has been talked about by a lot of gamers.  Many who have moved on to exclusively play other games cite very different reasons for leaving 40K which leads you to think:  well okay, then why was it fun before if it isn’t fun for them now?  And that led me to think about what I found fun about it.  After all, I have branched out into many more games than most gamers ever do and spent more money than most gamers can spend.  You might think “Why bother spending money in so many places and splitting time amongst so many hobbies if you don't even know why you like it?”  The only answer I can think of is that they are fun.  But are they?  Do I really believe that or did I just sort of stop asking myself that question along the way to avoid having to justify the cost?

So I came up with this list of reasons why I like playing this game and would be interested in seeing yours posted as well.

  1. Friends.  I have grown my base of friends (and enemies, oddly enough) a great deal through this game and as one who has never really fit perfectly into anyone’s circle, making friends was a big draw for me.  I think differently and I am keenly aware of that.  Here was a place I could BE different and be accepted.  Of all the reasons I could list, making friends has grown from it’s place way down the list to become a larger and larger reason for continuing to be a part of the gaming community and 40K is in fact the largest of its kind outside of CCG's..
  2. Warhammer 40,000 allows me to compete.  I am at my core a competitive person who has always felt a strong need to try and be the best.  One needs arenas to fight in and sports only lasts for so long.  I was a three sport athlete in High School and got a full ride scholarship for college because I wanted to be the best at school too.  After that what do you do to feed that need?  Well you compete in the job place and in my case (so i started a business).  I also found Warhammer and those kinds of games give me the ARENA to fight to the top in another way, a sensation I find enjoyable even when I don’t quite make it.  As a song once said, "It's the struggle that makes us strong". 
  3. Warhammer is a story.  I am a big time role player and I love the ideas and the stories behind the factions.  The universe has been fleshed out a great deal.  While most games are miniatures companies, Warhammer sort of elevated itself above that and made it a story that you can be a part of.  I identify with the motivations of the factions.  The Story is appealing to me (most of it) and being a role player I can hardly resist inserting myself into it.
  4. The likeness of some of the models to things I held dear when I was younger is cool, such as the animated series Robotech, Transformers, Silver Hawks, Inhumanoids, StarCraft the video game, Mechwarrior the video game, star wars…  The list goes on of things that connect me to those memories and joys.  It’s a subliminal thing but it’s real.  I can play the Tau Empire and imagine myself fighting for the Southern Cross army against the Invid in my Tau Hove Ttank.  I can imagine the Bioroids and other elements of anime in general that are represented.  The dying elven race is an old and used Tolkien idea but it's great because I loved Tolkien.  And I love the models and they’ve gotten a ton better since even I started in 2004 which just adds to it.  
  5. Recognition.  While it’s not higher on the list, it’s there.  Being good at something gets you noticed, and having people ask you for help and advice will make you feel good and validated, I don’t care who you are, even if it is only a game.  That they would even ask me my opinion is kind of a motivator for me.  I almost feel compelled to master the game just so I am actually worthy of being asked those questions and don’t let people down.  It’s one thing to say you’re good.  Much harder to actually BE good and harder still to stay that way as the rules change and evolve.
  6. The mental Exercise is good for anyone.  You must not only account for what an opponent might do before you even get to the table, but the terrain forces your mind, in every game, to shift it’s gears into operation.  So much is different from game to game that the same two players facing each other with the same army must do things completely differently every game and some units that were great in Game 1 are now trash in game 2 because of the terrain or mission…or both!  So there is so much mental exercise going on and it’s good for you.  The geometry of the game and the List hammering are all sort of necessary byproducts of the struggle to be able to adapt and overcome the battlefield situation and it feels good not to stare at numbers on a computer screen all day.  Situation is king.  The game provides me a great way to keep my mind engaged.

So there are some reasons why I still love the game after all this time.  And I do love it.  It isn’t just something I do here or there for fun.  I actively find myself trying to grow it, writing this blog to help people with it or letting people borrow armies to get new players involved. My passion extends to a lot of games other than 40K too but most of them are cool to me for very similar reason.

But the most important thing I get out of it is friends and an excuse to be with them.  People just like you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Warhammer 40K Double Force Organization (DFO)

What does it add?

I tried to love it but all I can see when I finish a double force org list is the ridiculous levels of Heavy weapons redundancy which stilts the batle in favor unduly towards the person who goes first.  Armies start looking awfully one dimensional.

I do not like the idea that the roll to go first becomes this important.  That is what happens though with nearly every army when you embrace the DFO at tournament.  The SIX Longfangs are GONG to get First Blood if they go first.  It's not an if.  There's no amount of clever deploying that will hide you from so many in order to avoid that.  Imagine a Daemon army where one HALF the army Deep Strikes at the same time and all SIX units deep striking are triple Flamers of Tzeentch.  6 Dominion squads?  Oh yeah.

In the Relic Mission this is a big issue.  First Blood is the key to being able to tie that mission and even if you get the Relic before the guy who goes first, he can ALMOST assuredly tie YOU.  So the main mission isn't even the Relic anymore once he has First Blood which heWILL if he rolls to go first with almost every army.  That might be the case without DFO, you might be thinking, but it would not be the GIVEN it is with DFO.

Lets assume the Relic mission didn't show up in your tourney though.  Best case.  Is first turn still unduely affecting the game with DFO?  It sure is.  With so many heavy units, you can most definitely blow through much more "secure" bodyguards than you used to in round one and that bodyguard unit the Warlord is hiding in better not be one of the types you need to kill in Scourging or the Big Gunz or Purge the Aliens. 

Remember how much people HATED 8th Edition for turning it into a "Horde in the middle" thing instead of a tactical movement heavy exercize?  Now horde units are nearly a must in evey 40K force in order to guard against the heavy weapons overload and some codex's simply don't do that.

Over the course of the game you can still com back from that round 1 beatdown, and as one who tends to make a lot of comebacks with his style of play, I'm not saying you will lose.  But you can never get First Blood again and you're really all but guaranteed to get it with six heavy (or whatever) weapons squads firing.

I like the First Blood objective, but I feel like DFO just stilts things to much to "player 1".

Monday, October 8, 2012

40K Chaos Space Marine Codex 6th Edition

For more Chaos Coverage also see:


The other shoe has dropped and the proverbial stork has delivered a new baby from Phil Kelly.

May I just say how nice it is to read a codex where you can build ten different versions of a list and do well?  That is what I see coming down the pike. 

As usel, Phil Kelly went options nuts and he pretty much DE-constructed every unit and made them into lego blocks.  The most basic of examples and what I mean are below:

Chaos Space marines:  the basic soldier setup is terrific.  Instead of paying for options you don't want, he deconstructed the unit.  Now the basic fig costs 13 points in essence and you ca THEN add the various things that make it equivalent to an old Space Mrine or slightly better, or somewhere inbetween.  The beauty and elegance of this deconstruction is that you can use the Troops choice for objective babysitting or make them an active part of your attack strategy.  Your choice.  If you make them an active part, they cost ther same as before.  If not, they cost less. 

Mutilators:  this unit wil not be well received in general, as it is a limited obliterator.  As Phil did throughout the codex, he took the melee aspect of he Obliterator and poured it into a much more well suited unit that only does melee, no shooting.  At a considerable reduction in cost, he made what is in essence 6 wounds worth of Assault Terminators that can actually use any of the various Power weapon variants that matter, and gave them Eternal Warrior for 155.  With a Mark of Tzeentch (4+ invul), you're paying 189 for them and if you like Hatred as a rule forthem, that's just 12 points for the three of them.  Far more adaptable melee threat and not terribly cost'd.  it won't get a lot of praise BUT it is a great example of the deconstruction ideal at work here. 

LandRaider:  20 points less expensive than th Space marine version and with the option to take a veritable cornocopia of awesome, but the main one is the Dirge Caster.  It eliminated Overwatch for its unit!  Yet here again, if you want no upgrades, you just saved 20 points over what a Space Marine would be charged.  Land Raiders ae apparently more common in Chaos Armies.

Raptors and Warp Talons represent a similar "division of labor" as the Mutilator does.  The Warp Talons are a melee only oriented raptor unit with a PAIR of lightning claws for very few points and the ability to Blind (Reduces BS and WS drastically) nearby opponents who might strike at them after they Deep Strike.  Don't want to spend all those points on the Warp Talons or you need your Drop troops to kill tanks for you?  Raptors are deconstructed Assault Marines with the Fear rule installed and they can take a plethora if icons, marks and even (again) hatred to make them fearsome hammers if thats your pleasure.  But if not, you're not forced to overpay for a unit with options you may or ma not find overly useful.  The "base package" of most units sort of follows this antra of not forcing you to pay for what you do not need the unit to do.

the Heavy Support units really carry on this pattern.  A maulerFiend and aForgefiend are regenerating Fleet war engines with a 5+ invul save!  the ForgeFiendis devastating in its shooting phase, especially when it activates the once per game DaemonForge ability they both have.  The Maulerfiend moves like a Beast does, lightning quick and giving most enemies more than they want to handle.  Both are fairly good at their job, but the split role allows them to focus onwhat they are good at and allows the General to decide which need he needs to fill without again spending points on the element of the unit he doesn' want.  TheDefiler is sort of the hybrid of the two, carrying a load of firepower and melee ability but without the fancy speed albeit as such it is more expensive than either one and a discerning general now can choose if versatiluty or purposefulness is his need there.

Other generally important tactical considerations come up in the new codex.

Chosen are no longer scouts.  To get an outflanking unit you now must rely on your Warlord Trait to give it to you or have a guy with a steed of Slaanesh leading the unit (although, lets face ha ving a cool model lik that ever realy a DOWN side?) because the Steed grants the Chaos Lord, and therefore his unit, the Outflank abiliy.

Bikers are much cheaper now and will be seeing far more widespread use I imagine.  Their old price with champion was 114 and is now only 70!  The bike is decontructed, so if you want the 10 leadership you used to get, you just pay an extra point per model and now they also get hatred!  A better way to look at it is, if you were to pay 114 NOW you'd have a 3 man BikeSquad that has Hatred, and an icon of vengeance or off Wracth buit into that cost!  Needless to say, better bikes.  here again, if you don't need bikes to do anything but sneak objectives late, no need for all the points upgrades...but they are there if the Chaos Gawds offer of might proves too much...

Good stuff so far.  Your thoughts?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Warhammer 40,000 Fluff

The Fluff of the 40K universe is copious, now celebrated in novels, novellas, online websites dedicated to certain factions, forums, magazines and a long list of other places.

The fluff is most likely why the game has enjoyed popularity for so long.  The interesting stories of the different races and mankind’s struggle to survive a universe that has grown awfully cluttered with dangers to their sovereignty that have necessitated apocalyptic measures just to defend, on battlefields as far reaching as Death worlds, Agriworlds and even the battle for your very soul.

Star Wars made Pseudo-mysticism and science fiction meld well and probably spawned a fair amount of these kinds of things, but few in the world can boast the popularity of the 40,000 universe.

So you would think, then, that the story would be sacrosanct, something to be protected and proud of.  That of all the game elements, whether it be rules or artwork, the one thing they wouldn't change too substantially was the underlying story of the various factions.  Advance the story?  Sure.  Most games do that.  But utterly cast out all history and remake it?  Are you not playing with fire and arguing with success at that point?  I think you are.

That is just what has been done.  In the newest codex's, instead of adding to the ongoing story, they have literally DELETED it in many places.  Literally. 

In the main rulebook which so many players will probably never own thanks to the overwhelming demand for the "mini-rulebook", you will find that seriously important story elements are simply gone.  Vanished in fact.  Gone is mention of the Exterminatus order on Tau.  Gone is the mention of the fungi-origins of the Orks.  Gone is the dominance of the Star Gods in Necron mythology and in practice.  Gone is the entire history of the Grey Knights, replaced with the Men in Black image (and the retarded moniker of being the 666th Space Marine Legion, a drop of irony in a pool of tongue in cheek references that make it hard to take that seriously).  Sisters of Battle aren't even part of the Inquisition anymore (yeah...  I know right?) and instead are the Ecclesiarchy only.  Now they were always the Roman Catholic Church of the Emperor and weren't SPECIFICALLY part of the Inquisition originally, but they were adopted into the Inquisition in the last codex for almost 8 years...only to be expelled again?   I could understand them always having been in some way part of the Inquisition and it just not being seen as that important, then having it made more important.  But to pretend like it never happened?  Not even a line of text to explain it away?  Even crappy movies know to do that.

The Dark Eldar codex was a tremendously well done book, and hope rose anew after that for fluff, but really, it's a disappointing spiral we are on.  The Chaos Space marine codex and the Advanced ordering stuff looks promising and I am hopeful that it will be a return to glory for the somewhat...  uninteresting codex that so many abandoned in disgust.  Dark Angels appear to be close on their heels. 

I just pray that when the dust settles, they won't turn Tau into amphibious creatures instead of the steppe hunters they've always been.  But you never know...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

40K Sisters of Battle Tactica…6.0

With the tremendous success I have had, using three different builds within the confines of the new Sisters of Battle Codex, I feel qualified now to offer some observations for 6th Edition.

My first observations are on how they interact with some of the newer rules and then some more tactical observations.
Overwatch:  One of their most glaring weaknesses is in melee.  Simply put, the Sisters of Battle cannot hang with most moderate quality assault units.  The Overwatch mechanic rewards the Sisters of Battle with a way to even the odds and there is little in the way of disincentives for taking flamers.  Clearly no army boasts more flame than the Sisters of Battle.   This is accentuated by another rule:
Pistols and Grenades!  They have them now.  Vehicles fall to Krak grenades just fine now that you’re hitting on 3+ at worst.  Grenades have made it a no brainer to have a lot of flame and mobility, even over harder hitting options because grenades can do what meltas were often called to do.  The base Sisters of Battle unit I used in all cases took just Flamers and Combi-flamers.  The impressive damage on offense and on defense is fairly dramatic.  Another rule that helps them make this choice is that they have PISTOLS now.  This always seemed like such a necessary change to me and I am glad they did.  Pistols make them much more deadly and a single Grenade can even be thrown by one of the sisters in place of their pistol shot before they charge if they even need to! 
Challenges:  As squishy as Sisters are, it was quite common for an enemy IC to detach and attack a unit of Sisters on his own.  With the rules allowing you to re-roll dice in a challenge once per 5 chix in the unit, this REALLY makes up for the strength and stat differences between those charging and the leader being charged.  Challenges insulate the rest of the unit from overkill as an added bonus.  I literally can’t count how many times opponents “dissed” my Sisters by attacking with an IC.  They were right to do it.  Now my IC’s and my Sister Superiors are at a more even footing, and could even kill an aggressive IC with a bit of luck.  They can take Power Axes too, which enhances the Sisters of Battle in attempting this feat; and a 6+ invul tilts the wheel yet further.  So while they will never be overwhelming favorites in challenges, just the protection of the unit from overkill will be worth its weight in gold many times. 
So using the rule, the Sisters can either fire + absorb a charge without the challenge (to ensure they break and leave the enemy out in the open) OR they can fire pistols + flamers, charge and challenge, giving them a good chance of not ending up in the open themselves.
Mixed AP:  you choose the order that wounds with different AP are taken.  As such, mixed weapons units are now fairly interesting.  Two of my Retributors have two Heavy Bolters and two Multi-meltas each.  If a unit is being led by a Terminator sort, I can say “AP first”.  If the Terminator is behind his men like the coward he is, then you just reverse it.  Wound allocation has changed and had a profound effect on how useful or even “viable” (as some internet snoots are wont to term things) mixed weapon units are.  Devastator Squads with a couple Plasma Cannons are a great example of how the Mixed AP can really be used to advantage with, say, Heavy Bolters for killing out of sight targets that you normally can't with Heavy Bolters.
Pre-Measuring:  Staying at a maximum distance always had it’s virtue but now is easier.  The force is more surgical because it knows EXACTLY how long it will take to execute the plan, when one can sacrifice movement, and when one can’t.  Those pieces of information help ALL armies but when your EFFECTIVE range for almost the entire force is 8”-12”, the importance of that fact increases exponentially for Sisters players.  Sans a couple units, you really aren’t hitting from much farther than that in most games. 

So then how to PLAY with this army now?
Pushing the field and getting right on top of the enemy aggressively seems an unlikely but excellent way to go.  Meltaguns in your squads aren’t the absolute necessity they might have once seemed for the normal Troop Choices.  Only Land Raiders and Flyers are really beyond the normal scope of the army to deal with thanks to grenades. 

Gone are the days of trying to keep the game close until the end, then obliterating large chunks of the enemy with little in the way of return enemy fire.  Though that was pretty wise before (as assault armies were just ridiculously awesome at killing us), it now is not as necessary.  Wholesale slaughter as you go is A-OK and losses along the way are easier…much easier… to bear as I will explain.  But first a word about deploying:
The Bell Formation works really well for surging forward.  Rommel used it in Africa and in essence the tanks form a wide shell around the spread out army as it trundles forward.  The army takes up as much space as it can and keeps in motion to make it tougher to hit, but the real value of this almost horseshoe like formation is to frustrate deep strikers and those approaching early.  If you force the DS units out of the bell, then they don’t just risk mishap to try and attack, but the “innards” of the bell can almost all bring down crushing firepower without real risk of reprisal or gain by the enemy.  There effectively isn’t a safe “flank” to go after that won't get you killed.  This formation means you will not spread out as far with heavy weapons as other armies do either (explained more later).  It would take a massive Terminator unit to weather such a blizzard of shots and all the points spent on them are neutered.  Wise enemies won’t want to be near that bell when it is near full strength and can’t know which armored portions will actually crumble in time.  The enemy doesn’t get to time its drops unless they are Tau so the first two turns this really helps.
The force can overwhelm enemies with firepower that is both intense and affordable at short range.  The problem you find is that the platforms they are fired from (Sisters of Battle) are super brittle and enemy’s will pick off minimum sized units with relative ease and will very often outdistance you enough to do it to key units before you do it to them.  That leads to my next point.
While in other armies, minimizing unit sizes to allow maximum special weapons is popular, you might want to rethink that with Sisters of Battle.  10 man units, or at least LARGER units than are required, pay dividends for an army that MUST trek forward to be effective.  For example, I use an 8 Sister Retributor Squad with 4 x heavy Flamers in a rhino to keep them viable longer and frustrate the enemy.  Sisters of Battle units absolutely WILL take casualties faster than a lot of armies.  There’s nothing you can do to stop it and spending a bunch of points on weapons in units only to see them go away before they do anything is a pointless waste.  What you might gain in getting another piece of wargear or tiny extra unit is not worth the loss of the utility in the more important unit.  So take ablative wounds.
On that course of thought, my Dominion Squads are fully 10 strong, which many have discouraged, but I encourage.  The Dominions are simply devastating and if you use other units to screen while they do their grisly work, they can do it more than enough times to please any General.  Similarly, the precious scoring units already start 10 strong.  Embrace that not as a “tax” but instead as a smart move.  In fact I am sporting a 17 Sister strong scoring unit to envelope my HQ.  Warlord points are too important to just give up.  In the Relic Mission, you can tie as long as you don’t lose the Warlord and do get First blood, something Sisters of Battle are rather adept at getting!  If you go minimal in unit size, you might give up First Blood.

Seraphim need an Eviscerator if you take them.  Definite must.  I’d take one in any Seraphim squad and keep the squad small.  It’s my exception to the "super-size" rule because they MUST deep strike so close to the enemy to be effective that there’s nothing you can do to mitigate charges.  They kind of act on an island.  All you can do is take a few with you on the way out.  Still, as a “Drop wall” barricade, they work admirably and the pain they inflict is worthwhile.  Waltzing them across a field seems a poor move though.  They “outrun their coverage”, to use football parlance and become too easy as a target of opportunity.

Another Tactical point to be made:  range is an issue for Sisters of Battle and putting your retributors on the far wings is a mistake.  They simply can’t hit enough of the board when split off like that.  One is hitting or the other is hitting but rarely both.  So when deploying Retributors, they actually belong closer to center.  With so many units screening for them, they are far safer and will fire more times per game in the end.  This positioning also makes them harder to see by as many enemy units when obscured by the intervening vehicles, terrain and models.  As the board thins out, they will have nice shots to take as your last line of offense (and defense at times).  Cover saves aren’t AS big a deal now, so whereas giving enemies cover might have been a reason not to centrally deploy before, I’d say go ahead and place them closer to center now and even walk them up round 1 to get them into a better prepared position.  Last point on those:  being closer to center steals the “cheap kill” certain jump units or scouts are designed to get.

Don’t spend points on a Bastion to keep Retributors firing.  The static position of the bastion and the Retributor range make this kind of an iffy proposition for the price.   Sky shields are equally wasted.  You just have no unit that can take advantage of it for the price.
Aegis Defense lines can be used though and set straight in the middle of the board to slow enemies down from one flank or the other.  This little tactics of using it for that purpose rather than for static firing position plays to the Dominions strength as scouting units.  If you put it in a “maze” formation, you can really increase the DEPTH of the terrain feature as well which hurts enemy movement for a longer period potentially.  Having it farther forward is nothing but an asset for Sisters players, as Dominion take control of the cannon with their “off” models and patiently fire from behind it with tremendous effect.  Just slowing an enemy’s move and/or charge for one round is big big big for Sisters of Battle who aren’t assault friendly.  Slowing the enemy also feeds right into the Celestian notes (see below) as far as helping them do their job.

Battle Conclaves, Penitent Engines and Sisters Repentia are the legit melee threats in this army.  Amongst them, the Sisters Repentia seems the most economical for the destruction they cause and a unit of 7 or 8 dishes out a lot of pain against all unit types.  Now that their rules essentially are all positives and no negatives, you can REALLY use them to truck up as a counterattack unit.  They can't be in a Rhino to start but are fleet and so can even afford to start in the open behind your wall of other stuff.  The threat of Dominions and Retributors will likely keep the enemy focus on them plenty long enough to get up there and once there, the enemy now has multiple reasons not to want to charge anyways!  For whatever unit charges first will likely eat Repentia chain fists.  The Repentia ability to kill even in death is potent and not to be underestimated.  I have simultaneously killed Terminator Squads with them even though the Terminators killed all of them!  Pretty cool.  Tactically, the Repentias need to lag behind in the early going so they don’t become a target too early.   It is NOT a terrible idea to invest more points in the squad itself instead of a Rhino to carry them.  The extra casualties they can suffer effectively ARE their rhino.  Alternately a Rhino is a pretty cool idea but remember:  You can’t disembark and assault.  So they are a little slower to join the fray at times when ensconced in plasteel.
Celestians got a raw deal… Again….  Until you realize what they are best at:  Charging the enemy and clogging them for exactly two assault phases at very low cost.  If you foresee that the enemy will likely get the jump on you, feed them a garbage unit like a Rhino and then use the Celestians to defend the rest of the units for two phases by charging into melee Fearlessly, giving everyone behind them an entire round to kill other targets followed by setting the clogged unit up for annihilation as well.  “Super units” sometimes just cannot be stopped any other way but to delay them and then hit them with everything, but committing everything before the rest of the army is softened can be tough.  So Celestians are terrific at their cost for this duty when they go Fearless (either through their Act of Faith or through the bubble Kyrinov can provide).  The stumbling block they represent is the other unit I would not max out in size, but 6 or 7 of them is about right against most foes.

A lot of this advice comes down to the concept of “Acceptable losses”.  Your Sisters of Battle are scoring units until the last one dies!  Objectives are more important in all missions than actual kills.  3:1!!!  Stay at a 2:1 kill ratio and they cannot catch up if you take 3 point objectives, even when you seem to be losing the fight!  Most armies will not have the personnel to keep taking losses like you can.  Objectives WILL eventually open up from the bleeding.  That’s the moment of victory for Sisters of Battle. 

All those faithful allowed to die are vindicated and proven worthy by the victory they bring the Emperor and his loving servants!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

War Zone traits and my idea on them.

Warzone Traits

The game has many pages to read through and as so often happens, many people do not read all the interesting extra material the game book offers.  This is exacerbated by people who never buy the actual large book.  By not doing so, they miss out on a ton of information, fluff, and possibly context with which to view the game.

One of the more interesting ideas is the Warzone traits.  Newer players do not recall a lot of the older missions that had interesting Warzone effects.  I’ll recap just three of the more interesting ones as examples, from the past.  These aren’t their official titles or descriptors but veterans will recognize them:

  • Gravity variation where the units would either move faster or slower on any given turn because of a fluctuating gravity well.

  • Warp flux, that would allow ONE unit to deep strike every round (Necrons loved this one since it allowed some builds to actually deep strike two units every round!)

  • Odd Deployments of all kinds, but the one that was “oddest” is the triangular deployment that is now a staple of 6E.  there were others though, like the “L” shaped deployments and even the 18x 30 deployment scheme.

All these variations created challenges that went outside the normal missions.  In fact the “normal” missions in 3E and even in 4E weren’t that normal.  There were blockade running missions where one was trying to get off the board and the defender always went second and deployed in a column on the board.  There were missions where the objective was simply to control the table quarters against intruding units with whatever you could.  And so on.

In 6th Edition, they sort of collected a lot of those variations and added them as possible Warzone Traits, which are traits that sort of define the world you are on and its peculiarities.  Some have significant impacts, while others are merely interesting.  I used the Low Gravity Warzone Trait at a tournament I ran recently to see how that would go and was surprised that armies that seemed like it would create an advantage for lost and armies it might have created an apparent disadvantage for won.  In other words, the Trait made for very interesting choices by the players who were used to doing things ONE way and probably had their geometry down to a science and now were forced to both evaluate threats differently and also to consider the threat they now presented as well.

One thing I enjoy about 40K is the variety you can have in missions.  While we used only book missions and elements for this tournament, many TO’s have gone well above and beyond in crafting missions that essentially require players to create more considered and all comers type lists.  This social engineering is as common as rain in the Great Northwest.  The Warzone traits are worth a read.  On the surface they won’t all seem balanced in certain matchups, but if your goal is to mix things up and have a more interesting story told on the battlefield you might want to consider taking a gander at them and even making your own.  My imagination went crazy after reading that section of the large rulebook.

One idea I had and would love to hear ideas from are Race specific Warzone traits.  Here is how it would work:

When the pairings are made, the two across from each other would roll off to see which races planet(oid) they were fighting on and then randomly select one of three Warzone trait for that Race.

Here’s a fun example:

Breeding Season in OrkTown.  When fighting on such a planet at such a time, the spores of the ork breeding grounds are nothing short of problematic for all involved.  It is no wonder ork parenting leaves everything to be desired, as the miasma of it challenges even the hearty orks and their lung capacity at times.  Targeting and seeing are difficult.
Fighting on this planet causes all units to have the Stealth Special rule.  In addition, all area terrain is treated as infested with spores, and entering area terrain therefore will cause a unit, at the end of the movement phase to roll a toughness test or have their BS and WS reduced by one as the spores literally explode all around them causing them to find great difficulty seeing or concentrating on anything but hacking and wheezing as they inhale baby orks by the cloud full.

It’s a ‘ard knock Life.  The orks are known for their barbarism and Darwinist approach to life in general.  Starting at extremely young ages, the Orks are taught warfare and cunning as chief skills for advancement.  Orks are often shipped to “Ard Knocks school” which are barren planetoids where they send their children to essentially forced to form survivalist camps and play war games against each other.  The most astute (read:  surviving) children return home better for their experience.  Such camps are invariably hostile environments. 
At the end of every phase, when entering any area terrain, you may be attacked by young orks who have made this their home.  Though they are no match for your forces, they can still inflict damage with their stubborn youthful aggression.  Make an LD test.  Success means you’ve imposed your will on the yapping little runts and they run, causing no effect.  Failure means they make an effort to defend their hovels, doing D3 STR 3 automatic hits to the unit before being hammered into dust.  Vehicles and units embarked on them are not affected and never roll for this.  Even aggressive little runts don’t stand a chance against tanks and are smart enough to know it (just barely).

Fixin’ ta’ waaaaaaagh:  There’s a lot of planning and building to do when you are getting ready to burn the galaxy under the weight of your impressive green girth.  It is the massive buildup of concentrated Psychic Energy going on in such preparation and building areas that is the most telling sign to the Astronomicon that an invasion is imminent.  The machines of War the orks use, which work inexplicably despite their complete lack of mechanical soundness and engineering incongruity, are held together by the power of their psychic belief and this can be a dangerous place for any Psyker to attempt to be.
Psykers do not have the option of using the Primaris Power of their Discipline.  It must be rolled randomly.  In addition, latent psychic powers are ignited in those who did not know they had them.  Any HQ’s that did not start the game as Psykers are considered Psykers for this mission, with one Warp Charge and will roll randomly on the Biomancy chart for their Psychic power.
Fun things like this could really add some fun and variability without screwing one side or the other too much.  Just have to balance it out and make it as fair as possible (in tourneys).  In casual games…well…  Fairness can take a back seat to entertainment.  =)